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

JULY 23, 2016:

FLORIDA:

Police suspected family member in death of Davie woman before Dayonte Resiles was charged

Dayonte Resiles, who spent 6 days on the run after bolting from a hearing at the Broward County Courthouse, was not the 1st suspect in the murder of Jill Halliburton Su.

In the hours after the body of Su was found in the master bathroom of her Davie home, police first suspected a family member had a hand in her murder.

Police did not yet know that DNA left at the scene would come back to Resiles, 21, who was recaptured Wednesday night.

On Sept. 8, 2014, before Resiles was linked to the case, police were looking at Su's son, Justin, who discovered his mother's body in a bathtub and called 911, apparently believing she had committed suicide.

When police arrived, what they found did not look at all like a suicide, said Davie Police Capt. Dale Engle.

Her hands and feet were bound, and she suffered multiple stab wounds. Justin Su, 20 at the time, was covered in blood above the waist, but there was no blood from the waist down - a sign he might have tried to change his clothes, Engle said. A security camera that had been installed by Su's husband had been disabled.

l Engle said it's not uncommon for murder investigations to look at family members, and police looked at Justin Su with considerable suspicion.

"We thought he killed his mother," said Engle, adding that Su's husband, renowned insect expert Nan-Yao Su, was also regarded with suspicion at the onset of the investigation. During a lengthy interrogation, Justin Su wouldn't crack, according to court records. He denied being involved with the murder and asked police if they would apologize for accusing him when his name was cleared.

By the time the interrogation was over, police were sure family members were innocent.

Justin Su got his wish a few days later, said Engle. "We brought him in, and his father, and we apologized," he said. The apology came with an explanation about why police initially focused on Justin Su, who moved his mother's body out of the bathtub after calling 911. He would not have seen beforehand that her hands and feet were bound, Engle said.

The layout of the bathroom made it possible for the victim's son to get his upper body wet while moving the victim, leaving his lower body dry, Engle said.

And the security camera showed it was not Justin Su or his father who shut it off.

The DNA results placing Resiles at the crime scene were available nine days after the murder. By then, Justin Su and his father were no longer suspects, Engle said.

It's still not clear how the killer got to the victim's home. The gated WestRidge development off Nob Hill Road a mile south of Interstate 595 is not barricaded in a way that would keep pedestrians out, and the back of the Su home faces a canal. A glass door in the back of the house was shattered.

No other homes reported robberies that day, Engle said.

Resiles had been arrested on burglary charges 9 times before the Su murder, and it was not unusual for him to get a ride to and from the homes and businesses he targeted, said Engle.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in the case. Resiles was scheduled for a hearing on the death penalty when escaped from the courtroom and eluded capture for nearly a week.

Defense lawyer H. Dohn Williams said he intends to challenge the accuracy of the DNA results that made his client the main suspect.

Prosecutor Shari Tate declined a request for comment, saying it was improper for her to discuss a pending case.

(source: Sun-Sentinel)

INDIANA:

The dilemma of the death penalty

19 years ago this month, on July 26, 1997, Joseph Corcoran woke up from a nap and thought he heard people downstairs in his Bayer Avenue home talking about him. He loaded his semi-automatic rifle and descended the stairs.

Within seconds, he had shot and killed his older brother, James; his sister's fiance, Robert Scott Turner; and his brother's friend, Timothy G. Bricker; as they sat on a couch in the living room. He chased Douglas A. Stillwell, another of his brother's friends, into the kitchen and shot him to death.

Corcoran surrendered to police and admitted his guilt.

5 years before that quadruple murder, Corcoran was acquitted for lack of evidence in the murders of his parents, who were found shotgunned to death in their Bass Lake home. But in years since he is said to have bragged of those murders to fellow prison inmates.

Sentenced to death in 1999, Corcoran, who has paranoid schizophrenia, has been on Indiana’s death row in Michigan City while the appeals process wound its way through the state and federal courts systems. Though the Supreme Court has forbidden the execution of juveniles and those with mental retardation, it still allows criminals with mental illnesses to be put to death.

As The Journal Gazette's Rebecca Green recently reported, Corcoran's attorneys seem to have run out of appeals. Though his execution has not yet been scheduled, it may go onto the calendar soon, especially if a lawsuit seeking to block Indiana’s use of a 3-drug execution method is resolved.

The perpetrator of such horrendous crimes should never be set free to kill again.

But even those who still defend the concept of state-sanctioned execution have difficulty defending its use on seriously mentally ill prisoners such as Corcoran.

(source: Editorial, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette)

ARKANSAS:

Arkansas Supreme Court Grants Stay, Keeping Executions On Hold----A decision by Arkansas' chief justice almost certainly means there will be no executions in the state through the rest of 2016.

Arkansas Chief Justice Howard Brill on Thursday provided the 4th vote needed to grant inmates' request to keep executions on hold while they ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their appeal.

Brill's procedural ruling was also favored by the 3 justices who have disagreed with the court's rejection of death-row inmates' challenge to Arkansas' death penalty secrecy law.

In June, the state Supreme Court rejected 9 inmates' challenges to the secrecy law in a 4-3 vote. On Thursday, the same 4 justices - Brill included - rejected the inmates' request for the court to reconsider their decision.

However, Brill joined justices Paul Danielson, Josephine Hart, and Robin Wynne in granting the inmates' request to grant them a stay pending the outcome of their petition for the Supreme Court to grant certiorari and hear their appeal in the case.

Justices Karen Baker, Courtney Hudson Goodson, and Rhonda Wood - all of whom had, like Brill, voted against the inmates' challenge and the rehearing request - would have denied the stay request.

The inmates now have 90 days to file their certiorari petition at the U.S. Supreme Court. A response from the state could be filed by the state or requested by the court after that - a process that takes additional time before the justices would consider the petition.

Given that timeline, it is unlikely the justices would consider the request before December - meaning executions are almost certainly on hold in Arkansas through the rest of 2016 due to the fact that, even if the U.S. Supreme Court denies cert, advance notice then needs to be given for any execution dates set at that point.

While the state has not held an execution in more than a decade, Gov. Asa Hutchinson attempted to restart them in 2015, but has so far been stymied in carrying any out.

(source: buzzfeed.com)

MISSOURI:

Why are public defenders in Missouri asking to delay justice?

On Thursday, public defenders assigned to Craig Wood asked the judge to delay the jury trial by 10 months.

Wood is charged with the kidnapping and murder of 10 year-old Hailey Owens.

Her family is waiting for justice, and the trial is set to begin in September.

In a court document filed by the public defenders, Thomas Jacquinot writes, "there is no reasonable likelihood that Mr. Wood will receive competent and effective representation... if this case's trial begins in September 2016."

The prosecutor has called it a delay tactic.

The judge is considering postponing the trial until next May.

But the public defender's office says they can't do their job correctly because they are understaffed and facing an excessive case load.

It's a problem Jacquinot, the district defender, says goes back to 2003, when the division that handles death penalty cases was shrunk.

Then in 2012, Jacquinot says the office of 8 people had their case load doubled, with no staff increase.

"To keep up the caseload we have now I would, as a rough estimate, think we'd need to go from our current 8 to at least 12," Jacquinot said in a telephone interview with KY3.

Michael Barrett, director of the Missouri State Public Defender system, says across the state, they need at least 30 attorneys.

"Well we are 2nd to last in the United States in the funding we get for public defender funding," Barrett told KY3.

Barrett says the lack of sufficient funding for public defenders hurts people who can't afford to hire a lawyer.

"As a result, the clients tend to have their cases take longer and they sit in local jail longer and unnecessarily," Barrett says.

People waiting for trial are contributing to overcrowding problems in county jails around the state. Barrett says it is more expensive for local and state government to have people charged with crimes sitting in jail rather than tried and either moved into prison or set free, depending on verdict and punishment.

Barrett says the cost of defending cases is growing faster than the rate of inflation and gradual budget increases.

Adding to the problem, Governor Nixon recently cut the public defender budget for fiscal year 2016-2017 by withholding $3.5 million.

A spokesperson for the governor says the legislature had budgeted a $4.5 million increase for the Public Defender program, meaning a $1 million increase was left in the budget. The governor's office says he elected to make the cut in order to balance the budget.

The public defender system is suing to get that money back.

"There's a Department of Justice civil rights division finding that we systematically deprive people of their right to counsel in this state because of a lack of public defenders," Barrett says.

(source: ky3.com)

WYOMING:

Judge rules Wyoming may continue to seek Eaton death penalty

The state of Wyoming may continue to seek the death penalty against a man convicted of the 1988 murder of a Montana woman.

U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson of Cheyenne has ruled that Wyoming's failure to appoint lawyers for Dale Wayne Eaton last year as Johnson had ordered doesn't preclude the state from seeking to execute him.

Johnson in 2014 overturned Eaton's original death penalty in the murder of Lisa Kimmell of Billings, Montana. Eaton's lawyers don't dispute that he killed her, but Johnson ruled Eaton didn't receive a fair trial because the jury didn't hear adequate information about his background.

A federal appeals court this week ordered proceedings to continue in Eaton's appeal of Johnson's order allowing the state to seek the death penalty against him a s2nd time.

(source: Associated Press)

UTAH:

Suspect in killings of Utah siblings may face death penalty

Charging documents show a man accused of killing a teenage brother and sister in Utah shot them multiple times during a group fight and warned others as he drove away that "they would be next" if they said anything.

Prosecutors have charged the 28-year-old Mario Cervantez-Angel with 2 counts of aggravated murder, which carries the possibility of the death penalty.

Witnesses says a fight broke out on July 6 in a Salt Lake City suburban apartment complex when Cervantez-Angel and three others showed up to confront Jose Izazaga and Abril Izazaga. Authorities said previously the fight started over a T-shirt.

They were shot when Jose Izazaga pulled out a knife to defend his sister after authorities say Cervantez-Angel slammed her against a brick wall.

Cervantez-Angel is being held in jail on $2 million bail. He doesn't have an attorney yet.

(source: Associated Press)

CALIFORNIA:

Paper wrong recommendations on death penalty

This may serve as a response to the East Bay Times (July 18) editorial asking voter approval of Proposition 62, abolishment of California's Death Penalty, and to vote no on Proposition 66, a measure designed to eliminate delay and modernize appeal procedures that would hasten execution of vicious murderers.

The paper suggests, "Speed [in executions] is the hallmark of places like China ...."

Recall the 2008 rape-murder conviction of Daryl Kemp, the Contra Costa jury recommending the death penalty. Kemp's victim was a 42-year-old Lafayette woman savagely killed in 1979.

? These crimes had been committed four months following Kemp's release from San Quentin where he had been serving a life sentence for the rape and murder of another woman.

The original sentence, imposed in 1959, was death. However, in 1972 the Supreme Court found the death penalty unconstitutional, resulting in hundreds of murderers having their sentences reprieved.

While legislation successfully reinstituted the death penalty, Kemp was paroled in 1978 when a prison psychiatrist determined he no longer constituted a danger to anyone. When DNA evidence linked Kemp to the Lafayette murder, he was in a Texas prison, convicted of raping three other women.

The paper argues that Prop. 62 would impose life without possibility of parole (LWOP). We all should recognize that little is certain, and in California's criminal justice system, nothing is forever.

Note realignment that has provided early release for thousands of felons who today are among us, as well as California electorate approving the proposition that reclassified many felonies as misdemeanors.

I hasten to add that death penalty opponent, Gov. Jerry Brown (who appointed California Chief Justice Rose Bird, later recalled by the voters) now wants voters to approve Proposition 57, which would allow criminals convicted of "non-violent" felonies to be considered for early parole.

We are not informed that violent priors don't count for otherwise "non-violent" convicts.

It's only a matter of time when those who advocate leniency under the guise of saving money and humanitarism will legislate and litigate that life without parole is "cruel and unusual punishment."

There are consequences of LWOP. As a prisoner with that sentence has only the possibility of escape to look forward to. That convict takes a hostage, perhaps custodial personnel or another prisoner and threatens death unless freedom is granted.

If the hostage is killed what penalty could be imposed? Remember, in this scenario there is no longer a death penalty only LWOP. Taking hostages is not limited to convicts.

A 3-time-loser, cornered and taken a hostage, has little to lose if he kills or harms that person or a police officer.

The death penalty serving as a deterrent to homicide has been debated for years. To believe that innocent lives have not been spared because of the death penalty is nonsense.

An outstanding example already referred to is the Supreme Court's 1972 decision abolishing the penalty of death; prisoners were released only to murder again.

A deliberate vicious killing, subject to a death penalty verdict can be a thoughtful process. Not all, but surely some would weigh the ultimate penalty and spare the victim.

A long-ago example but one that makes the point happened April 21, 1959 at San Quentin. Two convicts had just escaped. They were pursued to the end of a fishing pier in San Francisco Bay, where the prisoners took an elderly couple hostage, holding knives against their throats and threatening their lives.

After several hours of negotiations the convicts surrendered; the couple was unharmed. During their debriefing, the pair related that the escaped prisoners discussed their dilemma: harming their hostages or surrendering. The prospect of the death penalty was part of the discussion but giving up became their choice.

The couple believed the specter of the death penalty may have saved their lives.

(source: Commentary; Peter A. Meredith is a retired police lieutenant with the Berkeley Police Department. He has been a resident of Contra Costa County since 1957----East Bay Times)

USA:

Donald Fell hearings close

After 2 weeks of hearings on the constitutionality of the death penalty, all eyes are on District Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford who will issue a decision that could have far-reaching implications.

In his opening remarks, Crawford said the hearings in the Donald Fell case presented an opportunity to "create a rich factual record for higher courts with broader authority to rule on the big questions."

For the U.S. Supreme Court there are few bigger questions than the constitutionality of the death penalty. According to Robert Dunham, Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center, the Supreme Court has had the opportunity to review decisions that uphold the constitutionality of the death penalty, but has elected not to do so.

However, he said, the Supreme Court has never been presented with a lower court ruling declaring the death penalty unconstitutional.

"It is the kind of decision you typically would expect the Supreme Court to review because if they didn't the status of death penalty cases across the federal system would be in doubt," he said.

Former director of the center, Richard Dieter, testified in the Fell hearings but Dunham said that the organization does not take a position on the death penalty, nor does it take a side in this lawsuit.

Even if Crawford rules the federal death penalty unconstitutional, the case would almost certainly be appealed and there's no certainty that it would reach the nation's highest court.

Over the past 2 weeks, the defense called 11 witnesses to testify on everything from the growing number of exonerations in death row cases to the uneven application of capital punishment and the role that race, gender, and geography can play in sentencing.

The government wrapped up its testimony one day early after deciding to cancel its last 2 witnesses, Matthew Harding, an associate professor of economics at the University of California Irvine, and Hashem Dezhbakhsh, a professor of economics at Emory University. Government witnesses testified on the deterrence effect of the death penalty, public perceptions of capital punishment, and housing conditions on death row. A witness for the defense, Lauren Bell, who was unable to attend the hearings, will testify during a separate motion in August.

The hearings stem from the murder of North Clarendon resident Terry King in November 2000. Fell and Robert Lee, who later committed suicide in prison, were accused of kidnapping King in the parking lot of a Rutland Price Chopper and driving her to New York before killing her.

Fell was convicted in 2005 and sentenced to death the following year but the verdict was overturned due to juror misconduct. His retrial is scheduled to begin early next year.

It is not the 1st time a federal judge has held hearings on the constitutionality of the death penalty. In July 2002, Jed Rakoff, a district court Judge in Manhattan, declared the death penalty unconstitutional based on the growing number of exonerations of death row inmates due to DNA evidence and other factors. Since 1973, according to Dunham, 156 death row inmates have been exonerated.

2 months later federal Judge William Sessions of Burlington also ruled the death penalty unconstitutional in a pre-trial hearing on the Fell case on the grounds that it denies due process protections and fair trial guarantees.

"We now know, in a way almost unthinkable even a decade ago," Rakoff wrote in his decision, "that our system of criminal justice, for all its protections, is sufficiently fallible."

Both rulings were overturned by appellate courts.

Since Rakoff and Sessions issued their rulings, 7 states have banned capital punishment; a total of 19 states now outlaw the practice. (Vermont banned the death penalty in 1965.) The Supreme Court has also ruled that the death penalty cannot be applied in cases involving minors, the mentally disabled, and those convicted of a crime other than murder. During that same time, the number of death sentences and executions has also declined.

"At this point, it's becoming more and more unusual for a country like ours to sanction state murder, which is what it is," said Allen Gilbert, Executive Director of the Vermont Chapter of the ACLU. "I think it's inevitable that at some point the U.S. will abolish the death penalty."

Many observers point to a 2015 dissent from Justices Breyer and Ginsburg in a case challenging lethal injection in Oklahoma, Glossip v. Gross, as opening the door for a review of the death penalty's constitutionality. Citing the growing number of exonerations since the introduction of DNA evidence in the early 1990s and growing evidence that the death penalty is unevenly applied, Breyer wrote, "the death penalty, in and of itself, now likely constitutes a legally prohibited 'cruel and unusual punishment.'"

The hearings before Judge Crawford are the first to take place since Justice Breyer's dissent, which Dunham characterized as a "call to defense lawyers to raise the issue so that the court may have the opportunity to review it."

The particulars of the Fell case rarely came into play during the 2 weeks of hearings in Rutland District Court. The Fell case was however used to illustrate the arbitrariness of death sentencing. Fell's is 1 of only 2 cases in modern history in which local prosecutors had reached a plea deal in exchange for a life sentence that was then overturned by the attorney general. The defense argued that this is one of the features of the federal death penalty that has contributed to its overall administration in an arbitrary and capricious manner.

The Fell case is also an example of how long death penalty cases can drag on in the courts. The crime Fell is charged with committing took place nearly 16 years ago.

(source: vtdigger.com)

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

VP Pick Sen. Tim Kaine Seeks to Balance Catholic Faith with Democratic Politics

With news Friday that Hillary Clinton picked Tim Kaine as her Democratic running mate, the U.S. Senator from Virginia finds him, and his faith, back in the national spotlight. Like many other Democratic politicians who are Catholic, Kaine struggles with the challenge of living out his personal faith in a party that doesn't always share his church's views on complicated issues.

As a young attorney in Virginia, Tim Kaine offered his legal services free of charge to death-row inmates seeking exoneration. He has said for decades that he is against the death penalty and that he is uncomfortable with the idea of abortion. Both positions are informed by his lifelong Catholic faith, but he nonetheless eschews the label of "pro-life," a view he made clear as recently as last week.

When Kaine ran for governor of Virginia in 2005, anti-death penalty advocates were hopeful that should he win, he might follow the lead of other Catholic governors and halt executions. The commonwealth had killed more criminals than any other state, save Texas, according to a 2012 profile of Kaine in The Washington Post.

But political realities set in. An anti-death penalty crusader would have a hard time winning statewide office in Virginia.

. So Kaine promised that, even though he was personally opposed to the death penalty, as governor, he would enforce the laws. He kept his word and 11 people, 6 of them black, were put to death during his tenure.

Kaine's position, of being personally opposed to a practice but not willing to prohibit it by law, is a standard refrain among some Catholics active in Democratic politics, though more commonly it is applied to abortion rather than the death penalty.

It was in part this view that prompted some liberal activists to complain in the days leading up to his selection by Clinton that Kaine is not one of them, that he is too boring and perhaps too moderate for Democrats in 2016. (He admitted as much to the first charge on Meet the Press, stating quite succinctly, "I am boring.")

But if he lacks a certain pizazz, what Kaine does bring to the ticket is a worldview shaped by the Catholic faith.

Born in Minnesota and raised outside Kansas City, Kaine said his church was an important part of his upbringing. He told C-SPAN earlier this year that if his family "got back from a vacation on a Sunday night at 7:30 p.m., they would know the one church in Kansas City that had an 8 p.m. Mass that we can make."

He went on to attend the Jesuit Rockhurst High School, which is where, he said, he first started "talking about faith and spirituality."

"That high school experience with the Jesuits was a key part of my transition into an adult life where instead of just accepting the answers of my parents or others, I've been a person who wants to go out and find the answers on my own, and the Jesuits get credit for that," he said.

After being admitted to Harvard Law School, Kaine took a year off to volunteer at a Jesuit vocational school in Honduras, teaching welding and carpentry, skills he learned from his father. It was in El Progreso where he became fluent in Spanish, a skill expected to help Clinton shore up the Hispanic vote.

He told Virginia's The Daily Press last year that his experience in Honduras still informed his politics. "My experience working at Loyola taught me the importance of access to skills-based training - both in Honduras and the U.S. - and inspired me to pursue the issue of expanding career and technical education in the U.S. Senate," he said.

When he and his wife settled down in Richmond about 3 decades later, they chose to attend a predominantly African-American Catholic parish. There, Kaine helped start a men's group and joined a gospel choir. (He had to quit the choir once he entered politics, rehearsals becoming difficult to attend.)

He went on to become a city councilor and then mayor of the mostly African-American city in 1998. He was sworn in as lieutenant governor in 2002 andbecame governor in 2006. Barack Obama considered Kaine as his running mate in 2008 before choosing Joe Biden. He ran the national Democratic Party from 2009 to 2011, and he won a race for the U.S. Senate the following year.

Like his views on the death penalty, which U.S. bishops have long opposed, Kaine's stance on immigration are also in line with the Catholic hierarchy.

In 2013, Kaine became the 1st lawmaker in history to deliver a speech from the Senate floor entirely in Spanish. "It is time that we pass comprehensive immigration reform," he said in Spanish.

But Kaine’s'public policy positions on abortion and marriage put him at odds with Catholic teaching.

With speculation mounting that Kaine would be Clinton's choice, Kaine recently revisited his stance on abortion, recognizing that his own pro-life views were at odds with many Democratic activists. The party, after all, recently adopted in its draft platform for the 1st time a measure to repeal the Hyde Amendment, a compromise Kaine supports that for decades has restricted federal money from paying for abortions.

Speaking to CNN earlier this month, Kaine was asked if he is "pro-life," to which he said, "I've never embraced labels."

"I have a traditional Catholic personal position, but I am very strongly supportive that women should make these decisions and government shouldn't intrude," he continued. "I'm a strong supporter of Roe v. Wade and women being able to make these decisions. In government, we have enough things to worry about. We don't need to make people's reproductive decisions for them."

That position has worked with voters in the past, most of whom fall somewhere in between the 2 parties' platforms on the abortion question. But it might not go over so well with some members of his church.

When John Kerry was nominated by the Democrats in 2004, the last Catholic to be given the nod from either party, some bishops warned that Kerry's views on abortion meant he could not receive Communion, including Archbishop Charles Chaput, who was then the archbishop of Denver. Other bishops have said the same about Vice President Joe Biden, also a Catholic.

This year, there has been relatively little mention from the U.S. hierarchy about abortion politics, perhaps because both candidates are widely viewed to favor abortion rights. (Trump has said in recent months he is against abortion, a position that puts him at odds with his own previous statements. He did not mention the issue during his nomination acceptance speech Thursday.)

On L.G.B.T. issues, Kaine changed his stance on marriage and gay adoption in recent years, like many other Democratic leaders. In 2005, he said he was against adoption by gay parents because he believed only married couples should be allowed to adopt, and gay marriage was still illegal in Virginia.

By 2013, Kaine had changed his mind publicly on marriage, saying, "I believe all people, regardless of sexual orientation, should be guaranteed the full rights to the legal benefits and responsibilities of marriage under the Constitution." He said he hoped the Supreme Court would legalize same-sex marriage, which it did in 2015.

He explained his thinking with the Richmond Times-Dispatch, saying he had personally changed his mind on the issue as far back as 2006. "My thinking has evolved on it because of people I know, so many gay and lesbian folks, some in long term relationships who are great parents," he said.

When pressed by the Post in 2012 on how he makes peace with his personal beliefs and public stances, Kaine said, "I have really struggled with that as governor." He continued, "I hope I can give a good accounting of myself on Judgment Day."

Yet Kaine told C-SPAN he is constantly considering the bigger picture when he is voting or pushing an issue, something he traces back to his time with the Jesuits.

"Everybody has motivations in life," he said. "I do what I do for spiritual reasons."

(source: America Magazine)

IRAQ:

Stalled death sentences spur debate in Iraq

The Karrada blast, which killed about 300 Iraqis on July 3, brought attention to the thorny issue of the convicted terrorists who have spent years on death row awaiting execution. Amid popular discontent, the Iraqi government seems unable to resolve the issue of capital punishment, which is associated with the legal system inherited from the former regime.

Summary? Print Following the recent terrorist attacks in Baghdad, Iraqi authorities are under pressure to expedite the execution of terrorism convicts.

Under strong political and public pressure, the Iraqi presidency ratified an amendment to the Code of Criminal Procedure on July 7, a full year after its passing in the House of Representatives. The code enters into force as of its publication in the Official Gazette this week.

The law is expected to accelerate the execution process of those convicted of terrorism and will put an end to "the neglect of the blood of the martyrs," according to Habib Hamza al-Torfi, a member of the parliamentary commission on human rights. He pointed out to Al-Monitor, "The delay in the execution of terrorists is encouraging those who are tempted to join terrorist and armed groups." Torfi criticized the presidency for the delay in approving the delay in exectuions.

Before the amendment, Criminal Procedure Code 23 of 1971 had stipulated that each person sentenced to death had the right to 4 appeals. These can delay the process for more than 2 1/2 years. In addition, the committee set up by former President Jalal Talabani requires up to a year and a half in some cases to examine the cases of the convicts.

In August 2015, the Iraqi Parliament voted to amend the law and sent it to the presidency for approval, a bureaucratic mechanism that normally takes as little as a few days or weeks.

Torfi expected the presidency's ratification of the amendment to expedite the execution of terrorists, saying their prolonged stays in prison of several years are costly to the state. "1 inmate costs the state about $50 per day at a time when the country is going through a financial crisis and adopting austerity policies."

The new amendment stipulates the right to 1 appeal instead of 4 and provides for the Justice Ministry's implementation of the death penalty within 30 days regardless of whether the president ratifies the sentence.

Notably, in November 2009, the Supreme Judicial Council issued a death sentence for Adel al-Mashhadani, the leader of Sahwa al-Fadel and the most prominent terrorism convict, but the death sentence was not carried out until January 2014, more than 5 years later.

While the Justice Ministry announced the execution of seven convicts July 5, only 2 of them turned out to have been convicted of terrorism, while the rest were convicted of other crimes. Also, the ministry had announced the implementation of death sentences for 73 convicts who later turned out not to be convicted of terrorism.

Mohammed al-Okabi, a political analyst close to the Sadrist movement, told Al-Monitor that some of the executed supported the movement but were convicted of premeditated murder, and the movement leaders cannot interfere in purely judicial matters that have already been settled, especially as the leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, is leading a new anti-government protest movement.

Okabi said, "The Sadrist leaders believe that their followers in prisons are mostly sentenced to imprisonment for various terms, and those sentenced to death were convicted of murder, not resisting the occupier." He mentioned the Sadrists' respect for the Iraqi judicial decisions and ruled out any link between the execution of convicts and the renewal of the Sadrist leader's call for reform.

It is worth mentioning that the Karrada explosions were followed by a campaign on the part of Iraqi activists and political parties to demand the execution of terrorists. They accused the government of collaborating with terrorist groups and leniency toward those who fled persecution.

An armed faction of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) interfered and threatened to execute terrorists itself. Sheikh Aws al-Khafaji, commander of the Abu al Fadl al Abbas forces, one of the Shiite PMU factions, revealed in a July 12 statement his intention to go to al-Hout prison in the Dhi Qar province in southern Iraq and his determination to execute terrorists in the presence of the families of martyrs. Khafaji said he informed the justice minister of the matter by telephone. One day later, he appeared on NRT TV and assured the government that no soldier would be attacked. He said that he had pledged to take the families of martyrs to watch the executions.

According to a source from the Supreme Judicial Council who talked to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, al-Hout prison contains about 145 Saudis, most of whom were sentenced to death on charges related to Article 4 of Iraq's Anti-Terrorism Law. The Saudi ambassador to Baghdad, Thamer Sabhan, visited the prison in agreement with Iraqi Justice Minister Haider al-Zamili, causing a stir in political and popular circles.

On a related note, a senior political source revealed to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that dozens of officials and Supreme Judicial Council judges received bribes from terrorist groups in exchange for withdrawing or removing evidence from the file of the terrorism convict after requesting a retrial and transfer to another court or another judge, in order to receive a lighter punishment or get released.

The source pointed out, "In some cases, the bribes were up to half a million dollars and were paid with the knowledge of some of the judges."

The Supreme Judicial Council is operating within an antiquated system that was established under the monarchy in the early 20th century, unchanged despite the evolution of the executive and legislative branches.

(source: al-monitor.com)

GUYANA:

Guyana could hold referendum on death penalty

The Assistant Secretary-General of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ivan Simonovic, says he respects the position taken by President David Granger regarding the abolition of the death penalty in Guyana.

Earlier, Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman said the government is in no rush to remove the death penalty after Justice Pilay urged Georgetown to move towards abolishing the death penalty as well as to repeal legislation providing for convicted terrorists to be put to death.

Trotman said government now finds itself in a position where it has been asked to enact laws such as those to avoid being named a "pariah state".

However, a subsequent government statement quoted President Granger as saying that he would be guided by advice from the National Assembly and public consensus and even hinted at the possibility of a referendum.

Simonovic, who led a UN delegation that included Justice Navi Pillay, a member of the International Commission against the Death Penalty, met with President Granger and according to the statement issued afterwards, said that the President's strong statements against assenting to capital punishment and seeking public consultation in the matter must be respected and appreciated.

The statement noted that Granger in a television programme to be aired this weekend, reiterated his position that he did not intend to order the execution of anyone.

"I am advised by Cabinet. I am advised by my coalition partners. I am advised by the National Assembly and in the final analysis, by the people of Guyana. Guyana is an independent sovereign state and it is not for me to get ahead of what the people want. I do not envisage any circumstance under which I would be willing to assent to the death penalty even though it remains on the books."

Granger noted that "there has been a moratorium of over 2 decades and what I would say is that if the Cabinet were to consider it, if the National Assembly were to consider it and even if there was a deadlock, we can go to a referendum. "Let the people say what they want to occur in this jurisdiction, in the state of Guyana. That is transparency, that is openness, that is consultation. What do the people want? So that is my approach."

Simonovic is quoted by the government statement as saying that he is especially appreciative of the President’s insistence on taking a decision only after the citizens of the country have been consulted and their views made known.

"[The] President's statement that we have heard recently that during his tenure there will not be any execution is very encouraging. I would think that also it is very encouraging that the government is thinking in terms of establishing a committee that will be reflecting on the issue of death penalty.

"It is extremely good because experience in other countries have proven that the more you raise information, the more discussion about the death penalty, there is a strengthening of the trend of moving away from it so we welcome this development very much. We also think that this discussion is a good opportunity to make a formal decision," Simonovic said.

(source: jamaicaobserver.com)

INDONESIA:

Executions near after prisoner loses appeal----3rd round of executions moves ever nearer after Indonesian court rejects case review from drug lord

Indonesia's Supreme Court has rejected a case review filed by a convict on death row scheduled to be executed with several foreign nationals in the country's next round of executions.

Supreme Court spokesman Ridwan Mansyur confirmed Friday that an appeal received by the court July 13 from the lawyer of Freddy Budiman -- sentenced to death by a Jakarta court in 2012 after being found guilty of smuggling 1.4 million ecstasy pills from China -- had been lost.

"Yes, it is true that his case review has been rejected," kompas.com reported him as saying.

Attorney General Muhammad Prasetyo has previously said that Budiman was on a list of death row convicts to be executed in an upcoming 3rd round of executions, and they would not take place until the court had made its decision.

Last year, President Joko Widodo's administration executed 14 prisoners in 2 stages, inviting scathing criticism from the countries involved and the wider international community.

On Friday, Prasetyo expressed happiness at the decision, saying the public had been waiting for the news so that the executions could go ahead.

"It was what we expected. The community had been waiting for this," he was reported as telling reporters at his office.

In a budget meeting in the House of Representatives last month, Prasetyo said it plans to execute 18 drug dealers this year, although he declined to name them.

"I forgot their citizenship. There are many," detik.com quoted him as saying.

When pressed earlier this month, metrotvnews.com reported he had said that inmates from Nigeria, Zimbabwe, and Indonesia will be on the list, but added there were none from Europe.

Kompas.com has reported that all preparations for the executions have now been completed, including preparing clergy, a firing squad and doctors.

It quoted Prasetyo as saying that the executions would once again be carried out in Nusakambangan prison island in Cilacap, Central Java.

After being accused of coordinating drug trafficking operations from inside his prison of Bogor, West Java, Budiman was moved to the Central Java prison.

(source: Anadolu Agency)

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

Indonesia Getting Ready for Third Round of Drug Convicts Execution

Attorney General HM Prasetyo said on Friday (22/7) his office is still making preparations to execute a number of drug convicts on death row. The official did not say however how many death-row inmates will be sent to the gallows and when it will happen.

He only said that they comprised Indonesians and foreigners and that, like in the past, they will be executed in the Nusakambangan prison island off southern Central Java.

HM Prasetyo made those remarks in his hearing with Commission III of the House of Representatives (DPR) responsible for law affairs on Friday (22/7), Kabar24.com reported.

On Thursday (21/7), the Attorney General said his office is now '55 % ready' to execute the death-row inmates.

When materialized, it will be the 3rd execution convicted drug traffickers in Indonesia. 8 people faced a firing squad in on April 29, 2015 while 6 faced the same fate on January 18 in the same year, all in Nusakambangan.

The 6 prisoners included one Indonesian national. And, the 8 also included 1 Indonesian.

News reports about the government's plan to execute more drug convicts were mixed with public speculations that President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo is mulling to abolish death penalty. Government officials denied such speculations, however.

The execution of the 16 drug traffickers roiled relations between Jakarta and other countries including Australia which temporarily withdrew its ambassador.

(source: globalindonesianvoices.com)

SAUDI ARABIA----execution

Saudi executions exceed 100 this year

Saudi authorities on Friday executed a man for murder, the interior ministry said, bringing to 101 the number of people put to death this year in the ultra-conservative kingdom.

Fahad Abdulhadi al-Dusari was found guilty of shooting dead fellow Saudi Mubarak bin Mohammed al-Dusari following a dispute, the ministry said in statement carried by the SPA state news agency.

He was executed in Riyadh province, it said. Saudi Arabia's growing use of the death penalty has prompted Amnesty International to call for an "immediate" moratorium on the practice.

The kingdom imposes the death penalty for offences including murder, drug trafficking, armed robbery, rape and apostasy.

Most people executed are beheaded with a sword.

There were no beheadings during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which began in the kingdom on June 6. However, capital punishment resumed on Sunday when authorities put a Saudi murderer to death.

On Thursday, authorities carried out the 100th execution of the year, executing another murderer.

"Saudi Arabia is speeding along in its dogged use of a cruel and inhuman punishment, mindless of justice and human rights," said Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa head Philip Luther.

"At this rate, the Kingdom's executioners will soon match or exceed the number of people they put to death last year," he said.

Many of those executed are convicted after "deeply unfair trials," he said.

Amnesty says the kingdom carried out at least 158 death sentences last year, making it the 3rd most prolific executioner after Iran and Pakistan.

Amnesty's figures do not include secretive China.

"The Saudi Arabian authorities must immediately establish an official moratorium on executions and abolish the death penalty once and for all," Luther said.

Murder and drug trafficking cases account for the majority of Saudi executions, although 47 people were put to death for "terrorism" offences on a single day in January.

They included prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, whose execution prompted Iranian protesters to torch Saudi diplomatic missions, triggering a diplomatic crisis between the two arch-rivals.

(source: Agence France-Presse)

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

Saudi Arabia passes 'grim watershed' as it executes 100th person this year

According to the Saudi Press Agency, Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Interior announced that an execution was carried out in Riyadh today bringing the total number of executions carried out so far in 2016 to 100. In response to this news, Philip Luther Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme said:

"This is a grim watershed. With its 100th execution this year, Saudi Arabia is speeding along in its dogged use of a cruel and inhuman punishment, mindless of justice and human rights.

"At this rate, the Kingdom's executioners will soon match or exceed the number of people they put to death last year - which, at 158, was the highest recorded figure since 1995.

"Many of those executed have been convicted after deeply unfair trials, as a result of flaws in the justice system. The Saudi Arabian authorities must immediately establish an official moratorium on executions and abolish the death penalty once and for all."

(source: Amnesty International)

JULY 22, 2016:

KANSAS:

Kansas Supreme Court upholds death sentence of man who killed Greenwood County sheriff

The Kansas Supreme Court on Friday upheld the conviction and death sentence of Scott Cheever, the man who shot and killed Greenwood County Sheriff Matt Samuels during a drug raid in 2005.

It was only the 2nd time the state's high court has upheld a death sentence since Kansas reinstated capital punishment in 1994.

And the decision comes amid intense political scrutiny of the court during an election year in which the Kansas Republican Party has openly called for 4 of the 7 Supreme Court justices to not be retained this year, in part over controversy stemming from earlier death penalty cases.

In 2012, the court initially overturned Cheever's conviction and death sentence, saying in part that the trial court in Greenwood County violated his Fifth Amendment privilege against self incrimination by allowing evidence to be introduced from a court-ordered psychiatric examination.

The court said the testimony of Dr. Michael Welner should never have been admitted. It did not address the question of whether Welner's testimony unfairly influenced the jury.

But the U.S. Supreme Court the following year reversed the Kansas court in a unanimous opinion written by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, saying the prosecution was entitled to present that witness to rebut Cheever's claim that he was not mentally competent at the time of the killing because he had been abusing drugs.

In a 52-page opinion released Friday, written by Justice Eric Rosen who is not up for retention this year, the Kansas court, in a 6-1 ruling bowed to the U.S. Supreme Court by agreeing that Welner's testimony was admissible.

The court went on to say, "Welner's testimony, while questionable in form, did not, in substance, exceed the proper scope of rebuttal, either constitutionally or under state evidentiary rules."

It also said none of the other issues that Cheever's attorneys raised on appeal warranted reversing the verdict or death sentence.

Justice Lee Johnson, who is also not up for retention this year, wrote a dissenting opinion saying he believes the death penalty violates the Kansas Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

(source: Lawrence Journal World)

NEBRASKA:

Journey of Hope brings message of healing to fight against death penalty

2 people on opposite sides of the criminal justice system brought a message of healing Thursday evening in their quest to see that the death penalty in Nebraska remains banned.

Shujaa Graham and SueZann Bosler, both representing the organization called "Journey of Hope ... from Violence to Healing," shared their stories with a group of about 2 dozen people Thursday evening at the Immaculata Monastery in Norfolk.

Both encouraged Nebraskans to vote to retain the state's ban on capital punishment in the November general election.

Graham spoke first and told his story of how he was sent to death row in California after being wrongly convicted of murder. Later, Bosler spoke of learning to forgive her father's killer and how she spent many years fighting to see that man's death sentence overturned - a fight she finally won in 1997.

Graham lived in southern California during the 1960s and was in and out of trouble as a teenager before being sent to prison for robbery. While he was incarcerated, Graham was wrongly convicted of murdering a prison guard in 1973 and was sentenced to die in California's gas chamber.

"I'm not here because of the system," Graham said. "I'm here in spite of the system."

Graham spent time on San Quentin's death row before his death sentence was overturned in 1979. After the case was retried for a 4th time, he was finally acquitted in 1981.

After leaving prison, Graham dealt with bitterness over his wrongful conviction before receiving healing via the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"What helped me is I continued to study and read the philosophy of Dr. King," Graham said. "And it kept me straight in terms of loving everyone, but you don't necessarily have to like it. You can't pick and choose whose human rights you want to respect. It was hard and it took a lot of strength."

Bosler told the crowd of how James Bernard Campbell came to the door of her father's house in Florida and stabbed him 24 times before turning the knife on her and stabbing her 5 times. While Bosler survived the attack, her father, a Church of the Brethren minister, did not.

Bosler spent more than a decade fighting to see Campbell receive a life sentence instead of the death penalty because of her and her late father's opposition to capital punishment. That fight often put her at odds with the prosecutors and judges in the case - even being threatened at one point with a contempt of court citation if she spoke out about her views on the death penalty.

"My father said, 'Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me,' but I say let it begin with every single one of us in this world," Bosler said. "We all have a place to help society, to bring peace and to bring this to the world."

Bosler also spoke of her internal struggle to forgive Campbell and how forgiving him for her father's murder helped her find the peace she sought.

"Some people think that if you forgive the other person, you're above them and you're better than them," Bosler said. "It doesn't work that way. I am a better person within myself, but I am just as equal to him as anybody else in the world and will always be equal to anybody in this world."

Graham and Bosler will continue their tour of Northeast Nebraska this weekend, visiting Wayne on Friday evening and Dakota City on Saturday morning.

It's part of organized efforts to encourage Nebraskans to retain the ban on the death penalty, which was approved by the Nebraska Legislature. That led to a successful petition drive to put the question on the November ballot.

(source: Norfolk Daily News)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Panel moves closer to approving rule on innocence evidence

A North Carolina State Bar panel agreed Thursday on language requiring prosecutors to disclose evidence of innocence obtained after someone is convicted of a crime, advancing on a proposal to address wrongful convictions like rules adopted in a handful of other states.

The State Bar's ethics subcommittee, at a meeting in Chetola, agreed unanimously on wording for a proposed rule for what prosecutors should do with post-conviction evidence of innocence. The subcommittee is expected to meet later on a full draft proposal though no meeting date has been set.

Existing rules and law in North Carolina already address evidence obtained before and during a trial, but just 14 states have a rule about prosecutors and post-conviction evidence of innocence, according to the American Bar Association. It is recommending that the state approve such a rule.

The subcommittee also discussed how attorneys could disclose evidence without violating attorney-client privilege.

"The unanimous vote in support of the (prosecutor) rule is indicative of the times we're in - that people recognize that wrongful convictions happen," said attorney Chris Mumma, executive director of the N.C. Center on Actual Innocence, speaking by phone after the meeting.

The proposed rule for prosecutors would direct them on what to do when they learn of "new, credible evidence or information creating a reasonable likelihood that a convicted defendant did not commit an offense of which the defendant was convicted." It includes a clause that would protect prosecutors who act in good faith even if their decision that the evidence didn't have to be disclosed proves to be incorrect.

Alice Mine, the State Bar's assistant executive director and ethics counsel, will write a formal proposal for the subcommittee to consider at its next meeting.

The 5-member subcommittee agreed in principle that any attorney who discovers post-conviction evidence of innocence must turn over that evidence as long as it doesn't breach attorney-client privilege or substantially harm the client's interest.

Members also discussed modifying language to another proposed rule that would allow a lawyer to reveal information relating to the representation of a client if that's necessary to prevent death or substantial bodily harm. The proposed language would define bodily harm to include wrongful imprisonment.

Such a rule "would put us ahead of other states in recognizing the obligation to ensure that an innocent person is not in prison when there is evidence to the contrary," Mumma said.

Advocates cite a murder case in Buncombe County at a prime example of why North Carolina needs the rule for prosecutors. 5 innocent men served prison time in connection with a 2000 home invasion murder they didn't commit.

Another man confessed in 2003 and implicated an accomplice whose DNA was eventually found on masks and bandanas near the scene. The district attorney said in a deposition that he didn't believe the confession and that he never saw the DNA evidence, although the report from the State Bureau of Investigation showed it was copied to the DA.

One defense attorney - the one representing the last man sentenced - also received the confession as pretrial evidence but didn't turn it over to the other men, who had already been sentenced, or their attorneys, said David Rudolf, an attorney for one of those men.

The 5 received a total $8 million for their wrongful convictions. Some of them had pleaded guilty to avoid the threat of the death penalty.

The panel is just the 1st step in a lengthy process that - if the rules are approved at each step - involves the full ethics committee, public comment, the full State Bar Council and finally, the state Supreme Court.

(source: Associated Press)

OHIO:

Attorney: Mom facing death penalty has low IQ

A woman charged in the killing of her 2-year-old daughter - who officials said was starved and tortured most of her life - "has the mentality of a child," her attorney said, which could affect whether she faces the death penalty.

Experts have determined that Andrea Bradley's IQ is in the mid-60s, her attorney Will Welsh said at a hearing Thursday in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court.

An IQ below 75 is considered an intellectual disability, according to the Ohio Department of Education.

"This was someone with the mentality of a child raising children," Welsh told The Enquirer. "I think we can convincingly prove that she has critical developmental disabilities."

If Bradley is ruled to have an intellectual disability, she would no longer face the death penalty and instead would face up to life in prison without parole. A hearing surrounding the issue is set for Sept. 7 before Judge Robert Ruehlman.

Bradley, 30, is charged with aggravated murder in the 2015 death of 2-year-old Glenara Bates. The child's father, 34-year-old Glen Bates, also faces the death penalty. Glenara was beaten severely, starved and made to sleep in a bathtub containing feces and blood, according to prosecutors.

Bradley and Bates were in an abusive relationship where Bates had taken control, according to her attorneys. She has been diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder, and has been under psychiatric care most of her life, Welsh has previously said.

The couple lived in East Walnut Hills with 6 of Bradley's children, including Glenara. The children ranged in age from 1 to 8. The other children are now in foster care. Only 2-year-old Glenara was severely mistreated, according to previous statements by prosecutors.

The pair were arrested March 29, 2015, the same day Bradley brought Glenara's cold and limp body to Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. Glenara had no body fat, no urine in her bladder, and no evidence of food in her system, officials said. She was pronounced dead at the hospital. She weighed 13 pounds and had bite marks, numerous lacerations as well as marks from being whipped with a belt.

Prosecutors offered Bradley a plea deal in May that would have meant she faced the possibility of spending the rest of her life in prison, instead of the death penalty. She rejected that deal.

Bradley's attorneys on Thursday filed an "Atkins motion," which refers to a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Atkins v. Virginia, that determined legal guidelines for mental competence in death penalty cases.

According to statements in court, there are hundreds of pages of Bradley's records from Hamilton County Job and Family Services that her attorneys will have to sort through.

(source: cincinnati.com)

OKLAHOMA:

U.S. Supreme Court could revisit ruling on controversial Oklahoma execution protocol

A controversial death penalty case in Oklahoma is back in the national spotlight.

The U.S. Supreme Court could revisit a ruling involving Richard Glossip.

You may remember, his attorneys challenged the use of a certain lethal injection drug used in our state.

The new developments are stemming from a big case in Arkansas.

Attorneys for 9 death row inmates challenged Arkansas's execution protocol, and when their state supreme court upheld it, the justices cited the ruling in the Richard Glossip case.

"The Glossip case has resulted in an unmitigated disaster in Oklahoma," attorneys representing the Arkansas death row inmates wrote in a recent court filing.

Now, those attorneys are taking a possible loophole in the Glossip case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"They challenged the execution method by saying for example, a person can be put to death by firing squad. Apparently, the Arkansas Supreme Court said that may be true, but that’s not a method that’s authorized by law here in Arkansas," criminal defense attorney David Smith said.

Legal experts say the U.S. Supreme Court left some things unanswered in the Glossip case.

Richard Glossip's attorneys challenged the constitutionality of Midazolam, the sedative used in Oklahoma's executions.

"The Supreme Court says you have to identify another method of execution that's available and feasible, it's known and attainable, but they don't say whether it has to be something authorized by state law of that state," Smith said.

In Oklahoma, there are only 3 drugs authorized for use in executions.

Last year, officials discovered a wrong drug was about to be used on Richard Glossip, and Gov. Fallin issued a last-minute stay.

That was months after that same wrong drug was actually used in the execution of Charles Warner.

For now, it's up in the air whether a new ruling could affect future Oklahoma executions, but legal experts say more clarity in the Glossip ruling is critical.

"It's kind of a splitting of a hair, but it's a pretty important hair," Smith said.

The executions for those Arkansas inmates are on hold right now.

Their attorney told NewsChannel 4 that he will file a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court soon.

He has 90 days.

Richard Glossip's attorney told Newschannel 4 he's hopeful the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case.

(source: KFOR news)

USA:

Judge: Roof attorney motion to block evidence to be sealed

A federal judge has ruled Dylann Roof's attorney does not have to explain publicly why she wants to keep some evidence out of Roof's Charleston church shooting trial.

Assistant U.S. Public Defender Sarah Gannett wants to block admission of videos, transcripts and other documents affecting Roof's constitutional rights to be free from unreasonable searches and self-incrimination.

Gannett asked the court's permission to file the motion under seal, saying to make it public could affect the court's ability seat an impartial jury in Roof's trial in November.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel issued an order Thursday saying the motion could be filed under seal and asked prosecutors to respond the same way.

Roof faces the death penalty in the shootings of 9 black parishioners at Emanuel AME Church in June 2015.

(source: Associated Press)

TURKEY:

Turkey rebuffs EU on death penalty, as Erdogan calls for 'new blood' in army

Turkey rebuffed the European Union on Friday over the death penalty, while President Tayyip Erdogan vowed to restructure the military and give it "fresh blood", signalling the scope of a shake-up yet to come under a state of emergency.

There is growing worry in the West about Turkey's widening crackdown against thousands of members of the security forces, judiciary, civil service and academia after last week's failed military coup. On Wednesday Erdogan announced a state of emergency, a move he said would allow the government to take swift action against coup plotters.

The possibility of Turkey bringing back capital punishment for the plotters of the attempted coup that killed more than 246 people and wounded more than 2,100 has put further strain on Ankara's relationship with the EU, which it seeks to join.

Turkey outlawed capital punishment in 2004 as part of its bid to join the bloc and European officials have said backtracking on the death penalty would effectively put an end to the EU accession process. Erdogan says the death penalty may need to be brought back, citing the calls for it from crowds of supporters at rallies.

"People demand the death penalty and that demand will surely be assessed. We have to assess that demand from the standpoint on law, and not according to what the EU says," Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag told broadcaster CNN Turk.

His comments are likely to spark further unease in the West, where there is growing worry about instability and human rights in the country of 80 million, which plays an important part in the U.S.-led fight against Islamic State and in the European Union's efforts to stem the flow of refugees from Syria.

Erdogan accuses Fethullah Gulen, a charismatic U.S.-based cleric, of masterminding the plot against him, which crumbled early on Saturday. In a crackdown on Gulen's suspected followers, more than 60,000 soldiers, police, judges, civil servants and teachers have been suspended, detained or placed under investigation.

Bozdag said that armed Gulen supporters had infiltrated the judiciary, universities and the media, as well as the armed forces.

Erdogan told Reuters late on Thursday he would restructure the military and give it "fresh blood", citing the threat of the Gulen movement, which he likened to a cancer.

Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States for years, has denied any role in the attempted putsch, and accused Erdogan of orchestrating the coup himself. Turkey wants the U.S. to extradite the cleric. Washington says Turkey must give clear evidence first.

SUPREME COUNCIL

Erdogan said the government's Supreme Military Council, which is chaired by the prime minister, and includes the defence minister and the chief of staff, would oversee the restructuring of the armed forces.

"They are all working together as to what might be done, and ... within a very short amount of time a new structure will be emerging. With this new structure, I believe the armed forces will get fresh blood," Erdogan said.

Speaking at his palace in Ankara, which was targeted during the coup attempt, he said a new putsch was possible but would not be easy because authorities were now more vigilant.

"It is very clear that there were significant gaps and deficiencies in our intelligence, there is no point trying to hide it or deny it," Erdogan told Reuters.

Erdogan also said there was no obstacle to extending the state of emergency beyond the initial three months - a comment likely to spark concern among critics already fearful about the pace of his crackdown. Emergency powers allow the government to take swift measures against supporters of the coup, in which more than 246 people were killed and over 2,000 wounded.

Emergency rule will also permit the president and cabinet to bypass parliament in enacting new laws and to limit or suspend rights and freedoms as they deem necessary.

Germany called for the measure to end as quickly as possible. An international lawyers' group warned Turkey against using it to subvert the rule of law and human rights, pointing to allegations of torture and ill-treatment of people held in the mass roundup.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the reaction to the coup must not undermine fundamental rights.

"What we're seeing especially in the fields of universities, media, the judiciary, is unacceptable," she said of detentions and dismissals of judges, academics and journalists.

For some Turks, the state of emergency raised fears of a return to the days of martial law after a 1980 military coup, or the height of a Kurdish insurgency in the 1990s when much of the largely Kurdish southeast was under a state of emergency.

Opposition parties which stood with the authorities against the coup expressed concern that the state of emergency could concentrate too much power in the hands of Erdogan, whose rivals have long accused him of suppressing free speech.

Erdogan, an Islamist, has led Turkey as prime minister or president since 2003.

"We will continue the fight ... wherever they might be. These people have infiltrated the state organisation in this country and they rebelled against the state," he said, calling the actions of Friday night "inhuman" and "immoral".

Around 1/3 of Turkey's roughly 360 serving generals have been detained since the coup attempt, a senior official said, with 99 charged pending trial and 14 more being held.

The Defence Ministry is investigating all military judges and prosecutors, and has suspended 262 of them, broadcaster NTV reported, while 900 police officers in the capital, Ankara, were also suspended on Wednesday. The purge also extended to civil servants in the environment and sports ministries.

The state of emergency went into effect after parliament formally approved the measure on Thursday.

(source: Reuters)

PHILIPPINES:

Philippine woman will not be in Indonesia's next round of executions

A woman from the Philippines convicted in Indonesia for drug smuggling and sentenced to death will not be among the first round of executions carried out when capital punishment is resumed after a lull, the attorney general said on Friday.

Indonesia imposed a moratorium on executions for 5 years before resuming them in 2013. It provoked international outrage in April last year with the execution of 8 drug traffickers, 7 of them foreigners.

After the outcry, authorities said they were postponing executions while the government focused on reviving he economy. But President Joko Widodo's administration has this year pledged to resume executions by firing squad.

A Philippine maid, Mary Jane Veloso, got a last-minute reprieve last year, following a request from Manila after an employment recruiter, whom Veloso had accused of planting drugs in her luggage, gave herself up to police in the Philippines.

"Not yet," Attorney General H.M. Prasetyo told reporters when asked about Veloso.

"We are still waiting on the legal process in the Philippines, which we have to respect."

Prasetyo has said 16 prisoners will be executed this year, including nationals from Nigeria and Zimbabwe, but has declined to give a specific time frame. That number will be more than doubled next year, he said.

Indonesia has declared a "drug emergency" and vowed no mercy for drug traffickers.

Authorities have not given a breakdown of the numbers of foreigners on death row but citizens of France, Britain and the Philippines are known to be among them.

(source: Today Online)

GEORGIA:

Legal Team Reflects on Path to Supreme Court Win in Georgia Death Penalty Case

When staff members of Atlanta's Southern Center for Human Rights began tracking down African-American jurors eliminated from the 1987 jury that convicted an 18-year-old black teenager of a white woman's murder, they were struck to find that, 30 years later, two of them still remembered the disdain they had faced.

One African-American man recalled that he went home and told his wife that none of the blacks in the jury pool were going to be chosen, said Katie Chamblee, one of several lawyers who worked on Georgia death row inmate Timothy Foster's appeal. "He was devastated he wouldn't be part of the process just because he was black."

An African-American woman who was also eliminated from Foster's 1987 jury recalled her humiliation when questioned by prosecutors about why she worked 2 jobs. Said Chamblee: "In a room filled with tons of people, she had to explain she was poor. ... It had a real impact on her."

On May 23, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-1 to reverse Foster's conviction and death penalty sentence and remand the case for a new trial. Chief Justice John Roberts' majority opinion in Foster v. Chatman called the "sheer number of references to race" in court files "arresting" and concluded that the Georgia prosecutors "were motivated in substantial part by race" in violation of the Supreme Court's 1986 ruling in Batson v. Kentucky.

Justice Clarence Thomas, in dissent, wrote that the majority had not given enough deference to the trial judge and that "new evidence should not justify the relitigation of Batson claims."

Southern Center president and senior counsel Stephen Bright, staff attorneys Patrick Mulvaney and Chamblee, and investigator Kristen Samuels on Tuesday night spoke to the Georgia chapter of the American Constitution Society about Foster's death penalty conviction and how they came to believe that it had been grounded in racism.

The Southern Center lawyers said Tuesday night that the high court ruling likely saved Foster's life. Georgia has executed 12 people in the past two years. Bright said Foster's case will eventually be returned to the Rome judicial circuit where he expects Foster will be retried for the murder of a 79-year-old Queen White, a retired schoolteacher who was sexually assaulted, bludgeoned and strangled.

Bright said the seminal Batson decision - which barred removal of potential jurors solely because of their race - was only a year old when Foster went to trial. But court transcripts showed that Foster's defense lawyers from the beginning warned the judge that prosecutors would still strike every African-American from the jury. "There was never any suggestion there would not be a Batson hearing," Bright said. "There was no question they would strike all the blacks. It was when they would have it."

Bright said at one point, prosecutors demanded that defense lawyers apologize to them personally and to the community for accusing them of racism. "Given what we found out later, that took a bit of audacity," he said.

Years later, when the Southern Center was appealing Foster's sentence, it obtained prosecutors' jury selection notes through a public records request. Those notes revealed the prosecutorial team had highlighted the names of every African-American member of the jury pool in green. To further make the point, Bright and Mulvaney said there was a key at the top of each page saying that names in green were African-Americans. A "B" also had been placed by the name of every black prospective juror, they said. The 5 black individuals among the prospective jurors eventually were struck. Those notes, Mulvaney said, "changed the whole picture."

When Mulvaney filed Foster's petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case, he decided to embed images of those color-coded names in the brief and submit it to the high court in color "to show how outrageous it was," he said, "and that the Georgia courts had no problem with any of it."

(source: Daily Report)

FLORIDA:

Kimberly Lucas lawyers fight death penalty in daughter's death

The case of a Jupiter woman charged with drowning the 2-year-old daughter she shared with her estranged partner continued on Thursday to twist through the legal tangles surrounding Florida’s death penalty.

In a hearing for Kimberly Lucas, Circuit Judge Charles Burton granted a request from Lucas' lawyers to throw out paperwork prosecutors filed earlier this year announcing their intent to seek the death penalty against her.

Burton will allow prosecutors to refile a notice of their intent to seek sertain aggravating factors as a basis for their death penalty quest and give Lucas' defense a chance to respond before deciding whether to keep a possible death sentence in play. This all comes ahead of Lucas' expected January trial in the murder of Elliana Lucas-Jamason and the attempted murder of the former couple's 10-year-old son, Ethan.

The legal wrangling is all tied to a U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this year declaring Florida's death penalty system unconstitutional because it limited a jury's power in requiring a simple majority to make a recommendation to a judge for a life or death sentence.

Florida lawmakers in March rewrote the law to require juries to agree unanimously on aggravating factors prosecutors must prove to get a death sentence and also required at least a 10-2 jury vote for death in order for a defendant to receive the penalty.

That too has been contested and is before Florida's Supreme Court, which recessed for the summer without issuing an opinion on the matter.

Jacquelyn Jamason, the children's mother and the woman who was Lucas' longtime partner, has in the past said that she is neither for or against the death penalty.

Jamason has, however, consistently expressed disappointment with the slow path that the May 2014 case hs taken through the system.

"It's frustrating. She would like to see the case get to trial," Jamason said Thursday through her attorney, Jim Eisenberg.

(source: Palm Beach Post)

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Murder suspect who escaped Florida courthouse apprehended

A murder suspect who authorities say escaped from a South Florida courthouse with the help of 5 other people has been apprehended in a nearby county.

The Broward County Sheriff's Office said in a statement that the search for 21-year-old Dayonte Resiles ended with his capture shortly before 11 p.m. Wednesday in Palm Beach County.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told reporters early Thursday that Resiles surrendered at a Days Inn in West Palm Beach. Resiles, who was alone, obeyed orders from a SWAT team to come out of a room, Israel said. He lay on the ground and allowed himself to be handcuffed.

No force was necessary, the sheriff said.

There probably will be people eligible for the $50,000 reward that had been offered for information leading to his capture, Israel said.

Resiles bolted out of a Fort Lauderdale courtroom last Friday as he was awaiting a hearing, ran down several flights of stairs and got away with help from accomplices, authorities say. Five people have been arrested and charged with helping him flee.

Resiles is accused in the 2014 stabbing death of 59-year-old Jill Halliburton Su, whose family founded the Halliburton oil services company. Her body was found, bound at the hands and feet and stabbed multiple times, in the bathtub of her home in Davie, Florida, according to a police report.

Prosecutors say Resiles killed Su during an attempted burglary, and they filed papers earlier this year saying they planned to seek the death penalty. Resiles has pleaded not guilty and his attorney is trying to get the death penalty off the table.

Investigators say Friday's escape was carefully planned by Resiles and his accomplices.

Authorities search Dayonte Resiles after he escaped

Resiles was sitting in the jury box when he escaped his shackles, jumped a courtroom barrier and ran past bailiffs. A car was waiting near the courthouse with a change of clothes, authorities say.

Fellow jail inmate Walter M. Hart III, 22, on Wednesday became the 5th person charged in the escape. Courthouse video shows Hart, who is awaiting trial in a separate 2014 murder case, "work in concert with Resiles to begin to defeat the shackling system used to secure inmates," according to an arrest report.

With his back to the camera, the report says Hart "holds up the waist chain, which allows Resiles to begin manipulating the restraints," leading to his escape moments later.

Also charged are Resiles' 18-year-old girlfriend, LaQuay Stern, who authorities say was waiting outside in the car, and 3 others.

According to arrest documents, the escape was planned during several phone calls and visitations.

Sheriff Israel has said armed deputies, rather than unarmed bailiffs, will now accompany maximum-security inmates in the courtroom. The sheriff has promised an investigation into the circumstances of the escape.

(source: Associated Press)

INDIANA:

Former Judge Dennis Parry recalls the only death sentence handed down in the county's recent history

On Jan. 27, 2006, at 1:17 a.m. in Michigan City, the state of Indiana carried out a sentence that ended the life of Marvin Beighler through a lethal injection.

That morning marked the end of a process that took 17 years, a process that began in Howard County and hasn't been repeated in the area since.

25 years prior, in 1981, the route leading to Beighler's eventual death began. A known drug dealer, Beighler stood accused of murdering Tom and Kim Miller. Kim was pregnant at the time. As a result of these accusations, Beighler eventually was jailed and faced the first capital murder charge Howard County had seen. This caused his path to intersect with then Howard County Superior Court 1 Judge Dennis Parry. The memories of the trial, and the burden of sentencing a man to death, stick with Parry to this day.

"Morality and any punishment is a big issue," said Parry. "A judge is a human, and there are morals that we all have. Some are better than others. Some are different than others. But when you take somebody's freedom, it's important because freedom is so important in this country. All of us are entitled to due process and fair treatment and the legalities of it, but they could suffer punishment."

According to Parry, the trial itself called for many special circumstances, of which he was primarily required to handle. He elected to send out 150 jury notifications for the trial's jury selection. That number eclipsed the typical 30, as did the requirement of a 12-person jury for a capital murder trial. Normally, he said, 6 were selected at the time for trials. 3 alternates also were selected.

The process, he said, was arduous, lasting three weeks as potential jurors were vetted by the defense counsel and prosecutors in the case.

And the housing of the jury, once it was selected, also called for special circumstances. A concern existed during the trial not only of outside contact influencing the jurors, but also potential retribution from Beighler's mafia contacts also was feared.

"They were going to be sequestered," said Parry. "I had gone to the Ramada through one of the sheriff's officers, and we reserved one whole third floor of the Ramada in one wing. Even though we didn't need it all, we reserved it all. We put cameras on each end of the hallway and in the middle was a room that was the security office with monitors so they could monitor the hallways at all times. We had intelligence and information that the big people in his group, probably out of Chicago or Detroit, were going to try to influence the jury, taint them, prejudice them, and cause real problems."

Beginning the trial

With the jury selected, the trial moved forward. The defense and prosecution made their cases, both of which Parry said he recalls in detail.

For the prosecution, the primary witness was Scott Brook, a bodyguard for Beighler. According to Brook's testimony, drug dealers working for Beighler had been arrested ,and Brook's boss became convinced that the Millers had snitched.

"He became convinced that they were the ones," said Parry. "He and Scotty Brook had been somewhere north in Cass County drinking and doing drugs, and they got really agitated. For days they had been target practicing with a pistol down around New London, out in the country. They had the pistol with them, and they got convinced the Millers did it.

"Marvin stormed out of the bar and got in his car, and Brook joined him. They drove to Russiaville where the Millers lived in a trailer with their 2-year-old. (Kim) was pregnant. Scotty Brook delayed getting out of the car, according to him, and was right behind Marvin by about 10 steps or so. Marvin busted in the trailer, and the Millers were in bed. They went back into the bedroom, evidently ordered them to get on the floor, and shot each of them while they laid on the floor. Brook saw that from the hallway. He saw him pointing a gun, then put dimes on the floor."

The dimes, according to Parry, were an indication of gang retribution. Beighler and Brook were arrested the next day because they were known associates of the Millers.

During the trial the prosecution also obtained a ballistic match between the rounds fired through the Millers and bullets retrieved from a tree used for target practice by Brook and Beighler. Brook showed the area to investigators.

The defense, on the other hand, worked to discredit Brook, who received a plea deal as part of his testimony in the case. Charlie Scruggs was appointed to Beighler's defense, along with another attorney because the law required 2 defense attorneys.

Brook's testimony lasted 3 days.

"He testified to their drinking and all that, the target practice, and how Biegler talked about killing the Millers several days before it happened," said Parry. "He talked about their night of drinking and drugs in Cass County, how they went to the trailer that night, and everything he saw at the trailer and afterwards. That was his major case. The jury here had to believe him or disbelieve him. Of course, the defense tried to impeach him, saying he lied because he got a deal. The told the jury what the deal was. It wasn't something they didn't know. The jury knew he was getting a deal to testify. That's always a sticking point. 1 or 2 jurors might think it's a lie because he's getting something to do this."

The jurors

At the heart of the trial was, of course, the jurors. During the trial's roughly month-long process they were kept at the local Ramada Inn. Each day their needs were cared for by the county, with Parry arranging for everything from meals - with jurors eating at the hotel for breakfast, at the court for lunch, and dinner at a location of their choosing with an allowance for a single cocktail during dinner - to even barbers and hairdressers as was needed. The absence from normality took a toll on the 15 jurors.

"Probably in the 5th week of the jury, one of the juror's husbands got very upset because he hadn't seen his wife in 4 1/2 weeks," said Parry. "He used to come to the Ramada, stand in the parking lot, and wave at her. She'd wave out the window. That's the only contact they had.

"One evening he came in and tried to get down the hallway to see his wife. He was totally upset, disheveled and hadn't shaved. He said he had not been out of her presence since they were in high school, and he had never been this long without his wife around. He was really upset. They took him to jail. They actually wrestled him to the floor in the hotel because he was so upset. I went out to the jail and talked to him. He was afraid they would be months, and I said, 'No, no, no, give us another week, and we'll be done.' And we were."

The jury's decision was difficult, with its members returning to the judge multiple times to ask questions before delivering a verdict of guilty in the trial. However, the process wasn't over. After a decision had been reached concerning Beighler's guilt, his punishment had to be decided by the jury.

"We finished that, and then I told them, 'Now we have a 2nd trial,'" said Parry. "Up to that point they did not know. They had a 2nd trial on the penalty portion. The jury is allowed to hear evidence on whether or not he dies or gets life in prison. That took a couple days. Then they went back in, and they deliberated that because they make a recommendation as a jury to the judge. They can come back and recommend death or recommend life. The judge is not bound by their recommendation, but they make that recommendation."

Life or death

A recommendation of death was decided, and then the burden fell upon Parry's shoulders to decide if Beighler lived or died while the jury was excused.

"We'd been together for 6 weeks, and after the room was empty, several of them were crying. They were exhausted, emotional, and I'm getting that way now," said Parry. "I was too. After all, I'm just a man. There had never been, as far as I know, a capital murder trial in this county, so I wanted to do it right because I didn't want to do it twice. I worked long hours for 60 days, 5 days a week, for 2 months. That wasn't where I stopped."

It's at this time, the 30 days allotted for Parry to decide on Beighler's punishment, that the judge seemed to feel the weight of the situation.

He sought council with his wife daily and spoke with his father and minister. The Bible, he said, served as a source of guidance.

"Every night when I got home I'm with my wife, of course, and we'd go to bed every night, and every night we'd talk about it," said Parry. "It was just general conversations, just trying to relax and get it off my mind, which I didn't very well. I was trying to get it off my mind during the whole trial. During the whole trial I went down in my basement, and I remodeled the whole thing. I don't know the a** end of a hammer from the head of a hammer, but I needed to do something to get my mind off of what was going on during the day. I remodeled the whole basement in that 6 weeks."

Parry's opinion shifted multiple times, drafting three different sentencing orders before settling on a decision.

"I struggled with this, and in the last week I had pretty much made up my mind what I was going to do," said Parry. "But in a capital murder case you have to do a written sentencing order. Most sentencing orders are a page or 2 pages long. I wrote the sentencing order 3 times. It was at 30 pages or more each time. One time it was death. I changed it to life. Then I went back to death, and I was satisfied with that one. I wrote that order 3 times in the last week. I did nothing else for that entire month. I did no cases. I just did that case.

"Came the day of sentencing, he was expecting it. He showed no emotion. I did. A lot of people in the gallery did too. Miller had several family and friends, his mother in particularly. I sentenced him to death."

Parry's decision didn't end the case. It went through multiple appeals and a post-conviction relief request from Beighler's legal counsel.

Beighler's eventual execution was even delayed by 30 minute the night it was scheduled, with the U.S. Supreme Court eventually announcing a 6-3 decision to overturn a federal appeals court ruling. But on Jan. 26, 2006, Beighler was pronounced dead at 1:17 a.m. in Michigan City after the lethal injection he received did its work. To the end, Beighler maintained his innocence, with his last words being, "Let's get it over with."

A lasting effect

Just like the bombing of the Howard County Courthouse in 1987, which had a lasting effect on the judge's hearing, Parry believes the events surrounding Beighler's case are forgotten. In speaking with him, it's clear through his show of emotion the trial left a lasting impact.

"I was talking to somebody about my ear thing from when I got hurt when the bomb went off, and they said, 'What bomb?' After a while these things don't have an effect," said Parry. "I can't say if it had an effect on the community while it was going on other than the fact that everybody was abhorred when the baby was killed. That was a bad thing.

"I think it's a fallacy to say the death penalty causes people to think twice. I firmly believe that except for lying-in-wait murders like the 5 cops in Dallas. That was a spur of the moment, immediate situation. He didn't think about how he was going to die. He was so mad he did what he did. Most burglars think like that. You're in a house, you get surprised by the owner, and you shoot him. It's a reaction to being surprised. That's murder. Capital punishment isn't going to defer people from murder."

(source: kokomoperspective.com)

CALIFORNIA:

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter express support for anti-death penalty proposition

Former President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter on Thursday endorsed a November ballot measure that would abolish the death penalty in California.

Proposition 62 would replace capital punishment for 1st-degree murder with life in prison without the possibility of parole. It is 1 of 2 competing measures on the future of the death penalty that voters will weigh on Nov. 8.

"We believe that the attempt to administer the death penalty in a fair and efficient manner has failed, and note that a number of states have chosen to abandon this policy for this reason," the couple said in a statement. "It is our hope that California will also lead the nation in adopting a more effective and fiscally responsible law enforcement approach."

(source: Lios Angeles Times)

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Poll: Don't repeal California's death penalty

A majority of respondents to a recent Argus-Courier online poll said they would not vote to repeal the death penalty in California, when the question comes up on the November ballot. About 2/3 of respondents said they would vote "no" on the measure, while 1/3 said they would vote to end the death penalty.

Here are some comments:

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"Absolutely not. If an individual is convicted of murder, they deserve the death penalty. Our tax dollars should not be spent taking care of these people while they sit comfortably in prison getting free health care and other ridiculous rights. Get rid of them."

-------

"Criminals have no fear, so they commit crimes, knowing they will live a sheltered life in prison. Texas doesn't keep the criminals accused and found guilty in a major crime around long. They're executed. California should follow their plan. How many are on death row now?"

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"I say keep it. But the process needs to be cleaned up drastically."

-------

"Might as well. Those people just sit there on death row for years and years, waiting to die. It seems like they're never going to execute them anyway."

-------

"My first instinct is to say that the death penalty is wrong. But if I imagine one of my family members being murdered, I would wish the death penalty for that killer. I don't think I can help feeling that."

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"The boundary between life and death is sacred. I'll save a moth if I possibly can and certainly can't condone government taking a life, no matter how evil the criminal."

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"We are one of the few civilized nations in the world to have the death penalty. It's time to abolish the death penalty nationwide, which will save the tax payers billions of dollars in time-consuming appeals. More death row inmates are dying of old age rather than by lethal injection."

-------

"We just need to use it. The AG not enforcing the law is the problem."

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"It should be enforced. Too many criminals are not punished, it should show them it's not OK to commit crimes. California gives them another 20-plus years of life with free housing, food, medical, etc., so currently the 'alleged' death penalty is a moot point."

-------

"It's not a fair system at all, and we shouldn't be in the business of executing people."

(source: petaluma360.com)

USA:

Defense asks to add another death penalty attorney to Dylann Roof's federal case

The accused Emanuel AME shooter's defense team is looking to add another attorney to battle a possible death penalty.

In pro hac vice paperwork filed Thursday, Roof's team asked to add North Carolina attorney Kimberly Stevens. Stevens has been involved in nearly three dozen death penalty cases, including United States v. Demario James Atwater and United States v. Gary Michael Hilton where she convinced juries to levy life sentences instead of the death penalty in both cases.

Atwater was convicted of killing Eve Carson, the student body president at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2008. Hilton was convicted of killing Charleston native Meredith Emerson while she was hiking trails near the Appalachian Trail in Georgia.

Since 2014, Stevens has been a member of the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel Project, and is currently a member of the Capital Resource Counsel Project.

If the court grants her application, Stevens will join Sarah Gannett, whose application to join the defense team was approved earlier this month.

Already, Gannett has had an impact on Roof's federal case, successfully having several pieces of evidence sealed as recently as Thursday morning.

The defense team seems to be focusing a lot of its time and energy on sparing Roof from a lethal injection, even offering a guilty plea in exchange for a life sentence.

The defense is expected to use mental evaluation reports showing Roof suffers from a mental illness to defend against a death penalty during the trial's sentencing phase.

The trial is set to begin on Nov. 7 with final jury selection, which could take a week or more. Attorneys estimate the trial will take as many as 8 weeks to argue. With the holidays scattered along the trial schedule, that could push the sentencing phase into January - right up against the newly proposed start of jury selection for Roof's state murder trial.

The solicitor in his murder trial is also seeking the death penalty.

(source: WCIV news)

SINGAPORE:

Geylang murder suspect is charged in death of coffeeshop helper

A 64-year-old man was charged on Friday (Jul 22) with the murder of 52-year-old Goh Eng Thiam, who was found dead in Geylang 2 weeks ago.

Toh Sia Guan was accused of killing Goh between 7.30am and 8am on July 9, at Lorong 23 Geylang.

Toh, who wore a red polo T-shirt to court on Friday, will be remanded for a week, and the judge granted permission to take him out for investigations. He is expected to appear in court on July 29.

The murder case was first reported on July 9, when Goh was pronounced dead by paramedics at the scene at 8.11am, said a statement from the Singapore Police Force. The police also said they had received a call asking for assistance at about 8am that day.

According to media reports, Goh worked as a coffeeshop helper. Several weapons, such as a long wooden stick and a short knife, were reportedly found at the scene.

If convicted, Toh faces the death penalty.

(source: todayonline.com)

GLOBAL:

Why the Death Penalty is Still Necessary

Given the Church's longstanding and irreformable teaching that death may in principle be a legitimate punishment for grievous crimes, the key issue for Catholics is an empirical and practical question.

Editor's note: This is Part 2 of a 2-part article on Catholicism and the death penalty. Part 1 was titled "Why the Church Cannot Reverse Past Teaching on Capital Punishment" and was posted on July 17th.

As we showed in Part 1 of this essay, for 2 millennia the Catholic Church has taught that the death penalty can be a legitimate punishment for heinous crimes, not merely to protect the public from the immediate danger posed by the offender but also to secure retributive justice and to deter serious crime. This was the uniform teaching of scripture and the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and it was reaffirmed by popes and also codified in the universal catechism of the Church promulgated by Pope St. Pius V in the 16th century, as well as in numerous local catechisms.

Consider the standard language of the Baltimore Catechism, which was used throughout Catholic parishes in the United States for educating children in the faith for much of the twentieth century:

Q. 1276. Under what circumstances may human life be lawfully taken?

A. Human life may be lawfully taken: 1. In self-defense, when we are unjustly attacked and have no other means of saving our own lives; 2. In a just war, when the safety or rights of the nation require it; 3. By the lawful execution of a criminal, fairly tried and found guilty of a crime punishable by death when the preservation of law and order and the good of the community require such execution. 1

Thus, killing another human being in self-defense, during a just war, or through the lawful execution of a criminal does not violate the Fifth Commandment's rule "Thou shall not kill" (which many modern editions of the Bible translate as "Thou shall not murder"). The permissibility of these 3 types of lawful killing (unlike the deliberate killing of the innocent, which is always prohibited) depends on contingent circumstances. As long as (in the words of Pope Innocent III) "the punishment is carried out not in hatred but with good judgment, not inconsiderately but after mature deliberation," the death penalty may be imposed if it genuinely serves the common good.

Generally, the Church has left these and similar prudential judgments to public officials. For example, the current Catechism of the Catholic Church expressly affirms that when it comes to judging whether a decision to go to war is morally justified, "the evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have the responsibility for the common good." The institutional Church respects the authority and responsibility of public officials, guided by the sound moral principles it preserves and promulgates, to make these judgments. Similarly, to the best of our knowledge, the Church has fully respected the authority of lawmakers to write statutes on self-defense that detail the conditions under which individuals may use force, including deadly force, to protect themselves and others.

Unfortunately, in recent years churchmen have not been equally respectful of the authority and duty of public officials to exercise their prudential judgments in applying Catholic teaching when it comes to the death penalty, despite the fact that churchmen bring to the debate over capital punishment no particular expertise derived from their religious training and pastoral experience. Given the Church's longstanding and irreformable teaching that death may in principle be a legitimate punishment for grievous crimes, the key issue for Catholics is the empirical and practical question of whether the death penalty more effectively promotes public safety and the common good than do lesser punishments. We maintain that it does and thus devote about half of our forthcoming book, By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of the Death Penalty, to making this case.

The current Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms that "[l]egitimate public authority has the right and the duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense" and that "[p]unishment has the primary aim of redressing the disorder introduced by the offense." 2 Thus, punishment is fundamentally retributive, inflicting on the offender a penalty commensurate with the gravity of his crime, though it may serve other purposes as well, such as incapacitating the offender, deterring others, and promoting the offender's rehabilitation.

The significance of this point cannot be overstated. Secular critics of capital punishment often reject the very idea of retribution - the principle that an offender simply deserves a punishment proportionate to the gravity of his offense - but no Catholic can possibly do so. For unless an offender deserves a certain punishment - whether that be a fine, imprisonment, or whatever - and deserves a punishment of that specific degree of severity, then it would be unjust to inflict the punishment on him. Hence all the other ends of punishment - deterrence, rehabilitation, protection of society, and so on - presuppose the retributive aim of giving the offender what he deserves. This is why the Catechism promulgated by Pope St. John Paul II reaffirms the traditional Catholic teaching that retribution is the "primary aim" of punishment.

Among the many reasons why capital punishment ought to be preserved (all of which we set out at length in our forthcoming book), the most fundamental one is that for extremely heinous crimes, no lesser punishment could possibly respect this Catholic principle that a punishment ought to be proportional to the offense. We devote the remainder of this article to developing this point.

In the American states today the only crime for which the death penalty may be imposed (according to U. S. Supreme Court decisions) is murder. (The Court has not ruled on the legitimacy of the death penalty for the national crimes of treason and espionage.) Western societies, both before and after the rise of Christianity, never imposed the death penalty for all unlawful killings. As far back as our records go, laws reserved the ultimate punishment for intentional and malicious killings and usually imposed a lesser punishment for negligent killings and those resulting from a "heat of passion." The 31 American states with capital punishment today are even more selective, reserving the death penalty for the most heinous murders, such as multiple murders, rape murders, torture murders, and the murders of the very young and the very old.

A close analysis of the 43 murderers executed in 2012 reveals the true depravity of the crimes and the criminals that merit the death penalty in the United States today. Here are 9 of the cases (space does not allow a complete listing):

-- David Alan Gore, who, with his cousin, cruised central Florida in the 1970s and 1980s, abducting, raping, and murdering at least half a dozen teenage girls (and the mother of one of them). In his last murder, the 17-year-old girl, repeatedly raped by Gore, had managed to free herself and then ran naked from the house where she was being held. Gore chase down the girl, dragged her back towards the house, and shoot her twice in the head in the driveway in full view of 15-year-old boy who was bicycling past the scene.

-- Edwin Hart Turner, who during a robbery shot and killed an unresisting convenience store clerk pleading for his life and then shortly thereafter robbed a customer at a gas station and shot and killed him while he was on the ground also pleading for his life.

-- Robert Brian Waterhouse, who early one morning left a bar with a 29-year-old woman and later beat her with a hard instrument, raped her, and sexually assaulted her with a large object. She was alive throughout this assault. He then dragged his victim into the water where she died of drowning. She was discovered completely naked and her injuries were so severe that she was unrecognizable. 14 years before, Waterhouse had broken into a home and killed a 77-year-old woman, for which he served 8 years before being paroled.

-- Timothy Shaun Stemple, who murdered his wife to collect her life insurance by beating her in the head with a baseball bat, driving a truck over her head, beating her again, driving the truck over her chest, and then driving over her at 60 miles per hour, killing her. While awaiting trial Stemple tried to get other inmates to arrange the death of several witnesses in his case.

-- Henry Curtis Jackson, who, in an attempt to steal money from his mother's home, murdered a 2-year-old girl, a 2-year-old boy, a 3-year-old boy, and a 5-year-old girl. He injured 2 other older girls and stabbed a 1-year-old girl, leaving her unable to walk.

-- Daniel Wayne Cook, who, with an accomplice, killed a 26-year-old man after beating, torturing, and sodomizing him over a 6-7 hour period. A few hours later the offenders sodomized and strangled to death a 16-year-old boy.

-- Robert Wayne Harris, who in retaliation for his firing from a car wash, murdered the manager and 4 other employees by shooting them in the back of the head at close range while they were kneeling on the floor. Another survived but was left with permanent disabilities. When he was being interviewed by police about this crime, he volunteered that he had previously abducted and murdered a woman and he led police to her remains in a field.

-- Richard Dale Stokley, who with an accomplice abducted 2 13-year-old girls from a campsite, drove them to a remote area, raped them, stabbed them in the eye, killed them by stomping on their necks, and then threw the naked bodies down an abandoned mineshaft.

-- Manuel Pardo, Jr., who killed 7 men and 2 women in 5 separate incidents over a 4-month period.

Altogether, the 43 offenders executed in 2012 killed a total of 70 individuals and injured another 12 during the capital crimes for which they were executed. We also know that eight of the 43 (19%) had previously killed at least 1 other person, and several had killed more than 1. And many of those who had not (as far as we know) killed in the past had previously committed other very serious crimes. Altogether, at least 2/3 of those executed in 2012 had previously committed a homicide, sexual assault, robbery, felony assault, or kidnapping.

As these facts and a wealth of other data show, we reserve the death penalty in the United States for the most heinous murders and the most brutal and conscienceless murderers. This is not, as some critics argue, a kind of state-run lottery that randomly chooses an unlucky few for the ultimate penalty from among all those convicted of murder. Rather, the capital punishment system is a filter that selects the worst of the worst. Here is one particularly telling statistic: of the murders that resulted in the 43 executions in 2012, more than 1/3 involved the rape of the murder victim or of another person either by the executed offender or his accomplice. Yet, among all homicides in the United States in recent decades, only about 1% involved a sexual assault. In nearly all of the 31 American states that currently have the death penalty, legislators have identified rape murder as especially heinous and thus potentially deserving a death sentence. Indeed, before someone can be executed in the United States legislators must agree that the kind of murder committed potentially merits death and prosecutors and juries must agree that this particular murderer deserves to die for his crime(s).

Put another way, to sentence killers like those described above to less than death would fail to do justice because the penalty - presumably a long period in prison - would be grossly disproportionate to the heinousness of the crime. Prosecutors, jurors, and the loved ones of murder victims understand this essential point. As the mother of the murder victim of one of those executed in 2012 said to the sentencing jury, "I would beg this court and this jury to see that justice is done. And justice to us is no less than the death penalty." Even offenders themselves sometimes recognize that justice demands their death, as 3 of those executed in 2012 fully acknowledged. One who killed 2 men after a minor traffic accident said, "I killed 2 people. I've always accepted responsibility for the taking of their lives. . . . I believe in justice and I believe that the victims, their hatred, their anger, they need to have justice." Another who killed a 63-year-old prison guard during an escape attempt pleaded guilty and waived all appeals, resulting in his execution just 1 year after sentencing. In a letter he wrote a week before his execution he commended the prosecutor and affirmed the justice of his punishment: "I do not want or desire to die, instead I deserve to die; this I have always stated." In concluding he wrote, "It's not about me or any future killers, it is about ensuring that in contested cases that the victims and their families get their intended and needed swift justice." And " who abducted, raped, and murdered a 9-year-old girl told a federal court, "I killed the little girl. It's just that the punishment be concluded. I believe it's a good thing, that the death penalty does inhibit further criminal acts." He added, "I killed. I deserve to be killed."

We have focused here on the retributive purpose of the death penalty because, again, according to Catholic doctrine retribution is the "primary aim" of punishment. In By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed we also show that capital punishment has various practical benefits, such as protecting prison guards and other inmates from the most dangerous offenders, and protecting members of the community by giving "lifers" who escape from prison strong reasons not to kill while on the run. We also argue that capital punishment almost certainly deters at least some potential murderers, and gives murderers a strong incentive to plea bargain to very long prison sentences, which likely saves lives by increasing the deterrent and incapacitative effect of long prison sentences over shorter ones. (We also refute the common charges that the capital punishment system in the United States results in the execution of the innocent and discriminates against minorities and the poor.)

But make no mistake: retributive punishment in and of itself makes the world a safer place and upholds the common good:

-- It powerfully reinforces society's condemnation of the crime of murder, making it less likely that those growing up in a community with the death penalty would even consider killing someone in the first place.

-- It anchors the entire schedule of punishments for serious crimes to the principle of just deserts, ensuring the survival of retributive punishment as a key element in the criminal justice system and thus shoring up the schedule of punishments against powerful modern tendencies toward ever greater leniency in criminal punishment.

-- It reassures the families and other loved ones of the victims of grave crimes that they live in a society that is just, and that shows respect for the lives of victims by inflicting on their killers a penalty that is truly proportionate to the gravity of the offense.

-- It encourages repentance insofar as it makes offenders aware of the extreme gravity of their crimes and also of the shortness of the time remaining to them to get themselves right with God and to ask forgiveness from the families of their victims.

-- Perhaps most importantly, in its supreme gravity it promotes belief in and respect for the majesty of the moral order and for the system of human law that both derives from and supports that moral order.

For well over a millennium the popes of the Catholic Church exercised civil authority over a large swath of territory in central Italy called the Papal States. In that capacity they frequently authorized the death penalty for murderers and others. Although we do not have data for how often they did so before the 19th century, we know that between 1796 and 1865, 6 popes authorized a total of 516 executions, 4/5 for murder.

This papal endorsement of capital punishment, though rather recent in the history of the Church, is largely ignored in Catholic debates over the death penalty, as is the striking fact that from 1929 to 1969 the criminal code of the Vatican City itself included the death penalty for the attempted assassination of the pope. The many dozens of popes who approved executions in the Papal States and the representatives of the Church responsible for the Vatican City criminal code understood a truth that too many in the modern Church have forgotten: that justice demands the death penalty for the most heinous crimes and that if "the punishment is carried out not in hatred but with good judgment, not inconsiderately but after mature deliberation," it promotes public safety and serves the larger common good.

ENDNOTES:

1 The Baltimore Catechism is available from many online sources. The death penalty is addressed in the 3rd volume of the catechism, which is for older students. See www.baltimore-catechism.com/lesson33.htm, accessed June 4, 2015.

2 Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), sec. 2266, p. 546.

(source: The Catholic World Report)

INDONESIA:

What explains Indonesia's enthusiasm for the death penalty?

For many years, Indonesia was classified as a "low-application state" in its use of the death penalty. But recently there seems to have been a surge in enthusiasm for capital punishment, with public officials lining up to declare their support. The death penalty has been offered as a solution to a range of problems, from narcotics crime, to sexual abuse, and corruption. Last month, for example, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo urged police to chase, capture, and strike down drug dealers. "If the law allowed it, [I'd tell you to] blast them," he said. Earlier this year, he signed a presidential regulation authorising the death penalty for child sex offenders. Following her boss's lead, Health Minister Nila Moeloek said the suspects in the recent fake vaccine manufacturing scandal deserved execution.

What explains the recent popularity of the death penalty? Are officials just responding to public demands? Does public enthusiasm for the death penalty reflect frustration with the weak rule of law in Indonesia?

The embrace of capital punishment in Indonesia is a symptom of a growing environment of penal populism in the country. Penal populism describes a situation where politicians promise to solve the nation’s troubles by punishing crime, rather than by pursuing social justice. Penal populists rely on, and generate, fear of crime, suggesting it is a growing threat to society. They blame an impotent justice system and accuse it of being too lenient on criminals. In response, they call for more severe punishments against perpetrators, exploiting what they see as the public’s appetite for harsh law and order policies. This might make them popular but it only serves to perpetuate problems in the justice sector.

For populists, the cause of crime, including drug abuse, is always the individual perpetrator. The social conditions that contributed to the offending behaviour are never part of the picture. Users and dealers are considered the sole cause of the drug problem and deserve to be punished accordingly. But because populists focus on individual offenders, the public can become blind to deep-seated challenges in society. No crime can be divorced from its social context, including factors such as race, gender, class and education. There is no point blaming individual offenders for drug crimes while washing our hands of the structural issues that contributed to the problem. The shortcut solutions offered by penal populism - such as the death penalty - are not only oppressive, but they ultimately have little impact on the causes of crime.

Penal populists work hand-in-hand with the media. The media help whip up fear about the levels of crime in society, and advocate harsh punitive measures in response. The media largely endorsed the government framing of the 2015 executions as a matter of national pride and sovereignty, and ignored analysis debunking State Narcotics Agency (BNN) figures on levels of drug abuse. The simplistic presentation of the drug issue influenced how the public and other decision makers responded.

It is not hard to see how the courts might believe that by delivering harsh punishments they are strengthening the rule of law. Every time judges deliver a death penalty verdict they are applauded in the media. Politicians, including the president, endorse their decisions and even suggest extending the punishment to other crimes. But they are not strengthening the rule of law, they are doing the opposite. Judges end up undermining their own profession by allowing myths, public anger and disillusionment with the criminal justice establishment to affect their sentencing decisions.

The rise of penal populism, which exploits public anger, is threatening the independence of judiciary. Under Soeharto’s New Order the greatest threat to judicial independence was intervention by the executive. But now, in the democratic era, the threat comes from the media, public pressure and mass demonstrations, sometimes accompanied by violence. Judicial corruption cannot be ignored either, of course, but there is growing evidence suggesting judges fear backlash when they make decisions that conflict with public sentiment, greatly compromising their independence. A 2015 Judicial Commission survey, for example, found that 3/4 of district-level judges in Medan had been threatened or intimidated.

Issues like the absence of checks and balances within the criminal justice system, the lack of access to justice, or poor quality of legal aid available for suspects are of little interest to penal populists. Yes, populists mention the criminal justice system, but only to blame it for not delivering sufficiently punitive punishments. There is no attempt to inform the public about the challenges facing the system, or have a rational debate about how they might be addressed. Jokowi is guilty of this, too. He makes no attempt to discuss the challenges of addressing drug abuse, preferring to propose shooting dealers in the street. When law enforcement is driven not by evidence but by public outrage or anxiety, the result is an increase in miscarriages of justice, as well as torture and arbitrary arrest and detention by law enforcement officials.

As in other countries, the cases most vulnerable to being exploited by penal populists, and resulting in such miscarriages of justice, are those involving terrorism, sexual or narcotics crimes. The Jakarta International School (JIS) case, for example, demonstrates the powerful impact of public pressure on investigators and the courts, which worked together to punish individuals accused of sexual crimes against children. Confessions were extracted under torture, one suspect died in police detention under highly suspicious circumstances, and a Canadian teacher and Indonesian teaching assistant were imprisoned based on very weak and questionable evidence.

Similarly, a study by the Community Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Masyarakat) in 2011 found that torture and mistreatment in police custody was routine in narcotics cases. Many people accused of narcotics crimes were not told about their right to legal aid, and those who were informed of this right were often warned that they would face heavier sentencing demands if they sought assistance.

Civil society and legal aid organisations are not above engaging in the rhetoric of penal populism. This has particularly been the case with corruption. Although civil society organisations frame their populism in terms of "monitoring the courts", and do so with the intention of ensuring a fair result, there have been occasions where the tone of protests has been threatening. At a time when politicians are only too happy to engage in penal populism, civil society organisations need more than ever to avoid a populist approach and discipline themselves to offer a more nuanced and detailed picture of the challenges facing the criminal justice system.

The government also needs to change its approach. Jokowi may well be frustrated with judicial corruption. But if the president is sceptical about the justice sector - falling just short of endorsing extra-judicial killings - what about the public? Should they then resort to vigilante justice? By focusing on harsh punishments, penal populists weaken the justice system, because they allow weak and corrupt courts to carry on with little imperative to change. They are a major threat to the justice sector reform project.

Exploiting high levels of public ignorance about crime and punishment might not be ethical but it is easy. Offering rational and evidence-based arguments is much more difficult, and not usually popular, especially in an unbalanced media environment. But when the government is not doing so, it is up to civil society groups to provide clear and accurate information about the complexities of crime and punishment.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(source: Nurkholis Hidayat is a master of laws student at the University of Melbourne. He is an Indonesian human rights lawyer and previously served as a director of the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta), and national advisor for legal aid and criminal justice for the Australia Indonesia Partnership for Justice (AIPJ)----Coconuts)

TURKEY:

Some 90% of Turks Demand Death Penalty for Coup Perpetrators - Aktay

About 90 % of Turkish citizens are demanding the harshest punishment for those involved in a recent military coup attempt, forcing the Turkish leadership to consider the reinstatement of death penalty in the country, the deputy chair of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) told Sputnik on Thursday.

"Practically 90

of the country's population demand the harshest punishment for coup participants, and this has to be a death penalty. They demand this at all rallies. The public pressure forces us to make a choice," Aktay stressed.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim have already stated that they do not rule out the possibility of reintroducing capital punishment for thousands of people arrested after a failed military coup last Friday.

(source: Sputnik News)

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

The death penalty in Turkey: On the way back?

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's suggestion that Turkey might reinstate the death penalty to punish those involved in last week's failed coup bid has alarmed European leaders.

Turkey completely abolished the death penalty in 2004 as part of its efforts to join the European Union, which makes its removal an non-negotiable pre-condition for membership.

No judicial executions have taken place in the country since left-wing militant Hidir Aslan was hanged on Oct. 25, 1984 in the wake of the 1980 military coup.

But might capital punishment be on the way back?

The death penalty was used with relative frequency for serious crimes after the foundation of modern Turkey in 1923. But its most notorious use came after the military coup of 1960 which resulted in the rounding-up of members of the government.

Then prime minister Adnan Menderes, foreign minister Fatin Rustu Zorlu and finance minister Hasan Polatkan were all executed on the prison island of Imrali in September 1961.

Erdogan frequently invokes the execution of Menderes, one of his political heroes, as an example of injustice.

In 1972, young leftist activists Deniz Gezmis, Yusuf Aslan and Huseyin Inan were executed in 1972. They remain heroes for the Turkish socialist movement to this day. Another wave of executions followed the 1980 coup.

Levon Ekmekjian, a Lebanese Armenian, was executed in 1983 in Ankara after being found guilty of carrying out a deadly assault on the capital's international airport on behalf of an Armenian militant group.

Parliament voted to abolish the death penalty during peace time in 2002, with full abolition for all crimes following in 2004. But even before the abolition, it had observed a de-facto moratorium since the 1980s.

The abolition led the 1999 death sentence against to Kurdish separatist leader Abdullah Ocalan - and those of all others on death row - to be commuted to life behind bars.

Ocalan had appealed his sentence at the European Court of Human Rights. He remains behind bars in Imrali, an island in the Sea of Marmara off Istanbul. In 1991, all death sentences handed down in Turkey before April of that year were commuted to between 10 and 20 years in jail, depending on the nature of their crimes, according to Amnesty International.

Erdogan has stressed any decision to reinstate capital punishment would have to come from parliament. But he has said he would approve any decision the legislature took on the matter.

Thousands of Erdogan's supporters have taken to the streets in recent days to condemn the coup plotters and loudly backed calls for the reinstatement of capital punishment.

This is not the first time in recent years that there has been popular pressure for capital punishment to return. The attempted rape and brutal murder of Ozgecan Aslan in 2015 prompted calls, including from cabinet ministers, for the death penalty for the 3 men found guilty.

In 2012, Erdogan, at the time prime minister, also hinted at its reinstatement, again due to popular support, to deal with cases of terrorism. Opponents denounced it as a political tactic.

(source: Saudi Gazette)

GUYANA:

Guyana govt "not in a rush" to hold death penalty consultations

A day after a top international human rights activist called on Guyana to repeal the death penalty for terrorism and other offences for which there is capital punishment, government on Thursday ruled out consultations any time soon to do so.

Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, who chaired the post-cabinet press conference, said from all indications government was "not in a rush" to abolish the death penalty and any such decision would taken after consultations.

Asked when such consultations would be held, Trotman said "we are not in a position to say that we will be entering into consultations to add to the penalties or to remove them. We don't feel the impetus right now."

At the same time, he noted that there has been a 20-year old moratorium on the death penalty in Guyana.

He explained that Guyana's anti-terrorism legislation provides for the death penalty in keeping with requirements by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and to ensure that the country is not blacklisted.

Trotman noted that "there is a strong clamour" in several European countries such as France, Belgium, Germany and Turkey for the reinstitution of the death penalty amid several deadly terrorist attacks.

He observed that a number of the countries that have been advocating for the removal of the death penalty have been bombing targets and killing innocents and hostiles raising questions whether "this was not a form of the death penalty being advanced by some of the very countries that are asking to remove from your books the death penalty."

The Guyana government's position on Thursday appeared to be a rebuff of Commissioner with the International Commission against the Death Penalty, Justice Navi Pillay's call on Wednesday for this country to review its Terrorism Act that has 12 provisions for the death penalty.

"You don't pass a law just because something terrible has happened. Law is not done emotionally. The rule of law follows international standards and Guyana is very much a part of the international community, has passed many international treaties and so they are bound to pass laws that are certain and definite and not responding each time to terrorism acts committed here, France or wherever," she told a news conference at the Marriott Hotel.

Pillay was at the time addressing a news conference ahead of a judicial colloquium with Guyanese judges and magistrates at the Marriott Hotel in Georgetown.

She said the de facto moratorium on the death penalty in Guyana was sufficient and it was time that lawmakers abolish punishment by death altogether.

Less than 10 years ago, Guyana amended its law that only allowed for the death penalty for persons convicted of killing members of the security services and magistrates and judges in the line of their duty.

However, a High Court Judge last month handed down the death sentence on a man who was found guilty of the murder of 2 brothers several years ago.

(source: Demerara Waves)

JULY 21, 2016:

GEORGIA:

Only airman on military's death row gets new sentencing hearing

A former Georgia-based Air Force enlisted man who killed a married couple will get another chance to escape the death penalty for the murders he committed 12 years ago.

In the latest twist to a violent case that began at Robins Air Force Base, about 90 miles east of Columbus, the nation's highest military appeals court on Tuesday ordered another sentencing hearing for Andrew Paul Witt.

The new sentencing hearing will effectively be the 4th go-around for Witt, the only airman on the military's death row in Leavenworth, Kansas. His revived prospects result from a legal error that, while seemingly technical, was also deemed worrisome for the military justice system's overall reputation.

"A problem of appearances and public confidence is precisely what we have here," Judge Scott W. Stucky wrote.

In the unanimous ruling, the 5-member court concluded that the lower Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals acted improperly with its handling of Witt's original appeal.

The error in this case resulted in (Witt's) vacated death sentence being affirmed. It is difficult to conceive of a more striking example of prejudice to (his) substantial rights. Judge Scott W. Stucky, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.

A 12-officer panel first imposed the death penalty in 2005. The Air Force court struck down the sentence in 2013, citing alleged shortcomings with Witt's legal representation. 4 judges recused themselves because they joined the appeals court after the oral argument.

The government then asked for reconsideration. The Air Force court reversed itself in 2014 and upheld Witt's death sentence, this time with 3 of the 4 previously recused judges taking part.

"The participation of disqualified judges in the reconsideration process produced a significant risk of undermining the public's confidence in the judicial process," Stucky wrote in the nine-page decision released Tuesday.

Witt's attorneys declined to comment Wednesday.

A graduate of Wichita State University and Harvard Law School, Stucky himself served as an Air Force judge advocate before joining the all-civilian Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. His decision did not elaborate on the underlying crime, whose essential details Witt does not contest.

In the summer of 2004, Witt was a senior airman stationed at Robins with the 116th Air Control Wing. Raised in an allegedly troubled home, he had also been in a motorcycle accident in early 2014, an event that later led to questions about a possible traumatic brain injury.

Jamie Schliepsiek, the wife of Senior Airman Andrew Schliepsiek, told her husband the night of July 4 that Witt had made a sexual advance toward her. Her husband then placed multiple post-midnight phone calls to Witt, with the 2 men eventually talking at length.

"At some point during the phone call exchanges, (Witt) changed into his battle dress uniform," the Air Force appeals court recounted. "He retrieved a knife from his closet, placed the knife in the trunk of his car, and drove onto Robins Air Force Base."

A 3rd senior airman, Jason King, had joined the Schliepsieks at their home. At about 4 a.m., Witt entered the house and got into a scuffle where he stabbed both men while Jamie Schliepsiek locked herself in a bedroom. A wounded King fled to summon help.

Witt left the house and then returned, breaking through the bedroom door to find Jamie Schliepsiek curled in a fetal position. He stabbed her to death, and then finished off her wounded husband, who had been paralyzed in the initial attack.

"My life has changed dramatically since that night, and I plan to continue to make changes," Witt told his court-martial panel during his trial in Macon, Georgia. "I want you to know that I am firmly resolved to lead a productive life in the service of others and will not wander from this path if given the chance."

The new hearing could result in another death sentence, or life terms with or without the possibility of parole. The last U.S. military execution occurred in 1961.

(source: modbee.com)

FLORIDA:

Panel finds probable cause Jacksonville judge used racist, sexist language

A Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission panel has found probable cause to charge Circuit Judge Mark Hulsey with using anti-black language and behaving improperly as a judge.

The complaint includes charges that Hulsey referred to a woman as a "c--t" and said blacks "should go get back on a ship and go back to Africa."

The charges finalized Tuesday include claims that Hulsey, of Jacksonville, used staff attorneys to prepare scripts for routine judicial tasks and required one attorney to regularly do Hulsey's work for him.

During a death-penalty trial, the charges said, a staff attorney was required to provide basic information about capital trial procedures.

At the end of the trial, the charges said, Hulsey blamed the attorney for mistakes he had made.

Hulsey was later told by the chief judge to stop overusing staff attorneys, the charges said.

Excessive use of one staff attorney meant that attorney was "doing double duty," the charges said, working on tasks Hulsey assigned and trying to handle her regular assigned work.

Hulsey was a solo-practice attorney for 20 years before being elected in 2010. He is up for reelection this year, and is being challenged by Gerald Wilkerson.

(source: firstcoastnews.com)

KANSAS:

Preliminary hearing is set for accused killer of KCK police detective Brad Lancaster

As officials gathered Wednesday morning to discuss the latest killing of a Kansas City, Kan., police officer, the man accused of killing another KCK officer was appearing in court across the street.

Curtis Ayers, 29, is charged with capital murder in the May 9 fatal shooting of Kansas City, Kan., police detective Brad Lancaster.

The hearing for Ayers on Wednesday morning in Wyandotte County District Court came as officials at City Hall were holding a news conference to discuss Tuesday afternoon's fatal shooting of Police Capt. Robert Melton.

Police said Tuesday night that 2 suspects were in custody in connection with Melton's killing but that no charges had been filed.

At the hearing for Ayers, District Judge Bill Klapper set a preliminary hearing for Nov. 21. The judge said he would set aside 2 or 3 days for the hearing.

The preliminary hearing will be the 1st time that evidence in the case will be presented publicly.

Ayers is accused of shooting Lancaster outside Kansas Speedway while fleeing from police.

He then allegedly went on a spree of carjacking and robbery that ended in Kansas City when police shot him and took him into custody.

He faces a potential death sentence if convicted of capital murder and is being represented by lawyers from the Kansas Death Penalty Defense Unit.

Wyandotte County District Attorney Jerome Gorman said he has not yet made a decision on whether to seek the death penalty for Ayers.

(source: Kansas City Star)

NEBRASKA:

Families share differing views on death penalty

Speakers from various sides of the death penalty debate shared their stories Tuesday evening at the First United Methodist Church, 614 N. Hastings Ave.

Organized by Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, the Journey of Hope program started with a story from Bess Klassen-Landis.

Her mother, Helen, was raped, strangled and shot 4 times in their rural home in Elkhart, Ind. Bess and her 3 sisters were at school at the time and her father was out of town for work.

"Having someone murdered in your family puts you on a spiritual journey," she said.

She likened the aftermath of the murder to a tornado. Both are sudden, unexpected and violent occurrences that ripple out to affect hundreds of people.

Although police identified 7 suspects, there was never a conviction and the murderer remained on the loose.

Bess, 13 at the time, didn't feel safe in her home. She suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and created escape plans in her mind every time she entered a room.

"Each night, I would be pursued and murdered in my dreams," she said.

Spending so much time in a hyper-vigilant state and always being on high alert caused problems with her immune system over time.

Her family didn't know how to deal with the trauma. In an effort to protect each other from more pain, they avoided discussing the topic. The family drifted apart as each tried to deal with the trauma on his or her own.

Klassen-Landis said her healing started through the grace of God. Peace came as she found the ability to forgive. She said forgiveness is something victims should do for themselves as a way to move past the pain of loss.

"For me to heal, I needed to be able to see the humanity in my mother's murderer," she said.

Klassen-Landis feels the death penalty doesn't bring healing to the judicial system. While proponents say the death penalty needs to be reserved for the worst of the worst, she contends it is actually used for the poorest of the poor.

"We cannot have a non-violent community through violence," she said.

The 2nd speaker was Sandrine Ageorges-Skinner of Paris. She has spent decades fighting the death penalty. During her efforts, she became penpals with 3 Texas death row inmates, including Hank Skinner in 1996.

Skinner had been arrested for the triple murder of his girlfriend and her 2 adult sons who lived at his Texas home in 1994. He was convicted and sentenced to death in 1995.

Ageorges-Skinner began visiting Skinner in 2000 and the 2 married in 2008.

She described death row from the eyes of a family member, including the anxiety of having her husband receive execution dates in 2010 and 2011. In 2010, her husband received a stay of execution with just 25 minutes to spare.

Ageorges-Skinner proclaimed her husband's innocence, explaining a witness was coerced into testifying against him. The witness later recanted, but a judge decided she wasn't a credible witness.

Ageorges-Skinner said it has been a constant struggle trying to get access to the evidence in the case and secure DNA testing to exonerate her husband. The case is currently postponed until new calculations are received for the mixed DNA found at the scene.

After the scheduled speakers answered questions, Vivian Tuttle of Ewing asked to share her story.

Tuttle is the mother of Evonne Tuttle, who was killed in a 2002 botched bank robbery in Norfolk. Evonne went to cash a $64 check and was 1 of 5 people killed within 40 seconds.

4 suspects were convicted in the case. 3 were given death sentences and the last was given 5 life sentences.

Tuttle believes she won't be able to have peace until her daughter's killers are executed.

She was appalled when senators voted to repeal the death penalty, despite her efforts to convince senators to keep the punishment.

Afterward, she helped gather signatures for the petition that eventually added the death penalty to the November ballot.

Now, she travels across the state talking to people to convince them to vote for repealing the abolishment of the death penalty.

"This is my journey to talk to people and tell people my story," she said.

(source: The Hastings Tribune)

CALIFORNIA:

Man could face death penalty for alleged fatal beating, sexual assault of toddler

A 28-year-old man pleaded not guilty in San Mateo County Superior Court this week to sexually abusing and murdering his girlfriend's young daughter.

Daniel Contreras of Redwood City could face the death penalty if convicted of murder and felony child abuse, among other charges, for the death of the 17-month-old girl, District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said, who noted the case is particularly gruesome.

"It's a shocking set of facts," Wagstaffe said Wednesday of Contreras' alleged crimes.

On Aug. 6, 2015, Contreras' girlfriend of 2 months reportedly left her daughter in the care of Contreras for the 1st time. Over the course of several hours, Contreras repeatedly sexually molested the young girl, prosecutors said.

When the girl wouldn't stop crying, Contreras allegedly beat her to death, then called his mother and aunt, lying by saying the girl had fallen off a changing table, according to prosecutors.

She was dead by the time police arrived at the apartment in the 400 block of Madison Avenue at about 2:30 p.m.

Contreras repeated his story to authorities, but he was arrested 2 days later when the investigation revealed that the girl had been beaten to death, prosecutors said.

Contreras pleaded not guilty at his superior court arraignment Tuesday, and a pretrial conference was scheduled for Dec. 12. He had also pleaded not guilty at his initial arraignment last year.

Contreras remains in custody without bail. Wagstaffe said Wednesday he has not yet determined whether to seek the death penalty for Contreras.

(source: San Francisco Examiner)

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

California's broken death penalty system can be fixed

In 1978, California enacted today's California death penalty statute, the so-called Briggs Initiative. Now, Ron Briggs supports repealing the statute his "family wrote," but his argument reads more like a surrender to death penalty abolitionists ("Death penalty is destructive to California"; Forum, July 10).

Instead of waving a white flag, Briggs should endorse Proposition 66, the Death Penalty Reform and Savings Act of 2016, as a worthy successor to his family's work. This initiative deals with the concerns Briggs raises about California's death penalty system.

The reason that no executions have occurred in California for 10 years is the state's delay in drafting regulations for a method of execution. Otherwise, there could have been at least 15 sentences carried out during the past decade. It's outrageous that victims’ families were forced to sue the state to draft these regulations. Proposition 66 will prevent biased and unsympathetic politicians and government bureaucrats from interfering with this process.

Proposition 66 also addresses concerns about how death row inmates occupy their time, requiring them to work or lose their privileges. If they owe restitution, it will come out of their wages.

The proposal makes other significant reforms as well. It addresses the backlog of cases at the state level by expanding the pool of qualified counsel for death row inmates. The initiative expedites review of prisoners' complaints by returning their cases to the original trial court and prompts the Judicial Council to develop standards for the completion of appeals in state court in 5 years. Victims' families will have the right to sue to force them to meet deadlines.

Briggs believes abolition will benefit victims' survivors by closing cases and sparing them further "wounds." That is offensive and presumptuous. In our experience, most survivors want "justice" for the murderers of their family members. Repealing the death penalty will not heal these peoples' wounds; it keeps them permanently open.

Briggs naively touts life without parole as a sufficient alternative to the death penalty. He forgets that the last murderer executed in California, Clarence Ray Allen, was sentenced to death for the murder of 3 people, which he planned while already serving a life sentence for murder. Life imprisonment was not enough to protect the public from Allen.

Moreover, victims' families will always be haunted by the specter that an inmate sentenced to life without parole will suddenly ask the governor to reduce a sentence - as happened recently in the case of a Fresno murderer who waited 36 years and applied for clemency. As long as an inmate sentenced to life without parole lives, the governor could reduce the sentence and a murderer may be released on the streets.

Finally, Briggs is dead wrong to assert that the death penalty has been conclusively shown not to deter crime. Experience and common sense confirm a deterrent effect.

Briggs risks lives on the unproven idea that the death penalty does not deter murder and that life sentences will protect public safety. Rather than capitulating to abolitionist arguments, he should support his families' legacy and endorse Proposition 66.

(source: Opinion; Anne Marie Schubert is the Sacramento County district attorney---- Sacramento Bee)

US MILITARY:

New question burdens 9/11 trial: Can death-penalty case proceed without capital defender?

War court prosecutors argued for the first time Wednesday that a 9/11 defendant could fire his death-penalty defender and go forward with the capital case with only a military attorney representing him.

Army Col. James L. Pohl, the judge, appeared to sidestep the question and ruled instead that alleged Sept. 11 plot deputy Walid Bin Attash didn't have good cause to fire his seasoned criminal defense lawyer, Cheryl Bormann. The 2 haven't spoken since February.

Marine Brig. Gen. John Baker is chief of the Military Commissions Defense Office.

Moreover, Pohl gave Bin Attash a stark choice and a night to sleep on it before returning to court Thursday: Keep your 4-lawyer Pentagon-paid defense team or elect to represent yourself.

So-called pro-se representation is not certain. If Bin Attash tries to invoke the option, Pohl has a 21-page script ready that cautions there are "difficulties and dangers of self-representation." The judge would use it to question the youngest of the 5 alleged Sept. 11 plotters on whether he is competent to serve as his own attorney in a national security setting where an accused terrorist cannot see all the evidence against him.

Bin Attash's unhappiness with his attorneys has been, as Pohl put it, "festering" for months.

In October, Bin Attash asked how self-representation would work, a question that paralyzed the court for a week while the script was written and translated. He asked to fire Bormann, a Chicago death penalty defender who dons a severe black abaya in court in deference to her client's Muslim sensibilities. Pohl met alone with the alleged terrorist and his lawyers, and denied the request.

Now Bin Attash also wants to fire another civilian on his team, former Air Force Maj. Michael Schwartz. He's been on the case for 4 years. Last year, he resigned his commission to stay on it.

In an unusual move, the general in charge of providing resources to the defense teams, Marine Brig. Gen. John Baker, filed an amicus brief that argued a defendant cannot fire an individual lawyer if Baker decides it's not in the captive's best interest. Baker, who represents no detainee but has been meeting with Bin Attash, told the judge in court that there was no good cause to get rid of any of the 4 lawyers defending Bin Attash.

Both Schwartz and Bormann have been at every hearing since the case's May 5, 2012 arraignment, which stretched across 13 hours in part because Bin Attash refused to waive the reading of the 88-page charge sheet.

Civilian defense attorney Edwin Perry and Army Maj. Matthew Seeger joined about a year ago. Wednesday, all 4 sat at the rear of the court, banished by Bin Attash from his defense table.

Baker said Bin Attash has 2 choices: "Go either pro se or elect to be represented by counsel."

Prosecutor Ed Ryan argued Pohl had a third option: Let Bin Attash fire everyone on his team except his lone military defense counsel, Seeger.

Ryan said Bin Attash can waive certain counsel, including the statutorily mandated learned counsel, if the judge questions him and concludes that he does understand the ramifications. If he can't pick and choose, Ryan said, a defendant "can be coerced into representing himself."

"The prosecution do not care who his lawyers are," said Ryan. "But it is incorrect and improper to say he has no vote on who his lawyers are."

Bin Attash sits directly behind alleged mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the No. 2 position in court among the the 5 men accused of orchestrating, financing and training the men who hijacked four aircraft and killed nearly 3,000 people at the World Trade Center, Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field on Sept. 11, 2001. They could face military execution if they are convicted.

The judge has set no trial date.

(source: Miami Herald)

TURKEY:

Experts: Restoring death penalty in Turkey would be risky

Rights groups and legal experts said Wednesday that Turkey would be abandoning international rights conventions, and reverting to relics of military dictatorships if it reinstates the death penalty, which was abolished more than a decade ago.

Since the failed coup, hundreds of protesters have chanted in support of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and demanded the restoration of the death penalty.

Erdogan hasn't pushed back against those demands, saying reinstating it is a constitutional procedure that the parliament has to discuss. If the parliament approves it, he said, he would back it.

"You cannot put aside the people's demands," Erdogan told hundreds of supporters late Monday at a rally outside his Istanbul home.

But European leaders say talks on Turkey's bid to join the EU would end if Ankara restores the death penalty. Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2004, as part of its bid to join the bloc.

Andrew Gardner, Amnesty researcher in Turkey, said it's ironic that the country has been among the main campaigners in the United Nations for countries to abolish capital punishment. The last execution carried out in Turkey was in 1984, following the last military coup in 1980.

"The death penalty is a relic of military dictatorship in Turkey," Gardner said. "By bringing back the death penalty, Turkey would be disregarding its international commitments, massively complicating their international relations."

A Turkish criminal lawyer said that even if capital punishment was reintroduced in Turkey, it couldn't be legally applied to any of the alleged perpetrators of the coup because it would be violating international rights principles. The reinstating of the death penalty would require an amendment to the constitution or a public referendum.

A crime can't be punished retroactively with an amended law, said Vildan Yirmibesoglu, a criminal and human rights lawyer.

"The suspect is tried with the existing law (at the time of the crime.) It is not possible to apply a law that has been enacted retroactively to a crime that has been committed in the past."

(source: Associated Press)

*********

Erdogan: Europe should respect decision to introduce death penalty

Europe will have to respect the choice of Turkish people, if the death penalty is restored in the country, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.

"We have been knocking on the EU door for the past 53 years. They have made us wait for 53 years. Many countries who came after us are already in. I believe that this decision is up to the people. If the people say this must be done, any country that believes in democracy must respect this decision," Sputnik cited him as saying.

(source: vestnikkavkaza.net)

PHILIPPINES:

On every level, death penalty is wrong

A decade after ending the use of the death penalty and taking a lead role in a global campaign to abolish capital punishment, the Philippines is again considering sending prisoners to the gallows. This is deeply concerning on a number of fronts.

Firstly, capital punishment is, in practice, fundamentally unjust. It disproportionately affects minorities, the poor, and those with mental disabilities.

Moreover, by backsliding on this legislation the Philippines will disregard its international obligations. In November 2007, when the Philippines became a state party to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the country committed to renouncing capital punishment forever - a decision bound by international law.

During his inauguration address on June 30, President Duterte vowed that the Philippines would honor treaties and international obligations. We trust he remains true to his word.

The President won this year's election on the back of a promise to end crime in 3 to 6 months. The number of killings of suspected drug traffickers by police and others reported almost daily since the May 9 elections is shocking. I call on the President to take strong measures to stop this alarming trend.

Exacting retribution against criminals may have popular support among the general public, but a credible judicial system must be grounded in justice, not vengeance. Is the death penalty an appropriate or effective response to narcotics offenses? The International Narcotics Control Board, which monitors the implementation of the UN drug control conventions, advises against capital punishment for drug offenses. The board has repeatedly recommended that to be effective, drug control action must be consistent with international human rights standards.

More broadly, researchers in various countries have shown there is no conclusive evidence that use of the death penalty is a greater deterrent to crime than other methods of punishment. Countries where the death penalty has been abandoned did not, in general, record a rise in crimes.

The death penalty is also irreversible: You can't un-execute someone. But even robust justice systems have sentenced innocent people to die. Since 1973, 156 people on death row in the United States have been exonerated, many of them, through DNA testing, according to the Innocence Project. Is the Philippines prepared to put to death men and women who may later be found innocent?

Consider the experience of Mongolia, which first abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes in the 1950s, then reintroduced it, before deciding, last December, to once again stop executing people. In reaching the decision, President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj said the people of Mongolia had suffered enough from the death penalty. In his words: "Removing the death penalty does not mean removing punishment. Criminals fear justice, and justice must be imminent and unavoidable. But we cannot repair one death with another."

Fewer than 40 countries around the world continue to execute people. Around 170 countries have either abolished capital punishment, or have established a moratorium in law or practice. Will the Philippines move backward?

Fear, despair and frustration clearly prevail among all Filipinos amid a rise in crime and drug-related offenses. But it is the duty of political leaders to adopt solutions to the country's challenges in ways that will support the rule of law and advance the protection of human rights.

I urge the country to consider all these facts with an open mind. The arguments are convincing and decisive: On every level - from principle to practice - use of the death penalty is wrong.

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein is the UN high commissioner for human rights.

(source: Opinion, Philippine Inquirer)

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House to pass priority 'Duterte bills' in 1 year - Alvarez

The House of Representatives (HOR) will waste no time in passing the priority legislation of President Rodrigo Duterte after he delivers his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 25.

Thus, said presumptive Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez as he highlighted the three measures that the congressmen would focus on.

Up for deliberation in the 17th Congress, are the proposed 2017 national budget, the joint resolutions for convening a Constitutional Convention (Con-Con) that will amend the Constitution to pave the way for a shift from the unitary to a federal system of government, and bills seeking the restoration of the death penalty and reducing the age of criminal liability of juvenile offenders from 15 to 9 years old.

The House will try to pass all the proposed bills within a year, Alvarez said.

Crafting the budget is traditionally the Lower Chamber's 1st priority whenever it begins its sessions.

As for the other 2 measures, these have been aggressively advocated by President Duterte himself.

Duterte and Alvarez are Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) chairman and secretary-general, respectively. Duterte is a former Davao City mayor while Alvarez is the current Davao del Norte 1st district representative.

(source: mb.com.ph)

SINGAPORE:

Grisly find at Lim Chu Kang: Man charged with murder

A 48-year-old man has been charged with the murder of a woman last seen alive 1 1/2 weeks ago.

Leslie Khoo Kwee Hock is accused of murdering Ms Cui Yajie, 31, on Jul 12 at Gardens by the Bay (East) - the area off Tanjong Rhu Road. According to the charge sheet, the murder allegedly took place between 8am and 10.11am.

Ms Cui, an engineer, was last seen at Fusionopolis Walk the night before her death. She was reported missing on Jul 14 after she stopped reporting to work on Jul 12.

As there were suspicious circumstances surrounding her disappearance, officers from Clementi Division worked closely with officers from the Criminal Investigation Department and Police Intelligence Department to conduct investigations, and established Khoo's identity.

The 48-year-old was arrested on Wednesday and led officers to the remains at a deserted road at Lim Chu Kang Lane 8, near the dairy farms in the area. Channel NewsAsia understands that no weapon has been found.

He arrived at the State Courts on Thursday afternoon in an unmarked police car, and was cuffed and seated in the back seat flanked by 2 plainclothes officers.

If found guilty of murder, Khoo faces the mandatory death penalty.

Khoo has been remanded 1 week for further investigations. He will next appear in court on Jul 28.

(source: channelnewsasia.com)

JAPAN:

Top court upholds death penalty for killer Tsutsui

The Supreme court on Thursday rejected an appeal against a lower court decision to give the death sentence to 31-year-old Gota Tsutsui over the 2011 murder of 2 family members of a former girlfriend.

The defense for Tsutsui, from the city of Kuwana in Mie Prefecture, maintained his innocence throughout multiple trials. But the top court upheld lower court rulings, saying that the courts found he had committed the murders based on objective evidence.

"There is no room for leniency, given his motive of 1-sided obsession to retake the former girlfriend and of getting rid of her family members that he considered as an obstacle, even by killing them," presiding Judge Masayuki Ikegami said at the court's First Petty Bench.

"The result that he took the lives of 2 people who had done nothing wrong was grave."

According to the Supreme Court ruling, Tsutsui assaulted the former girlfriend in Chiba Prefecture in 2011. In pursuit of her, the accused then broke into her family's home in Nagasaki Prefecture and stabbed to death her mother, Mitsuko Yamashita, 56, and grandmother Hisae, 77.

The incident revealed inappropriate police responses, including a lack of cooperation among the Chiba, Mie and Nagasaki prefectural police departments, when the woman consulted with police over the stalking case.

It also found a delay in accepting a complaint from her because an officer in charge of stalking and other cases went on a trip with co-workers.

(source: Japan Times)

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

Man sentenced to death for murders of 2 elderly people in Gunma

The Maebashi District Court in Gunma Prefecture on Wednesday sentenced a 27-year-old man to death for the murders of 2 elderly citizens in November and December 2014.

The court heard that Kazuya Tsuchiya broke into the home of Tanekichi Kawaura, 81, and his 80-year-old wife, on Dec 16, 2014, and stabbed them, Fuji TV reported. Tanekichi died of his wounds later, while his wife sustained minor injuries.

Tsuchiya also fatally stabbed Yoshie Kojima, 93, at her home in the same area in November. He stole 5,000 yen and some food from Kojima's home.

Tsuchiya was arrested on Dec 23, 2014, after breaking into a ramen restaurant. He admitted to both crimes and told police he desperately needed money.

At the time of his arrest, Tsuchiya only had 100 yen on him and the gas and electricity to his apartment had been disconnected as he hadn’t paid his bills in months, police said.

(source: Japan Today)

SAUDI ARABIA----execution

Saudi Arabia 'executes 99th person this year' to overtake 2015 rate----'Saudi Arabia is out of step with a global trend of states moving away from the death penalty', says Amnesty International

Saudi Arabia has executed its 99th person this year, continuing the trend to more death penalties yearly in the Kingdom.

The conservative country, which publicly beheads citizens and foreigners for a variety of crimes, has reportedly executed more people than this time last year by reaching almost 100 this month.

Accused murderer Hassan bin Mubarak al-Amri was the 99th person to be executed in the state-sanctioned punishment, which is usually performed with a sword.

Sara Hashah, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa spokesperson, said Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran were responsible for 90 per cent of all recorded executions globally and were "out of step" with the rest of the world.

"In Saudi Arabia, where people are routinely sentenced to death after grossly unfair trials, we have seen a dramatic surge in the number of executions in the past 2 years which has shown no sign of abating in 2016," she told The Independent.

"This clearly demonstrates that Saudi Arabia’s authorities are increasingly out of step with a global trend of states moving away from the death penalty.

"Saudi Arabia's authorities must end their reliance on this cruel, inhuman and degrading form of punishment immediately."

The number of death sentences in the Kingdom was swelled by the 47 people executed on January 2 on charges of Al Qaeda-related terrorist activity. The execution of a Shia cleric among them provoked international condemnation and the cutting-off of diplomatic ties between Riyadh and Tehran.

Last year was already a record-high for executions in Saudi Arabia, with 158 people sentenced to death in total compared to 90 in 2014.

(source: independent.co.uk)

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

Saudi blood money

A court in Saudi Arabia has demanded 300,000 riyal (Rs 9 million) in blood money from a Nepali driver from Kavre accused of killing a Pakistani in a traffic accident. Ramchandra Timilisina of Kushadevi will have to face the death penalty if he cannot manage the money.

Timilsina had gone to Saudi Arabia to pay off a Rs 600,000 debt and to educate his children. He has been in Hayal Central Jail for the past 15 months.

Timilsina has maintained that his truck had been loaded with cement from Jabirah Hayal Cement Company and was parked within the company's premises when a vehicle driven by the Pakistani ran into his truck.

"It was their fault, but they planted an alcohol bottle in my truck and got me arrested," Timilsina told relatives over the phone. In Nepal, Timilsina drove a minibus on the Panauti-Kathmandu route, and said he is a teetotaler.

The Nepal Embassy in Riyadh has been no help, and Timilsina's family back home is desperate to raise the money. He has 2 sons 5 and 7 years old. His wife Sarita has been living in a temporary shelter after the earthquake for which she borrowed Rs 50,000.

(source: Nepali Times)

INDIA:

India shame: VHP sought death penalty for Akhlaq's family

After registration of an FIR against Mohammad Akhlaq's family in the Dadri lynching episode, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad has demanded death penalty for the family.

According to a report published in The Hindu, a meeting was held on Monday in Bishahra, which was attended by Senior VHP functionary Jugal Kishor and other VHP activist .

Kishor put forward the demand of death penalty of Akhlaq's family after UP police registered an FIR against them under the U.P. Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act, 1955, and the Animal Cruelty Act .

"It has been our long-standing demand that those who slaughter cows should be given the death penalty. We demand the same thing in this case where it is proven now that a cow was slaughtered by Akhlaq and his family," Mr. Kishor said.

"We will demand the arrest of Akhlaq's family and will also ask for death penalty," said a local VHP leader who attend the meeting.

Locals stayed away from the VHP meeting, with the village head even condemning the "attempts to communally polarise the village."

Kaushalya, the new village head condemned the attempts to disturbed communal atmosphere in the village. She told The Hindu corespondent that no villager had invited the VHP leader.

"No villager went to the meeting, which was anyway not a village function. We strongly condemn the attempt to disturb communal harmony," she said.

Akhlaq was lynched allegedly by his neighbours in Dadri last September over rumours that he and his family had stored beef.

(source: siasat.com)

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

40-year-old sentenced to death for raping, killing minor in MP

A 40-year-old man -- accused of abducting, raping and killing a 13-year-old girl in Chichli area of Narsinghpur district in May 2015 -- was given a death penalty by a Narsinghpur court on Tuesday.

According to prosecution sources, Narsinghpur additional sessions court judge Pratibha Sathwane held the accused -- Baba alias Ravishankar Vishwakarma -- guilty under different sections of the IPC relating to rape, murder and abduction and also provisions of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012.

The judge pronounced the death sentence and also slapped Rs 2,100 penalty. The judge also awarded other punishments under different sections, spanning from 7 years of rigorous imprisonment to life sentence under other sections of the IPC.

Narsinghpur superintendent of police M Shrivastava said the judge termed the case as rarest of rare crime.

First death penalty awarded by any court in Narsinghpur since independence

"It is the 1st death penalty awarded by any court in Narsinghpur district since the country attained independence," claimed Shrivastava.

The 13-year-old girl, a resident of a village in Chichli area, had gone missing on May 21, 2015 after which her family reported the matter to the police. The Chichli police recovered the girl's body the next day from a well in the adjoining Baglai village.

The girl's post mortem examination revealed that she was raped before being strangled to death.

Investigations led the police to 3 suspects in July 2015. The DNA samples of the three were matched with the DNA profile of the deceased girl generated from her vaginal smear. Ravishankar was then detained after which he admitted to committing the crime.

(source: Hindustan Times)

IRAN----executions

10 Prisoners Executed at Rajai Shahr Prison in 1 Day----The execution spree of the Iranian authorities continues with 10 executions carried out on Wednesday July 20 at Rajai Shahr Prison. About 38 executions have been reported in Iran in the past week.

A group of ten prisoners were executed at Rajai Shahr Prison (Alborz province, northern Iran) on Wednesday July 20, according to sources close to Iran Human Rights (IHR). The prisoners were reportedly on death row on unrelated murder charges.

IHR calls on the international community to draw attention to the rising number of executions in Iran. "Although these prisoners were executed for criminal charges, the main goal of the executions is to spread fear in the society. The International community should not close its eyes to the arbitrary executions in Iran," says Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, spokesperson for Iran Human Rights.

The prisoners had been transferred to solitary confinement on Sunday July 17 in preparation for their executions scheduled for Wednesday. Iran Human Rights has identified 4 of the prisoners as Mohsen Babaie, Mehdi Keshavarz, Reza Teymouri and Mohsen Khanmohammadi.

Iranian official sources, including the Judiciary and state media, have been silent about these 10 executions. About 38 executions have been reported in Iran in the past week.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

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Brutal guards attack death row prisoners in Iran's Ghezel Hesar Prison

Prison guards at the notorious Ghezel Hesar Prison in Karaj, north-west of Tehran, brutally attacked inmates in the death row ward earlier this week.

With black masks covering their faces the vicious guards attacked the prisoners on Monday (July 18) in order to create a climate of fear, according to reports from inside the prison.

The prisoners said that such brutal measures are meant to scare prisoners and stop them from revolting in prison.

(source: NCR-Iran)

KUWAIT:

Kuwait court upholds death penalty in terror case----In January, lower court found 23 of the 26 guilty of various crimes and 2 were sentenced to death

Kuwait's Court of Appeal on Thursday upheld the death sentence of one of the two defendants who were awarded capital punishment by a lower court in the terrorist cell case No. 302/2016. The other, an Iranian, is at large and was sentenced by the lower court in absentia.

While 3 defendants were acquitted, the other 21 received sentences ranging from 5 to 15 years in prison.

According to the Kuwait News Agency, KUNA, 1 of them was fined KD5,000 ($16,500 approximately).

Kuwaiti security service officers raided farmhouses near the Iraqi border late last summer, slicing through carpets and smashing open concrete floors. Hidden in large plastic containers was a weapons cache, the largest discovered in Kuwait's history. State television showed Kuwait's Interior Minister, a senior ruling family member, solemnly viewing the seized weapons.

Kuwait charged 25 of its nationals and an Iranian with spying for Iran and Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah.

The case opened up sectarian divisions in Kuwait. While Kuwait's Sunni majority and Shiite minority get on better with each other than in neighbouring states, tensions still exist.

In January this year, a Kuwaiti court found 23 of the 26 guilty of various charges. 2 were sentenced to death, including the Iranian who is at large. The others were fined or received jail terms between 5 years and life.

The prosecution is appealing the sentences, saying some of the men should have received tougher punishments.

On September 1 last year, Kuwait's public prosecution said 26 defendants, including the Iranian, would stand trial for the possession of weapons, ammunition and explosives and espionage for Iran and Hezbollah.

It said that 24 defendants faced charges of engaging in acts likely to undermine the unity and safety of Kuwait and sharing of intelligence with Iran and Lebanese group Hezbollah.

Iran-Kuwait spat

However, the Iranian embassy on September 3 downplayed the significance of the terrorist cell and the charges of espionage, saying that the case was a domestic Kuwaiti issue pertaining mainly to the discovery of weapons and ammunition.

The embassy said it regretted the move to implicate Iran in the case and called upon the Kuwaiti authorities to communicate the identity and "alleged role" of the Iranian suspect.

The embassy blasted Kuwaiti media for its "negative incitement against the Kuwaiti-Iranian relations" and for "targeting Iran based on flimsy charges, so far unproven by the judicial authorities".

In September, Kuwait summoned Iran's ambassador to the country and handed him a reply to a statement issued earlier by the Iranian embassy on the busting of the terror cell.

The reply was handed over by Deputy Foreign Minister Khalid Sulaiman Al Jarallah to Ambassador Ali Reza Enayati, the foreign ministry said.

"The reply included clarifications about Kuwait's stance on the issue," the ministry said in a brief statement carried by KUNA on Monday.

The ministry had earlier rejected the Iranian embassy's statement following the referral of suspects to a court over their espionage links with Iran and Hezbollah, saying that it was not consistent with basic diplomatic norms.

A spokesperson said the foreign ministry regretted and rejected the embassy statement for ignoring basic diplomatic norms that require resorting to official communication channels between governments when seeking information regarding a specific issue, and not going to the public media instead.

(source: Gulf News)

GAZA:

Palestinian organization blasts latest Hamas death sentences----Palestinian Center for Human Rights condemns death sentences handed down to alleged Israeli spies in Gaza.

A Palestinian Authority-based human rights organization on Wednesday condemned the latest death sentences handed down by tribunals in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, AFP reports.

On Tuesday, a military court in Gaza sentenced three local residents to death after they were convicted of providing information to Israel's security services.

The trial of the alleged "spies" was held behind closed doors and without the presence of the media.

The Gaza Military Court announced a sentence of death by hanging for a man identified as M.S., aged 59, from the Tuffah area east of Gaza city on charges of "collaborating with the Israeli occupation."

The Higher Military Court said it had confirmed execution orders against 2 other men, one a 49-year-old man from Khan Yunis, by hanging and a Gaza City man aged 38 by firing squad.

In response, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) condemned in a statement the "excessive" punishment and said that "civilians should not appear before military courts."

The authorities in Gaza executed 3 men behind closed doors in May, the 1st time the death penalty had been carried out since 2014.

13 death sentences have been pronounced this year, 12 of which were issued by military courts, according to PCHR.

Hamas regularly claims to have captured "Israeli spies", and many times it tries them and sentences them to death.

In one such example, the group claimed to have exposed "the most dangerous intelligence agent" who allegedly worked for the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet).

Under Palestinian law, collaboration with Israel is punishable by death. All death sentences, however, require the approval of Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who issued a moratorium on death sentences in 2005.

Hamas ignores the moratorium and carries out the executions anyway, as it no longer recognizes the legitimacy of Abbas, whose 4-year term expired in 2009.

Amnesty International has previously called on Hamas to stop the executions of suspected collaborators, saying that the group "must immediately and totally cease its use of the death penalty."

(source: Israel National News)

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

Palestinian NGO condemns latest Gaza death sentence

A Palestinian human rights organisation condemned on Wednesday the latest death sentences handed down by tribunals in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

A military court in the coastal Palestinian enclave condemned a local man to death on Tuesday on charges of collaborating with Israel, while death sentences issued previously against 2 others were confirmed by a higher military tribunal.

The Gaza Military Court announced a sentence of death by hanging for the man identified as M.S., aged 59, from the Tuffah area east of Gaza city on charges of "collaborating with the Israeli occupation."

The Higher Military Court said it had confirmed execution orders against 2 other men, one a 49-year-old man from Khan Yunis, by hanging and a Gaza City man aged 38 by firing squad.

Both men were convicted of aiding Israeli security forces.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights condemned in a statement the "excessive" punishment and said that "civilians should not appear before military courts."

The authorities in Gaza executed 3 men behind closed doors in May, the 1st time the death penalty had been carried out since 2014.

13 death sentences have been pronounced this year, 12 of which were issued by military courts, according to PCHR.

In total, 177 death sentences have been handed out since the creation of the Palestinian Authority in 1994, 30 in the West Bank and 147 in Gaza.

Of these, 35 were carried out, all but 2 in the Gaza Strip.

(source: Agence France-Presse)

BANGLADESH:

High Court verdict on death references, appeals of 2005 Gazipur Bar bombing convicts July 28

The bench of Justice M Enayetur and Justice JBM Hassan fixed the date after the hearing of the death references, appeals against death sentences, and jail appeals ended on Wednesday.

Deputy Attorney General Sheikh AKM Moniruzzaman Kabir and Assistant Attorney General Shahidul Islam Khan represented the State.

Kabir later told bdnews24.com that 10 Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) operatives, sentenced to death for the killings, had pleaded guilty.

"We have sought to uphold the death sentences," he said.

Md Helal Uddin, one of the defence lawyers, said the defence sought reduction of the death sentences to life imprisonment, considering the age of the convicts.

The 10 convicts, all behind bars, are Enayet Ullah, Arifur Rahman, Masidul Islam Masud, Saidur Rahman Munsi, Abdullah Al Sohain, Nizam Uddin Reza, Taibur Rahman Hassan, Md Ashraful Islam, Md Shafiullah Tarek and Adnan Sami Jahangir.

After the verdict in 2013, the death references of the convicts were sent to the High Court for approval the same year.

4 of the convicts had challenged the death penalty, while all 10 filed jail appeals.

According to the case details, JMB activist Azad - also known by many aliases such as Zia, Nazir and Nahid - had exploded 2 bombs in a suicide attack at Hall-2 of Gazipur District Bar Association office on Nov 29, 2005, after entering the building in a lawyer's gown.

The blasts had killed the association's General Secretary Amzad Hossain, lawyers Golam Faruque, Nurul Huda and Anwarul Azim and four of their clients.

Police started the case against a number of JMB leaders including Shaykh Abdur Rahman and Ataur Rahman Sani, the suicide attacker and his accomplices.

2 years later, police submitted the chargesheet accusing 15 JMB leaders and operatives.

But the names of Azad and his accomplice Molla Omar Shakil, Rahman, Sani and another top JMB leader, Khaled Saifullah, were dropped as they were all dead by the time formal charges were brought against them.

6 JMB leaders, including Rahman, Sani and Saifullah, accused of abetment in the bombing, were hanged on Mar29, 2007 for murdering 2 judges in Jhalakathi.

A Gazipur court framed charges against the 10 remaining JMB members accused in the case on Apr 24, 2011.

On Oct 3, the case was transferred to Dhaka's Speedy Trial Tribunal-4 that sentenced them to death in June 2013.

The 10 convicts were arrested between 2005 and 2006.

(source: bdnews24.com)

GUYANA:

Guyana should abolish death penalty instead of enacting new laws with such punishment

Guyana and other countries that have enacted laws to sentence convicted terrorists to death should take steps to repeal them and also abolish the death penalty altogether, top international advocates against the death penalty said Wednesday.

Commissioner with the International Commission against the Death Penalty, Justice Navi Pillay told a news conference ahead of a judicial colloquium with Guyanese judges and magistrates that she hoped that Guyana would review its Terrorism Act that has 12 provisions for the death penalty.

"You don't pass a law just because something terrible has happened. Law is not done emotionally. The rule of law follows international standards and Guyana is very much a part of the international community, has passed many international treaties and so they are bound to pass laws that are certain and definite and not responding each time to terrorism acts committed here, France or wherever," she told a news conference at the Marriott Hotel.

Although Guyana has amended its law to provide for the death penalty only if joint service members or members of the judiciary are killed in the line of duty, quite recently a High Court Judge sentenced a man to death for the murder of 2 brothers at Victoria, East Coast Demerara.

Pillay stressed the importance of complying with international law by not merely having a 20-year moratorium on the death penalty but legally abolishing it. "We will lend our voice to ask Guyana to advance forward and not go backward," she said, adding that Guyana should be proud that no one has been executed in 1997.

United Nations Assistant Secretary General in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ivan Simonovic added that "there is no conclusive evidence that the death penalty deters any crime including terrorism."

The panel, which was due to deliver presentations to the judges and magistrates, has already met with Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams and was scheduled to hold talks with Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan.

Pillay noted President David Granger's outspoken commitment to deal with the protection of women and children and addressing inter-personal violence.

Guyana is the only South American country with the death penalty on its law books.

(source: demerarewaves.com)

UNITED KINGDOM:

UKIP leadership election: Bill Etheridge MEP calls for cheap beer and death penalty vote

West Midlands MEP Bill Etheridge is standing to replace Nigel Farage as UKIP leader - with proposals including cheaper beer, justice for fathers and a referendum on bringing back the death penalty.

Mr Etheridge, who is also a Dudley councillor, launched his campaign at the Seven Stars pub in Sedgley, saying: "I want us to represent the view of the people against the establishment."

It follows the resignation of UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who quit after the country voted to leave the European Union in last month's referendum.

And the MEP has set out a series of radical policies.

They include holding a referendum on bringing back the death penalty for the most serious crimes.

He said: "For my part I believe that the very worst crimes deserve the ultimate penalty and I propose that those who murder and rape children, those that commit sadistic acts of murder and torture and those that commit acts of murder through terrorism against our country or our people should be subject to the death penalty at the discretion of the presiding judge."

Other proposals include changing family law so that the default judgment when families break up is that both partners should be involved in parenting.

In practice this would usually benefit fathers.

Campaigners say 200 children a day lose contact with their fathers due to judgments made in family courts, and Mr Etheridge says this helps explain why suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50.

He said: "If elected leader I shall be making this a key policy for UKIP, showing that we are so much more than a 1 issue party."

The MEP has also called for a drastic reduction in the price of a pint as one way of reinvigorating the British pub.

Mr Etheridge said he believed that slashing the duty on beer would rapidly pay for itself, with reductions in smuggling alcohol and growth in the licensed trade.

And he also said there may be a case for bringing back smoking in pubs.

He said: "When I visit Brussels, I see people legally smoking indoors, in a well ventilated smoking booth. Perhaps we should investigate whether they would work in pubs?"

Other candidates in the contest include North East MEP Jonathan Arnott, North West MEP Steven Woolfe and Cambridgeshire councillor Lisa Duffy.

(source: birminghammail.co.uk)

JULY 20, 2016:

TEXAS:

Judge denies request to speak to doctor in Petetan death penalty case

A judge denied a request by death row inmate Carnell Petetan Jr. to speak to a state expert Tuesday after McLennan County prosecutors charged his attorneys were on a "fishing expedition" and assured them they had provided all evidence favorable to the defense.

Jeremy Schepers and Ashley Steele of the Office of Capital and Forensic Writs filed a motion seeking an order from 19th State District Judge Ralph Strother that they be allowed to interview Dr. Randy Price and that state prosecutors turn over their notes or other communications with the Dallas neuropsychologist.

Price consulted with McLennan County prosecutors in the Petetan capital murder case but did not testify at his trial. Price attended the trial and heard defense expert witnesses testify that Petetan has an intellectual disability that should preclude him from the death penalty.

Strother sentenced Petetan to death in April 2014 after jurors recommended the penalty in the 2012 shooting death of his estranged wife, Kimberly Farr Petetan.

The attorneys from the capital writ office have not filed an application for writ of habeas corpus in Petetan's case but are in the preparation stages while his initial appeal is pending before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The deadline to file the writ application with the state's highest criminal court is Oct. 19.

Officials brought Petetan from death row in Livingston, 45 miles east of Huntsville, for the 20-minute hearing.

Prosecutors Michael Jarrett and Sterling Harmon objected to the defense's request. They assured the judge that the state had provided to the defense all so-called "Brady" material and all subject matter covered by the Michael Morton Act, evidence favorable to the defense.

"Dr. Price consulted on the case," Jarrett said. "He never gave us any exculpatory materials. He just agreed with the state's contention that all of Petetan's life, his actions, thoughts and things he did do not support an intellectual disability finding and, in fact, rebut it."

Jarrett reminded Strother that Petetan testified at his trial for hours and said the jury could see he is not intellectually disabled.

"This is not a case of test scores," Jarrett said. "It is a case of adaptive behavior."

The jury in Petetan's case found that Petetan constitutes a continuing threat to society and rejected his claim that he was exempt from execution because of mental impairment.

Kimberly Petetan started writing Carnell Petetan in prison in 2009 after a chance meeting with his brother. A recovering drug addict who was studying to be a drug abuse counselor, Kimberly Petetan shared her story with Carnell Petetan's brother, and he thought Carnell Petetan, then serving a 20-year prison term for 3 violent assaults, could benefit from her kindness.

Kimberly Petetan and Carnell Petetan were married and after his release from prison lived together in Port Arthur for a short time. Kimberly Petetan moved back to Waco after reporting that her husband had threatened her and her daughter.

Carnell Petetan was convicted of breaking into his estranged wife's Lake Shore Drive apartment in September 2012 - about 7 months after his release from prison - and shooting her in front of her daughter and 2 men who rode from Port Arthur with him earlier that day.

Both of those men and the girl told jurors that Petetan shot his wife.

Petetan claimed 1 of the men with him fired the fatal shots.

Petetan served almost 20 years in prison for shooting 2 men and attacking another man with a chair in separate incidents when he was 16.

He has been locked up since he was 13, being placed on juvenile probation for attacking a teacher before continuing to do poorly and being sent to a state juvenile facility in Brownwood.

Trial testimony showed that in Petetan's early prison years, he sexually assaulted 3 fellow inmates, assaulted guards and was a member of the 357 Graveyard Crips prison gang.

(source: Waco Tribune)

FLORIDA:

Judge denies Tommy Ziegler's request

A judge on Monday denied a new request by Tommy Zeigler to analyze bloodstains on his crime scene clothing, the longtime death row inmate's latest attempt to exonerate himself in the 1975 Christmas Eve killings of his wife, in-laws and customer at his Winter Garden furniture store.

In the 30-page ruling, Orange-Osceola Circuit Judge Reginald Whitehead held that Zeigler's petition for DNA testing was too similar to others that he's made previously and that the potential discoveries would not be great enough to rule him out as the perpetrator.

"Having carefully listened to the testimony presented at the evidentiary hearing and argument from the parties, the Court finds the authenticity of the DNA is questionable because it may be contaminated based on a lack of protective equipment when it was handled and/or improper storage," the judge wrote.

Eunice Zeigler, her parents Perry and Virginia Edwards and store customer Charles Mays were killed in the Christmas Eve attack. Zeigler was also shot in the stomach and maintains they were held up in a store robbery by Mays and others. Prosecutors have argued that Zeigler concocted the plan, luring Mays to the scene as a scapegoat, to pocket a life insurance policy on his wife.

In a March hearing, attorneys for Zeigler argued that more sensitive and technologically advanced DNA tests could show he did not shoot, beat and bludgeon the victims to death.

The technique, called "Touch DNA" testing, would settle it because it could detect if Zeigler's DNA transferred onto the victims from contact during a physical struggle.

Prosecutors with the Orange-Osceola State Attorney's Office opposed the petition, citing two previous opinions from the Florida Supreme Court, which found such evidence wouldn't be enough to exonerate Zeigler. The last round of DNA testing was done in 2001. It proved that Perry Edward's blood was not present on Zeigler's shirt and pants, as prosecutors argued in the original trial, but was found on May's clothing.

A judge in 2003 ruled that evidence was not compelling enough to prove Zeigler's innocence because there were multiple sources of blood at the crime scene.

In denying the most recent request, Whitehead questioned why Zeigler did not test all the blood stains he wanted to during the 2001 probe.

Attorneys for Zeigler asserted that the desired technology to do so was not available then. They also said they would privately finance the testing.

"We're obviously disappointed that [the judge] didn't see the merit and the application," said one of Zeigler's attorneys, John Houston Pope of New York. "We'll read what he has to say carefully, and see what the next steps are."

(source: Orlando Sentinel)

LOUISIANA:

2 Baton Rouge convicted killers want to join lethal injection lawsuit

Condemned Baton Rouge police killer Shedran Williams and another local convicted murderer want to join a 2012 federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Louisiana's method of execution.

Williams is on death row for the 2004 slaying of Lt. Vickie Wax outside a now-closed Walmart near Perkins Road and Acadian Thruway, where she was working a security detail.

Todd Wessinger was sentenced to death in the 1995 killing of two employees, Stephanie Guzzardo and David Breakwell, at the now-closed Calendar's Restaurant on Perkins Road, but a federal judge last July threw out the sentence and ordered a new penalty phase hearing.

Williams and Wessinger filed motions June 28 seeking to intervene in the suit filed by condemned killers Jessie Hoffman and Christopher Sepulvado in late 2012.

Early last month at the request of Louisiana corrections officials, U.S. District Judge James Brady halted all proceedings in the lethal injection case until January 2018 as the state tries to figure out how it can carry out the death penalty.

Louisiana doesn't have the drugs needed to put condemned inmates to death. Drug shortages have forced the state corrections department to rewrite its execution plan several times since 2010, when it carried out its last lethal injection.

Williams' and Wessinger's intervention requests are pending before U.S. Magistrate Judge Erin Wilder-Doomes.

Allowing Williams and Wessinger to intervene in the case rather than requiring them to file their own suits "will promote judicial economy," attorneys for both men argue in their motions.

Kevan Brumfield, who was condemned to die for the 1993 ambush slaying of Baton Rouge police Cpl. Betty Smothers, joined the suit in 2014, but Brumfield will be resentenced Wednesday to life in prison in the wake of federal court rulings that found him to be intellectually disabled and ineligible for execution.

Williams is represented by Mercedes Montagnes and Cecelia Trenticosta Kappel with The Promise of Justice Initiative in New Orleans, and New Orleans lawyer Letty Di Giulio. Wessinger is represented by Montagnes, Kappel and New Orleans lawyer Soren Gisleson.

Hoffman was sentenced to death for kidnapping, raping and fatally shooting Mary "Molly" Elliot, of Covington, in 1996. Sepulvado is on death row for fatally beating and scalding his 6-year-old stepson, Wesley Mercer, at his Mansfield home in 1992.

(source: The Advocate)

ILLINOIS:

Will the death penalty deter police killings?

The Death Penalty Information Center said an Illinois lawmaker's push to bring back the death penalty is likely going nowhere.

Illinois abolished the death penalty in 2011. State Rep. Mark Batinick, R-Plainfield, wants to bring it back for anyone convicted of killing first responders.

"These are the people that put themselves in harm's way to protect us," he said. "They run into wherever the danger is, and right now I feel like they don't necessarily feel like we have their back and we're protecting them."

Batinick said recent police murders could persuade death penalty opponents to get on board.

"I think if you look at the incidents that have happened recently and then what the effects of those incidents are after the fact, maybe people will just start changing their mind," he said.

Death Penalty Information Center Executive Director Robert Dunham said Louisiana and Texas have the death penalty, and that wasn't a deterrent to recent police shootings.

"Both of those states already had the death penalty, so it's clear that the death penalty did not deter the killings," Dunham said.

Dunham said every year someone in the Illinois Legislature files a measure to bring back capital punishment.

"That doesn't mean it's going to pass because after the initial publicity goes by the legislators take a look at all the reasons why it was that the death penalty didn't work in Illinois and the bills so far have not moved forward," he said.

Illinois abolished the death penalty in 2011.

(source: Illinois News Network)

NEBRASKA:

Death penalty opponents to speak in North Platte

Journey of Hope...from Violence to Healing, an organization led by families of murder victims, death row exonerees and death row inmates, will speak in North Platte Wednesday.

The group is on a 10-day, 20-city tour that ends July 24, spokesman Dan Parsons said.

The group will make 2 North Platte presentations:

-- 3 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church, 1600 West E. St.

-- 6 p.m. at the Espresso Shop downtown, 419 N. Dewey.

According to the group's announcement, members will share personal stories of forgiveness, redemption and how they have been harmed by the death penalty system, said Rev. Stephen Griffith, a retired United Methodist pastor and the executive director of another group, Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

"I know that Nebraskans of faith are greatly concerned about the death penalty and these forums will be a chance for them to learn about the issue and get involved in the effort to retain the repeal of the death penalty," Griffith said.

The question will come before Nebraska voters in the November general election.

The speakers include:

-- Bess Klassen Landis, the daughter of a murder victim.

Bess' mother Helen was beat, stripped, raped, strangled and shot 4 times in their rural home in Elkhart, Ind. while her daughters were at school and her father was out of state.

The murder happened on March 14, 1969, before DNA testing. There was never a conviction. Bess, 13, learned that her home and community were not safe, and neither was it safe to be a woman. In 2005, she joined the Journey of Hope ... From Violence to Healing in Texas. She met peers who had lost a loved one to murder and some who had forgiven the murderer. By publicly telling her story, she exposed and released her fear and shame, and forgave herself for her failures. She believes that people are instruments in healing the hatred in this world, which can't happen with violence (the death penalty), but by eradicating hunger, poverty, and disease and by reaching out in love to our enemies.

"Politicians tell us that the death penalty must be reserved for the worst of the worst. Through the Journey, Bess learned that in reality, the death penalty is reserved for the poorest of the poor. And that many that have been placed on death row have been innocent," the Journey of Hope website says.

-- Sandrine Ageorges-Skinner of Paris, France, has spent decades fighting the death penalty. She began communicating with Texas death row inmate Hank Skinner in 1996, visiting him in 2000 and they were married in 2008.

According to the Journey of Hope website, Skinner was convicted only on the testimony of a state witness who later recanted. The state of Texas has denied 2 motions for post-conviction DNA testing, citing procedural reasons.

The Journey of Hope's website is https://www.journeyofhope.org/home/

Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty was founded in 1981 after Gov. Charles Thone vetoed a bill passed by Nebraska's legislature that would have repealed the death penalty in Nebraska, Parsons said.

(source: The North Platte Bulletin)

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

SPEAKING FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCE----Anti-death penalty advocate speaks from personal experience

Bill Babbitt told a Grand Island audience Tuesday night that he was in favor of the death penalty "until it came knocking at my door."

Babbitt's little brother, Manny, was executed in 1999 after 19 years in prison. Manny Babbitt had been convicted of the 1980 murder of a 78-year-old woman, Leah Schendel, during a burglary in Sacramento, Calif.

Bill Babbitt expressed doubt that anyone would support capital punishment if his or her child killed someone.

Babbitt, who lives in Elk Grove, Calif., spoke to a gathering of 25 people at Trinity United Methodist Church.

He appeared in Grand Island on behalf of an organization called Journey of Hope ... from Violence to Healing. His talk is part of a 10-day, 20-city caravan organized by a group that would like to see Nebraskans pull the plug on the death penalty. Based in Lincoln, the group is called Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

On Nov. 8, Nebraska voters will decide if the state will keep the law that eliminates the death penalty. Babbitt and his colleagues are urging people to retain, rather than repeal, the law.

The measure to end the death penalty, Legislative Bill 268, was passed by the Nebraska Legislature in 2015.

Babbitt, 73, was accompanied Tuesday night by Alex Kelly of Lincoln. Kelly told audience members that, if the law is to be retained, they are as important as he is. Getting involved in the effort and spreading the word, Kelly said, is crucial.

Manny Babbitt joined the Marines in 1967 and served two tours in Vietnam. "Manny was a stand-up Marine," his brother said.

He was part of the Siege of Khe Sanh, a 77-day battle that claimed the lives of 700 Marines. During the battle, rocket shrapnel wound up in Manny Babbitt's head.

When he came home, he fought another war, Bill Babbitt said. In his home state of Massachusetts, he spent time in the Bridgewater State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.

During the burglary, the elderly woman died of a heart attack when Manny broke into her house and beat her.

After the crime, some people referred to him as an animal, which set off his mother. "If he's an animal, they made an animal out of him," said the mother of 9 children.

When Bill contacted the police, he was assured that Manny would not receive the death penalty due to his mental illness. But that promise was probably not a police officer's to give, he said Tuesday night.

Before he was executed at San Quentin State Prison, 50-year-old Manny Babbitt received the Purple Heart. Because of his brother's death, Bill Babbitt's heart continues to grieve.

In addition to his work in this country, Bill Babbitt has also spent considerable time in Africa working against the death penalty.

(source: The Grand Island Independent)

CALIFORNIA:

Silicon Valley's Powerful Steer Cash to Death Penalty Repeal Bid

Some of Silicon Valley's biggest names are pouring money into an effort to overturn California's death penalty as support for capital punishment has declined to the lowest in decades.

Reed Hastings, the billionaire chief executive officer of Netflix Inc., donated $1 million, and Salesforce.com Inc. CEO Marc Benioff gave $50,000 to support a measure on the November ballot that would replace death with a life sentence without parole. 7 wealthy donors from technology companies have contributed the bulk of the $4 million raised so far.

"My objection to the death penalty is not based on some abstract principle that it's bad to kill people," said Paul Graham, co-founder of Y Combinator, Silicon Valley's largest startup factory, who contributed $500,000. "It's because so many of the people who get executed are actually innocent. If you look at the way some of these trials are conducted, it's shocking."

Technology executives increasingly are using clout and deep pockets to take socially liberal stands on issues such as gun control and same-sex marriage. They're stepping in where efforts by Democratic lawmakers have failed, with contributions to voter initiatives and threats to withdraw business in states passing laws they find objectionable. Their involvement is a reflection of the leanings of their millennial workers and represents a shift from a corporate mindset of avoiding controversy to keep from alienating customers.

(source: Bloomberg News)

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

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom endorses proposition to abolish the death penalty in California

California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday threw his support behind a ballot measure that would repeal the death penalty in California, saying the criminal justice policy did not deter crime and was fundamentally immoral.

In a statement, he said Proposition 62 would abolish a system "that is administered with troubling racial disparities." Newsom, who publicly supported a 2012 failed measure seeking to end capital punishment, said the initiative would also save the state millions of dollars. He cited statistics showing that California has spent $5 billion to execute 13 people since 1978.

Proposition 62 would replace capital punishment for 1st-degree murder with life in prison without the possibility of parole. It is 1 of 2 competing measures on the future of the death penalty that voters will weigh on Nov. 8.

"I realize that this is a controversial issue that raises deeply felt passions on all sides," Newsom said. "But I also believe that decades from now, like with so many other once-contentious issues, America will look back at the death penalty as an archaic mistake. On issues such as this, elected leaders owe it to themselves and to their constituents to speak up and speak out - regardless of political consequences."

(source: Los Angeles Times)

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

Murder Suspect in Homeless Attacks Could Face Death Penalty

A man accused of attacking 5 homeless men in various San Diego neighborhoods, killing 3 of them, could face the death penalty, prosecutors announced Tuesday.

An allegation that he used a weapon, which she didn't specify, was attached to the charges.

The prosecutor said that because of the special circumstance allegation, the defendant could face the death penalty or life in prison without parole if convicted. Prosecutors have not yet decided if they will seek the death penalty.

"That's a decision that will be made at a later time," Harvey said.

Guerrero did not enter a plea during his 1st court appearance before San Diego Superior Court Judge Frederick Maguire. His public defender, Dan Tandon, asked was granted a delay in the arraignment until Aug. 2.

Guerrero was arrested Friday after being spotted by a patrol officer in Park West, not long after the latest assault.

San Diego police said the victims were brutalized - 2 of them set on fire - as they slept on roadsides, in open areas and under freeway bridges. According to Harvey, the 2 injured men are expected to survive despite serious wounds.

The spree of assaults across the city left San Diegans - particularly those who live on the streets - shaken and on edge since the 4th of July weekend.

The 1st attack in the series occurred July 3. About 8 a.m. that day, the burning body of Angelo De Nardo, 53, was found underneath an Interstate 5 offramp near the 2700 block of Morena Boulevard in Bay Park. Witnesses to the disturbing scene described seeing a man running across the freeway near Claremont Drive, carrying a gas can.

The following day, Shawn Mitchell Longley, 41, was found dead at a park on Bacon Street in Ocean Beach, and 61-year-old transient Manuel Mason was severely wounded near Valley View Casino Center in the Midway district, according to police.

On the morning of July 6, Dionicio Derek Vahidy, 23, was gravely wounded 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.

Authorities have not released the victims' causes of death or disclosed a suspected motive for the violence. There are no indications that the suspect knew the victims, according to police.

The most recent attack came to light Friday, shortly after 4:30 a.m., when two San Diego Harbor Police officers heard someone yelling for help while driving along the 1800 block of C Street, underneath Interstate 5 in the East Village, San Diego police Capt. David Nisleit said.

The officers pulled over and found a 55-year-old homeless man suffering from "significant trauma" to his upper body, the captain said.

Guerrero, a Coronado native who most recently lived in downtown San Diego, was arrested about 2 miles from the site of the assault.

Nisleit said detectives discovered physical evidence at the scene of the Friday attack and at the suspect's residence that "definitively and uniquely links together the recent murders and brutal attacks against our homeless community."

Tandon told reporters outside the courtroom that Guerrero's story starts well before the moment the attacks started.

"San Diego deserves to hear the truth and the whole story in this case," Tandon said. "We're just beginning the process of gathering the information so the whole story, including Jon's, can be known."

Another man was arrested July 7 in connection with the attacks but was cleared when additional evidence was discovered.

(source: timesofsandiego.com)

USA:

Letting Prosecutors Write the Law ---- It's more common than you think.

In "Case in Point," Andrew Cohen examines a single case or character that sheds light on the criminal justice system.

After we published our "Case in Point" story of Doyle Lee Hamm, an Alabama death row inmate whose judge signed off on a vital 89-page opinion without apparently ever reading it, we received a wave of emails from defense attorneys. Representing clients in Georgia, Louisiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Ohio, they wanted us to know that this had happened to them, too, and that they believed from their long experience practicing in their jurisdictions that such "ghostwriting" was a routine part of capital practice in those states.

Ghostwriting occurs when prosecutors or state attorneys draft substantive opinions or orders that state judges then quickly sign, often without altering a single word or fixing typos, thus elevating to case law one side's naturally biased view of the facts and the law of a case. The practice exists even though the Supreme Court has frowned on it and state bar officials have disciplined judges for it. It exists even though it undermines one of the more fundamental premises in our justice system; that judges will undertake an independent evaluation of contested issues in a case and not just take one side's word for things. The result is that capital defendants remain on death row, or are executed, based on findings of fact and conclusions of law generated by the very people trying to execute them.

We are not talking about instances where a judge asks the attorneys in open court to help expedite the resolution of a case by drafting a brief order memorializing what the judge already has ruled. That type of bureaucratic "ghostwriting" is commonplace and makes the legal system more efficient. In Hamm's case, however, as we reported, an Alabama judge received a complex "Proposed Memorandum Opinion" on a Friday and then signed it the following Monday without even striking the word "Proposed" from the title (or giving defense attorneys any time to react to it). This opinion has been cited as judicial gospel since 1999 to deny Hamm a new sentencing hearing.

When Hamm's attorneys tried to hold a hearing to determine whether this judge ever actually read the opinion he had signed, they were blocked from doing so by lawyers for the Alabama attorney general, which was the office that had sent the "proposed" opinion to the judge in the first place. The U.S. Supreme Court now is considered Hamm's appeal, with ghostwriting one of several issues Hamm's attorneys have raised.

Our piece noted that this practice routinely occurs in Texas. It turns out Texas is hardly unique. In Ohio, in the case of Donna Roberts, convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 2003, the judge and prosecutor together drafted a sentencing opinion. Roberts' attorneys didn't discover this arrangement until the judge was reading the opinion in open court and the defense counsel noticed that prosecutors were reading along in unison, even though they should not yet have had a copy of what the judge was reading. The judge was sanctioned for violating the state's judicial code of conduct and the death sentence was vacated because the judge's delegation of a basic judicial function was "wholly inconsistent" with his ethical obligations.

The same thing happens in South Carolina. In the case of Johnny Bennett, one we've highlighted before because of racist remarks by the prosecutor in the case, the state attorney general wrote the opinion that the state now says the appellate courts should defer to in reinstating Bennett's capital sentence. In that case, the judge signed off on a lengthy order written by state attorneys that included a blank page, countless typographical mistakes, and even a paragraph that mistakenly sought to give custody of Bennett to the state, which, of course, already had him in custody. The legal reasoning was so muddled, defense attorneys alleged, that in some instances it made no sense at all.

The issue also arose recently in Kentucky, in the capital case of Samuel Steven Fields. There, the Kentucky Supreme Court permitted the ghostwriting episode only after the trial judge who adopted the state's findings verbatim swore under oath that he had independently evaluated them. A federal court now is reviewing that ruling, which means that the resolution of another death penalty case has been delayed by the practice. It happens routinely in Pennsylvania, too, and has for decades, says Robert Dunham, director of the Death Penalty Information Center, which tracks capital cases around the country.

Stephen Bright, the Yale Law School lecturer who is the director of the Southern Center for Human Rights, told me that the problem of ghostwriting in Alabama goes back decades but has never been squarely addressed by higher courts, in part because judges do not want to embarrass one another. He recounted the long-ago capital case of Timothy Davis, whose judge wrote a 1-page order on a substantive matter and was told by a state appeals court to go back and better explain his rationale. The same trial judge then issued a 2nd order that was equally void of analysis so the appellate court suggested he submit something along the lines of what state attorneys had proposed. The trial judge then signed the state's proposed order without changing a word and the appeals court endorsed that order.

Bright testified on Capitol Hill nearly 25 years ago on the topic when the Senate Judiciary Committee was considering the nomination of Ed Carnes for the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Bright told lawmakers that Carnes, then an Alabama prosecutor, was notorious for drafting substantive orders for state judges to sign and then arguing that those orders, adopted verbatim as in the Hamm case, were entitled to great deference on appeal. Carnes nevertheless was confirmed to the bench by the Senate in 1992. He is still on the 11th Circuit.

It happens so frequently in Georgia, capital attorney Brian Kammer told me, and state judges have so protected each other from criticism for using ghostwriters, that the issue rarely is even litigated any more. One such case, cited by Atlanta Journal-Constitution writer William Rankin, involved a capital defendant named Lawrence Jefferson, whose judge asked state attorneys to prepare an order for him to sign to reject Jefferson's appeal. State lawyers submitted a 45-page order, which the judge immediately signed without even fixing typos - like the misuse of the word "constitutionally" - that peppered the document. The U.S. Supreme Court considered the case, and delayed Jefferson's execution in part because of this egregious episode of ghostwriting, but did not definitively outlaw the practice.

The practical problem is that so many judges are so overworked and understaffed that they use ghostwriting by state attorneys to help move along cases that might otherwise take months or years to resolve. The constitutional problem, as the Hamm case illustrates, is that a judge who blithely signs off on a lawyer's work has effectively allowed the prosecutor to serve as judge.

(source: themarshallproject.org)

GLOBAL:

Death penalty executions at a 25 year high, Amnesty reports

The number of people executed around the world has reached a sobering new record. New figures released by Amnesty International show a 50 % rise in executions in 2015.

More than 1634 people were condemned to death in 25 countries worldwide, that's 573 more than in 2014. The human rights watchdog said it marked an alarming development, and the real figures could be even higher, as the numbers for China are unknown.

"The dramatic rise in executions that we recorded in 2015 was down to huge increases, primarily huge increases, in just 3 countries - Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Together these 3 countries accounted for almost 90 % of all the executions that we recorded in 2015, again, excluding China," explained Audrey Gaughran, Director for Global Issues and Research, from Amnesty International.

The report notes that China regards death penalty figures as a state secret. When asked about the report a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry claimed that Amnesty released 'unfair' statements about the country.

Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan were responsible for 89% of the executions in 2015. The Saudi kingdom was responsible for more than 158 executions and Iran for 977, which represents an increase of 76% and 31% respectively from 2014. In Pakistan, there were 326 recorded deaths, the most executions in the country's history.

According to Amnesty's report, Iran and Pakistan executed minors at the time of their deaths. In the Middle East and Africa, the majority of the people are condemned because of terrorist actions.

The organisation has been campaigning to end the death penalty since 1977 when only 16 countries had abolished it. They noted that 102 countries abolished the act entirely by the end of 2015, making a total of 140 abolitionist countries around the world.

(source: euronews.com)

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

A map of countries that still have the death penalty---see: http://www.west-info.eu/a-map-of-countries-that-still-have-the-death-penalty/

(source: west-info.eu)

PAKISTAN:

PHC stays executions of 3 militants

Peshawar High Court (PHC) stayed the execution of three militants on Tuesday by suspending the verdict of a military court for their involvement in alleged attacks on security forces and other terror related activities. A divisional bench of the PHC comprising of Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Waqar Seth also issued notice to the federal government to file a reply till next hearing.

The bench stayed the execution on judicial review appeals filed by 3 convicts Tabib, Muhammad Ayaz and Azizur Rahman through their counsels Ghulam Mohiuddin Malik and Arif Jan. The counsels informed the court that the petitioners were awarded death penalty by military courts and their sentences were approved by the Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif on July 14, 2015.

They argued the petitioners had not been given the chance to defend themselves, terming the trial a violation of the right to a fair trial. Malik said that Tabib went missing from Abbottabad on October 30, 2014 and his whereabouts were unknown since then. Similarly, they said that Muhammad Ayaz, a resident of Barikot Swat, was arrested from a security checkpoint in 2009 and was transferred to several different places from time to time. Applicants' counsels argued that even family members were not allowed to meet him.

The counsels contended that Azizur Rahman who was a resident of Matta area of Swat was arrested by security forces in 2010 and was kept at different internment centres since then. They said that their family members of the convicts came to know through media that they had been awarded the death sentence and that the army chief had approved their execution.

The counsel contended that none of them had been given a fair trial nor it was known under what crimes they had committed to merit the death sentence.

The bench stayed their executions and sought replies from the federal government. Besides, those whose death sentences were approved by the army chief include Muhammad Qayyum Bacha who was given the death penalty for carrying out an attack on on law enforcement agencies. Muhammad Asif, who was a member of the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi got the death sentence on charges of target killing.

Other militants who were convicted are Barkat Ali, Hussan Dar, Ishaq, and Behram Sher who were active members of the banned TTP and were sentenced to death for carrying out attacks on security forces.

(source: The Daily Times)

BANGLADESH:

2 get death for killing doctor

Special Tribunal Judge Nitai Chandra Saha yesterday handed down death penalty to 2 men for killing Dr Shafiqul Islam, owner of Jess Clinic in Jessore town, on July 29, 2009, said Prosecutor SM Badruzzaman Palash, who conducted the case on behalf of the government. 2 others were acquitted.

The convicted are Ashiqur Rahman Bablu, 40, son of Rajab Ali, and Saiful Islam Jakir, 36, son of Miratul Haque, both of Ghope Nawapara in the town.

The acquitted are Rabbu alias Mursalin of New Town, and M Raihan of Ghope Nawapara.

Dr Shafiqul Islam, the then treasurer of the Jessore district unit of BMA and also owner of Jess Clinic, was killed by the criminals inside his clinic at around 10:00pm on July 29, 2009.

Abdus Salam Dhabak, father of the deceased, filed a case with Jessore Kotwali Police Station in this connection on July 30, 2009.

(source: The Daily Star)

INDIA:

Behind bars

Prison administration is integral to the justice delivery system which, many feel, calls for urgent reflection. The system has been almost unchanged since its inception though a change in nomenclature has been effected over time. Our prisons are no longer called 'jails'; they have been christened as correctional homes in keeping with the changed ethos.

Even though the prison infrastructure has improved considerably over the years, we still have a long way to go as far as treatment of the inmates 'inside these correctional homes are concerned. The findings of a recent study titled the 'Death Penalty Research Project' are distressing. In this 1st-ever comprehensive study of the socio-economic profile of prisoners sentenced to death, researchers at Delhi's National Law University (NLU) have found that by and large they belong to the economically vulnerable sections, backward communities and religious minority groups. This is important because a prisoner's economic status and level of education directly affects his ability to effectively participate in the criminal justice system to secure a fair trial.

As it appears from the report, such prisoners have found it difficult to negotiate the burdens imposed by our criminal justice system. As a result, the death penalty often disproportionately affects those who have the least capabilities to negotiate our criminal justice system. The research team identified 385 prisoners and got access to 373 of them. Referring to the right to be present at one's own trial, the study found that only 1 out of the 4 interviewed had attended all the hearings. Some prisoners would merely be taken to the court premises by the police and then confined to a court lock-up without ever being produced in the courtroom. Of 189 prisoners, 169 did not have a lawyer. Again, although the person arrested has to be informed about the reason for the arrest, 136 prisoners allegedly said that they were taken away to 'sign papers' and were never allowed to go home again. Besides, 166 prisoners were not produced before a Magistrate within 24 hours of the arrest ... which is mandatory. Weeks and months passed before they were produced in court; sometimes the arrest was recorded only at that point of time.

The interim period was often spent in alleged torture. The researchers interviewed a majority of the 385 prisoners on death row, of whom one said he would be happy to be killed rather than being tortured every day. Out of 92 prisoners who had confessed in police custody, 72 had made statements allegedly under torture. Death-row prisoners were often kept locked while the trial proceeded, and at least 2 were not in a position to follow the proceedings of the trial.

The report states that even when prisoners were present in court, "the very architecture of several trial courts often prevents any real chance of the accused participating in their own trial." They were often confined at the rear of the courtroom while the interaction between the judge and the lawyers took place in the front. A person charged with a crime has the right to an interpreter if he does not understand the language used in court, and to translated documents. But this requirement is seldom complied with. Over 1/2 the prisoners interviewed said they did not understand the proceedings at all, either because of the obstructive court architecture or the language used (often English). Part of an accused's right to a fair hearing is the right to challenge evidence produced against them. In India, trial courts can question the accused directly at any stage, and the Supreme Court has ruled that the persons must be questioned separately about every material circumstance to be used against them, and in a form they can understand.

The study found that these provisions were routinely dishonoured. Over 60 % of the prisoners interviewed said they were only asked to give "yes/no" responses during their trials, with no meaningful opportunity to explain themselves. 7 out of 10 prisoners said their lawyers did not discuss case details with them. Almost 77 % never met their lawyers outside the court, and the interaction inside the court was perfunctory. Many of the prisoners preferred to engage private lawyers despite their economic vulnerability because of the putative incompetence of the underpaid legal aid lawyers. The higher the courts, lesser the information the prisoners have about their cases. As often as not, they ascertain the progress of the trial through the prison authorities or media reports though it is not just death-row prisoners who face such violations. The constitutionality of the death sentence was last upheld in May 1980 by the Supreme Court. It had ruled that the death penalty did not infringe the right to life as guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution. However, it should be awarded only in the 'rarest of the rare' cases. Surprisingly, most prisoners sentenced to death in India are not eventually executed. Less than 5 % of those sentenced by trial courts have actually been executed. In most of the cases, their death sentences were commuted by the higher courts following appeals.

The NLU report makes it clear that its findings do not necessarily suggest that the state authorities intentionally discriminate against poor or less educated prisoners. But the report does allege that the system is so biased that there is a degree of indirect discrimination at work which worsens the chances of fair trial for prisoners from disadvantaged backgrounds. Yet issues pertaining to fair trial rights and treatment of prisoners on death row by the criminal justice system are almost never discussed with due seriousness. Indirect discrimination happens when a seemingly impartial and innocuous practice affects particular groups adversely, even if it is not deliberately directed at the groups. Given the irreversible nature of the death penalty, it is particularly important that fair trial rights are scrupulously safeguarded. Every death sentence imposed following an unfair trial violates the right to life. It has been suggested by some observers that the only way to end this injustice is to impose an immediate moratorium on the use of the death penalty as a 1st step towards abolition of the same. The Law Commission of India, in a report last year, recommended the abolition of the death penalty in phases, beginning with ending it for all offences except those related to terrorism.

The criminal justice system allegedly follows several practices which hurt the poor and the marginalised much more than others. What needs to be investigated is whether such practices are the result of entrenched socio-economic inequalities or whether indirect discrimination has been institutionalised. In its report last year on the death penalty, the Law Commission stated: "The vagaries of the system also operate disproportionately against the socially and economically marginalized who may lack the resources to effectively advocate their rights within an adversarial criminal justice system."

For a vibrant liberal-democratic India, the Death Penalty India Report does come as a rude shock. Principles of custodial care remain theoretical, although it is obligatory for the police to take care of their well-being and health. Hopefully, the findings of the report will make policy makers and prison administrators sit up and take notice, indeed to make meaningful interventions to ensure the rights of the undertrials and put in place a humane justice delivery system.

(source: thestatesman.com)

GAZA:

Hamas sentences 3 'spies for Israel' to death----Military court in Gaza sentences 3 local residents to death after they were convicted of spying for Israel.

A military court in Gaza on Tuesday sentenced 3 local residents to death after they were convicted of providing information to Israel's security services.

The Palestinian Interior Ministry, which is in charge of the security forces and which is controlled by Hamas in Gaza, said that the Supreme Military Court sentenced to death by strangling and shooting the 3 men, who according to the statement handed over information that harmed the public interest and the Palestinian national security.

The trial of the "spies" was held behind closed doors and without the presence of the media.

Hamas regularly claims to have captured "Israeli spies", and many times it tries them and sentences them to death.

In 1 such example, the group claimed to have exposed "the most dangerous intelligence agent" who allegedly worked for the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet).

More recently, Hamas claimed it arrested an intelligence agent who had provided information to Israel for 14 years and who allegedly assisted in providing information which led to the elimination of terrorists and in the bombings of houses in Gaza.

Under Palestinian law, collaboration with Israel is punishable by death. All death sentences, however, require the approval of Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who issued a moratorium on death sentences in 2005.

Hamas ignores the moratorium and carries out the executions anyway, as it no longer recognizes the legitimacy of Abbas, whose four-year term expired in 2009.

Amnesty International has previously called on Hamas to stop the executions of suspected collaborators, saying that the group "must immediately and totally cease its use of the death penalty."

(source: Israel National News)

SAUDI ARABIA/UNITED KINGDOM:

Boris Johnson Must Raise Juvenile Death Sentences in Saudi Meeting

The new Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, has been urged to use a meeting today with the Saudi Foreign Minister to call for an end to juvenile executions in Saudi Arabia.

According to a Foreign Office statement this morning, Mr Johnson is due to host the Saudi Foreign Minister, Adel al-Jubeir, later today, in one of a series of first meetings with the UK's "international partners". The meeting will reportedly take place alongside US Secretary of State John Kerry and the Foreign Minister of the UAE.

The meeting takes place amid concerns over Saudi Arabia's practice of juvenile executions - in particular, the cases of Ali al-Nimr, Abdullah al-Zaher, and Dawood al-Marhoon. All 3 face beheading, despite having been juveniles when they were arrested in 2012. The 3, who were arrested for allegedly attending protests, were tortured into signing 'confessions' which were used to convict them in secretive trials. The death sentences for all 3 juveniles were upheld last autumn, and they could now be executed at any time.

Although the use of the death penalty against juveniles is prohibited under international law, Saudi Arabia has executed at least 4 juveniles this year - including Ali Al Ribh, who was arrested at 2012 protests and executed during a mass execution of 47 people in January. The European Saudi Organization for Human Rights has said that currently "there is an execution every 2 days" in Saudi Arabia, and that there were now "alarm bells" for Ali, Dawood and Abdullah, among others on the country's death row.

The Foreign Office said last month that it has raised the 3 juveniles' cases with Saudi Arabia, and that "our expectation is that Ali al-Nimr and the 2 others will not be executed." However, the UK appears not to have requested that their death sentences be commuted, and the 3 juveniles released.

Mr Johnson's meeting follows recent concerns that the UK could be risking complicity with the kinds of abuses suffered by the juveniles. Last month, an internal UK government report uncovered by human rights organization Reprieve stated that Britain's College of Policing was teaching the Saudi Interior Ministry high-tech forensic skills that could be "used to identify individuals who later go on to be tortured." Earlier this month, a report by the Home Affairs Select Committee highlighted the Foreign Office's refusal to provide details of the College’s contracts in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, branding it "totally unacceptable".

Today's meeting also comes after members of the European Parliament urged Federica Mogherini - the EU's Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy - to ask the Saudi Foreign Minister to review all death sentences issued to juveniles, and to commute the sentences handed to Ali, Dawood and Abdullah. However, following a meeting between Ms Mogherini and Mr Jubeir yesterday, it was not clear whether the cases were raised.

Commenting, Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said:

"Today's meeting takes place while at least 3 juveniles await execution in Saudi Arabia - all having faced torture, forced 'confessions' and secret trials. Many others in line for beheading were arrested for non-violent alleged crimes, such as political protest. Now more than ever, the UK must make clear that these abuses are unacceptable. The new Foreign Secretary must urgently call on Saudi Arabia to release Ali, Abdullah, and Dawood - and to investigate how many others on its death row may have been convicted as children."

(source: Reprieve is a UK-based human rights organization that uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantanamo Bay---- reprieve.org)

TURKEY:

Turkish military penal code allows capital punishment for putschist soldiers

After the failed coup attempt of July 15 by a faction in the Turkish military orchestrated by the fugitive imam Fethullah Gulen, the discussion about reinstating the death penalty has become a major topic in Turkish politics. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested on Tuesday that he is ready to reinstate the death penalty if the people demand it and Parliament approves the necessary legislation. "In democracies, decisions are made based on what the people say. I think our government will speak with the opposition and come to a decision," Erdogan said to a large crowd chanting: "We want the death penalty," on Tuesday evening in Istanbul. "We hear your request. In a democracy, whatever the people want, they will get." he said.

Speaking after the Cabinet meeting on Monday in Ankara, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said: "Turkey is a state of law, we engage in politics for our people," but added that it is not wise to rush to a decision on capital punishment while the developments are still recent. "These issues will be extensively discussed, as it requires constitutional reform. We cannot either accept or reject this demand outright," Yildirim said.

The death penalty in Turkey was abolished in 2004, although Turkey had not actually executed any prisoners since October 1984. Speaking to Daily Sabah on Tuesday, the chairman of Parliament's Justice Commission, Ahmet Iyimaya, did not rule out the possibility of reinstating the death penalty. "Turkey is still under an unprecedented threat. Our aim is to avert this crisis and law is an indispensable weapon in this fight," Iyimaya said. "The reforms regarding the current laws should be discussed only after this existing threat is eliminated. Instead of individual opinions, the collective wisdom of the legislative and the executive [branches] is crucial. It is definite that Turkey, with its 2,000 years of experience, will decide for the best." he added.

Cem Duran Uzun, a constitutional lawyer and director of Law and Human Rights at the Political, Economic and Social Research Foundation (SETA) in Ankara, however, stressed the difficulties of reinstating the death penalty. "There are many conventions prohibiting capital punishment, which were signed by Turkey. The re-implementation of capital punishment is also challenging due to international agreements. The Council of Europe, co-founded by Turkey, also prohibits this type of punishment," Duran said. "Moreover, the AK Party [Justice and Development Party] completely removed capital punishment clauses from the Constitution in 2004. As a side note, even though clauses existed in the constitution and certain laws for a long time, since 1984, none of the court decisions for capital punishment were rejected by Parliament."

Constitutional law academic from Yildirim Beyazit University in Ankara Dr. Taylan Barin said that the Constitution should be reformed to re-implement capital punishment. "Probably there will be a referendum regarding this reform. If the political parties and the people continue to support the re-implementation of capital punishment, it might be possible," Barin said.

Regarding retroactive punishment, Barin affirmed that this could be possible if the capital punishment still extent in military law is put into practice. "In the military penal code, with the 20th clause, capital punishment is possible. However, as the Constitution does not have a similar clause, this became obsolete. If there is a new constitutional amendment that approves capital punishment, this clause of the military penal code might be re-introduced," Barin said. Moreover, Barin signified that the re-introduction of capital punishment could have certain repercussions in the international community. "The political administration will try to achieve a balance between the people and the international community. If they chance the repercussions, they might re-introduce capital punishment."

Meanwhile, a number of EU officials have voiced concerns over the discussion. EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini said on Monday that re-instating the death penalty in Turkey would end EU accession talks. "Turkey is an important part of the Council of Europe and is bound by the European Convention on Human Rights, which is very clear on the death penalty," she said. "The introduction of the death penalty would mean the immediate suspension of accession talks," German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Monday. Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz shared the same sentiment. "The introduction of the death penalty would of course be absolutely unacceptable," Kurz said in an interview with the Austrian Kurier newspaper on Monday.

(source: Daily Sabah)

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

UK says reinstating death penalty in Turkey would be retrograde step

Turkey's international standing would be severely damaged if it decides to reinstate the death penalty, British foreign office minister Alan Duncan told parliament on Tuesday.

"It is very strongly the view of Her Majesty's government that we oppose the death penalty," Duncan said, responding to comments from Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan who said on Sunday after an attempted coup that there could be no delay in using capital punishment.

"It would be a deeply retrograde step that would likely cause incalculable damage to the standing of Turkey just at a time when it is important to embrace them within the world community," Duncan said.

(source: Reuters)

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES:

Death sentence for 2 Indians in woman's murder case upheld----The verdict in the murder case was delivered by the Court of Appeal.

A Doha appeals court has upheld the death sentence given to 2 Indian men by the trial court for the murder of an elderly Qatari woman at her home in 2012. The 3rd defendant, also an Indian, has been given a life sentence.

Speaking to this newspaper, Indian legal activist Nizar Kocheri said the issue was brought to his attention only 2 days ago and it has been decided to appeal the verdict at the Supreme Court before the deadline for appealing ends on July 30. Kocheri said he has also discussed the matter with Indian embassy officials.

It is learnt the prosecution has appealed for capital punishment for the third defendant also.

The verdict in the murder case was delivered on May 30 by the Court of Appeal but the issue came to light only when Suresh Kumar, a lawyer from India, who was deputed by the South Asian Fishermen Fraternity (SAFF) arrived in Doha a couple of days ago to follow up the case. Kumar had also met Indian embassy officials in this regard.

The trio, who were found guilty of the murder, were identified as Alagappa Subramaniam, Chinnadurai Perumal and Sivakumar Arasan, all reported to be in their early 40s and natives of Villupuram, Virudhunagar and Salem, respectively, in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

At least 1 of the 3 was working at the home where the murder took place, a source told this newspaper.

The crime was committed towards the end of 2012 and 2 of the accused were awarded capital punishment by a local court on December 31, 2014. The trial court had sentenced the 3rd accused to life in prison. In May this year, the Court of Appeals upheld the verdict.

In a previous case, 3 other Asian expatriates, 2 Indians and a Nepali, were sentenced to death for the killing of an Indonesian housemaid in 2003. Though the appeals court upheld the lower court's verdict, it was commuted to life for the Indians and 15 years in jail for the Nepali by the apex court in 2011.

While the Indians in this case have been identified as Sreedharan Manikantan and Unnikrishnan Mahadevan, both taxi drivers, the Nepali's name was given as Chandrasekhar Yadav. The proceedings of the sensational case had begun with the arrest of the trio in December 2003 after the maid's body was found in October that year at the Wakrah beach.

The accused were spared the death penalty as they were given the benefit of doubt by the Supreme Court.

The then Indian ambassador George Joseph had been instrumental in securing the reprieve for the defendants in that case, Kocheri recalled.

"It was an extraordinary case because it was heard by the Supreme Court 3 times," he said.

(source: Gulf Times)

BARBADOS:

Mandatory death penalty to go

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart today made a preemptive strike against the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) as his administration prepares to resume debate on the removal of the mandatory death penalty.

In wrapping up debate on the Constitution Amendment Bill 2016 which sought to extend the retirement age for both the Auditor General and the Director of Public Prosecutions from 62 to 67, Stuart took a less-than-subtle jab at the at BLP over the country's participation in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

The Prime Minister told the House that the court was thrust upon Barbadians in 2000 without a national discussion.

The BLP was in office when Barbados joined the judicial institution which promote basic rights and freedoms in the Americas.

"We woke up one morning and heard that we had submitted to the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court and that cases could go there in accordance to the Inter-American Convention. There was no referendum, no discussion. It just happened," Stuart said. He explained that as a result of the country's participation in the court, Barbados was obligated to get rid of the mandatory death sentence.

"When we submitted to the jurisdiction of the court, we entered a reservation on the issue of the death penalty [and] the court ruled that the reservation which we entered [was]of no legal effect; it could not achieve the objective which we wanted to achieve and therefore we had to comply with this order to remove the mandatory death penalty."

Stuart explained that because the mandatory death penalty did not comply with the American Convention on Human Rights Barbados could not ignore the court's orders.

"We were advised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Attorney General's office, that if an order has been made against the Government of Barbados on such an important an issue as the removal of the mandatory death penalty, we cannot just turn a blind eye to that order and pretend that it is not there. We must demonstrate that we obey court orders as well," he said.

Stuart said Barbados remained the only English-speaking Caribbean country under the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court.

"Barbados submitted itself to the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court around 2000-2001, the USA has not submitted itself to that court, Canada has not submitted itself to that court. One Caribbean country, Trinidad and Tobago had, and withdrew from the court because it was thought that the court's arm reached too far into the everyday life of Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados is still a member of the court.

"I am aware that there are initiatives afoot to regularize our relationship with the court but we could not do other than to bring that particular amendment before the house as we have done," he added.

"That debate has started in this house, the debate has not yet finished because there were some issues that were raised along the way which the Attorney General wanted to check and we are back to that debate on the mandatory death penalty. The debate has started and about 6 or 7 persons have spoken already," the Prime Minister said.

(source: Barbados Today)

JULY 19, 2016:

TURKEY:

Death penalty call for coup 'terrorists'

President Tayyip Erdogan says the Turkish people want the death penalty - abolished more than a decade ago - for those involved in last week's failed military coup.

"The people on the streets have made that request," Erdogan said on an interview with CNN. "The people have the opinion that these terrorists should be killed ... Why should I keep them and feed them in prisons for years to come, that's what the people say."

CNN also quoted Erdogan as saying official papers would be filed within days to request the extradition of cleric Fethullah Gulen from the United States. Turkey says Gulen masterminded the coup attempt. He denies involvement.

Turkey purged its police on Monday after rounding up thousands of soldiers in the wake of the failed coup, and said it could reconsider its friendship with the US unless Washington hands over the cleric.

Nearly 20,000 members of the police, civil service, judiciary and army have been detained or suspended since Friday night's coup, in which more than 200 people were killed when a faction of the armed forces tried to seize power.

The broad crackdown and calls to reinstate the death penalty for plotters drew concern from Western allies who said Ankara must uphold the rule of law in the country, a NATO member that is Washington's most powerful Muslim ally.

Some voiced concern President Erdogan was using the opportunity to consolidate his power and further a process of stifling dissent which has already caused tensions with Europe.

Turkey's Foreign Minister said criticism of the government's response amounted to backing for the bid to overthrow it.

A senior security official told Reuters that 8000 police officers, including in the capital Ankara and the biggest city Istanbul, had been removed from their posts on suspicion of links to Friday's abortive coup.

About 1500 finance ministry officials had been suspended, a ministry official said, and CNN Turk said 30 governors and more than 50 high-ranking civil servants had been dismissed. Annual leave was suspended for more than 3 million civil servants, while close to 3000 judges and prosecutors have been suspended.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said 7543 people had so far been detained, including 6038 soldiers. Some were shown in photographs stripped to their underpants and handcuffed on the floors of police buses and a sports hall. A court remanded 26 generals and admirals in custody on Monday, Turkish media said.

Officials in Ankara say former air force chief Akin Ozturk was a co-leader of the coup. The state-run Anadolu agency said on Monday he had confessed, but private broadcaster Haberturk contradicted this, saying he had told prosecutors he tried to prevent the attempted putsch.

Washington says it is prepared to extradite Gulren - but only if Turkey provides evidence linking him to crime.

"We would be disappointed if our (American) friends told us to present proof even though members of the assassin organisation are trying to destroy an elected government under the directions of that person," Yildirim said. "At this stage there could even be a questioning of our friendship."

Yildirim said 232 people were killed in Friday night's violence, 208 of them civilians, police and loyalist soldiers, and a further 24 coup plotters. Officials previously said the overall death toll was more than 290.

ERDOGAN'S PLANE IN REBEL SIGHTS

Around 1400 others were wounded as soldiers commandeered tanks, attack helicopters and warplanes in their bid to seize power, strafing parliament and the intelligence headquarters and trying to seize the main airport and bridges in Istanbul.

The coup crumbled after Erdogan, on holiday at the coast, phoned in to a television news programme and called for his followers to take to the streets. He was able to fly into Istanbul in the early hours of Saturday, after rebel pilots had his plane in their sights but did not shoot it down.

On Sunday, he told supporters that parliament must consider their demands to apply the death penalty for the plotters.

"In democracies, whatever the people say has to happen," he told a chanting crowd at his house in Istanbul late on Sunday, telling Turks to take to the streets every evening until Friday.

It would be up to parliament to decide on the death penalty, he told international broadcaster CNN international on Monday, and he would approve any decision it made.

Turkey gave up the death penalty in 2004 as part of a programme of reforms required to become a candidate to join the EU. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said reinstating it would "in no way" be compatible with Turkey's goal of EU membership.

The bloodshed shocked the nation of almost 80 million, where the army last used force to stage a successful coup more than 30 years ago, and shattered fragile confidence in the stability of a NATO member state already rocked by Islamic State suicide bombings and an insurgency by Kurdish militants.

(source: odt.co.nz)

BANGLADESH:

3 get death penalty for 1971 war crimes

A special tribunal in Bangladesh has sentenced 3 members of a militia group to death for their role in killings and other serious crimes committed during the country's independence war against Pakistan 35 years ago.

5 other defendants were sentenced to life in prison in the same case.

A 3-member panel of judges announced the verdict Monday with only 2 of the defendants in the docks. The others were tried in absentia. All of them were members of Al Badr, which collaborated with the Pakistani army to commit genocide in Bangladesh's Jamalpur district in 1971.

Bangladesh says Pakistani soldiers, aided by local collaborators, killed 3 million people, raped 200,000 women and forced 10 million people to flee to refugee camps in India.

(source: Fox News)

CALIFORNIA:

The Deterrence Myth: Prop 66 Death Penalty 'Reform' is just 'Fools Gold' for Californians

When Mike Ramos, the current district attorney for San Bernardino County (and candidate for California Attorney General), pleaded for Californians to send him one million dollars at the end of April -- so he could afford "paid petition gatherers" to collect enough signatures to qualify "the Death Penalty Reform and Savings Act of 2016" for placement on the November 8 ballot -- he asserted, "the threat, and application, of a working death penalty law in California is law enforcement's strongest tool to keep our communities safe."

Other than the proverbial bridge in Brooklyn, no bigger, more bald-faced balderdash has heretofore been sold to Californian voters.

Eviscerating the myth that the death penalty acts as a valuable deterrent, the Washington Post's Max Ehrenfreund soberly observed in 2014, that "there's still no evidence that executions deter criminals." Delving into scientific studies done on the subject for Newsweek, including a 2012 study by the National Academy of Sciences (comprised of our nation's brightest scientific minds), Stanford Law Professor John Donohue's assessment of the death penalty's deterrent value at the end of last summer was even bleaker. In a column called, "Does the death penalty deter killers?," Donohue resoundingly concluded: "There is not the slightest credible statistical evidence that capital punishment reduces the rate of homicide."

Instead of continuing such a deeply flawed policy, Donohue wrote: "A better way to address the problem of homicide is to take the resources that would otherwise be wasted in operating a death penalty regime and use them on strategies that are known to reduce crime, such as hiring and properly training police officers and solving crime." (Formerly a professor at Yale and Northwestern Law School, Donohue is one of the leading empirical researchers in legal academia.)

The shibboleth that the death penalty acts as a deterrent is just 1 of many reasons why "Proposition 66, 'The Death Penalty Reform and Savings Act of 2016,' is Fool's Gold for Californians."

Savvy, streetwise, sophisticated Californians have a superlatively better, more effective alternative to vote for, called Proposition 62, "The Justice That Works Act of 2016." Proposition 62 would (1) replace the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole; (2) require death row inmates to work and pay wages to their victims' families; and (3) save taxpayers a projected $150 million dollars a year.

Apart from finally ending California's ignominious and failed experiment with capital punishment -- making us a standard-bearer for other states where already, "practically speaking, the death penalty is disappearing" - do you know what's best about Proposition 62?

Unlike Proposition 66, the prospective benefits of Proposition 62 are not illusory, based on a bunch of baloney, glorified ballyhoo, or like death penalty proponents' deterrence argument - bunk.

(source: Stephen A. Cooper is a former D.C. public defender who worked as an assistant federal public defender in Alabama between 2012 and 2015----citywatchla.com)

USA:

Roof's mental state emerging as key issue in Charleston church killings ---- State of mind would come into play when jurors weight death penalty or life in prison without parole

The mental state of Dylann Roof of Columbia, an avowed white supremacist, has emerged as a key issue in his upcoming federal death penalty trial for killing 9 African-American church members.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers discussed procedural issues connected to Roof's state of mind at a hearing Monday before U.S. Judge Richard Gergel without revealing details about what conditions he might have.

Roof, 22, is scheduled to go on trial Nov. 7 for the hate crime killings at Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston.

Before the June 2015 church shootings, Roof published a manifesto on the Internet in which he said he was going to start a race war.

His state of mind would come into play when jurors deliberate whether to recommend the death penalty or life in prison without parole.

His lead attorney, David Bruck, has repeatedly said Roof will plead guilty in return for a sentence of life without parole.

That offer came after Roof confessed to law enforcement to killing the 9 parishioners during a Bible study meeting, with evidence against him also appearing to be overwhelming. The gun that Roof is said to have used has been recovered.

Much of the hearing was devoted to discussing when and how much of the results of separate pre-trial mental tests of Roof conducted by the prosecutors and defense lawyers would be divulged to each other in advance of the death penalty phase of the trial.

Evidence offered by defense lawyers against the death penalty is called "mitigation" evidence. Much of that, according to the discussion and filings, will revolve around results of current and future mental health tests of Roof.

Bruck agreed when Gergel asked "Am I right to say they (Roof's mitigation defenses) would fall under the broad umbrella of mental health issues?"

It is unknown what type of mental health issues will be presented at trial.

As part of the pre-trial jockeying by opposing lawyers, the timing of when to give mental health test results to the other side is a key issue.

Gergel ordered mental health examinations to be videotaped, but said he will decide later whether to delete some sections of video - as opposed to the audio - if thought to infringe on Roof's right to a fair trial.

Jury selection is scheduled to start Nov. 7. The trial is expected to go through Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons.

Roof, who waived his right to appear in court Monday, is scheduled to go to trial in state court in mid-January. Solicitor Scarlett Wilson is also seeking the death penalty on murder charges.

Gergel ordered Monday that the jury pool in the upcoming federal trial will be drawn from an area roughly south of a line from Georgetown County on the coast to Aiken County.

More than 20 relatives of those killed were at the hearing.

(source: thestate.com)

VIETNAM:

Court upholds death sentence for accomplice in Binh Phuoc massacre

The Supreme Court Monday rejected an appeal against the death sentence by a man who, together with an accomplice, killed 6 members of a family in the southern province of Binh Phuoc last year.

In dismissing his appeal, the court said Vu Van Tien, 25, was an active accomplice of Nguyen Hai Duong, 25, the mastermind of the murder-robbery in July 2015.

"Without Tien's help, Duong couldn't have carries out the crime. So Tien must be responsible for the consequences of the case."

The court also dismissed the appeal of Duong's friend Tran Dinh Thoai, 27, to have his 16-year sentence reduced. Thoai bought the knife with which Duong killed the 6 people, and failed to report Duong's conspiracy to the authorities.

Duong has not appealed against his death penalty.

Shocking case

Duong used to be a boyfriend of Le Thi Anh Linh, 22, the daughter of Le Van My, 48, who owned a timber processing company in Binh Phuoc's Chon Thanh District.

After Linh broke up with him in March, Duong devised a plan to kill the family and rob them.

Early in the morning on July 4 he asked Thoai to accompany him to burgle the family's house. But when they arrived at the house, Du Minh Vy, My's 14-year-old nephew, did not open the gate for them, and so they were forced to leave.

Thoai then pulled out and Duong asked Tien, who agreed.

To carry out the crime, Duong, with Thoai's help, bought 2 knives, a stun gun, a BB pistol, gloves, masks, plastic cable wire and duct tape.

On July 6 Duong again called Vy and asked him to open the gate for him so he could sneak in to steal something. Duong promised to give Vy some money.

At around 1:30 a.m. the next morning Duong and Tien rose a motorbike to My's house, situated off National Highway 13.

The 2 men killed Vy as soon as the boy opened the gate. They then killed Linh, her father My, her mother Nguyen Le Thi Anh Nga, 42, her brother Le Quoc Anh, 15, and her cousin Du Ngoc To Nhu, 18.

Police said the victims sustained fatal stab wounds to their necks and chests.

Vy, the 1st victim, was found in the front yard while the other 5 were found tied up in their rooms.

However, the life of Linh's youngest sister, 18 months, was spared.

Duong later told the court he had been fond of the baby during the time he was still dating Linh.

Duong and Tien left the house at around 4.30 a.m. with VND4 million (US$180) in cash, 5 smartphones, a tablet and a laptop.

The family's housekeeper discovered the bloody scene 3 hours later and informed the police.

Duong was arrested at 3 p.m. on July 10 at the funeral for the victims. Tien was arrested at 10 p.m. the same day in his rented room in Ho Chi Minh City’s Hoc Mon District while Thoai was taken in on August 9 at his rented house in the city's District 12.

(source: Thanh Nien News)

TURKEY:

Erdogan: I will approve death penalty for coup plotters if requested

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he would approve any decision by parliament on reinstating the death penalty as calls grow for executions in the aftermath of a failed coup plot.

"There is a clear crime of treason and your request (death penalty) cannot be rejected by our government. Parliament needs to discuss it and if the leaders agree and discuss it then I as president will approve any decision to come out of the parliament," he told CNN International on Monday evening.

'Why should I keep them and feed them in prisons, for years to come?' - that's what the people say," he added.

"They want a swift end to it, because people lost relatives, neighbours, children... they're suffering so the people are very sensitive and we have to act very sensibly and sensitively."

It is the 2nd time Erdogan has raised the issue in a matter of days. Turkey has arrested more than 100 senior Turkish military officers in the aftermath of Friday's coup attempt, amid growing calls those found guilty should face capital punishment.

On Sunday, at a funeral in Istanbul, Erdogan in response to a crowd chanting "we want executions" said: "The people's demands must be respected in democracies. If the people demand something it is their right to be heard. Parliament will discuss this matter."

It was Prime Minister Binali Yildirim who first mentioned the death penalty in a speech in parliament on Saturday. "If Turkey still had the death penalty these perpetrators would deserve to be condemned to it," he said.

Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2004. The last execution to be carried out in Turkey was in 1984.

The deputy leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Mehmet Muezzinoglu, said on Saturday that the government would introduce a bill calling for the execution of rebel soldiers.

"We will put forward a motion, which will demand the execution of those who have been involved in the coup attempt," Muezzinoglu said on Twitter.

On Saturday, the hashtag #Idamistiyorum [I want death penalty] was the top trend on Twitter in Turkey.

Earlier today EU chief Federica Mogherini warned that if Turkey reinstated the death penalty the door to the EU will be shut to it.

"Let me be very clear... no country can become an EU state if it introduces the death penalty," Mogherini said when asked about the possible impact on long-stalled accession talks with Ankara.

Her comments come after the detention of 7,500 people, including senior military figures, judges and soldiers, in connection with the coup attempt on Friday which Erdogan has blamed on his rival, the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Meanwhile, the former head of the Turkish air force has denied any role in last week's coup plot, a prosecutor's statements says in a contradiction of reports of an alleged confession carried by a state-run news agency.

Pictures released by Anadolu news agency showed Akin Ozturk, 64, a general, with injuries to his head and upper body. Anadolu's statement on Twitter said Ozturk had told interrogators he "acted with intention to stage coup".

Within minutes that post was deleted, however, as other media organisations including the centrist newspaper, Hurriyet, reported a prosecutor's statement as saying Ozturk denied any role in the putsch.

The court formally charged Ozturk and 25 other senior military officers with treason, and will remain in prison without bail.

(source: Middle East Eye)

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

Turkey's Nationalist Party Supports Reintroducing Death Penalty After Coup

Following the Friday unsuccessful coup in Turkey, the Interior Ministry sacked close to 9,000 personnel across the country, including members of the armed forces, from foot soldiers to commanders, as well as police officers, governors, military advisers, prosecutors and judges.

On Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told crowds of supporters gathered outside his residence in Istanbul that parliament must consider the public demand for the death penalty to be applied in the case of the coup plotters.

"The issue of return of the death penalty is now raised. If the ruling party is ready, we will stay together and do everything necessary with peace of mind," Bahceli said at his party's weekly parliamentary group meeting at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey.

Death penalty was abolished in Turkey in 2004 to bring its legislation in line with the EU standards.

On Monday, at a joint news conference, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and US Secretary of State John Kerry called on Turkey to respect democracy and human rights in its response to the failed coup. Western politicians said that the introduction of the capital punishment would close the way for Turkey to enter the European Union.

(source: Sputnik News)

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

Death penalty in Turkey would 'spell the end of EU membership bid'

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has angered European institutions and sparked fear among NGOs by claiming the death penalty could be restored in Turkey following a failed military coup to oust him from power.

A massive crack down on suspected coup plotters and participants among the branches of Turkey's military was still underway on Tuesday, fuelling concerns over the respect of human rights amid the political chaos.

In response to demonstrators who chanted "Death Penalty, Death Penalty!" during recent pro-government rallies, Erdogan has promised the demand would be considered in the wake of the short-lived revolt.

Turkish lawmakers abolished the death penalty in a 2-fold process between 2002 and 2004 as part of the country's bid to join the European Union, but calls for reinstating capital punishment have surged on social networks in recent days. The hashtag #Idamistiyorum, or "I want the death penalty", has been shared tens of thousands of times.

Erdogan, who has previously evoked the possibility of bringing back the death penalty, brandished the threat again during a funeral service for some victims of the coup on Sunday.

"You cannot push the wish of the people to one side," Erdogan said in reference to calls for the death penalty, while referring to supporters of his rival, the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen as a "virus" that had to be cleaned from the state.

Almost 20,000 members of the army, police, civil service and justice system - 1/5 of the country's entire judiciary, according to some estimates - have been detained in a purge that started over the weekend.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim also raised the possibility over the weekend, but tempered his remarks on Monday. "It would not be correct to act in haste but we cannot ignore our citizens' demand," Yildirim said in comments following a cabinet meeting, noting that re-establishing the death penalty would require a constitutional change.

European scowl

Samim Akgonul, a professor at Strasbourg University and an expert on Turkey, said Erdogan and Yildirim's threat should be taken seriously. "The president and prime minister are very interested in getting rid of the coup plotters by reinstating the death penalty, under the cover of meeting voters' demands."

And indeed, European leaders appeared to take umbrage. "Let me be very clear," the bloc's foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said on Monday. "No country can join the European Union if it introduced the death penalty".

It was a statement that was later echoed by German officials. "Germany and the EU have a clear position: we reject the death penalty categorically," said government spokesman Steffen Seibert. "The introduction of the death penalty in Turkey would spell the end of membership negotiations to the European Union."

Turkey's EU membership bid has made little headway amid fears of immigration across Europe and differences on how to deal with the Islamic State (IS) group, but the country is a member of the Council of Europe.

Akgonul said membership in that organisation would be in jeopardy if Turkey reinstated the death penalty, since any member of the Council of Europe is bound by the European Convention on Human Rights, which rejects the death penalty.

NGOs 'very worried'

For non-governmental organisations fighting for the abolition of the death penalty, Erdogan's statement set off alarm bells.

Anne Denis, head of Amnesty International France's campaign, told FRANCE 24 her group was "monitoring the situation very closely". Especially since Erdogan "has the means to force parliament, where his supporters have a majority, to call a vote on restoring the death penalty".

The London-based NGO Reprieve shared a similar view. "The statements by the Turkish president are extremely worrying," said Maya Foa, who directs the group's death penalty division. "The reintroduction of capital punishment will not bring more justice in Turkey, quite the opposite actually."

Asked to what extent Erdogan's threats were to be taken seriously, given his penchant for populist rhetoric, Foa said Western governments should not wait to find out.

"It's still unclear if the Turkish president's proposals are serious or mere words. But it is crucial that European countries and others with close relations with Turkey intervene swiftly before this suggestion goes any further," she insisted.

Foa believes that it is in Turkey's best interest to also "remain consistent" on this issue, recalling that during a UN summit earlier this year Turkey publicly reaffirmed its clear opposition to the death penalty "under all circumstances".

(source: france24.com)

IRAN:

Maryam Rajavi calls for condemnation of increasing executions, effective action

Iranian Resistance President-elect Mrs. Maryam Rajavi described the unprecedented increase in mass and arbitrary executions in various cities across Iran as the religious dictatorship's utter fear of increasing social unrest and escalating popular protests.

"An increase in vicious executions has come at a time when 2 weeks ago the mullahs' regime staged a rocket attack against Camp Liberty and was on the verge of killing refugee members of the Iranian Resistance. During the past week at least 30 prisoners in different cities of Iran were mass executed and in some cases hanged in public. 16 of these prisoners were executed on Sunday, July 17th alone," Mrs. Rajavi said.

"All signs indicate the mullahs' weakness and utter fragility more than ever before, and it being terrified of its indispensable toppling. This is the same fear that the regime showed hysterically in response to the grand annual gathering held by the Iranian Resistance. During the past few days Tehran has summoned representatives of foreign governments, made ridiculous threats and launched a choir of senior regime officials in all its propaganda organs in this regard," she added.

The increasing trend of executions, especially 1 year after the signing of the nuclear agreement, once again proves the defeasance of the reform theory inside the regime. This also shows that the appeasement policies encourages this medieval regime in its criminal policies.

Dealing with and appeasing this regime at a time when mass executions, warmongering and its export of terrorism to regional countries are on the rise is considered practical collaboration with the mullahs, Mrs. Rajavi underscored as she called on the United Nations Security Council and member states of the European Union to strongly condemn these criminal executions and adopt effective measures against Tehran. All economic and political relations with the mullahs must be conditioned on abolishing all executions and improving the human rights situation in Iran, she added.

(source: Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran)

INDONESIA:

Key: Indonesia won't be ending death penalty soon

Indonesia is unlikely to drop the death penalty, but is keen to make progress in other areas of human rights, Prime Minister John Key says.

Mr Key is in Indonesia to talk business, trade and terrorism and has had his first meeting with President Joko Widodo.

He says the discussion was wide-ranging, but included talk about the conflict in West Papua and Indonesia's use of the death penalty.

The country of around 255 million people has a chequered human rights record, including the use of firing squads.

On Monday, Amnesty International called on Mr Key to bring up the death penalty, which it says was used at least 14 times last year.

Indonesia's Attorney-General indicated last month that 16 people were set to face a firing squad this year, and they had a budget to execute another 30 in 2017.

Mr Key told Mr Widodo New Zealand was strongly against the use of the death penalty. But he doesn't expect changes any time soon.

"We registered our feelings that the death penalty is something we cannot and do not support, despite the severity of the crimes that people may have committed that they get the death penalty.

"It's not an issue I don't think the Indonesians are going to change their position on any time soon. They've got a major narcotics issue here in Indonesia, they've got a lot of Indonesians who are addicts and are trying to send a strong message, now we in New Zealand believe that can be said in a different way."

But Mr Key says Mr Widodo was more receptive to investigating any human rights breaches in West Papua, which he says was "proactively" raised by the Indonesians in the meeting.

Last month, Indonesian police were accused of arresting more than 1000 people at rallies in West Papua, demanding an independence referendum.

The conflict over West Papua - part of Indonesia's easternmost Papua province on New Guinea island - has been going on for decades. The population is ethnically distinct from the rest of Indonesia.

Prior to the meeting, the Green Party urged Mr Key to discuss the "deteriorating human rights situation" in West Papua.

Mr Key said Mr Widodo and was "keen" for him to understand the situation and the issue of human rights.

"They raised the point specifically about human rights, and said if there are specific issues with human rights, then they take up those issues, they investigate them and make sure they're not repeated.

"They seem to be quite keen to have greater transparency.

"We don't dispute the issue of territorial rights of Papua. I think that's been a long-standing New Zealand Government position - that we recognise territorial rights - but on the broader issue of human rights, we said to them that's a matter that's always of great concern to New Zealanders."

Mr Key said Mr Widodo and the country's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi "gave us assurances they were observing human rights there".

Asked whether he believed them, Mr Key said they'd made "genuine" progress, and weren't dismissive of New Zealand's concerns.

(source: newshub.co.nz)

SAUDI ARABIA----executions

Saudi Arabia executions near 100 this year ---- The country imposes death penalty for offences including murder, drug trafficking, armed robbery, rape and apostasy.

Saudi authorities executed two men on Tuesday, bringing to 98 the number of executions carried out in the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom so far this year.

Saudi citizen Ali Assiri, who was found guilty of stabbing a fellow tribesman to death, was executed in the southwestern region of Asir, the interior ministry said.

Pakistani Mohammed Mokhtar, who was convicted of heroin trafficking, was executed in the eastern city of Dammam, the ministry said.

Saudi Arabia imposes the death penalty for offences including murder, drug trafficking, armed robbery, rape and apostasy.

Most people executed are beheaded with a sword.

There were no beheadings during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which began in the kingdom on June 6.

However, executions resumed on Sunday when authorities put a Saudi murderer to death.

Human rights group Amnesty International says the kingdom carried out at least 158 death sentences last year, making it the 3rd most prolific executioner after Iran and Pakistan.

Amnesty's figures do not include secretive China.

The London-based watchdog says the Saudi rate of executions this year is "higher than at the same point last year".

Murder and drug trafficking cases account for the majority of Saudi executions, although 47 people were put to death for "terrorism" offences on a single day in January.

They included prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, whose execution prompted Iranian protesters to torch Saudi diplomatic missions, leading Riyadh to sever relations.

(source: Deccan Chroniclec)

INDIA:

Hazare seeks death penalty for accused in Kopardi rape case

Social activist Anna Hazare today sought death penalty for those accused of brutally raping and killing a 15-year-old girl at a village in Maharashtra's Ahmednagar district.

"The case should be tried in a fast track court and the guilty be hanged," Hazare said in a statement issued here.

The girl was raped last week allegedly by 3 men who inflicted injuries all over her body and broke her limbs before strangulating her at Kopardi village.

The incident sparked outrage as well as political slugfest, with the Congress demanding Fadnavis' resignation on "moral grounds".

Making a statement after ruckus by the opposition in the Assembly yesterday, the Chief Minister had said the accused in the heinous crime have been arrested and the case will be heard in a fast-track court.

Noted lawyer Ujjwal Nikam has been appointed as the public prosecutor in the case and the government has given Rs 5 lakh solatium to the victim's family, he said.

(source: State Times)

JULY 18, 2016:

TEXAS----impending execution

In Texas death row case, punishment does not fit crime

Jeff Wood has an appointment he hopes to miss.

On Aug. 24, 2016, at about 6 p.m., the Texas Department of Criminal Justice plans to inject a lethal dose of pentobarbital into Jeff's veins to stop his heart as punishment for the 1996 murder of Kris Keeran.

What makes this execution controversial is that everyone, including law enforcement and the prosecution, agrees that Wood, the driver of the getaway car, did not kill Kris Keeran inside a Kerrville convenient store on the morning of January 2, 1996. In fact, Daniel Reneau, the actual and sole killer of Keeran, was executed for his crime on June 13, 2002.

Wood was convicted and sentenced to die under Texas' arcane felony-murder law, more commonly known as the "the law of parties" - for his role as an accomplice to a killing, which he had no reason to anticipate. Under the law of parties, those who conspire to commit a felony, like a robbery, can be held responsible for a subsequent crime, like murder, if it "should have been anticipated." The law does not require a finding that the person intended to kill. It only requires that the defendant, charged under the law of parties, was a major participant in the underlying felony and exhibited a reckless indifference to human life. In other words, neglecting to anticipate another actor's commission of murder in the course of a felony is all that is required to make a Texas defendant death-eligible.

Texas is not the only state that holds co-conspirators responsible for one another's criminal acts. However, it is one of few states that applies the death sentence to them. There have been only 10 people in the U.S. executed under the law of parties - and 5 of those 10 executions were in Texas. The last such execution was in 2009, where the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles (BPP) recommended, with a 5-2 vote, that Robert Thompson's death sentence be commuted to life. Rick Perry rejected that vote and allowed the execution to proceed. Thompson was executed, even though it was his co-defendant, Sammy Butler, who actually killed the victim. Butler was given a life sentence.

When the convenient store robbery took place, Wood was sitting in a car outside, under the impression that Reneau was going into the store to get "road drinks and munchies." Although it is true that Wood and Reneau had talked about robbing the store at the behest of the manager, Wood had backed out of the idea. Wood had no idea Reneau was carrying a gun and was going to attempt to rob the store. Wood also claims he was forced to drive Reneau away from the crime scene at gunpoint. Wood's actions before the murder, namely sitting in a car unarmed and unaware that another person was going to commit a robbery, does not constitute reckless indifference to human life.

Even many supporters of capital punishment agree that the Texas law of parties is wholly unfair. In 2009, the Texas Moratorium Network and Wood's family led an advocacy campaign to end the death penalty for people convicted under the law of parties. The Republican-controlled Texas House overwhelmingly voted in favor of the bill. Unfortunately, the bill died in the Senate after Gov. Perry threatened to veto it. Last year, the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence voted again in favor of a bill to exclude the death penalty as punishment in law of parties cases. However, the session ended without an opportunity for a floor vote.

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles should recommend that the governor commute Wood's death sentence to life in prison or a lesser term consistent with Wood's level of participation in the crime. They have made that recommendation in similar cases, including those of Kenneth Foster in 2007 and Robert Thompson in 2009.

Wood might deserve punishment for driving away from the crime scene, but he does not deserve to die. He has never taken a human life with his own hands.

(source: Opinion; Hooman Hedayati is an attorney and a member of the Texas Moratorium Network Board of Directors----Austin American-Statesman)

CONNECTICUT:

Connecticut Court Reaffirms Ruling Abolishing Death Penalty

The Connecticut Supreme Court has upheld its decision to abolish the state's death penalty, including for the 11 inmates on Connecticut's death row.

The Connecticut Supreme Court has reaffirmed its decision that Connecticut's abolition of the death penalty must also apply to those already convicted of a capital felony.

Monday's ruling comes in the case of Daniel Webb, who was sentenced to death for the 1989 murder of Diane Gellenbeck. The 37-year-old bank vice president was killed in a Hartford park after being abducted from a downtown parking garage.

The court last August found the 2012 state law that banned executions for future crimes did not go far enough, ruling the death penalty was unconstitutional for those already on death row.

The court on Monday said the same reasoning applies to Webb's appeal and ordered him to be resentenced. He now faces life in prison without parole.

(source: Associated Press)

USA:

Jury Selection, Other Matters Considered in Church Shooting

A federal judge is taking up jury selection and other matters in the trial of a white man charged in the shooting deaths of nine black parishioners at a South Carolina church.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel holds a motions hearing Monday in the case of 22-year-old Dylann Roof. He's scheduled to stand trial Nov. 7.

Roof is charged with hate crimes and other counts and faces the death penalty in the June, 2015, shooting deaths at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. He will not attend the hearing.

A hearing notice said jury selection is being considered, although there is also a motion before the court to dismiss the charges.

Defense attorneys say they are willing to have the jury selected from the Charleston area instead of from across South Carolina.

(source: Associated Press)

IRAN:

10 Prisoners in Rajai Shahr Prison Scheduled for Execution

About 10 prisoners in Karaj's Rajai Shahr Prison (Alborz Province, northern Iran) were transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for their executions scheduled for Wednesday July 20. According to close sources, 2 of the prisoners have been identified as Reza Teimouri and Mohsen Khanmohammadi.

A close source tells Iran Human Rights: "Most of these prisoners are on death row for murder charges. They weren't able to obtain consent from the complainants on their case files to stop their executions, so they are scheduled to be hanged on Wednesday morning."

On Wednesday July 13, Iranian authorities reportedly executed 6 prisoners at this prison. Since last week, starting from Monday July 11 until Sunday July 17, about 30 executions were reportedly carried out across Iran.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

BANGLADESH:

Bangladesh charges 38 with murder over 2013 garment factory collapse

A court in Bangladesh formally charged 38 people with murder on Monday in connection with the 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza building which killed 1,135 people in the country's worst industrial disaster.

A total of 41 defendants face charges over the collapse of the complex, which housed 5 garment factories supplying global brands. Plaza owner Sohel Rana is the principal accused.

Public Prosecutor Abdul Mannan said 38 people had been charged with murder while 3 were charged with helping Rana to flee after the incident. Rana was arrested after a four-day manhunt, apparently trying to flee across the border to India.

Of the 41 people charged, 35, including Rana, appeared before the court and pleaded not guilty, Mannan told reporters. The other 6 are fugitives and will be tried in absentia.

If convicted, defendants could face the death penalty.

The collapse of the complex, built on swampy ground outside the capital Dhaka, sparked demands for greater safety in the world's 2nd-largest exporter of readymade garments and put pressure on companies buying clothing from Bangladesh to act.

Duty-free access to Western markets and low wages for its workers helped turn Bangladesh's garment exports into a $28 billion-a-year industry that is the economic lifeblood of the country of 160 million people.

The minimum monthly wage for garment workers in Bangladesh is $68, compared with about $280 in mainland China, which remains the world's biggest clothes exporter.

The Rana Plaza tragedy prompted safety checks that led to many factory closures and the loss of exports and jobs but the industry had begun to recover strongly despite sporadic attacks in Bangladesh claimed by Islamic State and al Qaeda. These have included murders of liberals, gay people, foreigners and members of religious minorities.

But a targeted attack on a restaurant in Dhaka on July 1 that claimed the lives of 20 people including 18 foreigners, many of whom worked in the garment business, could pose a fresh threat to the industry.

Islamic State said it was responsible for one of the most brazen attacks in the South Asian nation's history, although that claim has yet to be confirmed.

(source: Reuters)

TURKEY:

Turkey's President Erdogan refuses to rule out death penalty

Turkey's President has refused to rule out the death penalty for the thousands of people arrested following a violent failed military coup Friday.

"There is a clear crime of treason and your request can never be rejected by our government," said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaking through his translator in a world exclusive interview with CNN's Becky Anderson at his presidential palace in Istanbul, Turkey.

"But of course it will take a parliamentary decision for that to take action in the form of a constitutional measure so leaders will have to get together and discuss it and if they accept to discuss it then I as president will approve any decision that comes out of the parliament."

This is the 1st interview given by the president since the attempted military coup on Friday, July 15.

If Turkey does reintroduce the death penalty, it won't be joining the European Union, according to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini earlier Monday.

Commenting on people's calls for the death penalty for coup plotters, Erdogan said: "'Why should I keep them and feed them in prisons, for years to come?' -- that's what the people say."

"They want a swift end to it, because people lost relatives, lost neighbors, lost children... they're suffering so the people are very sensitive and we have to act very sensibly and sensitively," he added.

The comments come in the wake of Friday's failed military coup and the president's vow over the weekend that those responsible "will pay a heavy price for this act of treason."

A total of 8,777 officers from the Turkish Ministry of Interior have so far been removed from office, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.

Among the arrested are 103 generals and admirals -- 1/3 of the general-rank command of the Turkish military.

A formal written request for the extradition of Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is in self-imposed exile in the United States, will be submitted within days, Erdogan told Anderson.

When asked what he would do if the U.S. refused to extradite Gulen, he said "we have a mutual agreement of extradition of criminals."

"So now you ask someone to be extradited, you're my strategic partner I do obey, I do abide by that, but you don't do the same thing -- well, of course, there should be reciprocity in the types of things," the president continued.

Erdogan has previously blamed Gulen for the attempted coup -- a claim which Gulen has denied.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. hadn't yet received a formal request from Turkey for Gulen's extradition.

(source: CNN)

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

NATO's Stoltenberg to Erdogan: 'Ensure full respect for democracy' in coup aftermath

NATO-Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg denounced the military coup attempt in a phone call with Turkey's president. Stoltenberg assured him of NATO's full support, yet reminded Erdogan of the need to observe the rule of law in the coup aftermath.

"Being part of a unique community of values, it is essential for Turkey, like all other Allies, to ensure full respect for democracy and its institutions, the constitutional order, the rule of law and fundamental freedoms," Stoltenberg's statement reads.

A similar statement was issued earlier by US Secretary of State John Kerry. "NATO also has a requirement with respect to democracy," Kerry said during a joint press conference with EU Foreign Policy chief Federica Mogherini on Monday.

Turkey is NATO's 2nd largest member and its Ingirlik air base is used by the US and its allies to launch airstrikes on Islamic State (formerly known as IS, ISIL/ISIS).

Kerry reiterated his support for the legitimate Turkish government as well as its efforts "in bringing the perpetrators of the coup to justice," according to the Independent. He cautioned Ankara "against a reach that goes beyond that and stress the importance of the democratic rule being upheld," however.

"Obviously a lot of people have been arrested and arrested very quickly," Kerry said, while noting that it's important not to abandon the principles of democracy while investigating the cases.

"The level of vigilance and scrutiny is obviously going to be significant in the days ahead. Hopefully we can work in a constructive way that prevents a backsliding," he said.

Turkey's Foreign Minister told Kerry that his country would adhere to the principles of democracy and follow the law.

On Sunday, Turkey's president vowed to bring back the death penalty as he addressed crowds of supporters in Ankara. The practice was abolished in Turkey in 2004. However, the country's prime minister said that Ankara will not push for the introduction of the punishment. "We are not going to rush the introduction of the death penalty, this issue needs to be discussed; it will not be quick. We intend to act in a legal way," said Turkish PM Binali Yildirim during a government session on Monday.

The potential return of capital punishment to Turkey has raised alarm bells in the European Union.

EU Foreign Policy Chief Mogherini warned Turkey that the reinstatement of the death penalty would cost the country its chance to join the EU. "No country can become an EU member state if it introduces the death penalty," she said. The official also reminded Ankara that "Turkey is an important part of the Council of Europe and is bound by the European Convention on Human Rights, which is very clear on the death penalty."

In the meantime, Turkish officials are trying to verify the final death toll from the coup violence. The latest estimate puts the number of victims at 232, according to country's prime minister, Yildirim.

Around 1,400 people have been injured. Figures issued earlier by the Turkish authorities put the number of victims at more than 290. It is unclear why the death toll has been revised. President Erdogan made clear that he intends to do everything necessary to bring the perpetrators to justice. Following the attempted overthrow, he vowed that anyone who had supported the coup "will pay a heavy price for their treason to Turkey."

A total of 7,543 civilians and police officers, as well as members of the judiciary and army, including over a hundred generals and admirals, were arrested in the wake of the coup. Addressing his supporters on Friday night, Erdogan said that "This uprising is a gift from God to us because this will be a reason to cleanse our army." On top of that, over 8,000 members of the Turkish Interior Ministry - mostly police officers - have been removed from office over alleged links to the uprising, Reuters says. The outlet adds that 30 governors and dozens of high-ranking civil servants have been sacked.

The Turkish Finance Ministry has also suspended some 1,500 of its employees who are suspected of having ties to US based cleric Fethullah Gulen, according a Ministry official, as cited by TASS. Ankara suspects Gulen of being behind the coup against Erdogan and has already asked Washington to hand him over. The US has said it will do so only if enough evidence is provided, however. In an interview with the Kanal 7 broadcaster, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek said on Monday that Ankara hopes for "strong support" for its request to extradite Gulen when enough evidence has been collected.

(source: rt.com)

FLORIDA:

2 cases delayed by new death penalty to be in Duval County court

2 death penalty cases affected by the new death penalty ruling will be in Duval County court Monday morning.

The recent ruling stated that the death penalty law in the State of Florida is unconstitutional.

The ruling that affects two Duval County cases has families in the courtroom longer, which can be tiring for the family.

James Rhodes is accused of killing Shelby Farah at a Metro PCS store in 2013.

Rhodes' court appearance is expected to include motions regarding death penalty.

Rhodes was charged in connection to the death of Farah, 20.

Farah's mother has been candid about her disagreement with the State Attorney's Office to seek the death penalty for her daughter's accused killer. Farah's mother said it will only keep the case going, but State Attorney Angela Corey said the law requires her to seek death.

In the Michael Shellito case, he was convicted in the murder of 18-year-old Sean Hathorne. Hathrone was shot in the chest in 1994 and Shellito was sentenced to death.

But the Florida Supreme Court unanimously overturned his death sentence back in 2013 citing mental issues and that he may have suffered from brain damage from child abuse.

Shelitto has a final pretrial hearing Monday morning. His case isn't scheduled to go to trial until 2017.

As of today, there are 388 people in Florida on death row.

(source: actionnewsjax.com)

LOUISIANA:

Inmates' lawyers: A/C only way to prevent heat-related illness, death at Angola

With south Louisiana's summer heat and humidity kicking into high gear, the legal battle rages on over how to best protect 3 ailing condemned killers from extreme heat indexes on Angola's death row.

In the most recent federal court filings in the 3-year-old case, attorneys for Elzie Ball, Nathaniel Code and James Magee insist air conditioning is the only way to shield them from the substantial risk of heat-related illness or worse.

"Public health agencies as well as the medical community agree that exposure to air-conditioning is the only method of preventing heat-related illness and death in extreme heat," the inmates' attorneys, including lead lawyer Mercedes Montagnes with The Promise of Justice Initiative in New Orleans, argue in documents filed July 11 at Baton Rouge federal court.

Attorneys for state corrections officials, however, claim their second heat remediation plan - which calls for a daily cool shower and additional ice and fans for the prisoners - adequately remedies a violation of the constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment that Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found in relation to the Louisiana State Penitentiary's death row.

The state's lawyers, in documents filed July 11 as well, contend the heat remediation plan's measures "are sufficient to cure the constitutional violation." They argue further that the relief "extends as far as is necessary to correct the constitutional violation in this matter."

Jackson opined last month at a hearing on the state's second remediation plan that corrections officials have done "little if anything" to prevent heat indexes on death row from topping 88 degrees, something he ordered them to do 2 1/2 years ago.

The state's 1st court-ordered heat remediation plan included air conditioning for the inmates, but the 5th Circuit ruled last summer the prisoners are not entitled to mechanical cooling. But the appellate court said they do deserve some relief.

In their latest court filing, the state's attorneys - a combination of private lawyers and assistant state attorney's general - say they interpret the 5th Circuit ruling to mean the state is not required to maintain the heat index in the inmates' cells below 88 degrees.

"The Fifth Circuit noted ... that a permanent injunction requiring (the state) to develop a plan to keep the heat index at or below 88 degrees would 'effectively' require (the state) to install air conditioning," the state's attorneys point out. "It is (the state's) position that the Fifth Circuit ruled that (the state) must implement sufficient remedial measures ... when the heat index reaches 88 degrees - not that (the state) must maintain the heat index below 88 degrees."

In its ruling last year, the New Orleans federal appeals court suggested the state could divert cool air from the air-conditioned guard pods into the death-row tiers or allow the inmates access to air-conditioned areas, but corrections officials rejected those suggestions for security and other reasons.

The inmates' lawyers acknowledge that while no 5th Circuit case has previously upheld an order requiring air conditioning to remedy a violation of the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, no authority explicitly bars the use of air conditioning as a remedy.

"The Fifth Circuit itself suggested remedies which included exposure to air conditioning," the prisoners' attorneys note. "The Fifth Circuit plainly contemplated the need for remedial measures beyond ice, showers and fans."

"The Fifth Circuit has not - and could not - categorically bar the use of air-conditioning to remedy the Eighth Amendment violation," they add.

The state's first heat remediation plan remedies the constitutional violation and does not disrupt the effective administration of the prison, the inmates' attorneys say.

Code is on death row for the slaying of 4 people at a house in Shreveport in 1985. Magee received the death penalty for the 2007 shotgun killing of his estranged wife and their 5-year-old son in a subdivision near Mandeville. Ball was condemned to die for fatally shooting a beer delivery man during the 1996 armed robbery of a Gretna lounge.

(source: The Advocate)

UTAH:

Debating the Death Penalty in Utah

A debate over the death penalty is expected to return to Utah's Capitol Hill during the next legislative session. We could see a bill to abolish it all together, and another one to speed up the process. I sat down with Robert Dunham this morning, he's the Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center, to give us a look at the possible legislative pieces we could see next year.

Dunham wanted to be clear that the Information Center takes no stance on the death penalty. Their focus is ensuring the death penalty is administered properly.

(source: Glen Mills, good4utah.com)

USA:

'Dr. Death'

In just a few months, Donnie Myers's long and lethal tenure as a top prosecutor in South Carolina will come to an end. If past is precedent, so will the bumper crop of death sentences in his jurisdiction.

Mr. Myers, known locally as "Dr. Death," has personally secured 39 death sentences against 28 defendants - some were tried twice - in a 38-year career as solicitor of South Carolina's 11th Judicial District. He is notorious for keeping a paperweight model of the state's electric chair on his desk, for his race-baiting courtroom histrionics, and for playing fast and loose with legal rules. According to an analysis by Harvard Law School, courts have found he committed misconduct in 46 % of his capital cases, and 6 death sentences he secured were subsequently overturned.

Mr. Myers, who has been convicted of drunken driving and, recently, charged again for the same offense, could usher in a big change when he retires this year. If South Carolina's 11th Judicial District follows what has become a pronounced pattern, the exit of one overzealous prosecutor could bring about a sharp drop in the imposition of the death penalty.

That is among the findings of Harvard Law School's Fair Punishment Project, which surveyed the wildly disproportionate impact of a handful of fanatical state prosecutors. Even as the frequency of death sentences and executions in the United States has plummeted in recent decades, the Harvard study shows how the nation's death rows, which currently house about 2,900 convicts, have been populated by the efforts of a very few, death-penalty-loving men (and, notably, 1 woman) like Mr.?Myers.

The report's findings underscore the grossly arbitrary nature of capital punishment in this country and undercut whatever legitimacy it may retain. If imposition of the ultimate punishment is to a great extent driven by personality and a hunger for notoriety, then it is the antithesis of justice.

How else to think about prosecutors such as Dale Cox, just retired as the top prosecutor in Caddo Parish, La., who declared, upon learning of the exoneration of a man who spent 30 years on death row for a crime he did not commit, "I think we need to kill more people." Mr. Cox, who secured 1/3 of Louisiana's death sentences in a 5-year period ending in 2015, had a simple rationale: "Revenge brings to us a visceral satisfaction."

The good news is that the number of states allowing capital punishment has shrunk and, in states where the penalty remains active, U.S. juries have mostly lost their appetite for it. Just 49 death sentences were handed down last year, an 84?% drop from the modern-era high of 315 in 1996.

Nonetheless, in the shrinking numbers of counties where the capital punishment remains in fashion, it's striking how few prosecutors dominate death-sentencing statistics. They are evidence, the Harvard study concludes, "that the application of the death penalty is - and always has been - less about the circumstances of the offense or the characteristics of the person who committed the crime, and more a function of the personality and predilections" of a very few prosecutors.

(source: Washington Post)

TURKEY:

EU reminds Turkey it bound by treaty not to use death penalty

The European Union reminded Turkey on Monday that it is bound by its commitments under the European Convention on Human Rights and as a member of the Council of Europe not to reintroduce the death penalty.

"No country can become an EU member state if it introduces the death penalty," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters when asked about suggestions that EU accession candidate Turkey might execute leaders of the failed coup.

She also noted that Turkey was a member of the Council of Europe and a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights, which bans capital punishment across the continent:

"Turkey is an important part of the Council of Europe and is bound by the European Convention on Human Rights, which is very clear on the death penalty," she said.

(source: Reuters)

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

Germany tells Turkey return of death penalty would end EU accession talks

Turkey cannot join the European Union if it reinstates the death penalty, a spokesman for the German government said on Monday, sending a clear message to President Tayyip Erdogan who has raised the possibility after a failed military coup.

The government also urged Turkey to maintain the rule of law in investigating and bringing those behind the weekend coup attempt to justice, and raised questions about Turkey's decision to round up thousands of judges.

"Germany and the member states of the EU have a clear position on that: we categorically reject the death penalty," government spokesman Steffen Seibert told a news conference.

"A country that has the death penalty can't be a member of the European Union and the introduction of the death penalty in Turkey would therefore mean the end of accession negotiations."

Turkey abolished capital punishment in 2004, allowing it to open EU accession talks the following year, but the negotiations have made scant progress since then.

With pro-government protesters demanding that the coup leaders be executed, Erdogan said on Sunday that the government would discuss the measure with opposition parties.

Even before the coup attempt, many EU states were not eager to see such a large, mostly Muslim country as a member, and were concerned that Ankara's record on basic freedoms had gone into reverse in recent years.

Turkey widened the crackdown on suspected supporters of the coup on Sunday, taking the number of people rounded up in the armed forces and judiciary to 6,000.

German officials said they had seen no evidence of any conspiracy in the events beyond an effort by parts of the Turkish military to seize control of the government.

Erdogan and the Turkish government have accused the U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former ally of Erdogan, of orchestrating the coup.

Seibert said German and EU officials would emphasize the need to maintain the rule of law in all their conversations with Turkey. He said he expected EU foreign ministers to address their concerns about the revival of the death penalty and disproportionate punishment in a joint statement about the situation after a meeting in Brussels later on Monday.

"Everyone understands that the Turkish government and the Turkish justice system must bring those responsible for the coup to justice, but they must maintain the rule of law, and that always means maintaining proportionality ... and transparency."

German Foreign Minster Frank-Walter Steinmeier spoke to his counterpart early on Sunday, but Chancellor Angela Merkel has not spoken to Erdogan since the attempted coup, government spokesmen said.

(source: The Daily Star)

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

No Country Can Become EU Member if Reintroduces Death Penalty - Mogherini

Late on Friday, Turkish authorities said that an attempted coup d'etat took place in the country. The coup was suppressed several hours later. Soon after the coup attempt, both Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said that capital punishment could be reinstated in the country.

"Let me be very clear on one thing ... No country can become an EU member state if it introduces death penalty," Mogherini told a briefing when asked about the situation in Turkey, a state that abolished capital punishment in 2004 to bring its legislation in line with the EU standards.

Late on Friday, the Turkish authorities said that an attempted coup d'etat took place in the country. The coup was suppressed several hours later.

The coup attempt was suppressed by early Saturday, with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim stating that all coup supporters were identified and would be apprehended as the country was returning to normal life. At least 208 people have been killed and at least 1,400 injured during the attempted coup, according to the country's foreign ministry.

(source: Sputnik News)

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

Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition would not support death penalty - spokesman

Turkey's pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) would not support any proposal put to parliament on the reintroduction of the death penalty following a failed coup attempt, party spokesman Ayhan Bilgen told Reuters.

"No, we will not support it," Bilgen said, adding that in any case new laws could not be applied retroactively and that it was the responsibility of politicians to communicate this to the people.

Responding to crowds of supporters calling for the death penalty for the plotters on Sunday, President Tayyip Erdogan said such demands could not be ignored.

(source: Reuters)

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

The death penalty must not be the legacy of Turkey's quashed coup

The military coup that was launched, and that failed, between Friday night and Saturday morning, showed the two faces of today's Turkey in sharp relief. On the one hand, there was the old tendency of the military to take responsibility for the nation, with officers casting themselves as the guardians of law and order and the secular state. On the other, there was a new sense of pride in even flawed democracy that brought people, young and old, religious and not, into the streets to oppose an illegal seizure of power. The people won; so far, so good.

The aftermath is starting to look a lot less palatable. If the failure of the coup can be seen as a victory for modern, European, democratic Turkey - or at least aspirations in that direction - it is not at all apparent that the trend will continue. There are now believed to be 6,000 people under arrest, including senior members of the armed forces and - more surprisingly - of the judiciary. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears to be exploiting his position to eliminate his enemies, far beyond those actually responsible for the plot against him. Nor is "eliminate" necessarily too strong a word: he has called for the return of the death penalty and whipped up enthusiastic crowds in his support. The proposition could be put to parliament.

Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2004, when it joined the Council of Europe. The move was part of its pursuit of European credentials at a time when its ambitions to join the EU were at their height. Reinstating the death penalty would be a highly retrograde step, doubly so if it were done as a response to a particular event. Asking parliament to decide, in such circumstances, could be seen as an improvement on summary justice - which also appears to be a possibility - but not by much.

With the Turkish state as fragile as it is, any appeal to the president to stay his hand could be difficult

Beyond making the strongest possible diplomatic representations, is there anything either the Council of Europe, in the shape of the European court at Strasbourg, or the EU can do? The first move might be a little self-examination. Even as stable a state as the UK retained the death penalty for treason until 1998, though it had been abolished for other crimes decades earlier. It is hard to regard the coup attempt in Turkey as anything other than treason. With the Turkish state as fragile as it evidently still is, any appeal to the president to stay his hand could be difficult.

Attempts should nonetheless be made. On a hierarchy of priorities, the first should be opposition to summary justice. The second should be a demand for due process: no mass trials or convictions. Rank-and-file conscripts cannot be held accountable for the plotting of their superiors. The failed coup should not provide a pretext for the president to purge his political enemies more broadly. Any moral superiority he might now command would soon dissipate.

It has to be recognised, however, that the persuasive power of Strasbourg is restricted to the moral plane, while the bargaining clout of Brussels is limited. The EU is more dependent on Turkey's goodwill than it was before the agreement on repatriating migrants, however questionable that deal was and however imperfectly it is operating. The ray of hope is that Turkey entered into that agreement at all, which suggested that Erdogan and his government had an interest not just in the money, but in keeping the country's EU application alive.

With the survival of democracy at risk, the Turkish president's priorities may have changed. But the EU's priorities for aspiring members - including respect for the rule of law - should not.

(source: The Guardian)

BANGLADESH:

Bangladesh war crimes: 3 get death penalty, 5 jailed for life----The verdict came as the prosecution accused all the 8 of 5 charges relating to crimes like mass murders, abductions, tortures and lootings.

3 Islamists were handed down death penalty while 5 others jailed until death by a special tribunal in Bangladesh for committing crimes against humanity during the 1971 liberation war with Pakistan.

A 3-member panel of judges of Bangladesh's International Crimes Tribunal (ICT-BD) led by Justice Anwarul Haque pronounced the judgement as 2 of the convicts appeared on the dock while 6 others were tried in absentia as they were on the run to evade justice.

The verdict came as the prosecution accused all the eight of five charges relating to crimes like mass murders, abductions, tortures and lootings.

Prosecution lawyers said 6 of the convicts were members of infamous Al-badr auxiliary force of the Pakistani troops during the war and carried out atrocities in northern Jamalpur district.

The 2 others belonged to Razakar, another Bengali-manned armed group raised by Pakistanis during the war.

Manned by activists of fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami, which was opposed to Bangladesh's 1971 independence from Pakistan, the Al-Badr appeared as an extremely notorious force by carrying out ruthless atrocities siding with Pakistani troops.

The verdict came amid a nationwide tension following the recent 2 back-to-back Islamist terror attacks in the country following which Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina hinted that Jamaat could be behind the assaults.

Bangladesh has so far executed 4 war crimes convicts since the process began to try the top Bengali perpetrators of 1971 atrocities in line with the electoral commitment of Prime Minister Hasina in 2008.

(source: indianexpress.com)

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

Man gets death penalty for killing brother

A Gazipur court has handed down maximum penalty to a man for killing his elder brother in 2013.

District Session Judge AKM Enamul Haque also slapped a total of Tk15,000 fine on the convict, 25-year-old Md Borhan Uddin, on Monday.

Public Prosecutor Haris Uddin Ahmed said, Borhan stabbed his elder brother Jahirul and dumped him in a septic tank on April 12, 2013 over a family feud.

Locals rescued Jahirul and rushed him to the upazila health complex where doctors pronounced him dead.

Jahirul's wife Fahima Akter filed a murder case accusing her brother-in-law Borhan.

The court delivered its verdict after recording depositions of 10 witnesses.

(source: Dhaka Tribune)

INDONESIA:

National scene: Isolation cells ready for death row inmates

The Central Java Law and Human Rights Agency, which holds authority over the prisons on Nusakambangan Island, confirmed that it recently built a number of isolation cells for inmates who are facing the death penalty.

The isolation cells will be used to separate death row inmates and other prisoners ahead of planned executions on the island.

"We have just completed a new 2-story block at the Batu Penitentiary on Nusakambangan with more than 10 cells. Later, the death row inmates will be placed in the isolated cells," the head of the Central Java Law and Human Rights Agency's corrections division, Molyanto, told The Jakarta Post on Sunday. He said a number of preparations have been made, including a security task force, an execution site and the isolation cells that will be used by the prisoners to meet their families, lawyers and spiritual guides.

"Everything will be ready in the near future. We're just waiting for the order," said Molyanto. The official order on when the executions will take place has not yet been made. "Various agencies are still coordinating. It's a matter of time before the Attorney General's Office issues the order," said Molyanto.

(source: Jakarta Post)

KENYA:

Nairobi tout gets death penalty for killing infant

A tout who murdered a 4-month-old girl and dumped her body in a pit latrine is on death row after being convicted.

The child's only "crime" was that her mother had conceived her from a previous relationship.

Peter Kinyua Mwangi was sentenced to hang on February 26, 2015, for killing the infant whose mother was his lover. He was cohabiting with the child's mother, Monica Wanjiku, at the time.

In her testimony, Ms Wanjiku said she had known Mwangi for 3 months before she delivered her baby.

On the night of April 22, 2009, in Kiangombe village in Embakasi, Nairobi County, Mwangi strangled the child, placed her on the bed and then pushed Wanjiku to the bed. However, Wanjiku managed to free herself. In anger, the accused hit the baby, who died. He then dumped her body in a pit latrine.

"He implored her to forget about the baby because they could have their own later. He even invited her to go back to bed," the prosecution told the court.

Wanjiku screamed for help but neighbours did not make it in time to rescue the child.

The High Court judge at the time, Nicholas Ombija, said in his judgement that Mwangi, 30, turned his anger on Wanjiku, noting he went for her neck, pulled her braids and tried to strangle her, claiming the baby was a 'jini' (evil spirit) in the house.

But Wanjiku managed to disentangle herself from the man. Moments later, when she asked him where the baby was, he said he had thrown the 'rat' in the latrine.

The court heard that Mwangi asked Wanjiku to sober up because they were going to have a human child seeing as the one he had killed was an "evil spirit".

Prosecutor Mercy Ikol asked the court to pass a harsh penalty, noting that the accused had earlier been charged in another court for giving false information. The prosecution called 7 witnesses.

Malice Aforethought

Justice Ombija said the prosecution had proved its case beyond reasonable doubt and that Mwangi had malice aforethought. The judge agreed with the prosecution assertions that the accused committed the offence.

"After carefully analysing the evidence, I find and hold that it is the accused who caused the death of the deceased by strangling her, apart from lying on top of the mother with the child below her on the bed," he said.

Ombija added: "The prosecution has proved its case beyond reasonable doubt and I sentence the accused to suffer death in the manner prescribed under the law. He is inhuman, brutal and heartless and he therefore does not deserve mercy from this court."

The judge also said the fact that Mwangi had earlier been charged with giving false information reinforced the prosecution case against him.

"I had the advantage of assessing the demeanour of the accused. He appeared to me as a person who is economical with the truth while on the other hand the wife appears as the witness of the truth and, accordingly, I rest my judgement on her testimony," he said.

The woman said on the fateful night, they retired to bed at around 11pm but Mwangi woke up at 2am, lit a candle then put it off, claiming there were "evil spirits" in the house.

She said Mwangi lifted her and placed her on top of the child as she struggled to free herself. She managed to free herself and that is when he strangled the baby despite her pleas.

In mitigation, Mwangi's lawyer, Daniel Mathenge, pleaded for a lenient sentence, arguing that his client had already spent 5 years in custody.

(source: standardmedia.co.ke)

IRAN----executions

16 prisoners including a woman hanged in 1 day, 2 in public ---- 30 prisoners executed in less than a week in cities across the country

In a new wave of executions, the Iranian regime executed 30 prisoners in various cities from July 11 to 17. 16 were executed Sunday, July 17, in Karaj and Birjand.

In Karaj, 11 prisoners including a woman were executed en masse in Ghezel Hessar Prison and another 2 were hanged in public in Mehrshahr district.

2 prisoners were executed in the Central Prison of Lakan, in Rasht (northern Iran) on July 16. 6 prisoners were hanged on July 13, in Gohardasht Prison of Karaj. 5 more prisoners were hanged on July 11, in the Central Prison of Arak (central Iran), and another prisoner was executed also on July 11, in the Prison of Maragheh (East Azerbaijan Province in northwest Iran) after enduring 8 years in prison.

Beset by various crises, the Iranian regime is unable to respond to the most basic needs of the Iranian people, especially the deprived and low income strata. To confront growing public dissent and protests across the country, it has resorted to a new wave of executions. 1 year after the nuclear deal, these crimes reveal the claims of moderation in the clerical regime as hollow and expose the falsehood of promises of improvement under the mullahs' rule. It was thus proved that appeasement of the mullahs' medieval regime will not bring about change.

The Iranian Resistance calls on human rights organizations to condemn the rising number of executions in Iran and to immediately undertake measures to send the dossier of violations of human rights in Iran to the UN Security Council. All relations with the Iranian regime must be made conditional on an end to executions and an improvement of the human rights situation in Iran.

(source: Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran)

INDIA:

Final hearing in December 16 gang rape case to begin from today

The Supreme Court will from today begin its hearing in the appeals filed by the four accused in the December 16 gang rape case.

A special bench of the apex court hearing the plea of death convicts in the case has decided to sit 2 hours beyond its working time to ensure speedy disposal of the case that has been pending in the court for more than 2 years.

The convicts Vinay Sharma (23), Akshay Thakur (31), Mukesh (29) and Pawan Gupta (22) were awarded death sentence by a trial court in September 2013 and 6 months later the Delhi High Court upheld their conviction and sentence. All the convicts then approached the Supreme Court which had in 2014 stayed their execution and the matter is pending in the top court since then.

The Delhi High Court had upheld their conviction and award of death penalty by terming the offence as 'extremely fiendish' and 'unparalleled in the history of criminal jurisprudence' and said the 'exemplary punishment' was the need of the hour.

Though arguments started in April before a three-judge Bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra, arguments will have to be made afresh since the combination of judges in the bench has been changed.

The bench comprises Justices Dipak Misra, C. Nagappan and Ms. R. Banumathi.

23-year old Nirbhaya was brutally assaulted and gang-raped by 6 people in a moving bus in south Delhi on the night of December 16, 2012, and thrown out of the vehicle with her male friend. She died in a Singapore hospital on December 29.

(source: Business Standard)

THE VATICAN:

Why the Church Cannot Reverse Past Teaching on Capital Punishment----If Pope Francis were to teach that capital punishment is “absolutely” immoral, he would be contradicting the teaching of scripture, the Fathers, and all previous popes, and substituting for it "some new doctrine."

Editor's note: This is Part 1 of a 2-part article on Catholicism and the death penalty. Part 2 will be posted later this week.

Pope St. John Paul II was well-known for his vigorous opposition to capital punishment. Yet in 2004, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger -- the pope's own chief doctrinal officer, later to become Pope Benedict XVI -- stated unambiguously that:

[I]f a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment ... he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities ... to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible ... to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about ... applying the death penalty ... (emphasis added)

How could it be "legitimate" for a Catholic to be "at odds with" the pope on such a matter? The answer is that the pope's opposition to capital punishment was not a matter of binding doctrine, but merely an opinion which a Catholic must respectfully consider but not necessarily agree with. Cardinal Ratzinger could not possibly have said what he did otherwise. If it were mortally sinful for a Catholic to disagree with the pope about capital punishment, then he could not "present himself to receive Holy Communion." If it were even venially sinful to disagree, then there could not be "a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics."

The fact is that it is the irreformable teaching of the Church that capital punishment can in principle be legitimate, not merely to ensure the physical safety of others when an offender poses an immediate danger (a case where even John Paul II was willing to allow for the death penalty), but even for purposes such as securing retributive justice and deterring serious crime. What is open to debate is merely whether recourse to the death penalty is in practice the best option given particular historical and cultural circumstances. That is a "prudential" matter about which popes have no special expertise.

We defend these claims in detail and at length in our book By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of the Death Penalty, forthcoming from Ignatius Press. What follows is a brief summary of some key points.

Sacred Scripture

The Church holds that scripture is infallible, particularly when it teaches on matters of faith and morals. The First Vatican Council teaches that scripture must always be interpreted in the sense in which the Church has traditionally understood it, and in particular that it can never be interpreted in a sense contrary to the unanimous understanding of the Fathers of the Church.

Both the Old and New Testaments teach that capital punishment can be legitimate, and the Church has always interpreted them this way. For example, Genesis 9:6 famously states: "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image." The Church has always understood this as a sanction of the death penalty. Even Christian Brugger, a prominent Catholic opponent of capital punishment, admits that attempts to reinterpret this passage are dubious and that the passage is a "problem" for views like his own.i

St. Paul's Letter to the Romans teaches that the state "does not bear the sword in vain [but] is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer" (13:4). The Church has always understood this too as a warrant for capital punishment, and by Brugger's own admission, there was a "consensus" among the Fathers and medieval Doctors of the Church that the passage was to be understood in this way.ii But in that case, attempts to reinterpret the passage cannot possibly be reconciled with a Catholic understanding of scripture.

Not only Genesis 9:6 and Romans 13:4 but also passages like Numbers 35:33, Deuteronomy 19: 11-13, Luke 23:41, and Acts 25:11 all clearly regard capital punishment as legitimate when carried out simply for the purpose of securing retributive justice. The lex talionis ("law of retaliation") of Exodus 21 and Leviticus 24 is also obviously a matter of exacting retribution for its own sake. Deuteronomy 19:19-21 talks of execution as a way of striking "fear" in potential offenders, and deterrence is clearly in view in Romans 13:4. Hence scripture clearly teaches that capital punishment can in principle be legitimate for the sake of deterrence.

The Fathers and Doctors of the Church

The Church has always regarded the Fathers as having an extremely high degree of authority when they are agreed on some matter of faith or morals. Now, some of the Fathers preferred mercy to the use of capital punishment. However, every one of the Fathers who commented on the subject nevertheless also allowed that capital punishment can in principle be legitimate. For example, in his Homilies on Leviticus, Origen teaches that "death which is inflicted as the penalty of sin is a purification of the sin itself." Clement of Alexandria says that "when one falls into any incurable evil ... it will be for his good if he is put to death." In his commentary On the Sermon on the Mount, Augustine writes that "great and holy men ... punished some sins with death ... [by which] the living were struck with a salutary fear." Jerome taught that “he who slays cruel men is not cruel."

It is sometimes claimed that Tertullian and Lactantius were exceptions to the patristic consensus on capital punishment as legitimate at least in principle, but even Brugger admits that this is not in fact the case.iii And again, the Fathers also uniformly regarded scripture as allowing capital punishment, and the Church teaches that the Fathers must be followed where they agree on the interpretation of scripture.

Like scripture, the Fathers also speak of capital punishment as in principle legitimate for purposes like the securing of retributive justice and deterring others. (Indeed, neither scripture nor the Fathers refer to protection against immediate physical danger even as a purpose of capital punishment, let alone as the only legitimate purpose.)

The Church has also regarded the Doctors of the Church as having a very high degree of authority when they are agreed on some matter of faith or morals. Like the Fathers, these Doctors - including thinkers of the stature of St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Robert Bellarmine, and St. Alphonsus Ligouri - are all in agreement on the legitimacy in principle of capital punishment. Aquinas even dismissed as "frivolous" the suggestion that capital punishment removes from offenders the possibility of repentance, arguing that "if they are so stubborn that even at the point of death their heart does not draw back from evil, it is possible to make a highly probable judgment that they would never come away from evil to the right use of their powers" (Summa Contra Gentiles III.146).

The popes

No pope from St. Peter to Benedict XVI ever denied the legitimacy in principle of capital punishment, and many popes explicitly affirmed its legitimacy, even as a matter of basic Catholic orthodoxy. For example, Pope St. Innocent I taught that to deny the legitimacy of capital punishment would be to go against biblical authority, indeed "the authority of the Lord" himself. Pope Innocent III required adherents of the Waldensian heresy, as a condition for their reconciliation with the Church and proof of their orthodoxy, to affirm the legitimacy in principle of capital punishment. Pope St. Pius V promulgated the Roman Catechism, which states that:

Another kind of lawful slaying belongs to the civil authorities, to whom is entrusted power of life and death, by the legal and judicious exercise of which they punish the guilty and protect the innocent. The just use of this power, far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to this Commandment which prohibits murder.

The 1912 Catechism of Christian Doctrine issued by Pope St. Pius X says in the context of discussion of the Fifth Commandment: "It is lawful to kill ... when carrying out by order of the Supreme Authority a sentence of death in punishment of a crime." Pope Pius XII taught that "it is reserved ... to the public authority to deprive the criminal of the benefit of life when already, by his crime, he has deprived himself of the right to live."

It is sometimes alleged that while Pope John Paul II did not contradict past teaching, he did modify doctrine on capital punishment in a more restrictive direction in the catechism which he promulgated. In particular, it is claimed by some that John Paul taught that it is in principle immoral to resort to capital punishment except for the purpose of protecting others against the immediate physical danger posed by an offender. However, then-Cardinal Ratzinger explicitly denied that there was any change at the level of doctrinal principle. He affirmed that "the Holy Father has not altered the doctrinal principles which pertain to this issue" and that the revisions to the catechism reflected merely "circumstantial considerations ... without any modification of the relevant doctrinal principles."iv

Moreover, as Cardinal Avery Dulles has pointed out, had the pope made such a modification to doctrine, he would have been partially reversing or contradicting previous teaching rather than merely modifying it.v For as we have noted, scripture and the Fathers teach that capital punishment can be legitimate specifically for purposes of retribution and deterrence, and not merely for the purpose of counteracting some immediate physical threat.

Pope Francis

Like other recent popes, Pope Francis has opposed the use of the death penalty. But there are indications that, unlike any previous pope, Francis may be inclined to declare capital punishment intrinsically immoral. For example, in a recent statement, Pope Francis said that "the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' has absolute value and applies both to the innocent and to the guilty" (emphasis added). It has also been reported that he has set up a commission to explore changing the Catechism of the Catholic Church so that it will "absolutely" forbid capital punishment.

Does Catholic doctrine permit a pope to make such a change? It very clearly does not. The First Vatican Council explicitly taught that:

[T]he Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles. (Emphasis added)

And the Second Vatican Council explicitly taught that:

[T]he task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church ... This teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on ... (Emphasis added)

If Pope Francis were to teach that capital punishment is "absolutely" immoral, he would be contradicting (rather than "religiously guard[ing]," "faithfully expound[ing]," and "hand[ing] on") the teaching of scripture, the Fathers, and all previous popes, and substituting for it "some new doctrine." He would be overruling the many scriptural passages that support capital punishment, thereby putting himself "above the word of God." If he were to claim warrant for this novel teaching in the commandment against murder, he would be contradicting the way every previous pope who has addressed the subject has understand that commandment. As we have seen, Pope Pius XII teaches that the guilty person "has deprived himself of the right to live," and the catechisms promulgated by Pope St. Pius V and Pope St. Pius X explicitly affirm that capital punishment is consistent with the commandment against murder.

Moreover, if Pope Francis were to teach that capital punishment is intrinsically immoral, he would undermine the authority of Catholic teaching in general. As Cardinal Dulles wrote:

The reversal of a doctrine as well established as the legitimacy of capital punishment would raise serious problems regarding the credibility of the magisterium. Consistency with Scripture and long-standing Catholic tradition is important for the grounding of many current teachings of the Catholic Church; for example, those regarding abortion, contraception, the permanence of marriage, and the ineligibility of women for priestly ordination. If the tradition on capital punishment had been reversed, serious questions would be raised regarding other doctrines ...vi

Indeed, a change vis-a-vis the death penalty would undermine the pope's own credibility as well. Cardinal Dulles continues:

If, in fact, the previous teaching had been discarded, doubt would be cast on the current teaching as well. It too would have to be seen as reversible, and in that case, as having no firm hold on people's assent. The new doctrine, based on a recent insight, would be in competition with a magisterial teaching that has endured for 2 millennia -- or even more, if one wishes to count the biblical testimonies. Would not some Catholics be justified in adhering to the earlier teaching on the ground that it has more solid warrant than the new? The faithful would be confronted with the dilemma of having to dissent either from past or from present magisterial teaching.

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that, were Pope Francis to condemn capital punishment as intrinsically immoral, he would thereby be joining the ranks of that very small number of popes who have taught doctrinal error (which is possible when a pope does not speak ex cathedra).

However, we do not believe that Pope Francis will do this. For one thing, as is well known, the pope is prone in his public utterances to making imprecise and exaggerated statements. He has certainly done so before when speaking about capital punishment. For example, in a statement from March 15, 2015, the pope approvingly cited some lines he attributed to Dostoevsky, to the effect that "to kill one who killed is an incomparably greater punishment than the crime itself. Killing in virtue of a sentence is far worse than the killing committed by a criminal."

Consider a serial killer like Ted Bundy, who murdered at least fourteen women. Bundy routinely raped and tortured his victims, and also mutilated, and even engaged in necrophilia with, some of their bodies. He was executed in the electric chair, a method of killing that takes only a few moments. Should we interpret the pope as seriously suggesting that Bundy's execution was "far worse" and an "incomparably greater" crime than what Bundy himself did? Surely not; such a judgment would be manifestly absurd, and indeed, frankly obscene. Surely the pope did not intend to teach such a thing, but was rather merely indulging in a rhetorical flourish. A charitable interpretation of some of his other remarks about capital punishment would lead us to conclude that he does not intend to contradict the tradition.

For another thing, if the pope has indeed set up a commission to study revising the catechism, that in itself indicates that he wants to be careful not to contradict past teaching. Presumably, Cardinal Gerhard Muller, current prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, would play a key role on such a commission. Commenting on the controversy the pope's remarks on various subjects have sometimes generated, Cardinal Muller has noted that "Pope Francis is not a 'professional theologian', but has been largely formed by his experiences in the field of the pastoral care."vii Asked if he has sometimes had to correct the pope's remarks from a doctrinal point of view, the cardinal replied: "That is what he [Pope Francis] has said already 3 or 4 times himself, publicly ..." Cardinal Muller also emphasized that the pope himself "refers to the teaching of the Church as the framework of interpretation" for his various remarks. In another interview in which he was asked about Pope Francis's sometimes doctrinally imprecise statements, Cardinal Muller acknowledged that churchmen sometimes "express themselves in a somewhat inappropriate, misleading or vague way," and that not all papal pronouncements have the same binding nature.viii

Having shown here that Catholic teaching has always supported the legitimacy of capital punishment, in part 2 of this article we will discuss some of the reasons for believing that it remains necessary for achieving public safety and the larger common good.

ENDNOTES:

i Brugger, Capital Punishment and Roman Catholic Moral Tradition (University of Notre Dame Press, 2003), p. 73.

ii Ibid., p. 112.

iii Ibid., pp. 77 and 84.

iv Response to an inquiry from Fr Richard John Neuhaus, published in the October 1995 issue of First Things.

v Dulles, "Catholic Teaching on the Death Penalty: Has It Changed?" in Erik Owens, John Carlson, and Eric Elshtain, eds., Religion and the Death Penalty (Eerdmans, 2004).

vi Ibid., p. 26.

vii Cardinal Muller's remarks were made in a March 1, 2016 interview with the German newspaper Kolner Stadt-Anzeiger. The English translation is quoted from Maike Hickson, "Vatican's doctrine chief: Pope is not a 'professional theologian,'" LifeSiteNews.com, March 14, 2016.

viii These remarks were made in an interview in the German magazine Die Zeit, December 30, 2015.

(source: Catholic World Report)

PAKISTAN:

Pakistani social media icon's brother arrested in her death

Police have arrested the brother of a Pakistani Internet celebrity who said at a press conference that he killed his sister for "family honor" and that he had "no regrets," Al Jazeera reported.

After Fauzia Azeem, 26, known online as Qandeel Baloch, was found strangled to death in her family's home near Multan in Pakistan's Punjab province, authorities began searching for her brothers.

Police officials told Al Jazeera that Baloch's father had filed a case against Waseem and testified against another of his sons, claiming he encouraged the murder. Akram Azhar, the Multan police chief, said authorities would seek the "maximum punishment" for Waseem.

Baloch, who rose to fame in 2014, has over 744,000 likes on her Facebook page and 48,000 followers on Instagram. Her Facebook page described her as a singer, actress and model.

With posts that defied conservative social norms, Baloch drew support from those that viewed her as an advocate for women's rights. She spoke openly about the expectations she faced as a woman, discussing issues such arranged marriage in interviews with Pakistani media.

"I was 17 years old when my parents forced an uneducated man on me," she said. "The abuse I have been through ... It happens in places like this, in small villages, in Baloch families. This happened to me too."

Baloch received widespread criticism for her posts on social media, which some in Pakistan considered inappropriate. "What she (was) doing is a disgrace for Pakistan so she deserve this," said Twitter user Asad Iqbal Orakzai, according to Reuters.

She recently appeared in a music video wearing clothing that critics called revealing, and wrote in a recent Facebook post that she was trying to "change the typical orthodox mindset of people."

Honor killings consistently target females who male family members feel have tarnished the family's reputation.

According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, an independent nonprofit that tracks human rights violations, 987 honor crimes occurred in 2015 in Pakistan against 1096 victims. 170 of those victims were minors.

Advocates for a law to prevent honor killings took to social media after the news of Baloch's death, speaking out against honor crimes and calling for reforms to existing legislation to ensure perpetrators are punished more consistently.

Families, especially those in rural areas, sometimes settle honor killings in tribal councils, which can allow those involved in the murders to avoid jail time.

Baloch had recently filed a request with the interior minister, the director general of the Federal Investigation Authority and the senior superintendent of Islamabad asking for protection, according to Dawn, a Pakistani media outlet based in Karachi. Baloch had said she was receiving threatening calls and hoped to gain government security protection, Dawn reported.

(source: pbs.org)

JULY 17, 2016:

EGYPT:

Egypt court hands death sentences to 6 Brotherhood members over 2013 violence----The 9 Muslim Brotherhood members were sentenced in absentia meaning that if they turn themselves into the authorities a retrial will be granted

A Cairo criminal court handed death and life imprisonment sentences in absentia on Sunday to nine members of the now banned Muslim Brotherhood over violence related events that took place in Giza governorate in 2013.

On Sunday, the court sentenced 6 people to death and 3 others to life imprisonment over their participation in violent attacks referred to as the "Omraneya events" in November 2013.

Life in prison sentences carry up to 25 years in jail, according to the Egyptian penal code.

They were referred to court after prosecution accused them of illegally gathering, protesting, cutting off roads, and possessing firearms.

The prosecution also charged them of committing assaults, including murdering a child and the attempted murder of others.

The 9 convicts were tried in absentia, and thus given the maximum penalty for their crimes.

If they turn themselves into the authorities, they can appeal their initial death and life imprisonment sentences.

(source: ahram.org)

SAUDI ARABIA----execution

Saudis carry out first execution since Ramadan

Saudi authorities executed a murderer in the holy city of Mecca on Sunday, the 1st death sentence to be carried out since before the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Fahd al-Hasni, a Saudi, was put to death after being convicted of stabbing dead a fellow citizen, the interior ministry said in a statement published on the official SPA news agency.

Most people executed in Saudi Arabia are beheaded with a sword.

It was the 96th execution of the year in the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom, which imposes the death penalty for offences including murder, drug trafficking, armed robbery, rape and apostasy.

The last execution in the Gulf country took place on May 29, more than a week before Ramadan began.

There were no beheadings during the fasting month and the following Eid'l Fitr feast.

Rights group Amnesty International says the kingdom carried out at least 158 death sentences last year, making it the third most prolific executioner after Iran and Pakistan. Its figures do not include secretive China.

The London-based watchdog has said that the rate of executions this year is "higher than at the same point last year."

Murder and drug trafficking cases account for the majority of Saudi executions, although 47 people were put to death for "terrorism" offences on a single day in January.

They included prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, whose execution prompted Iranian protesters to torch Saudi diplomatic missions triggering the severing of relations between the Middle East’s leading Sunni and Shiite powers.

(source: Agence France-Presse)

IRAN----executions

Iran regime hangs 18 people over the weekend

Iran's fundamentalist regime hanged 18 prisoners over the weekend, including 2 cases in public. A woman was among those hanged on Sunday.

11 prisoners were hanged en masse in Qezelhesar Prison in Karaj, north-west of Tehran, on Sunday. 2 of the prisoners were identified as Saeed Saberi and Moslem Bahrami. At least 1 of the 11 prisoners was a woman.

2 men, identified only by their initials Q. J. and M. R., were hanged in public in Karaj on Sunday. The 2 men were hanged in a public square in the city's Mehshahr District, the state-run Tasnim news agency reported on Sunday.

Another 3 men were hanged in prison in the city of Birjand, eastern Iran, on Sunday. They were identified as Mansour Zafarani, Yousef Barahoui and Qassem Delshad. They were accused of drugs-related charges.

2 prisoners, whose names were not given but who were said to be 40 and 49 years old, were hanged on Saturday in Lakan Prison in Rasht, northern Iran, according to the state broadcaster IRIB which quoted Ahmad Siavosh-Pour, the provincial head of the judiciary. They were accused of drugs-related charges.

Also it emerged over the weekend that 5 men were hanged on July 11 in the Central Prison of Arak, central Iran. They were identified as Masoud Taqi-Pour, Hassan Faraj-Pour, Mehdi Baqeri, Baqer Jalili and Hamid Haqvin. They too were accused of drugs-related charges.

The mullahs' regime hanged 9 prisoners collectively on July 13 in Gohardasht Prison in Karaj.

3 of the executed prisoners were identified as Seyyed Mohammad Taheri, Amir Khadem Rezaiyan and Saeid Ahmadi.

More than 270 Members of the European Parliament signed a joint statement on Iran last month, calling on the European Union to "condition" its relations with Tehran to an improvement of human rights.

The MEPs who were from all the EU Member States and from all political groups in the Parliament said they are concerned about the rising number of executions in Iran after Hassan Rouhani took office as President 3 years ago.

Amnesty International in its April 6 annual Death Penalty report covering the 2015 period wrote: "Iran put at least 977 people to death in 2015, compared to at least 743 the year before."

"Iran alone accounted for 82% of all executions recorded" in the Middle East and North Africa, the human rights group said.

There have been more than 2,500 executions during Hassan Rouhani's tenure as President. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran in March announced that the number of executions in Iran in 2015 was greater than any year in the last 25 years. Rouhani has explicitly endorsed the executions as examples of "God's commandments" and "laws of the parliament that belong to the people."

(source: NCR-Iran)

FLORIDA:

Detectives fear escaped Florida death row inmate is armed

A Florida death row inmate who escaped from a courtroom remained on the lam Saturday amid fears he was armed.

Broward County sheriff's investigators said they have received information that accused murderer Dayonte Resiles, 21, may have obtained a weapon. They declined to give further details, saying it could harm their search.

Resiles burst out of the Broward County Courthouse Friday morning in a daring escape. He was sitting in a 4th-floor courtroom crowded with defendants and lawyers when he somehow escaped his shackles, jumped over a courtroom barrier and ran past bailiffs. He shed his jail jumpsuit and ran out of the courthouse.

The Broward County Sheriff's Office said Resiles is the subject of an intense manhunt.

At 3 p.m. deputies searched a Fort Lauderdale apartment complex after getting a tip that he had been spotted there, Fox affiliate WSVN-TV in Miami reported Saturday.

After more than 2 hours, deputies called off the search. Residents were allowed to return to their apartments.

Resiles faces murder and other charges in the Sept. 8, 2014, killing of Jill Halliburton Su, grand-niece of Halliburton Co. founder Erie P. Halliburton. Her body was found, bound at the hands and feet and stabbed multiple times, in the bathtub of her home in Davie, Florida. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in the case.

(source: Fox News)

TENNESSEE:

Judge denies new trial for convicted Hamilton County cop killer

Since his 2003 conviction for murdering a sheriff's deputy, Marlon Kiser has appealed his case, been denied a new trial, had his death sentence upheld, filed motions for post-conviction relief, had his death sentence delayed, and hired new counsel.

Last week, after years of back-and-forth between Kiser's defense and state attorneys, a judge denied his plea for another new trial in the 2001 slaying of Hamilton County Deputy Donald Bond.

Criminal Court Judge Don Poole reviewed Kiser's 35 claims of ineffective assistance of counsel and answered them 1 by 1 in a 92-page ruling released Wednesday.

Even though Kiser, a death row inmate at the Riverbend prison in Nashville, lost this round, he can still take advantage of a multifaceted appeals process.

Rachel Harmon, general counsel for the Administrative Office of the Courts, said Kiser now may appeal to Poole's denial to the Tennessee Court of Appeals based on the post-conviction petition.

And if he continues to appeal, he might not be put to death any time soon.

"He's got a ways to go if he wants it," said Harmon, adding that Kiser doesn't appear to have a new execution date. "There are lots of filings ahead of him if he wants to utilize them."

Kiser's listed attorney, Paul Bruno, of Nashville, could not be reached for comment Friday.

As Poole pointed out, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals upheld Kiser's 2003 conviction. The Tennessee Supreme Court did the same, even though it returned his case to Hamilton County to merge the judgments into one conviction for 1st-degree murder.

According to police and prosecutors, Kiser ambushed Bond early on the morning of Sept. 6, 2001, spraying bullets from a high-powered rifle when the deputy interrupted Kiser's attempt to set fire to a fruit stand on East Brainerd Road. A jury found him guilty of murder and sentenced him to death.

In 2009, about a year before his scheduled execution, Kiser filed a petition for post-conviction relief. A judge granted a delay and Kiser, assisted by an attorney, amended his petition four times before it got into Criminal Court in 2014.

Throughout numerous hearings on the petition, multiple witnesses testified they believed a different man, Mike Chattin, had killed Bond and then threatened them into silence. They said Chattin's wife was having affair with Bond. Chattin, then Kiser's roommate, has since died.

The hearings carried into March 2015, when Kiser's attorneys requested that previously untested palm and fingerprints on Bond's flashlight and patrol car door be run through a state system. The prints came back as Kiser's.

Still, the testimony struck to the heart of his attorneys' argument: Kiser was convicted in 2003 because his lawyers at the time failed to dig up evidence that would have showed Chattin framed him.

Ultimately, Poole wrote, if Kiser wanted post-conviction relief for this argument, he needed to present "clear and convincing" evidence. He must establish a factual basis for his allegations, since he now carried the burden of proof.

In a trial, a prosecutor carries that burden and must prove beyond a reasonable doubt a defendant committed the crime.

On nearly every point, Poole wrote, Kiser's claims failed to do that.

(source: Chattanooga Times Free Press)

NEBRASKA:

'Retain A Just Nebraska' looks to educate the public on anti-death penalty stance

Many political decisions will be made this November for the state of Nebraska. One of which will be whether or not to reinstate the death penalty. In an effort to educate the public on its stance, the organization "Retain A Just Nebraska" will be kicking off a 10-day, 20-city tour to make a case for its cause.

5 teams of speakers working with "Journey of Hope" will be taking sections of the state where guest speakers who come from various walks of life will present their personal experience with the death penalty.

Journey of Hope co-founder George White said the biggest form of education they use is personal experience.

"We use personal stories to help educate folks. Some of us come from the perspective of being exonerated. Some of us lost loved ones to the death penalty. Some have worked in the justice system and just understand that it's a broken system," said White.

White's personal experience with capital punishment started in 1985 when he had gone to a store he owned with his wife after hours to help a customer who called his home with an emergency. White said when they arrived they weren't met by a grateful customer but instead a man with a gun. White was shot 3 times and his wife was fatally shot twice.

The murderer escaped the scene and White was convicted of his wife's murder. Facing death row, he appealed the case. 7 years, 16 appeals and a hearing with the Alabama Supreme Court later, 104 pieces of evidence were found proving White's innocence and he was acquitted of all charges.

"Up until that point ,I had never even thought about the death penalty. But I did at this point, I wanted that man dead. Ultimately though, I had to confront that and how I felt. But I knew that without a doubt an innocent man or woman could be convicted and wrongly given the death penalty," said White. "That should give us all pause. I wanted to still support the death penalty out of hate but I just couldn't, around every corner, I found that there is no reason to support it."

The event in Scottsbluff will take place on Wednesday, July 20 at 6:30 p.m. and will be held at the Midwest Theater. Some locations such as Scottsbluff will not just have guest speakers but will also show the academy award nominated film, "The Last Day of Freedom," featuring Bill Babbit.

The film is an animated documentary narrated by Babbit himself that looks at a time when he realized his brother Manny had committed a crime and his decision on whether or not he should call the police. It tells the story of Babbit's decision to stand by his brother in the face of war, crime and capital punishment.

After the film, Babbit will be on hand along with White to discuss not only the film and their personal stories, but to host a Q&A on the death penalty.

Dan Parsons, who is doing public relations for the events, said that he is pleased with the response so far.

"We have had a broad spectrum of supporters. A lot of people who are more conservative and Republicans are starting to join our team," said Parsons. "I think the reason for that is, that it is a broken system. We haven't used it for 20 years in Nebraska, and we don't want to keep spending money on a broken system."

At the end of the day, however, Parsons' number 1 goal is to start a dialogue on what he calls a complicated issue issue before the election.

Though the organization is hoping to see members from the Scotts Bluff County Democratic Party come out and support the event they are not an official sponsor.

For more information, or to see other events state wide, you can visit their website at http://retainajustnebraska.com/events/.

(source: Scottsbluff Star Herald)

CALIFORNIA:

Abolish death penalty; pass Proposition 62

California's death penalty has been a failure on every level.

Capital punishment is barbaric, unfairly applied and does not prevent crime any more effectively than the prospect of life in prison. Since 1978, the state has spent more than $4 billion on just 13 executions: Imagine if, instead, the money had been spent on education, on rehabilitating young offenders or on catching more murderers, rapists and other violent criminals.

That's how to reduce crime and prevent more people from becoming victims.

Proposition 62 in November would make California the 20th state to abolish the death penalty in favor of life in prison with no chance of parole. It's time. No, past time. Vote yes.

A competing ballot measure, Proposition 66, aims to remedy some of the current costs and delays by speeding up the process of killing convicts. Speed is the hallmark of places like China, where the average length of time on death row is estimated at 50 days.

In the United States, for every 10 prisoners who have been executed since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, one person on death row has been set free. One in 10. California has 748 inmates on death row, and the likelihood of uncovering mistakes continues to grow with advances in DNA and other forensics.

Why not just lock up killers for life? Costs will plunge. The guilty will never see the daylight of freedom again.

District attorneys throughout the state argue that the death penalty is a tool to condemn society's most vicious criminals. But this claim flies in the face of actual evidence: For every year between 2008-2013, the average homicide rate of states without the death penalty was significantly lower than those with capital punishment.

Those same district attorneys have unevenly applied the death penalty in California.

In the past 10 years, Riverside County has condemned murderers to death row at more than 5 times the statewide rate. Residents of Alameda County are nearly eight times as likely to be sentenced to death than residents of Santa Clara County.

The independent Legislative Analysts Office estimates that abolishing the death penalty would reduce state costs by $150 million every year.

Donald Heller wrote the 1978 proposition that brought back capital punishment. He now favors abolishing it. He knows that it costs California $90,000 a year more per prisoner on death row than it costs to jail our worst criminals for life.

No other Western nation has the death penalty. California shouldn't share the values of places such as North Korea, China, Pakistan, Libya, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Vote no on Proposition 66 -- and vote yes on Proposition 62. Abolish the death penalty in California.

(source: Editorial, East Bay Times)

PAKISTAN:

Isabel Buchanan: 'In Pakistan, law was literally a matter of life and death'----The Scottish lawyer talks about her book recalling her time as a 23-year-old working on death-row cases in Pakistan

Pakistan has around 8,000 people on death row. What kinds of crimes have these people "committed"?

Isabel Buchanan Yes, I'd be careful saying "committed"; it's more accurately crimes that people have been convicted of. The most common is charges of murder, but there's a really large number of offences that are capital offences in Pakistan. I think it's more than 20 and these include non-lethal offences, so non-murder and manslaughter offences. Blasphemy is one of the main, most controversial ones, kidnapping as well, drug-related offences.

You first became involved in working for prisoners in Pakistan through British nationals - of whom more than 20 are on death row. What's their situation?

There's something of a pattern to these cases. Many Pakistanis moved to Britain in the 20th century and often their children or their children's children will go back to Pakistan for long periods of time to meet their cousins or aunts or extended family. It's during those visits that they can find themselves caught up in the criminal justice system, often over land disputes. Those who left Pakistan will often be more affluent than their neighbours back home, and the absentee landlord becomes the object of much envy for neighbours. They are also not necessarily connected so closely to the community so they lose the defences that a very interconnected person has available to them.

The reliance on witnesses and knowledge of the police system and those sorts of things puts them at a significant disadvantage if they are then accused of a crime in Pakistan. It makes it a very difficult situation for them.

It's not unknown for lawyers in Pakistan to be assassinated. Does this make them more wary of taking on death row cases?

It's fair to say that not many lawyers take on blasphemy cases. More lawyers take on death-penalty cases for other crimes. But yes, there are a number of very high-profile instances of lawyers being assassinated by people walking into their office and simply shooting them at point-blank range. Or those who are outspoken being assassinated in other ways. It has a real chastening effect.

When you moved to Pakistan in 2011 it was to work with a young Pakistani lawyer called Sarah Belal. In May 2015, she was told by a friend at the Ministry of Interior to leave the country immediately. How dangerous was her situation? Well, she's extraordinarily brave, far more than I am, so she makes light of that situation, but I think it was very dangerous and she's quite defiant in the face of that danger. She's very committed to these cases and she believes it's right to do them and it's wrong that those people are facing a death sentence. That's where her reasoning stops. She doesn't take the danger into account, but it is very real.

When you first arrived in Pakistan you were 23. Were you fearful yourself?

Oh, I played a very minor role. I was really an intern and then an assistant to Sarah for most of it. I was not a target in any way, and so no, in short. There remain all the risks of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; quite apart from working on these legal cases, Pakistan itself is not the most stable of countries. I worried about Sarah a bit, but I wasn't at the forefront of anything.

Why did you want to go to Pakistan?

There was certainly an element of chance, but I was also particularly drawn there. I graduated in law from Glasgow University in 2010 and didn't really know what to do with myself. So I started to volunteer at Reprieve, who work on behalf of death row prisoners around the world. This seemed to me an uncomplicatedly good thing to do; the one thing I did know was that I was anti-death penalty. So I worked on the Pakistan death-penalty desk and then I realised that I wanted to understand Pakistan itself better so I asked Sarah if she'd have me as an intern in Lahore.

Did you have a previous connection to the country?

I grew up in Scotland, which is not particularly ethnically diverse as a country. The one minority community of which there are quite a number is Pakistanis, particularly in Glasgow. There are between 20,000 and 30,000 Pakistanis in Glasgow. So Pakistan was at once very familiar to me - my neighbours were Pakistanis, my local shop was run by a Pakistani man who just stocked different foodstuffs to the ones that other shops might. And, being really quite parochial and knowing nothing beyond Scotland, I loved Pakistani puddings from the age of 19. Yet the news coverage particularly and the cases I came across at Reprieve showed a place that looked quite foreign and hostile. I was intrigued by the relationship between those 2 things.

There was a big change in Pakistan in 2014 and 2015, after Taliban militants killed 132 children and 9 staff at Peshawar's army public school. The government began executing prisoners on death row at a much higher rate, including some of Sarah Belal's clients. What impact did that have on you?

It was really horrifying. In the 1st year [after the attack] about 350 people were executed, almost a person per day, so the rate was extraordinary and unrelenting. Sarah and I used to joke about the fact that she and I were being hard as nails and thick-skinned, because when you're working on the cases, your job is not to be sad, your job is to do everything you can to overturn the sentence or get some point on which the death penalty can be rescinded. But the really difficult stage is in those last few hours and the hours afterwards, when there is actually absolutely nothing you can do or it's already happened. At that point it's impossible to escape the horror of it and also it feels right to embrace that sadness, because it becomes a sign of respect, rather than you shirking your duties as a lawyer.

There's a vogue at the moment for true crime, miscarriages of justice, such as The Jinx and Making a Murderer on TV, and the podcast Serial. There must be hundreds of those kinds of stories in Pakistan. Are these shows too close to your day job for you to really enjoy them?

No, I think they are brilliant. There's a difference between being a lawyer on a case and being a journalist looking into a case and it's something people like Janet Malcolm draw out really well in their writing. Law - at least in Britain, Pakistan and America - is an adversarial process, so there's a give and take of argument the whole way through these cases. When it's investigated, that's quite a different process, so I find it really interesting to see the 2 different approaches to the same story, as it were.

Away from work, how was living in Pakistan?

I really loved it. Lahore is an unbelievably beautiful city and it's quite unvisited. One comparison is Delhi, which is another great Mughal capital that is of course thronged with tourists for most months of the year, and Lahore is really quite untouristy. It's very vibrant, there are people everywhere in Lahore, it's a very living place. I would wear local clothes, which I did most of the time, and sit in the back of the rickshaw, which actually opened up the city to me in a whole new way, because you're the most discreet traveller sitting in the back of a rickshaw, no one can really see you. Whereas if you're in a car with tinted windows, everybody notices you driving around.

You learned to speak Urdu in Pakistan. Do you keep it up now you're back?

Since coming back to England, whenever I hear someone in a shop speaking Urdu I always join in with them. I've got very Scottish pasty skin and fair hair, so I look very British really - by that I mean Caucasian female - and the last thing people are expecting is for me to speak Urdu. It always leads to really fun conversations.

You are about to start working as a barrister in London. Will your experiences in Pakistan stay with you?

Yes, it was something of a forging in the fire. I was given far more responsibility by Sarah than I would have had in Britain, mostly because it was a very small charitable organisation where it was all hands on deck. So I really experienced the responsibility of being a lawyer and emotionally, too, because in Pakistan it was literally a matter of life and death in a way that not many cases are. Also just working in real adversity. Now even a late night in chambers when you are making yourself a cup of tea at 2am and have just bought some sushi from Itsu looks pretty cosy compared to writing the final-day application at 2am in Lahore where it's 50C and you've got no AC and someone's threatening to kill your boss. It's good to have that perspective.

(source: The Guardian)

PHILIPPINES:

If proposed laws are passed, 9-year-old children could be hanged

A few weeks ago, the Philippines and the world that care for children's rights and human dignity learned that the new Speaker of the House of Philippine Congress has filed two proposed laws, which would lower the age of criminal liability for children in conflict with the law to 9 years old and reintroduce the death penalty by hanging.

This is draconian and oppressive for children and not worthy of the Duterte administration and the Philippine people. The children are innocent, most are illiterate, abandoned, neglected and failed by society and government. The children, younger than 15, are being used by criminals to commit crimes because they cannot be prosecuted, proponents of the law say. This is baloney.

If it is true that they are being used (there is no research data or evidence to support this), the children are controlled, used and exploited by criminals and cannot act with free will or be held liable for wrongdoing. So what's the point of criminalizing them? The children are scapegoats of uncaring authorities and an indifferent society.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), through the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council, has strongly opposed such a move to exact criminal liability on children and the civil society is also adamantly against it.

The Catholic Church has strongly spoken against the death penalty and we await a statement from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines to support the retention of the age of liability for children to 15. It is very wrong to blame children for the crimes of adults.

The proposed laws are anti-poor and anti-child, and violate international conventions. If adult gangsters do use children to further their crimes, say, on illegal drugs, they are guilty of child abuse and exploitation, and they ought to be arrested and tried for child abuse and drug possession. The children, with the appropriate help and support, can easily testify against the criminals.

The courageous police should arrest the drug lords, not the children. If children are ever used as drug "mules" or carriers of illegal drugs as some law enforcers contend, then children at nine years old could be meted the death sentence. It is not likely, but the implications are that children and teenagers could, according to the proposed laws, face the death penalty. The proposed laws see the said children as pests to be eliminated.

This deplorable attitude gave rise to the death squads in Davao City over the past 20 years, and the use of vigilantes and assassins has spread to other cities and many youth and minors were assassinated (see Human Rights Watch reports "You Can Die Anytime" and "A Shot to the Head: Death Squads in Tagum").

In 1999, the Preda Foundation (www.preda.org) social workers and this writer had opposed the killing of the street children by death squads. I wrote articles about it in the press and ran a letter-writing project that called on the then-mayor of Davao City to take the responsibility to stop the killings. I was branded a suspected criminal and charged with libel, so I had to defend myself in court.

No lawyer in Davao had volunteered to help me. After 2 years of legal battles, I finally appealed to the Department of Justice, in Manila, for a reconsideration of the charges brought by the Davao prosecutor. There was no answer and I was to be arraigned in court in Davao City. I flew to Davao with some fear and trepidation of the notorious death squads that might be waiting for me at the airport to greet me with a shot to the head.

When I arrived at the airport and walked out the exit, I was met by a group of about 50 cheering, boisterous street children and their community workers. They had made welcome posters and placards. They blew wildly on plastic bugles and beat tin cans in place of drums, and they surrounded me as my guard of honor and protection.

With great noise and fanfare, I made it safely across the car park to a waiting jeepney and to safety in a secret location. It was a great moment. On the day of the arraignment, I appeared in the courtroom filled with media and TV cameras. I explained to the media that I had libeled no one but had asked the government to protect the children from the death squad. The official line then was that the death squad did not exist. Claiming that it did was not acceptable.

The authorities had no explanation for the alleged 1,000 dead other than to say they killed each other in a gang war. I told the media I would not pay bail and I would fight from behind bars for the children's right to live and for everyone's freedom of speech.

The mayor at that time (not President Rodrigo Duterte) chose to withdraw the charges at the last minute in what seemed like a courtroom drama, as I was about to be arraigned. 6 months later, the decision from the DOJ stated that I was innocent and should not answer to any case leveled against me, and formal charges were dropped.

But now the death squads have reappeared and police are given shoot-to-kill orders. The bodies are piling up. We all have to speak out without fear and call for a society that respects human dignity and the rights of all.

(source: FR. SHAY CULLEN, SSC, The Manila Times)

INDONESIA:

Indonesian AGO Set to Carry Out 3rd Wave of Executions

Any move to execute convicts on the death row continues to draw strong criticism since many NGOs strongly oppose and criticize such an approach.

Last year, the Indonesian government was flooded with criticisms from within the country as well as by other nations for having executed 14 drug convicts on death row.

Notwithstanding the lack of popular support, Attorney General HM Prasetyo has decided not to flinch this year, and instead indicated that the 3rd wave of executions would be carried out soon.

"You see the preparations that we made yesterday. I have even seen the activities in Nusakambangan where arrangements are being made to carry out the executions," Prasetyo said on July 15.

Like last year, the prisoners would be brought to Nusakambangan to face executions, he said.

Nusakambangan is an island off Cilacap, southern coast of Central Java, notorious for its exile prison where hard core criminals are housed.

"The Central Java police has also tightened security. They have agreed to coordinate with us," Prasetyo said.

He declined to disclose the names of death row inmates who will be facing the firing squads, but confirmed that there would be more than 2 convicts, and will include Indonesian, Nigerian and Zimbabwe citizens.

The attorney general said he would later inform the embassies of the convicts concerned through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Among Indonesian and foreign death row inmates in Indonesian jails are Ozias Sibanda and Fredderikk Luttar from Zimbabwe; Obina Nwajagu and Humprey Ejike from Nigeria; Seck Osmane from South Africa; Zhu Xu Xhiong, Cheng Hong Xin, Gang Chung Yi and Jian Yu Xin from China; A Yam, Jun Hao alias A Heng alias Vass Liem, Freddy Budiman, Suryanto, Agus Hadi, and Pujo Lestari from Indonesia; and Zulfikar Ali from Pakistan.

Earlier, the Attorney General said that inmate Freddy Budiman, a drug kingpin, will be among the convicts, scheduled to die in this 3rd wave of executions.

"I will push for the execution of Budiman. Freddy Budiman is our target," Prasetyo had affirmed on May 10.

However, the Attorney Generals Office (AGO) is waiting for Budiman to seek a review of his case in the Supreme Court. The AGO will set a deadline for the same.

"Budiman said he will use his legal rights to seek a review of the case. The review should be confirmed soon, (we) cannot wait for a long time," Prasetyo remarked.

He said the move by Freddy Budiman is more of an attempt to delay his execution.

Indonesia had executed 14 drug convicts on January 18, 2015, and April 29, 2015. Among the executed convicts were a 62-year-old Dutch citizen Ang Kim Soei, 48-year-old Malawian Namaona Denis, 53-year-old Brazilian national Marco Archer Cardoso Mareira, 38-year-old Nigerian Daniel Enemua, 38-year-old Indonesian citizen Andriani alias Melisa Aprilia, and 37-year-old Vietnamese national Tran Thi Bich Hanh.

2 members of the "Bali 9" drug ring --- Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran --- were also executed in April last year.

The 1st and 2nd rounds of execution of the drug convicts were carried out on the Nusakambangan Island.

President Widodo had emphasized that he would not grant clemency to drug convicts, who were responsible for the deaths of 50 Indonesians every day, despite protests from several countries and parties at home.

The Institute for Criminal Justice Reform has, however, urged the government to delay its plan to execute death row inmates, till the amended Criminal Code (KUHP) is approved.

"The image of being a strongman that President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has earned for himself by carrying out these executions has seemingly become popular among Indonesian prosecutors and judges," Executive Director of the Institute for Criminal Justice Reform, Supriyadi Widodo, noted in a statement.

The country's legal enforcement agencies have been competing in imposing capital punishment through courts, citing the need to have a deterrent effect, he pointed out.

However, in the current KUHP Bill being deliberated in the Parliament, it has been agreed that death penalty would be imposed only as an alternative sanction in case of special crimes.

Based on data collected by the NGO, 37 people were given death sentences by district courts in 2015.

This year, until June, the district courts had issued capital punishment verdicts to 17 defendants, mostly for major drug trafficking and premeditated murder cases.

The NGO believes that death penalty should no longer be imposed as it has failed to serve as a deterrent.

A similar view was shared by the Chairman of the Setara Institute, Hendardi, who said execution of drug convicts would not have any deterring effect and would not solve any problem.

Death sentence to a number of drug convicts is a punishment meted out on the basis of a logic of retribution, instead of serving as a correctional measure, the NGO activist said.

"The governments plan to execute more drug convicts is a pragmatic way of dealing with drug related crimes in Indonesia," Hendardi claimed.

(source: tempo.co)

TURKEY:

Erdogan says Turkey may discuss death penalty after coup attempt

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told a crowd chanting for the death penalty on Saturday that such demands may be discussed in parliament after a coup attempt by a faction in the military killed at least 161 people overnight.

Looking relaxed and smiling, giving an occasional thumbs up to his supporters in Istanbul, Erdogan said the coup attempt had been carried out by a minority in the army.

"The army is ours, not that of the parallel structure. I am chief commander," he said, referring to the network of his arch enemy Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based cleric he accuses of fomenting the coup plot and previous attempts to oust him.

(source: Reuters)

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

Crowds plead with Turkey PM for death penalty for coup plotters: 'The necessary will be done'

As Prime Minister Binali Yildirim addressed crowds who gathered outside parliament, some of those assembled began to shout, "We want the death penalty! We want the death penalty!" They were referring to plotters of the attempted coup.

Yildirim responded: "We got your message. The necessary will be done."

Turkey scrapped the death penalty more than a decade ago.

The prime minister also asked the crowds to walk to Ankara's main square nearby and remain in the streets to keep a 2nd night of "watch for democracy."

Yildrim said 2,839 people have been detained in connection to the failed coup, which resulted in more than 250 people dead and 1,440 wounded.

Russia's Foreign Ministry is expressing concern about tensions in Turkey in the wake of the attempted military coup, urging the country to stray from a violent reaction.

"The aggravation of the political situation in the context of the terrorist threats existing in the country and armed conflict in the region carry a high risk to international and regional stability," the ministry said in a statement Saturday. "We call on the government and people of Turkey to solve the existing problems without violence, to respect the constitutional order."

Tensions between Russia and Turkey have been strong since last year when Turkey shot down a Russian warplane near the border with Syria. However, relations appeared to be moving toward repair after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued an apology for the incident last month.

The Italian Foreign Ministry was quick to usher the same warnings.

Paolo Gentiloni says Turkish authorities must do their utmost to ensure "respect for the rule of law, of fundamental rights and of parliament's role" following the failed military coup.

In a statement Saturday evening, Gentiloni expresses relief that Turkey thwarted a "military adventure that would have brought the country into chaos with the return of ghosts of the past."

Gentiloni says the prompt return to stability is urgent but must occur without "indulging in the logic of violence."

Italy is also an outspoken opponent of the death penalty.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Amnesty urges Turkey to reject death penalty after coup attempt

Turkey should not use the death penalty after crushing an attempted putsch, Amnesty International says, amid some calls for the use of capital punishment against top coup plotters.

"Turkey has united to defend rights against a would-be junta. Return to death penalty and crackdown on dissent and victory will be lost," Andrew Gardner, Amnesty's Turkey researcher, said on his Twitter feed.

"Grave threat of military rule averted. Now coup plotters must face justice and the rule of law respected for everyone."

Government supporters have chanted during demonstrations for the use of capital punishment while local media has cited an official as saying this could be considered.

(source: DPA)

THE MALDIVES:

see: https://secure-web.cisco.com/1LkmqSK8dadG-UcA7S_cGttmPj8Z0qCNsPN9QOT8hhlgtA00-EHzTFPHKmddR5W7bQ2xVOWjgpZHawEi42dP5Q4JJeSQtx0mX-FQsqASf0k1jBPhAJ1vTxiz2_NIwRwKxViSxWnfCIAnensjr-VQZfHUBgXECaThkd8I5fvzrbecJB8s8N8eScVO7Ss6u_NpkqDcb7Ui95NM4FgVUhvYNKg/https%3A%2F%2Freprieve.bsd.net%2Fpage%2Fspeakout%2Fexecution-imminent-in-maldives

(source: reprieve.bsd.net)

JULY 16, 2016:

TEXAS----revised impending execution schedule

Barney Fuller has been given an execution date for October 5; it should be considered serious.

Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----19

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----537

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

20---------August 23----------------Robert Pruett---------538

21---------August 24----------------Jeffrey Wood----------539

22---------August 31----------------Rolando Ruiz----------540

23---------September 14-------------Robert Jennings-------541

24---------October 5----------------Barney Fuller---------542

25---------October 19---------------Terry Edwards---------543

26---------November 2---------------Ramiro Gonzales-------544

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

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

TEXAS STATE PRISONS are not air-conditioned.

Prisoners and guards suffer in cells and halls above 110 degrees.

20 buys a small fan that can save a life. TX-CURE, Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants provides free fans to poor and needy inmates who have no family or friends for financial support.

Donate online at http://www.texascure.org [www.texascure.org]

http://www.gofundme.com/TEXAS-PRISONERS-NEED-FANS [www.gofundme.com]

or mail to:

Tx-CURE Fans

P. O. Box 381

Dallas, TX 75238

Michael W. Jewell, President

mikewaynejewell@hotmail.com

Tx-CURE is a 501(c3)

(source: TX-CURE)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Raleigh man charged with death of 2-year-old faces judge

A 22-year-old Raleigh man had his 1st court appearance Friday after being charged with the death a 2-year-old boy.

Police were dispatched to a "code blue" call at a home in the 5200 block of Somerset Mill Lane on May 19.

2 days later, Raleigh police said the death of Chase Jordan Eaddy was a homicide.

William Lee Bell was charged with murder in Eaddy's death.

Bell lived at the location where the crime occurred and surrendered to authorities Thursday at the Wake County Detention Center.

On Friday, Bell faced a Wake County judge.

The judge told Bell, "You are charged with 1 count of 1st-degree murder. The maximum penalty for that would be the death penalty or life imprisonment."

Several family members, including Bell's parents were in court. When the court hearing was finished, they quickly walked out.

Bell is being held on no bond and is expected to be back in court Aug. 4.

(source: WNCN news)

FLORIDA:

Death row inmate seeks execution

A case TV20 has been following on a man requesting to die by the electric chair, took another turn today. TV20's Rebecca Woolard reports from the Bradford County Courthouse with the latest.

It's the case of a death row inmate who is arguing not that he shouldn't be executed, but that it should be done sooner, and by an electric chair.

Wayne Doty is a 2-time convicted murderer. He admits to those killings and says he deserves the punishment he was given.

There's only 1 problem. In January, Hurst v. Florida found the way the state issues the death penalty to be unconstitutional. In light of that case, Doty is now withdrawing his motion to dismiss his counsel and waive his appeals. He hopes in doing so he can have a "new" penalty phase trial and his sentence can be determined in a constitutional manner. But Doty still wants the option of dismissing his attorney later.

There was a lot of uncertainty in the courtroom today as the attorneys and judge weren't sure if Doty could have his attorney just argue constitutionality. But the judge did allow Doty's attorney to be reinstated today. There will be another hearing next month to hear DOC objections.

(source: WCJB news)

ALABAMA:

Life of exonerated death row inmate celebrated----James 'Bo' Cochran laid to rest Friday

A Tarrant man exonerated after 2 decades on death row has been laid to rest.

Funeral services for James "Bo" Cochran were held at Christ's Ministries Church Friday.

Cochran was originally convicted of the murder of a grocery store manager in the late 1970s and sentenced to die.

Then in February 1997, a Jefferson County jury acquitted Cochran at the end of his 4th trial.

After 2 decades on death row, Bo Cochran was a free man.

Dr. Mel Glenn worked on Cochran's defense team for that 1997 retrial.

"Despite what happened to him, he took it with a grain of salt and didn't have any bitterness, didn't have any malice," Glenn remembered.

He said since then, Cochran has flown all over the nation and world speaking out against the death penalty.

Glenn believes Cochran has impacted countless lives since he was freed nearly 2 decades ago.

"He touched elderly people's lives. He touched elderly people's lives and he pointed people to the Lord. So this day is a day that I will always treasure," Glenn concluded.

Cochran died Tuesday. He was 73 years old.

(source: WVTM news)

NEBRASKA:

Murder victim family members kick off 10-day, 20-city statewide tour

Religious leaders representing the three largest church denominations in Nebraska were planning a news conference in Omaha today announcing their support for ending Nebraska’s death penalty. They will be joined by murder victim family members who are beginning a 10-day, 15-city statewide tour addressing alternatives to the death penalty. Religious leaders from Roman Catholic, Evangelical, and United Methodist churches had planned to attend.

Also attending the news conference were speakers from Journey of Hope from Violence to Healing, an organization led by murder victim family members, death row exonerees, and the family members of death row inmates. Ten speakers will caravan across Nebraska July 15-24, addressing alternatives to the death penalty. The tour is scheduled to be in Kearney at 7 p.m. July 23 at Faith United Methodist Church, located as 1623 Central Ave., with speaker Bill Babbit.

Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty was founded in 1981 after Gov. Charles Thone had vetoed a bill passed by Nebraska's Legislature that would have repealed the death penalty. Since its founding, Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty has been a politically active organization that has supported death penalty abolition efforts in the Nebraska Legislature.

For more information call 402-477-7787 or visit www.nadp.net/Journey.

(source: Kearney Hub)

ARIZONA:

Court upholds conviction, death sentence in 1989 Pima County double murder

A divided federal appeals court Friday upheld the conviction and death sentence of a Pima County man in a 1989 drug deal turned double murder.

The full 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Eric Mann's claims of ineffective counsel during his trial and sentencing were not sufficient to reopen his case.

Judge Richard R. Clifton wrote that there may have been questions about lower courts' decisions in the case, but the law allowed the appeals court to get involved "only if no fairminded jurist could conclude" that the lower court had not acted fairly.

That was not the case here, he wrote.

But in 1 of 2 partial dissents, Chief Judge Sidney R. Thomas said that Mann's lawyer had been ineffective at his sentencing and should have presented evidence of that a 1985 car accident may have caused brain damage in Mann.

"Any reasonable attorney would further investigate whether a car accident that left 2 out of 3 passengers dead resulted in any permanent physical or psychological damage to Mann, the sole survivor," Thomas wrote.

Mann's attorneys said the dissent "was absolutely correct, and that, as Judge Thomas concluded: Eric Mann's death sentence was imposed in violation of his Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel."

The attorney, Arizona Federal Public Defender Cary Sandman, said in an email that they plan to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Arizona Attorney General's office declined to comment on the ruling.

The case began when Mann offered to sell Richard Alberts a kilogram of cocaine for $20,000. The sale was a ruse, the court said, with Mann intending to give Alberts a shoebox full of newspaper and then shoot him after taking the money.

Alberts showed up at Mann's home on Thanksgiving Day 1989 with another man, Ramon Bazurto. After first hesitating because of Bazurto's presence, Mann went ahead with the deal - and shot both men.

Alberts died "almost instantly," but Bazurto lingered and Mann stood over him as he died. Mann got a friend, Carlos Alejandro, to help get rid of the bodies.

The case went unsolved for 4 years until Mann broke up with his girlfriend, Karen Miller, who had been at the home during the killings.

Miller turned him in to police, and she and Alejandro were granted full immunity in the case in exchange for testifying against Mann. He was convicted in 1994 of both murders and sentenced to death in 1995.

In his latest appeal, Mann claimed his attorney was ineffective both at trial and at sentencing. The court rejected the claim for his trial, but split on whether his attorney served him at sentencing.

A key element of that disagreement was over whether his attorney should have more aggressively pursued evidence that the 1985 car accident could have affected Mann, which could have been used as a mitigating factor against the death penalty.

While Thomas said it should have been considered, Clifton noted that Mann's criminal behavior changed little from before the accident to after, a fact noted by the trial judge.

"Even if the accident had an effect on Mann's personality, it hardly changed an altar boy into a callous criminal," Clifton wrote for the majority.

(source: Cronkite News)

CALIFORNIA:

California's bishops back measure to repeal death penalty

California's Catholic bishops announced their support July 14 for Proposition 62, a voter initiative on the November ballot that would repeal the death penalty.

The bishops timed their statement to coincide with the launch of the "Yes on 62" campaign that took place at a Los Angeles news conference. Speakers there included former death penalty advocates, victims' families, law enforcement officials, faith leaders and wrongfully convicted former death-row prisoners.

"During this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we, the Catholic bishops of California, support Proposition 62 which would end the use of the death penalty in California," the bishops said in their statement.

Proposition 62 - called "The Justice That Works Initiative" by its authors - would replace the death penalty with a sentence of life without the possibility of parole and would require convicted murderers to work and pay restitution to their victims' families.

The bishops also announced their opposition to Proposition 66, also on the November ballot, which would expedite executions in California.

"All life is sacred - innocent or flawed - just as Jesus Christ taught us and demonstrated repeatedly throughout his ministry. ... Each of us holds an inherent worth derived from being created in God's own image. Each of us has a duty to love this divine image imprinted on every person," the statement said.

If approved by voters, California would become the 20th state to ban the death penalty. The initiative faces a divided electorate. In 2012, California voters defeated Proposition 34, a ballot measure to repeal the death penalty, 52-48 %.

With 747 people on death row, California has the largest population of death-row inmates in the nation. It would save $150 million a year by halting the practice, according to the "Yes on 62" website. However, no one has been executed in California since 2006 because of court battles over the use of lethal injection and the decades-long wait from sentencing to execution.

The existing law was approved by voters in 1978.

The bishops said their opposition to the death penalty also is rooted in "our unshakeable resolve to accompany and support all victims of crime" for whom the suffering over the loss of a loved one by a criminal act rarely ends with the execution of the convicted.

"Their enduring anguish is not addressed by the state-sanctioned perpetuation of the culture of death," they said.

"As we pray with them and mourn with them, we must also stress that the current use of the death penalty does not promote healing. It only brings more violence to a world that has too much violence already," the bishops said.

Beth Webb, the sister of a woman gunned down by her ex-husband in a Seal Beach hair salon with 8 others in 2011, said as much. She was 1 of 9 speakers at the news conference.

"I'm here to say that neither me nor my mom will find closure in the death of another human being," she said. "That makes us like him. For us to want his blood, to say that we will only be satisfied by his death brings us to his level."

Speakers at the "Yes on 62" campaign launch included former death penalty proponents Ron Briggs, who led the campaign to bring the death penalty to California in 1978, former California Attorney General John Van de Kamp, and former Los Angeles District Attorney Gil Garcetti.

Rabbi Jonathon Klein, executive director of CLUE, a Los Angeles nonprofit that organizes the faith community around issues of economic justice, spoke about the death penalty and all religious traditions.

"This is a compassion-driven measure that also makes sure that justice is served," he said. "We know that all of our religious traditions are pointed in the same direction. And that is to move away from the death penalty, to move away from a justice system that has killing and violence at its core."

The California bishops quoted Pope Francis who said during his Angelus address Feb. 21 in Rome: "In fact, modern societies have the ability to effectively control crime without definitively taking away a criminal's chance to redeem himself," the pope said.

"The commandment 'thou shall not kill' has absolute value and pertains to the innocent as well as the guilty," he said.

(source: cruxnow.com)

WASHINGTON:

Victim's family reacts to delay on death-penalty decision in double-homicide case

Although it's been months since 2 women were killed outside the Yakima Moneytree, there's still no decision on whether the suspect will face aggravated charges which would include the death penalty as consideration.

Yakima County Prosecutor Joe Brusic delayed making a decision Friday morning on whether the death penalty will be considered in the case.

26 year old Manuel Verduzco was arrested after Karina Morales-Rodriguez and Marta Martinez were found dead on their way to work at the Moneytree in March.

"I'd like for this to be over and grab my children and try to make a life without Karina, but it's really hard. We all miss her," said Gabriel Pinon, one victim's husband. "We have full faith that the prosecutor's office is doing to do his best to make sure that this individual pays for his crime."

Brusic said he wanted to give more time for the defense to come up with evidence.

(source: KIMA TV news)

NIGERIA:

Lawyers advocate capital punishment for kidnapping----The lawyers decried the increasing cases of kidnapping cases in the country, saying that death sentence would serve as a deterrent to those who want to venture into the crime

Some Abuja-based lawyers have called on the Federal Government to enact a law making kidnapping a capital offence punishable with death.

They told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in separate interviews that the law when enacted should be domesticated by the states and local governments.

The lawyers decried the increasing cases of kidnapping cases in the country, saying that death sentence would serve as a deterrent to those who want to venture into the crime.

Mr Maxwell Akoh-Onoja, a lawyer, advocated an amendment to the law as it relates to kidnapping.

"The current law should be amended, kidnapping is too rampant in the country now and there should be stiffer punishment for the crime.

"The judiciary cannot act outside what is in the law book," Akoh-Onoja said.

Akoh-Onoja expressed regrets that many convictions had not been secured in kidnap cases, and called on judges to ensure that such cases were heard expeditiously in their court.

According to him, kidnapping is one of the signs of a failed state.

Another lawyer, Mr Joe Okete, said that it was the inability of government to put some things in place that caused the issue of kidnapping.

Okete outlined unemployment and the breakdown of moral instructions as some of the major causes of kidnapping.

"The only way the judiciary can come in to curb kidnapping is by implementing the law.

"There should also be stringent legislation against possession of firearms by the general public.

"Criminals like kidnappers should be given long term jail against capital punishment if possible," he said.

Okete called on the government to enact a legislation that would empower the educational system in the area of entrepreneur to give loan to deserving graduate.

According to Okete, if the education system is empowered in the area of entrepreneurship with loans, it will reduce the rate of crime.

Also, Mr Boniface Udeh, supported death penalty for any person who found guilty of kidnapping.

Udeh also advocated for family value, saying that parents should teach their wards well with the moral laws of the land.

He called on the government to create employment opportunities for the youths to dissuade them from being targets for recruitment by kidnappers.

(source: pulse.ng)

INDONESIA:

AGO waits for Supreme Court ruling to set date for executions

The Attorney General's Office (AGO) is waiting for a Supreme Court ruling to set the date of the third round of executions of drug convicts, an AGO official said on Friday.

The Supreme Court will soon announce its decision on a case review and cassation submitted by a number of death row convicts, Attorney General Muhammad Prasetyo said.

"We are still coordinating [the details of the executions] and we hope they will be carried out soon," Prasetyo told journalists.

Despite the public outcry from those opposed to the death penalty, the government's resolve to execute drug dealers and distributors will not waver, as they have brought a huge threat to the country, Prasetyo asserted.

He said he hoped convicted drug lord Freddy Budiman, who ran his narcotics business from behind bars, would be included on the list of death row convicts that would be executed in the next round.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's administration has executed 14 death-row convicts in two rounds both of which were carried out last year.

(source: Jakarta Post)

TURKEY:

Turkey's PM: Constitution Council to consider death penalty after coup attempt ---- 161 died, 1,440 got injured in the military coup attempt in Turkey, the country's Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said

161 died, 1,440 got injured in the military coup attempt in Turkey, let alone the killed among the plotters, the country's Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said in an interview with the Haberturk television channel on Saturday.

A group of insurgents staged a military attempt coup in Turkey on the night from Friday to Saturday. Bombs were dropped on the parliament building and the presidential palace in Ankara.

More than 2,800 military were detained after the military coup attempt in Turkey, Binali Yildirim said.

"The total of arrested is 2,839," he said. "Among them are high-ranking military, officers."

According to Yildirim, Turkey will consider introduction of death penalty after the attempt of a military coup in the country.

"Death penalty is banned in Turkey," he said. "Today the Constitution Council will have a meeting to discuss jointly with parties whether it is reasonable to return to this form of punishment."

A country, sheltering oppositionist Gulen, is not a friend of Turkey, the country's Prime Minister said.

"Gulen is a leader of a terrorist organization," he said. "I am not looking now at the country, which shelters him. If this country hides a terrorist, this country is not a friend of Turkey and it leads a hidden war against Turkey. The coup attempt's organizer must be punished."

Earlier, the Turkish government said the coup was inspired by supporters of the Hizmet pro-Islamic movement, opposing Erdogan. The movement is connected with Fethullah Gulen, who lives in the U.S., and whom Ankara accused of destabilizing the situation in the republic in summer of 2013 and of other attempts to undermine the authorities.

Gulen's supporters ruled out accusations they are involved in the events in Turkey. In a statement they called the accusations "highly irresponsible."

A group of insurgents staged a military attempt coup in Turkey on the night from Friday to Saturday. Bombs were dropped on the parliament building and the presidential palace in Ankara.

(source: tass.ru)

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

Turkey coup: Erdogan government could restore death penalty, deputy leader warns

The Turkish government is considering bringing back the death penalty so it can execute those involved in the attempted military coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Mehmet Muezzinoglu, the ruling Justice and Development Party's Deputy Leader, said the government will introduce a bill calling for the execution of rebel soldiers.

"We will put forward a motion, which will demand the execution of those who have been involved in the coup attempt," Mr Muezzinoglu wrote on Twitter.

Following his comments, #Idamistiyorum ("I want death penalty") has become the top trend on Twitter in Turkey. The hashtag has been used more than 23,000 times.

The call for the death penalty came as the government appeared to be regaining control after a coup which left more than 260 dead and 1,000 wounded.

At one point it looked as if the coup would succeed, with Turkey's military chief of staff General Hulusi Akar having been taken hostage and a TV news anchor forced to keep repeating: "The political administration that has lost all legitimacy and has been forced to withdraw."

President Erdogan appeared to have been caught off guard while on holiday. He had to resort to giving interviews via mobile phone and FaceTime to insist he was still in control.

But citizens took to the streets in support of the president, lying down in front of tanks or climbing on top of them in Istanbul.

Mr Erdogan succeeded in returning to Istanbul, and General Akar was reportedly rescued after an operation at an air base on the outskirts of the capital Ankara.

As pictures emerged of soldiers involved in the coup surrendering, while being punched by civilian supporters of President Erdogan, a senior Turkish official said 1,563 military personnel were now in custody across the country - awaiting an increasingly uncertain fate.

(source: The Independent)

GUYANA:

Guyana hosts judicial colloquium on abolishing death penalty

Guyana will next week host a judicial colloquium on the abolition of the death penalty.

The European Union (EU) Delegation to Guyana is facilitating the July 20th conference in partnership with the International Commission against the Death Penalty, the Chancellor of the Judiciary of the Government of Guyana, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Embassy of the Netherlands in Suriname.

According to a statement issued by the European Union Delegation to Guyana, Navi Pillay, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and current Commissioner of the International Commission against the Death Penalty, Ivan Simonovic, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, and Emeritus Professor Marc Bossuyt, Emeritus President of the Constitutional Court of Belgium, will participate in the colloquium.

The statement added that the colloquium, which will include members of the local judiciary, will consider the following subjects: The Role of the United Nations in the Abolition of the Death Penalty; The Experience of Other Countries in Abolishing the Death Penalty; The Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and The Role of Judges in Abolishing the Death Penalty.

It noted that the European Union, the International Commission against the Death Penalty and the United Nations advocate for the universal abolition of the death penalty. This is based on the fundamental nature of the right to life; the unacceptable risk of executing innocent people; and the absence of proof that the death penalty serves as a deterrent to crime. The abolition of the death penalty is essential for the protection of human dignity, as well as for the progressive development of human rights, the statement added.

The venue for the colloquium is the Marriott Hotel.

(source: Stabroek News)

JULY 15, 2016:

FLORIDA:

New video shows murder suspect escaping Broward County Courthouse

Deputies are searching for a murder suspect who escaped the Broward County Courthouse.

Authorities say Dayonte Resiles slipped out of his jail jumpsuit and handcuffs and escaped at 9:30 a.m. from the courthouse in Fort Lauderdale.

Courthouse officials say he was in the process of being unshackled when he broke free.

The courthouse is on lockdown, according to the Broward County Sheriff's Office. Deputies are reviewing surveillance video and K-9 units can be seen searching the courthouse.

Resiles was last seen wearing a white T-shirt and black shorts.

Authorities say he killed a woman in Davie in 2014. Police found her in her home with her hands and feet bound. She had multiple stab wounds.

He was in court for a hearing over whether the death penalty applies to his case, according to media reports.

(source: WWMT news)

CALIFORNIA:

Abolish the death penalty; Vote yes on Proposition 62

California's death penalty has been a failure on every level.

Capital punishment is barbaric, unfairly applied and does not prevent crime any more effectively than the prospect of life in prison. Since it was reinstated in 1978, the state has spent more than $4 billion on just 13 executions: Imagine if, instead, the money had been spent on education, on rehabilitating young offenders or on catching more murderers, rapists and other violent criminals.

That's how to reduce crime and prevent more people from becoming victims.

Proposition 62 in November would make California the 20th state to abolish the death penalty in favor of life in prison with no chance of parole. It's time. No, past time. Vote yes.

A competing ballot measure, Proposition 66, aims to remedy some of the costs and delays in the current system by speeding up the process of killing convicts. Speed is the hallmark of places like China, where the average length of time on death row is estimated at 50 days. It is the opposite of what nations concerned with actual justice would do.

In the United States, for every 10 prisoners who have been executed since the death penalty was reinstated in 1973, 1 person on death row has been set free. One in 10. California has 748 inmates on death row, and the likelihood of uncovering mistakes continues to grow with advances in DNA and other forensics.

Why not just lock up killers for life? Costs will plunge. The guilty will never see the daylight of freedom again.

District attorneys throughout the state argue that the death penalty is a tool to condemn society's most vicious criminals. But this claim flies in the face of actual evidence: For every year between 2008-2013, the average homicide rate of states without the death penalty was significantly lower than those with capital punishment.

Those same district attorneys have unfairly applied the death penalty in California.

In the past 10 years, Riverside County has condemned murderers to death row at more than 5 times the statewide rate. Residents of Alameda County are nearly 8 times as likely to be sentenced to death than residents of Santa Clara County. And juries in California are much more likely to recommend a death sentence for a black defendant than a white defendant.

The independent Legislative Analysts Office estimates that abolishing the death penalty would reduce state costs by $150 million every year. The money could be used to prevent crime by, as one example, solving more homicide and rape cases, putting away predators who otherwise would claim more victims. It could be used for education -- lack of a high school diploma is one of the best predictors of a life of crime -- and for addiction and mental health programs that keep people out of the penal system, giving police more time to deal with serious crime.

Donald Heller wrote the 1978 proposition that brought back capital punishment. He now favors abolishing it. He knows that it costs California $90,000 a year more per prisoner on death row than it costs to jail our worst criminals for life.

No other Western nation has the death penalty. California shouldn't share the values of places such as North Korea, China, Pakistan, Libya, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

It should shed this dehumanizing and costly practice -- and not speed it up, as Proposition 66 aims to do. That would actually magnify the inequity and sometimes outright injustice in the death penalty's application.

Vote no on Proposition 66 -- and vote yes on Proposition 62. Abolish the death penalty in California.

(source: Editorial, Mercury News)

USA:

Mike Pence's Stance On The Death Penalty Rubs A Growing Number Of Americans The Wrong Way

With Donald Trump's recent announcement of Mike Pence as his 2016 running mate, people are rushing to scrutinize the Indiana governor's policy positions and voting record. One position that has not received much attention, however, is Pence's stance on the death penalty - perhaps because it appears to fairly predictably fall in line with the rest of his conservative views. In a televised CNN governor's panel in February of 2014, Pence expressed his perspective on the death penalty in his home state of Indiana. In response to the question of the death penalty ever being removed from the law there, Pence responded:

I don't see that prospect in the state of Indiana. I support the death penalty. I believe justice demands it in our most heinous cases.

This may not be pleasing to the increasing number of Americans over the past decades that, as noted by a Pew Research Center study, do not support the death penalty. According to the study, in 2013, 55 % of Americans supported the death penalty. While that marks a majority, it was down from 62 % just 2 years earlier in 2011. Meanwhile, by 2013, 37 % of Americans opposed the death penalty, up from 31 % in 2011. Advocates against capital punishment contend that capital punishment results in the execution of innocent people each year, has been shown to cost taxpayers more money than it saves, and has not been proven to deter crime in any significant way.

What is also significant is that in his response on CNN, Pence explained his stance on the death penalty in Indiana as an extension of his passion for states' rights, in true Republican style. He says that Indiana's protection of the death penalty is supported by the "part of the American experiment" that allows states to craft their own policies, and be "laboratories of innovation" independent of the federal government.

(source: bustle.com)

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

Rutland hearings begin death penalty review

2 weeks of hearings on the constitutionality of the death penalty opened Monday, July 11, in U.S. District Court in a case that has the potential to lead to the 1st-ever U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the legality of capital punishment.

Defense lawyers for Donald Fell, who is facing his second trial in the murder of North Clarendon resident Terry King almost 16 years ago, are seeking to strike down the death penalty on the grounds that it is cruel and unusual punishment. Vermont has no state death penalty - it was abolished in 1965 - but because the victim was taken across state lines into New York, the case comes under federal jurisdiction.

Fell was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 2005. However, the verdict was overturned after revelations of juror misconduct. A retrial is scheduled for early next year.

U.S. District Judge Geoffrey Crawford said Monday that the hearings have the potential to "create a rich factual record for higher courts with broader authority to rule on the big questions."

"The death penalty is one of those handful of topics in the law where morality, our common history, our views on life and death, and crime and punishment all come together," said Crawford. "It is a kind of intellectual tinderbox with an influence on our national discourse somewhat in disproportion to its actual application."

The case could reach the nation's top court.

"Some people feel this could be queuing up the issue for review by the U.S. Supreme Court," said Allen Gilbert, former executive director of the Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

The significance of the hearing lies in the fact that it is before a federal judge. Although similar arguments are routinely made by attorneys defending death penalty clients across the country in state courts, this could have broader implications and lead to the Supreme Court's 1st opportunity to consider abolishing capital punishment altogether. The high court has ruled in the past on aspects of capital punishment.

"It could be a very significant series of arguments that are made over the next two weeks in Rutland," Gilbert added. Fell and an accomplice were accused of killing King, 53, who worked at a Price Chopper in Rutland, after hijacking her car and driving it across state lines in 2000. In hearings preceding Fell's 1st trial, Judge William K. Sessions III ruled the federal death penalty law unconstitutional. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that ruling, and Fell was sentenced to die.

King's sister Barbara Tuttle said she and other family members have attended every court hearing over the past 16 years. "I hope that the judge rules appropriately in our favor. Donald Fell should've been executed years ago," she said outside court Monday. "It's just like reliving the whole thing over."

Fell wasn't present for the hearing. He is imprisoned in New York City.

Since King's death in 2000, seven states have abolished the death penalty. In 2005 the Supreme Court ruled that executing anyone younger than 18 was unconstitutional. Fell was 20 when King died.

Much of Monday's hearing focused on the impact of solitary confinement on inmates such as those on death row and issues surrounding the selection of jurors in death penalty cases. Craig Haney, a social psychologist at the University of California Santa Cruz and the author of "Reforming Punishment: Psychological Limits to the Pains of Imprisonment," testified on conditions at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind., where Fell was held while on death row.

Haney toured the facility last week and presented a series of photographs, several of which were marked confidential. There were 3 photos Haney said were of the cell Fell occupied in 2012. It was a rare glimpse inside the walls of a maximum-security solitary confinement unit. Haney described the Terre Haute penitentiary as especially restrictive even among solitary confinement units, with prisoners allowed only 1 hour of exercise a day, 5 days a week. Some prisoners are also allowed up to 2 hours of leisure time a week, he said.

The cells, about 60 square feet, have solid steel doors with a narrow rectangular window. Meals are eaten in the cells, which also contain showers and toilets - thus minimizing contact with other inmates or staff. When family members visit, they are separated from the inmates by glass and communicate by phone.

As of 2015, according to Haney, 39 of the 62 prisoners on death row at the Terre Haute facility had been in solitary confinement for 10 years or longer, and 10 had been in solitary for 18 years.

Fell's attorney Michael Burt described it as a "prison within a prison."

(source: mountaintimes.info)

LEBANON:

Lebanon charges 3 over suicide bombings

Lebanon's military prosecutor has charged 3 people, including 1 Syrians, with links to the Islamic State group and involvement in suicide bombings in a village on the Syrian border.

A judicial source told AFP on Thursday that 1of the 3, a Syrian, had been arrested last week during the dismantling of an IS-linked cell suspected of planning attacks across Lebanon.

The 2 others, one Syrian and another believed to be Lebanese, are still at large.

The 3 are alleged to have links to 2 waves of deadly suicide bombings that hit the border village of Al-Qaa in a single day on June 27.

8 suicide bombers blew themselves up in the village, killing 5 people and wounding dozens.

Al-Qaa lies on a main road linking the Syrian town of Al-Qusayr to the Bekaa valley in eastern Lebanon.

Its 3,000 residents are predominantly Christian, but the Masharia Al-Qaa district is home to Sunni Muslims and some 30,000 Syrian refugees live in a makeshift camp on the edge of the village.

The indictment accuses the 3 suspects of "murder and attempted murder of civilians, sowing terror and discord, and undermining stability."

The charges carry the death penalty.

The attacks were not claimed by any group, but bore characteristics of both IS and Al-Qaeda.

At the end of June, the Lebanese army announced it had arrested 5 IS members accused of planning attacks in Beirut.

Lebanon has been hit by a string of deadly attacks since the conflict in neighbouring Syria began in 2011.

(source: Agence France-Presse)

INDIA:

Bilkis case: HC begins final hearing on appeals by 11 convicts

The Bombay High Court today commenced the final hearing on the appeals filed by 11 people convicted in the 2002 Bilkis Bano gangrape case and also on the petition by CBI seeking death penalty for 3 of them.

11 men, who were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment by a special court on January 21, 2008 for gangraping Bilkis and murdering 7 of her family members in the aftermath of the 2002 Godhra riots, had approached the high court challenging their conviction and sought quashing of the trial courts order.

The prosecuting agency CBI had also filed an appeal in the high court seeking death penalty for three of the 11 convicts.

A division bench of Justices V K Tahilramani and Mridula Bhatkar started final hearing on the appeals while rapping CBI counsel Hiten Venegaonkar for not being "prepared".

"You (Venegaonkar) are not prepared. Please take proper charge of the case. Read the case papers over the weekend. Prepare a chart of witnesses, victims, deceased persons, convicts and acquitted accused," the bench said.

The rap came after Venegaonkar while arguing kept fumbling and confusing names of the witnesses, victims and convicted people.

During arguments when the court sought to know the cause of death of the 7 people, he said he did not know as the post-mortem report was in Gujarati.

"How can you (Venegaonkar) say so? You should have prepared yourself before we start hearing the appeals," the court said.

According to the prosecution, on March 3, 2002, Bilkis Banos family was attacked by a mob at Randhikpur village near Ahmedabad during the post-Godhra riots and 7 members of her family were killed.

Bilkis, who was 5 months pregnant at the time, was gangraped while six other members of her family managed to escape from the mob.

The trial in the case had begun in Ahmedabad. However, after Bano expressed apprehensions that witnesses could be harmed and CBI evidence tampered with, the Supreme Court had transferred the case to Mumbai in August 2004.

(source: India Today)

MALAYSIA:

'Secret' moratorium on executions in M'sia must be made public

Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) is happy that Malaysia have in place a moratorium on executions, especially for those languishing on death row for drug trafficking. Edmund Bon Tai Soon, Malaysia's current Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) representative, was recently reported saying "...Malaysia's moratorium, I understand, is only for drug trafficking cases' (The Star, July 10, 2015).

It must be noted that the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam), also did reiterate on March 29, 2016 their recommendation that a moratorium on the use of the death penalty be put in place in Malaysia.

Madpet is of the opinion that this positive development should not be kept secret, but should have long been proudly announced by the Malaysian government. In fact, Nancy Shukri, the de facto Law Minister, should have proudly announced Malaysia’s moratorium on executions when she took the stage at the 6th World Congress Against Death Penalty in Malaysia.

At the said congress in Oslo, Norway on June 21, 2016, the Minister in the Prime Minister's Department did state that Malaysia will soon be amending the laws to do away with the mandatory death penalty. Although, no time frame was mentioned, Madpet and others have called that these long overdue amendments be tabled at the upcoming sitting of Parliament in October 2016.

In November 2015, the same minister has said that the amendments would be tabled in the March 2016 sitting of Parliament.

Madpet urges Malaysia to extend the moratorium on executions to all persons on death row, not just those convicted for drug trafficking. This only makes sense, since Malaysia is now in the process of abolishing the death penalty, beginning with the mandatory death penalty.

In May 2016, Malaysia disclosed that there are 1,041 persons on death row. Based on the statistics revealed in 2011, when the number on death row was 696 (as Feb 22, 2011), 479 (69 %) were for drug trafficking, 204 (29 %) were for murder and 13 (2 %) for illegal processions of arms. It looks like almost all that may be on death row are for mandatory death penalty offences.

There are at least 10 offences in Malaysian laws that carry the mandatory death penalty, whereby only 3 are for offences that result in the death of the victim - murder [Section 302 Penal Code], committing terrorist acts where the act results in death [Section 130C (1)(a) Penal Code]; and hostage taking where the act results in death [Section 374(a) Penal Code].

For all the other mandatory death penalty offences, death does not result, namely Drug Trafficking (Section 39B Dangerous Drugs Act 1952) and 6 types of offence listed in the Schedule of the Firearms (Increased Penalties) Act 1971, which includes robbery, kidnapping, extortion and house trespass.

The existence of the mandatory death penalty for offences that do not result in death, as in the Firearms (Increased Penalties) Act 1971, only unnecessarily increase the risk of victims and/or witnesses to these crimes being killed by perpetrators to avoid the mandatory death penalty.

Global trend is towards abolition

Malaysia's moratorium on execution will be most welcome by everyone including the international community, as it will be seen to be in compliance with the now 5 existing United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Resolutions, the 1st in 2007 and the last being in 2014, that urged 'a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty'.

Every time, these UNGA Resolutions have been tabled, the number of countries that have voted in favour have been increasing, demonstrating that the global trend is towards abolition.

Malaysia has every reason to be proud of the fact that they have been considering abolition, have in fact carried out serious studies which have now been concluded, and will be soon be taking the 1st step by abolishing the mandatory death penalty. Attorney-general Apandi Ali, also the public prosecutor, is also for the scraping of the mandatory death penalty, and he was reported saying in 2015, that the "...mandatory death sentences were a 'paradox', as it robbed judges of their discretion to impose sentences on convicted criminals..."

Madpet also urges Edmund Bon to emulate his predecessor, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, in publicly declaring his personal position for the abolition of the death penalty. AICHR representatives should also at the very least take a stand for the abolition of the death penalty in Asean, as had been done by Suhakam.

Madpet urges Malaysia to immediately extend the moratorium on executions to all, not just only for those convicted for drug trafficking.

Madpet urges that Malaysia tables in the upcoming sitting of the Malaysian Parliament in October 2016, amendments and/or legislations that will see the abolition of the mandatory death penalty; and

Madpet urges Malaysia to abolish the death penalty.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Charles Hector is coordinator for Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet).

(source: malaysiakini.com)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Death penalty sought for couple

The Elk County district attorney is pursuing the death penalty for a Ridgway boy's aunt and uncle.

Scott Murphy, 25, Ridgway, and Kristy Murphy, 35, Ridgway, are charged with homicide.

Police say they were in charge of O'Ryan Murphy, 5, in December when he died from trauma to the head.

Records show that DA Shawn McMahon filed notice on June 28 that seeks death due to aggravating circumstances.

If the Murphys were convicted, a jury would likely decide their punishment, according to court administrator Martha Masson.

(source: wearecentralpa.com)

GEORGIA----execution

Georgia executes John Wayne Conner for 1982 murder

Georgia has executed John Wayne Conner by lethal injection for the 1982 murder of J.T. White during a drunken fight over Conner's girlfriend.

Conner was put to death at 12:29 a.m. Friday - 34 years and 1 day after he was convicted in Telfair County. He is the 6th murderer executed in Georgia this year - a record for the 4 decades the current death penalty law has been in place.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied a stay shortly before midnight, clearing the way for the lethal injection of pentobarbital. The punishment had been scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, but the appeals process was still playing out.

Conner ate his last meal after spending several hours earlier in the day with 3 relatives, 3 friends, 2 members of the clergy and 4 from his legal team. At 3 p.m. he was given a physical and then his wait began.

A federal court rejected an appeal from Conner's legal team Thursday afternoon. The Georgia Supreme Court said no to mercy Thursday morning, and the State Board of Pardons and Paroles denied clemency on Wednesday.

Conner, then 25, and White, 29, had spent the evening of Jan. 9, 1982, at a party but wanted to keep drinking once they returned to Conner's house in Milan.

They walked to a neighbor's house in search of a ride to the liquor store, but the neighbor refused.

Walking back to Conner's house, the 2 got into a fight because White said he wanted to have sex with Conner's girlfriend, Beverly Bates. Conner beat White with a quart bottle and an oak tree branch.

Conner quickly went home to get Bates so they could leave town. Planning to go to Gainesville, Conner and Bates stopped at the ditch where he had left White just to make sure he was dead. Conner beat him with a tree limb and then stabbed him with a stick.

Conner and Bates were arrested the next day in Butts County.

Conner's lawyers told the Parole Board and wrote in appeals to the court that Conner had learned to be violent from his father. Based on that they asked for mercy, arguing that evidence about his upbringing was not presented to the jury that sentenced him to death. They said Conner grew up in a household where there were stabbings, shootings, alcohol and drug use, and some sexual abuse. In the years since, they said, he has done well in prison and is reformed.

District Attorney Timothy Vaughn, the head prosecutor in Telfair County, reminded the board, however, that Conner had killed 3 people in 10 years, though he was sentenced to die for only 1 of them. At 15, Conner was convicted of manslaughter for fatally shooting another teenager, Randy Smith. Conner also was convicted of murdering another friend just months before he killed White; he was sentenced to life in prison for killing Jesse Smyth.

Conner becomes the 6th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Georgia and the 66th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1979.

Conner becomes the 15th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1437th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

(sources: myajc.com & Rick Halperin)

FLORIDA:

U.S. judge delays bail ruling in Spaniard's retrial for murder

A Florida judge on Thursday said he would decide in the coming days whether to grant bail to Spaniard Pablo Ibar, whose death sentence for a 1994 triple murder was vacated earlier this year by that state's Supreme Court.

Broward County Circuit Court Judge Raag Singhal said in the hearing that he would issue the ruling via "electronic order" in a period of between 24 hours and a week.

The judge also said that on Aug. 5 he would evaluate 2 motions filed by the defense: 1 to have the death sentence in Ibar's case declared in violation of the Florida Constitution and the other to suppress the testimony of a witness who identified the defendant as one of the perpetrators of the triple homicide.

One of Ibar's attorneys told EFE they were confident their client would be released while awaiting the retrial, but prosecutors oppose allowing Ibar to go free on bail, arguing that he would pose a risk to the community.

State prosecutors will once again seek the death penalty for Ibar, who has been behind bars for nearly 22 years, 15 of them on death row.

Nightclub owner Casimir "Butch Casey" Sucharski, 48, and models Sharon Anderson and Marie Rogers, both 25, were killed during a June 1994 home invasion in the South Florida city of Miramar.

The now-45-year-old Ibar was initially tried for the triple homicide along with co-defendant Seth Penalver in 1997, but a mistrial was declared.

Penalver was convicted 2 years later and sentenced to death, but that conviction was subsequently annulled and he was acquitted in a new trial in 2012.

Ibar was convicted in 2000, but the Florida Supreme Court overturned that verdict by a 4-3 vote in February of this year based on, among other things, the fact that his DNA was not found on a T-shirt that was recovered from the murder scene and which one of the perpetrators had used to partially cover his face.

During much of Thursday's hearing, in which Ibar was very attentive and communicated frequently with his attorneys, the defense and prosecution argued over witness testimony, evidence and the Florida Supreme Court's Feb. 4 ruling.

(source: Fox News)

ARKANSAS:

Arkansas says death row inmates not entitled to new hearing

Government lawyers said Thursday that 8 death row inmates who lost a challenge to secrecy provisions within Arkansas' execution protocol aren't entitled to another review and that further filings by the prisoners would delay justice for victims and their families.

The Arkansas Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision, ruled against the inmates June 23. Their lawyers subsequently asked justices to reconsider their decision, and requested stays of execution pending a review by the U.S. Supreme Court. Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Merritt wrote Thursday that justices not let the men cause additional delays.

Arkansas has not put a prisoner to death since 2005 due to various court challenges and its inability to obtain lethal drugs. Last summer, it obtained midazolam to render the inmates unconscious, vecuronium bromide as a paralytic and potassium chloride to stop the heart, but the paralytic expired as the inmates challenged whether it was proper to keep execution procedures secret.

Arkansas has since found a new supply of vecuronium bromide. But the clock is ticking again: The potassium chloride expires in January; the midazolam expires in April.

"The state is in a position to carry out, in a constitutional manner, the lawful death sentences in place against the prisoners," Merritt wrote. "Delaying ... would only serve to delay justice for the victims and their families, and would potentially result in the expiration of the state's remaining supply of the other drugs in the protocol."

The inmates argue that the Arkansas Constitution requires the release of detailed information about state expenditures and that legislators lacked the authority to change that. Merritt on Thursday pointed the justices back to their initial decision.

"At some point, endless litigation and creative litigation tactics must yield to the lawful imposition of society's considered punishment for the most heinous murders," she wrote. "We have reached that point."

Executions are on hold while the inmates' request is pending. State Supreme Court rulings don't take effect for 18 days or until after requests for new hearings are heard and dismissed. If the inmates' requests for stays and a rehearing are dismissed, the attorney general would certify to the governor whether the inmates have exhausted their appeals and are eligible for execution. The governor would then sign death warrants.

(source: Associated Press)

CALIFORNIA:

Woodland police make second arrest in fatal shooting

Police have made a second arrest in connection with the shooting death of a 35-year-old Woodland man that occurred earlier this month.

Hernesto Jose Loza, 30, was taken into custody on murder and attempted murder charges during a vehicle stop at about 5:40 p.m. Tuesday, Woodland police Sgt. Brett Hancock announced Thursday.

According to Hancock, Loza is the brother of another suspect in the fatal shooting, Alejandro Loza Quezada, 33, who pleaded not guilty in Yolo Superior Court on Wednesday to murder and other charges that have him facing the death penalty.

Court records show Quezada has a troubled past as well, his criminal record dating back to at least 1999.

Both Loza and Quezada - who once lived in the Davis area but was staying in Woodland at the time of his arrest last week - stand accused of fatally shooting 35-year-old Geovanny Yabet Gomez during a July 1 vehicle chase in a residential neighborhood.

Which brother allegedly pulled the trigger, however, remains under investigation, Hancock said.

The murder count filed against Quezada carries a special-circumstance allegation that he carried out the shooting to further the activities of a criminal street gang - a charge that, if proven, qualifies him for either the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Yolo County Deputy District Attorney Robin Johnson said in court Wednesday that her office has not determined whether it will seek capital punishment in the case.

The 8-page criminal complaint filed against Quezada also charges him with attempted murder - for a passenger in Gomez's vehicle who was shot and injured - shooting at an occupied vehicle, possession of a firearm by an ex-felon, drug possession and participation in criminal street gang activity.

Quezada also faces a case enhancement for serving a prior prison term for transportation of narcotics.

According to Yolo Superior Court records, Quezada was prosecuted as an adult in 1999 on charges of kidnapping, attempted rape, assault and false imprisonment, eventually making a plea deal in which he admitted to false imprisonment and attempted rape counts.

Police arrested him again in 2005 for being a felon in possession of a firearm, carrying a concealed dagger and resisting arrest, a case in which he was sentenced to probation.

Court records show he violated that probation with subsequent arrests for driving with a suspended license in 2008 and transportation of marijuana for sales in 2009. After numerous court hearings his probation was revoked, and Judge David Reed sentenced him to state prison in 2012.

An online arrest report lists Quezada's address on Harvey Way in the Royal Oak manufactured home community - which is adjacent to South Davis but is within county jurisdiction - though Hancock said he has not lived there for several years.

A preliminary in the current homicide case is scheduled for July 27 before Judge Samuel McAdam.

Gomez's death occurred just 2 days after another shooting that killed Arnulfo Bermudez Jr., 31, though police have not confirmed whether the 2 homicides are connected.

No suspects have been arrested or publicly named in connection with Bermudez's death, which marked Woodland's 1st homicide since December.

Loza, meanwhile, is being held without bail at the Yolo County Jail, his court arraignment scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Friday.

(source: Davis Enterprise)

RUSSIA:

Politician demands terrorists get death penalty in the wake of Nice attack

Leader of the Just Russia political party Sergey Mironov has reiterated the need to impose capital punishment on terrorists and their accomplices in the wake of the truck rampage in Nice.

"Amid the growing worldwide terrorist threat facing civilization, now more than ever the death penalty must be meted out to those who carry out acts of terror and their accomplices," he said in a statement posted on the party's Telegram account. "However, it is more important to pool together the efforts of the international community to survive and emerge victorious in this ruthless war."

Mironov offered his condolences to the victims' families.

Last November, Mironov forwarded a bill on the death penalty for terrorists to the government and Russia's Supreme Court. He suggested amending Article 205 of the Russian Criminal Code with regard to imposing the death penalty as a distinct punishment for committing, preparing, and aiding and abetting the organization of terrorist attacks. However, the Cabinet and the Supreme Court rejected the bill.

At the moment of Thursday evening's attack, thousands were strolling along Nice's Promenade des Anglais, leaving a festive firework display commemorating Bastille Day, when a truck rammed into the crowd at full speed.

According to the latest reports, 84 people have been killed, while several dozen sustained injuries. The Russian Foreign Ministry said a Russian woman was killed in the attack, and another Russian woman was wounded.

(source: tass.ru)

THE MALDIVES:

Gangs, extremists: Maldives' secrets come out as 1st person is put on death row in 60 years

"I believe in the capital punishment," said Mohamed Kinanath Ahmed. It's a startling admission from a man whose brother has been sentenced to death for the murder of a parliamentarian. If the penalty is carried out, 22-year-old Hussain Humam Ahmed will become the 1st person in the Maldives to be executed in more than 60 years.

Ever since the Supreme Court ruled against him in June, several members of the local media and civil society in the country, along with international organisations like the United Nations, European Union and Amnesty International, have been lobbying for suspension of the sentence. In part, theirs is a principled opposition. The death penalty, they say, fails to serve as a deterrent for criminals.

In 2014, the government overturned a 6-decade moratorium on death penalty and passed a new regulation on it.

But death for murder is specified in shariah (Islamic law), notes Kinanath, and is just as valid as cutting off someone's hands for thievery - the ruling against theft in Islamic law. "At the same time, the law adds that for the sentence to hold, guilt has to be proven without doubt," he said. "In case of this murder, Humam was perfect to be framed. They used to show our pictures on the TV. They called us 'the most dangerous persons in Male'".

Dark side of the tropical country

The tale of the 2 brothers touches upon a little-known aspect of Maldivian capital: its criminal gangs, fuelled and financed by religious extremists and political interests.

In the years that the country built itself as a haven for sun-starved tourists, residents of the capital city of Male and nearly 200 other inhabited islands were ignored. Citizens were also warned against the corrupting influence of the West by the ruling elite - a class that now earned in the American dollar.

Humam and Kinanath grew up in a slum hidden behind the rows of glittering buildings that line the seafront. The family of 6 shared a single room, and often quarrelled with their step-grandmother, who lived next door.

When not in school, the brothers spent their time on the beaches and streets, hungry for solace, money and power. Kinanath dropped out of school in his mid-teens and formed a gang with his friends. They drank alcohol, sold drugs and settled rivalries with other gangs using machetes. Before long, he was tapped by politicians who recognised his potential as a mercenary. "They made it difficult for us to get out of it," Kinanath said."They would give us money, supply us with drugs, bail us out if we go to jail ... If they do something for you, you were expected to do something for them."

At his home, Kinanath showed me all of Humam's mark sheets since kindergarten. "Humam was far better at studies than I was," said Kinanath. The younger sibling had indeed performed well in most subjects, be it languages or Islamic studies. As he entered his teens, a rival gang, seeking to settle scores with Kinanath, assaulted Humam and left him with a bloody face. Until then, Humam had only witnessed gang culture from the fringes. This would leave a lasting impact.

His teachers noticed that there was something amiss. At the end of Class 8, one of them wrote in his quarterly report, "Humam is a student capable of achieving far better results. [He should] try to bring a change to his studies, behaviour and lifestyle." The advice lay unheeded. Like his elder brother, Humam too dropped out of school and formed his own gang.

The rise and fall of democracy

As the notoriety of the brothers grew, Maldives transitioned from a 1-party regime led by Maumoom Abdul Gayoom, the longest-serving dictator in Asia who had been in power since 1978 to a democracy in 2008. The turn of the decade saw a rise in Islamic fundamentalism in the country. The elected President Mohamed Nasheed from Maldivian Democratic Party was even accused of trying to destroy the Islamic faith in the country.

By February 2012, Nasheed resigned under controversial circumstances and was succeeded by Mohammed Waheed Hassan of the National Unity Party.

That same year, Kinanath checked himself into a rehabilitation centre at a neighbouring island. On the completion of his treatment, he decided to stay back, afraid of relapsing on his return to Male. On October 2, 2012, he received a phone call from his father, telling him that Humam had been arrested for murdering Dr Afrasheem Ali, a Member of Parliament from Gayoom's Progressive Party of Maldives.

But Humam was sleeping at the time of the murder, his father said, so there was nothing to worry about. A few days later, the police declared that Humam had confessed to the murder - a confession he later retracted, saying he had been coerced. The police also arrested 5 others for the murder, at least 3 of them from the Maldivian Democratic Party.

Afrasheem's assassination turned into a melting pot of conspiracy theories. The police said the murder was political in nature. Humam was allegedly promised an equivalent of Rs. 1.6 crore by members aligned to the Maldivian Democratic Party. On its part, the Maldivian Democratic Party alleged that it was a plot to malign its image. Fingers were also pointed at Gayoom's half-brother, Abdulla Yameen, who sought a ticket for the Presidential elections in 2013. Afrasheem was rumoured to be a threat to his candidature.

This claim was bolstered when Umar Naseer, who led a bitter fight with Yameen in the party primaries, said he had seen one of the suspects in Yameen's office. His rival, added Naseer, also had links to criminal gangs.

Over time, every one of those arrested - except for Humam - was released for lack of evidence. Yameen was elected president in 2013 and continues in that post till this day. He appointed his former rival Naseer as the home minister. On being asked about the president's links to the murder, Naseer dismissed his own claims as "political rhetoric". In 2014, fulfilling a promise he made in the run up to the elections, Yameen lifted the moratorium on death penalty. Naseer helped draft the law.

Allowing death penalty

The assassination of Afrasheem was the 1st murder case to reach the Supreme Court. Although the police could never establish who the masterminds were, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court's conviction of Humam on June 24. The next week, the government amended the law to include death by hanging in a provision that had allowed only lethal injections. On July 6, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon resigned, citing differences over death penalty.

Towards the end of June, Home Minister Naseer, a vocal supporter of the death penalty, resigned from the cabinet and declared that he will be contesting for Presidency in 2018. When I interviewed him a week later, he reiterated the claims that the murder had links to the Maldivian Democratic Party. Even though he couldn't establish it in the criminal court, "the information was enough to satisfy the investigators".

Naseer admitted that he still doesn't know the motive behind the murder. "But after being the home minister, I can confirm that there is no link of Yameen to the Afrasheem case," he said.

Afrasheem's family, however, doesn't seem to share his certainty. In a letter to the Supreme Court, the family cited an incomplete investigation to request that the death penalty to Humam be delayed. It was a breakthrough for Humam. According to the shariah, a sentence can be commuted to life imprisonment if the family of the victim exempts the culprit from the death penalty. This process, known as Qisas, is yet to formally take place.

Unfazed by the increasing criticism across the world, the Supreme Court, in the last week of June, upheld a second death sentence, for a 32-year-old man convicted of killing a lawyer. Even as Humam's case is being debated, this opened up another avenue for the president to realise his pledge for the implementation of death penalty.

President Yameen justified his stance in the annual address on Eid. "Such efforts are among the things we are doing to bring the youth on the right path," he added.

Mushfique Mohamed, a human rights lawyer in Male, sees the government's eagerness in implementing the penalty as the president exploiting the rise of the Salafist movement, a set of ultra-conservative doctrines shared by Saudi Arabia. In the recent years, Maldives has established ties with the Saudi government to attract investment and maintain "religious unity".

"This is a clear case of the government and judiciary working together," said Mohamed. "Maldives is closer to Saudi Arabia than ever before. This has coincided with the rise of extremism. The policy to resume the implementation of death sentences is only a sign of our times."

Kinanath realises the political forces that his brother's case has been swept up in. However, he has a simpler explanation. The president, he says, wants to spread fear.

"But I will keep going. I have nothing else to live for."

(source: scroll.in)

INDONESIA:

Attorney General Should Not Hesitate on Executions: Lawmaker

House of Representatives Commission III member Ruhut Sitompul said all state institutions partnering with the commission, which oversees legal affairs, have made the maximum effort to enforce the law, despite some having failed to prosecute suspects or fulfill their legal mandates.

He said one example is the performance of the Attorney General's Office (AGO) under the leadership of H.M. Prasetyo, who has hesitated to order the execution of death-row inmates convicted for drug offences.

"I call on the attorney general, in regard to drug crime, that if there has been a legal review, there is no need for another. One review, then execute," Ruhut said in Jakarta on Thursday (14/07).

He reminded the attorney general that legal reviews should not be used to block executions, as the death penalty is still considered legal punishment in Indonesia.

The Democratic Party lawmaker also criticized the AGO's losses in pretrial motions, specifically with regard to those cases that have been in the public spotlight.

"I think Mr. Prasetyo has also worked hard, but when it comes to pretrial motions, as I have always said, [prosecutors] should present two forms of strong evidence when declaring someone a suspect. If they don't [have any evidence], don't [declare someone a suspect]," Ruhut said.

He said President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo should assess law enforcement efforts, based on the fact that every state institution should abide by his decisions.

(source: Jakarta Globe)

JORDAN:

Baqaa terror attack suspects enter 'not guilty' plea

2 men indicted in a terrorist attack that claimed the lives of security personnel at the General Intelligence Department (GID) office near the Palestinian refugee camp of Baqaa on Thursday pleaded "not guilty" to charges in the 1st hearing of the case.

The attack on the GID office took place on June 6 and left 5 personnel dead, including three officers who guarded the office. The main defendant has been indicted for committing an act of terror and murder, while the other is an alleged accessory accused of selling weapons to the former, aware in advance of his alleged intentions.

The State Security Court (SSC) adjourned the trial of the 2 to the middle of next week to give the defence lawyers time to prepare their statements, according to SSC Prosecutor General Brig. Gen. Ziad Odwan.

According to the charge sheet, the 1st defendant is indicted of committing terrorist acts that led to the death of human beings, and committing terrorist acts using automatic weapons, while the other suspect is charged of selling weapons for illegal use, Odwan added.

The head of the court panel verified the presence and identities of the defendants and recited the bill of indictment.

The panel also listened to the testimonies of 12 prosecution witnesses, and appointed a lawyer to the primary defendant who, if convicted, faces a death penalty.

(source: The Jordan Times)

INDIA:

Rape-murder of 4-yr-old: SC to hear plea of death-row convict

Supreme Court today agreed to examine the plea of a death row convict, whose conviction has been upheld by it for raping a 4-year old girl and stoning her to death in Maharashtra in 2008, that he was not accorded a fair chance to put forth his arguments by the trial court which sentenced him to death. "We will grant you an opportunity of hearing but that should be on practical applicability (of legal proposition). What will happen in future, we don't know," a 3-judge bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra said while hearing the revision plea of death row convict Vasanta Sampat Dupare. The apex court in a recent historic verdict had held that a 3-judge bench would accord an open-court hearing for a period of half-an-hour to hear and decide the review pleas of the convicts facing death penalty. However, this court-mandated rule of limited hearing was breached while hearing the plea of Yakub Abdul Razak Memon, the sole death-row convict of the 1993 Bombay blasts case, as the hearing had gone on much longer than 30 minutes. Senior advocate Anup Bhambani, appearing for Dupare, alleged that the accused was not heard at the point of sentence by the trial court which was a serious legal flaw that needed to be rectified. He also sought some documents pertaining to the testimonies of three prosecution witnesses in the case besides few exhibits produced in the lower court. The bench, which also comprised Justices R F Nariman and U U Lalit, asked Maharashtra government to provide requisite documents to the counsel for the convict within 3 weeks and asked the state counsel to be ready with his submissions on August 31, the next date of hearing. The court, which had used strong words in its 2014 verdict while upholding the death penalty of Dupare, later stayed the execution of the 55-year-old convict. Dupare had ravished a 4-year old girl of his neighbourhood and stoned her to death in 2008. Upholding his conviction and death penalty, the bench had said "the rape of a minor girl child is nothing but a monstrous burial of her dignity in the darkness. It is a crime against the holy body of a girl child and the soul of the society and such a crime is aggravated by the manner in which it has been committed."

(source: The Echo of India)

JULY 14, 2015:

GEORGIA----impending execution

Georgia Scheduled To End Nation's 2-Month Death Penalty Hiatus---John Conner is scheduled to die Thursday evening for killing his friend. If Georgia executes him, it will be the state's 6th execution this year - a record for the state.

Georgia is preparing to execute John Conner on Thursday, ending a 2-month death penalty hiatus for the United States. If Conner is put to death, he would be the 6th person executed by Georgia this year, putting the state on equal footing with Texas.

His lawyers on Thursday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to halt his execution - likely Conner's last opportunity to stop the scheduled 7 p.m. execution from going forward. The state has opposed Conner's request.

Conner was sentenced to death 34 years ago. According to court documents, Conner, who was 25 at the time, went to a party with friends, where he drank and smoked pot. After returning home, Conner and another man, J.T. White, went for a walk with a near-empty bottle of bourbon, searching for more alcohol.

Conner claims that while they were walking, White remarked that he would like to have sex with Conner's girlfriend, who they had left behind at the house.

"So I got mad and we got into a fight and fought all the way over to the oak tree and I hit him with a quart bottle," Conner said. "I was down there at him right there in the ditch where he was at, and he was swinging trying to get up or swinging at me to try to hit me one. And there was a stick right there at me, and I grabbed it and went to beating him with it."

Conner left White in the ditch, and returned home to tell his girlfriend they needed to leave town. Conner returned later to make sure White was dead.

Conner was sentenced to death for killing White, and later pled guilty killing another man: Jesse Smyth.

Conner's attorneys asked the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles to spare his life, pointing to his horrific childhood and violent father.

"For young John Wayne Conner, normalcy included extraordinary familial violence that frequently involved knives and guns; regular drug and alcohol abuse; and brutal physical, sexual and emotional abuse," the clemency application read. "Having been raised in almost unimaginable circumstances of poverty and violence, Mr. Conner initially fell into the pattern modeled by those in his family."

The Board of Pardons and Paroles denied clemency on Wednesday. Conner's attorneys have also argued in court that he is intellectually disabled.

"After his arrest in 1982, he was evaluated at Central State Hospital following a jailhouse suicide attempt," they wrote. "The evaluation revealed a suicidal man with a 'history of mental illness' exhibiting symptoms of schizophrenia, autism, 'psychomotor retardation' and severe drug and alcohol dependence."

Attorney General Sam Olens' office responded that "there has been no genuine change in the facts or the law since relief was denied in his prior" requests.

On Thursday, the Georgia Supreme Court declined to halt his execution. 2 justices wrote that they would grant a stay of execution "solely to decide whether, under the specific facts and circumstances of this case, his execution more than 34 years after being sentenced to death would qualify as cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution."

Conner's attorneys on Thursday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stay his execution and to review the Georgia Supreme Court's decision.

If Georgia executes Conner Thursday evening, it will be the most executions in a year for the state since the death penalty was reinstated. Georgia, like other active death penalty states like Missouri and Texas, uses a single drug called pentobarbital. Other states that would like to carry out the death penalty have been unsuccessful getting the drug.

(source: buzzfeed.com)

NEBRASKA:

Death penalty sought for man charged in deaths of woman, tot

Prosecutors will seek the death penalty for a man charged in the December shooting deaths of a woman and her 2-year-old daughter.

Omaha television station KETV reports (http://bit.ly/2a1QZ87 ) that 24-year-old Dontevous Loyd appeared in court Thursday and was formally arraigned on the enhanced 1st-degree murder charges. Prosecutors say they also will file witness tampering charges against Loyd, saying he threatened a witness from jail.

Police say Destacia Straughn, who had dated Loyd on and off, reported to police on Dec. 6 that she was afraid of Loyd, and officers removed him from her apartment. Police say later that night, Loyd kicked in Straughn's apartment door and began shooting, killing 2-year-old Kenacia Straughn first, then her mother. 3 other women visiting were shot and injured.

(source: Associated Press)

NEVADA:

DA to decide whether to seek death penalty against 4 men accused of killing Aric Brill

The District Attorney's office will decide within the next few weeks whether to seek the death penalty against the 4 men accused of murdering Aric Brill.

All men appeared in court Wednesday and pleaded not guilty.

Brill was just 16-years-old when he was shot and killed outside a house party back in February 2009.

"Generally the more time it takes to get a case to trial, that's an advantage for the defense rather than the prosecutor," said District Attorney, Steve Wolfson.

Wolfson knows 7 years is a very long time to wait. Prosecuting four young men for a brutal crime that occurred when most of them were still teenagers.

"The same fire in the belly some witnesses had in the beginning but as time goes on people's lives move on," said Wolfson.

But Wolfson believes the evidence surrounding the murder of Aric Brill is strong.

According to newly released court transcripts, one witness, Edward Kruse testified that Nadin Hiko confessed to the murder.

That conversation occurred when the 2 men were housed together at the Clark County Detention Center on unrelated charges.

Kruse testified saying, "Hiko told me he shot him in the back of the head". The testimony continued with Kruse saying, "At first I didn't believe it and then he started giving me details".

Lt. Laz Chavez, who leads the criminal intelligence section, doesn't believe the 4 were suspects back in 2009.

"It's a piece of the puzzle. As you know, these kinds of cases are really complex," he said. Lt. Chavez added they were getting tips 7 years after the murder.

He tells us, in the last few months, the case was turned over to gang intelligence detectives, who gave a fresh set of eyes and perspective to the case.

"The linchpin of this case was when it was assigned to the gang intelligence detectives. They had an intricate amount of knowledge when it comes to these parties that were going on back then, to the types of people that were present, to the teenagers that were there," said Lt. Chavez. "As things began to develop and unravel these last few months, it was pretty clear to us who the suspects were in the murder."

He says the detectives interviewed the suspects over the last few months.

"Some of the suspects involved in this crime are providing information. They want to help themselves. We'll see where that takes us. That information has been given to the District Attorney's office and will be shared with the jury when the trial begins," he said.

"I'm just glad to finally get a look at these creeps and let them know we're not afraid of them," said father, Donald Brill.

"I don't want to seem hateful here but they murdered a 16-year-old boy. They shot him in the back. They continued that behavior robbing other people," said mother, Karen Brill Kelly.

As for Wolfson, he wants families waiting for justice in other cold cases to know, neither detectives nor prosecutor ever give up.

The Brill case could be the first of many to move forward.

"Right now, there is a new push for DNA testing and there's money made available to do a bunch of DNA testing on specimens that weren't otherwise examined. And this might result in prosecutions of cases that have been lying dormant for years and years and years," said Wolfson.

Police think the 4 suspects, in this case, were part of a gang, committing street robberies. Aric Brill was a random victim caught in the wrong place.

(source: KSNV news)

CALIFORNIA:

Critics of California's death penalty launch the campaign to pass Proposition 62

A group of advocates and exonerated inmates gathered in Los Angeles on Thursday to officially launch a campaign in favor of a ballot proposition repealing California's death penalty.

"What we have here is a coalition of people from very different walks of life, from very different perspectives, who want to let you know why we should be out of the business of killing," former "M*A*S*H" actor Mike Farrell, author of the initiative, told the audience.

Proposition 62 would replace capital punishment in California for 1st-degree murder with life in prison without the possibility of parole. It is 1 of 2 competing measures on the future of the death penalty that voters will weigh on Nov. 8.

Both ballot measures would require current death row inmates to work and pay restitution to victims. But the opposing measure, Proposition 66, aims to speed up executions through limited and expedited appeals.

Anti-death penalty advocates on Thursday criticized the competing ballot measure as misguided and costly. And they called the current death penalty process dysfunctional and barbaric.

Ron Briggs, who with his father led the campaign that 38 years ago brought the death penalty to California, said they believed then that the law would serve as a deterrent, provide swift justice for families and save taxpayers money.

"We couldn't have been more wrong," Briggs said."What we did was we created an industry for death in California, costing taxpayers $187 million a year."

Beth Webb, who lost her sister and several friends in a 2011 mass shooting at a Seal Beach hair salon, said more violence did not bring peace. "Neither me or my mom will find closure in the death of another human being," she said.

(source: Los Angeles Times)

GHANA:

2 death sentences in Tamale----Ghana is considered to be a democratic country that leads in human rights but unfortunately the entrenched clause in the constitution that allows the death penalty has become rampant, a human rights activist says.

The Tamale High Court has sentenced a 33 year old herdsman to death, the 2nd such sentencing in the past 2 weeks.

Ghana is considered to be a democratic country that leads in human rights but unfortunately the entrenched clause in the constitution that allows the death penalty has become rampant, a human rights activist says.

Ghana still has laws that allow the death penalty - it has become an entrenched clause only because the government nor presidency alone cannot take that away unless there is a referendum, Director of Amnesty International Ghana Lawrence Amesu says.

This week, the Tamale High Court sentenced a 33-year old Fulani herdsman to death by hanging.

The court, presided over by His Lordship Mr. Charles Gyamfi Danquah handed down the sentence of death after all 7 judges came out with an unanimous decision of guilty of murder.

The convict and the deceased were brothers and lived in the same house at Soma village near Tuna in the Sawla-Tuna-Kalba District of the Northern Region with other members of their family.

Ghanaweb reports that in November 2008, there was a family dispute which lead the convict to assault his siblings.

Later, the convict followed the deceased who was herding their father's cattle to the bush to graze where he stabbed him in ribs resulting in his death.

It was reported that when he realized he had killed his brother, he went home packed his belongings and left the village undetected, however the convict's father became suspicious about the disappearance of the deceased and after failing to find the deceased lodged a complaint with police.

Mumuni Adama was arrested in Kalba village while he attempted to escape with his wife. He then confessed to the police about killing his brother and led them to the body.

This sentence comes a week after a 22-year-old trader was also sentenced to death after being found guilty of murder by a 5-member jury at the Tamale High Court.

Zeila Sulemana was convicted and sentenced after stabbing nursing student Rawdia Aminu, in 2014 after the 2 argued.

(source: pulse.com.gh)

THAILAND:

Disabled man murder suspects plead not guilty in court

The 7 youths accused of killing a disabled bread deliveryman in the Chokchai 4 neighborhood in May pleaded not guilty at the Criminal Court in their 1st trial this morning.

The suspects - including 6 young men aged 18-23 and their 19-year-old female friend - denied all 3 charges including murder, possession of knives, and intrusion of the bakery.

The next trial is set for Sept. 19.

Anantachai Chaidech, the lawyer who represents the victim's family, said the suspects' denial of the charges will benefit his side since the court can now consider giving them the highest punishment, which is death penalty, Post Today reported.

Previously, the family of the victim, Somkiat Srichan, 36, requested that the police charge the 7 suspects with 1st-degree murder, which is only punishable by death. That request was denied but, with the suspects' plea of not-guilty, that sentence could come back into play.

On May 1, the 7 suspects were arrested for allegedly taking part in killing Somkiat outside of the bread shop where he worked. The victim had reportedly been teased by 4 of the men, which led to an argument.

The 4 men then called 2 friends, who arrived with knives. Together, they allegedly beat and stabbed Somkiat, according to an eyewitness.

The suspects are brothers Arin and Peerapol Yodponganan, 20 and 21 respectively, Monmanat Sangpho, 22, and Mek Polkraisorn, 19, Akkaradet Thatsana, 22, and an 18-year-old boy, whose identity was withheld.

Natnicha Ritlamlert, the 19-year-old girlfriend of 1 of the 6 suspects, turned herself in days later after a warrant was issued for her arrest. A witness said she cheered on the 6 assailants and yelled "Kill him!"

(source: coconuts.co)

PAKISTAN:

COAS approves death sentence of 12 terrorists

Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif Thursday confirmed death sentence awarded by military courts to 12 terrorists.

According to Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), the convicted terrorists included Muhammad Qayyum, Asif, Muhammad Bacha and Shahadat Hussain, Samaa reported.

The terrorists were involved in attacking security personnel and civilians, the ISPR said.

Pakistan reinstated the death penalty and established military courts as part of a crackdown after suffering its deadliest ever extremist attack, when gunmen stormed Army Public School in Peshawar in 2014 leaving more than 150 people dead.

(source: thenewstribe.com)

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

Flowers from the muck----A well-observed account of Pakistan's death penalty and how it works

Pakistan's death row is one of the grimmest places on earth. The sordid conditions of its condemned - stowed away for decades, 8 men to a 120-square-foot cell, sustained on filthy gruel and constantly recontaminating one another with disease - are the least of its horrors. When this book begins in 2013, an estimated 8,000 people were awaiting execution. A former minister estimates that 2/3 were innocent. "Trials" is about a foreign lawyer's plunge into this swirling injustice. The surprise is the flowering of virtue that she finds at its centre.

Isabel Buchanan was somehow drawn to this mess. Just months after finishing her law degree in Scotland, she decided to learn Urdu, move to Lahore and bury herself beneath a mountain of files in a stifling room. She says modestly little about her reasons, save for a self-effacing remark about her love for Pakistani sweets.

The 1st pattern to emerge is the way Pakistan's penal system is wielded against British-raised expatriates who return to their homeland. Jealous neighbours easily suborn the police into arresting them. Ms Buchanan took up the victims' cases to provide them with legal aid. Her guide is another crusading misfit, Sarah Belal, whom she introduces with great charm ("one of Pakistan's least successful lawyers ... unemployed, depressed" and yet glamorous). Along the way, she cobbles together a handbook to a mad system.

Together, the 2 lawyers plough into a field of perversity. The police routinely begin their investigations by torturing suspects into unreliable confessions. This is so well known that Pakistan's courts have ruled statements made in police custody to be inadmissible as evidence, unless corroborated. So the torture goes on, in co-ordination with police who plant evidence to validate the forced confessions. In one case the same man is sentenced to death twice: once by hanging, once by firing squad. But the most perverse judgments arise from an unholy hybrid of antiquated British rules and Islamic law: the law against blasphemy. An Islamist reinterpretation of sharia demands the ultimate punishment, while colonial-era criminal procedures short-circuit traditional Islamic opportunities for apologies and mercy.

More than 1,200 people have been sentenced to death for blasphemy, but none has been executed. Ms Buchanan attributes that oddity to "a quiet, subtle act of objection" on the part of Pakistan's higher courts, which do what they can to lessen the law's damage. Instead, convicted blasphemers are murdered routinely outside the court system, as are those who might protect them. Yet many continue to brave the murderers' threats.

Other bravery shows itself through tenderness, as when an innocent prisoner devotes himself to comforting panicked men on their way to the gallows. Ms Buchanan dedicates her book to him. She manages to keep aloft several such stories at once, with a fine eye for machinery behind the scenes: like the black typewriters that judder under candlelight during a summertime blackout.

In an elegant final chapter, Ms Buchanan makes the point that Pakistan is hardly alone in subjecting Pakistanis to inhumane treatment. Ms Belal's ragtag team turns to arguing for the repatriation of Pakistani civilians dragged by American special forces across the border into Afghanistan and stored like meat in a locker at an American prison near Bagram. Its inmates have been denoted by serial numbers, and years of their lives have been stolen, on a mere guess that they may be terrorists.

Eventually the courts in Pakistan agree to recognise the prisoners near Bagram as people, and Ms Buchanan gives them their due. "It was Pakistan's legal system that championed fundamental rights where 2 great Western democracies [Britain and America] had denied them." In a triumph against appearances, some Pakistanis refuse to submit to pressure to dispense with the niceties of justice.

(source: The Economist)

PHILIPPINES:

'I'm not perfect but I'm no drug dealer': Australian man facing the death penalty in the Philippines for 'selling cookie monster ecstasy' pleads his innocence - as his girlfriend expects their 1st child----Damian Berg was arrested in Manila in June accused of selling ecstasy; The engineer from Adelaide protested his innocence to Daily Mail Australia

An Adelaide man arrested for allegedly selling 'cookie monster' drugs in the Philippines has pleaded his innocence from jail as he faces the death penalty.

Damian Berg, 34, spoke exclusively to Daily Mail Australia via his pregnant girlfriend to insist he was the victim of a set-up on Thursday.

Protesting that he did not attempt to sell a horde of blue ecstasy tablets in Manila, as accused by Philippine authorities, Mr Berg said he was 'not perfect' but had never been 'a drug dealer'.

He instead laid the blame squarely with Canadian native Jeremy Eaton who was also taken into custody in June when police claim to have found them with 170 of the pills.

'It's lies,' he said of the allegations against him.

'Marvie and I had been arguing while I was at work,' he said, explaining why he was not at the couple's shared home but at a hotel nearby when he was arrested with Eaton on June 21.

Mr Berg, 34, claims he was named to police by a local drug addict who once saw him drinking in a bar with his co-accused.

The engineer said he had no reason to engage in criminal activity after finding work and a happy life with his girlfriend, who is pregnant with their 1st child, since leaving Australia several years ago.

'I was lucky to secure the role in the Philippines as Marvie and I intended to start a family.

'Why would I do this stuff ? No need. I am not perfect but I am no drug dealer.'

If found guilty of drug dealing, Mr Berg could face the death penalty under a new, harsher crime crackdown introduced by the country's new leader, Rodrigo Duerte.

Duerte has a notoriously tough stance against drugs, once claiming he would kill his own son if he ever caught him taking them.

Speaking to Daily Mail Australia upon his arrest last month, Ms Zanelucas broke down as she contemplated life without him.

'We were planning on getting married until this happened,' she said.

'We had a plan and now this everyone is saying he's a drug dealer and I said: "What the hell". It's not true. I'm not scared, we know the truth. He is a good man. He doesn't belong there.

'I am talking to his family on Skype. As of now I am OK. I am strong, I have the support of my family.'

She added her partner was not close friends with Eaton but that the pair were merely acquaintances.

Ms Zanelucas, who is 29, is due to give birth to their 1st son in November.

Mr Berg's parents, who remain in Adelaide, said in June they were aware he had been taken into custody.

'What we do know is that Damian is in custody in Manila and is being treated OK.

'It will take time before his case is heard, and until then we can't comment any more. As a family, we dearly love him and will be supporting him as much as we can,' they said.

The 34-year-old's case has been postponed for a month, leaving him to wait in a Manila prison until facing trial when proceedings resume.

The Department of Trade and Foreign Affairs is providing consular assistance to the Berg family, a spokesman said last month.

'The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is providing consular assistance to an Australian man arrested in the Philippines, in accordance with the Consular Services Charter.

'Due to privacy obligations, we are unable to provide further comment.'

(source: dailymail.co.uk)

MASSACHUSETTS:

Council confirms Gaziano for seat on state's high court

The 1st of 3 nominations by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker to fill upcoming vacancies on the state's highest court was unanimously approved Wednesday by the Governor's Council.

Frank Gaziano, currently a Superior Court judge, was praised by several councilors for his fairness and integrity before the 8-0 vote. The Scituate resident was interviewed for several hours at a public hearing last week before the council, an elected body that reviews all judicial nominations.

Councilor Michael Albano, a Democrat and former Springfield mayor, said Gaziano allayed any fears that the Supreme Judicial Court might "tilt to the right" under a Republican governor.

Albano, who called the nominee a "superstar," said Gaziano expressed support for abortion rights, affirmative action and issues affecting working families during his confirmation hearing.

Albano and 2 other Democrats on the council, Terrence Kennedy and Robert Jubinville, did acknowledge concerns over Gaziano's support for the death penalty. But they noted that it was unlikely that the Legislature would move to reinstate capital punishment in Massachusetts anytime soon.

Gaziano was the lead prosecutor in the federal death penalty case against Gary Lee Sampson, who pleaded guilty in 2001 to the carjack killings of 2 Massachusetts men. Sampson is now awaiting a new sentencing trial after his original death sentence was set aside by a federal judge.

Gaziano was called a "judicial centrist" by Councilor Jennie Caissie, a Republican.

"There was not a bad word spoken about him throughout this process," she said.

Associate Justices Fernande Duffly, Francis Spina and Robert Cordy all announced plans to retire from the SJC by the end of the summer, giving Baker a unique opportunity to put his stamp on the 7-member court, billed as the oldest continuously-operating appellate court in the Western Hemisphere. 2 other justices will reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 before the governor's 1st term ends.

In addition to Gaziano, Baker nominated Superior Court judges Kimberly Budd and David Lowy and the council has scheduled confirmation hearings for them later this month.

"I thank the members of the Governor's Council for their thoughtful deliberation and overwhelming approval of a highly qualified candidate like Judge Gaziano, and look forward to their future consideration of our remaining nominees," Baker said in a statement.

(source: Associated Press)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Judge wants answers from accused baby killer's shrink

Judge James Nilon said Tuesday that he intends to hold a hearing with a psychiatrist retained by death penalty counsel in the case of accused baby killer Ummad Rushdi.

Rushdi, 33, is accused of killing 7-month-old Hamza Ali in August 2013 at his parent's home in the 6600 block of Chestnut Street, Upper Darby, then transporting the body elsewhere and burying it at an unknown location.

He has been charged with 1st-, 2nd- and 3rd-degree murder, kidnapping and abuse of a corpse, for which he faces the death penalty.

Dr. Muhamad Aly Rifai was paid $10,000 last year to produce an expert report on Rushdi's mental state. Death penalty counsel Scott Galloway said Tuesday that Rifai has provided only some preliminary reports.

Defense counsel Michael Malloy was not present Tuesday, but previously indicated he needs Rifai's report for his own expert to complete another report. Malloy previously indicated that he would not invoke a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity or incompetency defense based on prior reports.

Deputy District Attorney Stephanie Wills called it a "disgrace" that the final reports are still not available, noting the judge ordered them to be produced by November 2015.

"We have a trial date in this matter and neither counsel has complied with any of the court's orders, rulings, scheduling orders, anything," said Wills, who also needs to review both reports with her own expert. "We keep coming back and it's the same conversation every time."

The case has so far seen 10 motions hearings and nine status conferences. Trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 31.

Galloway could not say when, if ever, he might hope to have the final report in hand from Rifai and suggested he might file a motion to have Rifai replaced with another expert.

Nilon asked Galloway to furnish the doctor's address to the court and asked him to hold off on filing the motion to remove Rifai from the case until after a hearing could be held.

The judge indicated the hearing would take place before the end of next week and that an order would follow. He added the commonwealth might not be invited to the hearing.

"This is an issue between the court and the expert, so I'm going to take the action that I deem appropriate," he said.

Nilon also set a new status hearing for Aug. 9.

(source: Delaware County Daily Times)

SOUTH CAROLINA:

Judge refuses to set state's Dylann Roof trial before feds' case

A judge on Wednesday refused to "take up the state's battle" and try Dylann Roof before federal authorities.

Circuit Judge J.C. Nicholson denied a prosecutor's request to move up the trial date, keeping the federal proceeding on track to begin Nov. 7, just ahead of the holiday season.

The judge said that "the horse was out of the barn," and it was likely too late to change that schedule now. The state's trial is set to start Jan. 17.

"I'm not the one to fight with the federal government on who tries it first," Nicholson said during an afternoon hearing in downtown Charleston. "That's not my job. ... I'm not going to do it."

Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson had sought the move to avoid back-to-back trials for the survivors and the families affected by the slayings last year of 9 black worshippers at Charleston's Emanuel AME Church.

To ease their ordeal, Nicholson said he would likely further delay the state's trial. Both Wilson and Roof's defense lawyers agreed. The judge was expected to later issue a written order calling for jury selection to start in mid-January with opening statements and testimony weeks later.

Wilson had argued that the state should try Roof 1st to avoid problems with carrying out his sentence. Roof, a white 22-year-old from Eastover, was indicted on 13 counts in state court and 33 federal charges, including hate crimes. Some of those charges in each case make him eligible for the death penalty, but the federal system is historically less likely to execute people.

After the hearing, Wilson said her concerns about "primary custody" of Roof - a legal concept calling for the state to impose its sentence 1st - had been largely ignored.

"It doesn't seem to matter. I'm afraid that leads us to 2 trials," she said. "In the long run, I hope I am wrong about this."

Roof is the 1st person to be prosecuted in state and federal death penalty cases at the same time, so how the cases and his sentences play out is unknown. Wilson told Nicholson that defense lawyers had unfairly called her "reckless" for fighting for an earlier trial. In documents filed before the proceeding, she said the attorneys' stance on the issue amounted to "unsupported outrage."

Nicholson told Wilson that she was not reckless and that he understood her concern. But his courtroom was the wrong place for her argument, he said. He encouraged Wilson to file a motion in U.S. District Court, though Wilson had already expressed her wishes in a letter to the federal judge, Richard Gergel.

"I don't even know why we're having this argument," Nicholson said.

Roof's lawyers in federal court had asked for a speedy trial - leading to the scheduling dilemma that prompted Wilson's request for an earlier date. Circuit Public Defender Ashley Pennington, 1 of Roof's attorneys in state court, had opposed the move.

"I don't see any stumbling blocks or impediments to (the federal court) actually being able to commence on Nov. 7," Pennington said Wednesday.

Problems could arise, though - particularly in selecting a jury. Roof's lead federal defender, David Bruck, has said he didn't plan to ask for a trial outside the Charleston area. But he said in a filing Wednesday that it would be "irresponsible to declare an absolute" position because of "unforeseeable new developments" that could change his stance. If an impartial jury cannot be chosen, he explained, the defense team might ask for a change of venue.

If the federal date remains unchanged, Nicholson's decision Wednesday means that 2 historic trials are on course to happen simultaneously. A week before Roof's federal proceeding, the murder trial of former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager is set to begin. Slager, who is white, fatally shot Walter Scott, a black man, during a traffic stop last year.

Both trials are expected to last weeks.

"We'll just have to play it by ear and see what happens," Wilson said.

(source: The Post and Courier)

GEORGIA----impending execution

Parole Board turns down John Wayne Conner's clemency request

The State Board of Pardons and Paroles today turned down John Wayne Conner's request to stop his execution set for Thursday evening.

The board reached its decision about 2 hours after District Attorney Timothy Vaughn, the prosecutor in Telfair County, laid out the details of the 1982 murder of J.T White, but also told of 2 other people Conner had killed - 1 when he was 15 and the other just months before White's death. Earlier in the day, the 5 board members heard from Conner's attorneys, 2 sisters and other friends who wanted to the board to consider his violent upbringing as they considered his clemency request.

The board does not explain its reasons.

Unless the courts grant his appeal, the 60-year-old Conner will die by lethal injection at 7 p.m., becoming the 6th person Georgia has executed this year. His execution would come 34 years to the day of when he was convicted

. Conner, then 25, and White, 29, had spent the evening of Jan. 9, 1982, at a party but wanted to keep drinking once they returned to Conner's house in Milan.

They walked to a neighbor's house in search of a ride to the liquor store, but the neighbor refused.

Walking back to Conner's house, the 2 got into a fight when White said he wanted to have sex with Conner's girlfriend, Beverly Bates. Conner beat White with a quart bottle and an oak tree branch.

Leaving White in a ditch, Conner went home to get Bates so they could leave town, but on the way Conner stopped at the ditch where he had left White.

To make sure White was dead, Conner beat him with a tree limb and then stabbed him with a stick.

Conner and Bates were arrested the next day in Butts County, on their way to Gainesville.

(source: myajc.com)

KANSAS:

Bennett to be evaluated

A Labette County judge ordered Wednesday a mental health evaluation of a quadruple murder suspect based on his behavior while jailed.

David Cornell Bennett Jr., 24, is charged in Labette County District Court with capital murder or in the alternative 4 counts of 1st-degree murder. The punishment for capital murder is death by lethal injection or life in prison without parole, but the punishment requires an additional hearing after a finding of guilt. The prosecution filed notice that it is seeking the death penalty. Bennett also faces a rape charge, 3 counts of criminal threat, all felonies, and 4 misdemeanors, 2 counts of phone harassment and 2 counts of criminal deprivation of property.

Bennett is accused of strangling Cami Umbarger and her 3 children, Hollie Betts, 9, Jaxon Betts, 6, and Averie Betts, 4, in November 2013. Their bodies were discovered on Nov. 25, 2013, at Umbarger's home in Parsons after she didn't show up for work.

Bennett's defense is handled by the state's Death Penalty Defense Unit, a division of the Kansas Board of Indigents' Defense Services. His attorneys are Tim Frieden and Jeffrey Wicks. The Kansas Attorney General's Office is prosecuting the case.

Late last month, Frieden and Wicks filed a motion to determine competency of their client, writing that he'd been exhibiting behavior that makes them question whether he's capable of understanding the legal process enough to assist in his defense.

Bennett has been jailed since November 2013 in isolation. He has limited family and friends who communicate with him, the attorneys wrote.

Bennett reports hearing voices and sounds and the voices are critical of him and they interfere with his ability to think, the attorneys wrote. He reports being "out of it" and "out of touch." He's also paranoid and fears jailers intend to kill him. He's also exhibiting compulsive behavior, the attorneys wrote.

His attorneys asked Wednesday in a brief hearing for Bennett to be sent to Larned State Security Hospital for a competency evaluation, even though the law requires him to go through an evaluation at a local mental health center first, in this case Labette Center for Mental Health Services in Parsons. Jessica Domme, an assistant attorney general, asked Judge Robert Fleming to follow the law and order an evaluation at Labette Center for Mental Health first. Fleming said if the center recommends further evaluation at Larned, then that could be done by order rather than by a hearing.

Domme suggested the report from Labette Center for Mental Health be turned into the court by July 29.

A hearing on motions in Bennett's case is set for Aug. 4 and these motions likely will be heard another time depending on the mental health evaluation process.

Bennett's trial is scheduled to begin July 10, 2017.

(source: Parsons Sun)

SOUTH DAKOTA:

South Dakotans gather in Sioux Falls with goals to repeal the death penalty

A number of South Dakotans got together in downtown Sioux Falls to pay their respects to Thomas Egan. He was an innocent man who was executed in Sioux Falls in 1882. This group is using his story to bring change to the state's death penalty.

The reunion began with a short moment of silence. People were given the opportunity to share how the death penalty has affected their lives. Denny Davis is the director of the South Dakotans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty and believes the community needs to convince the legislature that execution is not the answer.

"I think it's important that the citizens make them aware that this is an important issue for us. That we are better people than this. If we say that we are as we have so many times said that we are a pro-life state then it has to be all of life. This would include executing a human being," he said.

Davis also says innocent or not, it is unfair to the families who have to deal with the aftermath of an execution.

(source: KSFY news)

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

Death Penalty Critics Remember The Wrongly Executed----18 people have been executed in S.D. since 1877, including Thomas Egan in 1882

Mary Ihly had just graduated from college working as a nurse, when she was summoned for jury duty - almost 4 decades ago. It was a case that could have ended in a death sentence.

"It does something to the inside of you when you say yes to murder somebody else," she said, "I know, because I was one of them."

Ihly and the other 11 jurors found the man guilty of his crimes. But there was another part of the process she won't soon forget.

"The 2nd part of that is you have to decide if he gets life in prison or whether he gets the death penalty," she recalled.

Conflicted with decision to put a man to death or leave him in jail for the rest of his life, Ihly sought comfort through prayer in the back pews of St. Joseph's Cathedral in Sioux Falls.

"Can I say yes, to killing another person?" she asked herself, "and it just hit me."

Ihly described it as a clear sign from God, which helped her make a decision in this case.

"'Mary, you can kill him today, but I was going to convert him tomorrow.'" That's what Ihly remembers thinking. After leaving the church she headed back into the Minnehaha County courtroom, and alongside other jurors, sentenced him to life behind bars.

Her change of heart kept the man alive, but acts as a sobering reminder for Denny Davis and other opponents of South Dakota's death penalty law, that death in exchange for a crime is never the answer.

Those in favor of repealing the death penalty gathered around the historical maker known as "The Hanging of an Innocent Man." It tells the story of Thomas Egan who was hanged for killing his wife. Years later, on her death bed, his daughter confessed to killing her mother.

Davis says that Egan's story is a prime example that death penalties for crimes often come with uncertainty.

"We are better than what this person has done," said Davis, "we're not going to lower ourselves and kill because this person was killed."

Davis and Ihly hope that lawmakers see this vigil and hear these stories to write legislation that would repeal the law one and for all.

The death penalty is legal in 30 other states. South Dakota currently has 3 people on death row.

(source: KDLT news)

UTAH:

Cost of death penalty giving rise to competing bills

A Utah lawmaker still intends to run a bill next year to condense Utah's death penalty appeals process, even though state law enforcement officials Wednesday told legislators it's already as tight as possible.

The legislation, planned by Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, would compete with a bill calling for repeal of the death penalty - a proposal that passed in the Senate earlier this year but didn't make it to the House floor before the end of the session.

After lawmakers heard from the Utah Attorney General's Office and an expert on national death penalty information, opponents of capital punishment said they felt confident legislators would recognize that abolishing the death penalty is the only cost-effective and rational choice.

"There's really no basis for an argument based on the testimony that was brought forward here today," Ralph Dellapiana, director of Utahns for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said after Wednesday's meeting of the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee at the Capitol.

Andrew Peterson and Thomas Bunker, both with the Utah Attorney General's Office, told lawmakers that most delays in the appeals process happen in federal court.

"The way the statute is right now is the best that the state can do to move the cases along in both state and federal court," Bunker said.

Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said every cost study done in the U.S. has indicated that the death penalty is "generally far more expensive" than life in prison.

Dunham also said a "fast-track" state process could also mean more delays in federal proceedings.

"There's no argument to try to speed it up any further," Dellapiana said. "It's only going to cost more and increase the possibility of innocent people being executed, so I don't see anybody signing up to support such a bad idea."

Still, lawmakers are pushing forward with the discussion.

Ray, who did not attend Wednesday's meeting because he was traveling for work, said he'll study the information, but it's not going to "deter" him.

"People will present all different kinds of opinions, but my job is to find the most efficient and effective way," he said. "And I've met with some judges, and I've seen some areas we can make changes. Even if we take five years off of (the appeals process), that's five years we will save the taxpayer."

Ray said information presented at the meeting was "skewed" because it only addressed legal costs and not other expenses associated with life without parole sentences, such as medical costs for aging inmates.

"The reason we're talking about this is not because we're a blood thirsty Legislature and we just want to hurry up and execute everyone," said Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross.

Lawmakers are "digging deep" on the costs and what makes the process take so long, Weiler said. The length of the appeals process can be difficult for victims' families, he said.

Legislative fiscal analysts estimate a capital murder case from trial to execution in Utah costs state and local governments $1.6 million more on average than a life without parole case.

9 condemned death-row killers in Utah have yet to exhaust all of their appeals in state and federal courts. The average length of stay on death row among those men is just over 23 years, with Ron Lafferty and Douglas Carter being the longest at 31 years, and Floyd Maestas the shortest at 8 years.

The last person to be executed in Utah was Ronnie Lee Gardner, who was killed by firing squad in 2010 after spending 24 years on death row.

Last year, the Utah Legislature passed a law - also sponsored by Ray - to bring back the firing squad if the lethal injection drugs aren't available. Pharmaceutical companies no longer sell the drugs for that purpose.

Ray has said he believes there's a "98 % chance" the state's next execution will be by firing squad.

(source: Deseret News)

CALIFORNIA:

Trial begins for Canyon Country man accused of double murder

The trial of Lance Holger Anderson, accused of killing his wife and sister 2 1/2 years ago, got underway Wednesday with opening statements made by lawyers before a judge, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office said.

Anderson, now 63, appeared Wednesday in San Fernando Superior court charged with 2 counts of murder, District Attorney spokesman Ricardo Santiago said.

The trial is scheduled to continue Thursday, he said.

Anderson was ordered to stand trial in October 2015 following a 1-day preliminary hearing.

During that hearing Oct. 15, Deputy District Attorney Julie Kramer presented evidence in both slayings, calling at least 10 people to the witness stand.

If found guilty on all charges and the special allegations, Anderson faces the possibility of the death penalty. A decision on whether to recommend the death penalty upon conviction lies with the District Attorney's Office.

Anderson, who lived at a condominium complex on Claudette Street in Canyon Country, was arrested Dec. 11, 2013, on suspicion that he killed his 68-year-old wife, Bertha Maxine Anderson, and his 58-year-old sister, Lisa Florence Nave.

Anderson's wife died of an apparent gunshot wound, homicide detectives said. His sister was killed in a nursing home in North Hills in the San Fernando Valley.

(source: Santa Clarita Valley Signal)

IRAQ:

Iraqi President approves decision to carry out death penalty

Iraqi President Fuad Masoum has approved a decision to carry out death sentences for a number of prisoners convicted of serious terrorism offenses which "claimed the lives of innocent citizens," according to a statement by the official website of the Iraqi Presidency posted on Wednesday (July 13).

Iraqi Presidency Spokesman Khalid Shwani said, "Decrees signed by the executive office were sent to the proper authorities for the purpose of implementing these provisions."

Shwani said the death sentences were approved following a study by a special legal committee formed for the purpose.

Citing Shwani, the Iraqi Presidency said in its statement the committee has resumed work to resolve remaining cases after receiving the approval of the Iraqi president in accordance with the required legal process.

Hundreds of Iraqis took to the streets on Monday (July 11) in the area of Talibiya near the entrance to Sadr City, demanding authorities carry out the death sentences of 300 people convicted of terrorism offenses.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has ordered the Ministry of Justice to implement the death sentences of inmates convicted of terrorism.

(source: nrttv.com)

CAMEROON:

Detained 'Boko Haram supporters' dying of torture, disease in Cameroon - Amnesty----"In the fight against Boko Haram, innocent people are paying the price"

More than 1,000 people accused of supporting Boko Haram in Cameroon are being detained in military bases and prisons, often without any evidence, and dozens are dying from disease, malnutrition and torture, a rights group said on Thursday.

Since a regional offensive last year drove Boko Haram from most of their strongholds, the Islamist militants have waged a guerrilla-style campaign targeting civilians. In Cameroon, teenage girls have killed dozens in suicide bombings carried out by the group.

But a crackdown by the government and security forces on the Islamist militants has fuelled the widespread abuse of civilians across Cameroon's Far North region, said Amnesty International.

Cameroonian government officials were not immediately available for comment.

"We are not necessarily talking about Boko Haram fighters - but about normal people who happened to be in the wrong place in the wrong time," said Amnesty researcher Ilaria Allegrozzi.

"In the fight against Boko Haram, innocent people are paying the price," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Many people are held at illegal detention sites in military bases run by Cameroonian troops before being transferred to official prisons, Amnesty said in a report.

Several detainees in the military bases told Amnesty that they were tortured and beaten with sticks, whips and machetes, sometimes until they lost consciousness.

"Two prisoners were beaten up so badly that they died in front of us," Amnesty quoted a 70-year-old man as saying. "The men kicked them, slapped them violently, and hit them with wooden sticks."

In the main prison in Maroua, the capital of the Far North region, between six and eight people die every month in dirty and overcrowded cells where malnutrition is rife, Amnesty said.

Detainees suspected of supporting Boko Haram who are brought to trial risk being convicted and sentenced to death, despite there often being little or no evidence, the rights group said.

More than 100 people have been sentenced to death in Maroua's military court since July 2015, although none have yet been executed, said the "Right Cause, Wrong Means" report.

Most defendants are charged under an anti-terrorism law passed in 2014, which is ambiguous and vague, Amnesty said.

A 27-year-old who was arrested after sending a text message to his friends, joking about Boko Haram recruiting graduates, could face the death penalty, the rights group said.

"If a student can face the death penalty for sending a sarcastic text message, it is clear that there is a serious problem with the design and use of Cameroon's anti-terrorist legislation," said Alioune Tine, Amnesty's regional director.

More than 15,000 people have been killed and 2.4 million uprooted in Nigeria and neighboring Chad, Niger and Cameroon during Boko Haram's 7-year campaign to carve out an Islamic caliphate in northeast Nigeria.

(source: Reuters)

INDONESIA:

Kuta drug kingpin threatened with death penalty

An alleged narcotics kingpin and 2 other Bali drug lords operating under him in the same network have been threatened with the death penalty.

Suspected drug boss Putu Leon, 44, along with Cahyadi alias Boy, 38, and I Made Astawa alias Krecek, 39, have been hit with charges carrying life imprisonment and the death penalty.

The suspects and evidence were submitted to the district attorney's office on Tuesday. Evidence, found after a thorough police investigation, reportedly consists of hundreds of millions of rupiah, Australian and American dollars, luxury cars and motorcycles, as well as mobile phones.

Meanwhile, drug evidence found from Cahyadi included as much as 58 ecstasy pills and183 packages of crystal meth, Head District Attorney Erna Normawati Widodo Putri told Tribun Bali.

The 3 suspects, labeled as big time drug dealers by police - supposedly some of the biggest in Bali - were arrested during a dramatic raid back in March 2016 on Jl. Dewi Sri.

Leon, originally from Karangasem, was the big boss and financier, while Cahyadi and Astawa would deal in places like nightclubs in Bali, reports say.

(source: coconuts.co)

JULY 13, 2016:

PENNSYLVANIA:

Judge upholds death penalty for Frein

A Pike County Court judge denied 2 requests from the attorney of Eric Matthew Frein, who is accused of killing 1 state trooper and wounding another in a September 2014 ambush.

The Honorable Gregory H. Chelak turned away a motion to take the death penalty off the table, and another motion that "aggravated circumstances" had occurred during Frein's arrest.

Frein was arrested after an extensive monthlong manhunt, after he fatally shot State Trooper Cpl. Bryon Dickson and seriously wounded Trooper Alex Douglass. The case caught national attention.

Frein's attorney, Michael E. Weinstein, said that due to "aggravated circumstances" during Frein's arrest, the case should be tried as a non-capital case. He argued that the death penalty should be taken off the table altogether, calling it was unconstitutional.

In the court documents, the judge said recent developments in Pennsylvania do not apply to the Frein case, specifically: Governor Tom Wolf's temporary moratorium on the death penalty, and the report from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's Committee on Racial and Gender Bias in the Justice System and the American Bar Assessment Team stating that the "death penalty in Pennsylvania has not been administered in an 'evenhanded manner,' and in substantial noncompliance with American Bar Association's guidelines."

Judge Chelak said the supreme court's decision didn't deny Pennsylvania the right to have death penalty, and that the temporary reprieve ruling said the governor does have the right to do so.

Chelak also dismissed the idea that the death penalty is unconstitutional.

"Supreme Court has recognized the continued application of the death penalty in appropriate capital cases," he said.

Frein is charged with Murder of the 1st Degree and Murder of a Law Enforcement Officer in the 1st Degree. By Pennsylvania Criminal Code, "a person convicted of one of both of the aforementioned Murder offenses shall be sentenced to death or a term of life imprisonment."

In a separate, earlier ruling, the judge stated that Frein's trial will take place in Pike County, but that jurors will be brought in from outside the county.

(source: Pike County Courier)

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

Death penalty demands strong defenders ---- Take the case of Mark Spotz.

In 1995, the Clearfield County man went on a rampage in 4 Pennsylvania counties, killing 4 people, including 1 in York County.

His crimes were beyond senseless. They were beyond brutal. They were heinous.

If anyone deserves to die strapped to a gurney at the State Correctional Institution at Rockview, it is Mr. Spotz.

That is clearly an emotional argument. The reality of the matter is that during his trials, Mr. Spotz chose to defend himself. The old joke, any defendant who chooses to do so has a fool for a client, has some validity. It could be said that Mr. Spotz did not receive adequate legal representation, especially considering the gravity of the offenses and the ultimate penalty.

That is a difficult argument to make, since Mr. Spotz chose, by his free will, out of either hubris or stupidity, to act as his own attorney.

Mr. Spotz has been appealing his multiple death sentences. After his initial appeals had been exhausted, the Federal Community Defender Office became involved in his case. The non-profit organization has expertise in death penalty cases and is permitted to represent some of the most notorious and reprehensible killers on death row in state court.

In the course of Mr. Spotz's appeals, former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald Castille was highly critical of the office, writing, in essence, that its attorneys were too good at their jobs, litigating death penalty cases with the kind of thoroughness and attention to detail that you would expect from a private law firm with more than adequate resources.

"A zealous representation of your client - that's fine," he said in a recent interview. "But being a zealot is different."

Maybe it's a fine line.

But does not change the simple fact that, no matter how you feel about the death penalty, our justice system demands that a person facing the loss of his or her life for committing the most terrible offenses receive the best legal representation possible.

That's why some death-row inmates - including 4 current condemned men from York County - have sought representation by the Capital Habeas Unit of the Federal Community Defender Office. The organization specializes in representing death-row inmates, a specialty that few legal general practitioners focus upon.

The office, which gets some of its funding from the federal government, usually practices in federal courts, and not all of the agency's offices become involved in what are considered state-level cases.

But in Pennsylvania, the office serves a definite purpose. The commonwealth is the only state in the country that does not provide funding for defense counsel in capital cases in instances in which defendants cannot afford attorneys.

Its attorneys are thorough. Benjamin Lerner, a former Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge, said that whenever one of the office's attorneys appeared in his court, he knew he would have to work "awfully hard." The attorneys, he said, litigated every relevant issue, and those cases did not return to his court with appeals citing inadequate counsel.

Lerner summed it well: "We have no right, I think, as a society to say, 'On the one hand we want to have the death penalty, but on the other hand, we aren't going to provide the resources for a constitutionally adequate defense for people who we're seeking to put to death,'" he said.

That is the issue in a nutshell. And it provides more than enough justification for Gov. Tom Wolf's 2015 moratorium on executions, an executive decision that, by the way, has been upheld by the state Supreme Court.

Prosecutors had sought to forbid the office from representing defendants in state court, citing, among other things, jurisdictional issues, a tactic that was rejected by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The court's chief judge, Theodore McKee, wrote that systemic attempts to disqualify the office's lawyers was "all the more perplexing and regrettable" considering the volume of evidence suggesting that inadequate representation risks gross miscarriages of justice.

The bottom line is that our Constitution requires even those accused of the most heinous acts receive more-than-adequate representation in court. That is essential for our criminal justice system to function properly.

Without it, we not only violate the rights of people like Mark Spotz, but we also diminish ourselves.

(source: Editorial Board, York Daily Record)

SOUTH CAROLINA:

Solicitor: Justice unlikely in federal church slayings trial

A federal trial for the man charged in the slayings of nine black church members is unlikely to deliver the death penalty and he should be tried in state court first, where there is a better chance for capital punishment, a prosecutor said.

Dylann Roof, 22, faces possible death sentences in state court, where he is charged with murder, and in federal court, where he is charged with hate crimes and other counts. The charges stem from the slayings of 9 black parishioners during a Bible study at Emanuel AME Church in June 2015.

Roof, who is white, posed with the Confederate battle flag before the killings and talked of trying to start a race war.

Currently, the federal trial is set for November while the state case is scheduled for January.

"The federal government's track record suggests an unwillingness to carry out a death sentence," prosecutor Scarlett Wilson wrote in court documents filed late Tuesday.

She renewed her request that judges in the state and federal cases get together and set a trial schedule that lets South Carolina try Roof first.

Circuit Judge J.C. Nicholson, the state judge, has set a hearing on the matter Wednesday.

Wilson said the federal government hasn't carried out a death sentence in years. The last person executed by the federal government was in 2003.

"A federal trial may be unnecessary to achieve justice for Roof if a state trial results in a death sentence since the state sentence would be carried out before any federal sentence," the documents said.

Public Defender Ashley Pennington, who is defending Roof in state court, said earlier that if Wilson wants justice, she should accept Dylann Roof's offer to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence. Roof's attorneys in the federal case have made a similar offer.

Complicating the trial schedule is a 2nd high-profile case.

Wilson is also slated to try former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager in the April 2015 shooting death of black motorist Walter Scott. That trial is now set for Oct. 31 and will likely be underway at the time of Roof's federal trial.

Slager is also charged in federal court, but the federal trial has not yet been scheduled.

(source: Associated Press)

ARKANSAS:

Arkansas Governor Hopes To Start Executions By January

Gov. Asa Hutchinson is hoping Arkansas will resume executing death row inmates before January, when 1 of the 3 drugs used in the state's lethal injection mixture will expire.

On Tuesday the Arkansas Department of Correction announced the state had replenished supplies of a different drug, the paralytic vecuronium bromide, which expired last month.

Talking with reporters Wednesday, the Republican governor praised a recent state law that keeps suppliers of lethal injection drugs secret.

"The confidentiality law had the desired effect and increased the opportunity for that supply," Hutchinson said. "The next step is to await the mandate from the Arkansas Supreme Court. Nothing can proceed until the mandate is issued on the pending cases. Once the mandate is issued the attorney general will take the next step to advise of any individuals who are subject to execution and request that dates be set. It'll be my obligation under law to set the dates."

Last month the Arkansas Supreme Court determined the state's secrecy law was constitutional, but the ruling won't go into effect until justices consider a petition by 8 death row inmates to re-hear the case. The governor said he'll be ready to act expediently if the re-hearing issue is resolved in the state's favor.

"I certainly would expect to set dates before January, absolutely," he said. "It's been way too long and painful for the victims and their families. We would set the dates without any undue delay. As to how many requests are sent by the attorney general remains to be seen, as to whose dates will be set remains to be seen and the specific timeframes ... but it is my job as chief executive to faithfully execute the laws."

There are 34 Arkansans on death, all our male. 18 are black and 16 are white. A U.S. Census Bureau report from 2015 identified 15.7 % of the state's population as African-Americans. The demographic makes up 45 % of those on death row. When asked, Governor Hutchinson said there is no evidence of racial biases at play in who receives the death penalty in Arkansas.

"That's the kind of question that is resolved by constitutional challenges to convictions. In each of the instances that are before the court ... the Supreme Court now, that has been affirmed and we're waiting to mandate on ... there has been no constitutional issue raised that has been found to have merit by the court and therefore it's my duty to execute the law based on the Supreme Court's review and affirmation of the convictions," said Hutchinson.

The governor continued, "In terms of more broad criminal justice reform, it is a very legitimate point of evaluation to make sure our criminal justice system is working fairly and that we're incarcerating the right people and that there's not any racial bias in our system. I hope we continue to debate it and try to get it right and that we listen to each other when there are legitimate concerns to be raise."

The state has not held an execution since 2005, largely due to legal challenges and drug supply issues.

(source: ualrpublicradio.org)

COLORADO:

Questions raised in 2nd death penalty case over judge's firing --- Lawyer for death row inmate Robert Ray wants answers in Judge Gerald Rafferty's removal

A lawyer for a 2nd Colorado death row inmate has filed a lawsuit seeking answers about why a judge who once presided over 2 of the state's most high-profile appeals was removed from both.

The lawsuit, filed last week in Denver District Court, accuses state court officials of violating open-records rules in not revealing more about what led to the dismissal of Judge Gerald Rafferty.

Rafferty was fired in April from his contract position in Arapahoe County District Court as he was about to issue a final order in an appeal involving death row inmate Sir Mario Owens. The new lawsuit, though, also raises questions about why Rafferty was removed months earlier from overseeing the appeal of Robert Ray, who was convicted in connection with the same killings as Owens and was also sentenced to death. The 2 cases are the only ongoing death penalty appeals in Colorado.

"If Judge Rafferty was removed from Mr. Ray's case for reasons that have anything to do with the content of his finished order in Mr. Owens' case, this would have as much of an effect on Mr. Ray's case as it would have on Mr. Owens' case," the lawsuit states.

Rafferty presided over the trials for both Owens and Ray, both of whom were found guilty of murder in the 2005 deaths of Javad Marshall-Fields and Vivian Wolfe in Aurora. By law, that meant Rafferty would also oversee the 1st review of the convictions on appeal.

In January, after working for more than 3 years on a ruling in Owens' appeal, Rafferty reached the state's mandatory retirement age for judges and had to step down. In March, he was re-hired on a contract basis to finish his order in Owens' case.

However, in April, court officials abruptly ended his contract and Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Nancy Rice rescinded his appointment over allegations that Rafferty had breached the terms of his employment deal. The deal prohibited Rafferty from performing outside work while also serving as a judge. Rafferty had worked between January and March at the Denver law firm of Collins & Coldwell, a fact e-mails suggest the State Court Administrator's Office may have been aware of prior to the start of Rafferty's judge contract. Court officials have not said whether they believe Rafferty continued to work at the firm after resuming the bench.

By the time he was fired, though, Rafferty was no longer in charge of Ray's appeal. Court records show that Arapahoe County Chief Judge Carlos Samour Jr. transferred Ray's appeal away from Rafferty and to himself in November 2015. The new lawsuit alleges that Samour "apparently did not tell Judge Rafferty" about the transfer for a month. Both Ray's and Owens' appeals have since been assigned to other judges.

Earlier this month, lawyers for Owens unsuccessfully asked the state Supreme Court to order more information released about Rafferty's firing and also to overturn his dismissal. Lawyers for Owens said they believed Rafferty, in his never-released final order in Owens' appeal, would have addressed several defense allegations of prosecutorial misconduct that could have led to a new trial for Owens.

In the new lawsuit, an attorney for Ray, Mary Claire Mulligan, is suing 2 officials in the State Court Administrator's Office, alleging they violated the court system's public-records rules by withholding information about why Rafferty was removed from Ray's appeal and later fired. Mulligan says she asked for copies of e-mails about Rafferty going back to the start of 2015 but that much of her request was denied based on privacy justifications. Court officials have not yet responded to the lawsuit.

(source: The Denver Post)

USA:

Texas Sens. Cornyn, Cruz propose bill to make killing of cop a federal crime

2 senators from Texas introduced legislation making it a federal crime to kill a police officer nearly 1 week after 5 officers in Dallas were killed by a sniper.

Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, both Republicans, co-sponsored the Black and Blue Act of 2016, which would make it a federal crime to kill a law enforcement office, public safety officer, or federal judge, and carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years and the possibility of the death penalty.

The bill also increases penalties for the attempted murder of a police officer, and would make it legal for officers to carry their firearms into federal buildings.

"Law enforcement officers selflessly put their lives on the line every day to protect our communities, and in return they deserve our unparalleled support for the irreplaceable role they serve," Cornyn said in a statement . "The Back the Blue Act sends a clear message that our criminal justice system simply will not tolerate those who viciously and deliberately target our law enforcement."

The bill is being publicly supported by the National Fraternal Order of Police, the National District Attorneys Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Major County Sheriffs Association, the Sergeants Benevolent Association, and the Department of Justice's VALOR program.

(source: United Press International)

IRAN----executions

Iran regime hangs nine collectively

Iran's fundamentalist regime hanged 9 prisoners collectively on Wednesday in Gohardasht Prison in Karaj, north-west of Tehran.

3 of the executed prisoners were identified as Seyyed Mohammad Taheri, Amir Khadem Rezaiyan and Saeid Ahmadi.

The victims had been transferred to solitary confinement in the days prior to their execution.

More than 270 Members of the European Parliament signed a joint statement on Iran last month, calling on the European Union to "condition" its relations with Tehran to an improvement of human rights.

The MEPs who were from all the EU Member States and from all political groups in the Parliament said they are concerned about the rising number of executions in Iran after Hassan Rouhani took office as President 3 years ago.

Amnesty International in its April 6 annual Death Penalty report covering the 2015 period wrote: "Iran put at least 977 people to death in 2015, compared to at least 743 the year before."

"Iran alone accounted for 82% of all executions recorded" in the Middle East and North Africa, the human rights group said.

There have been more than 2,400 executions during Hassan Rouhani's tenure as President. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran in March announced that the number of executions in Iran in 2015 was greater than any year in the last 25 years. Rouhani has explicitly endorsed the executions as examples of "God's commandments" and "laws of the parliament that belong to the people."

(source: NCR-Iran)

TEXAS:

Death penalty decision looming for capital murder suspect

One of the men accused of gunning down a San Antonio couple on Good Friday will have to wait a few weeks to find out if he'll face the death penalty.

During an arraignment this morning, Gilbert Ruiz pleaded not guilty to capital murder charges. The prosecutor was given 30 days to determine if they'll seek the death penalty. The other option for the prosecution would be to seek a life sentence.

Meanwhile, Ruiz remains in jail on a $1 million bond. Police say he was involved in the fatal shooting of Elizabeth Martinez and her husband Eric Rodriguez on North Shea Parkway.

A 2nd suspect, Daniel Martinez, is also charged with capital murder. He's is also in the Nueces County Jail.

(source: KRIS TV news)

NORTH CAROLINA:

State to seek death penalty in Mount Airy murder case

The state will seek the death penalty against Jordan Ross Lowdermilk, according to statements made in Surry County Superior Court on Tuesday.

Lowdermilk, 28, of Dobson, is accused of killing Claudia Smith, an 80-year-old Mount Airy woman.

He was charged with 1st-degree murder after Smith was found dead in her Franklin Street apartment in May.

The defendant was also charged in connection with other crimes that allegedly occurred the night of Smith's death, which include multiple break-ins and stabbing an I-77 motorist.

On July 5, a grand jury indicted Lowdermilk with 1st-degree murder, attempted 1st-degree murder, 2 counts of 1st-degree burglary, felony larceny, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill or seriously injure, breaking or entering a motor vehicle and misdemeanor injury to personal property.

North Carolina rules give prosecutors the discretion to choose if 1st-degree murder cases will be tried capitally.

If they choose to do so, notice of their intent to pursue the death penalty must be provided to the defendant within 10 days of indictment.

The presiding Superior Court judge must also order the parties to appear within 45 days for a Rule 24 pretrial conference where the state may announce the existence of aggravating factors it believes present.

The district attorney's office filed notice of its intent to seek the death penalty and request for Rule 24 hearing on July 11.

In Superior Court on Tuesday, Assistant District Attorney Tim Watson informed Senior Resident Superior Court Judge A. Moses Massey of the state's intention to seek the death penalty against Lowdermilk.

Watson indicated that Lowdermilk's attorney, J.D. Byers, had been served notice of the state's intent, and had consented to a Rule 24 conference.

Massey noted for the record the state's intent and ordered the conference scheduled for Aug. 30.

Death penalty

According to the N.C. Department of Public Safety website, there have been no executions in the state since 2006.

"There is still a de facto moratorium on executions," UNC School of Government Professor Jeff Welty said Tuesday in an email.

Until 2015, North Carolina statute required a licensed physician be present at executions.

In 2007, the North Carolina Medical Board determined that doctors participating in lethal injections violate the code of ethics of their profession.

Following a N.C. Supreme Court ruling, in 2009 the board stopped taking disciplinary action against physicians for participating in an execution, according to the organization's website.

The N.C. Governor signed the Restoring Proper Justice Act into law in August 2015, which authorizes "a medical professional other than a physician" to monitor a lethal injection at an execution.

One factor possibly contributing to a "de facto moratorium" on executions includes litigation about whether the lethal injection process violates the 8th Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, Welty said.

"Continued uncertainty about the status of the Racial Justice Act and whether its repeal applies retroactively to inmates who filed claims under the Act when it still existed," also may play a role.

"To be clear," he said, "there's nothing that prevents a jury from returning a death sentence - but right now, such sentences are not being carried out."

Currently, there are 150 inmates on death row in North Carolina, according to N.C. DPS information.

As of January 1, 2016, North Carolina had the 6th-highest number of death row inmates among states that allow the death penalty, according to information available from the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC).

North Carolina is tied with 2 other states as the 5th most exonerations at nine since 1973, according to DPIC.

1 Surry County inmate, who was convicted on 2 counts of 1st-degree murder in 1995, is currently on death row, according to N.C. DPS information.

3 Surry County inmates were executed between 1984 and 2006, according to N.C. DPS.

(source: The Mount Airy News)

GEORGIA----impending execution

Lawyers describe violent childhood of man set to die Thursday

The jury that decided decades ago that John Wayne Conner should die knew nothing of the frightening path he traveled as a child - a path that led him to become a killer in his 20s, his lawyers say.

Conner, who has been on death row for 34 years, is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 7 p.m. Thursday. If he is put to death, the 60-year-old man will be the 6th person Georgia has executed this year, more than any other in year since the current death penalty law was adopted 40 years ago.

On Wednesday, Conner's lawyers will meet with the State Board of Pardons and Paroles to make a case for commuting his death sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Later in the day, the Telfair County prosecutor will present his argument for carrying out the execution as scheduled.

If the jurors at his trial had known of Conner's horrific childhood, the lawyers wrote in a clemency petition filed with the parole board, they might have shown mercy when they decided his fate for the 1982 murder of J.T. White.

"A child's sense of normalcy is defined not by the outside world's social norms, but rather by his immediate family and home life," the clemency petition said. "For young John Wayne Conner, normalcy included extraordinary familial violence that frequently involved knives and guns; regular drug and alcohol abuse; and brutal physical, sexual and emotional abuse."

Those circumstances, the clemency petition said, led Conner "into the pattern modeled by those in his family."

The lawyers wrote that they were not recounting the details of Conner's life to excuse the murder of White but as an explanation of how Conner came to be a killer.

Conner, then 25, and White, 29, had spent the evening of Jan. 9, 1982, at a party, and wanted to keep drinking once they returned to Conner's house in Milan. The 2 men walked to a neighbor's house in search of a ride to the liquor store, but the neighbor refused. They were walking back to Conner's house when the pair got into a fight; White said he wanted to have sex with Conner's girlfriend, Beverly Bates. Conner beat White with a quart bottle and an oak tree branch. Leaving White in a ditch, Conner went directly home and told Bates they needed to leave town. On their way out of town, the couple stopped at the ditch so Conner could be sure White was dead.

Bates told investigators Conner walked into the woods and moments later she heard a thud. Conner then told him he was sure.

Conner and Bates were arrested the next day.

The attorneys wrote in the petition that Conner's abusive father had taught him to be violent, but that information was not presented at trial nor was it included in his appeals that followed.

"Imagine a man who evokes fear and repugnance from an entire community," the petition said.

The petition said Carroll Conner slit a man's throat after the man brushed against the arm of Conner's pregnant wife. They also said that Carroll Conner, while serving overseas during World War II, beheaded a man in a movie theater for sitting in the seat between him and his brother. The petition said Conner's father stabbed his brother and father-in-law, sexually assaulted his daughters and cut up his wife "like a jigsaw puzzle."

Conner, called "Shorty" by his family, was routinely beaten and mocked for his "limited intellectual functioning," the petition said. And sometimes Conner and his siblings slept in the woods to avoid their father, his lawyers wrote, citing accounts by some of Conner's brothers and sisters. They were so poor that for many of his early years, the family home did not have indoor plumbing.

The petition said Conner dealt with his violent upbringing by using drugs and alcohol, and tried to kill himself with an overdose and also by hanging.

Conner's defense attorney failed him as well, the lawyers wrote.

"Mr. Conner was represented at trial by a young appointed attorney, who was wholly inexperienced in capital defense and neglected to investigate Mr. Conner's mental health, cognitive functioning or violent and traumatic family background," according to the petition.

The lawyer put on no defense and did not call witnesses during the sentencing phase of the trial.

That information also was not included in appeals until now, the petition said.

The petition notes that prison had made Conner a better man, that he has found religion and has taken up painting; they attached a copy of his artwork to the petition.

"John Wayne Conner is a testament to the rehabilitative process," his lawyers wrote. "Despite being on death row for the last 34 years without hope for release, Mr. Conner has transformed himself from a violent young man with severe substance abuse problems into a peaceful and productive member of the prison community."

(source: myajc.com)

FLORIDA:

Supreme Court Continues Mulling Death Penalty Law

The Florida Supreme Court moved quietly into an annual summer break last week.

In releasing its last regular batch of opinions until Aug. 25, the court left unresolved questions about issues such as the constitutionality of the state's death-penalty sentencing laws.

Justices have been inundated with arguments in recent months about Florida's death-penalty sentencing system.

The arguments are rooted in a January U.S. Supreme Court ruling that essentially said the state's system was unconstitutional because it gave too much power to judges, instead of juries, in sentencing inmates to death.

The Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott scrambled to approve changes to address the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, which came in a case known as Hurst v. Florida.

The new state law requires 10 of 12 jurors to vote for death, before the sentence can be imposed.

Senate President Andy Gardiner says his chamber initially wanted the measure to require a unanimous jury decision, but the Senate compromised with the House in order to pass something.

"You are talking about somebody's life, but the alternative is that you get nothing done," Gardiner said. "So, you have to come to some resolution to make sure that the House and the Senate are comfortable. That's what we ultimately did."

Gardiner says the legislature had to do something in order for the death penalty to remain a viable option for prosecutors.

In cases involving numerous death row inmates, the Florida Supreme Court is trying to sort out questions such as whether the changes approved by the Legislature and Scott meet constitutional tests.

Florida is 1 of only 3 states with the death penalty that does not require jury unanimity.

There are currently 384 men and 4 women on death row in Florida.

(source: usf.edu)

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

Florida fights to keep lethal drug records secret----Arizona lawyers seek records of Florida's triple-drug lethal injection protocol

Lawyers representing seven Arizona death row inmates want information about the drugs used in Florida's lethal-injection procedure, but corrections officials are asking a judge to keep the documents secret.

The Arizona lawyers last month filed a subpoena seeking years of records related to Florida's triple-drug lethal injection protocol, including the types of drugs purchased, the strengths and amounts of the drugs, the expiration dates of the drugs and the names of suppliers. The lawyers are seeking similar information from other states.

The subpoena, filed in federal court in Arizona, is part of a drawn-out challenge to that state's lethal-injection process. Arizona's death penalty has been on hold for 2 years following the botched execution of inmate Joseph Wood in 2014, who died nearly 2 hours after the lethal-injection procedure was started.

On Monday, the Florida Department of Corrections asked a federal judge in Tallahassee to quash the subpoena, saying that state information regarding death penalty drugs is exempt from public disclosure.

The state agency "is unclear how Florida's lethal injection drugs have anything to do with this case out of Arizona, in which plaintiffs are, in part, challenging Arizona's use of midazolam for its lethal injections. FDC does not have any involvement in Arizona's lethal injection procedures or Arizona's procurement of drugs for its lethal injections," Florida Chief Assistant Attorney General James Lee Marsh wrote in the 15-page motion.

Midazolam, 1 of the drugs used in Wood's execution, is the 1st of the 3-drug lethal cocktail used in Florida.

Florida corrections officials and the state "have very strong public policy interests in preventing its confidential execution information from being publicly disclosed," Marsh wrote.

"The United States Supreme Court has recognized that there is a guerilla war currently occurring against the death penalty in the United States. Anti-death penalty groups have been on a crusade against those legally involved with executions, harassing and threatening them until they feel pressured to withdraw their participation. ... In Florida, the plight has not been any different," he also wrote.

Arizona corrections officials told U.S. District Judge Neil Wake they are discontinuing the use of midazolam because their supply of the drug expired and they can no longer obtain the sedative.

Pfizer, which manufactures midazolam, in March announced that it would not distribute the drugs for use in capital punishment. In May, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Corrections said the manufacturer's decision would have no impact on Florida.

A bitterly divided U.S. Supreme Court last year signed off on the use of midazolam for executions, ruling that lawyers for Oklahoma prisoners failed to prove that the use of the drug "entails a substantial risk of severe pain." The Oklahoma prisoners had argued that the drug does not effectively sedate inmates during the execution process.

Florida and other states began using midazolam as the 1st step in a 3-drug execution cocktail in 2013, after previously using a drug called pentobarbital sodium. The states switched because Danish-based manufacturer Lundbeck refused to sell pentobarbital sodium directly to corrections agencies for use in executions and ordered its distributors to also stop supplying the drug for lethal-injection purposes.

Florida's death penalty, meanwhile, has been under scrutiny following a U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this year that found the state's death penalty sentencing system gave too much power to judges, and not juries.

The Florida Supreme Court has been grappling with the aftermath of that decision, in a case known as Hurst v. Florida, as well as a law hurriedly passed this spring to deal with the Hurst ruling. The court indefinitely postponed 2 executions following the January 12 Hurst ruling.

(source: news4jax.com)

OHIO:

Evaluation delayed in capital murder case

Judge John M. Durkin granted a request by prosecutors to extend by 20 days an evaluation to determine if a man facing the death penalty is competent to stand trial.

Ricki Williams, 20, of Lansdowne Boulevard, will be transferred shortly to a facility in Columbus for a 20-day stay to conduct the evaluation.

Williams has been charged with eight felonies, including 2 counts of aggravated murder and 2 counts of aggravated burglary, in connection with the June 23, 2014, killing of 16-year old Gina Burger in Austintown.

A competency hearing was scheduled Tuesday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, but prosecutors asked for the extension because the doctor performing the study said he was not able to complete it.

Judge Durkin said he had read the evaluation, dated July 1, and it said an opinion could not be rendered on whether Williams is competent. No reason was given as to why the evaluation was not completed, although the judge said there was some suggestion that Williams was "malingering," but there was no concrete evidence to support that he was stalling on purpose.

At issue is if Williams can understand the case against him and if he can assist in his own defense. If he is ruled incompetent to stand trial, he will be declared incompetent and will be treated for a year to see if his competency can be restored.

According to police reports, Gina had gone missing from an apartment in the Compass West complex in Austintown and her body was discovered in a landfill in Grove City, Pa., a few days later. She died from a stab wound to the chest.

A criminal complaint said Williams admitted to authorities he stabbed Gina and put her body in a playpen to transport it to a trash receptacle at the apartment complex. If convicted, Williams could face the death penalty.

(source: vindy.com)

KENTUCKY:

Timothy Madden in court Wednesday

Timothy Madden is scheduled to be in Allen Circuit Court Wednesday afternoon for his latest pretrial conference at 1:30.

Madden is charged with murder, rape, sodomy, and kidnapping in the death of 7-year-old Gabbi Doolin.

Gabbi was killed on November 14, 2015 at a youth football game on the campus of Allen County-Scottsville High School after being reported missing for only 30 minutes. Doolin was found in a creek near the football field by police.

Madden was arrested a week later after police confirmed DNA at the crime scene.

Wednesday is the last day for the defense to receive discovery in the case.

If convicted, Madden could face the death penalty.

(source: WBKO news)

NEBRASKA:

Touring anti-death penalty speakers include relatives of murder victims, death-row exonerees

Relatives of murder victims, death-row exonerees, and family members of the executed will speak at a series of public meetings about why they oppose the death penalty.

The meetings will be held in Omaha, Lincoln and across Nebraska.

Journey of Hope will start its speaking tour at 10 a.m. Sunday at St. Benedict Catholic Church in Omaha. It will make 6 additional appearances in Omaha along with about 20 more in Lincoln, Grand Island, North Platte, Norfolk, Columbus, Scottsbluff and other communities.

Some locations also will feature film screenings.

Nebraskans For Alternatives to the Death Penalty invited the group as part of a public eduction campaign in the group's effort to keep capital punishment off of the books.

State lawmakers repealed the death penalty in 2015, making Nebraska the 1st conservative state to end capital punishment since North Dakota in 1973. Death penalty supporters have since collected enough signatures to allow voters to decide in November if the repeal should be overturned.

Among the 10 speakers on the tour:

--Derrick Jamison, who was removed from Ohio's death row in 2005 after the courts ruled he was convicted through false testimony and official misconduct.

--Marietta Jaeger-Lane of Three Folks, Montana, whose 7-year-old daughter Susie was kidnapped and murdered by a serial killer in 1973. When the killer later called to taunt the mother, Jaeger-Lane disarmed him by saying she was praying for his healing. The phone call led to his arrest and conviction, and Jaeger-Lane has remained an advocate for forgiveness.

--George White, who, along with his wife, was repeatedly shot during a 1985 robbery in Coffee County, Alabama. Despite White's wounds, authorities said he staged the robbery. White was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 1987. The conviction was set aside in 1989 after an appellate court found serious errors by the trial judge. But charges were not dismissed until 1992, when White's attorney discovered a witness who had seen a man fleeing the business where the robbery occurred.

For a full list of speakers, times and locations, go to nadp.net.

(source: Omaha World-Herald)

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Anti-death penalty group airing ad across Nebraska

The effort to keep the death penalty out of Nebraska will include a former U.S. Marine.

Kirk Bloodsworth is featured in a new ad paid for by Retain a Just Nebraska.

Ryan Horn, media strategist, says Bloodsworth was wrongfully convicted of rape and murder, and sentenced to death.

"Law enforcement, our criminal justice system are made up of thousands of wonderful people who work very hard and do their very best, and sometimes they make mistakes," Horn tells Nebraska Radio Network. "And if you're going to make a mistake, the state cannot kill someone because of a mistake. We can't let that happen."

Bloodsworth was eventually freed after DNA testing cleared him of the crime.

The ads are running on television and radio across Nebraska before a vote this fall on whether to bring back the death penalty or keep it repealed.

Horn says if it can happen to someone like Bloodsworth, it can happen to anyone.

"This guy was an honorably discharged Marine. He'd never been in trouble with the law before. He had a good job. This wasn't some gangbanger who had committed crimes before and maybe just got caught in the wrong one - not at all," Horn says. "This happens to people. It can happen to people."

Horn says other ads will run between now and the November election.

(source: nebraskaradionetwork.com)

ARIZONA:

Pinal mulls death penalty ---- 1 of 3 women charged in abuse and death of 3-year-old

The cases of 3 Pinal County women arrested in connection with the abuse and death of a 3-year-old have been delayed as the Pinal County Attorney's Office weighs whether to seek the death penalty for 1 of the defendants.

Shawn Main, a 45-year old caretaker to the toddler, was arrested for the murder of Tiana Rosalee Capps on Christmas Eve along with Capps' biological mother, 27-year-old Tina Morse, and 46-year-old Maria Tiglao; Morse and Tiglao face charges of child abuse committed against 4 of Morse's biological children, including Tiana and three boys ages 5, 4 and 5 months at the time of the arrests.

The 3 defendants, all residents of unincorporated Maricopa, appeared in court separately on Monday, but each case was set to return to Judge Kevin White's court on Aug. 8 as the state has not yet decided whether to seek the death penalty for Main. According to PCAO spokeswoman Tiffany Davila, the state has until July 29 to make its decision.

Defense attorneys for Morse and Tiglao expressed concern over the state's pending decision delaying any chance for resolution for their clients before trial. Tiglao is no longer being held at the Pinal County Adult Detention Center, but Morse continues to be held on a $7,500-bond, which her attorney said she could not meet.

In an email to the Casa Grande Dispatch, Davila said the 3 defendants have to be tried together because they were charged together. Main, Morse and Tiglao are presumed innocent unless proven guilty, she added.

As previously reported by the Dispatch, Main had been caring for Tiana and the eldest of Morse's 2 sons while Tiglao was responsibly for the infant, according to Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu.

"Tina Morse admitted to providing no care for the children," Babeu said in December. "Shawn admitted that Tiana was under her care at the time of her fatal injuries. Although Shawn claimed the child's injuries were self-inflicted, the medical examiner's report did not support the claims."

Main had been transporting Tiana to the hospital on Nov. 19 when she made a 911 call to report the child was in medical distress; paramedics intercepted Main while she was driving and drove Tiana to a local emergency room, where she died. Doctors noted unexplained injuries to Tiana's head and body, and the Pima County medical examiner later ruled Tiana's death was a result of repeated instances of blunt force trauma.

PCSO deputies discovered filthy conditions at Morse's residence on Ralston Road during the initial investigation, and the boys were found to be malnourished; the 5-year-old also had head injuries.

The surviving children were placed in the custody of the state Department of Child Safety.

(source: trivalleycentral.com)

NEVADA:

Defense reveals why team decided against putting James Biela on the stand

Day 2 of a evidentiary hearing that will determine if the man convicted of raping and killing Brianna Denison back in 2008 revealed some riveting information.

Lawyers for Biela asked the public defender at the of the trial why Beila was never put on the stand to testify in his own defense during the initial trial in 2010. At first the attorney was hesitant to answer saying he didn't feel comfortable talking in front of the client. But after getting the go-ahead from Judge Freeman, he answered the defense team felt Biela did not possess the ability to show empathy for the victim. He said, "As a result we did not feel he would have been a sympathetic character or one in which the jury could identify with."

Biela's lawyers are arguing Biela had ineffective counsel in his initial trial and should be entitled to a new trial. Biela was found guilty in the kidnapping, rape and murder of Denison. He received the death penalty. His conviction and death sentence have been upheld by the Nevada Supreme Court.

For the past 2 days, Biela's lawyers have been hammering on points they believe were trial errors or mistakes that violated Biela's constitutional rights. Among their issues are that police made a mistake in citing Miranda Rights to Biela. They claim officers wrongfully expanded in explaining those rights telling Biela he could refuse to answer any question and that refusal would be honored. Biela's lawyers state no such right exists and the State used Biela's refusals to answer questions against him in the trial.

They are also questioning why a change of venue was not granted, given the pre-trial publicity. They are also trying to poke holes in the DNA evidence presented and are questioning the State's handling of a defense forensic expert. Lawyers argue the State withheld knowledge it had conducted certain forensic tests and used this to diminish the credibility of the defense expert. In the 1st day of the hearing, the defense team leader, Maizie Pusich, who is also a Chief Deputy in the Public Defender's Office, testified she raised concerns the State's actions were misleading and dishonest.

Lawyers are also questioning the impartiality of 3 jurors specifically. They claim the three stated they would not be able to consider any options besides the death penalty if Biela was found guilty.

Security has been tight in the courtroom as Biela has been present and sitting at the defense table during the proceedings. He is dressed in prison clothes with chains around his legs. He showed little to no emotion over the past 2 days.

(source: NBC news)

CALIFORNIA:

Jailed con pleads 'not guilty' to bashing murders of La Verne husband, 89, wife 74

A jailed convict already behind bars for another crime pleaded not guilty Tuesday to the possible death-penalty bludgeoning murders of an 89-year-old man and his 74- year-old wife at their multimillion-dollar home near La Verne the day after Christmas in 2014.

Luke Matthew Fabela - who authorities said last year was linked to the killings through DNA while he was serving a jail term in San Bernardino for auto theft - was charged in February with 2 counts of murder and 1 count each of 2nd-degree robbery and 1st-degree residential burglary in the deaths of Armie "Troy" Isom and his wife, Shirley.

The murder charges against Fabela, 24, include the special circumstance allegation of multiple murders during the commission of a robbery - the only item taken was Shirley Isom's cell phone, according to the prosecution.

Prosecutors have yet to decide whether to pursue the death penalty.

The victims were found by a groundskeeper at their multimillion-dollar home abutting open land in an unincorporated area near La Verne. Both died of blunt force trauma and Shirley Isom sustained "sharp force trauma," according to Deputy District Attorney Tannaz Mokayef.

While Fabela was jailed in San Bernardino for an auto theft case, Los Angeles County sheriff's officials announced last May that he had been linked by DNA to the killings and that he would serve his term in San Bernardino before being sent to Los Angeles County.

He is due back in court Oct. 18 in Pomona. He remains jailed without bail.

(source: mynewsla.com)

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No Death Penalty for California Murderer

A man who shot a liquor store worker to death 17 years ago should not be put to death, as prosecutors wrongly excused a juror, the California Supreme Court ruled Monday.

After David Gaines, 36, and his father, William Gaines, 87, closed their Stockton liquor store at 11 p.m. on June 11, 1999, they drove home in separate cars.

As soon as the father shut his car door, a man punched him in the chin and shoulder, grabbed the brown paper lunch sack from his hand, and took off running.

The son rushed outside with a can of Mace and said, "Hey!"

The assailant, later identified as David Zaragoza, was already 10 to 30 feet down the street, with his back to William.

Hearing gunshots, William ducked behind his car.

He then found his son on the driveway in a pool of blood.

Zaragoza and another man were 50 to 100 feet away, running down the street.

2 years later, in 2001, a San Joaquin County jury found Zaragoza's brother, Louis Rangel Zaragoza, guilty of the 1st-degree murder of David Gaines and of robbing his father.

The jury sentenced him to death, which Zaragoza automatically appealed.

The California Supreme Court reversed the death judgment Monday, and only the sentence of death.

The ruling focuses on Prospective Juror No. 129, who told prosecutors she had religious convictions that would interfere with her ability to sit as a juror in a capital case.

"Don't feel I have the right to decide if a person is to die," the juror wrote.

A prosecutor challenged the juror for cause, based on her religious beliefs.

Though the trial court acknowledged the question was not "very good" and that "we probably should have elaborated a little bit on this," it excused the juror for lack of neutrality.

The state supreme court found error in that ruling alone.

"A prospective juror's conscientious objection to capital punishment is not by itself a sufficient basis for excluding that person from jury service," Judge Mariano-Florentino Cuellar wrote for the court. "Although the juror here also stated that her beliefs would make it 'difficult' to vote for execution, we have explained that [b]ecause the California death penalty sentencing process contemplates that jurors will take into account their own values in determining whether aggravating factors outweigh mitigating factors such that the death penalty is warranted, the circumstance that a juror's conscientious opinions or beliefs concerning the death penalty would make it very difficult for the juror ever to impose the death penalty is not equivalent to a determination that such beliefs will substantially impair the performance of his [or her] duties as a juror.'" (Brackets in original).

Cuellar added: "Prospective Juror No. 129's written responses did not clearly reveal personal views that would interfere with her ability to judge the penalty based on the evidence presented. Rather, her written responses, at worst, left it uncertain whether she had the ability to perform as a juror. Because those responses did not 'clearly reveal' an inability to perform her duties, the trial court erred in granting the prosecution's challenge for cause without examining the juror in court to ascertain her true state of mind. When a trial court errs in excusing a prospective juror for cause because of that person's views concerning the death penalty, we must reverse the penalty. We do so in this case."

(source: Courthouse News)

USA:

Fell: Death penalty views changing

It has been nearly 10 years since Donald Fell was sentenced to death in the kidnapping, carjacking and death of a North Clarendon grandmother. But since his sentencing, the death penalty debate has shifted dramatically, according to defense testimony Tuesday in Rutland federal court.

"The way we talk about the death penalty is very different today," said Michael L. Radelet, a professor in the department of sociology at the University of Colorado in Boulder. “Attitudes toward the death penalty have changed more rapidly than any other social issue other than gay marriage."

Radelet, who has published extensively on issues related to the death penalty, testified during the 2nd day of defense testimony in a 10-day federal hearing on the death penalty in Fell's case.

In 1976, according to Radelet, 16 countries had abolished the death penalty, but today executions are confined to 5 countries including the U.S., China, Yemen, Iran and Iraq.

19 states, including Vermont and the District of Columbia, have abolished the death penalty and 4 states have a governor-imposed moratorium, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

In 2005, Fell was convicted by a jury in the death of Terry King, 53, after he and accomplice Robert Lee stopped her at gunpoint in the Rutland Price Chopper parking lot on her way into work in the early-morning hours of Nov. 27, 2000.

According to prosecutors, Fell and Lee took King in her car to a remote field in Essex County, New York, and killed her.

Lee died in prison before he could be tried; Fell was convicted in 2005 and sentenced to death the next year.

But claims of juror misconduct surfaced and Fell was granted a new trial, slated to begin in 2017. Nonetheless, Vermont U.S. Attorney Eric Miller is seeking the death penalty again in Fell's case.

Because Vermont abolished the death penalty, if convicted a second time and sentenced to death Fell would be executed in the nearest death penalty state in the Second Circuit.

Radelet pointed out how the number of death sentences has been steadily declining. In 1998, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, 295 prisoners were sentenced to death; in 2006, Fell was 1 of 123 sentenced to death; and in 2015 there were 49 death sentences handed down.

As part of his research, Radelet said that he and a colleague surveyed former and current presidents of the country's top academic criminological societies and 88 % of these experts rejected the notion that the death penalty acts as a deterrent to murder.

Also, Radelet referred to a study by the National Research Council that concluded research to date is insufficient to establish that the death penalty is an effective deterrent to crime.

Judge Geoffrey W. Crawford asked Radelet his views on arguments in favor of the death penalty.

Citing 3 specific flaws, Radelet replied that the death penalty does not account for the number of wrongful convictions, there is no data that supports the death penalty as an effective deterrent, and there is no way of knowing what is in the mind of someone who is planning a crime.

Also, Radelet said that when Illinois commuted several death row sentences, some experts predicted that each commutation would cause 5 murders.

Homicides dropped sharply in that state between 2003 and 2011, he said.

In referencing the number of wrongful convictions, Radelet said there is a continuing flow of innocent inmates released from death row.

"Last year 6 people were released, most having served 25 years," he said. "In 2014, 7 were released from death row as innocent. One had been in for 30 years."

Crawford expressed his concerns and asked Radelet about such errors.

"The number 1 cause of error is prejudicial prosecutorial testimony," he said. "Prosecutorial misconduct, false confessions, fraudulent forensics."

Crawford responded.

"It is upsetting to think this is happening," he said.

The hearing is expected to continue through July 22, with government witnesses testifying next week.

(source: Times Argus)

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Wednesday Roof hearing could end dispute between state, federal authorities

It's a tale of 2 trials. Both state and federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for accused Emanuel AME church shooter Dylann Roof.

There has been an ongoing battle over which court should have the chance to try him first, and it all could be settled Wednesday afternoon at the Charleston County Courthouse.

State prosecutors believe their trial against Roof is the utmost importance to citizens in Charleston County.

As it stands, the state proceeding is scheduled for Jan. 2017, 2 months after the federal trial.

Solicitor Scarlett Wilson says it should start before the federal trial to avoid issues with custody and carrying out Roof's sentence.

The State argues if the feds sentence Roof to life without possibility of parole, they will never get the chance to put him to death.

Part of the battle is there no legal model for this situation. Roof is believed to be the 1st defendant in U.S. history to be subject to state and federal death-penalty prosecutions at the same time.

In federal court Roof was indicted on 33 charges, including hate crimes. The state is charging him with attempted murder, 9 counts of murder among other charges.

He is being held in the Charleston County jail.

(source: live5news.com)

MALAYSIA:

Stop shifting the goal post on abolishing the death penalty

A parliamentary reply dated May 20 to my question on the breakdown of nationalities on the death row in Malaysia and if the government is ready to abolish the mandatory death penalty, stated that 1,042 people were facing the death penalty as at April 30, 2015.

Of them, 629 are Malaysians and 413 are foreigners, with 649 executions pending court appeals and 393 seeking pardon from the state Pardon Boards.

While I welcome Minister Nancy Shukri's recent statement justifying the delay in tabling the amendments on the mandatory death penalty, the burden lies on her as the minister in charge of law to table the proposals to the cabinet, and together with attorney-general (AG) Apandi Ali, she should once and for all advocate and push for human rights reforms such as this to gain confidence among Malaysians, members of Asean and of the global community, carving a new identity for Malaysia as an abolitionist country.

In a written reply to Puchong MP Gobind Singh Deo in March 2014 on whether the government would impose a moratorium on executions and that the government is prepared to study the effectiveness of it, the government had clearly stated that it had no intention for a moratorium on executions, particularly for those who have exhausted all avenues in seeking pardon from individual state Pardon Boards.

The reply also shockingly stated that the issue of the government abolishing the death penalty is non-existent as the Pardon Board headed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong has full authority to abolish the death penalty for offences committed in the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya.

For offences committed in other states, the jurisdiction lies within the powers vested in the Sultan or Yang di-Pertua Negeri, after the Federal Court has upheld the decision to execute, while Article 42(1) of the Federal Constitution grants the Yang di-Pertuan Agong the power to grant pardons, reprieves and respites in respect of all offences.

The impression given to Parliament

And all this while, the Parliament has been given the impression that the 'power' to bring about these changes lies within the cabinet and the AG.

This is the 1st case of shifting the goal post.

Secondly, the government has clearly stated, time and time again, that public opinion is in favour of retaining the death penalty.

If yes, then it is laughable and ironic that the government decides as and when it wants to listen to public opinion, for an online poll conducted by Gerakan in February 2016 shows that more than half of the 1,523 anonymous respondents wanted an end to the death penalty.

While the majority of the Malaysian public vehemently oppose the implementation of the goods and services tax (GST), the government decides to turn a deaf ear to public opinion with stringy replies justifying the need to have it.

According to Professor Mai Sato of the University of Reading, when carrying out surveys on death penalties, a 'yes' or 'no' answer hardly addresses the weight of the matter, which is for a state to take one's life away. Tailor-made public surveys with options given to the respondent have proven to be best strategies when gathering data on public opinion regarding the death penalty.

Government cagey on the questionnaires

However, our government appears cagey on tailor-made death penalty questionnaires to gauge public opinion. Such a dense double standard speaks volumes about the severe lack of political will to bring amendments to the mandatory death penalty in the country.

The 3rd shift of goal posts is not granting discretionary powers to the judges to hand down different forms of punishment, apart from the death penalty. This shows the dark hands of executive interference in the criminal justice system and judicial independence.

On June 19, 2016, Nancy Shukri stated in The Star that she really wants to see the amendment to the mandatory death penalty be passed and implemented prior to the 14th general election.

As elected officials with legislative power, Members of Parliament have a duty to protect the rule of law and human rights. As MPs from both sides of the divide, we must use our positions to push for the abolition of the death penalty with our government, as well as with regional and international organisations.

As a minister in the Prime Minister's Department in charge of law, it is Nancy's moral responsibility to put political differences aside and, together with MPs from the opposition and members of the civil society such as Amnesty International, Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network, National Human Rights Society (Hakam) and also members from the Bar Council to advocate for this tectonic change in our national policy to display valiant commitment in upholding and protecting human rights, especially on the right to life.

The cabinet should not keep shifting the goal post on committing to abolish the mandatory death penalty and table the amendments to abolish this law at the coming October sitting of the Dewan Rakyat.

(source: KASTHURI PATTO is the MP for Batu Kawan and a member of Parliamentarians for Global Action on the Abolition of the Death Penalty----malaysiakini.com)

PAKISTAN:

Terror convict moves LHC to get trial record

The Lahore High Court (LHC), Rawalpindi bench, yesterday sought reply from secretary defence on a writ petition filed by a former navy officer who has been awarded capital punishment by a field general court martial (FGCM) in case of attacking Naval Dockyard in Karachi on September 6, 2014.

The court gave seven days to the secretary defence for submitting his reply on the petition filed by ex-Lt Hammad Ahmed Khan.

The petitioner seeks necessary trial and investigation documents to prepare his appeal against the death penalty.

Hammad along with 5 other serving naval officials was given death sentence by the FGCM in May 2016 for their involvement in a terrorist attack on the dockyard.

The petitioner had prayed to the court to ask the military authorities to provide him relevant documents enabling him to prepare the appeal against his conviction.

He had further prayed to the LHC for stopping the naval authorities from taking any adverse decision against him till final disposal of his petition before the high court.

(source: The Nation)

KENYA:

Homa Bay residents ask State to classify corruption as capital offence

Homa Bay residents have asked that corruption and sexual assault be classified as capital offences.

A capital offence is a crime considered so serious that it attracts a death penalty or life imprisonment.

In a public debate on capital offences and capital punishment organised by Power of Mercy Advisory Committee (POMAC), residents said corruption had led to underdevelopment. Homa Bay Bunge La Wenye Nchi Speaker Walter Opiyo said failure to take serious punitive action against leaders implicated in corruption had hampered the fight against the vice.

"We cannot realise any economic prosperity as a country or county if our governments don't eradicate corruption. And for us to eradicate it, people who are proven guilty before a court of law should be sentenced to death," Mr Opiyo said.

extreme poverty

He warned that corruption would plunge this country into extreme poverty if the Government would not act.

"This country has enough resources to transform the lives of Kenyans. But this cannot be achieved because a lot of funds allocated both in the national and county governments end up in the pockets of a few individuals," he added.

The residents also proposed that those who are convicted of sexual offences be sentenced to death. They argued that sexual offences such as rape and defilement had been on the rise in the area since some perpetrators were fond of repeating the offences after serving their sentences.

John Onyango, a resident, argued that sexual offences had greatly contributed to the spread of HIV.

"Some people are HIV positive because they were raped or defiled. The perpetrators should be sentenced to death to help eliminate the vice," said Mr Onyango.

POMAC Chief Executive Officer Michael Kagika and Vice Chairperson Regina Bosaibi said a majority of residents want those who are sentenced to death hanged.

"They argued that failure to hang these people makes them continue enjoying life in prisons so their death sentences are not felt," said Mr Kagika. He said there are more than 2,800 people who have been sentenced to death in various prisons across the country.

The organisation is set to present the recommendations to various state organs concerned with their implementation.

(source: standardmedia.co.ke)

VIETNAM:

Death penalty of Australian is 'appalling'

The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said it was appalled by the death penalty verdict by a Vietnam criminal court against an Australian grandmother for drug trafficking.

In comments to AAP, HRW was calling for Australia to press Vietnam 'hard' to ensure the death sentence is never carried out.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, was highly critical of Vietnam's policy to apply the death penalty for drug trafficking.

'It's appalling that an Australian grandmother, Nguyen Thi Huong, faces the death penalty for drug trafficking in Vietnam,' Robertson said in emailed comments.

He said Huong, 73, was 'facing Vietnam's expansive endorsement of capital punishment that is happily implemented by the country's lap-dog courts operating at the behest of the ruling party and government'.

Robertson said Australia needed to press 'hard in a very public way for Vietnam to guarantee that under no circumstances will she face execution,' once the appeal process is complete.

Huong was arrested at Tan Son Nhat in December 2014, with the heroin hidden in 36 soap bars she claimed had been given to her by a Thai woman to take to Australia. But the court held her responsible.

Under Vietnam's tough drug laws those found guilty of possessing or smuggling more than 600 grams of heroin or more than 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine type stimulants face the death penalty.

Vietnam-based sources told AAP they had doubts over Huong's innocence and suspected the grandmother had been acting as a 'mule' to traffic the drugs to Australia.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), in emailed comments to AAP, said officials were closely monitoring the case.

'We are concerned that an Australian citizen has been sentenced to death in Vietnam,' the spokesperson said.But DFAT said Huong still faced a lengthy appeal process before the case was complete.'

Universal opposition to capital punishment is a long-established policy of Australian governments,' they added.

Huong's case follows the court decision in May when 34-year-old Australian man, Nathan Andrew James, was sentenced in May to life in prison by a Ho Chi Minh City court for attempting to traffic 3.5kg of heroin to Australia in 2013.

James' sentencing followed the arrest of another unnamed 76-year-old Australian woman detained while attempting to smuggle 3 kilograms of heroin in a jar of fermented fish paste.

(source: skynews.com.au)

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Lao siblings sentenced to death, life for smuggling heroin to Vietnam

A court in the central province of Nghe An on Tuesday handed down a death penalty and a life sentence to 2 Lao siblings for smuggling 3.7 kilograms of heroin from Laos to Vietnam, VnExpress reported.

Xong Ba Tu and Xong Rua Co, as the defendants are called in Vietnamese, were reportedly on their knees asking for leniency from the court.

Tu, 27, was sentenced to death while Co, 30, got the life sentence.

According to the indictment, the duo carried 10 brick-shaped packs containing 3.7 kilograms of heroin and entered Vietnam via Thanh Thuy Border Gate on June 27, 2014. The drugs would be delivered to dealers in Nghe An's Thanh Chuong District.

The following day, Tu planned to meet a buyer in a forest to deliver the drugs. Co stayed in a motel waiting for another man to come and pay for the drugs.

But when Tu was on the way to the forest, he was stopped by local border guards. He attempted to use a knife to attack the border guards, but was overpowered after a brief fight.

Co was also arrested at the motel.

The duo told the police that 2 Vietnamese men came to their house in Laos in early June 2014, asking them to bring 10 heroin bricks to Vietnam. The Vietnamese men promised to pay them US$52,000 in total.

The case was tried in April last year but Supreme People's Court in December ordered a fresh investigation to clarify some details. The retrial this week ended with the defendants being found guilty again and the same sentences.

Vietnam's Penal Code rules those convicted of smuggling more than 600 grams of heroin or more than 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine face the death penalty, making the country one of the toughest in the world regarding drug laws.

The production or sale of 100 grams of heroin or 300 grams of other illegal narcotics is also punishable by death.

(source: Thanh Nien News)

JULY 12, 2016:

TEXAS:

Jury selection date set in capital murder case

The case of a man charged with capital murder in the death of a 5-year-old child has been scheduled for jury selection almost exactly 2 years after the girl's death.

Isidro Miguel Delacruz, 26, of San Angelo went before 119th District Judge Ben Woodward for a hearing Monday, his 9th appearance at the Tom Green County courthouse since December 2014.

2 more pretrial hearings are scheduled on August 2 and 22 before jury selection on August 29. No trial date has been set.

State prosecutors and the defense counsel both asked the court for time to acquire personal files of Delacruz's family from Child Protective Services and to analyze records recently released by the Texas Department of Public Safety, which might be used as evidence or to prepare for trial.

Delacruz is accused of cutting the throat of Naiya Bermea on Sept. 2, 2014, at her home in the 2700 block Houston Street.

51st District Attorney Allison Palmer intends to seek the death penalty. Delacruz's attorney is Robert Cowie.

Delacruz has been in jail since September 2014.

(source: gosanangelolive.com)

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

Defense for Alleged Murderer Isidro Delacruz Attempts to Quash Death Penalty

Alleged capital murderer Isidro Miguel Delacruz, 25, attended Judge Ben Woodward's 119th district court once again for a pre-trial today. The court further addressed accusations that claim Delacruz slit the throat of his ex-girlfriend's 5 year-old daughter, Naiya Villegas. Delacruz has had at least 5 pre-trials for this case since the crime occurred on September 2, 2014.

Defense attorneys Robert R. Cowie and William P.H. Boyles of Lubbock represented Delacruz in court today. Much of today's pretrial addressed motions from the defense to preclude the death penalty. The motions claim that the jurors are not informed of certain rules, that 'death qualification' inherently selects 'guilt-prone' jurors," and the statutory definition of mitigating evidence is not satisfactory. Additionally, certain legislation involving the death penalty is unconstitutional, among other claims. As the motions were presented, the attorneys for the state, District Attorney Allison Palmer and Assistant D.A. Megan White, gave their rebuttals.

Eventually, the defense decided to address some of the motions out of court with the State. After hearing the defense's motions, Woodward scheduled another pre-trial for August 2 at 1:30 p.m. He said the additional pretrial "might be helpful" for the case. The court will also meet again for a previously scheduled pre-trial on August 22.

Further in the future, the jury panel is scheduled to report on August 29 at 9:00 a.m. Furthermore, the jurors will be individually examined on September 12. Finally, the trial will begin on October 31, and is estimated to go on for a week. If Delacruz is found guilty, testimonies concerning Delacruz's punishment are expected to last 2 1/2 weeks before Thanksgiving begins.

(source: sanangelolive.com)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Death penalty sought in NC killings of 2 young women and man

The Buncombe County district attorney says he is seeking the death penalty against a man in the deaths of 2 young women and a man in late 2015.

The prosecution against Pierre Lamont Griffin was declared a capital case on Monday, officials said.

Griffin, 23, is accused of murdering of Alexander King, Tatianna Diz and Uhon Johnson in Buncombe County.

He is also charged with attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon in Henderson County.

Prosecutors say Pierre Lamont Griffin's new charges come from events that began in Buncombe County and ended with an attempted armed robbery and law enforcement then shooting Griffin in Henderson County, North Carolina on Oct. 27, 2015.

Tatiana Diz, 20, and Alexandra King, 22, were both found dead in the French Broad River in early Nov. 2015 after disappearing days earlier.

The women had been missing since the night of Oct. 27, 2015, when they left their home and gave a man a ride to apartments nearby.

A shooting happened in or around a Volkswagen Jetta owned by Alexandra King, Asheville Police said.

The man who was given a ride by the women is charged with fatally shooting a man that same night - the 3rd victim, Uhon Johnson.

The abandoned VW Jetta was found bloodied and with a gunshot hole in the passenger headrest.

Officials say North Carolina law provides that when acts that constitute part of the commission of a crime occur in more than 1 county, each county has concurrent venue, and jurisdiction, of the charges.

"In that the most serious events in this tragic sequence occurred in Buncombe County where the family, friends, and loved ones of the victims reside, I want to thank DA Newman for deferring to us here in Buncombe County so that we may seek justice for the victims and their families locally without putting them through 2 separate trials in 2 separate counties," Buncombe County District Attorney Todd Williams said.

A Buncombe County Grand Jury had already indicted Griffin on 3 counts of 1st-degree murder, 2 counts of destroying a body or remains concealing an unnatural death, 2 counts of robbery with a dangerous weapon, misdemeanor flee to elude arrest, and reckless driving to endanger for crimes alleged to have occurred within Buncombe County.

Police say he killed Uhon Johnson in Buncombe County, stole a car, and led deputies on a chase.

(source: WNCN news)

GEORGIA----impending execution

Lawyers argue for clemency for John Wayne Conner

Lawyers for convicted killer John Wayne Conner argue his childhood was a product of "violence, incest, poverty, depression, academic failure and mental impairment."

The state Board of Pardons and Paroles on Tuesday released the clemency petition for Conner, who is scheduled to die Thursday night.

He was convicted in 1982 of killing a friend, J. T. White, in Telfair County, after a night of drinking and marijuana smoking.

His lawyers argue that Conner's case is "a relic of a bygone era," when death-penalty defendants were often poorly defended.

His original trial lawyer, they say, had no previous death-penalty experience and presented no evidece at trial.

His pro-bono appeal lawyer, according to the petition, was granted "zero resources" to investigate the case and defend him.

They say jurors and judges never heard the "shocking and tragic story," of Conner's childhood in Milan, including sexual abuse.

In prison, his lawyers write, Conner has become a "valuable, productive & peaceful" member of prison community & found relationship with God.

His lawyers argue that Conner's childhood, which included sexual abuse does not excuse his crime. But they say it explains how he became so steeped in drugs, alcohol and violence "that he drunkenly beat a friend to death in reaction to a lewd comment."

The state parole board has scheduled a clemency hearing for 9 a.m. Wednesday in Atlanta. He is scheduled to die by lethal injection Thursday night at the state's death-row prison in Jackson.

(source: WMAZ news)

FLORIDA:

Florida's pending death penalty cases in limbo

Dozens of death cases across Florida remain in limbo after 3 judges have declared the state's new sentencing scheme unconstitutional. The question keeping some from going forward is whether or not a 10-2 jury death recommendation is constitutional.

Florida, Alabama, and Delaware are the only death penalty states that don't require unanimous jury verdicts to sentence someone to die.

"There are 3 states who are outliers," said Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge LaBarga from the bench last month while it considered a death sentence declared unconstitutional in Osceola County.

3 circuit judges have ruled the law unconstitutional. But the Florida Supreme Court has gone on break for the rest of the summer without deciding whether the judges were right or wrong.

"My name is Ted Bundy."

Prosecutors invoked the serial killer's name during the spring legislative session to argue against unanimous verdicts. Bundy went to the electric chair on a 10-2 vote.

Prosecutors repeatedly told lawmakers that requiring unanimity put too much power in 1 juror's hands.

“"1 person with total veto power, that's a bad thing," says Second Judicial Circuit State Attorney Willie Meggs.

The State Senate originally held out for a unanimous decision to sentence someone to death, then it compromised, says Senate President Andy Gardiner (R-Orlando).

"The alternative is, you have no guidance to give to state attorneys when it comes to these cases in the future if we hadn't gotten something done," Gardiner said.

"Or there would be no death penalty?" we asked.

"Exactly," Gardiner told us.

Each of the state's 20 prosecutors is dealing with the uncertainty differently. Some are moving full speed ahead, but others, like Meggs, are not.

"Until they clarify it and make a decision and rule, we're kinda gonna be in this limbo land," Meggs said.

And 100 or more pending death cases could be impacted by what the state supreme court eventually decides. Prosecutors say there are 13 pending death cases in Pensacola, 23 in Jacksonville, and 7 or 8 in Tallahassee. Other state attorneys did not respond to our email.

While prosecutors pointed to Ted Bundy as a reason not to require unanimous jury verdicts, 2 other serial killers, Aileen Wuornos and Danny Rolling, both went to their deaths with unanimous jury recommendations.

(source: WCTC news)

LOUISIANA:

Change of venue granted in Kevin Daigle jury selection

Judge Guy Bradberry granted a change of venue for Kevin Daigle due to extensive publicity, but only for jury selection.

Daigle is charged with the 1st-degree murder of State Trooper Steven Vincent and the 2nd-degree murder of Blake Brewer, but the cases will be severed - or tried separately. The Vincent 1st-degree murder trial will be 1st.

The jury will be picked in Benton La., which is in Bossier Parish - the 26th Judicial District - and then brought to Calcasieu Parish for the evidence part of the trial.

The judge also heard arguments from both sides on whether the September 19th trial date should be continued to a later date. The state is seeking the death penalty if Daigle is convicted of 1st degree murder.

Because executions are irreversible, death penalty cases require the most exhaustive defense preparation - investigation, hiring of expert witnesses and research. Subsequent appeals usually last for years.

One issue likely to be probed is Daigle's mental health. And even if he does not use an insanity defense, his attorneys say mental issues could potentially prevent Daigle from receiving the death penalty.

However, prosecutor Rick Bryant argued the case is moving at a "dead snail's pace" and said the case needs to go forward. He also brought out that the the state agreed to the change of venue.

Bryant characterized it as the "I'll let you know when I'm ready to go" defense.

After hearing both sides, Bradberry reiterated his belief that "justice delayed is justice denied." But he admitted a September trial date may have been overly ambitious and continued Daigle's trial to March 13, 2017.

Still, the judge indicated he will require that both sides move forward efficiently without undue delay.

Vincent was killed Aug. 23, 2015. Brewer was killed prior to Vincent - on or about that date.

(source: KPLC TV news)

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

Man accused in killing wife with baseball bat enters not guilty plea by reason of insanity

David Johnson Sr., who is facing a 1st-degree murder charge in the beating death of his wife in the backyard of the couple's Geismar home in August, pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity on Monday.

Johnson, wearing an orange jail-issued jumpsuit and handcuffs, entered the plea before state Judge Thomas Kliebert Jr., of the 23rd Judicial District, at the parish courthouse in Gonzales.

Johnson, along with Rusty Messer, 1 of his attorneys, and Assistant District Attorney Shawn Bush, met with the judge behind closed doors. After the private meeting, the judge, Johnson and the lawyers returned to the courtroom, where Johnson entered his plea.

Messer said after the hearing that the defense was given 60 days to have Johnson "evaluated and make a report regarding his mental capacity at the time of the crime."

The state will have 60 days to file a response, he said.

Johnson, 38, is accused of beating his estranged wife, Monica Butler Johnson, 45, with a baseball bat Aug. 9 and injuring the arm of her 18-year-old son when he tried to defend his mother.

David Johnson was under a restraining order to stay away from his wife when he allegedly killed her and left her body in the backyard of the family's home on Canterbury Park Drive in Geismar, police have said.

David Johnson previously had been arrested in December 2014 on a count of domestic abuse strangulation, an incident considered to be a strong predictor that the victim of domestic violence ultimately will be killed by the abuser, police and victim advocates say.

Monica Johnson, however, later requested the count be dropped against her estranged husband but then sought another protective order 6 months later, saying he was stalking her.

The temporary restraining order issued was extended and a hearing had been scheduled for Aug. 24 - 2 weeks after Monica Johnson was killed - to consider extending it again.

David Johnson was booked into Ascension Parish Jail on counts of 1st-degree murder, attempted 1st-degree murder, aggravated burglary with a weapon and violation of protective orders.

An Ascension Parish grand jury in October indicted David Johnson on 1st-degree murder and violation of a protective order.

Bush said at the time the case would move forward as a capital case, meaning his office was considering seeking the death penalty.

David Johnson is being held at the Ascension Parish Jail without bail.

(source: The Advocate)

NEVADA:

Death row's James Biela pushes for new trial

James Biela was convicted for the 2008 murder of 19 year old Brianna Denison.

It was one of the most sensational crimes in Northern Nevada at the time because for a time, there was no suspect or motive.

Brianna Denison's body was not immediately found.

She was eventually found February 15, 2008 approximately 4 weeks after disappearing.

An autopsy would show she had been strangled and raped.

In the spring of 2010 Biela was convicted of killing Denison and raping 2 other women.

For that he received the death penalty plus multiple life sentences.

His 2 new attorneys Edward Reed and Chris Oram gave several instances in court on July 11 2016, in which they say the Washoe County Public Defender's Office dropped the ball.

They say the defense attorneys should have pressed harder for a change of venue considering all of the pre-trial publicity.

One of Biela's public defender's at the time, Maizie Pusich, testified in court Monday. Saying, as a native, she was hard pressed to find a case more shocking - naming Darrin Mack, Cathy Woods, and Tamir Hamilton as trails that so fully captured the public's attention.

Oram played a tape in court where he says Reno Police gave his client improper Miranda Rights.

Oram says it was not only cause for an appeal but also a reason to request Biela's statements to police be thrown out.

Biela's current defense team says the Washoe County Public Defender's Office should have pursued their own psychological evaluation of one of Biela's rape victims.

The woman identified as Amanda C in court records, did not go to police immediately after her attack.

There was no physical evidence available by the time she went to authorities.

She identified James Biela as her attacker only after he was named a suspect in the Denison case.

She claimed she was infected with herpes by Biela. In court it was shown that was not true.

Oram also said in court the tipster who called Secret Witness about the case, which led to the conviction of Biela, should have been identified and compelled to testify during trial.

Some of these issues have already been commented on by The Nevada Supreme Court when it upheld Biela's death sentence.

Justices said there was nothing in the record that showed juror's decisions were a result of passion or prejudice.

The court said Amanda C's testimony, where she identified Biela during trial as "the man who haunts my dreams," was sufficient to support his conviction.

Biela's original trial lasted 3 1/2 weeks, there were 60 witnesses and the jury deliberated for 9 hours.

His new attorneys may call several of the original players to the stand in this case. Which is why the court calendar has been marked off for 2 weeks.

(source: KOLO TV news)

CALIFORNIA:

State Supreme Court overturns death penalty over judge's error

The state Supreme Court upheld a Stockton man's conviction for a 1999 murder and robbery Monday but overturned his death sentence because the trial judge removed a prospective juror who said she was morally opposed to the death penalty but believed she could set her views aside.

Although all jurors in capital cases must be willing to vote for a death sentence, "a prospective juror's conscientious objection to capital punishment is not by itself a sufficient basis for excluding that person from jury service," Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuellar said in the 7-0 ruling.

The ruling entitles the defendant, Louis Zaragoza, to a penalty retrial in which a new jury would decide whether he should be sentenced to death or life in prison without parole.

The victim, David Gaines, 36, was fatally shot while chasing a man who had grabbed a paper bag from the hands of Gaines' father, William, in front of their Stockton home in February 1999. The bag usually contained the day's receipts from the Gaines' liquor store, but on this day it held only a Pyrex bottle, the court said.

Witnesses identified the thief as Zaragoza's brother, David, who was ruled mentally incompetent to stand trial. A San Joaquin County jury found that Louis Zaragoza was waiting nearby and shot David Gaines as he chased the thief with a canister of Mace.

The state's high court unanimously rejected defense challenges to Zaragoza's convictions but said Superior Court Judge Thomas Teaford had wrongly removed a prospective juror, based solely on her answers to a pretrial questionnaire.

Asked whether she had any religious or other personal convictions that would interfere with her ability to take part in a capital case, the woman said she did, and explained, "Don't feel I have the right to decide if a person is to die." Asked later whether her beliefs would have a substantial impact on her decision as a juror, she wrote, "Somewhat."

But later in the questionnaire, she wrote that she would not automatically vote to acquit Zaragoza or sentence him to life in prison in order to avoid a death sentence. Asked if she could set her feelings aside and follow the law as the judge explained it, she said she could.

Over a defense lawyer's objections, Teaford granted the prosecutor's request to dismiss the juror "for cause," saying her written answers showed "a substantial impairment" in her "ability to be neutral." But Cuellar said her answers, considered together, did not clearly show that she was unwilling or unable to follow the law.

Under established court precedents, Cuellar said, a trial judge must allow such a juror to remain on the panel and answer questions that might clarify her views. If she showed a willingness to follow the judge's instructions, the prosecution could then use one of its limited number of challenges to remove her.

The case is People vs. Zaragoza, S097886.

(source: San Francisco Chronicle)

USA:

Feds' death-sentence appeal against cop-killer Ronell Wilson in limbo

The government says a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a Texas death-penalty case could impact its decision whether to challenge a federal judge's ruling sparing convicted cop-killer Ronell Wilson's life.

The U.S. Justice Department needs more time to mull an appeal of Brooklyn federal court Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis' ruling earlier this year vacating the death sentence due to Wilson's intellectual disability, according to a motion filed Friday at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan.

The Texas case, involving a death-sentence imposed on Bobby James Moore in 1980 for slaying a 70-year-old Houston grocery clerk during a robbery, will come up for hearing and ruling during the high court's next term, starting in October.

"The court's decision in Moore ... will likely implicate any determination of whether to appeal and, if any appeal were pursued, in resolving that appeal," wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy Busa.

In March, Brooklyn federal prosecutors filed a notice of appeal to preserve their right to formally contest Garaufis' ruling that spared Wilson's life.

The U.S Justice Department has yet to decide whether to move forward with the appeal.

In imposing a series of consecutive sentences of life without parole against Wilson, Garaufis said the U.S. Constitution "forbids the execution of intellectually disabled persons."

Wilson, 34, was sentenced to death in 2013 in a penalty-phase retrial after Garaufis previously ruled the former Stapleton gang member was not mentally incapacitated.

The defendant was convicted of murdering Detectives Rodney J. Andrews, 34, and James V. Nemorin, 36, during an undercover gun buy-and-bust operation in Tompkinsville on March 10, 2003.

A prior Brooklyn federal court jury had sentenced Wilson to death in 2007. 3 years later, an appeals court tossed out the sentence due to prosecutorial errors during the original penalty phase of the trial.

The convictions stood, and Wilson was retried for the penalty phase only.

Jurors again voted for death.

Wilson appealed, and in July 2014, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ordered Garaufis to reconsider Wilson's claim of intellectual disability in light of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a Florida case.

The country's highest court found that Florida had adopted a too-rigid cutoff for IQ test results in deciding who could be spared the death penalty due to intellectual disabilities.

In his March ruling, Garaufis said Wilson had demonstrated "significant defects in adaptive functioning" which met the legal standard for proving intellectual disability.

Garaufis also said those issues, dealing with a broad array of abilities, skills and behavior, manifested themselves before Wilson turned 18.

In the Texas case, courts in that state relied on a 1992 definition of intellectual disability to deem Moore eligible for the death penalty.

His lawyers argue the professional psychiatric community now finds such standards outdated.

(source: silive.com)

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

Defense confirms plan to show mental defect in Dylann Roof trial

Defense lawyers plan to provide evidence of a mental condition when a federal jury discusses Dylann Roof's fate, court filings stated Monday.

Roof, who is white, would face the death penalty if convicted of certain charges in the June 2015 shooting deaths of 9 black worshippers at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.

In hopes of getting a lifetime prison sentence for the 22-year-old, his defense team can show the jurors evidence of mitigating factors. Monday's filing confirmed that the attorneys plan to present testimony and documentation of a "mental disease or defect or any other mental condition."

The development was expected. Lawyers defending Roof from a separate murder case in state court already have said that experts are doing a mental health evaluation. That trial, set to start in January, had been delayed so the examination could be finished.

In U.S. District Court, Roof was indicted on 33 charges, including hate crimes and religion rights violations. The Nov. 7 proceeding could last 6 weeks. The penalty phase alone could take 2 weeks.

Prosecutors on Monday also responded to the lawyers' request for a "bill of particulars," or detailed statement of the accusations. They asked Judge Richard Gergel to order the filing because, they argued in part, Roof's indictment didn't fully explain how the crime was connected with interstate commerce, a component that would make the shooting a federal case.

In the response, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan Williams said the indictment already mentioned Roof's use of the internet, along with the gun and ammunition he bought for the crime. The extra requirement would give the defense a "script" of the prosecution's case well ahead of the trial, he wrote.

The judge did not immediately rule on the issue.

(soruce: The Post and Corrier)

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

Donald Fell's defense team asks court to rule death penalty unconstitutional----Federal judge opens 2 weeks of hearings in Rutland

Lawyers for Donald Fell, a Vermont man accused of capital murder, are asking a federal judge to strike down the death penalty, which prosecutors plan to seek in Fell's upcoming re-trial.

Judge Geoffrey Crawford opened what is expected to be two weeks of hearings on the question of whether the death penalty violates the U.S. Constitution's prohibition on "cruel and unusual punishment."

Fell has been down this road before.

He was convicted of the 2000 kidnapping and murder of Rutland grandmother Terry King and later sentenced to death. Later, during an appeal, the judge determined the misconduct of a lone juror in the case required him to toss out the conviction and order a new trial. The 2nd trial is not expected before next year.

Fell was not in the courtroom as the death penalty hearing got underway Monday though several of King's family members are attending.

The 1st witness was a University of California psychologist, Craig Haney, who said inmates held for long periods in solitary confinement and on death row suffer stress and psychological harm.

Lori Hibbard, King's daughter, was unsympathetic.

"It seems like a waste of time," Hibbard said outside the courthouse, noting a federal appeals court has previously approved imposition of the death penalty in Fell's case.

"He should've already been executed long ago. He did get the death penalty and I don't think we should be doing this all over again, but, we are, and I'm going to be here every day," Hibbard said.

(source: WPTZ news)

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

Expert: death penalty inhumane

Keeping federal death row inmates in solitary confinement for years and sometimes decades, deprived of human interaction and touch, is inhumane, according to the 1st defense witness in a federal hearing in Rutland on Monday.

"According to the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, anything greater than 15 days is inhumane, cruel and degrading treatment," said Dr. Craig Haney, a professor in the University of California Santa Cruz psychology department.

The 1st day in a 10-day hearing regarding the constitutionality of the death penalty in Donald Fell's capital case began in Rutland federal court Monday morning.

Judge Geoffrey W. Crawford, who is presiding over Fell's 2nd death penalty trial in the carjacking and kidnapping death of a North Clarendon woman, said argument about the death penalty serves as a sort of symbolic language.

"Both sides argue about right and wrong, nature and nurture, determinism and free will, and the consequences of our actions," Crawford said in his opening remarks.

In framing the importance of the hearing that will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day until July 22, Crawford said this is an opportunity to hear from the scholars themselves, and question them.

"And create a rich, factual record for higher courts with broader authority to rule on the big questions," he said.

According to Haney, public opposition to the death penalty is increasing and courts are recognizing its flaws, citing unreliable and cruel outcomes.

Haney described what he called a social death among inmates in prolonged solitary confinement. "They experience a deep joylessness and have lost the capacity to regain it. ... The self begins to recede," he said.

Fell, 36, was convicted by a federal jury in 2005 and sentenced to death in 2006 for carjacking and kidnapping which resulted in the death of Terry King, 53, in 2000. But claims of juror misconduct got his conviction and sentence overturned and he was granted a new trial, scheduled to begin on Feb. 27, 2017.

If convicted a 2nd time, Fell could be sentenced to death again. He currently remains lodged at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.

Vermont U.S. Attorney Eric Miller said the death penalty is justified in Fell's case.

"The defendant, Donald Fell, committed the offenses in an especially heinous, cruel, and depraved manner in that it involved torture and serious abuse of the victim," Miller wrote. "Donald Fell abducted and murdered, or participated in the abduction and murder of Teresa King who was particularly vulnerable. ... (Fell) is likely to commit criminal acts of violence in the future."

In Monday's hearing, Haney testified all day.

In a series of photographs, Haney walked Crawford and those in the courtroom through the U.S. Penitentiary at Terre Haute, Indiana, where Fell was previously lodged in the Special Confinement Unit.

As part of his testimony, Haney showed images of Fell's cell with a bunk, shower, commode, chair, desk and television.

"It's one of the neatest cells I've seen," Haney said.

While housed in the SCU, Fell used a 9-inch handmade "metal shank" to stab a fellow inmate in the neck, according to Federal Bureau of Prison records.

"On February 24, 2012, inmate Donald Fell assaulted inmate Roane (James Roane Jr.) with a homemade sharpened weapon," according to a memorandum from Warden Charles L. Lockett. "Based on this information, for mutual safety, I recommend that ... Donald Fell be separated from inmate James Roane."

As part of his testimony, Haney also showed a picture of Roane's room, which was littered with books, papers, food and towels, a stark contrast to Fell's cell.

Haney said the image of Roane's room was taken after the stabbing and its disheveled state could have been a result of the stabbing.

Court documents report that immediately after the stabbing, Fell was escorted to the door of the Lower B Range of the SCU by an inmate and he still had the shank in his hand.

According to Haney's testimony, death-row inmates are housed in either Range A, B, or C, and he detailed, with images, the living conditions on each level. He showed cages used for inmate exercise, and church services. Inmates never see the outside and, despite having windows in their cells, the windows are opaque and let in light, but nothing can be seen, Haney said.

"This is severe," he said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sonia Jimenez asked Haney detailed questions about a Colorado study that found adverse reactions could not be attributed to solitary confinement.

"I believe the flaws in the study were fatal," he said.

The defense will continue presenting witnesses this week.

(source: Barre Montpelier Times Argus)

IRAN:

A Prisoner Scheduled to Be Executed Within 3 Days

Mehdi Pakgoftar, from Ilam is scheduled to be executed on drug related charges within 3 days. His elderly parents have sit in front of the Head of Judiciary's Office since 2 months ago and insist on their son's innocence. They say the Supreme Leader's representative has also asked the authorities to pardon him but it was rejected and he will be executed on Wednesday.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency in Iran (HRANA), Mehdi Pakgoftar, 34, from Fatemieh village of Ilam city is going to be executed on drug related charges in the Central Prison of Ilam on Wednesday.

A close source to his family told HRANA's reporter: "Mehdi has been imprisoned since 2010 in Central Prison of Ilam. His family say the Supreme Leader's representative has also asked the authorities to pardon him but it was rejected and he will be executed on Wednesday."

"He has been charged with smuggling 10 kg of crystal which was discovered from a friend of him. The friend has confessed that the drugs belonged to Mehdi. Though it was not so." The source said about his charges.

"His parents are 70 and 68 years old. He mother suffers from MS. They have have sit in front of the Head of Judiciary's Office since 2 months ago and insist on their son's innocence." The source stated in the end.

(source: HRA News Agency)

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

More Than 12 Prisoners Scheduled For Execution The Coming Days

After a short break on the ocassion of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the executions have resumed in Iran. At least 12 prisoners are scheduled to be executed in 3 different Iranian prisons in the coming days.

According to Iran Human Rights' (IHR) sources 10-13 prisoners of Rajaishahr prison (Karaj, west of Tehran) have been transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for execution. The prisoners who are all convicted of murder were transferred to solitary confinement on Sunday July 10 and are scheduled to be executed on Wednesday (12-13 July).

6 of the prisoners are identified as: Saeed Javad, Hassan Ghadimi and Mohammad Akbari from Ward 1, Faribors Azizpour, Hassan Mahdilou and Seyed Mohammad Taheri from hall 3 of Section 10 of Rajaishahr prison.

According to information received by IHR one prison identified as "Hadi Pashaei" has been transferred to solitary confinement in the prison of Maragheh (Northwestern Iran) in preparation of execution in the coming days. He is allegedly convicted of drug-related charges and was arrested 6 years ago. Four other prisoners from the same prison, identified as "Vali Samani" and "Mehdi Samani" (brothers), "Mehdi Baziari" and "Masoud Ghasemzadeh" are scheduled to be executed in near future. Also these prisoners are convicted of drug-related charges.

Website of the "Human Rights Activists News Agency" (HRANA) reported yesterday that one prisoner identified as "Mehdi Pak Goftar" is scheduled to be executed in the prison of Ilam (western Iran). The prisoner is convicted of drug-related charges and the execution is scheduled for this week, said the report.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

NIGERIA:

Death penalty: Group hails Delta govt

A group, the Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE-Nigeria), has praised the decision of the Delta State House of Assembly to abolish death penalty for convicted kidnappers in the state.

The group's Executive Director, Sylvester Uhaa, who described CURE-Nigeria as "a justice/prison reforms and human rights organisation," called on the Senate and House of Representatives to take a cue from the state and drop the proposed legislation to impose capital punishment on kidnappers in the country.

Uhaa, in a statement in Abuja, noted that available data and lessons from other jurisdiction show that the death penalty does not deter crime.

"The death penalty is only an emotional and violent response to crime, which does not really solve crime, but perpetuate more violence and create more victims," Uhaa, an advocate for the universal abolishment of the death penalty and a Commonwealth Scholar in International Human Rights Law at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, said.

Uhaa urged the Federal Government to expunge capital punishment from it laws in line with the call of the Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), Ban Ki-moon on all countries to abolish the death penalty.

He called on stakeholders to address the causes of crime, such as unemployment, corruption, and exclusion of people as some of the ways to reduce the high rate of kidnapping and other crimes in the country.

(source: thenationonlineng.net)

INDONESIA:

The Perversity of Death Penalty

In 1 of the first scenes of Krzysztof Kieslowski's 1987 "A Short Film About Killing," a young lawyer paraphrases the words of Karl Marx: "Since the days of Cain, no punishment has ameliorated the world nor intimidated it from committing crimes."

Several years ago we showed it with friends from the Freedom Institute in Jakarta. The screening was a special one to me as it brought my thoughts back to Poland, where in the 1980s the reception of this film had generated the movement for the abolition of capital punishment. It became almost instantly an artistic commentary to the political reality.

In Jakarta, the film was just an excuse to discuss death penalty as such. We did not need to relate to politics, as back then Indonesia had de facto abolished capital punishment and none of us would expect that the moratorium would end in the process of democratisation in the country. This has recently been proven wrong.

We are all familiar with a variety of arguments against capital punishment: it fails to deter crimes, it sets vengeance as the priority of justice, it puts innocent lives at risk, it violates the right to live and much more. To each of these a counterargument will be found, the most powerful of which employs the word "retribution."

Retribution is the means to restore fairness and balance between burdens and benefits, whereby unfair advantage gained by the person who disrupted the balance would be taken away. That there is justice in retribution we might have to accept with common sense.

But with common sense we would inevitably accept that handing down death sentence in retentionist countries for a range of crimes, not just for murder, is by no means a retributive measure. Can the same be said about murder then?

It is not, unless serial murderers would, for each of their crimes, be tortured till near-death experience before the actual execution. But this is too cruel, isn't it? Would we do that? By our own hands? No? By whose hands then?

All of the methods of execution are obviously likely to cause enormous suffering. Even if at some point in history several of these methods had been considered "humane." And years after that they had proven to be exceptionally cruel.

Thus, quite naturally the debates over capital punishment usually turn to the application of the death penalty. Most of us, abolitionist or not, stand against cruel treatments, not only of people but generally of all sentient beings. What we do about it is another thing, yet by principle we are against it.

And so was the 18th century physician Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, who proposed the use of a machine later named after him, as a humanitarian way of putting an end to lives of people sentenced to death. He believed that the "simple mechanics" of guillotine lessened the cruelty of execution and saved the convicts from excruciating pain. It was a philanthropic machine aimed to serve the dignity of man.

Today the use of this once considered benevolent and progressive instrument is generally acknowledged a crime against humanity. Medical examinations upon which Albert Camus based his essay "Reflections on the Guillotine" (1957) have shown that death by decapitation is a slow process accompanied by unfathomable agony that lasts several minutes or even hours. Death is not immediate: intestines ripple, heart produces incomplete movements, muscles fibrillate, and eyes in the severed head remain clear.

The report that Camus quoted is much longer and, as he said, one cannot read it without blanching. Yet, while probably reinforcing our distaste against the application of the capital punishment, it does not touch the perversity of the death penalty itself. And neither did Camus in his other works, despite the acutely insightful abolitionist discourse he upheld since the publication of The Stranger (1942).

It took another great Frenchman to approach the death sentence in terms of a paradoxical finality. In 1999 to 2000 and 2000 to 2001 Jacques Derrida's seminars at Ecole des hautes Etudes en sciences sociales (EHESS) in Paris were devoted to the subject of death penalty. Since last year the 1st part of these seminars has been available in English as The Death Penalty, Volume I: The Seminars of Jacques Derrida.

Derrida sees death penalty as the only example of death whose instant is calculable by a machine, by all sorts of machines: the law, the penal code, the anonymous 3rd party, the calendar, the clock, the gallows, the syringe, the guillotine or other apparatus which puts an end to life.

The calculated decision by which life ends, paradoxically, is putting an end to finitude that belongs to life by its very nature. My life is finite but I do not know, I cannot know and I would rather not want to know when I am going to die.

Death penalty, the mechanically calculated moment of death, deprives one of life, but also of the experience of finitude, it takes control over time and future. Only a finite living being can have a future, be exposed to its uncertainty and incalculability.

In one of the last scenes of Kieslowski's Short Film About Killing, a prison guard interrupts the last conversation between the convict and his lawyer, "Sir, the prosecutor is asking if you are finished now." The lawyer stands up, approaches the guard and says, "Please tell the prosecutor that I will never say: now."

The perversity lies not in the execution of a death penalty, but in its very principle that claims mechanical and, thus, inhuman control over something essentially human.

(source: Commmentary; Natalia Laskowska is a PhD candidate from Leiden University and Jakarta Globe staff)

TAIWAN:

INTERVIEW: Fighting for the Innocent on Death Row in Taiwan

Edward White is an International Editor with The News Lens International.

Lin Hsin-yi, executive director the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty (TAEDP), believes that at least 3 people who are currently on death row in Taiwan are innocent.

The organization and the lawyers it works with have reviewed all of the judgments in which the death penalty has been handed down over the past 15 years. In addition to the 3 cases identified so far, Lin says there is reason to believe there have been many more miscarriages of justice.

In an interview with The News Lens International at TAEDP's Taipei office, Lin discusses the difficulties activists and lawyers have in gaining access to case records, why pressure from local activists and international diplomats has failed to change government policy, and details TAEDP's new strategy for influencing the government.

The News Lens International (TNLI): To start with, how many people in Taiwan currently face the death penalty?

Lin Hsin-yi: Right now there are 41 death row inmates, where the death sentence was confirmed. If the Minister of Justice signs the execution order, they can be executed at any time.

TNLI: What is the process that the Minister of Justice takes, after a final Supreme Court decision, before signing an execution order?

L.H-Y: There is no law to say that he or she has to sign the execution order. The only rule is if he or she signs the order, the execution must take place within 3 days.

There is no law that says once the sentence is finalized then the execution must happen. The Minister of Justice, he or she can decide not to sign the execution order.

TNLI: I would like to come back to the current Minister of Justice later on, but first can you talk about how Taiwan uses the death penalty in comparison to other countries in Asia?

L.H-Y: We just went to Oslo for the 6th World Congress Against the Death Penalty - the biggest congress for abolitionists. People think that in Taiwan the situation is not so bad compared to Southeast Asia or even Japan, because the execution number is not increasing - maybe it's decreasing a little - and we don't use the death penalty for drugs and terrorism.

TNLI: Just to clarify, that is because under international law, the death penalty should only be for the most serious harmful crimes, and drugs aren't considered part of that?

L.H-Y: Yes, that is right.

Transparency in Asia is not good - not only in Japan and Taiwan, but also Southeast Asian countries. We don't know much about the death row inmates. For example, in Taiwan and Japan, the government will not tell the family or the lawyer when the execution will happen. In Southeast Asia, it is very difficult for them to meet with death row inmates.

For us, we have had a moratorium for 4 years. You can see that from 2000 - when power switched for the 1st time from KMT to DPP - the president, Chen Shui-bian, first announced Taiwan is going to abolish the death penalty gradually. The moratorium started in 2006. In 2008, Ma Ying jeou said that Taiwan would follow the international human rights standards. In 2009, we passed the 2 [international] covenants, so that it become our domestic law. From that trend, Taiwan was going towards abolishing the death penalty.

According to the [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights], if a country ratifies the ICCPR it means that you are going towards abolishing the death penalty. Currently, in Taiwan, the politicians will say 'the ICCPR says we can only use the death penalty for the most serious crimes, but it did not say we could not execute people.'

It is very ironic. We have already had a moratorium and signed the ICCPR. The government had given a commitment. But then, after that, the executions reopened in 2010.

TLNI: Obviously, the public sentiment over crime was a factor when the executions restarted. What is your view on why the majority of Taiwanese support capital punishment?

L.H-Y: Actually, we did a public opinion survey in 2014. You can see that there is a problem with the surveys; mostly, they make a phone call and ask one or 2 questions about whether you support the death penalty. Usually, this kind of survey takes place after some serious crime. Of course, most people will say 'I support the death penalty.'

We decided to survey with [Academia Sinica]. We interviewed more than 2,000 people, with a very long questionnaire. The major finding is: if people have more information about the death penalty, they will be more against it.

My view on: 'Why does the public want the death penalty so badly?' It is because the government did not provide more information. The government says, 'We cannot abolish the death penalty because of public opinion.' But from my view, the public opinion is not 'we want the death penalty.' If you analyze the survey very carefully, you will understand that public opinion is more complicated. The government should do the research and give an alternative to the public. They haven't tried to have a strategy, a policy, a real alternative.

TNLI: Following the release of your survey results, has there been growth in support for the death penalty abolition movement in Taiwan?

L.H-Y: We released the survey at an international conference, and we plan to release more analysis on it, but it is not published yet. We did provide the information to the Minister of Justice, but the impact was not big.

Our plan for next year is to have more grassroots, local discussions about this. For the people around Taiwan, most people they don't really think about this question. We will have 30 or 40 events all over Taiwan. We will go to places where maybe they haven't had this kind of discussion before. We will not just discuss "should we have the death penalty or not," we will discuss the alternatives - like life sentence without parole, or life sentence with the chance of parole after 25 years. From the survey, we know that if people have an alternative, they will choose that.

Right now, we are discussing how to make the survey easier to understand. We don't want to publish an academic book. It is a pity that the release of that report didn't have much impact on the government or the public, but we will use the survey to do more.

TNLI: We have gone from the KMT to the DPP-led government, they have only been in charge for a short time, but what are the early signals from the DPP on this issue?

L.H-Y: The Minister of Justice, Chiu Tai-san, has not said anything clearly [on this issue]. He seems more focused on prison reform and the national judicial reform.

Of course the President and the Minister of Justice are important, because they have power, but we also have a new congress. I think the new lawmakers are much more willing to deal with these questions - maybe not [the question of] abolishing the death penalty right now, but they will consider prison reform and the alternatives [to the death penalty].

TNLI: You mentioned judicial reform. In terms of how this applies to the death penalty, have there been miscarriages of justice in Taiwan, and if so what are the problems in the system that causes these results?

L.H-Y: Last year we reviewed all the [Supreme Court] death penalty judgments from 2000, 75 cases and 68 judgments - in some cases there were 2 death row inmates.

Right now we are working on three cases - within the 41 current death row inmates - and we believe they are innocent.

Chiou Ho-shun, he was in detention for 23 years then his death penalty was confirmed in 2011. He is now 56, which means 1/2 his life he has been in prison, for a crime we believe he didn't commit. The Control Yuan, [Taiwan's ombudsman], says that the police tortured him. There are records of the torture - no one can believe it, but it happened, it is very serious.

Another case is Cheng Hsing-tse. He was charged with [the 2002] killing a policeman in KTV [karaoke bar]. We found evidence he too was tortured. This year his lawyers asked for a retrial, and that was successful. It is now in the retrial process, so the case is basically reopened. This time the prosecutors are on our side, they believe he is innocent too.

TNLI: If the prosecutors now think he is innocent, who is making the case against him, how is there a retrial?

L.H-Y: It is something new for us, too. This is a very strange situation, the prosecutors and [defense] lawyer are on the same side. But the victims' families have lawyers.

TNLI: And the victims' families still want to prosecute?

L.H-Y: Yes. For them, if was not Cheng Hsing-tse, then who? They have believed for 14 years that he murdered the policeman. We hope that from the court hearing and the evidence we provide, maybe they will understand.

TNLI: And the 3rd case?

L.H-Y: The 3rd is Hsieh Chih-hung. There were 2 offenders, and they were both sentenced to death. We don't think there is enough evidence to show they committed the crime together, but he was at the crime scene, he was there.

This case is weaker than the other 2. The first 2 have very clear evidence of torture, but the 3rd one the torture is not so clear. We have found out some things, but it is a more difficult case.

TNLI: So you have suspicions he was tortured during the interrogation?

L.H-Y: Yes, but in the 1st case we have the [audio] record, the 2nd we have the photos and the doctor's records, the 3rd one is not so clear.

TNLI: These are 3 cases out of 41, and you mentioned earlier the difficulty in accessing people on death row. Looking around this office, you have 3 full-time employees and some interns. You obviously don't have endless resources to look at all the cases. Do you think that if you could look closely at other cases you find more issues as well?

L.H-Y: Yes. Let me explain a little of our background. We were formed in 2003, there were only volunteers. Since 2006, we have co-operated with the Legal Aid Foundation, and since then we have had more information about the cases. We know their names, we know where they are and we started to communicate with the death row inmates.

In 2007, we had our 1st fulltime staff, me. The way we work is, when we have a case we find a lawyer and money is paid by the Legal Aid Foundation - not very much, but it helps.

If we can start to help them from the beginning, then maybe the decision of the trial will not be so bad. But because of our resources, we can only help the urgent ones when they are facing execution, and the lawyers can help them with a constitutional review, or a retrial or an ordinary appeal.

Recently, we have done more lawyer training. In Taiwan, the lawyers do not do a lot of training in international law.

And now we try to work on the cases from the start of the process. If we see a murder in the news, we try to connect with the Legal Aid Foundation to see if [the accused] has a lawyer. If he doesn't have a lawyer, we try to arrange a team of 3 lawyers to work on the case.

We hope that if we work from the beginning then we will not have a death sentence.

TNLI: So you are able to offer better support to the more recent cases?

L.H-Y: Yes. But still we right now, for every confirmed [death penalty] case, we have a lawyer to review the older files.

But some cases are very old, we try to get files from the Ministry of Justice but [the files] are not good enough. Some lawyers want more records and information about investigations - [audio] records of interrogations. The papers may say everything is good, but if you listen to the sound recording it is different.

TNLI: The lawyers are finding differences between the written records and what was actually said? And the Ministry of Justice won't provide all the original recordings?

L.H-Y: Some [requests for recordings] were successful, some were not. For the lawyers who are dealing with the old cases, it is not that easy to find enough information to prove a case was wrong.

I believe there are a few cases that have a chance [the accused] was innocent, but we don't have enough information.

Of course, there are other cases where they are not innocent, but still the death sentence is not the sentence for them. So we can still find a lot of problems in the old cases.

TNLI: You have these 41 cases, and at any time, essentially, the Minister of Justice could sign the execution warrants. Under the previous Minister of Justice, who was pushing these death warrants and why?

L.H-Y: You must know Cheng Chieh, the MRT case, and the execution.

When a final death sentence is confirmed, normally there will be time for the lawyers to appeal. For the MRT case, when the Supreme Court gave the final decision of the death sentence it issued a press release [leading to the death warrant signed and the execution quickly carried out]. Usually, it takes more than 10 days or one month, and then, when the lawyer gets the final judgment, they can do something.

I don't think there is really public pressure. Of course someone will say, 'He should be executed immediately.'

TNLI: This is the victims' families, their lawyers?

L.H-Y: No, just people. This was the 1st time this kind of case happened in Taiwan, so people are worried about it. For other cases - murder over money, arguments, love - we know the reason. For the MRT case, we don't know the reason.

TNLI: These are the so-called random killings?

L.H-Y: Yes, people are worried about that. So people say the trial must be quick and he must be sentenced to death and executed.

At this time though, we knew there was a new Minister of Justice coming in one month. [Then-minister] Luo Ying-shay ] did not have to do this.

TNLI: The criticism at the time was Luo was trying to gain popular support, so the final decision in these cases has become politicized?

L.H-Y: Yes. It was not necessary for her; she has no chance to be appointed to any [future] position from the government.

In the other executions, when a case is finalized there is a prosecutor in the Ministry of Justice who will give the suggestion to the Minister of Justice that one should be executed.

You can see from 2010 to 2015, every year we have 1 execution [round] where 4 of 5 people are executed. There is always a political reason. It is always following a political issue - Ma Ying-jeou wanting to save his public support.

TNLI: Do you think, given public support for executions, this will make it difficult for the new minister of justice?

L.H-Y: In Europe, they abolished the death penalty because of political will. At that time, the public opinion supported the death penalty, but the politicians led. In Taiwan, this is impossible, because the politicians will not go against public opinion, because they are so afraid of losing votes.

This is why we really want to talk to the public. We know that only public opinion can help us to impact the politicians. But right now, about 80% of people support the death penalty. But as I say, if they have an alternative they may change their opinion. That is why we are trying to discuss with the public to change their ideas.

TNLI: Every time there is an execution the European Union representatives in Taiwan and others in the international community write papers and try to lobby the government. What impact does that have?

L.H-Y: I think it helps. Take the 2010 executions. At that time, the Minister of Justice, Tseng Yung-fu, executed 4 people and said he was going to execute 44. Then the E.U. lobbied and used all the diplomatic tools, and then it was stopped at four, not 44. I think it really helped.

Maybe after that, each time the affect is not so strong because the government gets used to it. Still, if the E.U. said nothing about this, I think the [Ma] government would have executed more people.

They are not only critical of the government, but they try to help. They have judicial exchange programmes with our judges, which I think is very good. Judges won't listen to lawyers or NGOs, but they will listen to other judges.

TNLI: Finally, after the most recent of the so-called "random" killings, some commentators pointed to issues surrounding how mental health is treated in the judicial system. Do you think this is also important in discussions about the death penalty in Taiwan?

L.H-Y: Yes. We do training to help the lawyers to argue this issue in the court. But right now judgments on mental issues are not very consistent; there are 2 opposite opinions on this from the court.

Another problem is the testing of mental problems. So we are trying to talk to the doctors and to the lawyers and try to discuss what the best way is to approach this issue.

(source: thenewslens.com)

JULY 11, 2016:

PENNSYLVANIA:

Parents Torture 3-Year-Old Son To Death For One Simple Reason

Gruesome details have emerged about the death of 3-year-old Scott McMillan. Last week he was found unresponsive in his family's trailer, covered in cuts, bruises and puncture wounds. McMillian's mother Jillian Tait, her boyfriend Gary Fellenbaum and his wife Amber Fellenbaum were arrested in connection with the death. Jillian and Gary have been charged with murdering McMillian and Amber was charged with child endangerment.

"Little Scotty McMillan is dead. Over a 3 day period ... he was systematically tortured and beaten to death. He was punched in the face and in the stomach. He was scourged with a homemade whip. He was lashed with a metal rod. He was tied to a chair and beaten. He was tied upside down by his feet and beaten. His head was smashed through a wall," said Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan.

Authorities said they;d never seen a child abuse murder like this.The brutal torture and murder of Scott McMillan began when he refused to eat his breakfast.

Gary and Jillian confessed to the murder during police questioning. They beat the boy to death using a homemade whip, a curtain rod, and an aluminum strip. Scott was hit with both sharp and blunt objects, taped to a chair with electrical tape and beaten, hung up by his feet and beaten, which led to his death.

Scott's life was a short and violent one, according to his mother. Scott and his 6-year-old brother, who is now safely in the custody of a family member, were routinely beaten with closed fists. On one occasion, Gary tied the boys up by their feet and beat them while Jillian and his wife Amber laughed as they watched.

Hogan announced that the district attorney's office will be seeking the death penalty for Jillian and Gary.

(source: opposingviews.com)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Buncombe DA will seek death penalty for man charged in triple murder of Johnson, Diz, King

News 13 has learned Buncombe county District Attorney Todd Williams will seek the death penalty for Pierre Griffin, the man charged in the triple murder of Uhon Johnson, Alexandra King, and Tatianna Diz.

Griffin will appear in superior court Monday at 2 p.m. for what's called a Rule 24 hearing. This hearing is where the DA puts it on record if he intends to file for the death penalty in the case.

Griffin's attorney Keith Hanson confirmed to News 13 that he has been in communication with the DA's office, and believes that is what will happen Monday. "Mr. Williams' office has kept the lines of communication open with us, and we greatly appreciate that," said Hanson.

Danny Meehan, Tatiana Diz's father, said the family was aware the DA was going to file for the death penalty.

"My family is all for it," said Meehan by phone from Baltimore, where he lives. "When it goes to trial, we will all be there."

Meehan confirmed the Rule 24 hearing was supposed to take place in February but was delayed. Attorney Keith Hanson, who represents Griffin, said he had a triple murder case in Catawba county, and had requested the delay several months ago.

Griffin is accused of killing Uhon Johnson, Alexandra King and Tatianna Diz on October 27 of last year. Johnson's body was found inside his apartment that night.

Later that evening, several law enforcement agencies captured Griffin after a car chase.

Investigators believe he also killed King and Diz that same night, and dumped their bodies into the French Broad River.

(source: WLOS news)

GEORGIA----impending execution

Georgia set to execute 6th inmate this year

An execution scheduled for Thursday would be the 6th in Georgia this year. That would be the most executions the state has carried out in a calendar year since the death penalty was reinstated 4 decades ago.

John Wayne Conner is scheduled to die at the state prison in Jackson. He was convicted of beating his friend, J.T. White, to death 34 years ago in Dodge County during an argument after a night of drinking and marijuana use. Conner is now 60.

Georgia has executed 5 people in a calendar year twice -- last year and in 1987 -- since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

There have been a total of 14 executions nationwide this year, s6 in Texas, 5 in Georgia and 1 each in Alabama, Florida and Missouri.

(source: news4jax.com)

LOUISIANA:

Case against New Orleans mother accused of killing her 2 small children in 2012 remains in limbo

Accused child killer Chelsea Thornton sat quietly last week in the jury box of an Orleans Parish courtroom, where nothing happened with her case.

It's been like that for nearly 2 years.

Thornton faces a pair of 1st-degree murder charges for killing her 2 young children in their rat- and roach-infested Gert Town apartment on Oct. 17, 2012.

The death penalty remains on the table, a spokesman for District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro's office said.

Yet nobody appears in any rush to see Thornton tried for the double killing, which she admitted to police in a chilling taped confession, describing it as a mercy killing.

"I did the best I could for them, but I just, I didn't want them to go from pillar to post their whole life like I did," she told police. "It's not right."

In grim detail, Thornton described talking to her frightened children before she shot 3-year-old Kendall, then drowned him and 4-year-old Kelsey in the tub when the gun jammed.

"So I just gave them a hug and a kiss, and I said, 'I love y'all very much.'"

The tape was played in court in October 2014, a month after 2 mental health experts hired by the defense found that Thornton was legally insane at the time of the killings.

Cannizzaro's office then hired a different expert to conduct his own review. Dr. Michael Blue, a forensic psychiatrist, interviewed Thornton twice, in July and August of last year, court records show. But he has yet to submit his report, leaving the case in legal limbo, with no trial date set.

The case is on its 3rd set of prosecutors. It is now assigned to Laura Cannizzaro Rodrigue and Tiffany Tucker.

Christopher Bowman, the spokesman for Cannizzaro's office, declined to discuss the delay or Blue's pending report, citing office policy.

Blue did not return messages about the case.

Thornton's attorney, former district attorney candidate Lionel "Lon" Burns, said he fears his client is "going to end up back in a mental hospital."

"Only so many times I can tell her we're waiting on a report," Burns said. "Ms. Thornton is still in Orleans Parish Prison. She's been sitting back there, and the case is going nowhere fast."

Thornton has entered dual pleas of not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity. Burns said he needs Blue's report to prepare for a trial in which a jury would ultimately decide her insanity claim. A verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity would send Thornton to a state hospital for as long as Criminal District Court Judge Robin Pittman or a successor would see fit.

Burns said he presumes Blue's report will say Thornton was sane - that she knew right from wrong - when she killed her children.

Thornton was arrested within hours after a relative discovered the 2 small bodies in the tub, and she quickly admitted to the killings.

She has a lengthy history of mental illness, having been diagnosed at various times with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia with psychotic episodes, as well as depression. Hospital records showed she had been off her medication for several months before the killings.

Her relatives and advocates have described the children's deaths as a grisly reminder of wide fissures in the city's mental health care framework.

Forensic psychiatrists Dr. Sarah Deland and Dr. James McConville found Thornton was legally insane when she picked up Kendall and Kelsey from school, fed them, told them she loved them and killed them, according to her own account.

Thornton was "almost getting catatonic on that day," Deland testified. "She feared for their future and thought going to heaven was the best thing for them."

Within a few months of Thornton's January 2013 indictment, Pittman ordered her to a state hospital despite having found her competent to stand trial, which is a separate determination from the question of her sanity at the time of the killings.

The Louisiana Department of Health appealed, and a 4th Circuit Court of Appeal panel ordered Thornton back to Orleans Parish in July 2013, finding Pittman had no authority to order her hospitalization.

"This is not to say that should Ms. Thornton decompensate on multiple occasions while in the sheriff’s custody, making her again unfit for trial, that it may not at some point in the future be appropriate to direct that she remain in the treatment facility until her trial," the appeals panel wrote.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Aug. 16.

(source: The Advocate)

USA:

Practically Speaking, The Death Penalty Is Disappearing In The United States----Although nearly 3,000 people are on death row in America, there has not been an execution in the country for 2 months - and few executions are expected in the coming months.

It has been 2 months since any state in the United States has carried out an execution.

This marks the longest time between executions in the U.S. since the Supreme Court effectively halted them in the fall of 2007 through spring 2008 while considering a case about the constitutionality of lethal injection.

This time, the situation is very different. Although there are pending court cases about the death penalty's application, the source of the 2-month stoppage in executions isn't the Supreme Court. It's a variety of state-specific issues, ranging from the aftermath of Supreme Court rulings that come down earlier this year to drug availability to fallout from botched executions.

The pause on executions - since it is state-specific - won't last forever. The stoppage could end as soon as Thursday if an execution scheduled for Georgia goes ahead as planned.

It isn't, however, only that there have been no executions in the past 2 months. This year, there have been fewer executions overall - just 14 in the first half of the year - than in years past. It's extremely unlikely, moreover, that the number will be higher in the 2nd half of the year.

There are, in fact, only 3 states - Georgia, Missouri, and Texas - that have executed anyone since January of this year. What's more, these states appear to be the only ones that could hold an execution today - despite the nearly 3,000 people on death row across the country. The only other state where executions still seem to be a possibility this year is Arkansas, and that is only so if the state obtains a new supply of execution drugs - which is by no means a sure thing.

Before the 2007-08 gap in executions, the next most recent time when there was such a gap was nearly 25 years ago, when there were no executions held between Nov. 12, 1991, and Jan. 22, 1992. Even then, the stoppage is not entirely comparable to the current one because there often have been shorter periods with no executions surrounding the holiday season. Gaps prior to then were more common, but they were due to the fact the states were still passing and implementing their execution process in the wake of the Supreme Court's 1976 decision approving execution statutes after a nationwide ruling against the death penalty laws 4 years earlier.

In short, this is an unprecedented moment in the modern era of the death penalty. Why, in the absence of any overarching federal prohibition on executions, is this so?

The death penalty itself remains constitutional - and the justices recently declined to hear a handful of death-row inmates' cases asking the justices to revisit that question.

In the vast majority of states, executions just aren't a practical reality today - either because the death penalty itself is barred or because functional issues prevent states from carrying out executions. Executions are either banned by law, halted by executive action, barred from happening by court oversight, or unable to happen because the state lacks the drugs to conduct executions. In some states, an overlapping number of these apply.

Georgia, which last held an execution in April, is the next state slated to hold an execution in the U.S. John Connor, who killed a man in a drunken brawl more than 30 years ago, is scheduled to be executed on Thursday. He would be the state's 6th execution of the year.

The state put executions on hold in March 2015 following the scheduled execution of Kelly Gissendaner was canceled after the state discovered problems with drugs intended for use later that day. But, after reviewing what happened in March with the drugs, Georgia resumed executions at the end of September by carrying out Gissendaner's execution. Since then, it has held executions regularly. Even if Connor's execution goes forward, however, it is not clear whether the state will hold other executions this year.

Texas, living up to its reputation, remains the most active death penalty state. Nonetheless, this past week, even Texas announced an execution delay. The state will not be executing Perry Williams this week after lab results regarding the purity of the drugs to be used in his execution were not obtained in enough time to proceed with the execution.

"Perry Williams and another death row offender filed a lawsuit regarding lethal injection. The Attorney General's Office agreed to have the particular dose that was to be used on him tested shortly before his execution," Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesperson Jason Clark told BuzzFeed News. "Because the testing results were not completed in time, the state district court withdrew the execution order."

Clark told the Houston Chronicle, however, that the state has a sufficient supply of execution drugs for several upcoming executions that already have been scheduled.

Missouri, which has been a very active death penalty state in recent years, has conducted only one execution this year - the most recent execution in the U.S. - when it executed Earl Forrest on May 11. It has a simple reason for having slowed down its rate of executions: It has executed the people whose cases were in a posture that they could be executed. Although the state still has about 2 dozen people on death row, most are early enough in the post-conviction process or have other reasons to believe that execution dates will not be set for them in the near future. It has no scheduled executions on the books at this time.

Florida and Alabama are the only other 2 states that have conducted an execution in 2016 - each executed 1 person in January of this year.

For now, however, their executions are on hold as they deal with the Supreme Court's decision striking down Florida's death sentencing law. The court held in the January decision in Hurst v. Florida that Florida's death sentencing scheme was unconstitutional because the state relied on "a judge's fact-finding" and not "a jury's verdict" to sentence a person to death. The court returned Hurst's case to the Florida courts and the state's supreme court is considering his and several other cases raising issues about the effect of the ruling.

Although Alabama officials have maintained that their system is distinct from Florida's system, the overlap in the death sentencing laws was enough that the Supreme Court remanded a handful of Alabama cases to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, asking that court to reconsider the death sentences in light of Hurst.

In Arizona, Ohio, and Oklahoma, botched executions - or, in Oklahoma's case, a botched execution, followed by an execution performed using a wrong drug, followed by a 2nd scheduled execution in which the wrong drug would have been used but for a doctor catching the issue at the last minute - have halted new executions. In addition, both Ohio and Arizona have had difficulties obtaining new execution drugs.

After the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma in 2014, inmates, including Richard Glossip, took a case about the state's execution method all the way to the Supreme Court. And while the court upheld Oklahoma's 3-drug execution protocol including the use of the sedative midazolam, the state has moved on to a different protocol. When the state attempted to execute Glossip under that protocol, the doctor overseeing the execution determined the state had received the wrong drug and the execution, eventually, was called off. Later, the state revealed they had used the wrong drug in an execution earlier in the year.

A damning grand jury report was released in May about the state's handling of executions, and while there were no criminal charges resulting from the investigation, it is clear that there will be no executions in the state for some time.

Arizona has not held an execution for the past 2 years, when it took the state nearly two hours to execute Joseph Wood. Earlier this year, when it obtained some necessary drugs to conduct executions again, it attempted to get court permission to do so before the drugs were due to expire, but a federal judge denied their request. The state, along with Texas, also attempted to import illegal execution drugs from India last year, but the FDA has detained the drugs. In June, the state acknowledged that its inability to secure additional execution drugs means it has no intention to conduct any executions for the time being.

Ohio has not held an execution since it executed Dennis McGuire in January 2014, during which a witness said he "struggled and gasped audibly for air." The state, BuzzFeed News has previously reported, has considered importing drugs from India, but does not appear to have done so and the state has repeatedly moved execution dates back. At this point, the state's next scheduled execution is on Jan. 12, 2017, but there could be further delays.

3 other states have either attempted to move forward with executions or have conducted an execution recently. The 2 that tried - Arkansas and Mississippi - have been unsuccessful at doing so thus far, and the 1 that conducted an execution - Virginia - has no plans to proceed with another in the near future.

At the end of June, Arkansas won a court ruling that would have allowed it to proceed with executions for the 1st time in more than a decade, but its supply of execution drugs expired before the court ruling went into effect. It is not clear whether the state will be able to obtain more execution drugs or whether it will set additional execution dates.

Mississippi, which has not held an execution since 2012, had been attempting to begin executions again, but a stay of execution had been in place for several months through February of this year. Although the stay was lifted, lawsuits challenging the state's execution protocol continue in several courts and lawyers for death-row inmates don't expect any execution dates to be set by the state's supreme court while the litigation is pending.

Virginia has executed 3 people over the past 5 years. The state's 1 execution in the past 3 years was conducted with drugs it was provided by Texas. It has seven people remaining on death row, and no apparent plans to set execution dates at this time.

In the remaining states, executions are few and - especially in recent years - far between.

Depending on where the follow-up litigation goes relating to Hurst goes, three additional states - Delaware, Nebraska, and Montana - could find their way into the middle of post-Hurst fallout. Along with Florida and Alabama, they are the only states remaining that allow a non-unanimous jury to sentence a person to death. The issue was discussed at oral argument in Hurst, but it did not play a part in the ruling.

In addition to all of this, Delaware's supreme court is already considering the continued constitutionality of its statute in state court in light of Hurst.

Nebraska, meanwhile, is in the midst of a referendum campaign after the legislature repealed the death penalty over the governor's veto in 2015. The governor, who is backing the referendum effort, nonetheless has agreed not to proceed with attempting any executions until after the referendum vote.

Montana's most recent execution was nearly a decade ago, and only 2 people remain on the state's death row. Last fall, in a case challenging the state's intended use of pentobarbital in its 3-drug execution protocol, a state court judge issued a stay on executions that remains in effect.

Several other states with large death-row populations are not active, for varying reasons, in carrying out executions.

California has, by far, the largest death-row population in the country at 743 people as of Jan. 1, but there is no court-approved execution protocol and key statewide officials oppose capital punishment as a policy - although they maintain they will enforce the law as is. The state is in the process of considering a new execution protocol, but no executions are likely in the near future.

Pennsylvania's death row stood at 180 people as of Jan. 1, but its governor, Tom Wolf, has, in effect, issued a moratorium on executions by granting continual reprieves to death-row inmates.

In 2015, North Carolina passed the Restoring Proper Justice Act in an attempt to help restart executions in a state that has not held an execution in nearly a decade and had more than 150 people on death row as of Jan. 1 of this year. Despite the new law, most involved in the process there say that ongoing litigation means they don't expect executions to resume in the state any time soon.

Louisiana has only conducted two executions in the past 15 years, and while it has more than 80 people on death row, it has no executions scheduled and the next court update in ongoing litigation is not scheduled to take place until January 2018.

In addition to Pennsylvania, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington also have governor-imposed moratoriums on executions.

The remaining states with a death penalty law on the books are Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Wyoming. None of these states have conducted an execution in the past 4 years. The most recent 2 executions from these states were both in Idaho - in November 2011 and June 2012. 2 of the states - Kansas and New Hampshire - have not carried out a single execution since the death penalty was reauthorized in 1976. There is, of course, a federal death penalty - and more than 60 people are on the federal death row - but the federal government has only carried out three executions in the modern era of the death penalty and will not be carrying out another one any time soon.

New Mexico's death penalty was abolished in 2009, but 2 people remain on death row from sentences handed down prior to then. Even before abolition, the state had only conducted one execution since 1976.

The 18 remaining states and Washington, D.C., do not have the death penalty.

(source: Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, D.C)

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The 40th anniversary of the modern death penalty

This month marks the 40th anniversary of the return of the death penalty. From 1972 to 1976 America was without capital punishment. In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Furman v. Georgia. The court ruled that the death penalty was unconstitutional, violating the Eighth Amendment ban against cruel and unusual punishment.

At the time, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart wrote, "These death sentences are cruel and unusual in the same way that being struck by lightning is cruel and unusual." A year earlier, the justices had upheld the constitutionality of the death penalty under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. According to The Marshall Project, Furman seemed headed in the same direction until Stewart struck a deal with Justice Byron White, who'd been on the fence about the death penalty. Stewart agreed to abandon his moral statement against the death penalty and would instead say that the problem with capital punishment was excessive arbitrariness. The deal resulted in a surprising 5-4 decision overturning the death penalty.

The decision forced state legislatures to review the death penalty and eliminate the arbitrary, capricious and racially discriminatory aspects of capital punishment. The Court suggested that states establish criteria to direct and limit the circumstances in which the death penalty would apply and to overhaul the sentencing process.

In July 1976, the U.S. Supreme Court in Gregg v. Georgia, found that 3 of 5 states that amended their death penalty statute - Georgia, Florida and Texas - did conform to the directives of Furman. The death penalty was back.

The 1st man executed after Gregg was Gary Gilmore of Utah. Gilmore wanted to be executed, and the state of Utah granted his wish. He was executed by firing squad on January 17, 1977. Since Gilmore, more than 1,400 men and women have been executed nationwide. Texas alone is responsible for more than 1/3 of those executions.

Executions steadily increased through the 1990s and then began to recede again to the present. Public support for the death penalty reached its lowest point in 1966, when only 42 % of Americans supported the death penalty. During the 1990s as crime rates soared, support for the death penalty rose to as high as 80 percent. Since then, support for the death penalty has remained steady just above 60 %, according to Gallup.

Executions are at the lowest level in decades. In the 1st half of 2016 there were 14 executions. Those executions occurred in Texas (6), Georgia (5), Alabama (1), Florida (1) and Missouri (1).

There are 7 executions planned for the rest of the year, all in Texas according to the Death Penalty Information Center. 21 executions would be the fewest since 1992 when there were 14 executions and a fraction of the 98 executions carried out in 1999.

Between 1973 and 2013, only 16.1 % of people sentenced to death were ultimately executed. In other words, the chance of being executed - among defendants sentenced to death - is only about 1 in 6. The probability of receiving the death penalty in the U.S. is miniscule. The Centers for Disease Control reported 16,121 homicides in 2013. There were 39 executions - an execution rate of approximately a quarter of one percent.

The decision in Gregg failed in limiting the circumstances in which the penalty may be applied. A California study found that 87 % of murders are potentially eligible for the death penalty under the state's definitions. In Colorado, the rate is 91.1 %.

My book, "The Executioner's Toll 2010: The Crimes, Arrests, Trials, Appeals, Last Meals, Final Words and Executions of 46 Persons in the United States," examined every execution in 2010. My research led to the conclusion that the death penalty was once again arbitrary.

Arbitrary - as it was in 1972 - in the manner in which it is imposed. And today, arbitrary in the manner in which it is carried out. 21, or fewer, executions in a single year out of a pool of nearly 3,000 men and women on death row is certainly arbitrary and capricious.

(source: Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book, "The Executioner's Toll, 2010," was recently released by McFarland Publishing----Pekin Daily Times)

BOTSWANA:

Death row 'hit men' plead for justice ---- 2 death row inmates have pleaded with the Court of Appeal (CoA) to overturn their fate with their maker arguing that they were never the masterminds behind the killing of an innocent old man in 2008.

In an emotionally charged court appearance yesterday the duo, Daniel Semi (30) and Gaolatlhe Thusang (35) through their respective lawyers called on the bench to consider the circumstances leading to the killing of 1 Motlhanka Motukwa in what was described as a motive for financial stimulus.

The duo, who hail from Ntlhantlhe in the Southern District, were condemned to death in 2010 by Lobatse High Court Judge Michael Leburu despite pronouncement by Judge Tshepo Motswagole that the death penalty was unconstitutional.

Leburu had squashed the declaration by Motswagole and proceeded to sentence the 2 to death and according to evidence that was before court, they were hired as hitmen by their co-accused at the time, Agisanyang Motukwa.

Agisanyang was said to have hired the 2 to kill his father after believing he was bewitching him. They had pleaded not guilty to the charge of murder.

Semi's lawyer Dumezweni Mthimkhulu in his submissions said he was not happy that his client received the harshest sentence while the principal mastermind behind the killing walked away with murder.

He said the court should serve justice by ordering a retrial or at least meting a lesser sentence to the duo because they were never the masterminds from the beginning to the end when they murdered the old man.

With emotions running high and often reminded by the bench to calm down, Mthimkhulu explained there was extensive planning from the mastermind Agisanyang and accomplice witness, Modise Sekai to murder the old man at a particular time and that his client was only roped in to do the dirty work following their recruitment by Sekai.

"The principal masterminds should have been the ones receiving the harshest punishment, it is not fair that they had a custodial sentence while those who did not even plan to kill were given death sentences; a retrial would at least allow the convicts to be satisfied that they had been given a fair trial," he argued.

He submitted that there was no evidence that his client benefited from the money they were promised as hitmen but only that they were made to believe that the old man was bewitching his son.

"Motukwa as the principal mastermind had such an influence on them and had made them believe that his father was bewitching him.

With the little education that they had, they believed and looked up to him, that's when even when they were recruited they never asked any questions. There is no evidence that they benefited from the criminal act," Mthimkhulu said.

On the evidence of the accomplice witness that was used to convict the 2, Mthimkhulu said the court erred in holding that he was a credible witness as the evidence demonstrated that he was an unreliable witness and a liar in many respects.

He said the accomplice had even admitted to court to have lied on other issues but nonetheless the court formed the opinion that he gave evidence in a simple and in a straightforward manner.

"The trial court never dealt with the contradictory evidence of the accomplice witness even though he had admitted to have made up certain things. What else did he lie about? Yet his testimony was used to convict our clients," he submitted.

Thusang's lawyer Moses Kayde who appeared emotionally charged and often clashed with the judges in his submissions called for a lesser sentence saying even the cause of death was unascertained by the pathologist therefore making the conviction of the two not safe. He submitted that since the pathologist has explained in findings and given 2 scenarios about the body, the court should not have blindly accepted his evidence but should have decided for itself.

Kayde argued that there were also extenuating circumstances that the two were brainwashed to believe that the old man was bewitching his son since they too believed in witchcraft.

"The first appellant was the instigating force behind and he even brainwashed the 2 to completely believe in him and believe that he was being bewitched; they only acted on that basis," he maintained.

State lawyer, Rahim Khan had a tough time pleasing the judges about Agisanyang's lucky escape of 25 years while he was the mastermind behind the killing of his father.

After failing to convince the judge and trying to justify the duo's death sentence, Khan said it was all up the judges to decide the suitable punishment for the 2.

"Even though I maintain that the 2 are guilty and have acted to kill the old man, its all up to Your Lordships to interfere with the sentence and decide what is best," he said.

Meanwhile Agisanyang (34) who is said to have hired the 2 hitmen for insurance money also appeared in person as he tried to overturn his conviction and sentence.

Having submitted a lengthy heads of argument the court only allowed him a minimal time in which he asked the court to take into account that at the time he was said to have confessed to killing his father, he was not under the right state of mind.

He asked the bench to take into consideration the evidence of the traditional doctor that at the time he looked to have been mentally unstable.

"The traditional doctor should be taken as a person of authority and that his evidence should be taken into account as at the time he was my doctor and I had confessed to him," he said.

(source: Mmegi.bw)

INDIA:

Teenager seeks death penalty for mother in India----Woman accused of hiring killers to murder husband

A teenager in Bihar has sought the death penalty for his mother after she was accused of hiring a contract killer to kill her husband, officials said on Monday.

The accused woman, along with the contract killers, are being held in custody.

The man was allegedly killed over an extramarital affair his wife had with a youth.

"My father loved us a lot but my mother got him killed. I will never forgive her. I want death for my mother," the teenager, identified as Sunny Kumar, said on Monday.

It was left to the young man to performed the last rites of his father Ashok Kumar Singh, a painter.

He said he would die rather than stay with his mother. At present, he has moved in with his uncle.

"My father was a kind-hearted person," Kumar said.

Singh's killing at the weekend led to strong protests in the area.

Even his wife Rani Devi had joined the villagers' protests, crying hysterically and seeking the arrest of the culprits, which made police suspicious.

Investigations into the case later found it was the victim's wife, 40, who had hatched the conspiracy along with her boyfriend to murder her husband.

According to the police, she had hired the killers for Rs50,000 (Dh2,734). She was handing over the 1st instalment of a Rs20,000 cheque to the killers, using funds she had been provided by the local administration as ex-gratia money, when the accused persons were arrested by the police.

"The murder case has been solved now. The murder of the victim was planned by his wife who had an extramarital affair with her boyfriend," the local district superintendent of police Rakesh Kumar said.

(source: Gulf News)

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Delhi gangrape: Supreme Court to fast-track appeals filed by 4 convicts challenging death penalty----A special bench of the apex court decided to hear their plea from 2 pm to 6 pm every day, July 18 onwards.

Supreme Court to fast-track appeals filed by 4 convicts challenging death penalty

The Supreme Court on Monday decided to work extra hours to fast-track a hearing in the December 16, 2012 Delhi gangrape and murder case. The 4 convicts in the case - Mukesh Singh, Akshay Thakur, Pawan Gupta and Vinay Sharma - challenged the death sentence awarded to them by the Delhi High Court. A special bench will hear their plea from 2 pm to 6 pm every day, July 18 onwards, ANI reported.

6 individuals had gangraped a 23-year-old woman in a moving bus in Delhi on December 16, 2012. The victim, whom they had brutally abused, had succumbed to her injuries on December 29 the same year at a hospital in Singapore.

The incident had triggered countrywide protests and demands to ensure better safety for women in India. The outrage had forced the government to introduce new laws on rape.

The prime accused in the case, Ram Singh, committed suicide in Tihar Jail on March 11, 2013, while the 6th convict - a juvenile - was released on December 20 last year after serving a 3-year sentence under the Juvenile Justice Act.

(soruce: scroll.in)

MALDIVES:

The 1st execution in 60 years - help stop this

The Maldives are preparing to resume executions, and Hussain Humaam Ahmed will be the 1st death row inmate to be killed in over 60 years.

There are serious concerns about the fairness of the murder trial, and without your help Humaam could be hung within 30 days. Call on the authorities in the Maldives to halt the execution before it's too late.

23 year old Humaam was sentenced to death after he was found guilty of murdering MP Afrasheem Ali. The Maldives President pledged to hang death row inmates within 30 days of the Supreme Court upholding a guilty verdict, which means Humaam's days are now numbered.

A key piece of evidence in the trial was Humaam's 'confession' which he later explained was extracted by force after authorities threatened the safety of his family.

Humaam and his family also maintain that he suffers from a mental disability which was not assessed or considered during the trial.

If carried out, this execution will be the 1st in more than 60 years. There are 17 other prisoners on death row that could be next, at least 5 of which are juvenile offenders.

(source: Amnesty Internatnional)

INDONESIA:

Indonesia to ramp up number of executions - including foreigners killed by firing squads - in war on drugs

Indonesia is to increase the number of prisoners executed by firing squad in its war on drugs.

The country's attorney general Muhammad Prasetyo has said at least 2 convicts will be lined up and shot soon for their crimes.

Among those facing the death penalty are foreigners, he said, but he did not elaborate upon the crimes of which they are convicted.

Prasetyo said: 'The implementation of the executions will be carried out after the (Eid al-Fitr) holiday period that has just ended.

'There are more than 2 people, and there are foreigners. There are protests but we will still carry out the executions.'

Indonesia last year executed 14 people, mostly foreign drug traffickers, and has vowed to ramp up that number despite international condemnation.

Prasetyo previously said 16 prisoners would be executed this year at a minimum and more than double that number next year.

At least 121 people are on death row in Indonesia, including 35 foreigners, mostly convicted of drug-related crimes, according to the Justice Ministry.

They include Mary Jane Veloso from the Philippines, Lindsay Sandiford from Britain and Frenchman Serge Atlaoui.

British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford from Redcar on Teesside, has been on death row since December 2012 after attempting to smuggle cocaine into Bali after arriving on a flight from Bangkok.

The 59-year-old admitted smuggling 4.8kg (10.6lb) of the drug but said she was pressured by a smuggling gang.

However, Miss Sandiford sounded philosophical when she was interviewed by the Mail on Sunday last year.

She said: I'm nearly 60 and a lot of people don't live to be this age. Being lined up and shot isn't the ending I'd pick, but everyone has to go somehow.'

(source: Daily Mail)

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

Indonesia Prepares for Another Round of Executions----It is a case of domestic considerations trumping international image.

If you want to point at one incident that transformed Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo from an inspiring, hopeful candidate to the oft-criticized, ineffective head of a unruly cabinet, it happened early last year, when his administration, to the surprise of both international observers and those in Indonesia's human rights community, who mostly supported Jokowi's election, executed 14 people, including 12 foreign nationals, for drug crimes. It was, amazingly, the largest single-use of the death penalty since Indonesia became a democracy at the turn of the millennium.

"It was a surprise moment," said Ricky Gunawan, a lawyer with the non-profit legal aid organization LBH Masyarakat who defends those charged with drug crimes in Indonesia. "We in the Indonesian human rights community thought he would bring positive change." The executions were widely criticized by foreign governments and civil society groups, both internationally and within Indonesia.

Initially, the uproar seemed to give way to a surprising calm. For much of the past year there was barely any mention of executions from the central government, leading many to think that Jokowi had changed his position. Then, suddenly and seemingly out of nowhere, Jokowi doubled-down on the war on drugs as one of the centerpieces of his administration, amazingly even calling it Indonesia's number 1 problem in a speech a few months ago.

Now, using drugs as a justification, Indonesia aims to resume executions, with a yet-unnamed 16 Indonesian and foreign nationals to face a firing squad, apparently soon. This will likely lead to another international diplomatic uproar and, once again, damage both Jokowi, and Indonesia's reputation globally. But for Jokowi and those around him, the benefits outweigh the costs, at least where it matters - domestically.

Domestic Priorities

Perhaps it should not have been such a surprise that Jokowi - who, before ascending to the presidency was the governor of 2 Indonesian cities and had absolutely no foreign policy experience - has had a domestic focus during his presidency. This is one of the biggest shifts from his predecessor, the image-conscious, globe-trotting Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

"From 2012-2014, there were no executions," said Gunawan. "[Yudhoyono] was a president who really cared about his international reputation and knew it would be damaged if they massively execute people."

Jokowi, conversely, just does not care much about his international reputation. While last year's executions may have hurt the rose-tinted global image many internationally still had of him, within Indonesia, Jokowi's honeymoon was long over by January 2015. In fact, the initial round of executions were one of the first decisive actions by the new president, and were strongly supported among Indonesians. Whatever prestige he may have lost abroad was more than made up by what he gained domestically.

Popular Distraction

By saying drugs are Indonesia's top problem, Jokowi is diverting attention from the other challenges he has, thus far, failed to address. His nearly 2-year long presidency has been rife with challenges, many of which are out of his control. Last year's devastating fires, the neutering of the country's corruption institution, and the slow progress on improving the country's infrastructure have all tainted his image as someone who gets things done, and left many Indonesians disillusioned.

In the face of this, drugs are an easy target - a threatening, foreign menace that is destroying the fabric of Indonesian society and can be tackled by force. The figures he states are quite astounding - 4.5 million addicts, 40-50 young people dying each day from drug use. Stats that, according to Andreas Harsono, Indonesia Researcher with Human Rights Watch (HRW), are faulty. "The figures quoted by Jokowi and parroted by national officials and media outlets are based on studies with questionable methods and vague measures," said Harsono. They seem to be created more to support an existing narrative, rather than present information about a problem.

Moreover, the use of the death penalty is still supported by most Indonesians. This creates a rare instance where Jokowi can show decisiveness.

"The death penalty [has] more than 80 % support," said Harsono, adding that the role of Islamic groups, who support its use, makes it harder for the opposition to gain momentum. This is worrisome to HRW as the focus on the death penalty and the war on drugs is taking attention away from Indonesia's festering human rights challenges.

"The Jokowi administration ... has not solved most widely-cited human rights problems in Indonesia, for example. religious freedom, discrimination against women in the name of the Sharia, and Papua's longstanding rights abuses," said Harsono. Here, rhetoric has failed to match reality. "For example, Jokowi asked all political prisoners to be released, but so far only 6 prisoners were released. There are nearly 70 others are still jailed."

The other question is - how much of this policy can be attributed to Jokowi himself? His cabinet has been noted for its contradictory policies and lack of cohesion, something most visible in the way in which certain members, such as Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Susi Pudjiastuti, seem to act on their own, independent of Jokowi.

"A narrative that people have is that it's really interests within the judiciary and police who want to carry out the executions," said Tom Pepinsky an Indonesia expert at Cornell University's Southeast Asia Program. "Jokowi does not have the political capital to stop it, or, perhaps, doesn't think it's such a big deal."

According to Gunawan, the idea of executions seems to come up whenever a political leader is facing a potential scandal or political pressure.

"Executions are used as a tool to avoid certain issues," said Gunawan, citing an example of how the Jakarta High Prosecutor's office had the Attorney General issue news about the next round of executions - days after his office was searched the Corruption Eradication Commission.

Limited Impact

Perhaps Jokowi is right to ignore any international furor. While the rhetoric from Australia, Brazil, and other nations was fierce last year, and did hurt Jokowi's image globally, there was little other substantive impact. Every country quickly returned to having normal relations with Jakarta, and none took any actions beyond symbolic statements, such as temporarily recalling their ambassadors. Chances are, no matter what country's citizens end up on the list, the situation will be the same this time.

"For better or worse, executing criminals for drug crimes, is [not very] likely to shape bilateral relations with any of Indonesia's neighbors," said Pepinsky.

In fact, any international outrage might be counterproductive, making it only harder for Jokowi, if he wanted to, to stand up to those within his administration, or in parliament, who support this policy. But it will impact his standing among Indonesians.

"There's a sense that Jokowi showing decisiveness and independence is great for his domestic position," said Pepinsky. "It would be very easy for a competitor to criticize him for giving into foreign pressures."

Thus, the best hope for a shift in policy comes domestically, from the voices of the minority of Indonesians opposed to the death penalty. They've had some success - it was local civil society, last year, who were key saving 1 woman, Filipino citizen Mary Jane Veloso, from being executed, and they are gearing up to fight again.

Also notably, popular former President BJ Habibie has come out against the death penalty and the executions. Still, it will be tough for the opposition to win. This round of executions is expected to be followed by another round, as the administration expands the war on drugs and regularizes capital punishment. It is a big change from the Indonesia of the 2000s, when executions were rare, and progress on human rights and justice was measured in strides.

Who would have thought when Jokowi was elected that we’d look back on the 2000s with such nostalgia, so soon?

(source: Nithin Coca, The Diplomat)

PHILIPPINES:

Negros solon backs death penalty

Rep. Melecio Yap (Neg. Occ., 1 st District) yesterday said he is supporting the move to restore the death penalty.

Yap said he supports the restoration of death penalty for drug-related cases and heinous crimes.

Yap, former mayor of Escalante City, is a member of the Nationalist People's Coalition.

Incoming Speaker of the House, Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez (Davao del Norte), and Rep. Frednil Castro (Capiz, 2 nd District) earlier filed House Bill No.1 re-imposing the death penalty on certain heinous crimes by lethal injection.

Senator Manny Pacquiao has filed a counterpart bill in the Senate, which he said was in support of President Rodrigo Duterte's campaign against drugs.

House Bill No. 01 seeks the death penalty for human trafficking, illegal recruitment, plunder, treason, parricide, infanticide, rape, qualified piracy and bribery, kidnapping and illegal detention, robbery with violence against or intimidation of persons, car theft, destructive arson, terrorism and drug-related cases, among others.

"There is evidently a need to reinvigorate the war against criminality by reviving a proven deterrent coupled by its consistent, persistent and determined implementation, and this need is as compelling and critical as any," HB No. 01 says.

Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said Malacañang favors mandatory drug testing for government employees to regain the trust of the public.

"It is a very powerful symbolic act that would show that we in government are proper and are worthy of trust," he said.

(soruce: The Visayan Daily Star)

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

PH death penalty bad for Veloso

Indonesian penitentiary death row prisoner Mary Jane Veloso and 87 other similarly situated Filipino overseas workers will be deprived of a chance of absolution as soon as the capital punishment is restored in the country.

Pro-life Rep. Lito Atienza issued this warning as he stressed that the Philippine government's efforts to save the lives of OFW languishing in death prisons overseas will effectively be counteracted by the death penalty bill being pushed by the Duterte government.

"One of the many ramifications (of the return of the death penalty) is that the Philippine government would be deprived of the moral high ground when it comes to our official appeals for clemency - for foreign governments to spare the lives of our citizens who are facing execution," said Atienza who represents Buhay party-list which is pushing for a pro-life legislative agenda.

Backed by the huge El Shaddai Catholic Charismatic group, Buhay has been leading party-list polls in nearly 2 decades now, partly because of its hardline pro-life stance.

"Should Congress reinstate the cruel and inhuman punishment, it would be extremely problematic for us to plead with other governments for compassion, if we ourselves are killing own convicts here - if we ourselves do not respect the value of human life," Atienza said.

(source: tempo.com.ph)

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

Restoring death penalty may affect OFWs on death row

The Philippine government's efforts to save overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) on death row abroad may be hurt with the reimposition of death penalty in the country , a lawmaker has said.

Buhay Representative Lito Atienza reportedly said that reviving capital punishment in the Philippines could affect the country's appeals for clemency for OFWs who are facing execution abroad.

"Should Congress reinstate the cruel and inhuman punishment, it would be extremely problematic for us to plead with other governments for compassion, if we ourselves are killing own convicts here - if we ourselves do not respect the value of human life," Atienza was quoted as saying by Rappler.

In 2015, OFW Mary Jane Veloso was about to be executed in Indonesia for drug trafficking, but was granted an 11th hour reprieve due to appeals from the government and civil society groups, the report said.

Atienza reportedly said that based on data from the Department of Foreign Affairs, there are currently at least 88 Filipinos facing the death penalty abroad - mostly in Malaysia and China - for various crimes.

Malaysia is one of the top 10 destinations of OFWs, based on data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration. Other top OFW destinations include Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Qatar, Hong Kong, Kuwait, Taiwan, Bahrain and Canada, said the news portal.

Of these 10, only Canada and Hong Kong have abolished the death penalty.

"Right now, without the death penalty for a long time already, the Philippine government has great moral authority to invoke humanitarian grounds and implore foreign governments for them to show mercy to Filipino citizens who are about to be put to death," Atienza reportedly said.

After winning the May 9 elections, President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to reintroduce capital punishment in the country by hanging.

Duterte has even met his allies in Congress on Saturday, July 9, and asked them to revive the death penalty, reported Rappler.

(source: The Filipino Times)

MALAYSIA:

Govt urged to speed track abolishment of death penalty: Batu Kawan MP

A Penang parliamentarian has urged the federal government not to drag its feet in abolishing the death penalty.

Batu Kawan MP P. Kasthuri said amendments to the law on such matters should be tabled in the coming October Parliament sitting in a display of commitment to uphold the right to life.

She said the burden lies with Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Nancy Shukri, the de facto law minister, to bring the matter up to the Cabinet and called upon the federal government not to shift the goal posts anymore on the issue.

Kasthuri said the first shift happened in a March 2014 written reply to Puchong MP Gobind Singh where the issue of abolishing the death penalty by the government was non-existent.

She said the reply said this was because the State Pardons Board headed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong had full authority to abolish the death penalty for offenses committed in the Federal Territories and the other states.

Kasthuri said the second shift occurs when the government cites that public opinion was in favour of the death penalty but pointed out a Feb 2016 Gerakan poll which showed more than half of the 1,523 respondents calling for an end to the death penalty.

"The third shift of goal posts is not granting discretionary powers to the judges to hand down different forms of punishment apart from the death penalty," she added in a statement today.

(source: The Sun Daily)

JULY 10, 2016:

OKLAHOMA:

Broken Arrow brothers' arraignment delayed again as defense builds case against possible death penalty ---- The Bevers' defense is said to be building a case against the death penalty for the elder teenager.

2 teenage brothers who allegedly stabbed to death 5 family members in their Broken Arrow home last summer have been granted another court delay, which postpones a decision on whether the older brother could be sentenced to death if he's convicted.

The district court arraignment for Robert and Michael Bever, at which they will announce how they plead to 5 counts of 1st-degree murder and a count of assault and battery with intent to kill, was scheduled for Monday but is now set for Sept. 7.

Both brothers are expected to announce at the arraignment whether they want to contest their charges with a jury trial or waive that right and plead guilty or no contest.

District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler said Friday he has not decided whether his office will pursue the death penalty for 19-year-old Robert Bever.

Michael Bever's age - 16 at the time he allegedly participated in the stabbings - makes him ineligible for capital punishment. District Judge Sharon Holmes granted the delay after a private hearing with the attorneys on Thursday, according to court minutes.

This marks the 2nd time the defense teams have asked for the arraignment to be postponed as they seek information that could dissuade a jury or judge from imposing - or prosecutors from seeking - the maximum punishment.

If prosecutors don't pursue the death penalty, the maximum punishment for both brothers if they are convicted would be to spend the rest of their lives in prison.

The lesser punishment if they are convicted of 1st-degree murder is to be granted the option of being released on parole after serving 85 % of a life sentence, which is typically calculated at 45 years.

Kunzweiler said his decision on whether to pursue the death penalty will be announced before the arraignment.

\"I'm holding back on making that decision because the defense has requested an opportunity to present to me and my death penalty review team information they say they have that they believe would be important for me to take into consideration before we make a decision," Kunzweiler told the Tulsa World on Friday. "So I am respecting their desire to give me that information, and apparently they've had some difficulty gathering that information to present to me."

Part of the reason the defense has needed additional time is because information about the Bevers has been difficult to obtain, since the family seemed to have mostly kept to itself, Chief Public Defender Rob Nigh, who is representing Michael Bever, confirmed Friday.

Kunzweiler would not comment further about what kind of information the defense might be trying to obtain, and Nigh also declined to comment Friday.

Michael, who is now 17, and Robert are charged with murder in the July 22 deaths of their parents - David Bever, 52; and April Bever, 44 - as well as 3 younger siblings - Daniel, 12; Christopher, 7; and Victoria 5.

Their assault charges pertain to their 13-year-old sister, who was critically wounded in the attack.

The only other surviving member of their immediate family is their 2-year-old sister, who was found uninjured inside the home.

The surviving sisters have been placed in foster care, and the older sister is back in school, Kunzweiler said.

Details about the brutal killings were revealed in February at the brothers' preliminary hearing, where Broken Arrow police detectives testified that the brothers confessed to police they attacked their family to inaugurate a mass killing spree.

Detectives said the brothers told them they wanted to top other mass killers who have captured headlines and described their upbringing as somewhat isolated, growing up home-schooled with little social interaction outside the home and few known relatives beyond their immediate family.

The brothers have been held in the Tulsa Jail's medical unit, which has segregated cells, and an incident report recently revealed that Robert Bever attempted to commit suicide in his cell on June 17.

(source: Tulsa World)

CANADA:

Americans To Support Death Penalty: Poll

Canadians are more forward-thinking than Americans on a vast range of social issues - with 1 surprising exception, a new poll suggests.

Abortion, pornography, and sex-same relationships are significantly more accepted in Canada than the United States, according to results published Saturday by Abacus Data.

But our feelings on the death penalty are about the same.

The poll suggests a majority of respondents in both countries support the death penalty, with 58 % of Canadians and 59 % of Americans labeling the practice "morally right."

But when it comes to abortion, assisted dying and same-sex relationships, attitudes between Canada and the U.S. are more than 20 % points apart.

The numbers "confirm a more progressive, secular and libertarian predisposition in Canada," Abacus Data chairman Bruce Anderson said in a release, even though the trend didn't apply to views on capital punishment.

Abacus Data asked 1,500 Canadians whether they thought things like abortion, same-sex relationships, and capital punishment are morally acceptable.

Results were then compared to American data sets released by Gallup. The online survey, conducted between June 14 to 16, has a margin of error of 2.6 % points, 19 times out of 20.

Last Canadian inmates hanged in 1962

The death penalty was officially abolished in Canada in 1976 by then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau.

No one had been executed for 14 years in Canada when the death penalty was scrapped.

However, the death penalty remains legal in 31 U.S. states. Use of the practice remains wildly uneven across the country.

In 2015, for instance, 6 states executed 28 inmates. 93 % of those executions took place in Texas, Missouri, Georgia, and Florida.

(source: Huffington Post Canada)

MALDIVES:

Maldives to have first execution in 60 years in order to showcase 'Islamic credentials'

Beleaguered Maldives President Abdulla Yameen is adamant that the 1st execution of a convict in 60 years will take place under his watch as a reiteration of Maldives' Islamic credentials.

The politically isolated president, who is shunned by colleagues and family, is refusing to intervene despite several scholars calling the proposed execution un-Islamic.He has also ignored appeals of human rights groups and even the United Nations to stay the execution.

22-year-old Hussain Humaam Ahamed was condemned to death by the Maldives Supreme Court in 2014 for the murder of a Member of Parliament, Afrasheem Ali, in 2012.

The verdict was based on a confession that was obtained when he was in custody, which he retracted later. The Supreme Court, over which President Yameen has a stranglehold, disregarded the claim that Humaam has a mental disability and the request for an independent psychiatric evaluation.

If the death sentence is carried out, it will be the 1st execution in the Maldives since 1953.

The voices of protest have been crushed in the Maldives due to strict curbs, but renowned Islamic scholar at the University of Oxford, Tariq Ramadan, in a letter to President Yameen, has listed out reasons why the proposed execution is un-Islamic.

Citing extensively from the Hudud - the Islamic Penal Code, Ramadan has argued that 22-year-old Humaam's death penalty contravened many basic prescriptions in the Shariah.

Stating that Humaam's 'confession' was forcefully obtained, undermining fairness of his trial at a basic level, Ramadan has pointed out that pleas made by Humaam's family that he was suffering from mental disability, has been totally disregarded by the court.

This, Ramadan argues, is also against Islamic law and jurisprudence as any doubt about the mental health of a murderer should play in his or her favour.

The heavy conditions found in the Islamic legislation have as a raison d'etre ('illah) to avoid any doubt; if there is the slightest doubt, then the punishment should be suspended.

Ramadan also emphasises that it was un-Islamic on the part of President Yameen to ignore requests of the victim's father and brother, who have stated that they do not wish the death sentence to be implemented.

This call to spare Humaam's life by 2 members of the victim's family cannot be ignored under Sharia law. According to the principles of qisas, if the family of the victim asks for the sentence not to be implemented at any time before the execution (for the majority of the 'ulama'), the latter should be suspended whatever the public authority might decide.

If Yameen were to respect Shariah conditions, it is imperative for him to listen to the family's position, says the scholar. Ramadan adds that the above and beyond all of this, Rahmah (compassion) is an absolute necessity and an essential principle even if there is no element of doubt and conditions are met.

Tariq Ramadan has categorically stated in his letter to President Yameen that Humaam's execution would contravene the fundamental principles of Islamic law and urged the latter to take all possible actions to prevent the execution.

Tariq Ramadan has got support from human rights groups around the world who have appealed to the Maldivian president that International law prohibits the use of death penalty against people with mental disabilities. But President Yameen, who has reintroduced capital punishment after a moratorium of 60 years, seems determined to not just stop the arbitrary deprivation of life but also break the tenets of Islamic law.

Ever since President Yameen reintroduced the death penalty in Maldives, execution facilities have been constructed at the Maldives' Maafushi Prison.

The age of criminal responsibility is 10 in the Maldives which means that even juvelines could potentially face execution.

(source: siasat.com)

KENYA:

It's time to implement the death penalty

The debate over the death penalty has for some time been relegated to the backburner for reasons best known to authorities. Proponents and opponents of the same are divided down the middle. The opponents allege that death penalty is against the Bill of Rights which gives each and every individual the right to life. They also argue this sentence does not have a deterrent effect, does not rehabilitate and that it's savage, beastly and inhuman.

Proponents on the other hand argue that the principle of just desserts compels a life to repay with another, an eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth school. They also argue that death penalty will incapacitate permanently these psychos some of whom are responsible for multiple murders.

The Kenyan Penal Code Section 25 outlines death as one of the sentences that may be passed for capital offences. It states, "(1)Where any person is sentenced to death, the form of the sentence shall be to the effect only that he is to suffer death in the manner authorized by law. (2)Sentence of death shall not be pronounced on or recorded against any person convicted of an offence if it appears to the court that at the time when the offence was committed he was under the age of eighteen years, but in lieu thereof the court shall sentence such person to be detained during the President's pleasure, and if so sentenced he shall be liable to be detained in such place and under such conditions as the President may direct, and whilst so detained shall be deemed to be in legal custody."

Since 1987, Kenya has not carried out a single execution despite savagery and beastly crimes committed since. We instead put these psychos in condemned cells, over feed them, commute their sentences to life imprisonment and eventually release them back to the society to mock their victims.

The hangmen in our prisons are idle and have now become rusty, the dexterity of tightening a noose having deserted them after years of inaction. It's time we let them earn their pay. The tax payer is being shortchanged.

In America, a liberal democracy, 31 states still practice the death penalty only 21 have abolished it. The US government and military are among those which carry out the death penalty. Although methods vary from state to state from lethal injection or gas to firing squad, hanging or electrocution.

To imagine that you will treat a felon who commits larceny the same as the one who cuts out the tongues of his victims, crushes their testicles, and gouges their eyes out and proceeds to dismember the bodies is absurd and unfair. This is a creature who won’t find company even among the most savage of beasts. He/she is a misfit, a testament of creation gone wrong who should be exterminated with speed to ensure he does not pollute the human race.

Anyone who does not value the life of another does not also value his own life. Why should we value his? It will be a welcome break if we make grand corruption (theft of over 1 billion shillings) a capital offence. Ask China how they deal with the corrupt.

(soruce: Kungu Wanjiru, standardmedia.co.ke)

PHILIPPINES:

Death penalty a priority, Duterte tells lawmakers

President Rodrigo Duterte told lawmakers visiting Davao City Saturday night that he wants the reimposition of the death penalty as a priority measure once Congress convenes on July 25.

"He [said] so many officials are involved. It's like treason to him because they should be the ones who protect the people [from illegal drugs] yet they are the cause of its rampant spread in the country," Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, one of the lawmakers, said.

"He's very serious about it [the death penalty]. He believes it should be brought back," Angara added.

2 senators, 2 governors, and 12 congressmen from the incoming majority bloc flew to Davao City for a 5-hour meeting with the President.

Among those present were Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, Angara, Citizens' Battle Against Corruption Rep. Sherwin Tugna, Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Velasco, Palawan 1st District Rep. Franz Josef Alvarez, and Masbate 3rd District Rep. Scott Davies Lanete.

Also present were Tarlac Gov. Susan Yap and Bataan Gov. Albert Raymond Garcia.

The lawmakers assured Duterte they would support whatever measure he submits to Congress.

"We are open to that [reinstating the death penalty)]" Angara said. "We will listen to the arguments."

The senator added, however, that in the final vote, each lawmaker would have to vote his or her conscience.

Tugna said Duterte did not specifically request for new anti-drug laws to be passed as existing measures are already in place.

"I believe he [Duterte] has a good track record of implementing them," he added.

Before he took his oath of office, Duterte told House leaders that he prefers to publicly hang criminals instead of killing them with a lethal injection.

After the 5-hour discussion at the After Dark Resto Bar, the President gave his guests a tour of the Central 911 headquarters. They parted ways at around 3:30 a.m.

Both Angara and Tugna agreed that Duterte seemed different when he is in Davao City.

"He's in his comfort zone in Davao. It's better to see him in Davao," Angara said.

"He's more relaxed here," Tugna added.

Lawmakers said they are glad that Duterte made time to meet informally with them.

His predecessor, President Benigno Aquino III, had been criticized for not making good use of the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council.

Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza, who opposes the death penalty, said reinstating capital punishment would undermine efforts by the Philippines to save the lives of Filipinos working overseas who are on death row.

"One of the many ramifications [of the return of the death penalty] is that the Philippine government would be deprived of the moral high ground when it comes to our official appeals for clemency - for foreign governments to spare the lives of our citizens who are facing execution," Atienza said.

"Should Congress reinstate the cruel and inhuman punishment, it would be extremely problematic for us to plead with other governments for compassion, if we ourselves are killing own convicts here - if we ourselves do not respect the value of human life," Atienza added.

At least 88 Filipinos are facing the death penalty abroad, mostly in Malaysia and China, for various felonies, the Department of Foreign Affairs says.

The 88 includes Mary Jane Veloso, the 31-year-old Filipino woman who was set to be executed by firing squad in Indonesia last year, but who obtained a last-minute reprieve after Manila asked Jakarta that she be first allowed to provide testimonial evidence against her alleged human trafficker in a criminal case in the Philippines.

8 of the top 10 foreign destinations of Filipino workers overseas "are on record as subscribing to capital punishment and aggressively carrying out executions," Atienza said.

Of the 10, Atienza said, only Canada and Hong Kong have abolished the death penalty, while the rest are actively killing convicts.

(source: The Standard)

*******

Death penalty restoration may doom 88 OFWs on death row

Mary Jane Veloso and 87 other overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) languishing in death row in overseas prisons will be deprived of a chance of absolution as soon as the capital punishment is restored in the Philippines, Buhay Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza warned.

Meantime, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is expected to come out with a statement on death penalty anytime soon.

LOSING MORAL HIGH GROUND

Atienza stressed that the Philippine government's efforts to save the lives of OFWs in death prisons overseas will effectively be counteracted by the death penalty bill being pushed by the Duterte administration.

"One of the many ramifications (of the return of the death penalty) is that the Philippine government would be deprived of the moral high ground when it comes to our official appeals for clemency - for foreign governments to spare the lives of our citizens who are facing execution," said Atienza, who is pushing for a pro-life legislative agenda.

"Should Congress reinstate the cruel and inhuman punishment, it would be extremely problematic for us to plead with other governments for compassion, if we ourselves are killing own convicts here - if we ourselves do not respect the value of human life," Atienza added.

SAVING MARY JANE

With the help of former Vice President Jejomar C. Binay, now Senator Manny Pacquiao and the Aquino administration, Veloso, a drug convict in Indonesia, was granted a temporary reprieve last year.

She was saved from the series of executions carried out on April 29, 2015 by the Indonesian government.

Executed that day in Nusa Kambangan were Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran; Brazilian Rodrigo Gularte, 4 Nigerians and an Indonesian.

Citing a report from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Atienza said at least 87 other OFWs are confronted with the death sentence abroad, most of them in Malaysia and China.

CHURCH'S STAND

A Church source said it was CBCP president Lingayen Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas who told him of the plan to release a statement.

However, it was not clear if the statement will be released at the end of the bishops' Plenary Assembly which started Saturday at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila.

The CBCP usually issue a collective statement on pastoral and social issues after their 3-day gathering.

But a check with Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo revealed that the bishops have yet to discuss the issue as ofSunday morning.

But a number of Catholic prelates earlier already expressed their opposition to the idea of reviving death penalty saying it's against moral law.

"Death penalty by hanging is against moral law. Human life is sacred because it comes from God, the Creator. No one, not even the State, may take a human life, even of hardened criminals," said Malolos Bishop Jose Oliveros.

(source: Manila Bulletin)

JULY 9, 2016:

MISSISSIPPI:

Inmates take lethal injection drug challenge to Mississippi Supreme Court

2 Mississippi death row inmates have filed fresh challenges to the state's lethal injection procedures with the Mississippi Supreme Court.

The move came after the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals told them a state court should determine whether Mississippi was breaking state law by using a new drug.

Richard Jordan and Gerald Loden filed their appeals Wednesday, saying the court should rule illegal Mississippi's plan to use midazolam as a sedative because it's not the kind of drug called for by state law.

Jordan, now 70, was convicted of kidnapping and killing Edwina Marta in Harrison County on Jan. 13, 1976.

Rachael Ring, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Jim Hood, said his office is reviewing the appeals.

The court actions are part of a series of continuing legal skirmishes nationwide over lethal injection drugs.

In August, U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate had issued a preliminary injunction blocking Mississippi from putting anyone to death. The appeals court overruled Wingate in February, but Wingate's injunction remained in place until Tuesday, when the appeals court published its ruling. Since then, Hood's office has been free to ask the state Supreme Court to set execution dates for inmates who have exhausted their other appeals. Hood hasn't yet done so.

Jordan's attorney, Jim Craig, predicted state Supreme Court justices wouldn't approve execution dates while challenges to midazolam were pending. He said Hood has been ducking the issue since 2014.

"All AG Hood has done is file motions and briefs to evade a court hearing where we can prove that the Mississippi Department of Corrections' procedure will torture prisoners in the death chamber," Craig said. "If he really thinks we can't prove our case, General Hood needs to come out from his hiding place and meet us in court."

Mississippi law requires a 3-drug process, specifying an "ultra-short-acting barbiturate" followed by a paralyzing agent and a drug that stops an inmate's heart. But Mississippi and other states have increasingly struggled to obtain such drugs since 2010, as manufacturers refuse to sell them for executions.

"Not only is midazolam not an ultra short-acting barbiturate, it is not a barbiturate at all," say both appeals. Lawyers for both men argue that the Mississippi Department of Corrections can't unilaterally change a punishment that the Legislature wrote into law without usurping lawmakers' power.

Midazolam doesn't render someone unconscious as quickly as a barbiturate. Craig argues midazolam leaves an inmate at risk of severe pain during execution, violating the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution's bar on cruel and unusual punishment. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 upheld as constitutional Oklahoma's use of midazolam.

Jordan's appeal raises an additional argument, arguing that his 40-yearlong wait between a death sentence and execution equals cruel and unusual punishment.

Jordan had agreed to serve life without parole after successfully challenging his sentence 3 times, but got the state Supreme Court to rule that Jordan could have only been sentenced to death or life with possibility of parole. A prosecutor then won a death penalty for the 4th time in a 1998 sentencing trial.

"These extraordinary circumstances make his execution excessive and disproportionate to the crime and thus in violation of both the federal and state constitutions," the appeal states.

Loden pleaded guilty in 2001 to kidnapping, raping and murdering Leesa Marie Gray in Itawamba County.

(source: sunherald.com)

LOUISIANA:

Local attorney to receive national honor

The Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project will honor a local attorney with its annual Champion of Justice Award this week.

When it came to selecting this year's recipient of the award, Shawn Armbrust, executive director of the organization, found the perfect honoree in Shreveport attorney A.M. "Marty" Stroud III, who has become an outspoken advocate against injustices within the legal system. He will be recognized for his achievements at a Tuesday luncheon at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington, D.C.

"We try each year to bring unusual voices to the event," said Armbrust, who has been with the innocence project for the past 11 years.

Armbrust said she looks for honorees who talk about important matters within the legal system, and this year she thought it would be a good idea to honor a prosecutor.

"It's really important to give credit to prosecutors who have done the right thing," Armbrust said. "Marty really stood out and - to some degree - Marty's done things that were a lot harder than others."

Stroud, who works for the Shreveport firm Barham Warner Stroud Carmouche, was the lead prosecutor in the 1984 first-degree murder trial of Glenn Ford. Ford was sentenced to death for the November 1983 death of Isadore Rozeman, a Shreveport jeweler. In March 2014, Ford was released from prison when the state admitted new evidence that proved Ford was not the killer.

Taking full responsibility, Stroud issued a public apology for his role in sending Ford to death row. He has since become an outspoken opponent of the death penalty and proponent of dialogue on the injustices that exist in the state's criminal justice system.

"I never thought the letter would go as far as it did - I was just concerned about the Glenn Ford case," said Stroud, who believes the situation has opened up other questions about the criminal justice system, which he is glad to see happen. Stroud believes there are many more problems in the criminal justice system in Louisiana. He said the more people are educated, the better the system can become. With more voices speaking up and more group discussions taking place, he believes things are moving in the right direction.

"The compass is turning. I think we are starting to move in the right direction, slowly but surely," Stroud said.

The attorney said he was humbled when he heard he was being offered the prestigious recognition from the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project.

"It was surely a shock when I got the call and I hope my comments next week will be of benefit to the group," said Stroud, who will also serve as the keynote speaker during the annual fundraising luncheon.

After receiving the award, Stroud hopes to continue helping affect changes in the system that he believes are stacked against defendants - especially the poor.

"We should have less people locked up. A lot of reform needs to be taken. It's going to take the citizens of the community to get involved," said Stroud, who believes issues surrounding officer-involved shootings and the high rates of incarceration in the state of Louisiana are issues ripe for conversation in the community.

Stroud wants to advocate against the look of hopelessness in the eyes of people who are incarcerated and don't believe they ever have the chance for reprieve or redemption.

Armbrust said Stroud stands out in a time when people are less likely to admit fault and take full responsibility for their errors.

In the annals of criminal justice and innocence projects.the outcome of the Glenn Ford case will likely prove to be Stroud's most revered legacy.

"He did more than just say he was wrong - he apologized, explained what he did wrong, and explains to people how to avoid it," Armbrust said. "It takes real guts and we need to see more of that in our system."

(source: Shreveport Times)

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

Family of Slain Louisiana Man Denounces Dallas Police Deaths

The mother of the son of a black man killed by white Louisiana police officers said Friday she grieved with the families of 5 police officers killed in Dallas during a protest over police shootings, adding she was now "walking a mile with them."

Quinyetta McMillon described herself as "very hurt" for the officers and their families.

"Now, I'm walking a mile with them. We're bearing the same shoes right now," McMillon said in an interview with The Associated Press Friday.

The Dallas protest came in response to police shootings, including the one in which 37-year-old Alton Sterling was killed Tuesday in Baton Rouge during a struggle with 2 police officers outside a convenience store where he was selling CDs.

Sterling was black; both officers are white. Cellphone video of his shooting was posted online and set off angry protests in Baton Rouge and beyond. The Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation into Sterling's shooting.

Police say Sterling was armed and an eyewitness said he had a gun in his pocket. But McMillon resisted those claims Friday, saying she didn't know Sterling to carry a gun and doesn't believe he had one with him the night he was shot to death.

"I do not believe in my heart that there was a gun," she said.

McMillon said she believes police said that "to cover up something." The Baton Rouge Police Department didn't respond to the claim. The 2 officers involved in the shooting death, Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II, are on administrative leave, which is customary, during the investigation.

"They should be prosecuted, the both of them. I don't want the death penalty for them. I want them to be in prison," McMillon said, calling the federal investigation a "very positive step."

McMillon called Sterling a good father to their son Cameron, 15, who broke down in sobs at a rally outside City Hall earlier this week. She said Cameron Sterling has been devastated by the loss.

"I called them the Doublemint twins because they both liked snacks. They both like to eat, so they was always eating something" when they spent time together, which was regularly, McMillon said.

Her face lighting up with a slight smile as she talked, McMillon said Alton Sterling was close to their son. She recalled when Cameron Sterling took his first steps, Alton Sterling swooped in to catch his son each time he wobbled, to keep him from hurting himself when he fell. She said it's one of her best memories.

"Every second my son goes to stumble, he's breaking his neck to get to him," McMillon said. "And that memory will never be forgotten, because right now I use that same memory in terms of coping with my son and letting him know right now, 'You still pick yourself up.'"

Court records show Sterling had pleaded guilty in 2011 to being a felon in possession of a firearm and illegally carrying a weapon and was arrested in May 2009 after an officer confronted him outside another store where he was selling CDs.

McMillon focused on Sterling's smile, saying people knew he was a "good, genuine man." Prior cases aren't relevant, she said.

"As far as his criminal record, it has nothing to do with right now. That is the past," she said. "Right now, we're focusing on what happened to him."

Protesters have gathered for three nights at the Triple S Food Mart where Sterling was shot to death as they tried to make sense of recent events, including a fatal shooting in Minnesota, in which Philando Castile's girlfriend streamed video to Facebook after he was shot by a police officer Wednesday. Castile also was black.

Cornell William Brooks, the national head of the NAACP, visited Baton Rouge on Friday and said he is tired of victims of police shootings being treated as "hashtag tragedies" instead of human beings mourned by their families.

Asked about how the shootings reflect on race relations across the nation, McMillon said she didn't want Sterling's shooting to "be a race thing." She wouldn't answer questions, however, about whether she believed police would have responded the same way if Alton Sterling had been white.

After the shootings of police officers in Dallas, McMillon said she hoped the Baton Rouge protests would remain peaceful. More protests were planned throughout the weekend.

Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr. said his department has strived to avoid a "military-style response" to the protests.

State and local law enforcement officials briefed Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards on Friday about their public safety strategies. Louisiana State Police Col. Mike Edmonson said officials reviewed with the governor what assets were available to law enforcement and how quickly they can be mobilized in an emergency.

(sources: ABC news and Associated Press)

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

The state where targeting a police officer is a hate crime

After a Texas sheriff's deputy was murdered at a gas station in suburban Houston last summer, lawmakers across the country cried for action to protect police officers. They've had limited success.

In May, Louisiana became the first state in the nation to make it a hate crime to target police officers. The proposal was largely in response to the Texas killing, and it was fairly controversial when Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, signed the Republican-backed bill into law.

Black Lives Matter proponents, who are critical of police brutality, argued it was unnecessary, since many states already have enhanced penalties on the books for assaulting and/or killing police officers - including Texas, where the murder of a police officer can result in a death penalty sentence. And civil rights experts were concerned the measure would weaken hate crime laws.

Police officers who had formed Blue Lives Matter - a group formed in direct response to the Black Lives Matter movement - saw the issue of expanding protections to them much differently. "Symbolically it advises that there is a value to the lives of police officers," former police Lt. Randy Sutton of Las Vegas told CNN. "When you give value, it acts as a deterrent in one sense, but it also is a tool to add extra punishment for the assaults and the crimes against them."

Despite the controversy, similar legislation was considered this year in California, New Mexico, Maryland and New Jersey. The New Jersey resolution is the only one that is still being considered, according to the nonpartisan National Conference of State Legislatures's Richard Williams. Williams said he's seen an uptick in legislation addressing law enforcement more broadly over the past 2 years. But as state legislatures across the nation wrap up, Louisiana remains the only state with this kind of law on the books.

There's been even less movement on this front in Washington. In September, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) introduced legislation to make the death penalty an option for someone found guilty of specifically targeting a law enforcement officer, firefighter or public official. It has 23 co-sponsors, all Republican.

"I am sick and tired of this narrative across this country that we’re hearing from so many political figures that somehow the police are systemically a bunch of racist rogues," Toomey says in a TV ad promoting the bill.

There's a similar bill in the House with 49 co-sponsors, also all Republican. But despite having a significant chunk of support from Republicans in a Republican-led Congress, both pieces of legislation have sat motionless since being introduced.

It's unclear exactly why these bills haven't moved in the wake of a national debate about police brutality and police protections. Public opinion polling on police endangerment is scarce, though Americans do seem uncertain about the flip side of the debate, the Black Lives Matter movement.

A recent Pew Research Center poll found that 41 % of black people said they support the movement "strongly." An additional 24 % support it "somewhat," for a total of 65 %. Among whites, 40 % support it. Meanwhile, a September PBS/Marist poll found a notable 35 % of Americans see the Black Lives Matter movement advocating violence to make its point.

The statistics don't seem to support the idea there's a war on police. As NPR reported in September, police killed in the line of duty is actually on a downward trend:

But The Washington Post's database of police shootings finds that there have been more officers shot and killed in the line of duty this year than at this point last year.

The Anti-Defamation League has warned expanding hate crimes to police risks "diluting" hate-crime legislation by opening the door to including more groups. (A hate crime is defined as attacking a person specifically because of their identity, like racial or ethnic or religious.)

"Working in a profession is not a personal characteristic, and it is not immutable," Allison Padilla-Goodman with the Anti-Defamation League told CNN.

In the wake of yet another police killing on Texas soil - the deadliest for law enforcement since 9/11 - we'll have to wait and see whether legislation, whether in Washington or in the states, to expand protections to police officers gains any momentum.

(source: Washington post)

TENNESSEE:

Editorial (Circa 1913): On 'Substituting the Electric Chair for the Hangman's Noose'

On Sept. 27, 1913, the 58th General Assembly of Tennessee approved Senate Bill 125, making the electric chair the state's official method of execution. The chair, which Tennessee has used to kill 126 prisoners - the 1st of whom was executed nearly 100 years ago on July 13, 1916 - is the subject of this week's cover story.

The bill adopting the electric chair in Tennessee stated that "whenever any person is sentenced to punishment by death, that court shall direct that the body of such person be subjected to shock by a sufficient current of electricity until he is dead." It appropriated $5,000 "or so much thereof as may be necessary" for the construction of a death chamber and electric chair. And while the condemned had previously been hanged to death in the counties where they were convicted, the bill also stated that all executions would thereafter be carried out in Nashville.

The legislation passed the Senate by a vote of 27 to 4 and the House by a vote of 64 to 2. In all, 6 men voted against it, and we only have their last names: Cecil, Fitzpatrick, Fulton, Hare, Emmons and Shaw. The bill was signed into law by then-Gov. Ben Hooper.

After the jump is the text of a editorial that ran in the Lawrence Democrat almost 2 weeks after the bill was passed. Among other things, it shows that a century later we're still having all the same arguments about the death penalty:

We are pleased with the passage of the law substituting the electric chair for the hangman's noose in Tennessee. It is a short step it is true but nevertheless a step in the direction of juster, less horrible, less barbaric penal laws.

The killing of men for crime is illogical, and out of harmony with saner instincts of civilization. The only reason to be urged for capital punishment is that the penalty be made thereby so harsh and horrible as to become a preventive force to the commission of crime. The student of history, however, knows that in every age it has failed utterly to accomplish this end. Wherever and whenever punishment has been most harsh and brutish, the very crimes thus sought to be prevented have instead increased. Barbarity does not reform the criminal. Harshness and horror of penalty rather sows the seeds of brutishness and blood-lust in the minds of those of inherent weakness or crime-tendency, which grows into a sanguinary harvest.

There is even in the mind of the ignorant, a sense of proportion, a conception of justice, which revolts at the idea of the state committing the very man-killing for which it condemns the individual to death. And while electrocution preserves this ancient horror, and perpetuates barbarity, yet it seeks to diminish its horror, and hide it away from publicity. Of course this is a contradiction in legal standard, a rank and palpable inconsistency to seek to take away the horror it may create. Electrocution shows a tendency in the public ideals toward a humaner, and a saner system, and will help bring man to a realization of the futility and hurtfulness of the age-old error of killing to punish killing. And as it has such a tendency we are pleased because of the passage of the law in Tennessee.

One wonders what the editorial board of the Lawrence Democrat thinks of the fact that 100 years later, this "age-old error" persists, slowed only by logistical concerns like the availability of drugs for lethal injection - the next execution method, adopted in the hopes that it was "a step in the direction of juster, less horrible, less barbaric penal laws."

(source: Nashville Scene)

CALIFORNIA:

Sierra LaMar: Trial nears for missing teen's accused killer

Missing teen Sierra LaMar's accused killer was back in court Friday afternoon as a judge weighed various motions concerning his upcoming capital murder trial.

Prosecutors are seeking a death sentence against Antonin Garcia-Torres, 22, for LaMar's alleged Morgan Hill-area murder. The 15-year-old girl vanished on her way to a school bus stop near Morgan Hill on the morning of March 16, 2012. Garcia-Torres, who wore a suit and sat passively during Friday's hour-long hearing, has pleaded not guilty to the murder charge and also to attempted kidnappings of other women.

Among issues Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Vanessa A. Zecher must decide is whether to allow television, photography and the use of electronic devices to tweet or blog from court throughout the trial, as requested by major networks and other news organizations, including this newspaper.

Also at issue is a motion by Garcia-Torres' court-appointed lawyers, currently under conditional court seal, to suppress evidence, as well as the schedule for upcoming motions to sever the kidnapping charges and to move the trial to another county where the case has received less publicity.

One of Garcia-Torres' lawyers, Brian Matthews, argued Friday against allowing the media to photograph, film or electronically broadcast any of the upcoming proceedings. He also expressed concerns about the impact of cameras.

"What happens is, witnesses change, their demeanor and sometimes their testimony," Matthews said. "It affects lawyers and everyone, subconsciously. Our position is, it's all prejudicial, especially considering his life is at stake."

Prosecutor David Boyd said the District Attorney's Office had no position on the matter.

The judge said she would issue a written ruling in a few days.

The trial could begin in September with jury selection, the judge said. However, Matthews suggested the defense may not be ready by then.

"It's too fast," Matthews said of the deadline.

But Zecher disagreed.

"It's been 4 years, right?" she said, referring to the 2012 crime.

It is unclear how long the trial will last. Prosecutor David Boyd estimated the evidence portion would take 10 weeks. But at a previous hearing, Garcia-Torres' other attorney, Al Lopez, said it could last a year.

Zecher is expected to rule later this month or in August on a host of other issues, including whether to keep the defense's evidence-suppression motion under seal, to suppress any evidence they requested be excluded from trial and to hold a separate trial for the kidnapping charges.

She will also rule on Garcia-Torres' motion to move the trial out of the county. His lawyers have filed for a change of venue, claiming that massive media coverage of the case has made it impossible to find impartial jurors.

However, Matthews lost a similar motion concerning the release of the grand jury transcript in the case after lawyers for this news organization argued that the coverage was unlikely to contaminate the jury pool, particularly since Santa Clara County has a large population of 1.8 million.

Motions for a change of venue in much bigger cases, including the trial of Michael Jackson in much smaller Santa Barbara County, have been denied.

The last time a change of venue was granted in Santa Clara County was in 1980, when the county population -- and thus the jury pool -- was smaller. That's when the so-called San Jose Cheese Company murder trial involving the local Mafia was moved to Los Angeles County.

Regardless of where the trial is held, one of the biggest challenges will be finding 12 jurors and up to 6 alternates willing and able to serve during the whole trial, which could last 6 months.

In addition, jury selection alone could take an extra 2 to 3 months, largely because this is a death penalty case, and jurors must be open to the possibility of imposing the ultimate punishment.

Garcia-Torres' trial had been scheduled to start last spring. Over his lawyers' objections, Garcia-Torres in April asserted his constitutional right to a speedy trial within 60 days, which would have begun in June. He dropped his request after the judge explained that any new lawyer would have to spend months reviewing evidence, including 20,000 pages of documents, 600 compact discs and about 1,000 hours of recordings.

(source: Mmercury News)

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

Defense: AT&T not providing subpoenaed records in McStay family murder case

Defense attorneys for McStay family murder suspect Charles "Chase" Merritt filed a motion Friday in San Bernardino Superior Court requesting that AT&T be compelled to produce records in connection with the case.

The motion, filed under seal, was discussed during a pretrial hearing for Merritt, 59, of Homeland, who faces the death penalty in connection with the February 2010 beating deaths of Joseph McStay, 40, his wife, Summer, 43, and their 2 sons, Gianni, 4, and Joseph Jr., 3, in their Fallbrook home in San Diego County.

Merritt's attorney, Rajan Maline, said he and defense attorney James E. McGee II have issued 3 subpoenaes to AT&T since April requesting the records, but the communications company has not complied with the requests.

"They're essentially not complying. They cited reasons, but we don't think those reasons are adequate," said Maline.

Judge Michael A. Smith set the next hearing for July 19, in which representatives or attorneys from At&T are expected to be present to explain their position.

Representatives for AT&T couldn't be reached for comment Friday.

The McStay family's Feb. 4, 2010 disappearance mystified the public and stumped police, who suspected foul play from the get-go. In November 2013, a man riding his dirt bike discovered skeletal remains west of the 15 Freeway and north of Stoddard Wells Roads, on the outskirts of Victorville, and called police. Crime scene investigators unearthed the remains of 2 adults and 2 children in 2 shallow graves. The remains were later identified as those of the McStay family.

Merritt, Joseph McStay's former business associate, was arrested a year later and charged with 1st degree murder. He faces the death penalty if convicted.

Prosecutors believe greed motivated Merritt to beat the McStay family to death in their home with a 3-pound sledgehammer before transporting their bodies 100 miles away, where he allegedly buried them.

During his preliminary hearing, Merritt was described as a debt-ridden gambling addict who wrote multiple checks totaling more $21,000 on Joseph McStay's online QuickBooks account within a week of the family's disappearance. The checks were deleted from McStay's computer once they were printed, according to court testimony.

Merritt then went on a gambling spree, withdrawing thousands of dollars in cash from ATM machines at Indian casinos in Temecula and San Bernardino and the Commerce Casino near Los Angeles, according to court records and testimony from Merritt's preliminary hearing.

Maline said he isn't sure whether the records he and McGee are requesting from AT&T will even be used in Merritt's defense, which is why the motion was filed under seal and why they are requesting prosecutors are not made privy to the information as of yet.

Several new members either joined or are positioned to join Merritt's defense team and were present during Friday's court proceedings.

Suzy Israel, a former deputy public defender of 16 years in San Bernardino County, is pending appointment to Merritt's defense team. Forensics expert Randolph Beasley has also joined Merritt's team, as has media advisor Robert Wallace. Gary Robertson, a retired homicide sergeant for the San Bernardino Police Department, is now Merritt’s assigned private investigator.

(source: San Bernardino Sun)

USA:

4 plead not guilty in couple's shooting death at Lake Wylie

4 of the men charged in the 2014 shooting deaths of a couple at their South Carolina home are requesting a jury trial.

The Charlotte Observer reports (http://bit.ly/29DAyf0 ) the 4 pleaded not guilty Friday.

Prosecutors say Doug and Debbie London were killed in their Lake Wylie home in October 2014 to prevent their testimony against three United Blood Nation members who attempted to rob their mattress store in Pineville.

12 people were indicted in their deaths. Prosecutors say all are gang members.

The 4 in court Friday were Nana Adoma, Randall Hankins, Malcom Hartley and Jamell Cureton.

Cureton is accused of participating in the robbery and ordering the Londons killed. Hartley is accused of firing the gun. The U.S. Department of Justice hasn't decided whether to seek the death penalty in their cases.

(source: Associated Press)

********

Federal judge to hear death penalty challenge

A Vermont man facing a 2nd federal death penalty trial for the abduction and murder of a supermarket worker almost 16 years ago is asking the federal judge hearing the case to declare the death penalty unconstitutional.

In a 2-week hearing scheduled to begin Monday in Rutland, Vermont, the attorneys for Donald Fell plan to outline why they feel the federal death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.

Attorneys across the country representing people facing death penalty trials, and those appealing already imposed death sentences, are making similar arguments, but the Fell case will be the 1st to make it before a federal judge, said Robert Dunham, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

"All the indicators are that the public is turning away from the death penalty," said Dunham, who is listed as a possible witness by Fell's defense team.

Dunham said seven states have abolished the death penalty since 2000 and prosecutors across the country are seeking the death penalty less frequently. Juries are imposing it less frequently, fewer executions are being carried out and there is evidence the death penalty is carried out more frequently in some parts of the country than others, he added.

Vermont U.S. Attorney Eric Miller declined comment, but a list of government witnesses expected to be called will testify the death penalty is still favored by a majority of Americans and it does have a deterrent effect on future crime.

Kent Scheidegger, the legal director of the California-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which describes itself as supporting victims of crime, said he felt Fell's attorneys and death penalty opponents in general were making a mistake by asking a judge to rule on the constitutionality of the death penalty.

"By bringing this motion, they are going to actually have to submit this stuff as evidence and have an adversary hearing," Scheidegger said. "I hope that the government will pull out all he stops and show that these supposed facts are nonsense."

Fell, now 36, was arrested in 2000 and charged with abducting and later killing Terry King, a 53-year-old North Clarendon grandmother, as she arrived for work at a Rutland supermarket. Vermont has no state death penalty. Fell was charged under federal law.

In 2002, the judge then hearing the case, William Sessions, declared the federal death penalty unconstitutional. 2 years later, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the decision, allowing the trial to go forward.

Fell was convicted in 2005 and sentenced to death. His conviction was overturned in 2014 because of juror misconduct. He is due to go on trial again early next year.

But as part of their appeal, Fell's defense attorneys asked U.S. District Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford to consider the constitutionality of the death penalty. In February, Crawford ruled there was "strong disagreement" in "judicial and scholarly" circles about the legality of the death penalty. He set the 2-week hearing to take evidence on the issue and ultimately issue a ruling.

No matter what Crawford decides, the losing team of attorneys will appeal that decision. It's hoped that the Fell case, or perhaps another, will eventually make it to the U.S. Supreme Court where the justices will be asked to rule on the constitutionality of the death penalty, Dunham said.

"We don't know whether there are sufficient votes in the United States court to declare the death penalty unconstitutional," Dunham said. "The court might not even know."

(source: Associated Press)

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

New lawyers in North Dakota death penalty case almost ready

New lawyers handling the appeal for a man sentenced to death for killing a University of North Dakota student say they should complete the transition in 3 months.

Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., of Crookston, Minnesota, was convicted in 2005 of kidnapping and killing Dru Sjodin, of Pequot Lakes, Minnesota. The case resulted in tougher laws for sex offenders on the state and federal levels.

A judge earlier this year agreed to shift Rodriguez's legal representation from a federal public defender's office in Minnesota to an office in Pennsylvania that specializes in death penalty cases.

Court documents show that the new legal team has met with Rodriguez and expects to take over the case on a full-time basis in October. Rodriguez sits on death row in an Indiana federal prison.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Police will be on high alert in some areas, and one U.S. Rep. wants to make cop-killing punishable by the death penalty.

Officials across New Jersey expressed condolences, and police departments said Friday that they would be on high alert, following overnight shootings in Dallas that left five police officers dead.

"Mary Pat and I are sick and heartbroken, as our thoughts and prayers are with the officers killed and injured in yesterday's vicious shootings, along with their family and friends," Gov. Chris Christie said in a statement posted online. "The people of New Jersey mourn with the City of Dallas and the Dallas law enforcement community. Brave police officers all across this country who protect us on a daily basis deserve to be supported by all Americans. We must unite as a country and recommit ourselves to law and order, safety for our citizens and respect for each other and reject the hatred and violence behind these attacks."

Newark Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose told NJ.com that police will be "more vigilant" at protests planned in the city this weekend.

"We are going to ensure that people have their First Amendment rights," he told the website. "But, we have to make sure security (is in place) in case of any copycats."

State Acting Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino encouraged residents to hold peaceful demonstrations. He stressed the need for cooperation between citizens and law enforcement officers.

"Law enforcement and community leaders from across New Jersey have resolved to continue to work together to ensure that people have the opportunity to demonstrate in a peaceful and productive manner, reducing tensions rather than raising them, following the shootings of police officers in Texas, as well as the officer-involved shootings in Minnesota and Louisiana, Porrino said in a statement. "Now is the time to use the bonds we have built to unite and ensure that these tragedies are not compounded in our communities."

U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur said he wants to see Congress act on a bill that would make anyone who kills or attempts to kill a law enforcement officer, firefighter or other first responder an aggravating factor in death penalty determinations.

The bill, HR 814, known as the Thin Blue Line Act, is awaiting action by the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations.

"We need to do this to deter this kind of event," MacArthur said, referring to the Dallas shootings, which he called "a clear assassination."

"Our men and women deserve protection," he said. "This kind of tragedy (the Dallas shootings) can happen anywhere."

(source: patch.com)

MALAYSIA:

Gov't should not wait to amend law, say anti-death penalty groups

The government must stop dragging its feet in amending the death penalty law, following the recent announcement that a review of capital punishment in Malaysia has been completed.

Anti-death penalty groups have urged for prompt reform, saying that proposed changes to capital punishment sentences were overdue.

"The attorney-general has said he is not objecting (to reform of mandatory death sentences) last November. (Minister in Prime Minister's Department) Nancy Shukri has already said she will table the amendments in March 2016. The study was commissioned quite some time ago.

"The government should table the proposed amendments speedily. Delay in amending the law is 'torturous' for those still under the death sentence by reason of the existence of the mandatory death penalty provisions in law," Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) coordinator Charles Hector told Malaysiakini.

Meanwhile, regional grouping Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (Adpan) cited Malaysia's response at the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) report in front of UN member countries in late 2013.

"The Malaysian government has, time and again, announced that this study was underway, in response to the UPR review, as well as in response to calls by NGOs for it to abolish the death penalty," said Adpan executive member Ngeow Chow Ying.

While waiting for change to happen, they called for all executions to be halted and sentences commuted.

"The government should announce a moratorium on executions now until the amended laws come into force.

"The government should ensure that those facing the mandatory death penalty will have their sentences commuted to imprisonment," said Hector.

Nancy announced the completion of the study on capital punishment in Malaysia at the Sixth World Congress Against the Death Penalty in Oslo, Norway, last month.

"There are positive signs in Malaysia, and a steady momentum towards possible change in the death penalty legislation," Nancy said in a brief statement during a panel to kick off the international meeting.

Executions continue

Commissioned by the Malaysian government and carried out by the International Centre for Law and Legal Studies (I-Cells), the study, however, took more than 3 years to complete.

Regional grouping Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (Adpan) said it was disappointed with the lack of significance of the minister's speech.

"I expected a more substantial speech - at the very least, a summary of the report which had taken more than 3 years to complete.

"I am skeptical of the pace of reform, considering the state of Malaysia's human rights record and the political environment at present," said Ngeow.

Amnesty International Malaysia executive director Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu pointed out that despite the government's reform promise, executions were carried out even during the review period.

"While studies on death penalty reforms were conducted, Malaysia continued to execute death row inmates, with the last known executions being the triple executions on 25 March, 2016," Shamini told Malaysiakini.

She said according to Amnesty International's Death Sentences & Executions 2015 report, Malaysia was among 25 countries which executed people in 2015 and 1 of 61 countries that handed out death sentences last year.

The proposed reforms are a "positive step forward" for Malaysia but the NGO, which opposes both mandatory and discretionary death sentences, said the amendments may not be as progressive as hoped for by civil society.

"From what we understand, these reforms may be restricted to the mandatory death penalty for drug-related offences," said Shamini.

Hector echoed similar concerns.

"Now, the talk is about abolishing mandatory death penalty when earlier, it was about abolishing death penalty," he said.

(source: malaysiakioni.com)

THAILAND:

PM orders sentence review

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has ordered the Justice Ministry to review the sentence-remission process for rapists and murderers after the latest upsurge of these crimes.

According to Prayut, Thai laws are quite strong in these cases with severe punishments, including the option for the death penalty for both offences.

But he said a major weakness might lie in the process of granting pardons to many of those convicted in such cases, resulting in much shorter jail terms than the original punishments ordered by courts.

Prayut said justice and related authorities would have to be more strict when examining whether to reduce penalties for people convicted of these crimes, while society should brainstorm for new measures to tackle this problem.

The prime minister, who earlier rejected calls for capital punishment for all rape and murder cases, added that Thailand's legal actions should be consistent with universal values.

His remarks followed the case of Chularat Towanna, a provincial schoolteacher brutally murdered in a rape attempt in Saraburi province.

The crime took place at the victim's apartment in Kaeng Khoi district on July 1. Chatri Ruamsoonnerm, who lived in the same apartment, was arrested and admitted to stabbing her to death after he attempted to rape her.

(source: nationmultimedia.com)

JULY 8, 2016:

NORTH CAROLINA:

Tillis notes support for increased federal penalties following Dallas shooting

Following a mass shooting in Dallas that took the lives of 5 police officers, U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-NC, emphasized his support for a measure that would punish perpetrators of similar incidents.

By Friday afternoon, five police officers were confirmed dead in downtown Dallas shooting that occurred Thursday evening. 7 others, including 2 civilians, were injured. It was unclear on Friday afternoon how many total suspects participated in killing law enforcement officers. The Associated Press reported that police killed 1 suspect by using a robot to deliver a bomb.

In a prepared statement issued Friday, Tillis said it's important to support law enforcement officers.

He also mentioned a pending piece of legislation called the "Thin Blue Line Act," which would increase penalties for people who kill or attempt to kill first responders. The list of sponsors and cosponsors is entirely composed of Republicans, including Tillis. In his statement, Tillis mentioned the bill as a way to support law enforcement officers.

More specifically, the bill supported by Tillis would amend the federal criminal code to make the murder or attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, firefighters or other first responder an aggravating factor for juries that are considering the death penalty.

"Brave men and women put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe, and our federal laws should support them and give them the protections they need and deserve," Tillis said.

Law enforcement officers are described in the bill as those who are authorized to "engage in or supervise the detention, investigation, prosecution or incarceration of any person for any criminal violation" and those who are authorized to apprehend or arrest anyone for a criminal violation.

The aggravating factor would apply when the murder occurs while a first responder is at work or because of the first responder's job status.

After it was first introduced in 2015, the bill received support from the National Sheriffs' Association. At the time, the organization noted that the death penalty can be considered when a federal law enforcement officer is murdered. The death penalty cannot be considered for state or local law enforcement officers.

"It is an important recognition that the targeting of state and local law enforcement officers and firefighters is equally as abhorrent in the eyes of the law," said Executive Director Jonathan F. Thompson at the time.

In his statement that followed the Dallas mass murder, Tillis stressed the vital role of law enforcement in North Carolina's communities.

"I am proud of North Carolina's law enforcement community and grateful for the brave men and women in blue who risk their lives every single day to patrol our streets, protect our communities, and keep our families safe," Tillis said. "One of the great privileges I've had as North Carolina's senator is visiting police stations across the state and personally thanking our officers for the selfless risks and sacrifices they make for all North Carolinians. Wearing the blue uniform is one of the toughest and most dangerous jobs in America."

(source: Salisbury Post)

GEORGIA----impending execution

Halt the Execution of John Conner (UA 162/16)

John Conner, a 60-year-old man who has been on death row in Georgia for 34 years, is scheduled to be executed on 14 July. Represented at trial by an inexperienced attorney, his jury heard nothing about his abusive childhood, or his possible intellectual disability.

1) Please write immediately in English or your own language:

-- Calling for John Conner's execution to be halted and his death sentence commuted;

-- Expressing concern that the jury never heard about his abusive childhood or possible intellectual disability, and noting that the parole board now has the chance to consider the mitigating effect of this information;

-- Noting the evidence of personal growth that John Conner has achieved on death row after his chaotic and violent upbringing and the positive role he is said to play in prison;

-- Explaining that you are not seeking to excuse violent crime or downplay the suffering caused.

see: http://www.amnestyusa.org/get-involved/take-action-now/usa-halt-the-execution-of-john-conner-ua-16216

(source: Amnesty International USA)

UTAH:

Police Identify Man Accused in Deaths of Utah Teen Siblings

A Utah man accused of killing a teenage brother and sister in what's being called a senseless slaying over a T-shirt has been arrested on allegations that could become a capital murder case, authorities said Friday.

Mario Cervantes-Angel, 28, fired several shots after Jose Izazaga, 16, came out with a knife to defend his sister because she was being pushed around, police said. The fight started after another man accused Abril Izazaga, 15, of taking a shirt late Wednesday, according to Lt. Lex Bell of Salt Lake County's Unified Police Department.

The girl died at the apartment complex in the Salt Lake City suburb of Midvale, and her brother died at a hospital shortly after.

The group scattered, but several witnesses identified Cervantes-Angel as the person who fired the shots, according to a jail booking statement. He was arrested the day after the shootings.

The man who originally started the argument turned himself into to police, but hasn't yet been formally arrested and his name hasn't been released.

No attorney was immediately listed Cervantes-Angel in court records, and a search of public records showed no listed phone number.

Jail records say he's from Mexico and his also being held on an immigration violation. He's been arrested on suspicion of 2 counts of aggravated murder, a charge that carries the possibility of the death penalty. Prosecutors haven't yet filed formal charges in the case.

Members of the Izazaga family say the 2 slain siblings shared a tight bond. They were the youngest of nine siblings and both had birthdays in July.

Their older brother Kenny Lopez has said the man who started the confrontation was a longtime friend of Jose Izazaga and spent a lot of time at the house and sometimes stayed there when he didn't have a place to stay.

(source: Associated Press)

PHILIPPINES:

Senators split on lowering age of criminal liability to 9

Is the Philippines ready to put to death a 9-year old?

Senator Paolo "Bam" Aquino IV posed this challenge to critics of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act and those calling for the lowering of age of criminal liability.

Sen. Panfilo "Ping" Lacson, for his part, said he is willing to support the bill offhand, noting how crime syndicates are exploiting the juvenile delinquency law and that "times have changed."

"There are 12 years old who can think like a criminal and is exposed to a world of crime. The workings of his mind are already different. So I suggest that Congress discuss this, but I'm willing to support the move to lower the age of criminal liability," Lacson said.

Aquino said he cannot agree to adjust the age of juvenile delinquents that should be made to face the law in view of the possibility of the restoration of the death penalty.

"If we allow both of these laws to pass, we would be putting even children as young as nine-year old as candidates on death row," said Aquino, chair of the Senate committee on youth.

"So, is this the kind of Philippines that we want?" Aquino asked.

The senator was reacting to a resolution filed by presumptive House Speaker and Davao del Norte Representative Pantaleon Alvarez that seeks to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility from the current 15 years old to 9 years old.

Alvarez also sought passage of the bill restoring the death penalty in keeping with President Rodrigo Duterte’s all-out anti-criminality campaign.

But the senator said that to give full criminal liability to a nine-year-old would be "too cruel" and is not the appropriate kind of development a child or a youth should need.

"If you put the 2 bills that he filed together, the restoration of the death penalty and the lowering of the age of criminal liability to 9 years-old, then we might be faced with a situation subjecting even a 9-year old child to life imprisonment or death penalty," Aquino pointed out.

"I don’t know if the proponents of the law realize this but there are cases that drug couriers or drug lords or drug pushers use children and the children are the ones caught," he said.

"That child can actually get life imprisonment or death penalty. I don't think that's what we want to do...Is the Philippines ready to kill a 9 year old that was involved in that kind of circumstances? I don't think that's what we want to do, to kill a child," Aquino said. Lacson said Congress should obtain strong empirical data on the number of youth criminals so lawmakers can be guided as to the appropriate age to hold a young offender criminally liable.

"I need to see the statistics. We need strong empirical data. We shouldn't guess and then decide. But as far as I'm concerned, lowering the age of criminality, I'm saying this, is a foregone conclusion. We need to lower the age so there could be criminal liability," he said.

"Because if a child is 12 or 15 years old but his discernment is that of a 20 or 21 years old, then he cannot be considered a victim. That's what I want to see, and we need to call in resource persons - psychologists, psychiatrists to complete the information we have," Lacson said.

Sen. Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan had earlier cautioned lawmakers against rushing to enact laws that would dictate the future of the country's young people who need guidance.

Pangilinan, who helped push for the passage of the bill into law in 2006, also objected to authors of the measure who believe juvenile delinquents are "pampered" criminals.

"Pampered? Many of the child offenders I've met were not raised in pampered environments. Many of them started as petty thieves who were forced by hunger and poverty to commit such crimes," Pangilinan said.

"They gradually escalated to drug use, usually to deaden their hunger because rugby is cheaper than food. Their sense of humanity is also destroyed," he pointed out.

"We should be going after the syndicates, and not the children. What happens if you arrest and prosecute the child alone? What do you do with the syndicates who used them in the 1st place?" added the senator.

Pangilinan said the provisions in both the original act and the amending law were backed by studies and said that any subsequent amendments to be introduced again should also be supported by hard data.

He said RA 9344, as amended is considered a landmark child protection law that establishes a comprehensive and child-sensitive justice system. The law prohibits the detention of children in jails, especially with hardened criminals, and provides for juvenile delinquency prevention and intervention programs, among others.

(source: mb.com.ph)

TEXAS:

British woman on Texas death row may be spared as new evidence surfaces----A hearing this week for Linda Carty presents her with hope that she might avoid death penalty amid evidence prosecutors coerced false witness testimonies

A British woman who has been on death row in Texas for 14 years has been given renewed hope that she might be spared execution by an appeal hearing at which devastating evidence was presented that prosecutors had coerced false testimony from key witnesses.

Linda Carty, 57, has a high profile in Texas as one of just 6 women facing execution in the state and as a British citizen by dint of her birth in St Kitts at a time when the Caribbean island was still a British colony. Her case has been highlighted in documentaries and championed by the likes of Bianca Jagger and the British government.

Carty has always protested her innocence on charges that in 2001 she commissioned three men to carry out the kidnapping and murder of her neighbor, Joana Rodriguez, in a plot to steal the victim's 3-day old baby. Previous attempts to appeal her death sentence have failed, despite the absence of any forensic evidence against her and the fact that she was represented at trial by a defense lawyer who spent only 2 weeks preparing the case.

Close observers say that this week's hearing before a single judge appointed by the Texas court of criminal appeals takes her plea of innocence to another level. The hearing, that is likely to be concluded with the judge's opinion in early September, presents her with the greatest hope yet that she might secure a retrial.

Michael Goldberg of the law firm Baker Botts, who has been Carty's lawyer for the past 13 years, said that it was highly unusual that his client had even reached the stage of a post-conviction evidentiary hearing. "We were very happy when the Court of Criminal Appeals granted us this hearing, since it rarely does in Texas," he said.

Goldberg added that "now that we've concluded the hearing, the evidence that we were able to present shows even more conclusively that Linda's rights in the 1st trial were abused and that a new trial is required".

During this week's hearing, Goldberg spent 8 hours cross-examining Connie Spence, the lead prosecutor in the case who still works as a supervisor for the Harris County district attorney's office in Houston. Part of that cross-examination related to the explosive affidavit given in 2014 by Charles Mathis, a former agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

In the affidavit, Mathis recounted how he had recruited Carty as a confidential informant who could provide useful information to the DEA on drug dealing in the city given her expertise as a trained pharmacist. He said that when he told Spence that he did not want to testify at trial against Carty, the prosecutor threatened to concoct a story about him having had an affair with the defendant.

"I was shocked when Spence said this ... I felt Spence was threatening and blackmailing me into testifying."

The judge heard further allegations that the prosecutors had fabricated evidence, destroyed essential case notes and emails that might have helped the defense and withheld several recorded witness statements that should have been handed over to the defense team.

Both Spence and another prosecutor on the case who also still works for the DA's office appeared at the hearing, and both denied that they had done anything to coerce evidence from any of the witnesses. According to a report of the hearing by the Houston Chronicle, Spence told the judge: "Defense had access to the evidence any time they wanted to look."

Closing arguments in the appeal will be presented on 29 August, and the judge has indicated he will give his opinion within the first 10 days of September. Should the judge recommend a retrial, it will then be up to the full court of criminal appeals to decide whether or not to act upon his advice.

(source: The Guardian)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Death-row inmates can get federal legal help----The Federal Community Defender Office represents 4 out of 12 death row inmates in the York County Court of Common Pleas.

Hector Morales got on the witness stand in the York County Court of Common Pleas on Jan. 19, 2011, and told jurors that he didn't kill Ronald "Country" Simmons to prevent him from testifying in a drug case.

Instead, Morales testified, the 2 worked out an agreement. He was going to give Simmons, 42, a discount on drugs - and the occasional freebie.

The jury didn't buy it. And on March 1, 2011, jurors came back with a punishment for the crime: death.

Now, Morales, 33, is asserting that his constitutional rights were violated. He's arguing the prosecution committed misconduct during the trial, and that his previous lawyers were ineffective.

"I am innocent of the crimes for which I was found guilty," Morales wrote in court documents filed on Feb. 22. "I need new counsel to follow up on these issues, and identify and develop other valid issues."

So he asked for a specific attorney: Tracy Ulstad of the Federal Community Defender Office's Capital Habeas Unit in Philadelphia, which gets more than $16 million from the U.S. government. Right now, the group represents 4 of the 12 people from York County who are on death row in state appeals.

Though the federal and state court systems are separate, the Federal Community Defender Office is allowed to get involved in these appeals, and it's helped fill a need for quality representation in Pennsylvania death penalty cases, some legal experts said. The organization has been praised for its expertise, but criticized by some who say its lawyers use unethical tactics because they want to abolish capital punishment in the state.

"We get appointed to represent individuals," said Shawn Nolan, the chief of the Federal Community Defender Office's Capital Habeas Unit, who added that people deserve the best representation possible under the Constitution. "And that's what we do."

Why are the feds in state court?

Nolan has been in the Federal Community Defender Office for 14 years, and has led the Capital Habeas Unit for about 2 1/2. Right now, along with Morales, the organization represents York County death row inmates John Small, Kevin Dowling and Milton Montalvo.

Its lawyers typically get appointed to represent someone in a death penalty case once his or her initial appeals are denied, Nolan said. That's because there's a time limit when constitutional issues can be raised in federal court.

The Capital Habeas Units were created across the country in 1995 and 1996 to fill a void that was left when the federal government cut off money for death penalty resource centers, which provided training, consulting and representation in capital cases, said Robert Dunham, the executive director at the Death Penalty Information Center.

Dunham served as the executive director of the Pennsylvania Capital Case Resource Center from 1994 to 1999. He also spent 10 years in the Federal Community Defender Office's Capital Habeas Unit.

Not all of the Capital Habeas Units get involved on the state level, though they might have the flexibility to do so, he said.

Pennsylvania is the only place in the United States that does not provide state money to the defense in death penalty cases in which someone cannot afford an attorney. The Federal Community Defender Office got permission to start a pilot program to appear in state court, Dunham said.

Typically, when the office gets involved in state appeals, it is not allowed to use the money it gets from the U.S. government.

When Benjamin Lerner was on the bench of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, every homicide case in the city would come through his courtroom before trial.

He suspects the office became involved with appeals in state court because a lot of the convictions in capital cases or death sentences that were being thrown out happened on the federal level.

So, he said, it made sense for a lawyer who already knew the facts and had a relationship with the client to continue working on the case. Pennsylvania also has a "terrible shortage" of qualified attorneys who are willing and able to represent people facing the death penalty, Lerner said.

Whenever lawyers from the Federal Community Defender Office were in his courtroom, Lerner knew he was going to work "awfully hard." But every relevant issue would be litigated - and the case would not come back again on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, he said.

Lerner said he understands the burden that's placed on prosecutors, as they're facing an opponent who has greater resources and handles only capital cases.

"But my view about that has always been that's the price you pay if your area is a jurisdiction that elects to have the death penalty - or that's the price you ought to pay," said Lerner, who's now Philadelphia's deputy managing director for criminal justice.

"We have no right, I think, as a society to say, 'On the one hand we want to have the death penalty, but on the other hand, we aren't going to provide the resources for a constitutionally-adequate defense for people who we're seeking to put to death.'"

Praise and criticism

Some in the legal field regard the lawyers in the Federal Community Defender Office's Capital Habeas Unit as the preeminent experts, as they strictly handle death penalty cases.

In June, for example, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a death row inmate's constitutional rights were violated when a judge who was involved in the case as a prosecutor took part in issuing a decision against him. The Federal Community Defender Office represented the prisoner.

"Their results cannot be questioned, and any time an underserved community gets competent and effective representation, I think, that's for the best," said Marc Bookman, the director of the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation, a nonprofit death penalty resource center. He views the punishment as a "failed government program."

But the office has also been criticized.

That happened in the case of Morales.

In court documents, the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office noted that Assistant Federal Defender Billy Nolas filed a motion in 2012 on behalf of Morales. That happened even though the judge had refused to put Nolas on the case, and had already appointed another lawyer, prosecutors said.

The motive, prosecutors said, was clear. It was another attempt by the Federal Community Defender Office to "improperly interject themselves into state court proceedings when they were specifically precluded from doing so."

But Jeff Conrad, an attorney in Lancaster who was court-appointed on the case, said it was a "win-win" for everyone, because taxpayers in York County did not have to foot the bill. And, he said, "it's the client's business to choose who he wants to defend him."

When asked about the effect the Federal Community Defender Office has had on prosecutors who are handling appeals, Kyle King, a spokesman for the York County District Attorney's Office said: "We're certainly not going to make a comment." The Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office also declined to talk about the organization.

Retired Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald Castille wrote 2 opinions that were highly critical of the group. Both were in response to filings from Mark Spotz, who was sentenced to death for a crime spree that spread across Clearfield, Schuylkill, Cumberland and York counties in 1995, during which he killed 4 people.

In an opinion from 2011, Castille wrote that the Federal Community Defender Office's involvement in cases has been "remarkable in its stealth and pervasiveness." He also said the resources the group has are "something one would expect in major litigation involving large law firms," and that the organization bogged down state courts.

The group has a global political agenda, he said: "to impede and sabotage the death penalty in Pennsylvania."

"A zealous representation of your client - that's fine," Castille said in a recent interview. "But being a zealot is different."

The future of the death penalty in Pa.

The Federal Community Defender Office's involvement in state court, for the time being, might have a different urgency.

Saying the system is "riddled with flaws" and "anything but infallible," Gov. Tom Wolf in February 2015 placed a moratorium on executions.The Pennsylvania Supreme Court later ruled that he acted within his authority.

In June 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which covers Pennsylvania, also held that the Federal Community Defender Office was allowed to appear in state court. Prosecutors in several counties tried the prevent the organization from getting involved in cases.

Chief Judge Theodore McKee wrote in a concurring opinion that systemic attempts to disqualify the lawyers from cases was "all the more perplexing and regrettable" in part because of how much has been written about inadequate representation creating a risk for miscarriages of justice. Prosecutors, he said, seemed to be objecting because the office was "providing too much defense to the accused."

"I am not quite sure why the same kind of meticulous devotion of resources should not be available to someone who has been condemned to die by the state," McKee wrote, "and who seeks to challenge the legality of that punishment."

Who's in death row in York County?

Here are the 12 people from York County who are on death row, and the year they were sentenced. People who are represented by the Federal Community Defender Office in the York County Court of Common Pleas are marked with an asterisk.

--Paul Gamboa-Taylor (1992): Gamboa-Taylor pleaded guilty to murdering 4 family members with a hammer on May 18, 1991.

--Hubert Michael Jr. (1995): Michael pleaded guilty to kidnapping and killing Trista Eng, 16, on July 12, 1993.

--Mark Spotz (1996): Spotz killed 4 people during a crime spree in 1995, which spanned Clearfield, Schuylkill, Cumberland and York counties. 6 death warrants have been signed for him, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.

--John Small* (1996): He was convicted of attempted rape and the murder of Cheryl Smith, 17, whose body was found in West Manheim Township in 1981.

--Kevin Dowling* (1998): Dowling was sentenced to death for the killing of Jennifer Myers, 44, the owner of an art and frame shop outside Spring Grove, on Oct. 20, 1997.

--Milton Montalvo* (2000) and Noel Montalvo (2003) The brothers were condemned to die for the stabbing deaths of Miriam Asencio-Cruz, 44, and Manuel Ramirez-Santana, 37, on April 19, 1998.

--Harve Johnson (2009): Johnson is on death row for killing 2-year-old Darisabel Baez in 2008.

--Kevin Mattison (2010): Mattison, who previously did time for third-degree murder in Maryland, was convicted of shooting Christian Agosto during a robbery on Dec. 9, 2008. Agosto, 34, died 1 week later.

--Hector Morales* (2011): Morales was sentenced for shooting and killing Ronald "Country" Simmons Jr. on July 16, 2009. Simmons was a drug informant who planned to testify against Morales.

--Aric Woodard (2013): On Nov. 7, 2011, Woodard beat 2-year-old Jaques Twinn to death.

--Timothy Jacoby (2014): Jacoby shot and killed Monica Schmeyer, 55, on March 31, 2010, when he tried to burglarize her home in West Manheim Township.

Active death penalty cases in York County:

Right now, the York County District Attorney's Office is proceeding with 2 death penalty prosecutions:

--Marcus Bordelon, 23, of Wrightsville, is accused of killing his ex-girlfriend, Samantha Young, 21, on April 19, 2015.

--Daniel Jacobs, 45, of York, is awaiting retrial on a charge of criminal homicide in the death of his girlfriend, Tammy Lee Mock, 18, on Feb. 16, 1992. His case has been in limbo for more than 10 years. He is already serving a life sentence for the murder of his 7-month-old daughter, Holly.

Johnson seeks new trial

This fall, Harve Johnson, who was convicted of his killing his girlfriend's 2-year-old daughter, Darisabel Baez, will be back in court for a 3-day hearing. It comes after his lawyer filed - and later revised - a motion that, including exhibits, is more than 1,200 pages and argues that he's entitled to a new trial.

The attorney representing Johnson, Michael Wiseman, is the former chief of the Federal Community Defender Office's Capital Habeas Unit in Philadelphia. He is no longer with the organization.

(source: York Daily Record)

GEORGIA----impending execution

Georgia Prepares for 6th Execution of the Year ---- John Wayne Conner's lethal injection would set a record in Georgia, which hasn't executed more than 5 people in a year in the modern era.

A man who beat a drinking buddy to death with a stick is set to become Georgia's sixth death-row inmate executed by lethal injection this year.

John Wayne Conner is scheduled for execution by lethal injection at 7 p.m. on Thursday, at Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson.

If the execution goes through, it would set a new record for Georgia. The state has never executed more than 5 people in a year in the 40 years since the death penalty was reinstated.

5 death-row inmates were executed in 2015 and 1987.

There have been 64 men and 1 woman executed in Georgia since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. Conner would be the 43rd put to death by lethal injection.

There are presently 63 men under death sentence in Georgia.

Conner was sentenced to death in 1982 for the murder of James T. White in Telfair County.

According to testimony, Conner, White and Conner's girlfriend had gone to a party in Eastman. After returning to Conner's house, Conner, then 25, and White, 29, walked to a neighbor's home to ask, unsuccessfully, for a ride to a liquor store.

While walking back to Conner's house, Conner claims, White made a comment about wanting to have sex with Conner's girlfriend. The men fought, and Conner hit White first with a glass bottle then with a stick he found.

After returning home, Conner told his girlfriend he may have killed White, but that they needed to go back and make sure. The girlfriend testified that, when they went back to the scene of the fight, she heard a thud, then Conner returned and told her White was dead.

The couple were arrested the next day in Butts County.

Conner's attorneys will appear before the state Board of Pardons and Paroles on Wednesday in an attempt to have his execution halted.

(source: patch.com)

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Slain St. Augustine priest signed "Declaration of Life" document asking that his killer not be put to death

Editor's Note: Road to Murder, a Times-Union Special Report, details the slaying of St. Augustine priest Rene Robert. In this preview, Robert is remembered for his work, his compassion and a "Declaration of Life."

As the 6 o'clock hour approached and workers spilled onto the streets toward home, Father Rene Robert would stand with others on a corner solemnly waiting.

For him and those who stood with him, 6 p.m. was a time of great sadness. It is at that hour on appointed days that Florida typically puts to death its condemned. So on a corner Robert and the others would pray. They prayed for redemption for the killer. They prayed for the victims. They prayed for Florida to join 19 other states and abolish the death penalty.

Robert was so opposed to the death penalty that in 1995 he signed a "Declaration of Life" that said, " ... should I die as a result of a violent crime, I request that the person or person found guilty of homicide for my killing not be subject to put in jeopardy of the death penalty under any circumstance, no matter how heinous their crime or how much I have suffered."

The notarized declaration is to be given to the prosecutor, the attorney representing the accused, the judge and the recorder of the county where the homicide case will be tried. While the declaration carries little legal weight, its moral significance is real. Robert was killed on April 11 in Burke County, Ga. A deeply troubled 28-year-old, Steven Murray, has said in interviews with the Times-Union that he committed the crime. A Georgia prosecutor is seeking the death penalty.

Ashley Wright, the district attorney for the Augusta Judicial District, filed the notice of intent to seek the death penalty on May 19. She didn't seem moved by Robert's wishes, which she learned about after her filing.

She said, "The State's decision to seek imposition of the death penalty is based on legal reasons which arise from the unique facts of each case. While many who are affected by a loved one's loss would wish the State to seek the maximum penalty, it is reserved for certain cases based on aggravating circumstances. That's how the decision is made. It's not sought based on public opinion."

DIOCESE CONTINUES APPEAL

The Diocese of St. Augustine, where Robert served initially as a Franciscan brother then a priest of the diocese, sent Wright the document as well as a letter from the Most Rev. Felipe J. Estevez, bishop of the diocese.

Estevez wrote, "While the State has the right to carry out the death penalty in order to protect society, the unnecessary, deliberate taking of any life denies the dignity of all persons, contributes to an ever growing disrespect for the sacredness of human life, and feeds a sense of vengeance rather than justice. Society remains safe when violent criminals are imprisoned for life without parole."

A spokeswoman for the diocese said, "Bishop Estevez on behalf of Father Rene Robert and the Diocese of St. Augustine will continue to appeal to the State of Georgia until the death penalty is removed from this case."

'NO EXCEPTIONS'

When Robert signed his Declaration of Life 21 years ago, he joined an estimated 1,200 others who had done the same during the anti-death-penalty group's infancy. Modeled after a national group, Catholics Against Capital Punishment, a group of nuns from the Brooklyn (N.Y.) Regional Community of the Sisters of Mercy formed the group Cherish the Life Circle to speak out against capital punishment, offer the Declaration of Life and to provide support to family members of loved ones who have been victims of homicide.

At 83, Sister Camille D'Arienzo, a founder, still carries the cause though she readily admits that keeping tally on the number of people who have has signed the declaration has stopped. Still, she was aware that Robert has a Declaration of Life document with her name and his signature on it.

"I feel so honored that I was able to provide that," she said. "And while the father can no longer speak for himself, our faith tells us that he is witnessing what is being done in his name. And to take a life, to take the life of his killer would be to dismiss his value, father's value and to dishonor his memory."

To Sister Camille, there are no gray areas.

"We have a commandment that says Thou shalt not kill," she said. "It doesn't say it's okay because the crime was horrific or because the victim was an innocent child. There are no exceptions.

"We don't do anything of value by imitating the very behavior that we condemn. To kill someone who has killed someone because we hate killing is irrational."

'FOLLOWING THE GOSPEL MESSAGE'

Robert saw life much in the same way; without gray, when it came to helping the downtrodden, the addicted, the marginalized.

"He was deeply committed to the sacredness of life," said Bishop Emeritus John Snyder. "He was just so committed and so concerned about people that he was extraordinary in that sense."

That commitment put him in potentially dangerous situations.

For years Robert ministered to people in jail. That work wasn't limited to those behind bars. He also ministered and helped those like Murray who bounced in and out of jail.

"I was worried about him getting ripped off. He was kind of an easy mark," said St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar. "He was just very giving and would get close to these people; and I did worry about them, and I did worry about him.

"...People that spend time in jail, and I'm not saying all of them, but if they see a particular opportunity to get money, I always worried about that and I'd talk to him about it."

Despite the warnings, Robert found goodness in all people, Shoar said. "I think he had a level of naivete because of his faith in people," he said.

That faith was remarkable, said Nancy O'Byrne, a long-time friend of Robert.

"He felt he was following the gospel message," O'Byrne said. "And that is why he did what he did. He wasn't worried about his safety. ... And that is what you do when you are living the gospel message. You don't worry about your safety. You do what God is calling you to do and more of us need to be doing that and not worrying about personal safety. If we believe in the God that we are going to be with for all of eternity, then why are we so worried about what would happen to us? It's a big disconnect as far as I am concerned and I think he believed that too."

O'Byrne said, "He chose to live out of love, not fear."

(source: Florida Times-Union)

FLORIDA:

Mesac Damas murder case remains in legal limbo due to death penalty challenges

The 1st-degree murder case of Mesac Damas remains in legal limbo due to ongoing challenges to Florida's death penalty laws.

Damas appeared in court Friday morning. During the appearance both his appointed attorney, James Ermacora, and the assistant state attorney expressed frustration that "nothing has happened" for months to untangle the legal knot that is holding up cases throughout the state.

"I think every death penalty case in Florida is tied up in a knot like this one," Ermacora said.

The Legislature rewrote Florida's death penalty law in March after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state's previous law was unconstitutional. That law allowed judges to reach a different decision than juries, who had only an advisory role in recommending death.

But the new law, which doesn't require a unanimous recommendation of death from the jury - it only requires 10 of the 12 jurors to recommend death - has also been challenged by judges in Miami-Dade and Hillsborough Counties. The Florida Supreme Court will likely have to weigh in, Ermacora said.

Damas, 39, is charged with 6 counts of 1st-degree murder in the deaths of his wife and 5 children, who were between the ages of 1 and 9 at the time of the September 2009 killings. Damas has twice confessed to the Daily News that he committed the homicides, and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

His case also has been delayed by competency issues.

Damas is next scheduled to appear in court on Nov. 23.

(source: Naples News)

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Egypt Robinson back in court

The woman charged with 1st degree murder in the death of her three year-old son was back in court Thursday afternoon for a pre-trial hearing.

Bay County Sheriff's deputies arrested 27-year-old Egypt Robinson in December after they found the body of her son A.J. Acevedo wrapped in a sheet in a suitcase floating behind a Callaway home she was staying at.

Prosecutors said the state will be seeking the death penalty.

Robinson's next court date is October 27.

(source: WJHG news)

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Florida Supreme Court puts rulings on death penalty and gambling on hold, takes summer break

The Florida Supreme Court released its final round of rulings for the summer Thursday and issued a rare clarification of its workers' compensation decision of last month, but it also put left unresolved 2 of the most controversial issues to come before the court this year: the death penalty and expansion of slot machines.

The court postponed rulings on the constitutionality of the state's death penalty, leaving the state's procedure and the 388 inmates on death row in limbo for potentially several more months.

The ruling is expected as part of a series of hearings the court held in May and June over cases challenging the state's death penalty law passed by lawmakers in March, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Hurst vs. Florida that the state's sentencing scheme was unconstitutional. The court has stayed two executions in the wake of the Hurst ruling, heard arguments in more than a dozen death penalty cases, and has not yet unanswered whether longtime death row inmates should be afforded new sentencing hearings.

The court also heard arguments in June about whether a 2010 state gaming law allows counties to expand slot machines without legislative approval.

Both decisions could have wide-ranging ramifications and could potentially provoke criticism, controversy and unleash an election-year debate over 2 highly-charged issues.

3 of the 7 sitting justices on the bench are up for a merit-retention vote in November - Chief Justice Jorge Labarga, Justice Charles Canady and Justice Ricky Polston.

The death penalty questions before the court were spawned by the January U.S. Supreme Court ruling that declared the state's death sentencing system unconstitutional because it gave too little power to juries. For decades, Florida jurors issued bare majority recommendations, with judges ultimately imposing the death penalty.

The opinion evolved from a similar ruling in a 2002 case, Ring vs. Arizona, which held that juries in that state should have the sole authority to decide on aggravating circumstances that made someone eligible for the death penalty. Alabama, Florida and Delaware are the only 3 states in the nation that do not require a unanimous jury to impose the death sentence and Florida officials believed the jury's "advisory" role was sufficiently different to allow the court to differentiate Florida from the Arizona ruling.

The decision forced the Legislature to rewrite its death-penalty sentencing law to require juries to unanimously vote for every reason, known as aggravating factors, that a defendant might merit a death sentence. The decision to impose the death sentence requires 10 of 12 jurors.

The fact that the court went on its summer recess without issuing an opinion, however, doesn't necessarily mean there won't be one to come before the court issues opinions again in late August.

Martin McClain, a lawyer who has represented more than 250 defendants condemned to death and presented arguments before the court in June, said Thursday that in 2009 he was appealing the death sentence of an inmate issued its last opinions before it recessed for the summer one week, and the next week the opinion on his case was issued.

"We have no idea what they will do,'' he said in an interview. He noted that there are 2 people on death row in which juries recommended a life sentence but a judge overrode it with a death sentence and the court may be taking its time to consider the impact of those cases.

"We now have a statute that says you can't get a death sentence if three or more people voted for life and yet we are still going to execute people who have a life recommendation? It's very difficult to determine what we're going to do. It makes sense to me the court wants to do it right. ... It's also clear from the oral arguments that they are not in agreement."

(source: Tampa Bay Times)

ALABAMA:

Strange facts about Alabama's 200 years of executions

Official records from the Alabama Department of Corrections lists the names of more than 200 people executed between 1927, when the state started using the electric chair, through this year when Christopher Brooks died by lethal injection, Alabama's current means of execution.

But what of the many decades in which Alabama executed people by hanging or even gunfire?

The Death Penalty Information Center's Espy File, which tracked executions nationwide that took place between 1608 and 2002, states Alabama executed 764 people between 1812 and 2002 -- making it the state with the seventh highest number of executions.

Alabama has executed another 33 people since 2002, according to state records.

The Espy File is a "list of 15,269 executions was compiled by M. Watt Espy and John Ortiz Smykla, and was made available through the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research," the DPIC site states.

Between 1812 and the advent of Alabama's "Big Yellow Mama" in 1927, Alabama executed 555 people, the file states.

The earliest record in the file is the Dec. 19, 1812 hanging of Eli Norman for the crime of murder.

All but one of the executions between 1812 and 1927 were hangings. On Feb. 6, 1814, a man named John Woods was executed by gunshot. The file lists his crime as "other."

Among the interesting items in the file:

--While most executions are for murder, 60-year-old Thomas Davis was hanged on Oct. 10, 1822 for counterfeiting.

--In 1833, Littleton Prince was hanged for aiding a runaway slave.

--Multiple executions in one day was not uncommon in years past. In 1934, the state electrocuted 5 men in 1 night.

However, the largest mass execution in Alabama history may have been Nov. 11, 1825. On that day, 6 Native Americans, including Tuscoona Fixico, Dancing Rabbit, Chilancha and 3 others not identified, were hanged for murder.

In his book "The Second Creek War," writer John H. Ellison states Tuscoona Fixico led rebel warriors in a series of ambushes intended to isolate Fort Wilson.

--Men make up the vast majority of Alabama's executions -- since 1927 only 4 women have been executed here.

The earliest known execution of a woman in Alabama came on June 10, 1825 when Patsy Gorman was hanged for murder. In all, the file lists the executions of 15 women in Alabama in the 1800s.

--African-Americans made up the vast majority of Alabama executions. However, several Native Americans were also executed in the 19th century.

The earliest of these may have been the Dec. 12, 1834 hanging of Poo-sa-la for murder. Another Native American, Eas-ko, was executed here for murder in 1834 but no exact date was listed.

(source: al.com)

TENNESSEE:

State Supreme Court Upholds Conviction, Death Penalty For Washington Co. Murderer

The Supreme Court has affirmed the convictions and sentences of death for Howard Hawk Willis for killing two East Tennessee teenagers and dismembering one of them.

In 2010, a Washington County jury convicted Willis of two counts of premeditated murder and one count of felony murder in the perpetration of a kidnapping for the 2002 deaths of 17-year-old Adam Chrismer and his 16-year-old wife, Samantha Chrismer, according to a news release.

The jury sentenced Willis to death on each conviction. In 2015, the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the convictions and the sentences of death.

On appeal to the Supreme Court, Willis argued that the trial court should have excluded certain incriminating statements he made to his ex-wife because she was acting as an agent of the government at the time the statements were made.

Willis made the statements to his ex-wife during in-person meetings with her at the Washington County jail and at a detention facility in New York, and also during recorded telephone calls from jail, according to the release. He claimed that the admission into evidence of the statements violated his right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The court held that there was no violation of Willis' right to counsel. The court first noted that Willis made some of the incriminating statements to his ex-wife before he was indicted, and he had no constitutional right to counsel at that time.

After Willis's indictment, the state discouraged the ex-wife from having any further contact with Willis, and he did not offer proof at trial that the state agreed to have the ex-wife act as its agent or that the state had any control over her actions.

Consequently, as to incriminating statements Willis made in person to his ex-wife after his indictment, the proof showed only that the state willingly accepted information from a cooperating witness, according to the release.

Willis admitted that every telephone call he made from jail was preceded by a recording that informed him that all calls are subject to monitoring and recording, so he implicitly consented to the monitoring and recording of his telephone conversations with his ex-wife. The court maintained that the admission into evidence of the incriminating statements did not violate Willis' constitutional rights.

After a full review of the record and all of the evidence, the court concluded that the proof fully supported the convictions and the sentences of death.

Chief Justice Sharon G. Lee filed a separate concurring opinion, in which she agreed that Willis's death sentence is proportionate to the penalties imposed in similar cases but reiterated her disagreement with the manner in which the court conducts proportionality review.

(source: Greeneville Sun)

SOUTH DAKOTA:

Death penalty upheld in 1992 murder of Rapid City man at doughnut shop

The U.S. District Court for South Dakota has upheld the conviction and death sentence for a man convicted in the 1992 murder of a 22-year-old Rapid City man who was stabbed to death at a doughnut shop.

According to state Attorney General Marty Jackley, the motions filed by Charles Russell Rhines were denied by the federal court. Rhines had sought a motion for habeas corpus relief and to amend the penalty he received.

Rhines was convicted in the murder of 22-year-old Donnivan Schaeffer in Rapid City on March 8, 1992.

Rhines, now 59, was charged with fatally stabbing Donnivan Schaeffer, 22, during a burglary at a Rapid City doughnut shop in March 1992. Schaeffer, a part-time employee at the shop, walked in on Rhines while he was robbing the shop.

"The Federal Court's ruling affirms that Charles Russell Rhines' murder conviction and capital sentence for the horrific murder of Donnivan Shaeffer are constitutional. My thoughts and prayers are with the Schaeffer family, who have waited 24 years for justice in this case," Jackley said in a news release on Thursday.

A Pennington County jury convicted Rhines of 1st degree murder in 1993 and returned a sentence of death. Rhines' conviction and death sentence were affirmed on direct appeal by the South Dakota Supreme Court in 1996. Rhines' conviction and sentence were also affirmed on state habeas proceedings by the state trial court and South Dakota Supreme Court.

With the conclusion of his federal trial court habeas corpus proceedings, Rhines can file a notice of appeal within 30 days to the United States Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit and, ultimately, to the United States Supreme Court. Rhines must obtain permission from the federal court to pursue an appeal.

(source: Rapid City Journal)

NEBRASKA:

Nebraska Supreme Court rejects challenge to death penalty petition drive

The Nebraska Supreme Court has rejected a legal challenge of a ballot question that asks voters to reinstate the death penalty.

Lawyers for death penalty opponents had argued a successful petition drive was legally invalid because organizers failed to list Gov. Pete Ricketts as a sponsor. Ricketts and his family gave $300,000 to the petition drive in 2015 after the Nebraska Legislature overrode the governor's veto of death penalty repeal legislation.

"The alleged failure to include his name in the list of sponsors did not make the referendum petition legally insufficient," Judge Lindsey Miller-Lerman wrote in the court's opinion. The high court upheld the decision of Lancaster County District Judge Lori Maret.

The legal requirement to list sponsors is intended to let voters know which individuals, organizations or corporations are behind a petition drive before signatures are collected.

Friday's ruling paves the way for the ballot question to appear before voters when they go to the polls Nov. 8.

(source: Omaha World-Herald)

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High court: Ricketts not a 'sponsor' of death penalty referendum

Death penalty opponents lost a bid Friday to keep the question of whether the ultimate penalty should return to Nebraska off the ballot in November.

Christy and Richard Hargesheimer of Lincoln had sought an injunction to keep Secretary of State John Gale from placing the question on the ballot, saying the petition drive that gathered some 169,000 signatures failed to disclose Gov. Pete Ricketts as a sponsor.

But the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled in favor of the state and a pro-death penalty group, which argued that Ricketts wasn't a sponsor, despite the fact that he and his father contributed 1/3 of the $913,000 raised by Nebraskans for the Death Penalty and his close allies took roles to promote it.

In Friday's order, Supreme Court Justice Lindsey Miller-Lerman said sponsors are individuals or entities who assume responsibility for the initiative or referendum process, so Ricketts would not be required to be listed as one.

Lawmakers didn't define "sponsor" or say what it meant to sponsor a petition in the statute, which left it a question for the court to decide.

Attorneys for the Hargesheimers contended it was important for the public to know about Ricketts' contributions, both financial and otherwise. But the state's high court found that the disclosure of financial backers was met by other statutes that require their identification.

And the court affirmed Lancaster County District Judge Lori Maret's dismissal of the suit in February.

(source: Lincoln Journal Star)

COLORADO:

Lack of answers in Colorado Supreme Court's firing of judge unacceptable

The remarkable removal of a judge from a death-penalty appeal shortly before he was set to make a significant ruling demands public explanation. Lawyers for convicted murderer and death-row inmate Sir Mario Owens are right about that, whatever the value of the remaining claims they made in a legal filing last week with the state Supreme Court.

Judge Gerald Rafferty's dismissal from Owens' case in April may in fact have been justified. But who can tell given the secrecy surrounding the process by which the Colorado Supreme Court yanked Rafferty off the case. A press release that said Rafferty "breached the terms of the contract" as a senior judge hardly qualifies as sufficient.

"To remove a sitting judge ... at exactly the same moment that he was issuing his final order, which would largely decide Mr. Owens' fate and whether he lives or dies, is literally unprecedented, not only in a Colorado case of this magnitude, but in the annals of law," Owens' lawyers wrote.

It is also costly, since it negates much of the lengthy hearings held in Rafferty's courtroom. Evidence will have to be presented anew and witnesses required to repeat their testimony. This may be unavoidable, but it is also extraordinary. What did Rafferty do to merit such treatment?

The public interest goes well beyond the extra price tag, too. Owens' attorneys contend that Rafferty was poised to find major flaws in the original prosecution. The dark implication of interference is obvious, and should not be allowed to linger when a straightforward explanation for Rafferty's departure could clear the air.

Yet on Wednesday the high court refused to reconsider pulling Rafferty, and it did so with a terse, one-page order that provided no explanation for the denial.

Ironically, Owens' appeal involves one of the first tests of what a Denver Post article by John Ingold describes as a "new process for death-penalty appeals in Colorado, which lawmakers hoped would speed up the execution process. Instead, the system has bogged down, mired for years without even clearing the 1st step in the process."

But such delays are par for the course in death-penalty cases. Despite 1 attempt after another by diehard proponents of capital punishment to see the penalty enforced, Colorado has had only 2 executions in the past half century, with the most recent occurring nearly 20 years ago. Meanwhile, juries have become reluctant to mandate death even for the likes of heinous mass murderers such as James Holmes and Dexter Lewis.

Owens was convicted in 2008 for a crime that occurred 11 years ago, and his case could easily drag on for additional years. If nothing else, this latest strange saga of his appeal should provide more evidence to lawmakers that the death penalty statute is not working and cannot be made to work. It's time that it was repealed.

(source: Editorial, Fort Morgan Times)

CALIFORNIA:

Death penalty is destructive to California

In 1978, my family wrote and sponsored the ballot initiative that expanded the death penalty back to California. We worked tirelessly to pass the initiative, putting in long days gathering signatures and late nights stuffing envelopes. Instituting the death penalty, we thought, would save Californians money, bring safety to our communities and provide closure to victims' families.

We could not have been more wrong.

Though I was once California's biggest proponent of the death penalty, I now feel compelled to admit the policy is destructive to our great state. What we didn't know then is that the death penalty would become an industry that benefits only attorneys and criminals, and no one else. It's an extreme expense to taxpayers, does not make our communities safer and fails to deliver the justice it promised.

Since the initiative became law, California taxpayers have unknowingly spent more than $5 billion to maintain a death row that now houses 747 convicted criminals. During this time, only 13 people have been put to death, at an eye-popping price tag of $384 million per execution.

Beyond its economic burden, the death penalty in California is a myth.

Not a single individual has been executed in the past 10 years because of many problems. An exhaustive appeals process, guaranteed by our Constitution, can drag on for decades. Meanwhile, death row inmates are kept in private cells, don't have to work and are afforded privileges they would not be getting in the general prison population.

Because of all this, the death penalty costs taxpayers 18 times more than a sentence of life in prison. So why are Californians paying for an exorbitant capital punishment program that does not accomplish justice?

The constitutionally mandated appeals keep the wounds of victims' families open. The death penalty does not make our communities any safer, either. New studies conclusively show that the death penalty is not a deterrent to crime. My family and I believed the death penalty would serve as the ultimate warning to criminals, but nearly 40 years of evidence proves it does not work.

Don't get me wrong - I'm still as tough on crime as I've ever been. I firmly believe those who committed the most heinous acts should do the hardest of time and never again see the light of day. But it's time to face facts: the ultimate punishment has become the ultimate failed government program.

Fortunately, we now have the chance to deliver real justice. The Justice That Works Act - Proposition 62 on the November ballot - would replace the death penalty with a punishment that brings swift and certain justice: life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Instead of paying for endless appeals, we would lock up the worst criminals and throw away the key forever. It would also force inmates to work and pay restitution to their victims' families while saving California taxpayers $150 million annually - money that could go to programs that can prevent crime.

Another initiative on the ballot - Proposition 66 - promises to fix the death penalty by hiring more attorneys. But do not be deceived. It's a sloppy initiative that will make things worse.

Every attempt to fix the death penalty over the past 40 years has only made it slower and more expensive, wasting resources on criminals, attorneys and a bloated bureaucracy.

The only real solution is to replace the death penalty with life in prison without parole.

Like my family, California thought expanding the death penalty initiative was the right thing to do in 1978. We were wrong. Now as a state, we have the chance to end the wasteful program and maintain our commitment to tough justice by passing Proposition 62.

(source: Opinion; Ron Briggs is a former supervisor of El Dorado County----Sacramento Bee)

USA:

US Attorney pens letter to Charleston church shooting families

Acting U.S. Attorney Beth Drake has written an open letter to the relatives of 9 black parishioners fatally shot in a Charleston church last year and to 3 survivors of the shooting.

In a letter posted online Wednesday, Drake told the families that both the federal government and state prosecutors are seeking justice as they prepare to try accused shooter Dylann Roof.

The comment is Drake's 1st since taking over the office for Bill Nettles, who resigned last month as South Carolina's top federal prosecutor.

Roof's federal death penalty trial is set for Nov. 7. State prosecutors' capital case is scheduled for January, although state Solicitor Scarlett Wilson has said her case should go 1st.

In her letter, Drake calls Wilson a "terrific, capable, smart and excellent trial lawyer" who also at one point worked as a federal prosecutor. While it may seem at times state and federal officials disagree, Drake wrote, "at the end of the day, we are all after the same thing -- justice."

(source: Associated Press)

IRAQ----executions

Isis has executed 5 Sunni tribesman and beheaded 6 of their own militants for spying----The extremists are becoming increasingly paranoid as the borders of their self-proclaimed caliphate shrinks.

The Islamic State (Isis) militant group has executed 6 of their own fighters and 5 Sunni tribesmen in Iraq for allegedly spying for their enemies. The jihadists are losing ground in their self-proclaimed caliphate which bridges Syria and Iraq and are becoming increasingly paranoid.

Reports have emerged from several news agencies in Iraq that Daesh (Isis) beheaded 6 of their own fighters in Mosul on Wednesday 6 July on charges of 'treason' after accusing them of leaking crucial security information to the US-led coalition operating in northern Iraq.

They were said to have been interrogated by senior IS commanders before being handed their sentences by the Mosul Sharia Court. The brutal killings come just 3 days after the US-led coalition renewed airstrikes on IS headquarters in Mosul killing dozens of militants, including top jihadi commanders. Then on 7 July in a new photo report purportedly released by IS militants in Azim, around 80 miles north of Baghdad, 5 Sunni tribesmen were executed. They were accused of assisting the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), which is an Iraqi state-sponsored organisation comprising some 40 militias including Shiite, Yazidi, Christian and some Sunni brigades.

The report has not been independently verified by the IBTimes UK but the ARA News network have quoted a media activist named Abdullah al-Malla who cited an IS official saying: "The ISIS leadership suspected that the al-Hisba members were leaking confidential information to the western coalition - whose airstrikes have recently killed top jihadi officials.

"After interrogation, the Mosul Sharia Court issued a decision to publicly execute the 6 suspects. The 6 jihadis were beheaded in front of dozens of IS officials in central Mosul," al-Malla added.

Amongst the IS leaders who have been reportedly killed in recent US-led coalition bombing was Muhammad Ahmed al-Bajjari, head of IS military operations in northwestern Iraq. He was said to have played a main role in planning attacks against Kurdish Peshmerga forces and the Iraqi army near Mosul.

Another air strike reportedly killed the head of the feared al-Hisba police known as Hatim Taleb al-Hamdouni.

(source: ibtimes.co.uk)

SOMALIA----executions

Al Shabaab Publicly Executes 2 Men in Central Somalia

The Al Qaeda-affiliated Al Shabaab fighters in central Somalia have publicly executes 2 men by firing squad on Thursday afternoon, for killing unarmed civilians in the past.

Sources say a firing squad from Al Shabaab carried out the execution against the men at a square in the coastal city of Harardhere in Mudug province which is controlled by militants.

A local court belonging to Al Shabaab has sentenced 2 men whose names have been identified as Abdirahman Dhuhul Abdulle, 22, and Abdi Muse Hayle, 25, to death penalty in vengeance for previous 2 civilian killing.

The sources who spoke to Radio Shabelle on condition of anonymity by phone, said hundreds of residents, including women and children have watched to execution of the 2 men.

Somalia's central town of Haradhere, formerly a pirate hub is currently serving as the biggest operations and financial core for Al Shabaab fighters in Mudug region situated in the autonomous Galmudug regional state.

(source: All Africa News)

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