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

AUGUST 23, 2017:


Reginald Kimbro, Man Accused in Two North Texas Assaults, Murders, Faces 2nd Capital Murder Charge----Officials have not said when trials in Dallas, Tarrant counties will begin

Reginald Gerard Kimbro, the man accused of sexually assaulting and murdering 2 North Texas women and raping a 3rd, has been indicted on a 2nd capital murder charge.

Kimbro, 24, is accused of killing both 36-year-old Megan Getrum, of Plano, and 22-year-old Molly Matheson, a former college girlfriend who lived in Fort Worth, within days of each other.

Matheson's body was found in her Fort Worth garage apartment by her mother on April 10. Detectives learned Matheson and Kimbro previously dated in 2014 while both were students at the University of Arkansas.

In an interview with detectives 4 days after Matheson's death, Kimbro told police he and Molly were no longer dating but had kept in touch. He admitted to being at her apartment the night she died but said he left after a few hours and had nothing to do with her death.

That same day, April 14, was the last time anyone saw Getrum alive. She is believed to have disappeared from the Arbor Hills Nature Preserve in Plano, not far from where she lived. Getrum's body was found in Lake Ray Hubbard April 15, but not identified until days later after her family reported her missing.

Authorities said an autopsy report revealed Getrum's death was the result of a "blunt injury" to the back of her neck. She had also been strangled and sexually assaulted. An arrest warrant indicated that detectives found Kimbro's DNA on Getrum's body during an autopsy. Authorities said they matched it with his DNA found earlier on the body of Matheson, who had also been sexually assaulted.

Given that the 2 deaths occurred in 2 different counties, they are being prosecuted separately by 2 different district attorneys. Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson announced Aug. 10 she was seeking the death penalty in the Matheson capital murder case while Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson is seeking either the death penalty or a life sentence in the the Getrum case, whose body was found in Dallas County.

"We continue to pray for Megan Getrum's family. We also continue to pray for the family of Molly Matheson of Fort Worth, as Reginald Kimbro is also being charged with Capital Murder in connection to her death. We believe that justice will be served in both of these cases," Johnson said Tuesday.

With a charge of capital murder, a guilty verdict automatically carries a death sentence or mandatory life in prison without parole.

Kimbro was twice before accused of sexual assault, though no charges were filed in either case. The f1st assault allegedly took place in September 2012 where a woman reported Kimbro sexually assaulted her in Plano. Kimbro was never arrested in this case and the arrest warrant affidavit does not say why prosecutors declined to pursue the case.

The 2nd assault allegedly took place in March 2014 at a resort on South Padre Island. In that incident, Kimbro claimed the sex was consensual and the charges were dismissed. However, in June 2017, the Cameron County District Attorney indicted Kimbro on an aggravated sexual assault charge from the 2014 incident. Officials did not say why, now, they were pursuing the case.

In both cases, police said Kimbro knew the women and strangled them during the assault. While Kimbro's connection to Matheson is clear, investigators have not said if Kimbro knew Getrum.

Kimbro is currently being held at the Tarrant County Lon Evans Correction Center on a $2.1 million bond. Officials have not said when they expect the trials to begin.

Online jail records do not indicate an attorney for him.



Pa. high court orders new death penalty hearing in '84 murder of Germantown deacon

In a case that reignited scrutiny of Pennsylvania's death penalty and the workings of the state's highest court, an evenly divided Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ordered a new death penalty hearing for Terrance Williams, convicted and condemned in the 1984 slaying of Germantown church deacon Amos Norwood.

Just 4 of the 7 justices participated in Tuesday's decision and, under court rules, the stalemate automatically affirmed a Philadelphia judge's 2012 ruling that Williams deserved a new jury to decide whether he should be sentenced to death or to life in prison without parole.

2 justices - Christine Donohue and David N. Wecht - favored a new sentencing hearing, and 2 - Sallie Updyke Mundy and former Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Kevin M. Dougherty - supported reinstating Williams' death sentence. The 3 remaining justices - Thomas G. Saylor, Max Baer, and Debra McCloskey Todd - recused themselves because they were part of the unanimous 2014 Supreme Court decision that reinstated Williams's death sentence.

That decision was reversed in 2016 by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-3 decision that held that Ronald D. Castille, then chief justice of Pennsylvania's high court, should never have participated in the case because he oversaw the prosecution in Williams' 1986 trial when he was Philadelphia's district attorney.

Former District Attorney Seth Williams, who pleaded guilty in June to a federal bribery count and is in prison awaiting sentencing, strongly supported Terrance Williams' death sentence, and the prosecutor's office had tried to persuade the Pennsylvania justices to reaffirm their 2014 decision.

The case now returns to Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina, who almost 5 years ago spared Williams from imminent execution when she ruled that the city prosecutor withheld information - Norwood allegedly sexually abused the teen - that might have persuaded the jury to spare Williams' life.

Cameron Kline, spokesman for District Attorney Kelley B. Hodge, on Tuesday referred to the "unique procedural posture of the case," with just 2 of 7 justices backing a new death-penalty hearing.

"We are reviewing the case and will determine how to proceed," Kline said.

Meanwhile, Shawn Nolan, Williams' lawyer and the head of the death penalty unit at the federal defender's office in Philadelphia, said in a statement: "We are thankful that the ruling of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upholds Judge Sarmina's well-reasoned decision that vacated Mr. Williams' death sentence."

Nolan said he hopes the District Attorney's Office will finally drop its pursuit of the death penalty and "agree that they should never have sought death against a teenager who killed his sexual abuser."

Williams came within a month of a 2nd scheduled execution on March 4, 2015, but Gov. Wolf imposed a moratorium on executions until after he receives the report of a legislative task force studying the future of capital punishment. Pennsylvania's death penalty has been used just 3 times since it was reinstated in 1978.

Williams, now 51, was an 18-year-old Cheyney University football standout when he was arrested in 1984 and charged with murdering Norwood. At the time, city prosecutors alleged that Williams bludgeoned the 56-year-old man to death in a West Oak Lane cemetery, then set his corpse on fire during a robbery.

At trial, Williams testified that he was innocent and had never met Norwood. Later, as his case moved into a secondary appeal under the state Post Conviction Relief Act, Williams admitted the killing but said it was motivated by 5 years of sexual abuse by Norwood.

Williams' appeal was supported a group of lawyers and former judges, child advocates, and religious figures - including Norwood's widow - who urged that his life be spared for a crime committed 3 months after he turned 18, then the minimum age for someone to be sentenced to death in the United States.

Williams' petition also included 5 members of the Philadelphia jury that condemned him to death, saying they would have opted for life in prison had they heard the mitigating evidence about his childhood of sexual abuse by a neighbor, a teacher, and Norwood himself.



DA plans to pursue death penalty after Stroupe indicted for murder

District Attorney Greg Newman said Tuesday that a grand jury in Henderson County on Monday indicted Phillip Michael Stroupe II for 1st degree murder in the death of Thomas Andrew Bryson.

Stroupe is accused of killing Bryson, 68, near his home in Millls River on July 26, while Stroupe was on the run from law enforcement in Transylvania County.

Stroupe was captured in McDowell County on July 27 after a chase in Bryson's vehicle.

Deputies found Bryson's body off Glenn Bridge Road on July 30.

Stroupe II was also indicted for Robbery with a Dangerous Weapon and 1st Degree Kidnapping. His father, Phillip Michael Stroupe, Sr., was also indicted Monday for the accessory after the fact to 1st degree murder.

Both father and son are due in court again on October 9.

Newman said he expects to outline his plan to pursue the death penalty during the October hearing.

"This is the 1st step of a lengthy process," Newman said in a news release. "I met with Mrs. Bryson and 1 of her sons and explained to them that the legal process requires endurance and we have a considerable amount of work ahead of us just to get this case to trial. On the 9th of October, we hope to hold a conference with Judge Powell whereby I will announce the grounds that I believe exist to pursue the death penalty upon a conviction of the murder charge. We will also discuss the defendant's legal representation. North Carolina law permits 2 court appointed lawyers in a case where a crime is punishable by death."

Stroupe II faces felony charges in Transylvania, Madison, Yancey and McDowell counties.


FLORIDA----impendingn execution

Florida to resume executions with 1st use of triple-drug injection

Florida's death penalty hiatus is slated to end Thursday, when the state plans to execute the 1st death row prisoner in more than 19 months.

But the execution of Mark James Asay - a white supremacist accused of targeting black victims - won't just be the 1st lethal injection since early 2016 in a state that was killing death row prisoners at a record-breaking pace until a U.S. Supreme Court ruling put Florida's death penalty on hold.

It will also be the 1st execution anywhere in the country using an untested triple-drug lethal injection procedure.

Asay has spent nearly 3 decades on death row after being convicted in the 1987 shooting deaths of 2 men in downtown Jacksonville.

Gov. Rick Scott initially signed a death warrant for Asay in January 2016.

But not long afterward, in a case known as Hurst v. Florida, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the state's death-penalty sentencing system as unconstitutional because it gave too much power to judges, instead of juries.

Lawmakers revamped the law, but a series of court rulings kept the death penalty in limbo until this spring, when the Florida Supreme Court lifted a hold on Asay's execution, more than a year after it was supposed to take place.

It's not unusual for death row prisoners, especially those with pending death warrants, to launch myriad appeals in one of the judicial system's most complicated arenas.

But Asay's case is more tangled than most:

Asay, now 53, spent a decade on death row without legal representation, a violation of state law.

Dozens of boxes of records related to his case were destroyed after being left in a rat- and roach-infested shed.

One of his previous defense lawyers was the subject of an investigation by the Florida Supreme Court, after a federal judge chided her for shoddy work.

Asay's current lawyer maintains that Attorney General Pam Bondi's office hoodwinked him into agreeing to a delay by the U.S. Supreme Court, which could ultimately make it more difficult for the condemned killer to have a review by the high court.

The Florida Supreme Court recently issued a rare mea culpa, acknowledging that it had for more than 20 years mistakenly believed that one of the convicted murderer's victims was black.

Florida Department of Corrections officials changed the 3-drug lethal injection protocol a year after Scott signed Asay's death warrant, adopting the use of a drug never before used in Florida or in any other state for executions.

Asay was convicted in 1988 of the murders of Robert Booker and Robert McDowell. Asay allegedly shot Booker, who was black, after calling him a racial epithet. He then killed McDowell, who was dressed as a woman, after agreeing to pay him for oral sex. According to court documents, Asay - who bears white supremacist and swastika tattoos - later told a friend that McDowell, who was not black, had previously cheated him out of money in a drug deal.

A jury found Asay guilty of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder and recommended the death penalty with a 9-3 vote.

The Florida Supreme Court last week rejected a major appeal by Asay, including a challenge to the new lethal-injection procedure. This week, the court rejected another attempt at a reprieve, after justices acknowledged the court had been mistaken for more than 2 decades about McDowell's race.

McDowell was "known to friends and neighbors as Renee Torres," the court wrote.

"Torres was identified at trial by everyone who testified as white and Hispanic. Renee Torres nee Robert McDowell may have been either white or mixed-race, Hispanic but was not a black man," the Supreme Court wrote. "We regret our previous error."

But the Supreme Court summarily dismissed Asay's request for a new hearing because of the error.

"While this court may have mislabeled the racial identity of the victim in its prior opinions, this fact does not negatively affect this court’s final determination," justices unanimously decided Monday afternoon.

Thursday's execution would make Asay the 24th death row prisoner put to death since Scott - who has ordered more executions than any Florida governor since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976 - took office in 2011.

The number of death warrants signed by Scott, during a shorter period of time than other governors, was steadily growing until the Hurst decision put executions on hold.

While death penalty lawyers don't wish for any complications Thursday, they worry that an uneventful lethal injection could prompt Scott to issue a flurry of new death warrants.

"The attention focused on this execution happens as a result of the lack of state sponsored killings in the last year and a half. I suspect the execution machine will start up again, these judicially approved medical homicides will become the norm again, and news about them will move to the back pages, if they make the paper at all," Pete Mills, an assistant public defender in the 10th Judicial Circuit who also serves as chairman of the Florida Public Defenders Association Death Penalty Steering Committee, said in an interview.

Ocala-area State Attorney Brad King, a veteran prosecutor and outspoken defender of the death penalty, wouldn't predict what the impact of Thursday's execution would be in terms of Scott.

But "if this execution is carried out without any problems, without any stays by any appellate courts, then I think the road would be clear for executions to begin on a regular basis again," King told The News Service of Florida in a telephone interview Tuesday.

Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente, who dissented in last week's ruling on Asay's appeal, raised concerns that the execution is being rushed. She wrote, in part, that the state had thwarted attempts by Asay's lawyers, led by Marty McClain, to obtain public records regarding the change in the lethal injection protocol.

"In its rush to execute Asay, the state has jeopardized Asay's fundamental constitutional rights and treated him as the proverbial guinea pig of its newest lethal injection protocol," she wrote in a lengthy dissent on Aug. 14.

Mills raised similar concerns.

"If the state is going to kill someone on behalf of the people of that state, I would hope they would take the time to get things done right," Mills said.

But Asay has had "multiple trips through the appellate system," the veteran prosecutor King said.

"There's nothing rushed about it," King said.

(source: Pam Beach Post)


As Mark Asay awaits his turn, a plea to end Florida's executions

This past May I attended a lecture at Rollins College by Robert K. Wittman, a former FBI agent.

In his lecture, "The Hunt and Reveal of the Secrets of the Devil's Diary," Wittman outlined and detailed the philosophy and atrocities of Alfred Rosenberg, one of the masterminds and implementers of the barbarous Nazi regime.

Rosenberg's writings were used by the prosecution in the Nuremberg Trials to convict and sentence some of the perpetrators of Nazi crimes.

In the aftermath of the Holocaust and World War II, and the continuing discoveries of the human remains of people massacred by the Germans during the war, Europe came to embrace the policy that state-sanctioned killings were fraught with prejudice and injustice. The European Union abolished the death penalty.

The United States hasn't gotten the message - especially Florida, which leads all states in the number of exonerations at 27.

Why do we in Florida so desperately cling to killing, especially since, as in most Southern states, capital punishment has its "society-sanctioned" roots in lynching, America's version of the Holocaust, fueled by white racism and neo-Nazism?

Mark Asay, who is scheduled to be executed at 6 p.m. on Thursday will be the 1st white person executed in Florida for the killing of a black person.

Are we to be consoled by this fact? It should deepen our shame.

That we should imitate, albeit in a measured and sanitized way, the "cowardly acts of violence" of Nazi soldiers and camp guards who brutally massacred and gassed helpless masses of people, that we should follow the example of the mob violence and cruelty of the Ku Klux Klan, is an insult to our God and our nation.

Imagine Nazi soldiers with rifles and handguns pointed at frightened and cowering men, women and children, herding them into a pit, shooting them to death, and then burying them, some still alive, beneath bulldozed dirt.

The death penalty in the United States is a remnant legacy of this, a "cowardly act of violence" that not only imitates the behavior of the criminal but perpetuates the legacy of brutal and morally corrupt state-sanctioned killings of the past.

If we are a Christian nation, we should strive to imitate the redemptive spirit of the God-Man we worship, and not the evil and oppressive powers that executed him, nor those governments and cowardly mobs in the modern era that would divide humanity into categories in order to punish and kill.

(source: Bernard L. Welch lives in Zellwood----Orlando Sentinel)


Missouri death row Inmate's Execution Stopped With Just 4 Hours to Spare

Missouri's governor halted a death row inmate's execution at the 11th hour.

Marcellus Williams had been scheduled to die by lethal injection on Tuesday, Aug. 22, until Gov. Eric Greitens stepped in with just over 4 hours to spare.

In a statement, Greitens said, "To carry out the death penalty, the people of Missouri must have confidence in the judgment of guilt."

That confidence was rattled by 2016 tests, which did not find Williams' DNA on the butcher knife used to fatally and repeatedly stab Felicia Gayle in 1998.

A jury convicted Williams of the murder 3 years later. Now 48, Williams continues to maintain his innocence.

The stay of execution does not let him off the hook, however; at least not yet.

In light of the recent DNA evidence, Gov. Greitens is creating a special panel to review the case and recommend whether Williams should be executed or granted clemency.

(source: United News International)


Executions will not resume in Oklahoma in 2017

Oklahoma will not execute anyone in 2017 and the death chamber will stay quiet until after the 3rd anniversary of the last time the state carried out a death sentence.

The Oklahoma Attorney General promised the courts in 2015 that it would not seek a new execution until 150 days after new protocols for executions were adopted by the Department of Corrections following a grand jury investigation into botched execution and mismanagement of the capital punishment system.

A spokesperson told FOX 25 new procedures have not been adopted and the office has not been notified of any pending changes to execution procedures.

The grand jury report was issued in early 2016. The grand jury did not indict anyone, but issued a scathing report that detailed multiple failures on the part of the Department of Corrections to carry out lawful executions in Oklahoma. The report was also critical of some in the governor's office who attempted to push the use of an unapproved drug to execute Richard Glossip in September of 2015.

After the state tried to use an improper drug, Oklahomans saw a flurry of resignations of those tied to the debacle. The warden of the state penitentiary in McAlester, the head of the Department of Corrections, and the governor's general counsel all left their positions. All 3 were cited in the report for their mishandling of the death sentences.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal appeals has received an update from the Attorney General every month since the indefinite stay was requested on October 2, 2015. Each month the Attorney General's office indicates that new protocols have not been adopted and it is an "inappropriate" time to resume executions.

In the interim, a bipartisan panel studied Oklahoma's death penalty and recommended the moratorium on capital punishment remain in place. Former Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry led the commission and announced that it was indisputable that Oklahoma had sentenced innocent people to die. The report also highlighted other concerns with sentencing disparities when it comes to who receives the death penalty.

(source: Fox News)


Bangladesh HC endorses death penalty of 3 army officers, 12 others

Bangladesh's High Court on Tuesday upheld a trial court verdict sentencing to death 15 people including 3 army officers and a gangster, who had fled to India after the gruesome killing of 7 people 3 years ago.

The abducting and killing of 7 people, including councillor Nazrul Islam and lawyer Chandan Kumar Sarkar, in suburban port town of Narayanganj shocked the nation.

"The High Court upheld the death sentence of 15 and commuted death penalties of 11 others to life imprisonment while the trial court had handed down death penalties to 26 accused," a spokesman of the attorney general's office said.

The judgement awarded death penalty to 2 sacked military and a navy officers, a gangster and 11 ex-servicemen posted in elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB).

The 3 officers, a Lieutenant Colonel, a Major and a Lieutenant Commander of navy were also serving the RAB at the time of the gruesome simultaneous murders in 2014.

A 2-judge bench comprising Justices Bhabani Prasad Singha and Mustafa Zaman Islam delivered the entire verdict that took hours, contrary to normal practices when the court pronounces the operative or abridged part of the judgment.

The 3 officers were found to be bribed to assassinate the city councillor and 6 others. The councillor, the lawyer and 5 others were abducted on April 27, 2014 from the port town and their nearly decomposed bodies were retrieved later.

According to the proceedings, a key accused of the case gangster Nur Hossain, himself a city councillor, had bribed the RAB officials to eliminate councilor Nazrul Islam in exchange of Taka 6 crore.

Soon after the murder Hossain fled to India as he was found to be the mastermind of the plot but Indian police eventually tracked him down in West Bengal and deported to Bangladesh in November 2015.

Investigations revealed 23 RAB personnel, including an army lieutenant colonel and 2 navy officers, were involved in abduction and killing of the 7 people.

Sacked Lt Col Tarek Sayeed, the son-in-law of a cabinet minister, was the senior most of the three officers who was serving as the RAB commander in Narayanganj at the time of incident. The 2 others - Major Arif Hossain and Lt commander MM Rana - were serving under his command.

The officers were immediately sacked on orders of their superior authorities while police arrested them.

(source: The Hindu)


Maldives to reintroduce death penalty despite international criticism

The UN and Amnesty International have urged the government not to reintroduce the death penalty by hanging.

Despite international pressure, the Maldives will reintroduce the death penalty after a 60-year moratorium to try and reduce the rising number of murders and stop drug trafficking, a senior advisor to President Abdulla Yameen said on Tuesday.

The UN and Amnesty International have urged the government not to reintroduce the death penalty by hanging, citing concerns whether some inmates facing the death penalty had had fair trials.

"It is to be used as a deterrent," Mohamed Hussain Shareef, a senior advisor to Yameen and head of foreign relations of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives told Reuters in an interview in Colombo.

"At the moment, overwhelmingly the people of Maldives are in support for implementation. It is a difficult decision for any government. But as a government, you have to safeguard the lives of innocent people."

He said there had been more than 50 murders reported in Maldives during the last decade.

The UN has said 20 prisoners, including at least 5 juvenile offenders, had been sentenced to death, and 3 men convicted of murder were at imminent risk of execution, despite concerns over whether they had had fair trials.

Shareef said the 3 convicted murderers would face capital punishment "soon" and the victims' families are being now given an option to consider if the convicts could be forgiven according to Islamic Sharia law.

The hangings will not be carried out in public, Shareef said, with the government constructing a special execution chamber on Maafushi island where the country's main prison is located from 27 km (16 miles) from capital Male.

A UN human rights expert early this month said the Maldives will make a big mistake if it reinstates the death penalty, while Amnesty International has said the executions are a ploy by the government to distract attention from its own problems and ensure its political survival.

The largely Muslim island chain, which has a population of 400,000, has a reputation as a tourist paradise, but it has been mired in political unrest since Mohamed Nasheed, its first democratically-elected president, was ousted in 2012.

The opposition is trying to unseat speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed, alleging President Yameen's administration is trying to cover up corruption, including money laundering. The government has denied the accusations.



Houthi justice: Yemenis flock in thousands to Sanaa public executions

The people had gathered in their thousands by the time Muhammad al-Maghribi, a man in his 40s, was led from a prison van by armed police, hands tied behind his back, and moved to a clearing in Sanaa's Tahrir square.

There, as police held back a surging crowd, Maghribi was led to a carpet, held face down, and shot several times in the back with an automatic rifle. His public execution was the 1st in what the Houthi movement says is a new crackdown on hardened criminals.

The 2nd came a few days later. Hussein al-Saket, 22, was shot in the back in the same square and in the same manner, but this time his lifeless body was hoisted into the air by a crane and left to hang for all to see.

And while the vast majority at the executions backed the punishment of Maghribi and Saket - both were accused of raping and murdering children - the methods used and the potential for escalation could see a new wave of state-sponsored violence, targeting dissidents as well as criminals.

Maghribi's crime

It was late June, and the Eid al-Fitr festival was bringing some much-needed distraction from the war on Yemen. But for the family of 3-year-old Rana, any joy was soon to be shattered, when her body was found in a nearby house.

She had been raped and murdered, and blame was soon directed at the owner of the house in which she was found.

Immediately, protests erupted outside of the house - in the Beit Meyad area of Sanaa - with locals demanding the arrest and execution of the owner.

Around the country, people began sharing a photograph of the alleged culprit, Maghribi, who had already fled south towards Dhamar province.

2 days later, residents there, with the help of security forces, tracked him down and arrested him.

Maghribi admitted his guilt, and he was then taken to appear in court in Sanaa.

Protesters soon surrounded the court building, again demanding that Maghribi face capital punishment.

Abdul Hamid Ahsan, a pharmacist, was one of the hundreds of protesters who turned up that day, demanding Maghribi be executed.

"What happened to Rana al-Matari was bad enough, but the fact it happened during Eid, and that the criminal deprived her family from celebrating the festival, meant that the crime provoked a unique reaction from people," Ahsan told MEE.

While such court cases used to crawl through the judicial system - from the court of first instance, to the court of appeals and then the criminal court - Maghribi's trial was sped up, as the protesters threatened to surround the building were the trial to be delayed at all.

"One day the court of appeals tried to delay the trial to the next week," Ahsan added, "but we weren't going to allow that to happen and tried to storm the court, but then soldiers confirmed that the judges would announce their verdict the same day, which they did."

The trial was much faster than in normal cases, and the entire procedure, through 3 different courts, took 1 month in total.

After he was sentenced to death, Maghribi was whipped in a public square, and then shot dead by a soldier.

Crowds poured in from across the city to witness the first public execution during the reign of the Houthis.

Both supporters and opponents of the Houthi rebel group - in power in Sanaa - welcomed the execution, with many believing it will act as a deterrent for similar crimes in the future.

"This was a humanitarian issue and people from different sides welcomed it as there is seen to be nothing wrong with such executions. For me, I will keep protesting to demand the execution of criminals who harm children," Ahsan said.

Maghribi was well known in central Sanaa, and renowned for being mentally unstable, locals say. But any psychological issues were not taken into consideration by the courts.

In 2014, Maghribi was shown on Yemeni TV, opening a cultural centre in Sanaa, after the minister of culture declined the invitation - it was intended as a dig at the minister, replacing him with a local character.

Children's issues prioritised

Rana's father, Yahya al-Matari, believes that his daughter's case might have triggered a wave of support for public executions, and courts will now be encouraged to seek similar punishments.

"My child's case stirred the stagnant water, and I think we will now see more of the same such punishments, in the cases of crimes against children," he told MEE.

A week after Maghribi was executed, the courts in Sanaa sentenced a child rapist to 25 years in prison.

And then another child-killer, Hussein al-Saket, 22, was executed and hung from a crane in the same square that Maghribi was executed in.

He had been found guilty of kidnapping, raping and murdering a 5-year-old child 2 years ago.

Matari is grateful to those Yemenis who campaigned for his child's killer to be executed, and who ensured his trial was sped up, turning it into a matter of public debate.

He now feels crimes affecting children have become a priority for the courts.

He did not bury Rana until after her killer was in the ground.

"It is difficult to bury the dead body of my child while her killer is still alive. Retribution is the law of Allah and I hope to see more criminals meet their punishments."

A judge in the court in Sanaa told MEE that after the protests last month, any crimes in which children have been victims have now been prioritised, and all outstanding cases are being addressed as soon as possible.

He spoke to MEE on condition of anonymity, as he is not authorised to speak to the media.

"During the last month, the courts in Sanaa have issued three judgments on crimes involving children, including two which were punished with execution.

"The courts have not executed any convicted criminals over the last 2 years, but we have now started to do that, since last month. And we will conduct fair trials," the source said.

Despite the courts facing criticism to the contrary, he stated that they were working independently and that the protests outside the courts were influential in encouraging the judges, catalysts for capital punishment being handed down.

The source confirmed: "The judges decide the kind of punishment and the methods according to the crime, so no one can decide the kind of punishment that the criminal deserves but the judges."

The death penalty is deemed cruel, inhuman and degrading by human rights groups.

Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, told MEE that while the rights group had not yet been able to examine the cases in detail, it was opposed to the death penalty in any instance.

"As you can imagine, we oppose the death penalty in all circumstances and would be particularly wary of any death penalty sentence in a context such as Yemen, where it is difficult to obtain a fair trial even in peacetime."

Amnesty also opposes the death penalty at all times, regardless of who is accused, the crime, guilt or innocence or method of execution.

Lack of trust in courts

Nabil Fadhel, head of the Yemen Organisation for Combating Human Trafficking, said his NGO has monitored many crimes against children, and that often families of victims are ashamed to go public with the cases due to societal views on rape, often allowing victims to escape justice.

"The main reason that Rana al-Matari's killer's trial was so fast was due to the campaign on social media and the protest outside of the courts - we are not used to seeing trials finishing up within one month," Fadhel said to MEE.

"Moreover, the relatives of victims usually avoid complaining to police because police often do not arrest criminals, and if they do the courts delay the issue so long that trials take years to start, so people often prefer to bury their children without complaining."

Also, he said, societal perceptions lead the rape of children to be a seen as a source of shame for the victim's family, so many families prefer to keep it secret.

Fadhel added: "The organisation tried to follow some cases of rape and killing but the trials were delayed for such a long time that the relatives of victims gave up any hope of seeing the perpetrators being punished."

Amid the praise for the public executions among much of the Yemeni public, there have also been fears that the extreme punishment will soon be meted out against political opponents.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a social activist in Sanaa told MEE that there is growing disappointment in the Houthis as the humanitarian situation lurches from bad to worse. He believes the Houthis are trying to send a message that they are still strong and in control, by ruling with an iron fist.

"This period is sensitive and people are starting to lose trust in the Houthis, as crime levels are increasing and public employees have gone without salaries for over 10 months," he said.

"We fear that the Houthis have started with the execution of criminals, and they will then move on to executing their opponents."



2 more Prisoners Hanged on Drug Charges

2 prisoners were reportedly hanged at Isfahan Central Prison and Kashmar Prison on drug related charges.

Close sources say one of the prisoners was hanged on the morning of Monday August 21 at Isfahan Central Prison. The prisoner's name is reportedly Abdolkarim Shahbakhsh and he was sentenced to death on drug related charges. Mr. Shahbakhsh was reportedly taken to solitary confinement on Saturday August 19 in preparation for his execution.

"Karim had no criminal record, but he was sentenced to death after being arrested and charged with 120 kilograms of heroin and 140 kilograms of opium," an informed source tells Iran Human Rights.

A report by the Kurdistan Human Rights Network says the other prisoner was executed on Sunday August 20 at Kashmar Prison (Razavi Khorasan province). The prisoner, who the report identifies as Mojtaba Heydari Abbasali, was reportedly sentenced to death on drug related charges, and transferred to solitary confinement on Saturday August 19 in preparation for his execution.

Iranian official sources, including the Judiciary and state-run media, have not mentioned these 2 executions.

(source for both: Iran Human Rights)


Young Prisoner Hanged in Public

On the morning of Monday August 21, a young prisoner was hanged in public on murder and rape charges. The execution was carried out in the city of Nasrabad in Isfahan on the morning of Monday August 21. According a report by the state-run news agency, IMNA, the prisoner - which the report does not mention his name - was arrested on January 3, 2017 at the age of 25 for the charge of raping and murdering a 15-year-old teenage girl.

(source for both: Iran Human Rights)

AUGUST 22, 2017:

FLORIDA----impending execution

Catholic bishops call on Gov. Scott to halt scheduled execution----It has been 20 months since an inmate has been executed in Florida, and the state's Catholic bishops are calling on Gov. Rick Scott to halt Thursday's scheduled execution of Mark James Asay.

In a letter delivered to Scott Monday, Michael Sheedy, executive director of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote: "Indeed, Mr. Asay's violent acts call out for justice and should be condemned. However, life without parole is an alternative and severe sentence. We hold that if non-lethal means are available to keep society safe from an aggressor, then authority must limit itself to such means."

After a lengthy suspension of Florida's troubled death penalty system due to legal challenges and actions by the Legislature,, Asay, 53, is scheduled to die at 6 p.m. Thursday at Florida State Prison in Starke for the murders of 2 men, Robert Booker and Robert McDowell, in Jacksonville in 1987. Booker, who was African-American, was shot in the abdomen after he and Asay had a racially-charged confrontation outside a bar. In a summary of the case, the state Supreme Court quoted Asay as having used the N-word 3 times.

Asay has been on death row since 1988, and his lawyers have repeatedly tried without success to prevent his execution. The lawyers unsuccessfully petitioned the Florida Supreme Court for access to the bullets that killed Asay's 2 victims, and they sought a rehearing based on the court's acknowledgement that it incorrectly identified McDowell as black, when he was white or Hispanic.

Asay will be the 1st white inmate to be executed for the killing of an African-American in Florida history.

His sister, Gloria Dean, tells a Jacksonville TV station that her brother joined a white supremacist prison gang in Texas for his own protection, but that he is not a racist and that the killings were not racially motivated.

Bishops in Florida have consistently opposed the death penalty for decades, without success. Prior to Asay's execution, the bishops said, prayer vigils will be held at locations around the state, including Miami, Miami Shores, Pompano Beach, Inverness and on Tampa radio station WBVM 90.5.

Asay is one of 362 inmates on Florida's death row. Scott has signed more death warrants than any other governor since the state reinstituted the death penalty in the 1970s.

(source: Tampa Bay Times)


Florida execution machine ready to kill again

It is a tale of 2 states.

1 is modern and internationally connected, linked to the rest of the world through trade and tourism and known for its health, software and space technology industries.

The other is an outlier state stuck in the past, connected to a punishment which in the 21st century sets it apart from much of the world.

Both are the US State of Florida, which is on the brink of conducting its first judicial killing in a year and a half, even as much of the country has turned against this cruel policy.

'Bold, positive change'?

4 years ago, Governor Rick Scott promised 'bold, positive change' for Florida. However, not when it comes to the death penalty apparently.

In March 2017, State Attorney Aramis Ayala - the 1st African American to be elected to this position in Florida - decided not to pursue the death penalty because of its clear flaws. In response, Governor Scott ordered her to be replaced with a prosecutor willing to see executions carried out.

Since then the governor has transferred 27 capital murder cases to Ayala's replacement. 2 of these cases have already resulted in juries voting for death sentences.

Ready to kill again

From Thursday 24 August, the Florida execution machine will be ready to kill again. The prisoner who will be first in line for lethal injection is Mark Asay, sent to death row in 1988.

Alaya and her successor have taken very different stands in Florida. She has acted to drop the death penalty, which is a waste of resources, prone to discrimination, arbitrariness and error, and makes promises to murder victims' families it cannot keep. But her successor wants to crank up the machinery of death.

We know which side we're on: ending the death penalty for good is the only approach consistent with international human rights principles. The alternative is not.


MISSOURI----stay of impending execution

Missouri governor issues say of execution for Marcellus Williams

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens Tuesday issued a stay of execution for Marcellus Williams.

In a release early Tuesday afternoon, Greitens said new information prompted him to issue the stay and appoint a Gubernatorial Board of Inquiry for Williams.

"A sentence of death is the ultimate, permanent punishment. To carry out the death penalty, the people of Missouri must have confidence in the judgment of guilt," Greitens said in the release.

The board will include 5 people - all appointed by the governor - that will be able to look further into Williams' case. The board would then make a recommendation to the governor on if Williams should be executed.

Williams was scheduled to be executed Tuesday at 4 p.m.

Supporters of Williams cited a lack of DNA evidence in 2016 as reasons to review the case.

Williams was sentenced to death in the 1998 fatal stabbing of Lisha Gayle, a former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter who left journalism for social work. Authorities say she surprised Williams while he was robbing her home in the St. Louis suburb of University City.

The ACLU of Missouri issued a statement Tuesday praising the governor for the decision.

"We are relieved that Governor Eric Greitens stayed the execution of Marcellus Williams to allow for a board of inquiry to review Mr. Williams' case in light of new evidence," ACLU of Missouri executive director Jeffrey Mittman said in a release.

(soruce: KSHB news)


Greitens stops execution after questions about DNA evidence

Gov. Eric Greitens has granted a stay of execution to Marcellus Williams, who was facing death by injection at 6 p.m.

He said he was appointing a board of inquiry to investigate the case.

"A sentence of death is the ultimate, permanent punishment," he said in a statement. "To carry out the death penalty, the people of Missouri must have confidence in the judgment of guilt. In light of new information, I am appointing a Board of Inquiry in this case."

Williams, 48, was sentenced to death in 2001 for the fatal stabbing of former Post-Dispatch reporter Lisha Gayle, 42, at her home in University City on Aug. 11, 1998. The prosecution said Williams was burglarizing the home when Gayle, who had been taking a shower, surprised him. She fought for her life as she was stabbed repeatedly.

Williams' attorneys have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop his execution. They are seeking a new hearing or the commutation of his sentence to life in prison. And they are asking Gov. Eric Greitens to grant clemency.

The attorneys claim recent DNA tests could prove Williams' innocence. Using technology that was not available at the time of the killing, those tests show that DNA found on the knife matched an unknown male, according to an analysis by Greg Hampikian, a biologist with Boise State University.

The Missouri Supreme Court in 2015 postponed Williams' execution to allow time for the DNA tests, but last week after results of those tests were made available, the same court denied his petition to stop the execution and either appoint a special master to hear his innocence claim or vacate the death sentence and order his sentence commuted to life in prison.

Now the attorneys have taken the argument to Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, circuit justice for the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes Missouri and 6 other Midwestern states.

In its response to the U.S. Supreme Court, the state said it had a wealth of non-DNA evidence to convict Williams. The state could prove Williams had sold Gayle's laptop to a 3rd party after the killing, and had 2 witnesses who independently said he confessed to them. And, the state said, the lack of DNA evidence did not mean he was innocent.

The case has attracted national attention because no forensic evidence has ever pointed to Williams, and now what has been tested points away from him.

"As a matter of fairness, what do you do when you've said somebody should get DNA testing, and they get the DNA testing, and the DNA testing suggests they didn't commit the murder?" asked Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit clearinghouse for studies and reports related to capital punishment. "Missouri is trying to execute him without giving him an evidentiary hearing on what that DNA evidence means."

He said DNA exonerations in the last 2 decades have "shown us that all the other evidence the jury relied on in those cases was wrong. And in case after case after case, prosecutors and judges had said it doesn't matter because there is overwhelming evidence of guilt."

Gayle was a Post-Dispatch reporter from 1981 to 1992. She left the paper to do volunteer social work with children and the poor. The 47 men Missouri has executed since 2000

(source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch)


Prosecutor says no chance condemned is innocent

St. Louis County's prosecutor says there is "zero possibility" that an inmate who is scheduled to die is innocent of the fatal stabbing that put him on death row.

Marcellus Williams is due to be executed at 6 p.m. Tuesday for fatally stabbing former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Lisha Gayle during a 1998 robbery at her home in University City, a St. Louis suburb.

Williams' attorneys cite DNA evidence on the murder weapon that matches another unknown man, but not Williams. But St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch says the DNA tests were simply inconclusive.

McCulloch says there is ample other evidence that Williams committed the crime.

Williams would be the 2nd man executed in Missouri this year.



Rights group asks Indonesia to abolish death sentence----Jakarta-based group says judicial system is vulnerable to mistakes after top court overturned death penalty for young man

A human rights organization demanded on Tuesday that Indonesia abolishes capital punishment, following a Supreme Court ruling earlier this year which overturned a death sentence.

The Jakarta-based Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS) told reporters that in January this year, the top court overturned death penalty for Yusman Telaumbanua to five years in prison, after it was proven he was a minor.

"Yusman's case has become an important lesson for the government and law enforcers to review the death penalty in Indonesia," said Putri Kanesia, deputy coordinator of advocacy for the organization, in a press conference in capital Jakarta, according to a local website

Indonesia ended a 4-year moratorium on the death penalty in March 2013.

A district court had sentenced Telaumbanua and his brother Rasula Hia to death in May 2013 for murdering 3 of their employers.

KontraS had filed an appeal in the Supreme Court.

Later, during investigations it was revealed that Telaumbanua had been forced to accept charges against him while he was in police custody. He had also admitted he was 19 years old at the time of the murder, when he was actually only 16.

In 2016, he underwent a bone and teeth check which confirmed he was 18-19 years old.

"The Supreme Court ruling corroborates the fact that the judicial system in Indonesia is still very vulnerable to mistakes," said Arif Nur Fikri, head of human rights defense division for KontraS.

Telaumbanua was released from prison last week after serving 5 years in prison, following the ruling which said he was not the prime accused in the murder case.

At least 14 drug smugglers -- mostly foreigners -- have been executed in Indonesia over the last three years, prompting criticism from activists and the international community.



B'desh HC endorses death penalty of 3 army officers, 12 others

Bangladesh court sentences 23 to death for murders in 2002 Bangladesh court jails JMB chief to over 7 years Bangladesh Islamists protest court's Greek goddess statue JMB chief jailed in Bangladesh Thousands of hardline Islamists protest Bangladesh statue

Bangladesh's High Court today upheld a trial court verdict sentencing to death 15 people including 3 army officers and a gangster, who had fled to India after the gruesome killing of 7 people 3 years ago.

The abducting and killing of 7 people, including councillor Nazrul Islam and lawyer Chandan Kumar Sarkar, in suburban port town of Narayanganj shocked the nation.

"The High Court upheld the death sentence of 15 and commuted death penalties of 11 others to life imprisonment while the trial court had handed down death penalties to 26 accused," a spokesman of the attorney general's office said.

The judgement awarded death penalty to 2 sacked military and a navy officers, a gangster and 11 ex-servicemen posted in elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB).

The 3 officers, a Lieutenant Colonel, a Major and a Lieutenant Commander of navy were also serving the RAB at the time of the gruesome simultaneous murders in 2014.

A 2-judge bench comprising Justices Bhabani Prasad Singha and Mustafa Zaman Islam delivered the entire verdict that took hours, contrary to normal practices when the court pronounces the operative or abridged part of the judgment.

The 3 officers were found to be bribed to assassinate the city councillor and 6 others. The councillor, the lawyer and 5 others were abducted on April 27, 2014 from the port town and their nearly decomposed bodies were retrieved later.

According to the proceedings, a key accused of the case gangster Nur Hossain, himself a city councillor, had bribed the RAB officials to eliminate councilor Nazrul Islam in exchange of Taka 6 crore.

Soon after the murder Hossain fled to India as he was found to be the mastermind of the plot but Indian police eventually tracked him down in West Bengal and deported to Bangladesh in November 2015.

Investigations revealed 23 RAB personnel, including an army lieutenant colonel and two navy officers, were involved in abduction and killing of the 7 people.

Sacked Lt Col Tarek Sayeed, the son-in-law of a cabinet minister, was the senior most of the three officers who was serving as the RAB commander in Narayanganj at the time of incident. The 2 others - Major Arif Hossain and Lt commander MM Rana - were serving under his command.

The officers were immediately sacked on orders of their superior authorities while police arrested them.


TEXAS----stay of impending execution

Court halts execution of convicted child killer who claims intellectual disability

A man convicted in the sexual assault and murder of an 11-year-old girl was set to die next Wednesday. But the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stopped his execution amid claims of intellectual disability.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Monday halted the execution of a convicted child murderer who claims he's intellectually disabled and therefore ineligible for the state's harshest punishment.

Steven Long, 46, was set to die next Wednesday for the 2005 rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl in Dallas County. Courts had previously rejected his appeals claiming intellectual disability, but that was before the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated Texas' methods for determining intellectual disability for death-sentenced people in March.

With that ruling in mind, Long's lawyer, Thomas Scott Smith, again asked the courts to stay Long's execution earlier this month, presenting evidence that Long's IQ score has regularly been placed in the low 60s. His request was granted Monday afternoon - the court tossed out the execution to further review the case.

"In light of this new law and the facts of applicant's application, we have determined the applicant's execution should be stayed pending further order of this Court," the court order said.

Long was sentenced to death in the murder of Kaitlyn Smith. In October 2005, Long had recently moved in with a couple and their daughter across the street from Kaitlyn, and one night she came over for a sleepover, according to a court opinion. By morning, Kaitlyn was missing, and her body was later found partially wrapped in trash bags underneath an empty trailer.

A bloody fingerprint near her body matched Long's, and he confessed to the rape and murder of the girl. He was sentenced to death the next year, and he has lived on death row for almost 11 years.

In a 2008 appeal, Long's lawyers appealed his sentence, claiming he was intellectually disabled. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that executing intellectually disabled people was unconstitutional, but it left it up to the states to determine the disability. The courts ruled him fit for execution under Texas' standards at the time.

But over the years, the high court had several more rulings further refining how states may determine who is disabled. In March, the case invalidated Texas' method in the case of death row inmate Bobby Moore.

In 2014, a state court used current medical standards to deem Moore intellectually disabled, but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overruled that determination, saying the court should have used the state's standards instead. The state relied on decades-old medical standards and a requirement that a person has a low IQ and has had poor adaptive functioning since childhood, which it determined in a controversial set of factors.

The high court rejected the method, saying Texas' refusal to use current medical standards and its reliance on nonclinical factors violated the U.S. Constitution. Since the ruling, other Texas death row inmates have had their sentences changed from death to life in prison.

With a new standard in place after Moore, Long again brought his intellectual disability claim to the courts.

"The use of [Texas' rejected method] in deciding the claim creates the impermissible risk that Mr. Long will be executed despite significant evidence establishing that he is among the class of persons for whom execution is proscribed as cruel and unusual," his lawyer, Smith, wrote in a court filing.

(source: Texas Tribune)


Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----25

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----543

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

26---------Sept.7------------------Juan Castillo----------544

27---------Oct. 12-----------------Robert Pruett----------545

28---------Oct. 18-----------------Anthony Shore----------546

29---------Oct. 26-----------------Clinton Young----------547

30---------Nov. 8------------------Ruben Cardenas---------548

31---------Nov. 16-----------------Larry Swearingen-------549

32---------Jan. 30-----------------William Rayford--------550

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

FLORIDA----impending execution

Florida Supreme Court's mea culpa doesn't halt execution

The Florida Supreme Court on Monday rejected a reprieve for a convicted murderer scheduled to be executed Thursday, after justices acknowledged the court had been mistaken for more than 2 decades about the race of 1 of the victims.

Lawyers for Mark James Asay, convicted of killing Robert Booker and Robert McDowell in 1987, asked state and federal courts to grant a new hearing after the Florida Supreme Court last week issued a rare mea culpa for mistaking 1 of the victims as black.

But the Supreme Court on Monday summarily dismissed Asay's request.

"While this court may have mislabeled the racial identity of the victim in its prior opinions, this fact does not negatively affect this court's final determination," justices unanimously decided Monday afternoon.

It's not unusual for death row lawyers to launch a flurry of appeals in the days preceding an execution.

But the latest attempt by Asay lawyer Marty McClain, who's represented defendants in more than 200 death penalty cases, is yet another twist in a case rife with oddities.

In an Aug. 14 order rejecting Asay's latest round of state appeals, the Supreme Court noted that the court had "previously described the victim born Robert McDowell as 'a black man dressed as a woman.'"

McDowell was "known to friends and neighbors as Renee Torres," the court wrote.

"Torres was identified at trial by everyone who testified as white and Hispanic. Renee Torres nee Robert McDowell may have been either white or mixed-race, Hispanic but was not a black man," the court wrote. "We regret our previous error."

While the court acknowledged its mistake, last week's order refused to allow a rehearing on issues related to Asay's case, prompting McClain to file a separate lawsuit over the weekend alleging that the condemned prisoner's rights were being ignored.

Prosecutors' case against Asay - portrayed as a racist inked with swastikas and white supremacist tattoos - was "premised upon its claim that the 2 homicides at issue were motivated by Mr. Asay's alleged racial animus," McClain wrote in a 52-page petition filed Saturday with the Supreme Court.

"In a case in which the prosecution case was built on a theory of racial animus towards blacks as the motive for Robert McDowell's homicide, this (Supreme) Court at the 11th hour has changed Mr. McDowell's race from black to white and/or Hispanic," McClain added.

The "change of fact" came with a state of "regret (for) our previous error" but also barred Asay from getting a new hearing, the defense lawyer pointed out.

"In other words, this court after giving notice of a change of fact decided that Mr. Asay was not entitled to be heard at all, let alone meaningfully heard, as to what this change in fact means in regards to the litigation that has occurred during the past 26 years regarding the constitutionally (sic) validity of the judgments and sentences entered against him. A more clear violation of due process and the constitutional guarantee of notice and opportunity to be meaningfully heard is hard to imagine, and at the 11th hour - 10 days before Mr. Asay is to be executed," he wrote.

Asay was convicted in 1988 of the murders of Booker and McDowell in downtown Jacksonville. Asay allegedly shot Booker, who was black, after calling him a racial epithet. He then killed McDowell, who was dressed as a woman, after agreeing to pay him for oral sex. According to court documents, Asay later told a friend that McDowell had previously cheated him out of money in a drug deal.

The prosecutor's theory of the case was that Asay was a white supremacist who first shot and killed Booker because he was black and then a short time later shot and killed McDowell.

A jury found Asay guilty of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder, and recommended the death penalty with a 9-3 vote.

"In closing arguments, the prosecutor relied upon a jailhouse informant's testimony that Asay confessed to killing 'those niggers,'" McClain wrote in Saturday's petition.

But since the court acknowledged it had erred regarding McDowell's race, "the relevance of evidence that Mr. Asay was a racist melts away and needs to be revisited," McClain wrote in a footnote.

"Evidence of racial animus towards blacks is not relevant in a case in which a white man is charged with killing another white man," he wrote.

But Attorney General Pam Bondi's office argued that the high court's mistake was irrelevant.

"Asay murdered 2 people in separate incidents," Charmaine Millsaps, a lawyer representing the state, wrote in a 12-page response filed a few hours before the court's Monday decision. "There is no dispute regarding the race of the 1st victim as being black or Asay's racial motivation in the first murder. ... The race of the second victim does not matter to the convictions or death sentence."

The case of Asay - who will be the 1st Florida death row inmate to be executed since January 2016 - has been fraught with problems.

Asay spent more than a decade on death row without legal representation, a violation of state law.

And many of the records related to Asay's case were destroyed after being stored in a shed that was "infested with snakes, rats and insects," McClain wrote in a court filing after being appointed to represent Asay last year. Other records were destroyed by water and mold, McClain wrote.

Asay's case has also involved a legal tangle over a lawyer who was the subject of an investigation ordered by Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga.

The high court dropped the inquiry after Mary Catherine Bonner, who repeatedly missed critical deadlines in death penalty cases, resigned from a statewide registry that made her eligible to represent defendants like Asay.

(source: Tallahassee Democrat)


Florida Supreme Court rejects appeal of Thursday's execution

The Florida Supreme Court is refusing, again, to halt the state's 1st execution after a hiatus of more than 18 months.

Justices rejected an appeal Monday on behalf of Mark Asay, who is set to die on Thursday for killing 2 men in Jacksonville in 1987.

Asay, who is white, used a racial epithet when he shot Robert Lee Booker, who is black. The 2nd victim, Robert McDowell, had been described as black in some testimony, but was either white or Hispanic.

The court recently acknowledged misidentifying McDowell's race 26 years ago in its initial review. Asay's lawyers said this violated due process, but the court ruled that the victim's racial identity was fully explored at trial and did not affect the court's previous rulings.

(source: Associated press)

MISSOURI----impending execution

Missouri prepares for 2nd execution of 2017; requests to halt it still pending

Unless the last-minute requests for a reprieve are granted, a Missouri death-row inmate will be put to death Tuesday evening.

Marcellus Williams, 48, was convicted in the 1998 fatal stabbing of former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Felicia Gayle at her University City home. In 2003, the state Supreme Court upheld Williams' conviction, saying there was sufficient evidence to support the jury's conclusion.

His initial execution date was set for January 2015, but the state Supreme Court postponed it for DNA testing.

Those tests were submitted to the court again last week as part of a request for a stay of execution. One of Williams' attorney, Kent Gipson, said it showed the DNA on the murder weapon wasn't from Williams. But the court rejected the request; the U.S. Supreme Court hadn't weighed in as of 6 a.m. Tuesday.

At the same time, the Midwest Innocence Project, which seeks to overturn wrongful convictions, has asked Republican Gov. Eric Greitens to step in and have a state board review the DNA evidence. The nonprofit's director, Tricia Bushnell, said the case "has so many questions" and "a number of the hallmarks that we see in wrongful convictions."

But St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch lambasted the request to the governor, saying it is filled with statements that are "flat-out wrong." When it comes to the DNA evidence, he told St. Louis Public Radio in an interview Monday, what was "extracted, or located on the knife was not of sufficient quantity or quality to identify or exclude anyone."

"This motion is just another last-ditch effort to somehow muddy the water and try to claim that some innocent man might be executed," McCulloch said. "Marcellus Williams killed her. It was a vicious assault. He laid in wait for her."

Greitens spokesman Parker Briden declined to comment on the request for a board of inquiry on Monday, adding there would be a statement Tuesday.

Anti-death penalty rallies are planned in Jefferson City, Columbia, Springfield, Kansas City and St. Louis on Tuesday, as well as a vigil outside of the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Bonne Terre, where Williams will be executed.

The state Department of Corrections has said it is "prepared to carry out" Williams' execution. It will use 2 of its 34 vials of the sedative pentobarbital. Missouri is 1 of 4 states that uses that method of lethal injection.

The state protects the source of its pentobarbital, despite lawsuits from inmates and media outlets to force the state to reveal that information. Pentobarbital is made by 1 of 2 sources: A compounding pharmacy or an FDA-approved manufacturer. The manufacturer will not sell directly to any state for use in an execution and has made it clear it doesn't want 3rd-party distributors to do so.

Williams would be the 2nd person Missouri has executed in 2017; Mark Christeson was put to death on Jan. 30.

(source: KCUR news)


Death penalty case could cause courtroom remodeling in Colorado Springs

El Paso County's 1st death penalty case in a decade may require a remodeling job at the Terry R. Harris Judicial Complex.

A judge presiding over the double-murder case against Glen Law Galloway on Monday said he would request that the jury box in the Division 3 courtroom be enlarged to accommodate a panel of 12 people plus 6 alternates.

Murder trials typically involve 1 or 2 alternate jurors, who do not join in deliberations unless someone on the panel gets sick or cannot complete their service for other reasons. But with the case against Galloway expected to last 3 months or longer, 4th Judicial District Judge Gregory Werner ruled earlier this year that 6 alternate jurors would be seated to protect against the possibility of a mistrial.

When the courtroom work would occur, and how much it is expected to cost, are details that weren't made public at a brief hearing Monday.

If the project is approved, much of the labor would be supplied by in-house staff, keeping costs to a minimum, said District Administrator Scott Sosebee.

Courtroom renovations could end up being one of the less expensive parts of Galloway's trial. In 2016, the Denver Post reported that the death penalty case against Aurora theater shooter James Holmes racked up more than $3 million in expenses - the result of 3 years of jailing, evaluating and prosecuting the so-called Batman killer.

That figure didn't include the salaries of judges, prosecutors, sheriff's deputies and other government employees who spent most or all of their time on the case, nor the taxpayer dollars spent by the Colorado Public Defender's Office, which isn't required to disclose defense costs.

Galloway, 45, an ex-Fort Carson soldier, is charged in the back-to-back fatal shootings in May 2016 of Marcus Anderson, a homeless man, and Janice Nam, an ex-girlfriend whom Galloway had previously been convicted of stalking when their relationship soured. Authorities haven't announced how or whether the deaths were linked, except to say both victims knew Galloway.

(source: The Gazette)


Johnson & Johnson unit speaks out at planned death row drug use----Group says it does not condone use of its drugs in lethal injection as Florida eyes move

Johnson & Johnson, the world's largest healthcare company, has hit out at plans by the US state of Florida to execute a prisoner on death row using an experimental lethal injection containing a drug it invented.

Janssen, a division of J&J, discovered etomidate in the 1960s but no longer makes the off-patent medicine, which is manufactured by several drugmakers.

"We do not condone the use of our medicines in lethal injections for capital punishment," Janssen said in a statement.

It added: "Janssen discovers and develops medical innovations to save and enhance lives. We do not support the use of our medicines for indications that have not been approved by regulatory authorities, such as the US [Food and Drug Administration]."

It is the 1st time that a drug connected to J&J has been used in a lethal injection and, as such, the company has not spoken out on the topic before.

Florida has not disclosed which company made its supplies of etomidate, an injectable sedative used to anaesthetise patients, which is manufactured by several companies including Pfizer and Mylan, according to a government database of prescription drugs.

J&J's condemnation follows several similar interventions by drugmakers such as Pfizer, Roche and Baxter.

Most drugmakers are vehemently opposed to the use of their products in lethal injections and many have responded to anti-death penalty campaigners by introducing controls to stop correctional facilities stockpiling their medicines for executions.

The industry's opposition to capital punishment - which it sees as anathema to its mission of saving lives — has frustrated states that still have the death penalty.

Many such states have been unable to secure supplies of drugs and have been forced to turn to unproven experimental cocktails or, in the case of Utah, reintroduce the firing squad.

"The world's largest drug manufacturer has added its voice to the industry-wide consensus that opposes the misuse of medical products in lethal injection execution," said Maya Foa, director of Reprieve, a charity that describes itself as an "international rights organisation".

Ms Foa added: "Pharmaceutical companies are clear that their drugs are for saving the lives of patients, not ending the lives of prisoners. In Florida particularly, governor [Rick] Scott should listen to clear and unequivocal statements from J&J and others calling time on this dangerous misuse of medicines."

It is not clear how Florida circumvented the controls put in place by drugmakers to stop correctional facilities from buying their medicines, although it could have amassed supplies of etomidate before it publicly announced its intention to use it in a lethal injection earlier this year. Florida plans to use etomidate as the 1st of 3 drugs in the lethal injection, which also includes rocuronium bromide, a muscle relaxer to prevent jerking, and potassium acetate, which stops the heart when administered in high enough doses.

The state is also substituting potassium acetate for potassium chloride, which is more commonly used but harder to secure because of the supply controls.

Potassium acetate has been used in a lethal injection only once before in 2015 in Oklahoma - but only by mistake. In that highly publicised execution, the prisoner said he felt like his body was "on fire" before he died.

After defeating several legal challenges, Florida scheduled the execution of double murderer Mark James Asay for this Thursday.

A spokesperson for Florida attorney-general Pam Bondi did not respond to a request for comment.

(source: Financial Times)


Trial of Stockholm academic facing death penalty in Iran begins

The trial of a Stockholm academic who is detained in Iran on what Amnesty International calls 'extremely vague grounds' and could face the death penalty is set to get under way.

Researcher Ahmadreza Djalali has been detained since last April. He was arrested in Tehran for espionage and 'enmity with God' - a crime which in Iran can result in the death penalty - during a visit for a conference last year.

An Iranian citizen, the academic has a permanent residence permit in Sweden, where he conducted research in disaster medicine at the prestigious Karolinska Institute, and lived with his wife and two children. He previously worked at the University of Eastern piedmont in Italy, and the Italian government expressed "extreme concern" for his safety in February.

Human rights organization Amnesty International has urged the authorities to release Djalali or give him a fair and secure trial.

"We hope he will be released. He has been in prison since April last year on extremely vague grounds," Amnesty Sweden spokesperson Ami Hedenborg said. "You have to ask yourself what it is really about. There is a great deal of concern over what may happen."

Hedenborg added that it is impossible to speculate about what may happen, as the Iranian justice system is difficult to comprehend:

"Iran has an arbitrary legal system which doesn't comply with the international conditions for a fair trial. It could easily be cancelled or the sentence announced within 2 minutes".

The trial was previously scheduled to start in early August, but was postponed when the judge took ill.

"We have asked to attend, but received a refusal," Anne Torngren from Sweden’s Foreign Ministry told news agency TT. The Swedish embassy has also applied for permission to visit Djalali.

The researcher's wife admits she is not optimistic about the trial. "I can't expect anything from my home country," she said.

Djalali launched a hunger strike earlier this year, leading his family to become concerned about his health.



Iraqi court in Nineveh sentences 4 IS militants to death

Iraqi judicial authorities on Sunday handed down death sentences to 4 Islamic State (IS) members, including a man who was recruiting militants across Nineveh.

The execution sentences are the first verdicts issued in Mosul since Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced victory against IS in early July.

After 9 months of fierce clashes, the extremist group was ousted from their last major stronghold and de facto capital in the country.

Judge Abdul Sattar Bayraktar, a spokesman for the Supreme Judicial Council, said the four suspects who were handed death sentences belonged to the militant group.

"The 4 men were given the death penalty after being convicted of belonging and having an allegiance to [IS]," the judge's statement read.

He added the 4 convicted members had been involved in "a number of terrorist crimes."

"The investigations indicate that one of the terrorists was recruiting fighters to join the ranks of the organization," Judge Bayraktar noted.

As the militant group continues to lose control in Iraq, more IS militants are surrendering or being captured by Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi security forces.

The number of extremists currently detained and held in Iraqi prisons as well as how many of those will face the death penalty is unknown.

International humanitarian organizations, including the European Union, have criticized the Federal Government of Iraq and urge Baghdad to remove the death penalty.

According to Iraqi forces, over 25,000 IS militants were killed during the battle to liberate Mosul.

Security forces have now turned their attention to the city of Tal Afar, west of Mosul, where an estimated 2,000 extremists remain.



Maldives set to restore death penalty as Amnesty International, UN protest

Maldives is set to restore the death penalty due to rising crime and drug trafficking cases, a senior advisor to President Abdulla Yameen told Reuters today even as the country comes to grip with the political turmoil in the country.

The country has never carried out a single death penalty order since 1962 when the country gained independence from Britain. However, the present regime has decided to bring the order into practice.

"It is to be used as a deterrent," Mohamed Hussain Shareef, a senior advisor to Yameen and head of foreign relations of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) told Reuters in an interview in Colombo.

"At the moment, overwhelmingly the people of Maldives are in support for implementation. It is a difficult decision for any government. But as a government, you have to safeguard the lives of innocent people," the minister added.

The last execution carried out by Maldives was in the pre-independence era back in 1954, ever since then, successive governments have resisted using the capital punishment as a mode of execution resorting instead to lethal injection.

Mohamed Hussain Shareef told Reuters that murders have been rising in the country with more than fifty reported over the last decade.

The United Nations and Amnesty have called the government not to allow the death penalty but the government has almost decided to give its stamp of approval.

Shareef said there are 3 convicted murderers facing capital punishment.


AUGUST 21, 2017:

FLORIDA----impending execution

Florida set to conduct its 1st execution in a year and a half

Ahead of a planned resumption of executions in Florida on 24 August, 18 months after the last one, Amnesty International is issuing a paper on recent developments relating to the death penalty in the US state.

"Death in Florida" outlines the state's response to the January 2016 US Supreme Court decision that Florida's capital sentencing law was unconstitutional, and the governor's reaction to a prosecutor's subsequent decision to reject the death penalty.

When State Attorney Aramis Ayala announced that she would not seek the death penalty due to its demonstrable flaws, Governor Scott immediately responded by ordering her replacement with a different prosecutor more willing to engage in this lethal pursuit. So far the Governor has transferred 26 cases to his preferred prosecutor.

Racial discrimination was 1 of the death penalty's flaws - along with its costs, risks and failure as a deterrent - cited by State Attorney Ayala, the 1st African American to be elected to that position in Florida.

"Here are 2 officials taking very different approaches to the overwhelming evidence that the death penalty is a failed policy," said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

"One says drop it, it is a waste of resources, prone to discrimination, arbitrariness and error. The other says crank up the machinery of death.

"One is acting consistently with international human rights principles. The other is not."

Background Information

The prisoner set to be executed on 24 August at 6pm is Mark Asay, who was sent to death row in 1988 for 2 murders committed in 1987. The last execution in Florida was of Oscar Bolin on 7 January 2016, 5 days before the US Supreme Court issued its Hurst v. Florida ruling that the state's capital sentencing statute was unconstitutional.

(source: Amnesty International USA)


Scott takes Kissimmee police deaths cases from anti-death penalty state attorney

Gov. Rick Scott has reassigned the homicide cases of 2 Kissimmee police officers from a state attorney who has said she would never seek the death penalty.

Scott signed an executive order taking the cases of Officers Matthew Baxter and Sam Howard from Aramiz Ayala and giving them to fellow state attorney Brad King.

"Fridan night's violence against our law enforcement community is reprehensible and has no place in our state," Scott said. "In Florida, we have zero tolerance for violence and those who attack our law enforcement. Today, I am using my executive authority to reassign this case to State Attorney Brad King to ensure the victims of Friday night's attack and their families receive the justice they deserve."

In March, Ayala stirred controversy when she said she would not seek the death penalty for Markeith Loyd, who is accused of killing Orlando police Lt. Debra Clayton and his pregnant ex-girlfriend Sade Dixon.

Ayala said then that she would not pursue the death penalty for any accused criminal.

"By choosing to seek life sentences over death, we can assure that violent offenders will never be released. They will never continue to drain resources from this state with decades of appeals," she said at the time.

Scott then took her off the Loyd case and assigned it to King.

Ayala appealed the decision to the state Supreme Court, saying the governor could not reassign the case because she is an elected official. The court has yet to issue a ruling.

(source: WTSP news)


Echols says he suffered brain injuries on death row, his wife calls for end to executions

6 years ago Saturday (Aug. 19), Damien Echols woke for the last time on the wrong side of a set of jail bars. He spent 18 years in prison, convicted of the murders of 3 8-year-old boys in West Memphis in 1993. He, along with Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr., denied any involvement and there were question about the evidence against them.

Echols told Talk Business & Politics the scars from his incarceration are still real. Each day he copes with physical and psychological damage he suffered while in prison.,P> "I spent 18 years in prison under abject conditions," he said. "10 years was spent in solitary torture. The brain injury I sustained will always plague me."

The specific injury was not disclosed. Echols wife, Lorri Davis Echols told Talk Business & Politics her husband suffers from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He has had bouts of depression, and has spent years acclimating to life outside of prison.

"It's been a roller coaster, but we've worked really hard to build a new life. It was and is like starting new," she said.

The couple lives in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City and have traveled the world, giving lectures at universities and other venues about a broad range of subjects including false convictions, the death penalty, and Echols' spiritual views. He wrote a New York best-selling autobiography, "Life after Death," and he and his wife helped to produce the critically acclaimed Showtime documentary, West of Memphis. One place he visited early this spring terrified him - Arkansas.

In April 8 men on Arkansas death row were slated for execution. Echols, had he not been released, would have been included. He journeyed to Little Rock with his friend, and avid supporter, actor Johnny Depp. The trip terrified him, and he suffered from a high level of anxiety while he was still in the Natural State.

"They tried to kill me," he told TB&P at the time.

uring the last 5 years there have been virtually no new leads discovered by Echols or the army of attorneys, private investigators, forensic scientists, and others who worked to secure his freedom.


Echols, along with Baldwin, and Misskelley Jr., were convicted of the 1993 slayings of 3 West Memphis 8-year-olds, Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers, and Michael Moore. The boys were riding bikes in their West Memphis neighborhood when they vanished around sunset. Prosecutors claim the boys entered a patch of woods near their homes, dubbed "Robin Hood Hills," by locals. The 3 boys were bludgeoned during an attack prosecutors claimed was inspired by Satanism or a belief in the occult.

1 month later the 3 teens, all from Marion, were charged with the murders after Misskelley confessed to the crime and implicated the others. The confession contained inaccuracies including the time and place of the murders, the manner in which they were performed, and he told police 2 of the boys were sexually assaulted when autopsy results showed no sexual assault took place.

Despite the inaccuracies, and no physical of forensic evidence tying the teens to the crimes, 2 juries found them guilty. Echols was sentenced to death while the other 2 received life terms.

The 3 teens dubbed "The West Memphis 3" languished in obscurity until the 1996 documentary "Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills" was released by HBO. Doubts surfaced whether the teens, dubbed "The West Memphis 3" committed the crimes.

The documentary saved Echols life, he said during a 2010 interview. The circumstantial case and the lack of evidence raised doubts among a burgeoning support group that included Depp, Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder, Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines, and the director Sr. Peter Jackson. Millions of dollars was raised in an attempt the free the men.


By 2011 Arkansas officials were under pressure to release the men. A new trial was about to be ordered in the case. New DNA evidence had been discovered implicating Stevie Branch's stepfather, Terry Hobbs. A hair found in the ligatures that bound Michael Moore was a virtual genetic match for him, and a hair found on a tree stump next to where the bodies were dumped was a genetic match for his alibi witness at the time of the murders, David Jacoby. Hobbs and Jacoby have denied involvement in the murders.

One witness who testified during Misskelley's trial, Victoria Hutcheson, signed a sworn affidavit saying she lied at the trial. During an interview in 2009 she told a TB&P reporter she was under pressure from police to provide evidence and was facing a credit card fraud charge. Her son, Aaron, was friends with the victims, and he claimed for a time to have witnessed the murders, but his statements proved false. She told jurors she attended a "witches gathering" or esbat with Echols and Misskelley. Testimony from another witness who claimed to have heard Echols and Baldwin talking about the murders at a softball game would have likely been disproved during a new trial, prosecutors admitted.

Prosecutor Scott Ellington agreed to release them under the terms of an Alford Plea. This unique legal mechanism allowed them to profess innocence while at the same time acknowledging the state might have enough evidence to convict them. It's essentially a no contest plea. Ellington has said numerous times if new trials had been ordered, the men would have been freed because of the changing witness statements, new scientific evidence, and "stale evidence."


Echols has had no contact with officials who worked to imprison him, he said. Lorri Echols said the state of Arkansas is not only culpable in her husband's wrongful incarceration, but it has been negligent in not finding and prosecuting the person or persons who killed the 3 boys. A new investigation needs to be opened, and the killer or killers need to be brought to justice, she said. Occasionally, Echols will encounter a troll on social media networks who believes he's guilty, but most people he interacts with believe in his innocence, she said.

"In our day to day life in New York, people tend to have done their homework," she said.

The couple has several creative projects they are working on. Echols is writing a book that will be published by Sounds True in 2018. Lorri will participate in an art show later this year in Chicago.

Arkansas officials announced Friday they plan to restart executions. Lorri Echols advises against it.

"Once again, Damien's case is proof that Arkansas makes mistakes. How many innocent men have they executed? Is there anything else that needs to be said?"

(source: KATV news)

MISSOURI----impending execution

Marcellus Williams faces execution despite new evidence

On Tuesday night, the US state of Missouri is planning to execute Marcellus Williams despite a new report from a DNA expert that his lawyers argue supports his claim to innocence.

In 2001, Williams, who is now 48, was convicted of the 1998 killing of Lisha Gayle. But his lawyers say new DNA evidence could exonerate him. The Missouri Supreme Court, however, has refused to review that evidence.

Williams' lawyer, Kent Gipson, has described the Supreme Court's decision as "baffling".

"We petitioned the court to look at the new evidence on August 14th, and less than 24 hours later they decided based on the court files that the execution should go ahead anyway. This is unprecedented," Gipson told Al Jazeera.

Williams, who has always claimed he is innocent, was sentenced to death in 2001, three years after Gayle, a former newspaper reporter, was murdered in her home in a gated community in St Louis, Missouri. He was originally due to be executed on January 28, 2015, but Missouri's high court decided to postpone the execution to allow time for new DNA tests to be conducted.

Those tests showed that the male DNA on the murder weapon, a knife, was not Williams' but belonged to a 3rd, unknown person.

"There is no physical evidence, no eyewitnesses that directly connect Williams to the murder, the DNA on the weapon wasn't his, the bloody footprint at the murder scene wasn't from Williams' shoe and was a different size, and the hair fibres found weren't his," said Gipson. "It was someone else that killed Gayle, not Williams."

How was Williams convicted?

During Williams' trial, the prosecution based its case on the testimonies of 2 people, Henry Cole and Laura Asaro. Cole had shared a cell with Williams after he had been taken into custody on suspicion of being involved in Gayle's murder. Cole said Williams had confessed to murdering the 42-year-old woman.

The other testimony was given by Laura Asaro, a convicted drug addict, who was Williams' short-term girlfriend at the time of the murder. She claimed, among other things, to have seen scratches on Williams neck that were made by the victim.

"These scratches would leave DNA traces on the victim, but Williams' DNA was not found underneath the victim's fingernails, just like it was someone else's DNA that was found on the murder weapon," said Gipson.

"She also claimed she saw Williams with the victim's driver's licence, which is impossible because Gayle's licence was left at the crime scene."

Gipson believes both may have been motivated to give false statements in the hope of receiving a financial reward. "The victim's family offered a reward of $10,000 for anyone with tips leading to the arrest of the person who murdered Lisha Gayle," Gipson explained. "They both got paid by the victim's family after their testimonies."

With no forensic or eye witness testimony linking Williams to the murder, the prosecution based its case on these 2 witnesses. "At the time, we didn't have the technology to do these DNA tests. But even now that there is indisputable scientific evidence exonerating Williams from the murder, the attorney general still thinks these testimonies hold more weight than the DNA evidence that shows Williams didn't commit this crime," Gipson said.

One of those following this case closely is Sister Helen Prejean, a well-known opponent of the death penalty who came to international fame after she wrote the book Dead Man Walking, which was later made into a film.

Griffin Hardy, a spokesperson for Sister Helen Prejean's anti-death penalty organisation Ministry Against the Death Penalty, told Al Jazeera: "The fact of the matter is DNA evidence shows that Marcellus Williams was not involved in this crime. That means that there is a killer who may still be out in the community at large. Missouri should use its resources to apprehend the real killer instead of executing a man who didn't commit this crime."

Black defendant, white victim, white jury

A significant factor in this case, according to Gipson and Griffin, is Williams' race. The victim, Lisha Gayle, was a white woman. Williams is a black man who, according to the prosecution, killed Gayle when she caught him burglarising her home in St Louis, Missouri, the same district where the Ferguson protests against police brutality took place in 2014.

"The jury that found Williams guilty consisted of mostly white people. This district has a history of getting African Americans off juries, especially when the victim is white," Gipson said.

There were 7 African Americans in the juror pool for Williams' trial, but the prosecution struck all but one of them off with the result that there were 11 white jurors and one black juror at his trial.

Another issue is the funding of public defenders in Missouri. "This state ranks 49th out of 50 with regards to properly funding public defenders. The public defender that got Williams' case has publicly stated that he wasn't able to prepare properly, so he simply didn't have the opportunity to properly discredit the shaky testimonies that were used to build this case around," Gipson said.

As to why the court has refused to examine the new evidence, Gipson said: "It's baffling to me how the Missouri Supreme Court denied our petition barely 24 hours after filing it, with no hearing at all. Listening to what experts have to say about new evidence is particularly important in a case like this with scientific evidence. It is frightening that someone can have exonerating DNA evidence and a court would turn a blind eye to it."

Williams' execution can now only be stopped by the United States Supreme Court or the governor of Missouri, Eric Greitens. "He is a newly elected governor and he heavily campaigned on being pro-life. Anyone who says he is pro-life would not let anyone be executed, especially not when there is more than enough reasonable doubt like in this case," Gipson said.

Hardy hopes Governor Greitens will stop the execution and that a new investigation to find Lisha Gayle's killer will be launched.

"Society may debate the question of whether the death penalty is acceptable for guilty prisoners, but no one can argue with the fact that an innocent person should never be executed," he said.

Williams is due to be executed by lethal injection.

Al Jazeera contacted both the office of Missouri's attorney general, Josh Hawley, and the office of Missouri Governor Eric Greitens for this article. Neither had responded by the time of publication.

(source: Al Jazeera News)


Is Missouri about to execute an innocent man?

Editor, the Tribune: Marcellus Williams is scheduled to be executed on Tuesday, Aug. 22. He was convicted of the Aug. 11, 1998, robbery and murder of 42-year-old Felicia Gayle in her St. Louis home.

I am against the death penalty on moral grounds, but on practical grounds it makes no sense as well. Consider that there are enormous costs to the state to carry through to an execution and that we have a patently-unjust judicial system, especially for the poor.

Missouri's death penalty is broken for many reasons, including but not limited to racial injustice, disparities in representation and sentencing, prosecutorial misconduct and public opinion. These issues are all present in Williams' case. If you are wealthy, white and connected you will surely "get off." If you are poor, a racial minority, and have no connections, you will surely receive the death penalty - guilty or innocent of the accused crime.

Is Missouri executing an innocent man? Very possibly.

According to information from the Marshall Project, there is no physical evidence linking him to the crime - none of the DNA evidence matches that of Williams. "The little bit (of testing) that’s been done excludes him. Marcellus has never confessed. There was no eyewitness testimony. The state's case rests on 2 snitches, who received monetary compensation. As well, Williams' post-conviction remedies have not been exhausted in federal court, which he intends to pursue. Missouri has set an execution date disregarding due process available to Williams.

Reading about Williams case, there is the question of why this execution is being pursued so vigorously by Missouri's Governor and Attorney General when, over many years, there have been so many missteps and clear uncertainty of guilt. One wonders if there are political careers attempting to be made on the backs of Missouri's most vulnerable.

You can learn more about the Marcellus Williams case at or Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty,

Contact the offices of Gov. Eric Greitens and Attorney General Josh Hawley and ask them to stop this execution. Let Missouri be a state of equal protection under the law, tempered by a highly-developed sense of justice.

Sometimes a death penalty case is lacking credibility at such an important level that someone must speak up to preserve what might remain of a civilized and lawful society.

Barbara Ross, Jefferson City


For Marcellus Williams, doubt exists

Editor, the Tribune: Is Missouri executing an innocent man on Tuesday, Aug. 22?

There is more than a "shadow of doubt" linking Marcellus Williams to the crime of killing Felicia Gayle in her St. Louis home in 1998. Williams was convicted based on the questionable testimony of 2 people who received a $10,000 reward. The fact that no DNA evidence on the weapon (knife), samples of blood, and clippings of skin tissue or hair matches the DNA of Marcellus Williams is troubling.

The Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday denied a motion filed last February from attorneys to halt next week's execution of Williams. Williams' attorney, Kent Gipson, says testing in December 2016 indicated that the DNA matched some unknown person, but not Marcellus Williams.

Why do we have to be in such a hurry to execute someone that we don't have the time to check everything out? This is not justice. Many people have been found to be innocent because of DNA results. Well-known attorney Bryan Stephenson has obtained more than 30 retrials of innocent people who were sentenced to execution.

We should never allow an innocent person to be executed. How can we always be certain that an execution is justified?

This case illustrates how important it is to put an end to executions in Missouri.

Now is the time to call our humanitarian Gov. Eric Greitens (573-751-3222) and ask him to commute the sentence, as well as Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley (573-751-3321), in order to investigate this case.

Linda Lou Brown, Columbia

(source: Letters to the Editor, Columbia Daily Tribune)


Midwest Innocence Project asks Missouri governor to halt Tuesday's execution

A nonprofit that seeks to overturn wrongful convictions has asked Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens to put Tuesday's scheduled execution on hold.

The Midwest Innocence Project says new DNA evidence presented last week shows Marcellus Williams didn't kill former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Felicia Gayle in 1998.

Williams' attorney, Kent Gipson, asked the state Supreme Court last week to consider two new tests, which he said show that Williams' DNA was not on the knife used in Gayle's death. The court denied the request for a stay of execution.

Midwest Innocence Project Director Tricia Bushnell told St. Louis Public Radio on Sunday that the organization wants Greitens to appoint a board of inquiry to look into the new evidence.

"This is a case that has so many questions in it, and the reality is, Mr. Williams has DNA evidence that says it is not him on the murder weapon, and no one has even let him have a hearing on those results," she said. "It seems impossible that we would execute someone, put someone to death, when there is a question that large, without even giving them a hearing. ... This question has a number of the hallmarks that we see in wrongful convictions."

Bushnell also was critical of the prosecution in the case, which was done in St. Louis County because Gayle was killed in University City. She said the prosecution relied on "what we would call 'incentivized informants.'"

In 2003, the state Supreme Court upheld Williams' conviction, saying there was sufficient evidence to support the jury's conclusion. Spokesmen for Greitens and St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch didn't immediately return requests for comment.

Williams' original execution in 2015 was postponed. He is scheduled to be put to death Tuesday.

Missouri will use 2 of its 34 vials of the sedative pentobarbital on Tuesday when it executes Marcellus Williams, who was convicted in the 1998 killing of Felicia Gayle, a former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter.

The state has enough pentobarbital for 17 executions, Williams' included, according to a document obtained by St. Louis Public Radio. No one except the state of Missouri knows where the stockpile comes from, despite lawsuits from inmates and media outlets.



Don't dishonor murder victim Lisha Gayle by executing Marcellus Williams

On Tuesday, Missouri is scheduled to execute a man in exactly the kind of case that makes even some supporters of the death penalty queasy.

Way back in 2001, Marcellus Williams was found guilty in the grisly 1998 stabbing death of 42-year-old Lisha Gayle, a former St. Louis newspaper reporter so altruistic that she left journalism to become a volunteer who worked with the disenfranchised.

Williams, who is also serving multiple life sentences on unrelated burglary and robbery charges, had, according to prosecutors, been burglarizing Gayle's apartment when she stepped out of the shower, surprised him and fought back as he killed her.

Only there was never any physical evidence linking Williams to the crime, according to his attorneys and Amnesty International.

Now his attorneys say that new evidence, based on new testing that the court allowed, shows Williams is not a match for the male DNA found on the knife that was the murder weapon.

Instead, an analysis by Greg Hampikian, a Boise State University biologist, shows that the DNA is that of an unknown male.

Why allow the testing and then disregard what it finds?

Williams, who is 48, has always maintained his innocence and said the case against him is based entirely on the word of a former girlfriend and a former cellmate who he insists were only looking for a piece of the $10,000 reward offered in the case.

What harm would it do to make sure he's guilty?

We can't think of any, especially compared to the wrong of putting a man to death for a crime he didn't commit.

The Missouri Supreme Court has denied a petition to delay Williams' execution, so unless the governor or Supreme Court intervenes, he'll be given a lethal injection at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

A spokesman for Attorney General Josh Hawley said he's still confident that Williams is guilty.

But why not make sure the public can be confident of that, too?

We urge the court to appoint a special master to hear Williams' claim of innocence.

Missourians deserve to know for sure that he really is guilty before putting him to death in our name.

And the memory of Lisha Gayle, who worked with the poor and with children, would only be dishonored by an injustice carried out in retribution for the violence done to her.

(source: Editorial Board, Kansas City Star)


OC District Attorney responds to judge blocking death penalty in Dekraai case

The Orange County District Attorney's Office (OCDA) is disappointed that Judge Goethals made this unprecedented ruling and has denied the California Attorney General (AG) the ability to pursue the death penalty against convicted murderer Scott Dekraai. Given the pattern and tenor of his previous rulings, Judge Goethals' decision does not come as a surprise.

In 2014, the OCDA obtained a guilty plea, ensuring Dekraai would at a minimum be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. The only question remaining was whether he should receive the death penalty for his repugnant, callous, and despicable acts committed while exacting revenge against his ex-wife.

Dekraai planned and murdered 8, nearly 9 innocent people, at the salon where his ex-wife worked, so she would experience the terror and horror of seeing her friends and clients murdered. Whether some members of the Orange County Sheriff's Department failed to produce tangential information in a timely manner has nothing to do with what Dekraai did and the fact that Dekraai deserves the death penalty. The AG made an independent decision to seek the death penalty when the OCDA was recused and should be able to proceed forward because Dekraai would have received a fair trial.

The article above was released by the Orange County District Attorney. Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer also released a statement - one that sounded more like a campaign speech, since he's running to replace OCDA Tony Rackauckas.



Most American Indian tribes opt out of federal death penalty

In a heinous case on the Navajo Nation, an 11-year-old girl was lured into a van, sexually assaulted and killed. The tribe did not seek to have the man who recently admitted to killing her put to death.

American Indian tribes for decades have been able to tell federal prosecutors if they want a death sentence considered for certain crimes on their land. Nearly all have rejected that option.

Tribes and legal experts say the decision goes back to culture and tradition, past treatment of American Indians and fairness in the justice system.

"Most Indian tribes were mistreated by the United States under past federal policies, and there can be historical trauma in cases associated with the execution of Native people," said Robert Anderson, a University of Washington law professor and a member of the Bois Forte Band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. "This allows tribes to at least decide in those narrow circumstances when there should be a federal death penalty or not."

In the Navajo case, Ashlynne Mike's body wasn't found until the next day. Her death in May 2016 renewed discussions there about capital punishment.

Ashlynne's mother has urged the tribe to opt into the death penalty, particularly for crimes that involve children. The tribe long has objected to putting people to death, saying the culture teaches against taking a human life for vengeance.

For years, Theda New Breast has seen the effects of domestic violence, drug addiction and poverty on her Blackfeet Reservation in Montana. The healer helps those who suffer from the associated trauma. But regardless of the nature of the crime, the 61-year-old is staunchly against capital punishment.

"Our beliefs, that I was raised with, say that no one has a right to take away a life except the Creator. Period," New Breast said. "End of story."

Congress expanded the list of death-penalty eligible crimes in the mid-1990s, allowing tribes to decide if they wanted their citizens subject to the death penalty. Legal experts say they are aware of only one tribe, the Sac and Fox Nation of Oklahoma, that has opted in.

Tribal leaders there hoped the decision would deter serious, violent crimes on the reservation in east-central Oklahoma, said Truman Carter, a Sac and Fox member, attorney and tribal prosecutor. "The tribal leaders have said yes over the years, and they left it alone," he said.

No American Indian has been executed in any case from the Sac and Fox reservation.

Still, the ability of tribes to decide on the death penalty doesn't completely exempt Native Americans from federal death row. According to the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc., 16 Native Americans have been executed since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976. The executions were for crimes occurring off tribal land or in the handful of states where the federal government does not have jurisdiction over major crimes on reservations.

That was the case earlier this year when a California jury imposed the death penalty for Cherie Rhoades. The former leader of the Cedarville Rancheria Tribe was convicted of fatally shooting 3 people and trying to kill 2 others.

Modac County District Attorney Jordan Funk said he didn't consult with the tribe and wasn't required to before deciding to pursue the death penalty. He said Rhoades expressed no remorse for the killings at a tribal meeting where officials were considering her eviction from the tribe.

"If they would have told me they don't want us to execute her, I would have done it anyway," Funk said.

Tribes also don't have a say over the death penalty when certain federal crimes like carjacking or kidnapping resulting in death, or killing a federal officer occurs on reservation land. Those carry a possible death sentence no matter where they happen.

That's how Lezmond Mitchell, a Navajo man, became the only American Indian now on federal death row. He was convicted in a 2001 case of killing a fellow Navajo tribal member and her 9-year-old granddaughter who were driving to see a medicine man. Their beheaded, mutilated bodies were found in a shallow grave on the reservation. Mitchell stole the woman's car and later robbed a trading post in Red Valley, Arizona.

? The Navajo Nation government objected to the death penalty on the murder charges. It had no choice on the charge of carjacking resulting in death.

Tamera Begay, a Navajo woman, has studied the Mitchell case and agrees the tribe should steer clear of the death penalty. "There's so much federal jurisdiction, that's worrisome," she said.

Laura Harris, executive director of Americans for Indian Opportunity and member of the Comanche Nation, said her tribe sees banishment as a much worse punishment than death because it cuts off a person's ability to be part of the community.

She said tribes also recall how the death penalty has been used against them. In December 1862, for example, 38 Dakota men who were at war with settlers in Minnesota were hanged in the largest mass execution in U.S. history. An annual horseback ride is held to commemorate the men, ending at the site of the hangings in what's now Reconciliation Park.

Today, the death penalty is more likely to be carried out in the case of a white victim than a victim of color. Native Americans make up less than 1/4 of 1 % of victims in cases that result in executions, according to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. For whites, it's 75 %, for blacks 15 % and nearly 7 % for Latinos.

"It's not surprising you'd see a distrust of the judicial process similar to the distrust you see in the African American community," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. "When you look at who is executed, you see that there are a class a favored victims and a class of disfavored defendants."

Melissa Tatum, a research professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson, said most tribes believe the criminal justice system in Indian Country doesn't work, "not in a sufficient way that they would opt into the death penalty, and the statistics bear that out."

Pursuing the death penalty in a federal case isn't taken likely, said Kevin Washburn, a University of New Mexico law professor and member of the Chickasaw Nation. A U.S. Department of Justice panel has to review the case.

Tribes also can't decide on a case-by-case basis, Washburn said.

"You can't have a murder that happens today and have the Navajo Nation authorize the death penalty tomorrow and have it apply to the murder that happened today," he said.

Ashlynne's family is looking toward future change. The Navajo man who recently admitted to killing her, Tom Begaye Jr., cannot get the death penalty at his upcoming sentencing. He faces life in prison without the possibility of release under a plea agreement with federal prosecutors.

After Ashlynne's death, Navajo leaders met with medicine people and talked for at least 2 hours about the tribe's general position on the death penalty and decided to maintain a position against it, Tribal Council Speaker LoRenzo Bates said.

"Navajos see life as precious, good or bad, and so we don't pick and choose," he said. "All life is precious."

Pamela Foster, Ashlynne's mother, has been gathering signatures online to convince the tribe to change its mind.

"If traditional teachings are squarely against the taking of human life, WHY are we allowing it to happen?" Foster wrote in an online post.

(source: Minneapolis Star Tribune)


Myanmar men given death penalty for killing 2 British backpackers in Thailand appeal against sentence----Bar workers Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun were found guilty of murdering David Miller, 24, and raping and killing Hannah Witheridge, 23, in September 2014.

2 Myanmar men given the death sentence for murdering 2 British backpackers in Thailand in September 2014 have used their last life line and appealed to a court against the sentence.

Migrant bar workers Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun were found guilty of murdering David Miller, 24, and raping and killing Hannah Witheridge, 23, whose bodies were discovered on a beach on the diving resort of Koh Tao in Thailand.

Both the men had raped Witheridge and bludgeoned the pair over the head, a court had heard in December 2015.

Their death sentence was upheld by the Appeal Court in March this year when the pair lost an appeal to have their sentence overturned.

Lin and Htun submitted their final appeal on Monday (21 August).

"The deadline is today so we have to submit it. This is the final chance to appeal," Nakhon Chomphuchat, head of the Myanmar men's defence team, told Reuters.

The conviction of the men in 2015 was mired in controversy as they had claimed that the confessions they made during the questioning - which were later retracted - had been extracted through torture or abuse.

The workers earned some supporters who also claimed that the DNA evidence submitted by the Thai investigators was inadmissible as it had not been collected, tested or analysed as per international standards. They also alleged that questioning of the 2 men was unlawful as it had been done without the presence of the lawyers of Lin and Htun.

The bodies of murder victims Hannah Witheridge and David Miller were found on a beach on the southern island of Koh Tao in ThailandFacebook

Reuters reported that some migrant rights groups also accused the Thai police of failing to properly seal off the area where the crime took place and of using the two Myanmar workers as scapegoats.

The Thai police denied the accusation. The families of the British tourists were also thought to have spoken in support of the police investigation.

There were huge protests outside Thailand's embassy in Myanmar's capital city, Yangon, which lasted a couple of days following the sentencing of Lin and Htun in December 2015.

Reuters noted that although Lin and Htun were given the death penalty, this mode of punishment has not been carried out in many years in Thailand.



Indonesia to Reject UN Recommendation to Scrap Death Penalty

The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) commissioner Muhammad Nurkhoiron said that Indonesia is likely to reject 20 out of 75 recommendation from the United Nations Human Rights Council. "One of which being the scrapping of death penalty," Nurkhoiron told Tempo yesterday.

The commissioner did not divulge the details about 20 recommendations that would be rejected by the government. He said that they would only be noted by the government. He reasoned that, among others, the nations who made such recommendations did not understand the context of human rights issues faced by Indonesia.

The UN Human Rights Council in a universal periodic review (UPR) in May issued 225 recommendations on human rights to Indonesia. The government had immediately accepted 150 recommendations including those relating to the education sector, religious freedom and protection for vulnerable and disabled people. However, 75 recommendations are still being discussed.

The UPR session in Geneva urges Indonesia to scrap death penalty. There are at least 12 recommendations on the issue, including calls for the country to issue a moratorium on death sentence and to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the Indonesian Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR-OP2).

The Komnas HAM will continue to talk with the government and civil society to make a decision on the remaining 75 recommendations. "We expect to issue the final decision in early September," he said. The government plans to announce the result in September 20, which is deadline set by the UN Human Rights Council.

The Foreign Ministry could not be reached for comment on Komnas HAM's statements.

Hasan Kleib, the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Indonesia to the United Nations in Geneva, had said that that the government is unlikely to accept the recommendation to scrap death penalty. "Because it's still part of positive law in Indonesia," Hasan said in May.

Director General of Human Rights of the Law and Human Rights Ministry Mualimin Abdi said that death penalty law in the Criminal Code is being revised and is currently being deliberated by the House of Representatives (DPR). "Death penalty has been excluded from main penalty category. It has now become an alternative which implementation must be done prudently," he said. The Ministry said that 67 people are currently on death row.



3 Prisoners Hanged in Qom----They were sentenced to death about 21 years ago based on the Judge's opinion rather than actual documented evidence.

3 prisoners were reportedly hanged at Qom Central Prison on murder charges. The case files for these prisoners were reportedly opened about 21 years ago.

According to a report by the human rights news agency, HRANA, the Iranian authorities carried out the 3 executions on the morning of Tuesday August 15. The report identifies the prisoners as Mahmoud Arab Khorasani, Mehdi Kaseb, and Mohammad Taghi Dehparvar. The prisoners were reportedly transferred to solitary confinement on Sunday August 13 in preparation for their executions.

"These 3 prisoners were sentenced to death about 21 years ago based on the Judge's opinion rather than actual documented evidence," an informed source tells Iran Human Rights. "21 years ago, 2 of the prisoners had their death sentences commuted to lashings and a 3-year prison term each. However, they were tried again and sentenced to death."

Iranian official sources, including the Judiciary and the state-run media, have not announced these 3 executions.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Nigerian excretes 1410.9 grams of cocaine, faces death penalty in China

The High People's Court of Guangdong Province, China, has finally confirmed a death sentence with 2 years probation on a Nigerian, Mr. Ikechukwu Peter Obiekezie, who was reportedly found guilty of smuggling 1410.9 grams of cocaine into China.

Details reaching Vanguard disclosed that Obiekezie, with Nigerian standard Passport No. A50296207, was on 2nd October, 2016, arrested at the Baiyun International Airport in Guangzhou, China, upon arrival from Addis Ababa aboard Ethiopian Airlines Flight No. ET 606 on suspicion of smuggled drugs, which he swallowed and brought to China.

He has, since October 3, 2016, joined the growing list of Nigerians who are detained and serving various jail terms in Guangdong Province, China, after he excreted a total of 1410.9 grams of cocaine at the Chinese Aviation hospital.

Having been in detention since then, Obiekezie was on August 18, 2017, issued a death sentence, following rejection of an appeal made at the Intermediate Peoples' court of Guangzhou on April 7, 2017, after he was declared guilty of smuggling the hard drug into China and was given suspended death sentence.

A follow up report from the Nigerian Consulate General in Guangzhou, China, disclosed that, the death sentence, in the case of Obiekezie, will not be carried out within the period of 2 years if the convict shows remorse, good behavior and if no new crime is intentionally committed during the 2-year probationary period.

The Consulate also said that the death sentence will be reduced to life or 10 to 15 years imprisonment if the convict remains of good behaviour.

"Capital Punishment is a legal penalty in the People's Republic of China. It is mostly enforced for murder and drug trafficking, and executions are carried out by lethal injection or shooting.

"There is widespread public support for capital punishment, especially as a penalty for violent crimes. The People's Republic of China executes the highest number of people annually.

"It is worth noting that after a 1st trial conducted by an Intermediate People's Court which concludes with a death sentence, a double appeals process must follow.

"The 1st appeal is conducted by a High People's Court if the condemned appeals to it, and since 2007, another appeal is conducted automatically (even if the condemned does not make the appeal) by the Supreme People's Court of the People's Republic of China (SPC) in Beijing, to prevent the awkward circumstance in which the defendant is proven innocent after the death penalty, an obviously irrevocable punishment has been administered.

"Chinese courts often hand down the death sentence with 2 years probation. This unique sentence is used to emphasize the seriousness of the crime and the mercy of the court."

It also stressed that cases of drug smuggling into the People's Republic of China is giving Nigeria a bad image in China, adding that, "Presently, there are more than 500 Nigerians serving jail terms for drug trafficking and over 200 languishing in jail for illegal residence in China.

"The Consular problems arising from this barrage of drug related activities of Nigerians have overwhelmed the staff of the Consulate-General of Nigeria in Guangzhou, China.

"On 31st July, 2017, a Nigerian with drugs in his system died aboard the Ethiopian airlines flight to Guangzhou".

In reaction, Nigeria Consul General to China, Ambassador Wale Oloko informed the need to equip the Mission regulating authorities.

He noted that the Nigerian Mission in Guangzhou, China, is the busiest among the 4 Nigerian Missions in China and should be quipped with necessary tools to address affectively and follow up cases affecting some Nigerian immigrants to China, while pointing out that the Mission should not be facing serious financial predicament, which also include non-payment of Foreign Service Allowances (FSA) and rent on the accommodation of the Home-Based Officers and salaries of locally recruited staff.

The Mission currently is said to be facing ejection notice from its present location after its inability to pay its rent.

And if it goes through, it would be the 2nd time within a period of 10 months to witness such embarrassment, having earlier been ejected from its previous location in November, 2016 for non-payment of accumulated rent to give way to the Consulate-General of an African country and now the owners of the property have taken the Mission to court to recover outstanding rent fees.



10 ordered to be executed in firing squad

HasinaA Dhaka court on Sunday handed 10 men death penalty for an attempt to kill prime minister Sheikh Hasina at Kotalipara of Gopalganj in 2000.

Dhaka Speedy Trial Tribunal-2 judge Momtaz Begum handed down the verdict saying the convicts will be executed in the firing squad.

On 22 July 2000, Bangladesh Army recovered a 76kg bomb from Sheikh Lutfor Rahman Ideal College in Kotalipara upazila of Gopalganj which was planted aiming to kill the then prime minister Sheikh Hasina.

Hasina was supposed to address a rally there the next day.

On 23 July, another bomb weighing 40kg was recovered from the same spot.

Kotalipara police then filed an attempted murder case and a case under explosives act after the incident.

Police accused 10 people of banned militant group Harkatul Jihad including their leader Mufti Abdul Hannan on 8 April 2001.

The other accused are: M Mahibullah, Munshi Ibrahim, M Mahmud Azhar, M Rashed driver, M Shah Newaz, M Yusuf, M Lokman, Sheikh M Enamul and M Mizanur Rahman.

Gopalganj court sent the case to Dhaka fast track tribunal in 2010.

Mufti Hannan was later excluded from the case as he was sentenced to death in another case of attempted murder of former British High Commissioner Anwar Choudhury.



10 get death penalty for attempted assassination of Bangladesh PM Hasina----The convicts had hatched the plot to kill Hasina in 2000 by planting a high-powered explosive device

10 militants were on Sunday sentenced to death and 9 others jailed for 20 years each by a court in Bangladesh for attempting to assassinate Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in 2000.

The convicts had hatched the plot to kill Hasina in 2000 by planting a high-powered explosive device in an open ground at her village home in southwestern Gopalganj where she was scheduled to address a public rally.

Security officials, however, detected the bomb ahead of the rally.

On further investigation, outlawed Harkatul Jihad-e- Islami Bangladesh (HuJI) chief Mufti Hannan, who was executed earlier this year in another case involving the attempted assassination of the then Bangladeshi-origin British High Commissioner, was found to be the mastermind of the plot.

25 suspects had been accused in the Special Powers Act case. Nine received 20 years in prison and were fined 20,000 taka each, while 4 were acquitted.

"They (convicts) will be executed either by hanging or by shooting with permission of the High Court," Dhaka's Speedy Trial Tribunal-2 judge Mamtaz Begum said.

Only 8 of the accused faced the trial in person while the rest were sentenced in absentia.

Under the Bangladesh law, the death sentences would require being endorsed by the High Court following an automatic death reference hearing. The convicts are allowed to file an appeal as well.

The judgement comes even as a Dhaka court nears the end of a trial regarding another major assassination attempt on Hasina while she was the opposition leader as the chief of the Awami League in 2004.

An influential group of the then ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) of ex-premier Khaleda Zia is believed to have masterminded the plot, which they had engaged HuJI to execute.

Hasina narrowly escaped the attack that killed 23 people and injured hundreds.

BNP leader and Zia's son Tarique Rahman is being tried in the case in absentia as a prime accused.

"The verdict of the case is expected by the year end," a court official familiar with the development said.



Bangabandhu's grandson Radwan Mujib says he was surprised by law to protect killers

It came as quite a shock to Radwan Mujib Siddiq, when he was told by his family that there was a law in the country protecting the killers of his grandfather Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Bangladesh's founding father was assassinated with most of his family members in a military putsch 42 years ago.

Bangabandhu's 2 daughters, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana were in Germany when they lost their whole family in the carnage on Aug 15, 1975.

Siddiq, the son of Rehana, says he knew about it in 1986 when he was attending preschool in Dhaka.

"I was quite can it be a law," he told a group of students and professionals on Saturday at a seminar in Dhaka.

He was addressing the seminar, 'Bangabandhu Murder Case: Journey, Accomplishments and Remaining Challenges' organised by the Awami League's research arm Centre for Research and Information or CRI.

After the assassination, Khandaker Mostaq Ahmad, a cabinet minister under Bangabandhu, took over the presidency and on Sep 26, 1975 promulgated the indemnity ordinance.

Later it was incorporated into the constitution as the Fifth Amendment in 1979, after reconstitution of parliament during the rule of military dictator Ziaur Rahman.

The amendment also legalised all military rules and orders given during the period of Aug 15, 1975 to Apr 9, 1979.

The 12 army men involved in the killings had been rewarded with jobs in diplomatic missions abroad during BNP founder Zia's regime.

"In 1986, my family moved to Dhaka and I was admitted at a kindergarten school in Banani, but was shifted to another school soon after," Siddiq said recalling his childhood memories.

"When I asked my mother why, her answer was the killers' sons went to the same school. I was told about the law when I asked how murderers can roam free?"

Recalling that children of his age then did not know anything about Bangabandhu, he said, "Our family never hides history. So we were briefed about the brutality."

He added that he could not even speak about his grandfather in school for security reasons.

21 years after the killing of the independence leader, a trial began when the Awami League formed the government in 1996.

In November of the same year, the parliament repealed the Act paving the way for the prosecution of the killers.

12 people were awarded the death penalty for the assassination. In 2010, 5 of the convicts were executed while 1 died as a fugitive abroad. 6 others are still absconding, including 1 of the masterminds, Abdur Rashid.

Convicts M Rashed Chowdhury and Noor Chowdhury have been traced to the US and Canada. The government says the process to bring them back is on.

Prosecutors and investigators of the Bangabandhu murder case, legal academics and senior journalists spoke at Saturday's seminar at the premises of the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum.

Law Minister Anisul Huq, who was the chief prosecutor of Bangabandhu murder case, was the keynote speaker at the seminar moderated by Mizanur Rahman, former chief of Human Rights Commission.

The panelists included Dhaka University Vice-Chancellor AAMS Arefin Siddique, Awami League MP Fazilatunnesa Bappy, Chairman of Centre for Genocide Studies at the Dhaka University Delwar Hossain, and Executive Editor of Daily Janakantha Swadesh Roy.

Trustee of CRI and State Minister Nasrul Hamid, Bangabandhu Memorial Trust CEO Mashura Hossain, and Bangabandhu Museum's Curator Nazrul Islam Khan also spoke at the seminar.

(source: bd


Christian boy in Pakistan faces death penalty for allegedly burning Quran----Pakistan's blasphemy law states a mandatory death penalty for people convicted of damaging the Quran.

A teenage boy from the minority Christian community in Pakistan has been arrested over blasphemy charges for allegedly burning pages of the Quran. Asif Massih, 18, could be awarded a death penalty if convicted of blasphemy.

Massih was arrested on the night of 12 August after a complaint was registered against him. The complaint stated that he burnt a few pages of the Muslim holy book outside a shrine in Jam Kayk Chattha village in central Punjab province.

"He is in jail now," Muhammad Asgharat, a police official at the Alipur Chattha police station, told Al Jazeera.

Another police official said that hundreds of people had gathered at the time of his arrest. People were demanding the accused to be handed over to them.

"When the police took the suspect into custody and brought him to a police check post, a crowd of around 200 men gathered outside... demanding the culprit be handed over to them," local police official Pervaiz Iqbal told the AFP news agency.

"We then secretly moved the culprit to the police station in Wazirabad where he was interrogated and confessed to his crime."

Blasphemy is a very sensitive issue in the Muslim-majority nation and dozens of people have been killed by civilian vigilantes for disrespecting the holy book or the religion.

Massih was reportedly charged under section 295-B of Pakistan's penal code, Iqbal said. Death sentence is a mandatory punishment for people found guilty of damaging the Quran.

In general, blasphemy charges in Pakistan involve punishments ranging from fines to the mandatory death sentence.

Currently in Pakistan, nearly 40 people are either on death row or serving life sentences for blasphemy charges, according to Al Jazeera, citing data from the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Since 1990, at least 71 people have been killed by angry mobs or vigilantes over alleged blasphemy offences, the news channel added in its report.



Murder accused gets death penalty

Additional Sessions Judge Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali on Saturday awarded death penalty to an accused involved in a murder case of 2 people.

According to the prosecution, accused Waseem, Abid and their accomplices had shot dead Hanif and Shahid Guhman over a minor issue in Bina Baryar village in the limits of Sadar police 3 years ago.

The court awarded death sentence and Rs 500,000 fine to accused Waseem and life imprisonment and Rs 500,000 fine to co-accused Abid. The court acquitted other accused giving them the benefit of the doubt.



415 people, including 14 Convicted for Terrorism

On the King and the People day celebration, King Mohammed VI granted a royal pardon to 415 persons convicted by the various courts of the kingdom, said the Department of Justice in a statement.

Out of the 343 detained beneficiaries of the pardon, 337 inmates benefited from the pardon over their remaining prison term and 6 inmates had their prison sentences commuted from life imprisonment to fixed prison terms.

In addition, among the 72 free beneficiaries of the royal pardon, 14 people benefited from pardon over their imprisonment term, 1 person had his prison sentence dropped and fine maintained and another person benefited from pardon over his prison term and fine, while 56 people had their fines dropped.

King Mohammed VI also granted his pardon over the remaining prison term for the benefit of 13 detainees, sentenced for terror charges and who participated in the "Mussalaha" (reconciliation) program.

He has also commuted death penalty to a 30-year fixed prison term for the benefit of 1 convict who was also involved in the Mussalaha program.

The royal pardons came as a response to the requests made by the people concerned, after they officially expressed their attachment to the Morocco's "immutable values and national institutions, reviewed their positions and thinking, voiced their rejection of extremism and terrorism and affirmed that they resumed the right path, while showing good conduct in prison," said the department of justice.

During the Throne day celebration on July 30, the king granted a royal pardon to 1,272 persons who were convicted by Moroccan courts.


AUGUST 20, 2017:


As lethal injection lawsuit continues, Texas replenishes execution drug supplies

Even with a lawsuit over lethal injection drugs winding its way through court, Texas has managed to replenish its supply.

The last doses of the state's execution drugs, pentobarbital, were set to expire in January, just days before a scheduled execution. A new record indicates that the supply won't expire until July 2018, well past all scheduled executions.

It's unclear whether the state purchased more of the drug or just established a new expiration date, and Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark declined to clarify.

Robert Dunham, director of the Death Penalty Information Center, wasn't surprised to learn of the state's renewed stock.

"While Texas has from time to time stated that it's having difficulty obtaining pentobarbital, it has always been able to obtain the drugs to carry out executions," he said. "When it's needed the drugs, Texas has always found them."

Since 2012, the state has used a single-drug protocol, administering a lethal dose of the barbiturate pentobarbital.

On Thursday, the US Food and Drug Administration told Texas and Arizona that over a thousand vials of drugs they ordered for executions in their states would not be released to them. the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the Arizona Department of Corrections ordered sodium thiopental from India in 2015. The drugs were and seized by U.S. Customs. The confiscated shipments have been refused because they seem to contain unapproved new drugs and misbranded drugs.

Texas came close to exhausting its supplies with executions still on the calendar in spring 2015. Ultimately, TDCJ managed to get more of the lethal drug, but Clark declined to offer details except to say that no executions in the Lone Star State have been delayed due a lack of execution drugs.

A records request last month showed that eight pentobarbital doses were set to expire in July 2017 and another 10 in January.

1 of those doses was used in the July 27 execution of Taichin Preyor, leaving 9 that expire just after the new year.

And now, instead of 8 doses expiring on July 20, 2017, state logs list eight doses received that day as "return from supplier" and set to expire on July 20, 2018.

"Given the documents supplied by TDCJ designating that these vials were returned to the supplier and then the reemergence of vials with a brand new expiration date exactly one year out, an educated guess is that they're using the same drugs that they previously stated already expired," said Maurie Levin, a Texas death penalty lawyer with experience in lethal injection litigation. "But because they insist on keeping this information secret, we don't know what they're doing."

Currently, the state is embroiled in a lawsuit over an intercepted order of another lethal injection drug, sodium thiopental. The powerful drug was part of the execution process until 2011 when dwindling supplies forced the state to replace it with pentobarbital as part of a 3-drug cocktail.

The following year, the state switched from a 3-drug mix to a single dose of pentobarbital.

But when pentobarbital suppliers started drying up, Texas started searching for other lethal injection drugs.

That search landed Texas in hot water when authorities at Bush Intercontinental Airport seized 1,000 vials of sodium thiopental en route to Hunstville from India-based supplier Harris Pharma.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration later said the drugs were improperly labeled and not approved for injection in humans, but TDCJ this year filed a lawsuit demanding the return of what state officials deemed an "unjustified seizure."

Although the detained drugs appear to have expired in May, Texas has continued its legal action, which also seeks to lift the FDA's ban on importation of sodium thiopental for law-enforcement use.

(source: Houston Chronicle)


Execution set for man who killed cousin

A Mexican national on death row for the rape-slaying of his 16-year-old cousin in the Rio Grnde Valley more than 20 years ago has received anexecution date.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark said the agency has received court documents setting the lethal injection of 47-year-old Tuben Ramirez Cardenas for Nov. 8.

Cardenas was convicted of the February 1997 slaying of Mayra Laguna. Her body was found dumped in a a canal near Edinburg, about 10 miles northeast of McAllen, after she was abducted from her home. Evidence showed he slipped in through a window, bound her with duct tape and drove her away. Evidence showed whe was raped, beaten and strangled.

Prison records list Cardenas as originally from Guanajuato in central Mexico.

(source: Dallas Morning News)

FLORIDA----impending execution

Sister hopeful brother's looming execution will be blocked----Man who killed 2 in Jacksonville in 1987 set for execution next week

With 6 days until the execution of death row inmate Mark Asay, his sister said Friday that lawyers are fighting tooth and nail as they try to introduce new evidence and receive a stay from the Florida Supreme Court.

Asay, 53, who was convicted in 1988 of the murders of Robert Lee Booker and Robert McDowell in downtown Jacksonville, is scheduled to be the first inmate executed in Florida since Oscar Ray Bolin on Jan. 7, 2016.

But Asay's sister, Gloria Dean, said he's not going down without clearing his name. During an interview with News4Jax, Dean reacted to the Florida Supreme Court refusing to hear new evidence and block her brother's scheduled execution date of Aug. 24.

Asay, who was sentenced to death nearly 3 decades ago, was 1 of 2 death row inmates whose executions were put on hold by the Florida Supreme Court in early 2016 after the U.S. Supreme Court, in a case known as Hurst v. Florida, struck down as unconstitutional the state's death penalty sentencing system. Lawmakers later revamped the sentencing system.

Lawyers for Asay have been trying to get the execution blocked, saying the lethal injection drugs the state uses amount to cruel and unusual punishment, and can cause inmates to suffer.

Rejecting those arguments, the Florida Supreme Court on Monday refused to blocked the execution set for next week.

Dean, an avid collector of photos, showed News4Jax she's now collecting documents that, if accepted by the Florida Supreme Court, could grant Asay a stay.

"(The new evidence) is many things. The way they handled this case in the beginning. The fact that they convicted him of killing black people and he didn't," Dean said.

In a petition to the court, Asay's attorney states the ballistic evidence presented by the state was materially inaccurate under the Eight Amendment, and the evidence that showed the same gun used in both homicides was flawed and unreliable.

On top of that, the petition states the state failed to disclose favorable evidence, such as police reports and information, that wasn't provided at the time of trial or during the prior collateral proceedings. Asay's counsel didn't receive that information until last year.

With 9 justices on the Supreme Court, Asay will need five of them to stay his execution. Dean has been talking with her brother's attorney, and she said they are hopeful.

"(If) we get this stay, we can have more time to move," Dean said. "He feels like we have that chance, like he told me. And he said we may not win, but he's going to give it his best shot."



First Palm Beach County trial under new death penalty law starting in 1987 murder

Angela Fader Sampler turned 40 this year, but the milestone was bittersweet - it's now been 30 years since her mother was strangled to death near Lake Worth.

But the sad anniversary comes with a fresh hope for justice for Dana Fader's loved ones because her alleged killer, Rodney Clark, finally is set to stand trial. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in a case that had gone cold for over 2 decades.

"We're ready for some kind of closure," said Sampler, a southeast Tennessee resident speaking also for her younger brothers, Kolby and Johnny, who were 5 and 3 when they lost their mom. "Whether it's life in prison, death, just to know he's going to pay for his crime."

It's the 1st death penalty case to be tried in Palm Beach County since Florida got a new death penalty law in March, and for more than 3 years before that. Unanimous jury votes are now required to impose a death sentence.

The case against the Mississippi man, 50, didn't emerge until 2012, and that was 6 years after detectives reopened the long cold case hoping for a DNA match to evidence collected from the crime scene.

Body found in car

On the morning of June 20, 1987, Fader's mother, Phyllis Manis, called police to report she was missing from the apartment Fader shared with her older brother, Joseph Bailey, and Fader's youngest child.

According to court records, Fader had been out the night before with her older sister Martha Bailey until about 2 a.m. Joseph Bailey told detectives that Fader, upon returning home, removed eggs and sausage from their refrigerator and also announced plans to visit her boyfriend in the same Willow Lakes Apartments complex.

Bailey said he went to sleep but awoke at 9 a.m. to the smell of sausage burning in a pan on the stove. Fader's purse was in the unit, but she was gone.

As deputies were talking to Fader's mother, her stepfather, Kenneth Manis, delivered the news that Fader's 1980 Ford Fairmont was parked on 1 side of the complex, on the corner of Florida Mango Road and 10th Avenue.

Rodney Clark, 49, formerly of Jackson, Miss., is awaiting trial on a 1st-degree murder charge in the June 1987 strangulation death of Dana Fader, 27, of suburban Lake Worth. Prosecutors want to seek the death penalty, and are appealing after the trial judge said no.

Detectives looked inside the car and found Fader's lifeless body on the back seat, with her head toward the rear driver's side and her feet bent slightly in the rear passenger seat. The keys were in the ignition.

Fader was still wearing the same tan dress as the night before, but it was pulled up around her waist, exposing her lower body without underwear to be found, a police report said. A semen-stained pillowcase was found partially covering her left leg, and her shoes were located in the front floorboards of the car. Her belt was also found in the front and a scarf and pantyhose in the back.

Investigators also discovered pieces of a rope inside and outside of the car; Joseph Bailey said he had used the rope to tie up a bicycle. And a blanket was found hanging from the right rear passenger window.

An autopsy concluded that Fader was strangled; finger imprint marks were on her neck, and the right side of her face was scratched. A "bite mark-like injury" was found on one nipple, a report said. The divorced mother of 3 and seamstress for a family business was 27.

Detectives make an arrest

In late 2012, investigators using a national DNA database matched Clark's DNA - he was by then a convicted sex offender - to a blood and semen stain found on Fader's dress. Clark also "could not be excluded" from the DNA from the pillowcase, according to a report.

Finally, Clark's palm print was matched to one taken from the outside right rear window of Fader's sedan.

Located in Jackson, Miss., Clark told detectives he lived in Palm Beach County in 1987 but denied ever knowing or coming in contact with Fader, having sexual relations with her or being in her car. Clark was arrested on the murder charge and extradited to South Florida in 2013.

Clark, who is disabled and uses a wheelchair, also said he wasn't concerned about the DNA, according to a statement that his legal team, led by Public Defender Carey Haughwout, had tried to keep out of the trial.

"They can have DNA," Clark said. "I ain't killed nobody. I don't give a damn what [they] got."

And in a 2015 statement, Clark wrote to the court, "I am innocent of any crime committed against Dana Fader and I want to go to trial."

Because it's a capital case and the trial could take a month, the lawyers and Circuit Judge Charles Burton have spent the past week interviewing 315 people to find a panel of a dozen jurors. Jury selection could conclude Friday, with opening statements then likely on Monday.

Before they reach a potential sentencing phase, prosecutors Aleathea McRoberts and Reid Scott first need to obtain a 1st-degree murder conviction of Clark.

Angela Fader Sampler says she and her family have no doubt Clark is responsible for the murder.

"We think they got the right guy," she told the Sun Sentinel. "I don't see how it could be wrong."

(source: Sun-Sentinel)


Arkansas paid $250 cash for lethal injection drugs

4 months after Arkansas raced against the clock to execute four men before its supply of a lethal injection drug expired, the state bought a new supply from an unknown source earlier this month, BuzzFeed News reported Thursday.

Records obtained by BuzzFeed News show the director of the state corrections department, Wendy Kelly, paid $250 cash for 40 vials of midazolam - a sedative used as the 1st of 3 drugs in a lethal injection cocktail - on Aug. 4 and later filled out paperwork to be reimbursed for the purchase. A department spokesman said 40 vials is enough for 2 executions.

Arkansas is one of several death penalty states that have put executions on hold because of shortages in lethal injection drugs; many have resorted to drastic measures to obtain drugs or considered other execution methods.

Arkansas' secrecy law lets the state keep details of how officials obtained the drugs private. Lawmakers argue the law is necessary to keep the manufacturers of the drugs hidden amid growing scrutiny of the death penalty. Capital attorneys say that the law prevents them from challenging lethal injection protocols in court. There are concerns about midazolam's effectiveness as an anesthetic after several botched executions involving the drug, including the gruesome 2014 execution of Joseph Wood in Arizona.

Arkansas is gearing up to use the new drugs before they expire in January 2019. The state attorney general on Thursday asked Gov. Asa Hutchinson to set a date for the execution of Jack Greene, 62, who has been on death row since 1991, when he was convicted of killing a minister.

Greene's attorney is fighting the execution order and said Greene has "well-documented brain damage and mental illness." 3 of 4 inmates Arkansas executed in April showed signs of mental illness, according to a report from Harvard Law School's Fair Punishment Project.

"Capital punishment should not be used on vulnerable people like the severely mentally ill. We hope Governor Hutchinson will refrain from setting an execution date for Mr. Greene since he is not competent for execution," the attorney, John Williams, said in a statement.

In an interview, Williams said he is also looking into how Arkansas got the drugs. "It's troubling that now all their drugs come from these side-of-the-road suppliers," he said.

During the state's execution spree in April, pharmaceutical manufacturer West-Ward, which makes midazolam, filed an amicus brief asking a federal judge to stay the executions because it did not want its product used. But the state went forward with 4 of 8 planned executions. Eyewitnesses at Kenneth Williams' execution in April said he convulsed on the gurney long after midazolam should have knocked him unconscious. Lawyers for another executed man, Jack Jones, said he "gulped for air" before he died.

West-Ward said in a statement that the company has "no reason to believe" that Arkansas purchased its midazolam: "We are aware of the risk of our products being diverted in the U.S. for use in lethal injection protocols and accordingly, we control their sale as tightly as we can."

(source: Vice News)


Arkansas Abolish responds to execution date request

The Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty has responded to Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's request for an execution date for an Arkansas Inmate.

Rutledge requested the execution date for inmate Jack Greene Thursday evening following an acknowledgment by Governor Hutchinson's office that the state has received more of the drug Midazolam.

Arkansas Abolish released the following statement:

Yesterday, Governor Asa Hutchinson's office acknowledged that the state of Arkansas has acquired more midazolam. As a result, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has asked Governor Hutchinson to set an execution date for Jack Greene, a 62 year old severely mentally disabled man who has been on Arkansas death row for nearly 25 years.

Jack Greene's Attorney, John C. Williams, has released a statement regarding his client's mental state, "Greene has well-documented brain damage and mental illness. He has long suffered from a fixed delusion that the Arkansas Department of Correction is conspiring with his attorneys to cover up injuries that he believes corrections officers have inflicted upon him. He complains that his spinal cord has been removed and his central nervous system has been destroyed. He believes he will be executed to cover up what he calls these "crimes against humanity." Mr. Greene's severe somatic delusions cause him to constantly twist his body and stuff his ear and nose with toilet paper to cope with the pain. By doing so, Mr. Greene frequently causes himself to bleed, as can been seen in the... photo".

The Arkansas Department of Corrections took the picture of Jack Greene down from their website yesterday, and hope to cover up the obvious problems with executing a man as severely mentally ill as Jack Greene.

Apparently, our Governor and Attorney General have learned nothing from the horrors our state faced during their April plan to execute 8 men in 10 days. Please stand with us by calling the Governor, at 501-682-2345, and asking him to refrain from setting an execution date for Jack Greene. Jack Greene is not competent to be executed, and capital punishment should not be used on vulnerable people like the severely mentally ill. Tell the Governor that Arkansans are tired of these killings and the international shame that it brings on our state!

In Solidarity,

The Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

(source: KATV news)


Nevada plan to use untried execution drugs draws criticism

Prison officials in Nevada drew immediate criticism Friday for proposing an untried 3-drug combination for the scheduled Nov. 14 lethal injection of a twice-convicted murderer who says he wants his execution sentence carried out.

The state has supplies of the sedative diazepam, the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl and the muscle paralytic cisatracurium it proposes to use to carry out the execution of 46-year-old Scott Raymond Dozier, Nevada Department of Corrections spokeswoman Brooke Keast said.

Nevada, like other states, is struggling to obtain execution drugs because European pharmaceutical companies began blocking the use of their products for lethal injections.

Prison administrators didn't immediately respond to questions including who will have the final say about what drugs are used, how the three medications were obtained, what order they would be administered and who will be in the Ely State Prison death chamber for Dozier's execution, which would be the 1st in the state in 11 years.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada and an official at the Berkeley Law Death Penalty Clinic in California raised other questions, and said they fear Dozier will suffer and suffocate while he's conscious and paralyzed, but that observers won't be able to tell.

We don't know how this will go," said Jen Moreno, a death penalty clinic attorney involved in lethal injection challenges in other states. "When we've asked that question before, it has not gone well."

Moreno said Nevada didn't release a plan, just a list of drugs including cisatracurium that could "mask any signs of pain and suffering or problems that might occur with breathing," and fentanyl that can slow breathing to a stop.

Neither drug has been used in executions before, she said.

Moreno referred to the 2014 executions of Dennis McGuire in Ohio and Joseph Rudolph Wood III in Arizona. Both gasped and snorted for nearly 30 minutes before they were pronounced dead. Both Ohio and Arizona used a two-drug method starting with the sedative midazolam that each state later abandoned.

"What we saw in those executions was a prolonged struggle to breathe, and movement," Moreno said. "The paralytic would mask the struggle and the movement, but wouldn't mean it wasn't going on."

ACLU officials criticized Nevada lawmakers for leaving to prison officials decisions about how executions are carried out, beyond the requirement that they be by lethal injection.

"This experimental combination of drugs has never been used for lethal injection in any state, and it must be reviewed by the court to ensure it complies with all state and federal laws," ACLU executive Tod Story said.

"Use of these drugs could result in a botched execution, leading to torture or a lingering death," he said.

Dozier, 46, was convicted of 2 murders in 2002, in Phoenix and Las Vegas. He was sentenced to death in 2007.

Dozier isn't appealing his sentence and told a state court judge in Las Vegas on Thursday he wants his sentence carried out, and that he isn't concerned about pain and suffering.

His attorney, Thomas Ericsson, has been joined by federal public defenders in a request this week for Clark County District Court Judge Jennifer Togliatti to require prisons officials to answer more than 20 questions about the Nevada execution process, drug dosages and the qualifications and training of execution team members.

The judge is due next Thursday to schedule hearings on those issues.

(source: Associated Press)


Death Penalty Off the Table for Shooter Who Killed Eight in Seal Beach Salon Massacre----Dekraai pleaded guilty in May 2014, so the only issue to resolve is his punishment

The man behind the worst mass murder in Orange County history will not face the death penalty.

A Superior Court judge ruled Friday that execution should be taken off the table for 47-year-old Scott Dekraai, who pleaded guilty to killing eight people in the October 2011 mass shooting at a Seal Beach Salon.

Dekraai pleaded guilty in May 2014, so the only issue to resolve is his punishment. Judge Thomas Goethals' ruling, the result of a third round of evidentiary hearings stemming from widespread abuses of a jailhouse informant program, likely means a case mired in legal limbo will finally come to an end with the killer's sentencing.

Dekraii was scheduled for a Sept. 22 sentencing.

Because Dekraai pleaded guilty, there would be no more appeals if he is sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. It would also end legal proceedings regarding allegations of abuses of the jailhouse informant program that Dekraai's attorney has pursued for the past several years.

In January 2014, defense attorneys filed a 500-plus-page motion alleging widespread misconduct in the use of jailhouse informants to obtain information to help investigators.

Goethals removed execution as a sentencing option because he determined law enforcement could not guarantee a fair trial in the penalty phase. Dekraai's attorney, Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders, argued that his client cannot trust the county to turn over all favorable evidence, so he could never be sure he'll ever get a fair hearing.

Legal delays mounted for the victims' families as Goethals investigated allegations that deputies withheld evidennce and used jailhouse informants to illegally obtain confessions from inmates.

The Orange County Sheriff's Department issued a statement after the ruling.

"We are disappointed by today's ruling. The facts in this case clearly supported a death penalty verdict," the statement said. On October 12, 2011, Scott Dekraai executed and confessed to the deadliest shooting in the history of Orange County, long before he was booked into the Orange County Jail. Notwithstanding the issues that were raised by the Court’s ruling, we believe the defendant would have received a fair trial during the penalty phase of the criminal proceedings. The decision to remove the death penalty rests at the feet of Judge Geothals and nobody else."

A family member of 2 of Scott Dekraai's victims appealed to state prosecutors earlier this year to drop the death penalty. Bethany Webb made her appeal to officials from the Attorney General's Office following a hearing in Dekraai's case. Her sister, Laura Webb Elody, was among those killed in the 2011 deadly ambush at a Seal Beach beauty salon, which their mother, Hattie Stretz, survived.

Webb said 90 to 95 percent of the victims' families wanted the attorney general to stop pursuing the ultimate punishment for Dekraai.

"We don't want to come here anymore," Webb said. "I'm begging the judge to realize how broken this is and to set us free."

Webb also told Goethals during the hearing that she appealed to state prosecutors prior an announcement that they will continue to pursue capital punishment for Dekraai. She said she had asked that they take the death penalty off the table and let the defendant be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Dekraai had an argument with his ex-wife, Michelle Marie Fournier, over the phone before he went on his deadly rampage against her and the other victims at the Salon Meritage on Oct. 12, 2011. He drove to the salon at 500 Pacific Coast Highway about 1:20 p.m., walked up to his 48-year-old ex-wife -- with whom he was embroiled in a child support dispute -- and shot her multiple times.

After he gunned down Fournier, he turned his gun on 47-year-old Christy Wilson because she had testified against him in a child support hearing.

The shop's owner, 62-year-old Randy Lee Fannin, ran up to try to stop him with a pair of scissors, so Dekraai opened fire and killed him, as well, then started shooting random people inside the salon.

Elody, 46, Victoria Ann Buzzo, 54, Lucia Berniece Kondas, 65, and Michele Dashbach Fast, 47, died at the scene.

Dekraai gunned down his last victim, 64-year-old David Caouette, as the victim sat in his Range Rover, which was parked next to the gunman's vehicle outside the salon. Dekraai told investigators he thought Caouette was an off-duty or undercover police officer.



Malaysia postpones execution of Filipino on death row

The scheduled execution of a Filipino convicted of murder in Malaysia was postponed after the governor of Sabah heeded appeals from the Philippine government, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Saturday.

Ejah Bin Jaafar was supposed to be hanged on Friday.

"We would like to thank the governor of Sabah for responding to the repeated appeals of the Philippine government on behalf of the family of Mr. Jaafar," Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said in the statement.

"The execution of Ejah Bin Jaafar was ordered postponed by Sabah Governor Tun Datuk Seri Panglima Haji Juhar Haji Mahiruddin following a last-minute appeal from the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur," the DFA said in a statement.

Jaafar's punishment may be reduced to life imprisonment instead of the death penalty, depending on the outcome of a case review.

"The Sabah Pardons Board will meet in December to review his case... The decision of the board will be final and executory without any further possibility of appeal," the DFA said.

The Sandakan High Court sentenced Jaafar with capital punishment in 2009 after it found the Filipino guilty of murder in September 2006.

The DFA has yet to give details on Jaafar's case including who he killed and why he committed the crime.

Foreign affairs spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar told Agence France-Presse that Jaafar and his family have lived in Sabah "for a long time," but gave no other details.

Officials from the Philippine Embassy in Malaysia have been "making appeals since 2015 for Malaysian authorities to spare the life of Mr. Jaafar and commute his sentence," the DFA said.

The Philippines has also appealed to Malaysia to commute the death sentences of nine of its nationals who were convicted of taking part in a 2013 attack on the Sabah district of Lahad Datu, which left scores of people dead.

Hundreds of thousands of Filipinos live in the Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo island, many having been displaced by war and violence in the nearby southern Philippine region of Mindanao -- home to long-running Muslim rebellions.

(source: ABS-CBN News)


New fears for death row gran Lindsay Sandiford as drug smugglers executed in Indonesia----She was sentenced to death after being caught in Bali Airport with 4.8kg of cocaine

Death row gran Lindsay Sandiford is still awaiting her fate on in Indonesia.

Fresh calls to change the execution system have been made, 4 1/2 years after she was found trying to smuggle 1.6m pounds worth of cocaine.

She was sentenced to death after being caught in Bali Airport with 4.8kg of cocaine, and has since desperately tried to appeal the execution.

Ms Sandiford, now 61, from Cheltenham, maintains she was carrying the drugs to protect her son, who was being threatened.

No date has been set for her execution but it is believed that the Indonesian authorities are preparing for more executions as president, Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, steps up the country's war on drugs.

This is despite an official watchdog finding this week that Indonesia executed a Nigerian man last year while his case was unresolved.

Humphrey Jefferson was executed by firing squad along with 3 other, despite there still being a chance of pardon in his case, leading to renewed calls to halt executions in the Asian country.

Charity Human Rights Watch said in a statement: "Indonesia should restore the unofficial moratorium on the death penalty and ensure the rights of criminal suspects, including those implicated in drug crimes, are respected rather than steamrolled."

Sandiford recently celebrated her 61st birthday behind bars at Kerobakan Prison with a special cake, according to Gazette Live .

In a message posted on the Justice and Fairness for Lindsay Sandiford Facebook page, the grandmother thanked her supporters.

The message reads: "Dear Friends and supporters.

"Thank you to everyone for your kind wishes for my 61st birthday last weekend. I had a thoroughly enjoyable day with visits from some dear friends, a delicious cake, and messages from my family and supporters from around the world.

"I was immensely touched by all your warm thoughts, and I would like to add a heartfelt thank-you to the wonderful governor at the women's prison here, for making the small celebration possible.

"I would like you all to know that I am keeping well and continuing to work and teach other women on various handicrafts.

"In the meantime, keep me in your thoughts and thank you all again for your friendship and support.

"Warm regards, Lindsay."



Botched-up investigation: 2 death row convicts set free after 12 years

The Supreme Court on Friday acquitted 2 death row convicts languishing in prison for around 12 years for murdering a man in the name of honour, ARY News reported.

Aijaz Ahmed and Shahid Iqbal were condemned to death by a trial court for killing a man for honour in Hafizabad city of Punjab in 2005.

Subsequently, the convicts challenged the guilty verdict in high court which converted their capital punishment into life imprisonment.

The convicts, afterwards, appealed the high court's verdict in the top court, seeking their acquittal in the murder case.

After hearing arguments from defense and prosecution sides, a Supreme Court bench announced the verdict acquitting both the convicts for want of evidence.

Justice Asif Saeed Khosa observed that the fault is that police collude with suspects which leads to their acquittal. Police botched up the case after receiving kickbacks, observed another member of the bench and added that the prosecution’s conduct was also inappropriate whereas police was not ready to do anything.



Call for an international commission of inquiry to investigate 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in Iran

Human rights defenders, dignitaries, European politicians and the Iranian Resistance called for the formation of an international commission of inquiry into the massacre of political prisoners in Iran in the summer of 1988 and bringing those responsible for this genocide and crime against humanity to justice.

They stressed that the issue of human rights should be at the core of the West's policy on Iran. They urged the UN, EU and the US to put the issue of flagrant and systematic violation of human rights in Iran on top of their agenda.

The call was made during an exhibition on the 1988 massacre that took place upon the initiative of Mr. Jean-Francois Legaret, the Mayor of Paris municipality District 1 at this municipality on Thursday, August 17, 2017.

In addition to Mr. Legaret, several French mayors including Armand Jacquemin, mayor of Moussy Le Vieux, Jean-Claude Jegoudez, mayor of Grisy-Sur-Seine, and Jacky Duminy, mayor of Ors took part and spoke at the exhibition.

Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the Iranian Resistance, in a message to the exhibition said 30,000 political prisoners were hanged in Iran in days such as these in the summer of 1988, without any reaction by Western governments.

Those who remained silent over this tragedy betrayed humanity because the mullahs found out that their crimes had no consequences. So, they continued by exporting their terrorism and fundamentalism abroad and drenching the Middle East in blood.

If in those days, the massacre had not been met with silence, today, the mullahs could not sink Syria in a whirlpool of blood.

The people of Iran want to end the impunity of those in charge of the massacre and hold them accountable. This has turned into the Iranian people's most important political demand from the clerical regime. We urge the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to set up an independent commission of inquiry to investigate the 1988 massacre. The UN Security Council must set up a special tribunal or refer the issue to the International Criminal Court to arrange for the prosecution of the leaders of the Iranian regime.

Mrs. Rajavi once again urged all governments to make their relations and trade with the religious fascism ruling Iran contingent on an end to executions and torture.

Governor Yves Bonnet, the former head of France's domestic anti-terrorism organization; Struan Stevenson, a Scottish politician, President of "European Iraqi Freedom Association" and former President of the European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq, were among the dignitaries who took part in this exhibition and supported the call by the head of the opposition.

In his remarks, Stevenson condemned the recent trip of EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to Iran and said: "Rouhani has been hailed in the West as a moderate and a reformist, despite the fact that more than 3,500 people, including 80 women, have been executed during the 4 years he has been in office, catapulting Iran into pole position as the world's number 1 state executioner per capita. Several hundred people have been executed so far this year, including women and teenagers. 3 days before Mogherini arrived in Tehran, Amnesty International published a 94-page report highlighting the 'web of oppression' that pervades Iran and detailing the catastrophic human rights situation in the country."

He added: "The French government and the EU should also be demanding a full United Nations inquiry into the 1988 massacre, with Khamenei, Rouhani and their clique of killer clerics indicted for crimes against humanity and brought for trial before the international courts in The Hague."

Khomeini, the founder of the clerical regime in the summer of 1988, in a fatwa that was unprecedented in the history of Islam, stated that all those who were imprisoned throughout Iran and were still loyal to the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran should be executed. More than 30,000 political prisoners who were serving their terms were executed in a few months based on this criminal fatwa. The Death Commissions, in trials that lasted just a few minutes, sent to the gallows any of the prisoners who were not willing to condemn the PMOI (MEK). The victims were buried in mass graves in secret.

In spite of the mullahs' attempts to impose silence on this crime against humanity and to prevent the spread of this issue in the society, the movement calling for justice for the victims of the massacre in Iran has expanded since last year and has evolved into a public issue. The Justice seeking movement in Iran managed to corner the mullahs.

Ali Khamenei intended to put a member of the 1988 massacre's Death Commission in the office of president, but the nationwide campaign calling for justice foiled his plans.

During the last year, new information about the slaughter, including a large number of names of the victims, as well as the locations of numerous mass graves which the mullahs had previously concealed, has surfaced.

The 1988 massacre and the conspiracy of silence has been an issue of consensus among the regime's various factions and its senior officials.

Over the past 4 years, the mullahs' president Hassan Rouhani had appointed Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, one of the key officials in charge of the 1988 massacre, as Minister of Justice. The new Justice Minister for his 2nd term, Alireza Avaie, is another one of the perpetrators of the massacre, who has been already designated as a violator of human rights by the European Union.

A number of relatives of the victims and individuals who spent years in prison in Iran and were tortured shared their observations with the audience during the exhibition.

(source: NCR-Iran)


Vietnam upholds death sentences against shipping execs in major corruption case

But without a major overhaul of the country's public sector, stern sentencing may be only cosmetic, analysts say.

A court of appeals in Hanoi on Friday upheld the death sentences against 2 executives from the corruption-hit shipping industry after convicting them of pocketing nearly $12 million in deals made between 2006 and 2008, the latest punishment meted out as the ongoing crackdown on the public sector is widening.

At the 1st trial in February, Giang Kim Dat, the former sales manager of the troubled shipbuilder Vinashinlines, and Tran Van Liem, the company's former CEO, were sentenced to death for stealing more than VND260 billion ($11.65 million) from the company between 2006 and 2008.

In February, the firm's former accountant, Tran Van Khuong, also got a life sentence for abetting the embezzlement, while Dat's father Giang Van Hien received 12 years in prison for money laundering. Friday's appellate court upheld all these sentences.

According to the indictment, Dat siphoned off the money from 16 deals to buy or lease old vessels. He also advised Liem on how to buy and lease ships and colluded with foreign partners to rig prices for personal gain.

The investigation found that Dat paid Liem $150,000 and Khuong $110,000 in the scam. The rest of the embezzled money was transferred to multiple bank accounts in Hien's name, who used it to buy houses and cars.

After his wrongdoings were discovered, Dat fled aboard and was arrested in July 2015 following an international arrest warrant.

Vinashinlines is a subsidiary of Vinashin, a shipping behemoth that racked up debt of $4.5 billion in 2010 before being restructured into the Shipbuilding Industry Corporation in 2013.

The Vinashinlines case is 1 of 6 serious corruption and economic mismanagement cases the government planned to bring to trial by the end of March 2017. The others involved violations at Agribank, OceanBank, VietinBank, the Vietnam Waterway Construction Corporation and a public development fund in the northern province of Bac Ninh.

However, authorities have failed to bring these cases to a close.

The trial took place in the context of Vietnam's widening crackdown on corruption and malfeasance at the much-cosseted yet inefficient public sector.

But analysts say infrequent but harsh punishment can only serve as a deterrent to contain large-scale corruption in the short run. They say without a major overhaul of the state sector, which has proved a drag on a once-thriving economy, corruption will remain endemic.

"Evidence from all over the world suggests the death penalty is not a deterrent to grand corruption," said Carl Thayer, a Vietnam expert at the University of New South Wales in Australia.

"The death penalty for high level corruption might win some publicity and approval from the public. But this feeling wears off when large scale corruption continues," Thayer said.



Letter to the editor: What has got to happen before the death penalty is restored?

In response to your regular correspondent Robert Readman in Monday's Echo (Aug 14), he was appealing for the restoration of the death penalty, which I too would like to happen, but it will never happen. Why?

Before the recent elections I contacted our local MP Conor Burns and put the question to him, if you are restored to power will you consider the restoration of the death penalty.

I received a letter which stated that he is against it and has been for a long time.

He then went on to say that the government is clear that those who commit the most serious crime will receive the most severe sentences which as Mr Readman pointed out is a long stay in prison, life of luxury, all medical problems sorted out. In fact, total heaven.

So the question now comes, what has got to happen before the death penalty is restored?

Throughout the last few weeks there have been some horrific murders and the culprit will receive the luxury stay in prison for a few years and then be released so they can then carry out a greater crime.

I firmly believe the reason why the death penalty will never be restored is because the government is afraid of creating a martyr to a cause if a terrorist is ever executed.

But it should be remembered the death penalty is still carried out around the world, even in some Christian countries.

To back this up I have spoken to several strongly religious people - Christians, Catholics and Jehovah's Witnesses - and they all say the same thing. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.

So, in concluding, I say to Mr Readman there are thousands of people in this country who strongly support his views but "weak and wet" politicians are frightened of creating a martyr of the executed felon. Just look at some of the sentences handed out in the local courts which appear in the Echo regularly. I sometimes have to sit down before I fall to the floor due to excessive laughing at the pitiful sentence handed out!

Graham Potter

Fletcher Road, Ensbury Park, Bournemouth

(source: Letter to the Editor,

AUGUST 18, 2017:

TEXAS----new execution date

Ruben Cardenas has been given an execution date for November 8; it should be considered serious


Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----25

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----543

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

26---------Aug. 30-----------------Steven Long------------544

27---------Sept.7------------------Juan Castillo----------545

28---------Oct. 12-----------------Robert Pruett----------546

29---------Oct. 18-----------------Anthony Shore----------547

30---------Oct. 26-----------------Clinton Young----------548

31---------Nov. 8------------------Ruben Cardenas---------549

32---------Nov. 16-----------------Larry Swearingen-------550

33---------Jan. 30-----------------William Rayford--------551

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


What should happen now to Paul David Storey? Nothing.

"Nothing" would mean leaving Storey, a convicted capital murderer, to live out the rest of his days at his current address, which is prison.

Late last week, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halted Storey's execution, which had been scheduled to take place Wednesday. The court was motivated - indirectly, at least - by the pleas of the victim's parents, who do not want their son's killer put to death.

As I said last week in writing about this case, we cannot allow victims or their survivors to assess punishment for the criminals who have wronged them. That would be too arbitrary, too inconsistent, too emotional.

But there was wisdom in considering the statements made by Glenn and Judith Cherry of Fort Worth. Their adult son, Jonas, was killed during a 2006 holdup at the Tarrant County business he managed.

Storey and an accomplice eventually confessed to the murder. The accomplice accepted a plea deal and was sentenced to life in prison. Storey went to trial and was sentenced to death.

"As a result of Jonas' death, we do not want to see another family having to suffer through losing a child and family member," said the statement the couple recently forwarded to state criminal justice authorities.

The appellate court wants the trial court to determine whether jurors in Storey's 2008 trial, and subsequent appeals lawyers assigned to his case, were aware of the Cherrys' opposition to Storey's execution.

Appeals lawyers for Storey claim Tarrant County prosecutors told jurors that it "went without saying" that the victim's family considered a death sentence appropriate.

The case is further complicated by a juror, who now says he would not have sided with his fellow jury members in voting for death in the case had he known their sentiments.

These are all challenging issues, complicated by emotion as much as by legal procedure and the passage of time.

But the very central role that emotion plays in every death penalty case makes a dispassionate argument against executing capital offenders.

I have no love for Paul Storey, no sentimental indulgence for his grandiose jailhouse dreams of becoming a poet or novelist, no sympathetic ear for besotted activists who try to recast stone killers as tragic victims of a cruel system.

Justice, by definition, needs to be guided by fact and by law, not by emotion. But when we move into the painfully conflicted territory of capital punishment, emotion is all we have - on all sides.

And as fervently as death penalty supporters deride its opponents as "bleeding hearts," they're operating on an emotional basis themselves. It's understandable that many of us might want to assess the most severe punishment imaginable on those who commit the most heinous and unforgivable crimes.

But from a pure policy standpoint, the death penalty is expensive - unavoidably so, given the constitutional guarantees to which inmates are entitled. It's also irreversible, unevenly assessed and arbitrarily applied.

Admitting as much does not make us suckers and rubes. It highlights the practical reality that society is as just as well protected by sentencing our worst criminals to life without the possibility of parole as it is by killing them. Should appeals lawyers succeed on Storey's behalf, he could be entitled to a new trial on punishment only. His guilt would remain unchanged.

Prosecutors might conceivably save everyone a great deal of time, expense and painful emotion by choosing not to retry this and leave Storey where he is, where he belongs, where the grief this case has already caused can be contained: permanent incarceration.

The death penalty still enjoys considerable public popularity, which I understand. Nothing will cure a bleeding heart like sitting through a few murder trials. The cruelty inflicted and the grief victims endure can harden even the most sympathetic onlookers.

But capital punishment is too fraught with problems, too controversial, and in the end, too impractical to continue in widespread use. It's already dying a slow death, as evidenced by statistics chronicling its steady decline.

You don't have to love Paul Storey, or think he has been somehow misunderstood, or view him as a victim, to see permanent incarceration as the best way for the state to handle him. You just have to be pragmatic.

(source: Commentary; Jacquielynn Floyd, Dallas Morning News)


Road Rage Killing Case Against Accused Murderer Moves Forward in Chester County----David Desper is accused of gunning down Bianca Roberson during a road rage encounter

The 4-day manhunt for a man who police say shot and killed a teenager in a case of road rage has ended. The suspect, David Desper, has surrendered to law enforcement. NBC10's Lauren Mayk has the story.

Shackled in handcuffs, a Pennsylvania man charged with shooting and killing an 18-year-old student during a road rage encounter waived his preliminary hearing in a Chester County court Thursday morning.

The case will now move forward in the Court of Common Pleas.

David Desper, 28, entered the courtroom quietly, his beard darker and fuller than when he first surrendered to authorities in July. He did not make eye contact with Bianca Roberson's family.

Desper's attorney, Daniel McGarrigle, declined to comment on his client's condition. He is charged with 1st- and 3rd-degree murder, possession of an instrument of crime and reckless endangerment.

Relatives and friends of Roberson, who died June 28 just weeks before leaving for college, crammed into the courtroom and overflowed into adjacent hallways to witness the proceedings. Many of them wore T-shirts calling for "justice." They hugged at the end of the 5-minute hearing, which started a full hour earlier than reporters were told to arrive.

Outside, Roberson's father, Rodney Roberson, vowed to make Desper's life as miserable as his has become. Roberson said he hopes Desper will receive the death penalty. The Roberson family also plans to sue Desper in civil court.

"He took something away from us," Roberson said.

"We need to have justice on some other things. We need to take some things from him, make some things painful for him. It's not about money. We're just trying to do whatever it is we can to get back at him."

Police say Desper, of Trainer, Pennsylvania, and Roberson, of West Chester, were engaged in a high-speed "cat-and-mouse game" as both tried to merge into a single highway lane on Route 100 in Chester County. Desper shot Roberson in the head and then sped off, according to investigators. After a dramatic manhunt that spanned multiple states and days, Desper turned himself into authorities in the early hours of July 2.

Previously, Roberson implied his daughter's death was racially motivated. He echoed that sentiment Thursday morning.

"I can't think no other alternative why would have done something like that," he said.

Those who knew Bianca described her as a "sweet child" with a "full life to live." On the day she died, the recent high school graduate was returning home from a college shopping trip.

She was set to attend Jacksonville University in Florida this fall and wanted to study criminal justice, her family said.

"There are no words that can describe what he did," Renee Manon, a close family friend, said. "A mother, a father lost their child. What can [Desper] say? There is nothing he can say."

Bianca's older brother died in 2013 of heart disease.

Desper will return to court for his formal arraignment Aug. 24. He is being held at the Chester County Prison.



Prosecutors to seek death penalty against man accused of killing parents, kidnapping niece

Prosecutors announced Thursday that they'll seek the death penalty against a couple accused of kidnapping an 11-year-old and killing her grandparents in April.

Nikkia Cooper, 25, and Curtis Atkinson Jr., 36, are both charged with the murders of Atkinson's parents, Curtis and Ruby Atkinson.

Investigators said the couple also kidnapped 11-year-old Arieyana Forney, Atkinson's niece, and took her to Washington D.C., where police located their vehicle.

An autopsy revealed that Atkinson's 63-year-old father was stabbed a total of 60 times during a brutal attack. Of those stab wounds, 36 were to the face and neck with another 22 to the chest. Officials also determined that Atkinson suffered from blunt force trauma to the head and neck.

(source: WCNC news)


Death penalty could be sought for man police say aided in grandparents' killing

A district attorney says he'll request the death penalty for a man accused of murdering his girlfriend's grandparents.

The prosecutor says a plea deal is on the table for now.

Johnny Rider's girlfriend is also accused in the murders but legally she's too young to face the death penalty.

District Attorney Danny Porter says the final decision will be made in the next month or so.

"This was a 1st step in a plot between them to kill both of their families," Porter said.

Porter says Rider and Cassandra Bjorge are equally as culpable in the killings of Wendy and Randall Bjorge last spring.

"We do have to consider the age of the defendant and the fact that there is really not a prior criminal record on his part. But on the other hand, defendants hit a home run on the 1st case," he explained.

Gwinnett police say Cassandra confessed she and Rider used a tire iron, hammer, baseball bat and butcher knives to beat and slice the throats of the grandparents, then caulked two interior doors and the homes front door to try and seal the smell of death inside. Police say the teens stayed in the home smoking pot for days as her grandparents bodies laid upstairs. All factors, Porter says, could be used for a death penalty case.

"Not in a million years did I think something like would ever happen," said Amanda Sterling, Cassandra's mother.

Officials delayed the 2 defendants court appearances on Thursday. Porter says defense attorneys are discussing plea deal with both clients and he will wait until after those offers expire before filing the death penalty notice.

"Right now the plan of action is we would file a notice of intent," Porter said.

Rider's attorney, Leanne Chancey told Channel 2's Tony Thomas she and Rider are considering the plea offer and are hopefully the state will reconsider its intention of the death penalty.

(source: WSB TV news)

FLORIDA----impending execution

Jacksonville man on death row for 30 years set to be executed

Mark Asay, who was was convicted of killing 2 men in 1987 in downtown Jacksonville and has been on death row, is set to be executed August 24.

Asay's execution will be the 1st in Florida since 2016.

Asay, a known white supremacist, killed 2 men almost 30 years ago and has been fighting his death sentence ever since. Now, a local group is asking that his life, be spared

The diocese of St. Augustine will be holding several vigils for Asay while he is executed.

Kathleen Bagg, the director of communications for the diocese, says the does not believe in the death penalty--not even for people like Asay, who have been convicted of egregious crimes.

"We are praying for society, and hoping one day that Florida and the United States will one day get rid of the death penalty," Bagg said.

Asay will be put to death by lethal injection. It's the 1st execution in Florida in 18 months. According to reports,

Florida will be using a new cocktail of drugs and Asay will be given 3 injections during his execution.

The 1st and most critical of the 3 is the one being replaced.

"I think each time an execution occurs it chips away at our humanity as a society and vengeance doesn't help anybody," Bagg said.



Inmate claims Luis Toledo confessed to killing Deltona family

A man accused of punching and killing a woman in a bar is claiming that Luis Toledo told him in a jailhouse confession details about how he beat his wife to death, strangled her children then buried their bodies, court records show.

Michael Lamothe told investigators Toledo told him and another inmate that he "beat the crap" out of his wife, Yessenia Suarez, in their Deltona home, then choked and broke the necks of her children Thalia Otto, 9, and Michael Otto, 8.

The bodies of the mother and children have never been found, and Toledo did not reveal where he hid them, but Lamothe said the murder suspect told him that he used the chemical lye to help dispose of them.

Lamothe, 35, has been at the Volusia County Branch Jail since April 29 waiting trial on a charge of manslaughter in the one-punch killing of Debra Jost at the Oyster Bay bar in Daytona Beach. Lamothe said Toledo recounted the killings to him and a fellow inmate, all housed in the same jail block.

Toledo, 35, is charged with s2nd-degree murder in the killing of Suarez, 28, and 2 counts of 1st-degree murder in the deaths of her children. Toledo, a former high-ranking member of the Florida Latin Kings gang, faces the death penalty if convicted of killing either one of the children.

The mother and children were reported missing about 9:20 a.m. Oct. 23, 2013, from their home at 317 Covent Gardens Place. Toledo was arrested that day.

Inmates will regularly offer up information about other inmates' cases in hopes of getting a lighter sentence on their own charges. Lamothe's statements about what Toledo allegedly told him contain at least 2 inconsistencies with what is known about the disappearance of the mother and her 2 children.

Lamothe also offered investigators information about two jailed suspects in another killing. Documents do not indicate whether Lamothe is seeking leniency on his own charges.

Lamothe told investigators during an interview on July 10 that he was in another cell talking with a fellow inmate about his case. That's when Toledo walked up and told Lamothe that what he is accused of was nothing: "Try killing the woman you love and 2 children," Toledo said according to a note Lamothe wrote about the conversation.

Then Lamothe relayed gruesome details of the triple murder, saying that Toledo believed his wife was having an affair.

"He said he'd been doing some drugs, doing some coke went home and confronted her, and she admitted it," Lamothe told investigators in the recorded interview. "And he said he punched her a couple of times in the face, beat her up, punched her in the throat. He said, uh, he beat the crap out of her."

Lamothe, in the interview, said Toledo told him the children were screaming and one was yelling to call 9-1-1. Toledo attacked the girl first, Lamothe said.

"He grabbed her hair. He said he put her in some kind of, he said he did some MMA fighting or something like that. He said he put her in some, choked her up. I guess she passed out or something, broke her neck, or something, I don't know," Lamothe said in the recorded interview.

Lamothe said Toledo stated he then went to the boy.

"He said he grabbed him up and choked him, broke his neck," Lamothe said in the interview.

The State Attorney's Office declined to comment, citing the open case.

Lamothe is represented by defense attorney Spencer Hathaway, who also declined to comment.

Lamothe also wrote a 2-page note about what he claims Toledo told him. In the note, Lamothe wrote that Toledo knocked the mother to the ground, got on top of her and started punching her face over and over. Lamothe said that Toledo stated the children were watching and screaming.

Toledo said that her face was a bloody mess, that "he could fel (sic) that her throat was smashed in," Lamothe wrote. Toledo said she was dead when he stopped.

Lamothe wrote that Toledo said, "He got lost in the anger." He wrote that Toledo heard the daughter tell the brother to call 9-1-1 which "pissed him off."

Lamothe wrote that Toledo said he wished he had planned to kill the wife alone away from the children, so he would not have had to kill the kids. Lamothe wrote that Toledo said he had killed before.

"He said of all the people he has killed only the 2 children bother him," Lamothe wrote.

Lamothe wrote that Toledo said he had martial arts training and put the girl in a "front guillotine choke like in the UFC." Toledo choked her until she was limp and then said he "made the decision to not let the children tell on him and continued to choke her until she stopped breathing."

Lamothe wrote that Toledo told him he then went to the room where the boy was in a corner crying. Lamothe wrote that Toledo said the boy asked him not to hurt him.

"Toledo grabbed the boy from behind wrapped his legs around the boy’s body for leverage and put him in a rear naked choke," Lamothe wrote.

Toledo said he squeezed and turned the boy's neck and felt it break.

Toledo has been at the jail since Oct. 23, 2013, and is being held without bail. His trial is set for Oct. 2 in St. Augustine after several delays due to changes in the state's death penalty law.

Lamothe said that Toledo laughed after telling them the story about the killings.

"I don't know why he started laughing, whatever, maybe he's just different than everybody else," Lamothe told investigators.

Toledo also supposedly fixed himself a sandwich after the killings, Lamothe said.

Lamothe said that after killing the mother and her children Toledo said he went out to buy lye, a strong chemical used in cleaning, to help dispose of the bodies. Toledo did not say where he buried them, just in the woods.

Toledo went to 5, 6 or 7 different stores to buy 60 pounds worth of lye, Lamothe said he was told. Then he returned home and put the bodies in the car in the darkness. He wrapped the mother in a rug before putting her in the car's trunk.

Toledo said he drove to some secluded woods, dug a hole, removed their clothes, put them in the hole and covered the three with lye, Lamothe told investigators.

Lamothe wrote that Toledo then went home and went to bed and then the next day drove to a dumpster and threw away the bloody rug and a plastic bag with bloody clothes inside.

Investigators have said the family disappeared between 1 and 5 a.m. on Oct. 23, 2013.

Lamothe's claims call into question how Toledo could have visited 5 to 7 stores to buy lye in the middle of the night. Lamothe said Toledo said that he did not get rid of the rug and clothes until the next day, after he slept, which appears to conflict with the timeline of investigators.

"The only other thing he said after he got rid of the bodies he went home and said he was so tired of all the stress he said he went to sleep and the next day is when he got rid of the rugs, the clothes and stuff like that," Lamothe said in the interview.

(source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)


Jury votes for death sentence in Sean Bush trial

A St. Johns County jury voted unanimously Thursday afternoon to sentence to death the man who killed his estranged wife more than 6 years ago.

It took the jury of 12 just under 3 hours to return the sentence for Sean Alonzo Bush.

The decision brought to an end the 4-day penalty phase in the case, initiated after the jury found Bush guilty earlier this month of 1st-degree murder and burglary with an assault for killing the 35-year-old mother of 2, Nicole Bush, in her Julington Creek apartment in May 2011.

That's where she was found early one morning shot 6 times, stabbed and beaten with an aluminum baseball, but still living. She died later at a Jacksonville hospital.

As part of their deliberations, the jury found that Assistant State Attorneys Mark Johnson and Jennifer Dunton proved 5 aggravating circumstances in the case, including that the murder was done for financial gain, was "heinous, atrocious and cruel," and was "cold, calculated and premeditated."

Those factors, the jury said through the verdict form read aloud by the clerk in Circuit Judge Howard Maltz's courtroom, outweighed a number of mitigating circumstances presented by Bush's defense team through more than 2 days of witness testimony during the penalty phase. Those, many of which the jury said they agreed with, included that Bush had an abnormally difficult childhood being raised by a homeless and drug-addicted single mother who often-times turned to prostitution to support him and his brother and that he had been abused and even sexually assaulted while growing up on the streets of Newark, New Jersey.

In a news release announcing the jury's decision, 7th Judicial Circuit State Attorney R.J. Larizza called Bush "a violent criminal predator who earned the jury's recommendation of death."

"We are grateful the jury held him accountable for this brutal murder," he said.

Bush is the 1st defendant in St. Johns County for whom a jury has recommended death since the state Legislature, earlier this year, passed a new law in the wake of higher court decisions requiring all 12 jurors to vote for the sentence. Prior to a January 2016 decision from the U.S. Supreme Court, and subsequent rulings from the Florida Supreme Court, judges could sentence a defendant to death with only a majority of jurors voting for a recommendation of the death penalty.

Maltz will formally sentence Bush in about two months after a final hearing at which his defense team can present any last minute mitigating circumstances for the judge to consider.

That hearing is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 13.

(source: St. Augustine Record)


Segura quadruple murder case continued to next week

It's the day after the judge declares a "mistrial" in the quadruple murder trial of Henry Segura, after jurors could not agree on whether or not the Tallahassee man had committed a crime.

Segura has been in the Leon County Jail since 2011, charged with the murders of Brandi Peters and her three young kids, one of them being Segura's son.

The jury spent 19 hours deliberating, but could not reach a verdict, resulting in a "hung jury."

The trial started on July 31st with three days of jury selection. 8 women and 4 men were picked, all of whom were white.

The state argued Segura committed the murders because of ongoing child support issues with Peters. The defense claimed the murders were the act of multiple people and possibly the work of a Mexican drug cartel.

After 2 days of deliberation, the jury announced it had not reached a consensus.

This was the 1st death penalty case in Tallahassee to be tried since Florida lawmakers required a unanimous decision for a death sentence.

The judge has scheduled a case management hearing this Tuesday, August 22nd, to start figuring out whether or not this case will be re-tried.

Both sides have indicated they plan to go to trial again, rather than work on a plea agreement.

Segura's lead defense attorney tells WTXL he doesn't expect the re-trial to start until after this year.

(source: WTXL news)


Arkansas gets new batch of lethal injection drug, seeks execution date

Arkansas has acquired a new batch of a drug it uses in lethal injections, prompting the state's attorney general on Thursday to request an execution date for an inmate first sentenced to death 24 years ago, a prisons official said.

Arkansas in April put 4 inmates to death by lethal injection in its first executions in about a dozen years, ahead of the May expiration date of the state's drug supply.

The resumption came as the number of U.S. executions in 2016 fell to a low not seen in a quarter century.

Republican Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said in a statement she requested the governor to set an execution date for Jack Greene, 62. He was convicted of beating and stabbing Sidney Burnett, 69 in 1991, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

An attorney for Greene said he had a well-documented history of brain damage and mental illness, and asked Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson to hold off on setting an execution date.

"Capital punishment should not be used on vulnerable people like the severely mentally ill," John Williams, an assistant defender with the Federal Public Defender Office's in Little Rock, said in a statement.

The state acquired 40 vials of the sedative midazolam this month, Department of Corrections spokesman Solomon Graves said in a telephone interview.

Midazolam is 1 of 3 drugs used in the state's lethal injection mix along with a paralytic agent that halts breathing and another chemical that causes cardiac arrest.

Midazolam, a Valium-like drug, is supposed to render inmates unconscious but critics say it has failed in some cases, leaving them feeling the painful effects of the other drug. Lawyers for death row inmates argue that this violates constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment.

Death penalty supporters have said some pain in executions is warranted given the brutality of the murders the condemned typically commit.

Major pharmaceutical companies began a sales ban on lethal injections drugs about six years ago to death penalty prison systems due to ethical concerns.

Lawyers for death row inmates have asked a federal court and the state to examine Arkansas' lethal injection protocols, saying that in at least one of the April executions, an inmate coughed and convulsed on a death chamber gurney. The lawyers contend that indicated possible problems with the drugs.

Arkansas has said its lethal injection mix is lawful and its protocols have been carefully examined.

(source: Reuters)


Secret sedative: How Missouri uses pentobarbital in executions

Missouri will use 2 of its 34 vials of the sedative pentobarbital on Tuesday when it executes Marcellus Williams, who was convicted in the 1998 killing of Felicia Gayle, former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter.

The state has enough pentobarbital for 17 executions, Williams' included, according to a document obtained by St. Louis Public Radio. No one except the state of Missouri knows where the stockpile comes from, despite lawsuits from inmates and media outlets.

But there is 1 sure thing, according to 2 people who've witnessed executions in Missouri and Georgia: Pentobarbital is a potent means of death.

The FDA-approved manufacturer of the drug will not sell directly to any state for use in an execution and has made it clear it doesn't want 3rd-party distributors to do so. Any compounding pharmacy that makes small, quick-to-expire batches is shielded from public knowledge, too.

St. Louis Public Radio's Erica Hunzinger explains how pentobarbital works and why Missouri's source is still a secret 4 years after the state began using it in executions.

Experts argue that such secrecy makes it difficult to know whether Missouri's capital punishment process is constitutional.

"With a policy that is as important as the death penalty, and that has results that are so final and irreversible, it's important that the policy be carried out in the light of day," said Rob Dunham, the executive director of the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center.

What is pentobarbital?

Simply, pentobarbital is "a drug that slows down the electrical activity of the brain and nerve cells," according to Dr. Aarti Sarwal, a neurologist and the medical director of the critical care unit at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Pentobarbital is used in humans and animals. In a veterinary setting, it's mostly for euthanasia, Dr. John Dodam, a professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia's veterinary school, said. He noted the pentobarbital used in that situation is for animals only and has species-specific versions of the drug.

For humans, it's mostly used in operating rooms and intensive care units to treat uncontrolled seizures and brain swelling. When injected, the drug goes to the heart and is pumped throughout the body.

Sarwal noted: "It's unique in a manner that it reaches the brain tissue very efficiently."

She described how pentobarbital affects a body when used in operating rooms and ICUs to treat uncontrolled seizures and brain swelling. What follows does not address executions.

"It slows down the activity in the brain - it essentially puts you to sleep - and, as the doses go higher, into almost a state of coma to the point of completely shutting down. (The) rest of the body is controlled by nerve cells, so similar effects happen there ... the nerves that affect your heart muscles ... get slowed down, so the heart muscles will start beating slower and slower, essentially to the point of lowering your blood pressure. ...

"Same happens for breathing: The brain centers that regulate your breathing, as well as the nerve cells that help the breathing muscles work, get slowed down. ... It also has several other effects, like slowing down your stomach activity and pretty much any other activity in the body that's controlled by nerve cells," she said.

And it isn't a drug that just any doctor can prescribe, Sarwal cautioned.

"Pentobarbital is a drug that has to be given by qualified providers who are specifically trained to monitor the dosing and side effects ... So, this is not part of typical medical school training. (Doctors) do get trained in understanding the side effects but it does require special training, and the use of pentobarbital is restricted to specific professions," she said.

Why executions?

Ohio was the 1st state to use a single-drug pentobarbital protocol in executions in 2011 (it changed to a two-drug protocol a couple of years later when pentobarbital became tougher to purchase). Texas followed in 2012, with Georgia and Missouri joining in 2013 and Tennessee in 2015.

Other drugs, mostly used in 2- or 3-drug protocols, have led to botched executions, such as the sedative midazolam in Oklahoma and Ohio. That's not the case with pentobarbital, though that's not to say there haven't been problems.

In both Georgia and Texas, placing IVs in the arms of inmates who had been heavy drug users caused some difficulty. Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Rhonda Cook said in the case of one execution, the team "couldn't get a vein, and what they had to do is what they call a 'cut down' where they inserted the IV at the base of his neck."

And in 2015, Georgia had to cancel a scheduled execution because the pentobarbital was stored at too cold of a temperature.

"And what happened was the solids that are combined with the liquid to create pentobarbital separated. So there were clumps in the containers that had the pentobarbital," Cook said.

Missouri's protocol calls for inmates to be injected with 5 grams of pentobarbital. That makes for a quick, lethal dose. Witnesses say it looks like little more than someone falling asleep.

"There is seldom anything for us to really talk about except to say the person was executed, might have gasped a couple of times and then became silent and was pronounced dead a few minutes later. ... There's nothing especially dramatic about it. It's very clinical," according to Bob Priddy, the former news director of the statewide radio network Missourinet.

He's witnessed 22 executions in Missouri, including 2 pentobarbital-only ones, and said, "I've never seen any discomfort. In fact ... the media witnesses get a call from the attorney general's office usually the day or so after the execution asking if we had seen any signs of discomfort or any signs of pain or any struggles or anything like that. And the answer that I've always given is 'No. The person just went to sleep.'"

Missourinet's Bob Priddy describes state's execution chamber, what witnesses can see and the chain of events when an inmate is put to death.

Missouri's protocol calls for the medical personnel on the execution team to check whether a prisoner is dead after "a sufficient amount of time." When asked for an estimate of how long that is, Department of Corrections spokesman David Owen said it's about 5 minutes, which Priddy corroborated.

Cook has seen 26 executions in Georgia, many of them with the pentobarbital protocol. She said that witnesses can see inmates' faces.

"You can watch his breathing. Every once in a while you can hear a sound like they might blow, exhale tremendously," she said. "But mostly you can't hear what's going on in the execution chamber."

She continued to describe what happens as the execution begins: "What I've seen on occasion is the inmate will look at one of the arms, like he felt the drugs moving through. ... You can tell it's happening because they will struggle to keep their eyes open. The last one that I saw, he insisted on smiling as much as he could. He would smile and then the smile would drift away and he would, like, shake himself awake and smile again.

"But what happens is you just see them go to sleep. And you can see their chest moving, and then after a while you no longer see their chest moving. ... It's very respectful, as much as it can be. But it's very quiet," she said.

Rhonda Cook, a reporter at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, talks about Georgia's execution process and what a witness sees during the capital punishment process.

Sourcing pentobarbital

There's a lot at stake with a pentobarbital-only protocol, according to Megan McCracken, an attorney with the Death Penalty Clinic at the University of California-Berkeley law school. She’s worked on capital punishment cases since 2003.

One factor, she said, is whether the execution will be free of cruel and unusual punishment as the U.S. Constitution requires. She argued that the public needs to know because it's a "simple question of good government and whether or not the state is disclosing relevant information about its executions or concealing that information."

Pentobarbital is made by 1 of 2 sources: A compounding pharmacy or an FDA-approved manufacturer.

Akorn is the only manufactured-pentobarbital supplier in the U.S. and has said it will not sell to states that use the drug in their executions, and it has asked 3rd-party suppliers to follow suit. A Buzzfeed report in January by former St. Louis Public Radio reporter Chris McDaniel showed that, at some point, Missouri purchased manufactured pentobarbital, but the timing and the amount weren't clear in the now-sealed court documents.

Compounding pharmacies, according to Dunham with the Death Penalty Information Center, are "state regulated and their quality - while they serve an important purpose - their quality varies greatly."

Georgia and Texas are both transparent about obtaining their pentobarbital from compounding pharmacies, although the names of those pharmacies are state secrets. Dunham said that's because the pharmacies don't want people to know they make the drugs so they don't lose business.

The pentobarbital made at compounding pharmacies is "typically produced in anticipation of a pending execution," because it's shelf life is "weeks or months. You're not talking years," Dunham said.

On the other hand, manufactured pentobarbital, known generically as nembutal, is a different story, McCracken said.

"... (W)hat we know is that back when nembutal was available to departments of correction, the expiration date was generally in the range of 2 to 2 1/2 years from the time of purchase," she said.

It's unclear whether Missouri's 34 vials of pentobarbital are manufactured or compounded. The Missouri Department of Corrections did not provide, as asked for in the public records request, expiration dates for the vials, saying the records are closed under state statutes.

(source: KBIA news)


Law Prof Mainero Says He'd Love to be DA but Hates the Politics

Chapman University law professor Mario Mainero wants to be Orange County's next district attorney, but he's reluctant to leave his beloved classroom for an uphill battle against 2 well-known and well-funded politicians.

"I'm not a fool. I'm not going to sit there and go, 'I think I'll run for this,' and watch the other 2 people have 2 or 3 million dollars each," Mainero said on the "Inside OC with Rick Reiff" public affairs program.

Next year's DA race is shaping up as a battle royal between 2 troubled political heavyweights. Incumbent Tony Rackauckas is under siege from a jailhouse snitch scandal that has brought judicial rebukes, case delays and national embarrassment to his office; challenger and OC Supervisor Todd Spitzer is dogged by questions about his judgment and temperament, exemplified in the furor over his 2015 armed confrontation with a "suspicious" man in a Wahoo's restaurant.

The situation has given rise to "anyone but Tony or Todd" chatter in legal and political circles. Some commentators have welcomed the scholarly Mainero's announcement that he's considering a run.

But Mainero, a Republican as are Rackauckas and Spitzer, held out little hope of getting the party's endorsement:

"Parties just tend to stick with what they got and not take a stand when there's a problem," Mainero said. "The Republican Party stood by (former OC Sheriff) Mike Carona until he went to prison, for all intents and purposes. The Republican Party is likely to stick with any incumbent."

Mainero returned to full-time teaching in 2009 after 2 1/2 often contentious years as then-Supervisor John Moorlach's chief of staff.

"I am not particularly in love with politics," Mainero said. "I am in love with policy and with trying to make things better through policy. ... That is not going to get done in a mountain of attack pieces from both Mr. Rackauckas and Mr. Spitzer. It just isn't."

He criticized Rackauckas as a poor manager who is too cozy with other officeholders and unwilling to prosecute political misdeeds.

He was less harsh toward Spitzer, "who I consider a friend," and who worked with Mainero on the establishment of the county ethics commission.

But he said Spitzer has done little more than attack Rackauckas without explaining how he'd reform the DA's office. "That means Todd's a politician... this is an office that ought not be political at all."

Mainero criticized both officials for their continued support of the death penalty, calling it fiscally irresponsible. He said the millions of dollars that go into death penalty trials, appeals and death-row housing would be better spent fighting gangs, sex traffickers and identity thieves.

If elected, Mainero said he would take steps to raise ethical standards and reduce politics in the DA's office. He said he would institute continuing case-law education for attorneys and investigators; report ethics violators to the state bar; leave it to his "professional prosecutors" to hold press conferences and try high-profile cases; and move away from the post-election practice "that has happened in prior times' of demoting or reassigning those who supported a different candidate.

Mainero said if he doesn't run, he'd like to see someone else step forward, mentioning as 1 possibility another ethics commission ally, former OC Common Cause President Bill Mitchell.



9 people sentenced to death in Orange County since 2010. Could Scott Dekraai be the 10th?

Orange County prosecutions have resulted in nine death sentences since 2010. Admitted mass murderer Scott Dekraai could be the 10th, depending on whether a judge takes the death penalty off the table. Dekraai killed 8 people in Seal Beach in 2011, but the misuse of jailhouse informants by prosecutors and deputies could convince the judge that Dekraai would not receive a fair penalty trial.

California has 748 people on death row, 300 more than the next highest state.

California has put 513 people to death since 1893, with the vast majority of executions from 1920 to 1940. In 1972 the California Supreme Court decided the death penalty was cruel and unusual punishment. It was reinstated in 1978 but executions did not resume until 1992.The last execution was in 2006.

California has more people on death row than Florida and Texas combined.

Alaska and Hawaii have no death penalty. Note: New Mexico, Connecticut and Maryland abolished the death penalty but the law was not made retroactive so each state has several inmates on death row.

(source: The Orange County Register)


Modesto death penalty case begins with testimony from slain woman's parents

A preliminary hearing for Martin Martinez, who is accused of killing his girlfriend, Amanda Crews, and four others, is expected to begin Monday with testimony from the Modesto woman's parents.

The 5 slayings occurred July 18, 2015, at Crews' home on Nob Hill Court in east Modesto. In addition to Crews, 38, the victims were her daughters, 6-month-old Rachael and 6-year-old Elizabeth; Martinez’s mother, Anna Brown Romero, 57; and Martinez's 5-year-old niece, Esmeralda Navarro. Martinez was Rachael's father.

Crews' mother and stepfather are expected to testify in Stanislaus Superior Court Monday. After the parents' testimony, the hearing is scheduled to continue on Jan. 22.

It is very important to me and my family to move forward with this case in order to aid in our healing. Delays make it very difficult and prolong our pain.

Martinez's court-appointed attorneys on Aug. 2 asked the court to postpone next week's hearing because they had just received a large amount of discovery evidence from the prosecution. The evidence was handed over in a digital format that is not accessible by the defense or the prosecution.

"We're provided such a large amount of data at such a late time before the preliminary hearing starts," Stanislaus County Public Defender Sonny Sandhu said in court on Aug. 2. "We don't know whether or not this information is relevant."

Deputy District Attorney Rick Mury told the judge that the prosecution has made it clear to the Public Defender's Office through investigative reports what is contained in the 3 hard drives with nine terabytes of information.

Kimberly Crews, Crews' twin sister, spoke in court, asking the judge not to grant the defense's postponement request.

"It is very important to me and my family to move forward with this case in order to aid in our healing," she told the judge. "Delays make it very difficult and prolong our pain."


Judge Ricardo Cordova agreed to delay the hearing until Jan. 22, but he will listen to testimony from Crews' parents on Monday. Her mother's health concerns make it necessary for her to testify soon, the judge said, and her parents will be called back to the witness stand if there's any information in the digital data relevant to their testimony.

The preliminary hearing, which is expected to last a few weeks, will conclude with the judge's ruling. Cordova will determine whether there's sufficient evidence for Martinez to stand trial.

The defendant remains in custody at the Stanislaus County Jail. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Martinez. He has pleaded not guilty to 5 counts of murder.


In a separate case, Martinez has been ordered to stand trial on charges of murder and child abuse in the Oct. 2, 2014, death of Crews' 2-year-old son, Christopher Ripley. The trial in Christopher's death has not been scheduled. That case has been set aside, for now, as the case in the 2015 killings moves forward.

Crews' son suffered severe head injuries on Sept. 30, 2014, while alone with Martinez. The toddler died at a Madera children's hospital after 2 days on life support. A child abuse expert and pediatrician at the hospital testified that the boy's brain had suffered severe swelling. Bleeding also was found just outside the brain.

Police investigators were about 2 weeks away from arresting Martinez in Christopher's death when the 5 other homicides occurred. The defendant was arrested in San Jose, several hours after the 5 bodies were discovered in the Modesto home.

Prosecutors believe Martinez killed Crews and his mother with a knife. The criminal complaint in the case includes knife enhancements in the deaths of Crews and Romero. Those enhancements do not appear on the murder charges for the children. Authorities have not said how they died.



Death Penalty Fast Facts

Here's a look at the death penalty in the United States.


As of August 2017, capital punishment is legal in 31 US states.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 20 people were executed in the United States in 2016, the lowest number since 1991. The number of death sentences imposed was 30, a 39% decline from 2015's 40-year low.

There were 2,902 people on death row in the United States on October 1, 2016, the most recent date for which data is available.

Since 1976, when the death penalty was reinstated by the US Supreme Court, 1,458 people have been executed (as of July 28, 2017).

Since 1973, there have been 159 death row exonerations (as of April 19, 2017). 27 of them are from the state of Florida.

Between January 1, 2017 and July 28, 2017, 16 executions were carried out in seven states, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Federal Government:

The US government and US military have 61 people awaiting execution. (As of July 25, 2017)

The US government has executed 4 people since 1963.


There are 54 women on death row in the United States (as of October 1, 2016).

16 women have been executed since the reinstatement of the death penalty (as of October 1, 2016).


22 individuals were executed between 1985 and 2003 for crimes committed as juveniles.

March 1, 2005 - Roper v. Simmons. The Supreme Court rules that the execution of juvenile offenders is unconstitutional.

Since 1976, 282 individuals have been granted clemency for humanitarian reasons.

For federal death row inmates, the president alone has the power to grant a pardon.


1834 - Pennsylvania becomes the 1st state to move executions into correctional facilities, ending public executions.

1838 - Discretionary death penalty statutes are enacted in Tennessee.

1846 - Michigan becomes the 1st state to abolish the death penalty for all crimes except treason.

1890 - William Kemmler becomes the 1st person executed by electrocution.

1907-1917 - 9 states abolish the death penalty for all crimes or strictly limit it. By 1920, 5 of those states had reinstated it.

1924 - The use of cyanide gas is introduced as an execution method.

1930s - Executions reach the highest levels in American history, averaging 167 per year.

June 29, 1972 - Furman v. Georgia. The Supreme Court effectively voids 40 death penalty statutes and suspends the death penalty.

1976 - Gregg v. Georgia. The death penalty is reinstated.

January 17, 1977 - A 10-year moratorium on executions ends with the execution of Gary Gilmore by firing squad in Utah.

1977 - Oklahoma becomes the 1st state to adopt lethal injection as a means of execution.

December 7, 1982 - Charles Brooks becomes the 1st person executed by lethal injection.

1984 - Velma Barfield of North Carolina becomes the 1st woman executed since reinstatement of the death penalty.

1986 - Ford v. Wainwright. Execution of insane persons is banned.

1987 - McCleskey v. Kemp. Racial disparities are not recognized as a constitutional violation of "equal protection of the law" unless intentional racial discrimination against the defendant can be shown.

1988 - Thompson v. Oklahoma. Executions of offenders age 15 and younger at the time of their crimes are declared unconstitutional.

1989 - Stanford v. Kentucky, and Wilkins v. Missouri. The Eighth Amendment does not prohibit the death penalty for crimes committed at age 16 or 17.

1994 - President Bill Clinton signs the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act that expands the federal death penalty.

1996 - The last execution by hanging takes place in Delaware, with the death of Billy Bailey.

January 31, 2000 - A moratorium on executions is declared by Illinois Governor George Ryan. Since 1976, Illinois is the 1st state to block executions.

2002 - Atkins v. Virginia. The Supreme Court rules that the execution of mentally retarded defendants violates the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

January 2003 - Before leaving office, Governor George Ryan grants clemency to all of the remaining 167 inmates on Illinois's death row, due to the flawed process that led to the death sentences.

June 2004 - New York's death penalty law is declared unconstitutional by the state's high court.

March 1, 2005 - Roper v. Simmons. The Supreme Court rules that the execution of juvenile killers is unconstitutional. The 5-4 decision tosses out the death sentence of a Missouri man who was 17 years old when he murdered a St. Louis area woman in 1993.

December 2, 2005 - The execution of Kenneth Lee Boyd in North Carolina marks the 1,000th time the death penalty has been carried out since it was reinstated by the Supreme Court in 1976. Boyd, 57, is executed for the 1988 murders of his wife, Julie Curry Boyd, and father-in-law, Thomas Dillard Curry.

June 12, 2006 - The Supreme Court rules that death row inmates can challenge the use of lethal injection as a method of execution.

December 15, 2006 - Florida Governor Jeb Bush suspends the death penalty after the execution of prisoner Angel Diaz. Diaz had to be given 2 injections, and it took more than 30 minutes for him to die.

December 17, 2007 - New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine signs legislation banning the death penalty in the state. The death sentences of 8 men are commuted to life terms.

December 31, 2007 - Due to the de facto moratorium on executions, pending the Supreme Court's ruling, only 42 people in the US are executed in 2007. It is the lowest total in more than 10 years.

April 14, 2008 - In a 7-2 ruling, the Supreme Court upholds Kentucky's use of lethal injection. Between September 2007, when the Court took on the case, and April 2008 no one was executed in the US.

March 18, 2009 - Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico signs legislation repealing the death penalty in his state. His actions will not affect 2 prisoners currently on death row: Robert Fry, who killed a woman in 2000, and Tim Allen, who killed a 17-year-old girl in 1994.

November 13, 2009 - Ohio becomes the 1st state to switch to a method of lethal injection using a single drug, rather than the 3-drug method used by other states.

2010 - Execution by firing squad is used for the last time in Utah, with the death of Ronnie Lee Gardner.

March 9, 2011 - Illinois Governor Pat Quinn announces that he has signed legislation eliminating the death penalty in his state, more than 10 years after the state halted executions.

March 16, 2011 - The Drug Enforcement Agency seizes Georgia's supply of thiopental, over questions of where the state obtained the drug. US manufacturer Hospira stopped producing the drug in 2009. The countries that still produce the drug do not allow it to be exported to the US for use in lethal injections.

May 20, 2011 - The Georgia Department of Corrections announces that pentobarbital will be substituted for thiopental in the three-drug lethal injection process.

July 1, 2011 - Lundbeck Inc., the company that makes pentobarbital (brand name Nembutal), the drug used in lethal injections, announces it will restrict the use of its product from prisons carrying out capital punishment.

July 7, 2011 - Humberto Leal Garcia Jr., a Mexican national, is executed by lethal injection in Texas for the 1994 kidnap, rape and murder of Adra Sauceda in San Antonio. Despite pleas from the US State Department and the White House, Texas Governor Rick Perry does not grant clemency and the US Supreme Court does not intervene.

November 22, 2011 - Governor John Kitzhaber of Oregon grants a reprieve to Gary Haugen, who was scheduled to be executed December 6. Kitzhaber, a licensed physician, also puts a moratorium on all state executions for the remainder of his term in office.

April 25, 2012 - Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy signs S.B. 280, An Act Revising the Penalty for Capital Felonies, into law. The law goes into effect immediately and replaces the death penalty with life without the possibility of parole. The law is not retroactive to those already on death row.

June 22, 2012 - The Arkansas Supreme Court strikes down the state's execution law, calling the form of lethal injection the state uses unconstitutional.

August 7, 2012 - The Supreme Court allows the execution of Marvin Wilson, 54, a Texas inmate with low IQ.

November 6, 2012 - A measure to repeal the death penalty in California fails.

May 2, 2013 - Maryland's governor signs a bill repealing the death penalty. The legislation goes into effect October 1.

January 16, 2014 - Ohio executes inmate Dennis McGuire with a new combination of drugs, due to the unavailability of drugs such as pentobarbital. The state uses a combination of the drugs midazolam, a sedative, and the painkiller hydromorphone, according to the state corrections department. The execution process takes 24 minutes, and McGuire appears to be gasping for air for 10 to 13 minutes, according to witness Alan Johnson, a reporter with the Columbus Dispatch.

February 11, 2014 - Washington Governor Jay Inslee announces that he is issuing a moratorium on death penalty cases during his term in office.

May 22, 2014 - Tennessee becomes the 1st state to make death by electric chair mandatory when lethal injection drugs are unavailable.

May 28, 2014 - A judge in Ohio issues an order temporarily suspending executions in the state so that authorities can further study new lethal injection protocols.

July 23, 2014 - Arizona uses a new combination of drugs for the lethal injection to execute Joseph Woods, a convicted murderer. After the injection, it reportedly took him nearly 2 hours to die. A state review board later rules that future executions will be conducted with a 3-drug formula or a single drug injection if the state can obtain pentobarbital.

September 4, 2014 - The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety issues a report about the botched execution of Clayton Lockett on April 29, 2014. Complications with the placement of an IV into Lockett played a significant role in problems with his execution, according to the report. It took 43 minutes for him to die.

December 31, 2014 - Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley commutes the death sentences of the 4 last men in the state scheduled for execution. It is 1 of his final acts in office.

January 8, 2015 - Ohio announces that it is reincorporating thiopental sodium, a drug which it used in executions from 1999-2011, into its execution policy. The state is also dropping the 2-drug regimen of midazolam and hydromorphone.

January 23, 2015 - The Supreme Court agrees to hear a case concerning the lethal injection protocol in Oklahoma. The inmates claim that the state protocol violates the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

January 30, 2015 - The Ohio State Department of Rehabilitation and Correction announces it will delay the executions of 7 death row inmates while searching for an adequate supply of drugs that complies with its new execution protocol.

February 13, 2015 - Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf halts all executions in his state, citing the state's "error prone" justice system and "inherent biases" among his reasons for the moratorium. Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams later announces he has filed a petition to block Gov. Wolf halting executions, claiming the moratorium is an unconstitutional takeover of powers.

March 23, 2015 - Utah Governor Gary Herbert signs legislation making the firing squad an authorized method of death if the drugs required for lethal injection are unavailable.

May 20, 2015 - The Nebraska legislature passes a bill to repeal the state's death penalty and replace it with life without parole.

June 29, 2015 - The Supreme Court rules, in a 5-4 decision, that the use of the sedative midazolam in lethal injections is not a violation of the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Midazolam is 1 of 3 drugs that are combined to carry out the death penalty in Oklahoma.

October 19, 2015 - Ohio delays executions until 2017, citing difficulties obtaining the necessary drugs.

May 23, 2016 - The Supreme Court rules 7-1 in favor of black death row inmate Timothy Foster, who contended there was racial discrimination in his 1987 jury selection. "The focus on race in the prosecution's file plainly demonstrates a concerted effort to keep black prospective jurors off the jury," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion.

August 2, 2016 - The Delaware Supreme Court rules the state's death penalty law unconstitutional. Attorney General Matt Denn later announces that he will not appeal the decision.

November 8, 2016 - Voters in California, Nebraska and Oklahoma are asked to weigh in on the death penalty with referendum questions on ballots. In all 3 states, majorities vote in favor of the death penalty.

December 8, 2016 - Once a temporary stay issued by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is lifted, Alabama executes Ronald B. Smith. According to a witness, the death row inmate coughed and heaved for about 13 minutes after the injection process began.

February 22, 2017 - The Supreme Court rules in favor of Duane Buck, a death row inmate in Texas whose defense lawyers introduced evidence at trial that he was more likely to be dangerous in the future because he is black.

April 2017 - Of the 8 prisoners Arkansas had planned to execute before the state's supply of a lethal injection drug expires, 4 are put to death: Ledell Lee, Jack Jones, Marcel Williams, and Kenneth Williams. The other 4 - Jason McGehee, Stacey Johnson, Don Davis and Bruce Ward - receive stays of execution.

April 20, 2017 - The FDA rules that imported vials of the execution drug sodium thiopental, ordered by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the Arizona Department of Corrections, must be destroyed or exported within 90 days. The FDA had seized the shipment in 2015. Sodium thiopental is not approved in the United States.

April 25, 2017 - The Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission releases a report recommending the continuation of the moratorium on the death penalty, citing the need for significant reforms.

(source: CNN)


Gary Lee Sampson loses latest bid to escape death penalty

Triple-killer Gary Lee Sampson has lost his latest bid to escape his pending death sentence.

Judge Leo Sorokin, who oversaw the 8-week trial that led to Sampson's sentence early this year, issued an 85-page decision this week denying a slew of post-trial motions making 18 different arguments for a new trial. Sorokin also ordered the U.S. District Court clerk to make public nearly all sealed documents in the case over the coming weeks.

In the decision, Sorokin considered defense arguments on issues ranging from Sampson's competency to stand trial to victim-impact statements from relatives of the 2 South Shore men he stabbed to death in an 4-day killing spree in 2001. Sampson, who never denied the murders, was tried separately for strangling a 3rd man to death in New Hampshire.

Sorokin noted in the lengthy decision that he had given an unusual degree of attention to Sampson's post-trial motions, which judges typically deny with a single sentence.

"This is no run-of-the-mine case," Sorokin wrote. "Sampson brutally and incomprehensibly murdered Philip McCloskey, Jonathan Rizzo, and Robert Whitney. He faces the ultimate, irreversible punishment for 2 of those killings."

Sampson, a 57-year-old former drifter who grew up in Abington, has been behind bars since July 2001, when he turned himself in to Vermont police and confessed to killing the three men.

Sampson carjacked and murdered McCloskey, a 69-year-old retired plumber from Abington, on July 24, 2001, after McCloskey stopped by the side of the road and offered him a ride. 3 days later, Sampson carjacked Rizzo, a 19-year-old college student who had also pulled over to help Sampson, and forced the teenager to drive at knife point to Abington, where he killed Rizzo and stole his car. Sampson then drove to New Hampshire and murdered Whitney after breaking into an empty lake home.

Sampson plead guilty to all charges and was sentenced to death following a 2003 penalty-phase trial, which is required in federal death penalty cases. But the sentence was thrown out eight years later after Judge Mark Wolf determined that a juror in the trial had lied about her background. A new set of jurors began hearing testimony this past November.

In deciding whether Sampson should die for the murders, the jury was tasked with weighing 7 aggravating factors presented by prosecutors against dozens of mitigating factors outlined by Sampson's defense. The 115 mitigating factors raised by defense attorneys included what they said was a lifelong history of brain injuries, dyslexia, substance abuse and family problems.

Among the arguments Sampson made for a new trial in his post-trial motions was his contention that he should have been allowed to present all 308 mitigating factors originally proposed by his attorneys. Sampson also argued that his defense attorneys should have been allowed to withdraw from the case mid trial because Sampson "made credible threats of violence" against them.

Sorokin found no merit in any of the arguments and denied several post-trial motions. The judge also ordered the clerk to make public all but 3 documents that had remained under seal even after Sampson's sentence was imposed.

(source: The Patriot Ledger)


Andhra serial killer who hammered four to death in Nellore last year to be hanged----Venkatesh had been nabbed by the Nellore district police in July last year.

A notorious serial killer in Andhra Pradesh was sentenced to death by a Nellore court on Thursday, after he was found guilty of murdering 4 people with a hammer, before robbing them.

28-year-old Kukkapalli Venkateswarlu alias Venkatesh had been nabbed by the Nellore district police in July last year.

A native of Yerrabotlapalle in Kondapuram mandal, Venkatesh was a Class 9 dropout, who ran a fast food stall, and committed the murders and robberies when he fell short of cash, the police said.

The police also added that he was an alcoholic, with many vices.

According to the police, Venkatesh used to plan his robberies by identifying houses in which only women or children were present, and observe the movement of people in the area.

He would then hatch a plan, and target the house when it was easy for him to commit the murder, rob the victims, and flee.

Venkatesh's 1st murder involved one Shimuni Kavita, who he hammered to death, before making away with her gold ornaments.

Following this, Venkatesh had killed a temple priest and his wife on April 1, 2016.

Another murder of a teacher in the Children's Park area of Nellore in July that same year, led to his arrest, as the victim's husband walked into the house, and shouted for help.

With the help of neighbours and locals, Venkatesh was caught and handed over to the Balajinagar police.

According to reports, the court, while hearing the case on Thursday, said crimes committed by Venkateswarlu fell in the category of 'rarest of rare cases' and awarded him death penalty.



HC to hear plea of death row convict in techie murder case

The Bombay High Court is expected to begin the final hearing into an appeal filed by the convict in the Esther Anuhya rape and murder case.

Chandrabhan Sanap, who was convicted for raping and murdering the 23-year-old techie, had challenged the death penalty awarded to him by a special court on October 30, 2015.

A Division Bench headed by Justice N.H, Patil has posted the appeal for hearing on August 28. The court will start hearing the matter on a daily basis.

The trial court had observed that the case fell under the 'rarest of rare' category. The State government has also filed a petition seeking confirmation of the death sentence. The petition will be heard along with Sanap's appeal.

According to the prosecution, Anuhya, who hailed from Andhra Pradesh, had returned to the city on January 5, 2014, after visiting her family in Machilipatnam. After arriving at Lokmanya Tilak Terminus in Kurla she met Sanap who offered to drop her at her hostel in Andheri for Rs. 300.

Sanap then raped and murdered her. He tried to get rid of the body by hiding it in the bushes along the Eastern Express Highway in Bhandup.

After a search, Anuhya's family found her body on January 16, 2014. Sanap was arrested in March that year and charged with murder, rape, kidnapping and other charges.

(source: Press Trust of India)

AUGUST 17, 2017:


'Shoot me in the head': Defense attorneys claim mental illness was reason Laredo man killed wife

A man standing trial for slaying his 23-year-old wife asked responding officers to shoot him in the head and told family members he should be given the death penalty before being taken into custody, according to testimony heard Tuesday in the 111th District Court.

Alberto Espinoza's attorneys are not disputing that he fatally slashed the throat of his wife, Yolanda Martinez-Perez, on July 22, 2014. However, they are asking the jury to find Espinoza not guilty of murder by reason of insanity.

"He was paranoid, he was delusional and he was hearing voices," Joaquin Amaya, Espinoza's attorney, said.

While insanity defenses are rare, Amaya is arguing his client was not responsible for his actions due to a psychiatric disease when he attacked his wife with a knife in their home in 2014.

Espinoza wasn't previously competent to stand trial, according to Amaya, who said his client had to be sent to a state hospital so he could know what was going on.

Amaya said the jury will hear from 3 experts who will say Espinoza suffers from "severe mental illness" and would not have committed the offense if it wasn't for his illness.

During opening statements, assistant district attorney Julia Rubio asked the jury to return a guilty verdict, saying the prosecution will show evidence to prove Espinoza is criminally responsible for his wife's death.

"A troubled relationship, stress and rage, that is what this case is about," Rubio said.

The prosecution rested its case at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday after calling first responders, police investigators, medical personnel and family members of Espinoza to the stand to provide insight into what occurred in the weeks before and after Martinez-Perez's death.

The day of the homicide, Espinoza allegedly heard a voice tell him that his wife, whom he had been estranged from for about 6 months, was cheating on him and betraying him.

Espinoza told police investigators he heard a voice tell him that Martinez-Perez intended to kill him by poisoning potatoes being cooked for breakfast.

Using photographs taken of the crime scene, Espinoza's defense counsel noted a bottle of bleach on the kitchen sink and a container of ant killer seen in a lower cabinet near Martinez-Perez's body.

In a recorded interview played for the jury, Espinoza said he "smashed (the knife) against her on her throat" when Martinez-Perez was standing up from bending down by the oven to pick up a pan.

The prosecution said Espinoza approached Martinez-Perez with a knife he had sharpened and slashed her throat in one swift movement, cutting through every part of her neck except the bone.

Later in the interview, Espinoza said that after the incident, "I didn't feel rage. I didn't feel anything anymore. I just felt love for my daughters."

His daughters, ages 3 and 6 at the time, were in another room inside the residence at the time of the slaying. After Martinez-Perez's death, Espinoza collected a photo of his wife and took it to the girls so they would have something to remember her by.

Investigators found the photo lying on the bed, where Espinoza allegedly told his daughters to lay down. The girls were found crying and clinging to each other by a responding officer, according to testimony heard Tuesday.

LPD Officer Juan Lorenzo Villarreal said he responded to the 4500 block of Corrada Avenue after Espinoza's relatives called police, concerned about Espinoza's welfare.

Espinoza had called a relative, telling her that he had done something bad.

Villarreal discussed seeing Espinoza, with blood on his shirt, pants and sandals, answer the door.

"The first thing he told me (was) 'I did something very bad. I want to kill myself. I want you to kill me,'" Villarreal said. Another officer, Mauricio Ivan Chaires, recalled Espinoza telling him, "shoot me, shoot me in the head."

Alleged voices

Lorena Espinoza and her husband, Jesus Eduardo Garay, said they arrived at the scene as Espinoza was being taken to a patrol car.

Garay said he approached the vehicle and asked Espinoza where his wife was. In response, Espinoza gestured while smiling, moving his hand across his throat, according to Garay.

While Garay said he had heard Espinoza was hearing a voice and didn't trust anyone, he said Espinoza seemed "normal" and did not appear sick when working with Garay at a restaurant.

Lorena Espinoza, the defendant's cousin, testified about a conversation that occurred between Alberto Espinoza and some of his extended relatives a few days before his wife's death.

"That day, he sat us down to talk to us. He looked very upset and he told us that 'he' - we don't know who he was referring to - would tell him things," Lorena Espinoza said.

That same day, Alberto Espinoza had been released from the hospital after seeking treatment. It was his 2nd visit to the hospital in a 2-day span due to anxiety attacks.

A Laredo Medical Center emergency room nurse, Julia Casso, said Espinoza did not report any anxiety or depression during the two visits. It wasn't until he was taken to the hospital after killing his wife that he answered yes to all questions related to suicide, according to Casso.

Espinoza was taken to LMC for a self-inflicted wound to the arm. According to the criminal complaint, Espinoza attempted to die by suicide before police arrived.

Sara Zamora, an employee of Border Region Behavioral Health Center, said she completed an assessment of Espinoza at the hospital, where she noted he appeared to be responding to "internal stimuli."

Internal stimuli is a phrase used in reference to a patient who may be hearing things or seeing things but don't report it or deny hearing or seeing anything. In this case, Zamora said Espinoza "directly denied hearing voices."

Espinoza appeared to be talking to someone, looking up from his hospital bed and saying, "I'm going to be with you. I want to go with you," according to Zamora.

She said those statements were not matching up with the questions being asked as part of the assessment.

The trial is scheduled to continue Wednesday with expert testimony from witnesses who are expected to discuss Espinoza's mental health before the defense rests its case.

(source: Laredo Morning Times)


Senator John Russo Remembered

John Russo, Sr. was remembered as a politician for the people, and an "icon" of the kind of bipartisan politics that is rare to find anymore.

Russo succumbed to cancer at the age of 84. He had been elected to the state senate in 1973, and was Senate President from 1986 to 1990. He served as acting governor, and ran for that office as well. Additionally he had a career as an attorney and as assistant prosecutor in Ocean County.

Marlene Lynch Ford, who is now the assignment judge for the Superior Court in Ocean County, said they had never met before being on the ballot together in 1983. She ran for Assembly that year, besting Warren Wolf.

"His loss is a public loss, but also a profound personal loss to those of us who knew him," she said.

"Although our political relationship ended a long time ago when we stopped getting elected," their personal relationship continued, she said. They were just on the beach together a few weeks ago.

"Even in his very weakened state, his daughter made sure he got his beach time in," she said.

She said Russo was the personification of the American Dream. Here was a poor kid from Asbury Park, selling clothing out of the back of his car to make money, but he wanted to go to Notre Dame. An alumnus arranged to get him an interview to try to get into the prestigious school. "He was too proud to admit he couldn't afford the trip," so he hitchhiked to the interview. From then, he went on to Columbia Law School.

"From very humble beginnings, he overcame that and became a very critical figure in New Jersey government," she said.

Former Ocean County Freeholder and mayor of Toms River, Paul Brush, said his influence is still being felt today.

"He was an icon in Ocean County politics and also in the state," he said. Russo worked bipartisanly, under a Republican governor, Tom Kean Sr., and Brush stated that the 2 worked well together.

"They just did what they thought was right," he said.

Russo On The Death Penalty

One of Russo's more public fights was over the death penalty.

In 1982, Russo helped reinstate the death penalty. In 2007, it was being argued before the Senate budget panel on whether to keep it or do away with it.

"If you're going to have a society that follows law and order, people have to feel that the punishment fits the crime," he told the Ocean County Observer in 2007. At the time, New Jersey had eight men on death row and hadn't executed anyone since 1963.

"I don't look for an execution. I get no satisfaction to see someone's execution. I just want the penalty to be available," he said, for the "most unusual and grievous" cases.

Although his father was murdered in Asbury Park by a robber on New Year's Day in 1970, he had said this did not influence his feelings.

The robber would not have fit the criteria for the penalty, he said. The robber didn't go there intending to murder.

Ultimately, there was much more opposition to the death penalty, and the punishment was changed to life without parole. People arguing against the death penalty stated that since New Jersey hadn't actually executed anyone recently, it was essentially life without parole anyway. Additionally, there provided some small measure of closure for the family of the victims, in that they did not have to be dragged into the ongoing appeal process as the accused convict perennially tried to fight their pending execution.

Russo's Legacy

Although much has been written about Russo's fight for the death penalty, his legacy was larger than that, Brush said. He started a movement that made all Senate bills be posted. That way, the public would know what lawmakers were deciding.

"That was his mantra: the people should be heard," he said.

That has since fallen by the wayside.

Another trait that seems to belong to a bygone era was his disdain for dirty campaigning. He used to scream at any local politicians who went negative in their campaigning, he said.

Another piece of his legacy belongs to the caps law, which limited a municipality's spending, a precursor to the one that governs towns now.

"It was innovative. It set the tone to put the reins on political spending," Brush said.

Russo, the late Daniel Newman (former Assemblyman and mayor of Brick), and John Paul Doyle (former Assemblyman) opened up a joint legislative committee, with former Pine Beach mayor Russell Corby heading the staff. Their job was to hear from constituents and fix problems.

"It became a model for across the state," Brush said. "It's become an accepted practice."

A lot of ink has also been used to describe his ban on assault weapons. The governor wanted it done, and he rose to the challenge.

"It was not very popular but he thought it was the right thing to do and New Jersey has had a ban on assault weapons for the last 25 years or so," he said.

"He was an icon and I don't think we'll see someone like him again," Brush said. "We sure miss him."

About 20 years ago, Russo, as an attorney, represented Berkeley Township to fight a program that would allow sending districts to sever ties with a regional school district. The issue involved towns leaving Central Regional.

Dale Florio, who heads up the Princeton Public Affairs Group, which Russo worked for as an attorney since 1992, wrote on the company's web site that Russo was a friend and mentor to his colleagues.

"We hesitate to call John a 'throwback' when partisanship stayed in the statehouse and you could 'break bread' together after the day's work. To us, John was and will always be an example of how those of us who engage in the science of politics should practice our craft," he wrote.

Senator and former Governor Richard J. Codey said he valued Russo's friendship.

"John used his political skills, his breadth of knowledge and his strength of character to address the issues that defined an era and that continue to shape the quality of life in New Jersey," Codey said in a press release. "He put progress ahead of politics, teamwork ahead of partisanship and shared success ahead of personal achievement. John's primary goal was always to get things done. As a result, he was both well liked and highly respected."

Tom Kean Jr., son of the former governor and head of the Senate Republicans, offered his condolences.

"On behalf of the Senate Republicans, I would like to offer our condolences to Bob, Caryl, and their entire family on the passing of Senate President Russo," he said. "He was a dedicated public servant, a loving father, and a leader committed to improving New Jersey for all its residents."

A viewing will be held from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday at Anderson & Campbell funeral home, 703 Main Streets, Toms River. A funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church, 685 Hooper Avenue, Toms River.



Prosecutors: Evidence from 'terrified' witnesses leads to murder charges in Easton

For years, the family of Miguel Aponte Jr. had to live knowing that his alleged killer - who authorities say opened fire on him in 2009 inside a crowded Easton bar - was still free and walking the streets in the Lehigh Valley.

Authorities say many people witnessed Aponte's murder inside the Easton Cafe, but they lacked the evidence to charge the alleged gunman, 36-year-old Jacob Holmes Jr. of Easton.

As the years passed, investigators continued to probe the case, bringing reluctant and terrified witnesses in secret before a Northampton County grand jury in hopes of gathering enough evidence against Holmes.

At a news conference Wednesday, Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli announced Holmes would face 1st-degree murder charges in Aponte's homicide, news that he said brought Aponte's family to tears "because they knew we had not let this case be forgotten."

"There were a lot of witnesses, but many were terrified knowing this guy was walking the streets," Morganelli said. "It took time for us to build this case and gather what was needed for a successful trial."

Easton police Lt. Matthew Gerould, who worked the case for years, said police arrested Holmes Tuesday night at his workplace in Bethlehem Township, but would not identify it.

"We had an alleged gunman who walked into a crowded bar and opened fire and that scared a lot of people from coming forward," Gerould said at the news conference at the county courthouse in Easton. "Mr. Holmes was still local and still spending time with his family, something that Mr. Aponte's family could not do."

In addition to homicide, Holmes remains in jail on charges of conspiracy and reckless endangerment.

According to Morganelli:

Authorities say in March 2016, they re-interviewed Franklin J. Barndt, who pleaded guilty in 2014 for being a lookout and helping the gunman in Aponte's killing to dispose of the gun, which has never been found.

Barndt was offered no plea deals for his cooperation, authorities say. In that 2016 interview, Barndt told police that the night of the murder on March 30, 2009, he hid a handgun in the wheel well of a car parked near the Easton Cafe and gave Holmes a white T-shirt to tie around his face.

Barndt said he saw Homes knock on a door of the bar and saw him fire the gun as Aponte fell to the floor.

Authorities allege Aponte's death was planned by Holmes in retaliation for a 2006 shooting outside a Wilson strip club that wounded Homes and killed his friend, Jason Oliver. That gunfight erupted from a fight over a girl, they say.

In the 2006 killing, Aponte's friend, John Logan Jr., pleaded guilty to 3rd-degree murder and Aponte served time in state prison on weapon charges after he told police he had fired the gun into the air. Aponte was out of state prison only 3 months before he was killed, investigators say.

An unidentified witness previously told police that on the night of Aponte's murder, she picked up Barndt and Holmes from another tavern as the men talked about "payback."

First Deputy District Attorney Terence Houck, who will prosecute the case, said Barndt's statement about the killing helped lead police to more evidence and the filing of charges against Holmes.


Authorities say Jacob Holmes Jr. will be prosecuted of 1st-degree murder, although authorities say they are unsure if they may seek the death penalty.

Holmes remains in Northampton County Jail without bail. A date for his preliminary hearing has not yet been set.

(source: Allentown Morning Call)


Prosecutors to seek death penalty against couple accused of kidnapping 11-year-old girl, killing her grandparents

Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty against a man and his girlfriend accused of killing the man's parents and then kidnapping his niece.

Curtis Atkinson Jr., 36, was charged with the murder of his parents, 63-year-old Curtis Atkinson Sr. and 62-year-old Ruby Atkinson and kidnapping Atkinsons' granddaughter, 11-year-old Arieyana Forney, who was later located in D.C.

Curtis Atkinson Jr.'s girlfriend, Nikkia Cooper, was also charged with murder in the double-homicide that sparked the AMBER Alert for Forney.

Thursday morning, prosecutors indicated they will seek the death penalty against Curtis Atkinson Jr. and Cooper, court officials say.

Police were initially called to a home on Glenncannon Drive in east Charlotte at 11:05 a.m. April 2 to assist the Charlotte Fire Department. Police say there was an attempted arson at the crime scene.

Officials do not know why Curtis Atkinson Jr. took Arieyana up to D.C., and have not yet released a motive for the homicides.

Police say Cooper called police from Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. Metro Police found Forney inside a white Chevrolet Impala.

Anyone with additional information about the current investigation is asked to call detectives at 704-432-TIPS.

(source: WBTV news)


Death penalty sought against man accused of killing parents, kidnapping niece

The district attorney announced Thursday morning he will be seeking the death penalty for a couple accused of kidnapping an 11-year-old Charlotte girl and killing her grandparents.

Curtis Atkinson Jr. and Nikkia Cooper face murder, kidnapping and drug charges.

Authorities said the couple killed Atkinson's parents in April inside their home on Glencannon Drive in east Charlotte, then kidnapped his niece Arieyana Forney.

All 3 were found in Washington, D.C. days later, according to authorities.

Police have not released a motive behind the suspected killings and kidnapping.

(source: WSOC TV news)


Murder suspects arrested - 3 charged in deaths of Donta Russell, Danny Fox

An Escambia County grand jury has handed up capital murder indictments against two Atmore men in the April shooting death of Donta Demorris Russell, as well as an indictment against a Huntsville man who is charged with the November 2016 slaying of Danny Fox.

Chief Deputy Mike Lambert of the Escambia County Sheriff's Office reported Tuesday that Darrell Brown, 29, of an MLK Drive address, and Yeldon Devonta Rostchild, 23, of an address on West Owens Street, are being held without bond in the Escambia County Detention Center.

Brown and Rostchild are accused of shooting Russell, who was 20 at the time of his death, as he drove his Crown Victoria along MLK Drive, around 10:15 p.m. on April 26. Initial reports were that he was also shot several more times after his car crashed into a tree in the drive of an Old Ship Circle residence.

A capital murder charge carries upon conviction the possibility of the death penalty or life without parole. No date has been set for their arraignments.

The grand jury also indicted Jeffery A. Armstrong, 56, of Huntsville in the death of Danny Fox, whose body was discovered by family members November 1, 2016 in the front yard of his Ewing Drive home. The local man was killed by blunt trauma to the head; his pickup was missing from the site.

Armstrong was driving Fox's truck when he was arrested for driving under the influence the next day in Chipley, Fla. He was arrested by authorities there and charged with theft of a vehicle, but was extradited to Alabama to face the murder charge.

Armstrong, who is charged with 1 count each of murder and 1st-degree theft, remains in the county jail under a $250,000 bond.

Lambert said the investigation into Fox's death is ongoing. No arraignment date has been set.



Mississippi Says It Has Execution Drugs Amid Secrecy Fight----Mississippi prison officials say they have obtained new supplies of execution drugs.

Mississippi prison officials have obtained new supplies of execution drugs, which could allow the state to carry out lethal injections after some other drugs expired, they said in court papers.

The state provided that information Monday in an ongoing lawsuit over its execution methods. Mississippi's new execution secrecy law should block lawyers for death row inmates from finding out too much about the state's plans to administer the death penalty, the state said. Among the things the state wants is a federal judge to protect the identity of the drug supplier, as well as any clues in other documents about who that supplier might be.

Lawyers for death row inmates, though, are asking U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate to force the state to provide more information about Department of Corrections' drug-buying effort, saying it's necessary to pursue their lawsuit challenging Mississippi's current execution method. The court showdown will determine whether the state law can trump a federal lawsuit on the subject.

Attorney General Jim Hood told The Associated Press in June that he hopes to ask the Mississippi Supreme Court to set execution dates for Richard Jordan and Thomas Loden Jr. this year. Mississippi hasn't executed anyone since 2012, in part because of the legal challenges and the drug shortages. Both Loden and Jordan have filed fresh appeals since they lost state appeals over the use of midazolam and Jordan is also still seeking a rehearing, so it's unclear when executions can move forward.

Plaintiffs say they need the information about drugs because under federal law, if they're going to challenge Mississippi's method of execution, they have to propose a "known, available alternative." Lawyer Jim Craig would prefer that the state use only pentobarbital, the drug Mississippi formerly used as the 1st drug in a 3-drug sequence. Craig notes Texas, Georgia and Missouri are all still using pentobarbital in executions.

Mississippi now plans to use the sedative midazolam, followed by a paralyzing agent and a drug that stops an inmate's heart. The use of midazolam has been repeatedly challenged nationwide because prisoners have coughed, gasped and moved for extended periods during executions. Lawyers for Jordan and others argue prisoners feel pain as drugs are administered after midazolam, violating the U.S. Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

In court papers, Mississippi officials said they stopped being able to buy pentobarbital in 2015, and couldn't find a pharmacy to make some using raw ingredients.

So, after a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling approved Oklahoma's use of midazolam, Mississippi officials rewrote their execution procedure to use that drug. The state acquired some midazolam that year, but court papers state that it expired at the end of May. Employees of Attorney General Jim Hood and the Corrections Department then found a Mississippi pharmacy identified only as "Supplier 1" in court papers to sell new drugs to the state.

An unnamed person testifying on behalf of the pharmacy said the business agreed to supply drugs only under conditions of secrecy, citing fears that death penalty opponents would harass the pharmacy "resulting in physical and/or financial harm" and that drugmakers whose products the pharmacy is selling to Mississippi might cut off business because they don't want their drugs used in executions.

Craig wrote that the state has dragged its feet over 22 emails that the state is still refusing to give to the plaintiffs, said the state lied in responses to public records requests and said lawyers lied to Wingate when they said on May 31 that didn't know whether the state had obtained new supplies of execution drugs. The drugs had arrived in early May. Craig wants all the people involved in obtaining drugs identified by name.

"Defendants have stonewalled Plaintiffs' attempts to determine exactly who, what, when, and how MDOC has attempted to secure lethal injection drugs," Craig wrote.

(source: Associated Press)


State's Longest-Sitting Death Row Inmate Challenges Death Penalty Drug

The Mississippi Supreme Court has sentenced Richard Jordan to death 4 times, but with the help of his lawyers, he continues to challenge the state's death penalty method.

In July, Jordan filed his 2nd petition for post-conviction relief, continuing to challenge Mississippi's proposed use of midazolam as a part of its lethal injection.

Earlier this summer, the state's high court denied Jordan's 1st petition for post-conviction relief, which challenged the Mississippi Department of Corrections' use of midazolam as well as the constitutionality of executing an inmate who has been on death row for more than 40 years due to legal delays. Jordan was first tried and convicted in July 1976 for kidnapping and murdering Edwina Marter in Harrison County, leaving her body on a logging trail.

His case continued to face legal hiccups, however, with both court precedent and then the U.S. Supreme Court vacating his death sentence in the 1980s because Jordan had not been allowed to present evidence of "his adaptability to prison." In 2001 the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed Jordan's fourth death sentence, which he has appealed and challenged since.

This year, the Mississippi Supreme Court decided to ignore Jordan's midazolam challenge, despite 3 justices agreeing that the case warranted more attention because the Legislature amended its death-penalty statute in the 2017 legislative session.

Avoiding 'Severe Pain'

Previously, state law required the lethal injection's three-drug combination to begin with a "continuous intravenous administration of a lethal quantity of an ultra short-acting barbiturate or other similar drug."

Now, the law requires "the sequential intravenous administration of a lethal quantity of the following combination of substances: a) an appropriate anesthetic or sedative; b) a chemical paralytic agent; and c) potassium chloride, or other similarly effective substance."

The new law further defines an "appropriate anesthetic or sedative" as one that means a substance that "if properly administered in a sufficient quantity is likely to render the condemned inmate unconscious, so that the execution process should not entail a substantial risk of severe pain."

Jordan's latest petition challenges the new law, arguing that midazolam is not "an appropriate anesthetic or sedative." Jordan's lawyer, James Craig, the co-director of the MacArthur Justice Center, argues that midazolam is not capable of making Jordan unconscious like state law says it should. The petition, filed in July, asks the Mississippi Supreme Court to review the facts about midazolam in light of the change to Mississippi's death-penalty law.

In an expert affidavit, Dr. Craig Stevens, a professor of pharmacology at Oklahoma State University, writes that midazolam is not "an appropriate anesthetic or sedative," because it does not produce the loss of unconsciousness, as it should. Stevens writes that midazolam is a sedative drug but not an anesthetic because "it cannot produce the state of general anesthesia."

The Sedative Question

The American Society of Anesthesiologists has a standard continuum of sedation that categorizes how responsive a person on different levels of sedatives or anesthetics might be. General anesthesia is the only category one that leaves a person "unarousable even with painful stimulus."

Midazolam, Stevens writes, "does not produce maximal depression of consciousness leading to general anesthesia, is not used as a general anesthetic agent, and is classified as a sedative drug." If midazolam is considered a sedative, as Jordan's petition alleges, it would not be guaranteed to ensure an inmate is "unarousable" before the other drugs in the state's three-drug combination are administered, leaving the possibility for an inmate to feel pain before death.

Other states use midazolam in their lethal injections, with mixed results. In the past year, executions in Alabama and Arkansas that raised questions about the inmate's movements included midazolam as 1 of the drugs in both lethal injections. In April, an inmate in Arkansas lurched forward several times in a row, about 3 minutes into the process, an AP reporter wrote. In Alabama, one inmate heaved and coughed for 13 minutes during his execution, reported. The most recent execution in the country, however, used midazolam with no visible complications. Ohio state officials used midazolam with rocuronium bromide and potassium chloride for their three-drug lethal injection on Ronald Phillips, whom Ohio state officials put to death on July 26, The Washington Post reported.

Mississippi's 3-drug protocol is similar to Ohio's. In a January 2017 records request, Craig obtained drug inventory records from MDOC, which show the drugs MDOC has on hand. Mississippi, like Ohio, has midazolam and potassium chloride, these documents show. However, the second drug in Mississippi's lethal injection is vecuronium bromide, which is similar to rocuronium bromide. A 2015 study comparing the two drugs found rocuronium to have a faster onset time than vecuronium. Jordan's challenge does not address vecuronium; his petition focuses on midazolam and the state's new death penalty law.

"At a minimum, Mr. Jordan is entitled to an evidentiary hearing to prove the State's choice of lethal injection drugs violates Mississippi law," Jordan's 2nd petition states. The state has asked for an extension of time to file their response and likely won't do so until September.



Controversial medical examiner backs off 'shaken baby' claim in death penalty case

This week, the controversial former Mississippi medical examiner Steven Hayne testified at a hearing for Jeffrey Havard. Havard was convicted in 2002 of sexually assaulting and shaking to death Chloe Britt, the 6-month-old daughter of Havard's live-in girlfriend. Havard has always maintained that the infant hit her head on the toilet after he dropped her while giving her a bath.

But Havard made some mistakes. He first failed to tell his girlfriend - and later doctors and investigators - that he had dropped the girl. By the time he did, they understandably no longer believed him. But the evidence against Havard has always been thin. It has mostly consisted of testimony from Hayne that Chloe Britt died from shaking, not from a blow to the head consistent with Havard's story. The symptoms Hayne cited to make that diagnosis have since been called into question in the medical and forensics communities. But the shaken baby syndrome (SBS) diagnosis alone probably wouldn't have allowed the state to seek the death penalty. That's perhaps why prosecutors also alleged the sexual assault. By the time of Havard’s trial, doctors, ER nurses, the county sheriff and the local county coroner all claimed to have seen significant damage to Chloe Britt's rectum, damage they testified was consistent with abuse. Hayne, too, seemed to concur with the sexual abuse allegation. He claimed at trial to have found a found a 1-inch contusion on the girl's anus. When the prosecutor asked Hayne what could have caused the contusion, he replied, "penetration of the rectum by an object."

But Hayne's autopsy on the girl showed no such abuse. The one-inch contusion he claimed at trial was actually only one centimeter (he claimed he misspoke). Since Havard's conviction, multiple medical examiners and other experts have submitted affidavits on his behalf to dispute both the SBS diagnosis and the state's claim of sexual abuse. The Mississippi Supreme Court hasn't shown much interest.

At trial, Havard's attorney requested funds to hire his own medical examiner to review Hayne's work. The judge turned him down. After the conviction and death sentence, former Alabama state medical examiner Jim Lauridson submitted an affidavit on Havard's behalf questioning Hayne's conclusions about the sexual abuse. Lauridson pointed out that what the doctors, nurses and law enforcement officials likely saw during those frantic moments in the emergency room was a dilated anus, which often occurs in young children who are brain-dead, or shortly after death. Hayne's own photos of the girl's body, taken after she was cleaned up, showed no signs of sexual abuse.

The Mississippi Supreme Court at first refused to even consider Lauridson's affidavit. The court ruled that his critique of Hayne's work was evidence that should have been introduced at trial. Of course, that was impossible, since the court refused to give Havard money to hire his own expert witness. The court didn't consider Lauridson's affidavit until Havard had exhausted his appeals and was in post-conviction - when such claims are much more difficult to win. When the court did finally consider Lauridson's affidavit, in 2008, the court rejected it out of hand. Justice George Carlson's majority opinion badly misrepresented what Lauridson wrote. To give just 1 example, Carlson wrote that Lauridson stated in his affidavit that "there is a possibility that Chloe Madison Britt was not sexually assaulted.'" Carlson then added, "Taking this statement to its logical conclusion, this leaves open the possibility that she was."

That of course is not the logical conclusion. Worse, the phrase "there is a possibility" doesn't appear anywhere in Lauridson's affidavit. Here's what Lauridson did write:

"The conclusions that Chloe Britt suffered sexual abuse are not supported by objective evidence and are wrong."

That seems pretty definitive. The only wiggle room Lauridson left was that he couldn't completely rule out abuse until he saw the tissue slides Hayne took from the girl. Hayne had yet to turn them over. When he did, Lauridson found nothing in them to suggest sexual abuse.

Nevertheless, the court voted 8-1 to uphold Havard's conviction. The court found that, "Dr. Lauridson's conclusion was not only contrary to that of Dr. Hayne, it was contrary to the sworn testimony from experienced emergency-room doctors and nurses." The lone dissent was from a justice named Oliver Diaz. Regular readers of The Watch might recognize that name. When Diaz later ran for reelection to the court, an outside interest group took out TV ads attacking Diaz for his vote in that case, accusing him of voting to free a child rapist and murderer.

Havard again petitioned the state Supreme Court in 2012. This time, he had an affidavit from Hayne himself. "Based upon the autopsy evidence available regarding the death of Chloe Britt," Hayne wrote, "I cannot include or exclude to a reasonable degree of medical certainty that she was sexually assaulted."

That still wasn't enough. The justices again voted to deny Havard's petition. Justice Carlson again wrote the majority opinion. Incredibly, this time Carlson argued that Hayne's affidavit was "duplicative" of his testimony at trial. But just 4 years earlier, Carlson wrote that Lauridson's conclusion - which is basically the same conclusion Hayne finally came around to in 2012 - was "contrary" to Hayne's testimony at trial. Both of these things can't be true. And yet in the world of post-conviction litigation, they were.

Part of the problem is that Hayne is incredibly slippery. It's true that at trial, he never explicitly said that Chloe Britt had been sexually assaulted. He merely failed to object when prosecutors suggested it - and he offered up that comment that her contusion was "consistent with" penetration by an object. He undoubtedly knew the impact that would have on the jury.

In 2014, Hayne unleashed another bombshell. He told the Clarion-Ledger that he never thought Britt had been sexually assaulted. He later told Havard's attorneys that he even told prosecutors his opinion before trial, more than once.

This is hard to believe. If true, it would mean that the prosecutors moved forward with the sexual assault charge despite the fact that the only expert witness qualified to offer that conclusion didn't believe it. That and the fact that Hayne's alleged statement to prosecutors was never turned over to Havard's defense attorneys would amount to some incredibly serious prosecutorial misconduct.

It isn't that no prosecutor is capable of such misconduct. We've seen it before. But Hayne's statement is hard to swallow because of Hayne's own actions. If he never believed Britt was sexually assaulted, why would he let the state argue precisely the opposite at Havard's trial? Why would he let it make that argument in order to have Havard executed? Why didn't he object when prosecutors asked him leading questions that a reasonable person should have concluded were designed to get the jury to believe something Hayne didn't believe was true?

In his opening statement, the prosecutor told jurors that Hayne would "testify for you about his findings and about how he confirmed the nurses' and doctors' worst fears this child had been abused and the child had been penetrated." Why didn't Hayne speak up then? Why did he let the prosecutor attribute opinions to him that he didn't believe? And why did he allow Jeffrey Havard to sit on death row for 9 years before finally speaking up?

The more plausible explanation here is that Hayne changed his story. Why would he change his story? It's difficult to say. (Hayne has not responded to my attempts to interview him over the years.) Perhaps he had an attack of conscience. Perhaps, now that he's no longer allowed to do autopsies on behalf of prosecutors, he has decided he needs to burnish his reputation with defense attorneys, who are still permitted to hire him. Perhaps he has seen the lineup of medical examiners who have said he was wrong about this case and is trying to salvage his credibility.

In any case, as of 2012, there hasn't been a single medical examiner who has looked at this case who thinks Chloe Britt was sexually assaulted, including the one who testified for the prosecution. And yet the Mississippi Supreme Court still denied Jeffrey Havard on his petition to throw out the sexual assault charge.

In 2015, the court finally granted Havard permission to seek an evidentiary hearing on the validity of the shaken baby evidence. That's the hearing that took place this week and in it, Hayne testified that he no longer believes Chloe Britt was shaken to death. But according to the Clarion-Ledger, the judge at the hearing noted that he could not allow Havard's attorneys to question the validity of the sexual assault evidence - the state Supreme Court wouldn't allow it.

It may be hard to comprehend why the court would give Havard relief on the shaken baby evidence but deny him on the sexual abuse claim. But I have a theory: They couldn't take the risk of what such a hearing might reveal.

I've been reporting on Hayne's reign in Mississippi for more than a decade now. For nearly 20 years, he did about 80 % of the autopsies in Mississippi. He testified in thousands of cases. For years, state and federal courts have rejected challenges to his credibility. (Havard was rejected in federal court, too.) Beginning in 2007, the courts began to throw out his testimony in a handful of cases. They really had no choice, due to the absurdity of his testimony in those cases. But in those cases, the courts were careful to limit their decisions to the case at hand. They were careful to note that they weren't ruling on Hayne\'s credibility in general.

More recently, a panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit wrote in an opinion that Hayne had been "discredited." That was in an opinion in which the judges found that a defendant's challenge to Hayne's credibility hadn't been filed within the 1-year deadline of when the defendant should have known that Hayne was no longer credible. The perverse thing about that decision, as I noted here at the time, is that the same court had repeatedly upheld Hayne's credibility, including in opinions issued less than a year prior to the ruling. For years the courts told defendants that Hayne was a credible witness. Then the highest court to date to hear a challenge to his credibility suddenly reversed course, but in a way that slammed shut any opportunity for any future defendants to get any relief.

This case risked exposing all of that. Here, Hayne claimed to have told prosecutors before trial that he didn't believe Chloe Britt had been sexually abused. To let Havard pursue that allegation would presumably pit Hayne against not only those prosecutors but also the state of Mississippi. It would force the office of Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood - who has staunchly defended Hayne - to attack Hayne's credibility. Its only real option here would be to argue that Hayne was lying about what he told Havard's prosecutors. Once it admits that, what does it do with the thousands of other cases in which Hayne's testimony helped prosecutors win a conviction?

The SBS issue isn't nearly as messy. Hayne can merely argue that he was relying on the research available at the time, and that the consensus in the forensics community was that the symptoms he saw in Chloe Britt were indicative of death by shaking. Since then, the consensus has changed. He was wrong, but so were a lot of other people. It was an innocent mistake.

Even on the SBS issue, there are lingering questions. Hayne also testified to SBS in other cases. (It's impossible to say how many.) Has he contacted the defendants in those cases to tell them he no longer believes in the diagnosis? In one 2009 case I wrote about here, Hayne claimed that critics of the SBS diagnosis were misinformed. To support that statement, he cited a study that doesn't appear to exist, and cited a textbook whose author says that Hayne not only misquoted him, but also that Hayne gave jurors the precise opposite impression of what the textbook actually says, and that he believes Hayne could only have done so deliberately. How does Hayne address that?

But the SBS issue is less threatening to the system than the sexual assault issue. If Havard gets a new trial on the SBS claim, it's likely that Hood's office won't even bother to try him again. If they do, Hayne will likely explicitly testify that he does not believe Britt was sexually abused and that he no longer believes she was shaken to death. The state's case will be weak, Havard will be acquitted, and justice will be served. At least for Havard.

So it's pretty clear why the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled the way it did. It's just easier to take these cases one at a time, and to deflect from the larger problem. To grant Havard's challenge to the sexual assault claims would force Mississippi officials to attack the credibility of the expert witness that most of the state's prosecutors relied on for 20 years. It might expose the perverse incentives that propelled the state's death investigation system from the late 1980s until the late 2000s and raise doubts about the credibility of the state's justice system. And it could show the courts' complicity in it all - the Mississippi Supreme Court most of all. That's all just too risky.

Jeffrey Havard finally got his hearing, 15 years after he was sentenced to die. I suspect that the court will ultimately find that there isn't any credible evidence that he shook Chloe Britt to death. Yet in the meantime, the courts will stand by the allegation that Havard sexually assaulted the girl, even though there isn't a single medical examiner who believes it.

(source: Radley Balko, Washington Post)


Suspect Arraigned In Hatchet Murder

Abel Dale "Gus" Horton was arraigned on 1st-degree murder charges on Tuesday at the Osage County Courthouse in Pawhuska.

Horton faces the death penalty in the January hatchet murder of 25-year-old Eric Hartung, of Perry.

The Hartung family advocated for the harshest consequence in the state to be a choice for the jury during trial.

"They all will get what is due to them one way or another," father Jeff Hartung said in an interview with the American on Tuesday. "But I can't wait for the man upstairs to judge him because who knows when that will be. I want to see the judgment on Earth now, in court."

Horton, 23, is accused of murdering Eric Hartung by beating him with a hatchet and then suffocating him with a plastic bag. Investigators say the killing took place in Hominy and Horton, along with 2 others, wrapped the body in a rug and disposed it along rural Prue Road. The residence where the murder took place was occupied by Horton's mother, Helena Christina Jones, and her boyfriend, Tillman Caudy Wells. Those 2 also have been charged with 1st-degree murder and will be arraigned next week. They all were bound over for trial last month.

The Osage County District Attorney filed a bill of particulars on July 26, the day after the preliminary hearting, noting his intent to seek the death penalty in Horton's case. That has to be filed before arraignment, so DA Rex Duncan has time to do the same for Jones and/or Wells if evidence supports it. For now, the couple could face life in prison with or without the possibility of parole.

Crocket Beckham, of Marshall, led authorities to Hartung's body on Prue Road days after the murder. Beckham was arrested on murder suspicions, but later released and not charged after becoming an informant. The state says Crocket was an "unwilling" participant in the killing and was forced by Horton to comply with his orders to clean up the murder scene and help dump the body.

(source: the

MISSOURI----impending execution

Marcellus Williams Faces Execution Despite Doubts about Conviction

The state of Missouri is scheduled to execute Marcellus Williams on August 22 despite a lack of solid evidence used to secure his conviction and a new report from a DNA expert that his lawyers argue supports his claim to innocence.

"The death penalty is abhorrent in any circumstance, and as we have seen time and time again, the capital justice system is capable of error," said Zeke Johnson, senior director of programs at Amnesty International USA. "The state of Missouri must not allow this execution to go forward, and must commute the sentences of all of those on death row. There is no acceptable way for the state to kill its prisoners."

Williams was convicted of the 1998 murder of former St. Louis reporter Felicia Gayle by a jury consisting of 11 white jurors and 1 black juror. Williams is black and Gayle was white. There was no forensic evidence or eyewitness testimony linking him to the crime. The jury was not presented evidence of Williams' background, which included severe abuse and mental disability.

2 experts retained by the appeal lawyers have concluded that DNA testing conducted in December 2016 on the murder weapon excludes Williams as the contributor of the male DNA found on the knife. The lawyers have just filed the latest expert report they have obtained on this with the Missouri Supreme Court in a bid to obtain a stay of execution.

(source: Amnesty International USA)


Libby man convicted of deliberate homicide

Trevor Mercier, the Libby man charged October 2016 in the death of Sheena Devine, was convicted Thursday, Aug. 10 of deliberate homicide and tampering with evidence. The jury took little over an hour to return the verdict.

Mercier could face the death penalty at his sentencing, scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Oct. 10, though prosecutors have not indicated they will seek it.

Devine's body was found in her home by her 2 young daughters on Oct. 6, 2016. Investigators arrested Mercier in his home the following day after identifying him as a prime suspect in her death, which they determined had occurred Oct. 5. Mercier and Devine had been in a relationship that had ended before the incident.

The conviction followed seven days of testimony that Alicia Backus, an attorney for the defense, in her closing remarks acknowledged had been "an emotional roller coaster."

Mercier's defense acknowledged at trial that he had caused Devine's death but that it was a case of negligent, not deliberate, homicide, because he did not intend to kill her. In her closing statements Backus told the jury that the prosecution had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mercier was guilty of deliberate homicide.

The night of Devine's death, she and Mercier had fought after Mercier threw a rock at her car, smashing its windshield. The defense said while fighting Mercier put Devine into a "sleeper hold," rendering her unconscious. Afterward, the defense said, Mercier took her inside her house, placed her on the floor, checked to make sure she was still breathing and then left the house.

In her closing statements Backus said Mercier's actions that night "created the perfect storm" but were not deliberate.

The prosecution on Aug. 11 called an expert witness, Dr. Jaime Oeberst, to the stand to support its assertion that Mercier did in fact deliberately cause Devine's death. Now a deputy coroner in Kansas, Oeberst performed the autopsy on Devine on Oct. 8, 2016. Referring to autopsy photos projected onto a screen, Oeberst testified to the nature of Devine's injuries and also to how strangulation occurs.

To underscore the difference between the 10 to 15 seconds a "sleeper hold" takes to render someone unconscious and the 3 to 5 minutes that can cause death, Deputy County Attorney Marcia Boris instructed Oeberst to use her watch to time the passage of 5 minutes - during which the court was silent but for the occasional paper shuffling or person fidgeting.

Deputy County Attorney Jeff Zwang referred to that dramatic demonstration in his closing remarks, stating that Mercier had "strangled (Devine) long after she was unconscious" and that he had beaten her so badly that she had hemorrhages all around her head and sternum.

In wrapping up the prosecution's closing statement, Boris reminded the jury to consider Mercier's previous conviction for a February 2016 domestic assault against Devine - an assault that moments before Backus had minimized in her closing statement because a counselor had said post-conviction that a no-contact order put in place should be lifted.

In addition, Mercier's attorneys were critical of aspects of the investigation, including law enforcement's handling of the crime scene.

Lincoln County District Court Judge Matt Cuffe scheduled Mercier's sentencing for 10:30 a.m. Oct. 10, 2017, after a pre-sentence investigation has been completed.

(source: Daily Inter Lake)


Lawyers accuse state of intending to get lethal injection drugs illegally, raise specter of cruel execution

Lawyers for a Nevada prisoner who's volunteered to be executed are challenging the state in court for not disclosing more details about how they plan to put him to death, saying the lack of vetting could mean the state's 1st execution in more than a decade is unconstitutionally cruel and unusual.

In a motion filed late Tuesday, federal public defenders who are representing Scott Raymond Dozier fault the Nevada Department of Corrections for failing to answer "basic questions about what drugs it intends to use in the execution and what execution protocol is in place to effectuate the death sentence." That violates the department's own policy of responding to public records requests within five days, according to the filing.

They're asking for a court to allow expedited discovery on the matter and issue a ruling on whether the execution will proceed lawfully. A hearing is scheduled for Thursday morning in Las Vegas, during which they expect the judge might push back the execution date into mid-November.

With Nevada's execution drugs expired, and numerous pharmaceutical companies refusing to furnish replacements, Dozier's lawyers question whether the state can actually obtain the drugs through its standard purchasing process and say the state hasn't revealed an up-to-date execution protocol. State prisons director James Dzurenda has previously expressed confidence that the state can carry out the execution and earlier this spring suggested Nevada could obtain the drugs from another state, but has not offered further details since then.

"The State's conduct in this case demonstrates that it intends to obtain lethal injection drugs outside of the lawful channels under state and federal law for doing so," the motion argues. "If the State has to violate applicable state and federal laws to obtain lethal injection drugs then there is a substantial and unjustified risk that Mr. Dozier will suffer a prolonged and torturous execution. If the State obtains the drugs outside of the legal framework for doing so, there is a substantial risk of adulteration or misbranding of the drugs."

A corrections spokeswoman reached by The Nevada Independent on Tuesday didn't have details about the drugs, and she didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday. Neither did a spokeswoman for Attorney General Adam Laxalt.

Dozier's lawyers ask whether the state, unable to obtain an anesthetic drug to administer ahead of the execution, will use a 2-drug cocktail that would botch the process.

"If NDOC's 2-drug cocktail does not work, this Court faces the prospect of being contacted the evening of the execution to find out that Mr. Dozier cannot be anesthetized, and that he is alive and suffocating on a gurney with IV lines inserted into his body via invasive surgical cut downs, with an obsolete execution protocol instructing the Director's execution team that they cannot stop," the motion argues. "This gruesome spectacle is fundamentally unfair to Mr. Dozier, the Director, and his execution team."

Dozier's execution is scheduled for the week of Oct. 16 at the state's new execution chamber at Ely State Prison. Dozier, 46, has voluntarily given up opportunities to appeal his decade-old death sentence and has repeatedly requested to die.

He was convicted in 2007 of robbing and killing a 22-year-old man at a Las Vegas hotel before dismembering the body. He was also convicted of another homicide in Arizona.

Although the state has about 80 people on death row, most die in prison, and a volunteer is rare. Nevada hasn't had an execution since 2006, and has only carried out 12 executions since 1977.

The state is required by law to use a lethal injection, but a drug needed to create the lethal injection cocktail has expired. Nevada found none of the 247 vendors it contacted last year were willing to replace it.

Nationwide, difficulties with the drug supply have prompted states to take drastic, controversial measures with the death penalty. Officials in Arkansas scheduled 8 executions in 11 days this spring in a race against the expiration dates of their lethal injection drugs, although only 4 were carried out.

(source: The Nevada Independent)


Judge will determine whether Seal Beach mass murderer will face death penalty

In a Santa Ana courtroom Friday morning, Scott Evans Dekraai will learn whether he could face execution for the worst mass killing in Orange County history.

After 6 years of delay and a series of controversies that rocked the county's criminal justice system, Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals has 2 options. He can open the way for a jury to decide 47-year-old Dekraai's fate.

Or Goethals could become one of the rare judges to take execution off the table for a convicted murderer because of law enforcement misconduct. In that case, Goethals would likely sentence Dekraai to 8 consecutive life terms without parole.

"It's a notable case because it's a serious crime and there is unparalleled prosecutorial misconduct," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a non- profit organization that tracks capital cases nationwide.

Goethals' decision will hinge on his judgment of the Orange County Sheriff's Department and whether it can be trusted to hand over evidence that could benefit Dekraai's defense. Goethals' decision also will be based on whether he believes the department withheld and destroyed documents showing jailhouse informants were used improperly. Goethals had issued a 2013 court order to turn over the documents.

Dekraai's attorney, Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders, recently argued before Goethals that "the sheriff's department has attempted to create a false and misleading narrative about this case...They are content to let this defendant be misled."

But state Deputy Attorney General Michael Murphy, the current prosecutor, reminded Goethals that his job isn't to punish law enforcement for any misdeeds.

"(This is) not a forum for the defense to investigate the sheriff's department...nor is it a government oversight hearing," Murphy said. "It's about the prosecution of (Dekraai) for murders he's admitted."

For more than 4 years, the October 2011 shooting rampage that killed 8 people at a Seal Beach beauty salon has taken a back seat to the legal jousting over the use of jailhouse informants to improperly secure confessions from targeted inmates.

Ironically, Dekraai's guilt was never really in doubt. Within minutes of the shooting, he confessed to Seal Beach police, and then pleaded guilty in 2014. Dekraai appeared to be on the fast track to join the 748 prisoners on California's death row, and about 2,900 nationwide.

But his case got derailed when Orange County prosecutors and sheriff's deputies made what they contended was an honest mistake days after the shooting. They bugged Dekraai's jail cell and sent a prolific informant to get him talking. That was a violation of Dekraai's constitutional rights, because he had a lawyer and had been formally charged, Sanders said.

Prosecutors maintained it wasn't a violation because they instructed the informant to listen and not to ask any questions about the case. The gambit came back to haunt them.

Sanders had the reputation in the district attorney's office as a courtroom Chicken Little, constantly accusing prosecutors of misconduct. But the accusations not only stuck this time, but generated more evidence.

Sanders learned of the informant and realized the same inmate had been used with another of his clients, Daniel Wozniak, who killed 2 people to fund his wedding. Sanders figured it was not a coincidence, but a sign that police and prosecutors had forged a surreptitious network of jailhouse informants, and he set out to press his concerns with Goethals.

From that point on, Dekraai's punishment was delayed as the so-called "snitch scandal" unfolded. With legal scholars and the media watching nationwide, Sanders uncovered evidence that prosecutors and deputies had cheated for up to 30 years, misusing jail informants and not telling the defense.

For instance, Sanders recently obtained a Dec. 27, 2009 sheriff's department email detailing how the jail's color-coded security wristbands were changed for informants, to make them more credible to targeted inmates. 8 deputies participated in the scheme against an inmate accused of attempted murder - a scheme requested by a Santa Ana Police investigator, according to the email.

District Attorney Tony Rackauckas has fought back, saying any misconduct was unintentional and that the controversy was overblown. Sheriff Sandra Hutchens has said there was no sanctioned informant network operating in her 5 jails, putting the blame on some rogue deputies.

And the 2016-17 Orange County Grand Jury called the scandal a "myth," spread by an uninformed media.

But the state's 4th District Court of Appeal, in November 2016, found cheating by Orange County prosecutors and sheriff's employees was real and systemic. Appellate justices upheld a 2015 decision by Goethals to take the case away from the district attorney's office because he did not trust local prosecutors to ensure Dekraai a fair penalty trial.

The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating both the district attorney's office and the sheriff's department's handling of informants. Meanwhile, at least 6 murder and attempted murder cases have unraveled in Orange County because of informant issues raised by Sanders.

1 of those cases involved Isaac John Palacios, who pleaded guilty in 2014 to killing a rival gang member. He was released from jail within hours of that plea, serving only 3 1/2 years on what could have been a life sentence.

The reason for the plea deal: prosecutors said they did not want to open the case up to the same scrutiny as Dekraai because of informant concerns.

Since 2013, 60 witnesses have testified in 3 special hearings before Goethals, with the case growing worse for local law enforcement.

During the current proceedings, a half dozen deputies refused to testify, invoking their 5th amendment rights against self-incrimination. 3 of the deputies are being investigated by the state Attorney General's Office for suspected perjury during prior hearings.

Goethals has voiced anger and frustration over what he calls the sheriff's department's apparent inability or unwillingness to produce documents ordered by the court.

The drip, drip of the release of documents has kept the focus on the role of the sheriff's department and away from Dekraai's crime and the suffering of the victims' families.

After assuring the judge that no documents existed, the sheriff's department in late 2014 turned over TRED records, which document the movement of inmates inside the jail. Deputies admitted trying to keep those records confidential during a previous hearing .

Then Sanders learned of computerized "special handling logs," notes kept by deputies about their interactions with informants. After more prodding by Sanders and the judge, the department eventually found 1,157 pages of those notes, which officials said were unauthorized and unread by sheriff's department brass.

And thousands of pages of additional notes and 68 boxes of documents that had not been looked at were uncovered. Finally, prosecutor Murphy's team found 30,000 emails and notes in sheriff's department computers, but decided not to give them to Sanders.

"They (sheriff's employees) are not giving answers that make sense and neither is the attorney general," Goethals said during the current hearing.

On Friday, the legal maneuvering finally returns to Dekraai and the lives he took: Victoria Buzzo, 54; David Caouette, 64; Randy Lee Fannin, 62; Michele Daschbach Fast, 47; Michelle Marie Fournier, 48; Lucia Bernice Kondas, 65; Laura Webb Elody, 46; and Christy Lynn Wilson, 47. Hattie Stretz was also shot, but survived.

Goethals has said he will take into account the families' feelings. Some are encouraging him to block the death penalty, so they will not have to attend more court proceedings.

Other relatives of the victims want Dekraai to die.

What's clear is that Orange County's justice system has been altered in many ways.

Rackauckas has added a new training workshop at the sheriff's academy on using informants and the rights of inmates; as well as preserving defense evidence.

Defense attorneys are scouring their cases for informants, demanding more information on their histories and how they were used. Attempts are being made to reopen cases based on the improper use of informants.

And there is heightened sensitivity about the potential for prosecutors and law enforcement to improperly seek an edge in criminal cases.

"When the prosecution engages in misconduct designed to give a tactical advantage, the judge will remove the advantage," said Dunham, of the Death Penalty Information Center.

(source: Press-Telegram)


OC Sheriff Continues to Hide Evidence on Eve of Death Penalty Case Ruling

Orange County court records long ago established that Tony Rackauckas' district attorney's office and Sandra Hutchens' sheriff's department took a slam-dunk death-penalty case in People v. Scott Dekraai and unnecessarily cheated behind-the-scenes in hopes of robbing the defendant of a fair penalty phase and guaranteeing a state execution. After all, there's no question that in October 2011 Dekraai, unhinged over a child-custody dispute, killed 8 innocent people and severely wounded another at a Seal Beach salon where his former wife worked. There's also no question local juries have supported capital punishment for far less carnage. As Weekly readers know, the government's rush to put Dekraai on death row resulted in unintended consequences. Investigations into law enforcement's conduct in the case have produced 4 1/2 years' worth of ugly revelations demonstrating the eagerness of officials to rig the criminal-justice system when they believed no one would ever discover their misdeeds.

At week's end, Superior Court Judge Thomas M. Goethals, a former homicide prosecutor, plans to announce a historic decision in Dekraai. Will Goethals side with Deputy Attorney General Michael T. Murphy, who insists the government stopped cheating and that prior abuses won't trample the defendant's constitutional fair-trial rights at a future penalty phase? Or will the judge support Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders' contention that the prosecution team has proven its unsavory inclinations and continues to act unethically by hiding documents, a fact he says should result in the removal of the death-penalty option in exchange for eight consecutive life-in-prison sentences without the possibility of parole?

To sway Goethals, Murphy argued on Aug. 10 that Hutchens' Orange County Sheriff's Department (OCSD) has finally complied with his 2013 discovery orders to surrender all evidence and that, even if the agency hasn't, it's absurd to think the sheriff would be hiding records that could benefit Dekraai at the penalty stage. "There is not a bit of evidence that suggests this sheriff's department or any sheriff's department maintains records of good behavior of capital inmates for use at a penalty phase trial," the deputy AG said.

Murphy's spin is disingenuous, at best, and Sanders is right about his mantra from the outset of what has become nationally known as the Orange County jailhouse-informant scandal. Jail deputies consistently turn over evidence that helps Rackauckas' prosecutors win trials and, abandoning their sworn ethical oaths, hide or destroy records helpful to defendants. For example, despite Goethals literally shaking his head in amazement, OCSD is still withholding six years of jail records at the Theo Lacy Facility, where Dekraai has been housed with government informants seeking perks for collecting negative stories on the high-profile inmate. Even if the deputy AG is clueless about the implications of what such buried evidence could contain, its potency is exposed in yet another slam-dunk-but-screwed-up death-penalty case: People v. Richard Raymond Ramirez.

In 2008, U.S. District Court Judge Consuelo Marshall vacated Ramirez's capital-punishment verdict for the 1983 rape and murder of 22-year-old Kim Gonzalez in Garden Grove. Marshall ruled that the jury foreman hid a personal bias by failing to disclose he was seeking FBI employment during the trial. The DA's office won a second guilty verdict in May 2013, but the jury deadlocked 7-5 on the death-penalty question.

Prosecutors blamed their loss on a prison guard who reported Ramirez had been "a model prisoner" for years. Instead of accepting the validity of the testimony, government officials decided to sabotage it so that a 3rd jury would believe Ramirez just "hadn't been caught" committing crimes in prison rather than he'd "chosen to behave well." As court records show, they implemented a devious, 2-pronged plan.

"The prosecution chose to have OCSD test Ramirez's propensity and character for wrongdoing, believing - falsely - that either the information would bolster their case or simply be irrelevant [and, thus, hidden from the defense]," Senior Deputy Public Defender Seth Bank wrote in a 2013 brief.

Pretending to be carrying out normal inspections and not desperately trying to find evidence helpful to prosecutors, jail deputies began conducting a series of raids on Ramirez's cell just days after the jury deadlocked. They found nada, so Alexander Frosio, a jailhouse informant for the government, entered the scene. Deputies placed Frosio (a.k.a. "Scarface") in Ramirez's jail module, supplied the snitch with extra food, and told him to "keep an eye" on their target because they wanted to "know everything he's doing," according to court records.

Gordon Bridges, another Orange County Jail (OCJ) inmate in the same module, confirmed the story. Bridges told defense investigators that Frosio, a violent gangster with 5 arrests - the 1st at age 11 - bragged he was working for deputies and that he'd tried to "set up" Ramirez on their behalf by getting him to possess contraband in his cell.

"Not only has Ramirez maintained a clean record for 30 years, but when the prosecution subjected him to a covert investigation, testing his resolve for good behavior, his good character proved resolute, as he rebuffed efforts to corrupt him," Bank wrote. "The failed efforts of an experienced informant . . . to persuade Ramirez to engage in wrongdoing, makes for a compelling case about his commitment to good behavior."

Compounding the mess, Frosio wrote extensive notes of his activities for OCSD. But deputies, who concocted misleading reports to confuse any future inquisitors about their maneuvers, claimed ignorance of their existence when requested for defense inspection. Adamantly denying any government hanky-panky, the DA's office finally secured the death penalty for Ramirez in February 2015.

Given Ramirez, it's not just that Murphy is wrongly alleging Hutchens' department could never collect information allowing a capital-case defendant to argue mitigating factors, but he's also choosing to play dumb about that case's undeniable ties to Dekraai. Deputies placed Sanders' client with Frosio in the Theo Lacy Facility, but, as with Ramirez, they claim they don't have a single record of his work.

Might this be another example of OCSD hiding evidence that could hurt the government's position? The obvious answer, considering all the revelations from Goethals' special evidentiary hearings, is yes, and there's a smoking-gun piece of evidence Hutchens, her deputies and Murphy refuse to explain.

Lieutenant Mike McHenry, whom the sheriff assigned to supposedly figure out which files hadn't been given to the judge after years of stonewalling his discovery orders, recently wrote internal notes that referenced a computerized Special Handling Unit file folder for Frosio. If the sheriff is being honest that she possesses no Frosio files, why would deputies, who manage jail informants, have such a folder, and why hasn't it been surrendered?

Sanders has an answer: The prosecution team is still angling to unfairly tilt Dekraai's penalty phase in their favor, a stance the deputy AG calls laughable.

"[Sanders'] argument is that 'Well, we are certain they are hiding something,'" said Murphy, who's been exceptionally secretive about OCSD documents he's obtained. "He seems to believe that there are records either from confidential informants or about confidential informants by deputies that document good behavior by his client that would be relevant to a mitigating case. . . . I think that's just preposterous."

(source: OC Weekly)


Sentencing delayed for burglar who killed 92-year-old National City woman----Peter Thao, who was arrested in connection with the death of a 92-year-old woman in National City, pleaded guilty Thursday to murder and residential burglary charges.

On the day set for his sentencing hearing, a man who admitted he broke into a National City home last year and killed a 92-year-old woman asked to withdraw his guilty plea and serve as his own lawyer in the case.

Peter Thao, 27, pleaded guilty in June to residential burglary and 1st-degree murder in connection with the death of Maria Consuelo Rivera, a longtime National City resident and fixture in the Filipino community there.

As a condition of his plea, Thao agreed to a term of 31 years to life in prison.

Several of the victim's family members showed up to Chula Vista Superior Court on Wednesday afternoon expecting to see Thao receive the agreed-upon prison sentence. Instead, they watched as the deputy public defender assigned to the case was relieved of her duty to Thao.

Judge Ana Espana then went through a series of standard warnings, meant to impress upon the defendant what would be expected of him if he was allowed to represent himself.

Thao said he understood, and the judge granted his request.

He is now scheduled to return to court Sept. 25, when the judge will hear Thao's formal motion to withdraw his guilty plea. If that request is granted, the case will proceed and Thao will once again face the possibility of the death penalty if he is convicted of the charges and allegations filed by the District Attorney's Office.

If the motion is denied, he will be sentenced immediately.

Thao, a Mira Mesa resident, was arrested in November, about 3 weeks after the victim was killed.

Rivera's body was discovered Oct. 22, when her daughter arrived about 6 p.m. at the apartment they shared on D Street near East Plaza Boulevard.

Rivera died of blunt-force trauma, according to National City police. It's not clear whether a weapon was used or what items, if any, were taken from the home.

Police and prosecutors have not said how they linked Thao to the crime.

Several of Rivera's family members were in court Wednesday. 2 of Rivera's grandchildren, both of whom had traveled from out of town to be at the hearing, took the opportunity to make their statements to the judge because they likely would not be able to return in September.

Joie Rivera told the defendant to look at her when she spoke. He appeared to comply.

"Peter Thao, you don't know me from Adam..." Rivera said, calling the defendant a coward and a lowlife. "We are connected by virtue of the fact that you murdered my grandmother."

She said Rivera had been in the National City community for 40 years, and was known for her generosity, honesty and fierce independence.

According to family members, Rivera raised her five children in the Philippines city of Baguio, where she launched several businesses including a beauty parlor and a laundering service. In the United States, she worked as a housekeeper at a local hotel.

"You robbed us of our matriarch," said Editha Aguilar, who described visiting her grandmother - or "lola' in Tagalog - in early October and seeing first-hand that she was healthy in "body, mind and psyche."

"Grandma Lola was going to live to be a centenarian," she said.

(source: The San Diego Union-Tribune)


Texas truck driver indicted for 10 migrants' deaths can face death penalty----US grand jury hands down 5 charges, including 1 that carries the death penalty, against James Matthew Bradley Jr who was allegedly behind a horror truck journey that saw 10 undocumented migrants suffocate to death.

The driver of a tractor-trailer packed with people illegally entering the United States from Mexico in an alleged human smuggling operation was indicted Wednesday on charges related to the deaths of 10 people inside.

James Matthew Bradley Jr was charged by a federal grand jury in San Antonio on 5 counts, including illegally transporting immigrants for financial gain, resulting in death, and a separate count of conspiracy to transport immigrants illegally, resulting in death.

Those charges carry the possibility of the death penalty.

A spokesman for the US Attorney's office in San Antonio declined to say Wednesday if prosecutors would pursue the death penalty.

One of Bradley's attorneys did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Bradley was also indicted on two counts related to illegally transporting immigrants resulting in serious bodily injury, and 1 count of firearm possession by a convicted felon. The indictment alleges Bradley, who pleaded guilty in 1997 to a felony domestic violence case in Colorado, was in possession of a .38-caliber pistol.

Crammed inside

At least 39 people were inside the trailer as it drove from the border city of Laredo to San Antonio, about 150 miles (240 kilometres) north. The trailer's refrigeration system was broken, and investigators said passengers struggled to breathe as the temperature rose to dangerous levels.

1 witness said he heard people crying and asking for water.

At least 22 survivors have been released from the hospital and are being held in detention as potential witnesses against Bradley. Two survivors remained hospitalised as of Wednesday.

4 of the survivors testified before the grand jury, Michael McCrum, a San Antonio attorney appointed to represent them, said.

"They came to America wanting just to work, as they could not find a job in Mexico that could support their families. And yet, the circumstances of what happened brought them to this situation," McCrum said in an email. "They were asked to tell the truth about how they suffered, and they did."

Investigators have said they believe Bradley was part of a broader conspiracy funding and planning the smuggling operation, though they have not announced any additional arrests or charges.

According to a criminal complaint released in July, Bradley told investigators that the trailer had been sold and he was transporting it for his boss from Iowa to Brownsville, Texas. But said he had driven to Laredo and stopped twice there before driving back to San Antonio, in the opposite direction from Brownsville.

He denied knowing people were inside the trailer. After hearing banging and shaking, he opened the door and was "surprised when he was run over by 'Spanish' people and knocked to the ground," according to the criminal complaint.

The deceased

Most of the people known to have been on board were from Mexico. Others are believed to have fled from the truck after it stopped.

The US Attorney's office identified 8 of the 10 people who died.

Seven were from Mexico: 27-year-old Ruben Hernandez Vargas; 21-year-old Osbaldo Rodriguez Cerda; 26-year-old Jorge Reyes Noveron; 36-year-old Jose Rodriguez Aspeitia; 37-year-old Benjamin Martinez Arredondo; 24-year-old Ricardo Martinez Esparza; and Mariano Lopez Cano, whose age is unknown. Another person, Frank Fuentes, was from Guatemala. A Guatemalan diplomat previously said that Fuentes had been deported and was trying to return to his family in Maryland.

Lopez Cano and Martinez Esparza died at an area hospital.

A continuing problem of human trafficking

Human smuggling operations often linked to Mexican drug cartels are a problem for law-enforcement along the United States' southern border.

Border Patrol agents in West Texas found 20 people crammed in a semitrailer just this week, one day after police in the border city of Edinburg discovered 16 people inside another trailer.



An end to mandatory death penalty?

Under Malaysian law, capital punishment (the death penalty) is mandatory for the crime of murder, drug trafficking, kidnapping and several other offences. Since 1992, at least 651 convicted persons (Malaysians) have been given the death penalty, most of them for drug trafficking.

According to the Prisons Department, some 800 people are now on death row after being convicted of drug trafficking under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952. A minister in the Prime Minister's Department said recently that the act will be amended to "give back" the discretionary power to the trial judge at the end of a drug trafficking case.

Welcoming this new move by the government, an executive director of Amnesty International Malaysia was quoted as saying that whilst the proposed amendment is only in respect of drug trafficking, she hopes it will become "a 1st step towards total abolition". Bar Council Human Rights Committee co-chairman Andrew Khoo called upon the government "to repeal all mandatory death sentences", adding that the sentence "robs judges of the opportunity to exercise their discretion" to hand down a punishment that fits the circumstances and gravity of each particular case.

Not everyone shares the view that the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking should be scrapped. A former Federal Court judge was quoted as saying that the status quo should remain because abolishing it might see an increase of such crimes in the future.

"Although the death penalty has not reduced such cases in the past, removing it will only cause the number of cases to spike drastically," he had said.

The former judge (who was once a prosecutor in the Attorney-General's Chambers) strongly believes that the mandatory death sentence is a deterrent, and scrapping it "will only embolden" more criminals.

If the mandatory death sentence is to be replaced with a mandatory life sentence, the Malaysian government will have to bear the financial burden of looking after the welfare of these convicts in prison for the rest of their lives. Should our taxpayers be burdened by this? Furthermore, as said by Amnesty International, there is no evidence in the world to show that the death penalty can be a deterrent.

Also, if the 1952 act is amended, and convicted drug traffickers no longer face the mandatory death penalty, a trial judge may (after considering the circumstances of the case and the gravity of the offence) still apply his judicial discretion in imposing the death penalty on him.

The amendment therefore, repeals the "mandatory nature" of the punishment, but it does not deprive the trial judge of his judicial power to impose such a capital punishment on the convicted person. In short, the proposed amendment is still a far cry from the total abolition of the death penalty for all crimes.

Under Malaysian law, the death penalty can still be handed down by a trial judge upon conviction of an accused charged with any of the following offences:

WAGING or attempting to wage war against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, a ruler or Yang di-Pertua Negeri (Section 121 of the Penal Code);

OFFENCES against the person of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Ruler or Yang di-Pertua Negeri (mandatory, Section 121A of the Penal Code);

COMMITTING terrorist acts resulting in death (mandatory, Section 130C of the Penal Code);

MURDER (mandatory, Section 302 of the Penal Code);

KIDNAPPING or abducting in order to murder (Section 364 of the Penal Code);

HOSTAGE-TAKING resulting in death (mandatory, Section 374A of the Penal Code);

RAPE resulting in death (Section 376(4) of the Penal Code);

GANG-ROBBERY with murder (Section 396 of the Penal Code);

DRUG trafficking (mandatory, Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952);

DISCHARGING a firearm in the commission of an offence (mandatory, Section 3 of the Firearms (Increased Penalties) Act 1971); and,

ABDUCTION, wrongful restraint or wrongful confinement for ransom (Section 3(1) of the Kidnapping Act 1961).

Official statistics (released by the police Narcotics Division) revealed that despite the mandatory death penalty for drug traffickers, the number of drug trafficking cases in the country continued to increase. From 1990 to 2011, the number of persons arrested for drug trafficking increased from 744 to 3,845. The escalating figures showed clearly that the mandatory death penalty law has not achieved the aim of eradicating the drug menace. In March 2012, then home minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein told Parliament that the mandatory death penalty has failed to stem the drug trade in Malaysia.

Under the original provisions of Section 39B, conviction for drug trafficking does not entail a mandatory death penalty. At the end of the trial and upon conviction of the accused, the trial judge has the discretion to impose whatever penalty he deems fit in accordance with the circumstances of the case and the gravity of the crime. He can hand down a prison term (say 5 to 10 years), a life sentence or the death penalty.

After the law was amended in 1983, this judicial discretion was removed and the trial judge must, after convicting the accused under Section 39B(1), give him the death penalty under Section 39B(2).

The Death Penalty Information Centre website stated that 104 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes. Malaysia is one of 57 countries, where the death penalty is retained for ordinary crimes. In the Asean region, only 2 countries have abolished the death penalty - Cambodia (1989) and the Philippines (2006).

Even though the mandatory aspect of the death penalty for drug trafficking may soon be scrapped, we are still a long way from abolishing capital punishment in this country.

(source: Salleh Buang formerly served the Attorney-General's Chambers before he left for practice, the corporate sector and, then, the academia----New Straits Times)


Arroyo gets 12 House committee memberships after death penalty stance

Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo may no longer be a Deputy Speaker after she voted against the bill reimposing the death penalty, but she's busier than ever as she is now a member of 12 House committees.

Arroyo was elected today to be a member of the Committees on Local Government, Veterans Affairs and Welfare, and Ways and Means.

That's in addition to her current memberships in the committees of Economic Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Government Enterprises and Privatization, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Labor and Employment, National Defense and Security, Population and Family Relations, and Revision of Laws which she gained last May 16.

This makes Arroyo a member of 12 of the 58 standing committees of the House.

Congressmen in leadership positions, like Arroyo when she was deputy speaker, are ex-officio members of all committees of the House. They also enjoy the rank and privilege of committee chairmen.

Arroyo is also one of the most prolific members of the House in the 17th Congress, authoring at least 164 House measures.

Other new committee assignments announced today are: Rep. Jesulito Manalo as chairperson of the Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs, and Rep. Raymond Democrito Mendoza as chairperson of the Committee on Poverty Alleviation, making the Chairmanship of the Special Committee on Globalization and WTO vacant.

Manalo replaces Buhay Party-list Rep. Mariano Michael Velarde, while Mendoza replaces Gabriela Party-list Rep. Emmi de Jesus as chairpersons of the Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs and Committee on Poverty Alleviation, respectively, after they, like Arroyo, voted against the death penalty bill which is a priority bill of the administration.

New House member, Senior Citizens Party-list Rep. Milagros Aquino-Magsaysay, was designated as a member of the Committees on Cooperatives Development, Population and Family Relations, Social Services, and Veterans Affairs and Welfare, Women.



8 Prisoners Hanged in One Day in Iran's Rajai Shahr Prison

On Wednesday August 16, 8 prisoners were reportedly hanged at Karaj's Rajai Shahr Prison on murder charges. Another prisoner was reportedly transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for his execution.

According to close sources, the names of 5 of the 8 prisoners executed are: Mostafa Bashkouh, Rasoul Gol Mohammadi, Shahram Abadeh, Seyed Mohammad Seyed Abdollah, and Moharram Abdi. These prisoners were transferred to solitary confinement on Monday in preparation for their executions. A juvenile offender by the name of Mehdi Bahlouli was also transferred to solitary confinement, but he was reportedly returned to his cell after the complainant on his case file postponed his execution. Another prisoner by the name of Majid Rahimi was also transferred to solitary confinement, but he received a 3-month postponement on his execution from the complainant on his case file.

On Tuesday August 15, at least 1 prisoner in Rajai Shahr Prison was transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for his execution. According to close sources, the prisoner's name is Sadegh Gholami and he is sentenced to death on the charge of possession of approximately one kilogram of crack.

"Sadegh Gholami was scheduled to be executed last year on drug related charges, but in order to delay his execution, he murdered one of his cellmates. The status of the new case file opened for him for the murder crime is uncertain right now. Sadegh is attempting to receive forgiveness from the complainant on his new case file in order to be spared from execution," an informed source tells Iran Human Rights.

Some prisoners on death row in Iran have been known to murder a cellmate or inflict self-injury in order to postpone their execution sentences.

Official Iranian sources, including the Judiciary and the state-run media, have not announced these 8 executions.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Execution of 3 Prisoners After 21 Years of Imprisonment

On Monday morning August 14 The Iran regime hanged 3 inmates in a central prison in Qom.

The 3 detainees were transferred to the quarantine facility of Qom Prison yesterday to execute the death sentence.

21 years ago 2 of these prisoners were sentenced to 3 years in prison and flogged, and then released, but they were again arrested when the case was opened, and they were held in Qom prison until their death sentence was executed.

The names of these prisoners were "Mahmoud Arab Khorasani, Mehdi Kasseb and Mohammad Taqi Dehparvar”, who were from Qom and resident of this city.

The families of these prisoners were summoned to prison on Sunday for their last visit.

Last week, the 18 year old son of Mahmoud Arab Khorasani committed suicide when he heard that his father had been sent for execution, but he was saved by his family attempts.

(source: NCR-Iran)


Ondo Court Sentences 2 Policemen, 1 Other To Death Over Armed Robbery.

The Ondo State High Court sitting in Akure , has sentenced to death by hanging 2 policemen, Henry Ubogu and Emmanuel Moses attached to the State Police Command for conspiracy and armed robbery.

Aside Ugbogu and Moses who had earlier been dismissed before their arraignment, a civilian conspirator, Ige Onukun would also face the hangman noose for the same offence.

LEADERSHIP gathered that the 2 former policemen were specialized in robbing unsuspecting motorists of their cars while operating illegal checkpoints on the highways.

It was also learnt that the third accused person, Ige Onukun who bagged the same penalty, was specialized in helping them driving away the snatched cars.

According to the prosecution, the convicts conspired and robbed one Pastor Ayodele Joseph of his Toyota Camry with Registration number LA 46 AAA at Olopejojo junction Ijoka road, Akure, around 8p.m on 7th April 2010.

The court however dismissed that particular charge, saying the prosecution failed to establish the link between the Pastor's car, despite the fact that they had confessed to snatching of car at that area around the time.

The court presided over by Justice David Kolawole held that proof in criminal trial is that of proof beyond reasonable doubt and that car may be that of another person.

Justice Kolawole held that, there is no room for guessing or doubt in criminal trial as all doubt must be resolved in favour of an accused person .

However, the convicts were unlucky in the other charge relating to the snatching of Toyota Camry of Mr. Victor Ojo, a lawyer and politician, whose car was snatched on 26th April 2010 , at Ijapo Akure, while the convicts were pretending to be on stop and search duty.

According to the prosecution, the reckless manner they were driving after the robbery led to their arrest by the Patrol team who gave them a hot pursuit.

In his ruling, Justice David Kolawole subsequently convicted and sentenced them to death by hanging for conspiracy and robbery.



Court Martial Sentences Airman To Death For Killing Girlfriend

The General Court Martial of the Nigerian Air Force has sentenced Air Craftsman Kalu Bernard of the Nigerian Air Force Ammamem unit, to death by hanging for killing his girlfriend and colleague, Miss Oladipupo Sholape on March 12, 2017.

The President of the General Court Martial, Group Captain Elisha Bindul handed him the death penalty after the defense failed to prove his innocence in the March 12 tragedy when Air Craftsman Kalu Benard who was charged with murder, attempted murder, house break-in, losing service property and failure to perform his official duties, killed Air Craftswoman Sholape for allegedly cheating on him.

"On the 1st charge of murder, contrary to section106 sub-section A of the Armed Forces Act Cap A20, Law of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, the convict is sentenced to death by hanging".

"On the 2nd charge of house break-in, contrary to section 110 sub-section B of the Armed Forces Act Cap A20, Law of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, the convict is sentenced to 5 years imprisonment".

"To the 4th charge of attempt to commit an offence, contrary to section 95 of the Armed Forces Act, Cap A20 of the Law of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, the convict is sentenced to life imprisonment".

Meanwhile, counsel to Air Craftsman Kalu Benard, Mr. A. M Ewuga, is heading on appeal, noting that his court is innocent of the 5 count charge preferred against him and accused the general court martial of not evaluating the evidence before it.

He said, "The court has not evaluated the evidence before her properly".

"The case of the defense is not considered by the court and in our own very candid opinion, the decision of this honourable court need to be tested and surely we are going to move to the court of appeal to consider this decision of the court today".



Supreme Court stays Death Penalty of husband-wife duo convicted for human sacrifice

The Supreme Court is seized of yet another death penalty matter, this time from Chhattisgarh.

A 3-judge Bench of Justices Dipak Misra, Amitava Roy and AM Khanwilkar today stayed the death penalty awarded to a husband-wife duo and granted leave in a case of alleged human sacrifice.

Senior Advocate Rebecca John along with advocates Liz Mathew, Ninni Susan Thomas, Philip Mathew, Nicey Paulson, Waheb Hussain, Kabir Dixit and Yash S Vijay appeared for the petitioners.

The factual matrix of the case involves some distressing allegations against the convicts. It is alleged that the 2 main accused, Ishwari Lal Yadav and her wife Kiran Bai used to indulge in Tantirism. The wife had asked the husband and other co-accused to get a small child for sacrifice. Chirag Rajput, the 2 year old child of the immediate neighbours was kidnapped and was allegedly killed in a gruesome manner.

The Sessions Court had sentenced the husband-wife duo and five others to death for the crime. The Chhattisgarh High Court had confirmed the death penalty of the husband and the wife but reduced the sentence of the co-accused.

The husband and wife have challenged the decision of the High Court in Supreme Court.

The Court today issued notice in the matter and stayed the execution of the appellants. The Court also directed that the matter be listed before appropriate Bench on November 28.



Bengali film has provoked fresh debate on death penalty----Dhananjoy shows how the police, the judiciary and the State can err in sending a poor security guard to the gallows.

The debate on death penalty continues to rage. And why not? For more than 60 % of the global population lives in countries like India, China, Indonesia and the US where executions take place. And although the United Nations has time and again passed resolutions - albeit non-binding - urging the abolition of capital punishment, 56 nations still send people to the gallows. Yes, 103 have done away with this barbaric practice, and 30 are abolitionist in practice. It is in this context that Arindam Sil's heart-wrenching film, Dhananjoy, is of immense sociological consequence.

The Bengali film - which hit the screens on August 11 - could not have come at a more appropriate time, a time when the nation is witnessing a social turmoil and one political crisis after another, when life-and-death issues such as death sentence tend to be relegated to the back-burner. Sil's film opened on the eve of the 13th anniversary of Dhananjoy Chatterjee's hanging in Kolkata on August 14, 2004. The young man had aged parents, a brother and a wife, and in what seemed like a heartless action, the noose was placed around his neck on his birthday. He was 39.

Sil's movie is bound to get the burning subject back into drawing-room conversations, and draw the attention of the people in the top echelons of political and judicial power. Sil's work, Dhananjoy, will keep alive an issue as pertinent as capital punishment.

It is pertinent, and highly so, because as Sil shows in his fictionalised account how the police, the judiciary and the State could have erred in sending the poor security guard, Dhananjoy, to the gallows. Throughout his 14-year-incarceration (which by itself could have been a full sentence), he had said a million times that he was innocent of the crime he had been convicted of: the rape and murder of 18-year-old school-going Hetal Parekh, who lived with her parents and brother in one of south Kolkata's high-rise residential complexes.

There is another sentence that Dhananjoy kept uttering during his days in the prison. He was being punished for being poor, and he seemed to have used the same, famous words of an American Supreme Court judge, William Douglas, who quipped that "capital punishment was for those without capital". And Dhananjoy had no money, and his lawyer in the face of a dwindling flow of fees lost interest in the case. Which is precisely what Sil says in his film, while throwing up a theory.

The movie narrates a fictionalised reopening of the case by 2 lawyers, who argue out in court that Dhananjoy might not have committed the heinous crime he had been executed for. It could have been Hetal's mother, who in a fit of anger after seeing blood stains on the girl's undergarment and presuming that she would have had sex, killed her. And the family went to elaborate lengths to cover up the murder, and Dhananjoy, who was a guard in the building, became the scapegoat.

Throughout Adoor Gopalakrishnan's Nizhalkkuthu, the hangman keeps uttering that he might have executed the wrong person, an innocent man.

The film also follows a book, Adalat-Media-Samaj Ebong Dhananjoyer Fansi (Judiciary-Media-Society and Dhananjoy's Hanging), published in September 2016 that avers that the guard may have been wrong implicated in the rape and murder. The real villain may have escaped! It may have been Hetal's mother.

Sil's movie sticks to this line as well. Slickly mounted and neatly edited, Dhananjoy is paced like a thriller from a director who is known to have made some films in this genre.

Whatever be the merits or demerits of Sil's work, the fact is that Dhananjoy is a movie that needs to be watched, discussed and analysed. The man is dead and gone, but the family has been leading an impoverished existence in rural Bengal, ridden with guilt and accused by society of having spawned a man who raped and killed a young girl.

Sil's Dhananjoy assumes still greater significance in the lights of surveys conducted the world over.

A 1988 survey conducted for the United Nations concluded that there was absolutely no basis to show that death sentence had a greater deterrence than life imprisonment. Statistics from the countries which have abolished this penalty have since supported the finding.

Worse, as long as capital punishment exists, the risk of putting a noose around an innocent can never be eliminated. After all, no human system is infallible. In India, where no research has progressed in this aspect, such miscarriage of justice is quite likely, given the state of the judiciary and the complexities of the society. The legal system is not only bogged down by archaic laws, but also a terrible shortage of personnel.

And in a country ridden with caste, communal and religious disparities, and a far-from-perfect method of policing, the chances of wrongful (maybe even wilful) conviction may not be exactly rare. In the US, the death penalty has been often termed "racist". India - where large sections of the 1 billion-plus population live in extreme poverty with absolutely no means of hiring talented lawyers to argue their cases - is probably a good example of what Douglas once said.

The celebrated auteur, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, shows this, all too clearly, through the guilt of a hangman in the erstwhile princely state of Travancore in his Nizhalkkuthu (Shadow Kill). Throughout the film, the hangman keeps uttering that he might have executed the wrong person, an innocent man.

Sil's Dhananjoy provokes us into thinking exactly this. Was the 39-year-old security guard not guilty? Was he framed? Maybe, the case can be reopened. Maybe, the debate on the death sentence can get a fresh dose of oxygen, and Sil's work has the potential to reawaken a society to the ills of having such a barbaric law on its statue.


AUGUST 16, 2017:


Rejecting arguments about a new lethal-injection procedure, the Florida Supreme Court on Monday refused to block the scheduled Aug. 24 execution of death row inmate Mark James Asay.

The court's majority said Asay had not shown that the introduction of the drug etomidate into the execution process put him at risk of suffering, in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Corrections officials plan to use etomidate as a substitute for a previous drug, midazolam, as the 1st drug in a 3-step process. It would be the 1st time etomidate, a sedative, has been used in an execution.

In its decision, the Supreme Court upheld a ruling by a Duval County circuit judge who held a hearing on the lethal-injection drug issue.

"Based on the testimony heard during the evidentiary hearing and the record before this (Supreme) Court, Asay has not demonstrated that he is at substantial risk of serious harm," the majority opinion said. "Indeed, the record before this court demonstrates that Asay is at a small risk of mild to moderate pain."

The majority opinion by Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and justices Peggy Quince, Ricky Polston and Alan Lawson, also said Asay had not "identified a known and available alternative method of execution that entails a significantly less severe risk of pain."

Justices R. Fred Lewis and Charles Canady concurred with the majority opinion but did not fully sign on to it.

Justice Barbara Pariente dissented on a series of grounds, including that Asay was wrongly denied access to documents about the new lethal-injection process. Pariente said the Florida Department of Corrections delayed providing information and has not provided some details, such as the reasons for adopting the new process and the identity of the manufacturer of etomidate.

(source: News Service of Florida)


In a first, Miami jurors asked to be unanimous in death-penalty sentencing

If jurors want to deliver the death sentence against 2-time convicted killer Kendrick Silver, they'll have to agree unanimously - something that up until now, no Miami jury has ever been required to do.

Against that legal backdrop, those 12 jurors heard starkly different descriptions of Silver.

For prosecutors, he was a callous criminal who murdered 2 men in separate robberies. Silver is being sentenced for his 1st victim, a restaurant security guard shot dead at point-blank. The 2nd victim was Coral Gables jogger Jose Marchese-Berrios, shot by Silver in the chest in May 2007.

"Mr. Marchese's lungs filled with his own blood, causing him to drown to death in the arms of his 15-year-old son," Assistant State Attorney Tammy Pitiriciu told jurors.

Defense attorneys, hoping jurors will spare his life, depicted the 29-year-old Silver as the product of a troubled childhood and a mother who repeatedly abused and neglected him.

"This was a life that was scarred by circumstances that were outside of his control," Assistant Public Defender Annemarie Block told the jury.

Silver's sentencing marks the first time in Miami-Dade County that jurors have been asked to be unanimous in considering the death sentence.

For decades in Florida, prosecutors only needed at least a majority 7 votes for a death-penalty recommendation, with the judge ultimately meting out the punishment.

Then in January 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Florida's sentencing scheme was unconstitutional because defendants have a right to a trial by jury. State lawmakers rewrote the law, replacing the judge's override and requiring a vote of at least 10 of 12 jurors to sentence someone to death.

Death-penalty litigation ground to a halt as the Florida Supreme Court then ruled that the new law was unconstitutional because jury verdicts need to be unanimous. Finally in March, the Legislature passed a new law requiring jurors to unanimously agree on a death sentence.

Since then, a handful of killers formerly on death row have been re-sentenced to life in prison under plea deals. Not so in one high-profile case in Orlando, where a jury unanimously sentenced Juan Rosario to death for murdering an 83-year-old woman.

As for Silver, he is being sentenced for the December 2006 murder of 62-year-old Solmeus Accimeus, a security guard shot dead as he sat in his car at closing time outside Esther's Restaurant in North Miami-Dade. Intending to rob the guard, Silver walked up to the car and fired at the guard, penetrating the man's aorta, spraying blood all over the gunman, prosecutors said. Moments later, as he fled, Silver threw away the ski mask, which had Accimeus' blood on the outside, and Silver's DNA on the inside, prosecutors told jurors. The 12-person jury, in June, convicted Silver of 1st-degree murder. The group reconvened on Tuesday, hearing for the 1st time that Silver was already convicted of another murder, the killing of Marchese-Berrios, which took place 5 months after Accimeus was gunned down.

Prosecutors recounted the killing, saying Silver wanted the jogger's flip-top phone. Silver took the phone, stepped back and fired 1 shot directly into his chest, prosecutor Pitiriciu said.

Mortally wounded, Marchese-Berrios somehow walked back to the small Coral Gables apartment he shared with his wife and teenage son, also named Jose Marchese.

"As I was dressing, I heard my dad come inside the house screaming my mom's name. He was saying he just got shot. My mother started panicking and I just grabbed my dad. I saw his gunshot and I grabbed a towel or whatever I could find to cover it," his son, now 25, testified to jurors on Tuesday.

Miami-Dade detectives later traced the phone back to Silver, who gave it to his girlfriend and confessed he shot the jogger. Pitiriciu told jurors Silver deserved the death penalty for claiming "2 lives in cold blood."

But defense lawyers say Silver should be spared because his childhood was marked by abuse and a mother who was a "damaged, unstable person." Since he has been in jail, Silver has also been been entrusted to help corrections officer doing chores, handing out food - and even speaking to troubled kids who visit the jail, Block said.

"The most stability and structure Kendrick ever had was in jail," Block said, adding: "This is not the kind of case that the death penalty was designed for."

The sentencing continues Wednesday before Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Marisa Tinkler Mendez.



State Attorney's Office seeks death penalty in 2 high-profile murder cases

The State Attorney's Office announced that it's seeking the death penalty in 2-high profile murder cases. It made the announcement on Tuesday.

In a statement, State Attorney Melissa Nelson said she's seeking the death penalty for Phillip Smith and Scott Rolnick, referring to their cases as "the most brutal our office has encountered this year."

Smith is accused of killing his aunt, 74-year-old Janice Fulton, and transporting her body to Locust Grove, Georgia. He was arrested during a traffic stop and Fulton's body was found in the back seat.

Rolnick is accused of stabbing and strangling his mother, 76-year-old Mary Anne Rolnick, after he broke into her house. Police reports state he stole her car while still covered in blood and was arrested at a Jacksonville gas station. He was also charged with armed burglary with assault or battery and grand theft auto.

"Elderly victims can be among the most vulnerable in our community and our office will use every legal tool available to pursue justice for these victims," Nelson said in a statement.

(source: First Coast News)


Defense isn't ready----Lawyers request trial delay after lead attorney dies

Defense attorneys for Kevin Daigle, who is accused of fatally shooting trooper Steven Vincent in 2015 and is slated to go to trial on Sept. 18, have asked for a continuance because Daigle's lead attorney has died and the defense said it needs more time to prepare its case.

David Price died July 27 after suffering a heart attack shortly after undergoing surgery for cancer. After working many years for the public defender's office in Baton Rouge, Price formed the Baton Rouge Capital Conflict Office, dedicated to defending indigent individuals facing the death penalty.

State district court Judge Guy Bradberry on Monday heard testimony from both the defense and the prosecution along with witnesses for the defense regarding the request for a continuance.

If granted, it would be the 3rd continuance in the case.

Christopher Murrell, executive director of the Louisiana Capital Appeals Project, in arguing for the continuance, said that Kyla Romanach, another attorney for Daigle "could possibly be lead counsel but she needs time to work on this case as lead counsel and to move from associate counsel to lead counsel. It takes time."

Jim Boren, affiliated with the Louisiana Capital Defense Project, was called on as a witness for the defense, with Boren saying, "I've handled about 25-30 capital cases and I've also testified as an expert in capital cases." Murrell said, "Mr. Boren, I asked you to review this case and whether Mr. Daigle could be defended at this time by Ms. Romanach."

He said he did not believe that was a viable plan.

"I do not believe the case is ready to go to trial in September," Boren said. "I have a great deal of respect for Ms. Romanach. But this case has not been prepared and I do not see any way to do it in this amount of time. Nobody could do it. It's a very complicated case. There's a checklist which guides you in your defense in cases like this and I was shocked to see that only about half of the checklist has been done in this case."

Boren said, "Death cases are different; you have one chance to get it right."

Prosecutor Rick Bryant argued strongly against a continuance, saying, "Here we have yet another motion for a continuance. The defense says that Kyla Romanach has never been a lead counsel but here are cases we've found in other parishes where she was indeed a lead counsel for many other cases."

Bryant said in the Daigle case, "A tremendous amount of work has already been done by the defense and they can't put this trial off in perpetuity. We've tried to be cooperative, we've provided documents, and even the court has tried to help."

He said it was a "a terrible thing that Mr. Price has lost his life but I don't think anyone could come forward and say that those attorneys didn't do a damn good job preparing for trial. We object to a continuance and ask that this trial move forward."

Bradberry said he recognizes the "urgency" in the matter of a continuance since the trial is slated for just a month from now.

A decision will be handed down by Bradberry this week regarding whether there will be another delay in the start of the trial.


MISSOURI----impending execution

Missouri Supreme Court denies request for stay of execution

The Missouri Supreme Court will not stop next week's scheduled execution of Marcellus Williams, it said Tuesday.

The court said it will not review the new evidence that Marcellus Williams' attorney submitted Monday, but gave no explanation why. Kent Gipson had argued that said a new test proved Williams' DNA was not found on the knife that was used in the 1998 killing of former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Felicia Gayle in University City.

Gipson said he plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court and will ask Gov. Eric Greitens to intervene, too. He also said he was surprised with the speed in which the high court denied the stay.

"Certainly something involving a claim of innocence that is this substantial, you would think they would at least write an opinion or at least a short opinion giving the reasons why they denied it, because that makes it more difficult to take it up to a higher court because they don't know exactly on what basis the ruling was made," Gipson said.

Attorney General Josh Hawley's spokeswoman told The Associated Press that his office was confident Williams is guilty based on other evidence.

Gov. Eric Greitens spokesman Parker Briden said in a statement that the governor is "in the process of reviewing the case with our legal team."

Williams' 1st execution was postponed in January 2015. The 48-year-old is scheduled to be executed on Aug. 22.

Department of Corrections spokesman David Owen recently said in an email that the agency is "prepared to carry out the ... execution in accordance to the lethal injection protocol established in 2013." The state uses 1 drug, the sedative pentobarbital, in executions, and has refused to disclose the supplier.



Suspect in 1997 UNT student homicide faces death penalty in Oklahoma slaying

A Texas convict who led authorities to the body of a University of North Texas student last seen in 1997 faces the death penalty at his upcoming murder trial in another case in Oklahoma, according to an Oklahoma newspaper report.

In a hearing earlier this month in Oklahoma City, William Reece, 58, of Houston, was notified that he faces the death penalty if convicted in the 1997 killing of Tiffany Johnston in Bethany, Okla., The Oklahoman reported.

The trial is scheduled for Oct. 18 in Oklahoma City.

Reece is a suspect in some of Texas' oldest cold cases including that of of UNT honor student Kelli Cox of Farmers Branch. He's also a suspect in 2 other Texas killings in 1997.

He's been in a Texas prison since 1998 on an aggravated kidnapping charge.

In April 2016, Reece directed authorities to skeletal remains buried at a site in Brazoria County, in a pasture off Texas 288 near Rosharon.

Dental records confirmed that the bones were those of Cox.

Denton police said Tuesday a murder charge has not been filed against Reece in the Cox slaying.

Earlier this month in a hearing, an Oklahoma County prosecutor presented a legal document on justifications for a death sentence. They included the fact that Reece had been convicted in the past of a violent felony, he killed to avoid arrest, he was a "continuing threat to society," and Johnston's "murder was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel," according to the newspaper.

Reece is accused of strangling Johnston, 19, and a newlywed, after abducting her on July 26, 1997 from a car wash in Bethany, according to The Oklahoman. Her partially nude body was found the next day in tall weeds in Yukon, just south of Interstate 40.

He was charged in September 2015 after DNA evidence linked him to the case.

In the Denton case, Cox disappeared July 15, 1997, after taking a tour of the Denton Jail with her UNT criminology class. She called her boyfriend about noon and when he arrived to meet her, he found only her car.

Cox had a 19-month-old daughter, who was a student at UNT last year.

Reece also is a suspect in the killings of Jessica Cain, 17, of La Marque and Laura Smither, 12, of Friendswood, Texas prosecutors have said.

Cain went missing in August 1997 after attending a cast party where she had celebrated her performance in a high school musical. Her dad's pickup was found on the route to her Tiki Island home.

In early 2016, Reece guided authorities to locations near Houston. Prosecutors told Reece they would not seek the death penalty if Jessica Cain were found. He led them to a pasture in Brazoria County where human remains were found March 18. Medical examiners later identified the remains as those of Cain.

Reece is also a suspect in Smither's killing in April 1997.

Smither disappeared while jogging, and her body was found a month later in Pasadena.

Shortly after the slayings in 1997, Reece was sentenced to 60 years in prison in 1998 for an aggravated kidnapping in Harris County, according to Texas Department of Criminal Justice records. While in prison, he was also sentenced to 3 years for theft in Brazoria County.

Last year, Reece waived extradition and was taken to Oklahoma to stand trial in the Johnston slaying.

Reece was in the Oklahoma County Jail Tuesday in Oklahoma City with no bond. (source:


Oklahoma attorney general to seek rehearing in murder case involving tribal jurisdiction

The Oklahoma Attorney General's Office will ask an appellate court to reconsider its ruling last week in a death penalty case, saying the ruling has the potential, if it stands, to impact the state's criminal, civil and regulatory authority.

The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver on Tuesday granted a request by the state of Oklahoma for additional time to file its petition for rehearing in a lawsuit involving convicted murderer Patrick Dwayne Murphy.

A 3-judge panel of the appellate court ruled Aug. 8 that Murphy, who was sentenced to death, should have been tried in federal court for the 1999 murder and genital mutilation of another man in McIntosh County because Murphy was Native American and the death occurred in "Indian country."

The Oklahoma Attorney General's Office will request a rehearing before the entire 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, agency spokeswoman Terri Watkins said.

The appellate court granted the attorney general's Monday request that it be given until Sept. 21 to file the rehearing petition.

While George Jacobs Sr., 49, died in 1999 along a McIntosh County road, the appellate court determined the location was within the Muscogee (Creek) Nation's boundaries, a region that spans 11 counties and includes most of the city of Tulsa. The court determined that the Creek Nation reservation boundaries had never been diminished or disestablished by Congress.

In requesting more time to file a rehearing petition, the Attorney General's Office notes that it will take considerable time to review the 126-page opinion and the relevant case law "to formulate the best concise presentation for rehearing."

"It is anticipated that the petition for rehearing will be based both on arguments related to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 and on the merits of the reservation question, both of which are quite complex," a request signed by Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Crabb states.

The Attorney General's Office, in its request, also notes that the ruling presents an important question beyond the validity of Murphy's conviction and death sentence.

"If this court's opinion stands, other criminal defendants in Oklahoma (past, present and future) may argue that the state lacks jurisdiction to prosecute criminal cases over areas that are home to over a million Oklahoma citizens," according to the court filing. "There also exists the potential for changes in the state's civil and regulatory authority."

1 defendant in a criminal case has already cited the ruling in his case.

An attorney for former Tulsa Police Officer Shannon Kepler on Friday filed a motion in state court, asking that his 3-year-old murder case be dismissed, citing Kepler's Creek Nation citizenship and the Murphy appellate court ruling.

Experts have said the ruling could have far-reaching effects on both Oklahoma criminal and civil law if it is allowed to stand.

Meanwhile, the Creek Nation hailed the ruling, saying it affirms "the right of the Nation and all other Indian Nations to make and enforce their own laws within their own boundaries."

Rehearings before the entire 10th Circuit are "often requested, but seldom granted," according to a procedural guide published on the court's website.

(source: Tulsa World)


Libby man convicted of deliberate homicide

Trevor Mercier, the Libby man charged October 2016 in the death of Sheena Devine, was convicted Thursday, Aug. 10 of deliberate homicide and tampering with evidence. The jury took little over an hour to return the verdict.

Mercier could face the death penalty at his sentencing, scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Oct. 10, 2017, though prosecutors have not indicated they will seek it.

Devine's body was found in her home by her 2 young daughters on Oct. 6, 2016. Investigators arrested Mercier in his home the following day after identifying him as a prime suspect in her death, which they determined had occurred Oct. 5. Mercier and Devine had been in a relationship that had ended before the incident.

The conviction followed 7 days of testimony that Alicia Backus, an attorney for the defense, in her closing remarks acknowledged had been "an emotional roller coaster."

Mercier's defense acknowledged at trial that he had caused Devine's death but that it was a case of negligent, not deliberate, homicide, because he did not intend to kill her. In her closing statements Backus told the jury that the prosecution had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mercier was guilty of deliberate homicide.

The night of Devine's death, she and Mercier had fought after Mercier threw a rock at her car, smashing its windshield. The defense said while fighting Mercier put Devine into a "sleeper hold," rendering her unconscious. Afterward, the defense said, Mercier took her inside her house, placed her on the floor, checked to make sure she was still breathing and then left the house.

In her closing statements Backus said Mercier's actions that night "created the perfect storm" but were not deliberate.

The prosecution on Friday, Aug. 11 called an expert witness - Dr. Jaime Oeberst - to the stand to support its assertion that Mercier did in fact deliberately cause Devine's death. Now a deputy coroner in Kansas, Oeberst performed the autopsy on Devine on Oct. 8, 2016. Referring to autopsy photos projected onto a screen, Oeberst testified to the nature of Devine's injuries and also to how strangulation occurs.

To underscore the difference between the 10 to 15 seconds a "sleeper hold" takes to render someone unconscious and the three to 5 minutes that can cause death, Deputy County Attorney Marcia Boris instructed Oeberst to use her watch to time the passage of 5 minutes - during which the court was silent but for the occasional paper shuffling or person fidgeting.

Deputy County Attorney Jeff Zwang referred to that dramatic demonstration in his closing remarks, stating that Mercier had "strangled (Devine) long after she was unconscious" and that he had beaten her so badly that she had hemorrhages all around her head and sternum.

In wrapping up the prosecution's closing statement, Boris reminded the jury to consider Mercier's previous conviction for a February 2016 domestic assault against Devine - an assault that moments before Backus had minimized in her closing statement because a counselor had said post-conviction that a no-contact order put in place should be lifted.

In addition, Mercier's attorneys were critical of aspects of the investigation, including law enforcement's handling of the crime scene.

Lincoln County District Court Judge Matt Cuffe scheduled Mercier's sentencing for 10:30 a.m. Oct. 10, 2017, after a pre-sentence investigation has been completed.

(source: The Western News)


Former Obama attorney asks Supreme Court to hear new death penalty challenge

A new challenge to the constitutionality of the death penalty could hit the Supreme Court's docket soon, following the filing of a petition by former Obama administration acting solicitor general Neal Katyal on Monday.

Katyal, who argued more cases before the Supreme Court last term than any other attorney, has garnered attention for his arguments against President Trump's travel ban. But Katyal's filing on Monday, first reported by Buzzfeed, indicated Katyal is spoiling for another high-profile battle at the Supreme Court in the coming term.

Katyal's petition urges the Supreme Court to review the constitutionality of the death penalty and whether capital punishment in Arizona - "which includes so many aggravating circumstances that virtually every defendant convicted of first degree murder is eligible for death" - in particular, violates the Eighth Amendment.

"In the last 20 years, the number of death sentences imposed and carried out has plummeted," said the petition filed by Katyal. "A national consensus has emerged that the death penalty is an unacceptable punishment in any circumstance."

Katyal continued, "[T]he present reality of capital punishment - that those sentenced to death must spend decades languishing on death row with the remote but very real possibility of execution hovering like a sword of Damocles - is 'a punishment infinitely more ghastly' than a swift death."

Katyal's petition comes on behalf of Abdel Daniel Hidalgo, who killed someone in exchange for $1,000 from a gang member, according to the petition, and also killed a bystander during the course of his crime.

The Supreme Court has not appeared hospitable to death row inmates in its most recent term, including after Justice Neil Gorsuch returned the high court to a full bench of 9 justices. One of Gorsuch's first major actions on the Supreme Court was to cast a decisive vote with the 5-4 majority to allow a slew of Arkansas executions to proceed earlier this year. While Gorsuch has written extensively on the issue of death and dying, his jurisprudence on the death penalty is limited.

Justice Stephen Breyer, however, has repeatedly indicated his desire for the Supreme Court to review the death penalty. Breyer has authored dissents and made other comments urging his colleagues on the high court to review the constitutionality of the death penalty.

If the case is evenly divided between the high court's ideologically right and left blocs, then Justice Anthony Kennedy's vote could again prove determinative. While such action is not necessarily reflective of his opinion of the merits of the case, Kennedy twice granted the petitioner additional time to file the petition that finally reached the Supreme Court on Monday.

(source: Washington Examiner)


California files response to Scott Peterson's appeal

Remember Scott Peterson?

The Modesto man convicted of killing his pregnant wife, Laci Peterson, and their unborn son, Conner, in 2002 is still appealing his death sentence.

Last week, the state Attorney General's Office filed an 150-page response to Peterson's most recent appeal, filed in 2015. He's claiming, among other things, that California's death penalty is cruel and unusual.

The state refutes Peterson's claims in their response, which spans more than 40,000 words.

"Peterson offers no persuasive reason to have the court reconsider its prior decisions," the state's brief reads in refuting one of his claims.

Cliff Gardner, Peterson's lawyer, tells ABC10 that he's not sure yet if they'll respond or seek more time. They have 30 days to reply to the state's brief.

Peterson remains on death row in San Quentin State Prison.

(source: KXTV-TV news)


Reactivate death penalty


In light of the string of shootings and wanton murders across Jamaica, I again appeal to the better senses of our legislators. The death penalty is vital to the survival of law if we must survive and have law and order prevail.

Let's cut the rope on hanging since it is so troublesome. How about lethal injection or the electric chair? Neither would be difficult to come by because the United States has them in abundance, or we can design our own models. We have competent electrical and chemical engineers.

Criminals and criminality must be put in check. It should not be that each week, a different community is under the gun. Boys in garrisons have high-powered weapons that cost more than the houses in which they live. How come? Someone with the means must be supplying them with the guns. Find the source.

I call on the prime minister and his Cabinet to seriously contemplate the use of the death penalty. The reality is that Rockfort, Arnett Gardens, SW St Andrew, Olympic Gardens, Spanish Town, Jacques Road, Denham Town, and central Kingston, just to name a few, are out of control.

Are we going to act like sitting ducks or lambs to the slaughter while hoodlums degrade our country, our way of life, and our independence? We must act now. It's already late in the day.

Joseph Edwards

(source: Letter to the Editor, Jamaica Gleaner)


SC to hear war criminal Subhan's appeal Oct 16

The Supreme Court today fixed October 16 for hearing the appeal filed by convicted war criminal and Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdus Subhan challenging the death penalty awarded to him by International Crimes Tribunal (ICT).

The court asked the defence and state counsels to submit their concise statements on the appeal before the apex court in 2 and 3 weeks respectively.

A concise statement contains the points on which the counsels will place arguments on an appeal before the SC.

The 3-member bench of the Appellate Division headed by Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha passed the order as the appeal came up before the court for an order today.

The tribunal on February 18 sentenced the Jamaat leader to death for committing crimes against humanity, including mass killing, murder, and confinement and torture of pro-liberation people during the 1971 Liberation War.

On March 18 of the same year, Subhan filed the appeal with the SC challenging his death penalty given for committing war crimes in 1971.

(source: The Daily Star)


SHC overturns death sentence of Faisal Mota, orders retrial in Wali Khan Babar murder case

Sindh High Court (SHC) on Wednesday overturned the death sentence of Faisal Mehmood, alias Mota - the primary accused in the Wali Khan Babar case - and ordered a retrial by the lower courts.

The SHC was hearing an appeal filed by Faisal Mota, who was awarded a death sentence in absentia, by an anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Kandhkot in March 2014 for masterminding the 2011 murder of television journalist Wali Babar in Karachi.

Mota, said to be a worker of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), was later arrested and detained in March 2015 in Karachi after Rangers conducted a raid at the MQM headquarters.

Mota's counsel Advocate Aamir Masoob Qureshi in April 2015 had submitted in SHC that Mota's death sentence should be declared illegal since it was awarded in absentia. According to Articles 21-L and 31-A of the Anti Terrorism Act 1997, a death sentence cannot be awarded in absentia, Qureshi had argued.

The advocate had also said that when a punishment is awarded in absentia, the convict must refer to the trial court according to Article 19(12). However, his client was unable to refer to the ATC in Kandhkot because the records of the case were at the SHC.

He had, therefore, requested the court to dismiss Mota's death penalty and send the case for a retrial.

The ATC in Kandhkot will now hear the case from scratch again.

On January 13, 2011, GeoNews journalist Wali Khan Babar was going home from his office when he was shot dead in Liaquatabad, Karachi. Shocked by the murder, journalists across the country had protested and mourned his death, demanding the arrest and trial of the culprits.

Syed Mohammad Ali Rizvi, Shahrukh alias Mani, Naveed alias Polka and Shakil alias Malik had also been indicted for the murder.

Murders linked to Wali Babar case

2 policemen, a police officer's brother and an informer linked to the investigation into Babar's murder had been methodically targeted after investigation in the case began.

Rajab Ali Bengali, a police informer, is stated to be the 1st victim, whose body was found in a sack on Jan 29, 2011, in Gulshan-i-Iqbal.

The 2nd victim was Constable Asif Rafiq who was killed in a drive-by shooting by 2 men on a motorcycle on Jan 31, 2011. He had identified the vehicle the attackers had used. He was at the spot at the time of the murder and had noted down its registration number.

Head Constable Arshad Kundi is believed to be the 3rd victim linked to the investigation. He was killed in a drive-by-shooting on March 19, 2011, in Sohrab Goth.

On April 7, 2011, a brother of the SHO of Super Market police station, Shafiq Tanoli, was shot dead. Tanoli told reporters that his brother, Naveed Khan, had been killed to pressurise him.



4 Vietnamese drug traffickers get death, life sentences

A Vietnamese court handed down a death sentence on a 34-year-old leader of a trans-provincial drug trafficking ring and life imprisonment on 3 of his underlings, local media reported Wednesday.

The court in southern Binh Duong province on Tuesday passed the death penalty on Do Xuan Loi from central Thua Thien Hue province, and the 3 life sentences on 3 other men from central Binh Thuan province, southern An Giang province, and Ho Chi Minh City, including an elder brother of Loi's wife, daily newspaper Tuoi Tre (Youth) reported.

Till their arrest in 2015, Loi and his accomplices had traded and transported 7 kg of drugs from northern Hai Phong city to Vietnam's southern region for retail sales, and illegally possessed 3 guns.

According to Vietnamese law, those convicted of smuggling over 600 grams of heroin or more than 2.5 kg of methamphetamine are punishable by death. Making or trading 100 grams of heroin or 300 grams of other illegal drugs also faces death penalty.



Indonesia Increases Its Own War on Drugs

Indonesia's President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo is again urging an increase in efforts to fight illegal drugs in the country.

Jokowi said police should shoot foreign drug dealers who "resist arrest." He added that the country is in a "narcotics emergency position."

Jokowi made his comments at a political event in late July. Days before the speech, police shot and killed a Taiwanese man for resisting arrest. Police say he and several others were trying to smuggle 1,000 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine into Indonesia.

Recently, Jakarta Police Chief General Adham Azis said he would "not think twice" about dismissing police officers who were not fighting drug trafficking enough.

In addition, the Ministry of Law and Human Rights recently announced a plan to place all people currently jailed for drug offenses into 4 prisons. The prisons in West Java, North Sumatra, Central Java and Central Kalimantan would get increased security, news reports say.

Human rights groups raise concerns

The New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch has criticized Indonesia's campaign against drug trafficking.

In a statement, the group said, "President Joko Widodo should send a clear and public message to the police that efforts to address the complex problems of drugs and criminality require the security forces to respect everyone's basic rights, not demolish them."

The aim of Indonesia's campaign is to stop the flow of the low-cost drug crystal methamphetamine. It is similar to the effort of President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines. He has been criticized for his violent campaign against drug crimes. Thousands of drug dealers and users have been killed.

Last month, Indonesian officials seized the largest amount of crystal methamphetamine in the history of the country.

The head of Indonesia's narcotics agency, General Budi Waseso, called for a war on drugs -- similar to the one in the Philippines -- last September.

He told Australia's ABC news agency, "The market that existed in the Philippines is moving to Indonesia, the impact of President Duterte's actions is an exodus to Indonesia."

Severe punishments for drug crimes

Drug trafficking can carry a death sentence in Indonesia which considers the offense as serious as murder or terrorism.

People found guilty of low-level drug crimes are estimated to make up 70 % of Indonesia's prison population.

Erasmus Napitupulu is with the Institute for Criminal Justice Reform in Jakarta. He said there are many question about President Jokowi's drug policy. He criticized the death sentence as putting a big burden on Indonesia's justice system.

"The death penalty targets small drug couriers, which in many cases leads to unfair trials. Indonesian law has not been able to bear the burden of fair trial(s)," he said.

Southeast Asian countries have resisted lightening punishments for drug users or traffickers. Besides Indonesia and the Philippines, other countries in the area, including Singapore, want to continue with harsh punishments for drug crimes.

Last year, however, Thailand considered changing the criminalization of methamphetamine because prisons were becoming overcrowded.

But there are no similar signs in Indonesia.

In 2015, Jokowi led an anti-drug campaign that resulted in the execution of 14 people for drug offenses.

But, critics say that the severe punishments have not reduced the number of crimes. Claudia Stoicescu is a researcher at the University of Oxford.

She wrote, "Far from having a deterrent effect, the number of drug-related crimes in Indonesia increased in the months after the executions were carried out in January and April 2015."

Other critics say increased resources used for drug-related arrests have taken money away from rehabilitation efforts. Some say those resources could be better used to help an estimated 1 million Indonesians addicted to methamphetamines.

Erasmus says Indonesia should learn from the experience of the United States.

The U.S. has reduced the number of arrests over small drug crimes and moved to legalize small amounts of the drug marijuana.

"If Indonesia retains capital punishment as the main solution for drug issues, then I believe it is a political decision to preserve (politicians') image(s), not to protect actual narcotics victims," he said.

(source: Krithika Varagur reported this story for VOA News. Mario Ritter adapted it for VOA Learning


Foreign drug trafficking duo nabbed, face potential death penalty

2 foreign nationals are being investigated for drug trafficking after they were arrested with over 50 grammes of Syabu on Monday afternoon.

District police chief Supt Zailanni Amit said the Indonesian nationals, aged 21 and 23, were caught at a business outlet in Jalan Abang Galau here around 3pm.

"During an inspection, they were found in possession of approximately 53 grammes of crystalline substance, believed to be Syabu.

"We are investigating the case under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, which carries the mandatory death sentence if convicted," he said when contacted yesterday.

Zailanni added the 2 suspects were found to have been staying here for about year.

"Both of them confessed of their involvement in distributing Syabu around the old Bintulu town.

According to him, the drugs are delivered here by bus and left at a pre-arranged area for the suspects to collect.

"They employ the same tactic for their buyers. After receiving payment, they will drop off the drugs at an agreed location for their buyers to collect," he added.

Police personnel speak to the 5 rescued Indonesian women following the operation.

Meanwhile, in an unrelated case, 5 Indonesian women were rescued by police while a fellow countrywoman was arrested for human trafficking offences on Monday.

Acting on a tip-off, police raided a premises at Jalan Tanjung Kidurong around 11pm and rescued the 5, aged between 21 and 30.

The enforcement team also arrested a 29-year-old Indonesian woman under Section 12 of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act 2007.

During the operation, codenamed Ops Pintas, police also seized 4 condoms, stimulant pills and various employee records.

Investigation is ongoing.

(source: Borneo Post)


3 Prisoners Hanged, Authorities Silent

A prisoner was reportedly hanged at Shirvan Prison on murder charges. 2 prisoners were reportedly hanged at Zanjan Central Prison on drug related charges.

According to close sources, the executions in Zanjan were carried out on the morning of Tuesday August 8, and the prisoners have been identified as: Hamza Rahimpour and Abbas Sooghi.

"Hamza Rahimpour was arrested and sentenced to death in 2014 on the charge of producing and selling 6 kilograms of crystal meth. Abbas Sooghi was arrested and sentenced to death in 2015 on the charge of four kilograms of opium and heroin," an informed source tells Iran Human Rights.

Iran Human Rights had reported on the imminent execution of these prisoners and urged the international community to take action.

An official Iranian source announced on Monday August 7 the execution of a prisoner at Zanjan Central Prison on murder charges. This brings the total number of prisoners who were reported as executed in Zanjan Prison last week to three.

There are reports of a prisoner who was executed at Shirvan Prison (South Khorasan province) on murder charges. According to close sources, the prisoner's name is Tohid Haghmoradi, 38, imprisoned for 5 years before he was executed.

Iranian official sources, including the Judiciary and the state-run media, have not announced the 2 executions at Zanjan Prison and execution at Shirvan Prison.


Man Executed on Murder Charges

On the morning of Tuesday August 15, a prisoner was reportedly hanged at Urmia's central prison on murder charges. According to close sources, the prisoner's name is Khaled Amini and he was imprisoned for 5 years before his execution. Khaled and his brother Fattah Amini were arrested together 5 years ago on murder charges. Fattah was reportedly executed at Mahabad Prison on Tuesday July 25.

Iranian official sources, including the Judiciary and the state-run media, have not announced these 2 executions.

(source for both: Iran Human Rights)


Trump silent on imminent Saudi executions based on problematic confessions----Rights groups urge Trump to intervene on cases they say hinge on coerced confessions and flawed trials

With the fate of 14 men facing execution in Saudi Arabia hanging in the balance, rights groups and anti-death penalty activists are pushing President Donald Trump to speak up.

All 14 defendants are Shia Muslims, an oppressed minority in Saudi Arabia, and were sentenced with the death penalty after being accused of terror-related activities that threaten national security, including killing of security forces and civilians during anti-government protests. But rights groups, such as Human Rights Watch, point out that most of the convictions were based on problematic confessions that the defendants, most of whom are in their 20s, later rejected in court.

But despite pressure from activists, the Trump administration as so far remained silent on their plight.

Maya Foa, the director or UK-based rights group Reprieve, had harsh words for the president, telling ThinkProgress that Trump's silence on the pending executions is "appalling," and noted that one of the convicted, Mujtaba al-Sweikat, was a teenager at the time of his arrest. Al-Sweikat was bound for the United States where he hoped to study, but was arrested and sentence to execution by beheading for allegedly attending a protest.

Foa also noted that, "Treasury Secretary Wilbur Ross doled out praise to the Kingdom for keeping protesters off the streets during the President's visit," referencing Trump's visit to Riyadh in May. Foa said that Ross and the Trump administration in general are "either oblivious or willfully ignorant of the plight of the young students who had been rounded up at pro-democracy protests, brutally beaten, and sentenced to beheading."

Zeke Johnson, senior director of programs at Amnesty International USA told ThinkProgress that, "The failure to denounce this mass execution is yet another example of the Trump administration turning turned a blind eye to the appalling human rights record of the Saudi government."

The Gulf Arab kingdom continues be among the top executioners in the world. It executed over 150 people in 2016, and has already executed 66 so far this year, according to Amnesty International.

A group of 10 Nobel Peace Prize laureates issued a joint statement urging Saudi to stay the executions. And the American Federation of Teachers has also issued pleas for mercy - to the Saudi ambassador and Trump alike. "We implore President Trump, as the standard-bearer for our great nation, to do everything in his power to stop the atrocities that may otherwise take place in Saudi Arabia," AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a statement last month.

How much sway the president could have over Saudi is unknown, although the United States now has an increasingly close relationship with Saudi Arabia.

In response to a ThinkProgress query, the State Department sent an emailed response, saying that it is "aware of the cases" in question and that it regularly raised human rights concerns with Saudi Arabia. On the 14 executions, the State Department spokesperson wrote:

We understand that al-Sweikat has been charged for crimes of violent protest he allegedly committed as a minor. We call on Saudi Arabia to adhere to the judicial guarantees to which it has obligated itself under international law, including to ensure that no death penalty is imposed in any case involving a defendant who was a minor at the time of the arrest or alleged crime. We urge the government of Saudi Arabia to respect and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly.

But Trump has yet to make a comment on the impending executions, a disappointment for those hoping his visit to Riyadh would yield more than another weapons deal and a Toby Keith concert.

"Trump has a responsibility to stand up against such abuses," said Foa. "He should immediately intervene by calling on Riyadh to commute these death sentences before they are implemented. If he doesn't, the President risks emboldening Riyadh to carry out yet another round of protest-related executions."



Videos Capture Summary Executions----International Criminal Court Issues Warrant for LNA Commander

Forces loyal to the Libyan National Army (LNA) in eastern Libya appear to have executed captured fighters in Benghazi and desecrated corpses, Human Rights Watch said today. Video recordings posted online since January 2017 seem to show LNA fighters carrying out 7 distinct unlawful executions of "extremists."

The most recent video, which appeared on social media on July 24, 2017, shows the apparent summary execution on July 17 of 20 blindfolded men with their hands tied behind their backs in orange jumpsuits, whom the commander in charge accuses of "terrorism." The executioners appear to be members of a special forces unit headed by Mahmoud al-Werfalli. The Army Special Forces in Benghazi, under the command of Wanis Bukhamada, are linked to the LNA, which is commanded by Gen. Khalifa Hiftar. The LNA is allied with the Interim Government, one of the three governments vying for legitimacy, international recognition, and control of territory in Libya.

The above image is a screenshot from a video posted on July 24, 2017 showing the apparent summary execution by LNA fighters of 20 prisoners, whom the commander, believed to be ICC suspect Mahmoud Al-Werfalli (wearing cap), accuses of "terrorism."

On August 15, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for al-Werfalli for the war crime of murder. He is wanted by the court for his alleged role in the killing of 33 people in 7 incidents that took place in and around Benghazi between June 2016 and July 2017. The Interim Government should take immediate steps to facilitate the surrender of al-Werfalli to the ICC, Human Rights Watch said.

"The posted videos suggest that LNA-linked forces committed a series of grave war crimes over many months," said Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "The ICC warrant for al-Werfalli is a wake-up call to other abusive commanders in Libya that one day their serious crimes could land them in a prison cell in The Hague."

Human Rights Watch reviewed 7 videos and several still images that appear to show distinct incidents of LNA-affiliated soldiers executing prisoners in their custody. Some of these videos and images show fighters desecrating the bodies of supposed fighters who opposed the LNA, including the burning and kicking of a corpse and posing for photographs with another corpse that had a leash tied around its neck.

In the video that was posted on social media on July 24, al-Werfalli and LNA soldiers are seen wearing the insignia of the Army Special Forces. Al-Werfalli reads out the execution judgment, identifies the unit, the date of July 17, and the capital offenses attributed to those in custody. He is the main executioner or supervisor of executions in 6 more video recordings of apparent summary executions of people accused of "terrorism" and committing crimes against the LNA.

The summary execution of fighters who have been captured or who have surrendered is a war crime.

Despite a commitment to investigate alleged crimes by its forces, the LNA has yet to announce the findings of any investigations or sanctions it has imposed on any of its members found to have committed violations. In a July 20 statement, the LNA rejected allegations made by the United Nations on July 18 that soldiers under al-Werfalli's command were responsible for summary executions and that captured fighters in Benghazi were at "imminent risk of torture and even summary execution."

The LNA said in its response that there was no evidence to substantiate the accusations of torture and executions and that any conclusions of the LNA's investigative commission to uncover abuses in "unverified videos" would be made public.

Human Rights Watch was not able to verify the date when the videos and photos were taken, or the location where they were recorded. However, an analysis of the imagery revealed no indications that they had been doctored or were otherwise inauthentic. Human Rights Watch sought comment from the LNA spokesman but was unable to reach him. On August 8, Human Rights Watch emailed the LNA for comment on the videos and photographs that appear to show al-Werfalli presiding over or carrying out the execution of prisoners. Human Rights Watch did not receive a response.

3 of the 7 videos appear to show al-Werfalli himself executing captured and unarmed men, individually or in groups. In 3 other videos, he appears to give orders to men in military uniform to execute unarmed detainees. In the 7th and most recent video to surface, a commander, who appears to be al-Werfalli, both gives orders and participates in the execution of the 20 unarmed, blindfolded prisoners in orange jumpsuits with their hands tied behind their backs.

The video starts by showing several incidents of crimes the captured men allegedly committed. The commander, who is dressed in fatigues, a black t-shirt, and black cap, then reads out the judgment of execution by firing squad against 18 of the men kneeling in 4 rows. The commander refers to the men as "terrorists" and says that a "field court" has found them guilty of "kidnapping, torturing, killing, bombing, slaying, and torturing the sons of the military establishment in particular and the Libyan people in general."

The commander does not name any of the captured men or cite their affiliations. He says the date is July 17. Once the reading of the judgment is over, he orders armed men in military uniforms to execute the captured detainees row by row. The recording shows them doing so. 2 more individuals are executed in the same way at the end of the video.

In another video recording posted on social media in June, a man who appears to be al-Werfalli is seen reciting religious texts and then ordering four men in fatigues, black t-shirts, and face-masks to shoot in the head four men kneeling in an open field. The captives are hooded and appear to have their hands bound behind their backs. Al-Werfalli does not name the victims but accuses them of crimes, including assassinations, and calls them Kharijites - a term for Muslims who rebelled against the Caliphate in the early ages of Islam. Al-Werfalli says that it is the month of Ramadan, which would mean June 2017.

Another undated video appears to show al-Werfalli reciting religious verses in a room while a man kneels on the floor with his arms behind his head. Other soldiers can be seen and heard in the background. Al-Werfalli accuses the man of being a member of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS), and then pulls out a handgun and shoots him in the back of the head, apparently killing him. Another undated video shows the apparent interrogation of this same man, who says he is Algerian.

On May 22, an undated video appeared online showing the apparent execution of 2 men: Emad Eddin al-Jazawi, a fighter with the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council, a coalition of fighters including extremists who oppose the LNA, and the son of a minister of the National Salvation Government, another of the rival governments. The video begins with al-Jazawi being interrogated and later shows him in a cage with another man, Haitham Jomaa al-Kafrawi, identified in the video as an Egyptian member of Al-Qaeda, who is also being interrogated. The recording ends with al-Jazawi and al-Kafrawi kneeling on the ground, backs to the camera, as al-Werfalli gives 2 soldiers an order to execute them. A photo bubble appears above the heads of the victims, showing photos of both men.

On May 15, al-Werfalli announced his resignation from the special forces, after he and his forces were accused of abuses, including looting and burning homes, as well as attacking a rescue division linked with the Interior Ministry in Benghazi that resulted in the killing of an officer. Al-Werfalli denied responsibility for those acts. However, the next day, the commander of the Special Forces, Wanis Bukhamada, rejected al-Werfalli's resignation due to the "many sacrifices al-Werfalli" had made, and kept him in his position.

Armed conflict, insecurity, and political divisions have plagued Libya since May 2014, when General Hiftar announced a war to root out "terrorism" in Benghazi. As a result of armed conflicts in both the east and west, central authority collapsed and the 3 competing governments emerged, including the Interim Government, which the House of Representatives supports. Key institutions, most notably law enforcement and the judiciary, are dysfunctional in most parts of the country. On July 5, General Hiftar announced the complete "liberation" of Benghazi from armed groups opposing the LNA, including extremists, but pockets of resistance remain.

The ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, has a mandate to investigate crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide committed in Libya since February 15, 2011. Human Rights Watch's research in Libya since 2011 has found rampant violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including mass long-term arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment, forced displacement, and unlawful killings. In the face of mounting atrocities, Human Rights Watch has called on the ICC prosecutor to urgently pursue an investigation into ongoing grave crimes by all sides, including possible crimes against humanity.

In May, Bensouda said her office was committed to making the Libya situation a priority in 2017. Given the serious crimes committed in Libya and the challenges facing the authorities, the ICC's mandate remains crucial to ending impunity in Libya, Human Rights Watch said.

(source: Human Rights Watch)

AUGUST 15, 2017:

FLORIDA----impending execution

Florida Supreme Court says yes to 1st execution in months

The Florida Supreme Court is refusing to block the state's 1st execution after a hiatus of more than 18 months.

The court on Monday ruled 6-1 that the state can go ahead with the scheduled Aug. 24 execution of Mark Asay.

Asay, 53, was originally scheduled to be executed in March 2016, for the 1987 murders of Robert Lee Booker and Robert McDowell in Jacksonville.

The execution was put on hold after the U.S. Supreme Court found the state's death penalty sentencing law unconstitutional.

The Legislature has since twice changed the law, most recently this year when it required a unanimous jury recommendation for the death penalty.

Justices rejected several arguments that Asay made to block his execution, including his questioning of a new drug the state plans to use for lethal injection.

(source: Associated Press)


Penalty phase begins in Sean Bush trial

Less than 2 weeks after convicting Sean Alonzo Bush of 1st-degree murder for the 2011 killing of his estranged wife, Nicole Bush, jurors were back in a St. Johns County courtroom Monday morning to begin the process of determining his fate.

The 7th Circuit State Attorney's Office is seeking the death penalty in Bush's case.

Circuit Judge Howard Maltz told jurors they could expect to hear about 3 days of testimony during the penalty phase of the trial.

This is the 1st death penalty case in the county since the state Legislature earlier this year passed a new law in the wake of higher court decisions requiring all 12 jurors to vote for a death sentence. Prior to a January 2016 decision from the U.S. Supreme Court, and subsequent rulings from the Florida Supreme Court, judges could sentence a defendant to death with only a majority of jurors voting for a recommendation of the death penalty.

Monday's proceedings got off to a fairly quick start with an opening statement from Assistant State Attorney Mark Johnson, in which he told jurors there were 5 "aggravating circumstances" in the murder of the 35-year-old mother of 2.

Those factors, Johnson said, included that Sean Bush had been previously convicted of aggravated assault for trying to kill a previous wife and Sean Bush's murder of Nicole Bush was committed while in the commission of burglary, done for financial gain, and was "especially heinous, atrocious and cruel."

"Our case today won't take very long," he said, promising he and Assistant State Attorney Jennifer Dunton would be done presenting their case before lunchtime.

They made good on their promise.

Johnson said he would call no witnesses to reiterate testimony from the guilt phase of the trial in which jurors learned Nicole Bush was shot 5 times in the head and face, beaten with an aluminum baseball bat, and stabbed before being left for dead in her Julington Creek townhome. He also told jurors their guilty verdict on an associated burglary charge and the testimony they had already heard about Nicole Bush's life insurance policies (totalling more than $800,000 with Sean Bush still listed as a beneficiary) should be sufficient to convince them of the burglary and financial gain assertions.

But Johnson and Dunton did call the ex-wife, who testified that during a "romantic evening" in April 2000, while relaxing in a hot tub, Sean Bush, after asking her to close her eyes because he had a surprise for her, threw an "electrically charged rod" into the tub of water. With sparks flying and her back burning, the woman said, she jumped from the tub only to have Sean Bush pin her against the wall and choke her. When the couple's 3-year-old daughter pushed her way into the bathroom, the woman testified, she was eventually able to get away and call police.

Prosecutors also called a girlfriend of Sean Bush's who testified more than a year before Nicole Bush was killed, he expressed a desire to kill her and had asked for help obtaining a gun, though it had been refused.

Dunton and Johnson finished the presentation of their case with tearful impact statements from Nicole Bush's mom, sister and friend, who, in prepared statements, each told jurors of the hurt and loss they have dealt with in the 6 years since her death.

With the state resting their case before lunch, jurors still had time to hear the opening statement from defense counsel, Rosemarie Peoples, with the Public Defender's Office, who told them that, with their guilty verdict, they had already decided Sean Bush will spend the rest of his life in prison, but could still spare him a death sentence.

After working her way through a series of objections from Johnson, who took issue with what he perceived as Peoples arguing rather than previewing the evidence the defense would present, Peoples told jurors they would hear Sean Bush was negatively impacted by a childhood in which he was raised by a mentally ill single mother on the streets of New Jersey.

"Sean grew up in an area where failure was a norm," she said.

The defense's 1st witness, Sean Bush's younger brother, testified the 2 boys moved from apartments to abandoned houses, sometimes using shopping carts, and sometimes slept in Newark's Penn Station. Growing up, he testified, the 2 dealt with a mercurial mother who sometimes worked as a prostitute to support them and seemed to battle drug problems.

During court's afternoon session, jurors heard from Sean Bush's oldest son - born before his father met Nicole Bush - who spoke of a loving father who took him and a younger sister to lunch outings and showered the 2 with gifts.

With the defense out of witnesses for the day following the son's testimony, Maltz sent jurors home about an hour earlier than expected.

Court resumes this morning with more testimony from defense witnesses.

Maltz told jurors they can expect to begin deliberating by Thursday after each side presents their closing argument.

(source: St. Augustine Record)

MISSOURI----impending execution

Attorney for Missouri death row inmate requests stay of execution over new DNA evidence

A request for a stay of execution was filed Monday for a Missouri death row inmate who's slated to die next week.

New tests show that Marcellus Williams' DNA was not found on the knife that was used in the 1998 killing of former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Felicia Gayle in University City, according to Williams' attorney, Kent Gipson of Kansas City.

Gipson said the DNA belongs to an unknown man. "We have 2 expert opinions based on the data that the male DNA found on the knife does not match him. And there are several points of dissimilarity. There's really no doubt about it," Gipson told St. Louis Public Radio.

He added that they're looking for a new trial, or "at the very least reduce his sentence from the death penalty to the life sentence."

If granted, it would be the 2nd stay of execution for Williams. The 1st was granted in January 2015 by the state Supreme Court, which mandated the new DNA tests.

It isn't clear when the court will make a decision. Williams is scheduled to be executed on Aug. 22.

Attorney General Josh Hawley didn't immediately return a request for comment.

Department of Corrections spokesman David Owen recently said in an email that the agency is "prepared to carry out the ... execution in accordance to the lethal injection protocol established in 2013." The state uses 1 drug, the sedative pentobarbital, in executions, and has refused to disclose the supplier.



A Top Lawyer Asks Supreme Court To Hear A Major Death Penalty Case----In a new filing, Neal Katyal is asking the high court to consider Arizona's death penalty law - and whether the death penalty itself is unconstitutional

One of the country's top lawyers is asking the Supreme Court to take up a case that could reshape - or even end - the death penalty in America.

The aggressive filing comes as the Supreme Court is already set to hear a high-profile series of cases.

An Arizona death row inmate, Abel Daniel Hidalgo, has been arguing for the past 3 years that the state's death penalty law is unconstitutional because it doesn't do enough to narrow who is eligible for the death penalty, among those convicted of murder.

Earlier this year, Neal Katyal, best known these days for serving as the lead lawyer for Hawaii's challenge to President Trump's travel ban, agreed to serve as Hidalgo's lawyer at the Supreme Court.

Katyal, the former acting solicitor general in the Obama administration, asked the justices in Monday's filing to hear Hidalgo's case and to strike down Arizona's death penalty law.

The filing comes more than 2 years after Justice Stephen Breyer, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, called for a wholesale review of the constitutionality of the death penalty. Justice Sonia Sotomayor has also expressed great concerns about the courts' handling of death penalty cases, as well as some states' death penalty laws.

And Justice Anthony Kennedy has expressed concerns about the death penalty's imposition, and has cast key votes excluding groups of people - like children or the intellectually disabled - from being eligible for the death penalty. He has not, however, given any specific indication that he is ready to join Breyer's call to review the constitutionality of the death penalty overall - and has allowed several executions to proceed since Breyer's call.

Katyal, however, joined by other lawyers at his firm, Hogan Lovells, as well as the Office of the Legal Advocate in Arizona and Arizona attorney Garrett Simpson, thinks the time is now - a move that could be tied to concerns by many liberal lawyers about whether and when Kennedy, at 81, might retire from the court.

"I have spent the last few years with my team looking for cases that highlight the gross problems with the death penalty in practice, and this case is a perfect example of them," Katyal told BuzzFeed News on Monday evening. "We look forward to the Supreme Court's review of Mr. Hidalgo's petition."

In 1972, the Supreme Court found the death penalty in America unconstitutional as then implemented, the court, in Gregg v. Georgia. 4 years later, the court brought it back - with new constraints - by approving several states' new laws. In Monday's filing, Katyal wrote of that case, "[T]he Court acknowledged that it might someday revisit the constitutionality of the death penalty in light of 'more convincing evidence.'"

He continued: "The evidence is in. The long experiment launched by Gregg - in whether the death penalty can be administered within constitutional bounds - has failed. It has failed both in Arizona in particular and in the Nation more broadly."

The brief points out that the court in Gregg found the new state death penalty laws to be constitutional because they required the finding of "aggravating" circumstances - a move that the court's controlling opinion concluded would "direct and limit" who was eligible for execution "so as to minimize the risk of wholly arbitrary and capricious action."

40 years later, Arizona's death penalty law is such that there are so many aggravating circumstances that "every 1st degree murder case filed in Maricopa County in 2010 and 2011 had at least 1 aggravating factor" making the person eligible for the death penalty. Hidalgo pleaded guilty in 2015 to 2 January 2001 murders in a murder-for-hire scheme in Maricopa County, Arizona. He was then sentenced to death by a jury.

"Arizona's scheme utterly fails," Katyal wrote, to "genuinely narrow the class of persons eligible for the death penalty" as the court has required over the time since Gregg.

For this reason alone, Hidalgo's legal team argues, the court should take the case and strike down Arizona's death penalty law.

But, beyond that, the filing goes on, "A national consensus has emerged that the death penalty is an unacceptable punishment in any circumstance." The brief argues that the court should take the case and rule that the death penalty, nationwide, is unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment's guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment.

This is so, the brief argues, because "the number of death sentences imposed and carried out has plummeted."

The brief also points to 3 further key arguments in support of this larger aim: First, states can't give guidance that ensures that only "the worst offenders" are sentenced to death. Second, states can't enforce the death penalty without "ensnaring and putting to death the innocent." And, finally, "the present reality of capital punishment" - decades spent on death row with "the remote but very real possibility of execution" - is its own possible constitutional violation.

Hidalgo's is not the 1st death penalty case Katyal's team had considered taking to the Supreme Court. In the fall of 2015, just months after Breyer and Ginsburg's statement about reviewing the death penalty, Hogan Lovells took on representation of Julius Murphy, on death row in Texas. The Texas courts, however, put that execution on hold indefinitely before the Hogan Lovells team had a reason to take the case to the US Supreme Court.

(source: BuzzFeed News)


Urgent Action


Ihar Hershankou and Siamion Berazhnoy were convicted and sentenced to death by the Mahiliou Regional Court, in eastern Belarus, on 21 July 2017. Theirs are the 2nd and 3rd death sentences imposed in Belarus in 2017.

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

* Urging the Prosecutor General to withdraw the death penalty as a sentencing option for Ihar Hershankou and Siamion Berazhnoy, and all others on death row;

* Stress that whilst we are not seeking to downplay the seriousness of the crime, research shows that the death penalty does not have a unique deterrent effect and is the ultimate denial of human rights;

* Calling on the President to introduce an immediate moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty

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

Contact these 2 officials by 25 September, 2017:


Alyaksandr Lukashenka

Vul. Karla Marksa 38

220016 Minsk, Belarus

Fax: +375 17 226 06 10

+375 17 222 38 72


Salutation: Dear President

Charge d'Affaires Mr. Pavel Shidlovsky

Embassy of Belarus

1619 New Hampshire Ave NW

Washington DC 20009

Phone: 202 986 9420 OR 1 202 986 1606

Fax: 202 986 1805 OR 1 202 986 1805


Salutation: Dear Ambassador

(source: Amnesty International)


Pakistan to nominate ad-hoc judge for ICJ hearing in Kulbhushan Jadhav case----The ICJ had on May 18 restrained Pakistan from executing the death sentence on Jadhav

The Pakistan government has begun consultations over the nomination of an ad-hoc judge for the Kulbhushan Jadhav case being heard at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) with an ex-attorney general and a former Jordanian premier emerging as the top contenders, a media report said on Tuesday.

India had moved the Hague-based ICJ against Jadhav's death penalty handed down by a Pakistani military court. The ICJ had on May 18 restrained Pakistan from executing the death sentence.

Pakistan government's functionaries have started consultations for the nomination of an ad-hoc judge, Express Tribune reported, citing sources.

During the tenure of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif, former Supreme Court judge Khalilur Rehman Ramday was approached, but he declined the nomination, the report said.

Sources were quoted by the daily as saying that the Attorney General for Pakistan's (AGP) office has recommended the names of senior lawyer Makhdoom Ali Khan and former Jordanian prime minister Awn Shawkat Al-Khasawneh to the Prime Minister's Office for the nomination of one name as an ad-hoc judge.

Khasawneh served as an ICJ judge for over a decade, while Khan, a former Attorney General who is seen as the favourite for the job, also has experience in international arbitration cases, having represented eight different countries in international courts.

The nomination of the ad-hoc judge will be finalised after getting inputs from the Foreign Office and the military establishment, the sources said, adding that earlier, government functionaries had also considered the name of former chief justice of Pakistan Tassaduq Hussain Jillani.

An official was quoted as saying that the name of the ad- hoc judge will be finalised next month, soon after the Indian side files its documents.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) representative Raheel Kamran Sheikh has called upon the government to seek Parliament's approval on the appointment of the ad-hoc judge.

Only 1 person has previously been appointed as ICJ judge in Pakistan's history - former foreign minister Zafarullah Khan, who was appointed in 1954 and later became the president of the court.

Yaqub Ali Khan and Sharifuddin Pirzada both served as ad-hoc judges, as did Zafarullah.



Yavatmal court awards death penalty to 7 in human sacrifice case

Additional District and Sessions Judge A S Waghmare on Monday awarded capital punishment to Manoj Atram, Devidas Atram, Yadhavrao Tekam, Punaji Atram, Ramchandra Atram, Motiram Atram and Yashodabai Meshram in the sensational Sapna Palaskar human sacrifice case. The convicts are the residents of Choramba village in Ghatanji tehsil and were arrested for 'sacrificing' 7-year-old Sapna Palaskar on October 23, 2012.

All of them were convicted under Section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code, apart from other offences. The court also imposed a fine of Rs 5,000 each on them. Durga Shirbhate, another accused, was sentenced to 5 years' rigorous imprisonment for being part of the conspiracy.

According to prosecution, Shirbhate, claiming to be possessed by a goddess, said that 'human blood' was needed to appease the deity and save the clan as well as the village from its wrath.

The accused, a few of them related to Shirbhate, decided to 'sacrifice' Sapna Palaskar (7), a girl living in the same village. Sapna was persuaded to go to the house of Yashodabai Meshram where Ramchandra chopped off her head after a ritual. The head and the body were buried with pooja material outside the house. 1 1/2 months later the girl's remains were exhumed and reburied in another person's field. Later, the bones and skull were exhumed again, and thrown into bushes.

In the meantime, the police had registered a missing person complaint regarding the girl. During the trial, 13 witnesses were examined. The girl's parents -- Sharda and Gopal-- who were also prosecution witnesses, turned hostile.

However, the court relied on DNA test reports which confirmed that the remains recovered by the police were of Sapna, and the statements of other prosecution witnesses.

Assistant Public Prosecutor Adv Shubhangi Darne represented the State.

(source: The Hitavada)


Anti-death penalty photographer exhibits images of juvenile death row inmates

When Japanese photographer Toshi Kazama found out that he was going to take pictures of a 16-year-old killer on death row in the United States, he expected to find a monster.

But when he finally met the teenager, what he found was an intellectually disabled boy who could easily have been sitting in his son’s classroom.

Charged with 2 counts of murder, the boy had confided in Kazama that he was afraid to shower because the adult inmates would rape him in the bathroom.

"I started to think, what if I was born the same? I want to treat him as I would want to be treated. So I started to treat others the way I wanted myself to be treated. That really changed my whole life for me," Kazama said, speaking on Monday at the Commission on Human Rights in a forum against the death penalty.

"People think, 'as long as I'm fine, I don't care about others.' But meeting him just changed my whole experience."

Thankfully, the 16-year-old was spared the death penalty when the U.S. Supreme Court abolished capital punishment for juvenile offenders in 2005.

Since 1996, Kazama has been visiting prisons in the U.S. and other countries, photographing juvenile death row inmates, meeting families, victims, victims' families, and executioners.

He was in the Philippines to present an exhibit of his photos at the Senate's public hall, and to advocate against the death penalty.

He recalled visiting an execution chamber in Taiwan, where the floor was filled with black sand. The inmate would have his last meal in front of an image of Buddha, then he would lie down on a sheet. The executioner would then shoot him until he died. The black sand would absorb the bullet's impact, and the blood.

"To me, death penalty is reality. It's not just an idea ... As I see the execution chambers, and there are many executioners, I see how the human life is being snuffed," the photographer said. "And many of the executioners are normal prison guards. They all say they don't want to kill any more human beings. While society pushes to reinstate the death penalty, someone has to kill a human being. And yes, you don't want to kill somebody with your own hand. But you ask somebody [else] to do it. When death penalty is reinstated in this country, and when execution resumes, somebody has to kill for you."

He hoped to have the chance to meet the Filipino senators one by one to talk to them about the realities of death penalty.

"We have to stop. Please keep this country away from death penalty," Kazama said.

He remembered an execution where, five minutes before it was to be carried out, the phone rang. The guards cheered, expecting it to be the governor calling to halt the proceedings.

Indeed it was the governor, but, sounding drunk, he was just calling to say they should push through with the execution.

"To him, execution is just a piece of paper in front of him. Just to sign a paper, it's only a matter of paper to him. He never comes here to witness or administer any execution. It's almost like us ... Execution is the farthest event from our daily lives ... We are trying to distance [ourselves]. I was one of them too," Kazama said.

He urged Filipinos to stop the reimposition of the death penalty, which President Rodrigo Duterte had asked Congress to do in his last State of the Nation Address. The House of Representatives approved the measure to reinstate the death penalty, for drug-related offenses, in March.

The Philippines had done "an amazing job" abolishing the death penalty during the time of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, making the nation a "jewel in Asia," Kazama said.

Reinstating the death penalty would just legalize extrajudicial killings, he added.

With Kazama, representatives from CHR, from the Coalition for the Abolition of Death Penalty in ASEAN, ASEAN Youth Forum, iDefend, and Participatory Education on Rights Awareness and Social Action called on the Philippine government to "End Crime, Not Life".

CHR Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit said they would continue to work against the reimposition of the death penalty, and propagate the studies proving that the death penalty did not deter crime. The CHR also planned to conduct a nationwide survey to see how Filipinos really felt about the death penalty.

Dumpit said that she was one in the quest for justice, which was the motivation for many people who were for the death penalty.

She stressed that the CHR did not want any crime to go unpunished; this was not how human rights worked. Rather, what the CHR was for was due process. The rule of law must be followed, and there must be humane treatment for those who had committed crimes.

Death was an inhuman verdict, and was tantamount to punishing people for the failure of the justice system. The taking of life was permanent, she added. Mistakes could not be rectified.

For her part, iDefend's Nilda Sevilla estimated that about 8 to 10 senators were against the death penalty, and she hoped they would be firm in their stance.



Katsina stipulates death penalty for rape

Katsina State Government has stipulated death as penalty for any one found guilty of rape in the state.

The technical committee working on the domestication of 'Child Rights Act' made this resolution on Monday.

The Secretary of the committee, Hajiya Fatima Jibo, made the disclosure while presenting the final draft of the bill known as 'Katsina State Child Protection Bill' to the Commissioner of Women Affairs, Dr. Badiyya Mashi, for onward delivery to Governor Bello Masari.

Hajiya Jibo explained that the death sentence is applicable where the sexually abused child is under the age of 9.

Quoting from the draft, she said, "whoever sexually abuses a child commits an offence and shall be liable on conviction to be sentenced to death."



Mugabe, Mnangagwa clash over death penalty

President Robert Mugabe yesterday disclosed that he had on several occasions clashed with a section of Cabinet ministers led by Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa over how to deal with capital punishment, which he said should be retained on the statutes to allow for the hanging of some convicted murderers.

In a speech to mark Heroes Day commemorations at the National Heroes Acre, Mugabe also appealed to the public to take up the hangman's post, which has remained vacant for over two decades. "We are still debating whether to remove capital punishment. My Cabinet is divided about that and Mnangagwa wants it to be removed, but we are still considering. We now have many people on the death row," Mugabe said.

Mnangagwa, who doubles as Justice minister, is on record describing capital punishment as inhuman and wants it abolished.

"We are failing to get a hangman. If there is anyone brave, they should apply and we will appoint," Mugabe said yesterday.

The death penalty has remained a controversial issue in Zimbabwe and the new Constitution exempts women murderers from execution while only allowing for certain male criminals to be hanged.



Call to Save 7 Prisoners on the Verge of Execution

7 prisoners sentenced to death in Gohar Dasht (Rajaieh Shahr) Prison in Karaj, have been transferred to solitary confinement. These victims are faced with an imminent death threat. Mehdi Bohlouli, who is now on the verge of execution after serving 15 years of imprisonment, was only 17 when arrested and this is the 4th time he has been transferred to solitary confinement for implementation of the death sentence.

Taking prisoners to the gallows to witness the shocking scene of the execution of other prisoners is a common practice of torture in the prisons of Iranian regime.

Transferring the young prisoner, Mehdi Bohlouli for execution is taking place while the execution of Alireza Tajiki, a young prisoner who was 15 years old at the time of his arrest, sparked a wave of hatred inside and outside of Iran, and international human rights organizations called it shameful and shocking. Alireza Tajiki was hanged on August 10 after serving 6 years in prison under torture for compulsory confessions, and while his family's repeated requests for a retrial was ignored.

The execution and torture machine of the regime, which is a world record holder, on the number of executions per capita and one of the few juvenile executioners, has accelerated after the sham presidential election. Only in July 2017 there has been a rare record of 101 recorded hangings. The actual number of executions is likely to be higher, since it does not include the number of secret executions.

The Iranian resistance calls for urgent intervention and action of the international bodies and human rights organizations to stop the death sentences of these 7 victims and the abolition of their death sentences, as well as the protest and condemnation of governments to the new wave of executions in Iran.

(source: Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran)


Scheduled execution of man arrested as teenager is an all-out assault on children's rights

The planned execution on Wednesday morning of Mehdi Bohlouli, who was only a child at the time of the crime, just days after the hanging of another man arrested as a child, is a sickening act of cruelty that must be stopped immediately, said Amnesty International today.

Mehdi Bohlouli was transferred to solitary confinement in Raja'i Shahr Prison in Karaj, near Tehran, on Monday morning. His family have been told to go to the prison for their final visit today. He has spent more than 15 years on death row. It follows the execution last Thursday (10 August) of Alireza Tajiki, who was just 15 at the time of his arrest.

"By scheduling this unlawful execution when the world is still expressing outrage about Alireza Tajiki, the Iranian authorities are effectively declaring to the international community that they have no shame in remaining the world's top executioner of those who were children at the time of the crime. The head of Iran's judiciary must immediately intervene and stop this execution from taking place before Iran's cruel justice system takes yet another life," said Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

"The latest round of executions of individuals for crimes committed while under 18 shows that the sickening enthusiasm of Iran's justice system for the death penalty knows no bound. This is nothing short of an all-out assault on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child."

Mehdi Bohlouli was sentenced to death by a criminal court in Tehran in November 2001 after he was convicted of murder for fatally stabbing a man during a fight. He was 17 when the crime took place and has spent his entire young adult life on death row. This is the 4th time that he has been scheduled for execution and transferred to solitary confinement. The last time was in April 2017, when a postponement was announced the day before the scheduled execution date. In January 2017, his request for a retrial was denied.

Iran is one of the last countries in the world that still uses the death penalty against juvenile offenders. In January 2016, Amnesty International published a report which found that despite piecemeal reforms introduced by the Iranian authorities in 2013 to deflect criticism of their appalling record on executions of juvenile offenders, they have continued to condemn dozens of young people to death for crimes committed when they were below 18 years of age.

Since the beginning of this year, Iran has executed at least 4 individuals who were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime. As of August 2017, Amnesty International had identified the names of at least 89 individuals on death row who were under the age of 18 when the crime was committed.

(source: Amnesty International)


Raising the Death Penalty Bar----Parliament Amends Drug Law

The Iranian parliament on August 13, 2017 approved a long-awaited amendment to the country's drug law that significantly raises the bar for a mandatory death sentence, Human Rights Watch said today. The amendment, which the parliamentary judiciary commission revised four times, is a step in the right direction despite being more limited than a December 2016 draft amendment that sought to outlaw the death penalty for most non-violent drug related offenses.

Iran has one of the highest rates of documented executions in the world. According to Amnesty International, in 2016 alone, Iran executed at least 567 individuals, including at least 2 who were children when they allegedly committed their crimes. When submitting the new draft law to the parliament, Hassan Noroozi, the spokesperson for the parliamentary judicial committee, stated that 5,000 people are currently on death row for drug offenses in Iran, the majority between the ages of 20 and 30.

"If the amendment becomes law, it could save hundreds of people from execution who never should have been on death row in the first place," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Even Iranian officials admit the ineffectiveness of capital punishment for combating drugs, and the parliament should next outlaw capital punishment for all drug offenders, and then end all executions."

For the bill to become law, the Guardian Council, a body of 12 Islamic jurists, must approve it, agreeing that the bill is in accordance with Iran's constitution and their interpretation of sharia law.

Under Iran's current drug law, nonviolent offenses, including possession of as little as 30 grams of synthetic drugs such as methamphetamines, as well as trafficking, possession, or trade of more than 5 kilograms of opium or 30 grams of heroin carries a mandatory death sentence.

The approved amendment changes the punishment for drug offenses that previously carried the death penalty or life in prison to a prison term of up to 30 years. However, it still mandates the death penalty if the accused or one of the participants in the crime used or carried weapons and intended to use them against law enforcement agencies. The death penalty would still apply to a leader of a drug trafficking cartel, anyone who used a child in some way to traffic drugs, or anyone facing new drug-related charges who had previously been sentenced to execution or 15 years to life for drug-related offenses.

After facing pushback from Iran's judiciary and the Interior Ministry's drug control headquarters, parliament altered the amendment to maintain the death penalty for nonviolent charges of "production, distribution, trafficking, and selling" drugs. However, the amendment raises the amounts of drugs involved to more than 50 kilograms of "traditional" drugs such as opium or 2 kilograms of synthetic drugs such as methamphetamines. It also restores the death penalty for possession, purchase, or concealing more than three kilograms of "synthetic drugs."

Despite the prospect of reform, the authorities have continued executing people on drug-related offenses. On July 20, Human Rights Watch called on Iranian authorities to immediately halt these executions while the amendments await final approval.

Human Rights Watch has repeatedly documented serious violations of due process, torture, and other violations of the rights of people accused of drug offenses, including in Ghezel Hesar prison in Karaj. Prisoners have told Human Rights Watch that authorities routinely blindfold and beat detainees and force them to sign confessions. Prisoners also said that court-appointed lawyers are not allowed to be present during interrogations or to meet privately with their clients, and that they are allowed only to submit written statements in their clients' defense.

Under article 6(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Iran has ratified, in countries that still retain capital punishment, the death penalty may be applied only for the "most serious crimes." The UN Human Rights Committee, which interprets the covenant, has said that drug offenses are not among the "most serious crimes," and that the use of the death penalty for such crimes violates international law. Human Rights Watch opposes capital punishment in all circumstances because it is inherently irreversible and inhumane.

"The Guardian Council shouldn't wait a moment longer to approve reforms and take a 1st step to curbing Iran's execution epidemic," Whitson said.

(source: Human Rights Watch)


Daughter Of Iran's 'Hanging Judge' Breaks Silence About Her Notorious Father

Ayatollah Sadeq Khalkhali is notorious as Iran's "hanging judge," having ruthlessly ordered hundreds of summary executions after trials that sometimes lasted just minutes in the months following Iran's 1979 revolution.

His daughter, however, remembers him differently.

"My father's outside image is very violent," Fatemeh Sadeghi says in an interview published this month in the Iranian magazine Andisheye Pouya. "But that's not the image of him that I had at home. He was very strict at home, but he would never beat me."

Sadeghi said her father never discussed his dark past with her.

"He didn't want to talk about it," she said. "It was clear that he had [some issues], but he wasn't remorseful."

Revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini selected Khalkhali to head the newly created Revolutionary Courts shortly after taking power. Before Khalkhali was forced to step down and sidelined in December 1980, he sent hundreds of people to their deaths, including many affiliated with the regime of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi.

In his 2000 autobiography, Khalkhali wrote that he indeed felt no remorse.

"I killed over 500 criminals close to the royal family, hundreds of rebels in the Kurdistan, Gonabad, and Khuzestan regions, and many drug smugglers,'' Khalkhali wrote, according to a translation by The New York Times.

''I feel no regret or guilt over the executions. Yet I think I killed little. There were many more who deserved to be killed, but I could not get my hands on them," he added.

Khalkhali died in 2003 at the age of 77.

The Andisheye Pouya interview this month marks the 1st time that Sadeghi, a respected women's rights activist who has criticized the compulsory hijab in the past, has spoken publicly about her father.

While she says she doesn't intend to justify her father or defend his actions, she asserts that, at that moment in her country's history, those in charge had to demonstrate "revolutionary decisiveness."

"The atmosphere then was very ideological," Sadeghi said. "I don't want to say that my father was kind -- not at all. But that ideological atmosphere required revolutionary decisiveness."

"At that time, they all wanted to present themselves as revolutionaries to scare the enemy. This is how I see things," she added.

She says she never felt she had to defend Khalkhali, who is believed to have acted with Khomeini's blessing, because "my father always insisted that his political face -- good or bad -- was his business."

"He presented himself as a revolutionary and believed that he had to accept some bad notoriety for the revolution," she said. "[My father] would always say: 'We made the revolution and we have to stand by it.' I can still hear him."

People often criticize her father, but Sadeghi says she doesn't react. She merely takes note so she can later tell relatives what she heard.

"People have the right to make judgments about political figures, so whatever I hear is not strange to me," she says.

Sadeghi then recounts a particular episode that has stuck in her mind.

She was riding in a long-distance taxi from Tehran to Karaj, about 30 kilometers west of the Iranian capital, when she heard one of the passengers attacking her father.

"[That person] started saying very bad insults about my father," she recalled. "He said that [my father] was once detained in France with two sacks of gold, adding that his wife was also with him.

"Those moments were hard on me. But I wanted to laugh at the image of my mother carrying a sack of gold," Sadeghi said. "[My father] wasn't a thief. He didn’t have any hidden wealth.

"My father ordered the [execution] of [former Prime Minister Amir Abbas] Hoveyda. He went to Kurdistan (where Khalkhali ordered the execution of many Kurds)," Sadehi said. "All of this happened, but he didn't steal."

Khalkhali presided over the brief trial of Hoveyda, who served as prime minister under the shah for more than a decade. Moments after being sentenced to death, Hoveyda was taken outside and shot in the back of the head. Khalkhali then returned to the courtroom and announced that the sentence had been carried out.

The New Haven-based Iran Human Rights Documents Center reports that Khalkhali was proud to have been present at Hoveyda's execution and had kept the pistol as a memento.

She said that Khalkhali, who had become a supporter of the reformist movement, convinced her in 1997 to vote for reformist presidential candidate Mohammad Khatami, who won the election and served as Iran's 5th president from 1997 until 2005.

The interviewer, who says she is a friend of Sadeghi, rarely challenges her. At one point, she asks Sadeghi if she misses her father.

"It's a tough question. Is there anyone who doesn't love his or her parents?" Sadeghi asks.

Sadeghi's interview has been criticized by some as a dubious effort to humanize a monster.

"I wish Fatemeh Sadeghi had continued her silence regarding her father," wrote exiled Iranian journalist Arash Bahmani on Twitter.

The Iranian blogger who goes by the name Zeitoun commented on Facebook: "Why didn't Fatemeh Sadeghi say: 'Although Khalkhali was my father and I love him, he did bad things to people -- many bad things.' Why didn't she say that?"

(source: Golnaz Esfandiari is a senior correspondent with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)

AUGUST 14, 2017:


Jury hung in sentencing of former Dent County deputy found guilty of 2 murders

A jury that found a former Dent County sheriff's deputy and state correctional officer guilty of murdering his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend couldn't decide Saturday whether he should be put to death for his crimes - a decision a judge must now make.

On Thursday, the jury found Marvin Rice guilty of 1st-degree murder in the shooting of Annette Durham, 32, and 2nd-degree murder in the shooting of Steven Strotkamp, 39.

During the penalty phase of the trial on Friday, the jury decided Rice should serve a life sentence for the 2nd-degree murder charge. The jury had a choice between life without the possibility of probation or parole or death on the 1st-degree murder charge. The jury voted 11 to 1 in favor of the death penalty, but the decision had to be unanimous.

Now the decision as to whether Rice will spend his life in prison or be sent to death row rests with Judge Kelly Parker, who has set a punishment hearing for Oct. 6.

The fatal shootings in 2011 sprang from a custody dispute between Rice and Durham over their son.

Rice had an affair with Durham while he was a Dent County sheriff's deputy. Durham, who struggled with drug addiction, had been in and out of jail several times and their son was born in 2010 while she was serving a prison sentence.

Rice and his wife took custody, but no formal agreement was in place, Dent County Prosecuting Attorney Andrew Curley told jurors in his opening statement Monday.

When Durham got out of prison in 2011 after another short stay, she was determined to get her life together and establish a relationship with her son, Curley said. Rice initially allowed her only brief visits supervised by him.

But on Dec. 10, 2011, she was allowed an unsupervised visit and decided that she wanted to keep her son overnight, Curley said.

When Rice found out, he went to the house Durham shared with Strotkamp outside of Salem.

He shot both with a .40-caliber pistol, took his son and then gave the boy to his wife before leading police on a high-speed chase that ended in a shootout in a Jefferson City hotel during a Christmas party, Curley said.

Curley said Monday that Strotkamp was able to identify Rice as his killer before he died. Durham's daughter also testified that she heard loud noises that she later learned were gunshots before seeing Rice with a pistol. He took his son and left without saying a word, she told jurors. She saw the 2 bodies before running for help.

Public defender Charles Hoskins told jurors that Rice "snapped" when Durham told him, "You're never seeing (your son) again, and neither is your family."

He said Rice was under "extreme emotional distress" at the time and that a pituitary tumor and the 17 medications he was taking affected his impulse control and made him misinterpret reality in a paranoid manner.

(source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch)


Veteran Marin public defender exits after 36 years

With his gaunt, stern, even brooding image, Chief Deputy Public Defender David Brown has been one of the more distinctive characters at the Marin County courthouse for decades. Yet his intense appearance belies a disarming modesty and a soft spot for society's downtrodden.

"I hate bullies," he once said.

Brown, who became a Marin public defender in 1981 after earning a bachelor's degree at Cornell and a law degree at Stanford, retired from the office on Friday. The 63-year-old San Rafael resident, one of the few Marin defense attorneys with the requisite qualifications to handle capital cases, plans to pursue a private practice.

Q Why did you choose criminal defense as opposed to another area of law?

A Since I was a youngster, I always identified with and rooted for the underdog. And, my mother always told me, "David, you should be a lawyer because you argue about everything." For me, criminal law is the most exciting and gratifying type of law.

Q Who's harder to represent, an innocent person who's likely to be convicted, or a guilty person who's likely to get off?

A Having a client whom you believe to be completely innocent always puts additional pressure on a lawyer. Hopefully, the lawyer representing such a client will pull out all the stops to ensure that no injustice occurs. As Thomas Jefferson said, "Better 100 guilty men go free than 1 innocent man be condemned."

Q Is the rule of law stronger now then when you started your career, or weaker?

A In California, the pendulum has swung from the liberal Rose Bird (she's one of my heroes) court to harsher penalties such as 3 strikes, and then back to recent legalization of marijuana, reducing some felonies to misdemeanors, and other reforms. California is OK. Nationally, I believe that the Trump administration is engaged in an all-out assault on the rule of law.

Q Given student debt loads and the job market, would you recommend a law career to undergraduates?

A If making money is your No. 1 priority, choose a tech career. If you have a real passion for an issue or area of the law, go for it!

Q What's more important, verbal adroitness or strategic cunning?

A Both are important. Articulate arguments are obviously most effective. But courtroom strategy is critical to an effective defense. You have to be able to visualize and explain to your clients how the case will play out in court.

Q If you could overturn one Supreme Court decision, what would it be?

A Citizens United v. FEC. This case opened the door for corporations and special interests to buy elections. I favor a system of publicly financed political campaigns.



Death Row Exonerees Fight to Stop Executions

One day after Independence Day this summer, former death row inmate Joe D'Ambrosio celebrated his freedom by starting a petition to stop 27 executions in Ohio.

D'Ambrosio was exonerated from Ohio's death row when he was 50. He was convicted for a murder he didn't commit when he was 26. In his petition, he states that he and his co-petition starters "are some of the 9 men exonerated from Ohio's death row, proving that innocent people have been sentenced to death in our state."

The state of Ohio has scheduled 27 executions between 2017 and 2020, the 1st of which took place just weeks ago; Ronald R. Phillips's execution on July 26th marked the 1st since the botched execution of Dennis McGuire in 2014. The drug combination used to kill McGuire induced a choking sensation as a result of restricted breathing. After McGuire's 25-minute-long execution, the ordeal was called, a "failed, agonizing experiment," by his defense attorney. Similar side effects to these lethal injection drugs were reported weeks earlier during an execution that took place in Oklahoma.

The recurrence of botched executions is among the reasons why D'Ambrosio is petitioning Ohio Governor John Kasich to call off the executions scheduled to take place over the next 3 years.

Yet Ohio is moving forward with their most intensive execution schedule to date - even though over 7,000 people are calling on Governor Kasich to call it off. Many of those have spoken out against the death penalty, including James, who wrote, "We have so many people in jail that have later been found innocent. How can you support a system that has proven to be unjust?"

In Missouri, an execution is set to take place in less than 2 weeks that raises similar concerns. Marcellus Williams has been on death row since 1998, despite no DNA evidence linking him to the crime he was convicted for committing. In fact, the sole grounds for his conviction 2 decades ago were the testimonies of 2 individuals. Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty started a petition to save Marcellus on shortly after D'Ambrosio launched his in July.

Nearly 200,000 people have spoken out against the death penalty and individual executions on, resulting in 1 petition making victory in April when Governor McAuliffe of Virginia commuted the death sentence of Ivan Teleguz. As Teleguz was spared in Virginia, roughly 50,000 people were rallying to prevent the execution of 8 men in Arkansas. Governor Asa Hutchinson didn't listen even as community and faith leaders spoke out against the 8 executions scheduled to take place in a mere 10 day period, but the courts did - resulting in 4 of the 8 executions being stayed.

Right now, 26 men on Ohio's death row and Marcellus Williams in Missouri need you to take action to help prevent their executions. You can do so by signing the petitions to save them and by sharing the petitions on social media and elsewhere.

Looking for even more ways to help? Consider joining our Criminal Justice program to support petitions like these seeking to right wrongful convictions and work toward meaningful criminal justice reform.



Death sentences of Shiites point to limits of Saudi reforms

Saudi Arabia's new crown prince hopes to transform the kingdom and modernize society, but the planned execution of 14 Shiite protesters charged with violence against security forces suggests the government's handling of sectarian tensions and unrest remains unchanged.

The country's supreme court recently upheld the death penalty in the case, raising concerns among rights activists that the group could be executed at any moment.

Human rights groups allege the trial was unfair, saying the defendants' confessions were extracted under duress and that some did not have lawyers present in court. 3 of the defendants were 17 years old when the alleged crimes were committed.

A defense lawyer contacted by The Associated Press declined to speak, saying he is officially barred from talking about the case with the media.

The mother of one of the defendants said her son's lawyer was pressured to quit his defense and so withdrew from the trial, leaving her son to represent himself.

"He had to defend himself and answer his own questions in court," said Zahra Abdullah, the mother of defendant Munir al-Adam. "I am demanding either a just trial or their release," she added. "To issue the death penalty for protests isn't right."

Also facing execution is Mujtaba al-Sweikat, a young Saudi man who had been accepted to attend Western Michigan University before his arrest. The American Federation of Teachers, which says it represents 1.6 million members nationwide, is urging President Donald Trump to demand that Saudi Arabia halt the executions.

In response to the outcry, the Saudi Justice Ministry issued a rare statement defending its judicial process and the verdicts. It said the 14 were convicted of "terrorist crimes" that included killing civilians and security officers.

The ministry said the group received a fair trial, and that three different courts and a total of 13 judges examined the case. The ministry said severe punishment is handed down only in cases where the most dangerous crimes are committed. Iranian protesters hold portraits of Nimr al-Nimr at a demonstration against his execution by Saudi authorities, outside the Saudi embassy in Tehran.

Abdullah says her son took part in protests to demand equality and greater rights. Among the charges he faced were throwing rocks at police and firing on a police checkpoint. She says her son denies the charge of firing on police.

Scholars of Islamic law, or Shariah, hold vastly different views on the application of the death penalty. Under the kingdom's interpretation of Shariah, judges have wide discretion to rule and hand down death sentences for lethal as well as non-lethal offenses.

The kingdom has one of the highest rates of execution in the world. Last year, 47 people were executed on one day, including a prominent Saudi Shiite cleric convicted for his role in violent protests. The cleric, Nimr al-Nimr, denied the charges of sedition. His supporters say he was punished for being an outspoken government critic and a key leader of the Shiite protests in eastern Saudi Arabia in 2011 and 2012.

The group of 14 were charged for their role in those same protests.

Reprieve, an advocacy group that opposes the death penalty, said it has established that at least one of the defendants was never permitted to see a lawyer. In al-Adam's case, no evidence against him was presented at trial, said Reprieve.

Activists say there is growing cause for concern after the kingdom executed four Shiites in July convicted on charges of terrorism for their role in the same protests and violence with security forces.

On Friday, 10 Nobel Peace Prize winners appealed to King Salman and his son, the crown prince, to halt the executions.

Human Rights Watch says that if Saudi Arabia's new leadership is serious about reform, "they should immediately step in to stop these executions." In a joint statement, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said the rise in death sentences against Shiites in Saudi Arabia "is alarming and suggests that the authorities are using the death penalty to settle scores and crush dissent under the guise of combating 'terrorism.'"

Underpinning much of these tensions is a region-wide rivalry between Sunni-led Saudi Arabia and Shiite-led Iran. Al-Nimr's execution led to a severing of ties.

In sermons and on Twitter, Saudi Arabia's ultraconservative clerics refer to Shiites as "rafida," an Arabic slur for "rejectionists." They condemn Shiite rituals, like praying at the tombs of revered figures, as an aberration of Islam and accuse Shiites of being faithful to hard-line clerics in theocratic Iran.

Saudi Shiites, who are a minority in the kingdom but make up the bulk of the population in the kingdom's eastern region, have been targeted by extremists in recent years. A number of bombings have struck Shiites mosques in the east.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who was elevated as heir to the throne in late June, has fashioned himself as a modernizer. He's set out lofty goals for the kingdom to achieve by 2030, promising a dramatic shake-up, but has given no indication he is willing to address Shiite grievances.

Prince Mohammed raised eyebrows during an interview in May when he framed his country's rivalry with Iran in sectarian terms, saying there could be no dialogue with Iran because it is trying to spread a messianic Shiite doctrine.

Nowhere are sectarian tensions in Saudi Arabia more visible than in the eastern town of al-Awamiya, the hometown of al-Nimr, the executed cleric.

Around 2 dozen people, including security forces and local militants, have been killed there this year there. Violence spiked in May after the government began demolishing the city's historic center, including hundreds of homes. The government says the area was being used to provide cover for wanted criminals. Among those killed in the unrest is a three year-old boy who died last week. Residents in al-Awamiya say he was shot by Saudi security forces while in the backseat of a car.

Abdullah says her son was 18 years old at the time of his arrest. He'd found work at a factory outside al-Awamiya and had dropped out of school because the family was struggling financially. He complained there were no jobs, even for college graduates.

"As Shiites we have been targeted for a long time. There is no equality. All the government posts and influential positions are not for us," she said.



Mercy petition

Sir, last week the Presidency of Pakistan has accepted the 2nd mercy petition of death row convict Muhammad Iqbal who was a juvenile at the commission of an offence. For the time being his execution has been stayed until the final disposal of the mercy petition. His trial was concluded in 1999 and his appeal to Lahore High Court was dismissed in 2002. He has been languishing in jail for 18 years. The President of Pakistan has sent his 2nd mercy petition to the Ministry of Interior for further action. It is not out of place to mention that his 1st mercy petition was dismissed by the President some months. This is the 1st that the President of Pakistan has accepted the 2nd mercy petition sent by a 3rd party who was neither his counsel nor his relative. His 2nd mercy petition was sent by a citizen of Pakistan by virtue of Article 45 of the Constitution of Pakistan, 1973. Article 45 of the Constitution doesn't debar filing of a 2nd mercy petition. The President of Pakistan has accepted the mercy petition on humanitarian grounds however; the 1st mercy petition was dismissed on merits by the office of President. His death warrants were issued this year 30th June and Iqbal was set to send to gallows.

When Iqbal stood trial in 1999 his age was less than 18 years and this fact was determined through ossification test but then there was no legislation in Pakistan that debarred awarding of death sentence. However Pakistan was a party to UN Convention on Child Rights that directed its signatory countries not to award death sentence to juveniles. Juvenile Justice System 2000 was promulgated after the conclusion of Iqbal's trial that prohibited awarding of death sentence to juveniles. In 2001 the then President of Pakistan issued a notification directing to the courts of Pakistan not to award death sentence to juveniles subject to determination of their age.

The accepted of Iqbal's 2nd mercy petition has enhanced the image of Pakistan around the world in a positive manner. Pakistan had already executed 2 juveniles in 2014 and 2015 because of Pakistan had to save immense level of criticism. As we know that the death penalty is medieval times punishment that has no space in modern era because it undermines human dignity. This punishment must be abolished for all sorts of offences. Pakistan cannot afford to have this punishment in her criminal justice system.



(source: Letter to the Editor, Daily Times)


Chinese police act against illicit meat trade

A suspected illegal meat distribution in the northern suburban Changping District of Beijing was raided by the police over the weekend. A total of 34 dogs of various breeds were confiscated, including 1 with an identification chip.

Yangfang Township police worked with local animal welfare groups to rescue animals and took them to a municipal shelter.

According to surveys and media reports over the past two years, the dog and cat meat trade has developed into a well-segmented industry that consists of stealing, collecting, shipping, slaughtering and selling of the final products such as meat and fur.

As public concerns grew over the whereabouts of the unquarantined animal products and its potential threat to food safety, China's law enforcement has been battling against the illicit dog and cat meat trade nationwide.


Earlier this month, the police closed down a holding site for stolen pet dogs in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province in southwestern China. More than 30 dogs were handed over to Qiming Animal Protection Center - a local charity - where they were reunited with their owners or adopted.

The charity's executives told Xinhua that the site was well-known as a depository for stolen pets before killing the animals and selling the meat.

In July, a truckload of 200 cats and more than 100 dogs was intercepted by the police in Zhuzhou, in the central province of Hunan. The driver was fined 2,000 yuan (300 dollars).

On August 7, a group of 24 suspected dog thieves were prosecuted in Anhui Province, eastern China for producing and selling toxic or hazardous food, theft and hiding or concealing the proceeds, said the prosecutor's statement.

According to Chinese law, those producing and selling toxic or hazardous food can face the death penalty. Stealing pets and working animals, as well as unlicensed keeping of dogs of unknown origins are felonies.

Unlawful practices involved in the meat trade such as trading, transporting, butchering unquarantined animals and processing and commercializing of the meat, are being tackled by various law enforcement departments including husbandry quarantine, food safety supervision and market regulators.


From food safety to social stability, every link in the illegal meat trade chain breaks the law, said An Xiang, co-founder of Beijing Dexiang Law Firm.

In 2015, a new Food Safety Law came into force, establishing higher standards for ensuring public health and safety.

Consuming illegal dog and cat meat could bring severe health risks, said Dr. Liu Lang, of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Association of Veterinarians of China.

In June, the Ministry of Agriculture decided to improve quarantine provisions regarding dogs and cats and tighten certification to combat the undocumented transport of unquarantined animals.

The Ministry said it will improve quarantine in response to a national legislator's suggestion on ending this kind of meat trade.



Capital punishment not an effective deterrent, say experts

WITH increasing public concern regarding repeat criminal offenders, critics and experts have been divided as to what approach would deter former convicts from committing crimes again after being released from jail.

Many public members - often angry with perpetrators of high-profile crimes including rape-murder or mass killing - have called for execution of convicted offenders, instead of life imprisonment or lengthy jail sentences.

However, there is a consensus among experts in criminology and the justice system that harsh penalties like life imprisonment and capital punishment have been proven ineffective at deterring repeat crimes, a recent seminar heard.

The seminar, entitled "The role of probation in tackling the problem of repeat criminal offences", was organised by the Department of Probation earlier this month.

Law professor Prathan Watanavanich, an expert in criminology and justice procedures, citing findings of a research study, said that imprisonment was not an effective deterrent to prevent crimes.

Severe penalties had "only a little deterring effect" on criminals, Prathan noted.

"Also, there has been no proof that capital punishment can deter prospective perpetrators of murders," Prathan said, citing statistics collected over the past 5 decades.

He said the study found that the certainty of getting arrested was "very effective" in deterring people from committing crimes.

"The certainty of getting arrested is a deterrent that is even more powerful than getting punished," the law professor concluded.

Prathan said this finding could be applied to a current problem: Many convicts on probation or parole have not been punished for breaking the conditions of their early release. The problem, he said, is parole officers have no power to arrest people for breaking parole conditions.

The expert suggested that parole officers should be empowered to make arrests in such cases.

"Importantly, we need to make people know that they will get arrested for committing offences, and they will be rearrested for breaking the conditions for their early release," Prathan said.

"If that can be put into practice, we will see a decline in repeat crime offenders."

Public Prosecutor Uthai Athivej said the idea of getting rid of repeat crime offenders from society was "too harsh", and that in practice capital punishment had been unable to deter repeat offences.

Judge Supakit Yaempracha suggested that criminal offenders should be properly classified and dealt with, both while they served their time in jail and after their release. This approach should help prevent repeat crimes, he said.

Central Investigation Bureau commander Pol Lt-General Thitiraj Nongharnpitak said Thailand has no effective measures to prevent former convicts from committing crimes again.

"Over the past 3 years, about 300,000 inmates have been released - some 7,000 of them sex-related offenders. Thai society still has no effective measures to monitor this group of people," he said.

The police officer suggested a system to screen convicts before their release so that authorities could determine who should be monitored for possible repeat offences.


AUGUST 13, 2017:

TEXAS----new execution date

Judge sets death date for Montgomery County killer

Death row inmate Larry Swearingen, a Willis man who raped a 19-year-old coed before strangling her with panty hose nearly 2 decades ago, is now set to die on Nov. 16.

After 7 thwarted attempts, Montgomery County has finally succeeded in setting yet another execution date for its only death row convict, a Willis man who raped a 19-year-old coed before strangling her with panty hose nearly 2 decades ago.

Larry Swearingen, convicted of killing Montgomery College student Melissa Trotter in 1998 and dumping her body in the Sam Houston National Forest, is slated to meet his fate in Huntsville's death chamber on Nov. 16, a judge ruled late Wednesday.

"It still won't bring back Melissa," her mother, Sandy Trotter said in July.

"There are no winners in this because we still don't have Melissa."

Victim advocate Andy Kahan said it's been a "painstaking" wait for the Trotter family.

"Even when you finally believe that you're going to achieve justice, until it actually happens you're questioning whether the actual execution will take place or not," he said.

And in Swearingen's case, those questions are particularly well placed.

This is the state's 8th effort to get Swearingen's execution on the calendar. At least 4 times, similar requests yielded a death date, but every time the Court of Criminal Appeals stayed the execution.

But it is those repeated bids for testing that have become the hallmark of Swearingen's legal case. For years, his lawyers have insisted that crime scene DNA taken from evidence near Trotter's body could hold the keys to prove his innocence. But prosecutors - and higher courts - have deemed such testing unnecessary.

At least twice, a trial court judge sided with Swearingen's testing requests - but each time the state slapped down the lower court's grant, ruling that new DNA wouldn't be enough to counter the "mountain of evidence" pointing to Swearingen's guilt.

Swearingen and Trotter were seen in the college's library together on Dec. 8, 1998 - the day of the teen's disappearance. Afterward, a biology teacher spotted Trotter leaving the school with a man. Hair and fiber evidence later showed that she'd been in Swearingen's car and home the day she vanished.

The killer's wife testified that she came home that evening to find the place in disarray - and in the middle of it all were Trotter's lighter and cigarettes. Swearingen later filed a false burglary report, claiming his home had been broken into while he was out of town.

That afternoon, Swearingen placed a call routed through a cell tower near FM 1097 in Willis - a spot he would have passed while heading from his house to the Sam Houston National Forest where Trotter's decomposing body was found 25 days later.

"A too trusting 19-year-old in the wrong place at the wrong time," Sandy Trotter said, recalling her daughter's death. "It's just every parent's nightmare."

Swearingen was convicted and sentenced to death in 2000. He went on to file what prosecutors described as "an abundance of habeas corpus applications, pro se motions, mandamus petitions, civil-right actions, and amended pleadings in both state and federal courts."

The state's Court of Criminal Appeals rejected all 7 of Swearingen's habeas appeals, and in July a federal district court slapped down a civil suit seeking to win the convicted killer more DNA testing.

Through it all, Swearingen maintained his innocence.

"The way I look at it, I'm a POW of Texas," the former electrician has told the media. "It's my army against their army."

Even though his bids for more testing ultimately didn't pan out, Swearingen's DNA complaints sparked charges in state law in 2015. That year, lawmakers expanded access to testing by removing the requirement that the accused prove biological material - like saliva, sweat or skin cells - exists before testing evidence for it.

But no amount of DNA evidence would be enough to exonerate the convicted killer, prosecutors say.

Visiting Judge J.D. Langley greenlit Wednesday's decision in the 9th state District Court after Judge Phil Grant recused himself from the case in June 2016 given his prior involvement as a prosecutor during his time in the District Attorney's office.

"It appears there is no necessity for an evidentiary hearing related to any issue raised in either the motion or the response," Langley wrote.

"The court can find no reason to further delay the imposition of the sentence."

Even at this late date in legal saga, Montgomery County prosecutor Bill Delmore still anticipates pushback from Swearingen's attorneys.

"I would say I'm cautiously optimistic that if there's an execution date we might finally see the culmination of this case," he said. "But I fully expect the attorneys for Swearingen to request another stay and they've been very tenacious in the past."

Even before the judge's decision, Swearingen's attorney James Rytting said he planned to file a motion opposing the execution date because DNA from a rape kit and the murder weapon had not yet been tested.

"How can you not test a rape kit?" he asked.

Just weeks before Langley issued his decision, Texas executed another convicted killer, Taichin Preyor. The San Antonio man was sentenced to death for killing a woman who sold him drugs. His attorneys filed a flurry of appeals, arguing that former lawyers who worked on the case were "utterly unqualified."

Even with the addition of Swearingen's death date to the calendar, the Lone Star State's use of capital punishment has been in a long-term downward slide.

So far, Huntsville has seen five executions in 2017, with another 6 - including Swearingen's - on the calendar. Another is already slated for early 2018, just days after all of the state's current supplies of lethal injection drugs expire, according to information obtained through a July public records request.

The last time a Montgomery County killer saw the death chamber was in 2012, when Jonathan Green was executed for strangling and sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl.

Afterward, he first buried the body, then dug it up and stashed it inside his house, behind a chair.

On Thursday morning, Sandy Trotter was overcome with emotion upon hearing word of Langley's decision.

"I'm so cautious - it's for the 5th time, is it really going to happen?" she said.

"I know his attorneys are going to be filing appeals. But surely it will happen this time. It's like a dark cloud hanging over us for all these years."

(source: Houston Chronicle)


Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----25

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----543

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

26---------Aug. 30-----------------Steven Long------------544

27---------Sept.7------------------Juan Castillo----------545

28---------Oct. 12-----------------Robert Pruett----------546

29---------Oct. 18-----------------Anthony Shore----------547

30---------Oct. 26-----------------Clinton Young----------548

31---------Nov. 16----------------Larry Swearingen--------549

32---------Jan. 30-----------------William Rayford--------550

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


Brain-injury scientists play big role in death penalty cases

Courtrooms still have the traditional players - defense attorneys, prosecutor, defendant and judge - but brain-injury scientists have muscled their way onto witness stands in death penalty cases in a big way.

"It's not an excuse for the crime but rather an explanation for how that person got into the position that he did," said John Spivey, Executive Assistant Public Defender.

Florida doesn't have a diminished capacity defense for the guilt phase. It's part of the all-important penalty phase.

The Florida Supreme Court is demanding more scientific inquiry or else the case may be overturned. But it is running up the costs of the already expensive death penalty cases and causing a backup on dockets - sometimes for years.

The case of Krystopher Laws, for example, who along with Joshua McClellan allegedly killed 92-year-old Rubye James of Leesburg and buried her in a shallow grave, is not expected to go to trial until 2019.

Lake County does a better job of scheduling than other counties. Marion is the busiest. Some cases may not go to trial for 6 years, prosecutors say.

The 1st thing defense attorneys do is to hire a mitigation specialist, who interviews family members, and examines school and military records. Investigators wonder, did he suffer any head injuries while playing football?

A neuropsychologist then administers a battery of tests to determine such things as reasoning skills and impulse control. That person might recommend a brain scan.

"If you get a neuropsychologist who recommends a pet scan and if you don't do it, number 1 you're a boob," Spivey said. "Number 2, you're going to be reversed [on appeal]."

"I'm investigating people like a cop," Spivey said.

If the neuropsychologist recommends a pet scan, Spivey hires a doctor to write an order.

A pet scan shows how a brain is working. It uses radioactive materials to present color pictures.

Prisoners have to be transported to Tampa for the exam.

An MRI scan, which has images in black and white, is also ordered.

A radiologist physician must examine the scans to see if part of the brain has shrunk or shows evidence of injury.

A psychiatrist, who is also a medical doctor, must now be brought in to decide if the scans indicate why the person acted the way he did.

Then, a child abuse expert is brought in to see if the defendant was abused, lived in abject poverty, if the mother was drinking during pregnancy and a whole host of other issues.

"Now, I've got 2 psychologists, a psychiatrist, a neurologist and a radiologist. I've just spent $150,000," Spivey said.

It seems redundant, Spivey explained but there is a reason. "The jury presumes we're lying."

One of the keys is quantifying the data. How bad are the injuries and the mental illness?

Spivey relies heavily on Dr. Joseph Wu, director of Neuro Cognitive Imaging at the University of California Irvine.

Wu gives Public Defender Mike Graves' office a break on price, "but these guys aren't cheap," Spivey said.

Spivey said he has less than $900,000 in his yearly budget for things like depositions and expert witnesses. However, Spivey is the lead counsel on 5 death cases in the 5-county circuit that includes Lake. He is short-handed on death-qualified lawyers, which also backs up the cases.

Another cog is the number of defendants whose juries were not unanimous in death recommendations. They are due resentencing hearings. Lake County has 2 of those coming up: Allen Cox, who killed another prisoner at Lake Correctional, and Jason Wheeler, who killed Sheriff's Deputy Wayne Koester and wounded 2 others.

Civil trial lawyers started the demand for expert witnesses in their lawsuits, Spivey said.

"It's been around for awhile," said Chief Assistant State Attorney Ric Ridgway. "It's become a cottage industry of doctors testifying in trials."

Spivey says the bulk of the costs fall on the defense. The state doesn't have to hire its own brain scan experts.

"It depends on the evidence." Ridgway said. Sometimes there is a battle of experts.

Ridgway was the prosecutor in the case of convicted sex offender John Couey, who kidnapped and murdered 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford in Homosassa in 2005.

Dr. Wu was a defense expert in that case. So was a psychologist who testified that Couey had a "broken brain" from head trauma and heavy drug use.

Ridgway said he hired a radiologist who testified that the brain scan looked fine. Couey was convicted but died of cancer before he met the state's executioner.

Ridgway said his boss, State Attorney Brad King, would have to talk about cost.

"There's always a big pot of money up in Tallahassee that gets drained every year."

Some lawyers like to run up the costs, he said. "Some do it so it gets so expensive you don't want to litigate. They admit it," Ridgway said.

"I'm not saying Spivey and those guys in Lake do it. They work to keep their costs down."

For Graves and Spivey, there is no letup in sight. 2 veteran assistant public defenders have retired and Spivey is training others to become death-penalty qualified.

"There's only one of me," he said.

In the meantime, the courts keep changing the rules and scientists are taking over the courtroom.



Couple charged with killing 5, including children, fetus and mans 2 wife

A husband and wife from Alabama could face the death penalty after they were charged in the killings of 5 family members, including an unborn child, multiple children and the man's 2nd wife, WHNT-TV reports.

Christopher Henderson, 42, and Rhonda Carlson, 44, have been indicted for the murders that occurred 2 years ago in Huntsville.

Among the evidence authorities have against the pair: home security video that shows the suspects entering the home with a gas can and then exiting just before the house became engulfed in flames.

Police also found a gun in Carlson's truck.



Supreme Court stays execution of man on death row

The Supreme Court has stayed the execution of a man sentenced to death in a case related to election rivalry in which 6 persons were murdered after panchayat polls in Uttar Pradesh in 2003.

A bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra, Amitava Roy and A M Khanwilkar admitted the appeal filed by convict Madan and called for the trial court's records of the case lodged in Muzaffarnagar district.

"Leave granted. Let the lower court's records be called for. There shall be a stay on the execution of the death sentence," it said.

Madan was awarded the capital punishment by the trial court in July 2015 and the sentence was confirmed by the Allahabad High Court in February this year.

The high court, while confirming his death sentence, had observed that he was 1 of the main assailants in the crime in which 6 persons had died.

The high court had commuted to life term the death penalty awarded by the trial court to another convict in the case.

According to the prosecution, Madan, along with his associates, had fired at the family members and supporters of the successful candidates, who were elected as members of a village panchayat.

It had alleged that Madan and others were supporting the other candidate, who had lost the election, due to which he had a grudge against them.

The prosecution had said that on October 14, 2003, when the relatives and supporters of the successful candidates were going to the house of deputy pradhan of the village, Madan and his associates attacked them and in the firing 6 people had died.

During the trial, Madan and others had denied the allegations levelled against them and had claimed that they were falsely implicated in the case due to election rivalry.

In its judgement, the high court had held that Madan and his associates had indiscriminately fired upon the victims and considering the gravity of offence, it was covered under the category of the rarest of rare cases warranting death penalty.



HC defers N'ganj 7-murder verdict to Aug 22

The High Court has deferred its verdict on the Narayanganj 7-murder case until Aug 22.

Though the decision was to be announced on Aug 13, the bench of Justices Bhabani Prasad Singha and Mustafa Zaman Islam rescheduled it on Sunday.

"It has been delayed because the decision is not yet ready," said defence counsel Mansurul Haq Chowdhury.

On Jul 26, the High Court bench set the Aug 1 date for the verdict after hearing the death reference and appeals in the case. Death sentences issued by trial courts are forwarded for approval to the High Court as 'death references'.

7 murder case

The abduction and gruesome killing of seven people, including councillor Nazrul Islam and senior lawyer Chandan Kumar Sarkar from Narayanganj 3 years ago shocked the nation.

The news later made international headlines when it emerged that members of the elite police unit the Rapid Action Battalion or RAB, were involved in the killings.

Former Narayanganj City Corporation councillor Nur Hossain and 3 former senior officers of the local RAB unit, including its then chief, former army lieutenant colonel Tarek Sayeed Mohammad, are among the 26 people awarded the death penalty for the 2014 sensational 7-murder.

Tarek is also a son-in-law of Disaster Management and Relief Minister Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya.

On Saturday, the families of the victims told that exemplary punishment should be confirmed for the convicts to stop such crimes happen again.

Nazrul Islam's wife Selina Islam Beauty told "The entire world is watching the verdict. We lost our loved ones. We want Nur Hossain, the 3 former RAB officers and all other convicts to be hanged."

"RAB is our protector, but it acted as the predator. They abducted and killed 7 people, including my husband. It was not simply murder; 7 families are destroyed," she added.

She hoped the High Court would uphold the death penalties and those would be executed quickly.

16 of the death-row convicts were members of the elite force. 9 other RAB men were given various previous terms in the trial court verdict issued on Jan 16 this year.

Nazrul's friend Moniruzzaman Swapan, driver Jahangir Alam, and lawyer Chandan's driver 'Ibrahim' were also among the 7 victims.

Jahangir's wife Shamsunnahar Nupur said, "We are in misery after losing the only bread earner of our family. My daughter has not seen her father. She only cries holding his photo."

Swapan's brother 'Ripon' demanded to hang of the convicts.

Ibrahim's father Abdul Wahab Mia said, "My daughter-in-law and my grandchildren are living a miserable life after the death of my son. We are poor people. We want the execution of death sentences of the murderers, nothing else."

On the afternoon of Apr 27, 2014, City Councillor Nazrul and 5 of his associates were abducted from their car on Dhaka-Narayanganj Link Road.

Around the same time and from the same location, senior lawyer Chandan and his chauffeur, who were in another car, were kidnapped.

3 days later, their bloated bodies were found floating in the Shitalakkhya River.

From the very beginning, the slain councillor's family claimed that Nur Hossain had paid Tk 60 million to senior officers of the local RAB unit to carry out the murder of his rival.

Both Nazrul and Nur Hossain belonged to the ruling Awami League.



War crimes: SC to hear Azhar, Qaiser's appeals on Oct 10----Convicted war criminals ATM Azharul Islam and Syed Mohammad Qaiser will have their appeals heard at the Supreme Court on Oct 10

The Supreme Court on Sunday set Oct 10 as the date to start its hearing on the appeals filed by convicted war criminals, ATM Azharul Islam and Syed Mohammad Qaiser, challenging their sentences handed down by the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT).

A 3-member Appellate Division bench headed by Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha passed the order, asking the defence in both the cases to submit concise statement of their appeals by Aug 24, reports BSS.

The now defunct International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) 2 on Dec 23, 2014 sentenced former Jatiya Party state minister Qaiser to death as the 14 charges of crimes against humanity out of a total of 16 charges against him were proven.

The tribunal handed down the death penalty on 7 charges, life imprisonment on 4, jail terms of 10, 7 and 5 years on 3 charges. Qaiser was acquitted of the remaining 2 charges.

The tribunal in its observation also asked the state to initiate a compensation scheme for the rape victims of 1971 and the war babies.

Qaiser filed appeal against his conviction on Jan 19, 2015.

Meanwhile, the ICT-1 on Dec 30, 2014, sentenced Jamaat-e-Islami Assistant Secretary General ATM Azharul Islam to death for crimes against humanity committed in Rangpur during the War of Liberation. It found him guilty on 5 of a total of 6 charges.

He was sentenced to death by hanging for charges 2, 3 and 4.

In charge no 2, he was accused of gunning down 15 unarmed innocent civilians in Dhappara area in Rangpur on April 16. In charge no 3, he was accused of committing massacre at Jharuarbeel and killing of more than 1200 unarmed civilians on April 17. And in charge no 3, he was accused of abduction and murder of four teachers of Carmichael College and others on April 30.

He was also sentenced to a total of 30 years of imprisonment in the remaining charge no 5 and 6 for the raping and confining women to Rangpur Town Hall between Mar 25 and Dec 16, 1971, and the torturing of Shawkat Hossain and Rafiqul Hasan between mid Nov and Dec 1.

Azhar filed appeal against his conviction on Jan 28, 2015.

(source: Dhaka Tribune)



Iran parliament softens drug death penalty laws

The amendment will apply retroactively, thus commuting the sentences for many of the 5,300 inmates currently on death row for drug trafficking. Under the new bill, the punishment for those already convicted and given the death penalty or life in prison, other than those meeting the new execution requirements, will be commuted to up to 30 years in jail and a cash fine.

Iran's parliament passed a long-awaited amendment to its drug trafficking laws on Sunday, raising the thresholds that can trigger capital punishment and potentially saving the lives of many on death row. The bill must still be approved by the conservative-dominated Guardian Council but gained parliamentary approval after months of debate, according to parliament’s website and the ISNA news agency.

According to rights group Amnesty International, Iran was 1 of the top 5 executioners in the world in 2016, with most of its hangings related to illicit drugs. The watchdog noted sharp drops in the number of executions in Iran - down 42 % to at least 567 that year.

The new law raises the amounts that can trigger the death penalty from 30 grams to two kilos for the production and distribution of chemical substances such as heroin, cocaine and amphetamines. For natural substances such as opium and marijuana, the levels have been raised from 5 to 50 kilos.

The amendment will apply retroactively, thus commuting the sentences for many of the 5,300 inmates currently on death row for drug trafficking. It restricts the death penalty to criminals who lead drug-trafficking gangs, exploit minors below 18 years old in doing so, carry or draw firearms while committing drug-related crimes, or have a related previous conviction of the death penalty or a jail sentence of more than 15 years or life in prison. Under the new bill, the punishment for those already convicted and given the death penalty or life in prison, other than those meeting the new execution requirements, will be commuted to up to 30 years in jail and a cash fine.

Defending the bill in a parliamentary debate last week, Hassan Norouzi, the spokesman of parliament's judicial and legal committee, said the costs for Iran's war on drugs have almost doubled since 2010. He said more than 6 million people were involved in drugs in the country, 5.2 million of them addicts and 1.8 million users.

The amendment had faced opposition from police officials who believed that reducing or removing the death penalty would embolden criminals. But many judges had welcomed the softened law - and stayed execution sentences as they awaited the results of the parliamentary debate, Norouzi said.

Iran's neighbour Afghanistan produces some 90 % of the world's opium, which is extracted from poppy resin and refined to make heroin. The Islamic republic, a major transit point for Afghan-produced opiates heading to Europe and beyond, confiscates and destroys hundreds of tonnes of illicit narcotics every year.

(source: Indian Express)

AUGUST 12, 2017:


Jury selection begins in death penalty Lake Worth cold case murder

A 2nd day of jury selection began Friday in the murder trial of Rodney Clark, whose case will be the 1st local death penalty case to go to trial since a U.S. Supreme Court ruling found Florida's old death penalty laws unconstitutional. Prosecutors will pursue a death sentence against Clark, 50, if a jury convicts him of 1st-degree murder in the 1987 rape and murder of Dana Fader in Lake Worth.

Investigators in 2013 said they solved the decades-old cold case when they matched Clark's DNA to a stain found on the dress the 27-year-old mother of 3 was wearing when she was found strangled to death in the backseat of her Ford Fairmont after a night out with friends.

Clark, a sex offender living in Jackson, Miss. by the time of his April 2013 arrest, was supposed to go to trial last summer. But his case became one of the first delayed by a January 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling essentially striking down Florida's death penalty system.

The high court ruling deemed the state's death penalty system unjust because it required a simple majority vote for jurors to recommend an execution and left the ultimate sentencing power to the judge. Florida lawmakers have made several revisions to the laws since then, with Florida Gov. Rick Scott in March signing a law that would require jurors to vote unanimously for a death sentence in order for it to be imposed.

Although public defenders and criminal defense lawyers still contend that the state law remains flawed, judges around the state - for now, at least - are taking cases like Clark's to trial under the new laws.

Circuit Judge Charles Burton began the jury selection process in Clark's case Thursday with 125 prospective jurors. By mid-afternoon, that pool had been whittled down to 48. Most of the people dismissed had travel plans, medical issues or other hardships that they said would keep them from spending 3 weeks on the jury.

Prosecutor and defense attorneys on Monday will begin questioning the remaining prospective jurors regarding their thoughts on the death penalty.

A trial in the case could begin sometime next week.

(source: Palm Beach Post)

ARIZONA----new female death sentence

Woman receives death penalty for locking cousin, 10, in footlocker, killing her

A stolen frozen treat has left a 10-year-old girl dead and one of the adults who were tasked to take care of the child sentenced to death row, responsible for her killing.

AZ Central reported that Sammantha Allen was 1 of 4 family members who forced Ame Deal to exercise in high heat, then locked her in a footlocker that measured only 31 inches and was left outside overnight. She was found dead the next morning when they went to let her out of the box, which had only small holes near the handles for air, ABC15 reported.

It happened in July 2011, ABC15 reported.

John Allen, Sammantha's husband, admitted that he locked the girl in the box as Sammantha watched. They then fell asleep, AZ Central reported.

Police said that before she was locked in the box, Ame was told to do back bends for 2 hours and run in the yard while temperatures reached more than 103 degrees.

Ame had been locked in the box before for wetting the bed and other offenses, police said.

Sammantha was found guilty in June but the penalty phase lasted a month. The defense claimed that her upbringing was a factor in her role in Ame's death. Sammantha's husband was also charged with Ame's murder and will go on trial later this year, KPNX reported.

2 other family members are in jail for their parts in the girl's death. Judith Deal was sentenced to 10 years for child abuse. Cynthia Stoltzman, Ame's legal guardian, was sentenced to 24 years for child abuse. David Deal was sentenced to 14 years, AZ Central reported.

In addition to the death sentence for murder, Sammantha was also sentenced to an additional 76 years for other charges, but was given credit for 2,000 days she's already spent in custody, AZ Central reported.

Executions have been suspended in Arizona due to the fact that the drugs used for lethal injections are not available, KPNX reported. The last attempt at execution in the state was in 2014, when Joseph Wood was put to death. The execution was expected to take 10 minutes but was drawn out for nearly 2 hours, ABC News reported at the time.

(source: WPXI news)


Suspect charged in cold-case murder of brother of LA County Supervisor Ridley-Thomas

36 years after Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas' brother was stabbed and killed, authorities have announced an arrest in the cold case murder.

Michael Anthony Locklin, now 61, was initially considered a person of interest in the 1981 case but was not charged until last week. In a statement released Thursday, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office said Locklin is charged with 1 count of murder with the special circumstance allegation of murder in the commission of a robbery.

The arrest stems from the killing of 37-year-old insurance adjuster Michael Thomas at his South Los Angeles home in August 1981.

Thomas' body was found at the residence in the 4600 block of Santa Barbara Boulevard, now Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, after he failed to attend church services and later did not show up for work.

Thomas' brother, Mark Ridley-Thomas, served on the L.A. City Council and in the state Legislature before being elected as a county supervisor in 2008. He addressed supporters Thursday at the groundbreaking for affordable senior housing on 105th Street, but he declined to comment citing advice from the district attorney.

According to prosecutors, Locklin was identified as the suspect through DNA evidence. The Los Angeles resident was being held without bail Thursday.

LAPD Capt. Peter Whittingham said Locklin's DNA was linked to the homicide 8 years after the crime, but the technology then was not reliable.

"The matching of the blood type appeared not to be significant enough to warrant a filing or prosecution, but we knew who it was," Whittingham said.

By then, Locklin was already locked up in prison for the sexual assault of a minor.

"He was in custody serving a sentence of 36 years...," Whittingham added.

Detectives reopened the case in April and learned that not only had Locklin been released, the registered sex offender had been living in the Inland Empire since 2006.

South Bureau investigators tracked down Locklin, and obtained more DNA. Analysis using more sophisticated technology definitively links Locklin to the crime, Whittingham said.

The homicide investigators did not know that Thomas was the supervisor's brother until they began to re-interview witnesses.

If convicted as charged, Locklin faces the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole, the DA's office said. Prosecutors have not yet decided whether to seek the death penalty.

A Los Angeles Police Department investigation into the case is ongoing.

Thomas' case is the 8th cold case in which South Bureau detectives have made an arrest since January. One of the cases dates back to 1979.

Whittingham said the Cold Case Unit has 800 to 1,000 other unsolved cases and that sometimes a tip can make the difference.

"To those who have been waiting for years, the message to those who thought their cases were forgotten, they are not," Whittingham said.

(source: KABC news)


Al Shabaab publicly executes 2 men accused of spying

The Al Qaida-linked Al Shabaab group has publicly executed 2 men accused of spying for the Intelligence of southern semi-autonomous state of Jubbaland on Saturday, Garowe Online reports.

The group announced it killed Ibrahim Abukar, 27, Sidii Ahmed Mohamed, 26 by firing squad in an open area in Jamame district in Lower Jubba region, some 70Km north of the port city of Kismayo.

An al Shabaab court in Jamame has sentenced Abukar and Mohamed to death penalty after being found guilty of charges of espionage and collaborating with Jubbaland state forces in the region.

According to sources, masked fighters from the militant group killed the 2 men using bullets, while hundreds of local residents, including women and children gathered to watch the execution.

So far, Jubbaland state authorities are yet to comment on the killing of the men who were local farmers.

In areas under its control, the group often kills those it perceived to be opposing its ideology and fight against the UN-backed Somali government and the African Union forces in the country.



Convict of crimes against humanity arrested

Md Hafiz UddinAn absconding death-row convict, who was charged with crimes against humanity, was arrested in Kishoreganj on Saturday.

A team of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) arrested Md Hafiz Uddin (67), son of Ismat Ali of Kudirjangal area in Karimganj upazila of Kishoreganj, from a relative's house in remote haor (marshy) village named Borshikura in Itna upazila arouynd 2:00pm, said RAB-14 commanding officer Hasan Mustafa Swapan.

On 3 May 2016, International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), Bangladesh, awarded death penalty to 4 people including Hafiz Uddin for their alleged involvement in crimes against humanity during the 1971 war of liberation.

The convicts are Hafiz Uddin, 67, Gazi Abdul Mannan, 88, Nasiruddin Ahmed, 62, and his brother Shamsuddin Ahmed, 60, Another accused, Azharul Islam, 60, was sentenced to suffer in jail until death.

Of them Gazi Abdul Mannan dies of old age complications on 19 December last year. Nasir Uddin and Azharul Islam are still on the run.



Pakistani court recommends parliament review blasphemy Law

A court is recommending that parliament review Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law and make changes that will prevent people from being falsely accused of the crime, which is punishable by death.

Islamabad High Court Judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqi said in his Friday ruling that some people drag their rivals into blasphemy cases by leveling false accusations, endangering the life of both the accused and his family members.

The ruling notes that some critics are demanding the law be abolished but Siddiqi argues that it's better to stop the law's exploitation rather than getting rid of it.

The ruling recommends parliament amend the law to require the same punishment, the death penalty, for those who falsely allege blasphemy as for those who actually commit blashemy.



Morocco denies death penalty for Rif activists----Public Prosecutor to the Court of Appeal in Casablanca insists activists of social movement in Rif region would not be given death sentences.

Moroccan King's Public Prosecutor to the Court of Appeal in Casablanca denied activists of the social movement in the northern Rif region would be given death sentences following rumours in Moroccan media and on social networks.

The neglected northern Rif region of Morocco has been shaken by weeks of protests and violence with demonstrators demanding jobs, development and an end to corruption.

The prosecutor said in a statement published by the official MAP news agency that the case has not yet progressed past the investigation stage for a punishment to be issued.

"The case's file is still in the hands of the investigating judge, to whom the right is given only to issue a transfer order [to another court], to cease litigation, or declare [the court's] lack of jurisdiction," wrote the prosecutor.

"Punishments can only be applied during sentencing, not [by] the investigating judge," he added.

The Rif protests erupted last October after a fishmonger was crushed to death in a rubbish truck as he tried to retrieve swordfish confiscated for being caught out of season.

Demands for justice later snowballed into a wider social movement named Al-Hirak al-Shaabi, calling for jobs, development and an end to graft.

Leaders of the grassroots movement were arrested at the end of May and the July 20 demonstration was called by Hirak supporters to demand their release.

At the end of July, King Mohammed VI pardoned more than 1,000 detainees, including 40 people arrested for taking part in the Rif protests.

However, more than 150 Rif activists, including protest leader Nasser Zefzafi, remain behind bars.



Nobel laureates call on Saudi to halt executions

10 Nobel laureates from across the world have written an open letter urging Saudi authorities to hold off on the execution of 14 Shiites convicted of protest-linked crimes.

Fears are mounting of the imminent mass execution of the 14 Shiites convicted of charges linked to protests in 2012, including rioting, theft, armed robbery and armed rebellion.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have accused Saudi authorities of coercing confessions which were later retracted in court and failing to grant fair trials to defendants, including juveniles.

Signed by anti-apartheid leader Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Yemeni activist Tawakkul Karman, Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi and former East Timor president and Nobel laureate Jose Ramos-Horta, the letter released late on Friday urged King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, his son, to "extend the hand of mercy" and refrain from ratifying the death sentences.

Ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia has one of the world's highest rates of execution. This year alone, it has so far executed 75 people.

In July, the supreme court upheld the death penalty for the 14 men, all Saudi citizens. The sentences must be ratified by the king or the crown prince for the executions to go ahead.

The 14 are all linked to protests in Qatif, an eastern province home to most of the Sunni-ruled kingdom's Shiite minority, who have long complained of marginalisation.

The east is also the source of most of Saudi Arabia's oil.

Saudi authorities, who have regularly cracked down on protests in Qatif, this week seized control of the town of Awamiya after increasingly frequent clashes between residents and police.

Authorities have said drug traffickers and "terrorists" were behind the unrest in Qatif.

A spokesman for the Saudi Ministry of Justice, Mansour al-Qafari, said in a statement published on 4 August that all defendants in Saudi Arabia receive due process, AP reported.

He said terrorism-related cases and death penalty verdicts are reviewed by an appeals court and the supreme court, with a total of 13 judges reviewing a case before an execution is carried out.

Ultra-conservative Sunni clerics in Saudi Arabia have in the past referred to Shiites as apostates, and Shiite protesters have been accused of being allied with the kingdom’s regional rival, Iran.



At Least 12 Prisoners Executed on the Same Day

The Iranian authorities executed at least 12 prisoners on the same day. At least 11 of the prisoners were sentenced to death on drug related charges.

At least 11 prisoners were reportedly hanged at Birjand Central Prison on drug related charges, and a prisoner was hanged at Babol's Mati Kola Prison on murder and rape charges.

According to a report by the human rights news agency, HRANA, on the morning of Thursday August 10, at least 11 prisoners were hanged at Birjand Central Prison on drug related charges.

The report identifies 8 of the prisoners as:

1. Khani Mary Khaled

2. Barat Emadi

3. Mohammad Reza Ayoubi

4. Abolfazl Yousefpour

5. Haji Moezi, he was transferred to Birjand Prison from another prison for the implementation of his execution sentence

6. Mehrdad Beghershams, he was transferred to Birjand Prison from another prison for the implementation of his execution sentence

7. Hadi Eem, he was transferred to Birjand Prison from another prison for the implementation of his execution sentence

8. Hadi Jafari, he was transferred to Birjand Prison from another prison for the implementation of his execution sentence

These prisoners were transferred to solitary confinement on Wednesday August 9 in preparation for their executions.

On the same day, an unidentified prisoner was reportedly hanged at Babol's Mati Kola prison on rape and murder charges. This prisoner was reportedly transferred to solitary confinement a few days before his execution was carried out.

Iranian official sources, including the Judiciary and state-run media, have not announced any of these executions.

Executions for drug related charges are carried out in Iran at the same time that a bill to stop the death penalty for drug charges is under review by the Iranian Parliament.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Outrage of UN Rights Expert at Iran Regime's Execution of a Young Man Sentenced as a Child

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Asma Jahangir, has expressed outrage at the execution of a young man who received the death penalty as a child.

Alireza Tajiki was arrested at the age of 15 in 2012 and sentenced to death in 2013 at the age of 16.

He was executed on August 10 despite repeated interventions by UN human rights experts, who said the death penalty should never be used against a child, and noted that Mr. Tajiki had reportedly been tortured and had not received a fair trial.

"I am distressed in the extreme to learn that this execution has gone ahead despite twice being postponed on previous scheduled dates," said the Special Rapporteur.

The human rights expert stressed that Mr. Tajiki's death penalty was upheld following judicial procedures which did not meet acceptable international standards of a fair trial or due process.

"I am deeply concerned that the court relied on the use of forced "confessions", which were reportedly extracted using torture, including beatings, floggings and suspension by the arms and feet," she said. "There has been no investigation into these torture claims."

"Mr. Tajiki also suffered violations of his rights to a defence, for example by being denied access to a lawyer throughout the entire investigation process and being held in solitary confinement for 15 days without access to his family."

Ms. Jahangir added: "This treatment would be unacceptable for an adult, but for a child suspect to have been convicted after such grave rights abuses, and then to be executed despite all interventions, is truly shocking."

The death sentence against Mr. Tajiki was quashed in 2014 but the Supreme Court, but he was resentenced to death by the Provincial Criminal Court of Fars, which ruled that he had sufficient "mental maturity" for an understanding of his alleged crime to be executed. This verdict was later upheld by the Supreme Court.

"I note that Iran has ratified both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, both of which commit the country to protecting and respecting children's right to life," the Special Rapporteur noted.

"These Conventions also unequivocally forbid the passing and carrying out of the death penalty on anyone below 18 years of age."

The human rights expert recalled that Iran has already executed 3 other juvenile offenders since January and at least 86 are known to be on death row, although the exact figure may be higher.

"The Government of Iran must immediately and unconditionally stop sentencing children to death," said Ms. Jahangir. "It must also commute all existing death sentences imposed on children, in line with its international commitments."

Ms. Asma Jahangir (Pakistan) was designated as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran by the Human Rights Council in September 2016 Ms. Jahangir was elected as President of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan and as Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Over the years, she has been recognized both nationally and internationally for her contribution to the cause of human rights and is a recipient of major human rights awards. She has worked extensively in the field of women's rights, protection of religious minorities and in eliminating bonded labour. She is a former Special Rapporteur on summary executions, and on freedom of religion.

The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures' experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

(source: NCR-Iran)

AUGUST 11, 2017:


Texas DA to seek death penalty for man accused of killing 2

A Texas district attorney says she will seek the death penalty against a man who authorities say killed two women and raped a 3rd.

Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson said in a statement Thursday that 24-year-old Reginald Gerald Kimbro is charged with capital murder for the April strangulation of Molly Matheson in Fort Worth.

Kimbro also is charged in the death days later of 36-year-old Megan Getrum of Plano.

Both women were sexually assaulted prior to their deaths.

Meanwhile, South Texas prosecutors previously charged Kimbro with sexually assaulting an Oklahoma woman at a South Padre Island resort in 2014.

Kimbro's being held in the Tarrant County jail on a bond in excess of $2 million.

Online jail records do not indicate an attorney for him.

(source: Associated Press)


Florida Supreme Court strikes blow to death row inmates

In a ruling that could prevent as many as 100 condemned inmates from seeking life sentences, the Florida Supreme Court this week rejected arguments that constitutional flaws with the state's death penalty should benefit all 362 inmates on death row.

The much anticipated ruling strikes a blow to efforts to block the scheduled Aug. 24 execution of Mark James Asay for the 1987 shooting deaths of 2 Jacksonville men. It also will make it more difficult for all but 1 of 7 men on death row for decades-old Palm Beach County murders to win life sentences as a result of the legal turmoil roiling the state's death penalty.

While acknowledging that Asay and others may have other grounds to appeal their death sentences, the ruling is both far-reaching and troubling, said Robert Dunham, a lawyer and executive director of the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center.

"Now what you have is a situation in which for about 200 cases there may be costly resentencings and for another significant number of cases there are going to be unconstitutional executions," Dunham said.

The issue was whether all death row inmates should benefit from rulings by the U.S. and Florida supreme courts that struck down the state's death penalty as unconstitutional because it didn't require that juries unanimously agree that a defendant should be executed.

In deciding a case involving the 1976 strangulation death of a 13-year-old Orlando-area girl, the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday stuck by its previous decisions that only those sentenced after June 24, 2002, could seek new sentencing hearings.

With only Justice Barbara Pariente dissenting, the state high court rejected arguments that the cut-off date was arbitrary. That is the date the U.S. Supreme Court decided the landmark case, Ring v. Arizona. Since then, Florida judges have been on notice its sentencing scheme was flawed, the court previously ruled.

(source: Palm Beach Post)


Alabama Court of Appeals Upholds 2 Death Sentences

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals has upheld the cases of 2 inmates sentenced to death for murder.

The court turned down the appeal of Dontae Callen, 24, in a decision Friday. Callen was convicted of killing an aunt and 2 cousins in Jefferson County in 2010.

One of Callen's victims was 12. The appeals court ruled that Callen's death sentence wasn't out of line with punishment in other capital cases.

The court also upheld the Elmore County conviction of Calvin McMillan, 28. He was convicted of killing James Bryan Martin during a robbery in 2009.

The judges upheld the decision of a lower court which rejected McMillan's claim that he was too mentally deficient to stand trial and face a death sentence.

(source: Associated Press)


Prosecution wants to halt trial until judge rules on death penalty appeal

The Commonwealth is requesting to delay the trial of a man accused of murdering until a judge rules on an appeal filed in the case.

Last week, Fayette County Circuit Judge Ernesto Scorsone ruled the state's death penalty law is unconstitutional for defendants who were under the age of 21 when they allegedly committed their crimes. Back in June, attorneys for Travis Bredhold argued that the death penalty should be excluded in this case because Bredhold was 18 at the time of the crime. Lexington Police say Bredhold shot and killed Mike Patel during a robbery at a Marathon on Alexandria Drive in December 2013.

The defense argued it is unconstitutional to execute someone under 21 because the average male brain doesn't reach full maturity until age 25. Scorsone ruled in favor of the defense. Fayette County Commonwealth's Attorney Lou Anna Red Corn says the ruling is contrary to state and federal laws and filed an appeal.

In court on Friday, Red Corn said the Commonwealth plans to file Motion to stop proceedings in Bredhold's case while the appeal happens. The defense stated that they would oppose that motion and ask the judge to keep the case on track for a trial scheduled to begin September 5th as a non-death penalty case.

Red Corn said in court that there was no need to argue other motions in the case until they get a ruling on the appeal. Judge Scorsone said there would be a trial, either way, so the issues will still need to be argued.

The defense filed a motion to sever charges of what was in his possession at the time of his arrest from the charges from what happened inside Marathon. Judge Scorsone denied that motion.

He set another hearing in the case for August 25; the issue of stay will likely be discussed.

The defense team for 2 suspects charged in the 2015 murder of 22-year-old Jonathan Krueger made a similar argument in court about the death penalty back in July. They had a psychologist from Temple University testify about brain development. That case set for trial in October.

The Commonwealth asked the judge that if he is going to issue an order in the Krueger case similar to the one in the Bredhold case to do it soon so the Commonwealth can join the appeal with the Bredhold case. Judge Scorsone says he will have to review that one and will make a decision when he has time.

(source: WKYT news)


Former Missouri law officer convicted of double murder

A former Dent County sheriff's deputy and state correctional officer has been convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend.

A St. Charles County jury on Thursday found Marvin Rice guilty of 1st-degree murder in the 2011 death of 32-year-old Annette Durham. He was also found guilty of 2nd-degree murder in the death of 39-year-old Steven Strotkamp.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. The sentencing phase was to begin Friday.

Prosecutors say a custody dispute between Rice and Durham led to the shooting.

Prosecutors say Rice went to Durham's home outside of Salem in December 2011 to get his son and shot the 2 victims. He then led police on a chase that led to a shootout in Jefferson City hotel.

(source: Associated Press)

ARIZONA----new female death sentence

As Sammantha Allen Heads for Death Row, Will Arizona Execute a Woman Again?

The story of Eva Dugan is gruesome.

The convicted murderer inadvertently became one of Arizona's capital punishment pioneers when she was hung 87 years ago for killing a Tucson rancher.

On February 21, 1930, she approached the gallows and remained silent and stoic before her hanging. But then something went awry. The rope sliced Dugan's neck and she was decapitated.

As Pinal County Historical Society President Lynn Smith likes to tell it, "Her head popped off when she was hanged and it went across the room and scared all the witnesses."

60 people saw the botched and bloody hanging that would cause the state Legislature to switch to gas chamber executions, according to an Arizona Daily Star report from back then.

"It was before sunrise and everybody ran out into the dark and her body went down into the basement," Smith said.

Smith oversees a collection of over 20 nooses used to carry out early executions at the Arizona State Prison at the Pinal County Historical Society and Museum.

Dugan's is one of them. Smith says people have mixed reactions when they hear this story.

"They think it’s gory, but if you’re a murderer, people don't feel too bad for you," Smith said. "All the people we have hanged supposedly were murderers."

Unlike states like Georgia and Texas, where women have been executed within the last 5 years, Arizona hasn't executed a woman since Dugan.

But that all could change. Sammantha Allen joined 2 other Arizona women on death row in the state this week when she was sentenced for the 2011 murder of her younger cousin, Ame Deal. Deal suffocated to death after Allen locked Deal in a padlocked plastic storage box overnight after the 10-year-old took a Popsicle from a freezer without getting permission.

But whether Allen will actually face lethal injection, Arizona's current method of choice for executing inmates, is a different story, according to Robert Dunham, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington.

"The public is very reluctant to see women executed," Dunham said. "There have only been 16 women executed in the modern history of the U.S. death penalty. There are only 55 women currently on death row, and it is rare that executions of women are actually carried out."

Everybody has the right to appeal to death sentences, and, whether the inmate in question is male or female, Dunham says the "single most likely outcome" of a capital punishment case is that the conviction or death sentence will be overturned.

The appeals process can take 20 years or more, and, at that rate, it could be more than 100 years after Dugan's death before Allen faces execution. Dunham said the memories of Dugan's traumatic and treacherous history could have an unquantifiable impact on whether the state of Arizona would execute another woman.

As of October 2016, Arizona had 125 death row inmates, according to DPIC. Only 3 of those, now including Allen, are women. Dunham says women are not only statistically less likely to commit crimes that would warrant the death penalty, juries are also less likely to sentence women to death row.

"Juries are more likely to believe females are less likely to be dangerous in a prison setting," Dunham said. "They (juries) are more likely to spare a woman’s life than a man’s life on the basis of evidence that she was severely abused as a child or was involved in an abusive relationship."

But Dale Baich, an assistant federal public defender for the district of Arizona Capital Habeas Unit, says he believes the 3 women up for death row in Arizona should be worried.

"If the cases reach the end of the legal process, the state would push for the death penalty," Baich said. "In Maricopa County especially, the prosecutor has been very aggressive in ... seeking the death penalty for crimes committed by women where the death penalty is a possibility. ... My sense is that Arizona would likely pursue the execution."

In other words, Dugan's death might have frightened the witnesses in 1930, but it may not be enough to scare Arizona prosecutors today.

(source: Phoenix New Times)


Sheriff's Misconduct May Spare Mass Murderer's Life

A state judge will decide next week whether the worst mass murderer in the history of Orange County, California, must face the death penalty or can avoid it because of misconduct by the sheriff.

Scott DeKraai murdered his ex-wife and seven others at a Seal Beach hair salon in October 2011. He confessed almost immediately and pleaded guilty to murder in May 2014.

For the past 3 months, Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals has been considering whether he should bar the death penalty in the case because the sheriff's department violated DeKraai's rights by intentionally and repeatedly hiding information about a secret program to use jailhouse informants against criminal defendants - including DeKraai.

The lead defense attorney, Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders, argued Thursday that the sheriff's department violated his client's rights. "Removal of the death penalty is a measured response to incredibly egregious conduct," he told Goethals.

Even at this late date, Sanders said, "All reason says that the sheriff's department is holding back evidence that would be favorable to the defense in the penalty phase."

Sanders laid bare the informant program in a 505-page motion he filed in January 2014. After 2 rounds of lengthy evidentiary hearings, he persuaded Goethals to remove the Orange County District Attorney's Office as prosecutor in the DeKraai case.

As the informant scandal widened, sentences or convictions in at least 6 other Orange County murder or gang-related crimes were set aside. The Department of Justice, the California Attorney General's Office, the district attorney’s office and the county grand jury all have investigated the snitch program.

In the just-concluded evidentiary hearing, which began in late May, Goethals has repeatedly demanded to know whether and how well the sheriff's department has obeyed his orders to give the defense all relevant information about the informant program.

The sheriff's department and the DA's office initially denied any such informant program existed. But between the 1st set of evidentiary hearings and the 2nd, "some witnesses completely changed their stories," Goethals recalled Thursday.

Every year since 2013 new evidence about the program has turned up unexpectedly, according to Sanders, such as a detailed listing of inmate classifications and movements, called TRED records, showing how informants and suspects were placed together.

Last year, Sanders uncovered a separate sheriff’s department database about informants known as the "special handling log."

And when this 3rd evidentiary hearing began in May, the lieutenant newly in charge of the department's revamped special handling unit disclosed for the 1st time that he had stumbled upon 68 banker's boxes of files compiled by the unit on inmates it had monitored as far back as the early 1980s.

"I'm really concerned about whether all my lawful discovery orders have been complied with," Goethals told Deputy Attorney General Michael T. Murphy, whose office took over the case when the district attorney was removed. "You've got a bad record. You've got bad facts here."

Sanders argued vehemently on Thursday that sheriff's officials constantly hid relevant information and lied on the stand.

"They're committing a fraud on this court," he said during about 2 hours of argument.

"One after another came in here and lied and lied and lied."

Murphy, for the prosecution, seemed to acknowledge that officials had committed misconduct. But he said the only question before Goethals was whether that misconduct means DeKraai could not receive a fair trial if a jury were asked to decide whether he should be executed or sent to prison for life.

"The defense is not entitled to have a remedy just because misconduct might have occurred in this case," unless it can prove prejudice, he said.

While the "minutia" Sanders cited about various informants and allegedly untruthful officials might be interesting and even important, and while the sheriff's department gave up some discovery "begrudgingly" and late, "it doesn't matter to the legal analysis if Mr. DeKraai can get a fair penalty phase trial," Murphy said.

What does matter during the penalty phase, the prosecutor said, is DeKraai's crime, his character and the views of his victims and their survivors.

The defense can present mitigation evidence that DeKraai has a good character or has done good things, Murphy said, but the idea that the jailers are hiding any such evidence is "just preposterous."

"There's no evidence the sheriff keeps records of good behavior," he said. "If Mr. DeKraai saved someone's life in jail, he knows about it."

But Sanders said sheriff’s officials hid so much and lied so much that he had no way of knowing whether deputies had any records that could be used as mitigation, such as whether informants might have heard his client express remorse.

"They know what makes Scott DeKraai look more human," he said. "They're not going to give it to us."

Sanders' co-counsel, Senior Deputy Public Defender Sara W. Ross, arguing the legal issues, told Goethals the defense was not asking him to dismiss the death penalty or the special circumstances count from the case, only to exclude the death penalty as a sanction for discovery abuse.

"If we cannot trust the prosecution team to comply with discovery orders, if they come in and lie to this court ... I don't see how they can argue you can have confidence [enough to impose] the ultimate punishment," she said.

Goethals asked if she'd ever seen a judge do what she was asking of him.

"No, but I've never seen a prosecution team do what they've done," she replied.

Goethals judge said the question before him is more factual than legal. "The pivotal issue here is how do the facts play into the law," he said.

"Do I believe based on the evidence I heard from both sides that my lawful discovery orders have been complied with? And if I don't, do I believe the lack of fully complying implicated the right of the defendant to due process and a fair trial?"

Goethals gave both sides until next Wednesday to file final briefs. He said he would deliver his decision Friday morning, Aug. 18.

(source: Courthouse News)


Federal appeals court rules military judge should have recused himself in 9/11 case

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] ruled Wednesday that Judge Scott Silliman should have recused himself in a case concerning multiple defendants who were charged with aiding in the 9/11 attacks. The petitioner, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, argued that Silliman was biased in the matter and cited a 2010 comment in which Silliman called Mohammad and his co-defendants the major conspirators in the 9/11 attacks. The court found that because Silliman "expressed an opinion that Petitioner is guilty of the very crimes of which he is accused," he manifested an "apparent bias" and thus should have recused himself. The court granted the petition asking the court to recuse Silliman and vacated a decision by the United States Court of Military Commission to reinstate charges for attacking civilians and destroying property in violation of the law of war against Mohammad and his co-defendants.

Mohammed allegedly met Osama bin Laden sometime in 1996. Following the 9/11 attacks, he was placed on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists list in October of 2001. One year later, Mohammed was linked to a Bali nightclub bombing in 2012. He was captured in Pakistan along with other al Qaeda operatives in 2003. In 2006, the United States acknowledged that Mohammad was being held in Guantanamo Bay with other suspected terrorists. In February 2008 the US announced they will be seeking the death penalty against Mohammed and his co-defendants. In January 2009 then-president Barack Obama ordered a halt to the Guantanamo Bay tribunals, delaying Mohammed's trail by 120 days. In April 2011, following more delays, the Department of Justice announced they would resume the case against Mohammed. The matter of Mohammed and his co-defendants is still pending today.



Time for Action on Malaysia’s Death Penalty----End Mandatory Death Sentences for Drug Offenses

When the Malaysian Cabinet announced plans this week to amend legislation to eliminate the mandatory death penalty for some drug offenses, many cheered. But history shows that the cheering may be premature. Malaysian authorities have been talking about removing the mandatory death penalty since at least 2015, but so far haven’t done so. It is time for the government to stop talking and act.

Judges in Malaysia are currently required to impose the death penalty on anyone convicted of "trafficking" in drugs - presumed for anyone possessing more than minimal amounts. In November 2015, Nancy Shukri, then the de facto law minister, said she hoped to introduce legislation to abolish the mandatory death penalty as early as March 2016. Nothing happened.

This March, Azalina Othman, who replaced Shukri in a cabinet reshuffle, announced the cabinet would "review" the mandatory death penalty. She further stated that she had directed the solicitor general to come up with draft amendments "quickly" so they could be presented to Parliament. Again, nothing happened. This week, the House of Representatives sat in Kuala Lumpur, but the government introduced no legislation to change the death penalty. Instead, in response to a question in Parliament, Othman announced the cabinet "had agreed" that the mandatory death penalty should be removed for some drug offenses. So why hasn't it? What is taking so long?

The proposed change would simply amend section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act to allow judges to exercise discretion in sentencing in some cases. This amendment is still far short of the change needed, but it certainly would be a step in the right direction, and provide a significant contrast to the worsening, rights-violating responses to drugs elsewhere in Southeast Asia, namely the Philippines and Indonesia.

The Malaysian government should stop playing games, and firmly commit now to introduce legislation in the next sitting of Parliament to eliminate the mandatory death penalty for all drug offenses - not just some drug offenses. And while it is making changes to its policies on the death penalty, the government should also impose a moratorium on executions, and move swiftly to full abolition of the death penalty. Talk is cheap. It is time for action.

(source: Human Rights Watch)


14 men facing 'imminent' beheading, highlighting sectarian divisions----The activists had taken to the streets as part of the Arab Spring protests

14 men who face being imminently beheaded in Saudi Arabia at the stroke of a pen have raised the plight of the Shia minority in the Sunni kingdom.

The activists were given the death penalty after being convicted of a series of terrorism charges for taking part in protests described by the authorities as an "armed rebellion".

They had taken to the streets as part of the Arab Spring protests which had swept across Islamic countries in 2011 in a bid to topple despotic leaders and oppressive governments.

Activists in Saudi Arabia say the men who face immediate execution for taking part in the Shia uprising in the country is proof of an on-going crackdown on the minority faith in the country.

Human rights groups said the 14, including a student and a disabled man, had been tortured before being enduring a "grossly unfair mass trial".

The Arab Spring protests in the kingdom erupted in the eastern province of Qatif - a Shia stronghold which has seen violent clashes between government forces and militants in recent months.

17 were left dead in May in one stand-off in the town of Awamiya when the security forces moved into to flush out rebels, with thousands fleeing their homes in the aftermath.

Activists blame the clashes on the government for failing to address the grievances of the Shia minority, and tackling the protests of the Arab Spring with force rather than dialogue.

"Armed individuals are a threat to both sides. A threat to the government and a threat to the community. Getting rid of this threat would be a step forward," says Waleed Sulais, a campaigner.

The 14 men face being imminently beheaded as soon as the country's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud signs-off their death sentences.

The Supreme Court last month gave the men the death penalty for offences including shooting at the security forces, throwing Molotov Cocktail bombs and for organising and taking part in riots.

The Saudi justice ministry last week defended the death penalty levelled at the 14 men who took part in the Arab Spring protests despite widespread criticism from human rights groups.

"All accused before the Saudi courts are entitled to fair trials fulfilling all standards, conditions and requirements," said Mansour al-Ghafari, the ministry's spokesman.

Amnesty international director of campaigns for the Middle-East Samah Hadid said court documents show the men told the court they were subjected to prolonged pre-trial detention and were tortured during their interrogation to extract their "confessions".

1 of the 14 men who faces a beheading includes Mujtaba al-Sowaiket, a student whom police arrested as he was about to board a flight to the U.S. to start university.


IRAN----juvenile execution

'Outrage' after man tried as a child is executed in Iran----Alireza Tajiki was arrested at the age of 15 and sentenced to death

A United Nations Special Rapporteur has expressed outrage at the execution of man in Iran who received the death penalty as a child.

Alireza Tajiki was arrested in 2012 at the age of 15 and sentenced to death at the age of 16 in 2013.

The UN says he was executed on August 10th, despite interventions by experts who said the death penalty should never be used against a child.

Special Rapporteur Asma Jahangir said: "I am distressed in the extreme to learn that this execution has gone ahead despite twice being postponed on previous scheduled dates".

Human rights experts stressed that Mr Tajiki's death penalty was upheld following judicial procedures which did not meet acceptable international standards of a fair trial or due process.

"I am deeply concerned that the court relied on the use of forced 'confessions', which were reportedly extracted using torture, including beatings, floggings and suspension by the arms and feet,", Ms Jahangir said.

"There has been no investigation into these torture claims.

"Mr. Tajiki also suffered violations of his rights to a defence, for example by being denied access to a lawyer throughout the entire investigation process and being held in solitary confinement for 15 days without access to his family."

Ms Jahangir added: "This treatment would be unacceptable for an adult, but for a child suspect to have been convicted after such grave rights abuses, and then to be executed despite all interventions, is truly shocking."

The death sentence against Mr Tajiki was quashed in 2014, but he was re-sentenced to death by the Provincial Criminal Court of Fars.

This court ruled that he had sufficient "mental maturity" for an understanding of his alleged crime to be executed.

That verdict was later upheld by Iran's Supreme Court.


AUGUST 10, 2017:


Windsor prison's electric chair rests at Vermont Historical Society

In 1971 Howard Coffin was a political reporter with the Rutland Herald traveling with then-Gov. Deane Davis on his re-election campaign when they visited the Windsor State Prison.

"I had never been in the prison before," Coffin remembered last week in the library of the Vermont Historical Society, where the Civil War historian and author was researching material for a memoir.

"We were walking around in a basement room, you could almost touch the ceiling it was so low," Coffin recalled. He then saw Davis walk over and peer over a screen at something behind it. Coffin watched as Davis' expression changed. Coffin crossed the room to see what Davis was looking at.

It was the state prison's electric chair. The governor stood transfixed.

"Davis was absolutely mesmerized," Coffin said.

Vermont abolished capital punishment in 1972 shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court called executions "cruel and unusual punishment" in the landmark case Furman v. Georgia. The state had last used the electric chair on Dec. 8, 1954, when it executed Donald Demag, 32, for his role in the slaying of retired schoolteacher Elizabeth Weatherup during a break-in at her Springfield farmhouse. Demag and accomplice Francis Blair had escaped from Windsor State Prison 3 days earlier.

The state executed a total of 5 people in its electric chair in Windsor between 1919 and 1954. This period in Vermont's history is now largely forgotten, and there has not been a major push to reintroduce the death penalty since lawmakers debated it in the early 1980s.

But Vermont's electric chair still exists - hidden away under a ghostly white sheet in a climate-controlled basement storage area filled with antique furniture at the Vermont Historical Society in Barre. It is seldom seen, and under the terms of the deal that transferred the electric chair from the state to the historical society, it can’t be put on public display.

"It's not something we like to talk a lot about," said Mary Rogstad, the organization's longtime registrar, who is responsible for cataloging and managing the database of the society's collection. She said the electric chair is kept covered in order not to "upset" people who might encounter it when researching furniture and other items in the basement storage room.

Executions as public spectacles

Blair and Demag were the 4th and 5th men to be sentenced to death in Vermont's electric chair. A total of 26 people have been executed in the state's history: 21 by hanging - including 2 women - and 5 in the electric chair.

During the 19th century, executions of convicted criminals were frequently a public spectacle in Vermont and elsewhere. As barbaric as the electric chair is considered today, it was originally invented and promoted as a more humane method of taking life.

Vermont's execution of Archibald Bates is a case in point. When Bates, the f5th person to be executed in the state, was hanged for the murder of his sister-in-law at Bennington Center in 1839, thousands of people showed up. Some brought picnic baskets on the unseasonably warm February day.

But it turned into a horror show that people were still recalling decades later. The Bennington Banner, relying upon an eyewitness account, said the hanging of the 210-pound Bates "nearly pulled his bones apart."

The gruesome spectacle moved the Vermont Legislature to pass a law banning "public" executions so that henceforth they were to be carried out at the state penitentiary in Windsor, built in 1808 and eventually one of the country's oldest prisons in continuous use before it closed in 1975.

By the late 1800s, however, politicians, reacting to a series of gruesome hangings, became focused upon the electric chair as an expeditious and supposedly merciful form of ending human life. The 1st execution by electric chair was conducted by New York state in 1890.

By 1896, Ohio became the 2nd state to adopt the electric chair, followed by Massachusetts (1898), New Jersey (1906), Virginia (1908) and North Carolina (1912). Then in 1913 7 states signed on, including Vermont, according to "The Death Penalty: An American History," a 2002 book by legal historian Stuart Banner.

The manufacturer of Vermont's electric chair is unknown, but the news wire UPI reported in 1975 - when the chair was in the process of being transferred from Windsor to the Vermont Historical Society - that the Legislature in 1912 approved "a special $3,000 appropriation to build the death house" at the state prison in Windsor.

"Corrections Department records show the state spent $368.33 for labor, $825.67 for construction and materials and $1,789 for 'furniture and fixtures', " UPI reported.

The last person to be executed by hanging in Vermont was Arthur Bosworth on Jan. 2, 1914, for the murder of Mae LaBelle in Essex Junction 6 months earlier. In an account of the execution in the Burlington Free Press, the newspaper noted that “the execution was the last hanging to take place in Vermont, as hereafter all murderers condemned to death are to be electrocuted."

Electric chair era begins

The 1st condemned prisoner to be executed in Vermont's electric chair was George Warner on July 12, 1919, for the November 1914 murder of his wife's parents in Andover. Warner received the announcement of the verdict at the courthouse in Woodstock in July 1915 with "the stoic indifference which has characterized his behavior all through his trial," the Bennington Banner reported.

In 1932, almost exactly 13 years later, on July 7, Vermont used the electric chair for the 2nd time to put to death Bert Stacy, a Barre granite polisher, for the murder of his estranged wife, Ruth Stacy, in the barn of a Berlin farm in April 1931.

Stacy maintained his innocence of the murder until the end and was described by an Associated Press reporter as "entirely composed as he was led to the chair."

The 3rd man to die in the electric chair was 21-year-old Canadian farmhand Ronald Watson, on Jan. 2, 1947, for the 1946 Christmas Eve slaying of Rutland taxicab driver Henry Teelon.

Notified only 8 hours beforehand of the time of his execution that evening, the Burlington Free Press reported he "met death calmly" after being asked by a Catholic priest, "You are sorry for your sins, Ronald?"

"Yes, Father, I am. Will you bless me, Father?" Watson replied.

Blair, 32 at the time he was executed and the 4th man to die in the chair, spent his final hours in the company of a Catholic priest "playing several games of checkers during the evening," according to a news story by Neal Houston, a reporter with the Burlington Free Press who later became chief of staff for Vermont Gov. Robert Stafford.

"16 witnesses were in the tiny, dingy death chamber when the executioner threw the switch at 10:10 p.m. A steady flow of electricity shot through Blair's body for 2 1/2 minutes and he was pronounced dead at 10:13 p.m.," Houston reported.

The condemned man's final meal consisted of "pork chops, French fried potatoes, vanilla ice cream and coffee. He wore a white shirt and dungarees. His hair was not completely shaved. Only one spot was shaved and the leg of his left trouser was slit to allow the executioner to attach the electrode," the story said.

Demag's execution 11 months later, on Dec. 8, 1954, was described by a Burlington Free Press eyewitness account reporting that Warden John Ferguson took "extra precautions" by assigning 10 prison guards at the scene. Ferguson said Demag had been given a "mild sedative" both the night before and the morning of his execution because he had "difficulty sleeping."

He walked "unaided" to the chair, praying silently with William Ready, the Catholic chaplain of the prison, the newspaper said. "5 guards quickly strapped Demag into the chair as the other 5 stood grouped around as if in a show of strength to prevent any last-minute attempt by Demag to make his 3rd break from the prison."

The back of Demag's head was shaved, and a slit was cut in his left trouser leg for the electrode. His face was "completely covered by a mask." Ready stood 10 feet away reciting Hail Marys "until the 1st and only shock of 2,000 volts was sent through Demag's body. No sound was heard in the crowded, tiny death chamber for almost 2 minutes," the newspaper reported.

Demag's lifeless body was examined by Dr. William Krause, of Windsor, who "turned to Ferguson and nodded his head." Ferguson then "broke the eerie silence" and said "pronounced dead by Dr. Krause at 8:53 p.m."

Stress on witnesses

Houston, the Burlington Free Press reporter who covered both Blair's and Demag's executions, recounted in an interview 28 years later that "it was simply impossible for me not to be affected emotionally."

"My most vivid impression was of Demag because his body reacted very violently to the execution. There was extreme twitching ... it all happened in a relatively short time but it seemed like a eternity," he told reporter John Donnelly in a 1982 story in the Burlington Free Press.

Houston, who died in 2014, said that after witnessing Blair's execution he asked to be exempted from covering Demag's but his editors refused the request.

Coffin, the Civil War historian and author, said the late Rutland Herald Managing Editor Kendall Wild related to him the horror of covering both Blair's and Demag's executions when Coffin was a reporter for the newspaper in the 1960s.

"After Wild saw the 1st execution he went to file the story at the Herald office in Springfield," Coffin said. "Then afterward he went to the Springfield police station with a fifth of liquor and asked the police to lock him up in the cell for the night," where he could drink in solitude and safety.

"He killed a fifth, he was so upset," Coffin said about Wild. "He said there seemed to be no purpose to it."

There was even a point at which Vermont's electric chair could have been utilized for additional executions.

In 1942, Vermont officials seemed willing to loan the state's electric chair to South Dakota, whose governor had requested to borrow it for a scheduled execution. South Dakota's prison system had been barred by the War Production Board from building its own because construction would have involved the use of "critical materials" required for the war effort, according to The Associated Press. But the Argus-Leader in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, reported the arrangement was eventually abandoned due to technical and logistical problems.

Mike Coxon, the retired superintendent of the Southeast State Correctional Facility who had previously overseen vocational education and training programs at the prison - and where his father had worked before him for 22 years - said the execution chamber was on the ground floor adjacent to cell block B and the solitary confinement cells.

Vermont had no state executioner, Coxon said. Instead, the state had to hire an "electrician" from out of state who understood how to operate the equipment properly. When the chair was built, he said, it was purposefully designed with "overstrapping" to accommodate Watson's body, "who was the most muscular, thick man" the jailers had ever met. "His arms were bigger than most men's thighs," Coxon said.

After Demag's execution, the electric chair remained stationed in the execution room for the next 26 years. The public could glimpse the chair during tours of the prison, Coxon said. And according to longtime Windsor resident Barbara Rhoad, shortly before the Windsor prison was closed, "they let all the schoolkids through Windsor prison and they let the kids sit in" the electric chair.

Resting place

In 1975, after the Windsor State Prison was shut down and renovated into housing units, and capital punishment had been abolished in the state, prison officials donated the state's electric chair to the Vermont Historical Society.

State Sen. Wesley Grady, of Underhill, called Weston Cate, then the VHS director, in 1975 after the lawmaker learned that the electric chair was being transferred. Cate's reply suggests Grady was concerned the electric chair would be put in the society's museum for public viewing.

"I can assure you that the Vermont Historical Society has no intention whatsoever of placing the chair on public display in our museum. We intend to place it in our storage quarters," Cate said.

He explained that after prison authorities approached the society about accepting the chair "our museum people agonized for 3 weeks over whether to accept custody of the chair." But, ultimately, the decision to accept it was based upon the electric chair's status as "a genuine historical artifact that played a part in Vermont history."

Another reason to accept custody of the chair, Cate said, was to prevent it from falling into the hands of "private parties" and "souvenir hunters, and the like, who are anxious to get their hands on the chair."

"We issued no publicity of any kind about the decision," Cate assured Grady. As for stories that had appeared in the newspaper about the society taking possession of the electric chair, they "had to come either from the prison or Department of Corrections ... we would have much preferred no publicity whatsoever," Cate wrote.

Cataloged as number 75.92 - the 1st 2 digits signify the year of donation, the 2nd 2 mean it was the 92nd item to be accepted that year - society records say the electric chair was received in October 1975.

"Massive oak chair 53" high, 26" x 28", plywood seat," reads the society's catalog record. "Has 2 sets of heavy leather straps behind the seat part, and ankle straps attached to the footrest. The electric connections are removed ... adjustable back and leg rests. Back is hinged to go back, held in position with 2 nuts (missing).

"Brass reinforcing plates on arm rests and back. Plywood seat is a replacement. 2 leather leg straps with buckles. 2 leather wrist straps with buckles. 2 leather arm straps with buckles, 1 leather waist strap with buckle and 1 leather torso strap with buckle.

"A plate, probably the manufacturer's identification plate is missing from the front of the seat."

Occasionally the museum fields inquiries about the electric chair.

Rogstad said a few years ago she showed the chair to a descendent of 1 of the men executed in it who had requested to see it. She declined to identify the descendant to protect the person's privacy.

The body of Demag, the last person executed in Vermont, was buried in a family plot in Essex Junction, 3 days after his death. A newspaper account reports the burial ceremony was attended by Demag's parents and his divorced wife.

The body of Blair was buried at the Vermont State Prison Inmate Cemetery in Windsor.

All the plots are marked by a cross. At the cross of Francis Blair someone planted a flowering vine.



George Bundy Smith, judge who helped void NY death penalty, dies

George Bundy Smith, a former civil rights activist who in 2004 wrote the benchmark decision by New York's highest court that, in effect, voided the state's death penalty, died on Saturday at his home in Harlem. He was 80.

His death was confirmed by his son, George Bundy Smith Jr. No cause was specified.

As the 3rd black person appointed to the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals, Judge Smith wrote the 4-3 ruling declaring unconstitutional a central provision of a capital punishment bill that had been championed a decade earlier by the state's incoming Republican governor, George Pataki.

While Judge Smith was considered a liberal lion, he also repeatedly demonstrated his independence as a jurist. In 2006, he joined the majority in rejecting the argument by gay and lesbian couples that denying them the right to marry violated the state Constitution. For nearly a century, the court said, the New York Legislature intended to limit marriage to a union between a man and a woman, and had a rational basis for doing so.

In 2011, the Legislature legalized same-sex marriage, a right later upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The 2004 capital punishment decision was the 4th time the Court of Appeals had overturned a death sentence since a new statute was passed in 1995 to overcome the constitutional shortcomings of earlier measures.

Judge Smith had foreshadowed his doubts about the statute’s legality in 2003, when he expressed concerns that in most states the death penalty had been imposed disproportionately on blacks.

"New York is no less deserving of a badge of shame for the role race played in capital punishment," he wrote at the time.

The ruling written by Judge Smith directly affected 4 inmates on death row, including Stephen LaValle, a former Long Island roofer who raped and killed a schoolteacher, Cynthia Quinn, in 1997, and whose appeal was before the court.

Writing for the slim majority, Judge Smith affirmed the conviction, but said a so-called deadlock provision unique to New York had coerced jurors in the penalty phase of deliberations to vote for death. According to that provision, if a jury failed to decide between death and life without parole, the judge would have to impose a sentence that would qualify the defendant for parole after as little as 20 years.

"The deadlock instruction," Judge Smith wrote for the majority, "gives rise to an unconstitutionally palpable risk that 1 or more jurors who cannot bear the thought that a defendant may walk the streets again after serving 20 to 25 years will join jurors favoring death in order to avoid the deadlock sentence."

The court concluded that "under the present statute, the death penalty may not be imposed." The Legislature never revised the law to pass judicial muster. New York last executed an inmate in 1963.

George Bundy Smith was born on April 7, 1937, in New Orleans to the Rev. Sidney Smith Sr. and the former Beatrice Bundy, a teacher.

Raised in segregated Washington, D.C., he won a scholarship to Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., where he was the only black student in his class. In 1959, he earned a bachelor's degree in history from Yale, where he was one of the few black students. With his twin sister, Inez, he graduated from Yale Law School in 1962. He later received a master's and a doctorate from New York University.

As a newly minted lawyer, he joined the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and helped the civil rights lawyer Constance Baker Motley draft briefs for James Meredith's successful challenge to the University of Mississippi's refusal to admit black students.

He then became a law secretary to several New York judges and served as the administrator of Model Cities, a federally funded antipoverty program in New York City. He was appointed and then elected to the Civil Court in 1975; elected to the Supreme Court, where he sat from 1980 to 1986; and then appointed to the Appellate Division. Gov. Mario Cuomo appointed him to the Court of Appeals in 1992.

At the time, Guido Calabresi, the dean of Yale Law School, who had taught him torts in 1959, said: "I couldn't tell you very much about his politics, and that's the way it should be. George is not doctrinaire, and he is known for considering each case on its merits."

Judge Smith and his wife, the former Alene Lohman Jackson, a retired professor at Hunter College of the City University of New York, wrote "You Decide!: Applying the Bill of Rights to Real Cases" in 1992. She and his son, a television sportscaster for WFLD in Chicago, survive him, as do his daughter, Beth Beatrice Smith, a college professor; his sister, Inez, a senior judge on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals; his brother, Dr. Sidney Smith; and 2 grandchildren.

Pataki, who was vexed by Judge Smith's 2004 opinion in the death-penalty case, did not appoint him to a 2nd term in 2006.

After leaving the court, as a partner in the Manhattan law firm of Chadbourne & Parke, Judge Smith sued the state in 2007 on behalf of judges who argued that because they had not received a pay raise since 1999, inflation had, in effect, unconstitutionally diminished their compensation. In 2008, a state Supreme Court justice ordered the Legislature to grant the state’s 1,250 judges a raise.

It was not the 1st time Judge Smith had defended the independence of the judicial branch. Responding to the criticism generated by the death-penalty decision, he acknowledged that 2nd-guessing court decisions is a normal part of the legal process.

"It is the attacks on the judiciary itself which I think are cause for concern," he said. "I think that judges have to do the job that they have been selected and appointed to do, and can’t fear the criticism of anyone."

(source: San Francisco Chronicle)


Man freed from NC death row by DNA test now says he's tired of long civil case

A man freed from death row after 30 years said Thursday he's grown weary of a tense debate over whether his lawyers are helping themselves to too much of his compensation for wrongful imprisonment.

A lawsuit filed by Henry McCollum and his half-brother against investigators has become entangled in questions of whether the men’s lawyers are protecting their interests. The latest hearing included testy exchanges between the judge and those attorneys.

"I want this case to end," McCollum testified. "I'm tired of going through this. I want to go on with my life."

A court-appointed advocate for McCollum argued in a recent motion that the lawyers steered the half-brothers into dubious financial arrangements. Separately, Judge Terrence Boyle rejected a settlement that would have allowed the lawyers to claim $400,000 of $1 million in payments to the men from a town and its investigators.

Boyle had stern words for lawyer Patrick Megaro, who questioned why the case was stalling over concerns about his financial interest in the case.

"You better be careful here because the court has no interest other than the law," Boyle said.

Megaro said his goal was a swift resolution for McCollum and his half-brother Leon Brown, whom he also represents.

A separate state wrongful conviction compensation program has already awarded McCollum and Brown each $750,000. Megaro declined to tell the judge how much he was paid out of that award, saying it's not part of the current federal lawsuit.

The half-brothers, who had been behind bars for decades following the 1983 killing of an 11-year-old girl, were released from prison in 2014 because of DNA evidence. They were later pardoned. Their civil lawsuit alleges local and state authorities violated their civil rights.

Boyle is currently weighing whether McCollum was mentally competent to sign his representation agreement with Megaro. The judge said he would decide soon on whether to order a new competency evaluation.

The men's lawsuit against investigators, filed in 2015 by Megaro, notes they both have been diagnosed with intellectual disabilities.

But Megaro argued Thursday that McCollum can handle his own affairs. McCollum agreed during his testimony.

"By the grace of God I have learned so much. I learned to travel by myself. I learned to work computers, phones," McCollum testified. "It feels good to be out here."

McCollum said he's now living with his fiancee in Virginia and writing a book about his life.

"My lawyers there have helped me out a lot," he said, adding that he's in contact with Megaro every day.

But under questioning from the court-appointed guardian ad-litem, Raymond Tarlton, McCollum said he didn't know how his sister was first introduced to Megaro. He also said he wasn't familiar with payments made to other consultants from his money. Guardians ad-litem can be assigned to children or people with intellectual disabilities.

Brown, who has a different legal guardian for the case, wasn't at the hearing.

McCollum's former lawyer Ken Rose testified that after he fought to secure his client's release from prison, Megaro abruptly told him in 2015 that he was taking over efforts to pursue a pardon and further litigation. Rose, the former head of the nonprofit Center for Death Penalty Litigation, had represented McCollum for 2 decades.

"I felt very frustrated and powerless in that situation because I felt that he was being exploited," Rose said.

McCollum was 19 and Brown was 15 when Sabrina Buie was killed in rural Robeson County. Defense attorneys have said they were scared teens with low IQs who were berated by investigators and fed details about the crime before they signed fabricated confessions.

The 2 were initially given death sentences. In 1988, the state Supreme Court threw out their convictions and ordered new trials. McCollum was again sent to death row, while Brown was found guilty of rape and sentenced to life.

But no physical evidence connected them to the crime. A break in the case happened after the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission got involved several years ago and had a new DNA analysis done on evidence from the crime scene.

After Thursday's hearing, McCollum said he wants the judge to let him make his own decisions.

"I'm competent," he said. "I pray the judge will do the right thing."

(source: Associated Press)


Orange County man on death row will not get new sentencing hearing in 1976 murder, rape

A man sentenced to death 4 times for killing and raping his 13-year-old step-niece in 1976 cannot get a new sentencing hearing even though the most recent jury that recommended the sentence was not unanimous.

James Hitchcock, now 61, confessed to raping and strangling Cynthia Driggers. A jury sentenced him to death unanimously in 1993, but that sentence was overturned when a higher court ruled they should not have been allowed to hear allegations that Hitchcock sexually abused other children.

At his most recent sentencing hearing in 1996, another jury recommended a death sentence by a vote of 10-2.

In January 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the method Florida courts used to sentence people to death, arguing that allowing non-unanimous jury votes leaves too much power with judges and not enough with juries.

The Florida Supreme Court has since maintained that because the federal court's decision cited a 2002 case, Ring v. Arizona, only cases that were finalized after the date the Ring decision came out should be affected. Hitchcock's case was already through its 1st round of appeals when Ring was decided.

"Hitchcock is among those defendants whose death sentences were final before Ring, and his arguments do not compel departing from our precedent," justices wrote in their opinion.

(source: Orlando Sentinel)


Indiana man accused in officer death may face death penalty

An Indianapolis man accused of fatally shooting a police officer who was trying to help him following a car crash could face the death penalty if he's convicted in the officer's slaying, a prosecutor said Wednesday after the suspect made his 1st court appearance.

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said his office will decide within about six weeks whether to pursue capital punishment or life in prison without parole for Jason D. Brown, who faces one felony murder count in the July 27 killing of Southport police Lt. Aaron Allan.

He said his staff will discuss that with Allan's family, but is giving them time to grieve for the officer, whose funeral was Saturday.

"We have a police officer who lost his life while trying to assist someone," Curry said.

Brown was dangling upside down in his overturned car, his seatbelt engaged, following a crash when he suddenly became agitated as Allan approached to help him and opened fire, according to court documents.

Allan, a 38-year-old father of 2, suffered 11 gunshot wounds and died a short time later. He was a 6-year veteran of the police department in Southport, a municipality on Indianapolis' south side.

Brown, 28, was hospitalized after 2 other officers opened fire on him following Allan's shooting, leaving him with gunshot wounds to the face, left arm and right clavicle.

Brown's facial wounds were visible as deputies brought him into court Wednesday for his initial hearing on the murder charge and a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge stemming from marijuana officers said they found in his crashed car.

Marion Superior Court Judge Sheila Carlisle entered a not guilty plea on Brown's behalf and asked him several questions, including whether he understood the charges and the penalties he could face. He answered each with "yes, ma'am" or "yes" during the brief hearing.

Brown's attorney, Denise Turner, did not return a message left Wednesday seeking comment on the charges her client faces.

Authorities have not disclosed a possible motive in Allan's killing.

Curry said he could not discuss matters that were not addressed in court documents, but he said his office has requested Brown's hospital records, including blood and toxicology results, and they might shed light on the circumstances of Allan's killing.

A man who was a passenger in Brown's car told officers he and Brown had just left a gas station when Brown inexplicably began driving at a high rate of speed, court documents state. Brown then began maneuvering around cars and his vehicle drove over a median, struck a curb and overturned in the yard in front of a home. Brown was hanging upside down inside, secured by his seatbelt.

The passenger was outside the overturned car, sitting on the grass, when the shooting occurred.



Proseutors will seek death for man charged in Midwest City triple homicide

Oklahoma County prosecutors will seek the death penalty as punishment for the man charged in a triple homicide in Midwest City.

Ramon Rocha Pugh, 42, of Midwest City, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder. He is accused in the Jan. 28 shooting deaths of Terrence Laval Jackson, 51, Donielle Gregory, 39, and Derrel Lyn Barksdale Jr., 39, all of Oklahoma City.

On Wednesday, prosecutors filed a bill of particulars, meaning that at trial, they will seek the death penalty against Pugh.

In the document, prosecutors wrote that Pugh "should be punished by death." They also claimed there is a probability that Pugh would be "a continuing threat to society."

Prosecutors allege Pugh and the three men had been talking, drinking vodka and smoking marijuana inside a Midwest City house in the hours leading up to the shooting.

Pugh's girlfriend told police she and her 10-year-old daughter also were at the house the night of the shooting. The girlfriend said she heard several gunshots coming from the living room about 8:45 p.m. Each victim was shot numerous times, police reported.

She said she grabbed her daughter and they went out a bedroom window, police reported.

Pugh turned himself in Feb. 3. He also is known as "Sico," "Psycho" and "Romon," prosecutors reported.

Prosecutors also have charged Lucretia Mitchell, 48, with harboring a fugitive, which is a felony. They allege she assisted Pugh avoid arrest after she knew he was wanted in the homicides. Mitchell, Pugh's relative, also goes by the last name Spencer, according to prosecutors.

Oklahoma County jurors acquitted Pugh of 1st-degree murder in 1999. Pugh had been accused of shooting a man in 1997 outside a club in Spencer.

Pugh has served time in prison for shooting with intent to kill, firearm possession and drug offenses, records show.

(source: The Oklahoman)


Scott Peterson Speaks Out Publicly For 1st Time in More Than 10 Years----Peterson spoke from death row in San Quentin, California

Scott Peterson has revealed his thoughts after being convicted in 2004 for murdering his wife Laci Peterson and their unborn son.

A new documentary from A&E captured the statements from Peterson who currently awaits the death penalty in San Quentin Prison. It is the 1st time he has spoken out in over a decade. People Magazine published the recording that captured his statement:

"It was just like this amazing, horrible physical reaction that I had. I couldn't feel my feet on the floor. I couldn't feel the chair I was sitting in. My vision was even a little blurry."

Peterson has continued to claim innocence since the trials, saying he "had no idea it was coming."

The Modesto couple had been married for 5 years, but on Christmas Eve 2002, Laci Peterson, 8 months pregnant, vanished. Her body was recovered in San Francisco Bay in April 2003.

The trial went on for almost a year with national media covering each step. While there was no concrete knowledge surrounding the time or cause of Laci Peterson's death, evidence led the jury to convict Scott Peterson of the killings.

During the final verdict, death penalty lawyer Cliff Gardner said that more than 1,000 people were outside the courthouse waiting for a guilty verdict. Gardner claims that the trial was unfair because of the mass publicity surrounding it.

A&E will air their new series "The Murder of Laci Peterson" Aug. 15.



Over 100 Rabbis Denounce The Death Penalty

We, the undersigned Rabbis across denominations, express our opposition to the use of the death penalty in America.

As Jews and citizens, we believe that governments must protect the dignity and rights of every human being. By using the death penalty, our country fails to live up to this basic requirement.

Too often, the wrong person is convicted for crimes they did not commit. Due to their socio-economic situation or lack of access to legal resources, wrongly convicted people often have no real opportunity to respond to an overwhelming legal system that, after an initial conviction, makes the proof of innocence very difficult. The consequences of this system are not only fundamentally unjust but also produce racially disparate outcomes. Additionally, tax payers are required to pay exorbitant amounts to maintain death row.

The Rabbis taught that a court that often puts others to death is deeply problematic. How often? Rabbi Eliezer ben Azariah says, "Every 70 years." Rabbi Tarfon and Rabbi Akiva say, "If we were in a court, no person would ever be executed," (Makkot 7a). While not categorically opposed to capital punishment, the rabbis saw the death penalty as so extreme a measure that they all but removed it from their system of justice. Regarding capital punishment, the Sages had a very high bar for reliable evidence, were eager to find ways to acquit, and were deeply concerned about the dignity of those that were indeed condemned. In contrast, our American system today lacks the highest safeguards to protect the lives of the innocent and uses capital punishment all too readily.

We do not naively believe that everyone on death row is completely innocent of any crime. Yet, it is time to see the death penalty for what it is: not as justice gone awry, but a symptom of injustice as status quo. "You must rescue those taken off to death!"(Proverbs 24:11)!

As Jewish community leaders, we are calling for an end to a cruel practice, but also for the beginning of a new paradigm of fair, equitable restorative justice.

(source: Opinion; Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz is the President and Dean of Valley Beit Midrash, Founder and President of Uri L'tzedek, and the Founder and CEO of Shamayim V'


Pakistan & Iran's Blasphemy laws among the worst in the World

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has released a ground-breaking report that takes a look at blasphemy laws around the world and compares them to international human rights standards.

The report covers instances of the blasphemy laws in 71 countries which include countries like Paksitan and Indonesia, known for harsh punishments like the death penalty to countries like Canada and Switzerland which have minor penalties like fines. Among the 6 countries which were ranked the worst in terms of blasphemy laws, Iran topped the list while Pakistan ranked 2nd, followed by Yemen, Qatar, Somalia, and Egypt.

USCIRF scored the countries based on Severity of the Penalty, Freedom of Religion, whether the State protected or preferred certain Religion Protections, Freedom of Expression and Discrimination Against Groups.

Of the 71 states studied, 59 or 83 % sanction blasphemy with imprisonment. Iran and Pakistan, the 2 countries with the highest-scoring laws for Severity of the Penalty, include the death penalty as punishment for "insulting the Prophet.".


AUGUST 9, 2017:

TEXAS----death row inmate dies

Harris County death row prisoner convicted in saloon robbery found dead in cell

Raymond Martinez was found dead in his cell Wednesday.

After 3 decades on death row, the Harris County killer who left a trail of bodies across Texas in 1983 finally got his way.

Raymond DeLeon Martinez died Wednesday of natural causes. He never saw the inside of Huntsville's death chamber.

A diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic with an IQ of 65, Martinez was one of the state's longest-serving death row prisoners.

The erstwhile prison gang leader narrowly avoided an execution date in 2006, kept alive only by his attorneys' ferocity in fighting his case - which was awaiting a decision from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in light of the 71-year-old's intellectual disability.

"I think there was a decent chance that the ruling would have gone in his favor," said attorney Kenneth Williams, who represented Martinez toward the end of the decades-long appeals process.

"It was pretty obvious to me that he was a seriously mentally ill person so I think that it's unfortunate that the system doesn't deal with a person like him better," he added.

"It's a sad, tragic story."

The summer of 1983 was Martinez's reign of terror.

Just months after he finished a 14-year prison sentence, Martinez and 2 accomplices kicked off a 3-bar robbery spree. At Don Ramon's Lounge, the trio killed a patron, Moses Mendez. 2 days later, they slaughtered Long Branch Saloon bar owner Herman Chavis, shooting him repeatedly in the back at his Houston establishment.

Afterward, Martinez and 1 of his confederates fled to Fort Worth, where Martinez shot and killed his sister Julia Gonzales and her boyfriend, Guillermo Chavez.

On July 21, while staying at the Big State Motel in Houston, then 37-year-old Martinez killed prostitute Tracey Pelkey because he didn't like her attitude, according to Texas Department of Criminal Justice records.

But when he was found guilty and sent off to death row in July 1984, his case was only just beginning.

In 1988, the court overturned his capital murder conviction for the saloon slaying, ordering a new trial in light of jury selection problems.

During a retrial the following year, prosecutors alleged that the string of brutal killings was intended to enhance his status in the Texas Syndicate, a notorious prison gang.

In March 2006, Martinez was slated to meet his fate in Huntsville. But a last-minute stay bought him more time, and the following year the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals invalidated Martinez's death sentence, unanimously deciding the trial court judge had failed to let jurors consider mitigating evidence like the killer's history of mental illness.

In 2009, a Harris County jury sent Martinez to the death house for a 3rd time.

"It does not speak well of the system that he had death sentences overturned so frequently," Williams said. "I think it's another indication of the flawed death penalty system here in Texas and the United States."

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the Fifth Circuit, asking the lower court to reconsider their ruling in light of a decision regarding fellow death row inmate Bobby Moore.

Though Moore had been given a capital sentence decades earlier for a 1980 grocery store slaying, in March a 5-justice majority ruled that Texas courts had used an outdated and "unacceptable method" for determining his intellectual disability.

That decision overturned the state's method for evaluating intellectual disability and gave new life to appeals like Martinez's.

"We were sitting here waiting (for a decision), any day now," Williams said.

Martinez had a 5th-grade education and a long history of mental health problems and criminal convictions.

"It was pretty obvious to me that he was a seriously mentally ill person," Williams said.

In 1964 he served a 2-year prison sentence for burglary, and starting in 1966 he had 3 stays at the Wichita Falls State Hospital. In 1967 a Comanche County jury found him not guilty by reason of insanity for a burglary charge.

But 2 years later he went back to prison, this time for armed robbery and jail breaking.

He was released in December 1982, 7 months before his bloody crime spree across the Lone Star State.

Toward the end of his life, Martinez became hard of hearing and had difficulty communicating with his attorney in person. 6 months before his death, Martinez detailed his health ailments, including heart problems, in a letter to his lawyer.

"He just had such a long, very sad history of mental illness that the system was never able to handle," Williams said.

"I am glad that he was able to die a natural death and not be executed."

It was during a routine 11 a.m. security check on Wednesday at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston that guards found Martinez unresponsive in his cell. He was taken to the infirmary, where he was pronounced dead, according to a TDCJ spokesman.

Respected death penalty lawyer Patrick McCann, who represented Martinez earlier in the appeals process, laughed upon hearing of his former client's death.

"He won then," he said.

(source: Houston Chronicle)


Federal appeals court will review 20-year-old case of dragging death

A man on death row for the notorious slaying nearly 20 years ago of a black man chained to the back of a pickup truck and dragged along a bumpy rural East Texas road will get his claim of innocence and poor legal representation reviewed by an appeals court.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals late Tuesday said it would review a claim from John William King that lawyers were deficient in presenting a case for innocence during his trial for what became 1 of the nation's most shocking hate crimes since the Civil Rights era.

King's appeal said that only a few pieces of circumstantial evidence that could be innocently explained tied him to the scene of a fight that resulted in 49-year-old James Byrd Jr. being chained at his ankles to the bumper of a truck in June 1998 and fatally dragged outside Jasper, 125 miles northeast of Houston.

King, now 42, was the 1st of 3 white men convicted of capital murder for the hate slaying. Each was tried separately. Lawrence Russell Brewer, 44, was executed in 2011. Shawn Berry, 42, is serving life in prison.

King's attorney, A. Richard Ellis, raised 5 claims to the 5th Circuit, 4 of them focusing on what he said was King receiving ineffective legal help at his 1999 trial in Jasper. The 5th claim contended a federal district judge who rejected King's appeal denied him due process and a fair hearing.

The 5th Circuit rejected all but the claim questioning the trial attorneys’ effectiveness regarding some of the state's evidence in the case.

King's lead defense attorney, Haden "Sonny" Cribbs, died in June. His trial co-counsel, Brack Jones, declined to comment.

   (source: Washington Post)


Major Film Planned on Todd Willingham - Innocent Person Wrongfully Executed by Texas

Jack O'Connell and Laura Dern have been set to star in Trial by Fire, a fact-based drama that Ed Zwick will direct. Oscar-winning Precious scribe Geoffrey Fletcher wrote the script, adapted from the 2009 article in The New Yorker that won David Grann the Polk Award. Zwick will produce through his Bedford Falls banner with Flashlight Films' Allyn Stewart & Kipp Nelson, and Alex Soros, the latter of whom is financing. Production is set to begin October 2 in Atlanta. Kathryn Dean and Marshall Herskovitz are exec producing and film sales will be represented by Cinetic Media and CAA.

O'Connell stars as Cameron Todd Willingham, a poor, uneducated heavy metal devotee with a violent streak and a criminal record. Convicted of triple homicide in the arson deaths of his 3 small children, Willingham spent 12 years on death row. Dern co-stars as Elizabeth Gilbert, a Texas housewife who forms an unlikely bond with Willingham and, though facing staggering odds, fights magnificently for his freedom on the basis he was wrongly convicted.

Zwick said he and Stewart separately chased Grann's story when it was published 8 years ago and decided to team. It has been an uphill battle to get this one made, but a number of elements came together all at the right time. "From the moment I read David's brilliant reporting 8 years ago, I have been possessed by this deeply moving, true story of injustice," Zwick told Deadline. "David Grann has been one of these caught-in-the-roller-of-his-typewriter guys, quietly doing great work, and now all these wonderful things are happening with his stories being made into movies, from Killers of the Flower Moon to the Robert Redford piece Old Man and the Gun. The story was all there, with these 2 compelling characters. It is a remarkable story about people. Not just capital punishment but justice, which is a very important word right now. It has to have that pull to keep you pushing it up the hill this many years."

I asked Zwick why it took so long. "You've heard the story at the end of the year from everyone who gets up on that podium and talks about how hard it is," he said. "The good ones just take longer. I've been lucky enough to make movies I care about, and they become increasingly smaller targets that you hit at greater distances. Every year a couple manage to get through that crucible, but it's harder and harder. We got close a couple of times, but it came down to not being able to get the right actor or financier. 10 years ago, after I completed Blood Diamond, I got involved with Global Witness, an organization that was very good to me. They asked would I go on the board, and it was there that I met Alex Soros. We sat working together for this organization for 10 years; he's not in the film business, but he followed my travails in trying to get this movie made. Finally, he said maybe I could get involved with you to do this."

Stewart, who with Nelson produced Sully, called Trial by Fire "more than a provocative account of prosecutorial abuse, an incredibly emotional story about how a single act of kindness can change 2 lives forever."

(source: Texas Moratorium Network)


Brit sentenced to death for double murder in Miami in 1980s hopes to clear his name

A British man who was sentenced to death for murdering 2 men in a Miami hotel has spoken of his hopes to be cleared of the crimes so he can enjoy his remaining years in the Westcountry.

In 1987 Krishna (Kris) Maharaj, 78, was convicted of the murders of father of son Derrick and Duan Moo Young in a Miami hotel room.

Prosecutors managed to secure the death penalty, although in 2002 the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.

Maharaj's lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith - founder of the charity Reprieve - said his client is not guilty of the double killing.

Maharaj, who has always maintained his innocence, will be eligible for parole once he reaches 101 under the current arrangements.

Mr. Stafford Smith said Colombian drug cartels were active in Miami at the time of the murders. His legal team have represented their client for 2 decades for no fee and say the conviction is unsafe and should be quashed.

Mr Stafford Smith says he has new evidence pointing to the Medellin drug cartel as the real culprits, including admissions by former cartel members they were responsible for the murders, and admissions by former Miami police officers that they framed Maharaj and had a deal to help cover up Colombian cartel murders.

An appeals court in Atlanta agreed the self-made millionaire should receive a new hearing, although the case will have to return to a federal court in Miami to proceed further.A single judge will consider new evidence collated by his legal team and Reprieve.

Mr Stafford Smith said federal authorities are holding records which could help exonerate his client, although there is no obligation for them to release the information - even if petitioned by a state court.

Speaking to the BBC yesterday, Mr Maharaj said: 'It is blatantly obvious that I was framed [...] Believe you me; I will be vindicated.'

Mr Stafford Smith said: 'For years, the US government has held evidence that could help free an innocent man. Kris and his wife Marita have been through a nightmarish ordeal since 1986 - all they want now is for justice to be done. It is high time the US authorities gave us the information we need to prove Kris' innocence once and for all."

He said all his client and his wife wished to do was move to the South West of England to start a new life.

(source: Devon News)


Attorney: Murder suspect's IQ too low to face death penalty

The attorney for the man accused of shooting his four children and killing their mother say his client is mentally ill and pointed to his IQ as part of proof he should not face the death penalty.

Sedrick Norris is charged with capital murder in the death of Coral Wilson. His attorneys have not denied he fired the fatal shots but have instead planned their defense around Norris' mental health.

Birmingham Police said Norris returned to Wilson's home on May 11th, 2016 with a gun after unsuccessfully trying to force his way in the house earlier in the evening. Court records show Wilson had filed a protection order against Norris two months earlier.

Defense attorney Robert Hensley said his client's memory of the night is not good. "He really doesn't remember what happened that night. He's traumatized by it. He's very remorseful but he can't really tell you exactly what happened."

A date for Norris' trial has not yet been set. The process has been delayed while defense attorneys work to receive Norris' personal records from the Social Security Administration. Hensley believes the records will prove his client had been receiving disability benefits, bolstering their claims of his mental illness. Norris is due back in court September 27th.

(source: ABC News)


Judge denies motion to remove death penalty in Howland murder trial----Nasser Hamad is accused of killing 2 people and hurting 3 others at his Howland home in February

A judge has denied motions to remove the death penalty option and move Nasser Hamad's trial out of the county.

In all, the judge ruled on nine motions in the Howland capital murder case.

Hamad is accused of killing 2 people and hurting 3 others at his Howland home in February. His lawyers filed several motions, asking for a change of venue due to publicity and to get rid of the death penalty option should Hamad be convicted.

In his judgment entry, Judge Ronald Rice said a change of venue request is premature at this stage in the proceedings, saying the request would be more appropriate in the voir dire process. Judge Rice also ruled that a request to preclude a sentence of a death specification due to a perceived error in the indictment was not valid.

Included in his rulings is that the Grand Jury proceedings will not be sealed.

Hamad's lawyers maintain that Hamad was defending himself and that the victims had been harassing him before the shooting on his property.

Prosecutors said, however, that he provoked the victims on social media to come over to his house. They said after the fight, the victims started to leave and he went into his house to get the gun.

Hamad's trial is set for October.

(source: WKBN news)


Death-row inmate John Lotter denied in latest appeal

Death row inmate John Lotter has failed in another attempt to have his sentence overturned in federal court.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently dismissed Lotter's appeal of a lower-court decision that allowed his death sentence to stand for the 1993 killing of three people at a rented farmhouse near Humboldt, Nebraska. Regarded as a hate crime that targeted Teena Brandon, who was a transgender man and went by Brandon, the case inspired the 1999 critically acclaimed film "Boys Don't Cry."

Although the decision represents a blow to Lotter's efforts to escape death row, he has another ongoing legal challenge that prevents the state from proceeding with his execution while the challenge is pending. In addition, the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services has not yet replaced expired lethal injection drugs, a prison spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Lotter's appeal centers on his argument that Nebraska's system of allowing judges rather than juries to make final sentencing determinations in death penalty cases is similar to one formerly used by Florida, which was declared unconstitutional in 2016 by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In February, Senior U.S. District Court Judge Richard Kopf likened the argument to a "Hail Mary" play in football and dismissed Lotter's petition for habeas corpus. Last week, a 3-judge panel of the federal appeals court wrote that it had carefully reviewed the court file before denying Lotter's appeal.

Lotter's attorney, Rebecca Woodman of Lenexa, Kansas, declined comment Tuesday. Lotter could, however, ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the appellate court's decision.

In the meantime, a key ruling is pending in Richardson County District Court on a post-conviction motion that raises the same challenge of Nebraska's death penalty sentencing procedure. Regardless of how the court rules in that case, an appeal to the Nebraska Supreme Court will almost certainly occur.

Lotter, 46, is the 2nd-longest-serving inmate on Nebraska's death row behind Carey Dean Moore, who was convicted of the 1979 murders of 2 Omaha cabdrivers.

Separate juries convicted Lotter and Marvin Thomas Nissen of shooting Brandon, 21, Lisa Lambert, 24, and Phillip DeVine, 22.

Nissen was sentenced to life in prison after he provided testimony for the state at Lotter's trial. Nissen has subsequently said he fired the handgun that killed all 3 victims but lied on the witness stand when he told jurors that Lotter was the gunman.

(source: Omaha World-Herald)


Federal Court Vacates Native Man's Death Sentence----Crimes committed on tribal lands are not state jurisdiction, feds throw out death sentence

A federal court vacated the death sentence of a Muscogee (Creek) man on Tuesday, August 8, finding the crime took place on Indian land and the state of Oklahoma lacked the jurisdiction to convict him.

Patrick Murphy, 48, was convicted in 2000 of killing another Muscogee (Creek) man, Greg Jacobs, over a dispute involving a woman. Murphy lived with the woman, who had previously been in a relationship with Jacobs. Murphy stabbed Jacobs to death and cut off his genitals, leaving his body on the side of a McIntosh County road.

In its Tuesday ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit found that since the crime occurred between 2 Native men and took place on tribal lands, the state of Oklahoma did not have the legal authority to try the case.

In a 2004 appeal, Murphy challenged the state’s jurisdiction, and the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ruled against him, finding the crime happened on state land. In the Tuesday decision, the 10th circuit disagreed with that ruling, finding the crime occurred on Muscogee (Creek) Nation land.

"Mr. Murphy's state conviction and death sentence are thus invalid," the 10th Circuit wrote. "The OCCA erred by concluding the state courts had jurisdiction, and the district court erred by concluding the OCCA's decision was not contrary to clearly established federal law."

When an Indian is charged with committing a murder in Indian country, the court wrote, he or she must be tried in federal court.

The state of Oklahoma can appeal Tuesday's ruling, otherwise it will be up to a federal prosecutor in Oklahoma whether to retry the case.

The state is reviewing the decision and will make a determination on how to proceed soon, said Terri Watkins, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Attorney General's office.

Murphy had yet to be given an execution date. Executions have been on hold in Oklahoma after a state court ruled in 2015 the state's execution protocol needed to be overhauled, following a series of failures that include a botched execution, an execution using an unauthorized drug, and a drug mixup that halted another death sentence.

Oklahoma has not carried out a lethal injection in over 2 years, its longest gap since the mid-1990s.