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

AUGUST 27, 2016:

TEXAS----stay of impending execution

Lengthy Gap In Texas Executions To Continue As State Court Halts Yet Another

Ronaldo Ruiz was set to be executed on Aug. 31, but - as with the prior 6 scheduled executions in Texas that have been stayed or delayed - a Texas court ordered a stay of execution for him on Friday.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Friday halted the upcoming execution of Ronaldo Ruiz, who was set to be put to death on Aug. 31.

Texas was set to execute Ruiz, a hit man in the 1992 murder of a 29-year-old woman. Ruiz, 43, was set to die by lethal injection on Aug. 31 after he was convicted in the murder-for-hire of Theresa Rodriguez.

Ruiz would have become the 6th inmate to be executed in Texas in 2016.

In his latest habeas corpus application, Ruiz raised questions about deficiency of his trial counsel and his initial habeas counsel, as well as questions about the constitutionality of executing him "over 2 decades after his conviction" - a matter the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly declined to consider.

In the Court of Criminal Appeals' brief, unsigned order, the court restates Ruiz's claims and then concludes, "After reviewing applicant's writ application, we have determined that his execution should be stayed pending further order by this Court."

The country's busiest death chamber has not carried out an execution in nearly 4 months. The past 6 scheduled executions in Texas - including Ruiz's previously scheduled July execution date - were stayed, delayed, or withdrawn for various reasons.

This marks the longest period Texas has gone without killing inmates since 2014, when no executions took place for nearly 5 months amid furor over Oklahoma's botched execution of Clayton Lockett and legal challenges related to Texas' drug secrecy.

Jason Clark, a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), told BuzzFeed News prior to Friday's ruling in Ruiz's case that the agency was "not involved in setting or withdrawing execution dates." He added that the TDCJ "stands ready to carry out" executions.

In a year already marked by fewer executions, Texas is the only state with executions scheduled for the remainder of 2016. Other active death penalty states are grappling with a variety of obstacles ranging from the effect of Supreme Court rulings earlier this year to drug shortages and the fallout from botched executions.

Even in Texas, in August alone now, 3 scheduled executions have been stayed - while the date for another was changed.

Ruiz was hired by 2 brothers, Mark Rodriguez and Michael Rodriguez, to kill Michael's wife Theresa for a life insurance scheme. Ruiz shot and killed Theresa in the couple's garage after following them home from a movie theater. The brothers paid Ruiz $2,000 for the murder.

Ruiz was first scheduled to die in 2007, but a federal appeals court gave him a reprieve. His execution was then set for July 27 of this year after the US Supreme Court refused to review his case in May 2015. However, his execution was pushed to Aug. 31 because of the state's failure to sufficiently notify his counsel of his pending execution, Jennifer Moreno, an attorney at the Berkeley Law Death Penalty Clinic told BuzzFeed News.

On Aug. 19, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit from 5 death row inmates, including Ruiz, who demanded that the state retest its drugs before executing them. That case is now on appeal before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

(source: BuzzFeed News)


Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----19

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----537

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

20---------September 14-------------Robert Jennings-------538

21---------October 5----------------Barney Fuller---------539

22---------October 19---------------Terry Edwards---------540

23---------November 2---------------Ramiro Gonzales-------541

24---------December 7---------------John Battaglia--------542

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


Death penalty to be sought in accused killer of 6 in family

Attorneys say a 36-year-old Utah man charged with shooting 6 members of a suburban Houston family 2 years ago will face the death penalty when he goes on trial for capital murder set for next year.

Ronald Haskell wasn't in court Friday as prosecutors and defense lawyers disclosed the trial plans during a court hearing.

He's jailed without bond and charged with fatally shooting Stephen and Katie Stay and 4 of their children. A 5th and oldest child, 15-year-old Cassidy, also was shot but survived by playing dead during the July 2014 rampage at her home in Spring. Authorities have said Haskell was trying to find his estranged ex-wife, who is Katie Stay's sister.

Haskell's lawyer, Doug Durham, says Haskell's mental health issues likely will be part of the defense.

(source: Associated Prss)


NJ lawmakers seek reinstatement of death penalty

A state lawmaker wants to reinstate the death penalty in New Jersey for certain crimes against children, police and corrections officers.

Assemblyman Ron Dancer, R-Ocean, on Friday said he will introduce a bill to restore capital punishment for convictions of certain homicides, including the killing of a victim 17 or younger.

Dancer said the legislation is a response to the murder Saturday of a 2-year-old Pennsauken boy, allegedly at the hands of his mother's live-in boyfriend. Zacchery Tricoche, 24, is charged with 1st-degree murder for allegedly beating the toddler to death.

"This is the type of case that demands that the death penalty be an option for the courts," Dancer said in a statement.

The bill would extend the death penalty to terror suspects and suspects who kill police or corrections officers.

A similar bill sponsored by Assemblyman Anthony Bucco, R-Morris, would restore capital punishment for convicted murderers who commit another murder while in custody.

The goal of that bill is to protect corrections officers from jailed felons who feel they have nothing to lose.

The death penalty was repealed in New Jersey in 2007 in favor of life sentences without parole.

Another bill, sponsored by Assemblyman David Rible, R-Monmouth, would restore capital punishment under wide list of aggravating factors that include defendants previously convicted of murder, those who torture the victim, those who place others besides the victim at risk of death, those who kill for money and those who kill to escape confinement or apprehension.

A Fairleigh Dickinson University poll last year found that 57 % of respondents favored the death penalty for certain crimes. A 2007 Quinnipiac University poll found that 78 % of New Jersey voters supported the death penalty for the most violent cases.

8 suspects on New Jersey's death row saw their sentences commuted to life in prison in 2007 when the death penalty was repealed. They included Jesse Timmendequas, the serial pedophile convicted of raping and murdering 7-year-old Megan Kanka. The girl's death led to Megan's Law, creating sex-offender registries in New Jersey.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, New Jersey is 1 of 20 states that do not sanction capital punishment.

The last person put to death by the state in New Jersey was Ralph Hudson, an alcoholic who stabbed his waitress wife, Myrtle, to death in front of a large crowd of diners at Captain Starn's Inlet Restaurant on the Atlantic City Boardwalk. He was executed in the electric chair in 1963.



Group: Court Ruling Proof of Death-Penalty Reform Need

A recent court ruling that a man on death row was denied a fair trial is yet another sign that the state's death penalty should be abolished, according to Pennsylvanians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (PADP).

In the case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled that James A. Dennis, convicted and sentenced to death in October of 1992, for the murder of Chedell Williams, was denied a fair trial because the prosecution suppressed evidence of his innocence.

"The fact that it's taken 25 years to address this extreme prosecutorial misconduct is precisely why the death penalty doesn't work," said Kathleen Lucas, executive director of PADP. "This case should send a strong message that it is time for the death penalty to go."

No one has been executed in Pennsylvania since 1999 when Gary Heidnik gave up his right to an appeal. The last person to be executed without giving up the right to appeal was Elmo Smith in 1962.

None of the 178 prisoners on death row will be executed for at least the next two years as Gov. Tom Wolf in February 2015 declared a moratorium on the death penalty.

And for its part, the legislature almost certainly won't act on any changes in the law until the completion of a joint study by the Justice Center for Research at Penn State, and the Joint State Government Commission, under a Senate resolution approved in 2011.

A spokesperson for the Justice Center said they expect completion of the study within a few months.

Whatever the findings, the PADP and other anti-death-penalty groups will be up against the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, which according to Executive Director Richard Long supports enforcement of the current law.

Also Republican candidate for attorney general, John Rafferty, supports the death penalty, a campaign spokesman said.

Democratic candidate for attorney general Josh Shapiro said: "I believe in the most heinous of cases, the death penalty should be an option. However, it is clear from both the research and how it has been used in Pennsylvania that it needs to be reformed."



DA to seek death penalty in Wilkinsburg mass shooting cases

The Allegheny County District Attorney's Office announced Friday that the commonwealth will seek the death penalty against the 2 men charged in the Wilkinsburg mass shooting that left 6 dead, including an unborn child.

Cheron Shelton, 29, and Robert Thomas, 27, are both charged with criminal homicide, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, criminal conspiracy and attempted homicide in connection with the deadly shooting.

Chanetta Powell, a 25-year-old who was 8 months pregnant, and four others -- Jerry Shelton, 35; Tina Shelton, 37; Brittany Powell, 27; and Shada Mahone, 26 -- were all killed in the ambush in the backyard of a home on Franklin Avenue on March 9. Powell's unborn child also died. Cheron Shelton is not related to Jerry or Tina Shelton.

(source: WPXI news)


Push continues for Florida lethal injection details

Lawyers representing Arizona death row inmates aren't backing down from a battle with Florida corrections officials over the release of documents related to execution drugs, part of a drawn-out challenge to Arizona's lethal-injection process.

The Florida Department of Corrections is refusing to release the documents, arguing that the information is exempt under the state's broad open-records law.

Corrections officials released some of the records to the media, but have refused to provide any of the information to the plaintiffs in the Arizona case, according to documents filed by the Arizona plaintiffs Monday in federal court.

Lawyers for 7 death row inmates and the First Amendment Coalition of Arizona in June 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.

Arizona's death penalty has been on hold for 2 years following the botched 2014 execution of inmate Joseph Wood, who died nearly 2 hours after the lethal-injection procedure was started.

Before the Florida Department of Corrections filed a motion to quash the subpoena in July, the Arizona lawyers offered to limit the scope of their records request and to keep the documents off-limits to the public.

But after the sides met on July 19, the Florida corrections agency "reiterated that it does 'not intend to produce any information pursuant to the subpoena without court order,'" lawyer Joshua Anderson, who represents the Arizona plaintiffs, wrote in a 15-page objection to the state’s motion to quash the subpoena.

The Arizona lawyers sought similar records from at least 3 other states - Georgia, Missouri and Texas - that have provided the information, according to the court filing.

The Arizona death-penalty challenge is focused on whether the use of midazolam, the first step in a 3-drug lethal-injection cocktail, violates Eighth Amendment protections from cruel or unusual punishment.

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that, in those types of cases, prisoners must provide an available alternative to the method of execution being challenged. Gathering the information from the other states is a "core component" to the inmates' claim that Arizona's lethal-injection process is unconstitutional, their lawyers argued.

"If the judicial system were to, on the one hand, require plaintiffs bringing a method of execution claim to prove that a known alternative exists and is available while, on the other hand, blocking discovery necessary to prove that fact, it would create a burden that is effectively impossible to satisfy," Anderson wrote.

Defendants in the Arizona case claim that the case is moot because Arizona corrections officials do not have midazolam and cannot obtain more.

Pfizer, which manufactures midazolam, in March announced that it would not distribute the drugs for use in capital punishment.

Finding out how other states have handled the midazolam shortage is "directly relevant to rebutting" the Arizona defendants' claim that they cannot acquire more of the drug, Anderson wrote.

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 first 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.

In the Arizona case, Florida officials argued that the requested documents are privileged and protected from disclosure under Florida law.

But the state law "protects only the identity of FDC's (Florida Department of Corrections') supplier of execution drugs," Anderson wrote. "It does not shield all information related to FDC's lethal injection supplies, nor does it protect the identity of any entity who has declined to work with FDC or has refused to provide it with execution drugs."

(source: The St. Augustine Record)


Maryville police officer killed in 'ambush,' suspect could face death penalty

The suspect in the shooting death of a Maryville police officer will be charged with criminal homicide and 4 counts of aggravated assault, the Blount County Sheriff's Office announced a press conference Friday evening. The sheriff's office says the charge could go up to capital murder, which would make him eligible for the death penalty.

Maryville Police Chief Tony Crisp says Officer Kenny Moats, 32, died at University of Tennessee Medical Center after he was shot in the neck during a domestic call on Alcoa Trail. The shooting happened Thursday at around 4:00 p.m.

Members of the law enforcement, as well as Maryville Fire Department gathered to salute Officer Moats and say farewell to their friend and co-worker.

"We ask our citizens to remember this officer's family. He has 3 small children. It's a very trying time for his family. It's a trying time for the men and women of the Maryville Police Department. It's a trying time for the law enforcement in this community," said Maryville Police Chief Tony Crisp, holding back tears.

A memorial was set up outside the Maryville Police Department. Dozens of people stopped by with flowers and to remember Officer Moats.

The city of Knoxville says they will turn the Henley Bridge lights blue Friday night in honor of Officer Kenny Moats.

Smith Funeral Home will handle the arrangements for Officer Moats' funeral. A candlelight vigil to honor Officer Kenny Moats is scheduled at 8:00 p.m. at the city of Maryville's Theater in the Park behind the Blount County Courthouse.

(source: WJHL news)


Save the death penalty. No on Prop. 62

Opponents of California's death penalty have been highly successful at thwarting executions since the state resumed executions in 1992 after a 20-year hiatus. Their latest ploy is Proposition 62, which would repeal the death penalty and re-sentence death row inmates to life without parole. Measure sponsors argue that capital punishment presents the risk of executing an innocent person, but also state California's death penalty is "simply unworkable."

That's a cheeky stand, coming from the corner that has been throwing monkey wrenches into the criminal justice system to subvert death penalty law. Over the years, appellate attorneys have introduced endless time-sucking, frivolous appeals that have jammed the courts, largely on technical grounds that have nothing to do with guilt or innocence, e.g., the trial lawyer wasn't top drawer; the defendant's parents were abusive; lethal injection may not be 100 % painless.

In 2006, lawyers argued that convicted torture-murderer Michael Morales might feel pain in his last moments because of the state's 3-drug lethal-injection protocol. A federal judge granted their appeal and effectively froze the capital punishment pipeline for a decade.

Gov. Jerry Brown had pledged to implement the death penalty, even though he personally opposes it. Yet his corrections department was happy to sit back and let the law not work for years. In exasperation, the tough-on-crime Criminal Justice Legal Foundation filed a lawsuit on behalf of the families of murder victims of 2 death row inmates to prod the state to develop a drug protocol that should pass muster with the U.S. Supreme Court. State Attorney General Kamala Harris, who also said she would uphold California's law despite her personal objections, tried to block the suit on the dubious grounds that the victims' families "lack standing." She failed. The families won. Sacramento finally devised a 1-drug protocol, which should go into effect after a vetting period expected to end soon.

So now, just as the obstructionists are about to run out of string, they have put a measure on the November ballot to end California's death penalty.

Opponent Matt Cherry of Death Penalty Focus told The Chronicle editorial board that capital punishment "has failed in California." Since 1992, he added, "Just 13 people have been executed," which he noted constitutes about 1 % of the 930 individuals sentenced to death since 1978. It's like an extorting mobster telling an honest businessman that it no longer pays to work hard and follow the rules. You might as well just toss him the keys to the shop and save yourself some heartache.

In their ballot argument, Prop. 62 supporters warn that when executions resume, California risks executing an innocent person - like Carlos DeLuna who was executed in 1989 before an "independent investigation later proved his innocence." Problem: Texas executed DeLuna. Prop. 62's backers can't name an exonerated individual from California's post-1978 death row because there aren't any.

In 2012, I asked Brown if he had considered appointing a panel to recommend death row inmates deserving of a commutation. Brown personally remains a death penalty opponent, so his answer is instructive: "As attorney general, I think the representation was good. I think people have gotten exquisite due process in the state of California. It goes on for 20 or 25 years and to think that they've missed anything like they have in some other states, I have not seen any evidence of it. None. I know people say, 'Oh, there have been all these innocent people.' Well, I have not seen one name on death row that’s been told to me."

At a different editorial board meeting, former San Quentin State Prison Warden Jeanne Woodford, Ana Zamora of the No of 65 campaign and Berkeley law Professor Elisabeth Semel vigorously defended all of the hijinks played by anti-death-penalty lawyers. They oppose both the death penalty and Prop. 66, which is supposed to streamline executions.

Why does it take a year to process an appeal based on a convicted killer's childhood? Why doesn’t the Habeas Corpus Resource Center focus on worthy appeals and stop jamming up the courts with frivolous paper - and then complain about court backlogs? Why have opponents gone after the state for getting lethal injection drugs from compounding pharmacies or other states, after opponents made it impossible to secure drugs from once legal sources? The answer to everything: Defense attorneys have to do it, because "it's the law."

Well, so is the death penalty.

If California voters should decide to repeal capital punishment, do not believe for 1 minute they won't use every dirty trick to undermine life without parole. And they'll tell you they have to because, "it's the law."

Capital punishment in California

930 individuals sentenced to death since 1978

13 death row inmates executed

2 inmates sentenced in California were executed in other states, Missouri and Virginia

71 death row inmates died of natural causes

25 death row inmates killed themselves

8 death row inmates died of other causes

[source: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation]

(source: Opinion; Debra J. Saunders is a San Francisco Chronicle columnist)


Capital punishment serves a purpose

Writing in support of Proposition 62, a California ballot initiative to repeal the death penalty, former El Dorado county supervisor Ron Briggs makes the tiresomely familiar claim that "the death penalty does not make our communities any safer" and "is not a deterrent to crime."

For death penalty opponents, it is a venerable article of faith that executing murderers doesn't deter other murders and that abolishing the death penalty doesn't make killings more likely. Never mind that a thick sheaf of peer-reviewed academic studies refutes the abolitionists' belief, as, of course, does common sense: All penalties have some deterrent effect, and the more severe the penalty, the more it deters. Let a parking meter expire, and you risk a $20 ticket; park in a handicapped spot, and risk a $200 ticket. Which violation are you less likely to commit?

It doesn't take a social-science degree to grasp the real-world difference between facing vs. not facing a potential death sentence. Criminals grasp it too.

Dmitry Smirnov did. A resident of British Columbia, Smirnov was smitten with Jitka Vesel, a pretty Chicago woman he'd met online playing "World of Warcraft" in 2008 and then dated for several weeks. When Vesel ended the brief relationship, Smirnov took it badly. He returned to Canada, but kept pursuing Vesel by phone and online. When she broke off communication with him, he began plotting to kill her.

Smirnov returned to the United States in 2011, bought a gun and ammunition, and drove back to Chicago. He attached a GPS device to Vesel's car so he could track her movements. On the evening of April 13, he tailed her to the Czechoslovak Heritage Museum in Oak Park, Ill., where she was a curator and board member. When she came out after a meeting, Smirnov ambushed her. He shot her repeatedly, firing multiple rounds into the back of her head even after she had crumpled to the ground.

A deranged suitor? Maybe - but Smirnov wasn't too deranged to first check out whether Illinois was a death penalty state. He headed back to Chicago to murder Vesel only after learning that Illinois had recently abolished capital punishment. When he was questioned afterward by police, according to prosecutors, he told them he had confirmed Illinois' no-death penalty status "as recently as the morning of the murder." In an e-mail sent to a friend after the fact, Smirnov - who voluntarily surrendered to the police - made clear that he knew what to expect. "Illinois doesn't have the death penalty, so I'll spend the rest of my life in prison," he wrote.

At trial Smirnov pleaded guilty, and was given a life sentence.

Would Jitka Vesel be alive today if Smirnov had faced the death penalty? Obviously there is no way to know for sure. But we do know for sure that when the cost of a crime goes up, the frequency of that crime goes down. Raise the price of any behavior, and fewer people will do it. The deterrent power of punishment is axiomatic; criminal law would be meaningless without it.

Still, a penalty cannot deter if it is never imposed. California hasn't executed a murderer in 10 years. Only 13 killers have been put to death since 1972, when the state legalized capital punishment. Hundreds of savage murderers have been sentenced to death - there are currently 746 inmates on California's death row - but endless legal appeals and procedures have made executions, for all intents and purposes, impossible.

Most Californians understand that their state's death penalty needs to be fixed, not abolished. Voters defeated a repeal initiative, Proposition 34, in 2012 and appear likely to do the same to Proposition 62, the new repeal measure, this November. According to a statewide poll released last week by the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California at Berkeley, voters oppose the new death penalty repeal measure by a 10-point margin, 55 % to 45 %.

On the other hand, California voters strongly support a 2nd death penalty measure that will also be on the November ballot. Proposition 66, as summarized by the San Francisco Chronicle, would "speed up executions by setting tight deadlines for court rulings, placing some limits on appeals, and requiring many more defense lawyers to take capital cases." The UC Berkeley poll shows voters backing Proposition 66, with its mend-it-don't-end-it approach, by an overwhelming 76-to-24 ratio.

The politics of capital punishment are complicated and emotional, but human nature doesn't change. Granted, incentives and disincentives are never foolproof. Granted, there will always be cases in which deterrents don't deter. On the whole, however, when the death penalty is on the books and consistently enforced, a significant number of homicides will be prevented.

Pretty much by definition, murders that don't happen because criminals are deterred by the prospect of being executed can't be systematically tallied. But felons often disclose their motives when asked. In a striking 1961 opinion, California Supreme Court Justice Marshall McComb plumbed the files of the Los Angeles Police Department to demonstrate the deterrent effect of the death penalty on the thinking of violent criminals.

McComb listed numerous examples of homicides not committed because a would-be killer didn't want to risk capital punishment. Among them:

-- Margaret Elizabeth Daly, arrested for attacking Pete Gibbons with a knife, who told the investigating officers: "Yeah, I cut him and I should have done a better job. I would have killed him but I didn't want to go to the gas chamber."

-- Orelius Mathew Steward, imprisoned for bank robbery, who acknowledged that he had considered shooting the unaccompanied cop who arrested him: "I could have blasted him. I thought about it at the time, but I changed my mind when I thought of the gas chamber."

-- Paul Brusseau, convicted for a string of candy store holdups, which he committed while pretending to carry a gun. "Asked what his reason was for simulating a gun rather than using a real one, he replied that he did not want to get the gas chamber."

Criminals may be evil and pitiless, but criminality isn't a synonym for stupidity. When murder is punished with death, fewer criminals will murder. When murder is punished with nothing worse than prison, more criminals will be emboldened to kill. In the never-ending debate over capital punishment, that is always what the choice comes down to.

(source: Jeff Jacoby, Boston Globe)


The pursuit of capital punishment for Dylann Roof is a step backward

On Nov. 7 in Charleston, S.C., a federal court will begin selecting a jury in the death penalty prosecution of Dylann Roof, the accused killer of 9 African American worshipers at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. At first glance, the notion of a white man facing the death penalty for murdering black people in the South - in a killing inspired by the murderer's racist views - may seem like a marker of racial progress.

It isn't - and those who champion civil rights should not celebrate this moment. Roof's crime was surely heinous, and his racism was repugnant. But supporters of racial equality and equal treatment under the law should support Roof's offer to plead guilty and serve a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

How can it be that a lifelong civil rights lawyer such as myself would take this position? Because the death penalty cannot be separated from the issue of racial discrimination, especially in the South. The history of slavery and lynching left deep scars in the black community, and the current death penalty does not fare much better. More than 8 in 10 of the executions carried out since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976 have occurred in the South. Blacks make up more than 1/3 of the 1,170 defendants executed in the region, with most convicted of murdering a white victim.

Given the racial disproportion inherent in the modern application of the death penalty, it is no surprise that most African Americans (including me) oppose the death penalty, a position that would also disqualify most of them (and me) from serving on the jury in Roof's case.

As a result, if the Roof trial continues on its present course, a jury will be chosen that represents only part of the community. Those who oppose the death penalty on principle will be struck from the pool of jurors by the presiding judge. Those who express doubts about the death penalty will likely be struck by the prosecution. The resulting jury will have fewer blacks, fewer women and fewer people of faiths that oppose the death penalty than a jury selected at random from the residents of Charleston. That cannot be a desirable outcome in such an emotional and racially charged case.

Neither would the adversarial proceeding necessitated by a refusal to accept Roof's offer to plead guilty and accept a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. Once the trial begins, there will be a detailed recounting of the worst day this community has ever experienced. It will be the prosecution's duty to portray this multiple murder as gruesomely as possible in order to secure a death sentence. Family members may be called to the stand to describe precisely what they went through that day and how it affected them.

Likewise, the defense will be obligated to do everything in its power to lessen Roof's culpability. This is how our adversarial process works, but it is not necessary here. Without the agony of trying to decide between life and death, a sentencing proceeding that followed a guilty plea could pay tribute to the victims, focusing on the value of their lives and the consequences of their loss. All family members could voice their pain, regardless of their view on the death penalty. It would not be an easy day, but far better than months of focusing only on Roof, followed by years of appeals and uncertainty.

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch has allowed this case to proceed as a capital prosecution until now, but a new decision point is coming soon. Most criminal cases settle before trial because it is in the best interests of the entire community. That could happen here; the offer is already on the table. The attorney general need only agree.

After the racially inspired attack on the parishioners of Mother Emanuel, as the church is known, South Carolina took the bold and important step of permanently lowering the Confederate battle flag from the state capitol grounds. This powerful symbol - perceived by many as the embodiment of racism and discrimination - had to go.

With the death penalty, the Justice Department now has the power to lower another flag that has torn communities apart along racial lines. Capital punishment in this case may appear to be just retribution for Roof's unfathomable crime. Yet the real-life operation of the death penalty suggests that its application to Roof would only pave the way for future cases in which the death penalty is invoked to harm the very community on which he inflicted so much pain.

(source: Opinion; Wade Henderson is president and chief executive of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights----Washington Post)


Death penalty failing to deter drug trafficking in Iran -official

The death penalty has failed to reduce drug trafficking in Iran, a senior Iranian judiciary official said on Saturday shortly before the scheduled execution of 12 people for narcotics-related offences.

His criticism was unusual in a judiciary that has long been a bastion of the hardline security establishment in the Islamic Republic, which carries out more executions per capita than any other country. Nearly 1,000 prisoner were put to death in 2015, most of them for drug trafficking.

Most narcotics are smuggled into Iran along its long, often lawless border with Afghanistan, which supplies about 90 percent of the world's opium from which heroin is made.

"The truth is, the execution of drug smugglers has had no deterrent effect," Mohammad Baqer Olfat, deputy head of judiciary for social affairs, was quoted as saying by the semi-official Tasnim news agency.

"We have fought full-force against smugglers according to the law, but unfortunately we are experiencing an increase in the volume of drugs trafficked to Iran, the transit of drugs through the country, the variety of drugs, and the number of people who are involved in it," Olfat said.

He said he had suggested to the judiciary chief that rather than the death penalty, traffickers should serve long prison terms with hard labour.

Mohammad-Javad Larijani, the secretary of Iran's Human Rights Council and a brother of the powerful judiciary chief, said in 2015 that more than 90 % of executions in the country were for drug-related crimes.

He said the death penalty has not led to a significant fall in drug-related crimes and that the policy must be re-evaluated.

The Islamic Republic seized 388 tonnes of opium in 2012, around 72 % of all such seizures globally, but says it has lost many security personnel in skirmishes with drug traffickers in volatile regions bordering Afghanistan and also Pakistan.

The United Nations has repeatedly praised Iran's battle against narcotics trafficking but opposed its death penalty.

The United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Iran urged Tehran on Friday to halt the execution of 12 people on drug-related offences scheduled for Saturday.

"It is regrettable that the (Iranian) government continues to proceed with executions for crimes that do not meet the threshold of the 'most serious crimes' as required by international law," Ahmed Shaheed said in a statement.

Given Iran's large number of executions, some countries including Britain and Denmark have stopped providing funding for the United Nations drug control programme in Iran.

(source: Reuters)


This morning 12 individuals were executed by Iran regime

Despite repeated calls from UN expert and Special Rapporteur on Iran Human Rights. Mr. Ahmed Shaheed to halt these executions, today 12 individuals were executed in Gohardasht (Rajai-Shahr) Prison in Karaj, north-west of Tehran.

Families of the prisoners who rallied in front of prison yesterday, also were urging Iran regime to halt the executions.

"It is regrettable that the Government continues to proceed with executions for crimes that do not meet the threshold of the 'most serious crimes' as required by international law, especially the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is State party. It is also troubling that courts continue to issue death sentences in trials that not only breach international fair trial standards but even domestic due process guarantees," Mr. Shaheed stressed.

The Special Rapporteur renewed his call on the Government of Iran to immediately institute a moratorium on executions and to restrict use of the death penalty for the "most serious crimes" (i.e. intentional killings). He also repeated his calls on the Iranian authorities to adhere to international standards guaranteeing fair trial and due process for those facing the death penalty.

The names of 9 out of 12 individual who were executed are as follows:

Alireza Madadpour, Bahman Rezai, Arman Bahrami, Alireza Asadi, Mohsen Eslami, Hosein Bayrami (transferred from Ghezelhesar prison) Mehdi Rostami, Amir and ALireza Sarkhah.

(source: NCR-Iran)


Urgent: At Least 10 Prisoners in Imminent Danger of Execution for Drug Offences

At least 10 prisoners in Karaj Central Prison (west of Tehran) have been transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for their executions. The prisoners were reportedly able to have visits with their families for the last time. According to close sources, the prisoners were transferred on the morning of Wednesday August 24 and are all sentenced to death for drug related offences. Their execution sentences are reportedly scheduled to be carried out on the morning of Saturday August 27 at this prison.

Iran Human Rights is aware of the names of 5 of the 10 prisoners: Ali Asadi, Alireza Madadpour, Mohsen Eslami, Bahman Rezaie, and Arman Bahrami. A relative of 1 of the prisoners tells Iran Human Rights: "At least 10 prisoners were transferred to solitary confinement, but prison authorities say that 4 of these prisoners have received stay of execution orders, but they have not identified which prisoners."

Karaj Central Prison is a detention centre attached to Ghezel Hesar Prison. According to the Prisons Organization division, suspects who are convicted in courts located in Karaj are held in the central prison. There have been previous cases where death row prisoners held in Karaj Central Prison were transferred to Ghezel Hesar Prison for execution.


In a statement released on Friday August 26, Ahmed Shaheed, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, urged Iranian authorities to immediately halt the execution of Alireza Madadpour and the other individuals who were transferred to solitary confinement in Karaj Central Prison on Wednesday.

According to the statement, Mr. Madadpour was "tried by the Revolutionary Court in Karaj on 17 July 2012, after being arrested the previous November when 990 grams of crystal meth were found during a raid on a house he cleaned. Mr. Madadpour's state-appointed defence lawyer never met him and the trial lasted 20 minutes. Mr. Madadpour's request for pardon and retrial were not granted".

"It is regrettable that the Government continues to proceed with executions for crimes that do not meet the threshold of the 'most serious crimes' as required by international law, especially the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is State party. It is also troubling that courts continue to issue death sentences in trials that not only breach international fair trial standards but even domestic due process guarantees," says Ahmed Shaheed in the statement.

The UN Special Rapporteur also renewed calls on Iranian authorities to issue a moratorium on executions and to "restrict use of the death penalty for the most serious crimes (i.e. intentional killings)".

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Nathan grants zero presidential pardon during his 2 terms

S R Nathan, the longest serving president from 1999 to 2011 did not grant clemency to any death row inmates during his 2 terms as President.

This is according to the Singapore Working Group on the Death Penalty (SWGDP) in itsstatement issued on the 13th World Day Against the Death Penalty last October.

SWGDP stated, "Since Singapore's independence, only 7 clemencies have been granted (as at Oct 2015), with the last being exercised by the late President Ong Teng Cheong."

It went on to reveal that of the 7 clemencies, 2 were granted in the term of President Benjamin Sheares, 1 under President Devan Nair, 3 under President Wee Kim Wee, and 1 under President Ong Teng Cheong.

Presidential clemencies granted by past Presidents:

-- Benjamin Sheares (1971-1981): 2 in 10 years

-- Devan Nair (1981-1985): 1 in 4 years

-- Wee Kim Wee (1985 -1993): 3 in 8 years

-- Ong Teng Cheong (1993-1999): 1 in 6 years

-- S R Nathan (1999 - 2011): 0 in 12 years

The SWGDP is an advocacy group in Singapore which believes in giving convicted people a 2nd chance to live. It advocates for the abolishment of the death penalty in Singapore as well as commits to raising awareness on issues surrounding the death penalty.

On its website, it said:

Although we believe that everyone needs to take the responsibility for his or her mistakes and that no crime should go unpunished, we also believe that unjust and problematic laws and procedures need to be debated and revised.

The death penalty is an irreversible punishment at the end of a process that is prone to human error, which means that it is all too possible that innocent lives will be taken away. And that is something that should not be allowed to happen.

As at Oct 2015, the last clemency was granted by the late president Ong Teng Cheong in May 1998. He commuted Mr Mathavakannan Kalimuthu's death sentence to life imprisonment. He was 19 when he and 2 other men killed a gangster in 1996.

'I have to ask the man up there to forgive me'

After Nathan stepped down as President in 2011, he gave an interview to the media. During the interview, he was asked about granting presidential pardons during his 12-year term in office. He was asked if he found it difficult.

"The constitution clearly lays it down that I have to act on the advice of the cabinet, and the cabinet acts on the advice of the Attorney-General," he said.

"You have a right to question it... through the process, you determine whether all the facts have been taken into account, whether there's anything that needs special consideration." Upon further probing by a reporter from Yahoo, Nathan finally said, "Of course it's a difficult thing when it comes to the death penalty. It's a matter of conscience. That's the law... and you do your best to see that there is justice done."

"You are in no position to contradict the submission when you have not heard the case," he continued. "You can't purely go on human emotions."

"I have to ask the man up there to forgive me for what is done for the good of society."

(source: The Independent)


Higher court could help Pakistani Christian

The Christian mother sentenced to death for allegedly committing blasphemy should know in several weeks whether she will avoid execution in Pakistan.

Pakistan's supreme court has announced it will hear Asia Bibi's appeal during the second week of October. She has has been imprisoned on death row for 6 years.

William Stark with International Christian Concern says in his experience in blasphemy cases with religious minorities, the higher up you go in the court system the more likely you will have the case decided by the merits.

He tells OneNewsNow the court system at the lower levels are very susceptible to outside pressures from radicals.

"Our hope is that at the Supreme Court level there will be enough insulation away from the radicals, and the threats that those radicals present, for them actually to decide the case on the merits," he says. "If the case is actually decided on the merits, I do fully believe she will be acquitted."

Stark believes Bibi's case could have a positive effect on other prisoners who are being falsely accused of blasphemy.

"If Asia can get out, who is the highest profile case of all, that could provide a little bit of hope to these families and these other individuals that are currently in prison," he predicts.

This could be the last chance to avoid execution although if the death penalty is confirmed by the Supreme Court, she could seek a presidential pardon.

Stark says Bibi and her family need to be remembered in prayer and that the prayers need to continue even if she is acquitted.

"She and her family are going to have to leave Pakistan immediately," he warns, "because there are people in Pakistan that do believe that she is a blasphemer and that because of that it is their duty to kill her."


AUGUST 26, 2016:


Man accused in Spring family massacre will face death penalty

A man charged with capital murder in the execution-style shootings of 6 members of a Spring family in 2014 will face the death penalty, according to attorneys connected to the case.

Ronald Haskell, 36, of Utah, is set to stand trial in the fall of 2017, according to Harris County Assistant District Attorney Kaylnn Williford.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys updated state District Judge Kent Ellis during a court hearing Friday, but Haskell did not appear in court.

Outside the courtroom, defense attorney Doug Durham confirmed reports of Haskell's mental health issues and said those problems would likely be part of the defense. He said little else about the defense or mitigation.

Haskell is accused of slaying Katie and Stephen Stay and their children Bryan, 13; Emily, 9; Rebecca, 7; and Zach, 4. Another daughter, Cassidy, 15, also was shot, but survived.

The case made national headlines after Haskell, disguised in a FedEx uniform, allegedly pushed his way into the Stay residence where Cassidy Stay was home alone. He then bound the teen, and other members of the family as they arrived home. Haskell demanded to know the whereabouts of his ex-wife, Katie Stay's sister, then shot them all in the head.

Investigators said Haskell was trying to find out the location of his estranged ex-wife, a woman who apparently left him after several episodes of domestic violence.

On his initial appearance in court 2 days after the shooting on July 9, 2014, Haskell collapsed as an assistant district attorney described the crime he is accused of committing.

After that, Durham outlined a possible insanity defense, saying Haskell suffered from mental illness, and was not on his medication when the crime occurred.

Haskell remains in the Harris County Jail without bail.

(source: Houston Chronicle)


Bucks Murderer's Death Sentence Reaffirmed; Retrial Denied: DA ----A Bucks County man convicted of a brutal slaying in 1987 will not be allowed a retrial and will return to death row, the DA said.

A convicted Bucks County murderer has had his appeal for a third trial rejected, the District Attorney's Office announced Thursday.

Richard Laird, 52, was convicted in the 1987 killing of Anthony Milano, 26, just months after the incident, the DA said.

Laird and an accomplice, Frank Chester, were at the Edgley Inn in Bristol Township when they began taunting Milano, an aspiring artist, calling him a homosexual, authorities said.

The 3 left the bar together in a car. Shortly thereafter, Laird and Chester pulled the car over, beat Milano, and slashed his knife with a box cutter, killing him, the DA said.

Chester is serving life in prison. Laird was sentenced to death, but appealed and was given a second trial, where he was again sentenced to death. He now attempted to earn a third trial, which a federal judge has rejected, on the grounds that his rights were violated during the trial, the DA said.

"The Commonwealth is pleased that Richard Laird's federal appeal was denied by the District Court," said First Assistant District Attorney Michelle Henry, who successfully prosecuted Laird at his 2007 retrial. "The death penalty is appropriately reserved for only the most heinous murders and the cold-blooded criminals who commit them. Richard Laird has twice been found by separate juries to be deserving of this ultimate punishment, which makes the court's decision very gratifying."

Milano was an aspiring artist at the time of his death.



Florida Prosecutor Smears Mother Of Murder Victim Because She Opposes The Death Penalty

This week, one of the deadliest prosecutors in the country accused a murder victim's mother of not grieving appropriately. State Attorney Angela Corey of Jacksonville, Florida took to the airwaves to say the mother, who opposes the death penalty for her child's killer, is "more interested in publicity than actually grieving for her daughter."

As early as February, Darlene Farah of Jacksonville has pushed for a life sentence instead of death for James Rhodes, a 24-year-old black man who murdered her daughter. Farah's fought Corey tooth and nail to keep Rhodes alive, and asked lawmakers to require a unanimous jury decision before carrying out an execution. But according to the state attorney, Farah is doing all of this out of self-interest.

"It is a constitutional duty to consult with the victim, but the victim does not tell the state attorney what sentence should be imposed in any case," Corey told 104.5 WOKV. "We give their feelings great weight, and we have done that with the very vocal Darlene Farah, who appears to be more interested in publicity than actually grieving for her daughter."

Rhodes has yet to be sentenced because of a temporary halt on death penalty sentences that went to effect in the beginning of the year. In January, the Supreme Court ruled that Florida's death penalty law was unconstitutional because judges were allowed to overrule juries to sentence a defendant to death. Several more states' death penalty laws have since been challenged or struck down in response to that ruling.

Corey's accusation comes 6 months after her office tried to manipulate Farah's teenage son, Caleb, into supporting Rhodes' execution. To drive a wedge between Caleb and his mother, one of Corey's prosecutors showed him footage of his sister's murder. The teenager temporarily supported the death penalty upon seeing the video, but he ultimately changed his mind and gave his support for a life sentence.

"If there were a victim's family out being as vocal and publicity-seeking as Darlene Farah has been on this case demanding that I seek the death penalty in a case where it were inappropriate, I would not do that," Corey told WOKV. "Likewise, the fact that she is out vocally and publicly, very publicly, continued to demand that I do not seek the death penalty in this case, I am saying that I will still do my job and follow the law in the state of Florida."

She added that other victims are "quietly waiting for justice to take its course."

Farah responded with disgust. "How can you say something like that? I've been back and forth before I even went public with me not wanting the death penalty for about a year and a half," Farah told WOKV. "It's not about the publicity, it's about what's in the best interest for my children."

Jacksonville is housed in Duval County, one of the deadliest places in the country for people convicted of murder. Between 2010 and 2015, 16 people there were sentenced to capital punishment, making Duval one of less than 20 counties that handed out more than 5 death sentences from 2010 to 2015. Between 2009 and 2014, 21 people were sentenced to die - 14 of whom were black.

As the district's state attorney, Corey is the primary advocate for those sentences, making her one of the deadliest prosecutors in the country. She is now up for re-election, and according to local polls, is expected to lose by a landslide.

(source: Carimah Townes, Criminal justice reporter at ThinkProgress)


Attorneys want to know if death penalty is on table in casino killing

Attorneys for a suspect charged with killing a man outside of a Sioux Falls casino want to know if prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Jared Jerome Stone's attorneys last month filed a motion asking the court to set a deadline for prosecutors to say if they intend to seek the state's harshest penalty.

"(Stone) will be denied a fair trial if he is not given sufficient time to prepare for the pre-sentence hearing," his attorneys wrote in court filings, adding death penalty cases require an "enormous" amount of time and investigation.

Court documents allege Stone gunned down Baptiste Paul White Eyes in the parking lot of the Lucky Lady Casino, shooting him in the head after a verbal altercation in the casino and a physical altercation outside.

Stone is facing 1st- and 2nd-degree murder charges.

Minnehaha County State's Attorney Aaron McGowan declined to comment on the direction the case will go, citing pending litigation. However, he provided insight on the factors he considering.

In the last 2 decades, he only recalled 2 cases where his office sought the death penalty - Daphne Wright and James McVay.

Wright killed and dismembered Darlene Vander-Giesen in 2006 with a chain saw. She was sentenced to life in prison in 2007.

James McVay was sentenced to death in the brutal stabbing of 75-year-old Maybelle Schein. He hung himself in his cell while on death row.

"Obviously this office is very selective in seeking the death penalty on Class A felonies," McGowan said in an email.

South Dakota state law outlines the factors a case needs to have in order to seek the death penalty. Among them:

-- If the offense was committed by a person with a prior record of conviction for a Class A or Class B felony, or the murder was committed by a person who has a felony conviction for a crime of violence.

--If the defendant knowingly created a great risk of death to more than one person in a public place by means of a weapon or device which would normally be hazardous to the lives of more than one person

--If the defendant committed the offense for the benefit of the defendant or another, for the purpose of receiving money or any other thing of monetary value.

McGowan said if cases fail to the meet any of the conditions outlined in state law, consideration stops.

If a case starts to meet the condition needed for the death penalty, another process is triggered. McGowan said he will consider the wishes of the victim's family. The circumstances surrounding the case will also be considered, the likelihood of the jury returning a unanimous verdict of death, among other factors.

"In cases where the death penalty may be imposed, a jury - or judge if a defendant waives his or her right to a trial by jury - must find the defendant guilty of 1 of the aggravated circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt and unanimously vote in favor of a verdict of death," McGowan said.

(source: Argus Leader)


Return of death penalty would be step backward for New Mexico

Murdered police officers and murdered children are a tough backdrop in which to argue against the death penalty.

But a return to it, after former Gov. Bill Richardson successfully oversaw its abolishment, would be a step in the wrong direction for New Mexico. It was in 2009 when the state added its name to a progressive national movement. Richardson signed legislation to repeal the death penalty and replace it with life in prison without parole. It was the right move then, and it still is 7 years later.

But Gov. Susana Martinez wants to reinstate it, and she's looking to next year's legislative session to do it. Details haven't been drafted, but it appears her proposal might only apply to child killers and those who murder law enforcement.

New Mexico residents, at least at first glance, seem to be in favor of Martinez's move. An online poll by The Taos News (still active at shows a majority of respondents in support of the death penalty's return. A fair amount think it's the wrong move. Some are undecided. The New Mexico Political Report released results of a commissioned poll this week showing similar results - 59 % support it, 34 % support current penalties of life in prison and restitution for families and 8 % are undecided.

Some of the pro-sentiment is likely because of the death of Hatch Police Officer Jose Chavez, 33, who was shot during a traffic stop and died Aug. 12. Some of the support for its return is likely due to the kidnapping and death of Ashlynne Mike, 11, in Shiprock, who was murdered last spring. Both of those cases have been cited by Martinez.

But here's the political rub and the reason there are skeptics and cynics.

The Martinez administration has often been described as acerbic and harsh. Harsh in its dealings with New Mexico teachers. One that's had a caustic relationship with the media. It's been an administration that spins and downplays pressing issues the state is facing. Issues like the current budget shortfall, teacher pay, dismal child well-being rankings, the reduction in behavioral health options and high crime rates and police brutality issues - especially in the state's most populous city, Albuquerque. She's never been a fan of Richardson and his actions as governor, either.

It's part of the reason why the move feels more like a distraction than an issue that should land on the forefront of the ever-important 60-day session.

Martinez is a former prosecutor. These issues are familiar territory. She's worked with law enforcement for much of her career and has successfully prosecuted scores who committed crimes against children. But even in the face of recent horrific murders, the governor and her administration must prioritize by tackling job growth, the economy, crime and education.

New Mexico should stay in the company of 19 other states with no death penalty laws and a continuing national movement that includes 4 other states that have abolished capital punishment. Reinstating it would be a step backwards for an already-struggling New Mexico.

(source: Opinion, The Taos News)


US judge says death penalty retrial could last 16 weeks

The federal judge who will be hearing the death penalty retrial of a man charged with killing a Vermont woman in 2000 says the trial could last 16 weeks.

In an order filed Thursday in U.S. District Court, Judge Geoffrey Crawford told attorneys for Donald Fell and prosecutors they should be available for the trial from March to June.

Fell was convicted in federal court in 2005 and sentenced to death for the 2000 killing of Terry King, but his conviction was overturned.

Prosecutors say King was abducted as she arrived for work at a Rutland supermarket and later killed.

Fell's attorneys have asked Crawford to rule the death penalty unconstitutional, but he has not yet ruled.

Meanwhile, Crawford has been ruling on a number of motions.

(source: Associated Press)


Jigisha Ghosh murder case: Court awards death penalty to accused Ravi Kapoor

A court here in New Delhi on Friday convicted Ravi Kapoor, awarded death penalty in IT executive Jigisha Ghosh's murder case, in another murder case of a taxi driver in January 2009.

Additional Sessions Judge Sandeep Yadav held Kapoor and Ajay Kumar guilty of offences under sections 302 (murder), section 364 (kidnapping), section 394 (voluntarily causing hurt in committing robbery), section 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

According to police, Ravi Kapoor and his gang killed Mohammed Nadeem and fled with his car - Tavera, and his valuables on January 7, 2009.

The court also convicted 2 others - Ajay Sethi under sections 413 (habitually receives stolen property) and and Mohammed Arif for offences under section 411 (dishonestly receives or retains any stolen property) of the IPC.

The court has directed the government to appoint a probation officer (PO) who will prepare a Pre-Sentencing Report (PSR) as mandated by the Delhi High Court. Arguments for sentencing will be heard on October 1.

On August 22, the court handed death penalty to Ravi Kapoor and 1 more accused for kidnapping and killing Jigisha Ghosh in 2009, saying the magnitude and brutality of the crime made it "a rarest of rare cases".

Kapoor is also facing trial for killing journalist Soumya Vishwanathan in 2008.



Trial date set in Scott's case in death of parents

A trial date has been set for Stephen Scott, a Dallas man facing a felony charge of capital murder of multiple persons in connection with the death of his parents earlier this year.

The trial, which will begin Dec. 5 and heard by a jury, was set Thursday during Scott's latest court proceeding. His court-appointed attorney, Lee Ann Breading, said Scott was present in the holdover facility for Thursday's court appearance.

The proceeding was held in 362nd District Court with Judge Bruce McFarling presiding.

A grand jury indicted Scott, 40, in connection with the murder of his parents, Marion Scott, 75, and Linda Scott, 70, on Jan. 21. Scott allegedly stabbed the couple in their home Jan. 10, according to an arrest affidavit. Scott reportedly called 911 and confessed to the fatal stabbings to an emergency dispatcher, police have said.

Denton police arrested Scott the same day and charged him with capital murder. He remains in Denton County Jail with his bail set at $250,000, according to jail records.

In the time Scott has been behind bars, he's been hospitalized for what's believed to have been a self-inflicted head wound. Breading said earlier this year she would evaluate Scott to determine if his injury impacted his ability to work with the defense. That is yet to be determined.

"All those issues are still pending," Breading said earlier this week.

If convicted, Scott could face the death penalty or life in prison with no possibility for parole.

Whether prosecutors will seek the death penalty has also yet to be determined, according to Jamie Beck, first assistant district attorney.

"We have not filed any kind of formal notice that we are, and that's something that must happen before we can," she said.

(source: Denton Record-Chronicle)


Change of venue denied in capital murder case

A district judge has temporarily denied a request to move the capital murder trial of a former Texas correctional officer accused of killing his infant son and the boy's grandmother in Walker County more than 3 years ago.

Judge Don Kraemer ruled against a change-of-venue motion filed by defense attorneys for Howard Wayne Lewis during a hearing Wednesday afternoon in the 12th Judicial District courtroom at the Walker County Courthouse. Kraemer said he would keep the motion in consideration if anything develops between now and Lewis' trial that could jeopardize his right to a fair and impartial trial.

A trial date has not been set at this time as the court awaits the results of additional DNA testing that was requested by Brian Lacour with the Texas Regional Public Defender for Capital Cases office, who is representing Lewis. Kraemer said Wednesday it will likely be next year before the death-penalty case goes before a jury.

"It will be after January before we get (the DNA testing results)," Kraemer said. "My hopes to try this in January has been thrown out the window."

Lewis was indicted by a grand jury in November 2014 on a charge of capital murder of a child under 10 after DNA evidence allegedly linked him to the July 24, 2013, slaying of his son, 18-month-old Aiyden Benjamin Lewis. Investigators believe the murders were a result of an ongoing custody dispute between Lewis and the baby's mother, Tiffany Crawford.

Crawford's husband found the bodies of his wife and grandson at their home on M. Williams Road, about 6 miles west of Huntsville off Highway 30. Autopsies revealed Aiyden died of asphyxiation and his grandmother, 55-year-old Shanta Crawford, was violently beaten to death with a blunt object.

Local defense attorneys Frank Blazek and Paxton Adams testified Wednesday for the defense. They said they did not believe Lewis could get a fair trial in Walker County because of the nature of the crimes.

"... Inevitably, sympathy will be for the child and grandmother and not your client," Blazek told Lacour. "... (A Walker County jury) wouldn't have any problem choosing death in this case."

Blazek also testified to the extent of the media coverage. Lacour introduced into evidence Wednesday 15 reprinted copies of The Huntsville Item, dating from July 26, 2013 to Nov. 11, 2014, which contained stories about the case.

"In general, the defense never benefits from media coverage," Blazek said.

Adams testified that Shanta Crawford was well-liked in the community, especially among Texas Department of Criminal Justice employees she worked with. He said the few people who have asked him about the case, assuming he knew a lot about it because he is a defense attorney, had come to the "conclusion" that Lewis was guilty of the murders.

Blazek said that Walker County had "good people" and they have "picked good juries" during his time practicing law here, but again, he believed the circumstances involving the case made it different than others.

"In my opinion as a defense attorney in this county, I do not," Adams answered when Lacour asked him if he thought Lewis could get a fair trial in Walker County.

The state produced 3 witnesses, including one who lives in the vicinity of the crime scene, who all testified that they had limited knowledge about the case and hardly talked about it.

David Ward, Ken Hugghins and Lovie Willis each said they had not discussed the murders with anyone since around the time they happened more than 3 years ago.

(source: Huntsville Item)


Jeff Wood's Stay of Execution Casts More Doubt on the Texas Death Machine

Terri Been was being interviewed by a reporter inside a Whataburger restaurant in East Texas on the afternoon of August 19 when the text came in: Her brother, Jeff Wood, on death row for his alleged involvement as an accomplice in the 1996 murder of his friend, and facing imminent execution, had been granted a stay. She read the text sent by Wood's attorney twice before dialing him up. "Are you serious?" she asked.

It had been a long and emotionally taxing day: Been and her husband, her parents, Wood's daughter, and another friend had traveled to Huntsville, Texas, the location of the state's execution chamber, for the first of several 8-hour visits with Wood in anticipation that he would be executed sometime after 6 p.m. on Wednesday, August 24. The news from the lawyer, Jared Tyler, was a serious relief. "I consider it a miracle," she told The Intercept. "He's stopped Texas from killing my brother."

That afternoon the state's highest criminal court, the Court of Criminal Appeals, agreed with Tyler that a state district court should determine whether the punishment hearing portion of Wood's 1998 trial was infected by junk science and misleading testimony offered by the notorious Dr. James Grigson. If the district court agrees that it was tainted, Wood could get a new hearing, and a chance to get off of death row.

Grigson, who died in 2004, was known even among peers in the psychiatric community as "Dr. Death" for routinely offering scientifically unsupportable testimony that helped to send defendants to death row in a number of capital cases. He was expelled from the American Psychiatric Association and its Texas counterpart prior to testifying in Wood's case, where he opined that unless sentenced to die Wood would continue to be violent, a determination he made without ever examining Wood.

But the court majority sidestepped - at least for now - the biggest question in Wood's case: Is he legally eligible for the death penalty? That prompted a strongly worded opinion from one of the court's 9 jurists, Elsa Alcala, who for at least the 2nd time this year has called into question whether Texas' death system itself is constitutional - an unusual stance for a jurist on such a conservative and notoriously pro-death penalty court in the state with the nation's most active execution chamber. Indeed, Alcala has been airing concerns that have not been expressed in any meaningful way by any member of that court in nearly 2 decades. Wood, she wrote, "may be actually innocent of the death penalty because he may be categorically ineligible for that punishment."

An Unconstitutional Sentence

Wood is on death row even though he has never killed anyone. He was convicted and sentenced to die for the January 2, 1996, robbery of a convenience store that ended with the shooting death of his friend Kriss Keeran, who worked at the store. But it was another man, Danny Reneau, who entered the store armed, intending to rob the place, and who shot Keeran. Wood, Reneau, Keeran and another store employee had planned an inside-job robbery for the previous day, but the plan had been aborted. Wood said he had no idea that Reneau intended to rob the store that day, and certainly had no idea that Reneau would kill Keeran. After the murder, Wood admits that he did help Reneau steal money from the store, along with a surveillance videotape, but says he did so only after Reneau threatened to harm his daughter.

But a quirk of Texas law allows the state to seek the death penalty against a defendant who never killed or intended to kill anyone. Known as the law of parties, the law posits that if conspirators plan to commit 1 crime - in this case a robbery - but in the course of events someone ends up committing another crime (such as a murder) all parties are liable for the crime committed regardless of their individual intent, under the notion that everyone should have anticipated that the crime committed would occur.

Advocates and lawyers argue that Wood's impending execution would violate the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment. It is an argument that would appear to be in line with U.S. Supreme Court precedent, which holds that a sentence must be proportional to the crime committed. In 2 cases involving parties to a planned crime that ended in murder, the court determined that the death penalty would be unconstitutional when a person lacked either the intent to kill or failed to exhibit a clear "reckless indifference" to human life.

No court has ever considered whether Wood's sentence was proportionate to his crime. Although Tyler finally raised the question directly in Wood’s most recent appeal, in staying the execution last week the Court of Criminal Appeals declined to ask the lower court to address the issue - except for Alcala, who opined in favor of addressing the question head on. "Perhaps one might suggest that I should not concern myself with the fact that applicant's death sentence appears to be unconstitutional under [Supreme Court precedent] because [Wood] should have raised this claim at some earlier stage of his post-conviction challenges and he is now procedurally barred from raising this challenge," she wrote. "I, however, would disagree with that suggestion."

It was the latest in a string of opinions by the conservative jurist questioning the legality of the death penalty and the approach of her colleagues to affirming death sentences. Alcala, who was appointed by Gov. Rick Perry, has questioned her colleagues' reluctance to allow inmates to present evidence challenging the Texas system as racist and out-of-step with a nation that is moving away from the death penalty. She has written strongly-worded dissents in two notable cases, involving the question of whether racially discriminatory testimony and poor lawyering condemned Duane Buck to die, and in another urging her colleagues to act to "uphold the federal Constitution" by setting up a modern and fair system for determining which defendants are barred from execution because of their intellectual disability. In the absence of a legislative standard, the court set up its own scheme for determining cognitive disability, a standard based on the mental abilities of the character Lennie from John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men.

The level of skepticism Alcala has expressed regarding the state's death penalty scheme - and her colleagues' role in maintaining the status quo - hasn't really been seen in Texas since Republicans took over the court in its entirety nearly 2 decades ago. As conservative jurists came to power in the 1990s, a waning contingent of Democratic judges held on, including Judge Charlie Baird, now a defense attorney in private practice in Austin. Baird said he and his colleagues would regularly dissent from the majority's rubber-stamping of death convictions. In 1996 Baird authored a dissent suggesting that Texas was not fulfilling its promise to the U.S. Supreme Court in the wake of the 1976 opinion that reauthorized the death penalty. Texas had promised "we would interpret the statute fairly and apply the death penalty fairly," he recalled. "And I don't think we ever kept those promises."

To be fair, other Republican judges have joined or written dissenting opinions in the intervening years, but none so clearly skeptical of the system as Alcala's - save for a literal swan song opinion by Judge Tom Price, who opined in 2014, just before retiring his seat, that the death penalty "should be abolished."

Although Alcala hasn't uttered the same words, she nonetheless stands out even more than Price in 1 key way - her current term is up in 2018, meaning that speaking out could derail her chances to remain on the court in the future. In a profile published by Fusion, Alcala said it was "unlikely" that she'd run again, but also acknowledged that she has not made any definitive decision.

Attorneys with considerable experience litigating capital cases before the Texas court say that they are encouraged by Alcala's opinions, but are nonetheless skeptical that her more moderate and thoughtful approach to considering death penalty cases would necessarily have any outwardly obvious effect on her colleagues. "I've been waiting and I haven't seen it. I just haven't seen it," said Keith Hampton, a veteran defense attorney who was behind the only successful bid to have a death sentence commuted by Perry during his 3-term tenure as the state's governor, during which time he presided over more executions than any other modern governor. Hampton said he could see Alcala's approach evolving in recent years, and believes now that she's "genuinely dedicated" to reform. "Clearly she's not playing to the crowd - because we're in Texas and there is no crowd for this here." In fact, Hampton worries that Alcala's writings and public posture may have given ammunition to any number of aggressive prosecutors who could try to force her recusal from considering appeals of their death cases.

Bryce Benjet, a former lawyer with the nonprofit Texas Defender Service who now works for the Innocence Project, said it might be more significant that the concerns Alcala has expressed haven't "happened with more frequency" on the court. But what is especially noteworthy, he said, is that these concerns are coming from a former prosecutor for Harris County (which includes the city of Houston), a jurisdiction responsible for sending hundreds of defendants to death row, and the U.S. county responsible for the most executions since 1976.

To Tyler, Wood's attorney, Alcala's views are more in line with those of the U.S. Supreme Court than with her colleagues. He notes that the Supreme Court has accepted for review 2 recent cases where she authored stern dissents - in the Buck case and in the case challenging the state's process for determining cognitive disabilities. And he said he believes the Supreme Court should take up Wood's case as well, to finally decide whether Wood's sentence is proportionate to his crime.

In the meantime, Wood's family and supporters have attracted another contingent of unlikely supporters in the form of conservative state House members who have been airing their own concerns about whether Wood's sentence is proper. Ultra-conservative members have each spoken out about their concerns and have been trying to persuade the Board of Pardons and Paroles and Gov. Greg Abbot to consider commuting Wood's sentence. "I believe the death penalty, and in some cases the law of parties, has a place. Human life, being made in the image of God, is very precious," East Texas state Representative David Simpson, wrote in a column published in the Dallas Morning News. "In the case of Wood, I have seen enough questions to warrant advocating that his life be spared. Ultimately, God will judge our actions, and as humans we make mistakes and our justice system is not perfect."



Home invasion survivor Dr. William Petit announces run for political office

9 years after surviving a brutal home invasion that resulted in the deaths of his wife and 2 daughters, Dr. William Petit has decided to run for political office in Connecticut.

Petit, 59, is expected to officially announce on Friday morning that he will run for a seat as the Republican Party's nominee in the 22nd District in Connecticut's House of Representatives. He faces an uphill battle against incumbent Betty Boukus, 73, who has represented the Plainville district since 1994.

Petit, speaking exclusively with Cynthia McFadden on TODAY Friday, said that his platform is much more than the outspoken support for the death penalty that he has shown since the tragedy in 2007.

"You know, some people still stop and say, 'I know where you stand. You're for the death penalty,''' Petit said. "And I say, 'Well, you know, I'm not really running on the death penalty. What's important to people is their quality of life, the economy, their jobs, their children's futures. And that has to do with has to do with our economy and our job structure kinda thing.

"So no, I'm not running on the death penalty."

In July 2007, 2 men followed home his wife, Jennifer, and daughter, Michaela, 11, from a local grocery story. Petit was locked in the basement as his wife, Michaela and daughter Hayley, 17, were tortured before their home in Cheshire, Connecticut, was set on fire.

Petit had been locked in the basement during the attack and was able to escape the fire. The 2 men who perpetrated the attack, Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes, are now on death row.

Petit became a strong supporter of the death penalty in Connecticut following the loss of his family. In 2015, the Connecticut Supreme Court effectively banned the death penalty, which was upheld in a court ruling in May.

"Never, never forgive evil, and that's what it's about,'' Petit said. "And that's what the death penalty is about is erasing evil."

Petit still suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and survivor's guilt.

"Sleep is always tough,'' he said. "With loss, people talk about closure. But there is no closure."

Petit has since remarried, meeting his wife Christine, a photographer, after founding the Petit Family Foundation in memory of his family. The pair tied the knot in front of 300 people in 2012, with the blessing of the family of his late wife.

They also have a son, William, who turns 3 in November.



Ruling points to flaws in death penalty

A flawed system

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit showed us that the death penalty is a flawed system ("New trial ordered in 1991 slaying," Wednesday).

The court ruled Tuesday that the prosecution improperly kept evidence out of the murder trial of James Dennis. That evidence might show that the Philadelphia man did not kill a 17-year-old Olney High School student.

The ruling is a victory for Dennis, who has been in prison since 1992 because prosecutors were more interested in getting a conviction than in getting it right.

It is a victory for his family, who stood by him, and for Pennsylvanians, who care about fairness and justice.

Hopefully, with this decision, prosecutors and politicians will move to end the death penalty before we execute an innocent person.

|Nicolas Guerrero, University Park, Pa.

(source: Letter to the Editor,


Toone makes court appearance for deaths of 3 girls

The man suspected of beating his family to death made a 1st appearance in Pitt County District Court on Thursday after he was charged with 3 additional counts of murder in the case.

Dibon Toone was arraigned on charges that he killed Ayona Toone, 7, Myona Toone, 5, and Bryana Nicole Carr, 11. Toone was the father of the 2 younger girls.

The girls were killed along with their mother Garlette Howard, 32, in the home they shared with Toone at 1101 Grovemont Drive. Their bodies were discovered at the home Aug. 16 after a family member of Toone's requested police to check on the family.

Toone previously appeared in court after the Greenville Police Department charged him with murder in the death of Howard. Although he always was the suspect in the three other deaths, the department did not serve murder warrants on him until Wednesday.

He is being held without bond on the 4 murder charges.

His 1st appearance, much like the one he made after he was charged with Howard's death, lasted just a few minutes. He was escorted by deputies into the courtroom at the detention center, wearing leg, waist and hand chain restraints and cuffs.

He wore a padded green cover-up that is sometimes used for defendants who may be suicidal. It is held together by Velcro.

District Court Judge David Leech read Toone his rights and told him that the punishment if convicted of 1st-degree murder is life in prison or the death penalty.

Toone told the judge that he already had been appointed a court appointed lawyer to represent him, and Leech told him he would assign the N.C. Office of Indigent Defense Services to represent him. That office will then appoint the same attorney who is representing him on the first murder charge to represent him on the other three murder charges.

Except for answering the judge's questions, Toone, who wore the same hard look on his face that he has worn since he was returned to Pitt County, said nothing during the short hearing.

Toone was arrested in Richmond, Va., on Aug. 16 while driving a LabCorp vehicle that Howard used in her job for that company, and was returned to Pitt County on Aug. 19 to face the murder charges.

The initial 1st appearance was held on Monday, also in the courtroom at the Pitt County Detention Center.



Judge denies bond for man held in killing of 5 in Alabama----District attorney calls Mississippi man a 'danger to the community'

A judge refused to set bond Wednesday for a Mississippi man accused of killing 5 people and an unborn child who were slain one by one with an ax and shot inside a home in rural Alabama.

The decision by Mobile County Judge Rick Stout came as Derrick Dearman, 27, made his 1st court appearance on multiple charges of capital murder and kidnapping.

"He doesn't need to be out. He is a danger to the community," District Attorney Ashley Rich said afterward of the Leakesville, Mississippi, man.

Rich has said her office may seek the death penalty against Dearman, who allegedly attacked the 5 as they slept and then kidnapped his estranged girlfriend, who had sought shelter from him at the house. Killed were 3 men and 2 women, one of whom was pregnant.

Relatives of the victims were present at Wednesday's hearing. Dearman turned to look at them but said nothing.

The Mobile County Sheriff's Office said several firearms and an ax were used on the 5 adults, but authorities didn't specify the total number of weapons involved.

Sheriff Sam Cochran said Dearman didn't have the guns when he arrived at the home but found them in the house. Cochran said he attacked first with the ax, then with the guns.

Dearman has told reporters he was high on methamphetamine at the time of the slayings early Saturday.

(source: Associated Press)


Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood defends discredited forensic experts, harasses defense attorneys instead

Yesterday, I posted about a crazy deposition from last April in which longtime Mississippi forensic expert Michael West went wildly off the rails. West was profane, belligerent, and openly contemptuous of the fact that anyone would dare question his expertise. The remarkable thing is that this was a deposition for a post-conviction hearing in a death penalty case. And in that case, West is the star witness. His testimony was the only physical evidence putting defendant Eddie Lee Howard at the crime scene.

Once in post-conviction, these cases are handled by the Mississippi Attorney General's Office. You might think that the Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood would be embarrassed by West's antics. The actions from his office after the deposition indicate that that you'd be wrong.

The deposition occurred on April 16. On April 25th, in anticipation of the evidentiary hearing that followed in May (that hearing went down about the same way as the deposition - the judge has yet to rule on the matter), Tucker Carrington of the Mississippi Innocence Project sent a letter to assistant attorney general Jason Davis. In it, Carrington again pointed out that since Howard's trials West has been widely discredited. He pointed out that in the deposition itself, West contradicted his testimony at trial. And he pointed out West's wholesale failure to take any of this seriously - he failed to prepare for the deposition, his failed to produce the appropriate documents and records, and he of course showed an appalling lack of professionalism and reverence, particularly given that a man's life is at stake. Carrington again requested that the AG's office drop the charges.

The next day, Davis and Hood filed a motion requesting a hearing to assess the competency of Howard's legal team. It's an astonishingly brazen reaction. Faced with an embarrassing performance in which the state's already-discredited primary witness in a death penalty case came completely unhinged, Hood chose instead to attack the credibility of Eddie Lee Howard's lawyers.

My sources in Mississippi tell me that Hood's office has using this tactic for a while now. The motion was based on Rule 22 of the Mississippi;s Rules of Appellate Procedure. The intent behind that rule is sound: It gives the state's courts a mechanism to ensure that defendants in capital cases are getting adequate legal representation in their appeals. These are complicated and consequential cases. You don;t want death penalty appeals and post-conviction petitions handled by fresh law school grads or washed up schlubs.

The problem is that the rule as originally written was vague and sloppily drafted. For example, it required anyone handling a death penalty appeal to have taken a new felony case within the last 3 years. That may sound reasonable, but many attorneys work solely on post-conviction cases, which can draw on for years. They can handle multiple cases for years on end without ever taking on a new client. These of course are some of the most qualified attorneys to handle capital cases. Yet under the rule, they could potentially be disqualified.

Sources in Mississippi say that Hood's office has been using the rule as a weapon. While Hood and his subordinates will claim in briefs that they're merely fulfilling their obligation to protect the rights of criminal defendants, they aren't filing these motions as a matter of course in every capital case. The sense in Mississippi is that they haven't been using the rule to hassle out-of-state law firms and nonprofit legal aid groups taking Mississippi capital cases on a pro-bono basis. The attorneys at these firms and aid groups have extensive experience in capital cases. In other words, Hood's office has been using the rule to attack the most qualified capital defense attorneys, not the least. In 1 recent example, Hood's office tried to disqualify a well-respected Virginia attorney with significant death penalty experience because he hadn't paid the $350 fee necessary to be barred by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit - 1 of the requirements under the rule as it was previously written.

In an affidavit filed last November, Emily Olsen-Gault, the director and chief counsel for the American Bar Association's Death Penalty Representation Project, voiced the ABA's concerns about what Hood was doing:

"The interpretation of Rule 22 that the Attorney General's Office has advanced would irreversibly chill the recruitment and participation of pro bona counsel in post-conviction proceedings in Mississippi. This would not only harm indigent death-sentenced prisoners in Mississippi, but would also impose substantial burdens on Mississippi taxpayers."

In Eddie Lee Howard's case, Hood's decision to invoke the rule when he did was basically the legal equivalent of trolling. Tucker Carrington has been the director of the Mississippi Innocence Project for a decade. He has represented Mississippi clients in courts all over the state, as well as in federal court. He has been Howard's attorney since 2008. Prior to that he was a criminal defense attorney in Washington, D.C. Chris Fabricant is director of strategic litigation for the Innocence Project of New York. He has been a criminal defense attorney for over a decade. Dana Delger is a staff attorney at the Innocence Project who clerked for a federal appeals court judge and worked as a public defender in Harlem. Vanessa Potkin is a senior staff attorney with the Innocence Project. Peter Neufeld is a co-founder and co-director of the Innocence Project who has been practicing criminal defense law for decades. Plotkin and Neufeld in fact had represented Levon Brooks and Kennedy Brewer, the 2 men previously convicted by West's bite mark testimony who served nearly 30 combined years in prison before they were exonerated in 2007.

These are the attorneys named in Hood's motion. The Innocence Project can at times be controversial. Prosecutors and law-and-order types have often disagreed with the organization's methods, tactics, or policy recommendations. But to argue that its attorneys aren't qualified to represent defendants in post conviction proceedings is laughable. That's what they do. They've also been representing Howard for nearly a decade. That Hood's office would suddenly invoke the rule less than 2 weeks after the April hearing, and just a day after Carrington's letter, makes it pretty clear that this was just petty harassment.

Moreover, as Carrington pointed out in his response, Hood's motion is particularly absurd given that Hood's office has already vouched for the credibility of Howard's legal team in a different context. That was less than a year ago.

The irony here is that while Hood claims to be so concerned about the qualifications of capital defense attorneys, he has shown zero interest in ensuring that expert witness who testify for the state in Mississippi's courts are credible and qualified. That's what that deposition last April was all about.

For his entire tenure as attorney general, Hood has steadfastly defended Steven Hayne, the controversial medical examiner who did 80-90 % of the state's autopsies for nearly 20 years. (Hayne and West were collaborators. Hayne often referred cases to West, while West often assisted Hayne with his autopsies.) That's probably at least in part because Hood frequently used Hayne back when he worked in a DA's office. When Mississippi's public safety commissioner effectively fired Hayne several years ago, Hood led an effort to resurrect an antiquated law to bring Hayne back.

As for Michael West, Hood did finally admit in 2011 that West had credibility problems. He even told a local TV station that he was conducting an investigation. A few months later, the assistant attorney general Hood allegedly assigned to head up that investigation was asked what he had found. He replied that to that point, he had done a Westlaw search on West's name - the legal equivalent of typing West's name into Google. 5 years later, we've heard nothing from Hood or his office about what that investigation has turned up. And this is an attorney general who is anything but publicity-shy.

Instead, Hood's office is still aggressively fighting to preserve convictions won with West's testimony. In most cases, Hood's office now argues that defendants are procedurally barred from raising questions about West's expertise. In these cases, Hood and his subordinates don't even try to argue that West is credible. They don't dispute that West's testimony was fraudulent. Instead, they that the defendant has already attempted to challenge West's credibility either at trial, during an appeal, or in post-conviction - and lost. By publicly acknowledging that West is not a credible witness, Hood has admitted that the Mississippi's courts were wrong to allow and uphold West's testimony. But he's willing to keep people in prison based on the fact that years ago, he and his predecessors persuaded Mississippi's courts to approve that testimony - to issue those wrong decisions - and the law now prevents those same defendants from raising that issue again. Hood is essentially arguing that Mississippi keep people in prison - or in Howard's case, that Mississippi execute someone - on a technicality.

Whether Hood is right on the law on this particular point is beside the point. As attorney general, he isn't required to fight to preserve these convictions. He could drop the charges in the interest of justice. Or he could agree to a new trial without the tainted testimony. He just won't do it.

The Lowndes County Circuit Court didn't directly address Hood's motion because days after Hood filed it, the Mississippi Supreme Court revised Rule 22 to fix the vague language and sloppy drafting. Under the revised rule, Howard's legal team is more than qualified, so there's no room for Hood's motion. It isn't clear if the state supreme court revised the rule in response to Hood's motion, but the timing is certainly suggestive.

Hood is widely expected to run for governor next year. As one of the only Democrats holding statewide office in the deep south (and a fairly popular one at that), he's expected to get a lot of support from the national party once he announces. So far in his political career, Hood has found success in the south by countering his close (and at time scandalous) relationship with the plaintiff's bar and high-profile fights with prominent businesses with an unapologetic embrace of law-and-order policies, including a particular enthusiasm for the death penalty. It will be interesting to see if he continues to pull it off. The landscape on criminal justice is shifting. Hood's efforts to undermine the rights of criminal defendants and his utter disinterest in the forensics crisis unfolding right under his nose may came back to haunt him.

(source: Radley Balko, Washington Post)


Space issues force move of accused killer, Madden

The man suspected in the death of a 7-year-old Scottsville girl has been moved from jail in Barren County to the Christian County Detention Center.

Barren County Jailer Matt Mutter said that Timothy Madden was moved from Barren County Detention Center in Glasgow on Tuesday because space was needed for other inmates at the jail.

Madden, 39, has been charged with murder, kidnapping, 1st-degree rape and 1st-degree sodomy in connection with the death last year of Gabriella "Gabbi" Doolin, who was found dead in a wooded area near Allen County-Scottsville High School on Nov. 14.

He has pleaded not guilty to all counts in the case in which he faces the death penalty if convicted.

Madden had been housed in Barren County in an isolation unit since his arrest on Nov. 20.

The decision was made to transfer Madden to Christian County after contacting officials at the Allen County Detention Center, Mutter said.

"We're going to be getting all the inmates from Monroe County at the end of this month," Mutter said. "We try to help out other counties as much as we can, but our main priority is having enough space for Barren County inmates."

(source: Kentucky New Era)


Grisly killing of 10-year-old set to stoke debate over death penalty

The grisly killing of a 10-year-old Albuquerque girl is sure to intensify debate over whether New Mexico should reinstate the death penalty, a subject that in the past week has tussled with the sagging economy as the state's pre-eminent political issue leading into next year's legislative session.

Emerging details of Victoria Martens' death, including allegations that she was drugged, raped and dismembered on the same day she planned to celebrate her birthday, have sent shock waves through the state. 3 adults, including the girl's mother, have been charged in connection with the case.

The murder comes just 1 week after Republican Gov. Susana Martinez called for the return of capital punishment in cases involving the murder of children or law enforcement officers.

Martinez did not mention the death penalty in a statement Thursday about the girl's murder but said: "Justice should come down like a hammer on the monster who committed this murder."

Last week, a spokesman for Martinez said "the governor supports reinstating the death penalty and, at minimum, we can all agree that it should apply to cop killers and child murderers."

Those comments came after a police officer in Hatch was shot dead. A fugitive wanted for murder in Ohio faces state and federal charges in the case.

The New Mexico Legislature and then-Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, abolished capital punishment in 2009.

Martinez, a Republican who was a longtime district attorney before being elected governor in 2010, has renewed her own years-old proposal to return the death penalty to New Mexico. She raised the topic in her first State of the State speech in 2011 but never pushed the idea until recently.

A spokesman for the governor on Thursday would not say whether Martinez would amplify her call for reviving the death penalty based on Victoria's case.

The horror elicited by the elementary school student's death paralleled the shock following the shooting death of 4-year-old Iliana "Lilly" Rose Garcia in a road rage case in October.

Lilly's death and the shooting deaths of 2 police officers in the Albuquerque metropolitan area led Republican state representatives to introduce a host of bills aimed to crack down on violent crime. In the 30-day legislative session that followed, crime-and-punishment measures dominated debate much of the time, even though the "short" session was supposed to focus mostly on the state budget.

Now, with the state's cash reserves depleted and legislators planning to return to the Capitol in September for a special session to balance the budget, and with a 60-day legislative session scheduled to begin in mid-January, the return of capital punishment and other crime measures could once again dominate debate in the Roundhouse.

Critics of the governor's focus on crime while the state's budget is in disarray expressed a combination of horror at Victoria's death and the prospect of the case becoming part of the argument for reinstating capital punishment.

"It's a terrible tragedy that I believe was easily preventable had this state invested in a comprehensive early childhood education and child welfare system," said Rep. Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque. "I believe the fullest extent of the law should come down on the monsters that did this, but I think discussions of the death penalty are distractions."

Rep. Martinez and the governor are not related and agree on little in terms of public policy.

Even before state legislators abolished the death penalty in 2009, New Mexico had used it sparingly.

The only person executed in the state after the death penalty was reinstated in 1976 was convicted of a crime similar to Victoria's case.

Terry D. Clark kidnapped, raped and murdered a 9-year-old Roswell girl in 1986. Clark dropped his appeals in 1999 and was executed by lethal injection in 2001.

2 convicted murderers in New Mexico still could be put to death because they committed their crimes before legislators repealed capital punishment. One kidnapped and murdered a 17-year-old Flora Vista girl in 1995. The other committed multiple murders.

After New Mexico outlawed the death penalty, Illinois, Connecticut Maryland and Nebraska followed suit. 30 states, the federal government and the U.S. military still have the death penalty. Several states, though, rarely execute prisoners.

Reinstating capital punishment would be an unusual step as other states move away from it, and the process of carrying out executions is complicated by difficulties in obtaining drugs for lethal injections.

Rep. Martinez said the state, with a budget crisis likely to lead to cutbacks that will fall on the backs of children and the poor, will see yet more tragedies.

Allen Sanchez, executive director of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, said he anticipates the murder of Victoria will be used in the debate over capital punishment.

"Our hearts are broken. And as humans, our instincts are to protect," he said. "But this is why you create laws - to govern us and help us through the difficult times that are emotional."

The emotions that arise during such times are important, Sanchez said. "Let's hope that this tragedy is not used for politics but good work," he said.

An opposing view comes from Rep. Andy Nunez, R-Hatch, who says New Mexico needs to bring back the death penalty. Nunez voted to repeal the death penalty in 2009 when he was a Democrat. Now, he says, he will carry the legislation to reinstate capital punishment if Gov. Martinez asks him to do so.

(source: Santa Fe New Mexican)


Utah man accused of stabbing 2 women, 1 fatally, at a Wyoming hotel is set to stand trial

The Draper man accused of fatally stabbing 1 woman and injuring her friend at a Wyoming hotel will stand trial in January.

Bradley Ross Fairbourn, 19, was charged with murder, a 1st-degree felony, for the June 23 slaying of Naisha Rae Story, 29, of South Jordan, as well as attempted murder, also a 1st-degree felony, for the injuries her friend suffered.

Sweetwater County, Wyo., Attorney Dan Erramouspe will decide by Sept. 9 whether to pursue the death penalty. The jury trial, scheduled to begin Jan. 17, likely will be a week long, but it could be extended, Erramouspe said, if his team seeks the highest punishment under the law.

Fairbourn allegedly was responding to an online ad for sexual services posted by the 2 women, he told police, when he went to their hotel room about 1 a.m. Either Story or her friend - Fairbourn said he was unsure which woman he was communicating with - apparently posted about "full service" massages, charging documents state.

After forcing his way into the room, he purportedly attacked the 2 women with a knife. When police arrived - after Story's friend escaped and ran for help - they transported Story to a local hospital, where she died from the injuries. Her friend has recovered.

Officers also found and arrested Fairbourn, who had left the scene, in the surrounding area. He was passing through Wyoming the day of the incident on his way to Utah, documents state.

He is being held at Sweetwater County jail on $1 million bail and denied the charges at a preliminary hearing.

(source: Salt Lake Tribune)


Oakland man accused of killing Hayward police officer pleads not guilty

The Oakland man accused of killing Hayward police officer Sgt. Scott Lunger pleaded not guilty Thursday afternoon in the Hayward courthouse.

It's been more than a year since Lunger, 48, was fatally shot during a traffic stop July 22, 2015, in Hayward. Mark Estrada, 22, has been jailed without bail since being released from the hospital with a gunshot wounded inflicted by Lunger's cover officer.

Estrada has no previous criminal record, and his family says they believe he is innocent. His charges make him eligible for the death penalty.

Estrada's attorney, Christopher Morales, addressed questions outside the Hayward courthouse back in July, at least the 3rd time the entry of plea hearing had been postponed. Morales said he was waiting for a bulk of evidence, such as police reports and lab reports, before entering a plea. At a hearing in April, dozens of uniformed Hayward police officers filled the courtroom for Estrada's appearance.

(source: The Mercury News)


Missing the other side of capital punishment: innocent people wrongly convicted

I realize that when writing a piece about California's death row it's much more interesting to focus on an inmate whose crimes are the stuff of horror movies. But it seems that in a story written by a columnist who describes himself as "ambivalent" about capital punishment, it would be edifying to also look at those on death row whose guilt is questionable, or whose crimes were not horrendous but occurred in the wrong county, or whose conviction was the result of a woefully inadequate defense attorney. ("A macabre and failed system of justice"; Forum, Aug. 21)

Dan Morain writes that, "No doubt, many death row inmates received less than perfect trials. But they are on death row for good reason." The facts show otherwise. Since 1973, 156 innocent people have been exonerated and freed from death rows around the country. And, as U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Alex Kozinski once said, "For every exonerated convict, there may be dozens who are innocent but cannot prove it."

Morain focused on Lawrence Bittaker in his column, a poster boy for supporters of the death penalty. He could just as easily have focused on Kevin Cooper, a death row inmate whose conviction was so controversial his supporters include a former FBI investigator of violent crimes, the American Bar Association, some of the jurors who convicted him, and a Louisiana prosecutor who wrongly convicted a man in a similar case years ago.

Finally, Morain has been a reporter in California for a long time. Doesn't he find it strange that California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is now giving reporters regular tours of death row? When I was a reporter in the '90s, I visited San Quentin 3 times, but death row was always completely off limits. I was at San Quentin when Mother Teresa visited, and we weren't allowed to accompany her to death row because "it was too dangerous."

It strikes me as more than coincidence that with Proposition 62 on the November ballot, San Quentin's death row is now open to the media. What better way to make an argument for the need for the death penalty than to introduce the press to the men whose crimes give people nightmares? And who better to have as your messenger than the "objective" media? Wasn't there at least part of him that suspected he was being used?

(source: Opinion; Mary C. DeLucco of Petaluma is a former television reporter, writer and producer in the Bay Area. She now works as a freelance writer and producer in San Francisco----Sacramento Bee)


Operation Rescue's Caines All For Hanging

Operation Rescue's Richard Caines is supporting the government's position on hanging convicted murderers.

Prime Minister Timothy Harris has indicated that his administration favours implementing the death penalty.

Caines, speaking on his organization’s radio programme, expressed support for that position.

"I'm talking about St Kitts and Nevis and to a lesser extent the rest of the Caribbean, we have a problem in our community and some of us are saying it is right and some are saying it is not right and so on. I would want to think that so long as a court, and I want that on the record, so long as the court says you are convicted of a murder, you are guilty and you're sentenced to hang, hang them."

Prime Minister Harris's pro-hanging stance comes against the backdrop of more than 20 homicides recorded for the year so far.

Operation Rescue's Dwyer Astaphan says the issue is a complicated one.

"Incredible ways, incredibly cruel ways of killing people. You have the gas chamber, sometimes the thing does not go off well and the person is gagging for 2, 3, 5, 12 minutes, you have electrocution sometimes it doesn't go well, you have the firing sometimes they don't hit them right, you have the lethal injection and then does it reach a point where you say well he killed somebody so let him die brutally as well, is the state going to be killing people brutally. I am not being soft, I'm just trying to get us to open our minds and see every different facet of this thing and how wide we want to carry it if we want to carry it there and do we want to look at what is causing people to behave the way they behave or are we just going to say well they are going to behave how they want, we will deal with them. I think it really needs a very broad and comprehensive and deep and honest analysis."

Defense lawyer Chesley Hamilton says he would like to see hanging abolished in St Kitts and Nevis.

"I am not in favor of hanging. It is just a barbaric drawback from the days of slavery, the Klu Klux Klan and those sort of things, we don't need it in our system. There are other ways in which to deal with the whole issue of crime, the whole pestilence of crime and if we put our minds together we can come up with creative ways of dealing with the issue of crime. We have 40, 50 thousand people it's nothing more than a stadium, we can put up a crime plan to deal with the situation."

Mr. Hamilton was asked if he thinks the Prime Minister is making a strong case to tell criminals to behave or else and if he can see hangings taking place in the near future.

"Well the Prime Minister knows, you don't dare criminals you will lose. I once heard Michael Manley when there was apartheid say freedom fighters never lose and therefore South Africa will be free one day and it is the same thing you don't dare criminals the only people who lose when you dare criminals is the society, they have nothing to lose. As for hangings it is possible, once there is a government that is ready to satisfy the thirst for blood then it can happen but it is not going to solve anything, it is not going to deter crime."

Human Rights groups including Amnesty International have been lobbying for years to get Caribbean countries to move away from hanging, which these rights groups describe as cruel and inhumane punishment.

In St Kitts and Nevis there are strong advocates on both sides - some who favour hanging, and some who want it abolished.



Aus man faces Phillipine court for drugs

An Australian man who has faced court in the Philippines over accusations he and a Canadian man were peddling party drugs says he is "staying positive".

Damian John Berg, who could face the death penalty if convicted, was handcuffed when he was brought into the Regional Court in Makati City on Thursday for the 1st day of his trial.

Police Officer Freddie Cabaccan, from the anti-illegal drugs group said the operation targeting the 34-year-old, began when an informant approached them and alleged Canadian man Jeremy Eaton and Berg were selling party drugs in Makati City and surrounding areas.

The operation initially targeted just Eaton, Officer Cabaccan told the court, but upon the Canadian's arrest on June 20 he told officers he had an associate.

Eaton allegedly told police his associate was Berg and that he was operating out of a nearby hotel Red Planet in Poblacion district in Makati City.

Staging a purchase, police allege Berg brought 50 ecstasy tablets with him to sell.

Within 30 minutes he was arrested near the hotel, the court heard.

Berg cried in court as CCTV footage of the arrest was shown in court.

The footage, which Berg's defence team argues contradicts the evidence of Supt Officer Cabaccan, was only allowed to be shown in part to the court.

As he was being led out of the trial Berg told AAP he was "staying positive".

His matter is expected to return to court next week.

Berg's arrest in June came just before the Phillipine government enacted a sweeping and bloody crackdown on drugs in the country under the new president Rodrigo Duterte.

Philippine National Police Director General Ronald dela Rosa told a senate inquiry into the killings under 'Operation Double Barrel' this week that 756 drug "users and pushers" had died in police operations from July 1 until August 22.

Meanwhile more than 1100 other deaths had been reported during the crackdown, bringing the total number to more than 1900.

Not all he said, were drug related.

"Contrary to public perception", he said the focus was on the visits to people's homes that police were conducting in which they urge "pushers and users" to stop.

The success of the operation was shown by the fact that more than 670,000 people had "surrendered" to police and approximately 12,000 had been arrested.

(source: Yahoo News)


Abe seeking to criminalize 'conspiracy' in revised bill

The Abe administration has assembled a revised bill to punish conspiracy of "organized crime groups" after earlier versions that covered "organizations" in general were scrapped 3 times in the Diet.

Administration officials said the revision to the organized crime punishment law is intended to prevent crimes such as terrorist attacks before or during the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics and Paralympics.

It is considering submitting the revised bill in the extraordinary Diet session that begins in September.

Similar bills with a broader scope were submitted to the Diet in 2003, 2004 and 2005 by the administration of Junichiro Koizumi. However, all 3 failed to pass due to strong criticism over possible broad interpretations of what constitutes a conspiracy.

In those versions, those subject to prosecution were only described as "dantai" (organizations). In the latest revision, those subject to punishment are limited to "soshikiteki hanzai shudan" (organized crime groups).

The organized crime groups are defined as those that intend to commit crimes subject to imprisonment of 4 years or longer. They include terrorist organizations, gangster outfits, human trafficking organizations and telephone fraud groups.

In addition, it increased the conditions that constitute a conspiracy.

In the past 3 proposed revisions, members of organizations could be punished if they simply discussed their planned crimes before actually committing them.

Opposition parties and the public criticized the bills, saying that even citizens' groups and labor unions could be punished under broad interpretations of the revised law. As a result, the bills were scrapped.

For example, there was criticism that employees of a company could be subject to prosecution if they discussed in a bar, "Let's kill our boss."

The latest revision was intended to deflect such criticism by having more narrowly defined conditions.

The latest revision stipulates that individuals must make a physical preparatory act to commit a crime, such as obtaining funds or acquiring goods.

Abe administration officials said that acts such as gathering pamphlets to procure weapons would fall under acquiring goods to commit a crime.

However, investigators could still broadly interpret the new revisions as definitions of "organized crime groups" and "preparatory acts" remain vague.

In addition, the number of crimes subject to imprisonment of 4 years or longer exceed 600, including violations of the Road Traffic Law and the Public Offices Election Law. Because such a large number of crimes are covered by the latest revision, controversy could erupt over reducing the number of crimes subject to the revision.

Under the latest revision, individuals who conspire to commit a crime that could bring the death penalty, life imprisonment or more than 10 years in prison if carried out could be sentenced up to 5 years behind bars.

Conspiring to commit crimes subject to four to 10 years in prison could be punishable by a prison term of up to 2 years.

(source: The Asahi Shimbun)

AUGUST 25, 2016:


More evidence for Pa. to abolish death penalty

Justice has finally come for James "Jimmy" Dennis. 24 years ago, Dennis was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of 17-year-old Chedell Williams. But the jury wasn't presented with all the facts of the case.

The U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that during Dennis's original trial, the prosecution purposefully suppressed evidence that would have proven Dennis's innocence, an unconstitutional and unjust act. While a long appeals process still stands between Dennis and his freedom, this decision marks a huge victory for him and death penalty abolitionists everywhere.

Over the years, reforms have been made to America's death-penalty system, and none were able to prevent Dennis from ending up on death row. The state could have easily executed Dennis at some point during his nearly quarter-of-a-century-long ordeal. Fortunately, they didn't, and he lived to witness justice on his behalf.

While this was the case for Dennis, others may not be so lucky. The only way to ensure that another innocent man like Dennis isn't executed is to abolish the death penalty, a system that feeds on revenge, hate, and anger. It is our responsibility as citizens of the free world to stand up against injustice when we see it, and this is certainly not an injustice about which we can keep quiet.

I am a firm believer (as I'm sure Dennis is, too) that the death penalty is not worth the killing of even 1 innocent person.

Emilie Henry

Lafayette College, class of 1919


(source: Letter to the Editor, Express-Times)


Defender: Seeking death penalty a financial move ---- Prosecution pursuing death penalty in killing of Sgt. Moore

Kootenai County Public Defender John Adams will argue next week in district court that prosecutors were motivated by financial reasons to seek the death penalty for the man accused of killing Coeur d'Alene Police Sgt. Greg Moore.

Jonathan Renfro, 28, allegedly admitted to shooting Moore in a Coeur d'Alene neighborhood on May 15, 2015, and the Kootenai County Prosecutor's Office filed paperwork in court last January stating its intention to ask for the death penalty. Adams, in multiple legal briefs filed in Kootenai County District Court, alleges the decision to pursue capital punishment was motivated by financial reasons, since the state has a fund set up to help reduce trial costs in counties trying such cases.

Idaho's Capital Crimes Defense Fund was established by the state Legislature in 1998 and allows counties to dip into a statewide fund to recoup some of the costs associated with death penalty trials, primarily through the reimbursement of wages paid to attorneys on the case. Every county, with the exception of Jefferson County, participates in the voluntary program, and a 2013 study by the Idaho Legislature found 11 counties have been reimbursed more than $4 million since 1998.

"...The existence of the CCDF permits this court to find that there is a clear financial benefit to the county when it pursues the death penalty," Adams wrote in a brief filed Aug. 5. "As to the interest of the taxpayer, first, the prosecutor's duty is to the county, not the taxpayer, and 2nd, clearly spreading the cost of a death penalty case over the entire population of Idaho lessens the burden upon taxpayers in Kootenai County considerably."

However, the county prosecutor's office has filed multiple briefs in opposition to Adams' motion asking the court to preclude the death penalty from Renfro's potential punishments. In a brief published on July 27, Kootenai County Deputy Prosecutor David Robins wrote there is no evidence to prove Adams' assertions, which Robins called "unsound fabrications."

"From the defendant's slanted argument, he would have this honorable court believe he is a victim of some unfeeling financial calculus, meting out life and death based on financial considerations alone," Robins wrote. "He is no such victim. He is the perpetrator of an extraordinarily callous and cold-blooded murder. The defendant's eligibility for capital sentencing is not the product of financial concern - rather, his eligibility is the product of Idaho law, his actions, his reprehensible history of violence, the brutal nature of his crime, and the goals of justice."

Adams, according to court briefs, will argue the additional funding provided by the CCDF is a violation of Renfro's rights under the Eighth Ammendment because it brings in a factor other than the incident itself for prosecutors to consider when pursuing punishment.

"The prosecutor's quandary is not his fault but that of the state Legislature in creating a moral hazard by financially incentivizing death," Adams wrote.

Renfro is charged with 1st-degree murder, grand theft, removing a law-enforcement officer's firearm, concealing evidence, robbery and eluding police.

Moore had stopped Renfro in the middle of the night as he walked down the sidewalk of the neighborhood, an area targeted by car prowlers at the time. Moore reportedly called in Renfro's driver's license information over the radio shortly before the shooting. Renfro is also accused of stealing Moore's gun and patrol car after the shooting.

On Aug. 31, Kootenai County District Court Judge Lansing Haynes will hear both sides of the argument and make a determination as to whether prosecutors will be allowed to pursue the death penalty. All 3 Kootenai County commissioners, County Treasurer Steve Matheson, and County Clerk Jim Brannon were issued subpoenas requiring them to be present at the hearing.

"You are further commanded to provide the following documentary information and evidence on the date and time as indicated above: Documentation of funding and budgeting for capital cases in general for the past 3 years and for the prosecution of the Renfro case from its inception," the subpoena states.

Adams is also prepared to challenge, at the same hearing, the constitutionality of what he calls "Idaho's death penalty scheme."



Death Watch: The Quality of State Killings----Why is the TDCJ so reluctant to test death drugs?

Friday's news that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stayed Jeffery Wood's execution - remanding the case back to Wood's Kerr County trial court so a judge can reconsider the testimony of Dr. James Grigson, the since-deceased forensic psychiatrist nicknamed "Dr. Death" because of his recurring state testimonies in capital cases - means the Texas' Department of Criminal Justice has seen each of the state's last 10 scheduled executions be stayed or delayed. (The state hasn't executed anyone since Pablo Vasquez on April 6.) Wood's stay, officially issued with respect to Grigson's testimony, was hopefully spurred in part by questions over the ethics of executing an individual who did not actually kill anyone (see "Death Watch: Executing Texas' Law of Parties," Aug. 12). It comes one week after the state temporarily spared the life of fellow inmate Robert Pruett, who also went to prison as an accomplice to a murder, and later went to death row for the murder of a prison guard in Beeville - though evidence is mounting that he may not be responsible for that killing, either.

Meanwhile, the state turns its attention to Rolando Ruiz, scheduled for execution Aug. 31. Ruiz, 44, was sent to death row for the 1992 murder-for-hire of Theresa Rodriguez. After agreeing to a $2,000 payment from Rodriguez's husband, Michael, and her brother-in-law, Mark, Ruiz shot Rodriguez in the head in her San Antonio garage; the brothers were trying to collect on a couple of hefty life insurance policies. Mark received a life sentence for capital murder. Michael - a member of the Texas 7, who broke out of the state's John B. Connally Unit on Dec. 13, 2000 and went on a crime spree - was sentenced to death and executed Aug. 14, 2008. 2 other men involved with the arranged killing were also sentenced to life for the crime.

Ruiz's chances for mitigation during the sentencing portion of his trial got muddied by the role he reportedly played during an uprising at the Bexar County Jail shortly after his arrest. Ruiz was convicted of aggravated assault on a peace officer, and attorneys say he lost the opportunity to present himself as a non-threat in the future. His habeas appeals were guided by what his trial attorneys failed to produce during that portion, specifically a psychologist's report detailing the "significant reduced mental capacity" Ruiz possessed at the time of Rodriguez's murder as a result of the drugs and alcohol he consumed to cope with an abusive upbringing.

On Aug. 12, with Wood and 3 of the 4 other inmates currently scheduled for death dates, Ruiz filed a complaint in Judge Lynn Hughes' federal district court that challenges the testing methods TDCJ employs for its doses of compounded pentobarbital, the highly secretive drug TDCJ uses to carry out its killings. The inmates' argument is rooted in the courtesy extended in Whitaker et al v. Livingston, a case from 2013. The case initially proved unsuccessful, but played a major role in fellow plaintiff Perry Williams' execution date getting withdrawn this summer (see "Death Watch: A First Time for Everything," July 15). In 2015, the Attorney General's Office agreed to retest Williams and Thomas Whitaker's doses shortly before their executions. Williams received his execution warrant in Jan. 2016. In early July, the state said that it did not have time to test Williams' pentobarbital dose in the 6 months following issuance of the warrant.

Attorneys for the 5 inmates argued that the precedent set by Whitaker and Williams means that their clients have a constitutional right to the same testing, a charge Hughes disagreed with late last week. Hughes' decision was sent to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Aug. 19, where some kind of action will need to be taken before Ruiz's execution date comes up.

"All we ask for is for the state to retest the drug before the executions," said Michael Biles, 1 of the 3 attorneys working the case. "It's a 1-day test to make sure the drug still has the same potency and is not contaminated. No stay of executions, just a retest. The state refused. The court refused to grant us that release. We had a very small ask, and it's frustrating that we weren't successful [in federal court]."

(source: The Austin Chronicle)


Roger King, 72, 'larger than life' retired Philly homicide prosecutor

Roger King, 72, a towering figure in Philadelphia law enforcement during a decades-long career as a top homicide prosecutor in the District Attorney's Office, died Wednesday morning, Aug. 24, in hospice care in Wyndmoor.

The cause of death was metastatic kidney cancer, said his wife, Sharon Wainright. He had battled the disease for 2 years.

"Roger had a heart of gold," Wainright said. "He was very proud of the work that he had done."

Mr. King spent 3 decades prosecuting homicides in Philadelphia, including some of the city's most notorious cases, such as the conviction of David Dickson Jr., a former Drexel University security guard with a foot fetish who strangled a 20-year-old student in 1984.

When Mr. King retired in 2008, he had won 16 death-penalty convictions - more than anyone in Pennsylvania history at the time, according to Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington.

But his legacy was complicated by several overturned convictions. Just this week, a federal appeals court ruled that death-row inmate James Dennis - prosecuted by Mr. King in 1992 for murdering a teenage girl over her gold earrings - should be granted a new trial because police and prosecutors withheld evidence suggesting that Dennis was innocent.

Still, fellow prosecutors and defense attorneys on Wednesday described Mr. King as a fierce and effective litigator - intense, passionate, and at times intimidating. An imposing physical presence at 6-foot-2, Mr. King spoke with conviction inside the courtroom, his colleagues said, and was uniquely dedicated to trying even the toughest murder cases.

"There isn't a person who knew Roger who didn't know the devotion he had to being the best-prepared prosecutor ever," said former District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham, Mr. King's boss for 19 years.

Veteran defense attorney A. Charles Peruto Jr. said Mr. King was "a great opponent."

"Any good defense attorney respected him," Peruto said.

Mr. King was born in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Aug. 3, 1944, the 6th of 7 children. His mother was a dietitian, his father a preacher.

He attended the University of Southern California and was a safety on the football team, according to his wife. He graduated in 1967, then went on to law school at the University of California, Los Angeles. After graduating, he briefly worked at the Federal Trade Commission, his wife said, and in 1973 joined the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office.

After just 3 years, Mr. King joined the homicide unit, a prestigious assignment for a young prosecutor. Abraham said other young African American lawyers were inspired watching him in the high-profile post, viewing him as "an example of someone who [was] a fearless warrior for justice."

Ed Rendell, the city's district attorney from 1978 through 1985, remembered Mr. King as "an incredible trial lawyer."

"He had a magnetic effect" on jurors, Rendell said. "He riveted their attention when he talked, and he was compelling in his arguments."

Jack McMahon, a prominent criminal defense attorney who worked with Mr. King as a prosecutor in the 1980s, said that he had a "preacher-like style" and an incredible memory - and that many in the office viewed him as "larger than life."

"He was dedicated" to the work, McMahon said. "It was his life."

Besides the Dickson and Dennis cases, Mr. King had a hand in other high-profile murder prosecutions, trying "thousands" of cases, including killers of children and police officers, he told an interviewer in 1995.

In 1997, he told a judge that the defendants in a case had plotted to kill him. And when he was digging into drug gangs involved with the Black Mafia and Junior Black Mafia, he said, he received at least four death threats a week.

Not all of Mr. King's efforts were successful.

When he and a colleague prosecuted the Lex Street massacre - an infamous 2000 shooting that left seven dead in West Philadelphia - they refused to release from prison the 4 men who had been charged even after new evidence pointed toward 4 other suspects.

The men later sued the city, and in 2003 they were awarded a $1.9 million settlement.

Mr. King was respected within the court system as a dogged and competitive lawyer. McMahon and Fortunato N. Perri Jr. - another prominent defense attorney - said that as young prosecutors, they would walk to his courtroom just to watch him in action.

Jude Conroy, an assistant district attorney who was mentored by Mr. King, said the office named an annual award for homicide prosecutors partly for him.

And Ed Cameron, assistant chief of the office's homicide unit, said Mr. King was so proud of his work that he later handed out business cards describing himself as a retired homicide prosecutor.

"This job," Cameron said, "was a really big part of his life."

In addition to his wife, Mr. King is survived by a daughter, Karen Epley.

Funeral services will be private.



Federal judge dismisses appeal in 1987 Bristol Township anti-gay killing case

The federal judge who granted convicted killer Richard Laird a new trial in 2005 has decided differently the 2nd time around.

Laird, 52, saw his appeal shot down last week when U.S. District Judge Jan DuBois, in a 105-page opinion, upheld his conviction and death sentence.

Laird asked the court to overturn his 2007 conviction and death sentence for 1st-degree murder - his 2nd conviction by a Bucks County jury - for the Dec. 15, 1987, killing of 26-year-old Anthony Milano, of Bristol Township.

First Assistant District Attorney Michelle Henry, who prosecuted Laird in 1997 second trial, said she was pleased by the judge's "very gratifying" decision.

"The death penalty is appropriately reserved for the most heinous murders and the cold-blooded killers who commit them," she said.

Jurors first convicted Laird and co-defendant Frank Chester in 1989, sentencing both men to death for kidnapping Milano from a bar on Route 13 before beating him and slashing him to death with a utility knife.

Both men later had their verdicts overturned in federal court.

Chester, 48, pleaded guilty in March after a successful bid to avoid the death penalty while Laird continues to appeal.

In denying Laird's latest appeal, DuBois also declined to include a "certificate of appealability," complicating further appeals of the his decision.

District Attorney David Heckler said he found it refreshing to see federal courts "only calling balls and strikes" in death penalty cases.

"I have been disappointed over the years in the federal courts' handling of death penalty cases, because it seemed that they would use any excuse to reach the foregone conclusion that the death penalty was not going to be upheld," he said.

Despite the federal judge's decision, it remains unlikely Laird will be executed soon because some appeal options remain. Should he exhaust those options, Gov. Tom Wolf's moratorium on the death penalty will cause further delay.

(source: The Intelligencer)


Judge in Joaquin Rams capital murder case suddenly steps down after handling it for 3 years

The long death penalty prosecution of Joaquin Rams in Prince William County, for allegedly drowning his toddler son in 2012, has taken another dramatic turn. Circuit Court Judge Craig D. Johnston, who had overseen the case since Rams's indictment in 2013, suddenly recused himself in June following a tragic death in the family. Then, after 2 other Prince William judges were appointed and also had to recuse, Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Randy I. Bellows took over the case and held his first hearing in Manassas Wednesday.

The move brings a new judge to a death penalty case that already is unusual because the defendant is claiming actual innocence, and he has three witnesses who corroborate his claim. The case has seen 3 years' worth of pretrial maneuvering, including a rarely-used special grand jury to investigate Rams, a reversal of the official cause of death, the disclosure that four jailhouse informants are prosecution witnesses and a pledge by Prince William prosecutors to continue pursuing Rams even if he beats the current charges. But Bellows showed Wednesday that he was well-versed in the case, ruled on 2 somewhat complicated motions without hesitation, and said the trial date of Feb. 21 would stand.

Rams, 44, is charged in the October 2012 death of Prince McLeod Rams, who was 15-months-old when he was found wet and unconscious in Rams's Manassas City home one Saturday afternoon. He died the next day at the hospital. Police and Prince William prosecutors believe Rams drowned the boy to collect $540,000 in life insurance proceeds for policies he'd taken out on Prince. Prince's mother had won custody of the boy after extensive hearings in Montgomery County, and he was on a short unsupervised visitation with his father when he collapsed and later died.

Rams, who claimed he splashed cold water on the boy because he was having a febrile seizure, was arrested in January 2013 after the Virginia medical examiner ruled that Prince died of drowning. He was indicted for capital murder in July 2013, and Johnston began presiding over the case. But recently, Johnston suffered his own tragedy: a toddler in his family was killed when another family members accidentally ran over the child, several lawyers familiar with the case said.

At a hearing in June, Prince William Circuit Court Judge Lon Farris took the bench and told the lawyers, "Judge Johnston wants me to express his apologies at having to withdraw, with the tragic events that occurred in his family in the last few weeks. He simply does not feel emotionally that he can handle the subject matter of this case. I assure you there were no legal or ethical matters resulting in his needing to withdraw from the case."

But the appointment of Farris didn't last long. Rams' lawyers pointed out that he had served as an "ex parte" judge in the case, hearing issues that one side didn't want to present in front of the other side. Farris initially declined to recuse, court records show, then changed his mind and stepped down in late June.

In July, Prince William Circuit Court Judge Steven S. Smith was appointed by the Virginia Supreme Court to take over the case. But the lawyers discovered that when Smith was in private practice, his firm had represented Rams on an unrelated matter. Smith recused.

The state Supreme Court then appointed Bellows, who is no stranger to stepping up for another judge in high-profile cases. Last year, he took over the trial of Alexandria's Charles Severance, accused of 3 slayings there, after Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Jane Marum Roush was appointed to the state Supreme Court. And in 2008 he took on his 1st death penalty case, stepping in for the retrial of Fairfax’s Alfredo Prieto after the original judge became Fairfax chief judge. A jury sentenced Prieto to death, Bellows imposed that sentence in 2010 and Prieto was executed last year.

Bellows is both a former public defender in the District and a former federal prosecutor in Alexandria, handling high-profile spy cases such as FBI double agent Robert Hanssen, before joining the Fairfax bench in 2002. He played a key role in the bringing scrutiny to the 2013 Fairfax police killing of John Geer, ordering the police to release their investigative and internal affairs records to the family in its civil suit. That set off a chain of events that led to the criminal conviction of Officer Adam Torres for involuntary manslaughter earlier this year.

Bellows now steps into his second death penalty case, but this time there is no official cause of death: the original ruling of drowning was reversed by Virginia's chief medical examiner in 2014 to "undetermined." In addition, Prince William prosecutors have said they plan to use 4 jailhouse informants against Rams, although one was ruled incompetent to stand trial for 2 years and another was found to be malingering when he claimed mental illness. Rams's lawyers asked for a "reliability" hearing on whether the informants were suitable to testify, but Johnston ruled against them. The collapse of a jailhouse informant's testimony in the D.C. murder case of federal intern Chandra Levy recently led to the dismissal of a conviction in her 2001 death .

On Wednesday, Bellows took on his 1st key issue in the Rams case. Rams's attorneys asked him to give the jury an instruction during the penalty phase of the case - if Rams is convicted - that if jurors are not unanimous in voting for a death sentence, the judge will impose a life sentence without parole. Defense attorney Chris Leibig, who also represented Charles Severance in front of Bellows, presented an affidavit from Scott E. Sundby, a capital punishment expert who said that, absent such an instruction, jurors often believe failing to reach a unanimous decision will cause a retrial or a resentencing, and that "jurors favoring life have changed their vote to death because of a mistaken concern."

But Bellows had not only researched the law, he had dug out a 2010 law review article Sundby had written about his research on death penalty jurors. The judge noted that the Virginia Supreme Court had weighed in against such an explanatory instruction to jurors on what happens if they aren't unanimous and that the U.S. Supreme Court had approvingly cited that reasoning.

"We don't want to communicate to jurors," Bellows said, "any reason for them to avoid their solemn responsibility to figure out what the appropriate sentence is." He rejected the defense request.

When prosecutors wanted to add extra aliases to Rams's indictment, to be sure that no potential juror had known him under a different name, Bellows knew that Rams had changed his name years ago, from his birth name of John Anthony Ramirez. "Was that in 2000 or 2002?" he asked. (It was 2002.) The judge allowed the aliases to be added.

Bellows said the trial remained slotted for 2 months beginning Feb. 21, and set nine pretrial hearing dates in coming months. Chief Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Jim Willett said the prosecution's case would only take 5 to 6 days, and that even in the penalty phase of the case he would not seek to introduce evidence of 2 other Rams-related death cases. Rams's girlfriend, Shawn Mason, was shot to death in 2003 in Manassas City, and his mother, Alma Collins, was found asphyxiated in 2008. Prosecutors now believe Rams is responsible for both deaths and Willett previously sought to introduce them in the Prince Rams case. Johnston rejected that in 2014.

In arguing against granting Rams bond earlier this year, Willett said prosecutors planned to charge Rams with those murders if he is acquitted of killing Prince. Johnston then denied bond for Rams, who has been in jail for 3 years but had not previously requested bond or pushed for a speedy trial. Bellows did not say Wednesday whether he would reconsider any issues already decided by Johnston.

(source: Tom Jackman, Washington Post)


Florida won't budge on lethal injection records request----Lawyers for 7 death row inmates and the First Amendment Coalition of Arizona 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, the expiration dates and suppliers' names.

Lawyers representing Arizona death row inmates aren't backing down from a battle with Florida corrections officials over the release of documents related to execution drugs, part of a drawn-out challenge to Arizona's lethal-injection process.

The Florida Department of Corrections is refusing to release the documents, arguing that the information is exempt under the Sunshine State's broad open-records law.

Corrections officials released some of the records to the media, but have refused to provide any of the information to the plaintiffs in the Arizona case, according to documents filed by the Arizona plaintiffs Monday in federal court.

Lawyers for seven Death Row inmates and the First Amendment Coalition of Arizona in June 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.

Arizona's death penalty has been on hold for 2 years following the botched 2014 execution of inmate Joseph Wood, who died nearly 2 hours after the lethal-injection procedure was started.

Before the Florida Department of Corrections filed a motion to quash the subpoena in July, the Arizona lawyers offered to limit the scope of their records request and to keep the documents off-limits to the public.

But after the sides met on July 19, the Florida corrections agency "reiterated that it does 'not intend to produce any information pursuant to the subpoena without court order,'" lawyer Joshua Anderson, who represents the Arizona plaintiffs, wrote in a 15-page objection to the state's motion to quash the subpoena.

The Arizona lawyers sought similar records from at least 3 other states - Georgia, Missouri and Texas - that have provided the information, according to the court filing.

The Arizona death-penalty challenge is focused on whether the use of midazolam, the first step in a three-drug lethal-injection cocktail, violates Eighth Amendment protections from cruel or unusual punishment. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that, in those types of cases, prisoners must provide an available alternative to the method of execution being challenged. Gathering the information from the other states is a "core component" to the inmates' claim that Arizona's lethal-injection process is unconstitutional, their lawyers argued.

"If the judicial system were to, on the one hand, require plaintiffs bringing a method of execution claim to prove that a known alternative exists and is available while, on the other hand, blocking discovery necessary to prove that fact, it would create a burden that is effectively impossible to satisfy," Anderson wrote.

Defendants in the Arizona case claim that the case is moot because Arizona corrections officials do not have midazolam and cannot obtain more.

Pfizer, which manufactures midazolam, in March announced that it would not distribute the drugs for use in capital punishment.

Finding out how other states have handled the midazolam shortage is "directly relevant to rebutting" the Arizona defendants' claim that they cannot acquire more of the drug, Anderson wrote.

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 first step in a three-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.

In the Arizona case, Florida officials argued that the requested documents are privileged and protected from disclosure under Florida law.

But the state law "protects only the identity of FDC's (Florida Department of Corrections') supplier of execution drugs," Anderson wrote. "It does not shield all information related to FDC's lethal injection supplies, nor does it protect the identity of any entity who has declined to work with FDC or has refused to provide it with execution drugs."

The battle over the records comes as Florida's death penalty is under intense scrutiny following a U.S. Supreme Court decision in January that found the state's death penalty sentencing system gave too much power to judges, and not juries.

The Florida Supreme Court is poised to deal with the aftermath of that decision, which came in a case known as Hurst v. Florida, as well as a law hurriedly passed this spring to deal with the Hurst ruling. The Florida court indefinitely postponed two executions following the Hurst ruling.

State corrections officials for years have kept shrouded in secrecy information about the lethal-injection drugs, the subject of a separate federal lawsuit in Florida.

But, in late June, the agency released logs to media outlets, including The News Service of Florida, which had requested information about the drugs. The handwritten logs provide limited data about the three drugs, such as the amounts and dates on which the state received the drugs. Information about the expiration of the drugs was incomplete, and agency officials refused to answer questions about the logs.

An analysis of the logs found that the state has enough midazolam for about 13 executions, but it is unclear when the drugs will expire.

The drug logs "fall woefully short of identifying whether the supply that Florida is getting is pure and uncontaminated because we don't know where they're getting it from," Maria DeLiberato, an attorney representing Florida death row inmate Dane Abdool, a plaintiff in the Florida case, said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "That stresses the need, and that's why our litigation is ongoing, for open discovery in these cases so that we can litigate whether or not Florida can carry out an execution that comports with the Eighth Amendment."

(source: Gainesville Sun)


Jacksonville Faith Leaders Protest 'Overzealous' Use Of Death Penalty

The plea is partly a response to this week's Harvard University study labeling Duval County among a handful of counties nationwide that sentence the majority of criminals to die.

"So, let us lift up our voices and in the name of justice, demand the death penalty be put to death," Unitarian Universalist Church Pastor Phillip Baber said Wednesday on the steps of the Duval County Courthouse.

Baber and dozens of other religious leaders signed a letter to State Attorney Angela Corey's office, calling for the abolition of the death penalty a day after a Harvard University report criticized Corey as "overzealous."

Corey defended her use of the death penalty in a written statement Tuesday, saying she’d never apologize for standing up for victims and their families.

But Darlene Farah, the mother of murdered Shelby Farah, said that's only true if you agree with her.

"I'm fighting for what I feel is right, and as far as these political comments that she's making? Angela Corey made it political when she refused to take his offer," she said.

Farah said she wanted to avoid years of appeals by supporting an attempted plea deal by her daughter's killer, James Rhodes, which would have given him 2 consecutive life sentences plus 20 years, but Corey sought the death penalty instead.

State Attorney Angela Corey and Pastor R.L. Gundy will discuss Fair Punishment Project's death penalty study on "First Coast Connect" Thursday morning.

(source: WJCT news)


Death penalty protesters takes aim at State Attorney

"Regardless of his crime," Catholic Bishop Felipe Estevez told death penalty protesters Wednesday, "he is still is a creation of God."

Estevez joined more than a dozen faith leaders in Jacksonville, calling for an end to the death penalty. The rally came on the heels of a Harvard Law School's Fair Punishment Project study, which found Duval is 1 of just 16 counties in the nation to impose the death penalty more than 5 times over the past 5 years.

It's a trend out of step with the rest of the country, which has seen a 50 % drop in the number of death sentences since 2009.

But Florida continues to punish by death. 4 Florida counties lead the nation, and Duval County ranks 2nd.

Between 2006-2015, Pinellas imposed the death penalty 7 times, Miami-Dade 8 times, Hillsborough 9 times and Duval 29 times.

This study also looked at who is receiving those death sentences. Researchers found that African Americans made up 87 % of those sentenced to death, even though they comprise just 30 % of Duval County's population. And 48 % of those sentenced also had some kind of cognitive impairment or mental illness, according to the study.

That fact was highlighted by Minister Philip Baber. "Execution is meant to be reserved only for the worst of the worst," he said. "But this report shows in Duval County, it is being used against weakest of the weak."

The report is critical of State Attorney Angela Corey - and also very critical of Public Defender Matt Shirk's office, which it says has done a poor job defending clients charged with the death penalty.

But the meat of the report is the numbers, which make clear that Duval County is different, ranking 2nd in the nation for the sheer amount of death penalty sentences it hands down.

Speaking outside the Duval County Courthouse, the Rev. Susan Rodgers said those figures don't translate to a safer society. "We now know very little is gained through the application of the death penalty other than raising the status of overzealous prosecutors."

The report comes at a bad time for Corey, who is in the final days of a fierce reelection battle. Corey hints that the timing is no accident. "I would love an answer from the author of this report as to why they chose to leave the other 3 Florida counties out for a later report. I'm certain it has nothing to do with the fact that I'm up for election next Tuesday."

Part II of the report is due in September.

Corey also says report is filled with inaccuracies and unfair comparisons -- like the figure that compares African-Americans sentenced to death with the overall county population. "Which is amazingly unscientific," says Corey. "The comparison should be to the group of people eligible for death penalties, and then the percentages would be more accurate and more informative."

The report isn't the only criticism Corey faces. Darlene Farah - also at Wednesdays' protest -- is the focus of an New York Times Magazine story. For months, Farah has been asking prosecutors to drop the death penalty against her Daughter Shelby's killer, a position she says prosecutors have punished her for.

Corey addressed the issue in an interview on News 1045 WOKV's morning show. "We give [victims'] feelings great weight, and we have done that with the very vocal Darlene Farah," Corey said, "who appears to be more interested in publicity than in grieving for her daughter."

Farah's Pastor Reginald Gundy, who has led similar protests in the past, says whether it's the Harvard Law study or Farah's case, the national focus on Duval County is welcome - and overdue.

"The death penalty is dying in this country, and its time for us to let the death penalty die with it."



Jacksonville clergy members call for death penalty to end

A coalition of more than 50 local clergy members called Wednesday for the end of the death penalty in light of a new Harvard University study that shows Duval County is among a handful of U.S. counties that most frequently send convicted criminals to their deaths.

Darlene Farah, who has called for her daughter's killer to serve a life sentence instead of being executed, stood among the clergy in front of the Duval County Courthouse.

A New York Times Magazine story highlighting the Harvard study featured Farah and her clashes with State Attorney Angela Corey was also released Tuesday.

The Rev. Susan Rogers of The Well at Springfield explained how families who oppose the death penalty, like Farah, are marginalized.

"They are told that they are not victims. Families are victims. They are the ones left behind to deal with the shattered pieces of their broken lives," Rogers said. "There is no closure as promised, either, when a loved one's murderer is put to death."

Farah did not speak at the press conference, but afterward she told reporters her stance is not political. She wants prosecutors to do what is right.

Rogers said her faith compels her to take a stand against the death penalty and its racial and socioeconomic disparities.

"We now know but have chosen for too long not to see that murdering those who murder is not healing anyone for anything," she said. "In particular, it is not healing the deep pain and suffering that is experienced by families of murdered loved ones."

Pastor Reginald Gundy of Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church focused on the racial disparity seen in the application of the death penalty. Since 2010, 87 % of those sentenced to death in Duval County were people of color, according to the report.

"And now here in Duval County, we have empirical evidence that racial bias is being used as it relates to the death penalty," Gundy said, before quoting Supreme Court justices. "It's just not true that we execute the people who are the most culpable."

Bishop Felipe Estevez of the Catholic Diocese of St. Augustine said all human life is sacred. About 1/2 of the clergy who signed a letter to be delivered to the State Attorney's Office are affiliated with the Catholic Church.

"That is our position," he said. "Safety for the city, safety and protection of the individual, that regardless of his crimes, still is a creature of God, still has a dignity."



Study: Mobile, Jefferson counties 'outliers' with death penalty

2 Alabama counties are among 16 "outlier" counties across the nation that are plagued by problems of overzealous prosecutors, ineffective defense lawyers, or racial bias when it comes to the prosecution and imposition of the death penalty in capital murder cases, a report issued Tuesday by a Harvard Law School project states.

This week's report focuses on 8 of those counties, including Mobile. The 2nd half of the report, which will provide details on Jefferson County, is to be released in September.

Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich disagreed with several of the findings in the report "Too Broken to Fix: An In-depth Look at America's Outlier Death Penalty Counties" issued by Harvard Law's Fair Punishment Project.

Rich said she hadn't been able to read the entire report or the material it references. From the portion of the report she did review, she said she found misstatements, untrue statements, and some statements that were unclear as to what case the report is referencing.

One problem Rich said she saw was that the cases mentioned in the report don't mention what happened to the victims.

"They never reported what the defendants did," Rich said. "They didn't want to bring that up. They didn't want people to know what horrible, heinous things the defendants did."

The report looked at 10 years of court opinions and records from 8 of these 16 "outlier counties: Mobile, Caddo Parish, La., Clark, NV, Duval, Fla., Harris, Texas, Maricopa Ariz., Kern, Calif., and Riverside, Calif. The report also analyzed all of the new death sentences handed down in the counties between 2010 and 2015.

Of the 3,143 county or county equivalents in the United States, only 16 imposed 5 or more death sentences between 2010 and 2015, according to a statement from the authors of the report. The project reviewed more than 200 direct appeals opinions handed down over the decade between 2006 and 2015 in the 8 counties reviewed in Tuesday's report.

"In the small number of counties where the death penalty still exists, we found evidence of egregiously bad defense lawyering, rampant prosecutorial misconduct and overzealousness, and a pattern of racial bias that undermines the fairness of the death penalty," Rob Smith, one of the report's researchers, stated in the project's press statement.

Among the Mobile cases noted in the report is one in which Rich got a death sentence for a bipolar woman - Heather Leavell-Keaton - who was convicted in the killings of her stepchildren. "Throughout the trial, Rich kept 2 faceless sculptures with her in the courtroom facing the jury," the report states.

"That's simply not true," Rich said of the sculptures. The sculptures were only present in the courtroom when the judge issued his final judgment that Leavell-Keaton be sentenced to death - not during trial or during the sentencing hearing before the jury, which recommended 11-1 for the death penalty, she said.

The jury had all the evidence in the case, including her bipolar history, when it recommended the death penalty, Rich said. The woman tortured a baby, slowly poisoned the children and watched as the co-defendant strangled them, she said. Alabama law allows the conviction and death penalty for someone who is bipolar, Rich said. "But they don't talk about that," she said of the report.

Other findings

Among the other findings from the report regarding Mobile:

--Between 2006 and 2015 Mobile County had 10 death sentences reviewed on direct appeal (these are automatic appeals).

--Between 2010 and 2015 there were 8 death sentences imposed.

--In 2014 the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the death sentence of an intellectually impaired man, Derrick Shawn Penn, after Rich introduced and repeatedly referred to "improper and highly inflammatory evidence." Rich said the appeals court did not use those words. An Associated Press article stated that Penn was found guilty in the shooting deaths of his estranged wife, Janet Penn, and her boyfriend, Demetrius Powe, in 2009. The appeals court, according to the AP story, stated the trial judge did not give the jury proper instructions about how it should consider a protection from abuse petition that Penn had filed before she was killed.

--Rich and prosecutor Jo Beth Murphee account for nine of the 10 Mobile County death sentences in the study. Rich said other prosecutors also were involved in those cases and that she and Murphee were the senior trial attorneys so they would naturally get more capital cases.

--70% of the 10 appellate cases involved defendants with significant mental impairments or other forms of mitigation.

--Bad lawyering was a persistent problem across all 16 "outlier" counties. In most of the counties, the average mitigation presentation, where defense lawyers present evidence that the defendant's life should be spared, at the penalty phase of the trial lasted approximately 1 day. "While this is just one data point for determining the quality of legal representation, this finding reveals appalling inadequacies. The average in Mobile was less than 1 day," according to a statement from the project.

The report also stated that Mobile County has had a history of racial bias and exclusion - noting the 1981 lynching of Michael Donald by members of the Ku Klux Klan, a judge who allegedly refused bail reduction until he first learned the client's color; and findings that in the late 1980s and early 1990s Mobile County were found to have violated rules 7 times by striking jurors based on race.

The most recent case the study noted involving claims of juror exclusion - in which prosecutors struck 17 blacks from the jury pool - based on race was that of Donald Whatley, who was convicted in November and recommended by a jury to die for the 2003 slaying of downtown Mobile motel owner Pete Patel. The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals ultimately ruled the prosecution did not exclude jurors based on race in that case, Rich said.

"In looking at these outlier counties, it is very clear that race is still playing a role in determining who is sentenced to die," Professor Frank Baumgartner of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, stated in the Project's press statement.

Rich said she had only seen a portion of the report and felt she didn't have time to rebut everything. She also said she wanted to see the spreadsheet the project referenced in its report. She said she had requested that the group send it to her.

Non-unanimous verdicts

While this week's report doesn't include Jefferson County, The New York Times Magazine in a story on Tuesday cited figures it received from the Fair Punishment Project that Jefferson County had five death sentences handed down since 2010 - all of them involving black defendants.

The report points out that Florida and Alabama were "outliers" because those states are the only ones to allow juries to recommend the death penalty on non-unanimous votes.

The New York Times, in its story, stated that of the 13 total death penalty sentences issued in Jefferson and Mobile Counties, only 1 case included a unanimous jury recommendation.

Jefferson County District Attorney Brandon Falls declined to comment on this week's study.



Expert witness goes nuts during questioning for Mississippi death penalty case

I've been reporting on the crazy death investigation system in Mississippi for about 10 years now. Just when I've thought things couldn't get more surreal, I'm inevitably proven wrong. The latest example comes in a deposition last April of the disgraced "bite mark expert" Michael West.

To fully appreciate what happened during and after this deposition, you'd need quite a bit of background. If you have 20 minutes or so, this piece I wrote for Huffington Post a few years ago is pretty thorough. Or try this post, or this post here at The Watch.

But here's a rough summary: In the early to mid-1990s, Michael West became a rock star in the world of forensics. West claimed to have developed techniques that he and only he could perform. According to West, those techniques could both identify bite marks on human skin that no other medical specialists could see, and then match those marks to one person, to the exclusion of everyone else on the planet. West helped put lots of people in prison. He soon expanded his repertoire, and became an expert witness in a variety of forensic specialities, including a few he claimed to have invented. In addition to bite mark analysis, West also testified over the years as a a trace metals expert, wound pattern expert, gun shot residue expert, gunshot reconstruction expert, a crime scene investigator, blood spatter expert, "tool mark" expert, fingernail scratch expert, "liquid splash patterns" expert, and "video enhancement expert." He once claimed he could match the bite marks in a half-eaten bologna sandwich found at the crime scene to the teeth of the primary suspect. Not DNA, mind you - the tooth marks in the bread. In another case, West even offered the jury his expertise about how lesbian couples resolve conflict. Though he primarily testified in Mississippi and Louisiana, prosecutors in at least 8 other states retained him as an expert witness.

As early as 1994, there were questions about West's credibility. He was the subject of several skeptical media profiles, including by Newsweek, the ABA Journal and "60 Minutes." He has been investigated by and either resigned or was expelled from 3 separate professional organizations. Back in the early 2000s, 1 attorney tricked West into matching photos of bite marks on a murder victim to the dental plate of the attorney's own private investigator.

By the late 1990s West was considered something of a quack even within the already dubious forensic speciality of bite mark analysis. Yet Mississippi (and Louisiana) prosecutors continued to use him, Mississippi and Louisiana trial courts kept allowing him to testify, and Mississippi and Louisiana appellate courts kept upholding the crazy things he'd claim on the witness stand.

In 2007, Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks were exonerated of the rape and murder of 2 little girls in Noxubee County, Mississippi. The 1st crime occurred in 1990. Local police suspected Brooks for the sexual assault and murder of a 3-year-old girl. West's bite mark voodoo and testimony from (also controversial) medical examiner Steven Hayne were the main evidence against Brooks, who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. The next little girl was raped and killed less than 2 years later, just a few miles away. This time, police zeroed in on Brewer as the killer, and once again West's bite mark matching was the main evidence against him. Brewer was convicted and sentenced to death. After spending a combined 30 years in prison, the 2 were released when DNA testing in the Brooks case pointed to a convicted sex offender named Justin Albert Johnson. He was arrested and admitted to both crimes. In fact, Johnson was briefly a suspect in the 1st crime, but West "excluded" him after finding that Johnson's teeth failed to the match what West said were bite marks on the victim. (Indeed, it's possible there were no bite marks at all - in his confession, Johnson made no mention of biting either little girl.)

That still wasn't enough to convince Mississippi officials to take another look at all the other cases in which West had testified.

So let's move on to the case at the heart last April's crazy deposition. In 1994, Eddie Lee Howard was convicted for the rape and murder of an 84-year-old woman, mostly due to testimony from Hayne and West. Hayne didn't initially claim to have seen any bite marks on the victim's body. It was only several days later, when then-district attorney Forrest Allgood identified Howard as his chief suspect that Hayne recalled seeing marks that could be bites. (Allgood is also the prosecutor who convicted Brewer and Brooks.) The victim had by that time been buried. She was exhumed, and West then performed his magic, claiming to match the alleged bite marks to Howard.

Howard was convicted and sentenced to death. As late as 2006, the Mississippi Supreme Court heard appeals on West's testimony in Howard's case. Even while acknowledging West's severe credibility problem, his expulsion from various professional organization and his many other transgressions, the majority simply shrugged, writing, "Just because Dr. West has been wrong a lot, does not mean, without something more, that he was wrong here." (Remarkably, West actually disclaimed bite mark analysis in 2012 - sort of - although he still defends his own work.)

After years of fighting, Howard's attorneys were finally able to have DNA testing done on the knife allegedly used to kill the woman Howard was convicted of killing. The tests showed male DNA, but excluded Howard as the source. (A rape kit taken from the woman produced no usable DNA.) Last year, a state appeals court finally granted Howard's request to reopen several issues in the case, including a challenge to West's credibility. That set up the surreal deposition in April.

At that deposition, West was questioned by Chris Fabricant, Director of Strategic Ligation at the Innocence Project of New York. Also present was Tucker Carrington, Director of the Mississippi Innocence Project. (Disclosure: Carrington and I are currently co-writing a book about all of this.) Howard is also represented by Vanessa Potkin, Peter Neufeld, and Dana Delger, all of whom work for the Innocence Project in New York.

West frequently has been brash, prickly, and prone to fits of braggadocio on the witness stand. This time, he was also belligerent, profane, and combative. He was openly contemptuous of the entire process - which again was at heart about whether or not the state of Mississippi should put a man to death. The transcript records that he belched before one answer. On 2 occasions, as he grew increasingly annoyed at Fabricant's questions, West offered hypotheticals that involved him killing Fabricant. You can read the entire transcript here. But I'd like to point out some highlights.

It began almost immediately, as West started the deposition with pouty, 1-word answers. Here's 1 such exchange:

Q. Dr. West, I see that you have no documents with you; is that right?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you look for any documents before you came here today? A. No. Q. Did you do anything to prepare for this deposition at all?

A. No.

[. . .]

Q. And you realize that we're here about Eddie Lee Howard's convictions?

A. Okay.

Q. Well, I'm telling you that it's about Eddie Lee Howard. Do you remember the Eddie Lee Howard case?

A. No.

[. . .]

Q. Dr. West, I'm just going to ask you to flip through this or to take your time with it and just refresh your recollection about the testimony that you gave in this case.

A: I was never more familiar with the case than when I testified on it.

Q. So you feel -

A. I feel comfortable with the testimony that I gave at that point in time, I still stand.

Q. Okay. But you haven't actually looked at that testimony, though, right?

A. I stand on my testimony.

Q. You stand on it, I understand. But I'm just asking you, did you actually look at it?

A. No.

Q. No. And have you looked at it since 1992?

A. No.

Q. You said earlier that you don't remember what you testified to. But you're saying that you stand by whatever it was?

A. Yes.

Q. But you don't know exactly what it is?

A. No.

It goes on like that. Fabricant later moved to questioning that West had previously undergone about the case of Leigh Stubbs, in which West testified as a bite mark expert, a video enhancement expert, and offered his opinions on lesbian violence to boot. It's also a case in which a video recording of West's procedure for analyzing bite marks strongly suggests he actually created the bite marks that he would later attribute to the defendant. (There are other similar videos where he does the same thing.) Because of West, Leigh Stubbs was convicted of assault and sentenced to 44 years in prison. Here's Fabricant:

Q. Do you remember that deposition as well that Mr. Carrington -

A. Was that the case of the 2 lesbians that bit the girl's vagina lip off?

Q. That sounds like we're talking about the same case.

Q. So Dr. West, I want to talk about, first, in 1992, you were still a coroner; is that right?

A. Yes.

Q. And -

A. But not in this case.

Q. Not in this case, right. Okay. So -

A. I was also a Moose and a photographer.

Q. Right. In your forensic -

A. But it didn't have anything to do with this case.

West's memory of the Stubbs case is a revealing glimpse into his psyche. Stubbs was accused and convicted of biting a woman on the thigh, yet West remembered it as "the case of the 2 lesbians that bit the girl's vagina lip off." At the time, West was the elected coroner in his own county, but not in the county where the crime took place. When Fabricant inquired about that, West responded that his being a coroner was as relevant as his membership in his local Moose lodge.

Fabricant then asked West about his history as an expert witness.

Q: During this time, you testified previously that - in this case, actually, that you had done about 300 bite marks in cases that you, basically, you've analyzed, not that you've testified on, but that you had worked on, in 2000, about 300 bite mark cases. Does that sound accurate?

A: If that's what I testified to, that was my best recollection at the time.

Q. Okay. And then you had testified in about 30 - and you actually testified in about 30 bite mark matching cases. Does that sound accurate?

A. Yes.

Q. It seems low to me. I don't know, but that was -

A. If that's what I testified to, that's - I was just most assured of these questions 20, 25, 19 years ago.

Q. Uh-huh (affirmative response). Anytime you want to remind yourself, you know, I mean, we've got the transcripts right here.

A. I don't want to remind myself.

Q. Okay. Why is that?

A. This isn't my problem. It's yours.

Q. Well, there's a man on death row in this case. You understand that, right?

A. You're telling me the State of Mississippi wants to execute this guy for killing this woman, and y'all want to cut him loose so he can kill some more. Y'all do what you want to. I'm out of it.

Q. Right. That wasn't really what I'm getting at, though.

A. You do want him out, don't you?

Q. Well, we want to make sure that we find the truth. That's what we're looking for.

A. Well, read the transcripts. There's the truth right there.

Q. Right. Well, there's more evidence today than there was then.

A. Why? Someone else is accused of this woman's murder?

Q. Let's backtrack a little bit, right. Can we do that?

A. Well, I mean, you said there was new evidence about this case.

Q. Right. Yeah, there's DNA evidence.

A. And does it exclude your evidence?

Q. Yes, it does.

A. Then take it to court.

Q. That's why we're here. This is going to be right before we're going to court.

A. I'm not an expert on DNA.

Q. Right. But it was your testimony that condemned Mr. Howard, and that's why we're here to -

A. No. It was the overall trial that condemned Mr. Howard. I was just part of it.

Note how flippant West is about all of this. Again, West's testimony was used as key evidence linking an innocent man to a crime scene. He gave similar testimony in other cases that resulted in convictions of people we now know were not guilty. Yet he doesn't show the slightest bit of regret or reverence for what has happened. Only defiance.

Later, Fabricant asks West about some of his colleagues in the world of forensic odontology. West has been at odds with the field since he resigned from the American Board of Forensic Pathology in 2006, when he was about to be ousted. When Fabricant asks West about prominent bite mark analyst Richard Souviron, West replies, "I know why his momma named him 'Dick.'" When asked about other bite mark analysts, he uses terms like "idiot," "whore," and "fool." He later expounded on Souviron in particular.

A. Dick's an idiot.

Q. Okay. Why do you say that?

A. Because he's an idiot.

Q. Can you give me an example of -

A. . . . He doesn't look for the truth. He looks for ego flattering. I saw last year he was testifying and - not testifying. He was lecturing. And on his little bio there, he talked about being on "60 Minutes." Well, he wasn't the subject of that article. I was. He was just on "60 Minutes" bad-mouthing me. And I'm going, "Your claim to fame is bad-mouthing someone?" He doesn't want to advance the truth. He wants to advance Dick Souviron. He's an egomaniac.

2 comments on this: First, West is still immensely proud of his appearance on "60 Minutes," even though the segment in question was quite critical of him. He still frequently mentions that appearance in depositions, along with his appearance on the "Phil Donahue Show" and in the pages of Playboy and Vanity Fair in the early 1990s. Oddly enough, that coverage of West was related to the Gainesville serial killer murders 1990. (While West did travel to Gainesville and received lots of press coverage for a what he claimed was a breakthrough new way to search for trace evidence using blue ultraviolet light, he ultimately found nothing of value, and played no role in catching the killer. The procedure, which he dubbed "The West Phenomenon," has since been discredited.)

2nd, it's interesting that West here is describing Richard Souviron (who himself has implicated suspects who were later cleared) in the same way a lot of people describe Michael West.

Fabricant then asks West about his history with the American Board of Forensic Odontology, an advocacy group and professional organization for bite mark analysts. West was suspended from the group in 1994, then forced to resign in 2006. West attributed it all to a conspiracy theory.

A: I would say the height of my forensic career was my resignation letter to the board in 2006.

Q. Yeah? That was what you felt best about?

A. Yes.

Q. Why is that?

A. It was the - the purpose of the board was to advance the science, and I felt that my letter of resignation was the best thing I could do to advance the science.

Q. That's an intriguing response. Can you elaborate on that a little?

A. I thought odontology was destroying itself.

Q. In what way?

A. Are you familiar with the term "agent provocateur"?

Q. Sure.

A. What's your understanding of that term? I'll tell you mine. An agent provocateur is someone who joins or enters into a group with the purpose of destroying that group.

Q. Uh-huh (affirmative response).

A. And I believe we had several members that were agent provocateurs to destroy the board.

Q. Oh, yeah? Who do you think those people were?

A. Dick Souviron, Greg Golden, Mike Collins, Iain Pretty, several others.

Q. Okay. I don't think Iain Pretty is an ABFO'er, but you thought he was a -

A. I think he's here to destroy the science, yes.

The deposition continued to devolve. Fabricant later asked West about several cases in which someone convicted based on bite mark testimony was later exonerated. In an exchange about a Massachusetts case involving bite mark analyst Lowell Levine, West just gets weird.

Q. While we're looking for that, I want to give you this article about another Lowell Levine case and maybe you saw it.

A: Let me state this right now. I do not think Lowell Levine killed this woman.

Q. Killed someone? You think he -

A. I don't think he killed her. I think Eddie Lee Howard killed her. Lowell is innocent. He was in New York. But if you want to bring him in, go ahead.

In this exchange, Fabricant and an attorney from Hood's office were arguing about a particular line of questioning. Fabricant argued that his questions were relevant to West's opinion. That when West jumped in:

THE WITNESS: You know what's relevant to my opinion?

MR. FABRICANT: What's that?

THE WITNESS: I said if you know what's relevant to my opinion, then let me go home and you answer the questions.

MR. FABRICANT: That's what I'm trying to do right now is -

THE WITNESS: Can you read minds?

MR. FABRICANT: No, I'm trying to -

THE WITNESS: Try to think what I'm thinking now.

MR. FABRICANT: You're thinking that this guy is a jerk and I want to get out of here.

THE WITNESS: No, no. It would take 5 years of improvement to get you to a jerk.

MR. FABRICANT: Okay. Let me ask you about the - you testified previously that -

THE WITNESS: Sociopath.


THE WITNESS: Not jerk, but sociopath.

After calling Fabricant a sociopath, West continued to be openly hostile. Here's another exchange

: Q. Right. And you testified in the Hayne deposition that you regret testifying to absolute certainty in the past?

A. I don't remember that. I mean, if I said it, you ain't got to point it out. Just tell me, "You testified to it."

Q. That's what you testified to.

A. Save us some time, Christ.

And another:

Q. And you would not testify to Eddie Lee Howard's matching that bite mark to the exclusion of anybody else on the planet because you don't believe -

A. No, I didn't say that. I said I don't believe in [sic] system. My opinion today would probably be a little different than it was back then, but I would have to go back and completely redo the whole thing. And I would cheerfully do that if you retain me and pay me.

Q. Well, let's talk about that. And today -

A. You're not paying - let's make it sure. You're not paying me for today, are you?

Q. Would that make a difference in your testimony today?

A. No. It would make a difference in my bank account. But are you paying me for my appearance here today?

Q. I'm asking you whether or not your testimony depends on my paying you for it, or are we just going to talk about the truth here today?

A. No. The truth is I'm not being paid for my services.

Q. Right.

A. You are. You're getting paid, aren't you? Are you getting paid? Well, what the hell are you doing here? You don't know either. [To the stenographer:] Honey, you're getting paid, aren't you? I'm only one in this room not getting paid. With that note, I'm going to take a break and go to the bathroom.

A man's life is at stake, yet West is angry that he isn't being paid to appear at a deposition about his methods. This next exchange offers yet more petulance, and provides a great example of West's tendency to browbeat his questioner when flustered.

Q. I know that you know Vincent Di Maio, right?

A. Yes.

Q. And you testified before in the Hayne deposition that he was at one time also a believer in bite mark analysis. You made reference to his book?

A. I don't remember.

Q. Let me see where that is.

A. Do you understand the difference between "I stand by what I testified" and "I don't remember"? Q. Yes.

A. Do you know the difference between those 2 statements?

Q. The reason - I do. I'm sorry.

A. Well, then why are you beating me to death with this? I told you if it's in the transcript, I stand by it. If I remembered it - I don't remember what the f**k I had for breakfast 2 years ago, but I do believe I ate eggs.

Q. Okay. The reason that it's important - shall I explain it to you?

A. Yeah.

Q. Okay - is that if you just say that I can't remember, then I can't ask you a question about what you said.

A. Okay. Well, I don't remember.

Q. Right.

A. You shouldn't have waited 20-something years.

Q. Right. I didn't have anything to do with that.

A. Then you should have got on board early.

Q. You're right.

A. Where the hell were you when we were looking at this dead woman's body?

Q. Right.

A. Sitting around jerking off in New York? We were trying to find the truth.

Q. Yeah, I was in high school.

A. And then go come - well, you want ought to go your ass back. I'm tired of you goddamn picking on me.

Q. Well, if we could keep going straight forward, you'll be out of here sooner than later. So I'm going to go back to what you said before -

A. Go ahead.

Q. - and remind you -

A. Get it over with. I'm tired of this crap. I don't care if they put him to death. I don't care if you put a statue up to him. I'm out of this. Let me go. Y'all do whatever the hell you want to. I'm not in it anymore.

Q. Unfortunately, some of the case -

A. Cut him loose then.

Q. Right.

A. If I have to do time for this man to be punished for his crime, I say cut him loose. I'm tired of being punished.

Q. Right. Did you know that the only physical evidence in this case is the bite mark omparison?

A. It might be. I don't know.

Q. And you wouldn't want to bet a man's life on bite mark comparison evidence, right?

A. There's innocent people that go to jail very day and guilty guys that walk every day. I can't solve the problem. I can't fix the system. The whole system is broke.

Q. And you wouldn't want to bet a man's life on bite mark comparison?

A. I don't bet on mans' lives.

Q. Right. I'm saying, you wouldn't want to?

A. I don't bet on mans' lives.

Q. Right. Because you say that -

A. I'm not an executioner. I'm a part. The people you're mad at is the jury. Go after the jury.

2 men spent nearly 20 years in prison because of West. One was nearly executed. Others still wait on death row. But West wants us to know the real victim in all of this is Michael West. And we haven't even reached the best parts yet. Here, he lobs another childish insult at Fabricant:

Q. The only small point that I was trying to make is that at the 2nd trial when you testified, you didn't use "indeed, without a doubt," you used what was, at that time, the approved terminology?

A. Okay.

Q. Is that fair?

A. Okay.

Q. When you say "okay," I have trouble understanding what you mean by that.

A. Okay. I agree. Thank you, Ass-wipe.

In another exchange, West managed to both insult Fabricant and attest to his own glory. After objecting to Fabricant referring to some of his cases as "controversial," West interjected, "They're all controversial . . .I've always been aware that there's usually a young lady sitting next to me writing everything down that I say. And a hundred years from now, there will be idiots like you 2 sitting down discussing what I said today."

Fabricant also asked West about Levon Brooks and Kennedy Brewer. To this day, West still insists both men are guilty. Forget the DNA tests or that another man has confessed to both crimes. West still maintains that he only testified that Brooks and Brewer bit their respective victims. If someone else did the actually raping and killing of the girls, West argues, that isn't on him. They're still guilty. They must have held the girls down and bit them while Johnson raped and killed them. (In his 2007 confession, Justin Albert Johnson said he committed both assaults and murders alone.) In the April deposition, West slandered Brooks yet again.

WEST: I've often speculated if Mr. Brooks didn't supply this child for sex with Mr. Johnson in trade for money or drugs. How - you know, how is it that he had this child after midnight, and the next time we find her she's dead and she’s got Mr. Johnson's DNA in her vagina, not on the bite marks, but on her vagina? And I'm going, "You know, I think Levon held this little girl while he raped her."

Q. Right. But you weren't there, right?

A. But his semen was in her vagina, and Levon Brooks' teeth were on her body.

Q. Right.

A. So that was 2 people assaulting this girl.

Q. And you did that match using 2 front teeth, right?

A. Those were - I think that was the tooth that had the unique wear and tear that showed up in the bite mark very, very well -

At this point, even the state of Mississippi has acknowledged the innocence of Brooks and Brewer. Both men have been formally exonerated and compensated under the state's wrongful conviction law. Only West still clings to their guilt.

In both cases, West claimed to match the men to bite marks using only their upper teeth. Since we usually bite with bot upper and lower teeth, that always seemed odd and suspicious. Fabricant asked West about that at the deposition, and got another interesting response.

"That's funny. Y'all like to c- on that," West said, using a vulgar term for ejaculate.

He then explained, "In '86, we did a bite mark survey in the ABFO in Vegas. We had stone models on vice grips. And I remember we pulled Dick Souviron's belly and bit him, and only one arch showed, a partial bite mark arch. It happens. You don't always get both teeth." In other words, West is saying his testimony was sound because at a conference 30 years ago, he and some fellow bite mark analysts used vice clamps to "bite" one of their colleagues on the belly.

Here's another exchange involving Fabricant, the prosecutor from the Attorney General's Office, and West:

MR. FABRICANT: So let's just move on. I'm staying relevant here, and I'm staying in the transcript, and I'm trying to save us all some time.

MR. WHITE: Well, hurry up.

MR. FABRICANT: This is a death penalty case. Are you aware of that?

MR. WHITE: I've been doing death penalty cases for 40 years.

MR. FABRICANT: Well, then let's not be in a big hurry.

MR. WHITE: Well, you are.

THE WITNESS: 20 years and they ain't executed him? Come on, Christ. The State don't need to execute people if it takes them 20 years to make a decision.


Q. This case, the Eddie Lee Howard case -

A. We've got to get him out. He needs to kill some more women.

A few moments later, West cracks a joke:

Q. Right. And you were asked to bring documents to this deposition.

A. Couldn't find them.

Q. Did you look?

A. Yeah.

Q. Where did you look?

A. Dresser.

Q. In your dresser?

A. (Witness nods head affirmatively.)

Q. You keep records in your dresser too?

A. Sometimes, yeah.

Q. What kind of records do you have in your dresser?

A. Beetles [sic], Rolling Stones.

Minutes later, in another display of humor, West uses the accusation that he has actually created bite marks on victims to riff on Chris Fabricant's name:

Q. Unlike in this case it was a dead person and they used UV light on a dead person?

A. Living is different from dead. I'll agree with you on that.

Q. Right. And the UV light that you talked about works on living people, not on dead ones?

A. No. I believe it works on dead ones too.

Q. Not according to the literature, and you don't have anything to cite to.

A. If you disagree with it, disagree with it.

Q. Well, because I think you invented it. I think you invented this bite mark on this body. I don't think you saw -

A. My name ain't "fabrication." Yours is.

Quite the wit, that Michael West.

There's lots more like this. But here's the start of the exchange that ends the deposition:

Q. All right. Dr. West, do you have any 25 questions for me?

A. How do you sleep at night?

Q. I sleep well.

A. You're a sociopath. It's amazing to me they don't care what their clients do. They will do anything to get them off, no matter how heinous murdering their clients are.

Just to be clear, it is West here who is calling someone else a sociopath. He goes on:

Q. Let me follow up on that, Dr. West.

A. Go ahead.

Q. "Sociopath," that's a specific definition. Do you know what a sociopath is?

A. Yeah.

Q. What is it?

A. To me, that's someone who is out of touch with reality and has no empathy for the victims. They're only - they're driven by their own self-needs.

Q. And you and I just met today, right?

A. Well, yeah.

Q. So that's your - and you called me that, I think, the moment we sat down. So that's your - how did you come to that conclusion?

A. You're sitting next to a sociopath. You work for Innocence Project. Every attorney I've met with the Innocence Project lies, cheats, steals and tries to obfuscate the evidence in front of the court. I have no respect for y'all.

Q. I see. And so that makes me a sociopath?

A. No. That makes you an ass-wipe. You make yourself a sociopath.

MR. FABRICANT: Well, I look forward to seeing you again, Dr. West.

THE WITNESS: Well, don't be f- off. Are we dismissed?



It's worth noting that during this deposition, West also directly contradicted his trial testimony in the Howard case. (The specifics would require too much background for this already-long post.)

The April deposition was followed by a court hearing in May. The trial court judge has yet to rule on whether West's testimony should have been admitted at trial. He could uphold West's testimony, bar it and grant Howard a new trial without West, or - less likely - dismiss the charges against Howard entirely.

In a post tomorrow, I'll look at the role of Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood plays in all of this. It is Hood's office that continues to defend this conviction - as well as the convictions in countless other cases involving Hayne, West, or both. Hood's actions after this deposition in particular are pretty amazing.

(source: Radley Balko, Washington Post)


Botched execution survivor hopes to once again cheat death, legally

Romell Broom is a dead man walking. He was meant to be executed 7 years ago, but after the state spent 2 hours and 18 attempts to find a vein, he exited the execution room alive. Now he is trying to keep the state of Ohio from trying again.

Broom's botched execution in 2009 may have allowed him to live to see 2016, but whether he will get to keep going is another matter. Claiming that attempting to execute him a 2nd time would constitute cruel and unusual punishment, his lawyer petitioned on Tuesday to appeal to the US Supreme Court to remove him from death row, the Associated Press reported.

Broom, 60, pled his case in March to the Ohio Supreme Court, which determined that the state could try again. The 4-3 ruling rejected his claims that another execution attempt would be unconstitutional, because they claimed that the 18 attempts to insert needles and other mistakes occurred during preparation for his execution and not the actual procedure.

"Because Broom's life was never at risk since the drugs were not introduced, and because the state is committed to carrying out executions in a constitutional manner, we do not believe that it would shock the public's conscience to allow the state to carry out Broom's execution," Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger wrote in the majority opinion.

The attempts to insert the needle into Broom allegedly caused him enough pain that he began screaming and crying.

"The day they tried to execute him was horrendous," Broom's lawyer Adele Shank told CNN.

She believes that the botched attempt constitutes double jeopardy, or punishing someone for a crime twice.

Broom was found guilty of aggravated murder in connection to the abduction, rape and murder of 14-year-old Tryna Middleton in 1985.



Ohio court upholds death sentences for 2 condemned killers

The Ohio Supreme Court has upheld death sentences for a man convicted of killing his girlfriend's ex-husband and for a man who killed a woman he lived with and her 2 children.

A shortage of lethal drugs means executions are likely years away.

The court voted 6-1 Wednesday in favor of the resentencing of Nathaniel Jackson, convicted in the 2001 murder of Robert Fingerhut near Warren in northeastern Ohio.

The resentencing followed the state Supreme Court's reprimand of a judge and prosecutor for teaming up to write sentencing orders for Jackson and Jackson's co-defendant, Donna Roberts.

The court also ruled 6-1 to uphold the death sentence of Caron Montgomery of Columbus in the slayings of Tia Hendricks and her 2- and 10-year-old children on Thanksgiving Day 2010.

(source: Daily Journal)


Death penalty in Howland murder case affirmed----Nathaniel Jackson was convicted in the murder of Robert Fingerhut

The Ohio Supreme Court has affirmed the death sentence of a man convicted in a 2001 murder in Trumbull County.

A trial judge's error prompted the Supreme Court to vacate the death sentence of Nathaniel Jackson in the murder of Robert Fingerhut and ordered that Jackson be re-sentenced.

The Court voted 6 to 1 Wednesday to affirm the death penalty in the case.

The Eleventh District Court of Appeals vacated the initial death sentence when it found an assistant prosecutor improperly assisted the trial judge in preparing the sentencing opinion.

Justice Paul E. Pfiefer concluded the error was harmless and was corrected by the Court's independent evaluation of the sentence.

Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger, the only dissenting vote, said that the court did not take Jackson's words into account before re-sentencing and that he is entitled to receive a sentencing hearing where his statements are considered before a sentence is imposed.

Prosecutors say Jackson conspired from prison to murder Fingerhut after developing a relationship with his wife Donna Roberts.

Donna Roberts was sentenced to death for conspiring to have her husband killed by Nathaniel Jackson. Roberts lived with Fingerhut in Howland Township, and Fingerhut had 2 life insurance policies worth a total of $550,000 in which Roberts was named the sole beneficiary. Roberts began an affair with Jackson, which continued while Jackson was confined in the Lorain Correctional Institution.

While in prison, Jackson and Roberts exchanged numerous letters and spoke by phone to plot the murder of Fingerhut. At Jackson's request, Roberts purchased a ski mask and pair of gloves for Jackson to use during the murder. Roberts picked up Jackson from Lorain Correctional when he was released and 2 days later, Fingerhut was shot to death in his home.

Jackson was indicted on 2 counts of aggravated murder, aggravated burglary and aggravated robbery. In 2002, a jury found Jackson guilty of all charges and recommended the death penalty. The late Judge John Stuard, who presided over Jackson's trial and imposed the death sentence.

Judge Stuard also presided over Roberts' capital murder trial and she was found guilty of aggravated murder and other offenses, and was sentenced to death. In 2006, the Ohio Supreme Court affirmed Roberts' convictions, but vacated her death sentence and remanded the case to the trial court because the judge, as in Jackson's case, had enlisted the assistant county prosecutor who tried the case in drafting the sentencing opinion.

Roberts death penalty was also subsequently affirmed. Her appeal of that sentence is still pending before the Court.

(source: WKBN news)


Lawyers ask for rape evidence to be thrown out in Seman case

Lawyers for Robert Seman asked a judge to bar prosecutors from using evidence in a rape case against him in his capital murder case.

Lynn Maro, 1 of 2 lawyers for Seman, told Judge Maureen Sweeney of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court on Wednesday that prosecutors should be barred from using specific evidence of a rape accusation against Seman, 47, of Green, because it could prejudice a jury against her client.

Also, prosecutors did not alert defense attorneys until late July about some of the evidence from the rape case they intend to use in Seman's trial in September.

Seman could face the death penalty if convicted of the deaths of Corinne Gump, 10, and her grandparents William and Judith Schmidt, after a fire March 31, 2015, destroyed their Powers Way home on the South Side, the day Seman was to go on trial on allegations that he raped Corinne.

He was free on bond at the time but could have faced life in prison if convicted. The case has still not been dismissed.

Assistant Prosecutor Dawn Cantalamessa countered that Maro's co-counsel, Tom Zena, was Seman's lawyer in the rape case and had all the evidence prosecutors had for 2 years.

Zena countered that argument, saying that though he has the evidence, he never knew what prosecutors planned to present from the rape case in Seman's murder case.

1 of the specifications in the case that qualifies Seman for the death penalty is that he killed a witness to a crime, in this case Corinne, because she was the only witness to what Seman is charged of doing to her.

Maro said under the death-penalty specification, all prosecutors must do is show jurors that Corinne was a witness in a previous case against Seman. She said that by getting into specific details on the allegations against Seman, jurors could hold it against her client.

Cantalamessa said prosecutors must use some of the allegations in the rape case to show not just that Corinne was a witness against Seman but that she was a "crucial witness," the only one who could testify about what was done to her.

Judge Sweeney said she hopes to rule on the request by next Thursday.

Other death-penalty specifications that Seman meets include killing 2 or more people; killing someone in the commission of a felony, in this case aggravated burglary and aggravated arson, of which he is also charged; wanting to escape prosecution from a crime; caused the death of someone under 13; and using premeditation.

If jurors find Seman is eligible for the death penalty, a second phase of the trial, or mitigation phase, will begin. In that phase, defense attorneys will try to offer factors to jurors to convince them not to sentence their client to death. Only a jury can recommend a death sentence.

Trial in the case is slated to begin Sept. 12 with jury selection.

A hearing on a motion to suppress Seman's statements to police was also set Wednesday, but it has been pushed back to Sept. 1 because some transcripts were not ready. Judge Sweeney will also hear arguments on that date on a motion for change of venue filed by defense attorneys.


MISSOURI----female may face death penalty

Pamela Hupp charged with murder in alleged frame-up tied to Lincoln County case

Pamela Hupp thought she found the "patsy" who could help get "some heat off her" related to a 2011 murder near Troy, Mo., officials said Tuesday.

She somehow lured a gullible, brain-damaged man into her car last week and took him to her home in O'Fallon, then called 911 and emptied a revolver into his body as an operator listened, they said.

Officials speculate that Hupp told Louis R. Gumpenberger, 33, that she was a producer for NBC's "Dateline" program, and was willing to pay $900 to $1,000 for him to help her re-enact a 911 call.

When police arrived at her house to find Gumpenberger dead, Hupp told police that he had jumped into her vehicle and held a knife to her neck, demanding that she take him to her bank to get "Russ' money."

She claimed she broke away and ran into her house, grabbed a gun from her nightstand, and shot him when he entered the room.

Investigators later found a note in Gumpenberger's pocket purporting to be instructions on how to kidnap Hupp to get "Russ' money," in exchange for $10,000. He also had $900 in cash in his pocket, but police don't believe he put those things in his pockets himself.

"The evidence seems to indicate she hatched a plot to find an innocent victim and murder this innocent victim in an apparent effort to frame someone else," St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney Tim Lohmar said at a news conference.

"Russ" is Russell Faria, convicted in 2013 of 1st-degree murder in the stabbing death of his wife, Elizabeth "Betsy" Faria, at their home near Troy 2 years before. Hupp was a key witness in that trial. But a Lincoln County judge's refusal to allow the defense to make counteraccusations against Hupp helped win Russell Faria a new trial last year, in which he was acquitted.

Lohmar and O'Fallon Police Chief Roy Joachimstaler said Hupp's story of last week's shooting quickly fell apart, leading to charges Tuesday of 1st-degree murder and armed criminal action.

Hupp, 57, fell apart too.

Joachimstaler said that she refused to make a statement to police after her arrest Tuesday morning. While in a police bathroom, she stabbed herself multiple times in the wrist and neck with a pen she had hidden, he said. She was reported to be stable at a hospital.

Hupp's husband did not respond to a message seeking comment, nor did lawyers who have represented her in a civil case.

Hupp's story

Officials said Hupp claimed that Gumpenberger, a stranger, got out of a silver car driven by someone else and climbed into her SUV in her driveway at her home around noon on Aug. 16. She said the silver car left.

She initially told police she didn't know anybody named Russ, whose name she said was mentioned by the attacker. Then she said she did know Russ Faria, and she surmised the reference to money was Betsy Faria's life insurance payout.

Hupp had collected on a $150,000 life insurance policy on her friend Betsy Faria after becoming the beneficiary just days before the woman was slain, and Hupp was the last person known to see the victim alive.

Hupp told police she had driven around St. Charles the morning of Aug. 16, looking for thrift shops, and stopped by her daughter's home but nobody was there. That home is about 2 miles from Gumpenberger's.

But investigators re-created Hupp's cellphone's movements, and discovered that at 11:25 a.m., about 40 minutes before Gumpenberger was shot, GPS put her in his apartment complex in St. Charles, about 13 miles from her home. She spent about 4 minutes there.

Gumpenberger had suffered severe brain damage in a 2005 traffic crash and had significant physical and mental impairments.

"She was very calculated looking for someone who fit a particular profile," Lohmar said. "This victim fit that profile, someone not very sophisticated, someone easily swayed by a large amount of cash."

But, officials said, Hupp did not anticipate that Gumpenberger's limitations would have people who knew him doubting that he could have been involved in a such a crime.

Officials said an extensive investigation did not reveal any connection between Gumpenberger and Hupp or Russell Faria.

Gumpenberger had no cellphone or ID when he died. Lohmar said investigators do not believe that he placed the note or the $900 in his pocket.

A knife was found in Hupp's car. "We're confident we know where that came from," the prosecutor said.

Lohmar said that the case was still under investigation, but that the death penalty "definitely remains in play."

Bail for Hupp was set at $2 million cash.

Looking for a victim?

Authorities also said a woman, not named in court documents, identified Hupp as someone in a dark SUV who approached her in the driveway of her St. Charles County home on Aug. 10, claimed to be a producer for NBC's "Dateline" and offered $1,000 to go with her and record a scripted sound bite about 911 calls.

That woman initially agreed, but then became leery because Hupp had no credentials and the story did not seem credible. Surveillance video from a camera on the woman's home confirmed through the license number that the SUV was Hupp's gray 2016 GMC Acadia.

What the woman described as the "Dateline" 911 script was "very, very similar to what we were able to hear on the 911 call" involving Hupp and Gumpenberger, Lohmar said.

The prosecutor noted, "Our theory is ... that she was vetting a potential victim."

Joachimstaler said police would like to hear from anyone else who might have been approached by Hupp.

"It appears she was searching for a patsy that could possibly take some heat off her," he said, later saying that the heat was connected to the Faria case. "Our conclusion is that she was looking for a victim."

In court documents obtained by the Post-Dispatch on Monday, police report that the 911 caller at 12:08 p.m. said someone was trying to break into her house, and repeatedly asked for help. She could be heard refusing to get inside a vehicle. Shots were heard, followed by the sound of smoke alarms sounding, and the caller said that she had shot someone.

The Betsy Faria murder case and questions about Hupp’s possible role in it were the subject of a joint Post-Dispatch-KTVI Fox 2 investigation in 2014. The "Dateline" program also did a story on the case.

Lincoln County officials have said they were convinced that they had prosecuted the right person, Russell Faria, in his wife's death.

Faria sued officials there last month, claiming they fabricated evidence and botched the investigation.

Lincoln County Prosecuting Attorney Leah Askey, who twice took Russell Faria to trial, did not respond to messages seeking comment on Tuesday's developments.

U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan acknowledged Tuesday that his office has been reviewing the public record in the Faria case, but he said that he did not believe that "the events of the last few weeks would have any bearing on that review."

Faria's lawyer, Joel Schwartz, who has been convinced of his client's innocence, said, "I've been waiting for this day for a long time."

He said Faria is "hoping that they are looping this in and can show (Hupp is) involved in the Betsy Faria murder, which we've always believed." Schwartz added that, "It's not as if he had to prove to anyone he didn't do this. A 5th-grader can understand, based on the evidence."

Gumpenberger's mother, Margaret Burch, declined to comment Tuesday, referring a reporter to Pastor John Lundin of Hope Lutheran Church in St. Charles, where the family attended services.

Lundin said Burch was "very much relieved" by the arrest.

He said Gumpenberger was "eager to please" and a "delightful man-child" but that his brain injury had left him "completely gullible."

Betsy Faria's mother, Janet Meyer, declined to comment.

Some of Hupp's neighbors on typically quiet Little Brave Drive said Tuesday they were glad to hear of the arrest and that a home invasion was not involved.

"It's a big relief," said Cole Jones, 21. He said that ever since he and others on the block heard of Hupp's involvement in the Faria case, they had concerns about her.

Nikki Melvin, 39, said, "It's craziness, absolute craziness." Another neighbor, Nick Lloyd, 37, said the situation over the past week had been "kind of freaky."

Hupp's mother's death

On Oct. 31, 2013, Hupp's mother, Shirley Neumann, 77, was found dead under the balcony of her 3rd-floor apartment at the Lakeview Park Independent Senior Living community, at 1393 Bowles Avenue, near Fenton. There were no witnesses to the fall.

St. Louis County police investigated, and took a 2nd look about a month later, after receiving an anonymous note referencing the Faria case and making other allegations. But detectives found no indication of a crime.

Hupp had taken Neumann home about 5 p.m. the day before, after taking her to the hospital and keeping her at Hupp's home for a night, a police report says. Hupp told staff her mother had already eaten and would not be down for dinner, the report says. Hupp also reportedly said Neumann would not be down for breakfast but probably would eat lunch.

A housekeeper checked on Neumann about 2:30 p.m., after she didn't arrive for lunch, and found the apartment door open, the water running and the patio door open. The top railing on the balcony was intact, but there was damage to vertical bars under it. Neumann's body was on the ground.

The housekeeper said Neumann sometimes was unsteady on her feet if she took a pill for back pain.

Hupp's brother, Michael Neumann, told police he did not have any concerns about foul play in his mother's death, the report says.

Asked about the deaths of Neumann and Betsy Faria, Lohmar said Tuesday, "I can't speak to the evidence in other cases."



Kansas' Judges Should Be Recalled Before They Do Any Further Harm

Kansas Supreme Court Justices Lawton Nuss, Marla Luckert, Carol Beier, and Dan Biles have failed to serve the people of Kansas and should be removed before they do any further harm. Not only have they consistently imposed their will in place of the law, they have also inflicted unnecessary suffering on Kansas families.

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the last seven attempts by these justices to reverse the convictions of murderers and predators. If the 9 robed jurists in Washington consistently overrule Kansas's highest court, it's not only embarrassing to the state - it's evidence that these justices are making up the law.

Not only did these justices impose their views; they did so at the expense of the victims' families. For example, in the case of Kansas v. Marsh, the Kansas Supreme Court tried to invalidate the law imposing the death penalty on the defendant after he broke into a house, waited for the victim and her 19-month-old child to return, slashed her throat, set the house on fire, and left the child to burn to death. In Kansas v. Ventris, the Kansas Supreme Court tried to undo a murder conviction for 2 defendants who robbed and murdered a man in his home to make off with $300 in cash.

Yet, the most egregious example by far is the Carr case. When the Carr brothers robbed, kidnapped, raped, and tortured 7 innocent people, killing 5 of them, a jury of their peers found them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and sentenced them to death under Kansas law. 11 years later, these 4 justices voted to overturn the Carrs' sentences and force the state to put them on trial all over again. That vote would also force the families of the victims who were tortured to death to relive this horror, hear the evidence again, and feel the media spotlight. This alone should be enough to justify voting Nuss, Luckert, Beier, and Biles out.

Fortunately for the victims in these cases, the U.S. Supreme Court found the Kansas Supreme Court had misapplied the Constitution. But each of these cases is emblematic of a broader pattern of lawlessness that merits voting against retaining these justices.

As the late Justice Antonin Scalia wrote just weeks before his untimely death, "Kansans ... do not think the death penalty is unconstitutional and indeed very much favor it, which might suggest that a retention election that goes before such people would not come out favorably for those justices who create Kansas law."

This week, according to the complaint filed against Justice Carol Beier by the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, Beier undermined the integrity of the Court even further: her husband hosted a Democrat political fundraiser for then-gubernatorial-candidate Paul Davis at her home in 2014. Although her husband was the purported host for the event and Beier was out of the house at the time, the Kansas Commission of Judicial Qualifications has already held that these factors don't make a difference.

In 1990, the Commission held a judge's spouse may not hold a meet-and-greet at their jointly owned home. Letting a gubernatorial candidate solicit political donations in a Supreme Court justice's house isn't just foolish; it doesn't just look bad. It should make Kansans who might appear in court wonder if the whole system is rigged in favor of the political party allowed into Beier's home. Regardless of whether the Commission imposes sanctions, the voters should preserve the integrity of the office by voting her out.

The most frequent objection to voting out judges relies on the idea that courts should not be subject to politics. And that is indeed true - America's legal system rests on the separation of powers, where an independent judiciary upholds the law as a cooling check on political passions. But that principle rests on another, more foundational one: that because all human beings are created equal, just governments must rest on the consent of the governed.

When 4 justices like Nuss, Luckert, Beier, and Biles thwart the application of criminal law by rewriting the laws the people's representatives passed, they undermine the sovereignty of "we, the people" and replace it with "we, the enlightened judges." Removing them from office does not politicize the courts - the justices' choice to impose their politics already did that. Voting them out is the only way to restore impartiality and the rule of law.

On November 8, Kansans should remember the victims the Kansas Supreme Court did not, remember the laws the Kansas Supreme Court did not follow, and remember the names of Nuss, Luckert, Beier, and Biles when they vote corruption out and the law back in.

(source: Opinion, T. Elliot Gaiser;


The death penalty and our priorities

A recent analysis conducted by esteemed Nebraska economist Dr. Ernie Goss has put the annual price of Nebraska's death penalty at $14.6 million. According to Dr. Goss' research the death penalty is far more expensive than life without parole because of court-mandated requirements that are unique to capital cases. These costs are racked up from death specific processes such as 3 separate trials to determine death (vs. just 1 for life cases), over 40 appeals that are only available in death cases, a wait on death row that averages decades, and expensive attempts to procure lethal injection drugs. Nebraska's last execution was in 1997.

Many know I have long been opposed to the death penalty. As a Catholic, I take seriously my church's command that we shouldn't take life unless absolutely necessary. Our modern penal system allows us to protect society from our worst offenders without resorting to taking life. I believe my pro-life ideals are best advanced when we show respect for all life - womb to tomb. Respecting life is my top priority, and I don't think the cost of the death penalty is the only factor voters should consider when we go to the polls in November.

While not the only factor, I don't think we can afford to ignore the cost of Nebraska's death penalty. Informed voters should understand the cost of maintaining a death penalty and can then judge how that cost aligns with their priorities.

Every budget - in the statehouse or those we make with our families - prioritizes how we spend our resources, because resources are finite. When we invest in on thing, those are funds that aren't available elsewhere, so our tax dollars must be carefully shepherded. Knowing the actual price tag of Nebraska's death penalty, we can decide if keeping the death penalty is worth the price. I suspect the majority of Nebraskans would not rank a non-functioning death penalty system as a high priority for $14.6 million every year.

When I served in the Unicameral I led the Transportation and Telecommunication's committee; I know all-too well that infrastructure around our state is crumbling. In many instances literally. An additional $14.6 million annually could do a lot for our roads and bridges. We probably all know a teacher who could use extra resources in their classroom or a taxpayer who'd be happy to simply not hand over the money to the state in the first place. It's up to each of us to decide where our priorities lies.

Dr. Goss, the economist who unearthed Nebraska's death penalty price tag, is a known fiscal conservative and longtime contributor to Gov. Ricketts' conservative think tank, the Platte Institute. Before his study, he supported the death penalty. But to him, economics are an important priority, so he now says he'll likely vote to retain the Unicameral decision to replace the death penalty with life without parole.

I respect very much that Dr. Goss kept an open mind to examine the data and see how it matched his priorities. I hope all Nebraskans will follow his lead to carefully learn about the costs of the death penalty and factor that into their decision-making. You can read Dr. Goss' full study, and a shorter executive summary, online at

If you then conclude a $14.6 million annual price tag is more than you want to spend to have a death penalty we never carry out, I hope you'll join me in voting to keep the death penalty in Nebraska's past.

(source: Opinion; Annette Dubas of Fullerton is a former state senator from District 34----The Grand Island Independent)


Utah's former Catholic bishop takes aim at death penalty - again

In an effort led by former Utah Bishop John C. Wester, Catholic clergy in New Mexico sent out a stern letter this week, unanimously opposing the governor's push to reinstate the death penalty.

7 years ago, the state ended capital punishment, the bishops wrote in a public statement, "moving New Mexico from a culture of violence to a culture of peace, justice and love."

Now Gov. Susana Martinez is pushing for legislation to bring it back.

"We, the Catholic bishops of New Mexico, in one voice, once again echo the teaching of the church that life is sacred," says the statement signed by 5 bishops, including Wester, now the archbishop of Santa Fe. "We join Pope Francis in his continued call to end the practice of the death penalty."

When Wester led the Diocese of Salt Lake City and Utah's more than 300,000 Catholics, he also spoke out against capital punishment.

The death penalty "diminishes us and erodes our respect for the sanctity of all human life," Wester said in 2010. "Executing criminals will not overcome crime nor will it restore the lives of the innocent victims."

In March 2015, Wester penned a statement against Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signing a bill that made it legal for convicted murderers to be executed by a firing squad.

"It seems as if our government leaders have substituted state legislation for the law of God," he wrote. "They argue that, because executions are lawful, they are then moral. This is not so. No human law can trump God's law. Taking a human life is wrong; a slap in the face of hope and a blasphemous attempt to assume divine attributes that we humble human beings do not have."

Clearly, Wester has taken this fight with him to his new state.

(source: Salt Lake Tribune)


Prop 62: Death to the death penalty

Is there a problem right now with California's death penalty?

Yes there is.

Activists on both sides of the death penalty debate agree the process in California is broken. Right now convicts as well as families of victims wait for years for as the legal system grinds on. A convict on average spends 18 years on death row before he is executed, and executions almost never happen. The last one was in 2006. Inmates are more likely to die of natural causes or suicide than to be put to death. On top of that the protracted legal process is expensive. It costs taxpayers about $150 million a year in attorneys' fees.

Each side takes different approaches to the problem. One wants to reform the process. They have proposed Prop 66. The other side wants to abolish the death penalty. They have proposed 62.

What would Prop 62 do?

Prop 62 would repeal the death penalty in California.

Who is for Prop 62 and what are their arguments?

Supporters include long-time death penalty opponent and actor, Mike Ferrell as well as actor Edward James Olmos, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter. Organizations in favor of Prop 62 include the ACLU, state employee unions, innocence projects and some families of murder victims.

They say we should pass Prop 62 because:

-- It would save taxpayers millions of dollars by getting rid of California's costly and inefficient death penalty process. A death sentence costs 18 times more than a life sentence. Taxpayers have spent $5 billion dollars since 1978 to carry out only 13 executions.

-- Inmates on death row would still have to spend the rest of their lives in prison and a greater portion of the wages they earn would go toward victim restitution.

-- It would provide victim’s families with closure instead of waiting for years for executions that never happen.

-- It would eliminate the chance that an innocent person is executed. In California 66 innocent people have had their murder convictions overturned.

-- Murder trials are biased against minorities and Latinos are disproportionately represented on death row

-- Botched executions make the process inhumane.

Who is against Prop 62 and what are their arguments?

Many law enforcement groups and district attorneys associations are against Prop 62 along with LA Sheriff Jim McDonnell, former governor Pete Wilson and some families of murder victims.

They say:

-- It lets the worst of the worst criminals stay alive at taxpayers' expense long after their victims have lost their lives.

-- People who get the death penalty are guilty of 1st degree murder with special circumstances. They are serial murders, or they have tortured their victims, or killed children or police officers. They should be punished more than other murderers.

-- Prop 62 will cost taxpayers money because inmates must be kept in prison at a cost of about $47,000 a year for the rest of their lives.

-- The answer to our broken capital punishment process is to reform it, not repeal it as we propose in Prop 66.

What does a "yes" vote on Prop 62 mean?

A "yes" vote means you want to abolish California's death penalty. Those already on death row would get life in prison without parole.

What does a "no" vote mean?

A "no" vote means you want to keep the death penalty as part of California's criminal sentencing laws.

There's another ballot measure, Prop 66, dealing with the death penalty on the ballot. How do these 2 props effect each other?

If 1 proposition passes and the other fails, then obviously the winning proposition becomes law.

If they both fail, things stay the way they are now.

If they both pass, then the proposition that received the most votes becomes law.

(source: KCET news)


Tossed death penalty may signal shift on California Supreme Court

In a ruling that could signal tougher scrutiny of capital cases by California's highest court, Gov. Jerry Brown's 3 appointees have joined a 4th justice to overturn a death sentence that a previous majority had voted to uphold.

Monday's 4-3 vote by the state Supreme Court granted a new penalty trial to Gary Grimes, to determine whether he should be resentenced to death or to life in prison without parole for his role in the murder of a 98-year-old Shasta County woman. State voters could take that issue off the table in November if they approve Proposition 62, which would repeal the state's death penalty law and resentence the nearly 750 death row inmates to life without parole.

In the meantime, however, the ruling suggests a shift on a court in which the death penalty has been an overriding issue for nearly 4 decades.

After legislators passed a death penalty law in 1977 and voters expanded it in 1988, the court under Chief Justice Rose Bird reversed nearly every death sentence it considered until 1986. The voters removed Bird and 2 other Brown appointees, Cruz Reynoso and Joseph Grodin, and the newly composed court became one of the nation's leaders in upholding death sentences, with an affirmance rate that rose above 90 %. It has also had a majority of Republican appointees for nearly 3 decades.

The court has become less conservative on social issues over the years, as illustrated by a May 2008 ruling granting same-sex couples the right to marry. But it has continued to uphold a large majority of the death sentences it has considered until 6 weeks ago. Since then, the court has overturned 4 out of 7 death verdicts.

The first 3 reversals were unanimous, based on findings that the trial judge had wrongly dismissed jurors or interfered with jury deliberations.

In Grimes' case, however, the new ruling was due to a change in the court's membership, Brown's appointments of Justices Mariano-Florentino Cuellar and Leondra Kruger, who joined the Democratic governor's previous appointee, Justice Goodwin Liu.

Grimes was sentenced to death for allegedly ordering the murder of Betty Bone, who was stabbed and strangled by burglars who broke into her home in 1995. Prosecution witnesses said the killer was 20-year-old John Morris, who committed suicide in jail the day after his arrest.

Grimes admitted taking part in the burglary, but denied any role in the murder. Prosecution witnesses said he had directed the killing, watched it take place and laughed about it with Morris afterward.

The disputed issue in the case was the trial judge’s refusal to allow defense witnesses to testify that Morris told them Grimes had taken no part in the killing and had been shocked to see it happen.

A different 4-3 court majority, led by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, upheld Grimes' death sentence in January 2015, saying the testimony was properly excluded as secondhand hearsay accounts by other witnesses and would not have affected the verdict, because the prosecutor had never claimed Grimes was the killer.

But Cuellar and Kruger joined the court before the ruling became final and voted to reconsider it, joining 2 of the dissenting justices, Liu and Kathryn Mickle Werdegar, a generally moderate appointee of Republican Gov. Pete Wilson.

On Monday, a new majority led by Kruger upheld Grimes' murder conviction but reversed his death sentence.

Kruger said Morris' reported statements about Grimes should have been allowed into evidence because the killer appeared to be taking responsibility rather than blaming someone else, a type of hearsay that is legally admissible. She said the statements might have persuaded 1 or more jurors to spare Grimes' life.

In dissent, Cantil-Sakauye said the ruling "opens the door to potentially untrustworthy hearsay" in future cases, and also argued that the evidence would not have affected the jury's decision.

Matt Cherry, executive director of Death Penalty Focus, a San Francisco nonprofit that opposes capital punishment, said the ruling and other recent decisions may reflect "a newfound courage" on the court.

Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the pro-capital punishment Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, responded, "It's a little premature to be calling it a trend for 1 case."

The case is People vs. Grimes, S076339.

(source: San Francisco Chronicle)


Lara back in Bend; in court today----COCC public safety officer facing 4 counts of aggravated murder

Edwin Lara, accused of the July murder of Kaylee Sawyer of Bend, was booked into the Deschutes County jail early Wednesday and will appear for the 1st time in Deschutes County Circuit Court today.

Lara, 31, faces 4 counts of aggravated murder, including 2 counts that allege kidnapping and attempted sexual abuse. Booking records show he was booked at 3:34 a.m. in the jail in Bend and is expected to appear by video for an arraignment at 4 p.m. today before Deschutes Circuit Presiding Judge Alta Brady.

Authorities say Lara killed 23-year-old Sawyer, kidnapped a woman in Salem and then fled to California, where he allegedly committed a series of violent acts including attempted murder and carjacking. He was arrested July 26 and jailed in Siskiyou County, California, and waived extradition Aug. 16.

Sawyer was last seen the morning of July 24 outside her apartment building in Bend near the Central Oregon Community College campus, where Lara worked as a campus safety officer. Her body was found 2 days later off state Highway 126 east of Sisters.

Lara, of Redmond, is married to Bend Police Officer Isabel Ponce-Lara. Court documents indicate Ponce-Lara questioned her husband's odd behavior the day after Sawyer was reported missing; she told Redmond Police that Lara told her Sawyer walked in front of his COCC campus security vehicle and he hit her and disposed of the body.

Aggravated murder is the only crime in Oregon punishable by the death penalty, though the governor's office has had a moratorium on executions since 2011. Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel has not said whether he will seek the death penalty in the case.

Due to what Trial Court Administrator Jeff Hall described in a memo issued Wednesday as "heightened media interest," the court will enforce media pool rules allowing only 1 video camera and 1 still camera in the courtroom.

(source: The Bend Bulletin)


Luyster arraignment postponed, again

Woodland triple murder suspect Brent Luyster's arraignment in Clark County Superior Court was postponed for a 2nd time Wednesday morning.

Luyster, 35, is accused of murdering 3 people and attempting to kill a fourth at a rural Woodland home July 15 while out on bail for an alleged assault on his ex-girlfriend in Longview.

He's been charged with 3 counts of aggravated 1st-degree murder while armed with a firearm and 1 count of 1st-degree attempted murder.

Luyster's defense attorney, Bob Yoseph, who is representing him along with Vancouver lawyer Ed Dunkerly, asked Superior Court Judge Robert Lewis to push back Luyster's arraignment because - he alleged - Clark County Deputy Prosecutor Luka Vitasovic breached professional rules of conduct.

According to the defense team, Vitasovic violated conduct rules when he spoke openly with other prosecutors about representing Luyster as a public defender in a previous domestic violence case.

Yoseph wants more time to request additional information regarding Vitasovic's representation of Luyster. He also wants to depose Vitasovic under oath about the conversation he had with other prosecutors. Yoseph is arguing that by speaking with others about Luyster, Vitasovic has made it harder for the prosecutor's office to make a fair decision on whether to seek the death penalty.

Luyster could ultimately face the death penalty, although Gov. Jay Inslee announced a moratorium on executions in 2014. A committee of prosecutors is assembled to decide whether to seek the penalty, and Yoseph wants Vitasovic and Deputy Prosecutor Jessica Barrar barred from that committee. Barrar is married to Jeff Barrar, the head of the Vancouver public defender's office, Vancouver Defenders.

Luyster's arraignment was rescheduled for 9 a.m. on Nov. 8.

(source: The Daily News)


Iran's executions continue as West prioritizes nuclear deal

Earlier this month Iran executed at least two dozen political prisoners on various charges of activities against the regime or membership in extremist groups. Though there was nothing new either with the charges or the number of executions, the action this time brought wide condemnation, especially by Kurds who thought the world was turning a blind eye to Iran's human rights violations due to its nuclear deal with the West.

"The application of overly broad and vague criminal charges, coupled with a disdain for the rights of the accused to due process and a fair trial have in these cases led to a grave injustice," said Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Among those hanged was Hassan Afshar, a 19-year-old who was arrested and convicted of rape at the age of 17. Al Hussein called the execution of juveniles "particularly abhorrent."

On August 2, the Iranian government announced that it had executed 20 members of a "takfiri" group (a term used by Iran to denote false Islam) that were mainly Kurdish and Sunnis. A few days later, members of the family of Kurdish nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri said that he had been executed.

These executions immediately caught the attention of rights groups who described them as shameful and made Iran a regional leader in executions.

"Iran's mass execution of prisoners on August 2 at Rajai Shahr prison is a shameful low point in its human rights record," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, in a press release on August 8.

"With at least 230 executions since January 1, Iran is yet again the regional leader in executions but a laggard in implementing the so far illusory penal code reforms meant to bridge the gap with international standards," she added.

Many have blamed the West, the United States in particular, for not holding Iran accountable to its human rights violations mainly in order to keep their Vienna nuclear deal in place. But the US State Department says that it remains concerned about human rights in Iran and has raised the issue with them through many channels.

"We reaffirm our calls on Iran to respect and protect human rights, and to ensure fair and transparent judicial proceedings in all cases," a State Department official told Rudaw English. "We have consistently and publicly expressed our concerns about Iran's human rights record through a range of channels."

Emad Kiyaei, Director of External Affairs at the American Iranian Council, says that his council has condemned the recent executions in Iran and that it has raised the issue with the US government. However, he believes that the nuclear deal does not mean Iran has been given a blank check to act as it wants. On the contrary, he sees the deal as a chance to bring the Islamic Republic out of isolation and help improve its human rights record.

"Instead of resorting to coercive policies, the Council recommends the creation of a joint working group between Iran and the EU to examine policies and methodologies to reform the judicial system in Iran," Kiyaei told Rudaw English.

Kiyaei said that the issue of human rights in Iran should be separated from the nuclear deal as it was specific to dealing with Iran's nuclear program, which was not intended to address all the issues that exist between Iran and the international community. "Therefore, it is unlikely that human rights issues would derail this accord."

He argued that keeping the sanctions on Iran could only worsen the situation for prisoners and would not necessarily reduce the number of executions.

"The Council does not believe that coercive or further sanctions on Iran would improve the human rights condition within the country," Kiyaei said, adding, "Instead, through open dialogue, diplomacy and weaving Iran more intimately within the international community would be more conducive in empowering those within the Iranian government who seek to reform, moderate and transform the country to be more in line with universal human rights."

Alex Vatanka, Senior Fellow and Iran expert at the Middle East Institute in Washington differs. He does not think the nuclear deal would improve Iran's human rights record as it was only to make sure Iran did not become a nuclear power which has now turned into a business scheme.

"The nuclear deal was never meant to change Iran's overall character but simply to make sure it did not become a nuclear weapons power," Vatanka told Rudaw English. "I don't see any signs that the P5+1 would want to void the deal because of Iranian behavior towards its own people at home."

Vatanka believes that Tehran uses the executions as a show of force especially to deter its opponents and drown any dissent.

He argues: "At the moment the int. community wants to safeguard the nuclear deal and is looking for commercial opportunities in Iran. Unfortunately the human rights record of Iran is not on the top of the list in either Europe or in America."

Some critics of Iran's judicial system believe that the authorities seem to be particular in who they execute and they mostly target minority groups, chief among them the Kurds.

"We should know that currently out of 915 political prisoners documented, 411 are Kurds," Taimoor Aliassi, UN representative of the Association for Human Rights in Kurdistan - Geneva (KMMK-G), told Rudaw English, adding that 75 % of Kurdish prisoners are accused and convicted of being mohareb, a judicial term in Iran for enmity against God.

Aliassai said that since the establishment of the Islamic Republic nearly 4 decades ago more than 14,000 prisoners have been executed, a great majority of them ethnic minorities such as Kurds, Balochis and Afghan refugees and most of them not announced to the public.

"A significant number of these victims are political prisoners and ethnic rights activists who were executed under the cover of drug offences," he said. "Regarding the last mass executions, they are all Kurdish and faith political prisoners sentenced in a hasty and unfairly manner for crime of mohareb based on Articles 279 and 286 of Iran’s Penal Code."

In 2015, Iran was the 2nd highest executioner in the world after China but 1st per capita.

Aliassi urged the world powers, especially the US and European Union, to make the lifting of sanctions and easing of economic and diplomatic ties conditional to Tehran's respect for human rights and the rights of groups such as Kurds, Ahwazi Arabs and Baluchis.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran is governing by spreading violence, fear and terror. So hanging prisoners in public is part of controlling mechanism and Islamic Republic will not abolish death penalty unless there is a change of regime."



Court to hear pleas of 30 death row convicts

High Court Judge Wilson Masalu Musene is set to hear mitigation by 30 death row inmates seeking to have their sentences reduced on Thursday.

Represented by Justice Centers Uganda (JCU) through its Prison Decongestion Programme, the convicts are beneficiaries of the 2003 Constitutional petition of Susan Kigula & 417 others that challenged the death penalty.

The Supreme Court ruled that it was wrong to sentence someone to death without mitigation (hearing their side).

It ordered the return of all pending death row appeal cases to the High Court for only mitigation of sentence.

A number of death row convicts have previously been released due to their long stay in prison and others had their death sentences reduced to life imprisonment.

Death row inmates whose sentences were already confirmed by the Supreme Court must be executed within 3 years and if not, the death sentence be deemed converted to imprisonment for life without remission - which is 20 years.



Wikileaks Condems Saudi Gay Man To Death Penalty

Massive dumping of data by WikiLeaks that included the approval of the sites founder Julian Assange have revealed personal data about individuals that could be financially damaging and in some cases potentially life threatening. The Associated Press reported the development on August 23, 2016. Assange responded that the complaints from individuals and from many of his most prominent supporters were not news worthy.

Assange had previously utilized a group of journalists and other experts to filter the information that the site had exposed in order to delete any information that could be personally damaging to individuals who were not directly involved in government corruption or spying on the public. The practice took as long as 3 years and Assange has decided that the need for the public to know how corrupt government is trumps the privacy of the individual.

WikiLeaks has published reports that include the address, phone number, employer, and website of a gay man in Saudi Arabia. The exposure of being gay in Saudi Arabia carries a death sentence. Lesbian, gay, and transgender representative have expressed their disgust at this violation of what they perceive as privacy.

Exposures of rape, sexual molestation, and false imprisonment of non-government individuals have been corroborated by independent sources including the victims themselves.

The tapping of the Democratic National Convention is claimed to have led to the hacking of donor sites and theft from individuals who had their credit card and Social Security number published by WikiLeaks.

Many of the critics in all countries that have been involved consider the action by WikiLeaks to be illegal under their privacy laws. The staunchest Assange supporters are backing away from the exposure of personal information of innocent individuals in anticipation of legal action against the site and Assange.

Many former supporters claim that the recent release of several million files violates the original premise of WikiLeaks in planning to protect the privacy of the public from government.



HCMC court upholds death sentence for Australian drug mule

The Ho Chi Minh City People's Court Wednesday confirmed the death sentence for a Vietnamese-Australian for drug smuggling after a reinvestigation determined the drug amount was too big to commute the sentence.

Pham Trung Dung, 39, was arrested at Tan Son Nhat Airport in May 2013 when checking in for a flight to Sydney after customs officers suspected he had drugs in his luggage.

He was sentenced to death in April 2014 after police identified the powder as more than four kilograms of heroin.

The Supreme People's Court later ordered authorities to weigh the heroin afresh, and it turned out there were nearly 3.6 kilograms.

The judges ruled Wednesday that it was "a huge amount" that poses a threat to society.

Dung said he was in Vietnam for a family vacation and a local had asked him to carry the drug to Australia for a fee of US$30,500.

Vietnam has some of the world's toughest drug laws. Those convicted of possessing or smuggling more than 600 grams of heroin or more than 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine face the death penalty.

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)

AUGUST 24, 2016:


Judge Sees No Wrongs in Texas Executions

Texas' execution protocol is constitutional, a federal judge ruled, dismissing a lawsuit from 5 death row inmates who say the state should retest its drugs before killing them.

Texas revised its lethal-injection procedure in 2012 from a 3-judge cocktail to a dose of compounded pentobarbital. Since then, Texas has executed 30 prisoners without any reported problems, according to U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes' Aug. 19 ruling.

Texas changed its protocol and started buying its pentobarbital from a compounding pharmacy after large drug manufacturers, unwilling to be complicit in the death penalty, stopped producing the drugs the state used.

Lead plaintiff Jeffery Wood sued 2 directors of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the warden of the Huntsville prison on Aug. 12, seeking an injunction to stop the state from carrying out his execution, which was set for Aug. 24.

Though Hughes refused to grant Wood relief in the federal case, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Friday afternoon remanded Wood's case to the trial court that oversaw his death penalty conviction.

The appeals court told the trial court to look into allegations from Wood's attorneys that a psychiatrist who testified for the prosecution, the late Dr. James Grigson, dubbed "Dr. Death" by the media, lied to the jury about how often he found defendants pose a danger to society in the numerous capital murder trials in which he had testified. Wood's reprieve came on his 43rd birthday, the Texas Tribune reported.

Church leaders, death penalty opponents and state Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, say Wood does not deserve the death penalty because he didn't kill anyone.

Wood was sentenced under a Texas law that makes anyone involved in a crime that causes death equally responsible.

A jury convicted Wood for the 1996 murder of a convenience store clerk in Kerrville, though Wood was sitting outside the store in a pickup when his friend fired the fatal shot.

Wood is fighting to overturn his death sentence in the state case, but his conviction will stand.

In his federal lawsuit, Wood says that because Texas agreed to retest its compounded pentobarbital before using it on inmates Perry Williams and Thomas Whitaker in a settlement of their 2013 federal lawsuit, the state should do the same for him and his 4 co-plaintiffs.

He claims that Texas will violate his Eighth and 14th Amendment rights to be free from cruel and unusual punishment by using a drug that presents a "substantial risk of causing severe pain," an argument his attorneys backed with an affidavit, medical report and lab results from pharmacologist James Ruble and anesthesiologist David Waisel.

Judge Hughes didn't buy it. Describing Ruble's report as a "pseudo-scientific dump of partial facts and incomplete data" and Waisel's affidavit as rife with "speculative, unsubstantiated, and partial data," Hughes dismissed the case Friday.

Wood et al. claim Texas uses expired pentobarbital, an argument Hughes found unpersuasive, because the state administers twice the lethal dose to execute prisoners.

"The plaintiffs have not shown that Texas uses expired drugs to execute people. That should end the inquiry. Their medical support is wholly unreliable to show that the drugs have a demonstrated risk of severe pain," Hughes wrote in a 12-page order, voluminous compared to his typically terse rulings.

Hughes dismissed most of the claims for not meeting Texas' 2-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims.

"The equal protection claim will be dismissed because the plaintiffs have not shown that Texas has infringed upon a fundamental right," he wrote.

Here are the other plaintiffs and their execution dates: Rolando Ruiz, Aug. 31; Robert Jennings, Sept. 14; Terry Edwards, Oct. 19 and Ramiro Gonzales, Nov. 2.

Texas leads the nation with 6 executions so far this year.

(source: Courthouse News)


The death penalty's essential futility

Maybe our society should congratulate itself occasionally on how much progress it's made in the last half-century toward equality and individual rights, especially for women, racial minorities and LBGT.

Or maybe self-congratulation isn't called for just for doing the right thing. And some of our steps in the right direction have been timid and tentative.

Nevertheless, good things have been done. Yet our ambitious, magnificent experiment in democracy, freedom, human rights and the progress of civilization is hampered by our reluctance to abandon a practice that we share only with repressive countries such as China, Saudi Arabia and Iran: the prerogative of the state to put citizens to death.

For many this characteristic of American life is largely invisible. 20 states have abolished the death penalty already, and many of the others haven't executed anyone in decades.

Even in my home state, Texas, which is the nation's most active death penalty state, an execution doesn't draw much attention. Every month or so a short article, buried in the B-section of the newspaper, announces that another criminal has been put to death. Even in Texas, executions are generally beyond the public's notice.

But a couple of Associated Press articles, literally adjacent in my local newspaper last week, provide the occasion to consider the practice of capital punishment in America in the 21st century.

If you were looking for someone who deserves to be executed, John Battaglia would be a good candidate. In 2001, Battaglia murdered his 9-year-old and 6-year-old daughters with gunshots while his ex-wife listened on the phone. The older child, Faith, begged for her life before he pulled the trigger. And, indeed, last week a district judge in Dallas set an execution date of Dec. 7.

On the other hand, 3 defense psychiatrists testified at his trial that he has bipolar disorder, which distorts his sense of reality, and he reportedly suffers also from narcissistic personality disorder.

The court said Battaglia showed evidence of mental illness and delusions and that his competence is in question. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court has ruled that a criminal may be executed if he understands that he has been condemned to die, and why. In accordance with that low standard, Battaglia will be executed in December.

The article just above Battaglia's reports the case of Sheborah Thomas, who faces capital murder charges in Houston for drowning her 7-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter in the bathtub. Apparently, the children fought back, struggling for their lives, but she held their heads under the water until they died.

She waited a day and then dumped her children's bodies in a trash container behind her house. Later she tried, unsuccessfully, to bury them and then rolled them under a neighbor's house.

To say that a mother who could commit such a crime is mentally unstable seems redundant. In fact, Thomas' attorney says that she has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and severe depression.

Don't mistake this column for an effort to generate sympathy for Thomas and Battaglia. On the other hand, anger doesn't feel like the right response, either. How about futility, in 2 versions?

The 1st is the futility of the principal argument in favor of capital punishment, the idea that it serves as a deterrent to crime. Both Battaglia and Thomas already live in an active capital punishment state, and it's impossible to believe that crimes based in mental instability like theirs could be deterred by the threat of execution.

The 2nd futility is the one we feel when we try to give people like Thomas and Battaglia what we think they deserve merely by killing them. We'll never succeed as long as we're limited by the "cruel and unusual" language in the Constitution.

And since we've neither figured out how to administer the death penalty equitably, without regard to race, gender or economic status, nor how to prevent the occasional execution of innocent people, maybe it's time for the U.S. to join the rest of the West and to abolish a practice whose only real purpose is an essentially unsatisfying feeling of revenge.

(source: John M. Crisp, an op/ed columnist for Tribune News Service, teaches in the English Department at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas----Richmond Times-Dispatch)


On 89th anniversary of execution, Sacco & Vanzetti remembered----Anarchists were executed for murder in 1927; uncertainty remains over their guilt or innocence

Tuesday marks 89 years since one of the most controversial executions in American history. Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were put to death by electric chair on August 23, 1927 at the Massachusetts state prison in Charlestown.

The 2 were convicted of the murders of a paymaster and a guard at a shoe factory in Braintree. Sacco and Vanzetti were anarchists, and generations of defenders have charged that they were framed, or at least wrongfully convicted, due to their radical political beliefs and Italian background. To this day, there remains great uncertainty over their guilt.

From 5:30 to 7:00 Tuesday evening, a memorial service for Sacco and Vanzetti was held at the Sinai Temple in Springfield. The service was also a meeting of the Hampden County chapter of the Massachusetts Citizens Against the Death Penalty.

John Fitzgerald, a death penalty opponent who is one of the organizers of the evening's event, says that death penalty opponents have much to be proud of. "The biggest change has been brought about by DNA examination. Several people who were on death row were exonerated because they were not the perpetrators of the crime," Fitzgerald said.

He added that they are hoping to keep the death penalty out of Massachusetts, and also find ways to possibly reduce sentences of life without parole for younger people convicted of murder, who may have a chance to be rehabilitated.

Several western Massachusetts men and women will be recognized Tuesday night for the work they have done in opposition to the death penalty.

(source: WWLP news)


Full 3rd Circ. Finds Witness Errors in PA Death Row Case

Testimony by 3 confident eyewitnesses placed a Philadelphia father near the site of teenager's grisly murder near a train station in 1991.

That was enough for a jury to send James Dennis to death row for 21 years, until a federal judge found 3 years ago that there was more to his case than met their eyes.

By a 9-4 margin, a decisive majority of the Third Circuit's entire bench affirmed the decision on Tuesday in a ruling that skewered the state for depriving Dennis of a fair trial by withholding evidence corroborating his alibi and implicating a different perpetrator.

The ruling also bolsters a growing body of evidence that one of the most common grounds for a death-penalty conviction is also among the shakiest.

On the afternoon of Oct. 22, 1991, Dennis was spotted from afar near a train station in Northeast Philadelphia, where the teenage Chedell Williams died in a robbery-murder with a bullet in her neck.

At 5 feet 6 inches tall and 125 pounds, Dennis was considerably shorter and more slight than witness descriptions of the killer.

Of the 9 witnesses at the scene, the state presented 4 - and only 3 of them picked Dennis out of a photo array. The 4th had told authorities that the suspect stood at 5 feet 9 inches and 170 pounds.

Dennis hoped to convince a jury that he had been on a bus from his father's home to the Abbotsford Homes project at the time of the crime, and that a woman from his neighborhood saw him in transit.

But the woman had been fuzzy about what time she saw on her ticket - which was stamped in military time - and Dennis was convicted in 1992.

More than 2 decades would pass before Senior U.S. District Judge Anita Brody found that the state "covered up evidence pointing away from Dennis," in a scathing opinion.

Early last year, a 3-judge Third Circuit panel reversed Brody's decision, inspiring a new round of en banc appeals before the Philadelphia-based appellate court's full 13-judge bench.

But in upholding Brody's ruling for the full court, Senior Circuit Judge Marjorie Rendell also ripped prosecutors for shirking their duties to provide exculpatory evidence, a right since the Supreme Court decided the case of Brady v. Maryland in 1963.

"The suppressed Brady material - a receipt corroborating Dennis's alibi, an inconsistent statement by the commonwealth's key eyewitness, and documents indicating that another individual committed the murder - effectively gutted the commonwealth's case against Dennis," Rendell wrote for the majority. "The withholding of these pieces of evidence denied Dennis a fair trial in state court."

For the dissenting judges, "the evidence against Dennis was strong - it is hard to discount the identification of 3 witnesses."

But Chief Circuit Judge Theodore McKee questioned this premise in a concurring opinion that his colleagues called a "masterful" dicing of the science of identifications.

"In the last 30 years, over 2,000 studies have examined human memory and cognition and their relationship to the reliability of eyewitness identifications," McKee noted. "This impressive body of scholarship and research has revealed that eyewitness accounts can be entirely untrustworthy. As the International Association of Chiefs of Police has concluded, '[o]f all investigative procedures employed by police in criminal cases, probably none is less reliable than the eyewitness identification."

The Innocence Project, a New York-based advocacy group, has emphasized the same point repeatedly in their campaigns against wrongful convictions, and the group's friend-of-the-court brief in the Dennis case made an impression on McKee.

As the judge noted, the project's researchers found that mistaken identifications have factored into 75 % of all wrongful convictions - comprising more than 300 cases.

To McKee, criminologists have now successfully tested an observation that late Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan made more than 3 decades ago.

"All the evidence points rather strikingly to the conclusion that there is almost nothing more convincing than a live human being who takes the stand, points a finger at the defendant, and says 'That's the one!'" Brennan wrote in 1981, in a dissent over a robbery conviction in Kentucky.

A spokesman for the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office declined to reveal whether prosecutors would put the troubled case to rest or pursue a final stage of review before the Supreme Court.

But the prosecutors praised what they called a "compelling dissent by 4 federal judges, who concluded that the evidence against Dennis remains 'strong.'"

The Supreme Court has been tough on federal appellate rulings that overturn state convictions.

In 1 of Tuesday's dissents, Circuit Judge D. Michael Fisher pointed out that the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act - signed by then-President Bill Clinton - limited federal judges' power to overturn the state-court convictions of 7 innocent defendants.

"Congress has decreed that we may not grant a writ of habeas corpus unless the judgment of the state court was clearly unreasonable, not merely incorrect," he wrote.

Crunching some numbers, Circuit Judge Thomas Hardiman wrote in a separate dissent that the Supreme Court has reversed 34 out of 46 cases for insufficient deference to state courts under the act.

"By my count, of the 19 cases arising under AEDPA in which the Supreme Court has granted certiorari, 14 involved questions of federal-court deference to state-court decisions," he said.

Dennis's attorney Amy Rohe, from the Washington-based firm Reisman Karron Greene, said that the uncertainties surrounding the case have not dampened the celebrations of her client and his family.

"As you can imagine they are overcome with emotion that their father, son, and brother might finally come home to them," she told Courthouse News. "Mr. Dennis hopes, as he has hoped every day for more than 25 years, that his innocence will finally be known."

She added, "While no decision can give him back those 25 years, he is grateful that a 2nd federal court has now condemned the unconstitutional prosecution that put him there. We can only hope the DA's office will waste no more of the people's resources delaying his freedom."

A countdown clock on a website for his supporters,, shows Dennis hurtling steadily toward a grim benchmark: his 9,000th day behind bars.

"As of July 1, 2016, Jimmy Dennis has been stolen from his family for a total of 8,989 days for a crime he didn't commit," the page read on Tuesday afternoon.

For his attorney Rohe, there is another tragedy to the case.

"It's important to remember that a young girl's life was taken and that her family also deserves justice against the men who killed her," she wrote in an email.

(source: Courthouse News)


New York Times article highlights Jacksonville death penalty cases

A scathing New York Times Article about the death penalty in Jacksonville, highlights the murder of Shelby Farah.

Farah was shot and killed while working at a Metro PCS store in 2013. Her accused killer, James Rhodes, could be put to death if he's convicted. However, Shelby Farah's mother doesn't agree with the death penalty.

The numbers show the area has one of the highest rates of death sentences in the country.

According to Harvard Law School's Fair Punishment Project, Duval County stands out from other counties when it comes to the death penalty.

A jury verdict and the penalty phase of a trial often come the same day.

The report calls out State Attorney Angela Corey and Assistant State Attorney Bernie De La Rionda as overly aggressive prosecutors.

The New York Times article said Rhodes was abandoned by his parents as a boy and was sexually abused in a boys' home, calling Rhodes a child of the system and who might remain there for the rest of his life if he is convicted.

The article says Rhodes is said to have an IQ of 67, possibly making him ineligible for the death penalty. Farah's mother, Darlene, asked the state attorney to take death off the table, calling the trial and foreseeable appeals her own life sentence.

The report compares Rhodes' case to similar cases across the country, reviewing more than 200 direct opinions between 2010 and 2015. In 8 counties, 18 % involved a defendant under the age of 21. When the crime was committed in Duval County, that number was 20 %, with 48 % of defendants under the age of 25.

The study also found that between 2010 and 2015, 16 counties were deemed "outliers" or standouts. Out of the 3,000 counties in the U.S. with 5 or more death sentences imposed, Duval County is 1 of them.

Rhodes' death penalty trial has been delayed until next year while the state considers changes in the way it handles jury instructions.



Prosecutors to seek death penalty for inmate accused of killing

State Attorney Glenn Hess filed notice Tuesday that he would be seeking the death penalty against Daniel J. Craven Jr. if he is convicted of 1st-degree murder.

Craven, 30, is accused of stabbing and killing his cellmate, John Anderson, 52, at Graceville Correctional Facility the morning of June 28. Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigators say Craven stabbed Anderson with a shank more than a dozen times while Anderson was in his bunk and initiated the attack while Anderson was sleeping.

Hess filed notice of intent to seek the death penalty based on 4 aggravating factors. Craven was previously convicted of a felony and was under a sentence of imprisonment; Craven was previously convicted of murder; Anderson's murder was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel; and was committed in a cold, calculated and premeditated manner, officials wrote in a news release.



Harvard Law: Duval County among nation's leaders in death penalty sentences

In Duval County, it has taken just 66 minutes in the sentencing phase to decide to impose the death penalty on a murderer. And often, it has been done without a unanimous jury.

That stat illustrates why one group believes Duval is among the worst of the worst when it comes to death penalty sentences, with roughly 1/4 of Florida's death sentences coming from Duval County, with a mere five percent of the state's population.

A new report from the Harvard Law School's Fair Punishment Project contends Duval County is one of a group of "outlier" counties, where the death penalty is used more than anywhere else in the country.

The report contends Duval and other so-called outlier counties are "plagued by prosecutorial misconduct, bad lawyers, and racial bias."

Turning its attention to Duval County specifically, the report contends 48 % of Duval County death penalty cases involve defendants who have an intellectual disability, brain damage, or mental illness.

The report cites a death penalty conviction for a man with an IQ of 67 who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder as a vivid example.

Further, 20 % of those death penalty cases involve defendants under the age of 21.

Duval County had findings of prosecutorial misconduct in 16 % of its cases; Angela Corey, the current state attorney, and her chief prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda were named in the report specifically.

"Of the death sentences that the Florida Supreme Court has reviewed from Duval County since 2006, 1 in every 6 cases involved a finding of inappropriate behavior, misuse of discretion, or prosecutorial misconduct, including 2 recent death sentences tried by Bernie de la Rionda that the Florida Supreme Court vacated due to their excessive harshness," the report contends.

Other issues arose also, according to the Fair Punishment Project.

In Duval, the guilty verdict and the sentencing often occurred in the same day, permitting no mitigating evidence to be offered.

Of the defendants sentenced to death in Duval County, 87 % were African-American.

This trend predated Corey, claims the FPP, though it has escalated under her watch.

"Between 1991-2009, 62 percent of death sentences from Duval County were imposed against African-American defendants, compared to just 33 % in the rest of Florida. Since 2010, 1 year after Angela Corey took office, 87 % of death sentences have been imposed against African-American defendants, compared to 44 % in the rest of the state. African-Americans make up approximately 30 % of Duval's population, and 17 % of the state's population," the report contends.

Of those sentenced to death, 88 % were "non-unanimous," the report added.

An expert quoted in the press release lamented the insufficiency of defense in counties like Duval.

"This report vividly shows how the last remnants of the American death penalty still survive: in counties that have wholly crippled the defense function," said Professor Brandon Garrett of the University of Virginia School of Law. "Conversely, in the places that provide minimally fair resources for defense representation, we have seen a steep decline in death sentences. Readers of this report will learn that what is left of the death penalty persists only through extreme unfairness and arbitrariness."

With Corey facing a competitive primary in the state attorney race, national scrutiny has been inconveniently timed for the 2-term incumbent.

The Nation posed the question: "Is Angela Corey the cruelest prosecutor in America?"

When asked about this article last week, Corey was dismissive, saying that the article was from a "liberal blogger in San Francisco."

One can expect a similar response to this report.



State Attorney Angela Corey calls new Harvard study about death-sentencing unfair and untrue

Duval County is again among a handful of U.S. counties that most frequently send convicted criminals to their deaths, according to a Harvard University study released Tuesday.

The Fair Punishment Project, of Harvard Law School's Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice and its Criminal Justice Institute, highlighted the 16 U.S. counties that sentenced at least 5 people to death from 2010 to 2015. Duval had 16 death sentences, and 88 % of its death sentences since 2006 were not unanimous.

The same day the Harvard report was released, a New York Times Magazine story highlighting the top death-sentencing counties focused on the murder of Shelby Farah of Jacksonville. Farah's mother, Darlene, has asked local prosecutors not to seek the death penalty, but they are still seeking death.

The feature also discussed the area's chief assistant public defender, Refik Eler, who has had 2 death cases overturned because of his ineffective assistance of counsel.

"I wouldn't say it's troubling. There were only 2 cases reversed" and 1 is pending on appeal, Eler said. "In a 30-year career, I've tried several hundred cases."

As one of the attorneys who's represented many poor clients in death cases, Eler said, he's proud of the times he has succeeded. "You have to really be there and do it and understand the many factors that go into strategic decisions."

State Attorney Angela Corey rebutted the Harvard Law School report, saying the statistics were unfair and the researchers should've shared data with her before publishing.

The report focused on:

-- Corey's "overzealous" prosecution

-- Public Defender Matt Shirk's office providing ineffective counsel

-- Racial bias at the courthouse.

("Since 2010, 1 year after Angela Corey took office, 87 % of death sentences have been imposed against African-American defendants, compared to 44 % in the rest of the state. African-Americans make up approximately 30 % of Duval's population, and 17 % of the state's population.") The Times story was the 2nd magazine article in a week focusing on Duval's role as a leader in tough-on-crime sentencing. Last week, liberal magazine The Nation published a feature asking, "Is Angela Corey the Cruelest Prosecutor in America?", and back in June, conservative magazine National Review criticized her.

"It's totally without merit," Corey said of the report, saying she was unfairly targeted when she didn't divert from her predecessors' approaches to prosecuting death-penalty cases.


Corey called the Fair Punishment Project report and the magazine story untrue. She questioned why the report came out a week before her Aug. 30 primary.

But Rob Smith, the legal research fellow who headed the project, said the election had nothing to do with the timing.

"We looked at the study not to persecute her. We weren't just picking anecdotes out and picking on people. We wanted to have an objective, thematic, national look. Surely she doesn't believe the Fair Punishment Project at Harvard Law School decided to create a gigantic project with a dozen people working on it over months to pick a time period just to affect Angela Corey's election. ...

Contrary to Ms. Corey's belief, the world doesn't revolve around her."

Smith said, 'I also think that she's a bully, and what I mean by that is that when a Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz called her out in a case, she calls and threatens the university. When her predecessor critiques something she did, she criticizes Mr. Shorstein. When her IT person criticizes something she does, she fires that person. She gets upset and she lashes out. Bullies shouldn't be deciding who lives and who dies."

In interviews Tuesday, Corey said it was unfair to report on the findings without first reviewing the data the project collected. Over the course of 2 telephone interviews, Corey grew increasingly combative while 2 of her top homicide attorneys remained collegial. 3 times she interrupted one of them to tell him to stop being apologetic.

Those attorneys, Bernie de la Rionda and Mark Caliel, addressed many of the statistics in the report and said why they felt they were misleading. Caliel said when considering the race of all 1st-degree murder suspects, there likely isn't a disparity between those who qualified for death and those sentenced to death. They said they believe seeking the death penalty honors the many black victims of murder.

"What scholars tend to forget is all lives matter," de la Rionda said. "I'd venture to ask this question. Who are our victims? If the focus is going to be on race, what was the race of our victims?"

He said he respects organizations that oppose the death penalty, but he believes it's the right punishment for certain crimes.

Corey and de la Rionda also said the manner of handling death cases and the number of death cases haven't changed much since Ed Austin and Harry Shorstein were the elected state attorneys before Corey. Smith disagreed, saying that while most the country reduced the number of death sentences, Corey increased it even when the murder rate dropped.


Harvard's Smith, who has handled death-penalty cases, said the decision to do this study came after a Supreme Court dissent last summer noted the geographic concentration of death-penalty cases. At the time, only 15 counties had 5 or more death penalties from 2010 to 2015; that number grew to 16. Many viewed that dissent as an open invitation to challenge the constitutionality of the death penalty. The Supreme Court has previously ruled that the intellectually disabled and juveniles should not be executed. Smith said he wanted to see if the few counties still sending people to death were sentencing "the worst of the worst" or the types of people the Supreme Court said shouldn't be executed.

Smith has previously published reports noting that de la Rionda is one of the nation's most prolific death-penalty prosecutors.

"In Duval what happens is you have both this aggressive prosecutor in Angela Corey where she seeks the death penalty in cases where many other prosecutors would not and this non-unanimous jury rule," he said. The law didn't used to require any specific number of jurors to agree to a death sentence; it now requires a 10-2 decision. "Those 2 things work together."

Smith said in places like Duval County, he found that the people on death row were not the most heinous criminals. Instead, the report noted, 48 % had an intellectual disability, severe mental illness or brain damage. 1 in 5 were younger than 21.

And shockingly, he said, the sentencing phase of the trial - when prosecutors explain why a crime is particularly egregious, defense attorneys explain why someone shouldn't be executed and a jury decides death or life - in Jacksonville lasts one day. That means opening statements, witnesses, evidence, closing statements and jury deliberation all occur in the same workday.

For that, Smith blamed defense attorneys. "You have an overaggressive prosecutor and defense lawyers who you wouldn't want to represent you in a parking ticket case."



Suspect in Alabama house murders used ax, gun in middle of night, police say

A man accused of slaying 5 people at an Alabama home brought an ax to attack his victims, striking one who had been sleeping in a reclining chair, and also used guns he took from the house to shoot them, an Alabama sheriff said Tuesday.

Derrick Dearman entered the house in Citronelle before dawn Saturday, Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran told The Associated Press.

"They were down for the night sleeping, and he had enough familiarity with the house when he entered - I guess you could say in a rage - and he's disabling people as he's in there," Cochran said. "He was able to overpower them before they were able to protect themselves."

An ax and a gun were used in the killings of each of the 5 adult victims, police allege in criminal complaints filed Tuesday in Mobile County District Court.

On Monday, as Dearman was led to jail in shackles, he professed his love for the estranged girlfriend whose family and friends were massacred and blamed the killings on drugs.

Speaking with reporters as he was escorted to jail by deputies in Mobile, Alabama, Derrick Dearman said Monday that he was on methamphetamine when he went to the house, on a dead-end dirt road.

"Drugs (were) making me think things that's not really there," said Dearman, 27, hanging his head and dressed in a bright yellow jail uniform.

After the killings, authorities said, Dearman abducted estranged girlfriend Laneta Lester, who had sought refuge at the house, and a child of two of the victims. Dearman said he spared their lives because "I came down and realized what was really going on."

"(I) turned myself in because I was sober and knew what was the right thing to do," Dearman said.

In videotaped comments broadcast on Mobile-area television, Dearman expressed his love for Lester and apologized "to all the family members." Dearman, saying all the victims were friends, added: "Don't do drugs."

A man who said his family provided a home for Dearman and Lester earlier this year near Leakesville, Mississippi, said Dearman was often on methamphetamine and physically abused Lester during walks in the woods in rural southeast Mississippi.

"He was taking her out there and beating the crap out of her," said Charlie Passarelli Jr., who said he had known Dearman for years. Passarelli said he suspected that Dearman was either buying or selling drugs before he and Lester moved out in late spring.

The slaying victims included a pregnant woman and her unborn child. A teenager who said she was related to all 5 victims by marriage or blood shook her head and fought back tears as she described her anguish over the slayings.

"They were really good people. They'd call and check on you, ask if you want to come down and eat," said Madison McDaniel, 17, who lives near the scene of the violence.

They had also become targets by welcoming Dearman's ex-girlfriend into the home, the sheriff said.

"I think the motivation was that he felt like they were keeping her from him," Cochran said.

"He couldn't deal with her being away from him and accept that she was leaving him," he said. "They were what was standing between them."

Relatives of the victims started an online fundraiser to help cover funeral expenses, and clerk Dawn Sullivan collected donations in a plastic jug on the counter at D&B Quick Stop, where the victims often stopped for snacks and drinks.

"It's a sad situation. It never should have gotten to that point," said Sullivan, whose husband was related to 1 of the victims.

Dearman, of Leakesville, is charged with 6 counts of capital murder and 2 counts of kidnapping, including 1 charge for the unborn child, Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich said.

"At this time it appears it will be a death penalty case, but it's very early in the investigation," Rich said.

Dearman's first court appearance is scheduled for Wednesday morning. Alabama court records don't indicate whether he has an attorney who could speak on his behalf.

The slain were identified as Shannon Melissa Randall, 35; Joseph Adam Turner, 26; Justin Kaleb Reed, 23; Chelsea Marie Reed, 22; and Robert Lee Brown, 26, said Mobile County sheriff's spokeswoman Lori Myles.

Turner was Lester's brother and had let her stay at the house, which all the victims shared, McDaniel said. Turner and Randall were married.

"I'd always get on my horse and ride down there bareback," McDaniel said. Her step-aunt Randall would say, "'Be careful because you're already got a hurt knee.' I'd say, 'OK, Shan-Shan.' That's what I called her."

Brown was Randall's brother, McDaniel said, and Chelsea Reed was Randall's niece. Chelsea Reed was pregnant with the child of her husband, Justin Reed, said McDaniel.

About 1 a.m. Saturday, someone inside the home called 911 and reported that Dearman was on the property, authorities said in a statement. Citronelle police came to the house, but Dearman had left before officers arrived, sheriff's officials said.

Before daylight Saturday, Dearman returned to the home to begin the attacks, the sheriff's department said.

After the killings, Dearman forced Lester and a 3-month-old identified by relatives as the child of Randall and Turner into a vehicle, and they drove to Dearman's father's house in Mississippi. Dearman released Lester and the infant and turned himself in, authorities said.

As he was led away to jail on Tuesday, Dearman said he barely remembers what happened but said that he deserves a harsh punishment.

"I deserve to die," he said.

(source: Fox news)


Supreme Court affirms Trumbull County man's death sentence

The state's high court has affirmed the death sentence of a Trumbull County man, re-sentenced for the 2001 murder of his then-girlfriend’s ex-husband.

In a 6-1 decision Wednesday, a majority of Ohio Supreme Court justices found that Nathaniel Jackson's death penalty was "both appropriate and proportionate when compared with capital cases involving aggravated murder during an aggravated murder" and that an error made by the trial court was harmless and corrected under review by justices.

According to documents, Jackson and Donna Roberts planned the murder of 57-year-old Robert Fingerhut for months, hoping to collect $550,000 in insurance money. Roberts provided Jackson with access to the Howland home she and Fingerhut shared, where Jackson shot the victim multiple times.

Both Roberts and Jackson received death penalties but were later ordered to be re-sentenced after it was determined that the prosecutor's office assisted in writing the original opinion in the case. Roberts' death sentence has been vacated twice.

Jackson's legal counsel has raised numerous issues with the death sentence, urging the state's high court to again vacate his death penalty. During oral arguments earlier this year, legal counsel for Jackson argued that the judge in the case filed essentially the same sentencing opinion, though he was ordered to file a new one one.

Jackson had hoped justices would remand the case to the trial court for another re-sentencing, with orders that the resulting entry be newly written and not copied from the early one and that other evidence offered by Jackson be considered beforehand.

But a majority of justices rejected Jackson's arguments Wednesday and affirmed the new death sentence.

"Upon independent weighing, we find that each aggravating circumstance outweighs the mitigating factors beyond a reasonable doubt," Justice Paul Pfeifer wrote in the decision. "The letters and phone conversations between Jackson and Roberts show that they planned Fingerhut's murder over the course of several months. After he was released from prison, Jackson murdered Fingerhut during a burglary and stole his car. Jackson's mitigating evidence has little significance in comparison."

Pfeifer was joined by Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, Justices Sharon Kennedy and Judith French and Appeals Court Judge William Klatt in the opinion.

Justice Terrence O'Donnell concurred in part, while Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger dissented. The latter, in a separate opinion, wrote that the trial judge should have considered additional evidence and filings from Jackson before issuing the new sentence.

"... The trial court here failed to comply with these instructions to conduct Jackson's re-sentencing with the strict level of care that comports with the unique status of a capital case," Lanzinger wrote.



Homicide suspect could face the death penalty

A man accused in the triple shooting on Oxford Avenue could face the death penalty.

Prosecuting Attorney Mat Heck, Jr. said Tuesday an amended complaint has been filed against Muhammad Shabazz Ali, aka Robert Woodrow Ford, Jr., 61, of Dayton, for the shooting deaths of 3 people on August 10, 2016 inside a home on Oxford Avenue in Dayton.

Prosecutors met with homicide investigators from the Dayton Police Department shortly after Ali's arrest on August 12 and approved charges in a complaint filed in the Dayton Municipal Court.

After more investigation into the homicides, an amended complaint was filed Tuesday with additional charges as well as specifications that will allow the Montgomery County Grand Jury to consider indicting the defendant on counts with death penalty specifications.

The Prosecutor's Office said the case will be presented to the Montgomery County Grand Jury at a future date.

Ali remains in custody, being held on a $1,000,000 bond.

(source: WDTN news)


Always question government's awesome power

Attorneys for a man who faces charges in the deaths of seven women have argued in court filings that the state of Indiana’s death penalty law is unconstitutional. More power to them.

Of course, they cannot argue that capital punishment is unconstitutional, since it is mentioned in plain language in the Constitution. No person, it says in the Fifth Amendment, may be deprived of "life, liberty, or property" without "due process of law." As long as there is due process, therefore, the death penalty is clearly constitutional.

What they're left with, then, is to argue that Indiana's application of the death penalty is unconstitutional. It's a tricky argument that has never been successful, but you can't blame them for continuing the effort.

What they claim is that there are not clear guidelines for juries on what they are supposed to weigh that could influence a death sentence. Furthermore, they say, it's unconstitutional to allow a judge to determine a defendant's death sentence when the jury can't.

Given the history of Indiana's Supreme Court, the attorneys are not likely to prevail, but they have provided a valuable service just by raising the objections.

The ability to take someone's life is the most terrible power a government can have. Even those of us who believe that capital punishment is sometimes the only punishment that is appropriate should be willing to consider difficult questions and engage those who think the death penalty should be abolished.

In Indiana, for example, you cannot be put to death merely for killing someone. There must also be 1 or more special circumstances, such as the murder of a police officer or the murder of a child or murder for hire. To face capital punishment is this state, you must truly be one of the worst of the worst.

On the one hand, that makes us seem less bloodthirsty and more humane. On the other hand, it makes it harder to argue that capital punishment is a deterrent.

We should never be afraid to examine our most strongly held beliefs, and those involving the awesome power of the state deserve the most scrutiny. Ideally, those conversations belong in the legislature, conducted by representatives sensitive to changing public opinion. But jurists who must administer death penalty proceedings have a stake in the conversation as well.

(source: Editorial, News Sentinel)


Campaigns intensifying for, against the death penalty in Nebraska----This fall voters will decide whether Nebraska has the death penalty. It’s a complex issue with lots for voters to think about. With the election getting closer, both sides are intensifying lobbying for your vote.

It started with a Monday morning news conference. Omaha economist Ernie Goss presented his new study on the annual cost of having the death penalty in Nebraska versus not having it. Goss' study was commissioned by the anti-death penalty group Retain a Just Nebraska, hosts of the news conference.

NET News brought together advocates from each side of the issue to answer questions from students at Western Nebraska Community College in Scottsbluff, Northeast Community College in Norfolk and Metropolitan Community College in Omaha. These lively discussions are the foundation of a new 30-minute television program premiering Monday, Sept. 12 at 9 p.m. CT on NET Television.

"The additional cost for a death penalty case is about $14.6 million, opposed to life without parole," Goss told reporters. "A lot of folks see it as just the incarceration cost. Not so. It's the appeals process, again taking individuals in cases where there are hearings, you have to have individuals are taken back and forth to the hearing and costs such as that. The pretrial costs, jury selection. Think about jury selection in a death penalty case versus a non-death penalty or life without parole case. The jury selection is more intensive, it takes longer."

The report quickly came under fire from Nebraskans for the Death Penalty and Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson, who said in a news release that it "fails to accurately reflect actual costs" of the death penalty in Nebraska. Retain a Just Nebraska defended the report and criticized critics in news releases and another news conference.

It was a flurry of activity that if nothing else signaled the campaign for your vote on this issue is getting serious with Election Day looming.

The death penalty is an issue with a wide range of practical, emotional ... even spiritual aspects both sides want you think about.

"Nebraskans simply do not want to have an innocent person executed," said Darold Bauer, campaign manager for Retain a Just Nebraska. "And through the course of the campaign we believe that as we share information about innocence (and) cost, that Nebraskans, although they might say 'I support the death penalty,' when they stop and think about it and when they understand fully that we have life in Nebraska without parole, when they understand that gives them an option. We're not we're not looking to let people out of prison. We're looking to lock them up. We think that as Nebraskans think about the issue and study the issue, that they'll come around to our way of thinking."

Lincoln State Senator Colby Coash helped lead the Unicameral's repeal of the death penalty last year. A successful petition drive by death penalty supporters then put the question on the ballot. Coash continues to speak against the death penalty.

"The practical reality of the death penalty in Nebraska is this. We haven't executed anybody in almost 20 years. We haven't used it and there's a reason for that. The reason is we can't," Coash said, in comments to Metropolitan Community College students in Omaha for NET's upcoming "Classroom Conversations" project. "The ship has sailed and this is a broken system. I'm choosing my position based on my compassion for the victims that they deserve a system that does what it says it's going to do."

Lincoln lawyer Bob Evnen is a co-founder of Nebraskans for the Death Penalty, the group that led the petition drive to get the issue on the ballot this year. He began a presentation to a weekly lunch hour gathering of Omaha Republicans with a Bible-based appeal.

"Capital punishment is the only penalty that is repeated in all 5 of the Books of Moses," Evnen said. "The Old Testament is composed of 3 parts. The 5 Books of Moses, the Prophets and the Writings. The 5 Books of Moses, in each of those 5 books you'll find capital punishment is prescribed for certain crimes. And so we begin with capital punishment is morally required."

Evnen has talked to groups throughout the summer, and said a variety of pro death penalty selling points are influencing voters.

"I think people are very responsive to the idea that law enforcement overwhelmingly supports the death penalty. That it is something that helps protect them as they go out to protect us, and I think that that rings true for a great number of Nebraskans," Evnen said. "I think that a substantial majority of Nebraskans support the death penalty. They understand the importance of having the death penalty on the books. They understand that we don't use the death penalty every day, all the time, that it's reserved for the most heinous crimes and the most vicious criminals."

Former attorney general Don Stenberg is honorary co-chair of Nebraskans for the Death Penalty.

"I think there's a deterring effect for some people in the death penalty," Stenberg said, also talking with Metropolitan Community College students in Omaha for NET's "Classroom Conversations" recording. "I think it does help public safety, and I just think there were some cases which are so egregious, where maybe a mass murder of grade school kids or a bomb in a football stadium that kills 50 or 100 people and injures 200 more. At some point I think justice requires that the person that did that horrendous act pay the ultimate price."

The Nebraskans for the Death Penalty campaign has been seemingly low key compared to its opposition throughout the summer, but Evnen said that will change when they "kick into gear" after Labor Day. Bauer said Retain a Just Nebraska will also continue what he called a "full blown campaign."

Both sides said they need to sell their side of the issue, but also how to understand possibly confusing ballot language. Here's one simple way to think about it. If you are against the death penalty, vote "retain" on the ballot. If you are for the death penalty, vote "repeal."



Spokesman for anti-death penalty group dismisses poll indicating pro-death penalty leanings in Nebraska

A spokesman with a group campaigning to uphold the repeal of the death penalty rejects the conclusions of a recent public opinion poll.

A poll commissioned by Nebraskans for the Death Penalty indicates 2-to-1 support for capital punishment in Nebraska. Global Marketing Research Services of Melbourne, Florida took a survey of 600 likely Nebraska voters in early August. The survey asked four questions centered on the Unicameral's approval of LB 268, which repealed the death penalty in Nebraska.

Retain A Just Nebraska has mounted a campaign to uphold the action of the Unicameral in the 2015 legislative session.

Spokesman Dan Parsons rejects the conclusion of the poll, claiming it is not accurate.

"Well, the poll is not accurate in the sense that they only asked 1/2 the question," Parsons tells Nebraska Radio Network. "They did not ask the question that Nebraskans will be asked on November 8th and that is, should we replace the death penalty with life in prison without the chance of parole? That's the question that will be on the ballot and they didn't ask that question."

Parsons insists than when the alternative to the death penalty, life without parole, is included, Nebraskans are more inclined to be against the death penalty.

"Historically, across the country, and polling that we have access to indicates that that question is, at best, a toss-up and in many of those polls, it goes to our favor."

Additionally, Parsons says it is too early to get a read on how Nebraskans will vote.

"Let's keep in mind that Nebraskans are just now starting to focus on this issue," according to Parsons. "Nebraskans haven't thought about this issue, haven't been asked to think about this issue, for a long, long time. We have not had an execution in this state for almost 20 years and so, death penalty cases have not been front and center on people's minds."

Voters will be asked in November whether to retain LB 268 which eliminated capital punishment in Nebraska, or repeal it.

(source: Nebraska Radio Network)


The real cost of the death penalty

Economist Dr. Ernie Goss reported this month that the death penalty costs Nebraska $14.6 million annually.

Attorney General Doug Peterson disputed that report, saying the numbers are "misleading" because they rely on data from other states that doesn't fairly represent Nebraska. This has been followed-up by additional responses by Dr. Goss and various State Senators.

But the dollar figures aren't primarily what Nebraska voters should consider when they decide this November whether to retain the repeal the death penalty. The real costs of the death penalty must be measured by other standards as well.

The cost of the death penalty can be measured by the lives of those unjustly put to death for crimes they didn't commit. Since DNA testing has made new methods of investigation possible, hundreds of people across the country have been exonerated of criminal convictions. Nebraska's own "Beatrice 6" were exonerated by DNA in 2008. The death penalty costs the lives of innocent people.

The cost of the death penalty can be measured in the inequality of sentencing. The race and social status of criminals has frequently shown to be a factor in sentencing. So has the location of the crime, and the social status of the victim. Justice is supposed to be blind. But the death penalty costs Nebraska's commitment to equality before the law.

The death penalty is needed when execution is the only way to keep a community safe from a persistent threat. The need for the death penalty must be absolute and Nebraska is far from that requirement. In fact, in Nebraska the death penalty is a panacea: it provides the illusion of security and deterrence, without demonstrably providing either. A state with our creativity and resources can reform our prisons, deter crime, and build safe communities without needing to kill anyone. Nebraskans can solve serious social problems without recourse to violence.

However much the death penalty impacts our budget, the death penalty costs more than dollars and cents. It costs us our human dignity. Execution costs us the opportunity to achieve justice without taking life, to overcome our penchant for vengeance, to build a culture that values all human life, and establish a civilization of mercy. The death penalty coarsens our sense of life's value and dignity. This is all a cost that is far too high.

(source: Opinion; Tom Venzor is the Associate Director for Pro-Life and Family for the Nebraska Catholic Conference. The Nebraska Catholic Conference represents the mutual public policy interests of the three Catholic Bishops of Nebraska----Lincoln Journal Star)


Poll: More than 1/2 of New Mexicans support death penalty revival

A new poll shows more than 1/2 of New Mexicans want to bring back the death penalty.

This comes just a week after Gov. Susana Martinez says she's going to push to undo the death penalty ban at the next legislative session.

The poll comes in the wake of some highly publicized murders, and it shows voters may want ta return of the death penalty.

The poll, done by Public Policy Polling for the New Mexico Political Report, found that 59 % support the governor's proposal to bring back the death penalty. Meanwhile, 34 % oppose it and 8 % haven't made up their minds. About 1,100 registered voters took part in the poll.

Albuquerque residents who KRQE News 13 spoke with appear split on the issue.

"The death penalty gives the state the opportunity to get revenge on a perpetrator that we can't do ourselves, but I support Susana and you won't hear me say that often," said Zach Anaya.

"It's a terrible thing. We should not make decisions like that about other peoples' lives," said Lyn Berner.

The push from the governor comes after the latest killing of a New Mexico police officer - the 3rd in a little more than a year.

The governor has made it clear that she thinks people who murder police officers or children deserve "the ultimate punishment."

New Mexico is now one of 19 states without capital punishment. The state still has 2 people on death row from before the death penalty was abolished in 2009. New Mexico hasn't executed anyone since 2001.

(source: KRQE news)


Recalling the last execution in New Mexico

I kept missing his calls.

Again and again, the phone rang when I was not home, which left my then-husband with the awkward task of making small talk with a condemned man he had never met and had never wanted to meet.

"What do you say to a guy who rapes and murders a child?" he would ask later.

Oh, I had plenty to say, plenty more questions to ask. In the fall of 2001, I had already been communicating with Terry Clark for 2 years, and time was running out. In days, he was scheduled to die, the 1st person in 41 years to be executed by the state of New Mexico.

Gov. Susana Martinez would like to change that. Last week, she said she will push during next year's legislative session to bring back the death penalty. It's a position she campaigned on as a gubernatorial candidate in 2010, a year after her predecessor signed legislation abolishing the practice.

In the 6 years since she took office, her death penalty redux has gone nowhere, and capital punishment has continued to lose its appeal nationwide. 19 states no longer carry out the death penalty, 4 making that move just in the past 6 years. 4 more states have temporarily suspended the practice; Nebraska will ask voters to decide on the matter in November.

Martinez's revitalization of what to most was a, ahem, dead issue appears to be a reaction to the shooting death of Hatch police officer Jose Chavez this month and the fatal bludgeoning of 11-year-old Ashlynne Mike near Shiprock in May. Horrific deaths, to be sure.

But New Mexico has always been squeamish about imposing the death penalty, even for the worst offenders. Since statehood, we've put to death just 28 men - 19 by hanging, 7 by the electric chair and 1 by the gas chamber. Clark was the only man to die by lethal injection, the method the state switched to in 1980.

Clark deserved the harshest sentence. He had been out on bail pending an appeal for the rape of a 6-year-old Roswell girl when he snatched 9-year-old Dena Lynn Gore from outside an Allsups in Artesia on July 17, 1986, drove her to a ranch 60 miles out of town, molested her, trussed her up like wild game, held a gun to her temple and fired 3 times when she presciently told him, "You're going to pay for this."

He did. He was sentenced to death in 1996, then continued on through the lengthy and costly appeals process until he himself short-circuited the battle, waiving his right to further appeals.

When it appeared Clark was at last on track to his death date, I began writing to him in the hopes he would agree to an interview so I could ask the questions he had never answered publicly: Why? Why Dena? Why a child? Why violate an innocent child and bury her in the dirt?

He wrote back, his letters strikingly polite and thoughtful, with just enough introspection to allow me a glimpse into the dark abyss of his heart but never completely, never enough.

He wrote mostly to complain about his attorneys, who he believed were undermining his dogged quest for death. He wrote about tolerating life on death row, locked in the Penitentiary of New Mexico's North Unit outside Santa Fe. He wrote about finding God and forgiveness even for the horrors he had committed upon a child.

He denied raping the 1st girl in Roswell and declared that he was no child molester, even when it came to Dena.

"What occurred with Dena Gore was a terrible, terrible mistake and it had NOTHING to do with her being a CHILD," he told me.

He never explained further.

Arguably, I came to know him better than any other journalist and likely more than most people would care to know him. As the days drew near to his execution date, he began calling me, but only at my home. In the end, we managed to speak just once. He told me he had made his peace, that he was ready to go home.

"I have no fears," he said. "I've been forgiven."

I was there Nov. 6, 2001, at the penitentiary when he breathed his last, covering the execution along with dozens of other reporters from across the state.

It took 8 minutes for him to die. In that final moment of his life, I briefly bowed my head and whispered to no one, "Goodbye, Terry," then went back to writing my story.

Even knowing Clark as I did, I have never firmly taken a stand on the death penalty. At best, it seems a tool prosecutors can use to ferret out a plea agreement from a defendant who kills but doesn't wish to be killed. At worst, it can be - and nationally has been - wrongly imposed on defendants later found to be innocent.

But I have my doubts as to whether it is any deterrent. Since Clark's execution 15 years ago, more children have been murdered, more law enforcement officers gunned down, more innocent lives lost. The specter of the death penalty saved none of them.

Clark told me he had not thought about the consequences as he pumped 3 bullets into Dena's brain. And still, over the years, he had come to favor the death penalty, at least for his own benefit.

"It's all good," he wrote 9 days before his execution. "I see it as parole and a full pardon by the only one that really matters. This is a good thing to happen, don't you think."

I'm not sure if what he thinks is what should matter most.

(source: Joline Krueger, Albuquerque Journal)


Harvard Death-Penalty Study Rips Maricopa County Prosecutors

Maricopa County's death-penalty system is plagued by "overzealous" prosecutors and creates a high number of questionable death-penalty cases, according to a new Harvard Law School report.

"Too Broken to Fix: Part I: An In-Depth Look at America's Outlier Death Penalty Counties," by the school's Fair Punishment Project, identifies Maricopa as 1 of 16 "outliers" among the nation's 3,143 counties or "county equivalents," for having sentenced 5 or more defendants to death during the period 2010-2015.

The report calls out three deputy county attorneys by name, suggesting they're reckless, and it lays heavy implications on the current county attorney, Bill Montgomery. But it also notes that the number of death-penalty cases has declined since the departure of former county attorney Andrew Thomas.

Thomas, who resigned office in 2010 for an unsuccessful run for state Attorney General, was disbarred in 2012 for abuse of power - as the Harvard study prominently mentions. Voters put Montgomery, also a Republican, in office in 2010 with a special election, re-electing him in 2012. He's running for office once again in 2016 against low-profile Democratic contender Diego Rodriguez.

For much of Montgomery's time in office, he has sought the death penalty at a higher-than-average rate, according to the study. Between 2010 and 2015, the county had 28 capital-punishment cases. On a per-homicide basis, the county's rate of death sentencing is 2.3 times higher than the rest of Arizona. Nationally, it accounts for about about 1 % of the country's population but 3.6 % of the country's death-penalty cases between 2010 and 2015.

"If I were charged with a crime in Maricopa County, based on what we've seen in capital cases - it's not a place where I would feel confident that the county attorney's office would play by the rules," Robert Smith, a Harvard researcher and director of the Fair Punishment Project tells New Times.

The report illuminates problems that go back much further than 2010, showing that Maricopa County has had more cases - and more problems with those cases and its prosecutorial system - than nearly any other U.S. county.

Founded in 2005 by Harvard Law School professor Charles J. Ogletree Jr., the Fair Punishment Project has a stated mission to serve as a "critical critical bridge between scholarship, law, policy and practice to solve the challenges of a multi-racial society." The project, led by professor Ronald Sullivan Jr., is a collaboration between the law school's Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice and its Criminal Justice Institute.

Citing media coverage, including stories from New Times, the report notes that starting in 2004, Thomas sought capital cases at twice the rate of his predecessor, Rick Romley - thus crippling the county's public-defender system and leaving a dozen murder defendants without lawyers. While the county has backed off its zeal for the death penalty since 2010, Montgomery's office retains three deputies whose strong interest in capital cases appears to color their conduct in court.

Jeannette Gallagher, Juan Martinez, and Vincent Imbordino account for more than 1/3 of all of the capital cases (21 of 61) in which the Arizona Supreme Court has found problems on direct appeal since 2006. The higher court overturned or vacated the death penalty in 4 of the 21 cases and found instances of "improper behavior" in 8 of the cases.

The report notes that the state Supreme Court found that Martinez - who gained worldwide fame as the prosecutor in the Jodi Arias murder trial - committed misconduct in at least 3 capital cases. Additionally, the state's high court cited 17 examples where Martinez had acted "inappropriately" in the murder prosecution of Shawn Patrick Lynch. (The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the death penalty in that case for reasons unrelated to alleged prosecutor problems.)

The report cites instances in which the state Supreme Court deemed Gallagher's conduct "improper," "very troubling," and "entirely unprofessional."

"Gallagher, who heads Maricopa's capital case unit, has personally obtained at least nine death sentences, including against a military veteran diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and a brain-damaged child whom she described to the jury as '16 going on 35,'" according to the report.

Smith has harsh words for the 3 prosecutors.

"They don't have the temperament required to prosecute a jaywalking citation, and what they're being entrusted with is the death penalty," he tells New Times. "They shouldn't be prosecuting misdemeanor cases, much less deciding whether or not somebody lives or dies."

The report delves into the problems behind the high rate of cases, noting overworked or incompetent defense attorneys, racial bias, and the exonerations of 5 Maricopa County death-penalty defendants since 1978. More than 1/2 of the people sentenced to death between 2010 and 2015 were people of color. The Fair Punishment Project can't say for certain whether Maricopa County has executed any innocent people, but Smith says it has come "perilously close."

It's Montgomery's responsibility to fix the county's sorry record on the death penalty, Smith adds, even though many of its problems predate his tenure. As things stand now, Montgomery shows a "callous disregard" for the people he's been entrusted to protect, Smith says.

Montgomery did not return a message seeking comment.



Murder suspect's tweet could make him eligible for death penalty

A Twitter posting by an Arizona man who was arrested on suspicion of killing his roommate during a struggle could elevate the severity of charges he could face.

2 days before the fatal shooting, 21-year-old Zachary Dale Penton posted a comment saying he needed to move out of the metropolitan Phoenix home where he was living before he killed his roommates. The comment creates an opening for prosecutors to argue that Sunday's killing of Daniel Garofalo was premeditated, meaning they could charge Penton with 1st-degree murder and seek the death penalty.

"They will say this kid thought about killing his roommate 2 days before," Dwane Cates, a criminal defense lawyer in Phoenix who isn't involved in the case.

Penton's attorney says his client's social media posts weren't intended to be taken literally and believes the evidence will show he was acting in self-defense.

Penton, a convenience store manager who had lived in the suburban Gilbert home for 2 months, told investigators that a physical struggle broke out Sunday when the 41-year-old Garofalo, who owned and lived in the house, came into his bedroom to say Penton had to move out, according to court records. Penton claimed Garofalo had tackled him and took away his phone.

Penton told police that he reached under his pillow for his loaded semi-automatic handgun and fired after Garofalo frightened him by speaking irrationally. He then called 911 to report the shooting.

Police Lt. Hugh White said there were no eyewitnesses to the shooting, so investigators were analyzing physical evidence to determine whether Penton's account is credible. Police also were interviewing 2 other people who lived at the house.

Over the last 3 months, a Twitter account in Penton's name had several posts that mentioned guns. The posts included comments on the ease of buying a gun and asked friends whether anyone wanted to go shooting on a particular day. Another post -- perhaps made in jest -- said Penton was forced at gunpoint to download a fast-food restaurant's app.

Penton, who was booked in jail on suspicion of second-degree murder, hasn't yet been formally charged in Garofalo's death.

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office, which will prosecute Penton, declined to comment on whether it will pursue 1st-degree murder charges.

Joshua Davidson, Penton's attorney, said the shooting wasn't calculated or planned and believes the evidence will show Penton was trying to defend himself in a tough situation. "There are things we all say figuratively every day that, if taken literally, would have a completely different connotation," Davidson said of his client's social media postings.

Penton, who is being held in jail on a $750,000 bond, declined an interview request from The Associated Press.

Cates said the case underscores the need for people to be careful about what they say on social media, where it's hard to convey sarcasm and irony.

"Nobody knows if you are joking," Cates said.

(source: Associated Press)


I-Team: Nevada unable to carry out death penalties

The Clark County District Attorney's Office is getting called out for how it handles death penalty cases. Harvard Law School's Fair Punishment Project released a report alleging "an overly aggressive prosecutor" ... and unfair treatment for the mentally ill.

While this report came out Tuesday referring to the process in the courts, the Department of Corrections has its own challenge with the death penalty.

Nevada is a death penalty state, but there is no way currently to execute anyone on death row. The Department of Corrections is scrambling to address the matter.

Serial killer Michael Ross was on death row in Connecticut in 2005 when he gave up the fight and said he wanted to die.

"I was a warden at the time of one of the state prisons and I had a position in the execution at that time," said James Dzurenda, director, Department of Corrections.

He has been in the position since April and has concerns that could happen in Nevada.

"We don't know when this happens. It could happen at any time," he said.

80 inmates are on death row in Nevada prisons. Dzurenda says all are in the appeals process, but if 1 of them asks to be executed, the death chamber has to be ready in 45 days and right now, it wouldn't be.

2 drugs are needed together for a lethal injection. The state has both drugs, but one drug is expired and the other drug will expire in January of 2018.

The state can't get the expired drug because drug makers like Pfizer refuse to sell it for executions so Dzurenda says he's put out a national request to get the drugs.

"Just sitting and waiting til the process is done and seeing if someone will respond or a company out there will respond," he said.

The other challenge is construction.

Dzurenda says the death chamber in Carson City was last used in 2006 and is outdated.

A new one is being built in Ely State Prison for an estimated $650,000. It's expected to be finished on Nov. 1. While critics of the death penalty call it a waste of money, Dzurenda says his hands are tied due to state law.

"If we don't have an appropriate chamber and policy and medication, we can't even abide by a court order," Dzurenda said.

He says the new death chamber in Ely State Prison will have mutiple purposes.

He says it will have 3 rooms where meetings and attorney visits can be held and it can be used for storage.

One defense attorney told the I-Team, he wouldn't want to meet with a client in the same place where an inmate could potentially be executed.



Don't abolish death penalty, make the system work: Michael A. Ramos

743 criminals sit on California's death row. Prisoners like Randy Kraft who sexually assaulted, tortured and murdered 16 young men between 1972-1983 or Dennis Stanworth, who was convicted of raping and murdering 2 girls and was sentenced to death in 1966 for the heinous crimes he committed.

California's Supreme Court set aside Stanworth's death sentence in 1972 after the California Supreme Court ruled that capital punishment was unconstitutional. So, instead they gave this brutal killer life in prison with the possibility of parole. In 1990, he was paroled and by 2013 he killed again - this time his elderly mother.

And who could forget Richard Allen Davis? A career criminal who was 3 months out of prison and "rehabilitated" only to end up raping and killing 12-year-old Polly Klaas. Davis has now been sitting on death row for 17 years - at taxpayer's expense.

Inmates on California's death row include notorious serial killers, cop killers, child killers and rape/torture murderers. Many of these individuals have been on death row since the 1980s and have used endless appeals, spread out over years and years to delay justice. Families of murder victims should not have to wait decades for justice. Hundreds of killers have sat on death row for more than 20 years forcing taxpayers to fund their meals, clothing, housing and health care. This is unacceptable.

Proposition 62 will abolish the death penalty altogether and instead give killers already on death row, and future killers, a life sentence. This is the wrong tact to take. Prop 62 means these murderers will live the rest of their lives at taxpayers' expense, long after their victims are gone. Instead, a more prudent move is to reform the death penalty by mending what's broken. The current system is out of balance, we need to restore the balance between the rights of defendants and the need to provide justice and closure for the families of victims and protect society. Voting no on Prop. 62 and voting Yes on Proposition 66 is the answer. Prop. 66 speeds up the appeals process by eliminating legal and procedural delaying tactics while assuring due process protections for those sentenced to death.

Death penalty opponents like to point out the possibility of persons wrongly convicted of capital offenses and sentenced to death being executed. The fact is there is not a single documented case of this ever taking place in California due to the expertise and painstaking quality of investigation and prosecutorial work that has gone into death penalty cases. Prop. 66 ensures that all appeals are heard within 5 years and no innocent person is executed. In addition, convicts on death row would lose various special privileges they enjoy and will be required to pay restitution to victims' families out of their prison work pay.

No on Prop. 62 and yes on Prop. 66 is supported by hundreds of district attorneys, sheriffs, law enforcement organizations, elected officials and victims' right advocates and community leaders. They all joined forces to ensure that the worst of the worst killers receive the strongest sentence to help bring closure to families while saving California taxpayers millions of dollars every year.

California's death row inmates have murdered more than a thousand victims, including 226 children and 43 police officers; 294 victims were raped and/or tortured. It's time California reformed our death penalty process so it works.

(source: Opinion; Michael A. Ramos is San Bernardino County district attorney----San Bernardino Sun)


Scathing new report: Racism, bias and prosecutor misconduct plague "dying" U.S. death penalty

The Fair Punishment Project at Harvard Law School is out with a damning new report this morning that seems certain to put another nail in the coffin of the death penalty in the United States. This is from the release that accompanied "Too Broken to Fix: Part I - An In-depth Look at America's Outlier Death Penalty Counties":

"Today, Harvard Law School's Fair Punishment Project released a new report offering an in-depth look at how the death penalty is operating in the handful of counties across the country that are still using it. Of the 3,143 county or county equivalents in the United States, only 16 - or 1/2 of 1 % - imposed 5 or more death sentences between 2010 and 2015. Part I of the report, titled Too Broken to Fix: An In-depth Look at America's Outlier Death Penalty Counties, examined 10 years of court opinions and records from 8 of these 16 "outlier counties," including Caddo Parish (LA), Clark (NV), Duval (FL), Harris (TX), Maricopa (AZ), Mobile (AL), Kern (CA) and Riverside (CA). The report also analyzed all of the new death sentences handed down in these counties since 2010.

The report notes that these "outlier counties" are plagued by persistent problems of overzealous prosecutors, ineffective defense lawyers, and racial bias. Researchers found that the impact of these systemic problems included the conviction of innocent people, and the excessively harsh punishment of people with significant impairments. Many of the defendants appear to have one or more impairments that are on par with, or worse than, those that the U.S. Supreme Court has said should categorically exempt individuals from execution due to lessened culpability....

In conducting its analysis, the Project reviewed more than 200 direct appeals opinions handed down between 2006 and 2015 in these eight counties. The Project found:

--60 % of cases involved defendants with significant mental impairments or other forms of mitigation.

--18 % of cases involved a defendant who was under the age of 21 at the time of the offense. In Riverside County, 16 % of the defendants were age 18 at the time of the offense.

--44 % of cases involved a defendant who had an intellectual disability, brain damage, or severe mental illness. In 4 of the counties, 1/2 or more of the defendants had mental impairments: Maricopa (62 %), Mobile (60 %), Caddo Parish (57 %), and Kern (50 %).

--Approximately 1 in 7 cases involved a finding of prosecutorial misconduct. Maricopa and Clark counties had misconduct in 21 % and 47 % of cases, respectively.

--Bad lawyering was a persistent problem across all of the counties. In most of the counties, the average mitigation presentation at the penalty phase of the trial lasted approximately 1 day....

--A relatively small group of defense lawyers represented a substantial number of the individuals who ended up on death row. In Kern County, 1 lawyer represented 1/2 of the individuals who ended up on death row between 2010 and 2015.

Happily, as the report also points out, the death penalty in the United States is dying. As with other vestiges of a bygone era - think of corporal punishment in our schools - the main challenge now is to bring the shrinking number of jurisdictions that cling to the death penalty into the 21st Century. The report seems certain to abet that process.



Death sentences decline but dominate in Florida, Alabama

The number of death sentences in the United States has declined significantly since 1976, but the few remaining are clustered primarily in 2 states -- Alabama and Florida, Harvard's Fair Punishment Project said in a report released Tuesday.

"Across the country, the death penalty is on life support," the researchers said.

Last year, juries returned the fewest number of death sentences since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976 -- 49. That represents a decline of 50 % since 2009 when there were 118 death sentences. And in 1996, there were 315. And only 14 of the 31 states with the death penalty imposed at least 1 capital sentence.

The project, titled "Too Broken to Fix: Part 1" broke down the numbers by county,

Of 3,143 country or county equivalents, just 16 imposed imposed 5 or more death sentences between 2010 and 2015.

6 counties were in Alabama (Jefferson, Mobile) and Florida (Duval, Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, Pinellas). These are the only states that permit non-unanimous death verdicts.

In Florida, only 10 jurors need to agree to the death sentence. But in May, Florida Circuit Judge Milton Hirsch declared its latest death penalty law in violation of the state's constitution. In January, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the state's death sentencing system unconstitutional because it gave too little power to juries.

Of the remaining 10 counties, 5 are located in highly populated Southern California (Kern, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino). The others are in Louisiana (Caddo), Nevada (Clark), Texas (Dallas, Harris), and Arizona (Maricopa).

The report, in the first part, examined 1/2 of them -- Caddo, Clark, Duval, Harris, Maricopa, Mobile, Kern and Riverside.

"Our review reveals that these counties frequently share at least three systemic deficiencies: a history of overzealous prosecutions, inadequate defense lawyering and a pattern of racial bias and exclusion," the report said. "These structural failings regularly produce 2 types of unjust outcomes which disproportionately impact people of color: the wrongful conviction of innocent people and the excessive punishment of persons who are young or suffer from severe mental illnesses, brain damage, trauma and intellectual disabilities."

The report noted that with 14,000 homicides a year and only 49 death sentences last year, "it is safe to conclude that most prosecutors do not seek the death penalty in most of the cases in which the punishment is available."

But the report found that it's not prosecutorial restraint. "Our research doesn't support this claim," the report said. "Since 1976, the year capital punishment resumed in America, a tiny handful of prosecutors account for a wildly disproportionate number of death sentences."

Just 3 prosecutors obtained a combined 131 death sentences: Joe Freeman Britt of Robeson County, N.C.; Robert Macy of Oklahoma County, Okla.; and Donald Myers of the 11th Judicial District of South Carolina. They were also noted in a June report by the Fair Punishment Project titled "America's Top 5 Deadliest Prosecutors: How Overzealous Personalities Drive the Death Penalty." Britt and Macy have retired and Myers plans to step down in 2017.

The trio also were heavily cited for misconduct -- 33 %, 37 % and 46 %. The report also noted that once these prosecutors left office, the the death sentencing rates declined in their counties.

"The prosecutors who have obtained the most death sentences in these counties tend to exhibit an obsession with winning death sentences at almost any cost, even in cases with less culpable defendants," the report said. "Their willingness to cut corners, even in cases that literally involve life-and-death decisions, casts grave doubt on the legitimacy of capital punishment - and also tarnishes the entire justice system in America."

No. 1 on the list was Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix. It had 28 death sentences between 2010 and 2015. Its death rate was 2.3 times higher than the rest of Arizona. Its percentage of misconduct in the cases was 21 %.

Andrew Thomas, elected to serve as Maricopa's County attorney in 2004, pursued capital charges at nearly twice the rate of his predecessor, resulting in a backlog of cases. In 2012, a 3-member panel of Arizona Supreme Court voted unanimously to disbar Thomas.

One of the prosecutors who served under Thomas was Juan Martinez, who was found to have committed misconduct in at least 3 capital murder cases by the Arizona Supreme Court. He prosecuted the conviction of Jody Arias, a case that drew national attention, for her murder of Travis Alexander in 2008. Arias was convicted of 1st-degree murder, but 2 juries failed to agree on the death penalty and instead the judge imposed a life sentence.

"Killing somebody is not love," Martinez said after the Arias trial."It's just a show that this person belongs to you and that if you can't have them, nobody else will."

In May, the U.S. Supreme Court knocked down the death sentence because the judge allowed Martinez to argue that the defendant, Shawn Patrick Lynch, could be potentially dangerous when he would be locked up forever.

In Duval County, which includes Jacksonville, there were 25 sentences -- about 1/4 of Florida's death sentences imposed. The rate is 40 % higher than the rest of the state. The report found the percentage of misconduct at 16 %.

Angela Corey is the state attorney in Florida's Fourth Judicial Circuit, which includes Duval County. Like Gonzalez in Arizona, Corey headed a high-profile case.

In 2012, Corey was appointed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott as special prosecutor to investigate the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. She charged him with 2nd-degree murder, but he was acquitted of the charges.

One recent case is James Xavier Rhodes, a now-24-year-old man who is facing a death sentence for shooting a young woman at a MetroPCS store.? Darlene Farrah, the victim's mother, has unsuccessfully asked Corey to grant her daughter's killer a plea deal for a life sentence.

"It's my statutory and constitutional duty to seek justice for this community and to give the victim's family justice," said told The New York Times. And she said the victims "do not control the seeking of the death penalty."

Corey says she can't be blamed for these disproportionate numbers. "We have so many sets of rules we are bound to follow," said told The Nation. "There are so many checks and balances."

Duval has had no capital cased exonerated.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2005 ruled that juvenile offenders and persons with intellectual disabilities should not be executed. However, the report noted there are "many defendants who also have a diminished culpability similar to these 'categorically exempted' defendants, but fall through the cracks of justice."

The report concluded: "Our findings, taken together, suggest that the small handful of counties that are still using the death penalty are plagued by persistent problems of overzealous prosecutors, ineffective defense lawyers, and racial bias, resulting in the conviction of innocent people and the excessively harsh punishment of people with significant impairments that are on par with, or even worse than, the categorical exclusions that the Court has said should exempt individuals from execution due to lessened culpability."

(source: UPI)


Just 16 counties are fueling America's use of the death penalty

Just 16 counties in the US are driving the use of the death penalty, despite a nationwide movement away from the sentence, a new report from the Harvard Law School's Fair Punishment Project has found.

The "outlier counties" - scattered throughout Alabama, Florida, California, Louisiana, Nevada, Texas, and Arizona - have each imposed five or more death sentences between 2010 and 2015, a major departure from the overall downward trend in death penalty use since it peaked in 1996 with 315.

The report determined that the reasons behind the counties' deviation can be boiled down to 3 "structural failures" that they tend to have in common: overzealous prosecutors, inadequate defense lawyers, and racial bias and exclusion.

The outcomes of these sentencings, according to the report, regularly resulted in wrongful convictions and excessive punishment of young people, or those who suffer from mental illnesses or disabilities.

"Studies have shown [death sentences] to be extremely expensive, prone to error, applied in discriminatory ways, and imposed upon the most vulnerable, rather than the most culpable people," the report said.

For instance, in Maricopa County, Arizona, the report found that a disproportionate 57% of those sentenced to death between 2010 and 2015 were people of color. The county is notable for drawing national scrutiny in recent days - its sheriff, Joe Arpaio, was referred by a federal judge for criminal contempt charges last week after he allegedly failed to abide by a court order meant to prevent his office from racially profiling Latinos.

Arpaio has been accused by the Department of Justice of overseeing the "worst pattern of racial profiling by a law enforcement agency in US history."

The report also looked into Duval County, Florida, where 87% of its death sentences since 2010 have been used on African-American defendants. The report attributed much of the county's outlier status to State Attorney Angela Corey, who is currently campaigning for re-election and was dubbed the "cruelest prosecutor in America" last week by The Nation magazine.

Corey slammed the Fair Sentencing Project's statistics as being unfair in an interview with the Florida Times-Union on Tuesday.

The study's focus on 16 counties hearkens back to Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer's dissent in the 2015 Glossip v. Gross case, in which he pegged geography as being a major factor in determining which defendants are sentenced to death.

"Within a death penalty State, the imposition of the death penalty heavily depends on the county in which a defendant is tried," Breyer wrote.

The report, released Tuesday, examined just 8 of the 16 counties, while a second report detailing the remaining eight is set to be released in September.

(source: Business Insider)


2 Prisoners Executed in Southern Iran

A prisoner on death row for drug related charges was reportedly hanged at Sirjan Prison (Kerman province, southcentral Iran), and 1 prisoner was reportedly hanged at Bandar Abbas Prison (Hormozgan province, southern Iran) on unknown charges.

According to the unoffocial news source, Baloch Activists Campaign, a prisoner identified as Reza Naruee was hanged on the morning of Thursday August 18 on drug related charges. The group also reports on the execution of a prisoner, identified as Habib Jamalhezi (pictured below), at Bandar Abbas Prison on Sunday August 21 on unknown charges.

Iranian official sources, including the media and Judiciary, have been silent on these 2 executions.

Earlier, Iran Human Rights had reported on the public execution of 2 prisoners at Saheli Boulevard in Bandar Abbas on rape charges.The executions were reportedly carried out on the morning of Wednesday August 17 in front of a crowd of people.

(source: NCR-Iran)


Annul death sentence for Mir Quasem Ali----A group of UN human rights experts urges Bangladesh

A group of United Nations human rights experts yesterday urged the Bangladesh government to annul the death sentence of Jamaat-e-Islami central executive council member Mir Quasem Ali and to retry him in compliance with international standards.

Quasem was sentenced to death in 2014 by the International Crimes Tribunal for crimes against humanity committed during the Liberation War in 1971. The decision was upheld by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in March this year.

The experts' request has come as the SC prepares to hear the review appeal of Quasem today, according to a UN press release issued in Geneva yesterday.

"Ali's trial and appeal processes were reportedly marred with irregularities and failed to meet international standards on fair trial and due process for the imposition of the death penalty," noted the UN experts on extrajudicial executions, independence of the judiciary, torture, arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances.

"International law, accepted as binding by Bangladesh, provides that capital punishment may only be imposed following trials that comply with the most stringent requirements of fair trial and due process, or could otherwise be considered an arbitrary execution," they cautioned.

The UN human rights experts also expressed alarm at reports that Quasem's son and part of his legal defence team, Mir Ahmed Bin Quasem, was abducted from his home on August 9 by Bangladeshi security forces, two weeks before his father's review hearing.

"We understand that no information has been given on where he is being held, by whom or under what suspicion or charge. We urge the authorities to immediately disclose the whereabouts of Mir Quasem [Mir Ahmed Bin Quasem]," they said.

The experts are: Agnes Callamard, new UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Monica Pinto, UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers; Juan E Mendez, UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Setondji Roland Adjovi, current chairperson of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; and the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.

(source: The Daily Star)


Reprieve writes to Boris Johnson over British citizen's Ethiopian detention

Human rights group Reprieve has written to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in support of a British citizen on death row in Ethiopia, who they say continues to be refused access to a lawyer.

Andargachew Tsege, a prominent opposition political activist, was abducted by Ethiopian security forces from an international airport in 2014 and has been detained under an in absentia death sentence since then.

In June, then-Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond announced that he "received a commitment from the Prime Minister that Mr Tsege will be allowed access to independent legal advice".

However, Reprieve, which is assisting Mr Tsege, says that he has not received legal access and has even been denied even the writing materials he would need to request a lawyer.

Reprieve wrote to Mr Johnson on 11 August to alert him to the latest developments, but has yet to receive a reply.

Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said: "Andy was illegally sentenced to death while living in London, illegally kidnapped and rendered to Ethiopia where he has been held in unlawful detention for over 2 years.

"Not only are the Ethiopian authorities refusing him a lawyer - they won't even provide pen and paper so he can request one.

"The British Government must now recognise that Ethiopia is not serious about the rule of law, and demand that Andy is released immediately from his unlawful detention and returned to his family in London."



Christian Mother of 5 Asia Bibi's Death Sentence Appeal Date Finally Set by Pakistan's Supreme Court

Imprisoned Christian mother of of 5, Asia Bibi, is facing the death penalty after being accused of blasphemy in 2009 by angry Muslim women, who were upset that she drank from the same drinking water as them.

Pakistan's Supreme Court has finally set a court date for the final appeal hearing for Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of 5 who was sentenced to death in 2010 on accusations of blasphemy.

According to the Christian persecution watchdog agency International Christian Concern, Bibi, also known as Aasiya Noreen, will have her final appeal heard before the country's highest court during the second week in October.

"The Chief Justice [of] Pakistan has ordered that Asia Bibi's appeal be fixed in the second week of October for final hearing," Bibi's Supreme Court lawyer Saif-Ul-Malook told ICC. "I will appear before the Supreme Court of Pakistan and argue her case while she will remain in prison. I hope [the] result will be an acquittal."

Bibi's blasphemy allegation stems from an altercation in June 2009 that she had with a group of Muslim women in the town of Sheikhupura in the Punjab province. As the women were picking berries, a Muslim women became enraged when Bibi drank from the same water bowl that the Muslim women drank out of.

Since Bibi was a Christian, the women considered her unclean. After an argument between the women ensued, the Muslim women went to the police and accused Bibi of saying something along the lines of "My Christ died for me, what did Muhammad do for you?"

As Bibi has been sitting in prison for over 6 years, reports have indicated that the health of the 51-year-old mother has been deteriorating. A report from last June indicated that Bibi has had trouble walking and has also vomited up blood inside of her jail cell.

As the blasphemy law in Pakistan is often abused by Muslims to settle personal scores with Christians and other religious minorities, international religious freedom advocates have asserted that the charge against Bibi is trumped up and have called for the Pakistani government to immediately release her. The daughters of Asia Bibi with an image of their mother, standing outside their residence in Sheikhupura on November 13, 2010. Bibi originally appealed her death sentence to the Lahore High Court. After her appeal was delayed a total of seven times, the High Court finally held her hearing in October 2014. The death sentence was upheld.

After appealing to the Supreme Court, the court agreed last July to hear Bibi's case and suspended her death sentence.

"The case against Asia Bibi is one of the best examples of how Christians are abused in Pakistan by radicals wielding Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws," ICC's Regional Manager for South Asia William Stark said in a statement. "Threats from Islamic radical groups and general discrimination against Christians in Pakistan have transformed courts into little more than rubber stamps for blasphemy accusations brought against Christians, regardless of the evidence brought to bear in the case."

Should the Supreme Court uphold Bibi's death sentence, the only thing that can legally spare her from execution is a pardon from Pakistan's President Mamnoon Hussain.

"As a devout Christian she continues to believe God will free her from her ignominious incarceration. She prays daily and has placed her life and her family before God," Wilson Chowdhry, president of the London-based charity British Pakistani Christian Association, told The Christian Post.

"I have spoken to Pakistani government officials and the judiciary," he added. "All I have spoken to are shocked at the ongoing abuse of her liberty. Yet, her tragedy continues and I have come to the conclusion that all I have been receiving is diplomatic lip service, devoid of passion for justice."

BPCA has an online petition set up in support of Bibi, calling on the British government to use its influences to to pressure the Pakistani government to dismiss the case against Bibi and set her free. The petition has been signed by over 12,000 people.

"Freedom for Asia Bibi would be a watershed moment in the campaign for justice and freedom for minorities. Previous governments have failed miserably, but I believe the incumbent government is genuinely attempting to return the balance," Chowdhry continued. "I hope that effective protection is provided to Asia and her family, the judiciary and all persons that could make this latest appeal a success. Any half-hearted approach will undermine Asia's trial and create a blight on Pakistan's reputation."

According to Open Doors USA's World Watch List, Pakistan is ranked as the 6th worst country in the world when it comes to the persecution of Christians.

(source: Christian Post)


Spaniard Artur Segarra Prepares Defense after Demanding Change of Lawyer

Spanish national Artur Segarra, sole accused in the murder of fellow national David Bernat in the Thai capital, on Tuesday went to the courts to examine the evidence against him in the case, following his demand for a change of his court-appointed lawyer.

On Aug. 10 the accused asked the Rachadapisek Criminal Court to change his lawyer owing to discrepancies at the time of preparing his defense strategy and canceled a 2nd meeting scheduled for the next day with his current legal representative, Kasem Pahungmahaka.

The judge will decide Tuesday during a meeting whether he will accept or deny the request of Segarra.

Segarra has pleaded not guilty and denied the 13 charges against him on 2 occasions. If found guilty of premeditated murder, he may be awarded the death penalty.

On Oct. 17, Segarra will appear in court for a preparatory hearing of the trial, which will begin on Dec. 1 and is expected to continue until February.

The Prosecutor's office has 23 days to record the statements of the 95 witnesses and present the evidence that proves the crime while Segarra's lawyers will get 1 day - Feb. 24 - for Segarra's testimony and defense.

Segarra is facing charges of kidnapping, robbery, extortion, falsification of documents, destruction of evidence, murder and the subsequent dismembering of Bernat's body.

According to police, investigators found traces of Bernat's blood in a plumbing pipe in the flat Segarra had rented in Bangkok and where the murder is believed to have taken place.

The police also found numerous images of Segarra and Bernat together before the latter disappeared, as well as video footage of him stealing cash from the victim and buying material with which he is believed to have committed the alleged crime.

The first parts of Bernat's corpse were found floating in the Chao Phraya River, which runs through Bangkok, around 10 days after he arrived in Thailand on Jan. 19 from Iran, where he often went on business trips. It is believed he was kidnapped by Segarra a day later.

Segarra was arrested on Feb. 7 in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, where he had fled 2 days earlier and was handed over to Thai authorities a day later.

(source: Latin American Herald Tribuine)


Extend moratorium on executions to all offences, urges Madpet

Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) is happy that Malaysia has 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 representative, was recently reported saying, "Malaysia's moratorium, I understand, is only for drug trafficking cases" (The Star, 10 July 2016).

It must be noted that the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) also reiterated on 29 March 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 21 June 2016, the minister in the prime minister's department, did state that Malaysia would soon be amending 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 had 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 were 1,041 persons on death row. Based on the statistics revealed in 2011, when the number on death row was 696 (as at 22 February 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 those who may be on death row are there for mandatory death penalty offences.

There are at least 10 offences in Malaysian laws that carry the mandatory death penalty; only three are for offences that result in the death of the victim - murder [sec 302, Penal Code], terrorist acts where the act results in death [sec 130C (1)(a), Penal Code]; and hostage-taking where the act results in death [sec. 374(a) Penal Code].

For all the other mandatory death penalty offences, death does not result, namely drug trafficking (sec 39B, Dangerous Drugs Act 1952) and 6 types of offences listed in the schedule of the Firearms (Increased Penalties) Act 1971, which include robbery, kidnapping, extortion and house trespass.

The existence of the mandatory death penalty for offences that do not result in death, such as in the Firearms (Increased Penalties) Act 1971, only unnecessarily increases the risk of victims and/or witnesses to these crimes being killed by perpetrators to avoid the mandatory death penalty.

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 resolutions, the 1st in 2007 and the last being in 2014, which called for "a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty".

Every time, these resolutions have been tabled, the number of countries that have voted in favour has been increasing, demonstrating that the global trend is towards abolition.

Malaysia has every reason to be proud of the fact that it has been considering abolition and has 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 as 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. The 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 the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (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 legislation that will see the abolition of the mandatory death penalty; and MADPET urges Malaysia to abolish the death penalty.



Man who killed, cut up brother's wife gets death sentence

A court in Ho Chi Minh City on Wednesday sentenced a man to death for killing his sister-in-law and dismembered her body in 2014.

Dang Van Tuan, 42, was charged with strangling Bui My Hanh, 43, to death in September 2014. He then mutilated her body with a knife in their house in District 1, HCMC, and dumped the parts in different streets.

Tuan had moved into the home of his brother Dang Van Thanh and his common-law wife Hanh in March 2014, after serving a 7-year prison term for pushing drug.

Tuan and Hanh, who were both methamphetamine addicts, soon were engaged in an illicit affair.

In August 2014, however, they had conflict after Hanh found out Tuan had an intimate relationship with another woman. They were often involved in heated quarrels.

Tuan said at the trial that on Sep. 28, 2014, when they were alone using drug at home, Hanh continued to insult him and threatened to have thugs attack him and his relatives.

Tuan said he went mad and hit her in the head with a kitchen pestle. Hanh fell on her back but was still alive. Tuan strangled her to death.

He then slashed his wrists in a suicide attempt but failed.

Tuan said he "covered Hanh's body with a blanket and continued to stay and used meth in the house for 2 more days."

On Sep. 30, Tuan dismembered Hanh's corpse and placed the parts in several plastic sacks. Early the next day, he dumped them at the mouth of a nearby alley on Vo Van Kiet St., and buried Hanh's head under a bridge in District 6, before returning home.

Residents in the alley discovered the dismembered corpse in the same morning and reported to local police. As the news spread, Tuan's neighbors also reported to the police about the suspicious stench emanating from his house.

When they arrived at Tuan's house, he again attempted to commit suicide by slashing his wrists, but were saved by the police.

In his last words at the trial, Tuan said he knew he was guilty, and so it was fair that "a life for a life." He appologized to Hanh's mother and insisted that the court hand him the death penalty.

(source: Thanh Nien News)


2 Vietnamese drug traffickers get death sentence

A Vietnamese court on Tuesday handed down 2 death sentences and 6 life imprisonment sentences on local drug traffickers.

The Ho Chi Minh City People's Court gave the death sentences to 29-year-old Tran Tuan An and 30-year-old Le Nguyen Hoang Anh. The court also handed down life imprisonment sentences to 6 local people, and jail terms of 3 to 20 years to 6 other defendants.

According to the indictment, from March to June 2013, the 14 defendants bought and sold 213 cakes of heroin weighing over 70 kg in some provinces and cities.

According to Vietnamese law, those convicted of smuggling over 600 grams of heroin or more than 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine are punishable by death. Making or trading 100 grams of heroin or 300 grams of other illegal drugs also faces death penalty.

(source: Xinhua News)

AUGUST 23, 2016:


Man accused in death of Metro PCS employee awaits Florida's death penalty ruling

Florida's death penalty debate has delayed the trial of the man accused of killing 20-year-old Shelby Farah.

Florida's death penalty was ruled unconstitutional.

Darlene Farah, the victim's mother, said coming to these court appearances are draining. The case is expected to go to trial in the spring.

As courts await instruction a Duval County judge said Monday that the trial against James Rhodes won't happen before next April.

Farah was killed in 2013 while working at a Northside Metro PCS store. Darlene Farah believes if Rhodes is convicted, he should be in prison for life without the possibility of parole or opportunity to appeal.

Farah hopes a new state attorney will take office and reconsider her plea.

Rhodes is scheduled to be back in court on Oct. 24.

As courts await jury instruction from the Supreme Court for Florida's death penalty cases, death penalty cases similar to Rhodes continue to see delays.



Allen Ivanov pleads not guilty to killing 3 teens, wounding a 4th at Mukilteo party

The quiet of the courtroom was interrupted by the sound of anguish when accused killer Allen Ivanov faced a judge on Monday.

Ivanov, 19, pleaded not guilty to all charges, as the families of the teenage victims sat just 3 seats behind him.

Police say Ivanov confessed to plotting the mass shooting for days, fueled by jealous rage after his ex-girlfriend Anna Bui refused to get back with him. Police say Ivanov hid behind a bush outside a Mukilteo house party attended by his ex-girlfriend for 2 hours, spying on party-goers, before he opened fire.

Detectives say Ivanov shot and killed 19-year-old Jake Long first, after Jake stumbled upon Ivanov hiding.

Then, police say, Ivanov stormed the house, killing Jordan Ebner and Anna Bui, both 19. Will Kramer, an 18-year-old who was also shot during the rampage, survived his wounds.

A prosecutor sought a no-contact order between the defendant and Kramer as well as family members of the other victims.

Kramer's dad was one of the parents who showed up to court, listening in as 5 counts of charges were read out loud.

The prosecution could decide to seek the death penalty. The defense has until December to provide any mitigating circumstances to persuade the prosecution not to seek the death penalty.

Detectives say Ivanov started getting jealous after seeing images of Anna and Kramer on social media. Detectives say Ivanov texted 2 of his friends prior the shootings about going through with the killings.

One text message read

"I hate Anna I need revenge."

"I'm 2 minutes from shooting."

But those friends never warned police,

Now 3 young lives are gone and the pain is indescribable.

Jake Long's mom, Autumn Snider, wrote on her Facebook page: "I was supposed to send you back off to college, not have your funeral. I miss you so much. The pain is like nothing I can even put into words. It's all consuming, constant and runs from my head to my toes."

Snider says she hopes the prosecution will seek the death penalty.

Anna Bui's father was not in court, telling Q13 News it's simply too painful to attend, and that he will leave it up to the court to determine Ivanov's punishment.

(source: Fox news)


No Time For Trump: Killing Off The Death Penalty

The death penalty exoneration reported in the New York Times contained the customary horrors.

In 1983, police in rural North Carolina arrested 2 mentally-disabled African-American teenage half-brothers for the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl. After hours of interrogation without a lawyer, the oldest brother cracked under threats of execution, signing a confession written by police. Then, bewildered, he asked his interrogators: "Can I go home now?"

He never did. Confronted with the coerced confession after hours of the same unrelenting pressure, the intellectually disabled 15-year-old brother signed a confession of his own.

At trial, both recanted their confessions, the only evidence against them. But a Bible-thumping prosecutor later known as America's "deadliest DA" sought the death penalty. The jury sent them to death row.

In 1994, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case. In dissent, Justice Harry Blackmun noted that the older brother had the mental age of a nine-year-old. "This factor alone," he wrote, "persuades me that the death penalty in this case is unconstitutional."

After 30 years, pro bono lawyers pressed for DNA testing of a cigarette butt found near the victim's body. The testing matched the DNA on the cigarette to a man with a history of sexual assaults who lived a block from where the body was found. A man who - only weeks after the murder - had confessed to the rape and murder of an 18-year-old girl in the same town. Remarkably, the local police had never questioned him about the strikingly similar crime for which the brothers were sentenced to death.

In 2014, the brothers were released - 31 years too late.

This case typifies the reason that the 2016 platform of the Democratic Party states succinctly: "We will abolish the death penalty, which has proven to be a cruel and unusual punishment. It has no place in the United States of America." But If Donald Trump becomes president, we will have more such cases - many more.

Trump is a longtime death penalty enthusiast who has committed to expanding its reach. This despite all the evidence that its application is unconscionable - entrapping the innocent, and disproportionately ensnaring the poor and the miserable, while bypassing those whose guilt is often greater.

Start with the innocent. By March of this year, the number of official death row exonerations reached 156. The reasons are not hard to pinpoint.

First, race. In almost 80 % of the cases where the defendant is executed, the victim was white. In contrast, the majority of death row inmates - that is, the 10 % of defendants eligible for the death penalty who actually receive it - are black or Latino.

To this add the most dire personal hardship. The biographies of death row inmates are numbingly similar: fetal alcohol syndrome, organic brain damage, medical inattention, economic and educational deprivation, and repeated familial beatings, torture and sexual abuse which makes mere parental neglect enviable by comparison. In itself, the laser-like focus of our death penalty on those who suffer society's most terrible conditions exposes its inescapable inequity.

Cement all this with terrible lawyers. Routinely, the disadvantaged get the defense that they can pay for.

A review of death row cases documents the inevitable results. Lawyers who are overworked, inexperienced, unprepared and underpaid. An absence of vital expert witnesses. Forensic or scientific evidence which is botched or phony. A failure to investigate facts essential to the defense.

But not all of the distortions of justice are inadvertent. Add police and prosecutors who, unchecked by a zealous defense, run roughshod at trial and, at times, withhold potentially exculpatory evidence. Or "eyewitnesses" who are vengeful or mistaken. Or crafty snitches who shift blame to the defendant in exchange for a lighter sentence. Or, in some cases, all of this.

There is no way to redeem these miscarriages. Far from being a magic bullet, DNA exonerations expose but the tip of the death penalty's dark iceberg. Contrary to popular delusion, DNA evidence is available in less than 10 % of murders - steel bullets, which account for the majority of killings, do not create human DNA. The only question is how often we have buried our mistakes.

This is, perhaps, the ultimate price of a regime so blatantly discriminatory: while it unerringly selects the underprivileged, it does not exclude the innocent. But the American system is specifically engineered to ensure that those are convicted stay convicted, guilty or not.

This is the dirty secret which few of us understand.

In 1996, responding to the widespread perception that death sentences were being unreasonably delayed by last-minute legal maneuvers, Congress passed the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act - AEDPA. Its aim is to place "finality" of sentencing and execution above the risk of executing the wrong person.

If "effective" means putting the innocent to death, AEDPA is an indubitable success. Once convicted a defendant can present new evidence of innocence only through a habeas corpus petition - the very remedy AEDPA seeks to curb. And its effects on habeas corpus are draconian.

Suppose that a defense lawyer uncovers persuasive new evidence that the man about to die is, quite possibly, innocent. Under AEDPA, that is not nearly enough to prevent his execution. Instead, the new evidence must be so "clear and convincing" that no reasonable jury would now convict him of murder.

"Reasonable doubt" no longer applies. 50-50 does not pass the test. Even "more likely not" won't do it. In short, AEDPA reverses the burden of proof.

And yet, unbelievably, even if the defendant musters "clear and convincing evidence of innocence," the state can still execute him.

Why? Because AEDPA erects yet more barriers against the use of this new evidence.

First, the evidence is barred if his original lawyer could have discovered it had they been reasonably diligent. So if the lawyer who defended him was too incompetent or inexperienced or just plain lazy to uncover what he should have found, the prisoner is out of luck.

Second, even if the exculpatory evidence could not have been found before conviction, it is still barred if the reviewing court finds that the original trial was "constitutionally fair." Chilling as it it may seem, a man who newly discovered evidence appears to vindicate can nonetheless be executed if the trial which convicted him - however wrongly - is deemed "fair."

Under AEDPA, this is hardly a daunting standard. The most common claim of unfairness is that the defendant's lawyer was so grossly inadequate that this denied his client a fair trial. And drunks and drug addicts and lawyers who fell asleep at crucial moments have been found good enough to get their client executed.

"The certainty that we have executed many hundreds of innocent people should cause us to recoil."

But stop and consider the resulting Catch-22. If the defendant had a lawyer bad enough to pass test 2 - that his trial was unfair - then he probably has failed test 1: very often the new evidence could have been discovered by more diligent lawyer.

Yet even if a defendant clears every one of these hurdles, another barrier awaits. In order to get a hearing to consider the new evidence, he needs the approval of the federal court overseeing his case. If the court turns him down - no matter how arbitrary the reason - he is barred from appealing.

In other words, he's dead. If his claim was presented before, no matter how badly - or incompletely - he's dead. And even if the U.S. Supreme Court hands down a new rule of law which would prevent his execution were he tried today, it does not matter unless the Court expressly applies the rule to habeas corpus petitions. Otherwise, he's dead.

Truly, this is justice in a fun house mirror - Franz Kafka as executioner.

That should haunt us all. And the certainty that we have executed many hundreds of innocent people should cause us to recoil. As Justice William Brennan once wrote: "It is tempting to pretend that those on death row share a fate in no way connected to our own... Such an illusion is ultimately corrosive, for the reverberations of justice are not so easily confined... [ T]he way in which we choose who will die reveals the depth of moral commitment among the living."

Instead, the way we choose who will die betrays a moral blindness, a preference for punishment as palliative which allows the ills of our society to permeate the gravest judgment we can make about a fellow human - that we are entitled to take his life. And with this, all too often, comes class bias - the idea that these people are not like us, and therefore should be of no concern.

A word of personal honesty, for the death penalty can never be a bloodless subject.

Many occupants of death row have committed murders too hideous to describe here. Were the victim a member of my family, I would be gripped by the desire for vengeance. But society does not owe me that. The loss of a loved one cannot be redeemed - not this way, not through this system. For the error and injustice embedded within is rooted in human flaws beyond our power to abolish.

But, state-by-state, it is within our power as citizens to abolish the death penalty. And it is within the power of the Supreme Court to bar it all together - yet another reason to care about which president appoints our justices, and which party has now committed to ridding us of capital punishment.

This last point is crucial. A Supreme Court ruling would bar the federal government from imposing capital punishment, a step Congress is unlikely to take. And the states most enthusiastic about the death penalty - Texas, Missouri, Georgia and Florida - have the least qualms about its inequity. In particular, Texas - which leads the country in death row exonerations - continues to briskly execute its prisoners.

In the near term, these and other states are no more likely to abolish the death penalty than are countries like China, North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. When it comes to capital punishment its advocates, typically conservative, forget that it is something they scorn in other contexts - a government program. So the question is whether the federal government or any state can constitutionally maintain a regime of death so discriminatory and prone to lethal error.

"In crucial areas of the law, much may depend on who takes Antonin Scalia’s place. Including whether America, like Yemen or North Korea, continues to execute the innocent."

Here, again, the death of Antonin Scalia looms. On the Court, no one advocated the death penalty more fiercely; no one was more cavalier about the prospect - indeed, the certainty - of wrongful executions. To read his opinions on the subject is to wonder at the callousness, smugness and sheer self-satisfaction which so blithely permeates his prose. But his unwonted exuberance may have had an unwanted result - pushing his colleagues closer to abolition.

Before Scalia's demise, a 5 to 4 Republican majority upheld Oklahoma's lethal injection protocol. In dissent, Justice Breyer, joined by Justice Ginsburg, questioned the death penalty as a whole. "Today's administration of the death penalty," Breyer wrote, "involves three fundamental constitutional defects: serious unreliability, arbitrariness in application, and unconscionably long delays that undermine [it's] penological purpose."

Now Donald Trump has offered us a list of prospective nominees to fill the vacancy Scalia left. All are hard-line conservatives, all but certain to uphold this shameful aspect of our justice system. In this way, as in others, Trump has promised to perpetuate Scalia's dubious legacy.

In crucial areas of the law, much may depend on who takes Antonin Scalia's place. Including whether America, like Yemen or North Korea, continues to execute the innocent.

In murderous dictatorships, we find that unacceptable. And so we should at home.

(source: Richard North Patterson, Huffington Post)


Fact checking the race for state attorney

If you've been watching TV this month, you can't get away from them: negative ads. Especially with the Fourth Circuit State Attorney's race.

All of these attack ads are from PACs that back certain candidates. None of them paid for by the campaigns.

"William Wells, aka the Monster of Mayport brutally murdered 5 people, promising to kill again. Despite repeated plea to be executed, Nelson helped waive the death penalty," that's the text from an ad attacking Melissa Nelson.

That claim is True. Attorney Melissa Nelson was in charge of the case.

After the family of the victims said they did not want the death penalty, prosecutors made sure that Wells was given 5 life sentences in prison.

The attack ad went on to say, "that same year, Wells stabbed a man 21 times. Then successfully murdered another."

The stabbing victim and the murder victim were both fellow inmates.


Angela Corey claims she's tough, the record says something different," according to an ad attacking current State Attorney Angela Corey.

Corey has been in office since 2008. She is known for pushing for the death penalty. Her office is currently 3rd in the state in convictions, but she is not popular with some.

Just before the August deadline, hundreds of Democrats switched party affiliation with many of them saying they did it to vote against Corey in the Republican only primary.

"Corey dropped carjacking charges against this man who went back on the street. With the freedom provided by Angela Cory's failure, he committed another robbery and murder," the attack ad claimed.

That claim is True according to our news-partner the Florida Times-Union.

The article said back in 2009 prosecutors regretted not doing more to re-contact the victim in the carjacking to ensure he would continue to cooperate. It said that was the key in dropping charges against Trumaine Branch.


Wes White is also running for State Attorney. He had no ads attacking him that air on TV.



26 years later, family of murder victims want justice

In 1990, Anthony Carr and Robert Simon Junior broke into a family's home in Quitman County, raped a 9-year-old girl and shot her parents and 12-year-old brother before burning the house down.

Today, 26 years later, those men are still on death row.

"We want justice," Scott Parker said. Scott is one of the surviving sons of Carl and Bobby Jo Parker, who Carr and Simon murdered. "It's not going to bring my family back - nothing ever will. But we need some closure, one way or another."

Carr and Simon have sought appeals for their quadruple homicide charges and had their executions stayed for 26 years.

And now, family members of those killed are speaking out.

Simon's appeal was that he suffered memory loss after a head injury.

"There's 40 or 50-something death row inmates," added Scott. "Every one of them could say they bumped their head."

Carr has escaped lethal injection by claiming mental retardation.

Dane Parker, Carl and Bobby Jo Parker's other surviving son, maintains the killer's IQ was high enough to carefully preserve a ceiling fan while stealing it in 1990.

"They knew what they were doing," said Dane. "They were so precise in what they were doing. Like I said, they were saving wire nuts, so they knew to save them, so they could put the fans back up."

The Death Penalty Information Center says the average time between sentencing and execution of an inmate was nearly 16 years in 2012.

Both Carr and Simon are still listed by the Mississippi Department of Corrections as "active" prisoners with no scheduled date for their executions.

(source: WDAM news)


Ohio inmate who survived '09 execution appeals to high court

A condemned Ohio killer who survived a 2009 botched execution is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to declare that a second attempt to put him to death would be unconstitutional.

Lawyers for death row inmate Romell Broom argue that giving the state prisons agency a 2nd chance would amount to cruel and unusual punishment and double jeopardy.

A divided Ohio Supreme Court rejected Broom's arguments in March. Broom's attorneys appealed that ruling earlier this month to the U.S. Supreme Court and filed notice of that appeal on Monday with the state court.

The state stopped Broom's execution after 2 hours when executioners failed to find a usable vein following 18 attempts to insert needles.

The 60-year-old Broom is only the 2nd inmate in U.S. history to survive an attempted execution.

(source: Associated Press)


Missouri Man's Death Penalty Appeal Draws National Interest

A man convicted of raping a Missouri mom and then slaughtering her and her two kids needs more money to get a fair shot at appeal.

That's according to some of the nation's top legal defense organizations, who have rallied around the case, saying that the federal court needs to release more money or risk a serious miscarriage of justice.

Mark Christeson, now 37, was saved from execution in 2014 when the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in to order that lower courts appoint new attorneys to represent him.

Attorneys from five legal organizations, including the newly opened St. Louis office of the MacArthur Justice Center, filed briefs last week in support of Christeson's case. The defense lawyers argue a federal judge in Missouri's western district subverted the high court's order when he approved just $10,000 of defense lawyers' $161,000 budget request - money they say is needed in part because of Christeson's "severe cognitive disabilities."

Even if all the defense attorneys worked for free, U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple's meager appropriation wouldn't be enough to pay for even 1 neuropsychologist, one of several key experts needed for the death penalty case, the organizations argued.

"When death is on the line, such opportunities for review cannot be so curtly denied," lawyers for the organization wrote in the brief.

Christeson was convicted in 1999 of 3 counts of 1st-degree murder in the killings of Susan Brouk, 12-year-old daughter Adrian and 9-year-old son Kyle.

Christeson, then 18, and his 17-year-old cousin, Jessie Carter, ambushed the young family with shotguns in January 1998 at the family's trailer outside of Vichy, a small town about 15 miles north of Rolla.

Christeson forced Susan Brouk into a bedroom and raped her on her daughter's bed. When Brouk's daughter recognized Carter, Christeson decided they needed to kill them all, according to a summary from the state Supreme Court. The cousins forced the 3 into Susan Brouk's Bronco and loaded it with her television, VCR, car stereo, video game player, checkbook and other small items.

Christeson drove them to a neighbor's pond where he forced them out of the car and kicked Susan Brouk to the ground.

"Christeson then placed his foot on her mid-section, and reached down and cut her throat with a bone knife," according to the court summary.

Brouk was barely alive on the banks of the pond when Christeson slit her son's throat twice and held the boy under water until he drowned. Christeson then pressed Adrian's windpipe shut while Carter held her legs.

The cousins pitched all 3 bodies into the pond before driving off in the Bronco. Christeson and Carter's plan all along had been to run away from a sexually abusive relative, and they drove south, crossing through Texas before heading west.

They sold the Brouks' possessions along the way and eventually landed in California, where they were arrested and hauled back to Missouri to face murder charges. Carter testified against Christeson and was spared the death penalty as a result.

Christeson was convicted of the murders in state court and sentenced to die. His court-appointed attorneys missed the deadline to appeal to the federal court by more than 100 days, a serious error they claimed had been a miscalculation.

Attorneys from Saint Louis University's newly formed Death Penalty Project reviewed the case and asked the court to remove Christeson's lawyers, who would have needed to argue against their own work to properly defend their client. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed that it would be a conflict of interest and intervened in 2014, just hours before Christeson was to be executed.

It was an impressive accomplishment for the SLU group, but adjunct professors Joseph Perkovich and Jennifer Merrigan, both of the nonprofit law firm Phillips Black, have argued the U.S. District Court's later decision to slash the defense team's requested budget by more than 90 % keeps Christeson's new lawyers from giving him the defense his old lawyers didn't.

Mae Quinn, director of the MacArthur Justice Center of St. Louis, agrees. She says it's particularly troubling in Missouri, where the state's top public defender recently assigned Gov. Jay Nixon a case in hopes of highlighting Missouri's abysmal funding of legal representation for poor clients.

"Of course, the context in Missouri, where we have such high execution rates, where we have lack of transparency around the death penalty, where we have lack of resources generally in our public defender system - I mean this case presents so many of those things," Quinn says.

The National Association for Public Defense, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, National Legal Aid and Defender Association and American Bar Association have all supported the push to better fund Christeson's defense.

The lawyers argue any death penalty case is complicated and costly, and this one has added elements of Christeson's cognitive disabilities. Sexually abused nearly from birth by relatives, including both parents, he comes from a central Missouri family filled with generations of incest and pedophilia, his attorneys say.

Numerous relatives have been convicted over the years of sexually assaulting children in the family. The defense attorneys say experts are needed to determine Christeson's mental state at the time of the killings.

"Lawyers can't just talk about that," Quinn says. "You need experts and evaluations and evidence to support your claims."



Nebraska death penalty opponents unveil new television ad

Nebraska death penalty opponents are airing a new television ad in their campaign to keep capital punishment off the books.

The group Retain a Just Nebraska unveiled the 30-second television spot on Monday.

The ad features Republican state Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln, a leading death penalty opponent. Coash argues in the ad that the state resources spent on capital punishment should be put toward other uses, such as crime victims, roads and schools.

The ad notes that Nebraska hasn't executed a prisoner since 1997.

Lawmakers abolished the death penalty in May 2015 over Gov. Pete Ricketts' veto. Capital punishment supporters launched a petition drive that prevented the law from going into effect until voters decide whether to overturn the Legislature's repeal vote in the November election.

(source: Associated Press)


It's time to bring back death penalty for cop killers and child murderers

At this time, all of their accused killers are safe from facing the death penalty in New Mexico.

That could change. And it should.

Gov. Susana Martinez is calling for lawmakers to reinstate the death penalty in New Mexico for murderers of police officers and children.

"A society that fails to adequately protect and defend those who protect all of us is a society that will be undone and unsafe," she said in a statement last Wednesday.

Capital punishment had been on the books for a number of years in New Mexico and applied to the most serious crimes, such as killing a police or corrections officer on duty, as well as murder committed during attempted kidnapping or rape or criminal sexual contact of a child.

But New Mexico repealed capital punishment in 2009 when former Gov. Bill Richardson signed legislation replacing it with a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

After taking office in 2011, Martinez supported legislation to reimpose the death penalty, but it didn't make it through the Democratic-controlled Legislature. Since then, it has not been part of her legislative agenda - until now.

And that could send a deadly serious message to violent criminals who think nothing of taking the life of law enforcement officers dedicated to protecting the rest of us. People like members of the prison gang Syndicato de Nuevo Mexico who allegedly conspired to kill state Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel and his Security Threat Intelligence Unit chief Dwayne Santiestevan.

For officers Jose Chavez - who was laid to rest this weekend - Daniel Webster and Gregg Benner, and innocent Ashlynne Mike, their lives matter. Lawmakers should set this right when they convene in January.

(source: This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.)


New Mexico's bishops reject governor's plan to reinstate death penalty

The Catholic bishops of New Mexico in an Aug. 18 statement said they oppose Republican Gov. Susana Martinez's plan to reinstate the death penalty and called on the Legislature to reject it.

The bishops recalled that when the Legislature in March 2009 repealed "the morally untenable practice of the death penalty," they applauded the move, calling it "a milestone" that was "moving New Mexico from a culture of violence to a culture of peace, justice and love."

"The state created life in prison without the possibility of parole. This renders a perpetrator harmless to society," they said.

"In one voice, (we) once again echo the teaching of the church that life is sacred," the New Mexico bishops said. "There is one seamless teaching on God's gift of life that must be protected from conception in the womb to natural death. It is always tragic and sad when a member of the community is murdered.

"These senseless acts must be prevented by calling for systemic change in society beginning with our youngest children. Crime can be prevented, and this is done by an investment in social capital," they said.

On Aug. 17, Martinez said she will push for reinstating the death penalty during the 2017 legislative session. She was prompted to call for resuming capital punishment after the recent shooting of a Hatch police officer. She said she supports the death penalty at least for convicted child killers and those convicted of murdering law enforcement officers.

She supported a measure to reinstate the death penalty shortly after she was elected governor in 2011, but the bill died in Democratic-majority Legislature.

The New Mexico bishops' quoted the Catechism of the Catholic Church and St. John Paul II in saying that cases where it is "an absolute necessity" for the state to employ the death penalty to ensure the safety of the community "are very rare, if not practically nonexistent."

"We join Pope Francis in his continued call to end the practice of the death penalty," the bishops said. "Pope Benedict and St. Pope John Paul II both worked diligently to end the death penalty throughout the world. The trend in the United States has now been to abandon the use of the death penalty. In the last 5 years, 5 states have passed legislation to repeal their death penalty law."

The statement was signed by Archbishop John C. Wester and retired Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan of Santa Fe; Bishop Oscar Cantu and retired Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of Las Cruces; and Bishop James S. Wall of Gallup.

(source: Catholic News Service)


State Supreme Court overturns death penalty in Shasta County slaying

The California Supreme Court has overturned a death penalty sentencing of a man convicted of murdering a 98-year-old Shasta County woman in 1995.

In a 4-3 ruling, the justices determined statements made by one of the defendants in the killing should have been allowed during the penalty phase of the trial of Gary Grimes of Modesto.

Those statements could have swayed a jury in the penalty phase because they indicate Grimes did not participate in the killing, the court said in the ruling issued Monday.

Grimes, John William Morris and Patrick James Wilson, were all arrested and charged with stabbing and strangling Betty Elizabeth Bone during a home invasion robbery in October 1995.

Morris, then 20 years old, killed himself in the Shasta County Jail shortly after his arrest in connection to the case. But before dying, Morris told a witness that he killed Bone, not Grimes or Wilson.

Morris told another inmate in jail that he killed Bone, but the other 2 were in the house during the murder but did not participate, the ruling says.

Those statements were not allowed at trial.

Another witness, whose testimony was allowed, said Grimes played a leadership role in the killing.

"The excluded statements would have given the defense a substantial basis for countering the prosecutor's argument," says the ruling, written by Justice Leondra R. Kruger.

While the court did not overturn Grimes' murder conviction, the justices ordered resentencing in the case. The state Supreme Court upheld the death penalty sentence in January 2015, but after justices Mariano-Florentino Cuellar and Kruger were sworn in the case was reconsidered.

Both Cuellar and Kruger voted in favor of reversing the death penalty.

Dennis Sheehy, who was district attorney at the time, notified Grimes' attorney that he would not seek the death penalty.

"Because defendant was not the actual killer, District Attorney Sheehy did not believe that a jury would impose the death penalty," the ruling says.

However, Sheehy resigned that year and his successor, MacGregor Scott, decided to seek the death penalty against Grimes. He was sentenced to death by former Shasta County Superior Court Judge Bradley Boeckman in 1999.



Decision on death penalty in Mukilteo shooting months away

A Mukilteo man accused of storming a house party last month, killing his ex-girlfriend and 2 others, pleaded not guilty to 5 criminal counts on Monday.

Allen Ivanov, 19, is accused with killing Anna Bui, Jacob Long and Jordan Ebner.

Ivanov allegedly texted a friend before the shooting to say that he was angry at Bui, his ex, for moving on. He texted the same friend a photo of an assault weapon and said that he planned to kill Bui and possibly others, according to charging documents filed in Snohomish County Superior Court on Friday.

Around midnight on July 30, Ivanov watched the house party before going inside. Ivanov's 1st victim was Long - who said "no, no, no!" before being shot, charges said.

Ivanov then shot and wounded William Kramer and tried to shoot Alex Levin. Ebner was slain next and Bui last, charges said.

Ivanov shot at Tristan Bratvold and Alex Levin as the 2 men tried to escape the house party, charges said.

Ivanov told police he bought the gun he used several days before the slayings, charges said. When investigators asked him about Bui moving on he said. "I felt like it wasn't necessarily fair to me," according to charges.

In court Monday, Ivanov said very little. He entered a quiet plea of not guilty to the 5 charges - 3 counts of aggravated murder and 2 counts of attempted 1st-degree murder.

Since the charge of aggravated murder could result in a possible death sentence Superior Court Judge Thomas Wynne ordered Ivanov to remain at the Snohomish County Jail without bail. Prosecutors say they have not yet decided whether to seek the death penalty.

"The defense will have until Dec. 19 to submit materials to try and convince Mr. Roe that there are sufficient mitigating circumstances to merit leniency in this case," Snohomish County Deputy Prosecutor Adam Cornell said during Monday's arraignment hearing.

Tim Leary, one of Ivanov's 4 lawyers, told Wynne that he's concerned 4 months might not be enough time for their team to compile a complete death penalty mitigation package for the prosecution.

(source: KOMO news)


Efforts to end death penalty gain steam

After nearly 2 decades of declining use, opponents of the death penalty have begun what they characterize as a sustained legislative and political push to end capital punishment in states across the country.

Voters in California and Nebraska will decide this year whether to end the death penalty.

Legislators appear poised to end capital punishment in states as different as deep-blue Delaware and ruby-red Utah. And public opinion polls show that while a majority of Americans still back executions for those convicted of murder, that majority is shrinking.

"The growing opposition to the death penalty is evident among every demographic group. You see the same type of patterns among all age groups, among all races, among all religions and among every political affiliation," said Robert Dunham, who runs the Death Penalty Information Center, a group that advocates for an end to capital punishment.

At the presidential level, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both support the death penalty. But Trump hasn't discussed the issue in detail, and Clinton at a debate earlier this year suggested she'd be happy if the Supreme Court or states began to eliminate the death penalty. The Democratic platform calls for repealing the death penalty.

At the state level, calls for an end to the death penalty are coming from an unlikely corner of the political spectrum: Conservatives.

Nebraska's legislature, ostensibly nonpartisan but in practice controlled by Republicans, made headlines in 2015 by repealing the death penalty.

Utah's Republican state Senate passed a repeal bill earlier this year, though it died in the state House. In Kentucky, where Republicans only recently gained control of the state Senate, a Senate committee held hearings on a repeal vote, the first such hearing since 1976. Another repeal measure stalled on a tie vote in Montana's legislature, where Republicans are in control.

"You're going to see more conservative states moving toward repeal," said Marc Hyden, a former National Rifle Association staffer who now runs Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty. "The death penalty is dying out."

While 30 states allow capital punishment, the governors of four of those states - Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Pennsylvania - have set a moratorium on executions while they are in office. 20 states do not allow executions.

The number of executions carried out across the country has declined precipitously in recent years. In 2015, states carried out just 28 executions, the lowest number since 1991 and down from a high of 98 in 1999. Through July 15, when Georgia executed a man convicted of murder in 1982, 15 executions had taken place in 2016.

Part of the reason the number of executions have fallen is that states are having a tough time getting the drugs necessary for lethal injections. All thirty states that allow the death penalty use lethal injections as their preferred method of execution. But some of the pharmaceutical companies - mostly based in Europe - that produce those drugs have refused to sell their products to states for use in executions, leading to nationwide shortfalls.

The fact that so few executions are taking place has spurred legislators in at least a few states to rethink capital punishment.

"We started to look at the institution of the death penalty as a broken government system. We had a system that was not being used, that was costing us money," said Colby Coash, the Nebraska state senator who sponsored his state's repeal measure in 2015. "If any other program in history had been this costly or ineffective, we would have gotten rid of it a long time ago."

Death penalty advocates are fighting repeal supporters in a handful of key states. After Nebraska passed its repeal in 2015, over the veto of Gov. Pete Ricketts, advocates forced a voter referendum on the measure onto this year's ballot, aided by $300,000 from the governor and his father, a major Republican donor who founded the online brokerage firm TD Ameritrade.

"There was a real groundswell of anger from different corners of the state about the repeal,' said Chris Peterson, a spokesman for Nebraskans for the Death Penalty. Peterson's group is preparing an ad campaign that highlights those on Nebraska's death row, and the crimes they have committed.

Peterson pointed to a poll conducted for his group earlier this month that showed 58 % of Nebraska voters back keeping the death penalty. Just 30 % favor repealing the legislation.

Repeal backers in Nebraska are touting a study conducted by Ernest Goss, an economist at Creighton University, which found Nebraska spends $14.6 million every year on the death penalty, even though the state has not executed a prisoner since December 1997. Death penalty supporters countered with a study from a state legislative analyst that found the death penalty has no such impact.

The Nebraska vote, Peterson said, appeared as the first in what could become a series of anti-death penalty dominos. But, he said: "We're going to work aggressively and we're optimistic that we're going to set our domino back up."

Death penalty proponents have a chance to bolster capital punishment in 1 state this year: Voters in Oklahoma will face a state question that would specifically declare the death penalty is not cruel or unusual punishment.

There is likely to be at least 1 legislative push to reinstate the death penalty next year: New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R) said last week she would make a legislative priority of reinstating the death penalty for those convicted of murdering police officers and children. Martinez cited the murders of 5 police officers in Dallas last month, a police officer in Hatch, N.M., and a Navajo child earlier this year.

"[A] society that fails to adequately protect and defend those who protect all of us is a society that will be undone and unsafe," Martinez said in a statement emailed to The Hill.

Voters in California will decide 2 ballot measures that would lead to polar opposite outcomes: One measure, Proposition 62, would end California's death penalty altogether. The other, Proposition 66, would maintain capital punishment and speed the appeals process.

It was not immediately clear what would happen if both measures pass in November. In other cases, when 2 contradictory ballot measures have passed, courts have tended to side with the measure that won a higher level of support among voters.

A majority of Americans continues to support the death penalty, according to public opinion polls, but that support has dropped. In October, Gallup found 61 % of Americans support the death penalty for a person convicted of murder, down from a high of 80 % in 1994. A Pew Research Center survey conducted last year found 56 % of Americans favor the death penalty, down from a peak of 78 % in 1995.

(source: the


Organ harvesting rumors "insult" to transplant professionals: Chinese expert

Wild speculation that 100,000 transplants were performed per year using organs from executed prisoners is an insult to the intelligence of transplant professionals and to the sacrifice of the donors and their families in China, a Chinese expert said on Monday.

Speaking at a plenary session of the 26th International Congress of the Transplantation Society, Huang Jiefu, director of China's National Organ Donation and Transplantation Committee and former vice minister in the Chinese Ministry of Health, said the country performed 10,057 organ transplants last year, around 8.38 % of the global total.

The number matches China's use of immunosuppressive agents, a must-have drug for patients after their transplant surgeries. China accounted for some 8 % of the global immunosuppressant market, he said.

Introducing China's decade-long organ donation reform to the audience, Huang said the transition of organ source from death-row inmates to the voluntary community-based organ donation has been realized and an ethical preliminary national organ donation and transplantation system established, adding the country's progress has been recognized by the international society.

In 2015, 2,766 cases of organ donation after the death of citizens were recorded, more than the total number in year 2013 and 2014 combined. In the first 7 months of 2016, 2152 cases were recorded, 49.2 % up from the same period last year, with predictions for the whole year at about 4,000.

Huang reiterated that starting from Jan. 1, 2015, death penalty prisoner's organs are not allowed to be used under any circumstances, and community-based Chinese citizen organ donation has become the only legitimate source of transplantable organs in China.

Since 2007, China has cracked down on 32 unlawful intermediaries, arrested 158 criminal suspects, investigated 17 medical institutions with 44 medical staff involved and their medical licenses revoked, and 13 black-market dens have been eradicated, he said, calling on the international audience to report any illegal activity, in a show of resolve from the Chinese government.

Meanwhile, he admitted that the achievement of China's transplant reform is only preliminary, and is only the first step of a long journey, with formidable tasks ahead.

However, political commitment of China's leadership, public support and dedication of the medical staff, as well as traditional virtues of the Chinese nation, are sources of confidence for promoters of the reform, he said.

Statistics show that China now has the most organ donations per year in Asia and the 3rd highest number globally. In addition, it is performing the second highest number of organ transplants in the world per year after the United States.

The Transplantation Society is a non-governmental organization which serves as an international forum for the world-wide advancement of organ transplantation, with over 6,700 members composed of professionals with an active interest in basic science, clinical research and/or improving clinical practice in the field of transplantation.

A biennial congress of the TTS is held every 2 years grouping together over 5,000 participants. This year's congress is held in Hong Kong from Aug. 18 to 23, the 1st time the congress is held in China.

(source: Shanghai Daily)


Penalty in Lahad Datu case too light, says A-G

The Attorney-General's Chambers is pressing for the death penalty against the nine Filipinos sentenced to life imprisonment for the armed intrusion into Lahad Datu, Sabah.

It has filed an appeal against the decision by the Kota Kinabalu High Court to jail the men over the February 2013 invasion that resulted in a military conflict and 72 deaths.

Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali said the punishment meted out by the judge, Justice Stephen Chung, did not fit the crime.

"The law provides the death sentence for the offence, so we will appeal," he said after opening the annual prosecutors conference here yesterday. He said the convicted men should get death, "or at least, their leader should".

Chung sentenced the Filipinos on July 26 after finding them guilty of waging war against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. During the incursion by about 235 militants, which lasted till March 24 that year, 56 militants, 6 civilians and 10 Malaysian security forces personnel were killed.



Iraq Executes 36 Militants Over Camp Speicher Massacre in Tikrit

The execution of 36 individuals found guilty of taking part in the massacre of over a thousand of soldiers in 2014 would just perpetuate the vicious cycle of violence in the country, a human rights group said Monday in a statement.

On Sunday, Iraqi Justice Minister Haidar Zamili said that the Iraqi authorities had hung 36 people over the 2014 massacre of as many as 1,700 military recruits at Camp Speicher near the city of Tikrit.

"These mass executions mark a chilling increase in Iraq's use of the death penalty... Relying on executions to counter Iraq's security challenges is completely misguided. It does not address the root causes of deadly attacks and will only serve to perpetuate the cycle of violence. The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and there is no credible evidence that shows it serves as more of a deterrent to crime than a prison term," Lynn Maalouf, the deputy director for Research at Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Regional Office, was quoted as saying in the group's statement.

She reiterated Amnesty International's call for justice for the atrocities committed by the Daesh terror group, but pointed out that death penalties after confessions given under torture was not an appropriate form of justice.

"However, executing men who were forced to 'confess' under torture and were not given a proper chance to defend themselves is not justice," Maalouf said.

Amnesty International called on Iraq to introduce a moratorium on the death penalty immediately and remove capital punishment from the country's legislation.

The men, sentenced to death in February, allegedly took part in the Camp Speicher attack carried out by the Daesh group, banned in many countries including Russia.

(source: Sputnik News)


4500 prisoners on death row

In an interview with the government-run news agency, ILNA, on August 21, Rouhullah Hazratpoor, a member of the Justice and Legal Commission in the Iranian Parliament said: "At the moment there are 4500 people who have been sentenced to death."

He added that the constant stream of arrests does not serve as a deterrent to crime. He argued that rising unemployment and other negative social factors were creating a revolving door prison system and that a solution must be found.

Hazratpoor said: "Right now we are in a defective cycle of crime: a criminal is arrested, sometimes they are freed and they commit crimes again. The truth [is that] repeated crimes are the results of unemployment."

According to Amnesty International, Iran is the world leader in executions per capita and executed nearly 1000 people in 2015.


Halt executions in Iran, I hate capital punishment

The mother of Reyhaneh Jabbari, Shole Pakravan, on her Facebook page, posted a text about her travel to Kurdistan and her visit to the families of Sunni prisoners who were executed. The following is the summarized text she posted:

"I hate capital punishment. Execution is disgusting regardless of any charge. There are a thousand reasons for such hatred. I would like to tell one of those.

It was an opportunity to travel with Shahnaz. We took the bus in an hour and traveled to a land that mourns its martyrs who sacrificed their lives and left without a farewell. The hours were passing .Shahnaz and I were gazing at the dark and spiral road. Sometimes things would have crossed our mind to mention. Shahnaz talked about Mostafa's head which was covered with blood and I told her about the closed eyes and lips of Reyhane. We cried as well. The eyes of Mahnaz became bloodshot red. She told about Mustafa's pierced skull that was dipped in the blood. My body got numb; like Reyhaneh's as I had hugged her beside a deep pit. We arrived at the terminal around 3 PM. The brother; sister and the wife of a man, who was executed, were waiting for us.

In a couple of hours, we visited the mother of two prisoners who were executed. Here is Sanandaj, Kurdistan province, the home of Bahram and Shahram. I am sitting on the ground while listening to the stories of these family members. They explain to me about what has happened to them in these seven years. I would like to know how did they spend the time while traveling from Sanandaj to Behesht-e Zahra Cemetery (located in the southern part of Tehran).What scenes did they see and what words did they hear? How did they come back from Tehran and how were they feeling? How did they face the situation when the brutal agents bumped into them while preventing them from holding any funeral ceremony? I would hear the heartbreaking cry of an old woman who is holding her children's photos in her hand. She is crying out the name of Shahram loudly.

The father brought the picture frames of his 2 young sons. Bahram was born in 1990. He was executed 4 years ago while he could not even visit or hug his family and loved ones in the dirty visitation cabins. Before the execution, he granted all pieces of his stuff to the other prisoners as well as his brother. Those were the gifts to others from a denounced person. Bahram's family had not yet recovered from those laments long enough that Shahram was also executed. He was born in 1987.He was executed without bidding a farewell to his family. He was going to be executed with his ward fellows while his lips were sealed and his feet were cuffed. Nobody knows what has happened to him. During the burial ceremony, a black stamp was marked on his shoulder. The baton had left the bruised marks on his body. During the ceremony, they could not see his hands and feet. Shahram's supplies were seized and looted.

While visiting other families, my heart ached heavily; not for the fathers and sons but for the mothers, wives and the children who are abandoned. I saw a girl whose situation was matched with Reyhaneh's description. Two years ago, she said to me:"Mother! This happening taught me lessons. Before, I did not know that there are little girls who are deprived of seeing or hugging their mother."

(source for both: NCR-Iran)


Sudanese clergyman appear in court accused of capital crimes

2 Christian pastors and another man appeared in a Sudanese court on Sunday accused of at least 7 crimes including waging war against the state and espionage, both of which carry the death penalty, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

The UK-based religious freedom advocacy reported that Rev Hassan Abduraheem, a senior minister and vice moderator of the Sudan Church of Christ, Rev Kuwa Shamal, a senior minister and head of the Sudan Church of Christ missions committee, and Abdulmonem Abdumawla were presented with the evidence against them during a four hour hearing.

Morning Star News reports that Rev Abduraheem denied all charges against him and quote a relative of one of the men as saying there is no evidence against him. They also quoted a defence attorney who said the defence team was "100 % ready to defend our clients".

Several church leaders were permitted access to the court which outside the courthouse about 100 Christians from Khartoum, representing various denominations, gathered to sing hymns.

Rev Abduraheem and Mr Abdumawla have been detained since December last year while Rev Shamal has been held since May 2016. CSW said the case against Rev Abduraheem and Mr Abdumawla revolves around a request for assistance with medical costs from a Darfuri man, named as Ali Omer, who was left with severe burns after he was injured during a demonstration at a university. Mr Abdumawla, a friend of the man, apparently began collecting funds for his medical treatment including from Rev Abduraheem. CSW added that the case against Rev Shamal appeared to be related to his friendship with Rev Abduraheem and his senior position in the Sudan Church of Christ.

Concerns have been raised about the men's reported lack of access to their lawyer after being transferred to Al-Huda Prison earlier this month. CSW reports that there are also concerns surrounding the transport of the men from prison to court hearings, particularly after they failed to appear at the first hearing last week.

Mervyn Thomas, chief executive of CSW, said it is "wholly unacceptable" that the trial has proceeded given that the defendants "have had limited access to their legal team".

He called on the Sudanese Government "to ensure that the trial is conducted with respect to 'fair trial principles', which includes, at the minimum, ensuring that the men have regular access to legal representatives and family members, and are present at every hearing".

"We are also deeply concerned by the use of serious criminal charges against Reverend Abduraheem and Mr Abdumawla simply for seeking to assist with medical expenses, and against Reverend Shamal merely for being a Christian and a friend of Reverend Abdulraheem," Mr Thomas said.

"We urge the government to end the harassment and targeting of religious and ethnic minorities by the security services, and to uphold the civil rights of all Sudanese citizens."

Morning Star News also reports that the court appears to be trying to package the case of Omer and the two pastors together with that of a fourth defendant, 52-year-old Petr Jasek, a Christian from the Czech Republic whom NISS accuses of entering the country illegally in October of last year, espionage and tarnishing the country's image with reports saying Christians in Sudan are being persecuted.



Senior Counsel Astaphan: Hanging Permitted In Exceptional Cases

The government's intention to hang convicted murderers may not be easy to implement because of a Privy Council ruling against the mandatory death penalty.

That's the view of Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan.

The Dominican attorney says however, that there are instances when capital punishment will be allowed by the courts.

"Having gone through the process of fighting the constitutionality of the sentence all the way to the Privy Council, I clearly reject the mandatory sentence of death. I clearly reject the death sentence as a form of deterrence because it simply doesn't work, but are there extraordinary circumstances in which a judge may think that he has no alternative but to impose the sentence of death, I don't see why not."

In the wake of a growing number of homicides - more than 20 so far for the year, Prime Minister Timothy Harris warned those responsible that they could face the possibility of being hanged if convicted.

"Let it be clear, we are not going to be heartless, but the law is the law and we will say that once the court gives us the hanging judgement they shall be hanged."

Astaphan rejects the argument that the death penalty can serve as a deterrent.

"Well that sounds like executing the death sentence simply as a means of creating a deterrent, it's a very difficult decision for a government to make. I have never forgotten the way I felt and others felt when the sentence of death was carried out, it was a very an extraordinary day. I think it is all dependent on the facts, I think in the exceptional circumstances as held by the court of appeal for extreme, rare and exceptional circumstances, the death penalty was not considered cruel and unusual punishment, the mandatory sentence of death was."

(source: WINN news)


6 get death penalty for 2013 gang-rape, video of Bangladesh apparel worker

A Narsinghdi court has sentenced 6 men to death for gang-raping and taking videos of the brutalisation of a female worker 3 years ago.

Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal judge Shamim Ahmed on Tuesday delivered the verdict in the presence of the convicts.

The convicts are Ashikur Rahman, 'Ilias', 'Rumin', 'Robin', 'Ibrahim' and Abdur Rahman.

The court also fined each of them Tk 100,000.

According to case details, the 20-year-old woman, who worked at Pran RFL Company, was attacked by the 6 on May 23 afternoon in 2013 when she was going home.

They whisked her away from in front of Janata Jute Mill and took her to a secluded place. There all of them took turns to rape her while taking videos of the brutal assault on their mobile phones. They released her afterwards.

The woman informed her company's Assistant Manager ASM Sadekul Islam about the rape the next day and started the case at Polash Police Station afterwards.

Sub-Inspector Biplab Kumar Dutta pressed charges in court against the 6 on Aug 15 that year.


AUGUST 22, 2016:


The death penalty's essential futility

Maybe our society should congratulate itself occasionally on how much progress it's made in the last half-century toward equality and individual rights, especially for women, racial minorities and LBGT.

Or maybe self-congratulation isn't called for just for doing the right thing. And some of our steps in the right direction have been timid and tentative.

Nevertheless, good things have been done. Yet our ambitious, magnificent experiment in democracy, freedom, human rights and the progress of civilization is hampered by our reluctance to abandon a practice that we share only with repressive countries such as China, Saudi Arabia and Iran: the prerogative of the state to put citizens to death.

For many this characteristic of American life is largely invisible. 20 states have abolished the death penalty already, and many of the others haven't executed anyone in decades.

Even in my home state, Texas, which is the nation's most active death penalty state, an execution doesn't draw much attention. Every month or so a short article, buried in the B-section of the newspaper, announces that another criminal has been put to death. Even in Texas, executions are generally beyond the public's notice.

But a couple of Associated Press articles, literally adjacent in my local newspaper last week, provide the occasion to consider the practice of capital punishment in America in the 21st century.

If you were looking for someone who deserves to be executed, John Battaglia would be a good candidate. In 2001, Battaglia murdered his 9-year-old and 6-year-old daughters with gunshots while his ex-wife listened on the phone. The older child, Faith, begged for her life before he pulled the trigger. And, indeed, last week a district judge in Dallas set an execution date of Dec. 7.

On the other hand, 3 defense psychiatrists testified at his trial that he has bipolar disorder, which distorts his sense of reality, and he reportedly suffers also from narcissistic personality disorder.

The court said Battaglia showed evidence of mental illness and delusions and that his competence is in question. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court has ruled that a criminal may be executed if he understands that he has been condemned to die, and why. In accordance with that low standard, Battaglia will be executed in December.

The article just above Battaglia's reports the case of Sheborah Thomas, who faces capital murder charges in Houston for drowning her 7-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter in the bathtub. Apparently, the children fought back, struggling for their lives, but she held their heads under the water until they died.

She waited a day and then dumped her children's bodies in a trash container behind her house. Later she tried, unsuccessfully, to bury them and then rolled them under a neighbor's house.

To say that a mother who could commit such a crime is mentally unstable seems redundant. In fact, Thomas's attorney says that she has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and severe depression.

Don't mistake this column for an effort to generate sympathy for Thomas and Battaglia. On the other hand, anger doesn't feel like the right response, either. How about futility, in 2 versions?

The 1st is the futility of the principal argument in favor of capital punishment, the idea that it serves as a deterrent to crime. Both Battaglia and Thomas already live in an active capital punishment state, and it's impossible to believe that crimes based in mental instability like theirs could be deterred by the threat of execution.

The 2nd futility is the one we feel when we try to give people like Thomas and Battaglia what we think they deserve merely by killing them. We'll never succeed as long as we're limited by the "cruel and unusual" language in the Constitution.

And since we've neither figured out how to administer the death penalty equitably, without regard to race, gender or economic status, nor how to prevent the occasional execution of innocent people, maybe it's time for the U.S. to join the rest of the West and to abolish a practice whose only real purpose is an essentially unsatisfying feeling of revenge.

(source: John M. Crisp, an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service, teaches in the English Department at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas----Olean Times Herald)


Delaware death penalty fight not over

Mark Eichmann has been covering news in Delaware for more than 10 years. In addition to writing about Delaware for Newsworks, Mark is co-host of WHYY's Delaware focused newsmagazine, First. First airs Friday nights at 5:30 and 11 p.m.

After starting as a general assignment reporter for WILM News Radio in Wilmington in 2000, Mark worked his way up to Legislative Correspodent, Managing Editor, and eventually News Director. He joined WHYY in 2008.

Over the last 10 years, Mark has interviewed national political figures, including long time Delaware Senator and now Vice President Joe Biden, Howard Dean and Wesley Clark, as well as sports legends like NASCAR's Jeff Gordon, baseball's iron man Cal Ripken, and Broad Street Bully Bob "the Hound" Kelly.

When not covering the news, Mark enjoys playing guitar and cheering for Philly sports teams (especially the Flyers) with his wife (and high school sweetheart) Ivy and his two sons, Drew and Landon.

Earlier this month, Delaware's Supreme Court ruled the death penalty unconstitutional. Some Republican lawmakers hope to resurrect capital punishment through legislation next year.

A group of 15 Republican Representatives and Senators has signed an open letter pledging to restore the death penalty when lawmakers return to Dover for their next session in January.

"The ruling by the Delaware Supreme Court is an opportunity to craft a new, stronger capital punishment statute that not only meets constitutional standards, but also potentially contains safeguards to further augment the high integrity of the process it will replace," the lawmakers wrote.

The Republican lawmakers who signed onto that letter are Senators Greg Lavelle, Brian Pettyjohn, Gerald Hocker, Dave Lawson and Bryant Richardson, along with Representatives Danny Short, Deborah Hudson, Jeff Spiegelman, Steve Smyk, Harvey Kenton, Ron Gray, Lyndon Yearick, Dave Wilson, Tim Dukes and Ruth Briggs King.

Earlier this month, Delaware's Attorney General- Democrat Matt Denn, said the state would not appeal the Supreme Court's decision against the death penalty. "Litigating and appealing these issues - a process that would likely take years before issues of both federal and state constitutional law were resolved - would likely not only bring about the same result, but would also deny the families of victims sentencing finality."

But Denn's statement did express his support for legislation that could amend the state's death penalty to correct the problems raised by the Supreme Court. Denn would support legislation "that would require a unanimous jury verdict in order to impose a death sentence, and he stands by that position."

Delaware Fraternal Order of Police president Fred Calhoun said he was disappointed in the decision not to appeal, but not surprised. He believes there will be negative results for crime in the state if the death penalty is not restored.

"I do believe long term, whether it be 5, 10, 15, 20 years, this will have a long-term impact on society in general as we move forward."

While is willing to back legislation to restore the death penalty, he admits it will be a difficult task.

The 15 Republican lawmakers say they'll be working with their legal staff between now and the start of the next legislative session in January to find a way to restore capital punishment in Delaware.



James Rhodes' trial delayed again----Man accused of killing cellphone store clerk was set for trial next week

The trial for the man accused of gunning down Metro PCS clerk Shelby Farah in 2013 has been postponed for the 4th time.

Judge Tatiana Salvador on Monday scrubbed next week's trial date for James Rhodes and said the case won't move ahead until there's guidance from the state's high court on challenges to the death penalty.

Defense attorneys for Rhodes have filed a long list of motions related to Florida's death penalty. Rhodes' trial had been scheduled to start Aug. 29.

Rhodes' next pretrial hearing will be Oct. 24, and a trial might not happen until April 2017.

Lawyers from all over Florida have asked the Supreme Court to strike down the state's death penalty law as unconstitutional, even with fixes made by the Legislature.

The Rhodes case is one of several high-profile murder prosecutions that have bogged down in the uncertainty over the law.

Gov. Rick Scott signed into law in March a measure designed to fix the state's death penalty sentencing process after it was found unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. The new law requires a jury to vote at least 10-2 for someone to receive a death sentence.

Rhodes' attorneys contend that a jury verdict must be unanimous in death penalty cases.

Rhodes' public defender has repeatedly tried to get the state to accept a plea deal with Rhodes that would take the death penalty off the table.

The State Attorney's Office said it will continue to seek the death penalty against Rhodes, who is charged with 1st-degree murder in the shooting death of Farah, 20, during a robbery at a Brentwood cellphone store.

Police said Rhodes pointed a gun at Farah and demanded money. They said she cooperated and after she handed him the last bit of money, he fired 4 rounds, killing her.



Murder defendant seeks dismissal of charge because of lost notes

A Scott Circuit Court hearing to determine whether a murder charge should be dismissed is scheduled to start Tuesday and could go for several days.

The defense for Nicholas Willinger, accused in the 2010 beating death of Glenda Sue Jones, says the murder charge against him should be thrown out because some investigative records have been lost.

The prosecution says the missing records are supplemental notes to the main investigative report.

After a brief status hearing on Monday, public defender Sandra Downs said the defense will call 6 witnesses during the hearing.

Scott Circuit Judge Paul Isaacs said the hearing will begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday and could extend into Wednesday and even Thursday.

Jones, a former Scott County school bus driver, was found dead in her house near Sadieville on Feb. 4, 2010. The county coroner said she died of blunt-force trauma. Willinger was indicted in 2014.

Ciji Jefferson of Sadieville pleaded guilty in early 2015 to complicity to 2nd-degree burglary. Her indictment said that she told Willinger that Jones had a large amount of money in her home on Double Culvert Road and that Jones wouldn't be at home on a particular date.

Jefferson accompanied Willinger to Jones' house, and, intending to share in the proceeds of the burglary, waited outside in a vehicle while Willinger allegedly went inside.

Willinger's indictment said he killed Jones by striking her in the head with a blunt object. Willinger could face the death penalty if convicted.



Execution for brutal beating death of Ethiopian actor, taxi driver?

A Lakewood man accused in the beating death of a taxi driver and recording artist who was attacked at a Hollywood gas station appeared in court Monday but did not enter a plea.

Najib Halibi is being held without bail while awaiting arraignment in connection with the attack on Asfawosen Alemseged, who had worked for Yellow Cab for 24 years. Speaking today through an interpreter, Halibi agreed to postpone his arraignment to Sept. 6.

The murder charge includes the special circumstance allegation of murder during the commission of a robbery. Prosecutors will decide later whether to seek the death penalty against the 34-year-old defendant.

According to a statement issued by Yellow Cab, the 47-year-old victim was well-known in his native Ethiopia as an actor, singer and poet.

Halibi allegedly got out of the taxi, reached back inside the vehicle, grabbed Alemseged, went through his pockets and beat the cabbie after the driver got out of the vehicle shortly after 3 a.m. Aug. 14.

Police were dispatched to the gas station in the area of Franklin Avenue and North Beachwood Drive in response to an assault with a deadly weapon call, said Officer Scott Danielson of the LAPD's Hollywood Station.

Alemseged was rushed to an area hospital, where he died from his injuries.

Halibi was arrested about 3:15 p.m. last Wednesday in the area of Avalon Boulevard and the San Diego (405) Freeway, according to Los Angeles police.



Attorney Objects to Closed Hearing in Church Shooting Case

A media attorney is objecting to closing a hearing on a defense request to keep some evidence out of the federal trial of Dylann Roof in the Charleston church shootings.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel has set a Sept. 1 hearing and says he intends to close it to protect Roof's right to a fair trial.

Attorney Jay Bender, representing The Post and Courier of Charleston, has written the judge asking to be heard before any decision to close the hearing. Bender says reasonable alternatives should be considered and if the hearing is closed, reasons for doing so should be on the record.

The 22-year-old Roof is charged in the deaths of 9 black parishioners at Emanuel AME Church in June 2015. His death penalty trial is set for November.

(source: Associated Press)


Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's Death Penalty Appeal Comes Due ---- The federal appeals court wants to see his legal team's argument by Oct. 3.

An argument to spare the life of surviving Boston Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is due to a federal appeals court within 2 months, according to multiple reports Monday.

Tsarnaev was sentenced to the death penalty in summer of 2015 for his role in the 2013 bombings that killed 3 people and injured 250 more. He also killed a police officer in the ensuing manhunt. The jury's unanimous decision followed 14 hours of deliberation.

His legal team now hopes to appeal that decision.

A federal appeals court wants to receive the initial write-up from Tsarnaev's team by Oct. 3, multiple outlets reported Monday afternoon.

Tsarnaev's lawyers during the 2015 trial admitted he took part in the bombings but argued he should be spared the death penalty because he was under the spell of his older brother, Tamerlan, who was killed in a shootout with police.

A judge in January rejected his legal team's request for a new trial, leaving them mired in what will likely be a lengthy appeals process.

Tsarnaev, now 22, is being held at a maximum security federal prison in Colorado.



How the 1st liberal Supreme Court in a generation could reshape America

Odds are that very soon, the Supreme Court will become something it hasn't been in nearly 50 years: made up of a majority of Democratic-appointed justices.

Ever since Abe Fortas's resignation in 1969, the Court has either been split down the middle or, more often, made up primarily of Republican appointees. Some of those Republican appointees nonetheless turned out to be liberals, but even taking that into account, the Court hasn't been majority liberal since 1971, when William Rehnquist and Lewis Powell joined.

That hasn't stopped the Court from evolving in a progressive direction at times. In 1973, GOP appointee Harry Blackmun authored Roe v. Wade, drawing only 2 dissents; from 1996's Romer v. Evans to 2015's Obergefell v. Hodges, Anthony Kennedy and the Court's liberals steadily expanded the rights of LGBTQ Americans.

But for the most part, over the past half-century liberals have been playing defense as an organized and well-planned movement of conservatives has limited the scope of rights trumpeted by liberals, expanded the power of the state in criminal justice, and issued more business-friendly rulings on campaign finance and regulatory issues.

The Court ruled that states didn't have to give poor black and Latino school districts the same funding as rich white districts. It ruled that school resegregation achieved through white flight to wealthy suburbs was just fine. It ruled that despite declaring abortion a fundamental right, that didn't mean Medicaid had to extend that right to poor women, and then it reversed course on treating abortion as a fundamental right at all. It struck down the death penalty but then brought it back 4 years later.

And in more recent years, it's gutted the Voting Rights Act, struck down limits on campaign donations by corporations, strangled Medicaid expansion in the crib, and for the first time in American history declared an individual right to own guns.

All that could be about to change.

The Supreme Court is truly at a tipping point

The unfilled vacancy of Antonin Scalia’s seat combined with a Hillary Clinton victory in November could set the Court on a new course.

Merrick Garland, nominated by Barack Obama in March, has yet to face a vote. But though Senate Republicans have denied they'll confirm him in the lame-duck session this winter, should Hillary Clinton win they might be tempted to confirm him lest she name a more liberal nominee. Either way, the result is a moderate to liberal justice in Scalia's seat, moving the Court appreciably to the left.

Clinton also stands a good chance of replacing the moderate-to-conservative Anthony Kennedy (who recently turned 80) with a reliable liberal, and keeping Ruth Bader Ginsburg (83 and a 2-time cancer survivor) and Stephen Breyer's (78) seats in liberal hands. The result would be a solid 6-3 liberal majority of a kind not seen in many decades.

The implications of such a shift are massive. The Court is not a legislative body, and it can’t simply undo all of the conservative rulings of recent decades. The doctrine of stare decisis means the Court tries not to contradict its past rulings except in rare cases. But after speaking to a number of prominent legal scholars and experts, it appears there are some notable areas where a liberal Court could make a significant difference.

A liberal Court could end long-term solitary confinement. It could mandate better prison conditions in general, making it more costly to maintain mass incarceration. It could conceivably end the death penalty. It could uphold tough state campaign finance rules and start to move away from Citizens United. It could start to develop a robust right to vote and limit gerrymandering. It could strengthen abortion rights, moving toward viewing abortion rights as a matter of equal protection for women.

If Donald Trump wins in November, this is all moot. But if he loses, as polls increasingly indicate, the dawn of a new era of liberal jurisprudence could be upon us.

This could be the end of solitary confinement

Let's start with perhaps the biggest thing that could happen under a liberal Court, perhaps even a Court where another conservative replaces Scalia: the end of long-term solitary confinement.

In 2015, Anthony Kennedy filed a concurring opinion in Davis v. Ayala, a death penalty case in which the Court (joined by Kennedy) sided against the defendant. Nevertheless, Kennedy used his concurrence to unleash a bracing jeremiad against the evils of solitary confinement, in which the defendant had been held for most of his more than 25 years in prison.

"Research still confirms what this Court suggested over a century ago: Years on end of near-total isolation exact a terrible price," Kennedy wrote. "In a case that presented the issue, the judiciary may be required, within its proper jurisdiction and authority, to determine whether workable alternative systems for long-term confinement exist, and, if so, whether a correctional system should be required to adopt them."

The implication was clear: Kennedy wanted advocates to bring a case challenging the constitutionality of long-term solitary confinement on the grounds that it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. He basically dared them to, and suggested that if such a case reached the Court, he'd be inclined to limit the practice. With four reliable liberals already on the Court and likely to join him, it's quite likely that such a case would end with solitary confinement sharply limited.

Sharon Dolovich, a law professor at UCLA and faculty director of the university’s Prison Law & Policy Program, describes solitary confinement as the "one major unresolved issue" in criminal justice "that is definitely going to come up" in the next few years.

It's a long time coming. At any given moment, about 80,000 to 100,000 people are held in solitary confinement in the US; in many states, the average stint in solitary lasts years. And it's been that way at least since the 1980s, without any federal court intervention to halt it.

"There has not been one federal court that has affirmatively found extended solitary confinement to be per se unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment," Dolovich recalls. "And that is in spite of the fact that even under the relatively unprotective Eighth Amendment doctrine, there is no question that solitary confinement is unconstitutional."

That doctrine, Dolovich explains, requires plaintiffs alleging a constitutional violation to show that prison officials were "deliberately indifferent to a substantial risk of serious harm," or "deliberately indifferent to a basic human need." The Court has equated deliberate indifference with a recklessness standard, which requires that prison administrators know there's a risk that what they’re doing could seriously harm the prisoner.

"Given what everybody knows about solitary confinement, that would be easy to show," Dolovich says. Then the plaintiff must show there's a substantial risk of serious harm, or of being deprived of a basic human need, due to solitary confinement.

"There's so much data now - physiological data, psychological data, reentry data - there's so much data making clear the extended physical, psychological, and emotional trauma that people suffer in extended solitary confinement, it would be so easy for the Court just to point to it all and conclude there's an objective harm," Dolovich says.

Were the Supreme Court to strike down or limit long-term solitary confinement in one case on those grounds, it would open the door for lower courts to honor additional challenges, eventually leading to change across the system. And it wouldn't require rethinking Eighth Amendment doctrine to be more friendly to prisoners.

Jonathan Simon, a law professor and director of the Center for the Study of Law and Society at UC Berkeley, agrees that solitary confinement is on "the verge of being found unconstitutional, at least in its most excessive forms." Just what "excessive" means there is, naturally, a matter of debate, and Simon cautions that the Court could err on the side of giving prisons too much leeway.

He notes that Ashker v. Brown, a recent case challenging solitary confinement in California that ended in a settlement rather than reaching the Supreme Court, "involved a class of inmates that had been held more than 10 years, and the settlement will still allow people to be held up to 5 years, and even after that they can still be held in solitary if they're given programming and special services."

By contrast, the United Nations special rapporteur on torture has called for an absolute ban on solitary confinement lasting 15 days or more. "I'm not sure Kennedy or any justice would go nearly that far," Simon says.

But even if the Court were to only place a 5-year maximum on periods in solitary confinement, that would be a significant step forward. If the Court is bold enough to accept the UN standard and place a hard 2-week limit, then tens of thousands of prisoners would be spared a truly devastating punishment that many medical experts believe to be a form of torture.

The Court could make it more costly to maintain mass incarceration

Solitary confinement is perhaps the most shockingly cruel condition of imprisonment in the United States, but the sheer scale of mass incarceration is also an issue in need of addressing. And because federal courts have the ability to affect policy at both the federal and state level, they can have considerable influence on the incarceration rate going forward.

Both Dolovich and Simon were skeptical that outright challenges to legislative sentencing statutes like mandatory minimums could prevail. "At the end of the day, the ability of courts to control the level of incarceration is relatively weak compared to legislatures who can change the underlying sentencing structure," Simon warns. But one thing the Court can do is raise the cost of incarceration by insisting upon prisoners' rights to humane conditions.

The most encouraging recent Supreme Court decision along these lines was Brown v. Plata, a 5-4 ruling in 2011 upholding a lower court order that California release tens of thousands of prisoners to reduce overcrowding, which the state itself admitted was unconstitutional. It was, Simon notes, "the first prisoners' rights decision to come down in favor of the prisoner in a long time. It ended mass incarceration in California." But the unique circumstances of the case meant it had limited applicability outside the state.

In the past, the Court hasn't been particularly willing to accept Eighth Amendment challenges to prison conditions. In Rhodes v. Chapman, an 8-1 decision in 1981, the Court ruled that "double celling" (placing 2 inmates in a space with room for only one) was not cruel and unusual punishment. That effectively ruled out Eighth Amendment challenges to overcrowding in and of itself.

Overturning Rhodes seems unlikely, but modifying it with a ruling specifying that people who are seriously ill need better treatment could be possible. And because prisons are, like the country as a whole, aging considerably at the moment, that could have a far-reaching impact.

"The new focus of prison conditions, which could be a real game changer in my view, is the intersection of overcrowding with mental and physical health burdens. The real game changer in terms of the current prison population is how disease-burdened it is," Simon says. "That could be pretty far-reaching because states have to contemplate the consequence of incarcerating so many aging prisoners."

Dolovich also emphasizes the need to expand prisoners' procedural ability to challenge their conditions. The 1996 Prison Litigation Reform Act greatly limited prisoners' access to the courts for making complaints about conditions, and the Court could either interpret the law in ways that minimize those limits (as it did in Ross v. Blake this year) or attempt to strike down provisions of the act. That opens the door to more challenges, including challenges focusing on the intersection of overcrowding and poor prisoner health.

"If you require prisons to be constitutional in this way, it becomes more expensive and burdensome for states to comply," Dolovich explains. "States are going to reduce the incarceration rate."

One way in which the courts could be more receptive to directly challenging sentences, she says, is by starting to take "collateral consequences" into account. That's the technical term for the myriad ways that criminal convictions, and in particular sex crime convictions, can hamper defendants' lives in the long term. That includes restrictions on where they can live after they're released from prison, bans on government employment and benefits like public housing, inclusion on sex offender registries, bans on gun purchases and voting, and so forth.

Dolovich outlined one possible example of a challenge incorporating collateral consequences: "So you're a 19-year-old boy who's been convicted of having sex with your 15-year-old girlfriend. You're convicted of statutory rape, which itself carries huge direct carceral consequences - you go to prison for 5 years. But not only that; you also have to register as a sex offender for the rest of your life, which is a burden in itself and carries innumerable other collateral consequences that come along with the status of being a registered sex offender."

"So you bring a claim under Harmelin v. Michigan" - a 1991 ruling banning "grossly disproportionate" sentences - "claiming the sentence you received is grossly disproportionate to the crime. That's an incredibly state-friendly standard, and you barely ever win. ... But a court committed to including collateral consequences in its thinking about gross disproportionality would realize it's not just the 5 years in prison, it's all of the burdens that someone registered as a sex offender has to follow."

The death penalty could be ripe for another challenge

Almost as explosive as Kennedy's 2015 concurrence was a dissent filed by Stephen Breyer and joined by Ruth Bader Ginsburg that same year. The case, Glossip v. Gross, resulted in a 5-4 ruling affirming that the particular drug cocktail Oklahoma currently uses in executions doesn't violate the Eighth Amendment. One dissent, by Sonia Sotomayor and joined by the Court's other 3 liberals, narrowly argued against the specific drugs. Breyer's dissent took aim at capital punishment as a whole.

"The death penalty, in and of itself, now likely constitutes a legally prohibited 'cruel and unusual punishment,'" Breyer concluded. He rests the argument on 4 premises: a) the Court has ruled that death sentences must be reliably applied only to appropriate cases to be constitutional, and the frequency of wrongful executions shows that the punishment is not reliably applied; b) the punishment is arbitrarily applied, with some "worst of the worst" offenders not receiving it and some lesser offenders facing execution; c) wait times between conviction and execution are cruelly long; and d) the decline in the punishment's usage in the US shows it's becoming unconstitutionally "unusual."

It's telling that neither Sotomayor nor Elena Kagan, the 2 other liberals on the Court, joined Breyer's opinion. And it's hard to imagine Merrick Garland, who was one of the prosecutors who successfully sought to see Timothy McVeigh executed, declaring his own past actions categorically unconstitutional.

But if Garland's nomination fails and Clinton picks a less tough-on-crime nominee for Scalia's seat, or if Kennedy leaves the Court during her presidency, it's conceivable there would exist 5 votes for outright abolition of the death penalty.

"I would not be surprised to see Sotomayor and Kagan supportive of [abolishing the death penalty]," Simon says. "Kennedy is a harder call. The reason I'm somewhat optimistic about including Kennedy goes back to his interest in dignity. The strongest of the opinions in Furman" - the 1972 case that briefly abolished capital punishment - "was William Brennan's, and Brennan based it most directly on human dignity. He argued the Eighth Amendment bans any punishment you can't carry out without respecting the dignity of those being punished." Kennedy leaned heavily on the importance of dignity in Brown v. Plata, the California prison overcrowding case.

Simon even found an early Kennedy opinion from when he was a circuit court judge in the 1970s in which he quoted Brennan's concurrence in Furman at length. Even if Kennedy doesn't buy a dignity argument for abolishing the death penalty, Simon suspects he'd be swayed by the issue of delays, which Breyer raised - and which were the entire reason for the prisoner's stay in solitary confinement that Kennedy assailed in his concurrence last year.

"[Kennedy] came and gave a talk at Berkeley Law about a year and a half ago, and one of my colleagues was rude enough to ask him point blank whether he thought the death penalty was compatible with human dignity," Simon recalls. "Of course he declined to answer, but he said kind of cryptically, 'Here in California you guys take so long enough to execute people that we may not even need to reach that cliff.'"

One other death penalty-related case Simon thinks the Court could amend or overturn, which could have widespread implication outside this specific issue area, is McCleskey v. Kemp, a 1987 case in which the Court ruled 5-4 that a death sentence for a black defendant could not be overturned due to the state of Georgia's hugely disproportionate imposition of capital punishment on African Americans.

The effect of that was to foreclose challenges to the criminal justice system premised on its discriminatory effect - the Court required that plaintiffs show that discrimination was intended, not merely that the system was in effect discriminating against African Americans.

"It's been terrible for equal protection law generally. Criminal justice is run through with very disproportionate racial practices that are very difficult to prove as discrimination," Simon says. "Overturning McCleskey, and a companion case a few years later, could be a really important change agent both in unleashing the potential for trial court challenges to racially disproportionate criminal justice practices of all sorts, and perhaps ending the death penalty in those states where it seems most firmly rooted, like Texas and Florida."

The Court probably won't overturn, but could limit, Citizens United

No Supreme Court action in recent memory has provoked the kind of populist outcry and fury of Citizens United v. FEC, the 2010 case that banned restrictions on corporate and organizational spending on independent campaign activities, opening the door to Super PACs and the considerably reducing limits on corporate influence in elections.

Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Senate Democrats have all pushed for constitutional amendments to overrule the decision. Clinton promises to "appoint Supreme Court justices who will protect Americans' right to vote over the right of billionaires to buy elections," and has reportedly told her own donors that she will make prospective justices pledge to overturn Citizens United.

That's created the groundwork for a shift away from the ruling's approach to campaign finance. "If Citizens United is overturned, it will be because of the sustained efforts of critics in civil society to critique it, educate the public about why it's wrong, and show through local initiatives that alternative reforms are possible," Georgetown Law professor David Cole says.

But most of the experts I spoke with expressed skepticism that the decision will be overturned outright. The Court rarely reverses rulings explicitly, especially ones made as recently as Citizens United. And more to the point, directly overruling the decision would likely entail a challenge to a campaign finance law identical or very similar to the one at issue in the case. Congress shows little interest in passing such a law, and states similarly lack initiative to do so.

That being said, the legal scholars I asked suggested that a more left-leaning Court could subtly undermine Citizens United by upholding distinct campaign finance regulations at the federal and state levels.

"My guess is that [a more liberal court] wouldn't overrule Citizens United in the short run, but that it would narrow the decision and uphold a range of possible regulations of money in the political process," Geoffrey Stone, a law professor at the University of Chicago and specialist in free speech cases, says. "Over time, these decisions would significantly erode Citizens United."

Heather Gerken, a Yale Law professor and expert on law surrounding elections, voting, and federalism, concurs, and suggests one possible line of legal reasoning that cases like this could embrace. "I think Citizens United can be overturned without even overturning it, something that should appeal to a moderate and careful judge like Judge Garland," she explains. "Citizens United was premised on the idea that independent spending was genuinely independent. If this political cycle has shown us anything, it's that this premise is flatly wrong ... The Court could easily take notice of these facts and license legislators to regulate this spending precisely because it isn't 'independent' in the sense that Citizens United used that term."

This could greenlight limitations on independent corporate spending of the kind that Citizens United struck down without undermining that decision’s reasoning. That prevents the kind of upheaval in precedent that the Court normally tries to avoid, while still signaling to states and Congress that it s okay to pursue more aggressive campaign finance regulations.

The Court could take a more expansive view of voting rights While less popularly reviled than Citizens United, the Roberts Court's 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder was arguably more consequential. The decision struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which contained a formula for deciding which states and counties would have to be subject to "preclearance," a process in which any changes to voting laws they proposed must be run past the Justice Department to make sure they don't violate the voting rights of minorities.

The upshot of the ruling was that the Voting Rights Act could not be easily enforced by the federal government, and instead has to be enforced through individual lawsuits filed after laws are passed, under Section 2 of the act. That's a much slower, more expensive process that effectively makes it harder to challenge things like voter ID requirements or restrictions on early voting.

This is something that's mainly in Congress's court. "There are plenty of ways that Congress could revive [preclearance], and a Court with a liberal majority would be far more welcoming to new legislation," Gerken says. "But, again, the ball is in Congress's court."

"The preclearance regime can't easily be recovered," says Pam Karlan, a law professor at Stanford and former deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights specializing in voting rights. At best, she explains, "the Supreme Court could give a robust reading of Section 2 in the Voting Rights Act," and use it to invalidate large categories of franchise-restricting voting regulations.

The problem is deeper than Shelby, too. "The Court has really moved to an 'undue burden' standard on the right to vote" in the past 10 years or so, Karlan explains, "rather than treating it as a straightforward fundamental rights issue under strict scrutiny."

Under an undue burden standard, legislation that places some burden on a constitutional right, such as the right to vote, is acceptable, as long as that burden isn't excessive in scale.

For example, in Crawford v. Marion County in 2008, the Court ruled that Indiana's photo ID requirement for voters was not an undue burden, because, as Justice John Paul Stevens wrote, "the inconvenience of going to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, gathering required documents, and posing for a photograph does not qualify as a substantial burden on most voters' right to vote."

"Strict scrutiny," by contrast, is the toughest test a law can face in court, requiring that it address a government interest that's really compelling, and address it in the least restrictive, narrowest way possible. Voter ID laws would be in trouble with such a regime, not least since the evidence that voter fraud is a major problem, and preventing it is a compelling government interest, is basically nonexistent.

But Karlan notes that the Court wouldn't even have to totally reverse course and start applying strict scrutiny to make progress on these issues. "One of the things I've been thinking about is a more liberal version of the undue burden-style standards that the Court has employed," she says. "A version of that test that really takes into account socioeconomic disparities and the like could have a major impact."

"For example, voter ID - it's not a burden on most people to have a voter ID," she continues. "A huge majority of Americans drive cars and have drivers' licenses. So saying that you need to show your driver's license to vote for most people is not a burden. But if there's a group of people that are too poor to own cars, or are disabled in ways that mean they can't drive, for those people getting the documents and going to the DMV and dealing with a system that requires a certain degree of sophistication is a real burden. If courts were to start taking seriously the question of looking at the burden with respect to the people who actually face it, that might change dramatically how the Court thinks about a lot of these issues."

That's a particularly promising avenue for the Court since it requires minimal change in the Court's doctrines. "It's not necessarily the legal tests themselves that are the problem," Karlan notes. "It's the sensibilities and the understandings and the world-awareness of the people applying the tests." That's something that changing the membership of the Court could shift substantially, even if the new Court isn't eager to overturn precedent.

The Court could start to fight gerrymandering

Both Karlan and Gerken also point to gerrymandering and districting issues as an area where action from a more liberal Court would be likely.

As it stands, many judicial conservatives view partisan gerrymandering issues as "non-justiciable." The Court has agreed to no firm standard as to what is and isn't allowed in creating congressional and legislative districts, and in 2004's Vieth v. Jubelirer a plurality opinion by the right wing of the Court argued that no such standard is even possible.

But the Court's 4 liberals dissented, and Anthony Kennedy filed a concurrence arguing that while at that moment there was no clear standard the Court could use to evaluate whether a redistricting is acceptable, it's possible the Court could develop such a standard in the future.

Since then, there's been a lot of academic energy around trying to develop such a standard. University of Chicago law professor Nicholas Stephanopoulos and political scientist Eric McGhee have devised one promising option, which notes that gerrymandering forces the losing party to "waste" votes by placing all its voters into a small number of districts where the party gets a landslide, rather than spreading those voters out so they can have more impact.

Stephanopoulos and McGhee argue that fair districting requires a roughly equal number of wasted votes for each party, and that districting schemes where one party is wasting many more votes are unconstitutional. Whitford v. Nichol, a challenge to Wisconsin's gerrymandering for state House districts, is using the Stephanopolous and McGhee standard, and could eventually make it to the Supreme Court.

But there are other standards on offer as well, including one developed by political scientists Gary King and Bernard Grofman of Harvard and UC Irvine, respectively, and another by Princeton neuroscientist Sam Wang.

"I do think this will be a Court open to the possibility of policing partisan gerrymanders, at least the worst ones," Gerken says. "I've told every election lawyer and social scientist I know to dust off their old papers and briefs, because I think the Court is ready to act. It just needs a manageable standard to move forward, and there are plenty of those."

"The question can't be, 'Was there any gerrymandering here?'" Karlan notes. "If the people who drew the districts are breathing, there was some level of gerrymandering, particularly if they're drawn by state legislatures. The question has to be, 'Is it too much?'"

How abortion law could change

This past spring saw the strongest Supreme Court verdict affirming reproductive rights in years, as the Court struck down 2 Texas regulations of abortion clinics in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt.

One interesting aspect of the Court's ruling is that Stephen Breyer, the author of the majority opinion, explicitly invoked an "undue burden" test. As in voting rights, the Court has decided to evaluate abortion regulations under that metric, rather than treating abortion as a fundamental right that the Court must past a strict test to restrict.

In 1992's Planned Parenthod v. Casey decision, a plurality opinion by Sandra Day O'Connor embraced the "undue burden," standard, which has had the effect of allowing a wide number of abortion regulations - bans on late-term abortions, parental consent requirements, waiting periods - that otherwise would've been struck down.

Indeed, not even a decade earlier, in City of Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health, the Court struck down a waiting period and parental consent requirement and explicitly rejected an argument from O'Connor in the dissent, and from the Reagan administration's solicitor general, Rex Lee, that they should adopt an undue burden standard that would allow such measures. Once undue burden was adopted, those kinds of provisions were viable for states to pass again.

Whole Woman's Health didn't abandon the undue burden standard but instead repurposed it, in much the way Karlan suggested, by taking into account things like indirect effects (the closure of clinics due to the regulations, for example) and effects on quality of care and the patient experience of women seeking abortions. A test that had formerly been used to restrict the right to abortion had been retrofitted to protect it.

"It is difficult to say, but my guess is that undue burden will remain the standard going forward, with the focus on exactly how it will be applied, because it is a standard that can be developed to apply to strongly protect against harmful government restrictions on abortion," Dawn Johnsen, an expert on abortion law and a professor of law at Indiana University, says.

If the Court wanted to make a bigger shift on the issue, it could adopt an argument that Justice Ginsburg has been making for years and start considering abortion as an issue of gender equality. Roe v. Wade asserted a right to abortion based on a right to privacy found in the due process clause of the 14th Amendment; many observers have argued this is a flimsy basis for the right to abortion, and that premising it on the equal protection clause, and arguing that restrictions on abortion unconstitutionally burden women without affecting men, would make for a firmer foundation.

In particular, this reevaluation could lead to increased abortion access for poor women. In a number of states, including Connecticut, New Mexico, New Jersey, and Alaska, state constitutional guarantees to equal protection have been used to mandate that Medicaid cover medically necessary abortions.

It's unlikely that the Court will overturn Harris v. McRae, a 1980 case upholding the Hyde Amendment, Congress's ban on most federal funding for Medicaid abortions, anytime soon. But an equal protection reevaluation of abortion rights is at least somewhat likely, and could lay the groundwork for a right to abortion coverage in the medium to long run.

"Supreme Court justices increasingly over the years have recognized that the right to choose when and whether to bear children is important not just to their individual liberty but to women's equality," Johnsen says. "I think odds are very good that a majority of justices in the future will hold that the right is protected by the constitutional right to both liberty and equal protection."

And that's just the start

Even outside the issues of imprisonment, capital punishment, elections, gerrymandering, and abortion, there are places where the Court could move. Karlan raises the possibility of a "civil Gideon" - a ruling that would create a right to counsel in civil cases, so poor people are guaranteed a lawyer if they need to sue their landlord or their employer; the name comes from Gideon v. Wainwright, which established the right to a government-provided attorney in criminal cases.

Hailly Korman, a principal at Bellwether Education Partners and a veteran education attorney, expresses hope that the Court could overturn San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez, the 1973 decision that concluded, 5-4, that there was no federal right to education.

"With a liberal majority, I don't think it's implausible," Korman explains. " I think there is a very strong case to be made that some minimum of education is a necessary prerequisite to enable people to access and wield all of their other rights. If I could change one thing about our federal jurisprudence, this would be it."

Berkeley's Simon notes that a more liberal Court could push back on past Court decisions about policing expanding the scope of searches and seizures - like Whren v. United States, which Simon alleges "constitutionalized racial profiling" by letting police stop cars whenever they want as long as there's probable cause for a traffic violation; or Atwater v. City of Lago Vista, which held that police could arrest people and take them for jail for driving without a seat belt, a crime that can't be punished with jail or prison time - and thus send a signal to police to use less aggressive techniques, particularly in policing communities of color.

David Strauss, a professor at University of Chicago Law School, argues that focusing on classic Supreme Court issues that split on liberal/conservative lines (like abortion) distracts from areas of law that might prove to be bigger parts of the Court's jurisprudence, like "the relationship between free speech and both government secrets and individual privacy," and cyber harassment.

But even if a small fraction of the changes detailed above are incorporated into a new, more liberal Court's jurisprudence, the consequences could be momentous. The Scalia vacancy and Kennedy's coming exit have opened the door for liberals to rethink American law in dramatic ways, the implications of which are only beginning to be teased out.



Mir Quasem's review plea hearing Wednesday

The Supreme Court is set to hear on Wednesday a petition filed by condemned war criminal Mir Quasem Ali seeking review of its earlier verdict upholding his death penalty for crimes against humanity during the Liberation War in 1971.

A 4-member bench of the Appellate Division, led by Chief Justice SK Sinha, is likely to hear the review pleas.

A 5-member bench of the Appellate Division, headed by the Chief Justice, was scheduled to hear the petition on July 25.

However, it deferred the hearing until August 24 as the defence counsels filed a time prayer seeking adjournment of the hearing for 2 months.

Earlier on June 20, Chamber Judge of the Appellate Division Justice Hasan Foez Siddique fixed July 25 for hearing the pleas following a petition filed by the state.

On June 19, Mir Ahmed Bin Quasem, son of Mir Quasem, filed a 68-page review petition with the Appellate Division seeking the acquittal of the war criminal.

The Supreme Court released the full text of its verdict upholding the death penalty awarded by the International Crimes Tribunal-2 to Mir Quasem Ali for the crimes he committed against humanity during the Liberation War on June 6.

On March 8, the Appellate Division upheld the death penalty for Mir Quasem Ali for his war crimes.

The International Crimes Tribunal-2 sentenced Mir Quasem Ali, Al-Badr chief in the port city of Chittagong in 1971, to death on November 2, 2014.

On November 30, 2014, he filed an appeal before the Supreme Court challenging the death penalty.

Top Jamaat-e-Islami financier Quasem, now 64, was president of the Chittagong town unit of the Islami Chhatra Sangha, the then student wing of Jamaat, till November 6, 1971.

He was then made general secretary of the East Pakistan Chhatra Sangha.



Philippines' Drugs War Deaths Reaches 1,800, Police Tell Senate Inquiry

Drug-related killings under Rodrigo Duterte's presidency double, as relatives of the dead accuse police of murdering suspects.

The number of drug-related killings in the Philippines since President Rodrigo Duterte took power has doubled to almost 1,800, police have said.

The number of suspected drug traffickers killed in his seven-week-old war on drugs had previously been put at about 900 by Philippine officials.

However, Philippine National Police Chief Ronald Dela Rosa on Monday told a Senate committee investigating extrajudicial killings that 712 drug traffickers and users had been killed.

He added a further 1,067 drug-related deaths were being investigated by officers.

The latest figures had been compiled since the start of July, he said.

Mr Duterte, dubbed "The Punisher", took office on 30 June after winning the presidency on a single-issue campaign of tackling illegal drugs and other crime, pledging to kill tens of thousands of criminals.

He has repeatedly called on police, and even civilians, to kill drug criminals - and warned police officers involved in the trade will face the death penalty.

Senator Leila de Lima, spearheading the inquiry, said she was concerned law enforcers and vigilantes may be using the crackdown "to commit murder with impunity".

Witnesses have accused police officers of shooting dead suspects.

1 woman told the Senate committee her husband and father-in-law were arrested and beaten by officers and taken to a police station where they were gunned down last month.

Rodrigo Duterte speaking against the UN after they criticised his anti-drugs policies

He urged the UN to also consider the number of innocent lives lost to drugs, before laying into the organisation in a typically expletive-laden tirade.

But his foreign minister Perfecto Yasay has since said the Philippines has no intention of quitting the UN.

"We are committed to the UN despite our numerous frustrations and disappointments with the international agency," said Mr Yasay.

(source: Sky News)


Executions will not eliminate security threats

The execution of 36 men in Iraq yesterday marks an alarming rise in the authorities' use of the death penalty in response to the dramatic security threats the country is facing, said Amnesty International today.

The men were convicted over the killing of 1,700 military cadets at Speicher military camp near Trikrit in June 2014, after a deeply-flawed mass trial which lasted only a few hours, and relied on "confessions" extracted under torture.

"These mass executions mark a chilling increase in Iraq's use of the death penalty," said Lynn Maalouf, Deputy Director for Research at Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Regional Office.

"Time and time again, Amnesty International has emphasized that victims' families have the right to truth and called for justice for the atrocities committed by the armed group calling itself the Islamic State. However, executing men who were forced to 'confess' under torture and were not given a proper chance to defend themselves is not justice.

"Relying on executions to counter Iraq's security challenges is completely misguided. It does not address the root causes of deadly attacks and will only serve to perpetuate the cycle of violence. The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and there is no credible evidence that shows it serves as more of a deterrent to crime than a prison term."

Only thorough, fair and transparent trials will deliver justice for victims of deadly attacks and their families.

Amnesty International had raised the Speicher case during a meeting in Baghdad on 4 August 2016 with the Special Committee in the Presidency Office established last year to speed up executions, and explicitly appealed for the President not to ratify the death sentences for these men.

The organization is calling on the Iraqi authorities to immediately establish an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty. Pending abolition, Parliament should remove the death penalty from legislation and respect all international standards applying to the use of the death penalty.

One of the men executed "confessed" to killing 60 cadets at Speicher after receiving threats that his wife and sisters would be raped. He was also beaten with cables and given electric shocks. Video evidence shows the man being punched in the face during interrogation and "confessing" on Iraqi TV with a visible bruise under his right eye. Even though he recanted this "confession" in court, according to lawyers it was used to justify its verdict. The court did not order an independent investigation into his and other defendants' allegations of torture.


40 people were convicted over the Speicher massacre in February 2016. On 31 July the verdict was upheld for 36 of the men and the Iraqi President ratified the executions on 14 August.

The Iraqi authorities have come under increasing political and public pressure to speed up executions, particularly following the deadly attack on Karrada, a shopping district in Baghdad on 2 July, which claimed nearly 300 lives.

In the wake of the attack, the Ministry of Justice announced 7 executions were carried out on 4 and 5 July. It stated that there were up to 3,000 individuals on death row.

Amendments were also introduced to Iraq's criminal code on 12 July making it more difficult for defendants sentenced to death to seek a retrial.

At least 81 executions have been carried out in Iraq so far in 2016, and at least 123 people sentenced to death.

(source: Amnesty International USA)


Is Execution Of Islamic State Fighters In Iraq Act Of Justice Or Revenge?

The massacre is named after the base near Tikrit where the Islamic State reportedly kidnapped 1,700 recruits, promising to take them to their families, but then they were executed after taking them to a shallow grave.

The Speicher base is also officially known as the Tikrit Air Academy, which was renamed after U.S. troops took it over during the 2003 invasion. The base is named after Captain Michael Scott Speicher, who was killed during the Gulf War in 1991.

The New York Times reported on one of the Shia men who survived the massacre, but it also details how the Iraqi men who fled the base were rounded up by the Islamic State before they were executed.

Inquisitr has been covering reports of U.S.-led coalition forces pushing the Islamic State out of various cities in Iraq and Syria they previously held. One of them being Fallujah, a town with a Sunni majority who the Islamic State supports, and who were reportedly also being executed by Shia militia groups as they were being captured.

However, the coalition has been trying to avoid making the mistake, where various tribes and previously conflicted groups have been working together against the Islamic State, under the idea that even for towns like Fallujah, the group was executing their own if they did not side with them. The terrorist group has apparently not been very popular among Sunni Muslims either, as mentioned in another report by Inquisitr about the divide the group has tried to force.

"Sunnis in Iraq no longer view the ISIL radicals as liberators, and the Shiite role in the fighting is less important than it was a year ago, officials in Baghdad told Reuters. As a result, they said, the Iraqi army has gained Sunni acceptance and is seen less as a Shiite-led sectarian force than it was under former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki."

The New York Times also talks about reconciliation between Shia and Sunni, where there were reports during the massacre that Sunni's assisted in the execution of the Shia recruits. When the Islamic State was separating the Iraqi troops, the Sunnis were given a chance to ask for forgiveness for their role to defend the government, while the Shia were killed.

Other tribal conflicts, in Africa for instance, have had to apologize for them and it's mentioned that a representative under Maliki traveled there to learn more, saying that in the desert, revenge was how they settled their issues.

While both sides have their reasons to despise the Islamic State, the solution from the coalition has been to make sure they're not doing something that will generate more sectarianism, which gives rise to problematic terror groups.



Dutch-Iranians protest at The Hague over continuing executions in Iran

Hundreds of demonstrators rallied at The Hague on Saturday, to protest the ongoing executions in Iran.

Those who gathered to stand in solidarity with the victims of the mullah's cruel regime included members of the Dutch-Iranian communities and supporters of the National Council of Resistance of Iran.

They urged the Dutch government to condemn the executions and to call for an immediate halt to the executions and torture in Iran. They argued that any improvement of relations with the Iranian Regime should be conditioned upon an improvement to the human rights situation.

This rally, on August 20, was the latest in a long line on similar protests across Europe since an audio recording was released which proves the Regime's involvement with the 1988 massacre.

Protesters from around the globe have called on the UN Security Council to prosecute regime’s officials responsible for the 1988 massacre in Iran. Last week dozens of protesters took part in a three-day hunger strike at The Hague, with similar demonstrations in London and Oslo.

These protests all coincide with the 1988 Iranian Massacre in which 30,000 political prisoners mostly members of the Iranian Resistance Force, People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI)- were executed over that one summer.

Earlier this month, audio was released of a 'Death Committee' meeting which revealed that the Regime was indeed behind the massacre that they tried to erase from history. Many of the people involved in the massacre, described by Amnesty International as a crime against humanity, still hold high-ranking positions in the Regime today.

Since the beginning of August, the Regime has executed dozens of people, including 25 political prisoners of August 2. The total number of people executed in Iran during President Hassan Rouhani's 3-year rule is almost 3,000.

(source: NCR-Iran)


Execution state question waste of time, could lead to additional litigation, legal experts say

Some legal experts say a state question dealing with the death penalty does little, is unnecessary and could lead to additional litigation.

Voters on Nov. 8 are expected to decide a number of state questions, including State Question 776.

The attorney general determined the legislation wording that put it on the ballot didn't accurately describe the measure and provided a substantial rewrite.

The measure now says lawmakers can designate any method of execution that is not prohibited by the U.S. Constitution. It also says that death sentences will not be reduced because a method is ruled invalid.

The measure says that if a method is deemed invalid, the death penalty shall remain in force until it can be carried out with a valid method.

Finally, it says that under the state constitution, the death penalty can't be ruled cruel or unusual punishment.

Lawmakers in 2015 put the measure on the ballot by passing Senate Joint Resolution 31, by Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore.

It was done following the 2014 highly publicized botched execution of Clayton Lockett at Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. Lockett died of a heart attack 43 minutes after the lethal injection process began.

Another inmate, Charles Warner, was put to death in 2015 using the incorrect combination of drugs.

"Basically, I don't think it does anything," said Oklahoma County Public Defender Bob Ravitz. "Oklahoma law has always been that."

The state question reiterates what the Court of Criminal Appeals has said for 100 years, Ravitz said.

Sykes did not respond to requests for an interview.

Sykes was an author of House Joint Resolution 1056 that put an earlier state question on the ballot. State Question 755 banned Shariah law, which is Islamic law and based on the Quran and the teaching of Muhammad. It passed on Nov. 2, 2010, by more than 70 % of the vote, even though state courts do not and did not use Shariah law.

It drew a lawsuit and was tossed out by a federal court saying it was an unconstitutional infringement on individual rights. The state had to pay $303,333 in attorney fees to the plaintiffs who challenged it.

"The issue of the method of execution has a very real potential to be litigated because there is a great deal of litigation pending now in reference to methods of execution in violation of the Eighth Amendment, and that becomes a real question," said Tulsa County Public Defender Rob Nigh.

He called the state question "an incredible waste of time, energy and resources" at a time when the state can't properly fund education and incarceration rates are bankrupting the state.

"It is a distraction from the business we ought to be taking care of," Nigh said.

Robert Durnham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said the bulk of the state question is unnecessary.

The portion commenting on cruel and unusual punishment attempts to place the state's execution process above the law and eliminate the checks and balances process provided by the judiciary, he said.

"It would deny Oklahoma state courts the power to determine whether the death penalty was being administered in a cruel and usual manner," Durnham said. "That means a whole range of constitutional protections against the unfair administration of the death penalty would be unavailable in Oklahoma courts."

He said there is no question the measure, if approved by voters, will draw additional litigation.

Durnham said the question was written prematurely.

"At the time the Legislature approved this ballot question, they were unaware of the colossal systematic failures by the State Department of Corrections in carrying out executions," he said.

Tulsa County District Attorney Stephen Kunzweiler said the measure was an effort to ensure that if lethal injection were determined unconstitutional, the state would still be able to proceed with a different measure in a constitutional manner.

Meanwhile, a coalition has been formed to oppose the measure.

"We feel it is unnecessary," said Connie Johnson, a former state senator who chairs the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. "It represents a direct affront to the balance of power between the three branches of government."

(source: Tulsa World)


Death penalty in our hands now

The death penalty debate has moved out of the Legislature and into the public square.

State senators in 2015 said repeal it, and they spoke with enough force to override a gubernatorial veto. Now, it's our turn to decide.

Conventional wisdom says Nebraskans will overturn the Legislature's decision and restore the death penalty by supporting a referendum in November to do just that.

But there's also a widespread hunch that this might not be a slam dunk, not really quite settled yet.

And so voters now will hear some of the same arguments that senators heard from supporters of death penalty repeal: It's costly, it's used so rarely that it's essentially unworkable and ineffective, it runs the risk of killing an innocent person who later is found not to have committed the crime.

And then there's the overriding issue of personal or religious belief: Do pro-life believers make exceptions? Or does the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, not only justify, but direct punishment by death if you kill another?

Lots of fundamental issues and important questions for Nebraska voters to weigh, just as their elected representatives did last year when they voted for repeal.

That decision startled many people in other parts of the country and made them reconsider some of their stereotypical views about Nebraska and Nebraskans. Some of your friends and associates in other states probably already have told you that.

On the other hand, that decision surprised and disappointed some people who looked on from afar, friends may also tell you.

In any event, it was noticed. It was news. Big change, unexpected, even startling, chronicled in New York newspapers and celebrated in Rome by bathing the historic Colosseum in white light.

On the other hand, it also was a decision that quickly mobilized death penalty supporters determined to reverse the Legislature's decision.

So now it's our turn as voters to decide.

TV ads are going to try to influence us, convince us, nudge us toward a decision.

Death penalty opponents probably are going to have to change minds if they hope to succeed, just as they did in the Legislature; supporters will make a case for deterrence and just punishment, pointing to heinous crimes.

The most compelling 30-second ads -- we'll probably see a ton of them -- could make a difference in moving the needle on voter consideration of this issue.

But this essentially is a private and personal decision and one that for most people probably already has been made.

The critical question is: Are there still open minds?

(source: Lincoln Journal Star)


Reviving death penalty would be a waste of money

At a time when the governor has called for a special session to deal with a devastating budget deficit, Gov. Susana Martinez is asking to bring back the death penalty. Yet, the death penalty is expensive, does nothing to deter crime, takes resources away from communities, and, on occasion is used against innocent people.

The cost of one death penalty case is about $1.5 million dollars more than a life sentence prosecution. This price tag is created by constitutional protections and mandates that are required in cases where the state wants to take the life of a citizen. Even with all that money spent, innocent people end up on death row, but more on that below.

What level of community safety do we get for those millions of dollars? Police chiefs agree: very little. Police chiefs from around the country have been surveyed to learn what tools they believe are critical for public safety. Overwhelmingly, these law enforcement leaders have ranked the death penalty last on their list.

Why is the death penalty last? Because the death penalty is ineffective as a crime deterrent. The death penalty does not make anyone "think twice" - people who murder are not thinking straight anyway. Death penalty states, like Texas, do not have lower crime rates than states that have abolished the death penalty.

New Mexico's murder rate decreased in the year immediately following the abolishment of the state death penalty, even though there was widespread publicity that New Mexico would no longer kill people as punishment.

If spending taxpayer money on the death penalty doesn't work, what could we use the money on that does work?

Experts say law enforcement needs funding for more officers, improved technology, comprehensive training and sophisticated investigatory equipment.

Last year the Donna Ana County sheriff said he was severely understaffed and needed millions of taxpayer dollars to provide required services to the county. Just a few death penalty cases would undermine that budget. Just one death penalty case would pay the annual salaries of about 50 Dona Ana County sheriff's deputies. And, of course, law enforcement is only one area that, if it received full funding, might help decrease crime. What about education and child services? New Mexico is still 49th in child well-being. We are 50th in education and child poverty.

There is no room in our state budget to take money that could be spent for children's education and services and spend it to fund ineffective and expensive death-penalty prosecutions. That is especially true this year when the entire state is facing drastic budget cuts, and all state agencies will likely have to tighten their belts.

And if you think the money is worth it because people prosecuted under the death penalty have all committed terrible crimes, think again. We have all heard news stories about innocent people being incarcerated for terrible crimes they did not commit. Some innocent people have sat on death row for years, some innocent people took plea deals to avoid the death penalty, and some were likely executed.

Death penalty prosecutions are used against the innocent. As of October 13, 2015, there have been 156 exonerations of innocent men and women on death row. If each prosecution cost on average $1.5 million, then $234 million taxpayer dollars were used to prosecute the death penalty against the innocent.

That cost is unacceptable. That waste is unacceptable. And potentially executing an innocent person is unacceptable.

Except for shameless political purposes, it is inconceivable politicians would put forth legislation to reinstate the death penalty. It is an ineffective waste of scarce resources and hard-earned tax dollars during a time of extreme budget shortfalls. I hope our lawmakers use this upcoming session to focus on what can really help New Mexico law enforcement and our state.

(source: Opinion; Margaret Strickland, President-elect / New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association----Albuquerque Journal)


Lack of drugs is latest obstacle for Nevada death penalty

Nevada officials face yet another obstacle in carrying out the death penalty if inmates exhaust their final appeals.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports ( 1 of the 2 drugs that make up the lethal injection has expired, and companies that produce it refuse on principle to give the state any more.

The state also hasn't had a usable execution chamber since about 2011, when one at the shuttered Nevada State Prison fell out of compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act. A new chamber is under construction in Ely at a cost of $858,000 and should be ready on Nov. 1.

There are 80 people on Nevada's death row, but no executions are pending.

State officials plan to reach out to pharmaceutical companies nationwide in hopes of finding a supplier.

(source: Associated Press)


Son gets death penalty, mother life term in murder case

As a sequel to previous land dispute, bank official was murdered by his neighbours in his house at Chandanaish upazila on June 10, 2005.

A Chittagong court on Monday has sentenced a man to death and his mother to life term imprisonment for killing a neigbour over land dispute at Chandanaish upazila of Chittagong.

The convicts are Humayun Kabir and his mother Shamshunnahar.

Judge Rabiuzzaman of Second Additional District and Sesions Judge's Court passed the order in presence of the 2 convicts.

The same court also fined both convicts with Tk 50,000. In default, Shamshunnahar will have to serve an additional 6 months in prison.

According to the case documents, the victim Munir Ahmed was an official in Agrabad branch of Rupali Bank.

As a sequel to previous land dispute, the bank official was murdered by his neighbours in his house at Chandanaish upazila on June 10, 2005.

Of the 2 convicts, Shamshunnahar hit the bank official with a stick while her son Humayun struck him in the head with a spade. Critically injured, the banker was rushed to Chandanaish upazila health complex. Later he was shifted to Chittagong Medical College Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries on June 29, 2005.

Tanvir Ahmed, son of the victim, filed a case against Shamshunnahar and her 2 sons Humayun Kabir and Shaon.

The police, however, dropped Shaon from the charge-sheet and submitted it on April 19, 2006. The charge was framed against the duo on January 28, 2008.

The court delivered the verdict after taking deposition of 11 witnesses.

(source: Dhaka Tribune)


Let's say no to the death penalty

First and foremost, I would like to thank Amnesty International Malaysia for inviting me to give a talk on the topic of the death penalty.

Amnesty International has been in the forefront of highlighting facts on the death penalty around the world, and why it should be abolished.

One worrying trend is the arbitrary manner the death penalty is dealt with, and lack of proportionality to the crime, due to questionable judicial processes, and prejudices inherent in the justice system of the state, besides social economic factors that deprive the poor of competent attorneys to represent them.

In Malaysia, the number of individuals currently under the death sentence is at least 1,043.

In a reply to Parliament on Nov 12, 2014, the home minister disclosed that there were 975 persons under sentence of death. Among these, 347 had filed for appeals (310 to the Federal Court, and 37 to the Court of Appeal), and 255 to the Pardons Board.

In May 2015, Prisons Department director Abdul Basir told the press that there were 1,043 death row inmates nationwide.

As of October 2013, 564 individuals had been on death row for over 5 years, representing just over 50 % of all death row inmates.

In October 2012, the DPP commissioned Professor Roger Hood, Professor Emeritus of Criminology at the University of Oxford, to design and analyse the findings of a public opinion survey on the mandatory death penalty in Malaysia.

The survey of a representative sample of 1,535 Malaysian citizens from all over the country, was carried out by Ipsos Malaysia, a leading market research company.

The research was designed to elicit views on the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking, murder and offences under the Firearms Act.

By using a series of scenarios, it showed the extent to which members of the public support the mandatory death penalty, when faced with the reality of having to judge whether the crime merits the death penalty.

In the findings, a large majority said they were in favour of the death penalty, whether mandatory or discretionary; 91 % for murder, 74 to 80 % for drug trafficking depending on the drug concerned, and 83 % for firearms offences.

Concerning the mandatory death penalty, a majority of 56 % said they were in favour of it for murder, but only between 25 and 44 % for drug trafficking and 45 % for firearms offences. This was basically in theory.

Large gap

When asked to say what sentences they would themselves impose on a series of 'scenario' cases, all of which were subject to a mandatory death sentence, a large gap was found between the level of support 'in theory' and the level of support when faced with the 'reality'.

For example, of the 56 % who said they favoured the mandatory death penalty for murder, whatever the circumstances, only 14 % of them actually chose the death penalty for all the scenario cases they judged.

This was only 8 % of the total number of respondents. When interviewees were asked whether they would support the death penalty if it were proven that innocent persons had been executed, the proportion in favour for murder fell to 33 %, for drug trafficking to 26 %, and to 23 % for firearm offences.

These findings suggest that there would be little public opposition to the abolition of the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking, murder, and firearm offences. Public support for the death penalty for murder is also lower than is perhaps assumed, so may not be regarded as a definite barrier to complete abolition.

Research on death penalty overseas

A report released by death penalty information centre on April 18 through the prestigious National Research Council of the National Academies, based on a review of more than 3 decades of research, concluded that studies claiming a deterrent effect on murder rates from the death penalty are fundamentally flawed.

The report concluded: "The committee concludes that research to date on the effect of capital punishment on homicide is not informative about whether capital punishment decreases, increases, or has no effect on homicide rates."

Therefore, the committee recommended that these studies not be used to inform deliberations requiring judgements about the effect of the death penalty on homicide.

There are also various studies done in the United States, which highlight how the death penalty has been used unjustly against the black community

Jurors in Washington state are three times more likely to recommend a death sentence for a black defendant than for a white defendant in a similar case (Prof K Beckett, Univ of Washington, 2014).

In Louisiana, the odds of a death sentence were 97 % higher for those whose victims were white, than for those whose victims were black (Pierce & Radelet, Louisiana Law Review, 2011).

Since 1973, more than 150 people have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence (Staff Report, House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil & Constitutional Rights, 1993, with updates from DPIC). From 1973-1999, there was an average of 3 exonerations per year. From 2000-2011, there was an average of 5 exonerations per year of defendant discrimination, or both (Prof Baldus report to the ABA, 1998).

Hardly a deterrent

The death penalty in Malaysia has been hardly a deterrent in reducing serious crimes. For example, the death penalty has not resolved the drug trafficking problems due to poor enforcement related to corruption, besides the inability of law enforcement officers to cripple influential syndicates which have global links, and their ability to pay lucrative amounts to drug traffickers around the world.

In the case of homicide, the rage of individuals whose minds are momentarily clouded, leaves them in a state where they do not think about the consequences of their actions, that could lead to a death penalty.

While there are legal dilemmas facing the death penalty due to arbitrary processes, there is a need to look into a broader dimension on whether the death penalty is the right choice for the state.

There is a need to understand that death penalty could never be proportional to the crime committed due to various factors such as how the crime was committed, the manner of how factual evidence was gathered, and the socio-economic situation of the perpetrator who might not have the means to hire a competent lawyer to represent him.

Being a member of Parliament and the secretary of the Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA), I have highlighted the injustices related to death penalty in Parliament.

It is significant that the attorney-general Mohamed Apandi Ali has stated that the government plans to review the death penalty for certain crimes. Former minister in the Prime Minister's Department Nancy Shukri has assured me in Parliament that there is a comprehensive review of the death penalty.

These are encouraging signs that show that the effort put by MPs and Amnesty international, and NGOs concerned, are beginning to bear fruit.

From the empirical research conducted, it can be concluded that the death penalty does not stand the test of due process and proportionality between crime and punishment.

The survey in Malaysia and research done overseas show there is a lack of definite conclusions on whether the death penalty in itself is able to deter crime, and there is discrimination affecting minority communities when it comes to the death penalty.

Also, the social and psychological factor of rage that blinds an individual from assessing the implications of the crime is not taken into consideration by the proponents of the death penalty.

We have to go beyond the reductionist mindset and take a broader dimension to solve violent crime in our society.

The most significant aspect of the survey is that Malaysians in general would support the abolition of the death penalty if the facts surrounding this capital punishment are disseminated through forums of this nature, with civil society, public intellectuals, and members of Parliament playing their roles.

The media should also play its rightful role in this process of education towards abolishing the death penalty.

(source: M KULASEGARAN is for MP Ipoh Barat. The above was taken from on his speech delivered at the 'Abolition of Death Penalty' event organised by Amnesty International of Ipoh


Facing the firing squad: the agonising wait on death row at Indonesia's island prison

We were sheltered in a car at Port Cilicap, the gateway to Indonesia's Nusa Kambangan island prison, with few places to take cover outside. It was a torrential downpour so heavy you could barely see your hands in front of your face.

It was 11:30pm on July 28, so heavy was the rain that speculation was mounting the firing squad could not complete its gruesome duty that day. The targets tied to wooden posts, either kneeling or standing, would be too hard to see.

But by 2:30am, as thunder cracked over the prison island, we received word that the executions had taken place as planned.

In the hours ahead we would establish it had been a day of confusion, mismanagement and deep human suffering.

We'd arrived at Cilacap earlier that morning knowing the inmates had been given 72 hours notice, meaning they should face the firing squad sometime after midnight on the Friday.

Not long after at the prosecutor's office, the families began to emerge after being told the executions would take place that evening, short of the 72 hours notice required, a self-imposed rule Indonesia seems to largely disregard.

The raw grief was palpable. So hard to watch and to hear.

The family of Pakistani man Zulfikar Ali had just been told he would soon die. His wife could barely stand.

Earlier that week I had visited the Pakistani embassy where, unexpectedly, I'd established there was a widespread deep and real question mark over Ali's innocence.

I sat with the deputy head of mission while he explained that while Pakistan supports the death penalty, there had been at least 2 extensive reports showing Ali was innocent.

So much so that even the former Indonesian president Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie appealed to President Widodo to save this man's life.

Later on the prison island, the families gathered in a specially erected tent to sit and wait until the deed was done.

The lightning and thunder prevented them from hearing the sound of gunfire.

Father Charlie Burrows went to the prison that evening to counsel 2 Catholic inmates, who both survived.

"They were all in their cells ... and obviously we could see it wasn't going to happen because it was too late and time was going on," Father Burrows told me.

3 Nigerians and 1 Indonesian, all involved in drug crimes, were executed.

Another 10 inmates, who had just lived through what they believed to be the last moments of their lives, were not.

"It all happened pretty quickly in the end," said Father Burrows.

"All the spiritual accompaniers went together to the shooting place, with the ones who were actually active, and we were all asked to wait there and we said a few prayers together."

Father Burrows described the mental state of the 4 men in those final moments.

"There was a lot of anger ...but eventually, usually they realise that they're going to die, so it's best you try and die with dignity."

Indonesia provided no clarification as to why some of the inmates were spared that night, and whether the excruciating day for inmates and families would be relived in the future.

No apology, no explanation, no reason.

(source: Samantha Hawley,


Death penalty will set PH in wrong direction, says AI

Since President Duterte took office on June 30, this country has seen so many people killed by vigilante death squads. The "kill list" tallied from that time by the Philippine National Police presents an appalling death toll of 465 extrajudicial executions.

The President has acknowledged abuses in the war on drugs, but is not backing down from a shoot-to-kill order against drug dealers. He has also ordered the reinstatement of the death penalty as a deterrent to crime, which he has pledged to eradicate in the first 3 to 6 months of his presidency.

Mr. Duterte has explained these draconian measures that have given the Philippines the international reputation of being Asia's latest killing field, reminiscent of the genocidal slaughter of up to half a million Cambodians by the Khmer Rouge when they occupied Phnom Penh in 1975.

He has justified these massacres, saying that most drug dealers and addicts slain in gun battles had put up a fight, but he was sure some were "salvaged" - a local term for extrajudicial killings by law enforcers. The excuse has alarmed human rights activists who denounced it as "at least, legally questionable," as an attempt to whitewash law enforcement agents' involvement in the killings, or to look for scapegoats in the witch-hunt for those responsible for the summary executions.

Mr. Duterte has been battling with international organizations condemning his controversial crime war that has claimed 1,000 lives. He hit out on Wednesday at "stupid" UN criticism, warning it not to interfere in Philippine domestic affairs. "Why should the United Nations be so easily swayed in the affairs of this republic? There were only 1,000 killed," he said.

"What's the problem? You inject politics. Only 1,000 died, and you put my country in peril, in jeopardy?" he said. He should have been asked: Why are you not bothered by the killings of Filipinos on the basis of nothing more than suspicion of having committed crimes. He told foreign human rights watchdogs "not to investigate us as though we are criminals" and warned they would not be treated well in the Philippines.

Amnesty International (AI) has told Mr. Duterte he must fulfill his inauguration pledge to uphold the country's commitment to international law and lead a break with the country's "poor human rights record."

Lend substance to words

"President Duterte was elected on a mandate to uphold the rule of law," the London-based AI said. "It is encouraging that he spoke of honoring the Philippines' obligations under international law in his inauguration speech. But now that he is in power, he needs to lend substance to those words and break with his earlier rhetoric. Throughout his campaign, the President made inflammatory remarks that, if translated to policy, would mark a sharp deterioration in the already problematic human rights situation in the Philippines. President Duterte's promises to adhere to the rule of law must be translated into actual policy and implemented in practice," AI said.

Since winning the election, AI noted, Mr. Duterte has "triggered widespread alarm" by calling for the restoration of the death penalty, vowing to preside over a wave of extrajudicial executions, threatening journalists and intimidating human rights defenders.

Regional leader

"This is a context where a climate of impunity for human rights violations prevails in the Philippines, including for torture and ill treatment. Only 1 police officer has ever been brought to justice under laws criminalizing torture, and few have been held accountable for killing journalists ...

"Among President Duterte's many troubling positions is his intention to restore the death penalty. Doing so would reverse a decade-long ban in the Philippines of this cruel and irreversible punishment. For this [position] the Philippines is a regional leader, as it went against the grain of other countries in the region.

"President Duterte has said that he intends to apply the death penalty to a range of crimes including offenses that do not meet the threshold of 'most serious crimes,' which is the only category of crimes for which international law allows the death penalty.

"There is no evidence that the death penalty serves as any more of a deterrent than prison. At a time when this cruel and inhuman and degrading punishment has been abolished in the majority of the world's countries, reimposing it will set [the Philippines] in the wrong direction."



Jigisha Ghosh murder case: 1 convict awarded death sentence, life imprisonment for other 2

The Delhi court on Monday pronounced its quantum of sentence in the Jigisha Ghosh murder case awarding life imprisonment to 1 of the 3 convicts and death sentence to the other 2.

Out of the 3 convicts, Ravi Kapoor and Amit Shukla have been sentenced to death penalty and Baljeet Malik sentenced with life imprisonment.

Jigisha Ghosh was kidnapped on March 18, 2009 after her office cab dropped her near her home in Vasant Vihar, South Delhi at around 4 am.

Her body was recovered after 2 days on March 20, 2009 in Haryana's Surajkund.

On March 23, 2009, the Delhi Police arrested 3 men in connection with the case who were convicted on July 14, 2016.



Recent Public Hangings Contribute to Public Intimidation as Crackdown Continues

There has been renewed focus on Iran's misuse and overuse of the death penalty during the month of August, since a mass execution of Sunni Kurds was widely described as one of the worst mass executions in recent years. The situation was made worse by allegations that at least some of those victims had been convicted on the basis of forced confessions and had been tortured immediately prior to their executions.

Rather ironically, the mass execution came close on the heels of reports that Iran's rate of executions had been lower in the 1st half of 2016 than in the 1st half of 2015. Despite the improvement, it was determined that approximately 230 executions had been carried out between January and the beginning of July, leaving little doubt that the Islamic Republic would retain its title as the country with the largest per capita rate of executions in the world.

In 2015, the total year-end figure was very nearly 1,000 people, with the vast majority of them being non-violent drug offenders. And although the first months of 2016 seemed to mark a substantial decrease, some Iran experts explained this away on the basis of the fact that executions frequently slow or stop during national elections and the holy month of Ramadan, both of which took place in the 1st half of the current year.

Indeed, Iran's attitude toward the death penalty had evidently not-changed, as evidenced by the fact that during that time, new death penalties were passed against defendants who were below the age of majority at the time of their offenses. This is in clear violation of international norms, as outlined in two human rights documents to which Iran is a signatory.

The first weeks of August seem to have given the impression that not only has Iran's attitude toward executions not changed, neither has its long-term practice. In this regard, the August 3 mass execution does not stand alone. Numerous executions have been recorded since then. The National Council of Resistance of Iran reported that in addition to the 20 Sunni Kurds, at least 16 other individuals were put to death just between the August 2 and 6.

Now, according to brief reports by the website Iran Human Rights, at least seven more Iranians were hanged just on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. Of the 5 people whose death sentences were confirmed in 2 different localities on Wednesday, the 2 who were hanged in the city of Bandar Abbas were hanged in public. The same may be true of 3 Ahwazi Arab prisoners whom Iran Human Rights described as "victims of the Iranian government's systematic repression in the ethnic regions of Iran." The Judiciary had slated their execution to be carried out in public, but the actual location had not been confirmed after the fact.

Public hangings are a common occurrence in Iran, but it is comparatively unusual for there to be 5 in 1 day, in 2 different localities. If it is confirmed that this is what took place on Wednesday, it will provide additional support to the claims that the Iranian regime is engaged in more aggressive intimidation as it evidently continues a crackdown on political dissent and secular or pro-Western sentiment.

The NCRI claimed on Thursday that such dissent has become "predominant." It quoted Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi as saying this, in the context of a report showing that 4,400 clothing stores had been forced to close last year after theocratic authorities determined that they offered "indecent apparel violating public morality."

The NCRI also reported that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had issued a statement on state television in July reiterating the nation's commitment to a crackdown on such "violations." "Any discussion over the voluntary or mandatory nature of the hijab is deviatory, and does not have any place in the Islamic Republic," he said. Khamenei has also spearheaded efforts to discourage women from entering the workforce and to encourage them to begin families at an early age.

This has apparently coincided with various other forms of discrimination, whether carried out by government institutions or hardline civilian groups. As one of the latest examples of this, IranWire reported on Thursday that a highly ranked Iranian women's soccer team had been banned from competition. The provincial government initially cited budgetary problems, even though funding had been increased for a less successful male team.

Subsequently, the justification for the ban was changed to reflect issues of public morality, suggesting that some members of the team had been lesbians. In Iran, homosexuality remains a serious crime, representing 1 example of Iran's extremely liberal application of the death penalty


AUGUST 21, 2016:


Incompetent counsel in death penalty cases

Defending people accused or convicted of capital murder is daunting, emotionally draining, and all consuming - when you win. When your client gets executed, it is devastating beyond words. Jerry Guerinot's smiling face in the AP's article, titled Texas lawyer who lost all death penalty cases says he's done, makes my blood boil. How could a professional entrusted with the lives of others show no scars when he finally decides to stop ushering his clients to death row?

The article omitted important details that put this question into perspective. The most successful capital trial lawyers rarely go to trial. They work hard to investigate every possible detail about their clients and their crimes. If their clients are innocent, they present firm evidence to the prosecutor to get the case dismissed. If their clients are guilty, they present firm evidence of their clients' humanity to remove death as an option. Guerinot took almost twice as many cases to trial as he resolved without trial; these numbers are an enormous red flag that he did not prepare his cases in a professional manner. Or as the New York Times quoted famous capital attorney David Dow saying, "He doesn't even pick the low-hanging fruit which is hitting him in the head as he is walking under the tree." Pat Hartwell, one of the leading death-penalty activists in Texas, knows nearly every attorney who has represented the prisoners. She knows the good ones and the bad ones; she knows the ones who care and the ones who just want a paycheck or some fame. Hartwell regards Guerinot as one who thought his bravado and connections would protect his reputation. But it has not. Guerinot's record speaks for itself.

Guerinot's high-profile cases illustrate his lack of care and preparation when his clients' lives are on the line. The article mentions that the Supreme Court will review Duane Buck's case next term because a psychologist opined that he would be a future danger because he is a black man. What the article omits is that Guerinot called this psychologist, Walter Quijano, to testify on his client's behalf. That's right; Guerinot called an expert witness for the sole purpose of saving Buck's life, and that witness said that Buck would continue to be a danger to society because he is black. Either Guerinot really wanted the jury to kill his client, or he did not put any thought or preparation into Buck's defense. And the conservative Texas Court of Criminal Appeals vacated Linda Carty's conviction despite Guerinot's proclamation that she received a death sentence "because it was a terrible crime." It may have been a terrible crime, but Carty did not do it. Guerinot seems to miss this minor detail.

But a much deeper and more troubling problem is lurking in Texas. Why did Harris County judges continue to appoint Guerinot to represent these defendants? He never won, and an alarming number of his clients have been granted relief due to Guerinot's professional deficiencies. The judges presumably saw Guerinot's billing records and knew that he did not prepare for his trials. Why would they appoint a lawyer who would almost certainly fail to "defend" his clients, as Guerinot acknowledged when he corrected himself to say he only "represents" them? That question remains unanswered as Guerinot retires from capital work. Texas, which executes people much more often than the rest of death-penalty states, should be ensuring that the best lawyers in the state handle these cases. But the best-of-the-best too often enter the case after the damage is done. And even at that late point, these lawyers often face fierce resistance from the Texas courts and local lawyers.

People who devote their lives to correcting these wrongs know this tragic reality. Society, however, thinks that Clarence Darrow represents every person accused of capital murder. Certainly, many devoted capital trial lawyers are the cream of the legal crop. But you rarely hear about their clients. When you hear news of someone being executed, someone like Guerinot represented them, and the judges arranged for that representation. As long as this situation exists in Texas and other death-penalty states, justice does not prevail. Until this and the multitude of other problems are corrected, if they can be, the death penalty must be abolished.

(source: Opinion; Gregory W. Gardner is a capital habeas attorney in Boulder----Boulder Daily Camera)


Death penalty can be justified

The state of Texas had 2 executions scheduled in the remainder of August - Jeffrey Wood on Wednesday and Rolando Ruiz on Aug. 31. (In the case of Wood, his execution was halted by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Friday. His case has become a national story and resulted in the attention of a state lawmaker who opposes capital punishment for Wood.)

According to media reports, Wood was not present when an accomplice fatally shot a convenience store employee during a robbery in Kerrville. Wood was waiting outside in a vehicle. However, Wood did enter the store following the shooting, as security footage showed Wood and an accomplice removing a safe.

Wood may not have been present when his accomplice committed murder, but the questions are these: Did Wood know a shooting had just been committed? Did he know whether the convenience store employee was alive or dead? Did he do anything to determine whether a life could have been saved? Or did he just commit robbery and flee?

Unfortunately, this is the problem sometimes with capital punishment - the details of how a horrific crime was committed can be questioned.

However, what about when there are no questions? What about when there is no doubt as to an individual's guilt?

This is the dilemma with the never-ending debate over capital punishment, especially in the state of Texas, which has executed 6 individuals in 2016.

Not every capital punishment case has questions.

Sometimes, the death penalty is justified as punishment when there is no doubt as to guilt.

For example, the advent of technology (specifically DNA evidence) makes it possible to determine an individual's guilt - or innocence.

If an individual commits a horrific crime, and DNA evidence exists that determines beyond a reasonable doubt that a person committed this horrific crime, why should the death penalty be excluded as punishment?

Here is the point - there are capital punishment cases that, thanks to science, can prove whether a person is guilty or innocent - and remove the potential of an innocent person being executed.

Not every capital punishment case consists of questions and circumstances like those found in Wood's case.

Sometimes, the facts cannot be disputed - and when technology backs up the facts, the death penalty should be available for the most heinous of crimes.

(source: Editorial, Amarillo Globe-News)


Man accused in slaying to remain held ---- No bond set in Fulton Co. for Worley on 19 charges

A judge ordered Friday that the man accused of killing Sierah Joughin remain held without bond until his arraignment.

James Worley, 57, of rural Delta, Ohio, appeared by video from the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio for a hearing in Fulton County Common Pleas Court.

He faces 19 charges handed up this week by a grand jury. 2 counts carry a potential death penalty if Worley is convicted.

Worley did not enter a plea Friday to Judge James Barber. About 30 people, including family and media, attended the brief hearing inside the small courtroom.

Toledo attorney Mark Berling, who is certified to handle death penalty cases, has been appointed to Worley's case. The defendant is to be arraigned Sept. 8.

Worley was indicted on charges including murder, abduction, and tampering with evidence. Prosecutors said multiple counts of the same offense reflect different sections of Ohio Revised Code. Authorities said all 19 charges stem from the kidnapping and murder of Ms. Joughin.

Ms. Joughin, 20, of Metamora, Ohio, disappeared July 19 while riding a bike in rural Fulton County. Her remains were found 3 days later along Fulton County Road 7. She was handcuffed and died of asphyxiation, according to an autopsy report.

Worley was arrested July 22 on an abduction charge. He was later charged with aggravated murder.

In an interview, Mr. Berling said he has not yet thoroughly reviewed court documents and declined comment on the case. This will be his 20th capital case, he said, including many in which he served as lead counsel.

Mr. Berling said he will select a 2nd attorney to join him in defense of Worley. Mark Powers, who has previously represented Worley, is expected to stay on as well, Mr. Berling said.

(source: Toledo Blade)


Jury pool expands in Langford case

Ballard Circuit Judge Tim Langford expressed concern Friday as to whether an adequate jury pool had been summoned for the murder trial of a La Center man, which is scheduled in December.

Shaquille Edwards, 22, is charged with murder, attempted murder, 1st-degree assault, 2 counts of kidnapping, 2 counts of 1st-degree wanton endangerment and 2 counts of 1st-degree burglary.

He could face the death penalty if convicted.

Authorities believe Edwards fatally shot his cousin, 18-year-old Theresa Hughes, and wounded 21-year-old Caitlin L. Houston.

During a pretrial conference Friday in Wickliffe, Langford noted that because the death penalty is on the table, seating a jury could be more difficult as some potential jurors might not be comfortable making such a decision.

To ensure a large enough jury pool was available, Edwards' defense attorney Del Pruitt said, the judge opted to combine the circuit court and district court jury pools, estimating that could bring the head count up to about 200 potentials.

Additionally, Pruitt said, the judge decided to move the trial's start from Dec. 5 to Dec. 1, to give the attorneys time to evaluate each potential juror.

"In a death penalty case, you have to do individual death qualification before you start picking a jury," Pruitt said, explaining that each potential juror would have to be interviewed to determine if the person could consider a case that could end with capital punishment.

Pruitt estimated that process would take at least a few days.

Commonwealth Attorney Mike Stacey estimated opening arguments would start Dec. 6. The trial is scheduled to last until Dec. 14.

Also addressed Friday was whether the case could be settled before going to trial.

"(Langford) wants us to attempt a settlement, so that's what we're going to do," Pruitt said, adding he is optimistic an agreement can be reached.

"We're going to try and reach an agreement that both parties feel is adequate and fair," Stacey said. "Not only do I have the (victims') families to consider, but I have the citizens of Ballard County to answer to. But we're working on it."

Edwards was arrested Feb. 2 after Ballard deputies responded to an early morning shooting near the 200 block of Locust Avenue in La Center.

Kentucky State Police Trooper Michael Robichaud said officers first found Hughes, who had been fatally shot.

In that same block, Houston was found with a gunshot wound to the leg, he said. She was taken to Baptist Health Paducah.

Robichaud said Edwards was located in a residence near the scene. As troopers pulled up to the house, he said, Edwards came out with a firearm. Robichaud said Edwards relinquished the weapon and was taken into custody without incident.

He was taken to the Ballard County Jail in Wickliffe, where he remains on $1 million bond.

Edwards will next appear for a pretrial conference on Sept. 30. Langford said he hopes to hear at that time that a settlement has been reached.

(source: The Paducah Sun)


Growing effort to unseat justices warrants critical examination

In the coming months, Kansas voters are likely to hear more about the justices that sit on the Kansas Supreme Court than ever before as 5 of the justices - Lawton Nuss, Marla Luckert, Carol Beier, Dan Biles and Caleb Stegall - face retention votes in November.

Normally, such votes come and go without much attention. The names, in most years, are unfamiliar to voters, but that will be different this year because this isn't most years.

Nonprofit companies similar to those that spend so much money in political campaigns have popped up for and against retention of the justices. Gov. Sam Brownback and many in the Kansas Legislature have made it clear that they want to exert greater control over the judiciary, which has often stood in opposition to the administration and Legislature's positions, particularly on school finance formulas.

Voters won't hear much about that, however. Instead, they'll hear the retelling of the horrifically brutal murders committed in 2000 by Jonathan and Reginald Carr in Wichita, which resulted in the death penalty for both in 2002.

They'll also hear about a Kansas Supreme Court that in 2014 chose the rights of murderers over the rights of the victims and their families - and how those justices should be dumped in exchange for a new high court.

The truth, however, seldom can be boiled down to such simplistic postcard style talking points.

The defense attorneys for the Carr brothers dutifully appealed the brothers' convictions and sentencings, claiming that jurors were not given proper instructions and that the trial and sentencing should have been tried separately.

In reviewing the case, the state's high court vacated the death sentences, agreeing that the brothers shouldn't have been sentenced together. The case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which overturned the Kansas Supreme Court. On the issue of jury instructions, Kansas prosecutors in the meantime changed the way they present instructions to jurors. What the Carr brothers did in 2000 is indefensible, cruel and they both deserve the strongest penalty possible for the the murders of Jason Befort, Brad Heyka, Aaron Sander, Heather Muller and a 5th victim, identified as H.G., who survived.

The pain and anger their families feel is deep and justified.

The justices, in their ruling on the case, never threatened to turn the Carr brothers loose. Additionally, the ruling in no way minimized the horror those men inflicted on their victims. In the simplest terms, the ruling was over a matter of law, a technicality of sorts, raised by defense attorneys, about the way in which the case had been handled and whether the U.S. Constitution had been followed.

The justices likely knew that their ruling would be unpopular, open them to criticism and political retaliation. They nevertheless made that unpopular ruling based on an understanding of the law and the constitution.

This is how laws are made better and perfected. And that's exactly why justices are supposed to be insulated from the politics that soil so much of American, and Kansas, politics.

We should want, and need, justices who have the courage to make sound rulings of law, regardless of the political implications of any given moment in time.

As election season grows nearer, voters will undoubtedly see their mailboxes once again filled with misleading claims about politicians, with the added bonus of such claims regarding the justices who sit on Kansas Supreme Court.

But voters must set aside the material designed to elicit an emotional response long enough to allow reason to reign - and question what really underlies an unprecedented effort to alter the majority of the highest court in the state.

Such moves, when combined with attempts to change the way justices are selected and overt threats by lawmakers to disregard rulings from the judiciary, reveal that there’s much more history and context that must be considered.

(source: Opinion; Jason Probst, for The Hutchinson News editorial board)


Area officials weigh in on death penalty

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez' recent announcement that she wants to restore the death penalty has been a point of controversy among Roosevelt County and state officials.

While those supporting the death penalty agree it is well deserved for criminals committing violent acts toward police officers and children, while those against it say state money is best used towards helping people.

The state repealed the death penalty in 2009, when then-Gov. Bill Richardson signed a law replacing the sentence with life without parole.

New Mexico Sen. Stuart Ingle said he is in support of Martinez' announcement.

"I don't have a problem with it at all," said Ingle. "Criminals should have to think about it. Some of these things that they've done - they do not deserve to live even if they are in prison."

Ingle added that the penalty should be immediate for suspects guilty of killing police officers, kidnapping resulting in death or "some kind of a terrorism aspect."

Curry County Sheriff Wesley Waller echoes those sentiments.

"We would support it," Waller said. "I do think it's something that does need to be reviited. We feel it does serve as a deterrent."

Chris Sanchez, director of communications for Martinez' office said in an email statement that Martinez will pursue the change as part of her legislative agenda in January.

"At minimum, we can all agree that it should apply to cop killers and child murderers," Martinez stated in the email. "People need to ask themselves, if the man who ambushed and killed 5 police officers in Dallas had lived, would he deserve the ultimate penalty?"

District Attorney Andrea Reeb said she "100 % support(s)" the governor's idea.

"I think it is a huge deterrent for people committing violent crimes," Reeb said. "Now, a lot of times, defendants have no incentive to take a plea agreement, because they have nothing to lose. I think if they knew that was a possibility, it would deter them."

She said people will think twice before committing violent crimes, but many defendants will take plea agreements to avoid the death penalty, which means they still get jail time and tax payer dollars and are saved by ending the case before it goes to trial.

"I don't see that people think they have anything to lose anymore," said Reeb. "The death penalty gives a chance for victims, prosecutors and attorneys to negotiate those kind of things."

"I believe the way we did it previously where we had to find the aggravated circumstances of the crime should still be the way it should go," Reeb added, "but I have always felt it is a deterrent for crime."

Since 1912, New Mexico has executed 28 people. Terry Clark, executed in 2001, was the 1st person executed by the state since 1960. Between 1960 and 1976, murder of a police officer was the only charge that could be considered as a death penalty case. Clark, out on bond while appealing an assault conviction, raped and killed a 9-year-old Artesia girl.

Despite the repeal, t2 inmates remain on the state's death row - Timothy Allen, convicted in the 1994 kidnapping, rape and murder by strangulation of a teenage girl; and Robert Ray Fry, convicted in 2002 of murdering a Shiprock mother by bludgeoning and stabbing.

The eastern New Mexico region had a few cases approach the death penalty level prior to the repeal:

-- William "Billy Joe" Watson was found not guilty in 2010 on a death penalty case for the slaying of Causey farmer Jimmie Bo Chunn. Donald Taylor pleaded guilty to the shooting to avoid the death penalty.

-- Texas resident Michael Treadway was found guilty in the December 1997 shooting death of Everett "Red" Prather, a Texico shop owner. He was originally given the death penalty, but the Supreme Court tossed the death penalty circumstance of murdering a witness. Evidence showed Prather grabbed the telephone before being shot, but the court ruled that wasn't enough evidence to show Treadway formed "specific intent to kill for the purpose of preventing the report of a crime."

-- In 2007, Stanley Bedford was found guilty of the 2005 deaths of Portales' Odis and Doris Newman. The Albuquerque jury did not agree on the death penalty. Jerry Fuller, nephew to the Newmans, pleaded guilty to the murders to avoid the death penalty.

-- James Smith, a Clovis dentist, pleaded guilty in 2006 to the December 2005 murder of Laura McNaughton. He was ruled eligible for the death penalty.

Watson and Bedford were both defended by Ruidoso attorney Gary Mitchell, who was long known as the state's fiercest fighter against death penalty cases.

"While I appreciate the governor's affinity for police and children, we take 1 incident, and we turn it into a major reason for change," said Mitchell. "It's not gonna change things in New Mexico."

Mitchell said he spent 30 years fighting the death penalty, and argued state funds are better used toward improving the economy and ensuring care for children and the mentally ill.

"It would be much better in the long run," said Mitchell. "I say we direct our own money toward helping people and not killing them."

(source: Clovis News Journal)


Review panel recommends removing Judge in Crowley death penalty case ---- Judge has sealed file in death penalty case

A judge presiding over a death penalty murder case in which a Colorado prison inmate is accused of fatally stabbing a female correctional officer is 1 of 2 Colorado judges that local review commissions earmarked for removal from the bench in November's general election.

The State Commission on Judicial Performance identified Judge Michael Andrew Schiferl of the 16th Judicial District in Crowley County and Judge Jill-Ellyn Straus of the 17th Judicial District in Adams County as judges who should not be retained by voters in November. All of the 106 other appellate and trial court judges standing for retention in Colorado received "retain" recommendations.

Schiferl currently presides over the death penalty case against Miguel Contreras-Perez, who is accused of fatally stabbing Sgt. Mary Ricard on Sept. 24, 2012, at the Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility. The district attorney is seeking the death penalty in the case.

Straus, who was appointed in 2008, presides over juvenile court cases, focusing on dependency and neglect issues.

This year is the 50th anniversary of Colorado's merit selection for judges. Evaluations by local commissions across the state are now available online at The evaluations will be included in the Colorado Voter Information Guide that will be mailed this fall to every registered voter in the state.

Each commission consists of 6 non-attorney members and four attorney members.

"Commission members take this work seriously and strive to provide voters an honest, fair and reliable performance assessment of every judge standing for retention in Colorado," state judicial commission Executive Director Kent Wagner said. "Citizens' votes matter and will ultimately determine if the judge remains in office for another term."

The local commissions evaluate a judge's integrity, legal knowledge, communication skills, judicial temperament and administrative performance. They attend court hearings, consider statements by judges and review decisions by the judge. Surveys were sent to more than 83,000 people having some involvement with the judges, including attorneys, jurors, crime victims and probation officers. The system was created in 1966 to ensure highly qualified and impartial judges serve in Colorado courts.

The evaluation of Schiferl said that 6 of 9 local commission members recommended that he "not be retained."

"In this rural judicial district, Judge Schiferl often appears too familiar with the litigants in his division, blurring necessary boundaries and failing to maintain the appearance of neutrality ... His legal writing skills are poor and the judge is sloppy in the formatting, flow, and grammar appearing in his written work ... His orders fail to maintain the necessary air of dignity and are not issued in a timely manner," the evaluation states.

The local commission, which noted that Schiferl has been criticized for similar issues in 2 prior evaluations in 2004 and 2010, wrote that Schiferl does accept constructive criticism. If he is retained during the general election he should voluntarily participate in an improvement plan, the commission noted. Schiferl took aim at attorneys on the committee who he said mostly practice criminal law.

"These attorneys have a vested interest in trying to remove me as a judge due to the present system of very favorable plea bargains. These plea bargains frequently have little regard as to how dangerous the defendant may be," Schiferl wrote in his response. He also criticized plea bargaining that fails to take into account how dangerous some offenders are.

But Rod Fouracre, a prosecutor who was the former district attorney, said if Schiferl is concerned about plea bargains he should reject questionable deals.

"That which he complains of he has ultimate control over," Fouracre said.

Fouracre is 1 of the prosecutors in the Contreras-Perez case. He said he could not comment on the case after Schiferl sealed it. He added that the judge is "a very nice man."

Straus' evaluation criticized her for courtroom communications.

"Judge Straus received below average evaluations in the areas of case management, application of the law, communications, demeanor, diligence and bias," the report says.

Straus responded that she is committed to honoring the rights of both victims and the accused.

"The hundreds of decisions that I have made are based upon facts and the law. Appellate courts have consistently affirmed my decisions," she wrote.

Colorado uses three methods to remove judges:

A retention vote is 1 of 3 ways in Colorado to remove a judge from office, but some residents have tried unsuccessfully to remove judges by other means including a recall.

Besides retention votes during general elections, judges can also be removed through impeachment or disciplinary action for ethical or legal violations, said Jon Sarche, spokesman for the Colorado Office of State Court Administrator.

In the latest attempt to remove a judge on the basis of controversial court decisions, 16,000 Boulder residents signed petitions seeking the recall of Judge Patrick Butler after he sentenced rape convict 22-year-old Austin Wilkerson to jail instead of prison.

Butler was appointed as a district judge in 2011. The last time he faced a retention vote was in 2014, and Boulder voters approved his retention. He isn't up for another retention vote until 2020.

(source: The Denver Post)


California's death row dilemma

Of the 2,943 inmates awaiting the death penalty in the United States, California’s 743 condemned inmates are by far the most of any state. Of the 30 states that allow executions, Florida (396) and Texas (263) are the only others with more than 200 death row prisoners. The death penalty has been abolished or overturned in 20 states and is under gubernatorial bans in four others, according to the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center.

Last week, the Delaware Attorney General's office announced that it will not appeal its Supreme Court's ruling earlier this month striking down its death penalty statute on the basis that the capital sentencing procedures were unconstitutional. The fate of Delaware's 13 prisoners currently facing death sentences remains unclear.

In California, the last inmate put to death was a decade ago - Clarence Ray Allen in January 2006. Since then, the state's death penalty procedures have been the subject on ongoing legal challenges to how the lethal drugs are administered, effectively producing a moratorium on capital punishment.

Meanwhile, nearly 750 convicted killers in California are serving time in a broken system that was never intended to provide a permanent home for them. Nevertheless, since 1978, far more have died of natural causes or by suicide than the 13 who have been killed by the state.

Critics of capital punishment pose convincing concerns over the justice system's racial bias, conviction errors, the cost and timeline of appeals, litigation over administering lethal drugs and the constitutional, ethical and civil rights implications of state-sanctioned killing, even for the most egregious of crimes.

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office reports that death row inmates face a wait of 5 years just to be assigned a lawyer, and appeals can drag on for 2 decades. The DPIC points to a study that found Californians convicted of murdering white people were more than 3 times more likely to be sentenced to death than those who killed blacks and more than 4 times more likely than those convicted of killing Latinos. Since 1973, the DPIC also reports, more than 150 death row inmates in the U.S. have been exonerated, including 3 in California.

This past week, a reporter and photographer from the San Francisco Examiner were given access to San Quentin State Prison to talk with inmates about life on death row. The reporting team roamed the cells of the East Block and was allowed to talk freely with prisoners.

Serial killer Wayne Adam Ford said he never imagined he would be stuck on death row nearly 2 decades later. "I was completely for the death penalty before I came in here," Ford, now 54, told the Examiner. "[And] to tell you the truth, I would have rather been killed a long time ago rather than spend the last 18 years in solitary confinement."

San Francisco native Joey Perez, 45, was one of the condemned men locked alone in rows of empty cages with nothing but pull-up bars inside. He was convicted of a murder in 1998.

"I'm in an 8-by-10 dog kennel," Perez said. "I'm like a rabid beast. This is a dog kennel. This is a miserable-ass life."

Most of the men who spoke to the Examiner reported frustration at the slow pace of appeals and what they perceive as a criminal justice system in need of reform.

"I'm going to die in prison," Perez said. "My only fear in life is dying in prison."

This November, California voters face the latest attempt to fix this. (The last was in 2012, when Proposition 34, which would have changed death penalty sentences to life in prison, failed 48 % to 52 %.) This fall, 2 death penalty measures - with competing aims - have qualified for the ballot.

Proposition 62 argues that the state could save some $150 million a year by repealing the death penalty while also ending the lengthy appeals process. The measure counts among its proponents Lt. Gov. and former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and the Bar Association of San Francisco.

The best argument against the death penalty and for the passage of Prop. 62 this year is that government must function to value and preserve life whenever possible, even among those who have acted unforgivably to the contrary. Beyond arguments of cost savings and critiques of a biased justice system, a civilized society must stand against institutionalized brutality and murder.

The other measure, Proposition 66, also cites economic savings - potentially in the tens of millions annually in court costs and fewer prisoners - in reforming the appeals process to speed up executions. This would lead California on a dark and savage course.

For decades, public opinion polls have reflected a majority of Californians favor the death penalty, but the margins are shrinking. Will this be the year that tips the scale?

(source: Michael Howerton is editor in chief of the San Francisco Examiner)


Lakewood man charged with murder of taxi driver in Hollywood

Authorities charged a Lakewood man Friday with fatally attacking a taxi driver at a Hollywood gas station last weekend.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office charged 34-year-old Najib Halibi with 1 count of murder along with allegedly committing murder during a robbery. The charges make Halibi eligible for the death penalty, authorities said.

He was scheduled to be arraigned Friday in the Foltz Criminal Justice Center in downtown Los Angeles.

Halibi was a taxi passenger shortly after 3 a.m. on Aug. 14 when he got into a dispute with the driver, 47-year-old Asifawosen Alemseged, at a gas station in Hollywood, a district attorney press release said.

Halibi is accused of exiting the taxi, reaching into the vehicle, grabbing Alemseged and sifting through his pockets. According to authorities, Alemseged also exited the taxi and was allegedly beaten by Halibi, who fled the scene.

Alemseged was taken to a nearby hospital where he died, authorities said.

If convicted as charged, Halibi faces the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole. A decision on whether to seek the death penalty will be made at a later date, authorities said.

(source: Press-Telegram)


Taylor Gleeson: Emotion should not determine death penalty stance

Last spring, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced that "following the department's rigorous review process to thoroughly consider all relevant factual and legal issues, I have determined that the Justice Department will seek the death penalty" in the case of United States v Dylann Roof.

In June of last year, then-21-year-old Roof entered a bible study at the Emanuel AME church in Charleston, S.C., when he open fired on the group, and is now being charged with the murder of 9 members of the church.

Though the court ruling in the Roof case is still months, if not years, away, Lynch's statement will inevitably spark a debate about the death penalty that regularly arises around these cases. The United States political scene fluctuates between 2 very prominent ends in the argument over capital punishment.

To know that someone who has caused so much pain, whether through a personal or impersonal connection will receive the same fate as those whose lives they have taken is minimally a comfort, upholding the "eye for an eye" complex. Karen Brassard, a survivor of the Boston bombing, said that "it feels like we can actually take a breath and, kind of, actually breathe again" after the announcement that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the Boston bombers, was given the death penalty. Others, though no less adamant about the cruelty of mass murder, oppose the death penalty. Whether citing the Eighth Amendment, the moral wrong of reciprocated murder, or the harshness of life sentences as a preferable alternative for those who have committed these atrocities, according to a Gallup poll, this opposition has slowly gained popularity among U.S. voters in the last 30 years.

For Coloradans, the arguments sparked by the Charleston church shooting and the fate of Dylann Roof are a foul echo of the congruent conversations around James Holmes. A little more than four years ago, Holmes open fired in a movie theater in Aurora, killing 12 and injuring 70 others.

For many, the fear and uncertainty created by the shooting in Aurora could be at least somewhat alleviated through the idea that the man who created such fear in the first place would face his end. Execution doesn't bring back those who we have lost, but supports this socially construed idea of justice.

Last September, a public policy Colorado survey found that 47 % of Colorado voters were in favor of keeping the death penalty, with 43 % wanting to replace it and 10 % undecided. Irreconcilably, a Quinnipiac survey from two months earlier recorded that, in the case of James Holmes and the Aurora murders, 63 % of Colorado voters supported execution, with 32 % opposed and 5 % undecided.

Though Holmes was given 12 life sentences plus 3,318 years and not the death penalty, this noticeable difference in Colorado voters when presented with a less personal and more personal scenario, is all too common.

Regardless of one's beliefs around capital punishment, it is counterproductive and hypocritical to shift those values through anger and illogical fervor. When any life is taken in such a senseless way, we have an expectation in our criminal justice system to uphold the law and impose punishment. This system is supposed to act as an unbiased arbiter, separate from the fundamental passion that arises as a result of tragedies that hit us on a closer level.

We place a constructed faith in our government to implement justice, yet in times of personal offense this expectation of logic is hastily thrown aside to fulfill the primal instinct of revenge.

Undoubtedly, the actions of Dylann Roof were despicable. To bear the intentions of taking the life of innocent people, perpetuated by different skin colors, is heinous and inhumane. You may believe that the decision to pursue capital punishment was justified or maybe it was barbaric, but if we condemn ourselves to fluctuating opinions on the premise of personal proximity, then we are not upholding justice.

(source: Opinion; Taylor Gleeson, 19, lives in Lafayette and is a student at the Ohio State University----Boulder Daily Camera)


Iraq hangs 36 over 2014 massacre of army recruits

Iraq on Sunday hanged 36 men convicted over the 2014 massacre by the Islamic State and allied militants of hundreds of military recruits, officials said.

They had be en found guilty of involvement in the "Speicher" massacre, named after a base near Tikrit where up to 1,700 recruits were kidnapped before being executed in a massacre claimed by the Islamic State group.

"The executions of 36 convicted over the Speicher crime were carried out this morning in Nasiriyah prison," a spokesman for the governor's office in Dhiqar, the province of which Nasiriyah is the capital, told AFP.

"The governor of Dhiqar, Yahya al-Nasseri and Justice Minister Haidar al-Zamili were present to oversee the executions," Abdelhassan Dawood said.

"They were transferred to Nasiriyah last week after the president approved the executions," he said, referring to the necessary green light from Fuad Masum.

Following the death of more than 300 people in the worst ever single bomb attack to strike Baghdad last month, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had said he wanted to expedite the execution of inmates sentenced to death in terrorism cases.

The Dhiqar governor confirmed to AFP that the executions were carried out by hanging.

His spokesman said that around 400 of the Speicher massacre victims were from the Dhiqar province, which is predominantly Shia and located in Iraq's south.

"Tens of relatives attended the executions," said Dawood. "They shouted Allahu Akbar (God is greatest), they were happy to see those people dead."

The trials that have led to Iraq's latest batches of death sentences have been severely criticised by rights groups as failing to meet basic standards.

Amnesty International had slammed Iraq's systematic resort to the death penalty following the execution of 22 other people in May this year.

"The use of the death penalty is deplorable in all circumstances, and it is particularly horrendous when applied after grossly unfair trials marred by allegations of confessions extracted under torture as is frequently the case in Iraq," the group's Iraq researcher Diana Eltahawy said.

The United Nations had criticised Abadi's call to speed up executions, which according to Amnesty already topped 100 for 2016 before Sunday's hangings.

"Fast-tracking executions will only accelerate injustice," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said earlier this month.

The Speicher massacre is considered one of IS's worst crimes since it took over large parts of the country in 2014.

Combined with a call by the country's top Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, for Iraqis to take up arms against them, the Speicher massacre played a key role in the mass recruitment of Shia volunteers to fight IS.

(source: Middle East Eye)


ISIS executes 14 civilians in Mosul

A local source in Nineveh province informed on Saturday that ISIS executed 14 civilians in central Mosul, accusing them of collaborating with government and Kurdish Peshmerga forces..

Sharing details the source said, "ISIS killed 14 civilians in al-Faisaliah, central Mosul, for the allegedly collaborating with the government and Peshmerga forces. The entire execution process was filmed on camera by the outfit. The death penalty against the civilians were issued by the Sharia court in Nineveh."



Prosecution in Jigisha Ghosh murder case seek death penalty for accused

The special public prosecutor in the case argued that the three men convicted of the killing had committed the murder for pleasure.

The prosecution in the case of the abduction and murder of IT executive Jigisha Ghosh has sought the death penalty for the 3 men convicted of the killing. The Indian Express reported that both Special Public Prosecutor Rajiv Mohan and the lawyers representing Ghosh's parents called for capital punishment for the 3 men, with Mohan saying that the convicted had killed the victim for pleasure.

However, the lawyer for 1 of those convicted, Ravi Kapoor, said that the convicted man was mentally unfit. Arguing against a report on the conduct of the accused, the lawyer sought a life sentence for Kapoor, saying that he suffered from a "life-threatening disease". The counsel for the other 2 accused, Amit Shukla and Baljeet Malik, asked the court to look at reformation as an option for his clients.

The 3 men were pronounced guilty by a Delhi court in July. Ghosh was abducted and murdered in 2009 after being dropped home from work. The accused were captured after being caught on camera using her debit card. The Delhi Police later said the 3 men were also involved in the murder of television journalist Soumya Vishwanathan in 2008. Additional Sessions Judge Sandeep Yadav has reserved his judgement on the quantum of the sentencing till Monday.



Convicts killed Jigisha for pleasure, be given death: Cops

A court here will pronounce the quantum of sentence to three men convicted for murdering and robbing IT executive Jigisha Ghosh here in 2009 on Monday, with the Delhi Police today seeking death penalty for them saying they killed her for "pleasure" and showed no remorse.

Additional Sessions Judge Sandeep Yadav reserved the order on sentence after the arguments concluded today and a pre-sentencing report (PSR) was submitted by probationary officer.

"Pre-sentencing report received...Copy has been supplied to counsel for the convicts. Arguments heard. Order on sentence to be pronounced on Monday," the judge said after hearing the arguments of prosecution, convicts and perusing the pre-sentencing report which gave details about the bakground of the guilty persons.

However, the judge ordered for maintaining confidentiality of the report.

28-year-old Jigisha, working as an operations manager in a management consultancy firm, was abducted and killed on March 18, 2009 after she was dropped by her office cab around 0400 hours near her home in Vasant Vihar area of South Delhi.

Her body was recovered three days later from a place near Surajkund in Haryana, police had said.

Seeking death sentence for the convicts - Ravi Kapoor, Baljeet and Amit Shukla, Special Public Prosecutor Rajiv Mohan argued that they had abducted Jigisha, robbed her, killed her and used her debit card for shopping, and a CCTV footage of their shopping showed they had no remorse for their act.

"There was no provocation. There is no mitigating factor in the matter. It was murder for pleasure. The footage shows they had no remorse at all, which is an aggravating factor," he said.

Rebutting the arguments of prosecution, defence counsel sought minimum sentence of life for the convicts contending that they did not have any previous criminal involvement and were young at the time of the incident.

Advocate Amit Kumar, appearing for convicts Baljeet and Amit Shukla, argued that his clients have already spent over seven years in jail and maintainted good conduct.

The counsel for convict Ravi Kapoor sought leniency for his client saying he suffered from a life threatening disease and belonged to a poor background.

The defence counsel also termed the PSR contradictory and biased contending that it did not mention the incident when convict Amit Shukla was brutally beaten inside the jail.

During arguments when the SPP referred to the alleged involvement of the 3 convicts in the Soumya Vishwanathan murder case, the defence counsel objected to it saying it was a separate case which was still pending and referring to it would cause them prejudice during the proceedings.

The court had, a month ago, held the 3 men guilty of murder, abduction, robbery, forgery and common intention under IPC, saying it was "abundantly clear" that they had committed the crime. Kapoor was also convicted for the offence of using firearms under the Arms Act.

While convicting them on July 14, the judge had said "they committed her murder and disposed of her body in bushes and circumstantial evidence makes it clear that it was these men who committed the crime."

\The police had filed the charge sheet in the case in June 2009 and trial began on April 15, 2010.

\Recovery of the weapon allegedly used in Jigisha's murder had led to the cracking of the murder case of Soumya Vishwanathan, who was a journalist with a news channel.

\Soumya was shot dead on September 30, 2008 while she was returning home in her car from office in the wee hours.

\Police had claimed robbery as the motive behind the killing of both Jigisha and Soumya.

\The accused had used Jigisha's ATM card to buy expensive goggles, wrist watches and shoes from Sarojini Nagar market in South Delhi, police had said.

(source: Business Standard)

AUGUST 20, 2016:


Montgomery County DA Going For Death Penalty in 2014 Double Murder ---- The Montgomery County DA is going for the death penalty for a 2014 double murder.

For the 1st time since 2009, the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office is pursuing the death penalty against someone.

The DA's office wants to give Russell Lee Ketchum the hot shot for allegedly killing Louis Wilkerson, 58, and Lisa McWashington, 43.

In Oct. 2014, Ketchum, 41, allegedly choked Wilkerson to death with his bare hands. He's accused of using a shirt to strangle McWashington. Both bodies were dumped in the 800 block of West Santa Fe, near downtown Conroe.

Ketchum was arrested in January 2015 and has remained in custody at the Montgomery County Jail without bond. Ketchum's attorney plans to claim that the killings were self-defense.

Although this the 1st death penalty case since 2009, it isn't the 1st capital murder case. The DA's office has tried multiple capital murder cases, the prosecutors didn't think that the circumstances of those cases rose to the level of the death penalty.



Attorneys argue Indiana death penalty unconstitutional

Attorneys for a man who faces charges in the deaths of 7 women have argued in court filings that the state of Indiana's death penalty law is unconstitutional.

The Post-Tribune reports that Darren Vann remains in isolation at the Lake County jail. His attorneys argued in an Aug. 5 filing that an Indiana Code statute is unconstitutional in 2 main areas.

They question how a jury is supposed to weigh factors that could influence a death sentence. They also say it's unconstitutional to allow a judge to determine a defendant's death sentence when the jury can't.

Government prosecutors have until Sept. 7 to file a response to the claim.

Lake County prosecutors requested the death penalty for Vann last year.

Lake County prosecutors requested the death penalty for Vann last year. He faces charges in connection with the deaths of Anith Jones 35, of Merrillville; Afrikka Hardy, 19, of Chicago; Teaira Batey, 28, of Gary; Tracy Martin, 41, of Gary; Kristine Williams, 36, of Gary; Sonya Billingsley, 52, of Gary; and Tanya Gatlin, 27, of Highland.

If convicted, he could join 13 other people on death row in Indiana.

Kevin Charles Isom, the other man facing the death penalty in Lake County, also questioned the factors a jury is supposed to weigh before sentencing someone to death. The Indiana Supreme Court ruled against him in 2015.

The constitutionality of capital punishment is an issue the country has grappled with for decades as states have altered their death penalty laws.

"Pieces of things in the statute have been pulled off and changed (in Indiana)," said Andrea Lyon, dean of Valparaiso University Law School. "But Indiana Supreme Court and, thus far, any other federal court has not said that Indiana, generally, has been unconstitutional."

Delaware's highest court ruled its state's death penalty law was unconstitutional less than two weeks ago. It said it gave judges too large of a role over juries in imposing death sentences.

Vann's attorneys say in the motion that the situations in Delaware and Indiana are similar.

[Information from: Post-Tribune]

(source: Associated press)

CALIFORNIA----female faces death penalty

Prosecutors Seeking Death Penalty For Tami Joy Huntsman In Death Of 2 Small Children

40-year-old Tami Joy Huntsman will be facing the death penalty when she goes to trial in February for the abuse and murder of 3-year-old Delylah Tara and 6-year-old Shaun Tara in November 2015. Huntsman appeared in Monterey County Superior Court this week alongside boyfriend Gonzalo Curiel, 18, and she collapsed in her chair distraught when Deputy District Attorney Steve Somers announced that they would be pursuing the death penalty. Curiel, who is also charged with the children's murder, is not eligible for the death penalty because he was 17 at the time of the alleged crime.

The children, who were initially believed to be Huntsman's niece and nephew but may be some other relation, were in Huntsman's and Curiel's care last November in a Salinas apartment along with their older sister, a 9-year-old who was later found severely abused but alive in an apartment in Quincy, California. Sometime on or after November 27, the 2 smaller children were killed, and it's believed that Huntsman and Curiel traveled with their bodies as well as the 9-year-old to Plumas and Shasta Counties, where on December 13 the 2 children's remains were found in a storage facility in Redding.

As CBS 5 reports, both defendants have pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, torture, child abuse, conspiracy, and special circumstances allegations.

Prosecutors say the children's father will testify in the case, as will 3 child witnesses, including, presumably, the 9-year-old sister. She was discovered first by authorities, in what was reportedly a severely abused state, on December 11, and she may have led authorities to the storage unit in Redding.

An earlier report in the Salinas Monterey Herald explained that the children had come to live with Huntsman at the request of their father after their mother was killed in a car accident in December 2013. Huntsman has 4 children of her own, but further questions were raised about the culpability of Child Protective Services, who had previously had to remove Huntsman's 12-year-old twins from her care. Both the 6- and 9-year-old were enrolled in home schooling as of August 2015, and therefore had not had regular contact with teachers or others.

She had, according to neighbors, taken up with then 17-year-old Curiel in January 2015 after filing a restraining order against her ex-husband. Huntsman also has a son who is 15 or 16 years old.

Disturbingly, as this case broke last December we learned that Huntsman is the sister of Wayne Allen Huntsman, who pleaded guilty this past April to arson for singlehandedly starting the 100,000-acre King Fire in 2014 in El Dorado County. He is now serving a 20-year sentence.

Tami Huntsman is scheduled for trial on February 6, and prosecutors may still decide to try Curiel separately.



Here's What It's Like To Be a Defense Investigator in a Rigged Criminal Justice System----A journalist turned private eye unloads.

Once upon a time I was a journalist, covering wars in Indochina, Central America, and the Middle East. I made it my job to write about the victims of war, the civilian casualties. To me, they were hardly "collateral damage," that bloodless term the military persuaded journalists to adopt. To me, they were the center of war. Now I'm a private eye. I work mostly on homicide cases for defense lawyers on the mean streets of Oakland, California, long viewed as one of America's murder capitals.

Indeed, on some days Oakland feels like Saigon, Tegucigalpa, or Gaza. There's the deception of daily life and the silent routine of dread punctured by out-of-the-blue mayhem. The city's poorest neighborhoods are sporadic war zones whose violence sometimes explodes onto streets made rich overnight by the tech boom. On any quiet day, you can drive down San Pablo Avenue past St. Columba Catholic Church, where a thicket of white crosses, one for every Oaklander killed by gun violence in a given year, crowds its front yard.

Whenever I tell people I'm a private eye, they ask: "Do you get innocent people off death row?" Or "Can you follow my ex around?" Or "What kind of gun do you carry?"

I always disappoint them. Yes, I do defend people against the death penalty, but so far all my defendants have probably been guilty - of something. (Often, I can only guess what.) While keeping them off death row may absolve me of being an accessory after the fact to murder, it also regularly condemns my defendants to life in prison until they die there.

My defendants may be guilty - but seldom of what they are charged with.

And I find spying on people their ex-spouses fantasize about killing much sleazier than actual murder. Finally, I'm a good shot, but I don't carry a gun because that's the best way to get shot. I work on the low-profile cases: poor people charged with murder, burglary, or robbery, who don't have the money for a lawyer or their own P.I. (I'm paid, if you can call it that, by the state.)

Then people invariably want to know, "How can you help defend a murderer?" The law school answer is: The constitution guarantees everyone a fair trial. For me, however, if it's a death penalty case, it's simple: I'm against the death penalty no matter what the accused did (or didn't do). But in this age of stop and frisk, racial profiling, mandatory sentencing, the death penalty, and life without parole - not to mention execution by cop - the real answer is: I can't. Defend anybody, that is. Not really.

I'm just a tiny cog in America's vast Criminal Injustice System. One of the lawyers I work for sometimes calls himself "just a potted plant." My defendants may be guilty - but seldom of what they are charged with. They are rarely convicted of what they actually did and are never sentenced fairly.

One day recently, I was getting ready to hit the streets in search of a witness to a murder when I found in my email Justice Sonia Sotomayor's dissent in the Supreme Court Case of Utah v. Strieff. It had been forwarded by a psychologist with whom I once worked on a death penalty case.

Anyone lulled into thinking the new coalition of liberals and conservatives who hope to reform the criminal justice system will actually get somewhere should read Strieff. The facts are the following: A Salt Lake City cop was watching a home rumored to house methamphetamine dealers. When Edward Joseph Strieff left the house, the cop stopped him, questioned him, and checked his record. When the cop found a warrant for an unpaid parking ticket, he searched Strieff, found meth in his pockets, and arrested him for possession.

In Strieff and other cases leading up to it, the Supreme Court has now decreed that evidence gathered in an illegal search isn't "the fruit of the poisoned tree," as Justice Felix Frankfurter put it in 1939, and so no longer must be suppressed. Even though gathered illegally, evidence can be used at trial against a defendant. In short, stop-and-frisk policing and racial profiling, key targets of the new civil rights movement, just got a stamp of approval from the highest court in the land.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan also dissented. But it was Justice Sotomayor who sounded the alarm in an opinion evoking nothing less than James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time and adding quotations from W.E.B. Du Bois, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Michelle Alexander for good measure. She wrote:

"The Court today holds that the discovery of a warrant for an unpaid parking ticket will forgive a police officer's violation of your Fourth Amendment rights. Do not be soothed by the opinion's technical language: this case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification, and check it for outstanding traffic warrants - even if you are doing nothing wrong. If the officer discovers a warrant for a fine you forgot to pay, courts will now excuse his illegal stop and will admit into evidence anything he happens to find by searching you after arresting you on the warrant. Because the Fourth Amendment should prohibit, not permit, such misconduct, I dissent."

Sotomayor concluded:

"This case tells everyone, white and black, guilty and innocent, that an officer can verify your legal status at any time. It says that your body is subject to invasion while courts excuse the violation of your rights. It implies that you are not a citizen of a democracy but the subject of a carceral state, just waiting to be catalogued.

"We must not pretend that the countless people who are routinely targeted by police are 'isolated.' They are the canaries in the coal mine whose deaths, civil and literal, warn us that no one can breathe in this atmosphere."

If you're poor, you may serve weeks or months in jail, even if you're innocent, before your case is heard.

Her dissent describes daily existence for my defendants. Too poor to buy car insurance, fix broken tail lights, pay parking tickets, or get green cards, they are always on high alert for the police. (Alice Goffman's brilliant study, On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City, describes just how it works in one of Philadelphia's poorest neighborhoods.) My defendants have been sentenced to life in a war zone even before they find themselves charged in court. They have been sentenced to a life without parole or sometimes to death, caught as they are in a crossfire between cops and warring neighborhood gangstas.

A warrant for, say, unpaid parking tickets discovered in a Strieff-approved stop gets you a search of yourself and your car by police and maybe a bust for weed, the intoxicant of choice for many of the poor. If you object or run or the arresting officer is having a bad day, it may get you dead. (Refusing to pay protection money to your neighborhood punks or standing on the wrong corner at the wrong time may do the same.)

Once you're arrested, if you say you want a lawyer, you get a public defender with so many cases she or he may not even be able to meet you or read the complaint against you before you appear in court. You may serve weeks or months in jail, even if you're innocent, before your case is heard, and years before you are tried.

A district attorney has a whole police department to use to investigate a crime (although the Oakland Police Department, which I'm often up against, solves only 27 percent of its murder cases, and so is not exactly the most formidable of foes). (A recent investigation by the East Bay Express suggests that some Oakland cops are too busy hooking up with underage prostitutes to solve murders.) But if a DA needs to find a witness, the OPD's army of street cops can often locate him through their confidential informants. Or they can pull him in on a warrant for those unpaid parking tickets, threaten a drug bust or revocation of his parole or probation, or hold him as a material witness if he resists cooperating.

I have no muscle. But I have been known to find a witness who doesn't want to be found.

At best, a defendant gets just me - and most of the accused don't get an investigator at all. The landmark 1963 Supreme Court case Gideon v. Wainwright may have given poor defendants the right to an attorney, but there is no legal right to an investigator (except in death penalty cases). And unlike a DA, no one has to talk to me or face trouble with the law. I have no muscle. But I have been known to find a witness who doesn't want to be found and nag him or her into submission.

In the last 10 years, in cases mostly in Northern California, among scores of people I've helped defend, only 3 have been white - and they were as destitute as the poor blacks and Latinos who jam American jails and prisons.

Defense teams I've been on start off by guessing if and why the accused might have done what he's charged with. It's human nature to do so. But if the accused is pleading not guilty, it's better not to know. "I don't know what happened, I wasn't there," one death penalty lawyer I work with regularly says to shut off such speculation. As for the why, the shrinks often can't help, even if you call on them to testify. Decades of research into the criminal mind often comes down to: "He snapped." That's not a good line for a jury, but it's the kicker to many a defense meeting.

In a real trial, the truth of what actually happened doesn't matter anyway. Only the truth of the evidence counts.

Are poverty, racism, and a desperate childhood a defense? Prosecutors love to face this argument. They get on their high horses and trot out the American dream and all the poor people who suck up their rage and despair and don't murder someone. All the folks who don't snap.

California nixed the "diminished capacity" argument in 1981, after the killer of Harvey Milk used his notorious "Twinkie defense."

But in California, what might have caused someone to snap isn't admissible at trial anyway, except in death penalty cases. A "diminished capacity" defense was abolished in 1981 after ex-San Francisco Supervisor Dan White used one to beat a murder rap for killing Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. The jury bought his lawyer's argument - which came to be known as the "Twinkie defense" - that White was addled by junk food when he killed the 2 of them. It ignored evidence that White intended and planned the murder, taking his gun to City Hall, climbing through a window to avoid metal detectors, and reloading it after first shooting Moscone.

These days, only in the penalty phase of a death penalty case - when the jury decides whether the defendant they've just found guilty will face capital punishment or life in prison without parole - can defense lawyers present evidence of the tragic facts of the defendant's life. The jury may then hear of his years in foster care, his mom the crack addict, his dad absent in prison, and the older brother who initiated him into street life. Only then will the jury be asked to see the accused as a person with a life beyond the crime with which he is charged. The defense will finally replace a prosecutor's blown-up mug shot of the defendant and Facebook screen shots of him showing off a gun with family photos of him at his sixth birthday party decked out in a silly hat and others of his toddler and baby mama.

Most jurors don't much like this defense. They assume it's just an excuse. But it's not. It's an explanation.

Take Larry. He's an OG (original gangsta, or old guy), a 50-year-old African American man who grew up in dire poverty in Deep East, Oakland's most murderous neighborhood. Larry has symptoms of schizophrenia but has never been able to get real mental health care. He's been living, on and off, with his mother who is also schizophrenic in Acorn ("The 'Corn"), one of the toughest housing projects in West Oakland. His mother is too afraid of its gangbangers to leave her apartment. Larry recently told a counselor at a walk-in clinic for the poor that he thought he had PTSD from all the shooting and killing he's witnessed.

Like many poor Oaklanders, he makes his meager living in the underground economy, dealing small amounts of weed to regular customers who phone him on his cell. While cellphones have made it possible to sell drugs without the turf battles of the past, The 'Corn is ruled by a gang of young punks called the Acorn Mob and their rivals, the Gashouse Team. The Mob doesn't just support itself moving guns or drugs. It also makes money ripping off small-time dealers like Larry, demanding protection money from neighborhood people, and robbing the elderly when they cash their social security checks.

For Larry, a simple walk down the block might mean being rolled by the Mob, accosted by police, or caught in the crossfire.

Like many poor people living on such mean streets, Larry is always looking over his shoulder. A simple walk down the block might mean being rolled by the Mob, accosted by police, or caught in the crossfire of someone else's feud.

In early 2012, Larry's life dropped off a cliff. His brother died of cancer; his daughter died in a freak case of emergency room malpractice; he witnessed a friend gunned down in a gang battle; and he was robbed at gunpoint on a street near The 'Corn. Meanwhile, the Acorn Mob was stepping up pressure on OGs like Larry to pay them protection money.

As Larry tells it, one morning that August, two of the most vicious Mob gangbangers dogged him on the streets around The 'Corn, demanding to know when he'd take up a collection from his OG buddies to pay them off. He took shelter along with his crew in a friend's apartment in one of the project's towers. When he told his friends about the latest threats, the group debated what to do, damping their fears by smoking weed and drinking mai tais.

Later, near dark, Larry and his friend Arthur wandered over to the local liquor store to buy the cigarillos they filled with weed to make blunts. On the way, the same two Acorn Mob punks who had accosted them earlier that day threatened to kill Larry if he didn't come up with some money fast. Larry and Arthur sought refuge in the store, but one of the young thugs followed them inside. The other waited outside the door.

Even the victim's stepfather believed the young man was killed accidently by his own cousin. But no witness would come forward.

Larry had had enough. He snapped. He grabbed an old handgun Arthur carried for protection and ran out of the store. He says he fired once, hoping to scare off the 2 of them. That started a volley of wild shots. When Arthur's gun jammed, Larry ran back inside the liquor store. As soon as the shooting stopped, Larry and Arthur split the neighborhood. Somehow in the melee, one of the Acorn mobsters was shot and later died at the county hospital.

Larry and Arthur were arrested some months later. Larry was charged with murder and Arthur with being a felon with a gun and an accessory with knowledge of a crime. Word on the street was that the victim had been killed accidently by his own cousin, the gangsta who had followed Larry into the liquor store. Even the victim's stepfather told me he believed that. But no witness - and there were many standing outside the liquor store during the melee, including several of Larry's buddies - would come forward. They all had records, were doing drugs, and were afraid of the police.

Six cartridges from one gun and a single cartridge from another were found in the street near the body. Neither gun was ever found. The victim had suffered a "through and through" wound, which meant there were no bullet fragments to match to a particular gun anyway.

California's self-defense and provocation laws - unlike Florida's "stand your ground law," which figured in George Zimmerman's killing of Trayvon Martin - are very strict. Larry's lawyer worried that a judge would rule self-defense couldn't be justified because Larry had fired the 1st shot (even if it was, as he claimed, in the air). His possible PTSD, the recent dire tragedies in his personal life, the pressures of Oakland's mean streets, the fact that his mind was addled by weed and mai tais - all would be irrelevant in a California trial.

Fearing the outcome of a trial, Larry took a manslaughter plea for a killing he may not have done, and received a mandatory 12 years in prison.

So Larry didn't have the luxury of a Twinkie defense. He feared a jury. No poor person gets a jury of his or her peers. Few poor people are called for jury duty because the lists of potential jurors are made up from voter and driver's license records; few poor people living the fugitive life vote and many don't have a driver's license. Coming to court might mean being stopped and frisked by the police. (I've had a defense witness arrested on a warrant while waiting to testify outside court and others who have been followed home by the police after they showed up to support a family member on trial.) No prosecutor would permit anyone on a jury who's led the kind of life Larry has - someone with a drug record (even if 20 years old), or who understood life and death in Oakland's war zones firsthand.

Larry feared mandatory sentencing, which severely restricts a judge's ability to vary a sentence by taking into consideration mitigating facts in a particular person's life like Larry's clean record for the last 20 years, his possible PTSD, or the daily grind of violence in The 'Corn. That meant he was facing 25 years to life if convicted of murder. For defending himself. For firing 1 shot when it wasn't even clear who had killed the victim.

Larry took a plea to a killing he may not have done. Voluntary manslaughter with a mandatory sentence of 12 years in prison.

The Acorn Mob youngster who threatened Larry in the liquor store that August night and probably fired the fatal round was soon arrested for many armed robberies and sent to prison for 15 years.

I saw Larry right before he left the county jail for prison. I apologized for not being able to defend him. He thanked me for trying and added, "It ain't just, but that's how they do."

(source: Former journalist Judith Coburn, who has written for Mother Jones and many other outlets, became a P.I. 10 years ago----Mother Jones)



Northern Iran: 2 Prisoners Hanged on Drug Charges

On Sunday August 14 2 prisoners were reportedly hanged in northern Iran, one at Gorgan Central Prison (Golestan province) and the other at Salmas Prison (West Azerbaijan province).

According to a report by the unnoficial human rights news agency, HRANA, the prisoner at Gorgan was sentenced to death for "Trafficking and possession of narcotics". The report identifies the prisoner as Hamidreza Roustasefat, 43 years old. Mr. Roustasefat was reportedly detained in prison for 5 years before he was transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for his execution.

According to a report by the unofficial human rights news agency, the Kurdistan Human Rights Network, the prisoner hanged at Solmas was Aydin Teimourzadeh, sentenced to death on drug related charges. The report says Mr. Teimourzadeh was detained in prison for 7 years before his execution.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Jigisha Murder Case: Delhi Police Seeks Death Sentence For Convicts

A court in Delhi will pronounce sentence to three men convicted for murdering and robbing IT executive Jigisha Ghosh in Delhi in 2009 on Monday, with the Delhi Police today seeking death penalty for them saying they killed her for "pleasure" and showed no remorse. Additional Sessions Judge Sandeep Yadav reserved the order on sentence after the arguments concluded today and a pre-sentencing report (PSR) was submitted by probationary officer.

"Pre-sentencing report received...Copy has been supplied to counsel for the convicts. Arguments heard. Order on sentence to be pronounced on Monday," the judge said after hearing the arguments of prosecution, convicts and perusing the pre-sentencing report which gave details about the background of the guilty persons.

However, the judge ordered for maintaining confidentiality of the report.

Jigisha, 28, working as an operations manager in a management consultancy firm, was abducted and killed on March 18, 2009 after she was dropped by her office cab around 0400 hours near her home in Vasant Vihar area of South Delhi.

Her body was recovered 3 days later from a place near Surajkund in Haryana, police had said.

Seeking death sentence for the convicts - Ravi Kapoor, Baljeet and Amit Shukla, Special Public Prosecutor Rajiv Mohan argued that they had abducted Jigisha, robbed her, killed her and used her debit card for shopping, and a CCTV footage of their shopping showed they had no remorse for their act.

"There was no provocation. There is no mitigating factor in the matter. It was murder for pleasure. The footage shows they had no remorse at all, which is an aggravating factor," he said.

Rebutting the arguments of prosecution, defence counsel sought minimum sentence of life for the convicts contending that they did not have any previous criminal involvement and were young at the time of the incident.

Advocate Amit Kumar, appearing for convicts Baljeet and Amit Shukla, argued that his clients have already spent over 7 years in jail and maintained good conduct.

The counsel for convict Ravi Kapoor sought leniency for his client saying he suffered from a life threatening disease and belonged to a poor background.

The defence counsel also termed the PSR contradictory and biased contending that it did not mention the incident when convict Amit Shukla was brutally beaten inside the jail.

During arguments when the SPP referred to the alleged involvement of the 3 convicts in the Soumya Vishwanathan murder case, the defence counsel objected to it saying it was a separate case which was still pending and referring to it would cause them prejudice during the proceedings.

The court had, a month ago, held the 3 men guilty of murder, abduction, robbery, forgery and common intention under IPC, saying it was "abundantly clear" that they had committed the crime. Kapoor was also convicted for the offence of using firearms under the Arms Act.

While convicting them on July 14, the judge had said "they committed her murder and disposed of her body in bushes and circumstantial evidence makes it clear that it was these men who committed the crime."

The police had filed the charge sheet in the case in June 2009 and trial began on April 15, 2010.

Recovery of the weapon allegedly used in Jigisha's murder had led to the cracking of the murder case of Soumya Vishwanathan, who was a journalist with a news channel.

Soumya was shot dead on September 30, 2008 while she was returning home in her car from office in the wee hours.

Police had claimed robbery as the motive behind the killing of both Jigisha and Soumya.

The accused had used Jigisha's ATM card to buy expensive goggles, wrist watches and shoes from Sarojini Nagar market in South Delhi, police had said.


TEXAS----stay of impending execution

Execution Halted for Jeff Wood, Who Never Killed Anyone

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has halted the execution of Jeff Wood - a man who never killed anyone - 6 days before he was set to die by lethal injection. The order was issued on his 43rd birthday.

The court issued a brief, 2-page order Friday afternoon sending the case back to the original trial court so it can examine Wood's claim that a jury was improperly persuaded to sentence him to death by testimony from a highly criticized psychiatrist nicknamed "Dr. Death." The order creates the possibility that Wood's death sentence could be thrown out, though not his conviction.

"The court did the right thing by staying Mr. Wood's execution," Wood's attorney Jared Tyler said shortly after the order came down. "[He] is grateful for the opportunity to prove that his death sentence is unwarranted."

Wood's upcoming execution has gained national attention and highlighted Texas' felony murder statute, commonly known as the law of parties, which holds that anyone involved in a crime resulting in death is equally responsible, even if they weren't directly involved in the actual killing. Recently, conservative state representatives have spoken out and written letters to the parole board in hopes of saving Wood's life.

Wood was convicted in the 1996 murder of convenience store clerk Kriss Keeran in Kerrville, even though he was sitting outside in the truck when his friend, Daniel Reneau, pulled the trigger.

During his sentencing trial, prosecutors brought in Dr. James Grigson, nicknamed "Dr. Death" because of how often he testified for the state in capital murder trials, to examine if Wood would be a future danger to society if he was given life without parole instead of death. A jury can only sentence someone to death if it unanimously agrees that person would present a danger.

In his recent appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeals, Wood's lawyers claimed Grigson lied to jurors about how many cases he had testified in and how often he found the defendant to pose a future danger. He also misled the jury by omitting the fact that he was ousted from the American Psychiatric Association, Wood's appeal claimed.

Throughout his career testifying in capital murder trials, the number of times Grigson claimed to have examined defendants for future dangerousness would change randomly and often drastically, the appeal states.

In the late 1980s, for example, Grigson testified in one trial that he had examined 180 to 182 cases, but 7 months later, he claimed to have reviewed 156. And a year and a half later, the number jumped to 'no fewer than 391,' according to the appeal.

But no matter the raw number of cases, he always claimed he found about, or sometimes exactly, 40 % of defendants to not be a future danger.

The order instructs the trial court to not only examine Grigson's truthfulness, but to consider Wood's argument that Grigson's opinion was based on junk science. Grigson did not examine Wood himself but based his projection of Wood's future dangerousness on a hypothetical person presented by the state. The practice was condemned by the American Psychiatric Association.

The appeal also claimed that Grigson misled the jury by omitting the fact that he was ousted from the association for reasons relating to how he reviewed capital murder defendants. In 1995, the association's Board of Trustees voted to expel Grigson after an investigation revealed that his method of predicting future dangerousness in capital cases violated the association's practice.

3 jurors from Wood's trial have said they would have discounted Grigson's testimony if they'd known of the expulsion, according to the appeal.

Wood's scheduled Aug. 24 execution was thrust into the national spotlight because of the rarity of executions under felony murder statutes. But conservative lawmakers in Texas, who believe in the death penalty under the law of parties, also lost sleep over the case.

State Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, had been lobbying the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Gov. Greg Abbott to change Wood's sentence or issue a stay. Leach said he didn't believe Wood was a part of the murder. He had collected signatures from more than 50 fellow House members on a letter asking that Wood's sentence be commuted to life.

Rep. James White, R-Woodville, wrote a letter to the board as well, asking for a change of sentence in order to "preserve the legitimacy of the Law of Parties." And Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, wrote a similar opinion piece for The Texas Tribune.

Presiding Judge Sharon Keller and Judge Lawrence Meyers dissented on the court's ruling. Judge Elsa Alcala, though concurring with the court's order, wrote her own opinion, claiming that the court should have sent back other claims to the trial court.

"I would also remand claims ... in which applicant alleges that his participation in the offense and his moral culpability are too minimal to warrant the death penalty, that evolving standards of decency now prohibit the execution of a person who was convicted as a party to a capital offense, and, more generally, that Texas's death-penalty scheme should be declared unconstitutional because it is arbitrary and fails to target the worst of the worst offenders," Alcala said.

(source: Texas Tribune)


Texas Halts Execution Of Non-Triggerman Over Questions Of 'Dr. Death' Testimony----Wood was convicted as an accomplice to murder, with a controversial psychiatrist testifying that he would commit more violence.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Friday halted an execution planned for next week of a man convicted as an accomplice to a murder he did not commit in a case that raised questions about how the state applies the death penalty.

Jeffery Wood, 43, was scheduled to be executed on Aug. 24 by lethal injection. He was convicted of taking part in a 1996 convenience store robbery during which clerk Kriss Keeran was fatally shot.

In its decision, the appeals court asked a lower court to review his sentence and claims from Wood's lawyer that it was obtained in violation of due process because it was based on false testimony and false scientific evidence.

Wood's lawyer questioned a witness for the prosecution, forensic psychiatrist Dr. James Grigson, who told a court in the 1990s Wood would commit future acts of violence and was a threat to society.

Grigson, nicknamed "Dr. Death" for his willingness to testify against people facing the death penalty, was expelled from the Texas Society of Psychiatric Physicians and the American Psychiatric Association for ethical violations: making diagnoses of capital murder defendants without first examining them.

"The court did the right thing by staying Mr. Wood's execution and authorizing his claims related to Dr. Grigson's false testimony during the sentencing phase to be considered on the merits," said Jared Tyler, Wood's lawyer.

Wood was unarmed in a vehicle outside the store when it was robbed. Prosecutors have said Wood knew the clerk might be shot. Wood's lawyers said he was unaware that a robbery was underway.

Wood's roommate at the time, Daniel Reneau, was convicted of pulling the trigger and executed on June 13, 2002.

"I am not aware of a case where a person has been executed with so minimal culpability and with such little participation in the event," Tyler said in an interview.

Under Texas' "Law of Parties," a person can be charged with capital murder even if the offense is committed by someone else.

After he heard a shot, Wood entered the store to help Reneau steal a cash box, safe and security video system.

10 people have been executed as accessories to felony murder since the United States reinstated the death penalty in 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, which monitors capital punishment.

5 have been in Texas, which has executed more people than any state since the death penalty was reinstated.

(source: Reuters)


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 31----------------Rolando Ruiz----------538

21---------September 14-------------Robert Jennings-------539

22---------October 5----------------Barney Fuller---------540

23---------October 19---------------Terry Edwards---------541

24---------November 2---------------Ramiro Gonzales-------542

25---------December 7---------------John Battaglia--------543

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


Death penalty ruled violation of Constitution

The Delaware Supreme Court has ruled that the state code related to the death penalty violates the U.S. Constitution.

"What we address today is not whether capital punishment is categorically constitutional or not. In this regard, the United States Supreme Court has recently said that, as a matter of federal constitutional law, the death penalty is constitutional," reads the Aug. 2 opinion, in part.

The Court's 148-page opinion was in response to a U.S. Supreme Court decision from a case in January - Hurst v. Florida, which found that Florida's death penalty law violated the Constitution because it gave judges the ultimate power to impose the death penalty.

"Specifically, Hurst prompted the question of whether our death penalty statute sufficiently respects a defendant's Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury," reads the opinion.

The opinion states that, on Jan. 28, the Superior Court certified five questions of law to the Supreme Court for disposition following Hurst.

"Because answering the certified questions requires us to interpret not simply the Sixth Amendment itself, but the complex body of case law interpreting it, we have a diversity of views on exactly why the answers to the questions are what we have found them to be. But that diversity of views is outweighed by the majority's collective view that Delaware's current death penalty statute violates the Sixth Amendment role of the jury as set forth in Hurst."

The 1st, and perhaps most pressing of the certified question was whether, under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, a sentencing judge may, in a capital jury proceeding, independent of the jury, find the existence of any aggravating circumstance, statutory or non-statutory, that has been alleged by the State for weighing in the selection phase of a capital sentencing proceeding.

The Delaware Supreme Court ruled the State's law was unconstitutional, with Justices James T. Vaughn Jr. dissenting in part.

"In my view, 11 Del. C. # 4209 complies with the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution so long as the jury has first found the existence of at least one statutory aggravating factor unanimously and beyond a reasonable doubt."

Other justices, however, did not agree.

"I join with a majority of my colleagues in concluding that Delaware's current death penalty statute conflicts with the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution," wrote Chief Justice Leo Strine, "...if the core reasoning of Hurst is that a jury, rather than a judge, must make all the factual findings ... necessary for a defendant to receive a death sentence, then Delaware's statute cannot stand."

"The answer to Question 1 is no. In Hurst, the United States Supreme Court held that: the Sixth Amendment requires a jury, not a judge, to find each fact necessary to impose a sentence of death," added Justice Randy J. Holland.

Following the release of the opinion, many voiced their approval of the Court's findings.

"As a former member of the Board of Pardons, I have had more occasion to contemplate the death penalty than most. Over the last several years, after a lot of study and reflection, I've come to the conclusion that it's a punishment that is too flawed for it to be considered fair or just. I support the Supreme Court's opinion in its ruling today," said U.S. Rep. John Carney (D-Del.) in a statement.

"I applaud the Supreme Court's finding that the state's death penalty law is unconstitutional," said Gov. Jack Markell in a statement that day. "As I have come to see after careful consideration, the use of capital punishment is an instrument of imperfect justice that doesn't make us any safer.

"The important concerns of death penalty proponents must be balanced by the examples of flawed testimony, innocent people on death row being exonerated, and other facts that weigh strongly against the use capital punishment. While I would have supported abolishing the death penalty legislatively, it is my hope that today's decision will mean that we never see another death sentence in our state."

"As of today, Delaware no longer has a death penalty. We join the ranks of 19 other states in the United States without capital punishment. We are proud to join with the 7 other states, such as Maryland, New Jersey and Nebraska, that have eliminated their death penalties since 2007," said Kathleen MacRae, executive director of the ACLU of Delaware Inc. in a statement following the opinion.

"We call on all Delawareans to honor this ruling by our highest court and oppose any effort by the General Assembly to 'fix' our death penalty statute. The death penalty is an antiquated system broken beyond repair. It has no place in our criminal justice system."

Early this week, Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn's office said they will not appeal the opinion to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"After carefully reviewing the Delaware Supreme Court's opinion regarding the constitutionality of Delaware's current death penalty statute, the Attorney General has decided not to appeal the decision to the United States Supreme Court," read the statement. "He has concluded that, even if the United States Supreme Court reversed the opinion on federal constitutional grounds, that the Delaware Supreme Court would ultimately invalidate Delaware's current death penalty statute based on the Constitution of the State of Delaware.

"The Delaware Supreme Court has repeatedly stated that the Delaware Constitution provides rights to a jury trial that are independent of and in some instances more expansive than those provided by the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Litigating and appealing these issues - a process that would likely take years before issues of both federal and state constitutional law were resolved - would likely not only bring about the same result, but would also deny the families of victims sentencing finality."

While the Aug. 2 decision did not address the 12 people who are currently serving on death row in the state, the Attorney General's Office said it does not believe the opinion applies retroactively.

(source: Coastal Point)


Attorney: Roswell teens murder suspect could face death penalty

New details emerged in the murder of 2 teens in Roswell on Friday and 11Alive's legal analyst believes the death penalty is on the table for the suspect.

Jeffrey Hazelwood, 20, is accused of killing 2 teens in Roswell behind a Publix grocery store on Aug. 1.

There was raw emotion inside a Fulton County courtroom as a Roswell detective described the gruesome and bizarre murder confession by Hazelwood.

Natalie Henderson's parents listened as the detective detailed the murders of their daughter and Carter Davis behind the grocery store.

"At this point he said that he shot her," answered the detective. "Where did he shoot her?" asked the attorney. "In the head," said the detective.

Friday night, 11Alive News legal analyst Phil Holloway weighed in on the details he heard in court.

"When you take into account there were 2 victims and they died the horrific death that they did die, which could only be described as tortuous in nature, that would make this case eligible under the law for the death penalty," Holloway said.

The detective testified that Hazelwood confessed to following Henderson and Davis behind the grocery store. He watched them for a while before moving in. He said he pistol-whipped and then shot Davis in the head.

According to the detective, Hazelwood admitted to sexually battering Henderson before killing her.

The autopsy shows the alleged killer later posed the bodies.

"It shows that he clearly has thought about this, it shows that his mind does not work the way most people's mind works, it shows that he has some sociopathic tendencies," Holloway said.

The detective testified writings they discovered appear to show Hazelwood wanted to be an assassin.

"They will use that as motive, they will say that is someone who has a desire to kill, they have thought about this, they have planned it," Holloway said.

Hazelwood's attorneys mentioned specific mental issues after Friday's hearing.

Holloway believes that's because insanity is the only possible defense no matter how tough it is to prove.

"He said somebody told him to do it whether that person exists or not; he said he wanted to be an assassin - those 2 things go to motive and when a prosecutor can prove a solid motive it'll go a long way towards defeating a claim of legal insanity," Holloway said.

A Georgia jury can say someone is mentally ill and still guilty of a crime. That's different from legally insane.

It shows they knew the difference between right and wrong. It also leaves life in prison and the death penalty as sentencing options.

It's still very early in the case and it now goes to a grand jury for a decision in September.



Attorney General supports bills increasing penalties for crimes against police officers

Alabama Attorney General, Luther Strange has vocally come out in support of 3 bills introduced in the Alabama Legislature during the current special session. The bills could provide tougher penalties for crimes committed against law enforcement officers.

In a press release statement, Strange voiced his support for house bills 48, 49 and 52.

"Law enforcement stand watch against threats and face danger every day in order to keep us safe," said Strange. "They have our backs and it is important to show them that we have theirs.

House bill 48, proposed by State Rep. (R) Chris Sells adds two aggravating circumstances (murder where the victim is a law enforcement officer and murder where the victim is a child under the age of 14) to the list of statutory aggravating circumstances that make a defendant eligible for the death penalty.

The bill adds the language from 2 existing capital offenses to make corresponding aggravating circumstances consistent with these capital offenses.

House bill 49 has been presented by State Rep. (R) Connie Rowe. The bill provides stiffer penalties for crimes against law enforcement officers and provides for a pay raise for Alabama Law Enforcement Agency officers.

It makes the crime of assault in the 2nd degree a Class B felony, when a person causes a physical injury with the intent of preventing a law enforcement officer from performing a lawful duty. Currently, assault in the 2nd degree is a Class C felony while assault in the 1st degree is a Class B felony.

The 3rd bill, House bill 52 proposed by State Rep. (R) Phillip Pettus expands the definition of hate crimes. The bill will include victims who are employed or perceived as employed as a law enforcement officer, firefighter, emergency medical services personnel, or rescue squad member.

Strange is urging lawmakers to get behind the bills during the current legislative session.

"These bills introduced in the Alabama House demonstrate Alabama's support for our law enforcement by increasing the penalties for violent crimes committed against them and I urge lawmakers to ensure they pass," said Strange.



Teen arrested for allegedly killing, burning body of Korean War vet

Gene Emory Dacus often sacrificed his own comfort for that of others.

At the turn of the 1950s, he was one of many young men who shipped off to Korea, fighting a war half a world from his home in Georgia. After the war ended in 1953 and his 3 sons - 1 of whom is disabled - finished school, he moved with his wife Earnestine to Birmingham, Ala., to care for his grandparents. There, he was embraced by his neighbors, for whom he often cut the grass - even at 85 years old - in order to keep the neighborhood looking tidy.

As his neighbor Helen McComb told, "He's been here forever. People here loved Mr. Gene. He was very sweet to all of the children. He kept our neighborhood clean."

After his wife passed away in 2005, he cared for his now 60-year-old disabled son in the house, alone.

"[He was a] Good man. Uncomparably good man," Robert Stanley, a relative, told WBRC.

His son, Gary Dacus, credits his own success to his father's example.

"He taught me good rules and I have a lot of my father in me," he told "I'm a successful person for that. ... He was the most kindhearted gentleman you ever met. He never met a stranger, and he helped anybody he could."

On Wednesday, neighbors alerted Stanley, a neighbor and relative of Dacus, that they smelled smoke and saw fire coming from the backyard of Dacus's house. They thought maybe his RV had caught fire, or that someone had set fire to it - they had seen a young black man running through a nearby alleyway with a red gasoline jug.

Stanley sent his son to investigate.

But the camper wasn't on fire. What he found was far more shocking and horrifying.

It was Dacus' body, in the backyard of the home he lived in for more than 50 years, quietly engulfed in flames.

"My son was the one that found him," Stanley told WBRC. "The neighbors said they thought the camper was on fire. He went around back to see if the camper was on fire, and it was Gene."

McComb, a neighbor, saw Stanley's son emerge from the yard.

"I could see something burning," she told "Then a guy ran out yelling somebody had burned up Mr. Gene."

Dacus was pronounced dead at the scene by Birmingham Fire and Rescue, WCMH reported.

Video taken by WIAT shows the place where he body was found - now just a charred black hole starkly contrasting with the bright green grass surrounding it.

Police found the young man with the jug, who turned out to be 18-year-old Thomas Sims. Sims was already awaiting trial in connection with an armed carjacking of a 2013 Toyota RAV earlier in the year.

On Thursday, Sims was charged with capital murder for the killing of Dacus, meaning that he could potentially receive the death penalty. He is being held on no bond, according to It is unclear if he has a lawyer or if he has entered a plea.

Birmingham Police Lt. Sean Edwards told that it appears Dacus and Sims got into an argument, before the teenage doused him with gasoline and lit him on fire.

"It's disheartening to see someone this young go to this level of violence," Edwards said. "To me, what he did to that elderly gentleman is evil at its finest."

As police are awaiting autopsy reports, it's unclear at this time if Dacus had died before he was burned, but Gary hoped so.

"The only thing I can hope to God for is that he was dead before he was burned," Gary told the newspaper. "You expect your parents to die before you, but to die a horrendous death like that is unimaginable. My father's death is a tragic loss. The community lost one of its pillars."

In a press conference, Birmingham Police Chief A.C. Roper said, "This homicide shocks the conscience of any reasonable person. Our hearts are hurting for the victim, his family and our community. The suspect actually confessed to this crime but we have not received any logical justification to explain what happened."

One oddity that might point toward a motive is that Dacus' truck was missing, and it had been a subject of concern for the man during his final days.

3 weeks prior to Dacus's death, his car was stolen from his house and hasn't been recovered. He was worried his pickup truck, a 1999 white Dodge Ram with a blue hood, would meet the same fate, so he drove it onto his lawn, reported.

That truck went missing around the time of his death, though it's unclear exactly when. Police are searching for it and have said the capital murder charge stems from the theft of that trunk. They also think a 2nd person could be involved and are searching for a 2nd suspect.

Sims now awaits court dates in 2 cases - the previous unrelated carjacking and now a capital murder case relating to Dacus. Those dates have not been set.

(source: Stars and Stripes)


Trial set for next month in Massillon murder case

A court hearing took place Friday in the Leeroy Rogers case. A Sept. 2 pretrial was scheduled for the Massillon man who is accused of killing 2 women.

A judge continues to review some of the more than 40 motions filed in the case of a Massillon man who is accused of killing 2 women.

Leeroy W. Rogers Sr., 59, faces 2 counts of aggravated murder, 2 counts of kidnapping and weapons-related charges. He could be sentenced to death if convicted.

However, Stark County Common Pleas Judge Chryssa Hartnett said at Friday's hearing that she hasn't ruled yet on a defense request to dismiss the death penalty component of the case. She's reviewing the prosecution's response opposing the motion.

A trial is set to begin on Sept. 20 with jury selection. The next pretrial is Sept. 2. The abundance of motions filed is not unexpected in a death penalty case. Hartnett has ruled on several of them.

Rogers is accused of killing Kimberly S. Clupper, 47, whose body was found in the spring of 2015 in South Sippo Park in Massillon and Kendra Carnes, 23, who was found dead in August 2015 in Newman Creek. Both women died from gunshot wounds to the head, according to the Stark County Coroner's Office.

The defense contends that a previous U.S. Supreme Court ruling finds Ohio's "capital sentencing scheme" to be unconstitutional in violation of the Sixth Amendment. The Stark County Prosecutor's Office counters in its filing that the Supreme Court ruling deals with elements of Florida's death penalty law that are not applicable to Ohio's.

Both the aggravated murder and kidnapping charges have repeat violent offender specifications stemming from an earlier conviction in Texas. In 2004, Rogers was sentenced to 10 years in prison on felony charges in Texas.

At Friday's hearing, Hartnett briefly discussed the status of various motions, including those related to juror questionnaires, courtroom decorum and what photos will be permitted to be introduced during the trial.

Harnett recently overruled a defense motion to suppress evidence in the case related to the search of a residence in Massillon. Prosecutors argued that a warrant was not required because officers had received the consent of someone who lived at the home.

(source: Massillon Independent)


While Other States Repeal Death Penalty, New Mexico Wants to Bring It Back

In the aftermath of the recent shooting death of a Hatch police officer, Gov. Susana Martinez said Wednesday she will push during next year's 60-day legislative session to reinstate New Mexico's death penalty -- at the least for child-killers and those convicted of murdering law enforcement officers.

Martinez, a former prosecutor, backed legislation to reimpose the death penalty immediately after taking office in 2011, but the proposal stalled that year in the Democratic-controlled Legislature, and the issue has not been part of the governor's agenda in recent years.

In a statement Wednesday, the 2-term Republican governor told the Journal, "A society that fails to adequately protect and defend those who protect all of us is a society that will be undone and unsafe.

"People need to ask themselves, if the man who ambushed and killed five police officers in Dallas had lived, would he deserve the ultimate penalty? How about the heartless violent criminals who killed Officer Jose Chavez in Hatch and left his children without their brave and selfless dad? Do they deserve the ultimate penalty? Absolutely."

Nationally, there's been a movement away from the death penalty in recent years. 19 states, including New Mexico, currently do not have death penalty laws on their books, and 4 states -- Illinois, Connecticut, Maryland and Nebraska -- have abolished capital punishment in the past 5 years, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Allen Sanchez, executive director of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Wednesday that the Roman Catholic Church will fight the effort to reinstate the death penalty.

"We've been through this debate," Sanchez said in an interview. "As sad as (the Hatch police officer) shooting is, we believe the governor is just trying to create a distraction from what's going on in New Mexico with poverty and need."

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico also vowed to oppose the latest death penalty effort, which could emerge as a campaign issue during this year's election cycle. All 112 legislative seats are up for election, and control of both the state House and Senate are at stake.

Rep. Antonio "Moe" Maestas, D-Albuquerque, called Wednesday's announcement politically driven and unwise, given a looming state budget shortfall.

"If she truly believes the death penalty is good public policy, then she should attach an appropriation to (the bill) and we can have a debate on that," Maestas said of Martinez.

Slaying of officer

The governor's announcement that she will renew her push to reinstate capital punishment comes less than a week after Hatch police officer Jose Chavez was shot and killed after making a traffic stop.

Jesse Hanes, a fugitive from Ohio, has been charged with murder in connection with Chavez's death. He also faces federal firearms charges. He was traveling with an accomplice on a cross-country trip funded by robbing banks and selling methamphetamine at the time their vehicle was pulled over, prosecutors have alleged.

Third Judicial District Attorney Mark D'Antonio, whose office filed the murder charge, indicated Wednesday that he would be receptive to reinstating the death penalty in certain cases.

"My priority is prosecuting the death of Officer Chavez, but I'm open to conversations about reinstating the death penalty," D'Antonio said in a statement. "The death penalty should be the last resort for the worst of the worst and in certain situations like for cop-killers."

Meanwhile, Martinez also cited the May killing of an 11-year-old Navajo girl near Shiprock in her statement about the death penalty. In that case, Tom Begaye Jr. is accused of kidnapping and murdering Ashlynne Mike.

"I think of poor Ashlynne and the horror she went through," the governor told the Journal. "Does the monster who killed her deserve the ultimate punishment? Yes -- absolutely."

Although legislation to reinstate the death penalty has not been drafted, the Governor's Office indicated it could apply to only certain types of cases.

"At minimum, we can all agree that it should apply to cop-killers and child-murderers," Martinez spokesman Chris Sanchez said.

2009 repeal

New Mexico had the death penalty on its books for years, but then-Gov. Bill Richardson signed legislation in 2009 repealing capital punishment and replacing it with a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Opponents of the death penalty had argued that capital punishment was not cost-effective, and Richardson, a Democrat, said at the time he signed the repeal bill into law that he did not have sufficient confidence in the criminal justice system to be the final arbiter of who lived and who died.

However, the bill applied only to crimes committed after its effective date and several inmates remain on death row in New Mexico.

Before abolishing the death penalty, New Mexico had executed just 1 inmate since 1960. That happened in 2001, when Terry Clark received a lethal injection after having been convicted of raping and killing Dena Lynn Gore, a 9-year-old Artesia girl.



Suspect Arrested in Death of Cab Driver in Hollywood over $24.75 Fare----Najib Halibi beat a cab driver to death, because $24.75 was "more than Uber charges"

Najim Halibi Halibi was 1 of 3 passengers in a taxi shortly after 3 a.m. on Sunday when he allegedly got into a dispute with the driver, 47-year-old Asifawosen Alemseged, at a gas station in Hollywood.

Just before 3 am Sunday morning, Ethiopian cab driver Asfawosen Alemseged picked up 3 passengers in downtown LA. One passenger got back into the cab. A fist fight erupted over whether the cab fare was too high, because it was "more than twice what Uber charges" to drive passengers from downtown LA to Hollywood.

A Lakewood man was charged today with fatally attacking Alemseged, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office announced Friday. Witnesses say Alemseged died when his head hit the pavement. Others say the suspect beat the cabbie to death.

Najib Halibi (dob 5/25/82) was charged with 1 count of murder along with the special circumstance allegation of murder during the commission of a robbery, making him eligible for the death penalty.

Halibi is accused of exiting the taxi and reaching into the vehicle and grabbing Alemseged and going through his pockets. The victim also got out of the taxi and was allegedly beaten by Halibi, who fled the scene.

If convicted as charged, Halibi faces the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole. A decision on whether to seek death will be made at a later date.

An LAYellowcab spokesman said that Alemseged was, "A nice man and well loved by passengers.. . . there are safeguards we have in place to protect our drivers, but you can't prevent everything."

Authorities found the taxi driver, Asfawosen Alemseged, unconscious in the parking lot of a 76 gas station. Alemseged was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he later died, police said.

Investigators said it appeared Alemseged was first attacked over a fare dispute while he was inside the cab. "This is probably a fare dispute that escalated into a robbery, into a physical assault, to the victim's death," Lt. John Radtke of the LAPD said. Detectives said the altercation then continued outside the vehicle.

The suspect was believed to be a passenger who was being dropped off near the gas station. He was last seen fleeing the scene eastbound on Franklin Avenue, according to Radtke.

In a statement, Yellow Cab said Alemseged worked for the company for 24 years and that he was well known in his native Ethiopian community as a singer, musician, writer and artist.

The intersection of Beachwood Drive and Franklin Avenue was closed for several hours and has since reopened.

(source: Santa Monica Observer)


The Deciders

Hundreds of Clatsop County residents are being called to the fairgrounds in September for jury duty in the county's 1st death penalty trial in 15 years.

Residents will be screened on their attitudes toward capital punishment and whether they think they can be impartial. A pool of prospective jurors will move on to jury selection in the trial courtroom.

12 jurors, with 2 to 4 alternates, will serve in the case against Randy Roden, the live-in boyfriend accused of murdering his girlfriend's 2-year-old daughter and abusing her 2 sons in their Seaside apartment.

The last death penalty trial in 2001 involved Anthony Scott Garner, who fatally stabbed a woman on a motorboat in the Warrenton mooring basin and set the boat on fire to cover up the crime. Garner was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.

Roden's trial is expected to last up to 2 months in Circuit Court. Jurors will not be sequestered. If the jury finds Roden guilty of aggravated murder, a penalty phase will determine a possible death penalty sentence.

"We need a large number of jurors because of the length of the trial," Judge Paula Brownhill said. "It may be a hardship for many people to serve 4 days a week for up to 8 weeks."


At the county fairgrounds, jurors who are available for trial will be asked to fill out a lengthy questionnaire. Typically, questionnaires are not used in most trials. Since more than 300 potential jurors could be called for screening, the questionnaires will swiftly provide prosecutors and defense lawyers with information about each juror.

"The questionnaires help jury selection move more quickly because lawyers don't have to ask so many questions," Brownhill said.

The questionnaires will ask if potential jurors have heard about the Roden case, what they have heard about the case and if they can be fair. The surveys will also explore a possible juror's interests and beliefs, including their position on the death penalty.

The prosecution and defense will review the questionnaires prior to jury selection, when available jurors will be brought into the courtroom in groups of 6 for follow-up questions.

In the Garner case, which Brownhill also presided over, jurors were questioned individually in 15-minute segments, and it took more than a week to select 12 jurors.

The lawyers in Roden's case would prefer individual interviews, but Brownhill plans to bring in people in panels of 6 to speed up the process.

Open minded

While scrutinizing potential jurors, both prosecutors and defense lawyers in Roden's case will look for people who do not have extreme views about the death penalty.

People who could never impose death for religious or political reasons, or who could not imagine any other fitting penalty for the crimes, will be excluded.

Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis said lawyers are looking for the middle ground.

A qualified juror would have an open mind, have heard about the case but had not formed strong opinions, and would listen to the judge's instructions and follow the law.

If Roden is found guilty of aggravated murder, the jury decides the appropriate sentence. The jury would have to unanimously answer 4 questions in the penalty phase before sentencing Roden to death.

All 12 jurors would have to agree on the following questions:

Was the murder deliberate? Did the victim do anything to provoke the murder? Is the defendant likely to commit serious acts in the future? Should the defendant receive a death sentence?

If just o1 juror says "no" to 1 question, the sentence drops to life in prison without parole.

"Aggravated murder cases are the only cases where a jury makes the decision," Marquis said of sentencing. "The judge is bound by the sentence."

(source: Daily Astorian)


85 suspected drug offenders caught in latest CNB operation

A 4-day drug bust by the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB), which ended on Friday (Aug 19) morning, resulted in the arrests of 85 suspected drug offenders.

Around 196g of heroin, 47g of 'Ice' and other suspected controlled drugs were also seized in the island-wide operation.

In the operation, 2 suspected drug traffickers were arrested by CNB officers in the vicinity of Havelock - a 55-year-old man, and his associate, a 51-year-old man. Both are Singaporeans.

Officers raided the hideout of the 55-year-old, who was also found to have small amounts of 'Ice' on him, and found 138g of heroin from within the unit. Numerous empty plastic straws, plastic sachets and a digital weighing scale were also recovered.

2 other suspected drug abusers, a 29-year-old male and a 31-year-old female, both of whom are also Singaporeans, were arrested shortly after the raid at the hideout.

Investigations into the drug activities of all the arrested people are ongoing.

A previous island-wise operation by CNB officers that took place early August saw 78 suspected offenders caught.

Under the Misuse of Drugs Act, anyone caught trafficking more than 15g of diamorphine (or pure heroin) can face the death penalty.



London diplomat: Kim Jong-un 'orders executions' over Thae Yong-ho defection

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has reportedly ordered the execution of those who failed to prevent the high-profile defection of Thae Yong-ho, a Pyongyang diplomat based in London. Thae, in a dramatic move, defected to South Korea this week along with his family.

He is believed to have directly flown to Seoul from London.

In the wake of the recent defections, Kim has dispatched security agents abroad to monitor the activities of North Korean officials and business personnel, a source familiar with the matter told Yonhap news agency.

The unidentified source added that North Korean diplomatic missions abroad have been given strict instructions not to allow any of the workers to leave their posts without permission.

"Kim has threatened an immediate pullout of overseas business operations that fail to perform," added the source.

The South Korean unification ministry claimed Thae chose to flee because of disillusionment with the North Korean regime under Kim, who has been tightening his grip on the isolated country in recent years.

Kim's latest move to further intensify efforts in curbing defections has come in the wake of other similar incidents. In April, a group of 13 North Korean workers from a restaurant in China escaped to the South. It was earlier reported that Kim had executed 6 officials over the defection of the restaurant workers.

Meanwhile, another top North Korean official managing the funds of Kim in Europe has reportedly disappeared in a mysterious manner. Yonhap cited South Korean daily Dong-A Ilbo as reporting that the official and his two sons were under the custody of local authorities in an unidentified European country.

About 50,000 North Koreans, including some minors, are estimated to be stationed in various countries to earn money for Pyongyang. This has recently come under increasing scrutiny from the international community as they say the money generated by these workers ultimately ends up funding the North's missile and nuclear programmes.



4 Quetta hospital attack facilitators arrested

Security officials nabbed at least 27 suspects, including 4 facilitators of the Quetta hospital bombing, in a combing operation in Mastung on Friday, while an anti-terrorism court in Naushki district handed down death and life terms to 15 accused.

9 Afghan nationals were also among those rounded up.

A huge cache of explosives was seized during the combing operation, according to unnamed security sources.

The combing operation was carried out in the Kanak area of Mastung, some 25km away from Quetta.

Balochistan security forces claimed to have arrested 4 facilitators of the Civil Hospital carnage.

Anti-terrorism court

An anti-terrorism court handed down the death penalty and life imprisonment to 15 men accused of involvement in the killing of a Levies official and an assassination bid on the life of District Police Officer (DPO) Kharan Anwar Badini.

ATC Judge Justice Jaffar Mengal also fined each accused Rs200,000 besides awarding death sentences and life imprisonments.

The accused were involved in the killing of Balochistan Levies official Umar Shah and attacking DPO Kharan's police mobile van. DPO Kharan and his driver were injured in the attack.

The culprits were charged with terrorism, murder, illegal possession of arms and ammunition, possession of explosives and an assassination attempt.

The main accused in the case, Mullah Ashraf, was given a quadruple death sentence while 14 of his accomplices were awarded death sentences 3 times.

The abettors included Maqbol Ahmed, Abdul Qayyum, Mohammed Yaqoob, Khuda Baksh, Rehmatullah, Zahoor Ahmed, Abdul Qadir, Amjad Ali, Mehboob, Hazoor Baksh, Abdul Qadus, Danyal, Badost and Shakil Ahmed.

(source: Express Tribune)


Mass executions on the anniversary of massacre of political prisoners

8 young prisoners executed on August 17; 59 executions registered in 17 days

A new wave of mass executions has been launched by the anti-human clerical regime of Iran. The executions coincide with the anniversary of the massacre of political prisoners in 1988.

The number of executions registered between August 2nd and 18th amounts to 59. 29 of those executed were political prisoners.

On August 17, 3 young political prisoners -- 2 brothers and their cousin - from Sunni Arabs residing in Hamidieh, Ahwaz, were executed. Another 3 young men between 18 and 21 years old were executed in the Prison of Gorgan (northern Iran). 2 young men, 25 and 28 years old, were hanged in public in Bandar Abbas, southern Iran.

Confronted with a mounting wave of popular revulsion due to the recent revelation of parts of its crimes in the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in 1988, the clerical regime fears the uprising of tens of millions of disgruntled people. It has thus found the only solution in stepping up mass executions, particularly of young men, to curb such an upheaval.

The Iranian Resistance calls on the Iranian people in general and youths in particular to protest the clerical regime's repressive measures and mass executions, and support the families of the victims.

The Iranian Resistance reiterates that silence and inaction in the face of the growing trend of executions, embolden the religious fascism ruling Iran in continuing its suppression, torture and executions. The Iranian Resistance further urges the referral of the dossier of violations of human rights in Iran to the UN Security Council and convening of an international tribunal to examine the crimes of the Iranian regime, particularly the 1988 massacre of political prisoners.

(source: Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran)


Congress can propose law restoring death penalty - Dean Diokno

De La Salle University (DLSU) College of Law Dean Jose Manuel "Chel" Diokno on Friday said that the 17th Congress can propose a law restoring death penalty for heinous crimes in the country.

During the "Uncovering the Court's Media Training on Monitoring the Judiciary" held at Bro. Andrew Gonzalez Hall, DLSU, Taft Ave., Manila, Diokno noted that the death penalty in the country's criminal justice system was repealed in 2006.

Diokno added that the Philippines signed the Second Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 2006 and ratified it in 2007 without reservation.

The Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR aims at abolishing death penalty.

It is "the only international treaty of worldwide scope to prohibit executions and to provide for total abolition of the death penalty," Diokno said.

He further said that States that ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR "are required to renounce the use of the death penalty definitively."



Court allows Mary Jane's written testimony

A Sto. Domingo regional trial court granted the motion of Mary Jane Veloso, the Filipina on death row in Indonesia, to "testify" through a written deposition.

Amarica Castillo-Reyes of the Sto. Domingo Regional Trial Court Branch 88, the new judge hearing Mary Jane's case, ruled at the hearing on Aug. 18 that the deposition would be taken by the prosecution through written interrogatories, which, she said, is allowed under the Rules of Court.

Indonesian authorities have allowed the prosecution to get Mary Jane's testimony on several conditions. One condition is that questions to Mary Jane shall be in writing.

This will be the 1st time that Mary Jane will be allowed to testify and officially give her side to the court, which did not happen during her trial in the Indonesian court.

"The situation at hand presents a distinct factual milieu. The private complainant Mary Jane Veloso is not sick or infirm. Although she has left the Philippines, the return to the country is not a possibility by reason of her conviction for the offense of drug trafficking in Indonesia. Her return to the country to take the witness stand does not depend on her own volition but on the decision of the Indonesian government before whom she stands to suffer penalty as death row convict," read Reyes' decision, dated Aug. 16.

Reyes said the Philippine consular office in Indonesia would conduct the deposition upon written interrogatories. This would cover the direct-and cross-examination of Mary Jane, including re-direct and re-cross, if necessary. Her answers would be sent to the handling lawyers in the Philippines.

"It must be emphasized, however, that while the right of the prosecution to due process by allowing them to present evidence through deposition is ensured, the court must equally be vigilant in safeguarding that in the process, the fundamental constitutional right of the accused to confront the prosecution witnesses is not sacrificed," the court decision read.

"We are very happy. We have long prayed for this," Maritess Laurente, Mary Jane's sister, told Bulatlat.

Mary Jane Veloso was sentenced to death 6 years ago for carrying 2.6 kilograms of heroin, hidden in a bag lent to her by her recruiters. Her scheduled execution was stayed at dawn of April 30, 2015 amid national and international outcry about her being a victim of human trafficking. Indonesian President Joko Widodo stayed the execution pending the case filed by Mary Jane's family against her recruiters.

She remains in jail in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

Meanwhile, here in the Philippines, accused Maria Kristina Sergio and live-in partner Julius Lacanilao are charged with qualified human trafficking, illegal recruitment, and estafa in relation to Mary Jane's case. The 2 are also facing large scale and syndicated human trafficking case filed by 3 other women whom they also attempted to recruit.

3rd complainant testifies against Mary Jane's recruiters

Jenalyn Paraiso, the last of the 3 women complainants against accused Sergio and Lacanilao, took the witness stand on Aug. 18 to detail how the couple attempted to recruit her twice in 2010 and 2011.

National Union of Peoples' Lawyers assistant secretary general for legal services Ephraim Cortez told Bulatlat in an interview that the complainant had earlier filed an affidavit of desistance to supposedly withdraw from the case.

But Paraiso, in her testimony before the court, said she did not intend to withdraw her charges against Sergio and Lacanilao because these were not true, but because she was scared.

She added that it was Lacanilao's mother who accompanied her to the Public Attorney's Office (PAO) in their province where she executed and signed the affidavit. She was not informed of the adverse consequence of the affidavit and was not even given her own copy, said Cortez.

Lawyers from PAO are representing the accused.

"The affidavit of desistance has no weight now. It is no longer valid as she has already affirmed how the accused attempted to recruit her twice," Cortez said.

Sergio and Lacanilao had no license to recruit

Apart from Paraiso, the prosecution also presented Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) regional head Paterno Juridico, who testified before the court that the accused are not registered with the said government institution.

Juridico submitted before the court a certification from the POEA that Sergio and Lacanilao are not licensed nor authorized to recruit workers for overseas employment.

Republic Act 9422 or the amended Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995 provides that the POEA is tasked to "regulate private sector participation in the recruitment and overseas placement of workers by setting up a licensing and registration system."

In its Rules and Regulations on governing the recruitment and employment of land-based overseas workers, the POEA defined illegal recruitment as "any act of canvassing, enlisting, contracting, transporting, utilizing, hiring or procuring workers and includes referrals, contract services, promising or advertising for employment abroad, whether for profit or not, when undertaken by a non-licensee or non-holder of authority."

In their respective testimonies, the 3 women complainants - Lorna Valino, Ana Maria Gonzales and Paraiso - who surfaced on the eve of Mary Jane's scheduled execution - said they were recruited by Sergio and Lacanilao to find work abroad and were never presented a license issued by the POEA.

Mary Jane's family members already took the witness stand before the Sto. Domingo court.

Juridico's testimony is both for the case of Mary Jane and the 3 other women complainants.

Under a new judge

The trial of Mary Jane's recruiters is now being heard under a new judge, following the voluntary inhibition of Judge Nelson Tribianna of Branch 37.

Cortez said Tribianna, in his voluntary inhibition, said he was informed of rumors being circulated by accused Sergio that he is her relative. He also said the former judge found defense lawyer Howard Areza's pronouncement that they would ask him to inhibit should he grant Mary Jane's motion for deposition by written interrogatory as a "threat" and "inappropriate."

In an interview, Laurente described Reyes as "strict, brave, and dedicated." The Veloso family expressed hopes that the proceedings of the trial against the accused will be faster.

"This time, the (delaying) tactics and tricks of defense lawyers will no longer work. The judge repeatedly said that this is not an ordinary case," Laurente said, adding that the judge will hold hearings every month.

The next hearing is set on Sept. 9.



Gulberg Society massacre: SIT seeks death penalty for 11 who got life term----The SIT has not challenged the acquittal of retired deputy superintendent of police K G Erda, who was also acquitted for want of evidence.

The Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) has recommended capital punishment for 11 convicts who were awarded life imprisonment in the Gulberg Society massacre case by a special court on June 17 this year.

The SIT submitted its opinion to the state government last week, seeking the government's nod for filing an appeal petition in Gujarat High Court for enhancing the sentence of those convicted, and challenging the acquittal of 14 people.

The special court had convicted 24 accused and acquitted 36 people in the case.

The SIT has not challenged the acquittal of retired deputy superintendent of police K G Erda, who was also acquitted for want of evidence.

On February 28, 2002, a day after 59 kar sevaks were burnt in the Godhra train carnage, a mob had broken into the compound of Gulberg Society. The mob killed 69 people, including former Congress MP Ahsan Jafri.

According to SIT, the 12 convicts awarded seven-year jail terms and one convict who got a 10-year prison sentence for lesser offences should have been given life imprisonment.

The court-appointed probe team has argued that since these 13 people were part of the mob and were found guilty of unlawful assembly and arson, among other charges, they should have been treated as "murderers".

Sources in the SIT told The Indian Express that it will not challenge the acquittal of retired police officer Erda since he was wrongly involved in the case. Erda was the police inspector of Meghaninagar when the riots broke out at Gulberg Society on February 28, 2002.

"We have sent our recommendation to the state government, which is technically the prosecuting agency and has to give us the nod to go ahead. After analysing the judgment, we have found that there is scope of enhancing sentences and challenging acquittal of at least 14 accused," a member of the SIT said on condition of anonymity.

While pronouncing the sentence on June 17 this year, the special court had termed the Gulberg Society riots as "unfortunate" and the "darkest day in the civil society of Gujarat".

Ahsan Jafri's widow, Zakia, had filed a court complaint against the then chief minister Narendra Modi and others for orchestrating the riots. The SIT investigated her allegations following the Supreme Court's direction and gave a clean chit to Narendra Modi, the then chief minister of Gujarat.

Zakia appealed against the clean chit in Gujarat High Court which is likely to resume hearing on her plea from August 30.



Family fear frail British journalist will die in Bangladesh jail

The family of an 81-year-old British journalist fear he could die in a Bangladeshi prison from ill health within months if he is not released. Shafik Rehman, who used to work for the BBC, has now spent four months detained without charge.

Dhaka detectives, posing as a TV crew, arrested him at home on 16th April without a warrant. International human rights organisation Reprieve, which is assisting Mr Rehman, is concerned that if charged he may face trial for crimes which could carry the death penalty. A Supreme Court hearing later this month will consider Mr Rehman's case.

Mr Rehman, who has been repeatedly denied bail, is in poor health. He spent the first weeks of detention in solitary confinement, without a bed. His health deteriorated and he was rushed to hospital. His 82-year-old wife has also suffered ill health as a result of the couple's ordeal.

His son Shumit, who lives in London, told the Independent that "Quite honestly, I'm not sure if either of them will see the year out." After Mr Rehman's 1st month of questioning, he required a wheelchair. Now he can only walk while holding onto someone. Shumit warned that his father may die in prison if he was not released soon.

Reprieve has written to the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, asking him to urgently support Mr Rehman's application for bail.

Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said: "Shafik Rehman has been put through a litany of injustices as 'punishment' for his journalism and his criticism of the government. First arrested by plainclothes officers posing as a TV crew, he's since been held in such terrible conditions that he needs hospital treatment.

"Now the authorities seem intent on dragging out his detention for as long as possible, while they threaten him with charges that carry a potential death sentence.

"Given that Shafik is 81 and in poor health, this ongoing ordeal puts him in grave danger. The UK government must urgently demand that Bangladesh release this British grandfather on bail - before it's too late."



Executions: Indonesia disregards its own laws

Recently, the Attorney General's Office (AGO) held another round of executions and, similar to last year's executions, all those executed were drug offenders.

Hours after the executions, Attorney General M. Prasetyo reiterated that other countries should respect the sovereignty of Indonesian law, denying any appeals from countries concerned about the imposition of the death penalty in Indonesia.

The fact that the death penalty exists in our law is not in question, but this does not necessarily mean that the death penalty has always been implemented flawlessly.

In fact, given that the criminal justice system is human-made, it is inherently prone to human error.

In the days leading up to the execution, serious unfair trials and miscarriages of justice experienced by those to be executed were raised by lawyers, family members and human rights groups.

And now we have something more: an unlawful execution.

Outcries over the latest executions came from rights watchdogs, which identified 2 main errors.

First, at least 2 out of 4 of the executed - Seck Osmane and Humphrey Ejike - had pending clemency decisions.

According to the Article 13 of the Clemency Law, an execution of a prisoner who has filed a clemency petition cannot be carried out before the President has issued a presidential decree on the clemency decision.

Article 7 paragraph (2) of the same law previously regulated that one could lodge a clemency petition 1 year after one's court decision was declared final and binding.

[...] it potentially kills an innocent person. How many innocent lives must we end until we stop this senseless killing?

However, only last June the Constitutional Court declared that such a limitation was not in accordance with the 1945 Constitution and therefore revoked the article.

At that stage, neither of the 2 prisoners had filed clemency petitions until a few days before the executions. It seems obvious that legally speaking, both Seck and Humphrey still had a right to clemency and could not be executed before the President had made a decision over their petitions.

Second, the AGO violated the law on execution procedures, which regulates that executions cannot be carried out until 72 hours after a prosecutor notifies the condemned prisoners. All 14 death-row prisoners received their notification on July 26 around 3 p.m.

This meant that the executions could only be conducted, at the earliest, on the afternoon of July 29. In reality, the executions took place in the early hours of that day.

Given these 2 violations, it seems clear this latest round of executions was unlawful.

International communities have taken up these violations and condemned them. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, for example, called on Indonesia to put a moratorium in place, defining Indonesia as the "most prolific executioner in Southeast Asia". Is this the international image that Indonesia wants to project?

European and Australian governments have also raised concerns over allegations of unfair trials, despite no European or Australian nationals being listed for execution.

This demonstrates that their appeal to Indonesia to halt the execution is not a matter of defending their own nationals, but rather a matter of universal principle.

A distinguished Islamic philosopher from Oxford University, Professor Tariq Ramadan, has also sent an open letter to President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo. He enlightened the President on how sharia sees the death penalty. He argues that "rahmah [compassion] is an absolute necessity, an essential principle, an imperative duty, even if there is no doubt and all the conditions are gathered".

Despite the serious flaws and international criticisms, the AGO appeared adamant about its position on executions. Prasetyo has repeatedly said that other countries must respect the sovereignty of Indonesia's law.

Talking about such sovereignty, the attorney general himself has violated Indonesian law with those infringements. How can we expect foreign countries to respect our sovereignty of law if the law enforcers themselves blatantly disregard it?

That seems to be a paradoxical position and a hypocritical standing. This legal calamity can go on no longer. President Jokowi must stop any further executions.

Thorough evaluation of death penalty cases by an independent team established by the President is imperative.In the meantime, while the team is reviewing all death penalty cases, Indonesia must implement a moratorium with a view to abolishing the death penalty for all crimes.

This 3rd round of executions has shown us that even where an execution is "legal", it does not mean that it is not intrinsically problematic.

Further, it potentially kills an innocent person. How many innocent lives must we end until we stop this senseless killing?

(source: Raynov Gultom; The writer is a legal fellow at Reprieve UK, based in Jakarta. Reprieve UK advocates for worldwide abolition of the death penalt----The Jakarta Post)


5 Taiwanese arrested in Indonesia for alleged drug smuggling

Indonesia police arrested 5 Taiwanese suspects Thursday during a raid on a private residence in Jakarta, where they found 60 kilograms of the drug of methamphetamine, according to Indonesian authorities.

Investigators have determined that the drug was being supplied by a crime ring based in Taiwan, said Indonesian National Police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar on Thursday.

During the raid on the apartment in Ancol, North Jakarta, police arrested 1 Indonesian and 5 Taiwanese, who are now being interrogated, he said.

It is not the 1st time that Taiwanese drug suspects have been arrested in Indonesia, a county where the maximum penalty for drug offenses is death.

In January, the Supreme Court of Indonesia sentenced 3 Taiwanese to death for attempting to smuggle more than 2 kilograms of amphetamine each into the country, through Jakarta International Airport, in 2014.

A few months later, in April, Indonesian police arrested another Taiwanese suspect in Jakarta who was found with 12 kg of methamphetamine.

Earlier this month, a Taiwanese citizen was arrested in Jakarta after 15 kg of methamphetamine was found at his residence.

(source: Focus Taiwan)

AUGUST 19, 2016:


Ex-Connecticut death row inmates transferred to Pennsylvania

2 former death-row inmates convicted of killing a mother and her 2 daughters during a 2007 Connecticut home invasion have been transferred to separate facilities in Pennsylvania.

Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes were convicted in the slayings of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her 2 daughters in a home invasion in Cheshire.

Both were recently resentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole after the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled the death penalty in the state was unconstitutional.

State prisons officials gave no reason for the Aug. 16 transfers, other than saying it was done as part of an interstate corrections compact for "reasons of safety and security." The compact, in effect since 1973, allows for the transfers between states.

The state Correction Department says both men will be housed out of state for an indefinite period of time.

(source: Associated Press)


Prosecutors to seek the death penalty in face-biting attack

The Martin County Sheriff's office says authorities will seek the death penalty or life in prison for a 19-year-old college student who detectives say was caught biting the face of a man after stabbing him and his wife outside their Florida home.

A statement from sheriff's spokeswoman Trisha Kukuvka Friday says Austin Harrouff will be charged with 2 counts of 1st-degree murder in the deaths of 59-year-old John Stevens and his 53-year-old wife, Michelle Mishcon.

He also will be charged with attempted 1st-degree murder in the stabbing of their neighbor, Jeff Fisher, who tried to intervene.

Harrouff is still hospitalized and the sheriff has suggested that he won't be formally charged until his release, so that his family has to keep paying the bills until then.

His attorney, Robert Watson, did not immediately return a call and email seeking comment.

(source: Associated Press)


A Single Police Officer's Killing Is a Terrible Reason to Bring Back the Death Penalty----The governor of New Mexico uses emotional response to call for new executions.

Gov. MartinezN.M. State GovernmentNew Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez wants to get ahead of those using the recent killings of police officers to transform their occupation into an "identity" to be protected by hate crime laws.

Exactly 1 officer in New Mexico has died in the line of duty this year - Jose Chavez, shot to death during a traffic stop. A fugitive from Ohio has been charged with murder in Chavez's death.

Martinez wants to use this death and the recent killing of a child as an excuse to restore the death penalty in New Mexico. But she would only want to use the death penalty for those who kill cops or children. From a statement to the Albuquerque Journal this week:

In a statement Wednesday, the two-term Republican governor told the Journal, "A society that fails to adequately protect and defend those who protect all of us is a society that will be undone and unsafe.

"People need to ask themselves, if the man who ambushed and killed 5 police officers in Dallas had lived, would he deserve the ultimate penalty? How about the heartless violent criminals who killed Officer Jose Chavez in Hatch and left his children without their brave and selfless dad? Do they deserve the ultimate penalty? Absolutely."

Martinez, a former prosecutor, is preparing legislation to introduce next year. The Journal notes that she actually already tried to restore the death penalty in 2011 and failed, so this is obviously an existing position that's looking for a news hook to advance. The Journal also notes that the entire legislature is up for election this year, and so the timing of this announcement is clearly intended to make this a campaign issue.

So far, overall police deaths while on duty are down when compared to 2015, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, but yes, deaths from gunfire are up significantly when compared to last year. In 2015, 39 officers were killed by gunfire. We're already at 36 for 2016.

That is, nevertheless, a remarkably small number, and it's absurd to even consider the idea of reinstalling a punishment method that has undoubtedly led to the government-ordered deaths of innocent people as an emotional response to the deaths of a single police officer and an 11-year-old girl.

And even if New Mexico were to restore the death penalty only in the cases of the murders of police officers and children, the hate crimes example I mentioned up at the top is instructive. Once the state of New Mexico has the ability once again to execute people for crimes, there's absolutely no reason for anybody to believe that the penalty will stay limited to such a small group of offenders. It's unlikely that anybody who pushed forward the concept of hate crime laws would envision that they'd be applied based on somebody's occupation and more specifically to protect people who themselves have been granted great power by the state itself. And yet, here we are.

And libertarians were doing so well with Martinez, too. She, most notably, signed last year legislation that implemented the toughest reforms to police asset seizure and forfeiture programs in the country, requiring law enforcement agencies to actually get convictions for crimes before they could take and keep people's assets and property. Not that police are necessarily complying, but still.

(source: Scott Shackford,


5 reasons to fear that the death penalty isn't, well, dead

Here in Canada, the death penalty was abolished by Parliament in July, 1976 - exactly 40 years ago this summer. Then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's speech helped push through the close vote, at a time when most Canadians favoured capital punishment. Apart from Louis Riel's famous execution by hanging in 1885, try naming one of the 710 Canadians put to death between 1867 and 1976. Indeed, 40 years is a long time ago.

What's more, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared this February that Canada will no longer let citizens sit on death rows in other countries. So all of this can make it feel as though the death penalty is becoming historical - something that ignorant people used to do, but modern, educated people eschew outside countries like the United States. Certainly, as Alicia von Stomwitz points out in her Observer interview with Dead Man Walking author Sister Helen Prejean, there's plenty to reject about the death penalty - especially if you're a Christian.

Realistically, though, just because Canada doesn't condone the death penalty presently doesn't mean it won't ever come back. Here are 5 reasons to fear that the death penalty isn't really dead in Canada.

1. Most Canadians favour it

In July 2016, Abacus Data released a poll that shows 58 % of Canadians and 59 % of Americans believe that the death penalty is morally acceptable. Considering that the 2 countries have opposite approaches to the death penalty (it's illegal in Canada, and legal and common in the U.S.), the moral similarity stings. Perhaps, though, if Canadians were actively executing prisoners, we would lose our stomach for it.

2. If Quebec separates, even more Canadians will favour it

Just 51 % of Quebecers say they find the death penalty morally acceptable. That relatively low number depresses the pan-Canadian statistic of 58 %. Sadly, Abacus didn't release full regional results for the poll. But it reported that 63 % of Albertans approve of the death penalty. So if Quebec separates, Parliament may find itself representing a population that overwhelmingly approves of the death penalty.

3. Emerging far right governments love it

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte's "tough on crime" campaign promise has resulted in nearly 1,000 executions of drug suspects by police in just 3 months. North Korea's Kim Jong Un has reportedly executed 70 people since 2011 - 7 times as many as his predecessor. And in the U.S., Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump, who has rarely mentioned the death penalty during his campaign, has strongly supported it in the past. Today, there are nearly 3,000 prisoners are on death row in America. Since January, 15 people have been executed by lethal injecting in the country.

Though the overall number of countries actively executing prisoners has plummeted to just 58, the swing to the right internationally doesn't bode well for the trend.

4. 1976 didn't kill it in Parliament - or in the media

Ending the death penalty in Canada took decades; the 1st Parliamentary attempt was in 1914. Similarly, reintroducing it may take decades and multiple efforts. In 1987, the House of Commons narrowly voted down a bill that would have reintroduced the death penalty. In 2012, the National Post's letters editor asked if it was time to bring back the death penalty, and many wrote in to support it. Among the letters was this fairly representative snippet by Toronto's Ron Fawcett: "Our permissive society has created an environment of violence and fear, marked by teenage rioting, sexual predation and brutal killings. Bringing back the death penalty for serial killers and those who kill women and children is the right thing to do."

5. The usual pro-life arguments against it are not atheist-friendly

Leaders in the anti-death movement have been Catholic for the most part - consider both Pierre Trudeau and Sister Helen Prejean. In the U.S., self-identified Christians are far less likely than "average" Americans to support the death penalty. Furthermore, Christian Millennials are half as likely (just 32 %) than the average to support capital punishment. But the arguments of the sacredness of human life, the judgement of God and the commandment to not kill may not have much impact among non-Christians. So as religious affiliation continues to decline, will the appetite for capital punishment indeed surge?

(source: Pieta Woolley is a writer in Powell River,

TEXAS----impending execution

Jeff Wood's family trying to stop his execution

A petition to stop a death row inmate's execution is now on the governor's desk.

42-year-old Jeff Wood never took a life, but the state is trying to take his next Wednesday.

A petition to stop the death row inmate's execution is now on the governor's desk. Thousands of people have signed it, trying to grant him clemency.

Now, Wood's family is speaking out since he can't.

Steven Been came from San Antonio to Austin to fight.

"I'm here to try to save Jeff, save my brother-in-law," Been said. "He's not a murderer and never was. He was my best friend."

Thursday morning, he delivered the clemency petition with more than 10,000 signatures to the governor's office and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.

"Everyone that knows the truth is really scared for him," Been said.

Jeff Wood is set to be executed for his involvement in the 1996 shooting death of Kerrville gas station clerk Kriss Keeran.

However, he did not shoot and kill Keeran. His friend, Daniel Reneau, was put to death in 2002 for that crime.

Court documents show Wood drove Renau to the gas station.

"What it was is that they had stopped there and Danny had told Jeff that he was going in for Gatorade," Been said.

Been said Wood was sitting inside the truck when Renau killed the clerk.

"He told me, 'Danny came running out with a gun in one hand and a cash box in the other, he pointed the gun at me and told me to come inside,'" Been said. "He's not a murderer and never was."

People across the world have signed the petition, saying Wood was wrongly sentenced to death under Texas' law of parties.

This law states that anyone involved in a crime resulting in death is equally responsible, even if they weren't directly involved in the actual killing.

"To charge somebody else for the same crime that they did not commit, I don't agree with that," Been said. "It's wrong."

Texas State Representative Jeff Leach, of Plano, agrees and said on Twitter "I simply do not believe that Mr. Wood is deserving of the death sentence."

"I'm hoping that they let him go," said Bella Sanford, Jeff Wood's childhood friend. "I mean, 20 years on death row for a crime he didn't commit?"

Wood's family and friends say there's still time for the parole board to recommend Wood's sentence be changed.

"Hopefully, they'll have a heart and look into the case," Wood's nephew, Nicholas Been, said.

If they do, Texas Governor Greg Abbott can accept or reject their recommendation.

Without it, all he can do is issue a one-time, 30-day delay of execution.

KVUE reached out to the Governor's office for a comment but did not hear back.

(source: KVUE news)


Stop the execution of Jeff Wood, in the name of Jesus

Some folks will argue that the death penalty is necessary for the most heinous crimes, the "worst of the worst."

But it is increasingly clear that when it comes to executions in America, we are not killing the worst of the worst. We are killing the poorest of the poor. One of the best determinants of who gets executed is not the atrocity of the crime, but the resources of the defendant. As renowned death penalty lawyer Bryan Stevenson has said, "Far too often, you are better off being rich and guilty, than poor and innocent."

Jeff Wood is a perfect example of why it is time to abolish the death penalty. He is the next person facing execution in the United States - on Aug. 24. And, not surprisingly, it's happening in Texas. In addition to the resources of the defendant, another key determinant in who gets killed is where the crime is committed. Geography often determines who dies.

Texas is the death state, accounting for roughly half of all executions. This year six of the 15 executions in the U.S. were in Texas, and every remaining execution of 2016 is in this one state.

So what did Wood do that could now cost him his life?

Wood didn't rape or torture anyone. He's not a serial killer or mass shooter. In fact, Wood did not kill anyone. He drove the getaway car as his co-defendant, Daniel Reneau, threatened to kill him for disobeying.

Texas is 1 of 5 states that have a peculiar law called the "Law of Parties," which allows someone to be condemned for something someone else did. As absurd as it may seem in modern-day America, Wood is guilty by association. It is objectively clear in the case that Reneau orchestrated the robbery, shot the victim and forced Wood to drive the car away from the scene of the crime.

Wood was not even inside the building when the crime was committed. And before this event he had no criminal record.

Wood's health records dating back to childhood show that he suffers from intellectual disabilities. He was deemed not mentally fit to stand trial and was admitted into a mental hospital. The jury in Wood's case heard false and misleading testimony from a discredited psychiatrist and never heard about his mental illness or intellectual disabilities.

During trial, Wood asked to represent himself, but the judge found him incapable of doing this. However, as strange as it may sound, Wood was permitted to order his attorneys not to defend him. So witnesses were not called, and others were not cross-examined. It was a debacle of justice.

He was deemed unfit to stand trial. But somehow he is now being deemed fit to die. The day and hour of his death have been scheduled. He is set to die 5 days after his 43rd birthday.

I am proud that voices around the world - from Susan Sarandon to Pope Francis - are rising up and calling for a stop to his execution, and to all executions.

But it's not just celebrities. I was honored to sign a petition alongside dozens of evangelical pastors and faith leaders in Texas and around the country calling for a halt to the execution of Wood. It is beautiful to now see Baptists, Pentecostals and nondenominational megachurch pastors among those calling for an end to the death penalty.

It blows my mind and breaks my heart that we continue to trust our very imperfect government with the ultimate and irreversible power of life and death. It is time to end the death penalty in America. In the name of Jeff Wood. And in the name of another executed man ... named Jesus.

(source: Comentary; Shane Claiborne is founder and board member of the Simple Way, a faith community in inner-city Philadelphia, and the author of "Executing Grace"


DA's office seeks death penalty for Ketchum

The Montgomery County District Attorney's Office is seeking the death penalty in a capital murder case for the 1st time since Brett Ligon took office in 2009.

The DA's Office filed the notice for the intent to seek the death penalty for Russell Lee Ketchum in June, according to Trial Bureau Chief Kelly Blackburn. The next court setting is scheduled for Nov. 7. Blackburn anticipates the trial will begin in 2017.

Ketchum, 41, of Conroe, is charged with the double homicide of Louis Wilkerson, 58, and Lisa McWashington, 43.

Their bodies were found Oct. 11, 2014, in the 800 block of West Santa Fe near downtown Conroe. Wilkerson had been choked to death, while McWashington was strangled with a shirt, according to the Conroe Police Department.

Ketchum was arrested in January 2015 - nearly 3 months after the victims were found dead.

He has a prior felony criminal history, according to public records. He was found guilty of state jail felony credit card abuse in 1997 and second-degree felony robbery in 2003.

Public records also showed Ketchum went through a divorce and custody battle for his 12-year-old daughter in 2014.

A temporary restraining order was granted during the divorce proceedings in July 2014, preventing Ketchum from being within 500 feet of the Conroe home he previously shared with his wife and daughter.

However, in late October 2014 - after the victims were found dead and before Ketchum was arrested - he gained joint custody of the child in an agreed-upon order with his ex-wife. He was granted supervised visitation only - reportedly due to his "history or pattern of child neglect" - and was required to provide 6 straight months of negative drug tests before continuing mediation for unsupervised visits.

Ketchum has remained in the Montgomery County Jail without bond since his Jan. 7, 2015, arrest.

E. Tay Bond, who previously represented Ketchum, had told The Courier that self-defense will become a key issue in the case.

"Law enforcement is aware this is a high-crime area where there's a lot of narcotics being trafficked and there's a lot of dangerous people in that area and my client was lucky to get out alive," Bond previously said.

Gerald Bourque now is representing Ketchum due to Bond having a conflict of interest, according to information on the County Clerk's website. However, Bourque declined comment after multiple attempts to reach him this week.


While there has been no case since Ligon took office in 2009 in which the DA has sought the death penalty, Blackburn said there have been a few capital murder cases where the defendant has chosen to plead guilty to life without parole in lieu of possibly facing the death penalty.

According to Blackburn, the DA's Office has an involved process in determining what cases to seek the death penalty. Every capital murder is reviewed by a committee within the DA's Office, he said.

"Just because it is capital murder doesn't automatically mean we are going to seek the death penalty," Blackburn said. "It's a very few number of cases that would fall into that category."

The committee considers the circumstances and facts of the case, the life of the defendant and the elements that would need to be proven that a person is a continuing threat to society in order to obtain the death penalty, he said.

The DA's Office will allow the defense attorney to present any mitigating evidence, according to Blackburn.

After those factors are reviewed and discussed by the committee, a final determination is made by Ligon, Blackburn said.

In Ketchum's case, Blackburn said, the committee determined the death penalty to be appropriate.

"The fact that there were 2 victims also plays a big role," Blackburn said.

(source: The Courier)


Texas should halt execution of a man who never killed anyone

Jeff Wood is scheduled to be executed by the state of Texas next week, despite the fact that he never killed anyone. Even prosecutors acknowledge that.

Essentially, Wood "is on death row for robbery," as his sister put it.

On Jan. 2, 1996, Wood was sitting in his truck outside a Kerrville convenience store when his friend Daniel Reneau went in to steal a safe. When the clerk, Kriss Keeran, didn't comply, Reneau fatally shot him. After the shooting, Wood joined Reneau in the store; they removed the safe and security footage before fleeing.

Reneau confessed to the crime and was convicted of capital murder in 1997; he was executed in 2002. Wood faces the same fate Wednesday. Prosecutors argued that Wood knew Reneau would kill Keeran if the clerk didn't cooperate with the robbery and was therefore also liable for the murder. However, testimony in Reneau's trial claimed that Wood had told Reneau to leave his gun at home and saw him put it down.

Texas' law of parties allows an accomplice to be charged for a crime he neither committed nor had intent to commit if that crime "should have been anticipated." This newspaper generally has no qualms with ensuring that accomplices pay for a crime they help plan and carry out. However, as applied to capital punishment, we do.

Wood, who has an IQ around 80 and has previously been ruled incompetent in court, is certainly not innocent - it's clear he helped plan the robbery and removed security footage after the murder occurred. But that is not the same thing as deserving to die.

Supporters of the death penalty argue that it is the appropriate punishment for "the worst of the worst." It's difficult to see how that category includes people like Wood, who did not pull the trigger nor had any intention of doing so.

Cases like this reinforce our belief that state-sanctioned killings are arbitrary. That's one reason this board has been calling for an end to the death penalty since 2007. Writ large, we are unable to support a punishment that is so unfairly applied, nor one that could result in the execution of an innocent person.

The law of parties is a particularly egregious facet of Texas' capital punishment system. Texas is among only five states in the nation that actively pursue such state felony murder statutes. The state has no business executing defendants who were involved in a crime but did not personally take a life.

Today, family members and supporters plan to hand-deliver a "save Jeff Wood" petition with thousands of signatures to Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, who will determine Wood's fate: We hope the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles recommends clemency and Abbott commutes Wood's sentence.

The state of Texas should not execute a man for a crime he did not commit.

(source: Editorial, Dallas Morning News)


Law of Parties Execution Has GOP Lawmaker's Attention

A pro-death penalty legislator also considered one of the Texas House's most conservative members has been working to stop an execution set for next week.

Jeff Wood was given the death penalty for his role in the 1996 death of a gas station clerk in Kerrville. Wood was in a truck outside while his friend shot the clerk, but he nonetheless was sentenced to death under Texas' law of parties.

State Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, told the Tribune that the Wood case has kept him up nights and has had him in contact with Gov. Greg Abbott's office and the state parole board in an effort to change Wood's death sentence to life in prison.

Leach told the Tribune he's in favor of the law of parties in cases where an accomplice is directly involved in the murder. But he said the Wood case stood out to him as not right. "I simply do not believe that Mr. Wood is deserving of the death sentence," Leach said. "I can't sit quietly by and not say anything."

(source: The Texas Tribune)


Why 2015 was a record year for the wrongfully convicted

It sounds like something out of a prime-time TV drama.

Attorneys, with help from new science, debunk old testimonies and theories in cases long closed, finally proving that the person who has maintained his innocence is, in fact, innocent.

But it's not fiction: It's a nuanced, sometimes controversial trend that's becoming more common across the United States every year.

Since 2013, the number of conviction integrity units, a division of a prosecutorial office that works to identify and correct wrongful convictions, has more than doubled in the United States, rising from 12 counties to 26 across the country. To be sure, the number remains low - there are over 3,000 counties in the United States. But they are having an impact.

In the wave of steadily increasing exonerations - in 2015, more people were exonerated than any other year before - conviction review units played a major role.

Of the 156 exonerations that took place in 2015, a record 60 stemmed from the work of the review units, according to the National Registry of Exonerations, a project by the University of Michigan Law School.

In 2014, 2015, and 2016, Conviction Review Units have made up a big portion of exonerations.

The trend is particularly evident in Texas, a law-and-order state perhaps better known for the high number of convicts that it sentences to death each year. It has the most exonerations by conviction review units of any state, the most exonerations in general and the second highest number of review units.

The idea for a county-level conviction review unit originated in Dallas 9 years ago - although a less official but similar effort by the district attorney's office was already under way in Santa Clara, California - in light of years' of high-profile exonerations stemming from new DNA evidence.

More than 150 defendants on death row have been exonerated nationwide since 1973, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., that provides analysis regarding capital punishment. In at least 20 cases, DNA played a substantial role in establishing innocence.

49%--Percentage of Texans who believe that innocent people are sentenced to the death penalty in at least some cases. Another 19 % believe innocent people are sentenced to the death penalty in a "great deal" of cases, according to a 2013 poll.

A 2013 University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll showed the majority of Texans believed that death penalties are given wrongfully "occasionally" or "a great deal of the time."

"Dallas had a bad reputation (for wrongful convictions), really," said Mike Ware, who was the 1st director of Dallas County's review unit. He now serves as executive director of the Innocence Project of Texas, a nonprofit in Fort Worth that investigates claims of innocence.

But because Dallas had preserved its evidence for an unusually long time - it had DNA from cases that were decades old - it was easier for the unit to investigate defendants' claims of innocence and, in some cases, to prove they had been wrongfully convicted. "They were starting to get some sort of statewide and maybe even national attention for the DNA exonerations that were coming out of Dallas," Ware said.

Although the idea was perceived as politically risky - maybe even politically disastrous - at the time, Ware said, the rationale for a unit that reviews convictions caught on across Texas, and eventually across the country. Now, the state is rivaled in the numbers of conviction review units only by New York and California.

Perhaps the primary reason for the popularity of review units in Texas, said Cynthia Alkon, a law professor at the Texas A&M School of Law, is the willingness of the state legislature to review and change laws because of the exonerations.

For instance, in 2011 a man named Michael Morton, who spent nearly 25 years in prison, was exonerated for the murder of his wife after DNA evidence implicated someone else.

The prosecutor in the case was found guilty of prosecutorial misconduct, including withholding evidence, and tampering with evidence and government records. Nearly 2 years later, Republican Gov. Rick Perry signed into law the Michael Morton Act, which requires prosecutors to keep records of and turn over any evidence to the defense, Alkon said.

"It sounds like a really simple thing that should've already been in place," she said. "But it wasn't."

Alkon, who was previously a public defender in California, said she has not seen these types of changes in other states.

"I think they were consciously and critically looking at why these people were being wrongfully convicted," she said of the Texas legislature.

The Dallas County review unit spawned imitators once other counties saw its success. Although not always popular among the police department or victims groups, Ware said the unit in Dallas County was popular among the general public, citing it as one of the primary reasons that the district attorney was re-elected during the next election cycle.

Across Texas, there are 5 conviction review units. The latest, in Tarrant County, started up a year ago as part of the newly elected district attorney's campaign platform.

With the advent of DNA technology, many assumed we might soon see the end of wrongful convictions. Instead, the technology opened the door for a whole new introspection of the criminal justice system. Everything, from false confessions to outdated scientific evidence that is no longer considered accurate, came under the spotlight.

"What we are grappling with now is that we know there are going to be lots of cases where there is no biological evidence," said Dawn Boswell, chief of the Tarrant County conviction review unit.

"You don't have what some people would say is the easy call on the DNA," she said. "You have to figure out whether someone is really innocent when you don’t have the evidence to go through."

And Boswell would know. Last July, she walked into her office uncertain about what her new position monitoring the scales of justice would bring and what it would mean for Tarrant County. The newly created conviction review unit had been planning a soft rollout of sorts, a quiet opening that would ensure more time to figure out what, exactly, the unit’s policies should be.

Instead, on the 1st day, Boswell and the attorneys in the unit began re-investigating the case of John Nolley, a man convicted of murder who had maintained his innocence for the nearly 19 years he had spent in prison. Nolley had been convicted primarily on false testimonies by jailhouse informants, according to the Innocence Project of Texas. No physical evidence linked him to the crime.

"I really didn't want, and more importantly the district attorney didn't want, to be a situation where we say we're setting up this (unit) to do these great things," she said. "Because it's easy to say that, but you actually have to do that."

In order to set up the unit in Tarrant County, Boswell said, she talked with multiple similar units across Texas, and the country, to see what their practices were. What sort of policies did they have? What was working? What problems had they encountered?

"What I discovered is, it was sort of all over the place," she said. "That there wasn't a manual, per se."

New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Alaska have each seen more than 150 exonerations per 100,000 prisoners.

Often overlooked in the conversation about exonerations are the victims, or the family members of the victims, of the crimes.

"I would think that they would have all kinds of feelings that would come up," said Sandra Lydick, co-director of Fort Worth-based nonprofit Crime Victims Council, which helps counsel victims.

"Because all this time, they were thinking that this person who was in prison had done it," Lydick said. "And now that's going to bring up, I think, tremendous variety of feelings of confusion, of outrage, or sadness, sorrow, that the person did it is probably, or potentially, still at large."

Nonetheless, Lydick said, the units remain an important, necessary balance of the justice system.

"The person that was wrongly incarcerated was a victim too," she said. "That puts a whole other complexity into the situation."

Exonerations are happening at disproportionate rates across the country, data show.

In 2015, 2 review units - Harris County, Texas, and Brooklyn County, New York - accounted for more than 1/2 of the 60 exonerations that stemmed from conviction review units across the country, according to the registry.

Reasons for the disparity vary. Some counties established units less than one year ago and just now are beginning to reexamine cases. Experts say that exonerating a person can take several years.

And some units are still getting organized. The Travis County conviction review unit in Austin, Texas, was created in 2015, but there is still no website or phone number listed for contact purposes. The office consists of 1 investigator, 1 paralegal and 4 part-time attorneys who, in addition to reviewing past cases, have full caseloads.

Scott Taliaferro, director of the Travis County unit, said the office is trying to notify all defendants whose cases could be impacted by a new study released by the Texas Forensic Science Commission, an organization created by the Texas legislature that investigates abuse or neglect regarding crime laboratories.

The study showed issues with DNA testing in Austin that impacted 1,366 cases, dating back to 1985, Taliaferro said. Taliaferro and his colleagues sent notices to 866 defendants and they are working to track down the others.

More than 200 defendants contacted the unit requesting a re-investigation into their cases. So far, the unit in Travis County has not exonerated anyone. Taliaferro said they are focusing on cases that may be impacted by DNA issues. He declined to comment on specific cases or say how many the unit is investigating.

"We do the best we can," he said.

Concerns about how many people work in the office and what type of caseload they can handle is not unique to Travis. Both Boswell in Tarrant County, and Patricia Cummings, chief of the Dallas County conviction review unit, said they're concerned about how such a small staff could take on the responsibilities without letting any cases slip through the cracks.

"Oh my gosh. It's so incredibly difficult. We've got more work than we can handle," said Patricia Cummings, chief of the Dallas County conviction review unit, on tracking the most important cases.

And for some counties, it's easier to go back and review old evidence. For instance, Tarrant County has had an open file policy since the 1970s, which allows the defense to access to files during and after trials.

"That, in the long run, has been very beneficial to us in that we didn't expect, and we haven't found immediately, these things that the defense didn't know about," said Samantha Jordan, a spokeswoman for the Tarrant County conviction review unit. "That alone has seen to really limit the number of requests that we've had come in, which is a great thing."

The number of counties that have conviction integrity units represents less than 1 percent of counties across the United States. The units require staff and funding, and according to a report by John Hollway of the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, most of those costs are funded from the existing budget of district attorney offices.

Annual allocations run as high as $1 million per year, in the case of the Los Angeles County unit. So it is no surprise that the units that do exist are concentrated in New York, California and Texas counties that tend to have bigger populations and bigger budgets.

The work can be slow and fruitless. Some units now say there is a dwindling number of cases that can be solved matter-of-factly with DNA evidence. Increasingly, the attorneys re-investigating cases are relying on pure investigative scenarios with little evidence to support the defendants’ claims of innocence. They hope for a day when their work is no longer required.

"Ideally you hope you reach a level at some point where you say, 'OK, we don't have to worry about this anymore.' Obviously that's the goal," Cummings said. "But in the meantime, we're human beings, and human beings make mistakes."

Since the Tarrant County unit picked up John Nolley's case almost a year ago, the 42-year-old man has walked free from jail, though he has not been exonerated in the case as investigators continue to look at new evidence.

The conviction was overturned and Nolley is out on bond, living with his family.



Robber who gunned down Columbus armored truck guard loses appeal

A Georgia death-row inmate who in 1995 gunned down a Brinks security guard outside Columbus' downtown SunTrust bank has lost an appeal in federal court.

Leon Tollette was appealing only the death penalty a jury gave him, as he pleaded guilty to killing Brinks guard John Hamilton during a robbery on Dec. 21, 1995, when Tollette approached Hamilton from behind and shot him 4 times, once in the head, and fled with the money bag Hamilton had.

A former gang member and drug dealer, Tollette had come here from California at the invitation of an accomplice, Xavier Wommack, who along with Jakeith Robinson planned the robbery after Wommack studied the Brinks schedule for collecting bank receipts.

Tollette later would claim he fired on instinct when Hamilton turned around and saw him coming. A flurry of gunfire ensued as other guards and police immediately tried to prevent his escape.

The truck's driver, Carl Crane, shot at Tollette, as did Cornell Christianson, who was driving a nearby Lummus Fargo truck. Wommack, who had been watching from across the street, started shooting at the guards to aid Tollette's escape.

Finally Robert Oliver, a police officer accompanied by a cadet, confronted Tollette, who tried to shoot at Oliver, too, but had no more live rounds in his revolver. He dropped the gun and surrendered. His accomplices fled without him.

Tollette never went to trial for the crime itself. Instead he pleaded guilty in 1997 to murder, armed robbery, being a convicted felon with a firearm, using a firearm to commit a crime and 2 counts of aggravated assault.

He had only a sentencing trial for a jury to decide whether he should get life with parole, life without parole or death. On Nov. 11, 1997, jurors sentenced him to death.

He since has filed repeated appeals claiming ineffective assistance of counsel and numerous procedural errors. He initially moved for a new trial in Muscogee Superior Court, but was denied that on Jan. 28, 1999. The Georgia Supreme Court rejected his appeal on Nov. 7, 2005, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case Oct. 2, 2006.

On May 6, 2014, Tollette filed a habeas corpus appeal in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia. Attorneys since have been filing arguments in that appeal, which Judge Clay Land denied Wednesday in a ruling more than 100 pages long.

Tollette still may appeal Land's decision. While denying the convict' s habeas corpus writ, the judge in his conclusion allowed appeals on these issues:

"Whether trial counsel were ineffective for failing to investigate and present mitigating evidence and for failing to investigate and challenge the state's presentation of evidence about the circumstance of the murder and whether subsequent counsel were ineffective for failing to adequately litigate trial counsel's failure."

Now 57, Tollette remains on death row in the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification State Prison in Jackson.

(source: Ledger-Enquirer)


Judge to jurors in death penalty case: Don't talk about Atlanta Braves

It was a moment of levity in a death penalty case.

And it came at the expense of the lowly Atlanta Braves, owners of the worst record in the major leagues.

Monroe County Superior Court Judge Tommy Wilson on Thursday was reminding alternate jurors at a competency hearing for an accused cop killer not to discuss the case among themselves.

The proceeding was to decide whether Christopher Calmer, an unemployed computer technician, is competent to stand trial for allegedly killing a Monroe sheriff's deputy in a gun battle at his parents' house near Interstate 75 and Bolingbroke in September 2014.

"Again," Wilson said, "you are not to discuss this case or talk about it whatsoever. Talk about ... football if you so choose."

Then he paused, looked down at some paperwork, and added, "Not the Atlanta Braves."

Many in the courtroom gallery laughed.

The accused, seated between his 2 attorneys, kept his head planted on an oak table, a posture he had assumed for much of the 3-day competency trial.

90 minutes later, he was deemed competent for the case to proceed.

Read more here:


Son wants death penalty for face-biting suspect

The son of a Florida man who authorities say was stabbed by a 19-year-old Florida State University student wants prosecutors to seek the death penalty.

John Stevens IV tells the SunSentinel ( ) he doesn't need to know exactly what led the student to kill his father and step-mother outside their house north of Jupiter on Monday night. But he wants prosecutors to seek the death penalty against the attacker, who investigators say also was biting the dead man's face when deputies arrived at the scene.

Austin Harrouff hasn't been charged in the attack. Sheriff's officials say he's still in the hospital where he's conscious but heavily sedated.

Investigators say it took several deputies and a police dog to subdue Harrouff. He tested negative for street drugs. It takes longer to test for less common hallucinogenic drugs such as flakka or bath salts.

The younger Stevens says knowing the attacker's mindset is not "super important" to him. He just wants him to "pay for what he did."

(source: Assoiated Press)


We must re-sentence Florida's death row inmates

Trial judges in Florida have the sole responsibility to decide who will live or die in death penalty cases. I found that applying Florida's constitutionally flawed death penalty statute to these cases was a most difficult task.

For years, Florida Supreme Court justices and Florida trial judges told the Florida Legislature about the problems with the Florida death penalty. All to no avail. The issue was finally addressed by the United States Supreme Court.

Among other problems, the role of the death penalty jury has been difficult to define in Florida.

The death penalty cannot be imposed unless at least 1 statutory aggravating circumstance is found to exist. Until recently, Florida law required the trial judge to find the existence of an aggravating circumstance.

However, in Hurst v. Florida, the United States Supreme Court held that the Sixth Amendment requires the jury to make this finding. After Hurst, the jury retains its traditional role as the finder of fact and provides protection "against the exercise of arbitrary power" and "to make available common sense judgment of the community."

The Hurst decision goes a long way towards aligning Florida with nearly all other states that impose the death penalty. The ruling takes the fact-finding responsibility off of the bench and puts it into the jury box where it belongs.

The question that remains is what to do with the defendants on death row who were convicted and sentenced prior to Hurst? All Florida's current death row inmates were sentenced by trial courts in clear violation of the Sixth Amendment. Should these defendants face execution when they were sentenced in violation of the Constitution?

In my view, such a scenario would be a gross miscarriage of justice.

There are 388 inmates now on Florida's death row and the Florida Supreme Court must decide what to do with their cases. The only fair solution is to set aside all the death sentences imposed in violation of the Sixth Amendment and sentence these defendants to life imprisonment without possibility of parole. Florida law provides for just such a result.

The only alternative to the imposition of a life sentence in these cases is to remand all of them for re-sentencing because the jury made no findings of fact in any of the original trials. This option presents extraordinary logistical and financial challenges for our state, counties and courthouses.

But more to the point, re-sentencing old cases is nothing new in Florida. In 1972, the Florida Supreme Court re-sentenced every person on death row to life imprisonment after the death penalty was invalidated in every state by the decision in Furman v. Georgia.

The request for re-sentencing was made by prosecutors in 1972 and they should make the same request now.

(source: Opinion; O.H. "Bill" Eaton, Jr. served for 24 years as the 18th Judicial Circuit judge. He is a nationally recognized expert on the death penalty---- Sun-Sentinel)


Capital murder trial for man accused of killing Taco Bell manager postponed

The capital murder trial for 1 of 3 men accused of killing a Montgomery Taco Bell manager during a March 2014 robbery has been continued.

Renauldous Chisholm's trial was set to begin Monday in Montgomery County Circuit Court, but court records show the trial was postponed to Oct. 17.

The reason for the continuance wasn't listed in Judge Truman Hobbs' order.

Chisholm faces the death penalty in the slaying of Vettia Roche, 43.

Chisholm and Kenneth Temple, who were 19 at the time, worked at the Taco Bell on Atlanta Highway in Montgomery at the time of the homicide.

The pair, along with Temple's cousin, Gacolby Green, 24, are accused of plotting to rob Roche, the night manager, of the night deposit on March 10, 2014.

Montgomery police Detective A.D. Gorum claims Chisholm admitted to the crime, which turned deadly when Roche apparently recognized the robbers as 2 of her employees.

Gorum testified in April 2014 that Roche was shot twice, kicked in the abdomen and beaten in the head with a car jack behind the restaurant.

The state is seeking the death penalty against Chisholm due to the "aggravating circumstances," court records show.

The murder was committed during a robbery and was "especially heinous, atrocious or cruel as compared to other capital offenses," the state said in its motion.

Temple's capital murder trial is set to start on Jan. 23. Green's murder trial is set to begin Sept. 26.



Nebraska senators: Death penalty study validates repeal vote

Nebraska senators who voted to abolish the death penalty say a recent analysis of the program's costs validates their argument that it's wasteful and ineffective.

The death penalty opposition group, Retain a Just Nebraska, released a letter Thursday praising the study, which says capital punishment costs the state an estimated $14.6 million annually. The letter was signed by 27 senators who voted to repeal the death penalty, including Speaker of the Legislature Galen Hadley.

Sen. Colby Coash, of Lincoln, a leading Republican opponent of capital punishment, says the 2015 vote to end the death penalty eliminated a wasteful government program that hasn't worked for decades.

The Nebraska attorney general's office has disputed parts of the study, but conservative Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says he stands by his work.

(source: KETV news)


Economist defends $14.6M estimate on cost of death penalty in Nebraska

Economist Ernie Goss defends his study that estimates the death penalty costs Nebraska $14.6 million annually in face of criticism from Attorney General Doug Peterson.

Goss released the study Monday during a news conference held by Retain A Just Nebraska, a group working to uphold the legislature's repeal of the death penalty.

Goss actually calls his cost estimate of more than $14 million conservative.

"I think I've done a good job on this. I am very confident of the results. I stand behind those results," Goss tells reporters during a news conference in Lincoln Thursday.

Goss says he includes all the data he used to reach his conclusion in the report, which is available both on his website and the website operated by Retain A Just Nebraska.

Goss dismisses Attorney General Peterson's contention that he "grossly overstated" the cost of capital punishment.

"I think if anything I am on the low side, but as I said I am confident of these results, statistically speaking and that's what economists do," according to Goss. "We don't speak anything else, but statistics."

(source: Nebraska Radio Network)


Why New Mexico wants to restore the death penalty ---- The governor of New Mexico is citing the recent high-profile killings of police officers in her state and elsewhere as a reason to bring back the death penalty.

New Mexico's governor is reframing the death penalty debate as the proper response to recent police killings, including 1 officer killed Friday in her own state.

This response to police killings bucks a national trend as many states and courts are backing away from the death penalty, in part due to practical constraints on cost and the drugs used in capital punishment. In New Mexico, the push for its return faces opposition from Democrats, which have the majority in the state legislature.

But Republican Gov. Susanna Martinez said the shooting of a police officer in Hatch, N.M., on Friday, as well as several police killings elsewhere in the nation, prove the punishment is needed to deter society's grossest crimes, Dan Boyd reported for the Albuquerque Journal.

"People need to ask themselves, if the man who ambushed and killed 5 police officers in Dallas had lived, would he deserve the ultimate penalty," Governor Martinez said Wednesday in a prepared statement. "How about the heartless violent criminals who killed Officer Jose Chavez in Hatch and left his children without their brave and selfless dad? Do they deserve the ultimate penalty? Absolutely. Because a society that fails to adequately protect and defend those who protect all of us is a society that will be undone and unsafe."

New Mexico repealed the death penalty in 2009, and Wednesday's announcement marked the 1st time the governor had brought up the issue since it failed to pass a Democratic legislature in 2011.

Third Judicial District Attorney Mark D'Antonio, whose office filed a murder charge against Officer Chavez' killers, said such crimes could be a good reason to discuss the death penalty again.

"The death penalty should be the last resort for the worst of the worst and in certain situations like for cop-killers," he said in a statement.

The new argument goes up against recent struggles even in generally conservative states to carry out executions, as one company after another has refused to sell its drugs to states for lethal injection, as the Christian Science Monitor's Patrik Jonsson wrote:

Public opinion - as shown in polls as well as the frequency of death penalty convictions - has shifted. 56 % of Americans favored capital punishment in 2015, but that's down from 78 % just 20 years ago, according to the Pew Research Center.

Last year, the US saw only 49 death sentences imposed, a 33 percent drop from the previous year, and down from a peak of 315 in 1996. 2/3 of last year's death sentences came from juries in only 2 % of US counties, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

A death penalty proposal has received similar framing in Illinois, where Republican state Rep. Mark Batinick wants the killing of first responders to be punishable by death, the Illinois News Network reported. Illinois abolished its death penalty in 2011.

"These are the people that put themselves in harm's way to protect us," he has 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."

But Robert Dunham for the Death Penalty Information Center said the measure is unlikely to move forward, noting that Louisiana and Texas both have a death penalty already.

The representative cited the ambush and killings of police in Baton Rouge, La., and Dallas as giving people a new reason to support the death penalty.

"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, according to the Illinois News Network.

(source: Christian Science Monitor)


Catholic Bishops Of New Mexico Renounce Governor's Call to Reinstate Death Penalty

The Catholic Bishops of New Mexico applauded the State Legislature for the progress that was made when we ended the morally untenable practice of the death penalty on March 18, 2009. This repeal of the death penalty was a milestone, moving New Mexico from a culture of violence to a culture of peace, justice, and love.

We, the Catholic Bishops of New Mexico, in one voice, once again echo the teaching of the Church that life is sacred. There is one seamless teaching on God’s gift of life that must be protected from birth to natural death. It is always tragic and sad when a member of the community is murdered. These senseless acts must be prevented by calling for systemic change in society beginning with our youngest children. Crime can be prevented, and this is done by an investment in social capital.

The State created life in prison without the possibility of parole. This renders a perpetrator harmless to society.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 2267

"If, instead, bloodless means are sufficient to defend against the aggressor and to protect the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person."

"Today, in fact, given the means at the State's disposal to effectively repress crime by rendering inoffensive the one who has committed it, without depriving him definitively of the possibility of redeeming himself, cases of absolute necessity for suppression of the offender today...are very rare, if not practically non-existent." [John Paul II, Evangelium vitea 56.]

We join Pope Francis in his continued call to end the practice of the death penalty. Pope Benedict and St. Pope John Paul II both worked diligently to end the death penalty throughout the world. The trend in the United States has now been to abandon the use of the death penalty. In the last five years, five states have passed legislation to repeal their death penalty law.

We oppose Governor Susana Martinez' plan to reinstate the death penalty and call on the Legislature to reject the legislation.--ENDM

Most Rev. John C. Wester Most Rev. James Wall Most Rev. Oscar Cantu

Archbishop of Santa Fe Bishop of Gallup Bishop of Las Cruces



Lawmakers to weigh costs of reinstating death penalty

The "ultimate penalty," as Gov. Susana Martinez has called it, does not come cheap.

The high cost and slow process of prosecuting capital cases likely will be central to the debate over reinstating the death penalty after Martinez's announcement this week that she will push to restore capital punishment during the 2017 legislative session.

New Mexico used the death penalty sparingly during the period when it was last legal, handing down about a dozen death sentences and executing one inmate between 1979 and 2009, when lawmakers and Gov. Bill Richardson abolished it. Analyzing the costs of capital punishment, legislative staffers in 2009 wrote, "New Mexico does not receive much return on its death penalty investment."

The report said fewer than 1/4 of all capital prosecutions in the state led to a prisoner on death row. Fewer than 1/2 of the cases led to a death sentence, and 68 % of those were overturned on appeal.

Death penalty cases require heightened standards for defense attorneys, the report said, with at least 2 lawyers at each stage of the proceedings, trial-level litigation and mandatory appeals. Jury selection is particularly long and arduous in such cases, the report added, costing at least 4 times as much as other 1st-degree murder cases.

The only person executed in New Mexico between 1979 and 2009 was Terry D. Clark, who was put to death in 2001 for the rape and murder of a 9-year-old Roswell girl in 1986. The state brought in 2 "execution experts" from the Texas prison system for Clark's execution, the 1st in New Mexico since 1960.

"There is only a 4.5 % chance that any multi-million dollar death penalty prosecution will ever end in an execution in New Mexico," the legislative report said.

It's also unclear whether the state could navigate the logistical hurdles to carrying out an execution.

The state's prison system does not have a supply of the drugs typically used to carry out lethal injections, according to Alex Sanchez, deputy secretary for administrative support at the Corrections Department.

Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said finding the necessary drugs now could be complicated, with major pharmaceutical companies and many pharmacies refusing to sell their products for use in executions.

"That narrows who you can get the drugs from. The fear has been that executions are likely to be even more unsafe and even more prone to being botched if the drugs are obtained from compounding pharmacies," Dunham said, referring to the drug-manufacturing companies that have become the last resort for states in short supply of pharmaceuticals required for executions.

2 men sentenced to death in New Mexico prior to 2009 are still on death row.

Timothy Allen was sentenced to death in 1995 for kidnapping, attempting to rape and then killing a 17-year-old Flora Vista girl.

Robert Fry was sentenced to death in 2002 for the murder of Betty Lee, a 36-year-old Shiprock woman. He also is serving life sentences for the 1996 killings of Farmington residents Joseph Fleming, 25, and Matthew Trecker, 18, as well as the 1998 murder of 41-year-old Donald Tsosie of Ganado, Ariz.

Fry and Allen are incarcerated in the same tightly controlled conditions designated for inmates sentenced to life without the possibility of parole - a sentence that replaced the death penalty when it was abolished. No one is currently serving such a sentence in a New Mexico prison.

Sanchez said the New Mexico Corrections Department would be capable of carrying out an execution and that reinstating the death penalty would change little for the state's prison system. "There would be no difference in housing, no difference in treatment," she said. "It would just be a matter of carrying out the execution."

But the cases of Fry and Allen illustrate the long process of carrying out a death sentence. Lawyers representing the men went before the New Mexico Supreme Court as recently as 2014, asking the state's highest judicial body stop their executions in light of the death penalty's abolition.

Their cases are still pending, and the Law Office of the Public Defender recently asked the state Supreme Court to authorize additional funding to pay the men's lawyers.

"Capital punishment is clearly a very expensive process. It adds costs for law enforcement, for prosecution, for the courts, and it adds tremendous costs to provide effective assistance of counsel," said Chief Public Defender Bennett Baur.

Death penalty cases require specialized skills, he said.

Baur also noted that state agencies are facing budget cuts. Public defenders, as well as prosecutors and others in the criminal justice system, would be forced to do more with less if capital punishment were reinstated, he said.

"In the time of flat budgets - or worse - there are things you cannot do," he said. "There are cases that cannot be prosecuted and cases that cannot be defended."

The political prospects of reinstating the death penalty remain unclear and are likely to shift with the outcome of the Nov. 8 general election.

The New Mexican contacted several state lawmakers to ask if they would sponsor legislation to restore capital punishment. Only 1, Republican Rep. Andy Nunez of Hatch, responded.

Nunez, who represents the district in Southern New Mexico where a police officer was gunned down last week, said Thursday he will sponsor a bill to reinstate the death penalty if Martinez asks him.

"I agree with her," Nunez said. "My wife's not for it, but I am."

Martinez did not specify Wednesday how broadly she believes the death penalty should be applied. But her comments signaled she is interested in at least allowing capital punishment for the murders of children and law enforcement officers. She mentioned slain Hatch Police Department Officer Jose Chavez in her remarks.

Nunez said such a scope is appropriate. While he supported repealing the death penalty in 2009, Nunez said Thursday he feels he was "misled."

He thought the death penalty would be replaced with a sentence of life without parole, he said, but with no one receiving such a sentence, he suggested that inmates who might have qualified for the death penalty when it was legal might now be receiving sentences allowing their eventual release.

Asked if the state can afford to undertake executions and the accompanying lengthy court battles, Nunez said: "They can afford that better than setting them in prison."

(source: Santa Fe New Mexican)


Prosecutors consider seeking death penalty against man accused of fatally stabbing son ---- Brandon Johnson is accused of stabbing his 6-year-old son to death

The case against an Arapahoe County man accused of stabbing his 6-year-old son to death has been delayed as prosecutors decide whether they will seek the death penalty.

On Thursday, Brandon Johnson, 27, appeared in Arapahoe County District Court where he withdrew a guilty plea in the murder case. The plea withdrawal resets a deadline for when the 18th Judicial District Attorney must decide whether to try it as a capital punishment case.

District Attorney George Brauchler said a decision has not been made, but Colorado law would allow the death penalty because the case involves the death of a child younger than 12.

A new arraignment for Johnson has been set for Oct. 25. Prosecutors would have 60 days from then to decide. The delay also gives defense attorney Stephen McCrohan time to prepare a mitigating report in an effort to develop an argument against the death penalty.

Prosecutors on Thursday also added an 8th charge to Johnson's case - 1st-degree murder after deliberation.

Johnson appeared in court and answered questions by nodding his head for "yes" or "no" as Chief Judge Carlos Samour Jr. asked him questions. Johnson has a tracheal tube and cannot speak when it is in place, but the judge agreed head nods would be an acceptable alternative to asking Johnson to remove the tube in court.

Johnson suffered the throat injury after allegedly turning the knife on himself in the incident.

The Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office was called to an apartment on the 7500 block of East Harvard Avenue at 5 a.m. on Feb. 10 after a woman reported that she had been sexually assaulted.

The woman told deputies that her domestic partner had assaulted her at knifepoint, according to previous reports from the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office.

When deputies entered the apartment, they found 6-year-old Riley Johnson dead from stab wounds, and a 2-year-old boy who was unharmed.

Brandon Johnson also was bleeding from stab wounds, and the sheriff's office has said they were self-inflicted. Johnson spent several days in a hospital for treatment before he was booked into the Arapahoe County Detention Center.

The woman, who was the mother of the 2-year-old child, was treated and released at a hospital.

The tragedy was compounded when a deputy headed to the scene was critically injured in a car crash near East Iliff Avenue and South Valentia Street. Deputy Bill Foreman Jr. was hospitalized after he was extricated from his car.

(source: Denver Post)


Prosecutors plan to pursue death penalty for Erik Ohlson

Teton County Deputy Prosecutor Chris Lundberg confirmed Thursday they plan to pursue the death penalty for Erik Ohlson. Ohlson faces 2 felony counts of 1st degree murder for shooting and killing Jennifer Nalley and her unborn child.

"After consulting with the family they are in favor of us pursuing that and so kind of weighing all those factors we believe it's the right course of justice in action in this case," said Lundberg.

Ohlson appeared in court last Friday for his preliminary hearing. His next court appearance is Sept. 6th. This date may change because Ohlson's lawyers have asked to disqualify judge Gregory Moeller.

In court Friday, prosecutors played a jail interview with Erik Ohlson and a detective. Ohlson admitted to shooting Jennifer Nalley in the interview.

(source: KIDK news)


Ex-Con Could Face Death Penalty in Shooting-Robbery Case

An ex-con accused of involvement in a daytime home-invasion robbery in San Carlos in which a resident was fatally shot must stand trial on murder and other charges that could lead to the death penalty, a judge ruled Thursday.

Elliott Scott Grizzle, 45, is accused of being one of several armed intruders who broke into a home on Tommy Drive on May 11, tied up 2 men and shot and killed 33-year-old Brent Alan Adler after he arrived at the residence.

A roommate testified that the robbers questioned Adler about marijuana and money when he came home.

Another roommate - who was tied up and placed face down on the floor - told police he heard Adler struggling with the intruders near the front door and then heard gunshots.

Adler was found in the driveway. He was shot 3 times.

The roommates who were tied up said there were at least 3 and probably 4 or 5 robbers in the home, San Diego police Detective Tim Norris testified. He said Adler and another roommate were under investigation for drug dealing.

Authorities allege Grizzle's DNA was found on a beer bottle in the home, a drug pipe, a lighter and a glove found in the street outside the residence.

Judge Frederic Link found that enough evidence was presented at Grizzle's preliminary hearing for him to proceed to trial on charges of murder, robbery, burglary and being a felon in possession of a firearm, with special circumstance allegations of murder during a robbery and murder during a burglary.

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis has yet to decide whether Grizzle will face the death penalty or life in prison without parole if he's convicted.

A Superior Court arraignment is scheduled Sept. 1.



Death Penalty on the Initiative Plan

One reviewer found Celine's "Death on the Installment Plan" the story of "a gloomy, disillusioned doctor who views medicine cynically and is irritated by his patients."

That's about how voters are going to look at yet another decision tossed to them about the death penalty in California. Although there are two related initiatives on the November 8 ballot, under state law, if both initiatives pass, the one with the most votes wins.

Proposition 62 ends the death penalty in California (not the federal death penalty). By contrast, Proposition 66 speeds up the court process under which convicted killers start walking the Green Mile. Due to appeals of existing cases in federal court, the last execution was in 2006, 10 years ago, of a fine specimen of human being called Clarence Ray Allen. Already in prison for murder, he organized the murders of three people outside the prison.

But as is usual in California, there are complications within the complications of initiatives. For those favoring the death penalty, largely conservatives, Republicans and law enforcement, the main problem is the state is unlikely to elect a governor ever again who supports the death penalty, meaning death sentences would be commuted before the needle was jabbed into any killer's arm.

Of the declared candidates, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom long has opposed the death penalty and endorsed Prop. 62. Treasurer John Chiang, according to the Sacramento Bee, has not taken a position yet: "Chiang has positions on 4 of 17 measures. Chiang said though a spokesman that he expects to take positions on 'many others' in the months to come." I suspect he'll come out against the death penalty to preclude support going to his anti-death penalty opponents from wealthy liberal donors.

Although he hasn't announced yet if he's running for governor, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa backed Proposition 34, the 2012 initiative that would have repealed the death penalty, but failed 52 % to 48 %.

For those against the death penalty, largely liberals and Democrats, there also are complications. Although their beloved President Obama has found the death penalty "deeply troubling," he also has backed it. And although he might do so before leaving office in 6 months, so far he has not commuted the death sentence handed down for convicted Boston Marathon terrorist Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. And Democratic presidential nominee for Hillary Clinton still backs the death penalty, although she's troubled by racial differences in executions in some states.

Then there's the argument for Prop. 62 by actor Mike Farrell, who sponsored the measure: "Because of all the problems with the death penalty, not a single person has been executed here in the last 10 years. Nonetheless, Californians continue to pay for it in many ways. Whether you look at the death penalty from a taxpayer, a criminal justice or a civil rights perspective, what is clear is that it fails in every respect."

That's going to be a major argument: That dumping death-row inmates back into the general population of inmates would save money, up to $150 million a year. But will those inmates, all of them killers, start killing other inmates? Will they, like Allen, direct murders outside the prison? What do they have to lose?

And even if the death penalty is not carried out ever again, is keeping it on the books still a deterrent to potential murderers, who tend to be low IQ and don't know the positions of potential governors on the death penalty?

Those backing Prop. 62 also tend, like Newsom, to favor Proposition 63 and other gun control initiatives and laws. Supposedly these laws will prevent mass shootings and other murders. But the real problem, as gun scholar John Lott has detailed, is gun-free zones. Psychos and other criminals always will be able to get guns and ammo. But they can be deterred, and if necessary stopped, if law-abiding citizens nearby are armed.

That is, the real way to reduce killings by guns is for armed people themselves to apply the death penalty, or be ready to - immediately, on the spot.

(source: John Seiler is a former Editorial Writer at the Orange County Register----KECT news)


Poll shows gains in support to retain the state's death penalty

With surveys showing declining public support for capital punishment, opponents of the death penalty in California have expressed confidence in repealing it at the ballot box in November, after narrowly falling short four years ago. But a new poll released Thursday suggests voters may not go along.

The poll by the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley, conducted online among a statewide sampling of more than 1,500 registered voters, found Proposition 62, which would replace the death penalty with a sentence of life in prison without parole, trailing 54.9 % to 49.1 %. The measure was opposed by majorities of both women and men, by all age levels except those between 25 and 34, and by all racial and ethnic groups except black voters, who were 60 percent in favor of the proposition.

The poll listed the margin of error at 4 % points.

The same poll found overwhelming support - 75.7 % - for a rival measure, Prop. 66, that would seek to speed up executions by setting tight deadlines for court rulings, placing some limits on appeals and requiring many more defense lawyers to take capital cases.

That finding may have been influenced, however, by the vague wording of the survey question, which asked voters only whether they would want to "streamline procedures in death-penalty cases to speed up resolution of those cases," and did not mention further details of the measure. The poll said strong majorities of both Democrats and Republicans favored the proposal.

A statewide Field Poll in January which asked respondents whether they would prefer to "take steps to speed up the execution process" or to repeal the death penalty found 48 % in favor of a speedup, 47 % for a repeal and the rest undecided.

The UC Berkeley pollsters tried to write "brief and fair summaries" of the 2 measures but didn't yet have access to state elections officials’ ballot descriptions of the initiatives when the poll was conducted between June 29 and July 18, said Ethan Rarick, associate director of the Institute of Governmental Studies.

Still, the latest poll raises some doubt about whether Californians are ready to abolish capital punishment. A proponent of the prosecutor-backed measure to speed up executions expressed satisfaction with the results.

"Voters have made it clear time and time again that they want the death penalty in California for the most vicious of killers," said Jeff Flint, campaign manager for No on 62 and Yes on 66. "They know the current system needs to be fixed to end the decades of appeals that bog down the system."

Jacob Hay, spokesman for the pro-Prop. 62 campaign, said the polling numbers were "totally unreliable" because the questions left out details that voters will see on their ballots, including a state estimate of $150 million in annual savings from abolition of the death penalty. Ana Zamora, campaign manager for No on 66, said the pollsters misstated the contents of that initiative.

"Californians are deeply concerned about the possibility of executing an innocent person," Zamora said. "Prop. 66 will greatly increase this risk by removing fundamental legal safeguards."

Voters approved the current death penalty law in 1978, expanding a measure that had been enacted a year earlier, over Gov. Jerry Brown's veto. A measure to repeal it was defeated in 2012 by a 52 to 48 % ratio. Most polls since then, in California and nationwide, have shown declines in support for capital punishment.

California has the nation'slargest death row, with nearly 750 prisoners. The state's last execution was in January 2006, and the law has been on hold since then because of court rulings finding flaws in the lethal injection process and staff training.



Senator praises 'law and order' Trump for demanding death penalty for innocent teens

One of the few senators to wholeheartedly back GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump praised the nominee as a "law and order" candidate for paying for an ad calling for the death penalty of 5 young men in their mid-teens who were wrongfully accused of raping a woman.

In an interview caught by Buzzfeed, southern Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) lauded Trump for his speech aimed at the African-American community Tuesday night in Wisconsin.

"That speech was great, and Trump has always been this way," Sessions told the hosts of the Matt & Aunie radio show.

"He bought an ad - people say he wasn’t a conservative - but he bought an ad 20 years ago in the New York Times calling for the death penalty," he continued. "How many people in New York, that liberal bastion, were willing to do something like that? So he believes in law and order and he has the strength and will to make this country safer."

Sessions was referring to an ad Trump took out in the New York Times over 20 years ago, with a bold headline reading "Bring the death penalty back!" aimed at the 5 young black and Hispanic men who were accused of raping a white woman who came to be known as the "Central Park jogger."

All of the young men were later exonerated by the city of New York after serving time in prison, and were recipients of a payout in the millions for their wrongful conviction.

Upon news of the settlement, Trump jumped back into the fray again, calling the payout, "a disgrace."



Fell seeks to bar evidence from 2nd death penalty trial

A man facing a 2nd federal death penalty trial for the 2000 abduction and murder of a supermarket worker is seeking to exclude evidence used in his 1st trial.

The Rutland Herald reports that prosecution and defense witnesses will testify Monday about the validity of expert analysis of crime scene evidence in the case of Donald Fell.

Fell was convicted and sentenced to death in 2005 for the murder of Terry King, but his conviction was overturned.

Fell's trial is slated for February 2017. He has challenged blood, DNA and other evidence and testimony originally presented in his 2005 trial.

The challenge requires a judge to determine which experts can testify based on the scientific nature of their testimony. Experts will present their findings on Monday.

(source: Associated Press)


President Pranab Mukherjee rejects mercy petitions of 3 more death-row convicts, taking his tally of rejections to 37

President Pranab Mukherjee rejected on August 7 mercy petitions from 3 death-row convicts, Shabnam, Jasvir Singh and Vikram Singh. The information about these rejections was uploaded on the website of the President's secretariat only today.

While Shabnam's mercy petition was received in President's Secretariat from the Ministry of Home Affairs, on March 31, those of Jasvir Singh and Vikram Singh were received on June 23.

Shabnam, along with her husband, Salim were co-accused in a murder case, that was tried against them on the allegations that they had committed murders of 7 persons who were the members of Shabnam's family during 14-15 April, 2008. Their death sentences were confirmed by the Supreme Court on May 15, 2015.

Shabnam is lodged in Moradabad jail, while Salim is in Agra jail. Their only child, delivered by Shabnam in jail, has been given in adoption.

Jasvir Singh and Vikram Singh, now in Patiala Central jail, were convicted and sentenced to death, for the murder of 16-year-old school boy, Abhi Verma, in 2005. The Supreme Court commuted Jasvir Singh's wife, Sonia's sentence to life term in the same case in January 2010.

In August last year, a 3-member Bench headed by Justice TS Thakur dismissed their appeal, challenging the validity of Section 364A of the IPC, that provides for death penalty for the crime of kidnapping someone for ransom.



Kenyans want corruption declared capital offence, death penalty reviewed

A section of Kenyans want corruption listed among capital offences and punishments reviewed to abolish sentences of death and life imprisonment.

Regina Boisabi, Power of Mercy Advisory Committee vice chairman, said on Thursday that some were of the view that corruption should attract the highest punishment.

Boisabi said they have visited 19 counties so far, in the project that began in June, seeking public views on correctional measures.

"Some people are of the view that death and life imprisonment do not serve any good but there are those who still support them," she said.

Crimes classified as capital offences are murder, robbery with violence, some military offences, treason and oathing for criminal activity by proscribed groups including terror groups.

These are punishable by death or life imprisonment upon conviction. Some sexual and drug trafficking offences attract similar penalties but are not classified as capital offences.

Boisabi explained: "The last time a death row convict was executed was in 1987, but judges and magistrates still convict people to hang because legally, death sentence is the only punishment prescribed by the law for convicts of such offences."

She said about 3,000 inmates had been serving life and death sentences but some were released following presidential pardon.

"The number changes every day depending on outcomes of judgments and appeal rulings delivered every day," she said at the Nairobi West Prison during a public debate on capital offences and capital punishments.

Boisabi said more than half of the inmates in correctional facilities countrywide were petty offenders.

Her sentiments were echoed by inmate Makau Masila who is serving a 9-year term at the prison.

Macharia Njeri moved the forum with an account of his arrest on Tuesday and sentencing the following day.

Njeri, who could not raise raise a Sh45,000 fine for a traffic offence, will serve 11 months

Other prisoners suggested bond terms pegged on the offenders' financial capability.

They also suggested that fines be paid in installments saying the inability to raise one-off payments forces them to "rot in jail".

The public views will be used to form a policy on restructuring Kenya's correctional system and decongest facilities.



6 Sudanese activists associated with TRACKs charged with death penalty crimes

After 86 days in detention without charge, 6 civil society Sudanese activists associated with Training and Human Development (TRACKs) have been charged under the Criminal Act Article 50 (Undermining the Constitutional System), Article 51 (Waging War Against the State), Article 53 (Espionage) and Article 65 (Criminal and Terrorist Organizations).

The activists include Khalaf-Allah Al-Afif Muktar, Mustafa Adam and Midhat Afifaddin Hamadan. Arwa Al-Rabie, Imany-Leila Ray and Al-Hassan Kheiry, who had been released on bail, were also charged with these 4 crimes. Adam and Hamadan have also been charged under Article 14 of the Information Crimes Law.

Following the filing of capital charges against six civil society activists associated with Training and Human Development (TRACKs), Freedom House issued the following statement:

"Authorities in Sudan have charged Khalaf-Allah Al-Afif Muktar, Mustafa Adam, Midhat Afifaddin Hamadan, Arwa Al-Rabie, Imany-Leila Ray, and Al-Hassan Kheiry with espionage and terrorism, charges that are preposterous and were brought against these individuals for exercising the fundamental right to free association," said Vukasin Petrovic, director for Africa programs.

"The government of Sudan should either drop these absurd charges or ensure a speedy and fair trial. It should allow observers to attend all proceedings and guarantee the defendants' right to receive visitors in prison," Vukasin added.

TRACKs, a Khartoum-based organization, has been raided twice during the last 2 years by Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Services, which has confiscated the passports of staff members.

In April 2015 criminal charges - some carrying the death penalty - were brought against TRACKs Director Khalafalla Alafif Mukhtar and Adil Bakheit, a human rights defender and member of the Board of Directors for Sudanese Human Rights Monitor.



British lawyers back bid to return Ibrahim Halawa to Ireland

An influential committee of British lawyers have called for the release of Irish citizen Ibrahim Halawa from jail in Egypt on the 3rd anniversary of his arrest.

The Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales has called for him to be returned to Ireland immediately.

Kirsty Brimelow QC, chair of the Bar Human Rights Committee, said his treatment "constitutes a serious breach of international law".

She added: "He has been subjected to several years of pre-trial detention, violently assaulted by the Egyptian police and denied access to a lawyer or a fair trial. During part of this period, Mr Halawa was a child. [His] urgent release is required."

Mr Halawa, 20, is being prosecuted alongside 494 co-defendants in mass trial for allegedly participating in a political protest in 2013.

He was 17 at the time of his arrest and has been charged with serious offences, all of which he strongly denies. His lawyers believe that, if convicted, he may face the death penalty.

Earlier this month, Mr Halawa's lawyers in Belfast siad an application for his release from jail in Cairo under the Egyptian Presidential Decree Law 140 would be lodged with the support of the Irish government.

Law 140 allows for those under trial in Egypt to be deported to their home country.



Warrant Issued As Man Charged With Murder Fails To Show Up At Court

A man, charged with murder, failed for the 2nd time this week to show up in the Supreme Court. A warrant is still out for his arrest.

Cordero Johnson, 25, had pleaded not guilty on his arraignment in May 2014 to causing the death of Vernon Rolle Jr. At that time he was scheduled to go on trial on August 15, 2016.

However, an arrest warrant was issued for Johnson - who is on bail - when he failed to appear for a status hearing on July 27 last month.

He again failed to appear for his trial on Monday and again yesterday when his trial was adjourned from Monday.

Rolle Jr, 29, was found shot to death on a dirt road behind the Hollywood Subdivision off Cowpen Road on November 16, 2013.

The Monastery Park resident was found face down in bushes with a gunshot wound to the head.

Johnson faces a charge of murder under Section 291 (1)(a) of the Penal Code, which does could attract the discretionary death penalty or life imprisonment if a conviction is reached at trial.

He has retained attorney Calvin Seymour to represent him.

Cephia Pinder-Moss appeared for the Crown.



2 Prisoners Executed in Public in Southern Iran

2 prisoners were reportedly hanged in public at Saheli Boulevard, located in the city of Bandar Abbas (Hormozgan province, southern Iran), on rape charges.The executions were reportedly carried out on the morning of Wednesday August 17 in front of a crowd of people.

The Iranian state-run news agency, ISNA, has identified the prisoners as: M.P., 28 years old, and A.A., 25 years old. The prisoners were reportedly sentenced to death for rape, kidnapping, and theft.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


A family's plea for internatioal condemnation of execution of three political prisoners of fellow Arab citizens

The religious fascism ruling Iran's henchmen hanged 3 young political priosners from fellow Arab citizens this morning (August 17) 3 in Ahwaz Hamidieh with the mullah-made charge of "Moharebeh (enmity against God) and corruption on earth".

The 3 prisoners, Qais Obeidavi, 25-year-old law graduate, his 20-year-old brother Ahmad Obeidavi, and their cousin, Sajjad Balawi (Obeidavi), a law student, had been under torture and pressure in solitary confinements of Ahwaz Intelligence from the onset. In addition to the execution of these 3 men, the mullahs' judiciary has iised sentences of 25 to 35 years imprisonment for 4 other political prisoners from Arab compatriots.

The Iranian Resistance offers its condolences to the families of the victims and calls on all fellow compatriots particularly young people across Khouzestan province to stand in solidarity and support with the families of those executed and prisoners.

Thus since the beginning of August, coincident with the anniversary of the massacre of political prisoners in 1988, the execution of 29 political prisoners by the religious dictatorship ruling Iran has been recorded. On August 2nd, 25 Sunni prisoners were executed collectively. The actual number of political execution is more than this.

These executions are a continuation of massacre of political prisoners in 1988 whose perpetrators are also perpetrators of this crime. The officials in charge of executing Khomeini's fatwa for massacre, and members of the "Death Committee" in 1988, today are among top political, intelligence and military officials of the clerical regime and in charge of suppression and execution.

The Iranian Resistance stresses on the fact that the Iranian regime is able to survive only by execution, torture and suppression, and asks the International community, especially the Security Council and the UN Human Rights Council, member states and all human rights organizations to categorically condemn the new wave of political executions and to refer the dossier of the mullahs regime crimes, especially the massacre of 1988, to the UN Security Council and to bring leaders of this regime to face justice.

(source: Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran)


"They Took our Comrade in front of our Eyes." Mohammad Abdollahi's Cellmates Talk

Cellmates of Mohammad Abdollahi, a political prisoner who was hanged last week in Uremia Prison, with a glimmer of hope were waiting to see their cellmate, after his execution was denied by the provincial authorities, however, they and his family believed that they would never see him again by official confirmation of his execution.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency in Iran (HRANA), the last people who have seen Mohammad Abdollahi told HRANA that on Sunday at 8:20 a.m. they took Mohammad Abdollahi from the ward.

2 political prisoners, Ahmed Tamoie and Saeed Sangar were exercising in the yard when the prison director, Mr. Bairamizadeh asked them: "Why do not you go to the gym to exercise? And they answered the gym opens late and till then we are done."

During this conversation, Mohammad Abdollahi entered the yard from the ward. Mr. Bairamizadeh asked him: "Why don't you exercise?" Mohammad Abdollahi answered: "I walk here since the yard opens at 7 am to 11 am and it is a kind of sport."

Bairamizadeh pointed him and told "Mohammed come along, I have a word with you." They went to the corridor and closed the door. The prisoners say: "They took our friend in front of our eyes."

Prisoner's narrative does not end here, they got more worried when they received cheek humor messages of Mohammad Abdollahi from solitary confinement. He had send short messages in the form of satire and humor for his friends.

One of the cellmates of Mr. Abdollahi told that he sent a message from solitary confinement that: "It was a pity because I would win backgammon tonight."

Saman Naseem was another prisoner who received a short message of Mohammad Abdollahi from solitary confinement: "Saman do not envy, your turn is coming up!" prisoners tell these with tears.

The other inmate, who is a member of the armed forces received the message from Mr. Abdollahi, He says in the last minute he had received humorous message from solitary confinement: "Mr. ...., it was a pity that I have to die; otherwise I would have seen probably your execution in the ward."

And the last person who could receive a message from Mohamed Abdullahi was Osman Mostafapour, another political prisoner and his ward mate, "Mr. Osman I would like to know if you could finally release the pigeon that sits between the roofs of the gym."

These were the last signs of life, Mohammad Abdullahi, a young political prisoner whose lawyer had told HRANA previously: "My client was never treated legally and justly. There are many things wrong with his case."

(source: HRA News Agency)


Australian Jessica Wongso may face death penalty after AFP aided Indonesian police

Australian resident Jessica Kumala Wongso, 27, has been accused of killing her friend Wayan Mirna Salihin with whom she studied design in Sydney.

On January 6, Wongso arrived at Olivier Restaurant in the Grand Indonesia mall well before Mirna and their other friend, Boon Juwita (known as Hani), and ordered Mirna's favourite drink, an iced Vietnamese coffee.

Footage shows her re-arranging bags around the drink before eventually clearing the table.

It was during this time prosecutors allege Wongso added the cyanide to the coffee.

A few minutes after drinking it, Mirna collapsed and foamed at the mouth before she died.

The Australian Federal Police's decision to hand over a damaging police file on Ms Wongso to Indonesian police could result in capital punishment, her lawyer Yudi Wibowo told ABC's 7:30 as her trial comes to a close.

"They should not be involved in providing this damaging police record, which is being used by Indonesian National Police to criminalise Jessica," Yudi said.

"The prosecution is looking for the death sentence and my duty as a lawyer is to try to evade the death sentence."

7:30 reported this month that the Australian Federal Police had handed over a file on Ms Wongso that revealed her ex-boyfriend in Australia had taken out an apprehended violence order against her over vandalising his car and that she had been suicidal.

While Australian Justice Minister Michael Keenan said he handed over the evidence because he was told the death penalty would not apply, the court told 7:30 ultimately the decision would fall into the hands of the judges.

This has raised the ire of Mirna's father Edi Dermawan Salihin who said if she was convicted, based on evidence gathered by local police, the agreement should be void.



Debate Flares on China's Use of Prisoners' Organs as Experts Meet in Hong Kong

An acrimonious debate over China's use of prisoners' organs for transplant - a practice Chinese officials say has ended - has flared anew as an international transplant conference gets underway in Hong Kong, with some doctors and ethicists saying the meeting should not be held in China given the controversy.

Chinese health officials say China stopped using organs from executed prisoners on Jan. 1, 2015, after decades of obtaining most of its organs from convicts. Officials say they are building a voluntary national donation system that does not include prisoners.

Hong Kong, a former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997, has an organ donation system separate from the mainland's.

But in an article published on Wednesday in the American Journal of Transplantation, a day before the 26th International Congress of the Transplantation Society was to open in Hong Kong, doctors and members of a nongovernmental medical organization criticized the decision to hold the meeting in China as premature.

"In the current context, it is not possible to verify the veracity of the announced changes and it thus remains premature to include China as an ethical partner in the international transplant community," wrote the authors, who included Dr. Jacob Lavee, of the Sheba Medical Center in Israel, and Dr. Torsten Trey, the executive director of Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting, a nongovernmental group based in Washington.

"Until we have independent and objective evidence of a complete cessation of unethical organ procurement from prisoners, the medical community has a professional responsibility to maintain the academic embargo on Chinese transplant professionals," they wrote.

International medical organizations like the World Medical Association and the Transplantation Society say the use of organs from prisoners in any country that has the death penalty violates medical ethical standards because the prisoners cannot give their consent freely. Hong Kong does not practice capital punishment, but the death penalty is widely used on the mainland.

There also are mixed messages about the issue in China. Prisoners can still donate organs, according to an entry dated May 5, 2016, on the website of the China Organ Transplantation Development Foundation, a group tasked with managing the transition.

Telephone calls to the foundation requesting clarification were not answered.

In an interview conducted on the messaging app WeChat, Huang Jiefu, a senior Chinese transplant official and a former deputy minister of health, appeared to defend the changes but simultaneously acknowledge they were far from perfect.

"We have finished walking the first step of a long march of 10,000 li, the task is heavy and the road far, but we are walking on a path of light," he wrote. A li is a Chinese measure of distance equal to about a third of a mile.

But Dr. Lavee, who is also the president of the Israel Transplantation Society, said in an interview that by holding the meeting in Hong Kong and presenting papers from China, the society had "abandoned the only weapon against China it has in asking it to ethically source organs as it is supposed to" - a longstanding embargo intended to pressure China into changing.

Dr. Lavee, who is a member of the Transplantation Society's ethics committee and the advisory board of Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting, said he would not attend the Hong Kong meeting as a protest.

Neither the society's president, Dr. Philip O'Connell, nor 2 former presidents replied to an email requesting comment.

On its website, the society said that it opposed the unethical harvesting of organs and had requested three times in writing that the authors of papers from China disclose the source of the organs they cited.

"All submissions in which executed prisoner organs were used have been rejected, as have all submissions where there has been no response to any of our requests for declaration," it said.

In the article in the American Journal of Transplantation, the authors said they had "ethical concerns" over 10 papers by Chinese doctors that were due to be presented in Hong Kong.

Dr. Lavee also expressed concerns mirroring those of a resolution passed by the United States House of Representatives in June over "persistent and credible reports" that organs were being taken from prisoners of conscience, principally detained practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual movement that is outlawed in China.

The article in the American Journal of Transplantation also addressed those concerns, saying: "It is noticeable that China has neither addressed nor included in the reform a pledge to end the procurement of organs from prisoners of conscience."

The Chinese government also has not changed the law to prohibit the use of prisoners' organs.

Dr. Lavee, a heart surgeon, had a patient in 2005 who was told a new heart awaited him in China in 2 weeks - something only possible if there was a pool of living, blood-typed donors, the doctor said.

"I'm a simple Jewish heart transplant surgeon and the son of a Holocaust survivor, and the reason I spend so much time on this is that I can't keep silent in the face of a new crime against humanity," he said.

(source: New York Times)

AUGUST 18, 2016:

TEXAS----impending execution

Texas death sentence for accessory challenged by defense lawyer

Texas is planning to execute a man next week for a murder he did not commit.

If the sentence were to be carried out, it would mark the 1st time in the United States that an accessory with so little culpability to a murder was put to death, his lawyer said.

Jeffery Wood, 42, is scheduled to be executed on Aug. 24 by lethal injection. He was convicted of taking part in a 1996 convenience store robbery during which clerk Kriss Keeran was fatally shot.

Prosecutors and Wood's lawyers agree that he was in a vehicle outside the store when it was robbed. But prosecutors have said Wood knew the clerk might be shot and Wood's lawyers have refuted their argument.

Wood's roommate at the time, Daniel Reneau, was convicted of pulling the trigger and executed on June 13, 2002.

"I am not aware of a case where a person has been executed with so minimal culpability and with such little participation in the event," lawyer Jared Tyler said in an interview.

"When people think of the death penalty, they think of the worst of the worst," Tyler said. "He was sitting in the truck outside a convenience store when somebody else of their own volition decided to kill somebody."

Tyler said he has filed motions with the state to halt the execution, citing culpability, tainted testimony and mental competency issues.

Ten people have been executed as accessories to felony murder since the United States reinstated the death penalty in 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, which monitors capital punishment. (

Under Texas' "Law of Parties," a person can be charged with capital murder even if the offense is committed by someone else. "Each party to an offense may be charged and convicted without alleging that he acted as a principal or accomplice," according to the law.

Texas has said that Wood is culpable because he knew the robbery was going to take place. After the killing, he entered the store with Reneau to steal the cash box, store safe and remove a video recorder used for security.

(source: Reuters)


State Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, is hoping to stop the upcoming execution of Jeff Wood.

It's not often that a staunch conservative loses sleep over imposition of the death penalty, but state Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, says he is up nights over the impending execution of Jeff Wood.

The 2-term legislator has spent the past week poring over court documents and speaking with the governor's office and Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, hoping to prevent what would be the state's 7th execution of the year.

Wood is set to die by lethal injection Aug. 24.

"I simply do not believe that Mr. Wood is deserving of the death sentence," Leach told the Tribune. "I can't sit quietly by and not say anything."

In the early morning of Jan. 2, 1996, Wood sat in a truck outside a Kerrville gas station while his friend, Daniel Reneau, went inside to steal a safe said to be full from the holiday weekend, according to court documents. When the clerk, Kriss Keeran, didn't comply or respond to threats, Reneau shot him dead.

Reneau was sentenced to death and executed in 2002. Wood received his own death sentence under Texas' felony murder statute, commonly known as the law of parties, which holds that anyone involved in a crime resulting in death is equally responsible, even if they weren't directly involved in the actual killing.

According to Nadia Mireles, Wood's then-girlfriend, Wood told Reneau to leave his gun at home the morning of the murder. She said Reneau put the gun down but picked it back up when Wood left the room. Her testimony was not included in Wood's trial, but it was in Reneau's.

"This is the reason we have this final step by the Constitution to provide the governor the right to commute a sentence,"- State Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano

Prosecutors argued Wood knew Reneau would kill Keeran if he didn't cooperate with the robbery. If true, that would make him guilty of capital murder under the law of parties, which states that a person can be charged with a crime he didn't commit if he "should have anticipated it as a result" of another crime.

Leach, who ranks among the most conservative Republicans in the House, is for the death penalty in the most heinous cases, he said. And he believes in the death penalty under the law of parties in cases where the accomplice was clearly involved in the murder. But when he came across Wood's case during his work for the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, it didn't seem right.

"Jeffery Lee Wood's case has caught my attention unlike any death row inmate in my time in office has," he said. "Once I started digging, I couldn't stop."

Now, Leach is trying to use his voice as a lawmaker to stop the execution and change Wood's sentence from death to life in prison. He's spoken with Gov. Greg Abbott's office and the parole board and hopes to convince other legislators to send letters to the 2 before the board takes up the case on Monday, he said.

If the parole board votes to recommend that Wood's sentence be changed, Abbott can accept or reject that recommendation. Without the board's recommendation, the most Abbott can do is issue a one-time, 30-day delay of execution.

"This is the reason we have this final step by the Constitution to provide the governor the right to commute a sentence," Leach said, adding that he would ultimately respect whatever choice the board and Abbott make.

Abbott's office declined to comment for this story. The parole board has previously said it could not comment on Wood's clemency petition. In a 2008 petition, the parole board and then-Gov. Rick Perry declined to commute Wood's sentence.

(source: Texas Tribune)


Executing the Getaway Driver Is a Bad Idea

Texas is poised to execute Jeffery Lee Wood next week, even though he was sitting in the car 20 years ago when his friend went into a convenience store and fatally shot the clerk. Under existing precedent, sentencing an accomplice to the death penalty is sometimes constitutional. But it shouldn't be -- at least when the accomplice doesn't intend for the crime to occur, as was almost certainly the case for Wood.

The U.S. Supreme Court made its 2 crucial decisions on the execution of accomplices some 30 years ago -- and they are now ripe for being revisited. The 1st, Enmund v. Florida, came in 1982. It was a close, 5-4 decision, with centrist Justice Byron White writing for a coalition of liberal justices.

The court struck down the death penalty for Earl Enmund, a getaway driver who had been in the car when his colleagues committed 2 murders in the course of a robbery. Under Florida law, he had been an accomplice, which subjected him to the same penalty as the murderers themselves.

White wrote that such accomplice liability was cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. It had been "rejected by society," he said.

The decision emphasized that the defendant hadn't killed or intended to kill. "Thus his culpability is plainly different from that of the robbers who killed," White wrote, "yet the State treated them alike, and attributed to Edmund the culpability of those who killed."

The decision fell short of saying that only an actual killer could be executed, leaving room for someone who didn't pull the trigger but "intended" the death to occur. This position makes a certain amount of moral sense. If 2 people act in concert, and only 1 pulls the trigger, it's plausible to say that they are comparably responsible. But if only 1 shoots and kills, and the other had no intent of causing death -- and wasn't even present when it happened -- then the punishment for the 2 should not be the same.

Under the Enmund rule from 1982, Wood very likely wouldn't be executed. He knew the killer had a gun -- and indeed Wood urged him not to bring it on the fateful trip to the convenience store. But the prosecution didn't prove that Wood had intended the murder to occur.

Unfortunately for Wood, the Supreme Court wasn't done with this issue in 1982 -- nor was Byron White. In 1987, the court reconsidered accomplice liability in a case called Tison v. Arizona. This time, White deserted the liberals and joined an opinion written for the court by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and joined by t3 other conservatives.

The court held that intent to kill was not necessary for the death penalty -- essentially rewriting the 1982 decision without acknowledging it. Then the court said that it was constitutional to execute an accomplice "whose participation is major and whose mental state is one of reckless indifference to the value of human life."

That's the standard that Texas courts applied to Wood in upholding his death sentence. Texas law still allows for the execution of an accomplice under a rule sometime called "the law of parties." The courts found that Wood was a major participant in the crime and recklessly disregarded the value of human life when it came to the events that led to the murder.

The evidence in support of that conclusion about Wood's role and attitude seems highly debatable. But that shouldn't matter. It's time for the Supreme Court to go back to the 1982 rule requiring intent to kill.

Wood's case shows why the 1987 rule is indefensible. First, a getaway driver, or any accomplice who is aware that a criminal plot is under way, like Wood, can be considered a "major participant." So that requirement is almost meaningless.

Quicktake Lethal Injection

Second, anyone who participates at all in a crime involving a gun or other dangerous weapon can be found recklessly indifferent to the value of human life, as Wood was. That means that essentially any accomplice can be executed.

In short, the 1987 rule effectively erases the moral boundary between someone who intends to kill and someone who is along for the ride when someone else does the killing. Whatever Byron White may have been thinking in 1982, he had more or less reversed himself by 1987.

Today's court is gradually getting more progressive about capital punishment, exempting minors and those with reduced mental capacity. And it's long been the legal rule that the death penalty can only be applied when someone has been killed, not for other heinous crimes such as rape.

The court should now reopen the question of executing defendants who didn't kill anyone. The justices don't even have to invent a new standard -- they can just apply the 1982 ruling, and restrict the death penalty to criminals who participated in a murder with the intent to kill.

(source: Bloomberg news)


Debate between State Attorney candidates at Jacksonville University gets heated

Just 2 weeks before the Florida primary, candidates for State Attorney faced off at Jacksonville University on Tuesday night.

There were moments that were heated in the debate between incumbent State Attorney Angela Corey and candidates Wes White and Melissa Nelson, who are all running as Republicans.

The audience got into the debate too, with Nelson supporters cheering for her and a Corey supporter yelling from the crowd that Nelson "stinks."

Corey talked about her record, saying that over the last 8 years, it speaks for itself. Corey said she helped the office improve its conviction rate and overall rank. Corey also defended her handling of high-profile cases, including the George Zimmerman case.

Nelson criticized Corey, saying that if elected, she would work to restore trust that Corey has diminished. Nelson also touted her experience as a criminal prosecutor, and said she felt her opponents had been ganging up on her during the campaign.

White talked about what he would do if elected State Attorney, saying Jacksonville does not need a weak-willed State Attorney. He said he thinks the death penalty should only be used when absolutely necessary.

The candidates also discussed the controversy surrounding the closed primary following the write-in candidate Kenny Lay, with Corey's opponents accusing her of orchestrating it. After the debate, Corey denied those claims.

"I have said it before, while I don't agree with what they did, that group of people who did that thought they were doing the right thing for the right reasons and there is a Supreme Court decision to back them up," Corey said.

"The lack of ownership, from the trick, the ploy to close this primary to the ads funded and put together by Angela Corey's campaign," Nelson said after the debate."

"Well, I would change my party affiliation to NPA, which means 'no party affiliation,' so that everyone could vote. Now, people that know me know that I'm a conservative," White said after the debate.

The candidates also called each other's integrity into question during the debate. One case that was brought up over and over again was the trial of a serial killer from more than a decade ago.

William Wells dubbed himself "The Mayport Monster" after he killed five people in the early 2000s. Nelson was a prosecutor in that case: on Tuesday night, she said the families of Wells' victims had asked her not to seek the death penalty.

Wells was sentenced to life in prison and while in prison, he ended up killing another prisoner. Nelson said Corey supervised her during that case, but Corey said she opposed the decision not to seek the death penalty all along.

"That is false," Nelson said after the debate. "Did she produce any evidence indicating that? That is outright, that is false."

"Even though I helped her a little bit with that case, she and Harry Shorstein and they alone, made the decision to waive the death penalty on a serial killer," Corey said after the debate.

"When someone says they are going to kill again, there's only one solution, and that is to impose the death penalty," White said.

The winner of this race will face the write-in candidate in November.

(source: WOKV news)


Alabama death row inmate appeals to U.S. Supreme Court

Attorneys for Alabama death row inmate William Ernest Kuenzel filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court this week seeking a ruling that would allow him to present new evidence that they say will prove his innocence.

Kuenzel was convicted in the 1987 shooting death of a Sylacauga convenience store clerk during a robbery. He has gained support for his claims of innocence from a group of lawyers, former district attorneys, ministers, and actors, including Law & Order actor Sam Waterston.That group filed a brief supporting Kuenzel's innocence to the Alabama Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case in April.

In the appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday Kuenzel's attorneys state that in 2010, and during federal proceedings, attorneys for Alabama disclosed "critical exculpatory evidence" that it failed to turn over during Kuenzel's capital trial, which they say violated previous federal rulings.

"This new evidence completely undermines Mr. Kuenzel's already tenuous capital conviction and vindicates his long-maintained position that he is actually innocent. Regardless of one's views on the broader questions surrounding capital punishment, this particular case presents the intolerable risk that an innocent man will be put to death without any consideration of new exculpatory evidence that gravely undermines the already limited evidence supporting his conviction," according to the U.S. Supreme Court petition.

After a federal petition was denied on procedural grounds, Kuenzel returned to Alabama state court and filed a second state petition based on the evidence that the state prosecutors had newly disclosed during the federal habeas proceedings, according to the U.S. Supreme Court petition. But under Alabama law, Kuenzel was blocked from seeking state habeas relief during the pendency of his federal habeas proceedings because of state law that prohibits prosecuting 2 actions in the courts of Alabama "at the same time for the same cause and against the same party." "Unusually, Alabama has interpreted this provision to apply to concurrent litigation in Alabama federal courts, and mandates dismissal when a 2nd suit for the same cause is brought," the U.S. Supreme Court petition states.

"Yet the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals rejected Mr. Kuenzel's habeas petition as untimely under Alabama Rule of Criminal Procedure 32.2(c), which requires that successive state habeas petitions based on newly discovered evidence be brought within 6 months of the discovery of that evidence," the petition states. "By this rule, Mr. Kuenzel was required to file a successive state habeas petition while his federal habeas proceedings were pending, even though Alabama Code # 6-5-440 would have required the dismissal of such a duplicative suit."

The question Kuenzel's attorneys have posed to the U.S. Supreme Court is this: "Whether it is fundamentally unfair and violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to require a capital habeas petitioner to bring a successive state habeas petition within six months of the discovery of new evidence, when Alabama Code # 6-5-440 would have simultaneously barred such a suit."

Kuenzel was convicted in the shooting death of clerk Linda Offord. His roommate Havey Venn pleaded guilty as an accomplice.

Venn testified that Kuenzel suggested robbing the store. A number of witnesses testified to seeing Venn's 1984 Buick Regal automobile at the store the night of the murder and an unidentified man in the front passenger seat.

Venn testified that he sat in the car while Kuenzel went inside the convenience store with a 16-gauge shotgun. Venn heard a shot and saw the clerk fall backwards, according to court records.

A 16-year-old witness also testified she was riding in a car past the store about an hour before the murder and that she saw Venn and Kuenzel inside the store. Without her identification, the evidence was insufficient to convict Kuenzel because state law requires that accomplice testimony be corroborated, attorneys have argued.

Missed deadlines

The evidence Kuenzel says is new evidence is that grand-jury testimony of the 16-year-old girl, first disclosed in 2010, indicates she could not identify Kuenzel as the man she saw in the convenience store the night of the murder, Moore states. Because the discovery of that evidence occurred more than 2 decades after Kuenzel's conviction, his only procedural route for bringing that evidence before the circuit court for a hearing was a new petition filed within 6 months of discovery of that evidence, he stated.

Kuenzel filed his current petition in September 2013, long past the 6-month filing deadline. That deadline, however, under extraordinary circumstances may be disregarded, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore wrote in an opinion in the case.

Kuenzel argued he had found out about the testimony transcripts while he was litigating an appeal in federal court. The Court of Criminal Appeals, perceiving no reason why Kuenzel could not file his 2nd petition while his federal case was proceeding, affirmed the circuit court's finding that the petition was untimely.

"Ordinarily, that would be the end of the matter. Because of the irreversibility of the death penalty, however, I believe some leeway may be warranted in this case," Moore stated in his opinion.

Among the evidence Kuenzel's defense team say they have uncovered since the trial that jurors never heard or saw include:

--Venn's gun was a .16 gauge shotgun after all despite Venn having claimed it was a .12 gauge. Offord had been shot with a .16 gauge.

--Grand jury testimony by a prosecution witness, who had testified at trial that she saw both Kuenzel and Venn inside the store, was not shown to jurors. During the grand jury testimony she stated she couldn't identify the men.

--Venn's girlfriend said Venn was alone and was not with Kuenzel that night.

--Police notes, which the defense team got in 2010, show Venn had first told police he was another man, but police never tried to find that man.

--A police officer noted Venn had injuries consistent with that of the victim.

--Venn needed money for an attorney to defend himself at an upcoming drug trial.

--The shotgun Kuenzel had borrowed had been returned to the relative days before the shooting.

Among the evidence the jury did have was that Venn had blood from the victim on his clothing and Kuenzel didn't, the lawyers have also argued. Also, Kuenzel and his step father both testified that Kuenzel was asleep at home, without access to a car, that night.



Worley Indicted On 19 Counts, Could Face Death Penalty Surrounding Abduction & Murder

James D. Worley, 57, Delta has been indicted Tuesday, August 16 on 19 counts concerning the death of Sierah Joughin, 20, Metamora. Joughin's body was found in a field on July 22, 2 days after she had gone missing during a bike ride.

Worley could face the death penalty as a result of the charges which now include:

2 counts of aggravated murder, unclassified felonies, with specifications for the death penalty

2 counts of murder, unclassified felonies

2 counts of aggravated robbery, 1st degree felonies

4 counts of kidnapping, 1st degree felonies

2 counts of felonious assault, 2nd degree felonies

2 counts of abduction, 3rd degree felonies

1 count of tampering with evidence, a 3rd degree felony

2 counts of having weapons while on disability, 3rd degree felonies

1 count of possession of criminal tools, a 5th degree felony

1 count of abuse of a corpse, a 5th degree felony

Worley has been held without bond at the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio since he was originally charged with 1 count of aggravated murder, an unclassified felony, and 1 count of abduction, a 3rd degree felony.

The duplicated counts of new charges are due to the crimes being listed in different subsections of the Ohio Revised Code.

Worley's arraignment on the new charges was scheduled for Friday, August 19 at 10:30 AM.



Bond set at $1 million for 1st of 8 charged in Hamilton shootings

Bond was set Wednesday at $1 million for Cornell McKennelly II, the 1st of 8 people to be arraigned on charges connected to 2 Hamilton shootings that killed 3 people.

McKennelly, 38, of Franklin Street, Hamilton, is charged with murder and having weapons under disability, for allegedly killing Hamilton's Kalif Goens at Doubles Bar on July 24. He is scheduled to be back in Butler County Common Pleas Court in October for a pre-trial hearing.

Judge Greg Stephens set the high bond after prosecutors pointed to McKennelly's past criminal history that includes a conviction for drug trafficking in cocaine in 1999 in Butler County, serving a prison sentence for escape from Warren County, and conviction on a heroin charge in 2006 in Washington, D.C.

"This is a very emotional case containing a sequence of tensions in a sequence of events. For the safety of the public and, quite frankly, your safety Mr. McKennelly, I am setting bond at $1 million, not 10 %," Stephens said.

The courtroom was full of people that were searched with a hand-held metal detector before entering the courtroom. They left without comment after the hearing that lasted about 5 minutes.

The remainder of the defendants will be arraigned Friday, also by Stephens.

They are:

--Mondale Goens, 21, of Maple Ave., Hamilton, charged with 2 counts of felonious assault, in the Doubles Bar shooting. He is represented by attorney Lawrence Hawkins.

--Rodrick Curtis Jr., 20, North 7th Street, Hamilton, charge with felonious assault and having weapons under disability, for the Doubles Bar shooting. He is represented by attorney Scott Blauvelt.

--Zachary Harris, 24, of Columbus, charged with counts of aggravated murder with a death penalty specification alleging the crimes were for hire, and a classification as a repeat violent offender, and having weapons under disability. for the Central Avenue drive-by shooting that killed Orlando Gilbert and Todd Berus. Harris is represented by attorneys Tim McKenna and Wilkes Ellworth

--Tony Patete, 23, of Newark, charge with 2 counts of aggravated murder with a death penalty specification alleging the crimes were for hire, for the Central Avenue shooting. He is represented by attorneys Elizabeth Agar and William Oswall Jr.

--Cory Cook II, 23, 9th Street, Hamilton: Felonious assault, for the Doubles Bar Shooting. bar with the specification that a gun was used in the crime. He is represented by attorney Melinda Cook.

--Michael Grevious II, 23, of Maple Ave., Hamilton, charge with 1 count of aggravated murder with a death penalty specification alleging the crime was for hire and classifying him as a repeat violent offender for the Central Avenue shooting and felonious assault and the classification of a repeat violent offender, and having weapons under disability, for the Doubles Bar shooting. He is represented by David Washington and Ed Kathman.

--Melinda Ann Gibby, 35, of Lancaster, charged with 2 counts of aggravated murder with a death penalty specification alleging the crimes were for hire for the Central Avenue shooting. She is represented by David Brewer and Tamara Sack.

Gun violence at the Main Street bar on the city's west side killed Kalif Goens and injured 7 others, according to Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser.

Days later, 2 men were killed in a drive-by shooting along Central Avenue, which officials say was a murder for hire, according to the indictment.



Another mental exam ordered for Oklahoma beheading suspect

A judge in Oklahoma refused Wednesday to accept a guilty plea from a man accused of beheading a co-worker at a food processing plant in 2014, instead ordering another mental evaluation.

Cleveland County District Judge Lori Walkley said she wouldn't accept the plea from Alton Nolen, who has said he wants the death penalty for the attack at Vaughan Foods in Moore, because Nolen is not mentally competent enough. He will go to the state mental hospital for more tests.

Nolen is charged with 1st-degree murder in the beheading of Colleen Hufford, 54, at the plant shortly after he was suspended from the company for making racial remarks. He was also accused of stabbing and wounding another co-worker before a company executive shot him.

"They're entitled to justice," Walkley said of the victims and their families. "While it may not be swift, it will be sure."

The victim's daughter, Kelli Hufford, said in a statement that "justice was not served."

"The level of disappointment my family and I are experiencing at this moment is almost incomprehensible," she said. "Giving this monster any more time on this earth rather than charging him and sentencing him to the death penalty for killing my mother is inexcusable."

Nolen's defence attorneys have argued that he is mentally ill and unable to co-operate with them. At a hearing last week, a neuropsychologist testifying for the defence said Nolen is schizophrenic.

"He has lost touch with reality. ... He can't think rationally because he firmly believes he is being held captive, and we are all evil and the devil," Antoinette McGarrahan said.

District Attorney Greg Mashburn told Oklahoma City television station KFOR Wednesday ( ) that he hopes there won't be much delay due to the new round of tests ordered.

"I think he is competent," Mashburn said. "We'll have him looked at one more time and get back and hopefully get this case back on track."



Another mental exam ordered for Oklahoma beheading suspect

A judge in Oklahoma refused Wednesday to accept a guilty plea from a man accused of beheading a co-worker at a food processing plant in 2014, instead ordering another mental evaluation.

Cleveland County District Judge Lori Walkley said she wouldn't accept the plea from Alton Nolen, who has said he wants the death penalty for the attack at Vaughan Foods in Moore, because Nolen is not mentally competent enough. He will go to the state mental hospital for more tests.

Nolen is charged with 1st-degree murder in the beheading of Colleen Hufford, 54, at the plant shortly after he was suspended from the company for making racial remarks. He was also accused of stabbing and wounding another co-worker before a company executive shot him.

"They're entitled to justice," Walkley said of the victims and their families. "While it may not be swift, it will be sure."

The victim's daughter, Kelli Hufford, said in a statement that "justice was not served."

"The level of disappointment my family and I are experiencing at this moment is almost incomprehensible," she said. "Giving this monster any more time on this earth rather than charging him and sentencing him to the death penalty for killing my mother is inexcusable."

Nolen's defence attorneys have argued that he is mentally ill and unable to co-operate with them. At a hearing last week, a neuropsychologist testifying for the defence said Nolen is schizophrenic.

"He has lost touch with reality. ... He can't think rationally because he firmly believes he is being held captive, and we are all evil and the devil," Antoinette McGarrahan said.

District Attorney Greg Mashburn told Oklahoma City television station KFOR Wednesday ( ) that he hopes there won't be much delay due to the new round of tests ordered.

"I think he is competent," Mashburn said. "We'll have him looked at one more time and get back and hopefully get this case back on track."



In challenge to state's death penalty law, inmate argues that a jury, not judges, should decide his fate

A Nebraska death row inmate challenged the state's death penalty law Wednesday based on a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down capital punishment in Florida.

The motion for post-conviction relief argues that Nebraska unconstitutionally requires a 3-judge panel to make the final sentencing decision in capital cases. The motion cites the Supreme Court opinion released this year in Hurst v. Florida, which said the U.S. Constitution requires juries to decide the critical elements of a death sentence.

"The Nebraska statutes, which allow a panel of judges, not a jury, to make findings authorizing a death sentence, violates this central constitutional tenet repeated in Hurst," Omaha lawyer Alan Stoler wrote in the motion.

A similar legal challenge that relied on the Hurst ruling prompted the Delaware Supreme Court to strike down that state's death penalty this month.

Stoler filed the motion in Scotts Bluff County District Court on behalf of Jeffrey Hessler, convicted of the 2003 1st-degree murder of 15-year-old Heather Guerrero of Gering. Hessler abducted the girl as she was delivering newspapers, then drove her to an abandoned farmhouse, where he raped her before shooting her in the head.

The jury that convicted Hessler identified aggravating circumstances necessary to warrant a death sentence, said Suzanne Gage, spokeswoman for Attorney General Doug Peterson. Jurors who heard all of the evidence in the case determined that Hessler’s actions were "especially heinous, atrocious, cruel, or manifested exceptional depravity."

"The Attorney General's Office will defend the motion, which we expect will be as unsuccessful as Hessler's other 2 failed post-conviction cases," she added.

The new legal challenge comes as advocates on both sides of the death penalty ramp up efforts to sway Nebraska voters, who will be asked Nov. 8 to decide a referendum on the Legislature’s 2015 repeal of capital punishment.

This week, death penalty backers released poll results indicating that a strong majority of Nebraskans support capital punishment. Meanwhile, opponents unveiled an economic analysis that says the state spends $14.6 million annually to maintain the death penalty.

Hessler's new challenge won't be decided before voters go to the polls, so it most likely becomes moot if the repeal survives. But his case will proceed if voters keep the death penalty on the books, and Hessler will try to convince the Nebraska Supreme Court to strike down the law.

In Hurst v. Florida, the U.S. Supreme Court negated a death penalty sentencing scheme that required juries to make a recommendation to the judge on sentencing. The final decision, however, rested with the judge.

The Supreme Court said the Florida law violated the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees the right to a jury trial.

Nebraska's system is similar, but not identical, to Florida's.

In Nebraska, a 2nd trial takes place after a defendant is convicted in a death penalty case. The same jury that decided guilt also decides whether aggravating factors exist to justify the defendant's execution.

If the jury finds that aggravating factors were present in the murder, a three-judge panel is convened to determine if they outweigh any mitigating factors in the defendant's favor. The 3 judges also must determine if the death sentence is warranted and, if so, whether it is excessive or disproportionate to the penalty imposed in similar cases.

After making the necessary determinations, the judges impose the sentence.

"Those findings are elements of the crime of capital murder," Stoler said in a legal brief. "As a result, these elements must be found by a unanimous jury, not a judge."

Hessler, 37, is 1 of 10 men on Nebraska's death row. He was sentenced in 2005 and lost his appeal to the State Supreme Court 2 years later.

He has filed 2 other post-conviction appeals, which were unsuccessful. His newest motion will be heard by District Judge Randall Lippstreu.

(source: Omaha World-Herald)


Nebraska death penalty backers unveil campaign website

A group that wants to reinstate Nebraska's death penalty in the November election has unveiled a website and online video to make its case to voters.

The video released Tuesday highlights crimes committed by Nebraska's death row inmates. Nebraskans for the Death Penalty says the ad is intended to reinforce that, to keep the death penalty on the books, voters need to vote to repeal the legislation which abolished it.

Nebraska lawmakers eliminated the death penalty in May 2015, overriding Gov. Pete Ricketts' veto. A petition drive partially financed by Ricketts gathered enough signatures to prevent the law from going into effect until voters decide whether to retain it.

The video is narrated by Steve Zimkilton, the voiceover actor featured in the television series Law & Order.

(source: Associated Press)


Attorney General's Offices Releases Capital Appeal Stats

The Attorney General Office has released its own capital punishment statistics after the anti-death penalty group "Retain A Just Nebraska" released theirs on Monday.

"We looked at that report and we find absolutely no basis for those numbers," said Attorney Genreal Doug Peterson in response to Dr. Ernie Goss's recent economic report.

Attorney General Peterson's office provided numbers of its own stating only 1 % of appeals involve capital punishment.

"The reason that is true is because any person that has been sent on a 1st degree murder case is typically those individuals who are always defended by a public defender," Peterson added.

Economic Professor Dr. Goss said Nebraska would save 14.6 million dollars if inmates on death row get life without parole instead.

"And I think from observation what comes from the attorney general which is provided with response to The Goss study is really disappointing I think this is the perfect example as to why tax payers get frustrated with government because there is no numbers here," said Dan Parsons, Spokesperson of Retain A Just Nebraska. "There's no numbers if the attorney general wants to have a conversation an honest conversation on how much the Nebraskans spend on the death penalty we'd welcome that."



Governor to seek reinstatement of death penalty in New Mexico

Gov. Susana Martinez said Wednesday she intends to seek reinstatement of New Mexico's death penalty.

Martinez's announcement comes in the aftermath of Friday's shooting death of Hatch police Officer Jose Chavez.

Chavez, 33, was killed during a traffic stop.

The state of New Mexico has charged Jesse Denver Hanes, 38, of Columbus, Ohio, with killing Chavez. If convicted of murder in the state case, Hanes faces life in prison. Hanes also faces charges at the federal level, but those charges wouldn't warrant the death penalty, Elizabeth Martinez with the U.S. Attorney's Office told KVIA. Hanes is also wanted in Ohio in connection to the July shooting death of 62-year-old Theodore Timmons. Ohio does have the death penalty.

"People need to ask themselves, if the man who ambushed and killed 5 police officers in Dallas had lived, would he deserve the ultimate penalty," said Martinez, in a prepared statement. "How about the heartless violent criminals who killed Officer Jose Chavez in Hatch and left his children without their brave and selfless dad? Do they deserve the ultimate penalty? Absolutely. Because a society that fails to adequately protect and defend those who protect all of us is a society that will be undone and unsafe."

In announcing her support for the death penalty, Martinez also referenced the May death of Ashlynne Mike, 11. Tom Begaye Jr., 27, of Waterflow, New Mexico, has been charged with killing Mike.

"I feel the same about those who sexually abuse and murder young children," Martinez said. "I think of poor Ashlynne and the horror she went through. Does the monster who killed her deserve the ultimate punishment? Yes - absolutely."

Michael Lonegran, press secretary for Gov. Martinez, said attempts to get the death penalty reinstated will begin in January.

"Yes, the Governor will pursue this as part of her legislative agenda," said Lonegran, in an email to the Sun-News.

Before she was governor, Martinez served as district attorney of New Mexico's third judicial district from 1997 until 2011.

Current third judicial District Attorney Mark D'Antonio responded quickly upon hearing of Martinez's plans.

"Currently, my priority is prosecuting the death of Officer Chavez," D'Antonio said. "But I'm open to conversations about reinstating the death penalty.

"The death penalty should be the last resort for the worst of the worst, and in certain situations like cop-killers."

New Mexico's death penalty was abolished on July 1, 2009. Because of crimes committed before the death penalty ended, 2 men - Robert Ray Fry and Timothy Allen - remain on the state's death row.

Since 2001, only one execution has been conducted in New Mexico. Terry Clark was executed by lethal injection on Nov. 6, 2001. He was convicted of the July 17, 1986 murder of 9-year-old Dena Lynn Gore, of Artesia.

In the past 50 years, 3 executions have happened in New Mexico, and 28 have been conducted since statehood in 1912. Before Clark's execution, David Cooper Nelson was executed Aug. 11, 1960 in the state's gas chamber, and James Larry Upton died in the electric chair on Feb. 12, 1956.

(source: Las Cruces Sun-News)


NM Gov. Martinez to pursue the death penalty next legislativ

Governor Susana Martinez will pursue the death penalty as part of her legislative agenda in January, said Mike Lonergan, a spokesperson with the governor's office.

Martinez Wednesday ordered flags across the state to be lowered in honor of slain Hatch Police Officer Jose Chavez. Martinez says the senseless killing during a traffic stop Friday is a tragic reminder of the dangers law enforcement officers face every day.

"People need to ask themselves, if the man who ambushed and killed 5 police officers in Dallas had lived, would he deserve the ultimate penalty? How about the heartless violent criminals who killed Officer Jose Chavez in Hatch and left his children without their brave and selfless dad? Do they deserve the ultimate penalty? Absolutely," Governor Martinez said, Because a society that fails to adequately protect and defend those who protect all of us is a society that will be undone and unsafe."

Jesse Denver Hanes, of Columbus, Ohio, faces a 1st-degree murder charge in Chavez's death. Authorities say Hanes also is a suspect in Ohio in the death of a 62-year-old man near Chillicothe.

The death penalty was abolished in New Mexico in 2009.

Wednesday, Elizabeth Martinez with the U.S. Attorney's Office said if convicted, Hanes cannot get the death penalty. "The federal crimes against Hanes are not death penalty eligible," she said, "The United States, therefore, cannot seek a capital sentence for Hanes if he is convicted on the charges against him"

Hatch Mayor and State Representative Andy Nunez is very vocal on the death penalty. He says the issue hits close to home, now more than ever, following the death of officer Jose Chavez. Nunez attended a hearing Wednesday in Albuquerque where lawmakers were discussing drafting a bill to reintroduce the death penalty in the next legislative session.

If presented, Nunez said he'd be in favor. "I'm for the death penalty because I just believe in that. You know, back in the old days we used to hang people. I'm an old timer, and if these guys know they're going to do something, they're going to shoot a policeman or kill a kid or something like that, they know they're going to die if they get caught. I believe less of them will be doing it," Nunez said.

The Las Cruces Catholic Diocese adamantly opposes the death penalty. "The Catholic Church believes it is morally wrong to take the life of another person no matter how egregious their acts are unless there is no other possible alternative," David McNeill, Chancellor of the Las Cruces Catholic Diocese.

Funeral services for Chavez, who was 33 and a father of 2, are set for Sunday at New Mexico State University's Pan American Center. Chavez was a 2-year veteran of the Hatch Police Department.

(source: Associated Press)


New Mexico governor to seek return of death penalty

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez wants the state Legislature to reinstitute the death penalty, KOB confirmed Wednesday.

Legislation to bring back the death penalty could be introduced during next January's session. New Mexico abolished the death penalty in 2009.

The news comes days a fugitive from Ohio allegedly shot and killed Hatch Police Officer Jose Chavez during a traffic stop. Earlier Wednesday, Martinez ordered flags to be flown at half-staff to honor Chavez.

The accused shooter, Jesse Hanes, faces 1st-degree murder charges.

In a statement to KOB, Martinez said the person who commits such crimes like slaying a police officer or sexually abusing and killing a child deserves the "ultimate penalty."

"People need to ask themselves, if the man who ambushed and killed 5 police officers in Dallas had lived, would he deserve the ultimate penalty? How about the heartless violent criminals who killed Officer Jose Chavez in Hatch and left his children without their brave and selfless dad? Do they deserve the ultimate penalty? Absolutely," Martinez said. "Because a society that fails to adequately protect and defend those who protect all of us is a society that will be undone and unsafe.

"And you know, I feel the same about those who sexually abuse and murder young children. I think of poor Ashlynne [Mike] and the horror she went through. Does the monster who killed her deserve the ultimate punishment? Yes - absolutely."

Peter Simonson, executive director for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, criticized Martinez's decision. He said the return of the death penalty would move the state backward instead of forward, and he called permanent incarceration for heinous crimes more effective.

"We know that the death penalty is plagued with racial disparities and is too often used to execute innocent people and people with serious mental disabilities and illnesses," Simonson said. "In a time when states are increasingly moving away from the death penalty, the governor proposes to return us to a time when we wasted millions of taxpayer dollars on this antiquated, inhumane, and unjust practice."

(source: KOB news)


Colorado should repeal the death penalty

The Denver Post reported on July 25 a growing dissatisfaction with the death penalty appeals process - leading Jeanne Adkins, a former state representative from Douglas County, to say she is "almost to the point where I would say, 'Let's do away with it and save the taxpayers the money.'" Agreed, let's do away with Colorado's death penalty.

The significant financial burden on our state associated with death penalty cases is well-documented. In Colorado, death penalty trials cost on average about 20 times more than a trial for life without parole, or LWOP. The average death penalty trial costs $3.5 million versus about $150,000 for a LWOP trial.

LWOP cases required an average of 24.5 days of in-court time, while the death penalty cases required 147.6 days. LWOP cases take an average of 526 days to complete. 2 of Colorado's death cases (Sir Mario Owens and Robert Ray) are more than 3,650 days old and still no final decision.

Choosing to select which truths we tell ourselves about the death penalty costs much more than taxpayer dollars. Distorting the facts surrounding our state-sanctioned killing is dangerous because having a death penalty law allows us to pretend it delivers justice when it does not.

Views about the death penalty are formed, nurtured and held in splendid isolation from facts about the resources required to execute a prisoner, the factors that determine who receives the death penalty, how often the state kills truly innocent people and the extent to which the death penalty does not deter crime.

Supporters of the death penalty believe the law represents justice. Sounds right. But dig below and realize the state is actually killing to show killing is wrong. Is this revenge or justice? Does the state rape rapists, burn arsonists, blind "peeping toms"?

If we really believe killing is wrong, then it should be wrong for the state to kill. If killing is wrong, the state would set the example and not kill, particularly when life without parole is punishment enough.

While money and resources (judges, juries, lawyers, court rooms, witnesses) are critical factors in deciding if Colorado should do away with the death penalty, more compelling reasons support Colorado's repeal of the death penalty.

The growing number of exonerations based on "actual innocence," not a legal technicality, show our system of justice fails to protect the innocent. Nationally, roughly 5 innocent people are exonerated yearly.

Nationwide, 1 person is exonerated for every 10 executed. Would you fly a plane knowing 10 % of the time you would have made the wrong decision?

Given this error rate, in truth, we do not know locally or nationally how many innocent people our criminal justice system has killed or will kill because the system is deeply flawed and data show us why.

Public and private data, collected for years, repeatedly describes capital punishment as a lottery shaped by poor quality of the defense lawyers, race of the accused or the victim and the county and state in which the crime occurred.

Between 2000 and 2010, states with the death penalty had murder rates 25-46 % higher than states without the death penalty.

In 2013, Gov. John Hickenlooper noted: "If the state of Colorado is going to undertake the responsibility of executing a human being, the system must operate flawlessly. Colorado's system for capital punishment is not flawless. A recent study co-authored by several law professors showed that under Colorado's capital sentencing system, death is not handed down fairly. Many defendants are eligible for capital punishment but almost none are actually sentenced to death. The inmates currently on death row have committed heinous crimes, but so have many others who are serving mandatory life sentences."

We know capital punishment does not save the state money and resources, is not a deterrent and we don't know how many innocent people we have killed or will kill in the future. So, let's do away with this law.

Research these matters and learn how broken, expensive and ineffective our system of capital punishment is. A place to start: death

(source: Guest Column' Kathleen Hynes, Ph.D., is a volunteer speaker for the ACLU of Colorado, traveling the state talking about important civil liberties issues, including doing away with the death penalty----The Gazette)


Bail hearing set for man accused in husband's fire death

A Utah man who could face the death penalty in the house-fire death of his restaurateur husband will have a bail hearing in September.

Court records show the Sept. 8 hearing was set Wednesday in the case of 47-year-old Craig Crawford.

He's accused of setting the fire in May, shortly after 72-year-old John Williams filed for divorce and unsuccessfully sought a restraining order.

Prosecutors say Crawford watered the plants outside while his trapped husband called for help. Authorities say Williams died of smoke inhalation.

Williams was a well-known LGBT pioneer in Utah who owned the popular Market Street Grill and other restaurants.

Crawford is facing aggravated murder and arson charges. Prosecutors haven't decided whether to seek capital punishment.

(source: Associated Press)


Why does Arizona have one of the largest death row inmate populations?

Our partners at PolitiFact found that California has the largest death row in the Western Hemisphere . But where does Arizona rank -- and why?

Arizona trails California, Florida and Texas, but is among the top 10 in states with death penalties for the size of its death row inmate population.

By the numbers

Arizona Department of Corrections spokesman Andrew Wilder points out that the state's death penalty has had several pauses. The law was inactive from March 1963 to April 1992 -- and again from November 2000 to May 2007.

The state's last execution took place in July 2014 , but executions have remained on hold because of a lawsuit involving the use of execution drugs.

"Nothing is imminent in Arizona in terms of executions resuming," Wilder said. "That case needs to get resolved."

Arizona currently has 120 inmates on death row, 2 more than in 2014.

Slower executions

Since 2007, Arizona has had 15 executions -- with a high of 6 in 2012. But that pales in comparison to other states, which execute inmates faster. And that may be one reason behind Arizona's high number.

"Texas is pretty swift, they convict more on state capital charges," Wilder said.

And besides challenges to Arizona's death penalty, inmates usually have multiple chances to appeal. PolitiFact notes that in California, attorneys are able to "delay justice" by filing frivolous appeals.

What's next?

Executions remain on hold because of the execution drug lawsuit.

(source: ABC news)

CALIFORNIA----female faces death penalty

Prosecutors will seek death penalty against Tami Huntsman

A Salinas mother accused of killing 2 children in her care will face the death penalty if convicted.

Wednesday morning prosecutors announced they are seeking the ultimate sentence against Tami Huntsman.

Huntsman collapsed in her chair, broke down in tears, and sobbed when she heard the decision.

Huntsman and her boyfriend, Gonzalo Curiel, are accused of murdering 6-year-old Shaun Tara and 3-year old Delyha-Tara in a small Salinas apartment in November of 2015.

Investigators said the couple drove the children's bodies 300 miles north to Redding, Calif., and hid them in a storage locker. Law enforcement officers found their bodies in the storage locker on Dec. 13, 2015. At the time they were found, Salinas Police Chief Kelly McMillin said, "In my 32-year career, this is the most egregious child abuse homicide case I've ever seen."

The Tara siblings were Huntsman's niece and nephew. Autopsies concluded that Delylah and Shaun died in Salinas from longterm child abuse.

The children lived in an apartment at 501 Fremont St. with Huntsman, Curiel, 12-year-old twins, and a 15-year-old boy. That is where the abuse began, police said.

Prosecutor Steve Somers said the decision to seek the death penalty was ultimately made by Monterey County District Attorney Dean Flippo. Flippo consulted with a team of prosecutors and interviewed the victims' family members.

Curiel and Huntsman are charged with murder, torture, child abuse, and mayhem.

"We spoke to several people, especially the children's father," Somers said.

Huntsman's attorney, Kay Duffy, left the courthouse and refused to speak to reporters Wednesday.

The attorney representing co-defendant Curiel said Flippo's decision made him physically ill.

"The idea that a government, to which I pay taxes which I help to support, is going to seek, in cold blood, (to) exterminate the life of a woman who has 12-year-old twins," said Curiel's attorney Jeremy Dzubay.

Huntsman was pregnant when she was arrested last year. Jail and county health officials would not comment about whether Huntsman had given birth, nor about what happened to the baby.

A trial date has been set for February 6, and Somers wants the case to move forward to trial "with all deliberate speed."

"And the main reason for that is we have children witnesses. We have 3 children who are going to testify as witnesses and they need to move on with their lives," Somers said.

One of those witnesses is likely to be a 9-year old girl who was found to be severely abused. Her younger brother and sister were the murder victims.

Friends said Huntsman was caring for the Tara siblings because their biological mother died after she was struck by a car, and their father was in prison.

Since Curiel was a minor at the time of the murders, he faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if a jury finds him guilty.

Dzubay said he's not ruling out the possibility that the defense will seek to separate the 2 accused killers' cases, and file a motion to have the trial moved to another county.

(source: KSBW news)


Judge Shoots Down Actor's Bid to Avoid Death Penalty for Double Murder-Dismemberment ---- In an ongoing Orange County Superior Court battle convicted Los Alamitos murderer Daniel Patrick Wozniak's bid to avoid death penalty denied

The Los Alamitos Liberty Theater murderer was once again denied a chance to avoid the death penalty.

An Orange County Superior Court judge today again shot down attempts by a convicted Costa Mesa killer seeking more evidence of the handling of jailhouse snitches.

Orange County Superior Court Judge John Conley ruled in June to quash subpoenas for more information about the use of an informant in the case against Daniel Patrick Wozniak, who was found guilty of killing 2 people.

Wozniak's attorney, Scott Sanders, brought a motion to compel more information about a Santa Ana police investigator and others, but Conley rejected the motion and granted more motions to quash his subpoenas for other records related to an internal log kept by sheriff's deputies in the special handling unit.

In May, Conley granted an evidentiary hearing into allegations that informant Fernando Perez was improperly used to solicit incriminating evidence against Wozniak while the two were jailed together. That hearing was prompted by the recent discovery of the internal administrative log.

Sanders has raised constitutional questions about his client's case as prosecutors have continued to argue that sheriff's deputies were never part of the law enforcement team building a case against Wozniak.

Conley agreed with prosecutors. On June 20 when Conley ruled against Sanders in the informant issue, the judge remarked, "the issue of jail informants in the Wozniak case, in the court's view, is a dead-end road leading nowhere."

Wozniak is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 23. Conley is also expected to consider a motion for a new trial at that time.

Wozniak was convicted of killing 26-year-old Samuel Eliezer Herr and 23- year-old Julie Kibuishi. Jurors recommended the death penalty.

Wozniak was deep in debt in May 2010, facing eviction and without money for his pending wedding, when he concocted a plan to kill his neighbor, Herr, and throw police off the trail by making it look like Herr murdered and raped his female friend, Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy argued at trial.

Wozniak, who grew up in Long Beach, further tried to confound investigators by dismembering his 1st victim and dumping the body parts in the El Dorado Nature Center in Long Beach, Murphy said.



Commentary: Get rid of California's death penalty

We all know the death penalty does not work.

A $5 billion price tag since 1978 to carry out 13 death sentences in California. Decades of delays while constitutionally guaranteed appeals are exhausted. The unavoidable risk of executing the wrong person. How is any of this smart justice?

The question goes to California voters this November through two ballot initiatives: Prop 62 and 66.

Prop 62 ends the death penalty and all its problems. It replaces a failed death penalty system with life in prison. California taxpayers will save $150 million a year, victim's families finally get the closure the death penalty promised, and there's zero chance of putting an innocent person to death.

That's why Prop 62 is supported, not only by this paper's editorial board, but by a diverse coalition of victims' families, exonerated former prisoners, retired judges and district attorneys, and faith, labor and civil rights leaders.

Prop 66, on the other hand, is backed by politicians and interest groups with a stake in the status quo. They say Prop 66 is a solution to our failed death penalty system. They are wrong. Prop 66 passes the death penalty's problems and costs to local courts and county budgets. It only makes things worse and more expensive.

Don't be fooled. Prop 66 moves death penalty appeals to local courts and adds new layers of bureaucracy. It builds mini-death rows at local prisons, leaving county taxpayers to pick up the bill. County budgets would be on the hook for defense attorney fees and expenses as well.

A new report by Loyola Law School's Alarcon Advocacy Center revealed the harmful impact Prop 66 would have in the Bay Area. In Alameda County, death penalty cases would take up 21 percent of local judicial resources. The cost of $4.5 million in attorney fees and legal expenses would be moved to the county budget. In Contra Costa County, it's 24 % of judicial resources and $2.7 million. For Santa Clara County, it's 9 % and $2.1 million.

The worst part about Prop 66 is that it tries to cut corners on justice. In doing so, it increases the risk of executing an innocent person. Right now, 355 death row inmates in California are waiting for court appointed counsel because there are not enough public defense attorneys with the experience and training to handle death penalty habeas petitions, a uniquely specialized area of law. Prop 66 forces unqualified attorneys to take death penalty cases. Mistakes will happen.

We know who is more likely to pay the price for a mistake. If we see evidence of discrimination throughout our justice system, why would the death penalty be any different? It's sadly not surprising to learn that 36 % of the inmates on death row are black. Or that, together with Latinos, they make up 60 % of the death row population.

Let's be real. The death penalty is way past fixing in California. There are 747 inmates sit on death row. It would take 15 years to carry out all those sentences - if we did so at a rate that more than triples the Texas average. And that does not account for new death penalty convictions. An execution every week. Is that really the kind of state we want California to be? And at what cost, what risk?

Prop 66 costs a lot and makes the problems worse. It is deceptive and the wrong choice for California.

It's time to end this false promise of justice and replace the death penalty system with life in prison without parole. The only real solution to a failed death penalty is yes on Prop 62.

Darryl Stallworth is an Oakland resident and attorney. He spent 15 years in the Alameda County District Attorney's office and prosecuted more than 25 murder cases.

(source: Guest Commentary; Darryl Stallworth----East Bay Times)


Judge wants to close hearing on evidence in church shooting

A federal judge in South Carolina wants to close a hearing next month to consider a defense request to keep some evidence out of the trial of Dylann Roof in the Charleston church shootings.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel issued an order Tuesday setting a Sept. 1 hearing. The order says he intends to close the hearing to protect Roof's right to a fair trial.

Gergel said making the evidence public before the court can consider whether it may be admitted could interfere with seating an impartial jury. Gergel also agreed to seal proposed questionnaires to screen potential jurors.

The 22-year-old Roof faces numerous federal charges in the shooting deaths of nine black parishioners at Emanuel AME Church in June 2015.

His death penalty trial is set for November.

(source: Associated Press)


Russian Orthodox Church ex-spokesman: Enemies of the nation can be killed

Vsevolod Chaplin, former spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church, has said in an interview with a Moscow-based radio station that "enemies of the nation can and should be killed."

In an interview with Echo of Moscow, the ultra-conservative priest said discussion is needed whether to reinstate death penalty in Russia, now suspended by a moratorium.

"It was not the right decision. God Himself clearly justifies [...] the elimination of large numbers of people to save others. Not to punish, but to make [people] come to their senses, to [bring in] discipline," Poland's kresy24 website quoted Chaplin as saying.

"What is wrong with eliminating an internal enemy? Killing some people is possible and necessary," the kresy24 website cited him as saying.

Father Chaplin is known for highly controversial public statements.

At the World Russian People's Council in 2014, he said that Russia is capable of "defeating America and its supporters."

In a 2015 interview for the Russian News Service, Chaplin said that Russia has the right "to defend itself in any of the countries and regions of the world."

Vsevolod Chaplin had been the head of the church's department for cooperation with society. He was dimissed from the post in December 2015.

(source: kresy24, Polskie Radio)


ISIS reportedly boils 6 alive in vats of tar after Sharia court orders death sentences

The Islamic State terrorist group has displayed yet another one of its gruesome methods of public execution, killing six men in Iraq accused of collaborating with the U.S.-led coalition and Kurdish forces by boiling them to death in vats of tar.

As IS (also known as ISIS or ISIL) has utilized various brutal and heinous styles of public execution in order to frighten people within its strongholds so that they won't dare challenge the authority of the group's sovereignty, IS leaders recently seem to have taken a liking to boiling their helpless victims to their demise.

After the militant group executed seven of its own jihadi soldiers who fled the battlefield in Iraq last month by tying them up and boiling them alive in a giant cauldron of water, an unamed source told Iraqi News that IS recently sentenced 6 men to death and boiled them to death in tar vats.

"ISIS executed 6 persons in Mosul for collaborating with Nineveh Operations Command," the source explained. "The death sentence was issued ISIS Sharia court."

"The six persons were placed inside tanks containing boiling tar and the execution was carried out in one of ISIS headquarters at al-Shora," the source added.

The source continued by saying that the execution was carried out in such a tortuous manner in order to intimidate local residents.

"The execution took place in public and it was done with an aim of inciting fear among the citizens," the source stated.

Media activist Abdullah al-Malla spoke with the Kurdish news site ARA News and explained that hundreds of onlookers were present for the execution. According to witnesses, an IS official read the charges against the men before the execution was carried out.

(source: Fox news)


3 Ahwazi Arab Prisoners Executed

The Iranian state-run news agency, YJC (Young Journalists Club), quoting the public relations department of the Khuzestan Judiciary, has identified the prisoners as: Ghais Obidawi, 25 at time of arrest; Ahmad Obidawi, 20 at time of arrest; and Sajjad Balawi. According to the report, the executions were carried out by Iranian authorities on the morning of Wednesday August 17. Iranian authorities did not announce the location of their executions, but Farhad Afsharian, the head of the Khuzestan Judiciary, had previously told official Iranian media that the executions would likely be carried out in public in the city of Hamidiyeh (Khuzestan province).

"These 3 people carried out several operations in spring 2015 that resulted in the martyrdom of 3 police force personnel. Also, they created fear and terror by destroying the seismological center in the Hamidiyeh region, attacking pilgrims, and engaging in terrorist acts," said Amanat Behbahani, an official in the Khuzestan Judiciary. According to unofficial local sources, neither the families or the lawyers were informed about the scheduled executions.

"These three Ahwazi Arab prisoners are victims of the Iranian government's systematic repression in the ethnic regions of Iran. We call on the international community to draw more attention and show strong reaction to the arbitrary executions in Iran, especially the executions carried out in the ethnic regions this month," says Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, spokesperson for Iran Human Rights.

In late June of this year, Iran's Judiciary spokesman, Gholamhossein Mohseni Eje'i, issued various statements confirming the execution sentences for these 3 prisoners and claimed they murdered 5 people.

Ghais, Ahmad, and Sajjad were reportedly sentenced to death after they were unlawfully arrested and subjected to a nontransparent trial. They were among 20 people who were arrested by Iranian authorities after bullets were shot at a tent belonging to Iranian security guards inside. Most of the detainees were eventually released, but the Ahwaz Revolutionary Court sentenced 3 of the defendants to death and 4 others to long prison terms. Their sentences were confirmed by Iran's Supreme Court.


2 Prisoners Hanged in Eastern Iran

A prisoner was reportedly hanged at Mashhad Central Prison (Razavi Khorasan province, northeastern Iran) on murder charges, and another prisoner was reportedly hanged at Tabas Central Prison (South Khorasan province, eastern Iran) on drug related charges.

A report by the Iranian state-run news agency, Rokna, identifies the prisoner who was executed in the city of Mashhad as "N", hanged on the morning of Tuesday August 16.

Unofficial source, Human Rights Defenders Association of Kurdistan, reports on the execution in the city of Tabas. The prisoner, whose identity is not known at this time, was reportedly also executed on Tuesday morning. Iranian official sources have not announced this execution.

(source for both: Iran Human Rights)


Ask the Rabbi: Does Jewish law promote the death penalty? As we saw in our previous column on executing convicted terrorists or enemy combatants, Jewish law has a complex relationship with the death penalty.

Almost every country in the Western world has banned the use of capital punishment in its civil penal system. The one prominent exception is the United States, which continues to debate the efficacy and morality of the death penalty for murderers. Supporters and abolitionists alike have pointed to the Jewish tradition in support of their positions. We'll review the evidence, while focusing on the question of what authority might allow the state to execute a human being, including its own citizens.

As we saw in our previous column on executing convicted terrorists or enemy combatants, Jewish law has a complex relationship with the death penalty.

The Bible mandates the death penalty in roughly 30 circumstances. One possible justification for such a harsh punishment is "just desert" - namely, something that is deserved or merited, as in the case of murder. "...The penalty shall be life for a life, eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth ..." (Exodus 21:23-24). Elsewhere, the Torah speaks of harsh punishments to deter others from doing similar acts and to remove the threat represented by this criminal. "Thus will you sweep out evil from your midst. Others will hear and be afraid, and such evil things will not be done again in your midst" (Deuteronomy 19:19-20). This perspective of deterrence and prevention was adopted by medieval thinkers like R. Sa'adia Gaon and the unknown author of Sefer Hahinuch.

Yet within talmudic literature, one finds severe impediments in implementing these punishments. For starters, strict evidential requirements make it difficult to convict a person of a capital crime, to the extent that a court which administered a death penalty every 7 years (according to others, every 70 years) was called as a "destructive tribunal."

Moreover, 40 years before the Temple's destruction, the Sages stopped convening to order such executions since an increase in violence led them to conclude that the death penalty was no longer an effective deterrent. Following the Temple's destruction, it became legally impossible as well since the law demands the death penalty to only be administered by the High Court (Sanhedrin) when it sits in judgment next to a functioning Temple. Accordingly, one might conclude, as Rabbi Shimshon R.

Hirsch did, that the biblical punishment became less of a practical measure and more of a moral lesson that our right to life is contingent on respecting the rights of others.

Yet as Simcha Assaf has documented, significant literature indicates that in the medieval and early modern periods, Jewish communities occasionally executed criminals. Such capital punishment seemingly drew its legitimacy from the talmudic proclamation that "A judicial court may impose flagellation and pronounce capital sentences even when not warranted by the Torah." Accordingly, in cases of social exigency, the court may administer corporal punishments beyond the letter of the law. Yet the question remains what basis courts or governments, both then and now, have for such sentences in the absence of a contemporary Sanhedrin.

Many have cited the Biblical notion of the "king's justice" (mishpat hamelech) as depicted in the Book of Samuel when the Jewish people requested a king. "We will be like all the nations, our king will judge us, and go out at our head and fight our battles." This power, it seems, allows the king to administer justice - including the death penalty - without the confines of the strict rules of evidence required by a Sanhedrin. In fact, Rabbenu Nissim of Gerona further suggested that an alternative system was envisioned precisely because the Sanhedrin model of justice would be too cumbersome to effectively run a nation. As Rabbi J. David Bleich has noted, many rabbinic scholars have asserted that this authority would apply equally to Jewish and non-Jewish governmental powers alike.

In fact, one prominent 20th-century scholar, Rabbi Meir Simha of Dvinsk, contended that mishpat hamelech is an extension of the Noahide Law that requires the establishment of a justice system (dinim) for every society. Rabbinic literature makes clear that gentiles may be executed for violating norms established under the Noahide Code. Some medieval authorities even understood this to be a mandatory punishment. Yet as Arnold Enker has shown, the 12th-century scholar Rabbi Meir Abulafia, along with several 20th-century scholars like rabbis Meir Don Plotzki and Yosef Henkin, asserted that civil authorities have permission to administer corporal punishments for such infractions but are not required to do so.

In the contemporary era, rabbinic scholars have been divided over the utility of the death penalty. Israeli chief rabbis Yitzhak Herzog and Benzion Uziel asserted that Halacha did not require using the death penalty in the fledging State of Israel, especially with severe jail sentences providing a satisfactory alternative. Yet in 1981, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, in a letter to New York Governor Hugh Carey, argued that Jewish law would support the utilization of this extreme measure if it could effectively deter the rampant homicide rates and consequential cheapening of human life. This position was strongly opposed by Rabbi Aharon Soloveichik, who argued that the death penalty was an intolerably cruel punishment given that it was no more effective as a deterrent than life in prison. Additionally, Prof. Aaron Kirschenbaum has noted that medieval authorities were very wary of applying lower standards of proof to execute criminals, fearing the possibility of killing an innocent person. In light of the growing number of cases in which DNA evidence has proven that defendants were wrongly convicted (and even executed), one may certainly cast doubt on whether Jewish law can tolerate death sentences when the justice process seems insufficiently sound.

(source: Rabbi Shlomo Brodo; The writer teaches at Yeshivat Hakotel, directs the Tikvah Israel Seminars, and is a junior scholar in the Judaism and Human Rights project at the Israel Democracy Institute----Jerusalem Post)


Why Ugandan government will start killing capital offender on camera

Ugandans have received with mixed reactions, reports that President Yoweri Museveni is in support of maintaining the death for capital offences.

Museveni made the comments while officiating at the passing out ceremony of 1,548 prisons officers in Kampala on Monday. Uganda upholds the death penalty for all capital offences.

Lately however, there has been a drive by parliament to amend the laws that reference the death penalty and replace them with life imprisonment with or without parole.

Uganda last put the death penalty to use in 1999 when 28 people were hanged in Luzira prison. Whether the 1,548 wardens and wardresses will witness an execution under their wardenship remains to be seen.



7 get death penalty for murder in Joypurhat

A Joypurhat court on Wednesday sentenced 7 people to death and one another to life-term imprisonment in a murder case filed in 2006.

The condemned convicts are-Wajed Ali Toraf, Choitun Mollah, Safadul, Masir Uddin, Anu, Abu Hasan Dilip and Montu. Among them, Montu was tried in absentia.

The lifer was identified as Mahbub Alam Babu.

According to the prosecution, Abdul Matin, son of Mafiz Uddin of Dharki village in Sadar upazila, was stabbed to death over previous enmity with the convicts on October 27, 2006.

Victim's brother filed a case was filed with Sadar Police Station accusing 9 people.

Golam Rabbani, sub-inspector of Sadar Police Station submitted, a chargesheet against the convicts on March 30, 2007.

After examining the records and 10 witnesses, Joypurhat District and Sessions Judge Abdur Rahim handed down the verdict.


AUGUST 16, 2016:


Looming Texas execution illustrates urgency of forgiveness

Next week Texas is scheduled to execute a death row inmate who never killed anyone, and who may not even have known a crime was going to be committed. The execution is not only out of touch with Pope Francis and the U.S. bishops, but also growing public opinion against capital punishment.

Later this month, on August 24th, the state of Texas is slated to execute Jeffrey Lee Wood - despite the fact that he has never killed anyone. In fact, according to many accounts, Wood was not even aware that the man's death for which he is being punished was going to occur.

And by all accounts, the execution of an individual who did not directly kill another individual is exceedingly rare.

Tragically, this comes almost a year after Pope Francis called for the abolition of the death penalty in his address to the United States Congress last September, where he praised the U.S. bishops for their efforts in this regard.

Continuing to further this cause, 16 bishops from the state of Texas have co-signed a letter to Governor Greg Abbott pleading that he issue a stay in the case.

"Mr. Wood has never taken a human life in his own hands," the bishops write. "He was not even in the building at the time of the crime. It is extremely rare for any person in the history of the modern death penalty to have been executed with as little culpability and participation in the taking of a life as Mr. Wood."

Now if you’re just hearing about this case for the first time, you may find yourself scratching your head and wondering how such a strange sentence come about in the first place. In short, it's the result of an old and peculiar Texas law called the "Law of Parties," where prosecutors are not required to prove that a defendant was a participant in committing the crime in question-or, for that matter, even intended to participate.

Wood was found guilty for waiting outside a convenience store while another man went inside and shot the clerk. Prosecutors charged that Wood and the other man were in cahoots, but Wood has insisted he didn't know a crime would be committed and in fact insisted that his friend not bring a gun to the store.

The other man, Daniel Reneau, was executed in 2002.

If Wood's case leaves you bewildered and questioning the aggressiveness in which the state of Texas has traditionally pursued capital punishment cases, then you're in good company.

Yet despite the pleas of the Catholic bishops and other protests on Wood's behalf, the state of Texas seems intent on pursuing even the most extreme of cases. Such a move not only puts the state at odds with Pope Francis, but also growing public opinion that continues to shift away from support of capital punishment, even in the most obvious cases of wrongdoing.

In recent years, television shows such as Making a Murderer, the hit podcast series Serial's recounting of the case of Adnan Syed, and Michelle Alexander's bestselling book The New Jim Crow have all contributed to a greater pubic awareness of the inequalities of our criminal justice system.

Yet alongside a growing distrust that our legal system can render justice, I would also like to hope we're becoming more open to something that Pope Francis has been calling all Christians to practice with greater frequency: forgiveness.

Earlier this month in Assisi, Pope Francis made it clear that if we are to fully understand and participate in this Year of Mercy, then we must understand that it is linked to the practice of forgiveness. This requires further action than just ensuring innocent men aren't falsely charged with crimes they didn't commit-it requires a disposition of forgiveness toward guilty parties, as well.

"The world needs forgiveness; too many people are caught up in resentment and harbor hatred because they are incapable of forgiving," he noted. "They ruin their own lives and the lives of those around them rather than finding the joy of serenity and peace."

In that same address he went off script and added, "How truly difficult it is for us to pardon those who have done us wrong!"

He revisited this theme just last week during his surprise visit to 20 former prostitutes where he asked their forgiveness for the sins committed against them by Christians-and then he went a step further asking their forgiveness for not praying enough for them and others in similar situations.

As the penitential rite reminds us at the start of each Mass, we must ask forgiveness for the things we have done-and what we have failed to do.

As Wood's terrible case in Texas serves to remind us, there are times in which the law of the land is flawed and often fails to facilitate justice. But as Pope Francis has continually called to our attention, there is a deeper law written into our hearts that demands that we first recognize our own grievous faults as a starting point towards forgiving others.

"Every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes," stated Pope Francis in his address to Congress.

Perhaps in this Year of Mercy, we can begin to pave the way for rehabilitation by recognizing that forgiveness is an essential part of building a Culture of Life, both in extending that mercy to those who have been convicted, and those of us who have been formally spared it as well.

(source: Christopher White,


Decision delayed on death penalty for Henrico man accused of killing parents

A Henrico County prosecutor has asked for another month to decide whether to pursue the death penalty for William Roy Brissette, who is accused of killing his parents on Easter Sunday.

Henry J. Brissette III, 59, and Martha B. Brissette, 56, were found shot to death March 27 in their home in the 3800 block of Forge Road, where their son also lived. Police said it was William Brissette who called them after the shooting.

Brissette, 23, is charged with 2 counts each of capital murder and use of a firearm. If convicted, the punishment for a capital offense is life imprisonment or death.

In June, Henrico Circuit Judge James Stephen Yoffy gave Henrico Commonwealth's Attorney Shannon Taylor until Tuesday to decide whether she will pursue the death penalty. On Tuesday, Taylor asked to delay her decision until September to allow her staff and her to comb through what she called "voluminous" medical records subpoenaed in the case.

"It is an important decision," said Yoffy, agreeing to the delay.

Capital defender Doug Ramseur, who along with Jeffrey Everhart is representing Brissette, said the delay should not affect their timeline. A trial date is tentatively set for next June, although Ramseur originally asked for up to 2 years to prepare for trial.

Brissette appeared in court Tuesday with a full beard, eyes glued to the floor, and a grin on his face. He broke into silent laughter during the brief motions hearing. He was the only one laughing.

Yoffy also denied 2 motions from Brissette's attorneys on Tuesday. In 1 motion, they asked that the personal information of the members of the grand jury that indicted Brissette be released, including their names and addresses, to determine whether any discrimination occurred. Prosecutors argued, and the judge agreed, that there was no reason to believe the grand jury had been selected in any prejudicial manner.

In a 2nd motion, the defense asked that the court find unconstitutional a statute governing the appointment of mental health experts to evaluate an indigent capital defendant, because it differs from another statute for capital defendants who can afford to hire their own expert.

Brissette's attorney argued that the statute not only requires a report from mental health experts who evaluate poorer defendants, but also demands that the defense share the report with the prosecution before trial. Neither is required of well-off capital defendants.

While he applauded their "creativity," Yoffy said the defense had not proved that indigent defendants were a "suspect class," meaning that they are likely the subject of discrimination.

(source: Richmond Times-Dispatch)


Floridians prefer life without parole over capital punishment for murderers

Support for the death penalty is at historic 40-year lows according to the Gallup poll, which has been tracking attitudes on the issue since the 1930s. Pew Research Center's last national poll found support to be as low as 56 %. But support for the death penalty may actually be even weaker than these polls reveal because pollsters routinely fail to ask the most telling question: Do you prefer the death penalty or life in prison without parole for persons convicted of 1st-degree murder?

My latest research in Florida, which is consistent with my polling in several other states, indicates that a large majority of Florida citizens have a strong preference for a sentence of life in prison without parole over the death penalty when they are given the option of lifetime imprisonment in a survey.

I conducted a recent poll of a representative group of nearly 500 jury-eligible Floridians. It showed that when respondents are asked to choose between the 2 legally available options - the death penalty and life in prison without parole - Floridians clearly favor, by a strong majority (57.7 % to 43.3 %), life imprisonment without parole over death. The overall preference was true across racial groups, genders, educational levels and religious affiliation.

In this sense, citizens in Florida are like their counterparts across the country in their preference for life without parole over the death penalty for persons convicted of murder, and also in their doubts about certain aspects of our nation's system of death sentencing.

For instance, my research also showed that a majority of Floridians oppose sentencing the seriously mentally ill to death; they do not believe the death penalty deters murders; and they believe that most religious opinion is against capital punishment.

This strong preference for life without parole exists even though 2/3 of respondents (68.9 %) mistakenly believe that the death penalty is cheaper to administer than life without parole, something that virtually every study of the issue has indicated is incorrect. As this misconception is debunked, it may well strengthen the already strong preference for life without parole.

A sizable minority of Floridians (40.2 %) also erroneously believe that persons serving life without parole will get out of prison at some point. If more citizens were disabused of this mistaken belief, this too would likely increase Floridians' preference for life without parole.

Perhaps the most remarkable finding from my research was the fact that support for the death penalty plummeted to just 29 % when respondents were told that the prisoners serving life without parole would be required to work in prison and could be directed to give part of their earnings to the victims' families. Support eroded even further when respondents were also told that the money currently spent on capital trials - at least $1 million additionally per case - could be used instead to investigate and prosecute unsolved rapes and murders. In that scenario, three out of four Floridians favored life without parole over the death penalty.

What this research demonstrates is that Floridians' attitudes on the death penalty are complex. Their preferences change depending on the range of options presented to them. The go-to polling question, "Do you support the death penalty?" rarely captures the nuance of how voters are thinking about this issue. That question offers a limited and often flawed snapshot of voter attitudes, capturing only abstract support or opposition, but failing to expose strong preferences and deeper pragmatic thinking.

When Floridians are asked to decide between the legally available options for persons convicted of 1st-degree murder - the death penalty or life in prison without parole - my research shows that a substantial majority prefer life.

(source: Craig Haney is a Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and co-director of the University of California Criminal Justice & Health Consortium. His research was conducted between April and July and involved more than 500 jury-eligible Floridians. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 % points----Tampa Bay Times)


Lawyer for Rasheem Dubose, man sentenced to death in 2006 killing of DreShawna Davis, facing suspension

A prominent Jacksonville lawyer is facing a 91-day suspension for his conduct in the case of Rasheem Dubose, sentenced to death for the killing of 8-year-old DreShawna Davis.

Richard Kuritz, one of the most well-known criminal defense attorneys in Jacksonville, has agreed to accept the suspension of his law license to settle a complaint brought against him by The Florida Bar. The complaint stems from how Kuritz behaved after a juror contacted him after Dubose had been convicted and the jury had recommended he get the death penalty.

That juror, Tomi Chavez, called Kuritz after jurors had recommended death and said she was bullied by other jurors into the conviction and sentence recommendation. Chavez said other jurors, in a racist manner, made fun of the way Dubose spoke, researched the case on their cellphones while they deliberated and debated whether a teardrop tattoo on his face was a gang symbol or a sign that he'd killed someone.

But while Kuritz was handling Dubose's appeal, which hinged on Chavez's allegations, he also represented Chavez for 2 traffic tickets and in a civil personal injury lawsuit. The trial judge who sentenced Dubose to death, Lawrence Haddock, also accused Kuritz of writing out an affidavit that Chavez signed and then pretending that another lawyer had written it.

As part of Kuritz's suspension, he will lose all of the court-appointed clients he now represents. The suspension must still be signed off on by the Florida Supreme Court, which could choose to impose a harsher penalty.

Bar spokeswoman Francine Walker said Kuritz will not automatically get his law license back after the suspension concludes. Under Bar rules a lawyers suspended for over 90 days must prove he has been rehabilitated before his law license will be returned.

The decision on whether Kuritz has been rehabilitated will be made by 7th Judicial Circuit Judge Elizabeth Blackburn, who was appointed as the "referee" by the Florida Supreme Court to hear Kuritz's bar complaint.

According to Florida Bar rules, "the reinstatement process can take several months, as Bar counsel must investigate the petition for reinstatement, and the matter goes back to the original referee for a hearing."

Kuritz did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.

Kuritz has been Dubose's lawyer since 2006 when he was arrested in DreShawna's death. In July 2006 Dubose fired at least 20 shots at a Third Avenue house in retaliation for being robbed at gunpoint and forced to drop his pants an hour earlier by DreShawna's uncle. DreShawna was in the house and the only one killed. Dubose's brothers, Tajuane and Terrell, also fired into the home and were sentenced to life in prison.

DreShawna became the face of Jacksonville's state-leading homicide rate and galvanized city leaders to do something about it. The Jacksonville Journey anti-crime initiative was launched soon afterward.

Kuritz got a hung jury in the 1st trial, but Dubose was convicted and sentenced to death by Haddock in the 2nd trial after jurors recommended death by an 8-4 vote.

Kuritz continued to represent Dubose on appeal and took Chavez's allegations to the Florida Supreme Court. Rather than ruling on the appeal, justices sent the case back to Haddock to conduct a hearing on Chavez's allegations.

Haddock ruled in 2014 that the juror's allegations of misconduct were not credible and blasted Kuritz for taking them to the Supreme Court on appeal without revealing she was his client in unrelated cases.

Kuritz knew it was a conflict of interest, Haddock said, while also reporting his behavior to the the Bar.

It is unclear what will now happen with Dubose. The Supreme Court has not ruled on his appeal since the October 2013 oral argument. If it rules now, it'll be basing the ruling on the arguments of a lawyer who was seriously disciplined for his behavior in the case.

"What to do will be up to the [Florida] Supreme Court," said Stephen Harper, a clinical professor at the Death Penalty Clinic and a law professor at Florida International University. "It will look to see if there is any prejudice on the appeal because of the lawyer's conduct."

If there is some prejudice, or even the appearance of prejudice, the high court will probably have another lawyer redo the appeal, Harper said.

Kuritz was regularly appointed to represent indigent defendants in criminal cases when the 4th Judicial Circuit public defender and the Florida Regional Conflict Counsel could not represent someone. But judges stopped appointing Kuritz after these allegations became public.

Caroline Emory, court counsel for the 4th Judicial Circuit, which is made up of Duval, Clay and Nassau counties, said Kuritz could ask to be put back on the list of lawyers who take on court-appointed clients once his suspension concludes and he is reinstated.

It will be up to the judges of the 4th Judicial Circuit to determine whether he gets back on the list, Emory said.



Officials seek death penalty for Worley ---- Suspect faces 19 counts in slaying

Fulton County prosecutors said Tuesday they are seeking the death penalty for James Worley in last month's killing of 20-year-old Sierah Joughin.

A grand jury also on Tuesday returned a 19-count indictment against Worley on a range of charges in the case.

Worley faces two counts each of aggravated murder, murder, abduction, felonious assault, aggravated robbery, and possessing weapons while under disability. He could not legally own weapons because of previous convictions of abduction and cultivating marijuana.

The grand jury added 4 additional charges of kidnapping, and single counts of possessing criminal tools, gross abuse of a corpse, and tampering with evidence.

The aggravated murder charges carry death penalty specifications. All 19 charges stem from the kidnapping and murder of Ms. Joughin. While several of the same charges are alleged in multiple counts, each is based on a different section of Ohio law, county Prosecutor Scott Haselman said in a written release.

In the release, Mr. Haselman said that while the indictment alleges multiple counts of abduction, kidnapping, murder, and aggravated murder, "those counts assert alleged violations that emanate from different subsections of the relevant portions of the Ohio Revised Code."

Each count alleges Worley committed the act from about July 19, when Ms. Joughin disappeared, to July 22, when authorities found her remains and arrested Worley. Worley, 57, of rural Delta is incarcerated at the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio near Stryker.

Worley's indictment provides few specifics in the case. One kidnapping count alleges Worley committed the act "with purpose to engage in sexual activity." An autopsy found no physical evidence Ms. Joughin was sexually assaulted.

Prosecutors, citing Ohio law in the abuse of a corpse charge, alleged Worley "recklessly treat[ed] a human corpse in a way that would outrage reasonable community sensibilities."

Ms. Joughin, of Metamora, went missing July 19 while riding a bike in rural Fulton County. Her remains were found along Fulton County Road 7. She was handcuffed and died of asphyxiation, according to the coroner.

Worley was arrested on an abduction charge and later charged with aggravated murder.

Local, state, and federal investigators spent several days searching Worley's 3-acre property. Investigators found a secret room in his barn, which contained a freezer with blood in it and restraints, according to a search warrant executed by the sheriff's office. No human remains were found on the property.

Worley was previously convicted of abducting then-26-year-old Robin Gardner on July 4, 1990, as she biked near Whitehouse. He served 3 years in prison in that case.

According to a warrant, Worley told a court-mandated therapist about that time that he "learned from each abduction he had done and the next one he was going to bury."

Worley is set for an initial appearance by video at 10:30 a.m. Friday.

A spokesman for Mr. Haselman said Tuesday the prosecutor again declined to comment, as he has throughout the investigation. Worley's attorney, Mark Powers, did not return an interview request.

(source: Toledo Blade)


Prosecutors Seeking Death Penalty in Ohio Student's Killing

Prosecutors in Ohio will pursue the death penalty against a man charged with killing a college student who disappeared while riding her bicycle.

The decision comes as new charges were announced Tuesday against 57-year-old James Worley.

A grand jury indicted him on kidnapping, tampering with evidence and corpse abuse charges as well as abduction and aggravated murder.

Worley has been held without bond since authorities charged him with killing 20-year-old University of Toledo student Sierah Joughin.

Joughin's body was found in a cornfield on July 22, 3 days after she was bicycling just west of Toledo.

Worley's attorney has declined to comment since the arrest. A message was left with him Tuesday.

Worley was convicted in the 1990 abduction of a woman who was biking near Toledo.

(source: Associated Press)


Capital-murder count levied in Arkansas deputy's death

A Greenwood man was charged Monday with killing a Sebastian County sheriff's deputy, wounding the Hackett police chief, shooting at other law enforcement officers and wounding a police dog.

Prosecuting Attorney Dan Shue charged Billy Monroe Jones, 34, with one count of capital murder in the fatal shooting of Deputy Bill Cooper, 66, and 10 counts of attempted capital murder over the shots fired at officers who arrived at Jones' rural home in response to a disturbance call Wednesday morning.

Cooper's funeral is 10 a.m. today at the Fort Smith Convention Center.

The officers named in the attempted capital-murder counts, according to court records, were Hackett Police Chief Darrell Spells, who was wounded in the shooting; Greenwood police officers Mason Redding and Dennis Wisner; Barling police officer Keith Lindley; and Sebastian County sheriff's deputies Alex Beauvais, Zachary Krieger, Mark Harris, Sgt. Charles Capps, Capt. Allan Marx and Capt. Steve Cox.

Shue also charged Jones with one felony count of killing or injuring an animal used by law enforcement or a search-and-rescue team. Kina, the Greenwood police dog, was shot twice as she sat in a Greenwood patrol car that was struck by several bullets.

Jones also was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. Authorities have said a rifle was used in the shootings but have provided no other details.

Jones, who has been held without bail in the Crawford County jail since his arrest Wednesday, is to be arraigned at 9 a.m. Wednesday before Sebastian County Circuit Judge J. Michael Fitzhugh.

Capital murder carries the death penalty in Arkansas. Shue said in a news release Monday that he will carefully study the evidence before deciding whether to pursue the death penalty against Jones. The other penalty for a capital-murder conviction is life in prison without parole.

"I will examine the sufficiency of the evidence linking the defendant to the offenses, the seriousness of the offenses, the defendant's culpability, aggravating circumstances, mitigating circumstances and potential victim impact evidence," he said in the release.

Arkansas State Police spokesman Bill Sadler said his agency is investigating the shootings. Sebastian County Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck said last week that state police were asked to conduct the investigation to allow sheriff's office personnel time to mourn the loss of their fellow deputy.

Before Cooper's death, the last Arkansas law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty was Johnson County sheriff's Auxiliary Deputy Sonny Allan Smith, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, a nonprofit website dedicated to honoring law enforcement officers who die in the line of duty. Smith was killed in May 2015 while investigating a burglary.

The Sebastian County sheriff's office received a call about 7 a.m. Wednesday that Jones had gone to his father's property, next door to his, to take some tools and pulled a gun on him before leaving.

Spells told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that he heard the call on the radio and, like other deputies and officers, headed to Jones' property. He was about a mile away from the property at a staging point when he heard that Cooper had been shot and three other officers were taking fire.

Spells and Marx, the sheriff's SWAT team commander, led other officers toward the mobile home. Vehicles that approached within 100 yards of the home were fired at.

Spells said his vehicle took 7 to 9 bullets, 1 of which grazed his temple. He abandoned his vehicle and jumped into a ditch.

While Capps provided cover fire, Marx told the Democrat-Gazette last week, he and other officers pulled Cooper and Spells out of the line of fire and to medical personnel who transported them to the hospital in Fort Smith.

Cooper was shot about 7:40 a.m. and died about 1:15 p.m., according to the sheriff's office. Spells, who was wounded minutes after Cooper, was treated and released from the hospital.

Jones surrendered about noon Wednesday.



Attorney general disputes death penalty costs

Attorney General Doug Peterson on Tuesday disputed the estimated $14.6 million annual cost of retaining the death penalty in Nebraska cited a day earlier in a study commissioned by supporters of ending capital punishment in the state.

"Relying heavily on studies from California, Florida, Texas and other states, this group's report fails to accurately reflect actual costs associated with the death penalty in Nebraska," Peterson said.

Pointing to the major cost factor of death penalty appeals cited by Creighton University economist Ernie Goss in the report prepared for Retain a Just Nebraska, the attorney general noted that his office handles all criminal appeals filed by the state of Nebraska, including those filed by inmates facing the death penalty.

"The total number of criminal appeals filed is approximately 500 per year," Peterson said, and less than 1 % of those appeals are filed in capital cases annually.

"It is misleading for this report to conclude that, on an annual basis, having the death penalty costs an amount that far exceeds the total annual budgets of both the Nebraska attorney general's office and the state public defender's office combined," he said.

"Nebraska voters are entitled to accurate Nebraska figures as they determine whether to keep the death penalty in Nebraska."

The study by Goss and Associates Economic Solutions stated that costs associated with the death penalty as opposed to a sentence of life without parole are higher at every stage of the judicial and correctional process, including legal defense, pre-trial activities, jury selection, length of trial, incarceration and appeal.

(source: Lincoln Journal Star)


County to seek death penalty in double-murder case

The Teton County Prosecutor's office confirmed that they will be seeking the death penalty for Erik Ohlson, 39, of Jackson.

Ohlson will be arraigned in an Idaho District Court on Sept. 6 with 2 charges of 1st degree murder.

Ohlson faces 1 murder charge for the shooting death of Jennifer Nalley, 39, of Driggs. The 2nd count stems from the death of Nalley's unborn child.

Ohlson was arrested for a DUI after crashing his vehicle into a utility pole. While he was in custody, he told investigators he shot Nalley after coming to her home in Driggs. He said he was in a relationship with Nalley and was aware that she was pregnant.

There, he will have the opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty.

County Prosecutor Kathy Spitzer confirmed that prosecutors would declare their intent to seek the death penalty before then.

Cases involving the death penalty can become very expensive.

"The cost of a capital case can vary widely depending on the specifics of the case and the speed at which the prosecution and defense come to a settlement," said Idaho Association of Counties Associate General Counsel Dan Blocksom. "The range can be anywhere from about $10,000 to $500,000..."

By seeking the death penalty, the county is triggering the Capital Crimes Defense Fund, CCDF, which is designed to "ease the burden of the cost of trials for death penalty cases."

The fund, which counties pay into on a per capita basis, is governed by the Idaho Association of Counties, IAC.

"Counties don't have to pay into the fund, but if they don't, then the State Appellate Public Defender will not handle the defense for their appeals," said Blocksom.

The CCDF works kind of like an insurance policy, with a deductible of $10,000 and an annual "premium" based on county population.

According to Blocksom, Teton County's dues amount from 2007 to 2016 has been $3,095 per year.

Once the county pays the deductible, "the CCDF will pay the costs for the second attorney [required for death penalty cases] and all other related trial costs including but not limited to preparation, investigation, forensics, mitigation, etc."

These requirements can get very expensive.

"Even if the capital defense kicks in, some counties can almost go broke over prosecuting something like this," said Blocksom.

This is in part because the CCDF pays for only 1 of the defendant's attorneys and does not pay any of the prosecution's bills.

"IAC has been primarily concerned about ensuring the 6th Amendment right to counsel for indigent defendants, and thus has been urging the Idaho Legislature to provide state funding to the counties to protect this right," said Blocksom. "Prosecution, on the other hand, is not a constitutional issue in the same way that public defense is, so IAC's handling of this issue is only indirectly through its assistance of the CCDF board's discussions."

Just the reimbursable parts of a capital case can reach the hundreds of thousands.

The CCDF paid more than $400,000 in claims to Latah County's defense of Dale Shackelford, who killed his ex-wife and her boyfriend and then set fire to the building where their bodies were found.

Shoshone County Clerk Peggy White is dealing with the payments for one such capital case, where a 26-year-old woman was charged with murdering a 22 month old child. The case is still ongoing, but no longer involves the death penalty.

For White, paying for the case has proven a challenge.

"It's devastating to have a murder case," said White. "So far, I've got a ton of bills. Approximately $168,000 thus far ... It's a big deal to us."

Shoshone County, which is 76 % public land and has a population of about 12,600, had to pay for trial costs upfront by forming a trust account, which the Defense Fund reimburses.

To be reimbursed, the expenses have to first be approved by the CCDF board, made up of representative county commissioners from each state district.

Furthermore, according to the CCDF's guidelines, "if a case is converted from a capital case to a non-capital case prior to trial, the CCDF shall pay only those amounts incurred prior to conversion to a non-capital case."

Prosecutors can remove the intent to have capital punishment at any time.

Ohlson's defense has not returned a request for comment.

(source: Teton Valley News)


Debating the death penalty

Editor's note: Today's editorials appeared in The Columbian. Editorial content from other publications is provided to give readers a sampling of regional and national opinion and does not necessarily reflect positions endorsed by the Editorial Board of The Daily News.

The pending criminal case against Brent Luyster provides an opportunity for necessary discussions about issues surrounding the death penalty in Washington.

Many of those topics were explored recently in an article by Columbian reporter Jessica Prokop. The story focused on the financial costs of pursuing capital punishment - costs that, according to a Seattle University study, typically run about $1 million per case. And yet the social costs surrounding the death penalty are equally important as debate continues throughout the nation over the moral and philosophical dilemma engulfing capital punishment.

Gov. Jay Inslee already has weighed in with his opinion about these costs. In 2014, he implemented a moratorium on capital punishment in the state, saying he would offer a reprieve to those who have been sentenced to death but would not commute sentences. "Equal justice under the law is the state's primary responsibility," Inslee said at the time. "And in death penalty cases, I'm not convinced equal justice is being served"

Certainly, there is room for debate surrounding capital punishment. There is room for discussion about inequity in how the punishment is handed out; in how laws vary from state to state; and in how there is the persistent possibility of executing somebody who, in truth, is innocent of the crimes for which they have been convicted. But the fact is that Washington voters have approved the death penalty, establishing the state's current capital punishment law in 1981. And the fact is that Inslee has a duty to carry out the laws of the state rather than unilaterally imposing his vision of fairness and equity.

The governor's stance on the issue should not influence those in the office of the Clark County Prosecutor, who will decide whether or not to pursue the death penalty against Luyster. He has been charged with gunning down 2 friends on the porch of a rural Woodland home, then barging inside and shooting 2 women, 1 of whom died. Clark County Prosecutor Tony Golik said: "This is an issue that prosecutor offices statewide wrestle with. We are in a difficult position as prosecutors in this state where we have the death penalty that is continuously approved by voters. The law provides for that sentence in certain circumstances, but we also have, conversely, the governor's position and also the knowledge that the Supreme Court has routinely reversed death-penalty decisions."

It also is an issue that voters should again wrestle with. Last year, the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys announced that it planned to push the Legislature to put a death-penalty referendum before voters. But no such measure is on this year's ballot, leaving prosecutors to weigh a state law that passed a generation ago against the governor's moratorium. In the meantime, taxpayers are left to weigh the cost of capital-punishment cases against the cost of incarcerating the most abhorrent criminals for the rest of their lives - a toll that runs about $36,000 a year for each death-row inmate.

In the long run, money should not be a significant factor in considering the death penalty. What is most important is the notion of justice and the equity with which it is handed out. Establishing and implementing a system that reflects our highest ideals and that engenders the trust of the public has a value that is priceless in a civilized society.



Donald J Trump phoned in to Fox & Friends in May 2015, shortly after 2 police officers were shot dead in Mississippi.

Presenter Steve Doocy wanted to know what an appropriate punishment for the killers would be.

"Well, it's the death penalty," Trump said airily. "We have people who are, these 2, animals who shot the cops ... the death penalty, it should be brought back and it should be brought back strong."

A month later, Trump announced he was running for president. He has barely said the words "death penalty" in public since, although a top adviser has called for Hillary Clinton's execution, saying she "should be put in the firing line and shot for treason".

Clinton only talks about capital punishment when pressed and then, clumsily. Unlike most of her own party - including running mate Tim Kaine - the Democrat supports death in the case of terrorists. She has said she would be happy if someone would outlaw execution. Someone else.

In campaign 2016, the safest stance on the ultimate punishment may be silence. Both candidates need to woo disaffected members of the other's party. Neither can afford to lose their own loyal base.

"Why bring it up if it's going to stir the pot if you don't have to?" said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, senior fellow at the University of Southern California's Sol Price School of Public Policy.

For the 1st time since 1972, the Democratic party platform advocates repealing the death penalty. Mainstream Republican opinion has begun to turn away from it, too. Executions and death sentences are down nationwide, while the number of exonerated death row inmates creeps upward.

The percentage of Americans who support the death penalty has been steadily declining since its high of 80% in the mid-1990s, although a comfortable majority - 61% according to Gallup, and 56% according to the Pew Research Center - still favor the use of capital punishment for a person convicted of murder.

And California - with the biggest death row in the country - could become the 6th state in recent years to do away with executions as voters there face dueling ballot measures in November, one to repeal the death penalty, the other to streamline it.

Trump has increasingly positioned himself as a law and order candidate. He doubled down on fear of immigrant criminals in his speech to the Republican national convention and recently said he supported "extreme vetting" of people from other countries. Yet he has so far shied away from promising grisly execution for murderers.

The main exception was a December speech to the New England Police Benevolent Association, a police officers' union, in which he promised an executive order mandating death sentences for cop-killers. (This would not work out, in any case; mandatory death sentences were rendered unconstitutional by a 1976 supreme court decision.)

Perhaps the most illuminating examples of Trump's death penalty position are the newspaper advertisements he took out in 1989 demanding death for five black and Latino teenagers - the so-called Central Park 5 - who were convicted of the rape and attempted murder of a woman that year. The 5 men were exonerated in 2002.

The full-page advertisements are classic Trump. Under the vast headline "BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY. BRING BACK OUR POLICE!" is a lengthy screed, much of it in capital letters.

"I want to hate these muggers and murderers," Trump wrote. "They should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, they should be executed for their crimes."

The Republican platform, recently ratified at the party's convention in Cleveland, contains just 2 sentences on the subject of capital punishment.

"The constitutionality of the death penalty is firmly settled by its explicit mention in the Fifth Amendment," it says. "With the murder rate soaring in our great cities, we condemn the Supreme Court's erosion of the right of the people to enact capital punishment in their states."

This reflects an emerging Republican critique of the death penalty, which more and more conservatives oppose, said Michael Radelet, a professor of sociology at the University of Colorado at Boulder who studies capital punishment.

The rising conservative critique is based on 3 pillars, the 1st of which is financial. "It costs a zillion dollars to send anybody to death row, so fiscal conservatives want to cut down on that money," Radelet said.

The 2nd, he said, is religious principle; the pope condemned capital punishment in his 2015 speech to Congress, and "if we get a survey of religious leaders in the US there’s no question that the overwhelming majority would stand opposed to the death penalty."

The 3rd pillar, according to Radelet, is a simpler attitude of distrust in governmental efficiency, summarized as "hell, the government can't even fill a pothole properly", so why should it be trusted with the power of life and death? None of these arguments appear to carry any weight with the party's nominee. Trump has stayed largely silent on the subject, with the exception of his remarks on Fox & Friends, and a 2015 New York Times interview in which he said that the death penalty was a deterrent because when somebody is executed "you know that person's not going to kill again".

In the 1980s and 90s, opposition to the death penalty was "political poison in most elections", said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. "Now, you are seeing Republican legislators, many of them conservative Republicans, openly oppose the death penalty."

Still, most of the decline in death penalty support comes from Democrats, according to a 2015 study by Pew Research Center. Nearly 60% of Democrats oppose the death penalty, compared to just 25% in 1996.

Which may be part of the problem for Clinton, who was roundly criticized for her awkward responses to questions about the death penalty during the primary season.

Both of her primary rivals - Vermont senator Bernie Sanders and former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley - opposed capital punishment. Now that the general election is under way , a Clinton challenge will be getting Sanders' fervent and progressive supporters to the polls.

Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has been criticized for her awkward responses to questions about the death penalty.

At a CNN/TV One town hall meeting in Ohio in March, an undecided voter named Ricky Jackson stood up to ask the former secretary of state a question. Jackson had spent 39 years in prison for murder before being exonerated and freed in 2014.

"Senator, I spent some of those years on death row, and," Jackson began. He paused. Wiped tears from his eyes. "Excuse me, I'm sorry. I came perilously close to my own execution ... I would like to know how can you still take your stance on the death penalty in light of what we know right now."

"You know, this is such a profoundly difficult question," Clinton began cautiously.

"And what I have said and what I continue to believe is that the states have proven themselves incapable of carrying out fair trials that give any defendant all of the rights a defendant should have, all of the support that the defendant's lawyer should have."

Then she stepped into deep trouble, with a response critics roundly decried as typical triangulation, a kind of squishy have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too caution.

"I have said I would breathe a sigh of relief if either the supreme court or the states, themselves, began to eliminate the death penalty," she said.

"At this point, given the challenges we face from terrorist activities primarily in our country that end up under federal jurisdiction for very limited purposes," she continued, "I think that it can still be held in reserve for those."

Maybe, she said, "it is distinction that is hard to support."

(source: The Guardian)


Nearly 2 weeks of new hearings planned in Rodriguez death penalty appeal

Nearly 2 weeks have been set aside next spring and summer for court hearings in Alfonso Rodriguez Jr.'s appeal of his death sentence.

4 days starting March 28 are allotted for an evidentiary hearing on forensic issues in the murder case. An evidentiary hearing on Rodriguez's mental health is slated to start June 20 and last f4 days or more.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson made the scheduling decisions Tuesday, Aug. 16, at a hearing in Fargo's federal court. Erickson said he expects the mental health hearing may take longer than four days given the complexity of the issues at hand.

Rodriguez, 63, of Crookston was sentenced to death for the 2003 kidnapping, rape and murder of 22-year-old Dru Sjodin, a University of North Dakota student. The question of Rodriguez's mental capacity is a key element of his appeal, as the U.S. Supreme Court has held it's unconstitutional to execute an intellectually disabled person.

Rodriguez's attorney, Assistant Federal Defender Victor Abreu, told the judge that the mental health hearing will involve a significant number of witnesses, more than the forensic hearing.

The 2 hearings could be the longest period of testimony seen in the case since the trial that resulted in Rodriguez's conviction in 2006.

The progress of Rodriguez's appeal has lately been slowed by a change in his defense attorneys. Abreu is one of the attorneys from the Federal Community Defender Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania recently tapped to represent Rodriguez.

Rodriguez had been represented by court-appointed attorneys Michael Wiseman, Joseph Margulies and Andrew Mohring during his appeal. But in March, the 3 asked to be replaced by the FCDO because of staffing changes in the federal defender system and the FCDO's expertise.

On Tuesday, at the request of the defense, the judge extended the appointment of Rodriguez's outgoing attorneys until Oct. 6, allowing them to help with the case until the FCDO is ready to take over full time.

Complicating the handoff are tens of thousands of pages of case documents that must be transferred from Rodriguez's old attorneys to his new ones. Abreu told the judge the transfer is 90 % complete.

In 2011, attorneys filed a habeas corpus motion to appeal Rodriguez's death sentence. Considered a last-resort appeal after his direct appeals were turned down by the U.S. Supreme Court, the motion argues he is mentally disabled and was insane at the time of the crime, making him ineligible for the death penalty.

(source: Duluth News Tribune)


Hearings in North Dakota death penalty case pushed back

A federal judge on Tuesday pushed back the next hearing in a North Dakota death penalty case to allow a new defense team to catch up on evidence.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson had re-assigned the case of Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. in June to the Federal Community Defender Office, or FCDO, in Pennsylvania. The move was viewed primarily as a cost-cutting measure.

A jury in 2005 convicted Rodriguez, of Crookston, Minnesota, for kidnapping and killing University of North Dakota student Dru Sjodin, of Pequot Lakes, Minnesota, in November 2003. It was North Dakota's 1st federal death penalty case and led to tougher laws for sex offenders.

The next hearing in the case was expected to take place on Nov. 1 in Fargo, with a 2nd hearing to follow on Jan. 17. During a 10-minute session in open court Tuesday, Erickson scheduled a hearing on forensic issues for March 28 and hearing on mental health issues for June 20.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Keith Reisenauer, who filed court documents in March arguing against the change in lawyers, had no objection to the new timeline and called it the best approach "to move forward."

Erickson tentatively scheduled 2 weeks for the hearing on mental health issues after Victor Abreu, an assistant federal defender, said there would be "a significant amount of witnesses" expected to take the stand.

Abreu and federal prosecutors declined to comment after the hearing.

The habeas corpus motion, considered the last step in the appeal process, was originally filed in 2011. Erickson called on prominent death penalty Joseph Margulies, a Cornell University law professor, to lead the defense team.

The nearly 300-page appeal by Margulies says, among other things, that Rodriguez is mentally disabled, his trial lawyers were ineffective and the medical examiner made numerous mistakes.

"In large part, this is a case about junk science and false forensics," the appeal says.

(source: Associated Press)


Pain for mom of drug mule son on death row

As a young South African woman prepares for her 1st court appearance in Thailand for drug trafficking, a mother, whose son faces the death penalty in Malaysia for the same crime, has appealed to parents to warn their children about the perils of drugs.

The appeal by Ria Zeelie, whose son Deon Cornelius, 30, was sentenced to death in Malaysia in 2014, follows the weekend arrest of Vanessa Ann du Toit.

She is the 2nd South African to be arrested on drug-trafficking charges in a week.

Another South African woman was arrested in Panama for drug trafficking last week.

Du Toit was arrested with Ukrainian national Yaroslav Yanovski after they landed in Bangkok on Friday.

Du Toit, on a South African police drugs watchlist since last year, was allegedly found in possession of 2.5kg of cocaine.

Yanovski was allegedly caught with 4kg of cocaine.

Hawks spokesman Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said the pair were arrested shortly after landing in Thailand.

Both had flown on the same flight from Sao Paulo via Ethiopia.

"Du Toit flew from South Africa via Angola to Sao Paulo, where she allegedly collected the narcotics."

He said the arrests were made following liaison between police in South Africa, Brazil and Thailand.

''In a follow-up operation by Thai police, a Thai woman who had come to the airport to collect the drugs from the suspects, a Nigerian national and a Guinean national were arrested.

"They seemed to be part of an international narcotics network."

Mulaudzi said Yanovski was arrested after he was identified through his airline booking.

"It was made exactly the same time as Du Toit's and paid for by the same person at the same travel agency," he said.

For Zeelie and her family the past two years have been a living hell.

"We are not sure when the execution will be. Deon is trying to appeal it and will write to the Malaysian king to ask for leniency.

"Every day we pray for good news. We have been unable to visit him, which is terrible."

She said the day before Cornelius flew he phoned her to say he was going to Singapore for work.

"He would not say what the job was. The next I heard he was arrested for carrying crystal meth. Since 2014 he has been on death row, and for what?

"The government must become involved and warn children about the dangers of drugs."

Patricia Gerber, director of Locked Up - an organisation that campaigns for the rights of South Africans imprisoned overseas - said more than 3000 South Africans were incarcerated overseas on drug-related crimes.



PM: Terrorists to be prosecuted with justice, not revenge----Turkey's Prime Minister says a fair trial for perpetrators of terror acts would be a greater punishment than the death penalty.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on Tuesday said a fair trial for perpetrators of terror acts would be a greater punishment than the death penalty, adding that Turkish courts will prosecute those "not in revenge, but with justice."

Yildirim said, "Death penalty is immediate death, however, there are greater deaths for them, which is objective and fair judgment."

Last month's failed coup attempt that the Turkish government believes perpetrated by members of Fethullah Terrorist Organisation (FETO) left 240 people dead and nearly 2,200 injured.

Since then, support for bringing back the death penalty has increased in Turkey.

Yildirim said, "Turkish justice will bring terrorist organisations to account for our martyrs."

He referred to Monday's PKK car bomb attack against a traffic police station in Turkey's southeastern province of Diyarbakir, which martyred 1 child and 5 police officers.

Yildirim said PKK serves the same purpose as FETO, the terrorist organisation led by US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is accused of orchestrating the July 15 coup attempt.

"These 2 terror organisations made quite a lot of efforts to turn Turkey into a country like Iraq, Syria, or Egypt, both before July 15 and later."

PKK is listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, US and the EU.

About a possible reinstatement of the death penalty in Turkey for those involved in the defeated coup, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated his stance that the decision would be left up to Turkish lawmakers in the parliament.

Erdogan repeatedly has said he would approve reinstating the death penalty if parliament approves it.

Such a penalty could be imposed on Gulen as well, who is accused of leading a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary, forming what is commonly known as a parallel state.

Since the deadly coup attempt, Turkish government has been clearing the state institutions off FETO members.

Yildirim assured citizens not to be anxious about such steps.

"Those Muslim people who have been doing charity work warm-heartedly have nothing to do with these terror organisations.

"We need to settle a score with those who exploited such good feelings and who took money from our citizens for charity work, but used it to attack on people with arms, tanks, and planes."

Yildirim said they would definitely differentiate between the innocent and the guilty, but admitted it will not be easy.

The Turkish PM said once more that the terror attacks, including the deadly July 15 coup attempt, did not hit Turkey's economy, adding that both the banking and finance sectors have been operating well.

Pointing out that Turkey is available for investments, he said an economic stimulus package was on the way to enliven the economy.

"Let's not allow terrorists to drive the agenda of Turkey anymore. Let's focus on our economy and developing the country more."



Erdogan: EU Would Reinstate Death Penalty if Faced Similar Terrorism as Turkey

European countries would reinstate death penalty if they faced terror attacks similar to those experienced by Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday.

"If Europe faced such terror attacks as those in Turkey, they would immediately return the death penalty and declare a curfew," Erdogan said addressing the Turkish bar association.

Since 2015, Turkey has faced a number of fatal terror attacks committed by the Daesh terror group - outlawed in Russia and many other countries - and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

In July, Erdogan announced that the country would reinstate the death penalty if the people demanded it after a coup attempt on July 15 failed. According to the Turkish leader, a 57 % majority of the country's citizens back the idea of reinstating capital punishment.

The European Union has warned Turkey that any reintroduction of the death penalty would be viewed by Brussels as a "deal-breaker" that would end the country's efforts to join the bloc.

The death penalty was abolished in Turkey in 2004 to bring its legislation in line with EU standards.

(source: Sputnik news)


Prisoner Executed in Northern Iran on Drug Charges

A prisoner was reportedly executed at Lakan, Rasht's central prison, on drug related charges

According to the Iranian state run news outlet, ISNA, the execution was carried out on the morning of Tuesday August 16th in the Gilan province (northern Iran). The report identifies the prisoner as H.R., 45 years of age. The prisoner was reportedly charged with buying and selling 2 kilograms of crystal meth.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Draft law on death penalty for pedophiles submitted for public discussion

The draft law on introduction of death penalty for pedophiles has been submitted for public discussion. The initiator is Onuguu-Progress parliamentary faction.

It is proposed to supplement Article 21 of the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic with the words "The death penalty is prohibited, except for crimes against sexual inviolability of the minors."

Faction leader Bakyt Torobaev notes that it is necessary legislatively to toughen the penalties against pedophiles. "If the MPs support us, then such provision will be included in the Constitution," he says.

Moratorium on the death penalty was imposed in Kyrgyzstan in 1998. And in November 2007, the country adopted a new version of the Constitution, from which provisions on the death penalty have been removed.

The theme of the abolition of capital punishment for pedophiles was raised by the deputies in the spring before going on vacation, since more than 10,000 citizens then initiated the introduction of the death penalty for rapists of the minors.

Chairman of the Committee on the Protection of Children "Strong family - strong state" Zhenish Akmatov noted that the rate of sexual offenses against children is increasing from year to year. Explaining the need for the introduction of capital punishment, the activist noted that many countries use the death penalty. It is Belarus, China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, and more than 12 US states. Russia, Kazakhstan, South Korea have such a provision, permitting the use of the death penalty, in the Constitution but it is not put in practice.

Kubat Otorbaev, Ombudsman, stated that he, as a parent, is for the abolition of the moratorium on the death penalty, but as the country's main human rights defender he understands - Kyrgyzstan can not use it. Ombudsman explained that the introduction of the death penalty will be, in fact, the rejection by the state of the intentions on raising the spiritual values ??without which a developed society can not exist. And deprivation of a person's life (even legally) means lifting of responsibility by the state and society for the education of man as a person. "In the end, all this could lead to further degradation and exasperation of the society, and in the best case - to a standstill in the legal consciousness," Kubat Otorbaev said.

As an alternative, the Ombudsman proposes to replace the death penalty with life imprisonment, fixing legally that a pedophile can not be granted amnesty.



Capital Punishment Is Not Israel's Answer to Terrorism

For decades, Israel has prided itself on its anti death-penalty stance. But in the past year, calls for the use of capital punishment have started to rise again, heightened by the trial of Elor Azaria, a sergeant in the Israel Defense Forces. Sergeant Azaria has been charged with manslaughter for killing Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, a Palestinian. Mr. Sharif had stabbed an Israeli soldier, and been shot and wounded by the soldier's colleagues. In a video of the event, he can be seen lying supine and still for several minutes before Sergeant Azaria calmly points the gun at his head and fires.

The sergeant, who has pleaded innocent, claims that Mr. Sharif still posed a threat and that he acted to eliminate the danger. While many Israelis, including the commanders of the Israel Defense Forces, have responded in outrage, others have said that Sergeant Azaria’s actions were justified and have called him a hero

The support for Sergeant Azaria coincides with a renewed debate on the death penalty in Israel. Avigdor Lieberman, the defense minister recently proposed a bill asking Israeli courts to enact the death penalty in terrorism cases. It would have essentially applied only to Palestinian assailants.

Mr. Lieberman campaigned in last year's elections on a promise to apply capital punishment to convicted terrorists. He agreed to a partial implementation of his original bill, which had been rejected by the Knesset, when he negotiated his terms for joining Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition in May. The recent attack by Mr. Sharif and Ramzi Aziz al-Qasrawi, a fellow Palestinian, seemed to play into his hands by reinforcing an increasingly widespread yet simplified conception of the conflict: that Palestinians are inherently violent and will never stop trying to kill Israelis.

It's not hard to pinpoint the root of such a mind-set. It starts with the military education that almost all Jewish Israelis receive beginning in high school. Later, when Israeli teenagers are drafted, the military requires that soldiers view every situation through the lens of security, looking for any possible source of danger.

I learned that crucial lesson when I was drafted into the military in 2009. Our training demanded that we approach threats as immediate, not long term; nuanced thinking was dangerous; political considerations were irrelevant; and Palestinians were security risks until they had been proved safe. While serving in the West Bank, my fellow soldiers and I were kept safe by this type of vigilance. We remained alert to any potential security threats. We paid little attention to innocuous Palestinians or to their needs and concerns.

Despite this security-1st outlook, the military's strict rules of engagement, which Sergeant Azaria appears to have flagrantly broken, are intended to restrain soldiers. As a result of his trial, he is a martyr for the movement that sees those rules as a hindrance to the military's mission, just as it sees Israel's avoidance of capital punishment as a hindrance to the state's fight against terrorism.

But capital punishment for Palestinian assailants will not help fight terrorism, nor will it solve any aspect of the conflict. It will not deter future attacks, as the promoters of the legislation had claimed. It is a thoughtless, vengeful reaction to a problem many Israelis increasingly believe is unsolvable. Mr. Lieberman's proposed legislation is a sign of the disease of intractable conflict metastasizing.

Part of the solution is bolstering the counternarrative that seeks peaceful cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians. But the same movement that calls for death to terrorists accuses pro-peace nonprofits of betrayal. Last month, the Knesset passed legislation known as the N.G.O. bill, which targets Israeli human rights organizations with disproportionate scrutiny compared with other nonprofits. Last year, a popular video called the leaders of four Israeli human rights organizations "foreign agents."

One of these organizations, B'Tselem, provides video cameras to Palestinians in the West Bank so they can film human rights violations. B'Tselem released the widely viewed video of Sergeant Azaria's alleged misconduct. As the nonprofits' work is attacked and as its leaders receive death threats, the United States should increase its support to these groups, given their crucial role in a healthy democracy.

One of the beacons of that democracy has been the state's refusal to carry out capital punishment, which is allowed in Israeli law during wartime and for certain crimes. Since its inception, the country has executed just one person: the Holocaust leader Adolf Eichmann, who was put to death in 1962. But like many countries that have recently faced deadly terrorist attacks, Israel has been inching ideologically further to the right.

I recently overheard a conversation among soldiers about Sergeant Azaria's trial. When someone noted that what the sergeant did was against the law and reflected poorly on the military, several soldiers accused him of being a leftist.

This fits with Sergeant Azaria's narrative of his arrest and prosecution. He claims that his indictment is a political move to pacify the left, in which he includes the military and the media. In his 1st court testimony, he blamed Moshe Yaalon, the recently ousted defense minister, and Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, the chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, for throwing him "to the dogs for fear of the journalists," who had showed "a biased film clip."

To be sure, the public support campaign for Sergeant Azaria - which includes Mr. Lieberman, who, before becoming defense minister, visited him in court - is devoted to defending the individual at least as much as his actions. His defenders paint him as "our boy," and there is some truth to this. Sergeant Azaria is a young man with a narrow perspective, a share in the national grief and a rifle. His actions, inexcusable as they appear to be, are a result of 50 years of meeting terrorism with occupation. They also reflect an unabating mind-set that is changing the nature of Israel, promoting vengeance and vigilantism in place of law and order.

(source: Nathan Hersh is a former managing director of the social justice nonprofit Partners for Progressive Israel; New York Times)


CBCP anti-death penalty book out

CONSISTENT with the Church's teachings on the sacredness of human life, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has come out with an anti-death penalty book amid moves by the Duterte administration to reimpose capital punishment.

The book, "Affirm an Option for Life, a Source Book on Death Penalty and Justice that Heals," was formally launched on Tuesday by the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Prison and Pastoral Care.

Rudy Diamante, executive secretary of the commission, expressed confidence that the book would convince the faithful and the government to support the CBCP's advocacy against the return of the death penalty.

The book, he said, does not only oppose the death penalty but offers as well alternatives on how to heal the pain and anguish of the victims and their families, and also of those who have committed the crime.

Diamante added that the book also contains the latest pronouncements of Pope Francis on the death penalty.

He said work on the book began in 1996 but since there were moves by the Duterte administration to reimpose capital punishment, the CBCP decided to publish it this year.

"It documents why we should not reimpose the death penalty," he said.

The President earlier said that he wanted the return of the capital punishment to serve as a deterrent to heinous crimes, particularly the growing menace of illegal drugs which he claimed was a threat to national security.

The death penalty was abolished for the second time in 2006 by then President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

It was first scrapped by the 1987 Philippine Constitution, only to be restored in 1993, with lethal injection as the means.

Leo Echegaray, who was convicted of raping his daughter, was the 1st to be executed. 2 others followed Echegaray before Arroyo declared a moratorium on the death penalty at the urging of the international community.

A total of 124 countries out of 194 have abolished the capital punishment because it was unable to deter crimes, the CBCP commission pointed out.

Even Pakistan, 1 of the 3 countries in the world, along with Iran and Saudi Arabia, with the most number of executed criminals, abolished its death penalty law in 2014.

(source: Manila Times)


COAS confirms death sentence to 11 hardcore terrorists

Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif on Tuesday confirmed death sentences awarded to another 11 hardcore terrorists.

According to the ISPR, those who have been awarded death penalty were found guilty of committing heinous offences related to terrorism, including killing of DIG Fayyaz Sumbal and ASI Raza Khan of Balochistan Police and Inspector Kamran Nazir of ISI in Quetta.

The convicts also included those who were involved in sectarian killings, kidnappings and slaughtering of civilians and personnel of the Frontier Constabulary (FC) and killing of Major Abdid Majeed of the Pakistan Army.

They planned and executed a number of attacks on law enforcement agencies and the armed forces of Pakistan. Theydestruction of schools and communication infrastructure.

The convicted terrorists include:

1. Ziaul Haq s/o Wali Khan: The convict was an active member of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). He was involved in suicidal attacks which caused death and injuries to a large number of civilians. The convict was also involved in attacking law enforcement agencies which resulted in death of Deputy Inspector General of Police Fayyaz Sumbal, Assistant Sub Inspector Raza Khan, several other police officials and Inspector Kamran Nazir of Inter-Services Intelligence. He was also found involved in sectarian killings. He admitted his offences before the magistrate and the trial court. He was tried on 12 charges and was awarded death sentence.

2. Fazl-e-Rabbi s/o Fazal Ghafoor: The convict was an active member of TTP. He was involved in slaughtering and killing of civilians. He was also involved in attacking armed forces of Pakistan which resulted in death of Maj Abid Majeed and injuries to several soldiers. The convict admitted his offences before the magistrate and the trial court. He was tried on 4 charges and awarded death sentence.

3. Muhammad Sher s/o Zaray: The convict was an active member of TTP. He was involved in killing of civilians. He was also involved in attacking armed forces of Pakistan which resulted in death and injuries to soldiers. The convict also destroyed a girls middle school. He admitted his offences before the magistrate and the trial court. He was tried on 5 charges and awarded death sentence.

4. Umer Zada s/o Gul Rehman: The convict was an active member of TTP. He was involved in attacking armed forces of Pakistan which resulted in death and injuries to soldiers. He was also in possession of explosives. The convict admitted his offences before the magistrate and the trial court. He was tried on 3 charges and awarded death sentence.

5. Latifur Rehman s/o Saifur Rehman: The convict was an active member of TTP. He was involved in kidnapping and killing personnel of law enforcement agencies. He was also guilty for attacking armed forces of Pakistan which resulted in death of soldiers. The convict was also in possession of firearms and explosives. He admitted his offences before the magistrate and the trial court. He was tried on 5 charges and awarded death sentence.

6. Muhammad Adil s/o Muhammad Akbar Jan: The convict was an active member of TTP. He was involved in kidnapping and slaughtering of soldiers of Frontier Constabulary. The convict was also involved in destruction of Police Station Matta. He was also in possession of firearms and explosives. The convict admitted his offences before the magistrate and the trial court. He was tried on 5 charges and awarded death sentence.

7. Israr Ahmed s/o Abdul Rahim Jan: The convict was an active member of TTP. He was involved in attacking armed forces of Pakistan which resulted in death and injuries to soldiers. He was also involved in destruction of girls primary school and a hotel of Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation. The convict admitted his offences before the magistrate and the trial court. He was tried on 4 charges and awarded death sentence.

8. Abdul Majeed s/o Khona Moula: The convict was an active member of TTP. He was involved in attacking armed forces of Pakistan which resulted in death and injuries to soldiers. He also destroyed a hotel of PTDC. The convict admitted his offences before the magistrate and the trial court. He was tried on 3 charges and awarded death sentence.

9. Hazrat Ali s/o Fazal Rabi: The convict was an active member of TTP. He was involved in planting improvised explosive devices and killing of civilians. He was also involved in attacking armed forces of Pakistan. The convict admitted his offences before the magistrate and the trial court. He was tried on 5 charges and awarded death sentence.

10. Mian Said Azam s/o Mian Said Jaffar: The convict was an active member of TTP. He was involved in attacking armed forces of Pakistan and law enforcement agencies which resulted in death and injuries to soldiers. He was also involved in destruction of girls schools. The convict admitted his offences before the magistrate and the trial court. He was tried on 5 charges and awarded death sentence.

11. Qaiser Khan s/o Habib Khan: The convict was an active member of TTP. He was involved in killing of civilians and destruction of communication infrastructure. The convict admitted his offences before the magistrate and the trial court. He was tried on 2 charges and awarded death sentence.

(source: The News)


Irish Priest Fights for Poor People and Death-Row Convicts in Indonesia

The locals in Central Java province's Cilacap Regency know Charles Patrick Burrows, a Catholic priest from Ireland, by another name: Romo Carolus.

He landed in Indonesia in 1973 and has stayed on since, working to help alleviate poverty in the regency and, relatively recently, offering comfort to inmates on death row at nearby Nusakambangan prison and escorting some as they walked toward the firing lines.

Romo Carolus began by counseling Catholic inmates, but provides guidance for other inmates as well.

"I'm a Catholic, but I feel honored to counsel people from other religions," Carolus, 73, told BenarNews.

He also opposes the death penalty and has campaigned against capital punishment in Indonesia, which still strictly enforces executions of convicted drug offenders, despite widespread criticism from aboard.

The priest shared his memory of witnessing the executions in June 2008 of 2 Nigerians convicted of drug trafficking.

"I still remember it clearly when they were released from the ropes tying them up. For a moment, they were groaning before they died," he said.

That same year, the priest testified against Indonesia's death penalty law before the Constitutional Court in Jakarta, calling executions by firing squad "torture."

Romo Carolus - now an Indonesian citizen - urged the government to consider a more humane way of execution, if capital punishment was inevitable.

But officials have not change the policy and, since then, no religious leader has been allowed to accompany inmates and observe their executions at Nusakambangan, a prison island in Central Java.

"We were asked to leave before they were executed," he said.

In late July, Indonesia executed 4 more drug convicts by firing squad at Nusakambangan, but postponed putting to death 10 others who faced capital punishment. An Indonesian, 2 Nigerians and a South African were lined up and shot on July 28.

While hoping that the government will change the law, Romo Carolus keeps providing counseling to inmates there who are condemned to die.

"They can't choose how they die, but at least let them die in dignity," he said.

The universal values that Romo Carolus expresses have left a deep impression on a Muslim cleric and long-time colleague at the prision, Hasan Makarim.

"We have known each other for a long time and we are solid working together," Hasan told BenarNews.

Helping to fight poverty

When Carolus, a member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Dublin, arrived in Indonesia 43 years ago, he encountered poverty in Cilacap Regency during a visit to Kampung Laut, a fishing village.

At the time, the village was known as a home for sympathizers of the banned Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI), whose membership and leadership was wiped out during a bloody anti-communist purge in 1965-66.

When he first arrived in Kampung Laut, villagers were suffering from an outbreak of eye infections. He treated them and later initiated efforts to construct a road and bridge in order to open access to the village. It then only had 1 small road that passed between swamps and sea.

After becoming an Indonesian citizen in 1983, Carolus set up Yayasan Sosial Bina Sejahtera, a nongovernmental organization working to eradicate poverty. The foundation has helped 25 schools - kindergarten, elementary school, junior high, high school and special-needs - in and around Cilacap.

With the love and passion of faith, he taught villagers to empower themselves by preserving fish and planting vegetables in vacant lots to improve their quality of life.

In 2012, Romo Carolus, who was assigned to St. Stephanus parish church in Cilacap, received the Maarif Award from the Maarif Institute for Culture and Humanity for his role as a local figure helping to preserve and observe universal religious values.

Cilacap Regent Tatto Suwarto Pamuji said he appreciated the old priest's efforts.

"He always visits the neighborhoods and listens to the public complaints by himself," Tatto said.

Do good unto others

Carolus stresses the importance of education as the only way to reduce poverty and ignorance. God provides people with everything as long as they want to give their best, he said, adding that all people are meant to live on their own without waiting for others' help.

Whenever there is a chance, no matter how small, he advised everyone to show good will toward others.

"Even when death is coming to you and you still have time to plant a tree, then plant it. Show generosity in every chance, even the tiniest one," he said.

(source: Benar News)


Appeals Court upholds death penalty for businessman

The Court of Appeal here yesterday affirmed the High Court's decision to sentence a businessman to death for murdering his wife and 2 children in Sibu 3 years ago.

The judges ruled that there was no merit in the appeal made by Jacob Tiang Lee Yee, 46, who was found guilty of murdering his wife Ling Yung Ming, 14-year-old daughter Christine Tiang Soo Ai and 2-year-old son Victor Tang Soon Sheng; as well as the attempted murder of son Vincent Tiang Soon Thai, then 17 years old.

Tiang committed the offences at the family house at Pulau Li Hua on July 5, 2013 between 6.20am and 9.50am.

On Nov 18, 2014, the High Court sentenced him to death for the 3 counts of murder.

For the charge of attempted murder, an offence under Section 307 of the Penal Code, Tiang was sentenced to 15 years behind bars.

(source: The Borneo Post)


Iraq to hang 36 Isis jihadists for massacring 1,700 captives in Camp Speicher---Survivors say the militants told them they were going home, before the attack begun.

The Iraqi government will reportedly execute 36 Islamic State (Isis) fighters this week, as punishment for the notorious Camp Speicher massacre of 1,700 soldiers. At least 1,566 people - comprised mostly of Shia military cadets and other soldiers - were gunned down near the former US Army base in Tikrit, on 12 June 2014.

Iraqi president Fuad Masum approved the death penalty for the convicted men by mass hanging, despite protests from human rights groups. Forty of the 47 defendants who were accused of involvement in the massacre were sentenced to death earlier in February 2016 at the central criminal court in Baghdad.

Isis (Daesh) captured former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's home town of Tikrit in June 2014 and subsequently published propaganda videos showing men being forced to lie in the dirt before being sprayed with bullets by jihadists.

Survivors of the massacre say they were rounded up for slaughter by the extremists divided into religious sects before being packed onto trucks and told they would be returned to their families. Instead they were taken to a nearby riverbank, executed with machine guns and buried in a shallow grave.

In April 2015 the city was retaken by Iraqi government forces and investigators uncovered mass graves containing the remains of the slain recruits before arresting dozens of people said to have taken part in the massacre.

Iraqi officials say approximately 604 militants believed to have taken part in the massacre were still at large. This week 36 of the 40 convicted will be executed Iraqi authorities confirmed.

Human rights groups have expressed concerns that some of those convicted were forced to confess under torture and some even denied even being in Tikrit at the time of the massacre.

There has been claims the trial did not take place according to international standards as lawyers believe they could not properly challenge the evidence during 2 separate trials. Activists also believe that the court and appeals processes has been inappropriately fast-tracked.

But the victims' families, who stormed the court and threw shoes and water bottles at the defendants, were happy with the president's decision. "We are pleased with the president's decision," Majid Ameen, the father of one of those killed, said according to the Times.



Man gets death penalty for murder in Chandpur

A Chandpur court has sentenced a 28-year-old man to death in a murder case filed in 2012.

The court of Additional District and Sessions Judge Mamunur Rashid passed the order on Tuesday and also fined the convict Md Arif Mij by Tk 100,000.

According to the case details, Arif entered the house of Md Billal Hossain Miji and stabbed his son with a sharp weapon on the night of Aug 23, 2012.

The family discovered the body lying on floor the next morning.

Prosecutor Sayedul Islam Babu said Billal had filed a murder case with the local police the same day. Police pressed charges on Arif on Sep 30, 2012, according to



Shafik Rehman: 81-year-old British journalist facing death penalty in Bangladesh 'could die within months'----Pro-opposition journalist accused of plotting to murder son of Prime Minister

An 81-year-old British journalist may die in a Bangladeshi jail before he has even been sentenced, his family have said.

Shafik Rehman's son Shumit told The Independent he did not expect his father to live to "see the year out".

The British-Bangladeshi journalist is accused of plotting to murder the son of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, a crime that carries the death penalty.

Despite not yet being charged with any offence, he has now been detained for 4 months.

A well-known former BBC journalist and talk-show host, Mr Rehman is the 3rd pro-opposition editor to be arrested in Bangladesh since 2013.

Both Mr Rehman and his wife were becoming physically ill because of the stress of his detention, Shumit said.

"Quite honestly, I'm not sure if either of them will see the year out," he said.

Mr Rehman has been receiving hospital treatment for chest pains since entering jail and is diabetic.

When Mr Rehman was first detained he was "sprightly", according to his son, but after a month of interrogation he needed a wheelchair. After four months of jail, Mr Rehman could only walk while holding onto someone, his son said. He feared his father may suffer a "natural death" in prison if he was not released soon.

Mr Rehman's 82-year-old wife is the only person allowed to see him, according to Shumit, and he is not allowed any telephone contact.

Appointments for Mr Rehman's bail hearing have previously been cancelled. The family say they have now been told there will be a hearing at the end of the month but have not been given a date.

"Sentencing is a long way off," Shumit said, before likening his father's situation to that of people held without charge at the infamous US-run detention centre in Cuba.

"The whole thing is a bit Guantanamo Bay," he said.

"It's much easier never to charge him and just hold him in jail."

Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, a charity that has been working to free Mr Rehman, told The Independent: "Shafik Rehman has been put through a litany of injustices as 'punishment' for his journalism and his criticism of the government.

"First arrested by plainclothes officers posing as a TV crew, he's since been held in such terrible conditions that he needs hospital treatment.

(source: The Independent)


On this day in 1963: Last man to be hanged in Scotland Henry John Burnett was the last man to be hanged in Scotland

John Burnett was just 21 years old when he was hanged at Craiginches Prison in Aberdeen, at 8am on August 15 1963. His crime was the murder of merchant seaman Thomas Guyan. Burnett had shot Guyan in the face with a shotgun, when lover Margaret Guyan had refused to leave the sailor for him.

Burnett was the sole inmate of Craiginches to die on the prison's gallows, and the last man to be executed in Scotland before Westminster abolished the death penalty.

Burnett had met Margaret Guyan, when they were working at John R Stephen Fish Curers in Aberdeen. window. Mrs Guyan later went to live with him at his home in the city's Skene Terrace.Burnett kept her locked in the house and on one of the rare occasions she was allowed out alone, she met her estranged husband Thomas Guyan, and agreed to go back to him.

When she refused to return to Burnett, he stole a shotgun from his brother's house and killed Mr Guyan on May 31 1963. During the trial, the solicitor-general spoke of the 'sordid background of a sailor's wife being unfaithful to her husband when he was at sea.'

6 days before his execution, Burnett wrote: "Well, my darling, you will be wondering why I did not kill you up in Skene Terrace.

"Well, it was because I loved you. I could easily have done it if I had wanted to, but what they were saying in court was a heap of rubbish about me being insane even at the time. "I knew exactly what I was doing."

Burnett's body was buried in an unmarked grave within the prison walls, but in August 2014 his remains were exhumed and taken to Aberdeen Crematorium, where a private ceremony was held.

(source: The Scotsman)

AUGUST 16, 2016:

TEXAS----new execution date

Dad who killed girls has new execution date

John Battaglia - the man who murdered his young daughters out of revenge while their mother listened over the phone - has a new execution date.

State District Judge Robert Burns scheduled the execution for Dec. 7.

That doesn't necessarly mean the lethal dose of drugs will be administered inside the state's death chamber in Huntsville. A federal court has ordered a hearing to look into Battaglia's claims of mental incompetency. The execution date had to be set before the hearing could take place.

Battaglia, now 61, was scheduled to be executed in March but won a last-minute stay from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals so his lawyer could pursue the incompetency claims.

No date has been set for the hearing in Burns' court.

Battaglia was sentenced to death for killing Faith, 9, and Liberty, 6, at his Deep Ellum loft in May 2001. He arranged a call with his ex-wife, who listened on the phone as the older girl begged: "No, Daddy! Don't do it!"

He later headed to a nearby tattoo parlor to have 2 red roses etched on his arm in memory of the girls. That night, he recorded a message on their answering machine: "Good night, my little babies. I hope you are resing in a different place. I love you."

Psychiatrists testified for the defense at his trial that Battaglia suffered from bipolar disorder. An adult daughter from his 1st marriage later said he was also diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, characterized by manipulative behavior, a hyper-inflated sense of self-improtance and lack of empathy.

Christine Womble, an appellate attorney at the Dallas County's district attorney's office, has said she's "confident" of Battaglia's guilt and his competency.

One of Battaglia's attorneys, Gregory Gardner, argued in court documents that Battaglia has long "exhibited bizarre behavior consistent with severe mental illness."

In a 2014 interview with The Dallas Morning News, Battaglia said he was "a little bit in the blank" about what happened to Faith and Liberty.

"I don't feel like I killed them," he said.

He called his daughters his "best little friends," just the "nicest little kids" imaginable, and said he doesn't grieve for them beacuse they remain with him.

"Why would I worry about where they are now?" he asked. "We're all here, we're all gone at the same time. I'm not worried about it."

(source: Dallas Morning News)


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 24----------------Jeffrey Wood----------538

21---------August 31----------------Rolando Ruiz----------539

22---------September 14-------------Robert Jennings-------540

23---------October 5----------------Barney Fuller---------541

24---------October 19---------------Terry Edwards---------542

25---------November 2---------------Ramiro Gonzales-------543

26---------December 7---------------John Battaglia--------544

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


North Carolina to Mark 10 Years Since Last Execution

The death chamber at Central Prison in Raleigh has sat empty since the morning of August 8, 2006. That was the last time an inmate was executed in North Carolina.

"In North Carolina in particular, there has been a law change last year to make it easier to implement the death penalty," said Steven Friedland with Elon School of Law. "It's no longer requiring doctors, it's other medical professionals. However, it does not mean that the state will overcome all of these issues that still are on the table."

Lawsuits prompted the moratorium, after concerns about the way executions are carried out in North Carolina and additional questions if physicians could give the lethal injections. There are also ongoing questions about racial bias in sentencing and potential botched executions.

"The death penalty is, of course, the ultimate protection," said Friedland. "The question is, is it fair? And is it cruel and unusual punishment under the 8th Amendment to the Constitution?"

In the time since the moratorium has been in place, 4 people have been released from death row and exonerated. Some argue it may be time to put an end to the death penalty in North Carolina.

"I think we feel like the writing is on the wall," said Kristin Collins with the Center for Death Penalty Litigation. "Nationally the number of executions is going down and down and down each year. There have only been 3 states that have managed to carry out an execution in 2016."

Right now, 31 states have the death penalty, but several states have done away with their death penalty in the past few years.

"It's been 10 years since we have had an execution, and during that time the murder rate has actually declined," said Collins. "So the argument that we need to be executing people as a deterrent to crime and murder doesn't seem to be holding up."

For North Carolina, the death penalty will continue to remain in limbo as litigation continues.



Deltona murder suspect Luis Toledo has court date amid death penalty questions

While the Florida Supreme Court has yet to rule on the state's death penalty, a hearing is set Friday for Luis Toledo, the Deltona man accused of killing his wife and her 2 children.

Toledo is charged with 2nd-degree murder in the killing of his wife, Yessenia Suarez, 28, and two counts of 1st-degree murder in the killing of her children, Thalia Otto, 9, and Michael Otto, 8. If convicted of killing the children, Toledo could face the death penalty. Their bodies have not been found. The hearing for Toledo is set before Circuit Judge Raul Zambrano at the Volusia County Courthouse in DeLand.

A trial date in the fall had been discussed as attorneys sought more time for issues over the death penalty to be settled but questions remain as the state Supreme Court has yet to issue its ruling.

Just days before Toledo, 34, was to go on trial in January, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Florida's death sentencing process. The state legislature quickly revamped the death penalty law, but did not require a unanimous vote for death by the jury.

The Florida Supreme Court is now reviewing Florida's death penalty in light of the U.S. Supreme Court decision and challenges brought by attorneys in other Florida cases.

Once the state Supreme Court rules, a committee it appointed will get back to work on drawing up death penalty instructions for jurors. The Supreme Court committee tasked with writing the instructions is chaired by Judge F. Rand Wallis of the 5th District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach.

Wallis said in a phone interview that the committee requested public comments and the general response from attorneys was that drafting the jury instructions before the state Supreme Court's decision would be premature. The committee decided to stop working on the instructions and wait for a decision.

"There are going to be a number of constitutional challenges to the statute and some have already been argued in front of the Supreme Court," Wallis said.

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down Florida's death sentencing process because it said it gave judges too much power and gave jurors too little. The Legislature changed Florida's law so that jurors must unanimously agree on at least 1 aggravator which would support the imposition of the death penalty.

Florida had required only a simple majority recommendation for death by the jury for a judge to be able to impose the death sentence. The Legislature made it tougher by requiring a 10-2 vote for death. But it still left Florida as only 1 of 3 states that did not require a unanimous jury vote for death before a judge could impose a death sentence.

That means some big questions remain, such as whether the U.S. Supreme Court's decision is retroactive and whether a 10-2 vote is enough.

"What findings are acceptable being 10 to 2 and what needs to be unanimous, so there's a lot of unknown's right now," Wallis said.

Wallis said once the state Supreme Court makes its rulings the jury instructions will be a high priority.

"Once the law is clear the jury instructions should follow because obviously there are cases that are pending in the trial court that want to know how to apply the statute and how to instruct the jury," Wallis said.

State Attorney R.J. Larizza declined to comment for this story through a spokesman saying it would be improper due to the pending death penalty cases.

(source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)


The Legacy of Lynching, on Death Row----In Alabama, Bryan Stevenson is saving inmates from execution and memorializing the darkest episodes of America's past.

In 1989, a 29-year-old African-American civil-rights lawyer named Bryan Stevenson moved to Montgomery, Alabama, and founded an organization that became the Equal Justice Initiative. It guarantees legal representation to every inmate on the state's death row. Over the decades, it has handled hundreds of capital cases, and has spared 125 offenders from execution. In recent years, Stevenson has also argued the appeals of prisoners around the country who were convicted of various crimes as juveniles and given long sentences or life in prison. One was Joe Sullivan, who was thirteen when he was charged in a sexual battery in Pensacola, Florida. Sullivan's original trial, in 1989, established that he and 2 older boys had burglarized the home of a woman named Lena Bruner on a morning when no one was there. That afternoon, Bruner was sexually assaulted in the home by someone whose face she never saw. The older boys implicated Sullivan, and he was convicted. They served brief sentences. Sullivan was sentenced to life in prison, with no possibility of parole.

In 2005, the Supreme Court decided Roper v. Simmons, a landmark ruling that held that states could no longer execute offenders who had committed their crimes before the age of 18. At the time, the Equal Justice Initiative had several clients in Alabama who had been charged when they were teen-agers and were now exempt from execution. To inform them of the ruling, Stevenson went to death row at the Holman Correctional Facility. He described his visit to me as we sat in his windowless office at E.J.I.'s headquarters, a converted warehouse in downtown Montgomery.

"When I went down and started talking to the guys and said, 'I've got great news, they're not going to execute,' it wasn't, like, joy, because they were all still quite young," Stevenson recalled. "It was just another kind of death sentence. 'Oh, 70 more years in prison.'"

But Stevenson saw an opportunity in the Roper ruling. "The Court was saying, in a categorical way, 'Look, children are fundamentally different from adults.'" If the Supreme Court ruled that children were too immature to be sentenced to death, Stevenson reasoned, then they shouldn't be sentenced to life, either. In order to push for an extension of Roper, he needed to find a test case. He began a nationwide search for inmates who had been convicted of crimes as juveniles and sentenced to life without parole.

Joe Sullivan is 40 now, and he lives in the Graceville Correctional Facility, a privately run prison in a remote part of northern Florida. His speech is halting and slurred, owing to a long-standing mental disability and to multiple sclerosis, which was diagnosed more than 20 years ago. "I didn't do nothing," Sullivan told me. "I was just with the wrong people at the wrong time. They said I’m the mastermind to everything. They said I did a sexual battery. I couldn't spell 'sex' in those days."

On November 9, 2009, Stevenson stood before the nine Justices of the Supreme Court and began, "Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court: Joe Sullivan was 13 years of age when he was arrested with 2 older boys, one 15 and one 17, charged with sexual assault, ultimately convicted, and sentenced to life without parole. Joe is 1 of only 2 children this age who have ever been sentenced to life without parole for a non-homicide, and no child has received this sentence for non-homicide in the last 18 years." The Justices dismissed Sullivan's case on procedural grounds, but in a companion case, argued earlier that day, they had embraced Stevenson's argument: juveniles in non-homicides could not be sentenced to life.

After the decision, Stevenson took Sullivan's case back to the Florida trial court for resentencing. In light of Sullivan's record in prison, the Florida Department of Corrections informed him that he would be released on June 30, 2014. Sullivan had had a rough time in custody. As a young teen in an adult state prison, he had been the victim of numerous sexual assaults. His current prison was not a violent place, Sullivan told me, but his M.S. had got much worse. "As he became someone who couldn't walk, and needed a wheelchair, the state was terrible in recognizing his needs," Stevenson said. "He was basically in a dorm where he was forced to walk places. This caused mini seizures, which will leave him more impaired." Sullivan had had only sporadic contact with his family over the years, and his only visitors came from E.J.I. In anticipation of his release, Stevenson rented a wheelchair-accessible apartment for Sullivan just outside Montgomery. "Mr. Bryan, he's like my father," Sullivan told me. "He gave me a lot of hope.

3 weeks before Sullivan's scheduled release, he received a notice from the Department of Corrections stating that his release date had been miscalculated. The correct date was December, 2019 - more than 5 years later. Stevenson has gone back to court to challenge the department’s determination, but Sullivan remains incarcerated. (State officials have declined to comment.) "It's been very frustrating," Stevenson said. 'We were just all set. Joe sent me a Father's Day card. It breaks your heart." Sullivan remains hopeful. "I say, 'PUSH yourself every day,'" he told me. "PUSH - Pray Until Something Happens."

Was the Sullivan case a success or a failure? It was, in one sense, a great victory, because Sullivan, who was facing the prospect of dying in prison, will now be released at some point. But, almost 3 decades after he was incarcerated, he remains in prison, in a wheelchair. Of course, Stevenson has experienced grimmer disappointments in his career as a death-row lawyer. Stephen Bright, the president and senior counsel of the Southern Center for Human Rights, told me, "Many people do this work only for a period of time. It's a very brutal practice. Your clients get killed."

Stevenson and his colleagues have managed to slow, but not stop, the death-penalty machinery in Alabama - an enormous challenge in view of the state's conservative and racially polarized politics. Alabama has an elected judiciary, and candidates compete to be seen as the toughest on crime. It's also the only death-penalty state in which judges routinely overrule juries that vote against imposing death sentences. (In their campaigns, judges boast about the number of death sentences they've imposed.) Alabama's population is about 27 % African-American. The 19 appellate judges who review death sentences, including all the justices on the state Supreme Court, are white and Republican. 41 of the state's 42 elected district attorneys are white, and most are Republican. The state imposes death sentences at the highest rate in the nation, but the Equal Justice Initiative has limited the number of executions to 22 in the past decade, and there has been only 1 in the past 3 years. "It's just intensive case-by-case litigation," Stevenson told me. "We've gone more aggressively than anyone in the country on racial bias against African-Americans in jury selection. We have extensive litigation on the lethal-injection protocols. We identify inadmissible evidence. We push hard on every issue."

But Stevenson, who is 56, has come to believe that the defense of people enmeshed in the criminal-justice system, while indispensable, is an inadequate response to the deeper flaws in American society. He served on President Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing, and he has been an ally of the Black Lives Matter movement. The recent police shootings of African-American men in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and outside St. Paul, Minnesota, have increased his pessimism. "These police shootings are symptoms of a larger disease," he told me. "Our society applies a presumption of dangerousness and guilt to young black men, and that's what leads to wrongful arrests and wrongful convictions and wrongful death sentences, not just wrongful shootings. There's no question that we have a long history of seeing people through this lens of racial difference. It's a direct line from slavery to the treatment of black suspects today, and we need to acknowledge the shamefulness of that history."

After a TED talk in 2012, called "We Need to Talk About Injustice," Stevenson is said to have received the longest standing ovation of any speaker, and the talk has been viewed more than 5 million times on the Internet; it raised a million dollars for his organization, and propelled a death-row lawyer into a public figure. His 2014 memoir, "Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption," spent years on best-seller lists. He is in constant demand as a lecturer across the country, and he's booked for commencement addresses years in advance.

As a longtime resident of Montgomery, he often thinks about Rosa Parks, whose refusal to sit at the back of a local bus in 1955 set off the modern era of the civil-rights movement. "We have reduced her activism to this celebratory tale - 'It was all great,'" he told me. "Here's what most people don't know. After the boycott was declared officially over, and black people were sitting on the buses, there was unbelievable violence. There were a dozen people who were shot standing waiting on buses. We had white people going around Montgomery shooting black people who dared to get on the buses." For a time after the boycott, the city shut down bus service altogether. And then, to make way for the I-85 highway, the local authorities, led by a state transportation commissioner who was also a member of the Ku Klux Klan, bulldozed the city's major middle-class black neighborhood.

Stevenson believes that too little attention has been paid to the hostility of whites to the civil-rights movement. "Where did all of those people go?" he said. "They had power in 1965. They voted against the Voting Rights Act, they voted against the Civil Rights Act, they were still here in 1970 and 1975 and 1980. And there was never a time when people said, 'Oh, you know that thing about segregation forever? Oh, we were wrong. We made a mistake. That was not good.' They never said that. And it just shifted. So they stopped saying 'Segregation forever,' and they said, 'Lock them up and throw away the key.'"

That dark view of American history may explain a passage in "Just Mercy," in which Stevenson describes a failed attempt to stop the 2009 execution of a 49-year-old client named Jimmy Dill, who had severe mental impairments. He had wounded a man during a botched drug deal in 1988. Months later, as the victim was recovering, his wife, who had been caring for him, left him, and his health deteriorated. He eventually died, and Dill was resentenced for murder. Dill's mental impairments might well have entitled him to a reprieve from the death penalty, but he couldn't afford lawyers, and missed various procedural deadlines for appeals. When Stevenson took the case, a few weeks before the execution, it was too late. "After working for more than 25 years," Stevenson wrote, "I understood that I don't do what I do because it's required or necessary or important. I don't do it because I have no choice. I do what I do because I'm broken, too."

The family of Stevenson's mother, Alice Golden, like that of millions of other African-Americans, took part in the Great Migration from the rural South to the urban North in the early 20th century. They went from Virginia to Philadelphia, where Alice was born. She later reversed the customary trajectory when she married Howard Stevenson, in 1957, and went south with him, a little more than a hundred miles, to his home town of Milton, in rural Delaware. They had 3 children: Howard, Bryan, and Christy.

"You have to understand that there are 2 Delawares," Howard Stevenson told me. "The north, around Wilmington, is basically part of the North, but we lived in the south, which was part of the South. It was very rural, very country. We lived basically in the woods, farm country. We lived next door to my uncle and aunt, and he used to slaughter hogs."

Their mother never forgot her roots in Philadelphia. "She didn't want us to grow up with a southern-Delaware frame of mind," Howard said. "She did all she could to make sure we never forgot the rest of the world. There were places around us with no running water, so Philly was the gateway to the rest of the world." Alice Stevenson placed a heavy emphasis on education; Christmas presents were microscopes, not footballs. She also had strong views on racial equality. "Some of the black folks in southern Delaware were much more deferential in the face of white people," Howard said. "Her style was different. She didn't believe in accepting any kind of racism." Once, when Bryan was in 1st grade, she wrote a letter to the town newspaper calling for the integration of the local public schools. Another time, a few years later, she protested when the town's public-health officers asked the black children to stand at the back of the line to receive their polio vaccines. "She made such an issue of it that for a moment we weren’t sure if they'd even give us our shots," Bryan recalls.

In the 60s, when the Stevenson children were growing up, the neighborhoods, schools, and swimming pools of southern Delaware were all segregated, in fact if not by law. "There was never a time you could get the majority of people in Alabama or Mississippi, or even southern Delaware, to vote to end segregation," Bryan told me. "What changed things was the rule of law, the courts. Brown v. Board of Education was ushered in by a movement, but it was a legal decision. And so, for me, I went down the law path, because to be a politician trying to do anti-discrimination work meant you had to work in a handful of communities that were basically majority black." The jurisdiction of the courts applied everywhere.

Both of Bryan's parents had long commutes to jobs in the northern part of the state. Alice Stevenson had a civilian post at Dover Air Force Base and became what would later be called an equal-opportunity officer, working to insure that African-Americans received fair housing and education. Howard Stevenson was a lab technician at a General Foods plant in Dover. "We believed that our dad thought he could feed us completely based on what he snuck home from G.F.," Bryan told me. "I've avoided Jell-O since I was 10." The Stevenson children absorbed their mother's lessons. Howard Stevenson is a professor of urban education and Africana studies at the University of Pennsylvania; Christy, the youngest of the 3 children, teaches music at an elementary school in Delaware.

Bryan followed Howard to Eastern College, a small Baptist-affiliated school outside Philadelphia, where he majored in history and philosophy. Then he applied to Harvard Law School, which turned out to be a disappointment. "The courses seemed esoteric and disconnected from the race and poverty issues that had motivated me to consider the law in the first place," he wrote in his memoir. But as a 2nd-year student, in December, 1983, he took a monthlong internship at what was then called the Southern Prisoners Defense Committee, in Atlanta. Stephen Bright, the organization's leader, happened to be on the same flight to Atlanta as Stevenson. "By the time the plane landed, we were very close," Bright recalled. "Bryan had found his calling." He joined the group after graduating, in 1985, replicating his mother's migration south - which worried members of the family. "When I heard he was going on his own down there, I almost fainted," Fred Bailey, Stevenson's cousin and a retired Philadelphia police detective, said. "Bryan's a humble guy and a spiritual guy, and he sees the good in everyone. But he knew no one. And he had no family down there."

Bright's group did death-penalty and prisoners'-rights litigation in a hostile region and era. "We were the dance band on the Titanic, this very small group of 8 or 9 people trying to hold back this tide of executions in the old Confederacy," Bright said. The lawyers divided up the region, and Stevenson, more or less by happenstance, was assigned the cases in Alabama. He showed an aptitude for death-penalty litigation, which is both emotionally taxing and technically demanding. Capital cases have a complex choreography, involving multiple courts in state and federal jurisdictions, all with their own deadlines, rituals, and rules. Lawyers' mistakes can prove fatal.

The crime rate rose in the late 80s and early 90s, and the few death-penalty lawyers in the South became overwhelmed. In response, a group of lawyers and judges persuaded Congress to fund several state-based death-penalty defense organizations, called resource centers. In 1989, Stevenson, who was still in his late 20s, was appointed to run the Alabama operation. When Republicans took control of Congress after the 1994 midterm elections, one of their first acts was to eliminate funding for the resource centers. Stevenson turned the Alabama resource center into a nonprofit, the Equal Justice Initiative, which survived largely because he was awarded a MacArthur grant the following year, and he used the cash, about 300,000 dollars, to keep the organization afloat.

In time, Stevenson achieved a measure of economic stability for E.J.I., thanks mostly to grants from various foundations and a yearly fund-raiser in Manhattan. (With an annual operating budget of 6 million dollars, the organization now employs 17 full-time attorneys and 12 legal fellows, young lawyers who spend 2 years with the group.) "We were having success in overturning these convictions that are wrongful, but it became clear that race was the big burden," Stevenson told me. "By 2006 or 2007, I had begun to realize that we were going to have to get outside the courts and create a different narrative about race, race consciousness, racial bias, and discrimination in history before we can go back into the courts and expect the courts to do the things that they did 60 years ago, or to create the kind of environment where we could actually win."

Around this time, Stevenson began studying Alabama history. He didn't have to look far to find it. The E.J.I. warehouse is on Commerce Street, in Montgomery; the original commerce conducted there was in enslaved people. E.J.I.'s offices stand at nearly the midpoint between the dock on the Alabama River where the human cargo was unloaded and Court Square, which was one of the largest slave-auction sites in the South. Between 1848 and 1860, according to E.J.I.'s research, the Montgomery probate office granted at least 164 licenses to slave traders operating in the city. Thousands of people were auctioned a few hundred yards from where Stevenson practices law. Slaves awaiting auction were held in chains on the site where E.J.I.'s warehouse was later built.

Montgomery has dozens of cast-iron historical markers celebrating aspects of the Confederate past. Stevenson wanted to put a marker up in front of E.J.I.'s door, to point out the presence of the slave trade. "We went to the Historical Commission and said, 'How do you get a marker up?'" Stevenson recalled. He was told that if he provided accurate information the commission would erect a marker. E.J.I. put together a 60-page proposal for 3 markers commemorating the slave trade. Norwood Kerr, of the Alabama Department of Archives and History, e-mailed E.J.I. in response:

I have considered your request for the Alabama Historical Association to support the placement of 3 historical markers relating to the city's slave trade. While your scholarship appears accurate . . . I do not think it is in the best interests of the Association to sponsor the markers given the potential for controversy.

For several years, Stevenson has taught part time at the New York University School of Law, but he doesn't have his own apartment in the city. He lives on his N.Y.U. earnings and takes no salary from E.J.I. His personal style is nearly ascetic. He has never married. Keeping a promise that he made to his grandmother when he was a teen-ager, he has never let a drop of alcohol pass his lips. (Alcoholism plagued his family.) For years, he lived in a series of small apartments in Montgomery, until he decided to renew his commitment to the piano, which he once played semi-professionally in jazz groups. He decided to buy a piano, then a house, but rarely finds time to play. E.J.I. has no development staff, so Stevenson must raise the 6-million-dollar budget virtually alone. Between fund-raising and court appearances, he travels incessantly. Before one of my visits to Montgomery, he had been on planes for 12 consecutive days; before another, 7 days.

He has cultivated a network of supporters around the country. In the E.J.I. break room, a state-of-the-art Starbucks machine dispenses free coffee. Since lawyers tend to work late, it gets a lot of use. "This machine has saved lives," Sia Sanneh, a senior attorney for E.J.I., told me. Howard Schultz, the chief executive of Starbucks, said, "Just by coincidence, 2 people sent me Bryan's book at the same time, and I read it in 2 or 3 sittings. I was so moved by his story and his selfless acts, and his humanitarianism, that I reached out and called him cold." They arranged to meet in New York, and then Schultz and his wife visited E.J.I. in Montgomery. "We all meet interesting people, and some of the people don't live up to their press," Schultz said. "Bryan is one of the rare individuals who exceed your expectations." Schultz arranged for "Just Mercy" to be displayed at Starbucks counters for a month; some 45,000 copies were sold. Schultz also donated the coffee machine.

The world of public-service lawyering can be competitive and petty, even among ideological allies, but Stevenson's colleagues speak of him with something close to awe. "Bryan is absolutely in a class of his own," Chris Stone, the president of George Soros's Open Society Foundations, which has funded E.J.I., said. "He is a modest, straightforward, ordinary person, and yet he is magical. He is a gift to this country and to a cause that would not be the same without him." Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation, said, "Bryan is one of the transformational leaders of my generation. He is one of the great prophetic voices of our era." Barry Scheck, the co-founder of the Innocence Project, said, "Bryan is without question the most inspirational lawyer of our times, not just because he's charismatic, and also a brilliant litigator, but because he connects emotionally with people like no one else." Anthony Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said, "Most of us who do this kind of work are good. He's head and shoulders above us all. He's a genius. He's our Moses."

For all the ties he has forged around the nation, Stevenson is at this point an Alabaman. He knows where to find the pressure points in the local system, a knowledge that he put to good use after the Alabama Historical Association rejected his petition. He enlisted a small organization devoted to African-American history in Alabama as an alternative sponsor. In 2013, E.J.I., with its new ally, was allowed to put up 3 markers in downtown Montgomery.

During the controversy, Stevenson visited the University of Texas Law School, in Austin, for a conference on the relationship between the death penalty and lynching. Jordan Steiker, the professor who convened the meeting, told me, "In one sense, the death penalty is clearly a substitute for lynching. One of the main justifications for the use of the death penalty, especially in the South, was that it served to avoid lynching. The number of people executed rises tremendously at the end of the lynching era. And there’s still incredible overlap between places that had lynching and places that continue to use the death penalty." Drawing on the work of such noted legal scholars as David Garland and Franklin Zimring, Steiker and his sister Carol, a professor at Harvard Law School, have written a forthcoming book, "Courting Death: The Supreme Court and Capital Punishment," which explores the links between lynching and state-sponsored executions. The Steikers write, "The practice of lynching constituted 'a form of unofficial capital punishment' that in its heyday was even more common than the official kind."

Lynchings, which took the form of hangings, shootings, beatings, and other acts of murder, were often public events, urged on by thousands, but by the 1930s the behavior of the crowds had begun to draw criticism in the North. "The only reason lynchings stopped in the American South was that the spectacle of the crowds cheering these murders was becoming problematic," Stevenson told me. "Local law enforcement was powerless to stop the mob, even if it wanted to. So people in the North started to say that the federal government needed to send in federal troops to protect black people from these acts of terror. No one in power in the South wanted that - so they moved the lynchings indoors, in the form of executions. They guaranteed swift, sure, certain death after the trial, rather than before the trial."

In 2007, Sherrilyn Ifill, the president and director-counsel of the N.A.A.C.P. Legal Defense Fund, published "On the Courthouse Lawn," which focussed on 2 lynchings in Maryland. "What I learned is that an alarming number of lynchings took place not in secret, in the woods, but in public, on the beautiful lawns that are still there in all these communities," Ifill told me. "And there is nothing to commemorate these lynchings on those lawns, which are in the center of every town in the South." Lynchings were often covered in local newspapers, and sometimes even previewed in them, and these records were indispensable resources for the E.J.I. researchers.

The staffers at E.J.I., in addition to their legal duties, attempted to identify every lynching that took place in twelve states. They found records for about 4,000 lynchings, roughly 800 more than in previous counts. Stevenson became convinced that lynching had a historical and a contemporary relevance that needed to be more visible. At first, he imagined erecting more historical markers, but he soon expanded his plan. "One factor, to be honest, was that we started talking about a memorial for 9/11 victims within 5 years," he said. "It's not as if we haven't waited long enough to begin the process of a memorial for lynching. So that's when it became clear to me that, in addition to the markers, we needed to be talking about a space, a bigger, deeper, richer space. The markers will give you a little snapshot, but we need to tell the whole story."

On a steamy Saturday morning in May, about 100 volunteers assembled at the warehouse. Stevenson commands a stage without being especially commanding. He's of average height, with a shaved head - a concession to encroaching baldness - and he has the politician's gift for making his set pieces sound as if he were delivering them for the first time.

"I continue to believe that we're not free in this country, that we're not free at birth by a history of racial injustice," he told a diverse group of students, retirees, local activists, and supporters from around the country. "And there are spaces that are occupied by the legacy of that history that weigh on us. We talk a lot about freedom. We talk a lot about equality. We talk a lot about justice. But we're not free. There are shadows that follow us."

His cadence alternates between preachy intensity and lawyerly restraint. As Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the Harvard professor, put it, "There are 2 different streams of rhetoric in the African-American tradition, the sacred and the secular. Martin Luther King didn't sound like Thurgood Marshall. You can't argue in court like you're preaching in the Abyssinian Baptist Church. But scholars like Cornel West and Michael Eric Dyson in recent years have drawn from both traditions. Bryan does, too."

Stevenson told the group, "If you'd come to Montgomery a few years ago, you'd find a city with more than 50 markers or monuments to the Confederacy but hardly a word about slavery. And it's not like in the South we don't want to talk about the past. We love talking about the past." He noted that Alabama still observes Confederate Memorial Day (the last Monday in April) and Jefferson Davis's birthday (celebrated on the 1st Monday in June). In lieu of a separate Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, the state celebrates a joint Martin Luther King, Jr. - Robert E. Lee holiday. He also pointed out that the 2 largest high schools in Montgomery are Robert E. Lee High and Jefferson Davis High. "Both overwhelmingly black."

The group had gathered to participate in Stevenson's project to commemorate the history of lynching. "Lynching was racial terrorism," he said. "Old people of color come up to me sometimes and say, 'Mr. Stevenson, I get so angry when I hear someone on TV talking about how they're dealing with domestic terrorism for the 1st time in our nation's history after 9/11. You need to make them stop saying that, because that's not true.' People who had endured lynchings and bombings and threats had a tremendous shape on our lives. We haven't done a very good job of understanding the legacy of lynching, but the black people that are in Cleveland and Chicago and Detroit and Los Angeles and Oakland and Boston and Minneapolis did not go to those communities merely as immigrants looking for new economic opportunities. They went to those communities as refugees and exiles from the American South."

After Stevenson's speech, the volunteers headed out in small teams to fill gallon-size glass jugs with soil from the sites of the 363 lynchings that E.J.I. had documented in Alabama. Many of the sites are approximate, and the soil project, which has been going on for about a year, is meant to be symbolic rather than scientific. Along the back wall of the room where Stevenson was speaking were about a hundred jugs already filled with soil. The colors of the soil samples varied, from nearly black, in the Black Belt communities across the middle of the state (which was named for its rich soil as well as for its ethnic composition), to the tan, sandy soil from the Gulf Coast, around Mobile. The names of the victims and the dates of their deaths, which ranged from 1877 to 1950, are marked on the jugs.

The soil-collection project is part of a plan to erect the 1st national memorial to lynching victims, to be built on 6 acres of vacant land in downtown Montgomery. The project will cost twenty million dollars, and will include a museum at E.J.I. headquarters. It will transform the look, and perhaps the reputation, of Montgomery. A key part of the plan is a dare to the communities in which the lynchings took place. "We're going to name thousands of people who were the victims of lynchings," Stevenson told the group before they received their trowels and jars. "We're going to create a space where you can walk and spend time and go through that represents these lynchings. But, more than that, we're going to challenge every county in this country where a lynching took place to come and claim a memorial piece - and to erect it in their county."

Montgomery offers the project a rich civil-rights history and low-priced real estate. For the most part, the streets of downtown are quiet, and the sidewalks are empty. (There is no Starbucks.) Stevenson was able to assemble 6 1/2 acres of contiguous abandoned lots that were once the site of a failed public-housing complex, for about 600,000 dollars. It's a 15-minute walk from the warehouse, and up a small hill above the Greyhound bus station where the Freedom Riders were assaulted in 1961.

From a distance, the lynching memorial, designed by Michael Murphy and a team from the MASS Design Group, of Boston, will look like a long, low colonnade. Once visitors enter the structure and follow the path downhill, they will see that the columns are hanging in the air, as if from trees. Each column is 6 feet tall. The current plans call for the soil collected by volunteers to be used in coloring their exteriors. There will be 801 columns, 1 for each county and state in which a lynching took place. The names of the victims and the dates of the lynchings will be inscribed on the columns.

The memorial also has a more provocative component. Adjacent to the colonnade will be another eight hundred and one columns, exact duplicates. Each county in which a lynching took place will be invited to remove its memorial column and display it in its own community. The columns that remain in Montgomery will stand in mute rebuke to the places that refuse to acknowledge their history of lynching. "For us, it's the kind of activism that has clarity, purpose, and a goal," Stevenson told me. "Sometimes the goals aren't very clear or very well articulated, and you don't know whether you're getting closer or not. This will give us a way of measuring that. We'll know the places that are resisting, and it should build pressure on those communities, and the people in those communities, that are either not doing enough or need to do more."

The city of Montgomery has come to embrace Stevenson's plans, in the name of economic development. Mayor Todd Strange told me last spring, "We certainly appreciate the fact that it's going to lead to a big influx of people who want to come and gain some understanding. Those are good, clean tourist dollars." But he was also aware that, as he put it, "history is a battleground." Stevenson has been cautious about unveiling the project, which recently completed the zoning-approval process. Plans for the memorial had been mentioned only briefly in the Advertiser, the local daily. Strange told me, "Bryan has wanted it quiet. We still today have not made an announcement relative to the museum and the memorial park." For the moment, Stevenson has given the project the generic name of the Memorial for Peace and Justice, which provides no clue that it's all about lynching.

The reaction of Dick Brewbaker, a Republican state senator who represents a district in Montgomery, may presage a less warm welcome. Brewbaker, who is a prominent auto dealer, was not aware of the project when I asked him about it. "If he wants to do it, he needs to do it with private funds," Brewbaker said. (Stevenson has used no government funds.) Brewbaker went on, "Why is racially motivated violence worse than any other kind of violence? I don't give a damn what the motive of the offender was if an act of violence was committed. Interjecting even more race talk into Alabama's politics is not productive." Brewbaker noted that Montgomery has several museums about the civil-rights era, including one devoted to Rosa Parks, another to the Freedom Riders, and a 3rd to the movement as a whole (at the Southern Poverty Law Center). "I'd say the imbalance has been corrected pretty quickly, especially when you consider the Confederate symbols that have been removed." In 2015, Governor Robert Bentley ordered the removal of Confederate battle flags from the grounds of the Capitol. The flags are gone, but the plaques that described them remain.

Stevenson's 1st round of fund-raising for the memorial and the museum has garnered a 2-million-dollar commitment from the Ford Foundation and a million dollars from the charitable arm of Google; he has also earned more than a million from his book, the sale of movie rights, and his relentless speechmaking. That still leaves a considerable gap for a 29-million-dollar undertaking, which Stevenson hopes, optimistically, will open in 2017. For the moment, he bears the financial burden himself. Darren Walker, of the Ford Foundation, told me, "One of the things I've wanted to do is help Bryan situate his institution in a way that is durable and resilient and not so reliant on him as a charismatic leader." To that end, the Foundation has given E.J.I. a grant to hire a professional development staff.

I wondered how someone who was successfully juggling so many responsibilities could describe himself as "broken." Stevenson told me about the moment when he was talking to his client Jimmy Dill, just before Dill was executed, in 2009. "I've been in that setting before, but there was something different about this, because the man had this speech impediment," Stevenson said. "He couldn't get the words out, and he was going to use the last few minutes of his life - his last struggle was going to be devoted to saying to me, 'Thank you' and 'I love you for what you're trying to do.' I think that's what got to me in a way that few things had. And I, for the 1st time in my career, just thought, Is there an emotional cost, is there some toll connected to being proximate to all this suffering? I think that's when I realized that my motivation to help condemned people - it's not like I'm some whole person trying to help the broken people that I see along the road. I think I am broken by the injustice that I see."

After Stevenson spoke at the warehouse on that Saturday morning this spring, a 50ish volunteer named Susan Enzweiler, who had recently retired from a job in historic preservation, received an assignment to visit the site of the lynching of a man named Ebb Calhoun. He died on April 29, 1907, in the village of Pittsview, on Alabama's border with Georgia. According to the materials provided by E.J.I., on the day before the attack Calhoun's son reportedly walked between a white man and his daughter on the street, brushing against the woman. The white man, a "prominent merchant," according to a contemporary report, shoved the son to the ground; the man was already "annoyed by the boisterousness of a large crowd of negroes" in the town that day. E.J.I. gave the approximate address for the lynching as 88 Le Conte Street, in what was described as the central business district of Pittsview.

When Enzweiler and I arrived in Pittsview, we found what appeared to be the shell of a business district. A convenience store and a 1-room post office survived, but the structure at what might have been 88 Le Conte was a crumbling brick building. Enzweiler studied the arrangement of the bricks. When bricks were more fragile and less standardized than they are today, builders would alternate "stretchers" (bricks laid lengthwise) with "headers" (bricks with the short side exposed). There were headers every 6 rows in the building, which Enzweiler took to mean that it was constructed around the beginning of the twentieth century. It had probably been standing at the time of the lynching.

As Enzweiler was looking around, a woman drove up to the post office, across the street. She was a letter carrier. She said that her route covered Pittsview and the neighboring town of Cottonton. "Pittsview is majority black and minority white," she said. "Cottonton is the opposite." She said that the residents on Le Conte where Enzweiler was standing were all white; the residents farther up the block, on the other side of a traffic light, were all black. The road of demarcation between the racial enclaves was called Prudence.

Stevenson had asked the volunteers to try to imagine the events that led to the lynchings. Ebb Calhoun had returned the next day to the site of his son's confrontation. Several white men, including the merchant who had had the altercation with the son, harassed Ebb and then accused him of firing a shot at a visitor from Columbus. A group of whites assembled, surrounded Calhoun, and then shot him dead. "This was the main drag. They executed him in a public place," Enzweiler said. "Mr. Calhoun must have known what was going to happen. He was trying to protect his son, taking the hit that was probably meant for him. Ebb was a hero." She took out her trowel, bent over to brush away pieces of crumbled brick, and began to fill her glass jar with soil.

(source: Jeffrey Toobin has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1993)


The slow decline of the death penalty

In the New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin profiles the heroic Bryan Stevenson.

In 1989, a 29-year-old African-American civil-rights lawyer named Bryan Stevenson moved to Montgomery, Alabama, and founded an organization that became the Equal Justice Initiative. It guarantees legal representation to every inmate on the state's death row. Over the decades, it has handled hundreds of capital cases, and has spared 135 offenders from execution. In recent years, Stevenson has also argued the appeals of prisoners around the country who were convicted of various crimes as juveniles and given long sentences or life in prison . . .

Stevenson and his colleagues have managed to slow, but not stop, the death-penalty machinery in Alabama - an enormous challenge in view of the state's conservative and racially polarized politics. Alabama has an elected judiciary, and candidates compete to be seen as the toughest on crime. It's also the only death-penalty state in which judges routinely overrule juries that vote against imposing death sentences. (In their campaigns, judges boast about the number of death sentences they've imposed.) Alabama's population is about 27 % African-American. The 19 appellate judges who review death sentences, including all the justices on the state Supreme Court, are white and Republican. 41 of the state's 42 elected district attorneys are white, and most are Republican. The state imposes death sentences at the highest rate in the nation, but the Equal Justice Initiative has limited the number of executions to 22 in the past decade, and there has been only one in the past 3 years. "It's just intensive case-by-case litigation," Stevenson told me. "We've gone more aggressively than anyone in the country on racial bias against African-Americans in jury selection. We have extensive litigation on the lethal-injection protocols. We identify inadmissible evidence. We push hard on every issue."

In portions of the profile, Stevenson seems pessimistic, citing the recent spate of police shootings and white hostility to the civil rights movement. The profile also focuses more on Stevenson's admirable efforts to build a memorial to American lynchings than on his litigation.

But given Stevenson's lifelong work on the death penalty, it's worth taking the opportunity to point out just how rare executions are these days. At the national level, we're seeing a significant slowdown. Certainly, there are still hot spots where the death penalty is flourishing, and in those areas it still retains a familiar litany of problems: Those executed aren't the "worst of the worst." Rather, the death penalty is arbitrarily applied. It's racially discriminatory, with respect to the race of both the perpetrator and the victim. And the people executed aren't always the most culpable. Often, it's used as extra punishment for those who protest their innocence, or as leverage for a killer to give up accomplices. In the few states that still execute, the entire process is also getting more secretive and less accountable.

But there's good reason to think that the efforts in those states are capital punishment's death rattle. In a large and growing part of the country, the death penalty is becoming a relic of the past. Delaware's Supreme Court just ruled capital punishment unconstitutional. Nebraska's legislature repealed the death penalty, even overriding a veto in the process (though it may be resurrected with a ballot measure this fall). As NPR reported last December:

The death penalty is in decline no matter the measure, a new study released by the Death Penalty Information Center has found.

The report found that 28 people were executed this year, the lowest since 1991. The number of death sentences dropped by 33 %.

Only 6 states executed convicts during the year, and Texas, Missouri and Georgia accounted for 86 % of the executions.

There have been 15 executions so far this year, and just 2 since April. Only 5 states have carried out executions. Georgia and Texas alone account for 12 of the 15 executions.

According to Gallup polling, while 3 in 5 Americans (61 %) still support the death penalty, that figure also marks a 40-year low. Pew polling also shows a 40-year low, with support even lower, at 56 %. Among those ages 18 to 29, it's at 51 %.

Stevenson isn't the sort to take a bow, but the tireless work from groups such as EJI, the Innocence Project and the Death Penalty Information Center are a big reason for all of this - both in changing public opinion and in slowing down the machinery of capital punishment. You could argue that the progress has been too slow. But there's no question that there has been progress.

(source: Opinion; Radley Balko, Washington Post)


Pinkston attorney argues Ala. death penalty unconstitutional

A Calhoun County judge Monday heard arguments by an attorney that the rights of his client, charged with 2 counts of capital murder, were being infringed upon.

Attorney Will Broome Jr., representing Walter Craig Pinkston, argued that his client has the right to a jury throughout the entirety of his trial, which has not yet begun, and sentencing should only come from those twelve people. In Alabama, a judge has the final say on sentencing, which Broome said was unconstitutional.

"The state draws an arbitrary line that is convenient for them," Broome said after the hearing. "In other states, the jury is involved in every aspect of the trial. Here they leave after they give their verdict and sentencing recommendation."

Pinkston, 35, and Monica Marie Shively, 33, allegedly stabbed 89-year-old Alma Fleming to death in 2013 while they were attempting to commit robbery and burglary, according to court records. Calhoun County Coroner Pat Brown said in 2013 that he believed Fleming was stabbed to death 2 days before her son, Wayne Fleming, found her at her home on South Stebbins Street.

If Pinkston is found guilty of capital murder he could be sentenced to either death or life without parole. The trial itself is not scheduled to begin until at least December.

Broome called upon recent Supreme Court decisions striking down death penalty statutes in Delaware and Florida this year for a similar issue. Broome argued that there are 3 phases that the jury should be a part of - the verdict, the sentencing recommendation and the actual sentencing.

"They want to cut a line at a convenient point to put the decision in your hands," Broome said referring to the prosecutors. "The state wants to cut off his right to a jury trial at that point. Ultimately when the jury renders its advisory, that is just a recommendation. We're the only state that takes that and puts it solely in your hands."

Broome continued to argue that allowing the jury to make a sentencing recommendation, and then allowing the judge to sentence the defendant based on a pre-sentencing report and the facts of the trial is double-jeopardy.

"He is being tried twice, essentially, and judged twice for the same offense," Broome said. "That's double jeopardy."

Calhoun County Chief Assistant District Attorney Lynn Hammond argued that a jury's recommendation is only that, a recommendation. Speaking in hypotheticals, Judge Brian Howell asked Hammond why even have the jury make a recommendation if he can legally override the suggestion.

"It is paramount that the judge has the opportunity to hear what the populace believes," Hammond said. "It's just as constitutional as the guilt or innocence phase. I do not agree with the defense in this, I agree with the court of criminal appeals."

Broome in part agreed with Hammond.

"It is the community who should decide," he said in response. "It should be the wishes of the community. You could overrule it, you have that capability and that's why the death penalty is unconstitutional. The jury should decide each and every part of the trial."

Howell said he'd file a written order on the subject by the end of the week.

(source: The Anniston Star)


Judge told to review death row inmate's disability claim----Anthony Carr convicted in 1990 slayings

The Mississippi Supreme Court is telling a circuit judge to reconsider his ruling that upheld the death penalty for an inmate who said he's intellectually disabled and therefore ineligible for execution.

Anthony Carr was 1 of 2 men convicted in the 1990 slayings of Carl and Bobbie Jo Parker, their 12-year-old son Gregory and 9-year-old daughter Charlotte.

Sparsely populated Quitman County had to raise taxes to pay for the defense of Carr and Robert Simon Jr., who both still await execution.

In May 2011, Simon's execution was only four hours away when a federal appeals court ordered a halt to consider his intellectual disability claim. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected his appeal in March.

(source: WAPT news)


Prosecutor considers death penalty for suspect in Sebastian County deputy's death

Sebastian County Prosecutor Daniel Shue said Monday he will undertake a review to seek the death penalty for Billy Monroe Jones, the accused killer of a county sheriff's deputy last week between Hackett and Greenwood.

Jones, 35, was charged Monday in Sebastian County Circuit Court with capital murder and 10 counts of attempted murder for the shootout with police officers, all Class Y felonies. Jones was also charged with injuring an animal used by law enforcement, a Class D felony, being an "habitual criminal" and being a felon in possession of a firearm, a Class B felony. He will be arraigned before Judge J. Michael Fitzhugh at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Hackett Police Chief Darrell Spells was grazed with a bullet that morning when responding to a domestic disturbance call at 4722 Arkansas 253. The funeral for Cpl. Bill Cooper of the Sebastian County Sheriff's Office is set for 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Fort Smith Convention Center.

"Pursuant to the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution and the Arkansas Constitution, a careful, deliberate consideration must be conducted before exercising prosecutorial discretion in this regard," Shue wrote of seeking the death penalty for Jones.

Shue went on to state that if a prosecutor automatically seeks the death penalty in every capital murder case without "the exercise of proper judiciousness" then the decision could be the basis for reversal at some later date.

. Prior to the incident Aug. 10, Jones was expected in court before Fitzhugh on Aug. 18 for a Feb. 16 arrest for felony possession of oxycodone, being a felon in possession of a firearm and carrying a weapon, also a felony. He was out on a $5,000 bond.



Death Row Inmate Gets Another Hearing

The Ninth Circuit on Monday ordered an Arizona death row inmate's 1-day-late habeas corpus petition to be heard and determined on its merits.

Theodore Washington and 2 co-defendants, Fred Robinson and James Mathers, were convicted and sentenced to death in 1987 for shooting Robinson's common-law wife's step-mother.

Mathers' conviction was overturned by the Arizona Supreme Court due to insufficient evidence.

Robinson's sentence was reduced to 67 years to life because of an improper sentence enhancement.

Washington's federal habeas petition was denied on June 8, 2005. He had 30 days to file an appeal, but his legal team made a mistake and filed the appeal on July 11, 1 business day after the deadline. He then had a 30-day grace period to explain why the filing was late, but due to a court error he didn't learn about the late filing until2 1/2 months later.

The timeliness issue seemed to be a hurdle that could not be cleared. The district court denied Washington's petition to have the judgment vacated and re-entered so as to make his appeal timely. Then a 3-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit decided that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the case.

But the Ninth Circuit decided to rehear the case en banc, and Judge Morgan Christen, who delivered the 7-4 decision, wrote that this is an extraordinary case.

"(W)e conclude that when Congress adopted the Federal Rules, it entrusted the courts with the essential task of identifying the rare cases that warrant reentry of judgment for purposes of restoring the right to appeal," Christen wrote. "Of the thousands of judgments entered by district courts each year, only a handful have been found to warrant this type of relief. We conclude that Washington's is one of them."

Christen found it crucial that for 2 1/2 months the district court's docket was empty after Washington filed his notice of appeal, and the district clerk did not send the notice to the appellate clerk in that time. Washington's attorneys could not have known from checking the docket that the notice was late. They would have had to recalculate, unprompted, when the notice was due.

"Washington's lawyers are responsible for the initial late filing, but we cannot say they lacked diligence for failing to detect their late filing in time to seek an extension. The district court abused its discretion in concluding otherwise."

The state would not be prejudiced if the appeal were heard, Christen wrote, so it should be heard, especially given that this is a death penalty case and Washington's co-defendants have received relief.

"Dismissal of Washington's appeal would prevent any appellate review of the denial of his potentially meritorious habeas petition, yet it was a court error that prevented Washington from seeking an extension of time expressly allowed by the Rules."

Judge Jay Bybee, however, in 1 of 2 dissenting opinions, said the Ninth Circuit lacks jurisdiction.

"[The majority] has utterly failed to explain how a claim-processing rule like Rule 60(b) can be used to undermine a jurisdictional, statutory filing requirement promulgated by Congress," Bybee wrote. "And it ignores the consequences of its decision today: that in allowing relief under Rule 60(b) from an untimely appeal, the court puts a hole right through the Rule 4(a) timing requirements, now giving parties up to a year to attempt to pursue an appeal."

Washington was represented by Gilbert Levy of Seattle.

Charles Ryan, the respondent-appellee, was represented by Assistant Arizona Attorney General Laura Chiasson and former Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, of Tucson.

The case was also argued by Nathaniel Love from Sidley Austin in Chicago, Mark Haddad with Sidley Austin in Los Angeles, and David Porter, co-chairman of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Amicus Committee.

None of the attorneys with listed phone numbers could be reached for comment. The Arizona Attorney General's Office did not respond to a request for comment.

(source: Courthouse News)


Californians to decide death penalty's fate in November----2 opposing initiatives to appear on ballot

California voters will decide the fates of 2 competing death penalty ballot initiatives in November.

Prop. 66 would speed up the appeals process so that inmates face the death penalty sooner, while Prop. 62 would eliminate the sentence.

Both initiatives promise to save the state money. Prop. 62 supporters believe $150 million will be saved annually under their plan, while Prop. 66 supporters tout an annual savings in the tens of millions of dollars.

Since 1978, the state has executed just 13 inmates, while 743 remain on California's death row.

"It's a rare event, it should always be a rare event," Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said. "But, it's something that this state has consistently said is an important public policy."

Schubert supports Prop. 66, believing it is important to give victim's families that kind of closure.

Since she was elected as district attorney in 2014, Schubert has filed more than 100 murder cases, and only 1 turned into a death penalty case.

"It's a very solemn decision that's made, but ultimately it's a decision that is given to a jury," she said.

At a news conference Monday, Schubert introduced Sandy Friend, the mother of 8-year-old Michael Lyons, who was murdered in 1996 by Robert Rhoades.

"He used to tell me, 'I got my Superman cape on mom, don't worry I ain't gonna get hurt,'" Friend said.

Rhoades was sentenced to death in 1999, but he still sits on death row.

Californians voted on the death penalty in 2012 when a ballot initiative that would have abolished the death penalty narrowly failed to pass, receiving 48 % of the vote.

Ron Briggs helped get the 2012 initiative, along with Prop. 62, on the ballot. He believes taking away all the appeals process and leaving behind a life in prison is punishment enough.

"Putting a guy in prison for the rest of his life, I think is perhaps even more terrible a proposition than it is for the death penalty," Briggs said.

Under both propositions, anyone found guilty of murder would work to pay restitution to the victim's family.

Friend sees it as a chance for closure or continuing a long nightmare.

"I want the sentence that the jurors gave us, the sentence that I felt was justly deserved," Friend said.

Both propositions need a majority to pass.

If both pass, whichever gets more votes will take effect.

(source: KCRA news)


Rare look inside San Quentin Prison, home of death row

In just 3 months, voters have the chance to abolish the death penalty in California or speed up the process. With interest running high on the issue, San Quentin State Prison, home to the state's only death row, opened up and let ABC7 I-Team Reporter Dan Noyes and our cameras in for a rare look inside.

The 1st impression one gets of San Quentin is how old the place is. Much of it was built 100 years ago and there's nothing automatic about it. Each cell has to be locked or unlocked by hand.

Within the different housing units -- North Segregation, East Block, Donner, and The Adjustment Center -- there are 725 murderers, cop killers, child killers and serial killers.

Joe Naso was convicted of killing 4 women in a Marin County Trial 3 years ago. He's suspected of killing many more.

Noyes: "How many people did you kill"

Naso: "How many did you?"

Noyes: "That's easy, none. How about you?"

He says he didn't kill anybody.

The man who murdered 12-year-old Polly Klaas, Richard Allen Davis, refused to speak with us even though he's been writing letters to the ABC7 I-Team's Dan Noyes for more than a year.

Perhaps the most infamous inmate at San Quentin is Scott Peterson. He usually works out in an enclosed exercise yard but he chose to stay inside his cell today to avoid the media.

To be able to speak to the inmates, Dan Noyes had to wear an anti-stab vest for protection against prison shanks.

He was also required to sign a waiver -- the prison will not negotiate over hostages, if he were to be taken.

Another inmate described what life is like at San Quentin.

"Very minimal human contact, conditions-not that good," convicted double murderer Mila Johnson said.

Many inmates were happy to talk about their lives behind bars at the oldest prison in California.

Some wanted to discuss their cases and how long they've been on death row.

William Dennis said he's been there for "28 years all together." He was convicted of killing his ex-wife.

Asked whether the death penalty should be abolished or if executions should be sped up, he said, "I think that it's a big waste of money to have the death penalty and to try to speed it up is going to cost even more to do that."

As it stands now, inmates have a better chance of dying from natural causes or suicide. There hasn't been an execution in 10 years because of challenges to California's execution protocol -- the cocktail of drugs they use to kill a condemned man or woman.

Jamar Tucker is on death row for killing 3 men. He told Dan Noyes, "Man, I'm wrong and this what I got coming to me. Give it to me. Don't sit me, have me sitting on the shelf 20 and 30 years. You told me you're were going to kill me. Kill me already."

California's death row for women is at Valley State Prison in Chowchilla, with just 21 inmates awaiting execution.

Everyone is interested in what happens in November when voters get to decide on the future of the death penalty in California.

Facts about San Quentin:

--San Quentin was established in July 1852.

--It started on 20 acres of land purchased for $10,000.00.

--It was built by inmates who slept on a prison ship called the Waban at night and worked on construction during daylight hours. --San Quentin was known as the "Bastille by the Bay".

--It housed male and female inmates until 1933 when the women's prison at Tehachapi was built.

--Today, the prison overlooks the bay on 432 acres located 12 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

--The maximum security cell block is called the Adjustment Center.

--Medical facilities are located in the Health Care Service Building.

--The prison has a minimum security firehouse.

--Visitors are allowed to see inmates on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays

--Attorneys are allowed to meet with clients Monday through Thursday.

--Condemned inmates can meet with their attorneys on Thursdays.

--San Quentin is home to California's only gas chamber.

--All of California's male death row inmates are located at San Quentin.


(source: ABCV news)


Anti-death penalty veterans added to Roof's legal team

T2 lawyers with long records of death penalty defense have joined the legal team of accused mass killer Dylann Roof.

Roof is facing the federal death penalty in the June 2015 killings of 9 African-Americans at a historic downtown Charleston church.

The lead attorney is still nationally-known death penalty expert David Bruck, who practiced more than 20 years in South Carolina before setting up an anti-capital punishment project center in Virginia.

In recent weeks, Bruck has been joined by:

-- Kimberly Stevens, an Asheville, N.C. lawyer who has represented defendants in 35 death penalty cases, according to her profile.

-- Emily Paavola, legal director of Justice 360 of Columbia, an anti-death penalty nonprofit group that works on S.C. death penalty cases and pushes for changes. Paavola graduated from Cornell Law School, where she was taught by John Blume, an S.C. native who, like Bruck, is a nationally-known anti-death penalty lawyer.

Those additions come after Sarah Gannett, a long-time federal public defender with extensive appellate experience, joined Roof's team in June.

In late July, Michael O'Connell, a Mount Pleasant criminal defense attorney, left Roof's team. Working with Bruck, he had represented Roof since July 2015. O'Connell declined comment on the decision.

With Bruck, Stevens, Paavola and Gannett, Roof now has 4 court-appointed lawyers. All of them were approved by U.S. Judge Richard Gergel, who has said he wants experienced lawyers defending Roof.

Mistakes by attorneys not versed in death penalty matters can result in reversals of jury verdicts and expensive retrials.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jay Richardson and Nathan Williams are the main part of the prosecution team. They are joined by Stephen Curran, Paige Fitzgerald and Nicholas Murphy, all of whom work for the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington.

(source: The State)


Turkey PM steps back from calls for death penalty

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Tuesday (Aug 16) a fair trial would represent a harsher punishment for suspected coup plotters than the death penalty - an apparent step back from threats to re-introduce capital punishment.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had suggested Turkey could bring back capital punishment - abolished in 2004 as part of the country's reforms to join the European Union - in the wake of the Jul 15 failed coup aimed at ousting him from power.

The threat stunned the EU, which makes the abolition of capital punishment an unnegotiable condition for joining the bloc.

"A person dies only once when executed," Yildirim told ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) MPs in parliament. "There are tougher ways to die than the death (penalty) for them. That is an impartial and fair trial," Yildirim said.

The prime minister's comments marked a change in tone after Erdogan said earlier this month that if the Turkish public wanted a return to capital punishment, then political parties would follow their will.

Erdogan has also not mentioned the issue in his latest speeches in recent days.

Relations between Brussels and Ankara have already been strained since Turkey responded to the coup by launching a relentless crackdown against alleged plotters in state institutions, amid calls from the EU to act within the rule of law.

Tens of thousands of staff within the military, judiciary, civil service and education have been dismissed or detained since a rogue faction within the military tried to oust Erdogan from power.

Ankara blames Erdogan's ally-turned-foe Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic preacher in self-exile in the United States, and his movement for ordering last month's coup bid. Gulen strongly denies the accusations.

Yildirim said Gulen would be brought to account for the attempted putsch during which 240 people lost their lives, excluding 34 coup plotters who were killed.

"Those responsible for the blood of our martyrs will be brought to account. We will not bring them to account acting out of revenge. We will bring them to account with justice," the prime minister said.

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



Dubai court hands down death sentence to Sharjah child killer

The man who raped and killed an 8-year-old Obaida Al Aqrabawi in Sharjah has been sentenced to death, it was reported on Monday.

Dubai Criminal Court announced the sentence for 48-year-old Nidal Eisah Abdullah Abu Ali, The National reported.

It added that the Jordanian boy's father began sobbing while some men in the courtroom consoled him.

Obaida was kidnapped on May 20 while playing outside his father's garage in Sharjah's industrial area.

His body was found 2 days later in Academic City Road in Al Warqa.

In June, Dubai's Attorney-General, Essam Eisa Al Humaidan, called for the death penalty for Abu Ali.



Top court justice nominee espouses security law, abolition of death penalty

Supreme Court justice nominee Kim Jae-hyung on Tuesday espoused the National Security Law, alternative services for faith-based draft objectors and the abolition of capital punishment.

In his written answers to questions raised by Saenuri Party Rep. Kim Jin-tae, the top court nominee said that the National Security Law has a role to play, particularly at the time of a continuing military standoff between the 2 Koreas.

Kim, currently a professor at Seoul National University's School of Law, noted that through a set of past revisions to the law, concerns about the pitfalls in its interpretation and enforcement have been "considerably" reduced.

Critics argue the law could be arbitrarily interpreted to undermine people's basic rights. Under the law, South Koreans are barred from supporting or praising the North. They are also banned from joining a pro-Pyongyang organization or having unauthorized contact with the communist state.

On the issue of the so-called "conscientious objectors" who refuse to join the military based on their religious beliefs, the nominee said that the nation should explore ways to comprehensively protect the objectors' freedom.

"(The nation) should ponder harmonious solutions between the freedom of conscience and a military duty," he said.

"Based on national consensus, (the government) should actively consider opening ways (for the conscientious objectors) to carry out alternative services (rather than a military one) with a rigorous screening process and conditions."

Throwing his weight behind the abolition of the death penalty, Kim pointed to the possibility of misjudgment in court proceedings.

But he stressed that measures to prevent any side effects from the abolition should be crafted.

Although South Korea keeps the death penalty, it has not carried out any executions since 1997 -- the reason why Amnesty International, a global human rights watchdog, has classified the country as "abolitionist in practice."

The National Assembly is set to hold a confirmation hearing for Kim on Thursday. A Supreme Court justice nominee requires parliamentary approval.

(source: The Korea Herald)


Man gets death penalty for murder in Chandpur

A Chandpur court has sentenced a 28-year-old man to death in a murder case filed in 2012.

The court of Additional District and Sessions Judge Mamunur Rashid passed the order on Tuesday and also fined the convict Md Arif Mij by Tk 100,000.

According to the case details, Arif entered the house of Md Billal Hossain Miji and stabbed his son with a sharp weapon on the night of Aug 23, 2012.

The family discovered the body lying on floor the next morning.

Prosecutor Sayedul Islam Babu said Billal had filed a murder case with the local police the same day. Police pressed charges on Arif on Sep 30, 2012.



7 Death Row Juvenile Offenders in Iran Identified

Iran Human Rights has identified 7 death row prisoners in the western regions of Iran who were under the age of 18 when they were charged with murder.

Iran has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child and must stop the execution of children. Despite Iran's obligation to end the death penalty for prisoners who were convicted for offences committed before the age of 18, Iranian authorities continue to sentence juvenile offenders to death and execute them. According to reports by Iran Human Rights, at least 2 juveniles offenders have been executed so far in 2016 in Iran.

Rauf Hasani

--Born on January 27, 1997.

--Arrested on August 8, 2013 at the age of 16 in the city of Saqqez (Kurdistan province, northwestern Iran) on murder charges.

--Sentenced to death in spring 2015 by the civil court in Saqqez.

--Completed school up to the 5th grade.

--Detained in the juvenile offenders ward of Saqqez Central Prison.


--Born on July 13, 1997.

--Arrested in winter 2013 at the age of 15 on murder charges.

--Sentenced to death in autumn 2015 by the civil court in Saqqez.

--Completed school up to the 6th grade.

--Currently held in Saqqez Central Prison.


Saleh Teymouri

--Born on May 8, 1996.

--Arrested in summer 2011 in the city of Bukan (West Azerbaijan province, northwestern Iran) at the age of 15 for "murder by throwing stones leading to brain damage and death of the victim". --Sentenced to death on July 12, 2014 by the civil court in Bukan.

--Completed school up to the 6th grade.

--Detained in Bukan Prison.


--Born in September 1998. He is currently 17 years old.

--Arrested in November 2014 at the age of 15 on murder charges.

--Sentenced to death on July 20, 2016 by the civil court in Saqqez. The sentence was issued to him in prison on July 27th. His case file is currently in the possession of Iran's Supreme Court for confirmation.

--Detained in Saqqez Central Prison.


Yadollah Rahimzadeh

--Born on November 10, 1997. --Arrested in May 2014 in Saqqez at the age of 16 for murder charges. Before his arrest he was a child laborer.

--Completed school up to the 6th grade.

--Sentenced to death on July 16, 2016 by the civil court in the city of Sanandaj (Kurdistan province).

--Detained in the juvenile offenders ward of Sanandaj Central Prison.


Assad Rasoulnejad

--Born on October 7, 1996 in Mahabad County.

--Arrested on April 5, 2012 in the city of Bukan at the age of 15.

--Sentenced to death in 2015 by the civil court in Bukan.

--Completed school up to the 7th grade.

--Detained in Bukan Prison.


Khaled Rasouli

--Born on September 20, 1995 in Mahabad County (West Azerbaijan province).

--Arrested in September 2011 in Miandoab County (West Azerbaijan province) at the age of 15 on murder charges.

--Sentenced to death in January 2015 by the civil court in Miandoab.

--Completed school up to the 7th grade.

--Detained in Miandoab Prison.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Iranian rights advocate: Mass execution of Sunnis is "crime against humanity"

Dr. Mohammad Maleki, the 1st chancellor of Tehran University following the 1979 Iranian revolution, strongly condemned the mass execution of Sunni political prisoners earlier this month, and the 1988 massacre of political prisoners, describing these measures as crimes against humanity that can be prosecuted in court, in an interview with Al Arabiya.

In the August 6 interview, the prominent human rights advocate said: "All the massacres that have taken place from day one to this day are all legally void, illegal and can be prosecuted in a court of law as a crime against humanity."

Maleki criticized the international community's silence in the face of deteriorating human rights conditions in Iran and believes as long as the regime is in power the crackdowns and intense security measures will remain intact. He expressed his hope that the Iranian people will, as soon as possible, bring to power a democratic and freedom-loving state that respects people's rights.

Some 30,000 political prisoners, primarily affiliated to the main opposition group People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI or MEK), were massacred in Iran in the summer of 1988.

The following are parts of a telephone interview by the Al Arabia Farsi branch with Dr. Maleki:

Al-Arabia: What are your thoughts regarding the regime's objective in mass executing Sunni prisoners on the 28th anniversary of the 1988 massacre of political prisoners?

Dr. Maleki: Principally, from day one the so-called Islamic republic of Iran has adopted a violent approach vis-a-vis the people. From the very beginning this regime executed people in the name of drug addicts and political figures, launched the 1988 killings, and killed its dissidents abroad. I was personally prosecuted and placed behind bars for 5 years from 1981 to 1986. I have seen how these people were executed, and how the regime launched 2-minute court trials. Around 30,000 people were executed [in 1988], they were all prosecuted and in the initial courts they were sentenced to prison terms, not to be executed. They were all prisoners and were serving their time, and some had even served their entire sentences. Therefore, all the massacres from day one to this day, and to this moment, are all legally void, illegal, can be subject to prosecution and are considered a crime against humanity.

Human rights advocates & organizations, and also various executed Kurdish activists all say these prisoners were the victims of "forged cases" by security organs, with the objective of portraying Iran’s Sunni movement as extremists. What is your opinion in this regard?

I have been a prisoner myself. Principally, all the jailing and accusations are illegal and nothing but allegations lacking any real basis ... Our friends who were their cellmates, and whom I have talked with, say they had no relation with ISIS, terrorism or any such issue. They were all religiously devoted and often held mass prayers. Anyhow, these crimes that this regime will carry out until its very last day in power, are aimed at cementing a climate of fear in the society.

Considering the agreement reached between the West and Iran, how do you evaluate the international community's position regarding the deteriorating human rights situation in Iran? In your opinion, is the human rights situation - as many say - becoming victim to this agreement?

Why are they silent? Don't they think with each day in power this government is a detriment for the Iranian people?

Dr. Maleki, how do you assess the situation of domestic protests and also Iran's relations with the region in the shadows of its warmongering meddling?

All the workers, farmers, teachers, college students, bazaar merchants and various groups have come to understand that they are subject to cruelty. The taxes extracted from them and the money we were demanding are all spent in countries such as Iraq, Yemen and Yemen. I hope the Iranian people are successful, as soon as possible, in having a truly democratic and freedom loving state that respects human rights come to power.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein condemned the recent executions in Iran. In your opinion, is it enough for the U.N. to merely condemn human rights violations to stop the crackdown and intense security atmosphere in Iran? What is your message to the international community in this regard?

These condemnations are necessary, but not enough. I believe the U.N. and other international human rights organizations should seriously stand against these crimes.


On Tuesday, August 2nd the fundamentalist mullahs' regime in Iran sent 25 Sunni prisoners to the gallows in the notorious Gohardasht Prison, located in Karaj, northwest of Tehran.

(source: NCR-Iran)


COAS confirms death sentence to 11 hardcore terrorists

Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif on Tuesday confirmed death sentences awarded to another 11 hardcore terrorists.

According to ISPR, those who have been awarded death penalty, were found guilty of committing heinous offences related to terrorism, including killing of DIG Fayyaz Sumbal and ASI Raza Khan of Balochistan Police and Inspector Kamran Nazir of ISI at Quetta.

The convicts also included those who were involved in sectarian killings, kidnapping and slaughtering of civilians and personnel of Frontier Constabulary and killing of Major Abdid Majeed of Pakistan Army.

They planned and executed a number of attacks on Law Enforcement Agencies and Armed forces of Pakistan.

They were also involved in destruction of Schools and communication infrastructure.

These convicts were tried by military courts and their details are:

1. Zia Ul Haq S/O Wali Khan.

The convict was an active member of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. He was involved in suicidal attacks which caused death and injuries to a large number of civilians.

The convict was also involved in attacking Law Enforcement Agencies which resulted in death of Deputy Inspector General of Police Fayyaz Sumbal, Assistant Sub Inspector Raza Khan, several other police officials and Inspector Kamran Nazir of Inter Services Intelligence.

He was also found involved in sectarian killings. He admitted his offences before the Magistrate and the trial court. He was tried on 12 charges and was awarded death sentence.

2. Fazal e Rabbi S/O Fazal Ghafoor.

The convict was an active member of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. He was involved in slaughtering and killing of civilians. He was also involved in attacking Armed Forces of Pakistan which resulted in death of Maj Abid Majeed and injuries to several soldiers.

The convict admitted his offences before the Magistrate and the trial court. He was tried on 4 charges and awarded death sentence.

3. Muhammad Sher S/O Zaray.

The convict was an active member of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. He was involved in killing of civilians. He was also involved in attacking Armed Forces of Pakistan which resulted in death and injuries to soldiers.

The convict also destroyed a Girls Middle School. He admitted his offences before the Magistrate and the trial court. He was tried on 5 charges and awarded death sentence.

4. Umer Zada S/O Gul Rehman.

The convict was an active member of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. He was involved in attacking Armed Forces of Pakistan which resulted in death and injuries to soldiers. He was also in possession of explosives. The convict admitted his offences before the Magistrate and the trial court. He was tried on 3 charges and awarded death sentence.

5. Latif Ur Rehman S/O Saif Ur Rehman.

The convict was an active member of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. He was involved in kidnapping and killing personnel of Law Enforcement Agencies. He was also guilty for attacking Armed Forces of Pakistan which resulted in death of soldiers. The convict was also in possession of fire arms and explosives. He admitted his offences before the Magistrate and the trial court. He was tried on 5 charges and awarded death sentence.

6. Muhammad Adil S/O Muhammad Akbar Jan.

The convict was an active member of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. He was involved in kidnapping and slaughtering of soldiers of Frontier Constabulary. The convict was also involved in destruction of Police Station Matta.

He was also in possession of fire arms and explosives. The convict admitted his offences before the Magistrate and the trial court. He was tried on 5 charges and awarded death sentence.

7. Israr Ahmed S/O Abdul Rahim Jan.

The convict was an active member of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. He was involved in attacking Armed Forces of Pakistan which resulted in death and injuries to soldiers.

He was also involved in destruction of Girls Primary School and a hotel of Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation. The convict admitted his offences before the Magistrate and the trial court. He was tried on 4 charges and awarded death sentence.

8. Abdul Majeed S/O Khona Moula.

The convict was an active member of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. He was involved in attacking Armed Forces of Pakistan which resulted in death and injuries to soldiers. He also destroyed a hotel of Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation. The convict admitted his offences before the Magistrate and the trial court. He was tried on 3 charges and awarded death sentence.

9. Hazrat Ali S/O Fazal Rabi.

The convict was an active member of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. He was involved in planting Improvised Explosive Devices and killing of civilians. He was also involved in attacking Armed Forces of Pakistan. The convict admitted his offences before the Magistrate and the trial court. He was tried on 5 charges and awarded death sentence.

10. Mian Said Azam S/O Mian Said Jaffar. The convict was an active member of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. He was involved in attacking Armed Forces of Pakistan and Law Enforcement Agencies which resulted in death and injuries to soldiers.

He was also involved in destruction of Girls Schools. The convict admitted his offences before the Magistrate and the trial court.

He was tried on 5 charges and awarded death sentence.

11. Qaiser Khan S/O Habib Khan.

The convict was an active member of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. He was involved in killing of civilians and destruction of communication infrastructure. The convict admitted his offences before the Magistrate and the trial court. He was tried on 2 charges and awarded death sentence.

(source: Business Recorder)

AUGUST 15, 2016:


Delaware AG won't appeal court rejection of death penalty

Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn said Monday that he will not appeal a state Supreme Court decision declaring the state's death penalty law unconstitutional, but that he believes the ruling cannot be applied retroactively to the 13 men currently on death row.

In a statement released by his office, the Democratic attorney general said he decided not to appeal the Aug. 2 ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a 148-page opinion, a majority of Delaware Supreme Court justices said the law violates the U.S. Constitution because it allows a judge to sentence a person to death independently of a jury's recommendation.

The ruling also found fault with parts of the law that allow a judge to find the existence of 1 or more aggravating circumstances weighing in favor of the death penalty, and because it does not require jurors to be unanimous in deciding whether any aggravating circumstances exist.

The justices said the law is also flawed because it allows the judge, not the jury, to make the crucial final determination on whether aggravating circumstances outweigh mitigating factors, thus mandating a death sentence. That determination, the court said, must be made unanimously and beyond a reasonable doubt by the jury.

Denn concluded that even if the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the split opinion on federal constitutional grounds, Delaware's Supreme Court would ultimately invalidate the death penalty law based on the state constitution.

"The Delaware Supreme Court has repeatedly stated that the Delaware constitution provides rights to a jury trial that are independent of and in some instances more expansive than those provided by the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution," the statement reads. "Litigating and appealing these issues - a process that would likely take years before issues of both federal and state constitutional law were resolved - would likely not only bring about the same result, but would also deny the families of victims sentencing finality."

At the same time, Denn reiterated that he would support an amendment to the existing law requiring a unanimous jury verdict in order to impose a death sentence. His agency also said it would argue that the Supreme Court decision does not retroactively apply to current death row inmates.

"It sounds like the state is going to continue to fight those cases, and they're entitled to do so, but there's a fight on the other side of that argument," said Santino Ceccotti, a public defender who successfully argued to the Delaware justices that the existing law is unconstitutional.

Ceccotti said the men currently on death row would have to challenge their sentences in federal court over the issue of retroactivity.

"In due time, that issue will be resolved," he said.

Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers have said they plan to introduce legislation to revise Delaware's death penalty law in light of the court ruling, but it's unclear whether they have enough support in the General Assembly.

A bill to abolish capital punishment cleared the state Senate by a single vote last year but was defeated in the House earlier this year. U.S. Rep. John Carney, a heavy favorite to win the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in a Democratic-leaning state, praised the court ruling declaring Delaware's law unconstitutional, saying capital punishment was "too flawed" to be considered fair or just.

(source: Assoicated Press)


Dayton triple homicide could become death penalty case

The suspect in a triple homicide now faces multiple charges including murder, aggravated murder and kidnapping could face the death penalty.

Muhammad Shabazz Ali, 61, is scheduled to appear in court Monday afternoon, August 15, on 28 charges. Prosecutors tell FOX 45 that Ali is eligible for the death penalty, but they will have to meet to determine if he should. Ali is accused of fatally shooting Jasper Taylor, 74, Tammy Cox, 53, and Michael Cox, 25, on Wednesday, August 10. The 3 were found inside a home on Oxford Avenue in Dayton with gunshot wounds, police say they believe it was a case of domestic dispute. When police arrived on the scene of the shooting, they began pursing a vehicle and eventually stopped it in the area of Germantown and Paul Laurence Dunbar streets.

FOX 45 has learned that hours before the deadly shooting, Ali was arrested at the Day-Mont Behavioral Center. Workers called 911 saying that Ali was being violent and throwing things around. "He's pulling things off the walls, cussing and carrying on, screaming," the worker told 911. In the background you can hear Ali screaming, "I want my medication." Ali was taken to Grandview Hospital after the incident.

Ali has served time previously for killing a woman. In 1988, he went by his given name, Robert Ford Jr. and was convicted of manslaughter, he served 20 years in prison.

(source: WRGT news)


Death penalty costs Nebraska about $14 million annually, finds study commissioned by capital punishment foes ---- Ernie Goss completed the death penalty cost review for Retain a Just Nebraska, which is waging a campaign to keep the Nebraska Legislature's repeal of capital punishment.

Maintaining the death penalty costs Nebraska about $14 million annually, according to an economic study commissioned by a group working to keep capital punishment off the books.

Omaha economist Ernie Goss said death penalty cases are more costly to prosecute and defend than murder cases where life without parole is the maximum sentence. More public money is spent on death penalty appeals and housing inmates on death row, said Goss, who based his analysis largely on cost studies conducted in other death penalty states.

"To put it in other words, if the death penalty stays repealed and we leave in place life imprisonment, the state will save approximately $14.6 million annually," Goss said.

Although Goss is an economics professor at Creighton University, he also produces studies for paying clients. He completed the death penalty cost review for Retain a Just Nebraska, which is waging a campaign to keep the Nebraska Legislature's repeal of capital punishment.

The repeal is on hold pending the outcome of a referendum that seeks to restore the death penalty. Voters will decide the issue during the Nov. 8 general election.

The Legislature's repeal of the death penalty prompted supporters of capital punishment to collect signatures to put the referendum on the ballot. Gov. Pete Ricketts, who unsuccessfully vetoed the repeal, was a strong supporter of the petition drive.

Goss calculated the state spent $533 million on "justice activities" in 2013. Without the death penalty, the cost would have been about $519 million, he wrote.

Between 1973 and 2014, Nebraska saw 1,842 homicides and 33 death sentences but only 3 executions, Goss found. The state's last execution took place in 1997.

(source: Omaha World-Herald)


Lawyers want bail hearing for man accused in husband's death

Lawyers for a Utah man who could face the death penalty in the house-fire death of his restaurateur husband made a push for a judge to set bail on Monday.

Craig Crawford's defense attorneys also asked for an order requiring authorities to hand over key evidence in the case, including reports from the state medical examiner and arson investigators.

"We need those," said lawyer Jim Bradshaw, who wants a 2-day bail hearing be set as soon as possible. Crawford, 47, appeared in a tan jail jumpsuit and glasses and spoke little except to say he agreed with his lawyer's requests.

The bond hearing will be scheduled during a telephone conference on Wednesday, Judge Vernice Trease said.

Crawford is accused of setting the couple's house on fire in May, shortly after his husband John Williams, 72, filed for divorce and unsuccessfully sought a restraining order.

Williams was trapped on the 4th floor after the stairs caught fire. Authorities say Crawford went outside and watered the plants while his husband screamed for help. Williams died of smoke inhalation.

Williams was a well