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

APRIL 25, 2018:

TEXAS----impending executions

Erick Davila's death penalty case made it in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. Now, he's set for execution.----Erick Davila is scheduled to die Wednesday evening for a 2008 shooting at a child's birthday party that left his rival gang member's mother and 5-year-old daughter dead. His case was heard and ultimately rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court last year.

A year ago, his death penalty case was being argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. Now, he is set to die.

Erick Davila, 31, is scheduled for execution Wednesday evening after a relatively short 9 years on Texas' death row. He was convicted in 2009 for repeatedly shooting at a Fort Worth house hosting a child's birthday party, killing a rival gang member's mother and 5-year-old daughter. Davila has asked the court to stop his execution based on new claims of drug use during the murders and a conflict of interest with the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office.

Davila has continually fought his sentence, maintaining to the courts that he only intended to kill his rival, Jerry Stevenson, not the man's daughter, Queshawn, or her grandmother, 47-year-old Annette. It was an important distinction because the jury had to find that Davila intended to kill multiple people to be eligible for the death penalty. Prosecutors argued Davila always intended to kill more than his rival, pointing to his statement to police that he was trying to get "the guys on the porch" and "the fat dude."

"I wasn't aiming at the kids or the woman and don't know where the woman came from," Davila said in a written statement to police, according to court documents. "I don't know the fat dudes name, but I know what he looks like, so I recognized his face."

It was the question of intent that eventually led Davila's case to the nation's high court last April on a legal technicality. His current lawyer, Seth Kretzer, argued that when jurors at his trial questioned if they needed to decide whether Davila intended to kill his 2 victims or if he intended to kill someone and in the process fatally shot 2 others, the judge - who is know the Tarrant County criminal district attorney - erred in her answer.

The judge responded that Davila would be responsible for a crime if the only difference between what happened and what he wanted was that a different person was hurt - without affirming to them that Davila must have intended to kill more than one person. The jury found him guilty.

Though his lawyer at trial objected to the judge;s instructions, the objection was overruled, and the issue wasn't brought up again in Davila's state appeals, which Kretzer said was bad lawyering. The question that landed in front of the U.S. Supreme Court was whether Kretzer could raise the jury instruction in federal courts because of ineffective appellate lawyers.

Generally, federal courts can't take up issues that could have been raised in state courts, but there is an exception when the trial lawyer is found to have been ineffective. But in Davila's case, it was the appellate lawyers, not the trial lawyer, who were being accused of dropping the ball. In June, the justices decided in a split ruling that the 2 types of attorneys can't be treated equally, and Davila became eligible for execution.

He didn't stop fighting.

After Tarrant County set an execution date, Davila filed new appeals, and one is still pending before the U.S Supreme Court. In the petition, Kretzer asks the court to delay the execution because he recently discovered that Davila's original co-defendant told the judge that Davila was "heavily intoxicated" during the shooting - a fact that was apparently unknown by defense attorneys.

Kretzer wants time to further develop claims that the prosecution may have failed to disclose information about Davila being on drugs at the time of the murders.

"While intoxication is not a defense to murder, it would have been an issue that would have been relevant to mitigation and sentencing," Kretzer said Tuesday, indicating a jury could have been persuaded to hand down the lesser sentence of life in prison without parole if it was brought up at trial.

The Texas Attorney General's office argued against the appeal in its court filing, saying that Davila himself would obviously be aware of his own intoxication, so it was information the defense could have found earlier, disqualifying it from court review now. Lower courts have agreed with Texas, denying Davila's motions.

Davila's team has also asked the nation's high court to remove the Tarrant County District Attorney's office from his case since the criminal district attorney, Sharen Wilson, was the judge who oversaw his trial, and his former state appellate attorney now works for her.

"The clients should obviously be able to trust their lawyers," Kretzer said. "You can't get confidential information from your client and then turn around and use it against him."

A spokeswoman for Wilson said she couldn't comment on the pending case, but she pointed to the office's court briefings, which indicates Davila's previous appellate attorney is not allowed to have any involvement in the case. The state also argues that Wilson's minimal action in the case does not violate Davila's due process rights.

"Davila presents no direct authority mandating the office's removal from their Texas statutory duty to represent the State, especially when the action complained of is the ministerial act of setting an execution date," wrote Texas Assistant Attorney General Katherine Hayes in the state's briefing to the Supreme Court.

If the justices rule against Davila, he will be executed after 6 p.m Wednesday, marking the 5th execution in Texas this year and the 9th in the country.

(source: The Texas Tribune)

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

Lawyers battle over who should represent death row inmate facing June execution date

2 teams of lawyers are caught up in last-minute courtroom wrangling over who will represent an intellectually disabled and schizophrenic Texas death row inmate just weeks before his scheduled execution in June.

The Houston office of law firm Hogan Lovells on Monday filed a request to let Maryland-based attorney Lee Kovarsky take over and bump the current lawyers off the case of Clifton Williams, claiming the existing legal team abandoned their client when they allegedly stopped visiting him or working on his appeals in 2015.

The East Texas man was convicted of robbing 93-year-old Cecilia Schneider before stabbing her and setting her body on fire. Now, lawyers say he may be too mentally impaired to be put to death.

"With his execution fewer than 65 days away, Mr. Williams is effectively without counsel," Kovarsky's team wrote in a motion asking to substitute as Williams' defense counsel in place of Wes Volberding and Houston-based attorney Seth Kretzer.

Kretzer pushed back, highlighting his role in winning a stay of execution before a 2015 death date and adding that he'd already begun work on an appeal and was open to outside help.

"The only question is how many people wanna get on that boat and row with us," he said.

To anyone following the Texas death penalty closely, this may sound a bit familiar. Kovarsky squared off with Kretzer and Volberding in a 2015 legal fight involving death row prisoner Robert Leslie Roberson, an Anderson County man convicted of killing his 2-year-old daughter.

At first, the courts refused to let Kovarsky and the Texas Defender Service take over that case. Later, Kovarsky stepped in with an execution on the horizon and Roberson was granted a stay and the case sent back to a lower court over so-called junk science.

This time around, Kretzer and Volberding initiated the request to let the other legal team take over the case earlier this month.

Less than a week later a federal court denied that request, and that same day a Hogan Lovells attorney visited Williams on death row and asked him to weigh in.

"I thought Seth and Wes were off my case since 2015. I haven't heard from them since then. They didn't tell me when I got an execution date, not in 2015, and not this time. I don't want them to represent me now," Williams wrote. "I would like help getting new lawyers for my case and I would like Hogan Lovells and Lee Kovarsky to represent me."

Having a lawyer on the case, Kovarsky and his team argue, is especially important given the possibility that Williams' low IQ and schizophrenia could render him ineligible for the death penalty. In addition to filing their request to take over the case Monday, the lawyers filed a motion requesting a stay of execution.

Also Monday, Kretzer and Volberding entered filings rebutting the other legal team's claims, pointing out that they visited their client on April 13.

"It is true we have had no reason to visit Williams since 2015, as nothing had happened since 2015 in his federal case in which we were involved," they wrote. Instead, the case was tied up for a time in state court over DNA analysis issues - and another lawyer handled that part of the legal process. Those proceedings ended in fall 2017.

"It is simply untrue that Williams was ever abandoned or left without counsel," Kretzer wrote. Reached by phone Tuesday, he questioned why Hogan Lovells was interested in taking on the case.

"If I were Hogan Lovells, I would not go moonlighting in death cases," he said.

Though Kretzer and Volberding objected to the other legal team's description of their handling of the case, they wrote in filings that they would be willing to work together.

"If the Court wishes for us to continue representation, we are willing and able to do so," they wrote. "What we do not wish, is to do our best for Mr. Williams while defending our work against Hogan Lovells and Professor Kovarsky at each level."

Williams is scheduled to die by lethal injection June 21 in Huntsville.

Texas already has executed 4 men this year. The next, Erick Davila, is scheduled to die Wednesday. He also is represented by Kretzer, who argued the case in front of the Supreme Court last year.

(source: Houston Chronicle)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Northumberland County DA to seek death penalty in Shamokin homicide

Accused murderer Jose Colon asked Northumberland County District Attorney Tony Matulewicz to give him the death penalty. The 41-year old Shamokin man got his wish.

Matulewicz filed a motion Friday that he intends to seek the death penalty against Colon for his alleged role in the murder of 23-year old Kasandra Ortiz on Feb. 26.

Colon is charged in the fatal shooting of Ortiz after her body was found near a dumpster on Rock Street with a gunshot wound to the head.

To seek the death penalty, the state must meet 1 of 18 possible aggravating circumstances. Matulewicz said he believes Colon committed the murder while in "perpetration of the felony offense of a person not to possess a firearm."

Colon was previously convicted of drug and weapons charges, according to police. The motion states Colon knowingly "created a grave risk of death to another person in addition to the victims of the offense."

Colon's attorney, Jim Best, of Sunbury, who is death penalty certified, said he will fight Matulewicz's motion.

"I think it is premature given what we heard at the preliminary hearing," Best said. "We plan on absolutely fighting this."

During an April 6 preliminary hearing in front of Shamokin District Judge John Gembic, a witness told the judge that Colon's roommate, Colin Fraley, loaded the gun and handed it to Colon prior to the murder. The witness said Colon dragged Ortiz behind a dumpster on Rock Street took the gun from Fraley and shot her in the face before fleeing the scene.

Matulewicz does not comment on pending investigations and would not say if Fraley was involved or would be charged in the case.

Colon is scheduled to be in court on May 14 at 9:15 a.m. in front of Northumberland County President Judge Charles Saylor.

(source: Sunbury Daily Item)

VIRGINIA:

Altered court transcript may have wrongly executed Grottoes man: History

Grottoes native Pink Barbour, a black man age 22, was executed September 23, 1910 for the July 4th murder of James Lee in Harrisonburg. Barbour was accused of shooting Lee outside a stable after Lee threatened him with a pine board because he refused to leave.

But altered court transcripts show the trial was a sham, with Barbour erroneously convicted, then wrongfully executed, possibly at the whim of a judge.

On that Independence Day, Barbour entered a stable store on Water Street, and witness testimony stated that Lee, a manager, saw Barbour handling some buggy whips. Lee asked what he was doing and Barbour replied he was just looking at them. Lee then ordered him out, as did Lee's employer, W.D. Garber, who told Barbour that if he did not leave he would call the police. As Barbour started to leave, Lee picked up a pine board and told him that he would "paddle him out."

Barbour left but soon returned and told Lee, "I'll get even with you." Lee picked up the plank again and followed Barbour out and around the corner.

Garber testified in Rockingham Circuit Court he heard three gunshots and saw Barbour running away. Another witness, Flint Gassway, said that Lee bad been talking abusively to Barbour before raising his hand to strike him.

Court records state that after the shooting "Lee sank down upon the office step, and was from there carried into the office, and placed on a cot, where he soon expired..."

Witness Charles Johnson testified that Lee had no stick, and that Barbour turned while Lee was standing still and fired three shots in quick succession.

Jacob Lamb, the policeman who arrested Barbour, said he fell into a drunken stupor when placed in the jail. Meanwhile, a lynch mob that gathered out front dispersed when Judge Talford Haas personally guaranteed a "speedy trial" would take place.

At his trial, Barbour took the stand and stated that he could not remember shooting Lee. He also said that while he was not in the habit of getting drunk, he did have a number of drinks with some Grottoes fellows on a train.

Barbour's level of inebriation was key to the testimony. The 1st instruction to the jury stated "When a homicide has been committed by a person in such a condition of drunkenness as to render him incapable of a willful, deliberate and premeditated purpose, the jury cannot find the prisoner guilty of murder in the 1st degree," and thus not eligible for the electric chair.

A parade of witnesses testified that Barbour was extremely drunk at the time of the crime. Dr. Frank Miller, who saw him on the street prior to the shooting, testified that Barbour was too drunk to pick up some change he had dropped.

On July 22, the arguments concluded and Judge Haas retired the jury to deliberate. After only 15 minutes they unanimously found Barbour guilty of 1st degree murder.

Something disturbing had happened: the typed transcript of the trial records shows Miller testified "that Barbour at that time [of the murder] was drunk." That line, however, was crossed out in pencil and changed to "appeared to be under the influence of drink, that is to say very jolly and talkative."

Another typed line stating "That Lee had the stick up raised as though to strike and moved quickly towards Barbour" was also hand-altered to "...Lee did not get within striking distance of Barbour within sight of the witness."

Those changes, most likely by Judge Haas, as only he had access to the transcripts, removed any claims of self-defense and also charged that Barbour was not drunk, as witnessed. These changes made Barbour eligible for the death penalty instead of the more appropriate 25 years in the penitentiary.

Counsel's request to grant a new trial because "the verdict ... was contrary to the law and the evidence ..." was unfortunately overruled. "The public generally, it is understood, approved the verdict and believe that Pink Barbour was given a fair and impartial trial," reported the July 29, 1910 Staunton Spectator.

On September 9 2 officers came from Richmond to escort Barbour to the State Penitentiary death row. He was executed at 7:27 a.m.

(source: The News Leader)

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

Final words of last man executed by electric chair were in Irish

Robert C. Gleason Jr. was the last man to be executed by electric chair in America. He was executed in January 2013 by the state of Virginia.

Gleason chose that method rather than lethal injection after he was convicted of 3 separate murders, including strangling 2 fellow inmates and the homicide that landed him in prison to begin with.

Gleason had learned Irish culture and history while in prison and used the language in his last few moments on earth.

When asked if he had any final words Gleason stated "Put me on the highway to Jackson and call my Irish buddies. Pog mo thoin. God bless," he said.

The translation of the Irish wording is "kiss my a--." Amy Taylor, the mother of one of Gleason's children, said she will miss him.

"He will always be remembered by those who truly knew him as a very fun, loving, compassionate person who cared more for those he loved than he ever did for himself," she said.

His horrific strangling and murder record, however, says otherwise.

In those last hours, Gleason cried for his victims and asked God for forgiveness, he added.

No one seems to know the real reason Gleason demanded execution. In court, he said it was to teach younger relatives that murder comes with severe consequences.

Yet, a case worker's report from 2011 suggests that Gleason had a mental history filled with feelings of paranoia, anxiety and depression, ultimately leading to exhaustion and a need to escape. Life in prison, according to the report, would simply be too intolerable.

Initially, Gleason earned life in prison without parole for shooting to death truck driver Michael Kent Jamerson on May 8, 2007, to cover up the tracks of a methamphetamine ring already eyed by federal investigators.

Gleason, during his 2011 sentencing hearing, said they had stopped by a wooded area in Amherst County and he pulled a pistol from Jamerson's own belt, told him to get right with God, and began shooting.

A turkey hunter found Jamerson's body the next day. A Liberty University student fishing along the bank of the James River, about 3 miles from the body, found the gun several days later.

2 years later, Gleason ended up in a cell with 63-year-old Harvey Gray Watson Jr. at Wallens Ridge State Prison in Big Stone Gap. Watson was serving a 100-year sentence for killing a man and wounding 2 others when he fired a shotgun into his neighbor's Lynchburg home in 1983.

The older inmate was mentally impaired and known for such antics as singing nonsensical tunes throughout the night and drinking his own urine. Gleason tired of him after about a week and tied him up, beat and strangled him on May 8, 2009 - the 2-year anniversary of Jamerson's murder.

Guards didn't notice the body in the cell for 15 hours.

Soon after that, Gleason threatened to kill again unless given the death penalty.

Then, on July 28, 2010, he strangled convicted carjacker Aaron Alexander Cooper, 26, in the recreation yard of the supermax security Red Onion State Prison near Pound.

It was done with ripped apart strips of braided bed sheet threaded through the chain link fence separating the 2 inmates.

(source: irishcentral.com)

FLORIDA:

Death penalty could be factor as Lois Riess prosecution plays out in Minnesota, Florida

A southeastern Minnesota woman who led authorities on a weekslong manhunt after she allegedly killed her husband, then went to Florida and befriended - then killed - a woman who resembled her, is now facing charges in two states.

Lois Riess is in custody in Texas, awaiting transfer to Florida or Minnesota for trial. If the Florida charges against Riess are elevated to 1st-degree murder, she could face the death penalty.

Here are some details about how this case might unfold: Riess, 56, killed her husband, 54-year-old David Riess, in late March, then forged checks to steal $11,000 from his account, according to authorities. David Riess's body was found on March 23 at the couple's home in Blooming Prairie, Minn., with multiple gunshot wounds. Lois Riess was gone.

The search for Riess began and seemed to intensify after another woman, Pamela Hutchinson, 59, of Bradenton, Fla., was found dead in Fort Myers Beach on April 9. Authorities said at the time that Riess targeted Hutchinson because they looked alike, then killed her to assume her identity.

Lee County Undersheriff Carmine Marceno said Riess was armed and dangerous and her mode of operation was to befriend women who resembled her, then steal their identity. He called her a "cold-blooded murderer."

A national manhunt for Riess continued until she was arrested Thursday in the South Texas beach resort town of South Padre Island after someone recognized her at a restaurant.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Riess is charged in Florida with 1 count each of 2nd-degree murder, grand theft, grand theft of a motor vehicle and criminal use of personal identification information.

In Minnesota, Riess is charged with 1 count of felony theft. Authorities have said a 2nd-degree murder charge is pending, but they are taking time to build the strongest possible case.

A judge in Brownsville, Texas, ruled that Riess could be extradited to either state for trial, and whomever picked her up first could take custody.

David Weinstein, a former federal and state prosecutor in Florida, said the Florida case seems to be farther along so it's likely that Riess will head there first. In addition, the 2nd-degree murder charge filed by way of an arrest warrant in Florida is going to weigh heavier than the theft charge in Minnesota. Weinstein said authorities in both states have to discuss the next steps together.

THE DEATH PENALTY

Florida is a death penalty state, while Minnesota is not. The death penalty is currently not a factor with the charges Riess faces, but that could change. In order to seek the death penalty, Florida prosecutors must charge Riess with 1st-degree murder and that can only be done through a grand jury indictment. State Attorney's Office spokeswoman Samantha Syoen said the office doesn't discuss such matters.

Weinstein, who is not part of the case, said that from what he's seen about Riess' alleged plan to befriend Hutchinson, steal her identity and then escape, it seems authorities will move forward with a 1st-degree, premeditated, murder charge.

But that charge doesn't automatically mean prosecutors will seek the death penalty, or that it would be imposed if she's convicted.

Prosecutors have to evaluate aggravating and mitigating factors. Some aggravating factors for the death penalty include how a murder was planned and carried out, the manner of death, and whether the death was heinous, atrocious and cruel. Some mitigating factors that might weigh against the death penalty include the defendant's age or mental health, Weinstein said.

SOME WRINKLES The death penalty issue could be a factor as authorities discuss where Riess should face trial first. 1 aggravating factor for the death penalty is a prior crime of violence. So, Florida prosecutors could theoretically opt to let Minnesota try its case 1st, get a murder conviction, and then use that conviction to bolster their argument for the death penalty, Weinstein said.

Pete Mills, chairman of the Florida Public Defenders Association Death Penalty Steering Committee, said prosecutors in Minnesota also might feel that the death penalty shouldn't be an option, so they might seek to try Riess 1st for that reason. They also might seek to bring her to Minnesota 1st so they can seek justice for family members there.

HISTORY OF THEFT AND GAMBLING

Riess has a history of stealing money and gambling, and authorities dubbed her "Losing Streak Lois" for her habit of frequenting casinos.

In 2012, Riess was appointed conservator and guardian for her disabled sister, who has the cognitive level of a 10-year-old, according to court records. In a September 2015 affidavit, a social worker said she received a report that Riess transferred funds from the guardianship account to Riess' own account, then spent some of the funds at a casino. Riess was never charged, but was directed to repay her sister more than $100,500, court records show. An attorney on the case said she has not.

During her time on the run, authorities said Riess gambled at casinos in Iowa and Louisiana, where she won a $1,500 jackpot on slot machines and used her own identification to claim the prize.

(source: twincities.com)

OHIO----new execution date

Court sets execution date for convicted Youngstown murderer

The Ohio Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence and set an execution date for the man convicted of murdering a Youngstown woman and shooting a man who was holding the woman's baby.

The state's highest court on Tuesday denied the appeal of Willie G. Wilks and ruled that he be put to death on May 18, 2022.

Wilks, 46, was sentenced to death for the May 2013 murder of 20-year-old Ororo Wilkins and attempted murder of Alexander Morales, Jr.

According to police, Ororo Wilkins was sitting on the front porch of her brother's Park Avenue house with her infant on the afternoon of May 21, 2013.

Morales said he was holding he baby when a man with an "AK" approached the porch and asked where he could find Ororo's brother.

Morales says as he turned to go into the house the man shot him, causing Morales to fall.

Ororo tried to grab the infant, Morales said, and the man shot her once in the head, killing her.

Ororo's brother, William Wilkins, Jr., testified he was looking out of a 2nd-floor window and saw 2 people in the front seat of the car. He said Wilks Jr. was standing next to the car with "a large gun, like some kind of rifle."

Wilkins testified that earlier in the day, he and Wilks had argued during a phone conversation.

Police arrested Wilks, and the jury found him guilty of aggravated murder, attempted aggravated murder, and 5 other charges.

Wilks has asked the Ohio Supreme Court to overturn his convictions and death sentence, arguing that the evidence wasn't sufficient for a jury to find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

He also claimed that no forensic or scientific evidence, including DNA or ballistics, linked him to the crimes and that the murder weapon was never recovered.

Writing for the Court, Justice Judith L. French stated that "the death penalty is both appropriate and proportionate when compared to other course-of-conduct murders for which the death penalty has been imposed."

(source: WFMJ news)

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Juror dismissed in Hamilton death penalty trial

The 6th day of the Michael Grevious II death penalty trial in Hamilton began with the replacement of a juror.

Grevious, 25, of Hamilton, is facing the death penalty if found guilty of aggravated murder for allegedly ordering a retaliation shooting at Central Avenue and Knightsbridge on Aug. 3, 2016 that killed 2 people. He is also charged with having weapons under disability and felonious assault for gun violence that killed his relative during the early morning hours of July 24, 2016 at a Hamilton bar.

The trial began April 16 in Butler County Common Pleas Judge Greg Stephens' courtroom with jury selection lasting 2 days.

Court was delayed Tuesday morning, and when the jury filed in, 1 female juror was missing. That juror was replaced with 1 of 4 alternates who has been seated in the courtroom since the trial began.

Outside the presence of the jury, Stephens said the juror excused had a conflict "that ultimately would have prevented her from following the law as it relates to the consideration of the death penalty."

The prosecution is continuing to present its case against Grevious.

(source: WHIO news)

INDIANA:

Boone Co. prosecutor seeks death penalty against man charged with killing Deputy Pickett

The Boone County prosecutor announced that he plans on seeking the death penalty against a man charged with fatally shooting Deputy Jacob Pickett.

The Boone County Prosecutor Todd Meyer held a news conference at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday afternoon to make the announcement.

Pickett was assisting Lebanon police with a vehicle pursuit in March when 2 suspects bailed from the car and ran. Pickett continued the pursuit on foot and was shot in the head by 21-year-old Anthony Baumgardt, according to Indiana State Police.

The Boone County Prosecutor officially charged Baumgardt, 21, with murder in March. He also faces 2 charges of possession of methamphetemine, 2 charges of carrying a handgun without a license, a charge of resisting law enforcement and 2 charges of possession of marijuana.

Meyer said then that he was leaning toward the death penalty and that Indiana law allows prosecutors to seek the death penalty for anyone accused see of murdering a police officer. Meyer's office was reviewing the case for the purpose of seeking the death penalty.

The other 2 suspects involved in the incident were John Baldwin Jr. and John Baldwin Sr. The former is currently being held in the Boone County Jail, while the latter was questioned and later released.

Baldwin Jr. was charged with resisting law enforcement, auto theft, leaving the scene if an accident, criminal recklessness and being a Habitual felony offender.

(source: WISH news)

NEBRASKA:

Nebraska lawmakers ready to subpoena state prisons director to testify about death penalty protocol

The Nebraska Legislature will order the state prisons director to answer questions about the new lethal injection protocol at a public hearing set to take place in 2 weeks.

It remains to be seen whether Scott Frakes, head of the Department of Correctional Services, will fight the order.

State Sen. Laura Ebke, chairwoman of the Judiciary Committee, said Tuesday that lawmakers will take the unusual step of issuing a subpoena because Frakes last week refused to answer questions voluntarily. In a recent letter, Frakes declined a request to appear before the committee "on the advice of legal counsel, and because of pending litigation."

5 lawsuits related to the death penalty are currently in state courts. In addition, the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska has filed a complaint with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, alleging that state officials violated federal regulations to obtain the lethal drugs.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Doug Peterson recently asked the Nebraska Supreme Court to set an execution date for 1 of the 11 men on death row. State officials are trying to carry out Nebraska's 1st execution in 21 years.

The issue before the Legislature is a complaint filed last month by Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, an outspoken death penalty opponent who has questioned whether corrections officials followed state requirements when they devised a new lethal injection protocol in 2016 and 2017. The new protocol gives the prisons director greater latitude to decide what drugs to use to execute an inmate than did the previous procedure, which required a specific 3-drug combination.

Much like a court, legislative committees have the power to issue subpoenas to obtain testimony and documents from state personnel for the purposes of special investigations.

The Legislature used its subpoena authority in 2014 when it questioned corrections staff over the miscalculations of inmate release dates, which led to the early discharge of more than 200 prisoners. A special committee also probed the department's handling of Nikko Jenkins, who murdered 4 Omahans within days of his release in 2013 after telling prison employees that he would go on a killing spree.

The Legislature will subpoena Frakes no later than the end of the week, Ebke said. He could either appear at the public hearing or seek a court order to block the subpoena. A corrections spokeswoman declined Tuesday to discuss what Frakes will do.

In his letter to Ebke, Frakes said he wouldn't testify because of the lawsuits, including one in which Chambers is a plaintiff.

The list also includes complaints by The World-Herald and the Lincoln Journal Star. The newspapers have not challenged the legality of the death penalty but have asked a judge to order the release of public records showing where corrections officials purchased the drugs it intends to use to execute Carey Dean Moore and Jose Sandoval.

The 8-member Judiciary Committee has set the hearing for 9 a.m. May 8 at the State Capitol.

Ebke said that only the compelled testimony of Frakes is planned, but that could change. She said she anticipates that the committee will issue a report later.

"Most people would agree if the state is going to put someone to death, we ought to make sure the process we've established for ourselves is followed," she said.

(source: Omaha World-Herald)

ALGERIA:

Death penalty for alleged Mossad spy sentenced in Algeria

7 individuals accused of spying on behalf of the Mossad, Israel's secret spy agency, were sentenced on Monday by a criminal court in Algeria, with 1 of the accused given the death penalty, local media reported on Tuesday.

The leader of the squad, a man of Lebanese descent with Liberian citizenship, was charged with seeking "to harm the security of Algeria" and was given the death penalty.

The other 6 members of group, who were said to be of African origin, were given 10 year jail sentences and each fined 20 million Algerian dinar.

According to Jerusalem Post citing local Algerian media, they were charged with espionage "possession and dissemination of documents that glorified terrorism," and undermining state security.

The defendants reportedly pleaded not guilty to their charges.

Algeria's Interior Minister Noureddine Bedoui said the exposure of the "international spy ring" working for Israel was clear proof that the Mossad and other foreign entities were trying to undermine the country's security and stability, Ynet reported.

In January 2016, security services in Algeria announced they had exposed the aforementioned spy network and subsequently arrested at least 10 agents.

Site of assassination of Dr Fadi al-Batash in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, April 21, 2018

The Algerian incident follows on from gunning down of a Palestinian and Hamas-affiliated engineer, Dr Fadi Mohammad al-Batash, 35, in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur last week. Hamas, and the Islamic Jihad terrorist group have claimed it to be an assassination carried out by the Mossad.

Israel has dismissed claims that the country's spy agency was behind Batash's killing, suggesting instead that his killing was a "settling of accounts" between sparring terrorist factions.

Hamas has previously accused the Mossad of assassinating another one of its drone experts -- Mohamed Zouari -- in Tunisia in 2016.

The Mossad is believed to have assassinated Palestinian militants and scientists in the past, but rarely confirms such operations.

Back in November of last year, Lebanese authorities arrested and raided the home of prominent writer and actor Ziad Itani on charges of "collaborating and communicating with the Israeli enemy."

He was detained and eventually confessed to having been "tasked to monitor a group of high-level political figures" and their associates.

However, in February of this year, he was released as authorities claimed the the "confession" was extracted under duress and that the security apparatus had received the wrong information.

Muslim countries have in the past accused its locals and foreigners of acting as agents on behalf of the Jewish State.

(source: i24news.tv)

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES:

Blood money spares 5 Indians death penalty in UAE----They are now back home after group fight victim's family pardons them and benefactor arranges part of blood money

5 Indians, who were spared death penalty for murdering a compatriot in a group fight, are now back home after the victim's family accepted the blood money and pardoned them.

The unmarried youths had a reunion with their families - 2 of them after 9 years - after they served about 6 1/2 years in jail following the murder of Virendra Chauhan.

Dharmendra, Harwinder Singh, Ranjit Ram, Dalwinder Singh and Sucha Singh had been sentenced to death after they were convicted of killing Chauhan during a brawl between 2 groups of bootleggers in Sharjah in November 2011.

"I wanted them to feel guilty for indulging in the fight and work hard to repay their families. So, I gave them only the amount that their families were falling short of." - S.P. Singh Oberoi | Indian hotelier who helped the convicts

Their release became possible after their appeal to be spared death was taken up by Indian hotelier S.P. Singh Oberoi, who is known for rescuing many from death penalty by paying blood money to the victims' families.

Speaking to Gulf News from India, Oberoi said he took up the case of the youngsters as he was convinced that it was not an intentional murder and their families would suffer if their capital punishment was executed.

He said he wasn't justifying the convicts and wanted them also to serve the jail sentence the court would order.

The court reduced their sentence to 3 1/2 years in jail after Oberoi managed to convince Chauhan's family to pardon them. "I went to his house with some family members of these boys to seek their pardon by accepting the blood money."

A total of Rs2.1 million (Dh116,245) was paid in blood money to Chauhan's wife and 6 children, of which Rs1.3 million was raised by the convicts' families, he said.

"I wanted them to feel guilty for indulging in the fight and work hard to repay their families. So, I gave them only the amount that their families were falling short of."

Since the convicts had already spent more than the prescribed term in jail, the court released them immediately after they secured the pardon of the victim's family.

Oberoi said the Indian Consulate in Dubai provided emergency exit papers and flight tickets for 3 of them as they were not employed with any companies and did not have valid travel documents.

"The other 2 got flight tickets from the companies where they worked before the case."

Sucha Singh, who reached his home in a remote village in the state of Punjab on Friday, said it is now a 2nd life for the youths.

"We didn't know if we would ever see our families again," said Singh who reunited with his family after over 9 years.

He had first come over to the UAE in 2009 to work with a labour supply company.

"There was no proper salary or regular job for several months and I left the company after 2 years. I couldn't visit my family before going to jail as I was staying without a visa."

However, the family reunion was incomplete for him since his mother had passed away in 2012 while he was in jail.

Oberoi said the number of bootlegging-linked murder cases in the UAE has come down over the years as severe punishment like death sentence has become a deterrent.

Starting with the much-publicised case of 17 Indians on death row in a similar incident in 2010, Oberoi said he has so far helped get 93 prisoners released in the UAE.

"That includes 13 Pakistanis, 5 Bangladeshis and 1 Filipina woman, who was jailed for causing the death of a woman in a road accident."

He claimed that he does not support or pay blood money for prisoners convicted of intentional murder, drug peddling, rape and other heinous crimes.

(source: Gulf News)

IRAQ:

German woman who joined IS spared death sentence in Iraq

An Iraqi court has lifted the death penalty handed to a German woman for belonging to the Islamic State jihadist group, sentencing her to life in prison instead, German foreign ministry sources said Tuesday.

The German woman of Moroccan origin, identified by German media as Lamia K., was condemned to death by hanging in January for providing "logistical support and helping the terrorist group to carry out crimes".

"The foreign ministry confirms that the death penalty against a German citizen in Iraq was commuted to a life sentence. The verdict is not yet final," a ministry source told AFP.

The woman continues to receive consular assistance from the German embassy in Baghdad, the source added.

Lamia K. left Germany with her 2 daughters in 2014 to join IS.

One of the daughters was killed while with the jihadists, a judicial source told AFP.

Lamia K. and her other daughter were arrested by Iraqi forces during the final stages of the battle to oust IS from its stronghold Mosul last July.

According to German news agency DPA, the commutation of her death penalty comes after Lamia K. appealed the verdict. An Iraqi life sentence usually translates to 20 years in jail, or 15 years with good behaviour, DPA added.

While hundreds of foreign suspected jihadists are being held by Iraqi authorities, Lamia K. was believed to have been the 1st European woman sentenced to death in the country for links to IS.

Her surviving daughter, in her early 20s, was given a 1-year jail term for illegal entry into Iraq, Die Welt daily reported.

In February, a 17-year-old German teenager was sentenced to 6 years in prison for membership of IS and illegally crossing into Iraq.

Iraqi authorities announced the defeat of IS last December after a gruelling 3-year battle.

(source: expatica.com)

IRAN----execution(s)

19 Executions in 1 Week

Iranian regime sent 19 prisoners to the gallows in cities of Gohardasht, Urmia, Hamedan,Tabriz, Kermanshah and Ilam prisons. 8 of the executed were hanged collectively in Gohardasht Prison in Karaj on April 18th.

On the same day, Bahman Varmazyar, a young prisoner who was a sports coach, was executed in Hamadan Prison. A day before, a prisoner was executed in Tabriz's central prison.

On April 23, 9 prisoners were sent to the gallows. 5 of them were hanged collectively in Urmia prion, 3 prisoners in Keramanshah, and on prisoner in Ilam.

Unable to deal with the deadly crises, in particular, the increasing protests of the people fed up of injustice and repression, the religious tyranny ruling the country has increased the number of executions in different cities to intensify the atmosphere of intimidation in society.

Meanwhile, a 50-year-old prisoner Mohsen Parvas committed suicide and passed away on April 21 in protest at the harsh pressures imposed on him.

In yet another occasion, on April 22, a 31-year-old prisoner, Nasir Zoraghi, died at the Zahedan Central Prison following a stroke and denial of his medical treatment.

The Iranian Resistance calls on all the Iranian youths to protest against the brutal death penalty and harsh conditions in Iran's prisons, and to support the families of the executed. It also calls on all international human rights authorities to strongly condemn the executions in Iran and to condition dealing with the Iranian regime on improvement of the human rights situation, in particular the suspension of the death penalty.

(source: Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran)

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

Mass execution imminent in Rajaie Shahr Prison

At least 20 death row prisoners were transferred to solitary confinement in Rajaie Shahr Prison in Karaj. There are concerns that their death sentence would be carried out on Wednesday April 25. Among the prisoners, an Afghan national identified as Amir Khalili was transferred from Qezel Hesar Prison while another prisoner identified as Amir Ahmadi was transferred from Khorin Prison in Varamin. The other prisoners have been identified as Javad Sohrabi, Iman Hosseini Moghadam, Ali Masoumi, Ahmad Sabet Ahmadi, Amrullah Azhdar, and Mohammad Reza Kharratha who were all held in Rajaie Shahr Prison.

An inmate identified as Reza Sheikh, 40, was hanged today in central prison of Zahedan, capital of Sistan and Baluchestan Province. He had been on death row since 9 years ago on charge of murder. The execution has not been announced by the state-run media so far.

Iran has sent at least 21 prisoners to the gallows during the past week in the cities of Karaj, Urmia, Hamedan,Tabriz, Kermanshah and Ilam. 8 of the executed were hanged collectively in Gohardasht Prison in Karaj on April 18th.

On the same day, Bahman Varmazyar, a young prisoner who was a sports coach, was executed in Hamadan Prison. A day before, a prisoner was executed in Tabriz's central prison.

On April 23, 9 prisoners were sent to the gallows. 5 of them were hanged collectively in Urmia prion, 3 prisoners in Keramanshah, and on prisoner in Ilam.

In yet another occasion, on April 22, a 31-year-old prisoner, Nasir Zoraghi, died at the Zahedan Central Prison following a stroke and denial of his medical treatment.

(source: Iran Human Rights Monitor)

MALAWI:

Malawi Debates Death Penalty to Halt Attacks on Albinos

It has been 24 years since the Malawi government executed a convicted murderer, but President Peter Mutharika has called for discussions on implementing the death penalty to deter attacks on people with albinism.

False beliefs that the body parts of albinos bring good fortune have led to a series of attacks on them in Malawi. Since 2013, at least 20 albinos have been killed and 130 injured in the southern African country.

Most recently, police officers, a medical officer and a Roman Catholic priest were charged in last month's slaying of MacDonald Masambuka, 22, whose body was found dismembered.

Mutharika wants the nation to debate imposing the death penalty for murder.

While the country has a death penalty law on the books, it hasn't been used since the change to a democratic government in 1994. Instead, convicted murderers remain in prison for life, even if they are given a death sentence.

That is cruel because there is no pardon or commutation of the sentence, says Imran Shareef of the Chancellor College of the University of Malawi. It "means the person still lives with psychological torture in his mind," Shareef said. "What if the incoming president will be willing to sign [a death warrant]?"

Shareef believes the death penalty is the best way to deter potential murderers.

Ahmed Chiyenda agrees.

"The perpetrators should be taken to an open ground, and they should be executed there while the public is watching," he said. "It will be dehumanizing at that moment, yes, but they [other people] will also stop thinking of killing each other like what people are doing at the moment."

The United Nations, however, encourages Malawi to take other approaches to end attacks on albinos.

Maria Jose Torres, the U.N. Development Program's representative in Malawi, says the U.N. opposes the death penalty.

"First, because it undermines human dignity," she said. "Second, it is because it is irreversible, meaning that innocent persons can be executed but if they prove she or he was innocent, it will never be reversible. And, thirdly, there is no conclusive evidence that death penalty is the deterrent to future perpetrators."

Instead, Torres said, Malawi should strengthen its justice system to ensure that killers receive tough sentences.

What's more, the death penalty isn't necessarily popular nationwide. A study by the Paralegal Advisory Service Institute, or PASI, and the Cornell Law School in the United States found that 94 percent of traditional leaders in Malawi oppose capital punishment.

There are several reasons why, says Clifford Msiska, PASI's national director.

"For instance, innocent people have been killed, and it would not give people a chance to reform," he said. "And people who have been killed cannot contribute to the society, and the trauma that is associated with death penalty."

Hetherwick Ntaba, who leads the government's technical committee tasked with ending attacks on people with albinism, said the topic is a contentious one.

"You know, there are some [people in the] international community, some people of our own, saying 'No, no, no, we should not implement that.' So it's not that simple, it's not that straightforward," he said.

And while it's debated, Ntaba says the government will continue to look for new approaches to end attacks on albinos.

(source: voanews.com)

CHINA:

Jurors to attend death penalty cases

Chinese jurors are expected to participate in hearing cases in which defendants may face a death penalty, a draft law said on Wednesday.

The draft law on people's jurors was submitted to the bimonthly session of the country's top legislature, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, for the 2nd reading. It was first discussed among the legislators last year.

Compared to the first version that stated criminal cases where defendants were likely to be sentenced to over 10 years in prison or life imprisonment, the latest one has added the death penalty, showing the nation's cautious attitude to the death sentence as well as ensuring the public participant in case hearings.

The latest draft also said some people could not become jurors, such as defaulters, arbitrators, lawyers whose license are revoked and those with serious violations.

Meanwhile, it stipulates that citizens aged 28 years old or above and who have received high school education or above can be selected randomly as jurors, but a certain proportion should be chosen based on personal applications and recommendations by entities.

In addition, the jurors will be selected for a term of 5 years and normally will not get a 2nd term.

(source: china.org.cn)

NORTH KOREA----executions

6 North Koreans are executed by firing squad after trying to smuggle out the nation's PHONEBOOK

6 North Koreans were executed by firing squad after trying to smuggle out the nation's phonebook, it has emerged.

The residents from the capital Pyongyang were executed at the end of last year on the charge of treason for attempting to leak the contents of a directory to the outside world.

Their relatives were booted out of the city and exiled in the countryside. North Korea's phonebook is considered a secret document.

It contains the phone numbers of factories and companies, managers, party chairmen and other high-ranking officials and office numbers and can sell for up to around 5,700 pounds in China.

'The authorities relayed the message to legal organisations through lecture materials stating that, 'At the end of last year, 6 Pyongyang residents who attempted to distribute a phonebook outside of the country were executed.'

'The point was emphasised that those who commit such acts can be punished at any moment,' a high-ranking source in the capital told Daily NK during a telephone call.

'The lecture materials explained: "A phonebook can be sold for 50,000 yuan in Chinese money. These individuals chose to commit treason in order to avoid working hard to earn money".'

The seriousness with which the punishment was enforced is thought to be related to the fact that the crime was committed in Pyongyang, the 'Revolutionary Capital' where the country's most loyal subjects supposedly reside.

'The families of the 6 executed individuals were deported to the Hwanghae Province area,' a separate source in Pyongyang said.

'The leadership of the country's party, military, and political leadership is all concentrated in the city of Pyongyang.

Many cadres who go in and out of the country also reside in Pyongyang.

That explains why the authorities reacted so strongly in order to prevent information about them from leaking out of the country.'

(source: dailymail.co.uk)

INDIA:

Will the death penalty stop India's wave of child rape?

Grotesque and barbaric is the only way to describe the rape and murder of an 8-year-old child in a country where women and girls are traditionally revered as goddesses.

There have been numerous cases of rape across India, however, the story of little Asifa, who was sedated, gang raped, tortured and murdered in Kathua, in Jammu and Kashmir, has haunted us all. This is partly due to the heinous nature of the crime and partly due to disturbing allegations that this savagery was carried out as part of a concerted plan to drive out the nomadic Muslim community which her family belongs to.

Since then, the media in India has been awash with reports of babies and girls being raped - from an 8-month-old baby girl in Indore to a 9-year-old girl in Etah, Uttar Pradesh, a 10-year-old in Chhattisgarh and a 16-year-old in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh (allegedly by a political figure). But there has been little to no action to prevent these atrocities.

Elected officials have either been shockingly silent, or have spoken out too late, and some have even shown their active support for the accused perpetrators of such crimes.

Have we become so numbed in India, that such revelations no longer shock us? Has the simple humanity of protecting our innocent and helpless children from harm, the most important duty of every adult in India, forsaken us?

Consider this. In 2016, over 19,000 cases of rape were registered in India. In 2017, in India's capital Delhi, an average of 5 rapes were reported every day.

In response, through an executive order and cabinet approval, the Indian government has introduced the death penalty for those found guilty of the rape of a child under the age of 12.

Globally, death sentences are coming to an end. It is my personal belief that the death penalty will have little or no effect, however heinous the crime is. As Friedrich Nietzsche said, "when fighting a monster, be careful not to become a monster yourself".

The issue that India is grappling with at present is an endemic, societal problem and no quick fixes are likely to solve it. Harsh penalties alone will not be a deterrent. As the malaise is systemic, so too should be the cure.

So here is a 4-tier approach

Firstly, it is important to increase the reporting of rape and assault. Across the world rape is an underreported crime; this is all the more true in India. It is essential that women and children be educated on their rights on reporting of a violent act against them through an active social media campaign.

Secondly, it is absolutely vital that law enforcers are trained to react swiftly and with sensitivity to women and children who have been harassed, assaulted or raped. Sensitivity training and knowledge of the rights of women and children must be made mandatory for all law enforcement agencies.

Thirdly, punishments need to be exemplary and widely covered in the media. There must be a "shock and awe" campaign of zero tolerance of sex offenders and those who kill and violate women and children. Fast track courts must ensure that the law is surgical and unrelenting in pursuing and ensuring that such offenders face the full force of justice, regardless of their rank and station.

Finally, a nationwide campaign is needed to ignite values and traditions that respect and nurture women and children. This can only be borne out of consensus in society. Awareness amongst men of the scope of this issue is critical. Men who turn a blind eye to such brutal acts in their own neighbourhoods, communities and families are just as culpable as those who perpetrate these acts. Action from courts and police will not suffice if the community remains defiantly opposed to change.

So the biggest question remains: how exactly to engage the entire populace to initiate a change in mindset? How can a national conversation on this subject be leveraged into national action?

* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

(source: Siddharth Chatterjee, United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya----Thomson Reuters Foundation)

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

Death penalty for child rape: Bar Council of India slams Centre, says government acted in haste----Bar Council of India has slammed the Centre over what it termed as a 'hurried decision'. Speaking to ANI, Bar Council of India chairman said that the government should have brought the ordinance after proper discussion.

A day after the Delhi High Court pulled up the Centre over its recently promulgated ordinance which strengthened the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) Act and provided for death penalty to persons found guilty of raping children aged 12 years and below, the Bar Council of India on Tuesday slammed the Centre over what it termed as a 'hurried decision'. Speaking to news agency ANI, Bar council of India chairman Manan Mishra said that the decision was taken in a hurry and that the government should have brought the ordinance after proper discussion.

"The amendment should have been brought by proper discussion. I think it is a step taken in hurry. Pros and cons should have been considered. Only then such amendments should be made," Mishra told ANI.

Amid an uproar over cases relating to sexual offences against children across the country, the Union Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on Saturday cleared the ordinance last week on POCSO Act. The ordinance has paved the way to court to award the death penalty to those convicted of raping a child up to 12 years of age. The ordinance received the assent of President Ram Nath Kovind on April 22, the next day.

As per reports, the Centre has cleared the criminal law amendment ordinance and POCSO Act is a part of this amendment. Official sources said that the criminal law amendment ordinance seeks to amend the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Evidence Act, the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act to introduce a new provision to sentence convicts of such crimes punishment of death.

Union Cabinet has also decided to put in place measures for speedy investigation and trial of rape cases. In case of rape of a girl under 16 years, minimum punishment is increased from 10 years to 20 years, extendable to life imprisonment; minimum 20 years' imprisonment or life imprisonment for the rape of a girl under 12 years has been provided in the Ordinance.

POCSO or The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) 2012 was established to protect the children against offences like sexual abuse, sexual harassment and pornography. It was formed to provide a child-friendly system for trial underneath which the perpetrators could be punished. The Act defines a child as any person below 18 years of age. It also makes provisions for avoiding the re-victimization of the child at the hands of the judicial system. Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 received the President's assent on June 19, 2012. It was notified in the Gazette of India on June 20, in the same year.

The demand for the death penalty to child rapists took centre stage after the 2 separate cases of gangrape and murder emerged from Jammu and Kashmir's Kathua and Uttar Pradesh's Unnao.

(source: financialexpress.com)

APRIL 24, 2018:

TEXAS----impending execution

Death row inmate slated for execution Wednesday denied clemency

A Fort Worth man on Texas death row was denied clemency and a late-stage federal appeal on Monday, barely 48 hours before he is scheduled for execution in the Huntsville death chamber.

Erick Davila was convicted of killing a rival gang member's mother and a 5-year-old girl at a Hannah Montana-themed children's birthday party in 2008.

He was sentenced to death in 2009 but his lawyers have since argued that Annette and Queshawn Stevenson were not his intended victims, according to court filings. Instead, attorney Seth Kretzer alleged that Davila was high at the time of the slayings, and also that he only meant to one person, rival gang member Jerry Stevenson. Killing one person is not necessarily a death-eligible crime.

"The jury never learned that at the time of the shooting Davila was heavily intoxicated, likely to the degree that it would have rendered him temporarily insane," Kretzer wrote in a court filing earlier this month.

Kretzer said prosecutors of withheld knowledge that Davila was on a combination of PCP, ecstasy and marijuana - an alleged oversight that he said would violate a Supreme Court decision known as Brady v. Maryland, which requires prosecutors to turn over evidence favorable to the defense.

But the U.S. Fifth Circuit, in a Monday decision, wrote that defense lawyers could have already known about Davila's heavy drug use the night of the crime.

"We are unpersuaded that his counsel was not also reasonably on notice about the relation between drugs and the events of the shooting," the court wrote.

Now, Davila's lawyer is pursuing his claims in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Davila is scheduled to die by lethal injection Wednesday at 6 p.m. If everything continues as planned, he will be the 5th Texas inmate to be executed in 2018.

(source: Houston Chronicle)

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

Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----31

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----549

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

32----------Apr. 25----------------Erick Davila-----------550

33----------May 16-----------------Juan Castillo----------551

34---------June 21----------------Clifton Williams--------552

35---------June 27----------------Danny Bible-------------553

36---------July 17----------------Christopher Young-------554

37---------Sept. 12---------------Ruben Gutierrez---------555

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

NEW HAMPSHIRE:

Banning death penalty the right thing to do

Senate Bill 593 has passed in the N.H. Senate and will soon be considered by the House. Gov. Sununu has said he will veto the bill unless there is sizable support for it.

There are many solid reasons to support this bill. Our judicial system is not infallible and innocent people have been put to death because of mistaken eyewitness identification, incompetent lawyers, coerced confessions and bias.

Since 1973, 160 people on death row in this country have been exonerated despite judges, juries and prosecutors being certain of their guilt. Execution teams suffer after taking part in an execution.

No sentence should be irreversibly administered. The death penalty is a cruel and unusual punishment. A life sentence offers a chance for rehabilitation and reflection as well as for the consideration of new evidence.

It is wrong for the state to murder in our name. Ask your elected representatives to support this bill.

Sandy Swinburne

(source: Letter to the Editor, Keene Sentinel)

OHIO:

Sentencing in dirt-bike shooting death case, hearing on death penalty motions in fatal fire case

A Streetsboro man convicted of shooting and killing an unarmed Akron man in a dispute over a dirt bike will be sentenced Monday and an Akron man accused of setting fires that left nine people dead will have a hearing on death-penalty motions Tuesday.

Here's more on these cases:

Sentencing for dirt-bike shooting death

William Knight, 64, was convicted by a Summit County jury April 10 of 2 counts each of murder and felonious assault.

He faces 18 years to life in prison when he is sentenced at 9 a.m. Monday by Summit County Common Pleas Judge Tammy O'Brien.

Knight shot and killed Keith Johnson, 24, on March 20, 2017, outside of an Akron home.

Knight claimed self-defense, saying he shot Johnson because he was fearful for his safety and that of his daughter and son-in-law, who confronted Johnson about a stolen dirt bike being sold on the internet. The dirt bike belonged to Knight's grand son.

Prosecutors, however, said Knight, who had a concealed-carry permit for only a few weeks, overreacted and shot Johnson unnecessarily. They said Johnson, who was unarmed, posed no real threat as he drove the dirt bike.

The case drew national interest, with the week-long trial live-streamed by the Law & Crime Network.

Family members of both Knight and Johnson attended the trial.

Knight is represented by attorneys Kerry O'Brien and Jaclyn Palumbo, who were appointed to the case.

Hearing on death penalty issues in fatal fire case

Stanley Ford, 59, was indicted last July on 29 charges, including 22 counts of aggravated murder for 9 fire deaths. The murder charges involve different parts of the law under which Ford was charged.

Investigators say Ford set 3 fires in his neighborhood, with 2 people killed in 1 fire and 7 perishing in the other, including 5 children. The 3rd was a car fire with no injuries.

The last time Ford was in court, Summit County Common Pleas Judge Christine Croce heard arguments from the attorneys on defense motions to suppress statements Ford made to police.

In the latest hearing, Croce will take up death-penalty motions in the case. This involves issues raised in every capital case and doesn't include defense arguments about alleged racial bias in Ford's case. This issue may be taken up in a future hearing.

Ford is represented by attorneys Joseph Gorman and Scott Rilley.

(source: Akron Beacon Journal)

MISSOURI:

Death row inmate who killed former St. Louis reporter waits for review on clemency

It's been 8 months since Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens halted the execution of a man convicted of murdering a former Post-Dispatch reporter.

In doing so, Greitens appointed a special panel of former judges to review whether Marcellus Williams should be granted clemency in the case involving the death in 1998 of Lisha Gayle.

For Williams, time has stopped in his death row cell in a prison 75 miles south of the site of the University City murder scene.

"He's just Marcellus. He's living day by day. He thinks whatever happens is God's will," Williams’ attorney Kent Gipson said.

Williams was 29 when he was charged with murdering Gayle. At the time, he had been convicted of burglary and was later convicted of an unrelated armed robbery at a restaurant.

While Williams awaits his fate in the Potosi Correctional Center, the panel of retired judges is in the midst of a rare review of his controversial case, one that could result in his avoiding lethal injection for the 2nd time.

In a recent interview, former U.S. District Judge Carol Jackson told the Post-Dispatch that the special board of judges had met twice since it was formed. The 1st meeting was held in November, when the jurists received transcripts of Williams' trial, information on DNA testing that was done in 2016 and other background information on Williams' case, including opinions from various state and federal appeals.

The 2nd meeting came in March.

"We had quite a lot of material to review. The trial transcript was over 3,000 pages long," said Jackson, who was chosen to be chairwoman of the panel after Greitens called off the scheduled execution of Williams amid claims by his attorneys that recent DNA tests could prove their client's innocence.

Other members of the panel include former 22nd Circuit Judge Michael David, former Circuit Judge Peggy Fenner of Jackson County, former Missouri Court of Appeals Western District Judge Paul Spinden and former Circuit Judge Ellen Roper of Boone County.

Williams was convicted of murdering Gayle at her home in University City. Prosecutors said Williams was burglarizing the home when Gayle, who had been taking a shower, surprised him. The former reporter, who left the paper in 1992, fought for her life as she was stabbed repeatedly.

Williams was convicted in 2001.

The Missouri Supreme Court in 2015 postponed Williams' execution to allow time for the DNA tests. Using technology that was not available at the time of the killing, those tests show that DNA found on the knife matched that of an unknown male. Williams' DNA was not found on the knife.

Despite that finding, the state's high 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.

With the clock ticking on Williams' scheduled execution by injection, Greitens invoked a rarely used state law giving him discretion to appoint a panel of judges to gather information and report back on whether a person condemned to death should be executed.

The judges have the power to subpoena witnesses and evidence. Jackson said the next meeting in June would include discussions with attorneys for Williams and the state.

Gipson, of Kansas City, said he was unsure how the meeting would go. He would like to present Williams' entire case to the panel, but he believes the session may be more limited.

"What we're wanting to do is to be able to present testimony like in a trial," Gipson said. "We don't know exactly what is going to happen."

Greitens' legal counsel, Lucinda Luetkemeyer, said the information collected by the panel would help the governor decide his next move. She said the governor had put no deadline on the work of the board.

"The governor's office wants the Board of Inquiry to take as much time as it wants to complete a fair and thorough report. There really is no time frame," Luetkemeyer said. "The governor has complete confidence in the committee and the progress they've made thus far."

Jackson said the June meeting could help the board focus on writing their report to the governor.

"I think all of us have questions about the information that we've received," Jackson said. "We just really want to get some clarification from them and give them the opportunity to present their best case to us."

Although she said the panel had not been given a deadline to submit a report, the group is not moving slowly.

"We are mindful of the interest in having this issue resolved as expeditiously as possible," Jackson said. "We are all committed to working as quickly as we can."

As for any early conclusions about Williams' fate, Jackson said, "I think it's safe to say we are all keeping an open mind at this point. We really haven't had a chance to discuss all of the evidence together in any great detail."

(source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

IRAN----executions

4 Prisoners Executed in Northwestern Iran

4 prisoners were executed at Urmia Central Prison on murder charges.

According to a close source, on the morning of Monday, April 23, 4 prisoners were executed at Urmia Central Prison.

The prisoners, who were sentenced to death on murder charges, were identified as Tayyeb Sheikhnejad Moukeri from ward 4-3, Qader Mohammad Hassan from the mental ward, Yadollah Samadi from ward 10, and Eslam Rashidi from ward 2-1.

The execution of these prisoners has not been announced by the state-run media so far.

According to Iran Human Rights annual report on the death penalty, 240 of the 517 execution sentences in 2017 were implemented due to murder charges.

There is a lack of a classification of murder by degree in Iran which results in issuing a death sentence for any kind of murder regardless of intensity and intent.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

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

Prisoner Known as "the Fake Postman" Scheduled to Be Executed

At least 1 prisoner, named Seyyed Iman Hosseini Moqaddam, was transferred to solitary confinement. The prisoner, who was referred to as "the fake postman," was sentenced to death on the charge of rape. However, the prisoner and his family believe that there is a political and economic reason for this charge.

According to a close source, on the morning of Sunday, April 22, at least one prisoner, named Seyyed Iman Hosseini Moqaddam, was transferred to the solitary confinement.

The prisoner, who was referred to by the media as "the fake postman," was sentenced to death on the charge of corruption on earth.

Last November, the official media reported that Hosseini Moqaddam's execution sentence was approved. After the verdict was accepted, the prisoner publically denied the accusations.

The prisoner's lawyer, Esmayil Ashkbus, told IHR, "I have no information regarding this. I'm going to the court to see what the matter is."

It should be noted that Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, a close ally of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Chief of Staff from 2009 to 2013, was in a gathering held by the prisoner's family in front of the Judiciary on November 27, 2017. The video of this gathering has been published by IHR.

An informed source said that about 6 prisoners have been transferred to solitary confinement, but IHR has not been able to verify this news.

Execution sentences are usually implemented on Wednesdays at Rajai Shahr Prison.

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

12 Prisoners at Imminent Danger of Execution

At least 12 death row prisoners have been transferred to solitary confinement in Rajai Shahr prison of Karaj in preparation for execution. It is believed that their sentence will be implemented on Wednesday, May 5.

Iran Human Rights (IHR) warns against a new wave of execution in Iran. IHR's spokesperson Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam said:" Iranian authorities use the death penalty to spread fear and counteract the growing movement of civil disobedience in Iran".

According to reports by IHR at least 15 people have been executed during the last 5 days.

Close sources have reported that at least 12 death row prisoners were transferred to solitary confinement in the Rajaishahr prison during Sunday and Monday, the 2nd and 3rd of May.

Among these people, an Afghan prisoner, Amir Khalili, was transferred from Ghezelhasar Prison and another prisoner, Amir Ahmadi, from KhorinPrison of Varamin (near Tehran).

Other names given to IHR include Jawad Sohrabi, Iman Hosseini Moghaddam, Ali Masoumi, Ahmad Fateh-Ahmadi, Amrullah Ajdar, Mohammad Reza Kharratha, all of whom from Rajaishahr Prison.

Except for Iman Hossein Moghaddam, who was sentenced to death on charges of corruption on earth due to sexual assault, a charge which he has denied, the death sentences for the remaining prisoners were issued on charges of murder.

As the executions in the Rajaishahr prison are carried out mostly on Wednesdays, there is a danger that the prisoners' death sentences will be carried out on Wednesday, April 25.

(source for both: Iran Human Rights)

VIETNAM:

Vietnam arrests Lao drug smuggler

Vietnam's border guards have recently detained a 62-year-old Lao man for smuggling and transporting 40 kg of methamphetamine, 120,000 pills of lab-made drugs and 2 cakes of heroin totaling some 885,000 U.S. dollars.

The man was detained at a Vietnam-Laos border area late last week, when he was preparing to transfer the drugs to a Vietnamese drug dealer, according to border guards of Vietnam's northern Son La province on Monday.

Increasingly bigger amounts of methamphetamine are being smuggled into Vietnam, because such kind of drug is being made in bigger volumes in the Golden Triangle at the borders of Laos, Thailand and Myanmar at lower prices, according to local border guards and police forces.

Selling prices of methamphetamine at the Golden Triangle currently stand at 200-250 million Vietnamese dong (8,800-11,000 U.S. dollars) per kilogram, posting a 3-fold decrease against some years ago.

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.

(source: xinhuanet.com)

INDIA:

Reject Ordinance on Death Penalty for Rape----Death Penalty Is Cruel Populism; Instead, Reform Justice System, Ensure Protections

The Indian parliament should not adopt into law an ordinance which introduces capital punishment for those convicted of raping a girl under 12 years of age, Human Rights Watch said today. India should instead work towards abolishing the death penalty which is inherently cruel and irreversible, with little evidence that it serves as a deterrent.

The government passed the ordinance on April 21 following widespread protests after attempts by some leaders and supporters of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to defend Hindu perpetrators of the abduction, ill-treatment, rape, and murder of an 8-year-old Muslim child in Jammu and Kashmir state. In Uttar Pradesh state, authorities not only failed to arrest a BJP legislator accused of raping a 17-year-old girl, but also allegedly beat her father to death in police custody.

"With this populist call for hangings, the government wants to cover up the fact that its supporters may have engaged in a hate crime," said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director. "If the government is serious about dealing with violence against women and children, it will have to do the hard work of reforming the criminal justice system and ensure that perpetrators are not protected from prosecution by political patronage."

2 BJP ministers in Jammu and Kashmir state government joined an affiliated group called the Hindu Ekta Manch to protest the arrest of the accused in the horrific case in the state. The accused include a former government official and four police personnel. The ministers have since resigned.

Following the 2012 gang rape and death of Jyoti Singh Pandey, a medical student in Delhi, the Indian government enacted legal reforms to respond to sexual assault and rape. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, added new categories of offenses regarding violence against women and girls and made punishment more stringent, including death penalty for repeat offenders. Similarly, the Protection of Children against Sexual Offences Act, 2012, established guidelines for the police and courts to deal with victims sensitively and provided for the setting up of specialist child courts.

"There was hope that these measures would encourage more victims and their families to step forward, and result in more successful prosecutions," Ganguly said.

While the number of rape cases reported in 2016 increased by 56 % over 2012, there remains much to be done to change the way the justice system responds to victims.

In a November 2017 report, "Everyone Blames Me," Human Rights Watch found that survivors, particularly among marginalized communities, still find it difficult to register police complaints. They often suffer humiliation at police stations and hospitals, are still subjected to degrading tests by medical professionals, and feel intimidated and scared when the case reaches the courts. They face significant barriers when trying to obtain critical support services such as health care, counseling, and legal aid.

Although Indian law makes it mandatory for police officials to register rape complaints, Human Rights Watch found that police sometimes press the victim's family to "settle" or "compromise."

In cases of children, not only has the government not established effective oversight mechanisms that could help prevent child sexual abuse, but existing measures remain poorly implemented.

For women and girls with disabilities, who face a higher risk of sexual violence, the challenges are even greater, Human Rights Watch has found.

However, instead of fixing these structural barriers, the Indian government has expanded the use of capital punishment for rape. Now the parliament should ensure that this ordinance does not become part of permanent legislation.

The government's ordinance comes despite the fact that both a high-level government committee and India's Law Commission came out against the death penalty. Human Rights Watch opposes the use of the death penalty in all cases.

The new ordinance also increases minimum punishment for rape of girls and women. While the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Act covers sexual abuse against both girls and boys, the ordinance does not cover rape of boys.

For rape of women above 16 years of age, minimum punishment is increased from 7 years to 10 years in prison;

For rape of girls between 12 to 16 years of age, minimum punishment is now 20 years which may extend to life in prison;

For gang rape of girls between 12 to 16 years of age, minimum punishment is life in prison;

For rape of girls under 12 years of age, minimum punishment is 20 years in prison which may extend to life in prison or death penalty;

For gang rape of girls under 12 years of age, minimum punishment is life in prison or death penalty.

In India, according to the 2016 government data, out of 38,947 cases of rape reported by children and women, the accused was known to the victim in 94.6 % of the cases. In 630 cases, the accused was the victim's father, brother, grandfather, or son; in 1,087 cases, the accused was a close family member; in 2,174 cases the accused was a relative; and in 10,520 cases, the accused was a neighbor.

Rape is already underreported in India largely because of social stigma, victim-blaming, poor response by the criminal justice system, and lack of any national victim and witness protection law making them highly vulnerable to pressure from the accused as well as the police. Children are even more vulnerable due to pressure from family and society.

With this background, an increase in punishment, including the death penalty, may, in fact, lead to a decrease in reporting of such crimes.

"The Indian government has repeatedly said that it is committed to dealing with violence against women and children. But actions speak louder than words," Ganguly said. "The new amendments are ill-conceived and hasty. Protecting children requires a far more thoughtful approach and politicians need to summon the political will to deliver it."

(source: Human Rights Watch)

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

India's death penalty for rapists of young girls could push them to kill

On Saturday India's government approved the death penalty for convicted rapists of girls under the age of 12, amid a groundswell of public outrage following the gang-rape and murder of an 8-year-old Muslim girl in Jammu and Kashmir state.

The shocking case involved a girl from the Bakarwal nomadic tribe, who was out grazing her horses when she was abducted, drugged and murdered after a week of torture and repeated rape. It led to a nationwide outcry for swifter justice.

However, the hastily issued executive order is facing criticism from activists and politicians, who say the death penalty, usually meted out for severe crimes in India, will not be a deterrent to child rapists without an overhaul of the criminal justice system.

"I am afraid this [executive order] has very little credibility because what is required is certainty of punishment," the leader of Communist Party of India (Marxist), Brinda Karat, told reporters.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau data from 2016, in 94.6% of cases, the perpetrator is known to the victim - usually a brother, father or someone from the family's social circle. Reporting rape in India's patriarchal family structure is often fraught with victim shaming and further alienation.

Child rights activists fear the introduction of the death penalty will make families more likely to cover up sexual crimes, and that rapists might kill their victims to avoid detection.

Critics are also concerned that the order, which was approved by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cabinet on Saturday, makes no mention of boys. In a country where male children often grow up in an atmosphere that discourages them from showing vulnerability, experts say such a discriminatory legal provision will fail boys who have been sexually assaulted.

Unlike the current Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (Pocso) 2012, which is gender-neutral and defines any person under 18 as a child, the new ordinance will stop boys who have been sexually abused from seeking the same justice accorded to a girl of their age, says gay rights activist Harish Iyer.

"I principally stand against the death penalty. This discriminatory legislation implies what boys are taught growing up - that they have to be the protector and not the protected. Children are vulnerable to sexual assault, irrespective of gender," Iyer said.

A nationwide survey of crimes against children conducted by the ministry of women and child development in 2007 found that 1/2 of India's children had been sexually abused.

Iyer said the new executive order was a shortcut for an overhaul of a criminal justice system that often discriminates against the poor. "This is sexism of a different nature, it favours one gender. What about protection of intersex children? Unless the crime is female foeticide, which is specifically gender-oriented, this is a shortcut for real measures."

He said the government should prioritise fast-track courts, child-friendly police stations, and a national registry of sex offenders. The new law proposes stricter punishment for convicted rapists of children under 16 years of age. Its definition of the victims and proposed age limit has triggered a debate about categorising victims of the same crime.

"What's the explanation for death penalty for 'gang rape of children below 12 years'? The state is a man. Why else would the reproductive age of a girl be the determining factor for the kind of punishment meted out to the rapists?" journalist Kota Neelima wrote in a Facebook post.

In 2016 India recorded an alarmingly low conviction rate (18.9%) for crimes against women. In that year, of all the child rape cases that came before the courts under the Pocso, less than 3% ended in convictions.

An issue of such a grave nature should have had a public discourse with participation from civil society stakeholders. By its nature, an executive order can be announced by the president of India on recommendation from the federal cabinet and does not require consultation.

After the gang rape of Jyoti Singh in Delhi in 2012, India introduced tougher rape laws and launched fast-track courts, but the measures have not deterred violent sexual crimes.

In addition, homelessness and poverty increase the vulnerability of children to sexual predators as parents have to leave them on their own to go to work, making them easy targets.

In an election year, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wants to be seen as proactive in taking strong steps to make India safer for women. However, it is implementation, the real challenge in India, that will determine its true intention.

(source: The Guardian)

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

Hanging is the safest way of execution, Centre tells Supreme Court----Centre's statement came in reply to a Supreme Court direction which had asked it to find alternate ways to hanging for execution of death sentence.

Hanging is the safest way of executing a death sentence on a convict, Centre has told Supreme Court of India. Centre’s statement came in reply to a Supreme Court direction which had asked it to find alternate ways to hanging for execution of death sentence. The Centre also said that death by injection or shooting squad can be more barbaric. It also said capital punishment is awarded in rarest of rare cases and any attempt to make execution easier will dilute its effect as a deterrent.

After the reply, the apex court adjourned hearing in the plea seeking abolition of executing a death row convict by hanging. The bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud said court can't say what should be the mode of carrying out a death sentence.

The top court's observation came in response to a Public Interest Litigation filed by Rishi Malhotra, a Supreme Court lawyer. In his plea, Malhotra had sought abolition of Section 354(5) of the Criminal Procedure Code, which states that when a person is sentenced to death, he shall be hanged by the neck till he is dead.

There has been only 2 execution by hanging in past 5 years - of Afzal Guru, the convict in 2001 Parliament attack, and Azmal Kasab, one of the 10 terrorists who executed 26/11 attack in Mumbai.

Earlier, an SC bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud had sought response within 3 weeks on the PIL. It had said that legislature could think of changing the law so that a convict, facing a death penalty, dies "in peace and not in pain".

Representing the Centre, Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand said that government was still working on alternate methods. Anand told the Supreme Court that government had tested lethal injections, but it was not workable. "Lethal injections are not workable as there are instances of it failing," she said.

Earlier, Malhotra had argued that removal of the present mode of execution was also mentioned in 187th Report of the Law Commission. Referred to Article 21 (Right to Life), Malhotra said it also included the right of a condemned prisoner to have a dignified mode of execution.

Malhotra had mentioned lethal injection, shooting, electrocution or gas chamber as alternatives to hanging.

(source: financialexpress.com)

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

Activists, parents of minor rape victims come out against death penalty, urge government to strengthen judiciary

Not just child right activists, even parents of minor victims today came out against the Union government's ordinance providing the death penalty to child rapists, saying it could lead to victims being killed by perpetrators.

At a programme in New Delhi, 3 parents, whose children were raped, urged the central government to instead strengthen the judicial mechanism to support the children, who have to deal with the crimes and struggle in their aftermath.

"My child was 3.5 years old when she was raped in her playschool days after the 2012 Nirbhaya gangrape case. She was still breast-feeding," a father, whose testimonial moved those present at the programme to tears, said.

"We sat in the police station with her from 9am to 9:30pm to register an FIR and she was asked where she was touched and how much pain she experienced. She was made to repeat her statement again and again for months. I want to ask everyone if I was wrong to ask for justice for my daughter," he said.

The Union Cabinet, two days ago, cleared the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance 2018, which proposes stringent punishments, ranging from a minimum of 20 years to life term or death, for raping girls below the age of 12.

President Ram Nath Kovind has approved the ordinance.

The ordinance was brought after a nationwide outrage over cases of sexual assault and killing of minors in Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir, in Gujarat's Surat, and the rape of a girl in Unnao in Uttar Pradesh.

Child rights groups reiterated that the real deterrent in such cases is the implementation of the laws and the certainty of punishment, rather than the death penalty.

They said the ordinance was "reactionary, impractical in terms of procedural changes brought in and disproportionate with regards to sentencing.

"The move to bring in the ordinance was based on brutality and not on any understanding of the dynamics of incest and child abuse, which is of epidemic proportions in India and is taking place in our homes as a matter of daily routine," said Anuja Gupta of RAHI foundation, a centre for women survivors of incest and child sexual abuse.

She said in her 20 years of working with rape survivors, she realised they do not want to take the burden of punishment to the abuser, especially if the abuser is a family member.

In 94 % of cases the perpetrator is known to the victim and introducing the death penalty will further decrease reportage of these cases to the authorities, she feared.

A mother, whose child was raped by her husband - the child's father, said she does "not want him to be hanged".

"I want him to be alive, I want him to compensate us monetarily for the rest of his life so that I can bring up my children. Why should he hang and be free of his responsibilities? "I fear if the death penalty is introduced, children like mine would be raped and then killed, so that there remains no evidence.

As a mother, I appeal to the cops to be more sensitive, judges to be more patient and - above everything else - don't make us feel bad about seeking justice for our children," she said.

In 2017, activists said, a Women and Child Development Ministry report on child abuse said that 53.2 % of children admitted to having faced some form of sexual abuse. Yet this has not translated into FIRs and remains heavily unreported, they said.

Justice A P Shah, former Delhi High Court chief justice and former chairman of the Law Commission of India, said the remedy offered appears to be based on a wrong diagnosis.

"Not only is the enhancement of the punishment to include the death penalty futile, but will have disastrous consequences for children. I urge everyone to reject the ordinance and focus on reforming the criminal justice system," he said.

Advocate Vrinda Grover termed the ordinance "legal populism" and said the government should instead address why the conviction rates are low in cases of sexual violence against children.

The activists said while the ordinance spoke about special courts, special prosecutors, India has one judge for every million of its population.

The pendancy in Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act cases is 89 % and the conviction rate is around 28 %, they said.

Bharti Ali of HAQ centre for Child Rights said children are often exposed to the accused and aggressive questioning of the victims persist in courts and these are the aspects - along with plugging the gaps in the judiciary - that should be the focus of the government.

"For months we had to sleep without a fan in the blistering heat of Delhi because our daughter feared it. She feared she would be hanged from it. She cried everytime she saw a fan. While being raped, she had been threatened of being hung from a fan if she said anything. Will hanging her accused bring her justice," the father asked.

(source: The New Indian Express)

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

Reject death penalty ordinance: activists----Slam populism over systemic reform

Jurists, social activists and families of child rape survivors have urged parliamentarians to reject the ordinance on death penalty for rape of girls below 12 years and condemned it as a "populist move" which will prove "disastrous" for the safety of children.

Pointing out that the punishment prescribed for rape of children below 12 years under the Indian Penal Code and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act is "stringent, sufficient and proportionate", they said the focus should be on reform of the criminal justice system so that trials can be completed in a time-bound manner and perpetrators do not walk free.

President Ram Nath Kovind promulgated the Ordinance on Sunday, which will have to be ratified by Parliament within 6 weeks.

'Diverts attention'

"Death penalty diverts attention from problems ailing the criminal justice system such as poor investigation, lack of crime prevention and abuse of rights of victims," said former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court A.P. Shah at a press conference on Monday.

He referred to the poor conviction rate of 24% for cases under the POCSO Act and a high pendency of 89.6% and said there was a need to address these flaws.

"I appeal to all MPs to reject this law as it will cause a considerable harm to children. It is more of a political decision rather than a step to fight the menace of sexual violence against children," Justice Shah said.

Lawyer Vrinda Grover said the provision of fast track courts in the Ordinance is misleading as there are not enough judges. Without investing in more judges it will be impossible to finish trials in two months, as laid down in the Ordinance, she said.

(source: The Hindu)

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

Was there scientific assessment that death penalty is deterrent to rape, HC asks Centre----Under the new Ordinance, minimum punishment in case of rape of women has been increased from rigorous imprisonment of 7 years to 10 years, extendable to life imprisonment.

The Delhi High Court asked the Centre on Monday if it had done any research or scientific assessment before coming out with an Ordinance to award death penalty for rape of girls below the age of 12.

The high court was dealing with an old PIL that challenged the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act of 2013, in which a penal provision - minimum of 7 years of jail term - for a rape convict was included and the court's discretion to award less than that was taken away.

"Did you carry out any study, any scientific assessment that death penalty is a deterrent to rape? Have you thought of the consequences to the victim? How many offenders would allow their victims to survive now that rape and murder have the same punishment," a Bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar asked the government.

The Union Cabinet, 2 days ago, cleared the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance 2018, which proposes stringent punishments, ranging from a minimum of 20 years to life term or death, for rape of girls under the age of 12 years.

If the victim is less than 16 years and more than 12 years, the ordinance has increased the minimum punishment from 10 years to 20 years and the maximum has been set at imprisonment for the rest of the convict's life.

The Centre's decision came in the wake of a nationwide outrage over cases of sexual assault and murder of minors in Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir and Surat in Gujarat, and the rape of a girl in Unnao in Uttar Pradesh.

The high court today said the government was "not even looking at the root cause" or "educating people" as the offenders are often found to be below the age of 18 years and in majority of the cases, the perpetrator is someone from the family or known to them.

It further questioned whether any victims were asked what they want before coming out with the Ordinance.

The observations came after the Bench was informed about the recent Ordinance during the hearing of a PIL which seeks to strike down the amendments made in the rape law after the December 16, 2012, gangrape of a 23-year-old woman in the National Capital.

The plea by academician Madhu Purnima Kishwar has claimed that the amendments to the law related to sexual offences is being abused in practice.

Under the new Ordinance, minimum punishment in case of rape of women has been increased from rigorous imprisonment of 7 years to 10 years, extendable to life imprisonment.

President Ram Nath Kovind has approved the ordinance for changes in the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Evidence Act, the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

(source: tribuneindia.com)

THAILAND:

iPhone killers' death sentences commuted to life

The Appeal Court on Tuesday sentenced 2 men to life in prison, reducing the Criminal Court's death penalty, for killing a man to steal his 26,000-baht iPhone in Lat Phrao district, Bangkok, early last year.

Kittikorn Wikaha, 27, of Sa Kaeo province, and Supatchai Charnsri, 26, of Uthai Thani province, were convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Wasin Luengjaem, 26, and theft of his iPhone 6 on Sukhonthasawat Road on the night of Jan 4 last year.

The Appeal Court ruled that the 2 men had consistently confessed during police interrogation and their court trial, and also admitted to their crime when speaking to news reporters. That showed their repentance, which justified the commuted sentences.

Niraporn Luengjaem, the victim's mother, said she had recovered from the loss and held no more grudges. She asked the authorities to take good care of the 2 inmates so they could improve themselves and not repeat their crime. She would not appeal the sentences to the Supreme Court.

In May last year the Criminal Court handed them both the death sentence, reasoning they had no option but to confess because a surveillance camera had caught them in the act.

The court also said it was unlikely the 2 men would reform their behaviour, because they had committed numerous crimes in the past.

The men were charged with theft causing death, carrying a weapon in a public place, and murder to conceal a crime.

The security camera footage showed Wasin being attacked by the 2 men, who approached him on a motorcycle while he was on the footpath and using his phone.

(source: Bangkok Post)

APRIL 23 2018:

TEXAS:

Texas prison system stalls release of public information on executions----Earlier this month, defense lawyers claimed Texas was botching its executions with old drugs. Now, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has stalled the release of information on how many lethal doses the state has and when they expire.

The cloud of secrecy surrounding Texas executions has grown a little darker lately.

After death penalty defense lawyers claimed the state's first 2 executions of the year were botched because of old lethal injection drugs, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has stalled the release of public information regarding the state's supply of lethal doses. Without providing a reason, the department told a Texas Tribune reporter last week that it would take an estimated 20 business days - until the day before the state's next scheduled execution - to provide information on how many lethal doses the state has and when they expire.

In the past, the records have been provided in 1/2 the time, and even that could be unlawful. The Texas Attorney General's Office handbook on the state's public information law says that a governmental body must produce public information promptly, without delay. The handbook says it is a "common misconception" that agencies can wait 10 business days before releasing the information, as the Department of Criminal Justice has regularly done in the past regarding execution drugs.

"There's absolutely no excuse," said Joe Larsen, a lawyer who serves on the board of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas. "The only reason they're doing it is to cause problems ... to delay the story."

Asked for comment about the prolonged waiting period, TDCJ spokesman Jason Clark said Wednesday that the department fully complies with the Texas Public Information Act and that inventory logs of execution drugs are expected to be released this week, instead of the previously estimated date of Feb. 21. The Tribune requested the information Jan. 23.

9 days later, lawyers for death row inmate John Battaglia filed a last-minute appeal before his execution claiming that the state's previous 2 executions used old, relabeled drugs for the lethal injection that likely caused one inmate to say he felt burning and the other to jerk on the gurney. Clark denied the executions were botched, saying both men lost consciousness almost immediately and were pronounced dead 13 minutes after being injected with pentobarbital, the drug Texas currently uses in executions.

Battaglia lost the appeal, and during his execution he sighed and said, "Oh, here, I feel it," according to The Dallas Morning News.

The defense lawyers said in the appeal that the drugs used this year were more than a year past their "beyond-use date," similar to an expiration date. (The lawyers also claim the beyond-use dates set by the state are "unscientific" and not viable). One batch of drugs was previously set to expire on Jan. 22, but more than a month ago, the drugs were re-tested and given a new expiration date of November, according to the Battaglia appeal. The TDCJ has said it doesn't discuss specifics on the current inventory of its execution drugs, but this testing has happened at least one other time in the past year, since it last reported a purchase of pentobarbital.

According to TDCJ records received by the Tribune last year, drugs set to expire in July were removed from stock, and, on the same day, the same number of vials were added back to the inventory with an expiration date set for exactly 1 year in the future.

"They haven't gotten any new drugs, and they just appear to keep extending the beyond-use date," said Maurie Levin, one of the lawyers on the Battaglia filing who is involved in multiple lawsuits regarding Texas execution drugs. "The thinking is they're only getting older; it's only going to get worse."

Now, the public release of information on the drugs has been stalled. For a year, the prison system provided inventory logs and expiration dates to the Tribune regularly, releasing the information exactly 10 business days after it was requested, often just before 5 p.m.

Justin Gordon, head of the attorney general's office's open records division, said government bodies can't wait out the clock to release public information. Agencies must release the information "promptly," which in most cases is sooner than 10 days, he said. He said the most common reasons agencies give for a delay is because a large request requires a lot of time and compilation or because the department is handling requests chronologically and has not yet gotten to a request yet, even if it's straightforward.

Gordon said his division hammers home to those who repeatedly wait until the last minute to provide records that they aren't giving good customer service and can't expect requesters to cooperate with them. He said an unnecessary delay "just ends up backfiring, in our experience."

The Tribune filed a complaint to the Attorney General's Office against TDCJ's repeated delays Monday.

State Sen. John Whitmire, a Houston Democrat and chairman of the chamber's Criminal Justice Committee, said through his chief of staff that he has questioned TDCJ about delays in execution information in the past and that the department has cited security reasons.

The chairman of the Texas House Corrections Committee, state Rep. James White, R-Hillister, said he has no reason to believe the department would delay the release out of hostility or without legal advice.

"I don't see any reason why they would purposefully wait until the 11th hour or withhold this unless they have a lawful reason to do it," White said.

A precedent of secrecy

The Tribune has tracked Texas' execution drug supply for about a year while states around the country struggle to find lethal doses to carry out executions. Though there has not been a shortage of drugs reported in Texas in several years, the state is always looking for new doses. The prison system is currently embroiled in a legal fight with the federal government over the attempted overseas import of another drug used in executions.

In 2015, state legislators passed a law to cement an existing practice of shielding the identities of all people involved in executions, from the drug supplier to the one who inserts the needle. In lobbying for the law, the attorney general's office said suppliers reported being threatened by death penalty opponents and wouldn't sell to the state anymore unless their identities were kept confidential. The existence of any such threats has been disputed.

White opposed the new secrecy law, one of only two Republicans to do so during the 2015 session. He said Tuesday that he wasn't known as a cheerleader for the press, but transparency in government is important. In a statement in the House Journal explaining the reason for his 2015 vote, he said potential threats against drug suppliers do not mean the government can butcher accountability and transparency.

"What if there is an abortion provider or someone connected to an abortion provider doing indigent women's health services that receives threats?" he wrote. "Could they also ask for anonymity?"

The state is now appealing to the Texas Supreme Court lower court decisions that called for the release of supplier information before the secrecy law was enacted. Texas' most recent order of compounded pentobarbital came from an unknown supplier last February, and it's unknown how long the same supplier had been providing drugs to the department.

The most recent records on Texas' inventory came from legal filings from lawyers with clients facing imminent execution. If the drugs set to expire in January were all given a new beyond-use date, there would likely be 12 lethal doses in the state's supply, more than enough for the four executions scheduled through May. But that number can't be confirmed because the department has yet to provide the inventory logs.

(source: Texas Tribune)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Death Penalty Sought In Girlfriend Slaying, Mother Assault

Prosecutors say they plan to seek the death penalty in the case of a man accused of killing his girlfriend and beating her elderly mother earlier this year in northeastern Pennsylvania.

52-year-old Joseph Marchetti Jr. is charged with criminal homicide and aggravated assault in the Jan. 28 death of 46-year-old Antoinette Wilkinson.

Investigators allege that he beat and shot the victim in their Foster Township home and then beat her 72-year-old mother with a lead-filled club before shooting himself in the face.

Luzerne County prosecutors cited the nature of the homicide and the attack on the older woman as factors that would warrant execution if Marchetti is convicted of 1st-degree murder.

A public defender representing Marchetti didn't immediately return a call seeking comment Sunday.

(source: Associated Press)

INDIA:

Amid belligerent demands for capital punishment for rapists, on Sunday the President signed an ordinance that introduces the death penalty for those convicted of raping girls below the age of 12. But this clamour for introducing the most stringent punishment has conveniently sidestepped the more cogent criticism of the systemic failures in addressing increasing sexual violence against women and children.

For those looking at it from the point of view of rape survivors and their bitter experiences with the criminal justice system, capital punishment for rape is the easiest and most convenient demand to raise, yet the most harmful one also for rape survivors. The women's movement has laid emphasis on the need for the person raped to survive the assault, and in turn be enabled to book the perpetrators.

There are numerous instances of the perpetrators killing their victims, so stringent anti-rape laws are perceived not to be deterrents but measures that further instigate rapists to attack the victims. In fact, the assumption that the severity of law is an adequate deterrent to crime being committed is a highly contested one, given that brutal rapes in India have not decreased despite enforcement of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 - a piece of legislation which prescribes the death penalty and life imprisonment for sexual assaults that result in death or the victim being reduced to a persistent vegetative state.

Patriarchal undercurrent

Women's movements across the world have consistently criticised knee-jerk, populist "solutions" to curbing sexual violence that in a highly patriarchal vein overemphasise the sexual aspect of the assault and reinforce the stigma attached to rape. Such "solutions" are seen as undermining the need to address the essential question of the rehabilitation of rape survivors, as well as the question of the complicit role played by state agencies in denying justice to survivors. This critique of capital punishment for rape stems from a concrete assessment of shoddy police investigations, low conviction rates, the overall tendency of hesitation within the judiciary in awarding severe punishment, and the capacity of stringent anti-rape legislation to enhance the propensity of rapists to murder their victims.

The epidemic proportions that child rapes and sexual assaults on women are taking in India necessitates discussion on the entire process: from the initial moment complaints reach police stations to the moment of conviction, but more often, acquittal of sexual offenders.

It is well known that right from the moment the criminal justice system is supposed to kick in, there is unwarranted delay by the police in filing missing person complaints and registering written complaints of sexual assault survivors. The reason for such police inaction is a debate within itself, but often enough, such inaction is connected to prevailing biases of class, caste, religion and gender. What is important to note is that a delay in police investigation amounts to an obstruction of justice since it allows the perpetrators to destroy crucial evidence and cover their tracks by influencing witnesses, and, sometimes, even the survivor.

The huge difficulty rape survivors face in police stations and hospitals where medical examinations are carried out is another pertinent issue which is continually sidestepped. Such harassment tends to come under the spotlight only in extreme cases, such as the one where a child, after being sexually assaulted and left bleeding, was kept waiting for hours at a civil hospital in Gurugram in March this year.

Further, insensitive methods of police investigation, tardy filing of charge sheets, delayed forensic reports, insensitive counselling, uneven disbursement of compensation to rape survivors, aggressive cross-examination of the survivor and her witnesses by defence lawyers, inadequate witness protection, and cumbersome court proceedings have together disempowered rape complainants. No amount of retributive justice can enable rape survivors, especially children who grapple with understanding their experience of hurt, to move on in life if the day-to-day pursuit of justice is an uphill and disempowering process in itself.

Low conviction rate

Instead of harping on the quantum and severity of punishment, we have to highlight the issue of a low conviction rate for rape. The dismal conviction rate for rape in India is a consequence of complicity of state agencies. It is precisely this which contributes to the culpability of rapists and nurtures the growing impunity with which sexual crimes are committed. This is a reality well captured in National Crime Records Bureau data that show high figures of repeat sexual offenders.

What will work For the wheels of justice to start turning, it is essential to recognise that the crisis lies in the precise manner in which the existing criminal justice system unfolds. India’s growing rape culture is best reversed by enhancing conviction rates through reforms in the police and judicial systems, and by augmenting measures to rehabilitate and empower rape survivors. We require nothing short of the following: greater allocation of state resources towards the setting up of fast-track courts; more one-stop crisis centres; proper witness protection; more expansive compensation for rape survivors, and an overhaul of existing child protection services. Until these issues are addressed, little will change on the ground.

(source: Maya John, an Assistant Professor at Jesus and Mary College, New Delhi, is a women's rights activist----The Hindu)

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Child rape case: Why death penalty is not the right step

This newspaper is opposed to the death penalty in principle. But there are other reasons to disapprove of the proposed amendment to the Indian Penal Code to award death penalty to those who rape children. One is that the death penalty might well inhibit reporting of the crime, when the rapist is a close relative or otherwise well known to the family of the victim, as is the case in 94% of reported rape cases. Obversely, it makes it all the more likely that the rapist would kill the victim after the crime - the penalty cannot go up and the chance of being identified as the perpetrator comes down. The more serious objection, however, is that such elevation of the penalty and prescribing tighter norms for bail and faster prosecution serve as tokens of official commitment to preventing rape while diverting attention from what really needs to be done.

Strengthening the capacity of the police force to investigate crimes and prosecute the guilty is one of those complex challenges that get neglected. Police reform to prevent political interference in investigation of crimes and the conduct of enforcing the law is key to making any law work in India, including in the case of rape. An MLA accused of rape can roam free, even as the victim's father can be picked up by the police and beaten up. Training policemen in crime detection, creating trust between the community and the police, so that information flows to the police, instead of being tortured out of the mouths of select witnesses, bringing in overall professionalism in police work - such things make a difference but do not get recognition as political sensitivity to rape. The good work being done to empower women and change social attitudes on gender must be redoubled. For, differential power relations underpin rape.

(source: Editorial, The Economic Times)

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Death penalty for child rapists: This populist move will only cause India's children more harm----With its ordinance, the government hopes to silence the protests that followed the Kathua and Unnao cases.

In one stroke, the government hopes to silence the protests that followed the murder and alleged rape of an 8-year-old girl from the nomadic Muslim Bakerwal community in Kathua, in Hindu-dominated Jammu, in January. The crime had shocked the conscience of ordinary people across the country. It was committed to instil fear in the Bakerwal community and drive them out of the region, the police said. The accused men had the support of lawyers from the district bar, who had tried to physically prevent the police from filing the chargesheet. The Supreme Court, which is seized of the matter, has issued a notice to the bar association.

The protests coincided with allegations made by a 17-year-old Dalit girl in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh, in April that Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Kuldeep Sengar had raped her last year. She also accused him of assaulting her father, who died from injuries this month. The incident came into public view only when the girl attempted to commit suicide outside the home of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath. Until then, the police had refused to investigate her allegations because the man she had accused is a sitting MLA.

Both incidents involved supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In addition, the Kathua incident had communal undertones. Hence, the prime minister initially maintained a stony silence. It was left to Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi to attempt some damage control. Projecting the incidents merely as gender crimes, she announced that the government would introduce the death penalty for those convicted of raping children under 12 years of age. This helped douse the anger of some protestors.

Finally, when the prime minister did break his silence and issued a statement, his comments were very general: "the latest incidents have brought shame to our country", he said, adding that "our daughters will definitely get justice". "Justice" to victims automatically gets converted to "stringent punishment" to the accused. So, the ordinance promulgated on Saturday prescribes a minimum of 20 years in prison for the rape of a minor while the maximum is the death penalty.

Not in the child's interest

With one stroke, the prime minister has silenced his critics. Now no one can blame him for being a silent spectator while an epidemic of rapes spreads across Surat, Indore, Delhi, Mumbai, almost every Indian city. Anyone who opposes the ordinance can be labelled as someone who supports rapists. This move is in line with other similar, drastic measures: demonetisation to curb black money, surgical strikes across the Line of Control against attacks and ceasefire violations by Pakistan, and the criminalisation of triple talaq.

A time limit of 2 months has been set for completing a rape trial and of 6 months to dispose of all appeals. In view of our overburdened courts, this is unrealistic to say the least. Even in the 2012 Nirbhaya gangrape-murder in Delhi and the 2013 Shakti Mills rape in Mumbai, which were marked as priority cases, the trial had gone on for several months. Where will these "dedicated courts" to try offences against children come from?

These are secondary concerns. The more basic concern is, will this move help child victims or will it drive them into a shell and reverse the increase in reporting of crimes against children that we have witnessed in the last 3 years? This reckless but populist move will cause more harm to children as it does not place their interests at the centre of remedial measures.

Rapes within the family

The gruesome Kathua case - the chargesheet says the 8-year-old was drugged, starved, gangraped and then strangled - is not the norm. Most child abuse takes place within our homes and neighbourhoods. Rather than acting as a deterrent to offenders, the death penalty provision may stop a child from reporting her father to the police, knowing that he may be hanged. Besides, a child under 12 does not walk into a police station on her own, she has to be brought there by a family member. This will happen only in cases where the rapist is a stranger.

While the affluent and powerful know how to escape the noose, it is the poor and marginalised, represented by ill-equipped legal aid lawyers, who will be caught in this net.

Those clamouring for the death penalty fail to acknowledge that the courts are already empowered to award it in rape and murder cases that fall within the "rarest of rare" category. In the Nirbhaya case, for instance, the convicts were awarded the death penalty under provisions of the Indian Penal Code that existed at the time and not under the amended and more stringent statute that came later.

Several studies have highlighted that the death penalty is not a deterrent against any crime. It is the certainty of punishment and not the severity that is the real deterrent. The conviction rate in rape cases continues to be abysmally low even after the introduction of stringent punishment under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.

According to research by my advocacy group Majlis as part of our Rahat support programme for child survivors of sexual assault, the accused is known to the victim in 91% of cases. He is a stranger in only 9% of cases. In addition, rape by fathers or stepfathers constitutes 46% of all rapes within the family and 7.2% of all rapes, which is nearly as much as rape by strangers. The National Crime Records Bureau’s latest report says 95% of rapes are committed by persons known to the victim.

The proximity of the abuser to the victim makes the task of reporting the crime arduous and traumatic. Even after making an official complaint, pressure is exerted to retract. Financial constraints and social stigma often result in the victim turning hostile in court. No one bothers to pierce the veneer and understand her vulnerabilities and constraints. Each rape pushes the victim several notches down the social ladder.

Not a lasting solution

The main problem with the ordinance is that it does not place the victim at the centre of the discourse, and the archaic remedy of the death penalty as a panacea for all evils. No social audit has been conducted of how the 1-stop centres for rape victims - which offer integrated services such as police assistance, legal aid, medical and counselling services, and were set up after the Nirbhaya case - are functioning. Instead, there is an assumption that if every district has one such centre, it will provide the necessary support to rape victims. Our shelters across the country are also in the doldrums. In many places, Child Welfare Committees do not even function.

Victim support is a challenging and tedious task. Only a government that does not want to invest in lasting solutions will prescribe the death penalty as a "quickie solution' to the grave problem staring us in the face.

(source: Flavia Agnes is a women's rights lawyer; scroll.in)

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'Are 14-16 Year Old Girls Not Kids': Kamal Haasan on Death Penalty for Rape

Actor-politician Kamal Haasan on Sunday wondered why the ordinance promulgated today provided for the death penalty for rape of girls under 12 years alone and not for those aged between 14 and 16 and said families should bring up boys to act responsibly.

"Why is the death penalty only for rape of girls aged under 12...What about 14, 15, and 16-year-olds, are they not children too? It will take time for them too (14-16 year-olds) to blossom as women. I do not know how to view it," he said. The Makkal Needhi Maiam chief was addressing his party workers and supporters through YouTube.

Answering a question on crimes against women and children and the rules he would bring in if his party was voted to power, Haasan said "rules can be formulated... even now death penalty has been prescribed." Haasan had made known his views against the death penalty before he entered politics.

The MNM chief said the important thing was for families to change their mindset in the way they brought up boys. "Just like we teach the values of chastity and honesty to girls, boys too must be brought up responsibly by families.” Sadly, this was not being done and boys were pampered and allowed to do what they wanted, 'just because he is a male', the actor said.

No government rule was needed to implement this, he said. President Ram Nath Kovind on Sunday promulgated the criminal law amendment ordinance, paving the way for providing stringent punishment, including "death" penalty, for those convicted of raping girls below the age of 12 years.

The actor turned politician said he had given deep thought as to why he should get into politics when leaders he respected like Mahatma Gandhi and reformist leader Periyar had stayed away from it. "All along I was keeping quiet thinking I could toe a similar line. Had such leaders been alive today, there would have been a necessity for them to take part in electoral politics," he said.

Haasan said it was not a spur of the moment decision for him to join politics. It was a thought process lasting many years. There was also some confusion in arriving at a decision but he overcame it, he said. The MNM chief said he had a "guilty" feeling as he wondered if politics was pushed to a bad phase due to "carelessness" of the general public and the media in monitoring the government and questioning it.

Haasan alleged that there was an arrogance among those in power and hence they were disinclined to answer people's questions. Such factors steadily pushed him towards getting into politics. He replied in the negative when asked whether he ever regretted entering politics.

To a question, the actor said his brand of politics would be driven by people's welfare and he did not hanker for power. To another question, he said "you decide what I should be... whether the Chief Minister or Leader of Opposition." On eradicating caste, Haasan said it was a 'disease' and it should be eradicated.

Caste-based discrimination was a reason for poverty. Caste could not be eradicated immediately he said and called for change from a personal level to facilitate it. Stating that 'gram swarajya' was a possibility, he said his party has adopted already a village and more will be done. He told his cadres to deal firmly and properly if political parties put obstacles during their welfare work. "Those who pose obstacles for service to the people are anti-nationals, they should be dealt properly but without violence," he said.

(source: news18.com)

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Death penalty no deterrent: 4 rape cases reported in UP in a single day despite new stringent laws----The Union Cabinet on Friday approved an ordinance to allow courts to award the death penalty to those convicted of raping children up to 12 years of age.The President of India gave his go ahead to the same on Sunday.

Even as President Ram Nath Kovind gave his go ahead to the ordinance paving way for providing stringent punishment, including death penalty, for those convicted of raping girls below the age of 12 years, 4 complaints of sexual assault were registered in Uttar Pradesh, of which 3 cases involved minor victims.

In Rampur, a 7-year-old girl was allegedly raped in a forested area about 30 km from the district headquarters. The incident took place on Saturday.

The minor's father told police that his daughter had gone to fetch some water when a man abducted her and sexually assaulted her in a secluded area.

The man, who fled the spot leaving the girl unconscious, was later nabbed by the police.

"The girl was playing outside her house at around 10 am. Her parents, who are farmers, and elder siblings, were at the farm when the youth, Sirasat (19), lured her to a nearby farm and sexually assaulted her. He fled and the girl came back home and informed her parents. The police were called and within 2 hours, the accused was arrested with the help of some villagers," said Rampur SP Vipin Tada.

A 15-year-old girl was allegedly sexually assaulted by a man when she was alone at her house in Rohana Kalan village here, the police said today.

The accused was caught and handed over to the police when the victim raised an alarm, Circle Officer Harish Bhadoriya said.

According to a complaint filed by the victim's father, Johny (22) barged into their house last night and sexually assaulted his daughter.

The accused has been charged under the POCSO Act and relevant sections of the IPC, the police added.

In yet another case of minor being sexually assaulted, an 11-year-old girl was allegedly raped by her uncle in Vishnugarh area of Kannauj.

The girl was reportedly alone at home when the incident too place.

When her father returned, he saw his daughter in a bad condition. On learning that his brother had allegedly sexually assaulted her daughter, he went to the police station to file an FIR.

Superintendent of Police (SP) Kannauj, Keshav Chandra Goswami told ANI that a search operation was launched to nab the accused.

A minor was allegedly gangraped by 3 men in Moradabad, and a video of the whole incident was filmed.

The minor told the police that when she used to go to the fields, the three men used to harass her constantly. She was reportedly alone at home and was doing household chores when the trio barged into her house and allegedly sexually assaulted her.

Superintendent of Police (SP), Civil Lines, Aparna Gupta said that the police launched a search operation against the culprits and efforts were on to delete the video that became viral on social media.

Child rights activists oppose death penalty for rape of minors

Even as a number of leaders have advocated death penalty for rape of girls aged below 12, child rights activists across the country have come out against the government's decision to amend the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act for this purpose.

The Union Cabinet on Friday approved an ordinance to allow courts to award the death penalty to those convicted of raping children up to 12 years of age.The President of India gave his go ahead to the same on Sunday.

"In a country where there is no certainty of conviction, this government wants to bring in more stringent laws. In a country where most rapes are perpetrated by family members, invoking death penalty will only increase the chances of acquittal.

"Most of the cases will not be reported. There is a reason why the death penalty for child rape exists in only about 13 countries or so, most of them Islamic," said Bharti Ali of HAQ centre for child rights.

According to the data of the National Crime Records Bureau, 95 % of the rapes are committed by family members. The conviction rate in cases of rapes of women is around 24 %. It is 20 % under the POCSO Act.

"I believe that the only deterrent in rape cases is conviction in not more than 90 days. Worldwide we have seen that, more than strict punishment, it is speedy justice that works as a deterrent.

"I fear that with the death penalty, most people will not report child rapes, as in most cases the accused are family members. The conviction rate will come down further," Vinod Tikoo, a former member of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, said.

According to a recent study by Kailash Satyarthi Children's Foundation, it would take the courts 2 decades to clear the backlog of cases related to child sex abuse.

Activists say the government should focus more on strengthening the existing laws, ensuring safety of victims and witnesses, speedy trials, and awareness generation.

(source: indiatvnews.com)

SOUTH KOREA:

Prosecutors seek death penalty for motel arsonist

Prosecutors on Monday sought the death penalty for a middle-aged man accused of setting fire to a motel in Jongno-gu, Seoul, in January, killing seven people and injuring 3.

The alleged arsonist, 53, surnamed Yoo, pled guilty to the crime and begged for mercy.

At a trial hearing in Seoul Central District Court, the prosecution asked the judge for capital punishment, saying his crime was "prepared with intention to kill people."

The suspect claimed the crime took place when he was "drunk" so he "couldn't make a right judgment" at that time.

"All the evidence and testimonies show the accused, who was sober, poured gasoline on the floor (of the motel), set it on fire and checked if the fire was catching before leaving the building," the prosecutor said. "It doesn't make sense that he committed the crime while he was drunk."

Court documents say Yoo committed the crime at 3 a.m. on Jan. 20 after a motel manager rejected his call to send a call-girl to his room. In a fit of anger, he poured 10 liters of gasoline he bought at a nearby gas station and set it alight.

The ruling trial is scheduled for May 4 at 10:10 a.m.

(source: The Korea Times)

PAKISTAN:

Supreme Court expected to hear Asia Bibi's appeal against capital punishment

Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Mian Saqib Nisar has announced that the apex court will soon hear the appeal case of blasphemy convicted Christian woman Asia Bibi. In this regard, Chief Justice stated that a date for case hearing will be announced soon.

Blasphemy case against Asia Bibi

On Saturday, April 21 Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar has confirmed that a new hearing date for Asia Bibi's appeal case against capital punishment. At the same time, Justice Saqiz Nisar also issued directives for full security provisions for Asia Bibi.

In 2009, Pakistani Christian woman Asia Bibi was accused of committing blasphemy by her co-workers. Later, in 2010, a court in district Nankana awarded her capital punishment, which was later challenged by her defense counsel. The decision was upheld by a 2-member bench of Lahore High Court in 2014. Her appeal case is currently pending with the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

Asia Bibi, an internationally known Christian victim of false blasphemy charges is languishing in the Pakistani prison for almost nine years. In her early session court hearings, she denied blasphemy accusations. But the court was pressurized by local as well as national religious forces; as a result, session judge of Sheikhupura Courts, Muhammad Naveed Iqbal, handed capital punishment to her.

Her capital punishment was challenged in the Lahore High Court in 2014 which not only left her in despair but additionally High Court's stay order against presidential pardon made her acquittal chances very slim. Her further appeal is pending in the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

In October 2016, Supreme Court judges called off the trial of Asia Bibi to a date yet to be determined. A Supreme Court bench consisting of three members and led by Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, decided to adjourn the court after 1 of the judges of the bench decided to quit the bench. Justice Iqbal Hameed-ur-Rehman retired from the case maintaining that he had also been part of the bench hearing the case of Salman Taseer's murder. In 2017, the apex court had declined a petition seeking early hearing for Asia Bibi's appeal case.

(source: christiansin pakistan.com)

APRIL 22, 2018:

GEORGIA----impending execution

Judge rejects condemned inmate's argument for resentencing

A judge on Friday declined to hold a new sentencing for a condemned Georgia inmate who argued he should be resentenced because he wouldn't get the death penalty if he were sentenced today.

Robert Earl Butts Jr., 40, is scheduled to die May 3. He and 41-year-old Marion Wilson Jr. were convicted and sentenced to death in the March 1996 slaying of Donovan Corey Parks in central Georgia.

Butts' lawyers argued in a court filing earlier this week that he should have a new sentencing.

The murder for which Butts and Wilson were sentenced had a single victim. There was just 1 aggravating factor, a circumstance that increases the severity of a crime and increases the possible sentence. According to sentencing data obtained and analyzed by Butts' lawyers, no one has been sentenced to death for a murder with 1 victim and 1 aggravating factor in over a decade.

That fact, they argue, "raises a threshold inference that Butts' death sentence is grossly disproportionate," they argue.

Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit Chief Judge William Prior Jr. on Friday declined to hold a new sentencing. The state Supreme Court has the responsibility of judging proportionality and has already determined Butts' sentence is not disproportionate, he wrote.

But even if his court were the appropriate place for the argument, Prior wrote, Butts unnecessarily waited until right before his execution to make the argument and failed to show that the data presented would be likely to result in a different result.

Butts and Wilson asked Parks for a ride outside a Walmart store in Milledgeville, about 93 miles (150 kilometers) southeast of Atlanta. After they'd gone a short distance they ordered him to stop the car, dragged him out and killed him with a single shot to the back of his head, prosecutors said.

They tried unsuccessfully to sell Parks' car and ended up driving it to a remote part of Macon and setting fire to it.

Appeals in Wilson's case are still pending.

(source: Daily Journal)

KENTUCKY:

Kentucky seeks death penalty in 71-year-old veteran's death

Prosecutors in Kentucky are seeking the death penalty against the man they say killed a 71-year-old Army veteran during a robbery.

The News-Enterprise reports the Hardin County Commonwealth's Attorney's Office filed aggravators Tuesday against 25-year-old Aaron Lee Pearson in the 2016 death of Norman Hall.

Authorities believe Pearson and 18-year-old Eloysia James-Venerable broke into Hall's home to rob him. Hall, who lived alone and used an oxygen tank, died from multiple blows to his head and face and being stabbed in the neck.

Pearson is charged with complicity to commit murder, complicity to 1st-degree robbery and complicity to tampering with physical evidence charges. It' s unclear whether he has a lawyer.

(source: fisherbusinessnews.com)

SAUDI ARABIA:

Number of Beheadings in Saudi Arabia Rises by 70%

Amid mounting criticism of Saudi Arabia over its human rights record, a new report by a nonprofit organization shows that the number of beheadings in the kingdom during the 1st quarter of 2018 rose by over 70 % compared to the same period last year.

In its latest report published Saturday, the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR) said executions by the Saudi government in the 1st quarter of 2018 increased by 72% compared to the corresponding period last year.

According to the report, a number of foreign nationals also face capital punishment in Saudi Arabia.

The report came against a backdrop of widespread criticism of the kingdom over its terrible human rights record, including the censorship of free speech, indiscriminate incarceration of citizens with no due process, or the lack of basic freedoms for women and girls.

Although the Riyadh government does not disclose any official statistics for people on death row, ESOHR has confirmed that 42 people are facing imminent execution, including 8 people who were minors at the time of the offence.

The report has also decried the Saudi regime's move to execute people for alleged offenses that do not even cross the serious crimes threshold defined by the international law, noting that the convicts have simply attended peaceful demonstrations, exercised freedom of speech, or practiced their religious rites.

Since 2008, Saudi Arabia has rejected all requests for visits by special independent rapporteurs of the United Nations, who are concerned about the kingdom's human rights violation, the report added.

In March 2017, Michel Forst, a UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights, expressed serious concerns about the situation of human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia.

Also in a report in September 2017, the UN Secretary General deplored Saudi Arabia for practicing intimidating acts such as travel bans, freezes on assets of people, and the use of torture against individuals or groups that collaborate with the UN institutions or programs.

Figures show that 146 people were decapitated in Saudi Arabia in 2017, of whom 56 were foreigners.

Only in 1 day in July 2017, Saudi Arabia killed 4 people charged with attending demonstrations.

(source: ifpnews.com)

IRAN----executions

8 Prisoners Including 2 Afghans Executed in Iran

8 prisoners most of whom were charged with murder were secretly executed at Rajai Shahr Prison.

According to a close source, on the morning of Wednesday, April 18, 8 prisoners most of whom were charged with murder were executed at Rajai Shahr Prison.

1 of the prisoners were identified as Akbar Eftekhari from ward 6, who had been in prison for 14 years on murder charges. 5 other prisoners were transferred to the solitary confinement from different wards of the same prison.

The 2 other prisoners were Afghans transferred to Rajai Shahr Prison from Ghezel Hesar Prison in order to be executed.

An informed source told IHR, "Unusually strict security measures were taken for these executions to keep them secret."

According to Iran Human Rights annual report on the death penalty, 240 of the 517 execution sentences in 2017 were implemented due to murder charges.

There is a lack of a classification of murder by degree in Iran which results in issuing a death sentence for any kind of murder regardless of intensity and intent.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

INDIA:

India approves death penalty for child rapists after 8-year-old murdered

Offenders who rape girls under 12 may now be subject to the death penalty in India, according to an ordinance passed by India's cabinet Saturday after a nationwide furor over the rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl.

In an emergency meeting, India's cabinet approved an amendment to the law protecting children from sexual offences that will set the minimum penalty for the gang rape of a child under 12 to life imprisonment or death, and the minimum for the rape of a child to 20 years up to a maximum sentence of life or death. It also doubled, to 20 years, the minimum punishment for the rape of a child under 16.

The new ordinance also calls for rape cases to be investigated in 2 months and trials to be concluded in the same span, as well as for new forensic labs and fast-track courts to be added.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been under fire for his response to the crisis sparked by the arrest earlier this month of 8 suspects in the January rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir.

With a Muslim victim and alleged Hindu assailants, the case rapidly became polarized, and 2 legislators from Modi's political party were ultimately forced to step down after they attended a rally in support of the accused. Around the same time, a legislator from Modi's party was arrested for raping a teen in a separate case in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

On Tuesday, Indian Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi called rape and child sexual abuse in India a "national emergency," with 100,000 such cases pending in courts.

"The whole country was enraged, and it cannot happen that the central government does not listen to us. Some change will occur," Swati Maliwal, the chair of Delhi's commission for women, told reporters Saturday. She said she will end a 9-day hunger strike she staged to protest government inaction over the controversial rapes.

Maliwal said she was happy about the government's move but said police still need more accountability and resources.

But others criticized the ordinance, arguing that the possibility of a death sentence will not act as a deterrent and that India needs to improve its prosecution and conviction rate for rape and child sexual abuse cases. Supreme Court lawyer Karuna Nundy says that the rate of rapes has not decreased since the death penalty for the crime was introduced in India in 2013.

"The death penalty is easy political candy to hand out to angry and upset citizens, but it's much harder to work on justice systems that guarantee swift, certain punishment for sexual assault or to limit the violent patriarchies that cause rape in the first place," Nundy said.

Swagata Raha, a legal researcher with the Centre for Child and the Law at the National Law School of India University at Bangalore, wrote an opinion piece Saturday for website ThePrint, arguing that the death penalty will make it difficult for children to come forward and disclose sexual abuse because 94 % of offenders under India’s Child Protection Act are relatives or otherwise known to their victims.

"I feel it's a very reactionary measure, and certainly not the change those of us who work in this space would like to see," Raha said.

In 2012, another highly publicized gang rape and murder of a young college student prompted India to tighten its rape laws and set up fast-track courts. 4 men were ultimately convicted and sentenced to death in that attack. But incidents of reported rape have risen 60 per cent since then, to 38,947 in 2016, according to National Crime Records Bureau data.

A 2016 investigation by the Washington Post of nearly 400 fast-track rape courts found that those set up to speed the prosecution of rape cases do not always have the impact that advocates hope for.

Interviews with lawyers, activists and prosecutors showed that the quality and success of the courts vary widely. Some described proceedings bogged down from long waits for forensic evidence, police reports and repeated adjournments, with witnesses turning hostile and refusing to testify because they have settled the matter with the family of a suspect.

In New Delhi, for example, there was a backlog of 3,487 cases in the capital's fast-track courts, some of which had been languishing for years, the Post's investigation showed.

(source: The Star)

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Global rights groups Amnesty International, CRY term ordinance on death penalty for child rapists a 'knee-jerk' reaction

Global rights groups, the Amnesty International and the CRY have termed the Union Cabinet's decision to introduce death penalty for rape of children below the age of 12 years a "knee-jerk reaction" and said it could possibly be a threat to the judicial process.

They said the government must ensure implementation of existing laws to protect children from sexual abuse instead of introducing the death penalty.

"The government's decision to introduce death penalty through an ordinance is a knee-jerk reaction that diverts attention from the poor implementation of laws on rape and child protection.

"Studies have shown that most perpetrators are 'known' to child victims - introducing the death penalty in such circumstances will only silence and further endanger children. Both the Justice Verma Committee and India's Law Commission have questioned the deterrent value of death penalty in preventing crimes," Asmita Basu, Programmes Director, Amnesty International India, said in a statement.

She said the government must instead allocate "adequate resources for the effective implementation of existing laws, improve conviction rates and ensure that justice is done in all cases of child abuse."

"The President must not approve this regressive ordinance, as it does little to promote the best interests of children," she said.

The ordinance comes in response to nationwide protests against the alleged gang-rape and murder of an 8 year old girl in Jammu and Kashmir's Kathua region.

The ordinance will amend the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Evidence Act, the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act to introduce a new provision to sentence convicts of such crimes to the punishment of death.

Another NGO, the Child Rights and You (CRY) said violence against children needs to be curbed but this ordinance comes as a "knee-jerk" reaction and may pose a threat to the judicial process.

"It is beyond debate that state had to act in order to curb violence against children, however, this ordinance does come as a knee-jerk reaction and may pose a threat to the judicial process.

"As in 95 % of such cases children are assaulted by the people they know (Data source: NCRB 2014), there is a high probability of under reporting of sexual offences against children and that of justice never been able to penetrate thick walls of homes and neighbourhoods," said Komal Ganotra, Director of Policy and Advocacy at CRY.

They urged the government to address the bigger challenge on hand in carrying out investments in preventive mechanisms to make children safe at all the spaces - homes, schools, neighbourhood, parks, roads.

The National Crime Records Bureau's Crime in India report, 2016, highlighted that only 28.2 % of the child sexual abuse cases brought to trial have resulted in convictions.

Despite the low conviction rates, recently four Indian states, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh, have introduced the death penalty for the rape of girls below the age of 12 years.

(source: firstpost.com)

APRIL 21, 2018:

TEXAS:

Judge denies motion to remove death penalty from suspect in Breanna Wood's death----Nueces County prosecutors revealed they're pursuing charges against seven people related to the killing.

The death penalty remains on the table for capital murder suspect Joseph Tejeda, who is accused in the death of Breanna Wood.

Judge Jack Pulcher, of the 105th district court, on Friday denied a motion from Tejeda's attorneys, Fred Jimenez and Dee Ann Torres, that the death penalty not be considered.

Tejeda, 27, is charged with capital murder, engaging in organized criminal activity, tampering with evidence and abuse of a corpse. The state is seeking the death penalty against him and Sandra Vasquez, who is also charged with capital murder in connection with Wood's death.

A third person, Christopher Gonzalez, is also facing a capital murder charge, but prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty in his case. They are three of 78 people charged with crimes related to the 21-year-old.

Wood's remains were found in early January 2017 after she was last seen with Tejeda at a convenience store in October 2016.

It was decided at a previous hearing that motions filed by Tejeda's attorneys would be heard in increments of 10. At his last hearing, among other motions, his attorneys requested he be allowed to appear in court wearing "civilian clothes" and that he not be shackled. Those requests were denied.

His attorneys have also filed a motion requesting his facial tattoos be either removed or covered with makeup for his trial. Tejeda's attorneys requested more time on that motion while they find an expert to speak about the tattoos.

(source: Corpus Christi Caller-Times)

NEW HAMPSHIRE:

Let's put an end to the death penalty

The New Hampshire House of Representatives will vote on Senate Bill 593, which will repeal the death penalty in coming weeks. I support this repeal.

I am a Christian and my support of repeal is primarily based on my deeply held religious understandings. I also believe that the death penalty is a deeply flawed public policy. I believe the death penalty is highly arbitrary, risks executing the innocent and is racially biased. No research evidence supports a deterrent value. The monies currently used to prosecute and defend capital cases would be better used supporting initiatives to reduce crime, funding cold-case units and supporting victims. There is just no restorative or rehabilitative value to the death penalty.

I urge our state representatives to overwhelmingly vote for SB 593.

MARTHA A. HUNT

Sutton

(source: Letter to the Editor, Concord Monitor)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Death penalty sought in Foster Township domestic slaying

Luzerne County prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against a Foster Township man accused of killing his girlfriend earlier this year.

Joseph John Marchetti Jr., 51, allegedly beat and shot Antoinette Wilkinson, also known as Toni Lynn, 46, inside their Spring Street home in the township on Jan. 28.

Investigators say Marchetti also beat his girlfriend's mother, Barbara Wilkinson, 72, with a lead-filled club before shooting himself in the face. The elder Wilkinson survived and testified about her ordeal at Marchetti's preliminary hearing in March.

Marchetti, who faces counts of criminal homicide and aggravated assault, has pleaded not guilty.

Paperwork filed Friday in Luzerne County Court indicated that a jury trial has been requested, and has been set for Feb. 19, 2019.

Marchetti remains jailed at the county correctional facility without bail. He is being represented by county public defenders Michael Kostelaba and Benjamin Stanton.

The case is being prosecuted by assistant district attorneys Daniel Zola, Justin Richards and Kyle Scanlon.

(source: Times Leader)

ALABAMA:

Justice is meant to be blind to all factors, including age

Justice is meant to be blind. She's blind to all of the outside factors that would affect an outcome of fairness. I've seen a lot of people in the last week oppose the use of the death penalty for Walter Leroy Moody, 83, due to his age. They were wrong.

The state was right to execute him. He was sentenced to death in 1996 for the capital murder of Judge Robert Vance.

The death penalty isn't an outcome that our justice system hands out lightly. There are far more avenues for those convicted to escape it than there were for their victims to escape their fate or their families and loved ones to escape living in the shadow of reality of that included a heinous often violent crime.

There are ways to get out of the death penalty. The courts allow an appeal process that often leads to years and years of waiting to see justice served. This process should not be allowed to be an automatic get out of your sentence card if you can take up as much time as possible.

The question of fairness or kindness should not fall to a system that is rendering a punishment chosen by a judge and/or jury. No magic age or magic turning point in health should mean one deserves compassion over justice.

Where was compassion when the defendant committed the crimes that got them there?

If anything this latest execution should serve as a motivator for justice to move more swiftly for everyone involved. If it is unfair or unjust to execute the old, than once they've exhausted all reasonable appeals, let the punishment be handed down without further pause.

Was justice served, yes. Due process allowed this man more years than he probably should have had but it owes him no more. The court doesn't hand down sentences based on the old man you may become in an over burdened criminal justice system.

The sentence is given based on the acts of the man sitting in court. That is what is right that is what is fair.

The physical treat posed by this man may not have been grave today but the threat posed by setting a precedent that you can evade justice with time is and was grave.

(source: Apryl Marie Fogel, altoday.com)

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

Alabama should speed up executions, state auditor says

Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler said the decades Walter LeRoy Moody sat on Alabama's death row was another example of justice delayed equaling justice denied.

Moody was executed Thursday night for the 1989 pipe bombing death of Federal Judge Robert Vance in Birmingham. Moody, 83, became the oldest inmate executed in the United States since the return of executions in the 1970s.

Last Words and Meals

Moody's tenure of close to 3 decades behind bars and 20-plus years on death row defeats the deterrent element of capital punishment, Zeigler said.

"Thirty years is too long to carry out a sentence. Killers are not worried about what may happen 30 years from now. They think in terms of the next 30 minutes," Zeigler said. "It is very little deterrent to a would-be killer that he might be executed 30 years later."

In 1991, a federal jury convicted Moody of 71 charges related to the death of Vance and Georgia civil rights attorney Robert Robinson, who was also killed by a pipe bomb blast. He was sentenced to 7 concurrent life sentences and 400 years. He was placed on death row in 1996 after being convicted of capital murder in state court.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the average time on death row it 190 months, or almost 16 years.

Zeigler said Moody's long period on death row also meant taxpayers had to foot the bill for his room, board and medical expenses.

"We have got to correct this problem and start carrying out swifter justice," he said.

Zeigler said he is working on a plan - dubbed "Execution Delayed is Justice Denied" - that will "greatly speed up executions without increasing the danger of executing the wrong person."

A timeline for the plan to be released was not announced.

(source: al.com)

CALIFORNIA:

California has over 700 people on death row and executions could begin soon

California is often viewed as the center of progressive politics in the United States. It has some of the strongest environmental regulations in the country, the strongest pesticide regulations and along with Connecticut the strongest gun control measures. California's legislature is already working to reinstate the net neutrality measures recently dumped by the Federal Communications Commission, and many cities have spent the last 18 months actively resisting the Trump administration's siege on undocumented immigrants.

Yet California also has more than twice as many people on death row as the next highest state - 746, compared with Florida's 347. That is the largest population of inmates awaiting execution in the entire Western Hemisphere and two-thirds of the total number of people known to have been executed by their governments worldwide in 2016.

Even a careful observer of the Golden State can be forgiven for not knowing these figures. The state has executed only 13 people since 1992 and none since 2006, when a federal court ruled that California's lethal injection procedures violated the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. (The state has spent the last 12 years trying to revise those procedures. On April 11, several media organizations in California sued the state over the latest rules, saying that the administration of lethal injections would occur out of view of the journalists who witness the executions on behalf of the public.)

"We've had such a long lull now between executions," says Mary Kate DeLucco, communications director at Death Penalty Focus, "that many residents aren't even aware we have it."

Twice since 2006, California voters have had the chance to end the death penalty via referenda. Both initiatives failed. In the most recent case in 2016, a proposition to ban executions competed against another to speed up the process of appeals. A week before the vote, pollsters for the Los Angeles Times found that 40 % of those who supported ending the death penalty were confusing the 2 initiatives. In the end, the proposal to quicken the process, Proposition 66, passed with 51 %.

So at a time when much of the country seems to be moving away from the death penalty - 2017 saw just 23 executions nationwide, the second lowest since 1991 - California may soon begin executing people again.

Among the many organizations working to keep that from happening is the Catholic Mobilizing Network, a national ministry of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph. Since 2009 C.M.N. has been engaging with Catholics around the country to stop the practice of executing criminals. "We're kind of the convening power," says the group's managing director, Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, "bringing Catholics who are concerned about these things together and leveraging their impact."

California has 746 people on death row, or 2/3 of the total number of people known to have been executed by their governments worldwide in 2016.

While their work takes many different forms, one thriving C.M.N. program is the Mercy in Action Project, in which Catholics send letters to state officials on behalf of those soon to be executed, pleading for clemency. "Some are really powerful," says Ms. Vaillancourt Murphy, "especially when victims' families reach out and say, 'Please don't take another life, this won’t help.'"

Their network has "grown exponentially" in the last 2 years, Ms. Vaillancourt Murphy reports. "We now see upwards of 1000 letters per clemency call." And last year across the United States there were 18 stays of execution; some were a matter of legal issues, while others involved state leaders stopping the process.

"We feel pretty excited that people feel connected to that effort," says Ms. Vaillancourt Murphy. "We see our role to really channel that call for clemency."

Contrary to prevailing narratives, C.M.N. finds that banning the death penalty often enjoys bipartisan support. "What we're finding is that the death penalty is not a liberal or conservative issue, a Democrat or Republican issue," she explains. So in Utah, for instance, a recent bill to end the death penalty was sponsored by Republicans, though it ultimately failed to reach the House floor. "They had tons of conservative support," says Ms. Vaillancourt Murphy.

"There are libertarians who argue the government can't even properly deliver the mail, how can they execute someone? But there's also just the cost of it [the overall appeals process]. It's exorbitantly expensive," she explains.

Despite the results of the 2016 vote, the constitutionality of the death penalty as currently administered in California remains tied up in state and federal court. Proposition 66 has also created new legal issues, the state legislature having used it to pass responsibility for the development of the process of execution to the state corrections agency. "We think this violates the separation of powers," says Linda Lye, senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California.

"Our elected leaders are responsible for setting policy," Ms. Lye says. "They don't want to have to decide the politically unappealing questions like how painful [an execution] should be, how quick it should be. But we think constitutionally they are required to."

In recent years some have also accused Gov. Jerry Brown, a Catholic who is personally opposed to the death penalty, of dragging his feet on setting executions back in motion. As he approaches retirement in January, others hope he will offer some final gesture of mercy to those on death row. California law prevents him from commuting the sentences of anyone convicted of two or more felonies (the Los Angeles Times reports that over half the people on death row fall into this category) without the support of the state’s Supreme Court. But on his own the governor could potentially offer stays of executions to the rest.

"The good news about California," says Ms. Vaillancourt Murphy, "is they've got some amazing groups on the ground making it really hard for the state to move forward with executions."

"But we really can't sit back," she notes. "If these couple of court challenges were ironed out, we could start seeing people being killed in California within the next year."

She also admits that grassroots letter writing has its limits. "I'm not going to say a constituent in Kentucky writing to the California governor has all the weight in the world," she says. "But it does have an impact, knowing that there are others are taking note of what a governor is doing, what their board of parole is doing.

"If you're not in a state that has the death penalty, you probably don't think about it that much. But it's still this practice that we use that's inhuman and contrary to the Gospel. So really it involves each one of us, and we all have a say on that."

(source: americanmagazine.org)

INDIA:

Death penalty for rapists of children below 12 years

The Centre on Saturday approved the ordinance to award death sentence to the rapists of children below the age of 12.

Following a meeting of the Union Cabinet here, the government cleared the amendment in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

In the wake of the gang-rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir's Kathua district, Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi had earlier expressed her ministry's intention to amend the POCSO to make provision for death penalty in such cases.

Soon after, the Centre submitted its report while responding to a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava in the Supreme Court, seeking maximum sentence of death penalty to those offenders involved in the rape and brutal murder of children between the age group of 0 to 12.

(source: aninews.in)

PAKISTAN:

Supreme Court fixes hearing on plea of mentally-ill convicted

The Supreme Court fixed the review petition of Imdad Ali, allegedly mentally-ill person challenging his death sentence, for hearing on April 21.

The hearing of the case was fixed after Ali's wife Safia filed an appeal at the top court's human rights cell.

The court summoned advocate general, prosecutor general and Ali's counsel on April 21 at the Supreme Court Lahore Registry.

Mentally-ill Imdad Ali was sentenced to death in 2001 over a cleric's killing. The inmate's condition has continued to worsen over time. Ali has repeatedly been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, the petition read. In 2016, the Supreme Court had upheld death penalty for Ali, ruling that schizophrenia was "not a mental illness" but a "recoverable disease".

(source: urdupoint.com)

MYANMAR:

President grants general amnesty for 8541 prisoners

President Win Myint granted a general amnesty for 8541 prisoners including 36 prisoners of conscience and 51 foreign ones to mark Myanmar New Year day which falls on April 17.

A total of 8490 prisoners were released on the presidential amnesty according to the notification No 17/2018 with the purpose of enabling the people to feel peace of mind and giving special attention to humanitarianism.

The president released 51 foreign prisoners granting a general amnesty according to the notification No 18/2018 with the intention of marking Myanmar New Year day, paying special attention to foreign relations and respecting humanitarianism. The foreign prisoners were deported back to their native countries they had come from.

Among the prisoners released on the presidential amnesty were 27 elderly persons of 80 years old and above, 25 elderly persons of 75 to 80 years old, 14 persons of ill health, 44 foreigners, 1462 persons of narcotic drug section 15, 3220 persons of narcotic drug section 16 (C), 1680 persons of narcotic drug section 15/16 (C), 141 persons of police disciplinary punishment, 36 prisoners of conscience, a female local prisoner and 2 Vietnamese prisoners, cited the writing from the Facebook of Zaw Htay, Director General of the State Counsellor Office.

A total of 58 prisoners were released from Thayawady Prison, northern part of Bago Region. Three prisoners of conscience including Ye Baw Than Gyoung, who got four death sentences and life sentence, were also released. Three prisoners of conscience are Ye Baw Than Gyoung, Major Win Naing Kyaw and Kyaw Hlaing.

"I can't believe that I am released. It is too early to say comments as I don't know how I stand," Ye Baw Than Gyoung said.

Ye Baw Than Gyoung is the person who got 4 death sentences and life sentence. Major Win Naing Kyaw is the person who got a death sentence and jail term for 28 years.

A total of 64 prisoners from Dawei Prison, Taninthayi Region were released on the presidential amnesty. There were 58 male prisoners and 6 female prisoners.

"Dawei Prison released a total of 64 prisoners as they were granted an amnesty. Before releasing the prisoners, the departmental officials gave advice to them. K 1000 was provided to each prisoner. I was not authorized to say which prisoner got what punishment," said the responsible person of Dawei Prison.

Pakokku Prison released a total of 22 prisoners as they were granted an amnesty. Similarly, Meiktila Prison released 64 prisoners, Myitkyina Prison, 470 prisoners, Paungte Prison, 15 prisoners, Monywa Prison, 41 prisoners, Pathein Prison, 47 prisoners, Katha Prison, 107 prisoners, Hpa-an Prison, 156 prisoners, Thayet Prison, 44 prisoners, Lashio Prison, 162 prisoners, Orebo Prison, 460 prisoners, Sittwe Prison, 87 prisoners, Myeik Prison, 293 prisoners, Hinthada Prison, 23 prisoners, and Buthidaung Prison, 58 prisoners including 23 Bangladeshis.

(source: elevenmyanmar.com)

IRAQ:

Iraq gives death sentence to Islamic State 'judge'

An Iraqi court has given the death penalty to a man who acted as a legislative judge in Mosul for the Islamic State (IS) when the group was in control of the city, said a judicial spokesman on Thursday.

The defendant, whose name was not specified, was reported to have been in charge of marriage contracts in Mosul and surrounding areas.

"The Nineveh Criminal Court sentenced an Islamic State militant to death," said Abdul Sattar al-Birqdar, spokesperson for Iraq's Higher Judicial Council, in a statement. "The convict used to work as a judge in the marriage contracts court, within the so-called legislative courts of Islamic State in Mosul."

1 day before, al-Birqdar and another judicial official announced that, since the beginning of the year, over 300 suspects have been handed death sentences for crimes related to IS membership.

The cases, being heard in federal courts in Baghdad and Nineveh provinces, also resulted in several hundred lesser sentences, including life imprisonment.

The rise of executions in the country has led the UN mission in Iraq, the EU, and international human rights groups to criticize Iraq for a lack of transparency in its courts.

"These executions follow rushed trials of ISIS suspects which are riddled with due process violations, including convictions based solely on confessions which are sometimes extracted by torture," said HRW senior Iraq researcher Belkis Wille in a press release on Tuesday.

The death penalty in Iraq was suspended on June 10, 2003, but was reinstated the following year. Critics say that the country's flawed and confession-based criminal justice system in which torture is routinely used to extract confessions is incompatible with so final a sentence as capital punishment.

Iraq's Justice Ministry announced on Monday that it had executed 13 convicted prisoners, 11 of them over charges of terrorism.

Last year, Iraqi forces arrested tens of thousands of those accused of being Islamic State (IS) members and affiliates, most of whom await sentencing.

(source: kurdistan24.net)

EGYPT:

Egyptian Court Approves Listing 46 Defendants as Terrorist

Egypt's Court of Cassation rejected on Thursday appeals submitted by 46 defendants over their placement on the terror list for their involvement in the assassination of former Prosecutor General Hesham Barakat in June 2015.

The court decision called for seizing the defendants' funds, canceling their passports, putting their names on the watch list and freezing of their funds.

Barakat was killed in 2015 when a bomb targeted his motorcade as it was passing through Cairo. Several guards and civilians were killed in the attack.

Cairo's Criminal Court had issued a decision to blacklist 56 defendants as terrorist based on a memorandum issued by the Attorney General.

46 have appealed the ruling.

The terror list includes a number of leaders of the banned Muslim Brotherhood.

In July 2017, the Cairo Criminal Court had issued sentences against 66 suspects in the case. 28 were given the death penalty, 15 were ordered to serve 25 years in jail, while the rest were sentenced to 15 years in maximum security prison.

According to investigations, the defendants belong to Muslim Brotherhood group, which is classified as a terrorist organization. They are accused of contacting fugitives leaders of the group abroad to prepare and target official Egyptian figures and attempting to create chaos and instability in the country to overthrow of the state.

(source: Asharq Al-Awsat)

IRAN:

Prisoner Executed in Northwestern Iran

A prisoner was hanged at Zanjan Central Prison on murder charges.

According to a close source, a prisoner who was sentenced to death on murder charges was executed on the morning of Sunday, April 15.

The prisoner was identified as Sabah Amani from Naqadeh. In 2011, he was arrested on the charge of murdering a taxi driver in Zanjan and had been in prison ever since.

A close source told IHR, "Sabah Amani worked at a gas station in Zanjan. He had sold 230 kilograms wheat to a taxi driver named Taher H., whom he knew for a long time, but Taher couldn't pay his money and Sabah murdered him."

The execution of this prisoner has not been announced by the state-run media so far.

According to Iran Human Rights annual report on the death penalty, 240 of the 517 execution sentences in 2017 were implemented due to murder charges. There is a lack of a classification of murder by degree in Iran which results in issuing a death sentence for any kind of murder regardless of intensity and intent.

(source: Hindustan Times)

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

Students Advocate for Academic Sentenced to Death

Ahmadreza Djalali, a 45-year-old Iranian-born Swedish resident and specialist in disaster medicine, has been imprisoned and sentenced to death by Iranian officials in what Amnesty International called "a grossly unfair trial." Illinois Wesleyan University 1st-year students and members of the Advocacy Risk Seminar, Jonathan Panton '21 and Tatum Zsorey '21, advocated for Djalali's release at the second annual Student Advocacy Day in Washington D.C., March 8-9.

Sponsored by the IWU Center on Human Rights and Social Justice, the Advocacy Seminar is affiliated with Scholars at Risk, a non-profit organization that advocates for academics being held in foreign countries. At the beginning of each academic year, Scholars at Risk sends a list of potential scholars who are prisoners of conscience to university organizations who advocate for academics abroad. Although Zsorey said it was difficult to choose one scholar, members of IWU's Advocacy Seminar ultimately chose to advocate for Djalali, who was arrested in Iran while attending a business trip.

"I became particularly passionate and thankful that I could advocate for Dr. Djalali when I learned of the horrible conditions he has been facing in prison, the unfair justice system that Iran has used to prosecute him and the unjust sentencing he has received," said Zsorey, an international studies major and environmental studies minor. "After understanding the complex implications of Dr. Djalali's case, I became more and more ardent about wanting to help him."

Arrested by Iranian authorities on April 25, 2016, Djalili was denied access to a lawyer for 7 months and held in solitary confinement for three months, according to Amnesty International. Although Amnesty said no evidence has ever been presented to show that Djalili is anything other than "an academic peacefully pursuing his profession," he has been accused of being a spy and threatened with the death penalty. Amnesty said Iran is using Djalali's work as a doctor in disaster medicine, his studies and teachings in Europe, and his residency to fabricate these claims.

Djalali Family Ahmadreza Djalali has a wife and 2 children.

"Our defense on behalf of Dr. Djalali was that he was simply a professor of disaster medicine who is unlawfully incarcerated in Iran. He was convicted of collaborating with Israel, which does not make any sense considering that he does not have any ties to Israel," said Panton, a business administration major. "We hope that Dr. Djalali is released because he has a wife and 2 children back home."

Working together with seminar participant Emma Cottrell '21, Panton and Zsorey compiled a research case file defending Djalali and presented their findings before staff members in the offices of Congressmen Danny Davis and Rodney Davis in Washington D.C. on Advocacy Day.

"I personally had an amazing time in D.C.," Zsorey said. "There's a vibrant atmosphere that surrounds the city that made me feel as though the work I was doing was real and actually mattered."

Zsorey said she and Panton received positive responses in D.C. She said the aids agreed to pass on Djalali's case file and talk with the Congressmen about possible measures of action that could be taken to support Djalali.

"We are currently working with both offices to draft a joint letter in support of the Swedish government, who has done a lot to help get Dr. Djalali freed," Zsorey said.

In addition to lobbying their case, Panton and Zsorey, along with 30 students from over 8 universities, heard advice on international human rights advocacy work from experts at the State Department and other non-governmental organizations. Panton said these presentations helped students gain a better understanding of advocacy.

"The most important thing that I learned about advocacy is that you need to tie your mission to their interests - give them a reason to support your cause," Panton said.

Advocacy Group Students gathered for Student Advocacy Day in Washington D.C.

"One of the most important things I learned was that being an advocate means being active," Zsorey said. "You have to actively seek out those who can support you and care about what you’re doing, whether they be members of Congress, NGOs, or other advocacy groups. Advocacy isn't easy, and nothing magically happens unless you put in the time and effort."

Zsorey said organizations such as IWU's Advocacy Seminar have given her the opportunity to be active, as they are "widely applicable beyond the classroom." "Even though I am only a 1st-year student, I feel as though I've always been more aware of the injustices plaguing the world more than the typical person my age. However, I always believed that there wasn't much I could do as a student," Zsorey said. "The Advocacy Day allowed me to realize that there is so much work one student or one group of students can do in advocating on behalf of others."

Panton said the real-world experiences he has gained as a member of Advocacy Seminar have allowed him to make a real difference.

"I believe events such as Advocacy Day and clubs such as Advocacy Seminar are important because they spread awareness to issues that would otherwise go unnoticed," Panton said. "It is incredible to have this real-world experience as a freshman because I am doing whatever I can to protect another human being. The fact of the matter is that Dr. Djalali is a person, and as a person, he deserves all of the inalienable human rights that everyone else deserves."

(source: iwu.edu)

APRIL 20, 2018:

TEXAS:

Warden Describes Life on Death Row in Delacruz Testimony

Texas Department of Criminal Justice prison warden Stephen Bryant testified about living conditions on death row for jurors in the Isidro Delacruz trial on April 3, 2018.

Jurors unanimously sentenced Delacruz to death late Tuesday for the murder of 5-year-old Naiya Villegas on Sept. 2, 2014.

District Judge Ben Woodard told Delacruz his case was automatically appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the highest criminal state court in Texas. He also informed Delacruz that he had appointed Hilary Sheard as his appellant attorney. Sheard will work with Delacruz's current court-appointed attorneys to begin the mandatory appeal of his capital murder conviction.

Sheard is a capital murder appellant qualified indigent defense attorney.

There are 229 male inmates on Texas death row. Isidro Delacruz will be the only inmate from Tom Green County.

Bryant is Senior Warden at the Pam Lychner State Prison in Humble, TX and spent 8 years working on Texas death row in the Allan B. Polunsky unit in Livingston, TX.

As we reported earlier, Bryant testified that offenders sentenced to death are sent to the Polunsky Unit in Livingston. He told attorneys that death row inmates are confined to their 6 ft. by 10 ft. cells 22 hours a day and are allowed just 2 hours a day for recreation. Recreation is allowed in a concrete walled room about the size of an average garage. Death row inmates are not allowed contact visits according to Bryant. The warden told attorneys there are different levels of offenders on death row based upon their level of obeying prison rules.

Bryant said the typical day in the life of an inmate on death row begins at 3 to 3:30 a.m. when they serve breakfast. He said that's because the general population is served breakfast at 3 to 3:30 a.m. because all offenders are required to have a job and many of those jobs begin at 4 a.m. to 5 a.m. and many inmates need medications at that time. Those meds would include insulin for diabetics, and etc.

Under questioning from District Attorney Allison Palmer, Bryant testified that the difference between offenders sentenced to death and those sentenced to life in prison without parole is significant. Death row inmates remain in their cells, don't have jobs and are not allowed contact visits ever. A death row inmate's visit is restricted to non-contact through a glass window and talking over a phone.

Bryant testified that death row offenders are provided services "Cell side." That is, they receive almost all benefits in their cells. Offenders sentenced to life must leave their cells and walk to appointments for medical service, educational service, counseling and jobs. Bryant told attorneys that all offenders in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice must be assigned a job. Some are not physically able to work, but they have an assigned job anyway. Death row offenders do not work, however.

Bryant said offenders are served lunch from 9:30 to 10:00 a.m. and then supper starts at 3:30 p.m.

Death row offenders are strip searched, shackled and accompanied by 2 corrections officers every time they leave their cells. There are no televisions on death row, only radios.

Bryant described to attorneys how death row offenders are treated when they leave their cells. They are strip searched. They take off all their clothing and show all their body cavities to corrections officers. Then they re-dress and place their hands behind their back through a slot in the cell door so corrections officers can handcuff them. Then 2 corrections officers shackle their feet and grab them by the upper arm and take them to where ever they are appointed to be.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, inmates sentenced to death on average spend 10 years on death row and many spend at least 20 years awaiting execution.

(source: sanangelolive.com)

NEW HAMPSHIRE:

The Christian case against death penalty

Writing about death penalty repeal, Chuck Douglas asked, "Why should the Dylann Roofs of this world who said, 'I do not regret what I did' be spared?" (Monitor Forum, April 5)

I can offer at least 2 answers from my perspective as the executive director of the New Hampshire Council of Churches. This body is made up of 9 denominations, all of which oppose the death penalty for faith reasons.

First, the death penalty fails to respect the wishes of the victims' families. Douglas noted that the mass murder took place in "a famous church" but failed to remember that the families affected publicly asked for forgiveness and mercy for Roof. By urging or mandating capital punishment, we neglect their deeply Christian desires.

During the Senate and House testimony, many family members of murder victims urge repeal as well. We must value their wishes over shouts of revenge.

2nd, Douglas emphasizes Roof's lack of remorse as a reason for the death penalty. But Christians know that God can bring any person to remorse and rehabilitation, to repentance and redemption. For the Christian, no person is ever "too evil to live." Urging the death penalty presumes that we know better than God and forever closes off the work of the Holy Spirit to change hearts.

Let's listen to victims and their families. Let's listen to the better angels of forgiveness, redemption and the sacredness of life. Let’s turn New Hampshire's death penalty into a life sentence. Let's vote in favor of Senate Bill 593.

Rev. JASON WELLS

Pembroke

(source: Letter to the Editor, Concord Monitor)

MASSACHUSETTS:

Lawmaker Calls For Death Penalty After Murder Of Yarmouth Officer

The murder of Yarmouth Police Sergeant Sean Gannon has some Republican lawmakers calling for the death penalty in such cases, and Governor Charlie Baker supports the idea.

"After the death of (Auburn) Officer (Ronald) Tarentino there was outrage and frustration and sadness but unfortunately there was no action," says Representative Shaunna O'Connell of Taunton.

Now more outrage and more sadness, in the killing of Sgt. Gannon allegedly at the hands of a career criminal. O'Connell says it's time to send a clear message that Massachusetts protects the men and women who protect everyone else.

"We're talking about a very small part of the population. Cop killers. The worst criminals among us. If you're going to kill a cop, we need to send a message you're going to face that same fate," said O'Connell.

Governor Baker told WGBH News he's supported the idea for years, as police put themselves in danger every day.

"There's really no other job I can think of where you simply don't know what's going to happen from one minute to the next. There ought to be a measure in there that reflects that," Baker said.

Other lawmakers in the Democrat-controlled legislature, including Senate President Harriette Chandler, oppose re-opening the debate. But O’Connell argues life without parole isn't enough - it's more dangerous.

"When you kill a cop you go to jail and you're a hero in that prison. It puts the lives of corrections officers in great danger because these people have nothing to lose. They're in for life without parole. What's to stop them from trying to kill a department of corrections officer as well?" O'Connell said.

Massachusetts' Major City Chiefs of Police Association said after Gannon's funeral they planned to discuss possible legislation, including the death penalty. Massachusetts last executed someone in 1947.

In 1984 the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that a death penalty law approved by voters was unconstitutional. In 2013, lawmakers debated but ultimately shelved a proposal to reinstate the punishment after the deadly Boston Marathon bombings.

(source: CBS news)

FLORIDA:

Jury decides: Life in prison - not death penalty - for Sanel Saint-Simon

Jurors in the case against convicted killer Sanel Saint-Simon unanimously decided that he should get life behind bars - rather than a death sentence - for the murder of 16-year-old Alexandria Chery.

The jury deliberated for just over an hour before reaching its decision.

Alexandria's mother Rosalie Joseph, and her older brother, Fanzo Chery, sat silently in court as the verdict was read. Saint-Simon smiled and thanked his defense attorneys and the courtroom deputies.

"I honestly can say that they wanted justice, and they thought justice will be either or," prosecutor Ryan Williams said of the jurors' decision. "I just know that Rosalie Joseph told me it's gonna be ok, and she's happy, and that makes me feel better. That's the most important."

Saint-Simon, 47, was convicted in February of murdering 16-year-old Alexandria, an Olympia High School student and the daughter of Joseph, Saint-Simon's then-long-time girlfriend. Saint-Simon helped raise Alexandria since she was about 5 years old, and her family has said he sexually abused her before her murder.

The same jury that convicted him of 1st-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and lying to investigators in a missing child's case returned to court this week to hear more testimony and determine whether Saint-Simon should be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole or to death.

In their final arguments to the jurors, attorneys for both the prosecution and defense brought up mercy.

"Justice is getting what you deserve," Williams told jurors Thursday. "That is a brute definition. Mercy is deliverance from that justice. It's a powerful concept, mercy, one we're all familiar with. But make no mistake that it forsakes justice."

But Assistant Public Defender Erin Hyde suggested the 2 concepts can go together, telling jurors that "justice is tempered by mercy."

"It is a life worth saving," Hyde said of Saint-Simon. "It is a life that you should save. He never will be released, he never will breathe the air of a free man. And that alone is the punishment he should suffer."

In arguing for Saint-Simon's execution, prosecutors presented 4 factors outlined in Florida's death penalty statute for which jurors can impose the death penalty.

The jurors found the state had proved 2 of those factors beyond a reasonable doubt: that the murder was committed while Saint-Simon was engaged in aggravated child abuse; and that Alexandria was especially vulnerable, because Saint-Simon was in a position of parental or custodial authority over her.

But jurors determined the state did not prove the other 2 aggravating factors: that the murder was especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel; and that the crime was carried out in a cold, calculated, and premeditated fashion. The proven aggravating factors were not enough to impose death, jurors determined.

As the courtroom clerk read the verdict, Fanzo Chery sat leaning forward, his forearms resting on his legs and hands covering part of his face. His mother sat 1 row behind him, looking straight ahead.

Joseph is the person who reported Alexandria missing on July 28, 2014, when she came home and found her daughter gone and her belongings missing from her bedroom.

Landscapers found Alexandria's body on the Osceola-Polk county line on Aug. 1, 2014. Her body was decomposing and a medical examiner could not determine a cause of death, but found skull fractures and stab wounds on her body.

This week jurors heard from Alexandria's family and friends, who described her always-smiling face and the pain her death brought them.

They also heard from Alexandria's ex-boyfriend, who said the she told him Saint-Simon touched her inappropriately at least 4 times in the months before she was killed.

Saint-Simon's family members testified via video from Haiti, where he was born and raised. They described his poor childhood in a rural part of the country and how he went on to succeed, becoming a ferry boat captain and then immigrating to the U.S. in 1999 and sending money back to family and his 3 children there.

"That isn't to excuse what you have found in your verdict," Hyde said. "It is to show you the life of Sanel Saint-Simon, a man who sent money back to the very mother who abandoned him on his grandmother's doorstep, a woman who didn't even know him."

Saint-Simon's case was one of 29 Gov. Rick Scott took away from Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala after she announced last year that she would not seek the death penalty in any case. She has since created a review board to weigh possible death-penalty cases.

Williams, who worked for Ayala's office, left his job to join Ocala-based prosecutor Brad King, to whom Scott reassigned the 29 cases. He has been prosecuting many of the cases taken from his old office.

"The really important thing is that jurors made the decision, it wasn't made for them by somebody else," Williams said after the verdict.

Saint-Simon will be back in court May 18 for a formal sentencing hearing.

(source: Orlando Sentinel)

ALABAMA----execution

Walter Leroy Moody executed for 1989 murder of federal judge

Walter Leroy Moody has been executed for the 1989 murder of a federal judge, the office of Gov. Kay Ivey confirms.

Earlier Thursday evening the U.S. Supreme Court lifted a stay of execution that temporarily halted Alabama's execution of Walter Leroy Moody, Jr. The order cleared the way for the execution to proceed.

Ivey released the following statement after the sentence was carried out:

I approach every execution by giving the condemned, and the issues raised by the underlying case, the careful consideration both deserve. My ultimate desire is to see justice rightly administered.

"Mr. Moody was convicted of killing Federal Judge Robert Vance and severely injuring Judge Vance's wife with a bomb purposefully created to kill and maim. The crimes committed by Mr. Moody were intentional, well-planned and aimed at inflicting the most possible harm. A jury found him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and his conviction has been upheld at every level of the judicial system.

"For our system of government to work properly, the judiciary must be able to operate without undue outside influence. By targeting and murdering a respected jurist, Mr. Moody not only committed capital murder, he also sought to interrupt the flow of justice. After considering the facts of his horrendous and intentional crime, I have allowed Mr. Moody's sentence to be carried out in accordance with the laws of this state and in the interest of ensuring justice for the victim and his family.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall also released a statement after the execution:

Nearly 30 years ago, 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Robert Vance was brutally slain when a pipe bomb sent to his Birmingham home exploded. Walter Leroy Moody was convicted of Judge Vance's murder in both federal and state courts. Even though he was also convicted of a similar pipe bomb death of a Georgia attorney, Moody has spent the better part of 3 decades trying to avoid justice. Tonight, Mr. Moody's appeals finally came to a rightful end. Justice has been served.

The 83-year-old had appealed to the nation's highest court, citing vein issues as his execution loomed.

A package bomber who created a wave of terror across the South in the 1980s, Moody was executed by lethal injection at Holman Correctional Facility.

The execution was slated to happen nearly 30 years after Moody killed Robert S. Vance, a federal judge, with a bomb mailed to his home.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Moody was the oldest inmate put to death in the United States in modern times.

Moody was also convicted in federal court of killing a black civil rights attorney from Savannah, Georgia, and mailing a bomb to a civil rights organization.

Moody becomes the 2nd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Alabama and the 63rd overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1983.

Moody becomes the 8th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1473rd overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

INDIANA:

Attorneys address possible sentencing with jurors in Darren Vann's death penalty case

The defense team for a man accused of killing 7 women want jurors to know what could potentially happen at sentencing in his death penalty case, court records show.

Last month, Darren Vann's attorneys filed 3 pages of proposed paragraphs for juror questionnaires explaining what they'd be tasked with if Vann were found guilty.

These types of paragraphs are something Indiana death penalty experts said they've seen before.

"Anything that would reveal a prospective juror's attitudes toward capital punishment is, at least potentially, fair game - because that is what the juror may be asked to decide at the end of the case," Joe Hoffmann, an Indiana University law professor, said in an email.

Vann, 47, is scheduled for trial in October, with jury selection beginning in September, in the deaths of Afrikka Hardy, 19, of Chicago, and Anith Jones, 35, of Merrillville, records show.

In 2014, police found Hardy's body in a bathtub at a Motel 6 in Hammond and Jones' body in the basement of a vacant home on East 43rd Avenue in Gary, according to court records.

Vann faces more murder charges, in a case that will be tried separately, in the deaths of Teaira Batey, 28, of Gary; Tracy Martin, 41, of Gary; Kristine Williams, 36, of Gary; Sonya Billingsley, 52, of Gary; and Tanya Gatlin, 27, of Highland.

If a jury finds Vann guilty at his 1st trial, "the jury's service will not be over," the defense's proposed paragraphs state. Jurors would then have to decide between 3 sentences: death by lethal injection, life in prison without the possibility of parole or a prison term of 45 to 65 years for each of their deaths, court records show.

Prosecutors wrote their own proposal, which is 2 paragraphs long, in response to the defense, according to court records. Judge Samuel Cappas ordered the state's proposed language be included in juror questionnaires.

"The decision whether to impose a sentence of death is one the law leaves entirely up to the jurors," prosecutors said in their paragraphs.

Each juror "must ultimately make an individual judgment" on what sentence to impose, but the law "never requires" them to vote for 1 sentence over the other, the state said.

All 12 jurors have to unanimously agree "death is the only appropriate sentence" before it's imposed, and the judge must follow their determination, according to prosecutors.

The defense wanted to include what would happen if jurors couldn't reach a unanimous decision, according to their paragraphs. In that case, "then the judge, sitting alone as the fact finder, will make a determination" of the sentence, the document states.

None of this is "to imply that Mr. Vann is guilty," the defense added. But "it is important that we know your opinions and feelings regarding punishment," their proposal states.

It's difficult to know the exact motives of why attorneys proposed what they did, but there are a variety of possible reasons, according to Hoffman and Richard Kammen, an Indianapolis attorney.

"One of the realities is that the average person, and there's no reason they should, just has no idea of the complexity of the system and sort of the cumbersome nature of it," Kammen said. Attorneys may be trying to be efficient by giving jurors background of what they’re tasked with before a judge gives further explanation in court, he said.

Another reason could be the defense is "worried about the possibility of a split verdict on the death penalty," Hoffman said, and they want to let jurors know that would "take the decision out of the hands of the jury and leave the decision to the judge."

"In other words, the defense attorneys might be trying to find prospective jurors who don't want to leave it up to the judge, but want to keep the decision in the hands of the jury and would be willing to keep trying to reach a unanimous sentencing verdict," Hoffman said.

Death penalty cases are a long and complex process, they said.

"As a general rule, working on a death penalty case is probably a commitment of 1,500 to 2,000 hours per year just working on the case," Kammen said.

The paragraphs the defense proposed would go on page 37 of the questionnaire regarding "questions about the death penalty," and attorneys are still working on finishing those, court records show.

"Obviously, capital defense attorneys will try to take advantage of any possible opportunity to learn more about the people who might be selected to serve on a capital jury, and to figure out how they might be persuaded to vote for life," Hoffman said. "That is the No. 1 job of a good capital defense attorney."

(soruce: Chicago Tribune)

ARKANSAS:

Pastor/judge repeats controversial death penalty protest

An Arkansas judge and pastor of a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship church participated in an anti-death penalty demonstration this week, re-enacting symbolic speech that a year ago led to his being barred from hearing capital punishment cases.

Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen, pastor of New Millennium Church in Little Rock, Ark., strapped himself on a cot and lay motionless Tuesday night during a vigil outside the governor's mansion. The vigil was for 4 inmates put to death in Arkansas last year, victims of violent crime and prisoners currently on death row.

Media photos of the judge and pastor posing similarly at a death penalty protest on Good Friday 2017 prompted the Arkansas Supreme Court to permanently ban him from all civil and criminal cases involving capital punishment, the death penalty or the method of execution in Arkansas.

Last October Griffen filed a civil right lawsuit accusing the justices of violating his First Amendment and 14th Amendment rights and claiming the sanction against him was racially motivated.

Griffen said on his blog April 18 he is as committed to both the rule of law and expressing his moral and religious opposition to the death penalty as he was a year ago, "if not more so."

Griffen said when his authority to preside over capital cases is restored, he will follow state law making death by lethal injection a punishment for capital murder, but his obligation to follow the law does not to compel him to agree with it.

"The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects my freedom to hold and express moral and religious opposition to the death penalty, including freedom to peacefully and lawfully question the morality of state-sanctioned premeditated and deliberate killing of people who have been convicted for the premeditated and deliberate killing of other persons," Griffen wrote.

"If a person who has been convicted of premeditated murder is deliberately and premeditatedly killed, we should condemn that killing as murder," he continued. "Murder is wrong, even when the state hires people to do it. Anger and bloodlust are not excuses for the state to commit premeditated murder of people who have committed premeditated murder for an understandable reason. 2 wrongs don't make anything right."

Last June Cooperative Baptist Fellowship leaders traveled to Arkansas to show support for Griffen's right to express his religious beliefs while serving as an elected judge. In February, Griffen publicly criticized the CBF for instituting a partial ban on LGBTQ hiring and said he would ask his church to revisit its relationship with the 1,800-church Fellowship in light of the policy.

(source: Baptist News)

OKLAHOMA:

Oklahoma Officials Endorse Nitrogen Executions As 'Humane,' But Some Medical Experts Aren't Sure

Oklahoma wants to go where no state has gone before: Executing death row inmates with nitrogen gas. Officials say nitrogen will bring quick, painless deaths, but the research is slim - and it has never been used in U.S. executions.

The case for nitrogen hypoxia sounds simple. Nitrogen is already in the air we breathe, but, as long as humans get the right mix, nitrogen is safe. The state wants to make death row inmates breathe pure nitrogen.

State Sen. Ervin Yen, R-Oklahoma City, is a cardiac anesthesiologist who signed his name to the bill that made nitrogen hypoxia a legal execution method in 2015. He says the inmates would die from "lack of oxygen," not exposure to nitrogen.

Yen says this is not the same as choking to death, during which the "blood level of carbon dioxide would go up drastically." That carbon dioxide buildup is the primary reason for discomfort, Yen said. "Like, anxiety, and you might start sweating, and your blood pressure might go up."

Yen says when a person breathes nitrogen, they're still exhaling carbon dioxide which means they won't feel the same painful carbon dioxide buildup. They'll go to sleep and if they don't get oxygen, they'll eventually die.

In Yen's medical opinion, nitrogen hypoxia would not be painful and it wouldn't fall under the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

ROAD TO NITROGEN

This isn't the 1st time Oklahoma pioneered a way to execute people. The state was also 1st to write lethal injections into law after a 1976 Supreme Court ruling ended a nationwide death penalty ban.

Nearly 40 years and 112 executions later, manufacturers stopped supplying the lethal drugs needed for the injections. Inability to find the right drugs led to national outrage when Oklahoma botched 2 executions.

Lawmakers wanted a fix. They changed the law so death row inmates could be executed by nitrogen hypoxia - another method no state had ever tried. Legislators, including Yen, voted overwhelmingly in favor of the new method.

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said in a March 2018 news conference pilots and scuba divers who recalled what it's like to nearly die from losing oxygen was evidence nitrogen hypoxia would be a painless death.

Hunter and his office reference studies on nitrogen gas used in suicides and its effects in accidental deaths. Some studies exist but, a spokesperson for the office couldn't name specific studies staff reviewed.

Hunter also claimed nitrogen is used in physician-assisted deaths in states and countries where it is legal.

Dr. David Grube, a medical director for nonprofit Compassion and Choices, which advocates for physician-assisted deaths, says U.S. doctors that are helping terminally ill patients end their lives would never prescribe inert gas. Grube says he doesn't know whether or not death by nitrogen hypoxia would be painless because he never used the gas in his nearly 40 years of practice.

Dr. Catherine Forest, a physician who practiced family medicine for over 25 years and teaches at Stanford University School of Medicine in California, where physician-assisted death for patients in their final 6 months of life is legal, says no matter the method, executions can't be compared with physician-assisted deaths.

Physician-assisted deaths and executions "are very different medical situations," she said. "One is a healthy individual and the other is a dying human being."

Forest also says doctors can and have studied how people die during physician-assisted deaths in a way that can't be done for executions. She believes studies on death penalty methods would be unethical.

"I don't know that we can identify in a healthy population what would be a comfortable or a non-painful death of a healthy person under these settings," Forest said.

'WE KNOW WHAT HAPPENS'

Michael Copeland, an attorney and professor at East Central University in Ada, researched nitrogen for a Legislative study to find out whether the gas could be used to execute people. Copeland says he has "100 % confidence that we know what happens when a person doesn't breathe oxygen."

Copeland's team concluded nitrogen would be constitutional, the gas would be easy to acquire and the state wouldn't need doctors to help use it on inmates. The researchers, who aren't medical doctors but say they consulted with physicians, concluded it would be a "humane" alternative.

Copeland says there is no need for a medical study on the new execution method because officials can "infer" what would happen if nitrogen or another inert gas is used in a death chamber.

"I can see no reason to believe it would be any different because you're intentionally doing it for a death penalty than if it was for suicide, or an industrial accident, or scuba diving accident, or a pilot," he said.

While Copeland and Yen believe the merits of the death penalty are up for public debate, they both say the effects of nitrogen hypoxia are clear.

State officials in March said the state is in the early days of creating its new nitrogen execution protocol. Once the state has finalized the procedure, they've agreed to wait 5 months to give inmates and their attorneys time to review it.

StateImpact Oklahoma is a partnership among Oklahoma's public radio stations and relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online.

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(source: KGOU news)

CALIFORNIA:

Fight to resume executions in California clears one hurdle----The court ruled in 2012 that the state failed to follow proper procedures when it set standards for conducting executions using 3 drugs

A judge on Tuesday lifted his own court's previous order blocking California from carrying out death sentences by lethal injection, but the decision is far from the final word on the contentious issue because of several ongoing lawsuits.

Marin County Superior Court Judge Roy Chernus said in a tentative order that a 2016 ballot measure approved by voters to resume executions invalidated his prior injunction blocking the death penalty. Chernus ruled in 2012 that the state failed to follow proper procedures when it set standards for conducting executions using three drugs.

Voters approved Proposition 66, however, which did away with the requirement that the state follow those procedures. Chernus said that left him with "no alternative but to dissolve the permanent injunction."

A tentative ruling gives the parties a chance to change the judge's mind before a final decision.

Steve Mayer, an attorney who argued against lifting the injunction, said he does not plan to contest the judge's decision, so it will become final. But Mayer said Chernus’ ruling was narrow, and the case was a small part of the ongoing fight to resume executions.

"There are a lot of moving parts here," he said.

The case in Marin County is one of four in the courts holding up executions. No executions can take place until all the cases are resolved.

California has the nation's largest death row with nearly 750 inmates. Only 13 have been executed since 1978. Currently, condemned inmates are more likely to die of old age during decades of appeals.

The 2016 voter-approved ballot measure attempted to remove regulatory hurdles to executions.

State officials and a former NFL player whose family was murdered, Kermit Alexander, wanted Chernus to lift his injunction on executions.

They said California now has the necessary regulations to execute condemned inmates using a single dose of powerful barbiturates. Judges previously rejected the state's 3-drug method of carrying out executions, forcing the adoption of new rules this year.

Alexander was a proponent of the ballot measure designed to streamline death penalty regulations and appeals and speed executions. His mother, sister and 2 nephews were murdered in 1984.

"This injunction harms the public interest, and it harms the particular interests of families who have already waited far too long for justice," his motion stated.

Opponents counter that the state must still go through the normal time-consuming regulatory process for procedures related to executions that were not specifically exempted by the ballot measure.

That includes things like determining if an inmate has become insane behind bars, selecting witnesses to executions, and disposing of inmates' bodies and property.

Death penalty opponents plan to fight the state's new execution method in federal court. 2 other procedural challenges are underway.

A separate lawsuit filed last month in Marin County by condemned inmate Jarvis Jay Masters and the nonprofit organization Witness to Innocence challenges the new execution rules on similar procedural grounds.

Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California contends in legal action that state lawmakers cannot delegate the responsibility for drafting execution regulations to unelected prison officials.

Officials say those three procedural cases must likely be resolved before a separate legal battle before U.S. District Court Judge Richard Seeborg of San Francisco renews the fight over how to humanely execute condemned murderers.

His predecessor on the bench ruled in 2006 that the previous execution method violated the 8th Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Seeborg will have to decide if the new process is humane.

"Are all these appropriate safeguards in place to avoid the substantial risk of severe pain? Those remain real questions," said Linda Lye, a senior ACLU staff attorney.

David Senior, one of the attorneys representing condemned inmates in that case, said death penalty opponents are likely to challenge how executioners are selected and trained, which facilities and equipment they use, and how the lethal drugs are selected, mixed and stored.

The main objection has been whether the barbiturates allowed under the new rules can be safely obtained. The rules call for using either pentobarbital or thiopental, depending on which is more readily available.

The federal government bars importing thiopental and the maker of pentobarbital prohibits using it in executions.

The state regulations allow for buying the drugs from compounding pharmacies, but those businesses may have trouble importing the ingredients, said Ana Zamora, formerly an ACLU criminal justice policy director.

Zamora also questioned how the state would guarantee the chemicals would be properly mixed, increasing the possibility of botched executions. Inmates can also choose the gas chamber.

"It's the nature of the death penalty litigation that they fight everything they can," said Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation that advocates for crime victims and is pushing to resume executions.

(source: eastbaytimes.com)

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

Kern County judge releases man who's been on death row for 26 years----Vincente Benavides, 68, released from prison

A Kern County judge decided Thursday to set free a man who's been on death row for 26 years.

Vicente Benavides, 68, was freed from San Quinton Prison Thursday afternoon.

The judge said all Benavides' charges were changed to not guilty. His defense attorney told 23ABC that Benavides will not have to return to Kern County.

On Tuesday, District Attorney Lisa Green made the announcement that her office would not file charges against Benavides, saying the case would be nearly impossible to retry in court. She said it would be very difficult to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt of Benavides' guilt.

According to a decision released by the California Supreme Court last month, the convictions of Vicente Benavides in 1993 "were based on false evidence and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel."

The decision also says that "false evidence was introduced at trial and that petitioner's convictions of substantive sexual offenses, special-circumstance findings, and judgment of death must be vacated."

Benavides was convicted in 1993 of 1st-degree murder, rape, and other charges. He was sentenced to life. He was serving his term on death row in San Quentin.

It was asked that his murder conviction be reduced to 2nd-degree murder. That was also thrown out.

The judgment has been vacated entirely. Benavides' defense attorney says his client's case is extremely rare, saying only 2 similar cases have occurred since the death penalty was reinstated in the 1970's.

The California Supreme Court cited multiple doctors who evaluated 21-month-old Consuelo Verdugo in November 1991 when she died. The baby was taken from the Delano Regional Medical Center to Kern Medical Center then eventually the UCLA Medical Center where she died November 25, 1991.

Multiple reports were made by doctors who said based on the inability to insert a catheter, bruising found near Consuelo's genitalia and other factors, they believed she had been sexually assaulted.

(source: turnto23.com)

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

Prosecutors Seek Death Penalty in Coachella Valley Craigslist Killing

Prosecutors will seek the death penalty against a man accused of gunning down a Cathedral City resident who was trying to sell his car to the defendant.

Gabriel Gaytan Cardenas, 33, is charged with murder and several special circumstance allegations, including murder for financial gain, lying in wait, and murder in the commission of a robbery, carjacking and a felony in the Nov. 11, 2014 killing of 46-year-old Victor Mendoza. Mendoza's body was found in a desert area of Coachella one week after he allegedly met with Cardenas.

Prosecutors filed their notice of intent to seek the death penalty on Wednesday.

Mendoza posted an ad on Craigslist for his Mercedes-Benz, and after an initial meeting with Cardenas about the car, called friends "and expressed concerns over selling the vehicle to Cardenas," according to a declaration filed in support of an arrest warrant.

On Nov. 11, Mendoza asked a friend to be at a Del Taco restaurant on Varner Road and Washington Street in Palm Desert while he finalized a deal with Cardenas, and she watched as the defendant got into the Mercedes with the victim and drove off, according to the declaration.

Mendoza's friend talked to him on the phone shortly after the two men left and said he was acting strangely. Cardenas later called her on Mendoza's phone, saying Mendoza had inadvertently left it behind after selling him the car, according to the declaration prepared by sheriff's Investigator Sean Freeman.

Mendoza was reported missing the following day.

On Nov. 15, Cardenas was driving Mendoza's car when he met with a man and his son in response to their Craigslist car ad, according to the declaration. Cardenas met the pair again 2 days later, again under the guise of buying their car. He allegedly brandished a gun and threatened to kill them, while also admitting to Mendoza's murder.

However, he let them go since one of the men "reminded him of his father" and "they had been nice to (him) during the 1st meeting" and took their car, the declaration states.

Cardenas was arrested later that day in Indio while driving the father and son's car, and investigators found his cell phone number in both victims' phone records, according to Freeman.

Cardenas allegedly told the investigators that he was in debt to a Mexican drug cartel and was ordered by the cartel to meet Mendoza. He alleged that he delivered Mendoza to a cartel member, who drove them to Coachella, and the cartel member shot Mendoza. Cardenas later led investigators to where the body was found, according to the declaration.

In a 2nd interview, Cardenas told investigators that he met with Mendoza at the Del Taco in Palm Desert and had him drive to Coachella, the declaration says.

"Cardenas told Mendoza to get on his knees and to say a prayer for Cardenas. Cardenas then shot Mendoza in the back of the head and left the body," the document states. "Cardenas still claimed that he committed the murder on behalf of a drug cartel that he owed money."

Cardenas remains held without bail at the Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility in Banning. He's next due in court Monday for a trial-readiness conference.

(source: KMIR news)

UNITED KINGDOM:

Bishop Lang welcomes worldwide decline of death sentences and executions

The lead Bishop for international affairs has welcomed the decline of the death penalty across the world and called on Catholics to help "make this the generation that ends capital punishment for good."

Statistics released last week show that the number of recorded death sentences and executions fell in 2017, while the total number of countries to abolish the death penalty in law or practice rose to 142.

More than 900 people were executed across 23 countries.

Bishop Declan Lang responded: "Pope Francis reminded us last year that the death penalty is an inhumane measure and contrary to the Gospel. We are closer than ever to achieving global abolition and should redouble our efforts to make this the generation that ends capital punishment for good."

Calling for action from the UK he stated: "I urge our government to use every opportunity including diplomacy, trade negotiations, and forthcoming discussions with our Commonwealth partners, to continue pushing for abolition of the death penalty wherever it still exits. I hope our Catholic community will also play its part through prayer and advocacy for those facing this ultimate attack on human dignity."

(source: Independent Catholic News)

IRELAND:

64 years ago today, Ireland executed a person for the last time----Michael Manning was the last person executed in Ireland.

On April 20, 1954, Michael Manning, a 25-year-old man from Limerick, became the 29th and last person to be legally executed in Ireland.

By 1964 the death penalty was abolished for all cases apart from the murder of police, diplomats, and prison officers. It was abolished by statute for the remaining offenses in 1990 and was expunged from the Constitution of Ireland by referendum in 2001.

The Limerick man, the last man executed at the hands of the state, was found guilty of the rape and murder of Catherine Cooper (65) who worked at Barrington's Hospital, in the city. The crime took place in February 1953. He was found by police because he left a distinctive hat at the scene of the crime.

He had been married just the year before the crime and his only child was born just weeks before his execution.

Manning blamed his actions on "too much drink." The statement in police files describes Manning movements on the day of the crime, November 18, 1953. It lists the pubs that served him drink and recounts how he had been refused by the barmaid at the Munster Fair Tavern.

His trial opened on February 15, 1954, and lasted only 3 days. The trial was widely attended and hundreds of people gathered outside the courthouse.

The defense team had claimed insanity and claimed the charges should be dropped to manslaughter as Manning had not planned the attack ahead of time. However, the prosecution said that Manning had changed his routine to give himself more time to commit the crime.

While there was a history of mental health issues in his family the judge sided with the prosecution and told the jury to discard the argument, as he claimed the fact that Manning has shoved clods of grass into the victim's mouth to stop her screaming showed he was aware of the crime he was committing.

After just 3 hours of deliberation, he was sentenced to death despite the fact that the victim's family had petitioned to court to show him mercy. When he was found guilty he is said to have "paled visibly."

Manning was the 1st person to be condemned to death since 1948.

The Limerick man wrote a letter to the Government begging for a reprieve.

He wrote:

"I ask the Minister for Justice to show his mercy upon me as it is so near to Easter and Good Friday and it is our Holy Mother's year. I am not afraid to die as I am fully prepared to go before my God, but it is on behalf of my wife as she is so young and so near the birth of our baby.

"Instead of 1 life being taken there could be 3 as it would be a big shock to my wife if the execution will be carried out on the date mentioned [April 20]. So I would be grateful to you if you showed your mercy toward my wife and me."

After Mass and Holy Communion on Sunday before his execution, Manning played handball with other inmates. They noted that he seemed completely normal.

A fellow inmate of Manning's recalled later,

"Friends of mine who worked with me, I was serving my time at the time, went up to visit him on the Sunday before he was hanged. And they went to mass and holy communion together and they played a game of handball that day. He couldn't have been more normal."

He was then taken from his cell at Mountjoy prison and hanged by Alert Pierrepoint. The hang house remains today in the grounds of Mountjoy. The execution was carried out by Albert Pierrepoint, who had traveled from Britain where he was 1 of 3 Senior Executioners. Pierrepoint executed at least 400 people in his career as a hangman - 13 of those in Mountjoy.

Manning's body was buried in an unmarked grave in Mountjoy prison as was the custom for executed prisoners.

After his death, his widow wrote a letter to the Governor of Mountjoy thanking him for the kindness he showed her husband. The letter read:

"We really adored each other and will until I join him in heaven someday. I can assure you, sir, that Micheal [sic] is also praying for you all and he will return his thanks to you in another way."

After the execution of Manning, it was common that death sentences be commuted by the Irish government. In 1851 the right to commute a death sentence became restricted to the President only.

Ireland had previously considered abolishing the punishment from the constitution and an early draft of the constitution included a provision to ban it.

Before Manning's execution questions had been raised over the death of William Gambom who was the 2nd-last person to be put to death. He was a casual laborer who had killed his friend after getting into a drunken fight. When Gambom read in the newspaper that his friend had died he handed himself into the police. Despite the fact that it was a clear-cut case of manslaughter he was condemned to death.

It was argued that he had been sentenced to death due to his social standing and had he been a richer man his sentence would have been lower.

In 1964 the criminal justice act abolished the death sentence. However, it was only entirely squashed by a referendum in 2001. Ireland was the last country in Europe to constitutionally forbid the use of capital punishment.

While the EU has abolished execution it still takes place elsewhere in the world. The top 5 locations where the most executions take place are the United States, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and China.

(source: Irish Central)

IRAN----execution

Prisoner Hanged in Northwestern Iran

A prisoner was executed at Tabriz Central Prison on murder charges.

According to HRANA, on the morning of Tuesday, April 17, a prisoner was executed at Tabriz Central Prison on murder charges. The prisoner was identified as Hossein Tal'ati, 31.

Hossein Tal'ati was executed after 6 years of imprisonment in ward 11 of Tabriz Central Prison.

The execution of this prisoner has not been announced by the state-run media so far.

According to Iran Human Rights annual report on the death penalty, 240 of the 517 execution sentences in 2017 were implemented due to murder charges.

There is a lack of a classification of murder by degree in Iran which results in issuing a death sentence for any kind of murder regardless of intensity and intent.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

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

UN rights experts urge Iran to annul death sentence against prisoner

A group of United Nations human rights experts have called on Iran to annul the death sentence against a prisoner citing serious concerns that he was tortured in detention and did not receive a fair trial.

In a news release on Wednesday, the experts said that Iranian Kurdish prisoner Ramin Hossein Panahi, who was arrested last June for alleged membership of the Kurdish nationalist group Komala, was repeatedly beaten in detention, denied medical care and access to a lawyer, and held in solitary confinement until January.

They also expressed concern regarding his trial, which took place before the Revolutionary Court and lasted less than an hour.

"Executing Mr. Panahi, following his torture, and unfair trial and on the basis of charges that do not meet international standards for the use of death penalty, would be unconscionable," said the experts.

"We remind Iran that the only thing that distinguishes capital punishment from arbitrary execution is full respect for stringent due process guarantees."

The experts also noted that despite marks of torture on Mr. Panahi body, the court did not order an investigation, and that he was allowed only 1 meeting with his lawyer between his arrest and the trial and no family visits. There are also ongoing concerns about Mr. Panahi, and he reportedly began a hunger strike early in 2018.

The experts also expressed concern that some members of Mr. Panahi's family appeared to have been convicted in separate summary trials, and sentenced to long prison terms, in apparent reprisals for their efforts to obtain further information on his situation.

It is understood that the Supreme Court branch in Qom reaffirmed Mr. Panahi's death sentence earlier in April, and his case was due to be passed to the Office of Implementation, said the experts, his lawyer has appealed for a judicial review.

The news release noted that the experts are in dialogue with Iranian authorities regarding Mr. Panahi's situation.

The UN rights experts include Agnes Callamard, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Dainius Puras, the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; and Nils Melzer, the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

UN Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

(source: UN News)

BAHRAIN:

Urgent Action

REVIEW FOR UPHELD DEATH SENTENCE REQUESTED

On 28 March 2018, the Public Prosecutor announced that it had requested the review of the cases of Mohamed Ramadhan Issa Ali Hussain and Hussain Ali Moosa Hussain Mohamed, both of whom had their death sentences confirmed by the Cassation Court in November 2015, as new evidence emerged following investigation by the Special Investigations Unit.

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

* Urging the Bahraini authorities to commute all death sentences and establish an official moratorium on executions;

* Urging them to order the full retrial of both men, in proceedings that fully comply with international fair trial standards and exclude the use of evidence obtained under torture, and without resort to the death penalty;

* Urging them to promptly, adequately and effectively investigate their allegations of torture and other ill-treatment.

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

Contact these 2 officials by 31 May, 2018:

King

Shaikh Hamad bin 'Issa Al Khalifa

Office of His Majesty the King

P.O. Box 555

Rifa'a Palace, al-Manama, Bahrain

Fax: +973 1766 4587

Salutation: Your Majesty

H.E. Ambassador Shaikh Abdullah bin

Rashed bin Abdullah Al Khalifa,

Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain

3502 International Drive NW, Washington DC 20008

Phone: 1 202 342 1111 I Fax: 1 202 362 2192

Email: ambsecretary@bahrainembassy.org

Twitter: @BahrainEmbDC

Salutation: Dear Ambassador

(source: Amnesty International)

MALAWI:

Malawi chiefs against death penalty

The majority of chiefs in the country no longer prefer death sentence as punishment for murder suspects, according to the Malawi Traditional Leaders' Perspective on Capital Punishment Survey report.

Since the dawn of multi-party democracy in 1993, no Head of State has signed a death warrant despite the law providing for the same.

The report, published by the Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide and the Paralegal Advisory Service Institute (Pasi) with support volunteers and funding from Reprieve UK, shows that 94 percent of traditional leaders interviewed on whether Malawi should continue implementing death penalty said they were against capital punishment. Instead, they preferred other alternative sentencing.

One ex-prisoner, Bison Kaula, 65, who was sentenced to death in 1992, supported the report, saying many inmates in the country's congested prisons are those charged with minor offences.

Kaula stayed in prison for 23 years awaiting execution after traditional leaders convicted him before the High Court acquitted him.

Public Affairs Committee (PAC) chairperson the Reverend Felix Chingota, whose quasi-religious body is taking part in facilitating consultations on death penalty issue, said in an interview that there is need to extend awareness campaigns to all communities in the country that death penalty is not the only best alternative sentencing measure against murder suspects.

Pasi executive director Clifford Msiska said the country should begin living in the global village alongside other nations which abolished death penalty.

The United Nations (UN) said more than 80 % of the African Union member States have either abolished or introduced moratoria by law or in practice on the death penalty.

The survey was done in villages where ex-prisoners who were sentenced to death reside.

(soruce: The Maravi Post)

INDIA:

Centre to amend law for death penalty in child rape cases below 12-year of age

Amid nationwide grief and anger over the rising child rape cases, the government has said it has started the process to amend law to introduce death penalty for rape of minors below 12 year of age.

Central Government, in a letter, submitted to the Supreme Court on Friday, said that it has started the process to amend the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO)Act to introduce death penalty for rape of minors till 12 year of age.

Centre submitted its report while responding to a PIL filed by Advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava, seeking maximum sentence of death penalty to those offenders involved in the rape and brutal murder of children between the age group of 0 to 12.

The apex court 3-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra and comprising of Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud, fixed the matter for further hearing to April 27.

Disturbed over the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua, Union minister of Women and Children Development Maneka Gandhi had few days ago asked her department to work on a proposal to amend the POCSO law to bring in the provision of death penalty for the rape of a minor below the age of 12 years.

"I have been deeply, deeply disturbed by the rape case in Kathua and all the recent rape cases that have happened on children. I and the (women and child development) ministry intend to bring an amendment to the POCSO Act asking for death penalty for rape of children below 12 years," Maneka Gandhi was heard saying in a video, which was uploaded on Twitter.

The minor girl in the Kathua case, who belonged to the minority nomadic community, had disappeared from near her home in the forests next to a village in Kathua, 90 km from here, on January 10.

Similar brutal rape case has surfaced in Surat.

(source: indiatimes.com)

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

Kashmiris unanimous on death penalty for Kathua rapists

For once, the people of Kashmir and pro-India politicians in Kashmir are speaking in the same voice: demanding that the rapists and murderers of the 8-year-old Gujjar girl in Kathua be hanged.

For the past several days, people from all sections of society - students, businessmen, lawyers, doctors, journalists and social activists - have been holding demonstrations, while students are clashing with government forces on streets, to demand death penalty to the men accused of the crime by the police.

Mehrajuddin, a researcher at the University of Kashmir, while talking to Kashmir Reader on Thursday said, "Every law since antiquity to the Enlightenment (era) has rigorously asserted that death penalty is the due punishment to a rapist, taking the sanctity of the human body into consideration."

He added, "The death penalty is the least possible redemption to such heinous crimes."

A female student, Irfana Wani, said that she favours capital punishment for rapists, in particular for the rapists of the Kathua minor girl. "Yes, the rapists should be hanged. Giving death penalty to the guilty shows that the justice system values the dignity of rape victims," she said.

Muhammad Tahir, a PhD scholar, said that the Kathua rape and murder case falls in the category of rarest of rare cases, thus capital punishment is perfect.

"Some may argue that death sentence is not going to stop the crime, but then how is life sentence any better or worse?" he said.

Chairperson of the State Commission for Women and PDP leader Nayeema Mehjoor also called for capital punishment to the rapists of the Kathua girl. "We have already put in our demand that the rapists involved in the Kathua case should be hanged," Mehjoor told Kashmir Reader.

Several students who have participated in protests said that those who think they have the authority to take the life of another human being and commit such horrible acts should not be allowed to live. "This evil act cannot be justified or taken lightly and should be punished with the highest penalty," they said.

Legislator in the state assembly, Er Rasheed, said that the Kathua rapists should not be let free with any punishment less than death. "The severest punishment is hanging till death. These are social crimes and an evil for all, irrespective of religions and regions," Rasheed said.

Chairperson of Kashmir Centre for Social and Developmental Studies (KSCDS), Prof Hameeda Nayeem, said that a deterrent has to be set for such criminals. "The justice system shows more sympathy for criminals than it does for victims. It's time we put the emphasis of our criminal justice system back on protecting the victim rather than the accused," she said.

She said that while capital punishment for other crimes is debatable, it should be unanimously accepted in the cases of rape of minors. "There shouldn't be any liberal, humanistic approach towards such criminals who perpetrated the heinous crime of raping and murdering a minor in Kathua," she said.

Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti last week said that her government would introduce a law to ensure death penalty for those raping minors. The main opposition party, the National Conference, said they will support such a law.

National Conference provincial president and MLA Devender Singh Rana last week said that he will move a Private Member's Bill in the Legislative Assembly for death sentence to those committing rape of minors.

"Rape on a girl child is the most inhuman act," Rana said.

National Conference general secretary Ali Muhammad Sagar told Kashmir Reader that the party has an absolutely transparent stand on the Kathua case. "We want the rapists in the Kathua case to be hanged," he said.

He said that his party will ensure justice for the 8-year-old girl. "We stand committed not just to ensure justice for the minor girl but also to seek exemplary punishment for those responsible for a crime whose brutal savagery has shamed humanity," he said.

(source: kashmirreader.com)

APRIL 19, 2018:

TEXAS----impending execution(s)

Death Watch: The Constitutionality of Intent----What if the people you killed were not who you hoped to kill?

Erick Davila is scheduled to die on Wednesday, April 25. The 31-year-old from Fort Worth was convicted of capital murder for the 2008 deaths of 5-year-old Queshawn Stevenson and her grandmother Annette at a child's birthday party. Though the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Davila last June, his lawyers Jonathan Landers and Seth Kretzer on Friday filed an appeal at the high court to stay the execution.

Like the first effort, this appeal challenges the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals' April 9 decision to deny Davila's most recent appeal in that court, which argued that, among other things, his appellate attorney David Richards provided ineffective counsel. In particular, Davila's current attorneys argue, Richards never mentioned Davila's assertion that on the day he shot the Stevensons, he was "dangerously intoxicated" and shot them unintentionally; Davila had entered the party and began shooting, but has maintained that he intended to shoot a single rival gang member. Richards also did not argue that should Davila's story be true, he wouldn't have been eligible for a capital murder conviction and therefore the death sentence. And the trial jury was never informed that Davila could only be sentenced to death if they believed he intended to kill multiple people. Seeing all this, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in SCOTUS's first opinion that because a prisoner "does not have a constitutional right to counsel in state postconviction proceedings, ineffective assistance in those proceedings does not qualify as cause to excuse a procedural default."

Landers and Kretzer on Monday filed a successor petition with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals seeking permission to file a 2nd appeal and motion to stay Davila's execution. Meanwhile, Davila's petition for clemency is pending. In February, Gov. Greg Abbott commuted Thomas Whitaker's death sentence 1 hour before his scheduled execution, but that was the 1st such commutation in Texas in over a decade, and the circumstances were rather unique. Kretzer told me Monday he's "hopeful," but he also acknowledged, "all I can do is make the legal arguments. Then I leave it to powers-that-be to resolve them. But we will fight for Mr. Davila and all his constitutional rights to the last hour of the last day."

Death Row Details

SCOTUS on Monday refused without comment to hear the case of Daniel Acker, convicted of murdering his girlfriend Marquetta George in 2000. That decision will likely bring a death warrant to Hopkins County. Next on the state's schedule is Juan Castillo, scheduled to die on May 16. The San Antonio man is on his 4th execution date. He had a May 2017 date withdrawn on a technicality associated with the filing of his death warrant; Hurricane Harvey caused the 2nd to be rescheduled; and a December date was called off due to claims of false testimony.

(source: austinchronicle.com)

CONNECTICUT:

Death Row Inmate Jessie Campbell Resentenced To Life In Prison Without Possibility Of Release

Death row inmate Jessie Campbell III, guilty of killing his son's mother and her friend in Hartford during the summer of 2000, on Wednesday became the latest of the state's death row inmates to have their sentence revised to life in prison without the possibility of release.

Campbell, now 39, was 20 when he gunned down La-Taysha Logan, 20, and her friend Desiree Privette, 18, and shot Privette's aunt Carolyn, a witness to the deadly slaying in August 2000 outside a friend's home in Hartford.

Judge Edward J. Mullarkey sentenced Campbell to death in August 2007. After hearing an argument from Campbell's lawyers of a troubled past that plagued their client, Mullarkey handed down his ruling.

"Nothing justified the murder, but the cold-blooded execution is startling," Mullarkey said at the time. "The Privettes were shot "because they were there. The fact that Carolyn Privette feigned death is the true miracle. Now, even with her survival, she will live a life of pain. ... I don't know what causes this kind of conduct to wholly eliminate or attempt to eliminate 2 witnesses."

It was Mullarkey on Wednesday morning, now a senior judge, who sentenced Campbell to life in prison without the possibility of release in a hearing that lasted fewer than 10 minutes. Family of the victims were not in attendance and no statements were made on their behalf.

Campbell's sentence was revised Wednesday in light of a ruling by the state Supreme Court in 2015 that abolished the death penalty. All 11 inmates on death row are to be resentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release.

A jury convicted Campbell in 2004 of 2 counts of murder, 1 count of attempted murder, assault and criminal possession of a pistol or revolver. However, that jury was torn in whether the crime merited the death penalty or a life in prison without parole.

Another jury convened in 2006 to reexamine the penalty phase and voted for the death sentence.

Caroline Privette said she pretended to be dead after she was shot. Campbell shook her body, but she refused to move. As paramedics arrived to help her, she recalled yelling out Campbell's name, not wanting to die without sharing the identity of the killer.

Authorities said immediately after the murder, Campbell burned his clothes and fled to Michigan, but he was taken into custody not long after the killing.

Campbell, who is said to have an IQ of 78, was reported to be combative, refusing to help his defense attorneys. In recordings played during trial, he is heard telling his mother he would only discuss his case with God.

At times, Campbell referred to himself as "the Chosen One."

Campbell's attorneys in the past have argued to have the their client’s death sentence revoked, saying there is no uniformity in how prosecutors bring charges of capital felony, which a jury convicted Campbell of in 2004.

Campbell has been in Northern Correctional Institution since his sentencing in 2007. It is there where the inmates on death row were housed as they awaited execution.

(source: Hartford Courant)

GEORGIA:

Lawyers: Inmate set for execution should be resentenced

A man set for execution next month should be resentenced because he wouldn't get the death penalty if he were sentenced today, his lawyers argued in a court filing Wednesday.

Robert Earl Butts Jr., 40, is scheduled to die on May 3 at the state prison in Jackson. Butts and 41-year-old Marion Wilson Jr. were convicted and sentenced to death in the March 1996 slaying of Donovan Corey Parks in central Georgia.

The state and federal constitutions prohibit "cruel and unusual" punishment, and the state prohibition on such punishment depends on the "evolving standards of decency of the people of Georgia," Butts' lawyers wrote in a filing seeking a new sentence in Baldwin County Superior Court, where he was originally sentenced.

The murder for which Butts and Wilson were sentenced had a single victim and 1 aggravating factor, a circumstance that increases the severity of a crime and increases the possible sentence. According to sentencing data obtained and analyzed by Butts' lawyers, no one has been sentenced to death for a murder with 1 victim and 1 aggravating factor in over a decade.

"In other words, the people of Georgia no longer consider single-decedent, single-aggravator murder to be among the 'worst of the worst' offenses for which the death penalty must be reserved," Butts' lawyers wrote.

For that reason, they argue, he should be resentenced.

The Georgia attorney general's office on Wednesday declined to comment on Butts' lawyers request to halt his scheduled execution and to hold a new sentencing trial.

Butts' lawyers analyzed 246 cases in which the state filed a notice to seek the death penalty and a sentence was imposed from 2006 to 2017.

During that time, of the 166 cases with a single victim, only 7, or 4.2 %, resulted in a death sentence. And in the 21 cases with aggravating factor, only 1, or 4.8 %, resulted in a death sentence.

Under the state and federal constitutions, "cruel and unusual" punishments "include a sentence that is arbitrarily or rarely imposed," Butts' lawyers wrote. The fact that no one in Georgia has been sentenced to death for a single victim, single aggravator murder in 10 years "raises a threshold inference that Butts' death sentence is grossly disproportionate," they argue.

Attorneys for Butts have also argued repeatedly that his trial lawyers were ineffective and failed to thoroughly investigate his case or to present mitigating evidence, including a childhood characterized by abuse and neglect that could have spared him the death penalty. State and federal courts have rejected his appeals.

His lawyers argued in a federal court filing earlier this month that a Georgia Supreme Court opinion published in January opens the door for a federal judge to consider his claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. The state rejected that argument in a filing Wednesday.

Butts and Wilson asked Parks for a ride outside a Walmart store in Milledgeville, about 93 miles (150 kilometers) southeast of Atlanta. After they'd gone a short distance they ordered him to stop the car, dragged him out and killed him with a single shot to the back of his head, prosecutors said.

They tried unsuccessfully to sell Parks' car and ended up driving it to a remote part of Macon and setting fire to it.

Appeals in Wilson's case are still pending.

(source: Associated Press)

FLORIDA:

Testimony ends in death penalty trial of Sanel Saint-Simon

Jurors will begin deliberating Thursday about whether Sanel Saint-Simon should be sentenced to death or to life in prison in the murder of 16-year-old Alexandria Chery, his long-time girlfriend's daughter.

Testimony ended in the case Wednesday. Jurors heard from Saint-Simon's ex-wife, who said he never helped her care for their 2 children, now 15 and 16 years old, and said his financial support was limited to $600 over the last 15 or so years.

"He was never asking me how I was, not even 'good evening.' He would not say anything," Helene Achat, who now lives in Canada with her 2 children, said through a Haitian-Creole translator.

Achat's testimony was presented to contrast what the defense presented over the last 2 days - that Saint-Simon regularly sent money to 3 children he had in Haiti to send them to school and help them with basic needs.

Saint-Simon chose not to take the stand. The last defense witness jurors heard from was Gerald Murray, a cultural anthropologist and retired University of Florida professor who has researched the culture, economy, and politics in Saint-Simon's native Haiti.

To prepare for the trial Murray interviewed Saint-Simon and seven of his family members, and planned to tell jurors about Saint-Simon's life and how he fit into the country’s history and cultural norms.

But after a preview of his testimony after jurors left for the day on Tuesday, Circuit Judge John Marshall Kest ruled the details Murray gathered about Saint-Simon's life were not acceptable in court under the rules of evidence. Murray was allowed to speak about Haiti in general, but not tell jurors about Saint-Simon.

Jurors convicted Saint-Simon of Alexandria's 1st-degree murder in February. Alexandria, an Olympia High School student, was reported missing on July 28, 2014, when her mother came home and found her and all her belongings missing from their West Orange County apartment. Landscapers found her body Aug. 1, 2014 on the Osceola-Polk county line.

Before her death, Alexandria told her boyfriend that Saint-Simon touched her inappropriately.

(source: Orlando Sentinel)

ALABAMA----impending execution

Alabama to execute Walter Moody, 83, oldest in modern US history----Moody's age reflects the aging of death row across the US, where over 2,000 people are to be executed.

Alabama has scheduled the execution of Walter Moody Jr for April 19. If the state carries out the execution, Moody will be the oldest inmate killed in the modern history of the US, according to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), a group that tracks capital punishment.

Though reports listed Moody's age as both 82 and 83, Bob Horton, the Alabama Department of Corrections public information officer, confirmed to Al Jazeera that Moody's age is 83 on Wednesday.

Moody was convicted in 1991 of 71 charges related to the 1989 pipe-bomb deaths of federal appeals judge Robert Vance and civil rights attorney Robert Robinson. Moody has maintained his innocence.

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) declined to review Moody's case in January. An appeals court further denied relief for Moody on Wednesday.

Moody is expected to appeal to SCOTUS again on Thursday.

Executions were blocked by SCOTUS in 1972, but the court reinstated the death penalty in 1976 after placing "stricter standards for the constitutionality of capital punishment", Robert Dunham, the DPIC's director, told Al Jazeera.

"Nobody aged 80 or older has been executed since executions resumed in the 1970s," which is considered the modern era of capital punishment in the US, Dunham said.

These stricter standards included guaranteeing deaths that were not "cruel and unusual," as prohibited in the US Constitution, as well as a mandating that a jury decide to impose the death penalty, among other measures.

Though the number of executions is declining in the US, Moody's age is indicative of the aging population of the roughly 2,800 people on death row, the DPIC director continued.

"9 people in their 70s" have been executed in the US since capital punishment was reinstated, Dunham said, and all of them died in the 21st century.

"When we look at people who have been executed before 2000 in the modern era, no one in their 70s or 80s" has been put to death, he said.

The previous oldest person to be executed was John Nixon, 77, who died in Mississippi in 2006.

Though many believe the lengthy appeals process is to blame for the ageing population, Dunham explained that the "primary reason" for the advancing age of death row inmates is that the convicted "typically ... had their convictions or death sentences overturned several times and have been resentenced."

It can take up to 20 years for a case to be overturned. The case could take another 15 years after that to work its way through the system, Dunham said.

Often, appeals are filed that claim death row inmates were not properly represented or evidence was not presented in previous trials - which can cause a new trial - or are suffering from mental illness or impairment, which bars them from execution, if proven.

Arkansas scheduled 8 executions in 11 days in 2017, an unprecedented even in US history. 4 of the 8 men had their executions stayed due to appeals such as those listed above.

Motive for the killings

According to local media reports, prosecutors originally thought the killings of Vance and Robinson, who was African American, were racially motivated.

They later alleged that Moody was angry at the court system over a 1972 conviction for another bombing incident that injured his then-wife.

He allegedly hoped the suspicion of racist motivations in the bombings would confuse investigators.

Bob Vance, son of the assassinated judge who is also a judge himself, was quoted in local media as saying there "wasn't any real good reason" for Moody's targeting of his father.

Vance's family does not plan to attend Moody's execution. Bob told local media he got "closure" when Moody was convicted in 1991, realising he "would never be in the position to hurt anyone else.

"The execution coming up ... doesn't add anything to that," Vance said.

(source: Al Jazeera News)

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

Walter Moody's Appeal Rejected By Federal Appeals Court----Moody's Scheduled To Be Put to Death on Thursday

A federal appeals court has rejected a death row inmate's argument that he must serve out his federal sentence before Alabama can put him to death for the 1989 killing of a federal judge.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday ruled that Walter Leroy Moody does not have a right to demand that he serve his federal sentence first.

Moody is scheduled to be executed Thursday for killing 11th Circuit Judge Robert Vance with a bomb mailed to his home.

Authorities said Moody mailed 4 bombs in 1989. He was sentenced in federal court in 1991 to 7 life terms plus 400 years. He was later convicted of capital murder for Vance's death and sentenced to the death penalty.

(source: Associated Press)

OHIO:

Sierah Joughin's family speaks after Worley receives death sentence

After hearing emotional pleas from Sierah Joughin's family and her convicted killer's rambling claim of innocence, Fulton County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Robinson kept his comments brief after sentencing James D. Worley to death.

"If I thought there was a snowball's chance in hell you were innocent, I would have given you life," the judge said.

Wednesday's sentencing closed one painful chapter in the nearly 2 years since the 20-year-old Metamora woman disappeared July 19, 2016, while riding her bike. Worley, 59, of rural Delta, was convicted in March of her kidnapping and aggravated murder. The jury then recommended he be put to death.

Ms. Joughin's mother, Sheila Vaculik, made the last of several victim impact statements Wednesday and called her daughter "compassionate and vibrant."

"This was a soul that embraced living and everything it had to offer," she said. "It is hard to put into words the feelings I've experienced over the last year and 9 months; the hole that will never heal in my heart."

Worley, she said, dehumanized her daughter but did not take away her worth to her family and friends.

"Sierah's life was worth far more than the 20 years she was able to live... As her mother, I could not be prouder of the person that she was," she said.

Before he was sentenced, Worley gave a nearly 45-minute, rambling and disjointed statement that was at times defiant but not remorseful. He turned to face the gallery and did not address the judge.

He repeatedly said he believes someone else kidnapped Ms Joughin. He said someone framed him by leaving evidence at his home and leaving his lost motorcycle helmet - which had Ms. Joughin's blood on it - and other items at the suspected abduction scene where Ms. Joughin's bike was found.

He added there are still unanswered questions about DNA that was found, which could one day prove his innocence, but he also offered remarks about his defense team, his encounters with police after Ms. Joughin's disappearance, and his own past.

"Before you judge me harshly, think about these things one last time," Worley said. "There will be an appeals process and I just have to pray that I will be vindicated because I can't... I didn't do anything."

Members of the gallery became increasingly more upset as he continued. At one point Worley referred to Ms. Joughin as a "beautiful girl." Members of her family stood up and walked out of the courtroom.

Worley paused and watched as they stood and filed out.

"The family isn't taking this well, and I can understand it. I get it," Worley said. "The bottom line is you need to look at all the other facts that support my innocence."

(source: Toledo Blade)

ARKANSAS:

Lawmakers call for removal of Pulaski County judge after 2nd death-penalty protest

At least 2 lawmakers are calling for the removal of a Pulaski County judge after he publicly protested against the death penalty for the 2nd time.

Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen again lay motionless as he strapped himself to a cot Tuesday evening outside the Governor's Mansion.

In a statement, state Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, called the protest a "pathetic and depressing display."

"He has disgraced the office that he holds for years and now is using a desperate, attention seeking move to further bring shame on himself," Garner wrote.

State Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Berryville, agreed in a Wednesday morning post on Twitter.

"It is time for #ARLeg to move to impeach Judge Wendell Griffen. Our justice system must be fair and impartial, and is no place for activism," Ballinger said.

Griffen was barred by the Arkansas Supreme Court from hearing capital punishment cases after he rallied against the death penalty on Good Friday last year.

"We are still killing," the judge told onlookers Tuesday when asked why he returned.

Griffen has sued the state's Supreme Court justices, accusing them of violating his constitutional rights. A federal judge dismissed the high court itself but allowed proceedings against its 7 justices to continue.

Meanwhile, Griffen's attorney, Michael Laux, argued that the judge "has the constitutional right to do this, and we will prove it, if need be."

"Whether praying or protesting - it doesn't matter. Both are protected under the First Amendment," Laux said.

(source: Arkanas Online)

NEBRASKA:

Facing likely death sentence, prison murderer will tell judges he won't challenge execution

Patrick Schroeder doesn't disagree with the state's plans to sentence him to death.

"When I knew that they were going to be charging me with the death penalty, I knew what my choices were," Schroeder told NET News. "I knew what I was going to do."

He's not going to put up a fight.

Schroeder strangled his cellmate at the Tecumseh Correctional Institution on April 15, 2017, and made his confession before Terry Berry, Jr. died, never coming out of a coma.

One year later Schroeder is scheduled to appear in the Johnson County courthouse before a panel of 3 Nebraska district court judges who will determine if the inmate meets the legal qualification for death by lethal injection.

Last fall Schroeder made the extraordinary decision to proceed with the remainder of the legal proceedings without the state-appointed lawyers prepared to defend him. At one point the attorneys advanced a motion to declare Nebraska's death penalty process unconstitutional. Schroder shut down that effort and waived his right to an attorney in future proceedings.

NET News reviewed all executions conducted in Nebraska since statehood and found no other case in which the accused voluntarily dropped any impediment to proceeding with the death penalty before the sentence was even pronounced.

The case began in 2006 when Schroder murdered 75-year-old Kenny Albers, a Pawnee City farmer who had once given him a job. An Otoe County jury sentenced Schroeder to life in prison.

With the Tecumseh prison chronically overcrowded, Schroeder was not given his own cell in the Special Management Unit. Five days after Berry moved into the cell Schroeder attacked him.

Bill Kelly of NET News recorded 2 phone calls with Schroeder who wanted an opportunity to explain why he was not challenging a possible death sentence.

(Note: The transcript below has been edited for length and in some cases some answers were combined to create a clear sequence of events. Copyright 2018 NET News.)

Bill Kelly (NET News): You entered the guilty plea for the murder of your cellmate and you told the ourt you don't want lawyers to represent you even during this coming hearing, even though you might be sentenced to death. Why did you do that?

Patrick Schroeder: Well, I had plead guilty to it because I'm taking responsibility for my actions and it was kind of obvious that I'm the one that did it. As far as the reason for firing my attorneys, the way I want to go about doing it and the way they would have to go about doing it, it's 2 different ways.

They're obligated to give me their best defense and, I guess, I don't want them to sit there and start making excuses for reasons (that I killed Terry Berry). I did what I did. I'm taking responsibility for my actions. I don't want some lawyer telling the courts that, "Well, he did it for this reason or that reason." I'm not going to go through that.

Kelly: That does mean that you're facing the death penalty at this point.

Schroeder: Yes, it does.

Kelly: You've really thought through that?

Schroeder: From day one, when I knew that they were going to be charging me with the death penalty, I knew what my choices were, I knew what I was going to do. That's just like on my first case with the Kenny Albers case. The first time the cops come talk to me, I explained everything to them, I'm not going to lie to them (See editor’s note below). I take responsibility for my actions. I knew what I was doing.

Kelly: Can you talk about what happened in your cell that day?

Schroeder: I got tired of him. You got to kind of, I guess, back up a little bit on that. These cells are 12 by 10. I've got a case of OCD. I don't do well with cellies (cellmates) to begin with, it's too small of an area. In segregation, which is where we were at when it happened, you're locked down 23 hours a day. They never asked me if I wanted a celly, they never made me aware of it until they brought him in. I'm doing a life sentence, I'm never getting out, and he's in here for writing some checks. There was no compatibility at all.

Kelly: Did you think at some point in time you were going to kill him kind of regardless of what the scenario was going to be? Did you just see it heading in that direction?

Schroeder: Honestly, I knew as soon as they moved him in my room on April 10 that it was probably going to end up in that situation, yes.

Kelly: Did you warn Terry Berry that he might be killed?

Schroeder: I told him on 2 different occasions, "You need to figure out a way to get outta here or something bad's going to happen to you." Then on another occasion I explained to him, "Hey, this isn't going to end well for you."

Kelly: Would this have been a risk for anybody who was put with you?

Schroeder: Not necessarily. If somebody I know, somebody that knows how to do time, that was the main issue with him is he didn't know how to do time. I've been down for 12 years and you put somebody in that don't know how to do time, that's childish, and don't know how to act right, it's a disaster. If it would've been somebody I knew, like I said, that knew how to do time, it'd have been a whole different story.

Kelly: The prosecuting attorney mentioned that it was a television program (Terry Berry) was talking about that set you off. Is that your memory?

Schroeder: Well, it wasn't so much a television show that set it off. We were watching UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship mixed martial arts) and he just kept talking, and talking, and wouldn't shut up. I told him, I said, "I'm going to put you in a rear naked choke hold if you don't shut up." That's exactly what I ended up doing. He said something, I can't even recall what it was, and I just snapped, and kind of put him in a choke hold, and I held him in a choke hold until my arm got tired, then I wrapped a towel around his neck. That's basically what happened.

Kelly: There are going to be people who are going to hear this and say, "If somebody's a bad roommate, they still don't deserve to die."

Schroeder: And they're right, they don't, but that was the step that I took. That was the decision that I chose to take. I'm me, I made the decision. That's one of the reasons I took responsibility for my actions and pled guilty instead of dragging it out and have 12 people from society (a jury) come in and have to go through something that they didn't have to go through, didn't need to go through. It was a decision I made.

Kelly: Where do they take you after (the murder); does the questioning start right away?

Schroeder: No. That happened on Saturday, I didn't actually get questioned until Monday by (the) State Patrol.

Kelly: You told them just like you told me.

Schroeder: Exactly what happened. I told her exactly what happened.

Kelly: While you're talking to the patrolman, are you feeling anything?

Schroeder: Nothing. It's just like me and you sitting here talking. There's no emotion. I wish I could find somebody I could talk to that could tell me why. Mental health around here, they got so much other crap going on with other people that I don't even try to bother to talk to them. I don't know why I don't feel any remorse or emotions.

Kelly: Do you feel like death is an appropriate punishment for somebody who murders within the penitentiary?

Schroeder: To answer that real quick, yes. I believe in the death penalty, I honestly do. I believe if you kill somebody it's kind of an eye for an eye. I also believe that child molesters should be sentenced to death. That's my opinion. I'm probably one of the few inmates that actually believes in the death penalty.

Kelly: There's been a lot of discussion that the method of lethal injection has not been tested in the state yet. Do you have any fears about that particular method and the type of chemicals that they will use if you face lethal injection?

Schroeder: Not really. To me, whether it's painless or there's pain involved, I did what I did. I got what I got coming.

Kelly: You're pretty harsh with Mr. Terry. I'm wondering if you feel bad about his death?

Schroeder: I do not. Even back when the whole Kenny Albers deal. I have no emotions about the death of him or the death of Terry Berry. There's no emotions, no remorse.

Kelly: Why do you think that is?

Schroeder: I don't know. I've asked the mental health people here and they won't give me an answer. That's one thing, it bothers me that I don't have any feelings. That's another reason, and I explained it to Sarah, my attorney (from the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy, since fired by Schroeder:), on a couple different occasions about why I'm not going to fight the death penalty because is if they just give me another life sentence, I honestly feel that I'll kill again. There is no emotion there. To me, it's just something that can be done.

Kelly: Do you ever think about how life could've been different for you?

Schroeder: Well, I don't really worry about the past. I can't change it. I don't worry about the future, because, well, it's not here yet. I do my days kind of a day-to-day basis. I don't worry about things that I have no control over. Like the past, I have no control over. I can sit here, and lay in bed, and daydream about what things would've been like if I wouldn't have killed Kenny Albers and what maybe a perfect life I would've had, but it's all fairy tales and dreams. I don't do that.

Kelly: What kind of guy were you before Kenny Albers died?

Schroeder: I worked. I've got a criminal record that goes back to when I was about eight-years-old. I did a lot of stealing and thieving and stuff like that. As of right now, I've already got a 1st-degree murder charge on me, I've got another one that I'm facing, I've got a bank robbery charge, I've got a weapons charge. The only thing I've never been convicted of is drugs. If it's on the books, I've been charged with it, I guess. That and sex crimes, I've never. Nothing like that.

Kelly: You given any thought to why you are the way you are?

Schroeder: I have and I've never been able to come up with an answer. It's kind of like this whole Albers, Berry situation of why don't I feel any remorse? To me, you can compare it to taking out the trash. There's no emotion there. I don't understand why. I wish I did. I think that'd clear up a whole lot of things in my head.

Kelly: Was there anything you liked about your life before you ended up on the homicide charge?

Schroeder: Well, don't get me wrong. I loved my life. My wife, kids, job. I was always looking for the easy way out, which is just kind of the way I was raised. I rebelled since I was probably 10 or 11-years-old. No, I liked my life before all this happened, but it all happened, it was all over money.

Kelly: How so?

Schroeder: Well, with the Albers deal, it was a robbery. That's what that was over.

Kelly: What happened that day? What happened the day Mr. Albers died?

Schroeder: I had stolen some checks from him prior and wrote some checks, ordered some checks that I knew he was going to eventually end up going to the law enforcement. I was hoping I could get to him before he did that, which I was a day late.

Kelly: So it was a combination both the robbery and trying to keep him quiet about the checks?

Schroeder: Yeah. I used to work for him and I always knew he kept a fairly decent amount of cash in the safe in his house. It was known to pretty much everybody that he did. It was basically a quick buck.

Schroeder: I showed up at his house at like 4:30 a.m., knocked on his door, and he came to the door, I confronted him, and I ended up assaulting him with a night stick, which was a 22-inch riot baton. I basically hit him 5 times in the head, which is literally what killed him, and I drove him south to the farmstead of his and dropped him in a well.

Kelly: That was to cover up the crime?

Schroeder: That was an attempt to cover up the crime, yeah; but State Patrol brought in his son and his son took them up to that area, because he knew they'd owned that piece of parcel and seen fresh tire tracks.

Kelly: Has family visited you?

Schroeder; I get visits randomly from my wife, because while we're in the hole they're video visits and I hate video visits. To me, they're just a waste of time.

Kelly: You've been reluctant to talk about family in all of this.

Schroeder: Well, that's another reason that I went ahead and pled guilty and I didn't drag this out. I've got nothing but time on my hands, so technically I could've just drug this out for 2, 3 years. But I'm not going to drag my family through another trial; let alone one that's got implications of the death penalty. I already did that twice on the 1st murder trial. The 1st one ended in a hung jury so we had to have another one, the Albers case. I wasn't going to put my kids, and my wife, and my family through that again.

Kelly: Has your family said if they're upset about you going ahead and allowing the death penalty?

Schroeder: No. They're not upset. They understand the way I think and know me. It's one of them things that they know. If I'm going to make a decision, I'm going to make it whether they approve of it or not.

(Editor's Note: There are significant differences in Schroeder's initial reaction to the murders of Kenny Albers and Terry Berry, Jr. After murdering Berry, Schroeder supplied a complete confession to a Nebraska State Patrol investigator. In 2006, after the Albers' murder, Schroeder was brought in for questioning within hours of the murder but remained evasive with the investigator before providing a confession. During two trials, one resulting in a hung jury, Schroeder pled not guilty and his attorney attempted to keep the confessions out of evidence. After the guilty verdict in Otoe County District Court, Schroeder's attorneys appealed the case to the Nebraska Supreme Court. The court upheld the verdict and declined the request for a new trial. In the Berry case, Schroeder pled guilty, rejecting a jury trial, and claims there will be no future appeals.)

(source: netnebraska.org)

USA:

Aging death row: Is executing old or infirm inmates cruel?

Vernon Madison has spent decades on Alabama's death row. Now 67, Madison has suffered from strokes and dementia and his lawyers say he no longer recalls the crime that put him there: the 1985 killing of a police officer.

His speech is slurred, he suffers from confusion, and once thought he was near release and talked of moving to Florida, according to his lawyers. This fall, the U.S. Supreme Court is set to review the claims by Madison's defense team that executing someone in his condition would violate the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

"Killing a fragile man suffering from dementia is unnecessary and cruel," Madison's attorney, Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative, said in January, when the justices stayed Madison's execution the night he was to receive a lethal injection.

The U.S. death row population is aging, and that leaves courts increasingly likely to grapple with questions of when it becomes unconstitutionally cruel to put someone to death who is mentally frail - or whose medical conditions could complicate the execution procedure.

"That is going to be an increasing issue in carrying out the American death penalty," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington. "We are reaching a stage, as death row inmates age, we'll see this more frequently."

About 2,800 people are on death row in prisons nationwide, and about 1,200 of them over age 50, the non-profit group said. An Associated Press review of the group's data shows the median age of an executed inmate in the U.S. rose from 34 to 46 between 1983 and 2017 - a fact observers attribute to appeals taking longer - sometimes decades.

One of the oldest, 83-year-old Walter Leroy Moody, is scheduled to be executed Thursday in Alabama for the 1989 package bomb killing of a federal judge. If the sentence is carried out, Moody would be the oldest person and the 1st octogenarian put to death since U.S. executions resumed in the 1970s, Dunham said.

"Many of these defendants have done terrible things. People are torn between wanting to punish severely and the belief it is beneath us as a nation to kill a frail person who is already dying. It's a challenge to our morality and our sense of humanity," Dunham said.

Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the pro-death penalty Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, supports steps to reduce the time between an inmate's sentencing and execution.

"There is no constitutional issue from age alone, though dementia does, of course, become more common with age. The underlying question about what kind and degree of mental illness will prevent an execution is not new. It is ancient."

Justice Stephen G. Breyer, writing in Madison's case, noted the growing number of aging prisoners on death row and said, "Given this trend, we may face ever more instances of state efforts to execute prisoners suffering the diseases and infirmities of old age."

Age by itself isn't the issue, but rather the illnesses more common with old age.

Take Alva Campbell, 69. He died last month in an Ohio prison of natural causes after his 2017 lethal injection procedure was halted when a usable vein couldn't be found. Alabama similarly aborted last month's execution of Doyle Lee Hamm, 61, who has battled lymphoma. His lawyer said Hamm had at least 11 puncture wounds from attempts to find a vein.

"It was precisely Doyle's old age and illness that raised all the problems. The state of Alabama was not prepared," Hamm's attorney, Bernard Harcourt, wrote in an email.

Yet 75-year-old Tommy Arthur, who had argued that his cardiovascular disease would complicate execution, was put to death without obvious incident last year in Alabama.

Madison was convicted of killing Mobile police officer Julius Schulte.

Schulte responded to a missing child report on April 18, 1985. Arriving at a home, he found the child had returned but Madison and his girlfriend were embroiled in a domestic dispute. According to court records, Schulte interacted briefly with Madison, telling him to "just to go on and let things cool down." According to prosecutors, Madison left but then crept up behind Schulte as he sat in his police car, shooting him twice in the head.

The Supreme Court has ruled inmates must have a rational understanding of why they're being executed, faculties which Madison's lawyers say he doesn't possess.

His attorneys argue strokes have left Madison frequently disoriented with no independent memory of his crime. They also say he is legally blind, cannot walk independently and has urinary incontinence from his brain damage.

The state's lawyers counter that Madison was found competent at a 2016 hearing, hasn't presented new evidence and is aware he received the death sentence - even if he doesn't remember killing Schulte.

"What happened to my dad was cruel and unusual punishment," said Schulte's son, Michael. "He was shot twice in the head while he was trying to help somebody."

Schulte, 59, has suffered health problems of his own, including a stroke and heart attack. Yet he said Madison's protracted legal fight has been hard on his family and doesn't "do my dad justice."

Said Schulte: "Somebody needs to make a decision. Either we are going to have the death penalty or we're not."

(source: Associated Press)

MALAYSIA:

Security personnel sentenced to death for trafficking in 1.4kg ganja

A security personnel was sentenced to death by the High Court today for trafficking in1.4kg of ganja 4 years ago.

Judicial Commissioner Datuk Ahmad Shahrir Mohd Salleh ruled that the defence had failed to raise a reasonable doubt in the prosecution's case.

Wan Mazri Pak Wan Teh, 40, was found guilty of committing the offence at a house at Kampung Sulup, Teluk Kumbar about 1.30am on May 11, 2014.

He was detained inside a room in the house and police recovered the drugs, a weighing scale and also a small plastic bag.

He was charged under Section 39B of Dangerous Drugs Act for trafficking dangerous drugs, which carries a mandatory death sentence upon conviction.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Lim Cheah Yit prosecuted while lawyer Maanveer Singh Dhillon represented the accused.

After the sentence was read out Maanveer urged the court to sentence his client to lifetime imprisonment instead of the death penalty.

He said that according to the amended Dangerous Drugs Act, the court had the discretion to sentence the accused to lifetime imprisonment, if four requirements were met.

"Out of the 4, my client had fulfilled 2. Firstly, there was no proof that my client was buying and selling drugs at the time of the arrest, and secondly, he has assisted an enforcement agency in disrupting drug trafficking activities," he said.

Ahmad Shahrir however upheld his decision.

The accused looked calm when the sentence was read out before he was escorted out of the court by the police.

His father was present to hear the court's decision.

Outside the courtroom, Maanveer said he would appeal against the decision.

(source: nst.com.my)

INDIA:

Farooq Abdullah wants capital punishment in Kathua-like cases----The NC president said India and Pakistan should eradicate terrorism in J&K through dialogues.

Former chief minister of Jammu & Kashmir and National Conference (NC) president Farooq Abdullah on Wednesday said his party would bring a law to award capital punishment in Kathua like cases, if it came back to power in the state.

Abdullah was in Amritsar to pay obeisance at the Golden Temple. Commenting on the Kathua rape case, Abdullah said, "It is painful that an 8-year-old girl was brutally gang-raped and killed."

"On one side, we respect women, treat girl child as a goddess and kiss their feet, but on the other side such incidents bring shame to us. Kathua like rapes are happening all over India just because our government fails to make any stringent law against rapists. We attained independence from foreign powers, but the country is still victimised by such crimes."

Abdullah's comments came in the wake of the Kathua rape case, in which an 8-year-old nomadic girl was allegedly abducted, drugged, gangraped, tortured and killed.

(source: Hindustan Times)

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

Unnao effect: UP to write to Centre seeking death penalty for rapists

The Uttar Pradesh government will ask the Centre to amend existing laws to ensure death penalty to rapists, Chief Minister Adityanath said Wednesday.

"It is necessary that rapists get strict punishment. We are going to send a letter to the Centre to make necessary amendments to award capital punishment to rapists," Adityanath said according to a release issued here.

The comments, made in a meeting called to review law and order, come in the backdrop of a massive outrage over Unnao and Kathua cases. A BJP MLA, Kuldeep Singh Sengar, stands accused of rape in Unnao in UP while a minor was allegedly killed after being raped in Kathua in J&K.

Adityanath said the state government had a zero-tolerance policy against crimes.

"From beat constable to the SP - all should be made accountable and answerable. The senior officials should keep an eye and ensure immediate action against those found guilty of laxity," he said.

The chief minister emphasised that crime against women should be checked and 1090 women power line should be strengthened and the 'anti-Romeo squads' should also be associated with them.

"The police should also do foot patrolling and establish dialogue with people. Those having dubious past should not be made SHOs," he said.

(source: tribuneindia.com)

BERMUDA:

Death penalty needed for drug dealers

Dear Sir,

There are 2 situations that need to be urgently addressed in Bermuda today.

The punishment for selling drugs should be the death penalty. Selling is selling death, the sooner we wake up to the reality of what that sentence will achieve, the fewer lives will be lost.

The 2nd vitally important law that must be passed by legislation is a fine so great that nobody would dare to drink and drive: the loss of the car! The car can be redeemed and sold for charity.

I realise that we are not a dictatorship so these sentences will be hard to introduce, but as God in his wisdom gave us a choice, we too have the choice!

So, if we decide to drink and drive, we choose to lose our car if we get caught.

These sentences will be on the books sadly some time, not and never soon enough.

Years ago I was ridiculed for saying people should be banned for smoking in public places!

Diana Williams

(source: Letter to the Editor, The Royal Gazette)

APRIL 18, 2018:

OHIO:

Ohio Death Penalty Sentencing Process Ruled Constitutional

Ohio's death penalty sentencing process is different in critical ways from a Florida sentencing scheme struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled today. The state's high court unanimously rejected a Marion County man's challenge to the Ohio process, which he claimed violated an accused murderer's constitutional rights.

The ruling affirmed the death penalty of Maurice Mason, who was convicted of the rape and murder of Robbin Dennis in 1993. Mason had won the right to challenge his original death sentence in 2008. When his case went before the Marion County Common Pleas Court in 2016, he argued the U.S. Supreme Court's 2016 Hurst v. Florida decision, which invalidated that state's death penalty sentencing process, applies to Ohio. The trial court agreed that Ohio's scheme was unconstitutional based on Hurst. Marion County prosecutors appealed the decision, and later in 2016, the Third District Court of Appeals reversed the decision and affirmed the death sentence.

In Hurst, the U.S. Supreme Court found Florida's law violated the right to a jury trial guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution's Sixth Amendment. Writing for the Ohio Supreme Court today, Justice Patrick F. Fischer explained that unlike procedures in Florida and other states, an Ohio jury makes every necessary finding to impose a death sentence, and that satisfies the Sixth Amendment requirements.

Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor and Justices Judith L. French and R. Patrick DeWine joined Justice Fischer's opinion. Sixth District Court of Appeals Judge James D. Jensen, sitting for recused Justice Terrence O'Donnell, and Second District Court of Appeals Judge Michael T. Hall, sitting for recused former Justice William M. O'Neill, also joined the majority opinion.

Justice Sharon L. Kennedy delivered a concurring opinion, in which she wrote that the Ohio Supreme Court's 2016 State v. Belton decision already determined the that Hurst ruling did not invalidate Ohio's death penalty sentencing process.

(source: Court News Ohio)

TEXAS----new death sentence

Isidro Delacruz gets death penalty in Naiya Villegas murder

In the end, the photographs of a smiling 5-year-old girl juxtaposed with a menacing-looking Isidro Delacruz - staring straight into the camera on the night of the child's murder - might have helped jurors decide Delacruz needed to die.

A Tom Green County jury sentenced Delacruz, 27, to death late Tuesday in the slaying of 5-year-old Naiya Villegas after more than 3 years of trial delays.

The jury of 8 women and 4 men went into deliberation at 10:30 a.m. to answer the special issues questions that resulted in the death penalty on the 5th week of trial.

Delacruz appeared emotionless when 119th District Judge Ben Woodward read the sentence in the courtroom, with relatives of both families present alongside half a dozen Tom Green County Sheriff's deputies.

Delacruz grinned when staff on the defense team patted his shoulders as he walked out of the courtroom in handcuffs.

Family members had been meandering in and out of the courtroom throughout the day as they waited for the jury to make a determination.

The same jury found Delacruz guilty of capital murder last month in the child's death. Naiya died in an ambulance on the way to the hospital after her throat was slit twice in the middle of the night at her mother's home in the 2700 block of Houston Street on Sept. 2, 2014.

Delacruz's parents declined to comment Tuesday evening as family members hugged each other outside of the courthouse. Members of Naiya's family said they are thankful justice was served, adding they were planning to hold a vigil on the courthouse lawn when the case concludes.

"In the ultimate betrayal, Naiya's short life was brutally, maliciously ended," 51st District Attorney Alison Palmer said in a statement after the sentencing. "No family should have to endure the loss of a child, especially in these circumstances, at the hands of one who professed to love her.

"To the family of Naiya Villegas, you have my deepest sympathies. I hope this resolution brings them some measure of closure, and that they will remember the beauty of Naiya and know that she has found justice."

Delacruz's defense team declined to comment.

Attorneys took less than an hour each to argue their case Tuesday morning. Court-appointed attorneys Robert R. Cowie and William P.H. Boyles said Delacruz experienced personality disorders, learning disabilities and physical abuse during his upbringing, which affected him in adulthood. The defense told jurors life imprisonment is itself a death sentence in prison.

Palmer said Delacruz has proven he is incapable of accepting responsibility for his actions and can't follow rules. She argued a sketchy work history, drinking while on probation, numerous run-ins with the law and destructive conduct such as making shanks while he was awaiting trial in the Tom Green County Jail were all examples of impetuous behavior.

The punishment phase of trial had 2 delays when it began this month. Woodward halted trial for several days the first week of April because an official gave prosecutors new school records on Delacruz.

Defense attorneys immediately filed for a mistrial and a 6th continuance based on the receipt of the additional school files, but Woodward ultimately turned down their motions. Woodward also delayed proceedings for a day last week for undisclosed reasons.

About 100 witnesses were called to testify, including the child's mother, who broke down and nearly collapsed in the courtroom when she saw a picture of Delacruz's bloody hand print inside her house.

Trial began in January when some 350 San Angelo residents reported to the McNease Convention Center for jury duty.

"It was common to hear prospective jurors say they did not want to serve on this jury, but they would because it is their responsibility as a citizen," Palmer said. "Many said they knew the case would be difficult, but if their friends or family were involved as a victim or defendant, they would want responsible citizens on a jury to hear the case. I am humbled by this sense of civic duty and community."

12 jurors and 2 alternates were eventually impaneled after more than 7 weeks of tedious individual examination by attorneys.

"I thank all of the venirepersons who took time for jury selection, and I thank the 14 who so diligently served on this jury," Palmer said. "They have my deepest respect."

This was the 1st time Palmer had prosecuted a capital case seeking the death penalty that had gone to trial.

The last death penalty trial San Angelo saw was in May 1999, when a Tom Green County jury sent Luis Ramirez to death row when he hired a hit man who shot and killed fireman Nemecio Nandin because Nandin was having a relationship with Ramirez's ex-wife.

Delacruz's case will automatically be filed for appeal.

(source: gosanangelo.com)

************** ---- impending execution

Texas Prepares for Execution of Erick Davila on April 25, 2018

Erick Daniel Davila is scheduled to be executed at 6 pm CDT, on Wednesday, April 25, 2018, at the Walls Unit of the Huntsville State Penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas. 31-year-old Erick is convicted of the murder of 48-year-old Annette Stevenson and 5-year-old Queshawn Stevenson on April 6, 2008, in Fort Worth, Texas. Erick has spent the last 9 years on Texas' death row.

Growing up, Erick did not have a close relationship with his mother, as he was conceived during a rape when she was 13. Erick was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and had a low IQ. He grew up in a high-crime area that had several gangs.

On April 6, 2008, Erick Davila and Garfield Thompson drove to the home of Annette Stevenson, who was throwing a 9th birthday party for her granddaughter Nihtica Stevenson. After driving past the house, Davila got out of the vehicle and Thompson drove off. Davila was observed by neighbors, who later identified him in a line-up, to be carrying a large gun, with a "red dot beam."

A group who was in the neighborhood attending another party, observed Davila walk between two buildings. The group followed Davila as he walked between 2 homes and took aim at Annette's house across the street. Davila shot Annette several times before running into the middle of the street and shooting into the house several more times.

Thompson then returned, driving the car. Davila got into the driver's side of the car. He fired more shots at the house as he drove away.

By the time the police arrived at the scene, Annette had already died from her injuries. Queshawn was seriously injured and several other children had various injuries.

Police were tipped off about Davila's involvement in the crime by his girlfriend Nichcole Blackwell, Davila's girlfriend. Davila had borrowed her car the day of the murder and he was gone from the house most of the afternoon and evening. Davila was arrested 2 days later.

Davila eventually confessed to the crime, saying he was trying to hit the only adult male attending the party and that he never meant to harm the women and children. The other man with him in the car, Thompson, knew about his plan to shoot at the house and agreed to drop him off and pick him up.

Davila was convicted and sentenced to death in 2009. During his trial, it was revealed that Davila was also charged with the 2 other murders, just days before the murders of Annette and Queshawn. Additionally, while in jail awaiting trial, Davila, with 2 other inmates, attacked 2 guards and 2 maintenance men in a failed escape attempt.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has rejected a request to halt the execution of Erick Davila. The court did not a provide a reason for their ruling. Erick will likely appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States before his execution.

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

(source: theforgivenessfoundation.org)

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More than 230 prospective jurors in Rico Doyle capital murder trial

The capital murder trial of Rico Doyle, 38, of Killeen, will take longer than other trials because it is a death penalty case, according to the Bell County District Attorney's Office on Tuesday. Doyle is being tried in the 426th District Court of Judge Fancy Jezek.

The jury selection process started April 2 followed by interviews of prospective jurors, a process that could take 2-3 weeks, said Henry Garza, Bell County District Attorney.

"Because this is a capital murder case in which the death penalty is being sought, individual questioning of prospective jurors is required," Garza said. "As a result it takes a longer period of time." More than 230 prospective jurors are involved in the process.

After the jury selection interviews, a jury can be seated and the trial will begin, which is expected to last about 2 weeks, he said.

Doyle pleaded not guilty in September, 2015, to the charges of capital murder of Kysha D. Edmond-Gray, 42, and Deanna Louise Buster, 38, in downtown Killeen on April 21, 2015. He also pleaded not guilty to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon on allegations of wounding 3 other people during the same incident, according to court records.

Doyle has been in the Bell County Jail on bonds totaling more than $1.2 million since being arrested in April, 2015.

(source: Killeen Daily Herald)

NEW HAMPSHIRE:

Lawmakers delve deeper into debate over whether to repeal N.H. death penalty

In a half-hour discussion, the House Criminal Justice Committee debates a bill repealing the state's death penalty, April 17, 2018.

The House Criminal Justice committee threw its support behind a bill to repeal the death penalty Tuesday, voting, 12-6, to recommend repeal the government's ultimate punishment after lengthy debate.

In a half-hour of measured discussion, committee members dove into what have become well-trod arguments, weighing the moral costs, the potential to deter other criminals, and the costs of carrying out capital punishment. Several members said they came in undecided, wrestling with the question out loud to the committee.

"I assume everyone's changed their minds several times," quipped chairman David Welch, R-Kingston, ahead of the vote.

The legislation, Senate Bill 593, would strike the words "may be punished by death" from the state's capital punishment statute, replacing them with "shall be sentenced to imprisonment for life without the possibility for parole." New Hampshire is 1 of 31 states to have the death penalty, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The bill passed the Senate in March, 14-10 - a historical first for the chamber. But ahead of that vote, Gov. Chris Sununu vowed he would veto the bill, saying it would send the state "in exactly the wrong direction" and go against the wishes of law enforcement and victims.

On Tuesday, arguments for and against fell into familiar grooves.

Some dwelled on blame. Rep. Frank Sapareto urged the committee to vote against repeal, arguing that those who didn’t would be partially responsible if someone imprisoned for life killed again. "Everyone who does vote yes to this, you're going to bear that responsibility for the rest of your life," he said. "I don't want to be responsible for those deaths. I'll vote no."

Rep. Linn Opderbecke, D-Dover, countered that allowing a law that could lead the state to execute someone innocent also carried moral consequences.

"On the other side are the mistakes that we make," he said. "And I think that's a great concern."

Others pointed to costs. Rep. Roger Berube, D-Somersworth, said the appeals process for death penalty cases can rise into the millions. Rep. Carolyn Gargasz, R-Hollis, while supporting repeal, made note that life in prison also carries high costs for the state.

A few more said they were conflicted.

"I am truly on the fence with this one," said Rep. John Burt, R-Goffstown. He ultimately voted in favor of repeal, citing examples of cases where those convicted have been exonerated via forensic evidence.

Rep. Dennis Fields, R-Sanborton, said he was similarly undecided, but ended up voting against repeal, influenced by the rise of school shootings and the need, he said, for justice.

And one, Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, spoke to his unique trauma. In 1988, Cushing's father was murdered on his doorstep, killed by shotgun in front of his mother. But Cushing's experience informed his views against the death penalty, not in favor, he said. For decades he’s been pushing for repeal in New Hampshire, arguing that the measure is not necessary to deliver justice for surviving victims.

On Tuesday, he pointed to the millions in legal costs incurred by the appeals surrounding New Hampshire's only death row inmate, Michael Addison, convicted for the 2006 killing of Manchester police officer Michael Briggs. That money could have been used toward tackling the state's remaining 119 cold cases, or funding victim support services, he argued.

"They're wondering: Why all the attention is being paid to one killer, when 119 other families are seemingly forgotten?" he said of the families. "It creates a hierarchy of victims."

It was a perspective that appeared to resonate. After a roll call vote - some shouting out their vote, others pausing before making the call - the bill moved forward as "ought to pass."

It now heads to the House floor.

(source: Concord Monitor)

SOUTH CAROLINA:

This candidate running to be SC governor calls for return of firing squad

In the wake of Sunday's deadly riot at a South Carolina prison, one of the Republicans running for governor has called for bringing back firing squads.

On a radio program, Catherine Templeton said firing squads should be revived in the Palmetto State. The Republican made the comments Tuesday on the Bob Mclain Show.

"Criminals legally sentenced to death are getting an unofficial reprieve right now as South Carolina goes without the drugs necessary for lethal injection," Templeton said. "We must make the death penalty swift and final. I will push for legislation allowing firing squads for court-ordered executions. And I will also seek to deny condemned inmates their choice of execution."

Templeton, who was a Cabinet director under former S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley, made her comments a little more than a day after the riot at Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville late Sunday that left 7 inmates dead.

The Charleston attorney is not the first politician in South Carolina to try and revive the use of the firing squad. S.C. Rep. Josh Putnam, R-Anderson, filed a bill in February that called for firing squads to help execute the state's death row inmates.

Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah are currently the only states that have execution by firing squad, according to deathpenaltyinfo.org.

Use of firing squads was banned in Utah in 2004, but revived in 2015, when legislation was enacted to allowing execution by firing squad if the drugs used for lethal injection are unavailable.

In November 2017, Gov. Henry McMaster announced that South Carolina does not have the drugs necessary to carry out lethal injection. The deadly mix requires 3 drugs - pentobarbital, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride - all of which the state does not have.

Templeton has been critical of McMaster on this issue, and for his handling of the criminal justice system.

"Under Henry McMaster's watch, prisoners have been rioting and jumping fences. They use cell phones to get access to drugs and contact criminal cronies," Templeton said on the radio program. "When I'm governor, once criminals are put in prison, they will no longer dictate or demand special favor."

McMaster's campaign responded to Templeton's remarks, disputing some of her attacks on the governor.

"Governor McMaster has locked up scores of criminals during his career as U.S. attorney and South Carolina attorney general, and as governor he has led the charge in giving prisons the resources they need to be secure and keep contraband out of the hands of prisoners," Campaign Communications Director Caroline Anderegg told The State. "Catherine Templeton's false and misleading attacks are nothing but a cheap political gambit by a candidate with zero understanding of or experience in law enforcement.

"The only people responsible for this horrific violence are the criminals who perpetrated it, and for Templeton to suggest otherwise is a disgusting new low."

Including Templeton and McMaster, there are 5 Republicans running for governor. That also includes Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant, former Lt. Gov. Yancey McGill and businessman John Warren.

3 Democrats - Charleston businessman Phil Noble, state Rep. James Smith of Columbia and Florence attorney Marguerite Willis - also are running for governor.

(source: thestate.com)

GEORGIA---new and impending execution date

Man convicted in killing of Ga. CO set to be executed----Robert Earl Butts Jr. was convicted of killing an off-duty CO after asking him for a ride outside a Walmart in 1996

A man convicted of killing an off-duty prison guard after asking him for a ride outside a Georgia Walmart store is scheduled to be executed next month.

Robert Earl Butts Jr., 40, is scheduled to die May 3 at the state prison in Jackson, state Attorney General Chris Carr said in a statement Monday. Butts and Marion Wilson Jr., 41, were convicted and sentenced to death in the March 1996 slaying of Donovan Corey Parks.

Wilson's case is currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Attorneys for Butts have argued that his trial defense was ineffective and failed to thoroughly investigate his case or to present mitigating evidence, including a childhood characterized by abuse and neglect, that could have spared him the death penalty. State and federal courts have rejected his appeals.

But his lawyers argued in a federal court filing last week that a Georgia Supreme Court opinion published in January opens the door for a federal judge to consider his claims of ineffective assistance of counsel.

Authorities said Butts and Wilson were gang members, and evidence was presented at Butts' trial that showed the two had gone looking for a victim when they drove Butts' car to a Walmart store in Milledgeville, in central Georgia.

A witness saw the pair standing behind Parks in a checkout line, and the store's receipts showed Butts bought a pack of gum right after Parks bought pet supplies, according to a Georgia Supreme Court summary of the case.

A witness heard Butts ask Parks for a ride. Parks agreed and Butts climbed in the front passenger seat while Wilson sat in the back behind Parks.

After they'd driven a short distance, Butts showed Parks a shotgun and ordered him to stop the car, the summary says. Parks was dragged from the car, ordered to lie face-down on the ground and was killed with a single shot to the back of his head.

Butts and Wilson then drove to a service station in Gray and put gas in Parks' car before driving to Atlanta to try to sell the car. Unsuccessful, they bought two cans of gasoline, drove to a remote part of Macon and set fire to the vehicle. They walked to a nearby public phone where Butts called his uncle to arrange a ride back to the Walmart to get Butts' car.

Investigators recorded the license plate numbers of the vehicles in the Walmart parking lot that night, including Butts' car. They found a shotgun loaded with unusual ammunition under Wilson's bed, and a witness said Butts had given it to Wilson to hold temporarily, according to the summary.

Butts would be the 2nd inmate executed by Georgia this year. Carlton Gary, convicted of raping and killing 3 older women and known as the "stocking strangler," was put to death March 15.

Georgia executes inmates by injection of the barbiturate pentobarbital. Since 2013, the Department of Corrections has gotten the drug from a compounding pharmacy whose identity is shielded by state law, and department records from past executions show the drug is generally produced within the 2 weeks leading up to an execution date.

(source: correctionsone.com)

ALABAMA----impending execution

Vengeful Alabama to kill 83-year-old man----Alabama currently has 182 inmates on death row, with an average age of 32.

Barring intervention by courts or its governor, Alabama will kill an 83-year-old man on April 19; long-incarcerated for the 1989 mail-bomb killings of United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit Judge Robert S. Vance and civil rights attorney Robert E. Robinson, Walter Moody, Jr.'s wizened, withered body, will, three decades after his crimes, be strapped to a gurney, pricked with a sharp needle (possibly many, many times), and pumped full of chemicals until he is dead.

Why? Other than the reactionary, regressive idea of "retribution" - whose flawed moral underpinning is interchangeable with bloodthirsty, wild, wild West revenge - how will justice be served? And, for whom?

The premeditated, state-sponsored senicide of the most senior of senior citizens on Alabama's death row won't make anyone - not anyone in Alabama, and not anyone anywhere in the United States or the world - safer.

As I have written elsewhere, the myth that capital punishment - in this instance for an old man at the tail-end of a tortured existence in "hell-on-earth" Holman prison - provides deterrence, is an outmoded shibboleth. No mentally disturbed person intent on a bombing rampage will be dissuaded by Alabama prosecutors' tri-decade pursuit of Moody's execution. (As the Tuscaloosa News editorialized in a piece titled "Attempts to carry out the death penalty have gone from bad to worse":

"30 years is a long time to wait to die, but the State is persistent. Alabama has spent a lot of money and a lot of energy to usher out these old and infirm inmates before nature takes its course.")

Additionally, and arguably most important, Alabama's unrelenting desire to exact violent vengeance for the deaths of Judge Vance and Attorney Robinson is improper because of: (1) who these champions of justice were, their respective legacies of honor, and the principles of equality their lifework embodied; and (2), because it is undesired by the people whose opinion should matter the most - the family members of the victims - who have spoken publicly about this.

A crusader for civil rights in the segregated South, Robert Robinson served on the executive board and as general counsel of the NAACP, and so it seems certain he would not favor the death penalty - for Moody, or for anybody - the practice having been hewn from the hell of slavery, subjugation and the suffering of black people.

Interviewed for a 2016 essay called "Celebrating Black History: Remembering Robbie Robinson," Robinson's widow, Ann, "says she may never know the reason why her husband lost his life to such a heinous crime but she harbors no ill feelings towards Moody. Instead, she's focused on keeping [her husband's] memory alive."

By the same token, Judge Vance's wife Helen, who was seriously injured as a result of the bombing that killed her husband, told reporters after Moody's 1991 conviction in federal court that, "she wouldn't press for a state death-penalty case" (Helen Vance died in 2010).

And recently, in March, Robert Vance, Jr., Judge Vance's son and a circuit judge in Alabama, told a news reporter: "We achieved peace when [Moody] was convicted," later saying "he's not sure what can be gained from the execution of his father's killer."

This ambivalence and distaste for executing an impotent, likely soon-to-die-anyway old man, would undoubtedly have been shared by his father. For as now-deceased former acclaimed death penalty attorney and law professor Michael Mello wrote about Judge Vance, for whom he clerked, in his book "Dead Wrong: A Death Row Lawyer Speaks Out Against Capital Punishment":

"Judge Vance personally did not believe in capital punishment; if he were a legislator he would vote against it; if he were an executive he would commute death sentences; and if he were a Supreme Court Justice, he might well hold it unconstitutional. Robert Vance's personal opposition to capital punishment was genuine and heartfelt ... He did not believe that the death penalty was a proper form of punishment."

Which brings us full-circle to the questions I posed earlier: Why is Alabama intent on killing an octogenarian who can no longer hurt anyone? And, who on God's good earth will benefit from such ghastliness?

For as renowned Christian author, ethicist, and theologian Lewis Smedes once powerfully observed: "The problem with revenge is that it never evens the score. It ties both the injured and the injurer to an escalator of pain. Both are stuck on the escalator as long as parity is demanded, and the escalator never stops."

This is why Sir Francis Bacon once counseled that "in taking revenge, a man is but even with his enemy; but in passing it over, he is superior."

If Alabama does not spare Mr. Moody, this time-tested wisdom, together with whatever honor and capacity for human dignity that exists within the office of Alabama's governor, its Department of Corrections, and its Office of the Attorney General, will be lost.

(source: Guest Opinion; Stephen Cooper is a former D.C. public defender who worked as an assistant federal public defender in Alabama between 2012 and 2015. He has contributed to numerous magazines and newspapers in the United States and overseas----Montgomery Advertiser)

OHIO:

Hamilton death penalty trial: Witnesses fear for their safety

As jury selection in the death penalty trial stemming from a 2016 shooting entered its 2nd day, police officers were still looking for two witnesses who did not show up.

A jury was selected late Tuesday afternoon in the trial of Michael Grevious II, who is facing the death penalty if found guilty of aggravated murder for the retaliation shooting that followed a shootout at the former Doubles Bar in Hamilton's West Side.

Grevious, 25, is also charged with felonious assault and having weapons under disability for violence at the bar.

7 others, including 3 also charged with a capital offense, have all had their cases heard and are serving prison sentences.

While the prosecution, defense and the judge questioned potential jurors, law enforcement officers were looking for 2 material witnesses who did not show up when issued a subpoena by the prosecution.

Assistant Prosecutor Brad Burress said he was concerned after 2 women who had been subpoenaed did not appear Monday in court.

By lunch time Tuesday the women had been located.

One woman cried as she stood before Stephens. The officer who took her into custody said she and her family expressed concern for her safety because of the magnitude of the trial.

"You have nothing to be afraid of while you are here to testify," Stephens assured her.

The judge told both women they were to return Thursday to testify and if they did not, another warrant would be issued.

"I will send people out to get you ... we can do this the easy way or the hard way," the judge said.

Both women said they understood.

According to court records, Grevious was part of the violence at Doubles, standing on a pool table inside the bar and opening fire, along with others.

In the end, Kalif Goens, who did not have a gun, was dead and his brother, Mondale Goens, was facing two felonious assault charges in the shooting of Katrina Price and Jariaus Gilbert.

Cornell McKennelly II shot and killed Kalif Goens, according to Butler County prosecutors.

During the same shootout, 3 other people shot and wounded members of the Gilbert family, according to court documents that said: Rodrick Curtis Jr. shot and wounded Tavaris Gilbert; Cory Cook II shot and wounded Orlando Gilbert, who was killed days later in the Central Avenue drive-by shooting.

After the Doubles Bar shooting, Grevious recruited Zachary Harris to kill Orlando Gilbert for $5,000, according to prosecutors.

Harris and 2 ex-convicts, Tony Patete and Melinda Gibby, drove about 90 miles from Fairfield County, Ohio, to Butler County and spent several days driving around Hamilton in search of their target, investigators alleged.

Then on Aug. 3, a Chevrolet pickup truck driven by Gibby pulled up next to a black Ford Mustang occupied by Orlando Gilbert and Todd Berus. Patete, the front seat passenger of the truck, opened fire with an AK-47 multiple times, killing Gilbert and Berus, according to court documents.

Prosecutors said that Harris orchestrated the drive-by shooting from the backseat of the pickup truck.

(source: Dayton Daily News)

ARKANSAS:

Judge barred from Arkansas execution cases participates again in death-penalty protest

An Arkansas judge barred from presiding over death-penalty cases participated in a vigil marking the 4 executions the state carried out over 2 weeks last year.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen lay motionless on a cot Tuesday night outside the Arkansas governor's mansion while about 40 opponents of capital punishment gathered nearby.

Griffen rose from the cot shortly after 7 p.m. Asked why he participated in the protest again and whether he was concerned with the perception, he repeated the same answer twice.

"We are still killing," he said.

Griffen, who is also a Baptist minister, has sued the state's Supreme Court justices, claiming they violated his constitutional rights by imposing the ban in response to his participation on Good Friday last year in an anti-death penalty rally on the steps of the state Capitol and later in a protest at the Governor's Mansion during which lay on a cot "in solidarity" with Jesus.

Earlier that same day - on April 14, 2017 - Griffen had issued a temporary restraining order that prevented the state from using the drug vercuronium bromide in executing death-row inmates. The ruling was made in response to a lawsuit filed by the drug's manufacturer, which said the state had illegally obtained the drug.

Last week, a federal judge refused to dismiss the lawsuit against the 7 justices of the Arkansas Supreme Court, but the high court itself was dismissed from the case.

(source: arkansasonline.com)

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Arkansans reflect 1 year after historic series of executions

Many Arkansans are reflecting on the values of justice and mercy. On this date one year ago, the State of Arkansas began a historic series of executions.

Executions were scheduled for eight men between April 17-27, 2017. One, Jason McGehee, received clemency from Gov. Asa Hutchinson, 3 were granted stays by the courts, and 4 were executed.

The 1st of the men to be executed was Ledell Lee.

"We've been going through this since last year," his sister, Patricia Young, said Tuesday. "And it has not been a easy process for us. And we're trying to cope with it as best we can, but it's very hard."

Young joined a couple dozen people for a vigil outside the gates of the Governor's Mansion Tuesday evening. The event was organized by the Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, which staged similar protests several times in April 2017.

"The State of Arkansas, they need to abolish the death penalty," Young said. "Because you're not helping nobody in this situation."

The most visible attendee at the vigil was Pulaski County District Judge Wendell Griffen. Griffen brought a cot, had someone tie him to it with a rope, and laid silently for an hour. He wore a button that said, "end the death penalty," along with an identification badge and a hat he placed on his lap.

A similar demonstration during an anti-death penalty rally last year led the Arkansas Supreme Court to remove Griffen from cases related to executions. Griffen sued the justices to be fully reinstated.

After the demonstration, State Sen. Trent Garner (R-El Dorado) wrote on his Facebook page that Griffen should be removed from the bench.

"What a pathetic and depressing display by Judge Griffen," he wrote. "He has disgraced the office that he holds for years and now is using a desperate, attention-seeking move to further bring shame on himself. I'm calling on House leadership to bring articles of impeachment immediately."

Griffen's attorney, Mike Laux, said in a statement that Judge Griffen has the constitutional right to demonstrate, and they will prove it, if necessary.

Young said she and her family were not allowed to be at the Cummins Unit when Lee was executed. She said the last year has been very difficult for them. They do not understand why Lee did not receive the same stay as some of the other inmates and they were saddened by the fact that his time of death was 11:56 p.m., just 4 minutes before his execution order would have expired.

"My family hates the fact that the justice system failed my brother," Young said.

James Phillips said last year that the justice system failed him and his family, too, though in a different way. His wife was killed and his daughter was attacked by Jack Jones. Jones was executed on April 24, 2017.

"I hope the state of Arkansas, and the government, and the court system learns from this: it don't take 22 years to get something done," Phillips said. "Get it done right, and people don't have to live like this or think like this for 20-something years."

A spokeswoman for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said in a statement Tuesday that Rutledge will keep supporting the death penalty, as it is her job to enforce the sentence given by juries. "The Attorney General fights to ensure justice is carried out for the victims and their families, who continue to suffer through delay after delay," Nicole Waugh added in the statement.

Critics thought last year's process was rushed and flawed. They argued that scheduling so many executions in such a short period of time, and planning 2 of them per day each time, was inhumane. They also said that a couple of the inmates felt undue paid during their executions. But Governor Hutchinson said at the time that the executions were a good moment for our state.

"My goal was to make sure that we did justice in Arkansas in a way that reflected well on the state," he said the day after the final execution. "I think that was accomplished."

Gov. Hutchinson has continued to push for the death penalty, scheduling another execution in November 2017 for Jack Greene, Jr. before it was halted by the courts. The state's supply of vecuronium bromide expired earlier this spring, so no more executions can be scheduled until the Arkansas Department of Correction acquires a new dose.

(source: thv11.com)

COLORADO:

Death Penalty Considered for 2 Colorado Springs Men

Prosecutors are considering pursuing the death penalty for 2 Colorado Springs men accused of pulling the trigger during the executions of a pair of high school students.

The Gazette reports Prosecutor Jim Bentley said Monday the District Attorney's Office hasn't ruled out death penalty bids against 1st-degree murder suspects Diego Chacon and Marco Garcia-Bravo.

The men's arraignments are scheduled for May 7. If the men plead not guilty, prosecutors would have 63 days to file notice of a capital case under Colorado law.

Garcia-Bravo and Chacon are among 10 people charged in a conspiracy that culminated in the March 2017 abductions and shootings of Derek Greer and Natalie Cano-Partida, two Coronado High School students, at close range over a gang rivalry.

5 people were charged with 1st-degree murder in the teens' slayings. Prosecutors cut plea deals for 2 of them.

(source: Associated Press)

CALIFORNIA:

Suspect In Fatal Studio Arson May Face Death Penalty

A 28-year-old man was charged Tuesday with capital murder for allegedly setting fire to a music studio in Studio City last Saturday, killing 2 men and leaving a 15-year-old girl and a man in his 20s critically injured.

Efrem Zimbalist Demery Jr. of Los Angeles is set to be arraigned Tuesday in a Van Nuys courtroom on 2 counts each of murder and attempted murder and 1 count of arson of a structure.

The murder charge includes the special circumstance allegation of multiple murders. Prosecutors will decide later whether to seek the death penalty against Demery, whom police said may have had a prior dispute with at least 1 of the 2 men who was killed.

The criminal complaint also includes allegations that Demery used an accelerant and committed great bodily injury during the commission of the crime.

Investigators believe that Demery knew and had been together with the 2 deceased victims -- DeVaughn Cemar Carter, 28, and Michael Pollard Jr., 30, both of Los Angeles -- and that a dispute erupted with one or both of them, according to Los Angeles Police Department Chief of Detectives Justin Eisenberg.

Demery then went across the street from Top Notch Recordings at 3779 N. Cahuenga Blvd., bought gas at a Chevron station and returned to torch the interior of the building before fleeing out a rear door, Eisenberg alleged.

Firefighters were dispatched at 6:54 a.m. Saturday to the building and had the greater-alarm fire out within 28 minutes of their arrival.

A K-9 on loan to the Los Angeles Fire Department's Arson/Counter- Terrorism Section from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives detected an accelerant, and forensic evidence, surveillance video and witness statements caused investigators to zero in on Demery, according to Capt. William Hayes of the LAPD's Robbery-Homicide Division.

Demery, who is believed to have been friends with at least 1 of the dead men, allegedly poured fuel in a hallway and set it ablaze, Hayes said, adding that Carter and Pollard were in 1 room and the 2 injured victims were in separate areas of the studio at the time.

Responding firefighters found all 4 victims down inside the building.

The injured girl and man appear to have no connection to Demery or the dead victims, police said.

Carter and Pollard were pronounced dead at the scene and the 2 injured victims remain hospitalized in critical condition with "significant burns," Eisenberg said Monday.

The nature of the possible dispute between Demery and the other 2 men remains under investigation, Hayes said.

Demery -- whose prior criminal history includes burglary and selling counterfeit goods -- was arrested on suspicion of murder about 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the area of 135th Street and Avalon Boulevard in the Willowbrook area when a California Highway Patrol officer stopped him for a traffic violation, according to Eisenberg.

By the time he was stopped, Demery had already been identified as a suspect in the Saturday morning fire, which Eisenberg called a "senseless and horrific crime."

Demery has been held without bail since his arrest.

The building houses independent producers and studios, Shad Rabbani, the leasing agent for the building, told the Los Angeles Times. The facility has 13 studios, he said.

"They have a lot of clients and it's 24/7, so I have no idea who is coming and who is going out," Rabbani said.

Songwriter and artist L.A. Pryce said he had worked all night in one of the studios, fallen asleep and was awakened by a friend.

"My boy was like, `Yo wake up. Smell That?' So I opened the door. It's just blacked out smoke," Pryce told the newspaper. "And then I see flames. I broke for the door and got out. I lost everything, hard drive, computer, everything's gone."

(source: patch.com)

IRAQ----4 new death sentences against women

Iraqi court sentences 4 foreign women to death for joining IS

An Iraqi court on Tuesday sentenced 4 foreign women to death and 3 to life in prison for joining the extremist militant group Islamic State (IS), the Iraqi judiciary said.

The Iraqi Central Criminal Court issued verdicts of death penalty for "3 Azerbaijani women and a Kyrgyz woman for being members of IS group," the Supreme Judicial Council said in a statement.

The court also "sentenced a French woman and 2 Russian women to life imprisonment for joining IS group," the statement said.

The Iraqi judiciary frequently sentenced women of foreign nationals to death and imprisonment for joining IS militants, including 16 Turkish women, sentenced to death on Feb. 25.

After the Iraqi forces defeated IS in Iraq in 2017, hundreds of IS loyalists were killed or captured, while many others are still at large in hideouts in Iraq or abroad.

Tuesday verdicts came a day after the Iraqi Ministry of Justice said it had executed 13 Iraqi prisoners, 11 of them over charges of terrorism, despite international calls to end the death penalty.

The increase of executions in Iraq has sparked calls to stop capital punishment by the UN mission in Iraq, European Union and some international human rights groups, which have criticized the lack of transparency in Iraqi courts.

Death penalty in Iraq was suspended on June 10, 2003, but was reinstated from Aug. 8, 2004.

(source: xinhuanet.com)

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Iraq reportedly sentences Kyrgyzstani woman to death for ties to ISIS

The Central Criminal Court of Iraq sentenced 7 foreign women, members of the ISIS terrorist organization, including a native of Kyrgyzstan, to life imprisonment and death penalty, RIA Novosti reported with reference to the Iraqi Al Sumaria TV channel.

A French woman and 2 Russian women were sentenced to life in prison for links to the ISIS.

According to the broadcaster, 3 women from Azerbaijan and 1 from Kyrgyzstan were handed a death penalty.

(source: akipress.com)

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

More than 300 sentenced to death in Iraq for IS links

Iraqi courts have sentenced to death a total of more than 300 people, including dozens of foreigners, for belonging to the Islamic State group, judicial sources said Wednesday.

The suspects are being tried by 2 courts, 1 near the former jihadist stronghold of Mosul in northern Iraq and another in Baghdad which is dealing notably with foreigners and women.

Since January in the capital, 97 foreign nationals have been condemned to death and 185 to life in prison, according to a judicial source.

Most of the women sentenced were from Turkey and republics of the former Soviet Union.

In January, an Iraqi court condemned a German woman to death after finding her guilty of belonging to IS while on Tuesday a French woman was sentenced to life in prison.

At the court In Tel Keif near Mosul, 212 people have been sentenced to death, 150 to life in prison and 341 to other jails terms, Supreme Judicial Council spokesman Abdel Sattar Bayraqdar said in a statement.

"It has been proven that they carried out criminal actions at public hearings conducted in accordance with the law during which the convicts' rights were guaranteed," he said.

Iraq declared victory in December against IS -- also known as ISIS -- which at one point controlled 1/3 of the country.

On Monday the justice ministry said 11 people convicted of terrorism-related charges had been executed in Iraq, which according to New York-based Human Rights Watch is the world's number 4 executioner.

"These executions follow rushed trials of ISIS suspects which are riddled with due process violations, including convictions based solely on confessions which are sometimes extracted by torture," said HRW senior Iraq researcher Belkis Wille.

"Iraq's mishandling of the ISIS trials not only denies victims real justice, but also risks sending innocent Iraqis to their deaths."

(source: al-monitor.com)

PAKISTAN:

Death penalty awarded in murder case in Faisalabad

A court in Faisalabad awarded death penalty to a man convicted in a murder case of Thikriwala police station. After observing evidences and witnesses, Additional Session Judge Azfar Sultan Abrar awarded capital punishment to accused Javaid Iqbal under section 302-B of pakistan Penal Code (PPC).

According to prosecution, accused Javaid Iqbal had shot dead his neighbour on a minor dispute in 2011. The convict was directed to pay Rs.4 lakh as compensation to legal heirs of the deceased.

(source: UrduPoint Network)

INDIA:

1993 blasts death-row convict Tahir Merchant dead

M. Tahir Merchant, alias Tahir Takla, 1 of the convicts in the March 1993 Mumbai serial blasts who was sentenced to death, died of a heart attack here on Wednesday, a police officer said.

Merchant, who was lodged in the Yerawada Central Jail here, suffered a heart attack in the prison around 3 a.m. and was rushed to the Sassoon Hospital.

However, he failed to respond to the treatment and breathed his last around 3.45 a.m., said Additional DGP (Prisons) B.K. Upadhyay.

On September 7, 2017, he was awarded death penalty for conspiring, facilitating and knowingly commissioning acts of terror leading to the March 1993 serial bomb explosions which rocked Mumbai.

(source: Business Standard)

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

Clamour for death: On hanging rapists of minors

The anger is justified, but not the proposal to grant capital punishment for rape of minors

Each time a horrific sexual crime hits the headlines, there is a clamour for prescribing the death penalty for such offences. Given this, it is perhaps no surprise that the gang-rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir has evoked a similar response. Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi has said her ministry will seek an amendment to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, to provide for death as the maximum punishment for the rape of those below 12. The anger is understandable but legislation ought to be a well-considered exercise and not a response based on a sense of outrage over particular incidents. The last time a ghastly crime led to legislative change was in 2013, following a national outcry over the gang rape and murder of a woman in Delhi in December 2012. That set of amendments to criminal law was a structured response, largely based on the recommendations of a committee of eminent jurists. In its January 2013 report, the committee, headed by former Chief Justice of India J.S. Verma, decided against recommending the death penalty for rape, despite demands. It rightly took into account the possibility of awarding life sentences without remission for aggravated sexual assault, as well as "the current thinking in favour of the abolition of the death penalty". However, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, set the death penalty for rape in the event of it causing the victim's death or a persistent vegetative state, and for repeat offenders.

In recent months, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh have sought to amend the law to prescribe the death penalty for the rape of a minor below the age of 12. There is a clear dichotomy of views on the desirability of prescribing a death penalty. Enlightened public opinion would not approve of a vengeful state response to individual brutality, even if outraged public opinion clamoured for it. Moreover, it should not be forgotten that the death penalty has never been a deterrent against any sort of crime. There is little empirical evidence to show that those about to commit a capital offence would stop themselves merely out of the fear of being hanged. Further, there is a legitimate concern that the country's judicial system has not been consistent in awarding the death penalty. The Law Commission, while recommending abolition of the death penalty, except in terrorism-related cases, observed that it is difficult to operate the 'rarest of rare cases' principle without a hint of arbitrariness. It will be especially wrong to force judges to compare the relative 'merits' of rape victims based on their age and choose between death sentence and life. Lengthy prison sentences, constituting both well-deserved consequences for grave crimes and a life-long opportunity for penitence, will adequately meet the ends of justice.

(source: Editorial, The Hindu)

APRIL 17, 2018:

NEBRASKA:

Pardons Board denies clemency hearing for death-row inmate Carey Dean Moore

The Nebraska Board of Pardons removed an obstacle to the state's 1st execution in 21 years Tuesday by denying a clemency hearing for death-row inmate Carey Dean Moore.

Gov. Pete Ricketts, Attorney General Doug Peterson and Secretary of State John Gale voted unanimously to reject Moore's application for a commutation hearing. The votes from Ricketts and Peterson were expected, given that both are vocal proponents of capital punishment.

None of the board members commented about their votes during Tuesday's brief meeting. Like all inmates who petition the board, Moore was not permitted to attend and no one spoke for or against his application.

The governor declined to comment on his way to an appointment after the meeting.

The attorney general said he believes the Nebraska Supreme Court may now act on a recent motion for Moore's death warrant, which cannot be issued while a clemency request is pending.

Gale, however, said there's still a chance Moore could get a commutation hearing.

If the Supreme Court orders Moore's execution to be carried out, the board could reconvene and take up the question again, Gale said. Typically the board places a 2-year moratorium for new clemency requests following a denial, but an exception could be made for an inmate facing imminent execution, he added.

Gale said the board routinely denies hearing requests except under extraordinary circumstances.

Few inmates have escaped death row via a commutation by the Pardons Board. The last was 1964.

Moore, 60, was sentenced to death for the 1979 killings of 2 cabdrivers in Omaha. He has spent nearly 2/3 of his life under the threat of execution and is by far the longest serving of Nebraska's 11 death row inmates.

Moore recently told The World-Herald that he is no longer fighting to block his execution in the courts. In his clemency application, however, he said since Nebraska officials "are either lazy or incompetent to do their jobs, or both, I should receive a full pardon."

The attorney general recently petitioned the Supreme Court to issue a death warrant for Moore. Peterson's court filing said Moore has no pending appeals or motions for postconviction relief that would impede the execution.

Peterson, however, did not mention Moore's application for a pardon hearing in the death warrant filing. Although Moore filed the application in September, the attorney general said Tuesday his office was unaware of it until after he filed the document seeking the death warrant.

Moore, 60, shot and killed Omaha cabdrivers Reuel Van Ness and Maynard Helgeland in summer 1979. Both men were 47-year-old fathers and military veterans.

The state has not carried out an execution since 1997 and has never used lethal injection to end the life of a condemned inmate.

In November, prison officials announced they had obtained supplies of 4 drugs they planned to use to carry out a lethal injection. Prison officials then notified Moore in January that they intended to proceed with his execution.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska has filed legal actions challenging the state's death penalty protocol, which it argues should force a delay in Moore's execution until they are resolved.

(source: Omaha World-Herald)

USA:

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Still Gagged As Death Penalty Appeal Grinds On

As the 5th anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing comes and goes, we can't help but wonder what Dzhokhar Tsarnaev might have to say for himself - if he were allowed to speak.

For one thing, we'd like to ask him if he could fill in some details about his brother Tamerlan's mysterious activities in the years leading up to the bombings - much of which the government continues to withhold as "classified."

Dzhokhar is being held at the maximum-security federal penitentiary in Florence, Colorado - known as the "Alcatraz of the Rockies" - under extreme confinement conditions called Special Administrative Measures (SAMs). He was convicted and sentenced to death in 2015 for his role in the bombing near the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon. Tsarnaev is appealing his federal death penalty conviction. (All death penalty convictions are automatically appealed.)

Essentially a form of solitary confinement, SAMs prevent inmates from communicating with all but a few pre-approved individuals. Tsarnaev is not even allowed to communicate with other inmates in the facility. The government justifies the imposition of SAMs by pointing to the possibility that Tsarnaev could try to secretly communicate with criminal compatriots or incite violence of one kind or another.

It's not clear who that might be, since the government insists that Dzhokhar and his brother Tamerlan acted on their own.

The few statements Dzhokhar made that we heard about actually sounded apologetic and remorseful in nature.

For instance, Sister Helen Prejean, Catholic nun and death penalty opponent, testified at trial that Tsarnaev "had pain in [his voice] when he said what he did, about how nobody deserves that. I think he was taking it in and he was genuinely sorry for what he did." Prejean had met with Tsarnaev in jail multiple times over the course of 2 months.

In a final statement in court, Tsarnaev said he "would like to now apologize to the victims, to the survivors," and, "I am sorry for the lives I have taken, for the suffering that I have caused you, for the damage I have done - irreparable damage."

Does this sound like what one would expect from an extremist hell-bent on inciting violence?

In justifying the imposition of the SAMs, prosecutors cited, in part, a phone conversation the defendant's mother recorded and then played for the public "in an apparent effort to engender sympathy," they wrote. The defense team characterized that concern as "telling."

"While the government may not want anyone to feel 'sympathy' for Mr. Tsarnaev," a defense motion reads, "that is not a proper basis to impose SAMs."

Nonetheless, Tsarnaev can't speak with members of the news media, although the reasoning for that comes across as a little overwrought:

Communication with the media could pose a substantial risk to public safety if the inmate advocates terrorist, criminal, and/or violent offenses, or if he makes statements designed to incite such acts. Based upon the inmate's past behavior, I believe that it would be unwise to wait until after the inmate solicits or attempts to arrange a violent or terrorist act to justify such media restrictions.

The warden at the US Penitentiary in Florence recently refused our third interview request citing the SAMs. We've written previously about our efforts to interview Tsarnaev. Each time the request was denied. A second letter to Dzhokhar was also recently returned - unopened this time.

The warden suggested we take up the matter with "the US Attorney's Office in the district he was sentenced in," i.e. Boston. The US Attorney's office in Boston has not responded.

Ironically, when we previously requested the underlying justification for the SAMs from the Department of Justice (DOJ), it refused to provide it because to "confirm or deny" the mere existence of SAMs would be a violation of Tsarnaev's privacy.

Tsarnaev's appellate team has until August to present its written brief opposing the decision of the lower court. A brief is the legal team's argument about why the trial court's decision was legally incorrect. The government then files its own brief responding to the appellant's brief - which the appellant then responds to in a final brief. At that point the case will be fully "briefed" and would then move on to an oral arguments stage.

As far as how long all this will take? "That requires a bit of a crystal ball," Cliff Gardner, one of Dzhokhar's attorneys wrote in an email to WhoWhatWhy. Gardner could not guess how long it will take the government to file its brief, but did say that it is certain to be "long and complex."

Whenever the actual appeal trial finally gets underway, the government will still be firmly in control of the narrative that is fed to the public about Dzhokhar.

(source: whowhatwhy.org)

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES:

Appeal court upholds death penalty of boy's killer----Abu Dhabi appellate court convicts boy's uncle of raping and killing him; case will now go to apex court

The Abu Dhabi Criminal Court of Appeal on Tuesday upheld the death sentence awarded to a Pakistani man who raped and killed his 11-year-old nephew in the emirate.

Earlier, the Criminal Court of First Instance had awarded death sentence to the man. The body of the boy was found on the rooftop of his building on May 31, 2017, a day after he went missing.

The appellate court also ordered the convict to pay the blood money of Dh200,000 to the family.

The convict, who was termed by the Public Prosecution as "a wild beast", was identified as Mohsen Bilal, 34, from Pakistan.

The Presiding Judge of the Court of Appeal, in his judgement, said, "Mohsen Bilal was found guilty on counts of raping and killing and the court awards him the death penalty and a blood money [payment] of Dh200,000."

"The accused was found guilty on all counts - of wearing an abaya [to disguise his identity], driving a car without a number plate and raping and strangling the boy with a rope," the judge said.

The boy's father, Russian mother and grandfather were present in the court. They expressed their satisfaction at the appeal court's ruling.

Speaking to Gulf News after the judgement, the boy's father, Dr Majid Janjua, said, "We are satisfied with the ruling against the criminal. This is what we were expecting. The accused has been changing his statements but nothing worked. He lied on all counts," the father said.

They hoped that a similar judgement would be handed out when the case reaches the apex court.

The boy, Azan Majid Janjua, went missing on May 30 last year after he left home to go to the mosque for Asr prayers.

The Court of First Instance found the man guilty in November 2017 on the charges of rape and murder and sentenced him to death and the payment of Dh200,000 in blood money.

According to records, witnesses said they saw the boy leaving the mosque but he never reached home. His body was found the next morning on the rooftop of the building by some AC technicians repairing a malfunctioning unit.

"His body was half-naked and a copy of the Quran was lying beside him," Dr Janjua had told the police.

The mother, who used to visit her son in Abu Dhabi, was in the city when the tragedy occurred.

On August 8, the 1st trial of the case began at the Abu Dhabi Criminal Court where the accused denied the charges of raping and killing the boy. As the case progressed, the defence lawyer appointed by the court claimed that his client was mentally and psychologically unfit at the time of the crime. But medical examination reports presented to the court proved him to be mentally and psychologically fit.

The accused blamed the Public Prosecution of fabricating evidence against him, but the CCTV footage and forensic evidence proved his involvement in the crime.

Azan was Dr Janjua's 1st son born to his 1st wife whom he had met while studying medicine in Russia. Azan, who was also a Russian national, lived with his mother in Russia for sometime.

As part of a mutual agreement between his parents, Azan started living with his father around 2 1/2 years before his death.

(source: Gulf News)

TEXAS:

Northeast Texas man on death row for strangling girlfriend turned down by Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court turned down Daniel Acker's appeal on Monday.

A northeast Texas man convicted of strangling his girlfriend moved one step closer to a possible execution date after the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday turned down his appeal despite what his lawyer described as a "compelling case of actual innocence."

Daniel Acker was sent to death row in 2001 for the slaying of Marquetta George. The 2 were sharing a rented trailer in Hopkins County in March 2000 when they got in a fight after a night at the Bustin' Loose nightclub.

Afterward, they parted ways and later Acker went searching for the 32-year-old Sulphur Springs woman, according to court filings. Her body was eventually found bloodied and beaten on the side of a road, and investigators fingered Acker for the killing.

At trial, the defense argued that George jumped out of the couple's truck and was hit. Prosecutors said her boyfriend strangled her, then dumped her body.

Acker was sentenced to death and has spent the past 18 years fighting his case, at times filing appeals on his own.

The latest appeal, filed by attorney A. Richard Ellis, argued that prosecutors used false testimony from experts and repeatedly changed their theory of the crime. The case at trial was predicated on the theory that George was strangled - and the defense argued that she wasn't, and that an expert for the state later admitted it.

Ellis also contended that the trial court of wrongly refused to allow evidence that could have shown Acker's innocence.

But this week the nation's highest court without comment turned down the case.

"I am of course very disappointed that the Supreme Court declined to review Mr. Acker's compelling case of actual innocence," Ellis said.

"This was a tragic accident, where the victim jumped from Mr. Acker's truck -- an accident for which he has taken full responsibility from the time he turned himself in to the authorities -- but not a murder," he continued. "Going forward, we will be assessing our options to prevent a terrible miscarriage of justice."

Acker does not yet have an execution date set.

(source: Houston Chronicle)

MASSACHUSETTS:

Massachusetts lawmaker pushes to reinstate death penalty after cop killing

A Massachusetts lawmaker is reportedly pushing the state to bring back the death penalty in response to the recent killing of a police officer gunned down while serving a warrant.

State Rep Shaunna L. O’Connell, a Republican, said the state has a reputation of being soft on crime and that puts the public in danger.

"We need to send a message to criminals that 'you kill law enforcement officers, you are going to get the death penalty," she said, according to Fox25Boston.

Yarmouth K-9 Officer Sean Gannon was shot and killed last Thursday while he and other officers were serving an arrest warrant at a home in Barnstable on Cape Cod.

Gannon, who was married, was an 8-year veteran of the department. Gannon's dog, Nero, also was shot but underwent surgery and is recovering.

Thomas Latanowich, 29, was charged in the killing. Latanowich hung his head throughout his brief arraignment in Barnstable District Court last week, speaking only to answer "yes" when the judge asked if he understood the proceedings.

Latanowich has been arrested numerous times, according to police and court records, though many of the charges were later dismissed.

Authorities said the last prison time Latanowich served was a 4- to 5-year sentence on gun charges. The prosecutor expressed frustration that prior charges had not resulted in more lengthy sentences.

Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, said in a statement that he supports the death penalty when a police officer is killed.

(source: Fox News)

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

Some crimes merit death penalty

The death penalty would be a fitting end to Thomas Latanowich if he is found guilty in the slaying of Yarmouth police officer Sean Gannon. Latanowich has an immense criminal record including recent arrests for strangling a pregnant woman and stabbing a man at a traffic light.

Unfortunately there is no stomach for capital punishment on Beacon Hill. Opponents fear that an innocent man could be executed, and suggest the death penalty is not a deterrent to crime.

Our justice system is imperfect and preventing collateral damage in our sentencing should always be a concern, but it is absurd to posit that the death penalty cannot be deterrent. Who are the respondents of such a survey? How can we prove a negative?

Across the country, if the death penalty is ineffective it is because it is never implemented properly - with many on death row for decades, long after the impact of an execution would resonate in the public.

(source: Editorial, Boston Herald)

GEORGIA:

DA: No death penalty for Gwinnett mom who killed 4 kids, husband

A Gwinnett County woman charged with killing her husband and 4 children will not face the death penalty when her case goes to trial.

Isabel Martinez entered a plea of not guilty to stabbing her 9-year-old daughter and killing the 5 other members of her family at a brief Monday morning arraignment. The Gwinnett County District Attorney's Office had not formally declared their intent to seek the death penalty by the time of the arraignment. That is the legal deadline to decide whether or not a defendant will be eligible for the death penalty.

Martinez, 34, is charged with 5 counts of murder, 1 count of aggravated assault and 1 count of 3rd-degree cruelty to children in connection with the July 2017 attack that left 9-year-old Diana Romero seriously injured and 33-year-old Martin Romero, 2-year-old Axel Romero, 4-year-old Dillan Romero, 7-year-old Dacota Romero and 10-year-old Isabela Martinez all dead.

The DA's office confirmed the decision not to seek the death penalty to Channel 2 Action News. The decision was made due to Martinez's "apparent mental issues," District Attorney Danny Porter told Channel 2.

Martinez had been depressed in the months before the killings and had experienced outbursts of anger and sadness that friends considered unusual, neighbors told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Martinez felt a "devil-like spirit" was trying to take her children when they were playing in the ocean near Savannah shortly before the killings, she told a Department of Family and Child Services worker after her arrest.

Court records do not indicate that Martinez has been ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation. Her attorneys, Josh Moore and Laura Berg, did not respond to phone calls from the AJC.

Martinez, who mimed praying and gave news cameras a double thumbs up at her first court hearing in July, smiled meekly as she walked into the courtroom Monday morning. She did not speak at the hearing.

Martinez had previously told police that a "family friend" committed the stabbings in her Loganville home, but she did not give police the name of that alleged friend. The attack is believed to have occurred between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. July 7.

Diana Romero, the only surviving child, told a DFCS worker that Martinez began stabbing the children first; when Martin Romero tried to stop her, Martinez stabbed him, according to a DFCS report. Martinez was not crying or screaming as she killed her family members, and told Diana Romero that she was "going to the sky to see Jesus," Diana Romero told a DFCS worker.

Martinez called 911 at 4:47 a.m. on July 6, and first responders found her with a cut wrist, sitting among the 6 stabbing victims, according to Gwinnett County police. She was detained and charged that afternoon, and has since been held without bond at the Gwinnett County Detention Center.

(source: Atlanta Journal Constitution)

FLORIDA:

Sentencing hearing held for convicted murderer Sanel Saint Simon----Saint Simon convicted of murdering 16-year-old Alexandria Chery

A man convicted of killing his girlfriend's teenage daughter in Orange County will soon learn whether he will be sentenced to death.

A hearing began Monday for Sanel Saint Simon, who was convicted of murdering 16-year-old Alexandria Chery in 2014. Her body was found near the Osceola-Polk county line.

Attorneys debated for weeks over what jurors will be allowed to hear at the sentencing hearing.

Witnesses gave impact statements Monday morning, and Chery's mother said, "For 4 years, all I do is cry. My life has changed forever."

The victim's former boyfriend also testified in court Monday, recalling what he said Chery confessed to him before she died.

"I had to keep asking her what was wrong and eventually she told me she was being bothered. She told me every time he touched her. It was numerous occasions, maybe about 4 times," Damian Thomas said.

The defense claims Saint Simon has good character and urged jurors not to vote for the death penalty.

The defense also used video testimony from Haiti that showa interviews with Saint Simon's friends and family.

"The question is: Is this case the worst of the worst? And I submit to you that it's not," said Erin Hyde of the public defender's office.

Jurors must determine 1 aggravated factor beyond a reasonable doubt to suggest the death penalty.

The hearing is expected to last at least 2 days.

(source: clickorlando.com)

ALABAMA----impending execution

Jeff Sessions: It's OK with feds if Alabama executes judge's killer

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday paved the way for this week's execution of death row inmate Walter Leroy Moody for the 1989 pipe bombing that killed a federal judge.

Last week Moody asked the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to stay his lethal injection execution, which is set for 6 p.m. Thursday at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore. Moody recently argued the federal government which convicted him first on non-death penalty charges should have him in custody instead of the state.

The appeals court held a hearing Thursday but has not yet ruled.

Justice Department attorneys at that hearing and in written briefs have said that they have had an agreement since the 1990s to allow Moody to serve his sentence in Alabama. Then on Monday the Justice Department filed another brief on behalf of Sessions.

"Before the United States filed its amicus brief in this case and presented its position at oral argument, the Attorney General, Jefferson B. Sessions, III, informed the undersigned Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Matthew S. Miner, that the United States waives its right to exclusive custody of petitioner Walter Leroy Moody, Jr. and consents to his custody in Alabama for purposes of carrying out the capital sentence imposed on Moody in Alabama," the brief filed Monday states.

Walter Leroy Moody Jr., 83, is the oldest inmate on Alabama death row.

He was convicted in the death of U.S. 11th Circuit of Appeals Judge Robert Vance Sr., who was killed Dec. 16, 1989 in a blast from a pipe bomb hidden in a package sent to the judge's Mountain Brook home. The judge's wife, Helen, was seriously injured in the blast.

In 1991, a federal jury convicted Moody of 71 charges related to the pipe-bomb murders of Vance and Georgia civil rights attorney Robert E. Robinson, who also was killed in a pipe-bomb blast 2 days after the judge. That federal trial was conducted in Minnesota. Moody was placed on death row after a jury convicted him of capital murder at a trial in Alabama 5 years later. The jury recommended 11-1 that the death penalty be imposed and the judge agreed.

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

Lawyer to Alabama governor: Judge killed by bomb would oppose death penalty

A lawyer on Monday asked Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey to halt Thursday's execution of Alabama death row inmate Walter Leroy Moody and commute the convicted judge killer's sentence to life without parole.

Moody's attorney claims in the letter to Ivey that U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Robert Vance Sr. - the man Moody is convicted of killing with a pipe bomb in 1989 - did not believe in the death penalty.

"It is crucial that someone in the process consider the wishes of the victim for whom the sentence is being carried out," the letter from attorney Spencer Hahn states. "As the only person with the power and responsibility to decide whether Mr. Moody will be executed or permitted to die a natural death, that solemn and important duty is yours."

The letter cites statements made a few of Vance's former law clerks and his son.

"Indeed, my father often made decisions with which he personally disagreed. He did not believe that the death penalty was a proper form of punishment, and he considered death penalty cases to be almost unbearable. During his tenure, however, he affirmed a great number of death penalty convictions because thy were found to be the result of proper administration of our justice system, and he knew that it was not his role to change that system to suit his personal preferences," Bob Vance Jr. was quoted in the letter as having said at the University of Alabama School of Law a year after his dad's death.

Bob Vance Jr. is now a circuit judge in Jefferson County and is running this year for chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. He recently echoed that same statement in an interview with AL.com.

His father handled a few death row cases, including one involving infamous serial killer Ted Bundy in Florida. "And he really struggled with death penalty cases because personally he was against the death penalty ... but he had to put aside his personal beliefs as a judge" and follow the law, the younger Vance said.

In Monday's letter Hahn asked Ivey to invoke her power of clemency.

"Just as Judge Vance recognized the limitations of his power, as a federal judge, to end the death penalty, you should recognize and exercise the power entrusted to you, pursuant to the Alabama Constitution, to commute Mr. Moody's death sentence to one of life without parole. I urge you to honor Judge Vance by exercising your constitutional authority and respecting his wishes," the letter to Ivey states.

U.S. 11th Circuit of Appeals Judge Robert Vance Sr. was killed Dec. 16, 1989 in a blast from a pipe bomb hidden in a package sent to the judge's Mountain Brook, Ala., home.

Walter Leroy Moody Jr., 83, is the oldest inmate on Alabama death row.

He was convicted in the death of U.S. 11th Circuit of Appeals Judge Robert Vance Sr., who was killed Dec. 16, 1989 in a blast from a pipe bomb hidden in a package sent to the judge's Mountain Brook home. The judge's wife, Helen, was seriously injured in the blast.

In 1991, a federal jury convicted Moody of 71 charges related to the pipe-bomb murders of Vance and Georgia civil rights attorney Robert E. Robinson, who also was killed in a pipe-bomb blast 2 days after the judge. That federal trial was conducted in Minnesota. Moody was placed on death row after a jury convicted him of capital murder at a trial in Alabama 5 years later. The jury recommended 11-1 that the death penalty be imposed and the judge agreed.

(source for both al.com)

SOUTH DAKOTA:

State Withdraws Death Penalty Possibility in Slaying Case

A Sturgis man accused of hiring others to kill his girlfriend will not face the possibility of the death penalty if convicted. Jonathon Klinetobe has pleaded not guilty to multiple felonies including 1st-degree murder in the May 2015 stabbing death of 22-year-old Jessica Rehfeld. Her body was found in a remote grave near Rockerville a year later.

Prosecutors last year said they planned to seek the death penalty against Klinetobe should he be convicted. They announced during a Monday court hearing that they're withdrawing that prospect.

The decision was made at the request of Rehfeld's family, who said the death penalty could drag out the case for years and keep the family from recovering Rehfeld's personal belongings kept as police evidence.

Klinetobe now will face a life sentence if convicted.

(source: Associated Press)

COLORADO:

Death penalty considered for two suspects in Coronado High students' slayings

Prosecutors are considering whether to pursue the death penalty against 2 Colorado Springs men accused of pulling the trigger during the executions of a pair of Coronado high school students shot at close range over a gang rivalry.

Prosecutor Jim Bentley said the District Attorney's Office hasn't ruled out death penalty bids against 1st-degree murder suspects Diego Chacon, 19, and Marco Garcia-Bravo, 22.

Bentley made his announcement after defense attorneys requested a postponement in court, saying he could use more time for "continuing due diligence regarding the penalty phase."

Fourth Judicial District Judge Larry E. Schwartz agreed to postpone the men's arraignments until May 7. If the men plead not guilty, prosecutors would have 63 days to file notice of a capital case under Colorado law. Bentley did not comment further about ongoing deliberations.

Garcia-Bravo and Chacon are among 10 people charged in a conspiracy that culminated in the March 2017 abductions and shootings of Derek Greer, 15, and Natalie Cano-Partida, 16. Authorities say Cano-Partida was marked for death because she was suspected of furnishing information to the defendants' gang rivals. Greer was killed for being with her, they say.

Their deaths came on the side of Old Pueblo Road near the Pikes Peak International Raceway outside of Fountain. After a harrowing drive with their captors, the high school students were forced at gunpoint into "execution position," an investigator said in an arrest affidavit detailing the crime.

A co-defendant, Gustavo Marquez, told investigators that Chacon, armed with a pistol, fired 2 shots at Cano-Partida, possibly while her hands were on her head.

Chacon then handed the gun to Garcia-Bravo, who fired on Greer a moment later, causing the teen to topple forward with his hands still in his sweatshirt pockets.

"Mr. Marquez said Mr. Garcia-Bravo fired multiple shots to include shooting after he fell to the ground," an investigator wrote in an arrest affidavit.

The potential for a death penalty bid comes as El Paso County is in the midst of its first death penalty case in a decade - that of Glen Law Galloway, who is charged in a double killing that targeted a homeless man and a woman Galloway had been convicted of stalking.

That case has been tied up in jury selection for more than a month and is expected to begin with opening statements in mid-May, in a courtroom that received $50,000 for audio-visual upgrades and a jury box enlargement in order to host the monthslong trial.

In the teens' slayings, five people were charged with 1st-degree murder. Monday's announcement comes days after prosecutors cut plea deals for 2 of them - contingent on their agreement to testify.

Joseph Rodriguez Jr., 19, pleaded guilty to 2 counts of 2nd-degree kidnapping, making him eligible for 16 to 32 years in prison. Gustavo Antonio Marquez, 20, pleaded guilty to 2 counts of 2nd-degree murder, with a potential prison sentence of 32 to 38 years. Alexandra Romero, 22, also charged with 1st-degree murder, will be arraigned April 30.

(source: Colorado Springs Gazette)

IDAHO:

Ohlson murder trial delayed one year

The murder trial of Erik Ohlson has been re-scheduled to 2019.

Ohlson is accused in the July 2016 shooting death of Jennifer Nalley, 39, and her unborn child near Driggs.

In a hearing Friday, Judge Bruce Pickett addressed defense concerns about the extent of evidence reviewed in Ohlson's original preliminary hearing. As a result, Teton County Prosecutor Billie Siddoway said the judge re-set the preliminary hearing for May 4 before Magistrate Judge Keith Walker. That hearing will set limits on which evidence Judge Walker may consider.

Siddoway said she did not expect the magistrate court hearing to affect the new trial date.

Defense attorneys also requested adequate additional time to prepare for trial. In response, Ohlson's murder trial was re-scheduled for June 3, 2019.

It was previously determined that the trial would be held in Blackfoot after defense lawyers argued Ohlson could not find an unbiased jury in Teton County. Siddoway stated last year she intended to seek the death penalty in the case.

Ohlson is currently charged with 2 counts of felony 1st degree murder and a variety of lesser crimes connected to them, including alcohol violations, burglary and use of a deadly weapon in commission of a felony.

(source: KIFI news)

CALIFORNIA:

Kevin Cooper Fights for His Innocence From San Quentin's Death Row

Not everyone on death row is guilty. According to the Registry of Exonerations - maintained at the University of California at Irvine Law School, where constitutional scholar Erwin Chemerinsky was the former dean - on average 4 % of men on death row across the United States are innocent.

Kevin Cooper may be one of them.

Cooper, a 60-year-old African-American man, is a death row inmate at California’s San Quentin Prison. In 1985, he was convicted of a 1983 quadruple murder and sentenced to death for the gruesome murders of a white family in Chino Hills, Calif.: Doug and Peggy Ryen, their 10-year-old daughter, Jessica, and her 11-year-old friend Christopher Hughes. The Ryens' 8-year-old son, Josh, survived the attack.

At Cooper's trial, evidence that might have exonerated him was withheld from the defense. Since his conviction, Cooper has become active in writing from prison to assert his innocence, protest racism in the American criminal justice system, and oppose the death penalty. His case was scrutinized in a June 17, 2017, New York Times column by Nicholas Kristof.

The state of California intends to execute Cooper when it resumes executions in the coming months.

Cooper's case is not just another case of a death row inmate claiming his innocence. Many legal experts and longtime human rights advocates say it is the most well-documented and well-supported matter of wrongful conviction they have ever seen. Having exhausted his appeals in the U.S. courts, Cooper's lawyers want to raise public awareness to seek remedy for what they maintain is his wrongful conviction, and the inadequate trial representation, prosecutorial misconduct and racial discrimination which have marked the case.

Here are some facts about Kevin Cooper and his case.

In 2009, referring to Cooper's case, 5 federal judges of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals signed a dissenting opinion that begins: "The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man." 6 additional 9th Circuit judges have joined in the dissent, saying Cooper never has had a fair hearing to prove his innocence.

Read the unprecedented dissent by 5 federal judges below.

In February 2016, legal counsel for Cooper sent the following clemency petition to California Gov. Jerry Brown.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is a principal and autonomous body of the Organization of American States. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., IACHR's mission is to promote, protect and examine allegations of human rights violations in the American hemisphere.

On April 29, 2011, Cooper filed a petition with the IACHR alleging human rights violations in his prosecution, trial, sentencing and appeals. On Aug. 23, 2011, after reviewing the petition, the IACHR issued a letter to the United States that requested "precautionary measures" such that Cooper not be executed while the IACHR undertook its investigation of Cooper's petition. The United States ignored the IACHR's letter. Cooper's attorneys then presented extensive evidence to the IACHR and briefing as to how Cooper's human rights had been violated.

On Oct. 28, 2013, the IACHR convened a hearing on Cooper's petition. Cooper appeared by a pre-recorded statement, and his attorneys presented their arguments on how Cooper's human rights had been infringed. Representing the United States were attorneys from the U.S. State Department. After the hearing, the United States requested time to file a brief in opposition to the the evidence in Cooper's petition and presented at the hearing. After the United States filed its opposition brief, Cooper filed a reply pointing out inaccuracies in the United States' presentation.

In September 2015, the IACHR released its report on its findings with respect to Cooper's clemency petition. That report found eight separate due process violations in Cooper's prosecution, trial and sentencing. It also found that Cooper’s trial counsel had been ineffective and cited evidence that there had been racial bias in the proceedings that led to Cooper's conviction and sentence. The report concluded with a list of recommendations for granting Kevin Cooper effective relief, including a review of his trial and sentence in accordance with the guarantees of due process of law.

As the report states:

In evaluating the information on the record, the Inter-American Commission concludes that the manner in which certain evidence pertinent to the basis for Mr. Cooper's capital conviction was treated in the course of his criminal proceedings and the ineffective defense provided by a court-appointed counsel, failed to meet the rigorous standard of due process applicable in capital cases and amounted to a denial of justice contrary to the fair trial and due process standards.

Reach the full IACHR final report from September 2015 below.

Many people have written letters to Gov. Brown to voice their support for Cooper's request for clemency and urge Brown to use the powers of his office to conduct a full and fair investigation into Cooper's case.

Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, wrote in August 2016:

Based on my decades of experience representing condemned prisoners, Mr. Cooper's case presents exactly the situation for which clemency is intended - to avoid the ultimate injustice of executing an innocent person whom the criminal justice system has failed. ... I have represented scores of condemned men and women, all of whom are poor and who are disproportionately people of color. We now know that for every 9 persons executed in the United States, 1 innocent person is exonerated and released from death row. This error rate in our capital system is unacceptable, yet it continues because so many people on death row were subjected to racial bias and did not have the means to defend themselves.

Read Stevenson's full letter from the Equal Justice Initiative below.

In August 2016, the Innocence Project wrote:

Since 1973, American courts have released [161] death row inmates from prison after a finding of innocence. A recent study determined that, conservatively, 4.1% of all death row inmates in the United States are likely innocent.

Read the full letter from the Innocence Project below.

In May 2017, Sister Helen Prejean wrote:

This brings me to the case of Kevin Cooper, which is currently before you on his Petition for Executive Clemency. The law enforcement abuses and other misconduct by the San Bernardino sheriff's department and prosecutors in the '80's and 90's and mishandling of evidence subject to DNA testing in the early 2000s as well as the actions of a Republican appointed District Court Judge in San Diego that prevented Mr. Cooper from a fair opportunity to prove his innocence, are well set forth in detail in the Petition, the May, 2009 opinion of 9th Circuit Judge William Fletcher and the book "Scapegoat: The Chino Hills Murders and the Framing of Kevin Cooper" by J. Patrick O'Connor and articles and news videos by several others who have reviewed and studied the case.

These organizations and individuals include the most prominent and well respected civil rights and human rights observers, commentators and participants, both nationally and internationally. I join them, most of whom have written personally to you regarding Kevin Cooper's wrongful conviction.

Read the full letter from Sr. Prejean below.

Cooper's clemency petition 30 years after the slaying in Chino Hills continues has stirred many emotions. His last hope of avoiding execution is up to Gov. Brown. If evidence exists that could prove Cooper;s innocence, an investigation with current forensic testing methods should be conducted. Cooper is not asking for his release. All he wants is a fair hearing on his claims of innocence.

For more information about Kevin Cooper and his case, visit savekevincooper.org. To read Cooper's writing on Truthdig, click here. Sign Amnesty Internationals’ petition to commute Kevin Cooper's death sentence.

Share information about Kevin Cooper's case with your neighbors, coworkers, friends and family.

Join the Kevin Cooper Defense Committee, and help them plan events and actions.

Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper about this injustice.

Invite the Defense Committee to present Cooper's case to your house of worship, school, community group.

Contact the Kevin Cooper Defense Committee at info@freekevincooper.org to learn more or discuss other ways to help.

(source: truthdig.org)

ZAMBIA:

'Hanging judge' dies

The man who refused the appeal of Solomon Mahlangu’s death sentence has died.

Former Democratic Alliance leader Tony Leon said that his father, retired judge Ramon Leon, had died over the weekend.

Judge Leon was dubbed a "hanging judge" and was involved in the legal proceedings that saw both Mahlangu and Andrew Zondo to their deaths. The death penalty was suspended in 1990, as talks between the then National Party government and the ANC gathered pace. It was formally scrapped in 1994.

Leon turned down Zond' appeal his death sentence in 1986. Zondo, who was 19-years old at the time, was sentenced to death 5 times for his involvement in the Amanzimtoti limpet mine attack. Leon allowed his accomplice - who ratted in return for anonymity - go free.

2 years later, Leon became a supporter of the Society for the Abolition of the Death Penalty. Mahlangu, meanwhile was sentenced to death in 1979 and his appeal was turned down by Leon.

Police accosted Mahlangu, along with Mondy Johannes Motloung and George "Lucky" Mahlangu in Goch Street, Johannesburg, which resulted in a gun fight on June 13 1977. 2 civilians were killed and another 2 were wounded.

Although Motloung was the one who was involved in the deaths of the 2 civilians, Mahlangu was tried using the court rule of common purpose which saw him charged with 2 accounts of murder and several charges under the Terrorism Act. Motloung was deemed unfit to try because of brain damage that he sustained during the fight.

The Citizen has reported that they came upon the news incidentally. The publication said it had reached out to the family for comments over Sydney Mufamadi;s allegations that Leon junior made former Police Commissioner George Fivaz reopen the investigation into Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's alleged involvement in the murder of Stompie Seipei.

(source: Mail & Guardian)

PAKISTAN:

PHC admits appeals in Mashal lynching case

The Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Tuesday admitted for hearing appeals challenging the verdict of an anti-terrorism court in Mashal Khan lynching case.

A 2-judge bench of the high court issued notices to all parties involved in the case on appeals filed by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, Mashal's father and the convicts who were awarded jail terms by the trial court.

The bench, comprising Justice Qalandar Ali Khan and Justice Ishtiaq Ibrahim, directed the appellants whose conviction have temporarily been suspended to be in attendance at the next hearing.

Mashal, 23, a student at Abdul Wali Khan University (AWKU) in Mardan, was beaten and shot to death on April 13 last year by an unruly mob instigated by rumours that he had committed blasphemy by posting sacrilegious content online.

The high court circuit bench in Abbottabad earlier had suspended the conviction of 25 suspects in the case

On February 07, the ATC sentenced the prime suspect to death while 5 others to 25 years' imprisonment in the case.

ATC Judge Fazal-i-Subhan Khan acquitted 26 suspects and awarded 3 years of jail term to 25 other accused in the case.

Convict Imran, who has been awarded capital punishment, was found guilty of firing shots at the victim student from his pistol, which led to his death.

He had also confessed to the crime before the court.

Nearly 50 prosecution witnesses testified against the suspects during the course of the hearing conducted inside Haripur Central Jail.

The prosecution charged 61 people in the case, while 57 of them were arrested and produced before the court for trial.

(source: arynews.tv)

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES:

Death sentence upheld for Abu Dhabi boy rapist

The court also ordered the killer to pay Dh200,000 in blood money to the child's family.

The Pakistani man, who was convicted of strangling a 11-year-old boy to death after raping him at the rooftop of their Abu Dhabi building, will be executed, according to the latest court ruling.

The Abu Dhabi Appeal Court on Tuesday upheld an earlier verdict by the Criminal Court of First Instance which handed the death sentence to the 33-year-old man after he was found guilty of murder, rape and a number of other charges. The court also ordered the killer to pay Dh200,000 in blood money to the child's family.

"The defendant has been found guilty of all the charges against him and the court has upheld the ruling and sentences by the Criminal Court of First Instance," said the Abu Dhabi Appeal Court judge while issuing the ruling.

The Pakistani boy - identified as Azan Majid - was found missing on June 1, 2017, after he went to a nearby mosque to pray. His body was found the next day on the rooftop of the building on the Muroor Road where he was staying with his father and stepmother.

The court records stated that the boy was sexually abused and strangled to death with a rope by the Pakistani national, who is also related to the child.

Police revealed that the man cross-dressed to carry out the attacks on the child, after luring the boy into going with him to the rooftop of the building.

The Abu Dhabi Public Prosecution had charged the Pakistani with premeditated murder, raping the child, cross-dressing and driving a car without a number plate.

The Abu Dhabi Criminal Court of First Instance in November last year found the Pakistani man guilty on all counts and he was sentenced the death penalty.

The man, however, challenged the ruling denying the charges and stressing that he was wrongly convicted.

During a recent appeal court hearing, he pleaded not guilty.

The lawyer representing him also told court that the man was innocent and that prosecutors had not presented sufficient evidence to convict his client.

The appeal court judge, however, rejected the claims and maintained the first ruling based on evidence presented by the prosecutors.

The boy's parents, including his Pakistani father and Russian mother, refused to take blood money from the defendant when the appeal court consulted them and insisted on the death penalty for the killer.

The Pakistani man can still go on to challenge the execution sentence in the Court of Cassation.

(source: Khaleej Times)

INDIA:

Farooq Abdullah wants bill to award death penalty for raping minors

Opposition National Conference (NC) President Farooq Abdullah on Sunday demanded a special session of Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly to bring in a bill to award capital punishment to those who rape minors.

Abdullah's comment comes in the backdrop of a nationwide condemnation of the rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir's Kathua.

"Capital punishment must be brought in for such cases," Abdullah told reporters here.

"She (Kathua rape victim) is just like my daughter. Thank God, today the nation has woken up and they have taken it very seriously. I hope justice will be done and we will bring a bill in the Assembly session wherein (if) any such incident takes place, the hanging must be brought in," he said.

Abdullah was speaking to reporters after chairing a meeting of NC's provincial committee for Kashmir province at the party headquarters in Nawa-e-Subha.

The NC president said the PDP-BJP government should call a special session of the state legislature to pass the bill which would act as a deterrent against such crimes.

"Let the government call a special session of the Assembly just for this thing. When the special session of the Assembly is called and this bill is passed, it will be a great thing for the future such crimes will not take place," Abdullah said.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has also said her government would bring a new law to make death penalty mandatory for those who rape minors.

"We will never ever let another child suffer in this way. We will bring a new law that will make the death penalty mandatory for those who rape minors," Mehbooba said in a tweet on April 12.

Meanwhile, a statement by the party said that Abdullah, while addressing the party meeting, expressed anguish, grief and pain at the gruesome tragedy in Kathua and demanded "exemplary punishment" for the culprits.

Abdullah said the incident was a result of politics involving "the harassment, intimidation and disempowerment of the nomadic Gujjar-Bakerwal communities".

"Ministers of this government openly threatened the Gujjar-Bakerwal community of dire repercussions and 1 such minister went to the extent of reminding them of the horrors of the 1947 massacre," said Abdullah.

"The Gujjar-Bakerwal communities have been hounded, targeted and intimidated for nearly three years now while the PDP has remained a mute spectator. Had the PDP objected to this harassment and intimidation, perhaps things would not have come to this tragic pass," he said.

The NC president said the chief minister's "silence over repeated attempts to harass and threaten" the Gujjar-Bakerwal communities had emboldened anti-social elements...and the consequences are here for all of us to see," he said.

Abdullah said the PDP-BJP alliance had left no stone unturned to divide the people of the state along regional and religious lines for their personal political benefits.

"While the BJP continues to pit the people of Jammu against their brothers and sisters in Kashmir as a deeply divisive and dangerous political strategy, the PDP in Kashmir sought votes against the BJP before aligning with it post elections - eroding the sanctity of its mandate and pushing our youth towards turmoil and disenchantment," he said.

"The ramifications of this opportunism of this brazen sellout - have been disastrous," Abdullah said, adding that the fault lines between various regions of the state had become deeper.

"Polarising rhetoric has changed the narrative into an 'us-versus-them' debate in respective regions of the state. This is a very dangerous trend and the slide needs to be checked immediately before its too late and the situation becomes irretrievable," he said.

The NC president also expressed serious concern over the law and order conditions in the state.

"The unabated spate of civilian killings is pushing the youth towards a path of unimaginable anger and hostility," Abdullah said.

He asked the party leaders to reach out to youth and give them all possible opportunities to come forward with fresh ideas to take the state out of the "morass of hopelessness, instability and chaos".

(source: voiceonline.com)

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

Federal law for death to rapists unlikely despite Kathua gangrape case

The gangrape and murder of 8-year-old Kathua girl has shook the nation's conscience once again. Drawing parallels with the Nirbhaya gangrape case of December 2012, chorus for awarding death penalty for the rapists has grown in the recent days in the country.

Cutting across party lines, politicians have demanded that the rapists, particularly of minors below 12 years, should be handed out capital punishment.

Both leaders at the national level and in the states have joined chorus to press for their demand.

NATIONAL LEADERS

Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi has asked her department to work on a proposal to amend the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. The move is aimed at including the provision of death penalty for the rape of a minor below 12 years of age.

The present POCSO Act does not have any provision for capital punishment. The maximum sentence at present is life imprisonment for penetrative sexual assault.

Actor-turned-politician Hema Malini reiterated the views expressed by Maneka Gandhi. The BJP MP from Mathura in Uttar Pradesh demanded that rapists of children below 12 years must be "hanged to death".

STATE GOVERNMENTS

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti last week said her government would soon introduce a new law to make death penalty mandatory for those who rape minors.

Mehbooba Mufti's decision holds significance because Kathua falls in the Jammu region.

Not just Mehbooba Mufti but her PDP's arch rival National Conference president Farooq Abdullah has also demanded convening of a special session of the state Assembly to bring in a bill to award capital punishment to the rapists of minors.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also said his government would amend the law for awarding death to the rapists of minor girls.

Kejriwal assured bringing law in the next Assembly session. He also said the AAP government in Delhi would also set up fast-track courts to complete trial of the cases of crime against women in 6 months.

Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) chairperson Swati Maliwal is sitting on an indefinite hunger strike for the past 4 days to protest the Kathua gangrape case and alleged rape by BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar in Unnao.

In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Maliwal demanded that child rapists should be given capital punishment within 6 months of committing the crime.

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

At least 3 states have passed bills seeking death penalty for those convicted of raping girls under 12 years of age.

Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led Madhya Pradesh was the first state to legislate a bill in December 2017 which would send convicts of such rapes to the gallows.

Last month, ML Khattar government in Haryana and Vasundhara Raje government in Rajasthan too passed similar bills.

Coincidentally, all the three states are ruled by the BJP. Moreover, the bills in all these three states were passed unanimously.

The 3 states have made amendments to the Indian Penal Code (IPC). DEVELOPMENTS SINCE 1998

The demand for securing capital punishment to rape convicts is almost 19 years old.

The then home minister LK Advani was perhaps the 1st leader to broach the idea of sending rape convicts to the gallows. As early as in October 1998, he said in consultation with the state governments, the Centre would amend the country's criminal laws to punish rapists with death.

He explained that the consent of the state governments was required because the subject was on the concurrent list in the Constitution.

Advani was speaking in the wake of rape of 3 nuns in the tribal Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh. He rued that that the present laws were inadequate to deal with rapists.

His suggestion found support from the BJP Mahila Morcha which argued that it would discourage criminals and inculcate a sense of security among women.

Goa Governor Mridula Sinha, who was Social Welfare Board chairperson then, said only capital punishment to rape convicts could instil fear in men.

Advani reiterated the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government's stand even in November 2002. He was replying to the demand raised by Lok Sabha members. He said a final decision could be taken only after evolving a political consensus on the issue.

He recalled that his suggestion for capital punishment for rapists was opposed by several state governments and women's organisations on the ground that it could put to danger the lives of the rape survivors.

The senior BJP leader was replying to demand made by Renuka Chowdhury of the Congress for death penalty for rapists.

Union Minister of State for Social Justice Ramdas Athawale, who was then an independent Lok Sabha MP, suggested that Prevention of Terrorists Act (POTA), 2002, should be used against rapists.

The issue found resonance once again after Nirbhaya's gangrape on December 16, 2012 in the capital and her subsequent death.

The then Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government would take steps to amend law for awarding death penalty in particular cases of rape.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who was the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha then, also advocated death penalty for the rapists.

In fact, Sushma Swaraj had posted a tweet about two years before the Nirbhaya case advocating death sentence for rapists. She said, "I want death sentence in all cases of rape and murder and all cases of kidnapping or abduction and murder," appealing to twitterati to retweet and support her call.

NO MOVEMENT

Statistics prove that violence against women is on the increase in India. A woman is raped every 53 minutes and an act of sexual violence is committed every 7th minute.

The Manmohan Singh government constituted the JS Verma committee to review the laws. However, the committee did not favour death sentence to rapists as a deterrent.

It held that certainty of punishment rather than its severity was the most important factor which can act as a deterrent.

The dismally low conviction rate has been held the culprit in rape cases. It is as low as about 4 %.

Though the demand for capital punishment has gained momentum in the wake of Kathua case, the Centre is yet to take a call.

(source: India Today)

IRAQ----executions

Iraq executes 13 people, 11 on terror charges

Iraq executed 13 individuals, 11 of whom on terror convictions, the Ministry of Justice announced on Monday.

"The Ministry of Justice, today Monday, announced the execution of 13 convicts following the completion of legal measures. There were 11 convicts of terrorist crimes, including car bombing, assassination of security members or kidnappings," the ministry announced.

This is the latest execution announcement in Iraq where many convicted members of ISIS have been handed death sentences in recent months.

In February, a criminal court sentenced 15 Turkish women to death after finding them guilty of membership in ISIS.

In the southern city of Nasiriyah 38 prisoners convicted of affiliation with ISIS were executed in December and 42 in September.

Human rights monitors have criticized the use of the death penalty and voiced concerns that due process has been followed in the cases.

"Under international law, the death penalty may only be imposed after a strict set of substantive and procedural requirements have been met," Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said responding to the execution of 42 prisoners in one day in September.

Saying it was "extremely doubtful" that all the trials had been fair and followed due process, Hussein added, "In such circumstances, there is a clear risk of a gross miscarriage of justice."

Baghdad has dismissed the international criticism. The Iraqi Ministry of Justice vowed that it is "moving forward with implementing the sentences," regardless of external pressure.

Iraq is among the countries that carried out the most executions in 2017, coming 4th after China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, according to Amnesty International.

(source: rudaw.net)

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

A 10-Minute Trial, a Death Sentence: Iraqi Justice for ISIS Suspects

The 42-year-old housewife had two minutes to defend herself against charges of supporting the Islamic State. Amina Hassan, a Turkish woman in a flowing black abaya, told the Iraqi judge that she and her family had entered Syria and Iraq illegally and lived in the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate for more than 2 years. But, she added: "I never took money from Islamic State. I brought my own money from Turkey."

The whole trial lasted 10 minutes before the judge sentenced her to death by hanging.

Another accused Turkish woman entered the courtroom. Then another, and another.

Within 2 hours, 14 women had been tried, convicted and sentenced to die.

Iraq's judicial assembly line has relentlessly churned out terrorism convictions since the battlefield victories over the Islamic State last year led to the capture of thousands of fighters, functionaries and family members. Authorities accuse them of helping to prop up the group's vicious 3-year rule over nearly 1/3 of the country.

As millions of Iraqis struggle to recover from the bloodshed and destruction of the period, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has found widespread public support for his push to step up the pace of prosecutions - and for punishments to the full extent of the law, which in Iraq means execution.

"These Islamic State criminals committed crimes against humanity and against our people in Iraq, in Mosul and Salahuddin and Anbar, everywhere," said Gen. Yahya Rasool, the spokesman for the Iraqi joint operations command. "To be loyal to the blood of the victims and to be loyal to the Iraqi people, criminals must receive the death penalty, a punishment that would deter them and those who sympathize with them."

But critics say the perfunctory trials in special counterterrorism courts are sweeping up bystanders and relatives as well as fighters, and executing most of them in a process more concerned with retribution than justice.

The office for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights warned that flaws in the judicial process would most likely lead to "irreversible miscarriages" of justice.

Human Rights Watch has criticized Iraq for relying on an overly broad law to quickly achieve the maximum punishment of the most people.

The nation's counterterrorism law allows the death penalty for anyone "who commits, incites, plans, finances or assists in acts of terrorism." So Iraqi courts are meting out 1-size-fits-all punishment for the perpetrator of crimes against humanity as well for as the wife of an Islamic State fighter who may have had little say in her husband’s career.

"Individual circumstances don't matter," said Belkis Wille, the senior researcher for Iraq for Human Rights Watch. "Cooks, medical workers, everyone is given the death penalty."

The low bar for conviction under the law, she said, also means that the courts are not bothering to investigate some of the worst crimes believed to have been committed by Islamic State members, such as slavery, rape or extrajudicial killings.

Iraq's Justice Ministry rejects such criticism and touts the integrity of its judges and its standards of due process. "If there is evidence then suspects are prosecuted, and if there is no evidence then they are released," said Abdul-Sattar al-Birqdar, a judge and Justice Ministry spokesman.

The government has not released statistics about its terrorism detainees, but 2 people familiar with the court who were not authorized to speak to journalists said that approximately 13,000 people had been detained on suspicion of ties to the Islamic State since 2017, when the vast majority of arrests were made.

Human Rights Watch estimated in December that at least 20,000 people accused of ties to the Islamic State were being held by the Iraqi authorities. Last month, The Associated Press reported that Iraq had detained or imprisoned at least 19,000 people since 2014 on accusations of connections to the Islamic State or other terrorism-related offenses.

Many of these detainees were arrested on the battlefield. Some were detained far from combat, based on information gleaned from informers and prison interrogations.

Iraqi intelligence officials say that high-value detainees, people accused of involvement in specific terrorist attacks, are held separately from the majority of prisoners, who are suspected of having been low-level cogs in the Islamic State bureaucracy.

Since the summer of 2017, more than 10,000 cases have been referred to the courts, the people familiar with the court said. To date, they said, approximately 2,900 trials have been completed, with a conviction rate of about 98 %.

They did not say how many had received the death penalty, nor how many executions had been carried out.

The government said 11 people were executed on Monday for "terrorism crimes," fulfilling "the government's promise to kill those responsible for shedding Iraqi blood," the Justice Ministry said in a statement.

Among those held apart from the general prison population are approximately 1,350 foreign women and 580 children, the majority of whom surrendered to Iraqi security forces last August during military operations to liberate the town of Tal Afar. The vast majority of these detainees are Turkish, Russian and Central Asian.

Iraq says it is determined to try them if evidence links them to the Islamic State, but some of their home countries, including Saudi Arabia, have requested extradition for some of their citizens. Other countries, like Britain and France, have been reluctant to take their citizens back, officials from both countries said.

In rare cases, individuals have been returned to their home countries, such as a group of 4 Russian women and 27 children in February, after Iraqi authorities concluded they had been tricked into coming to Islamic State territory. Turkey has been working to repatriate minors whose parents took them to the caliphate, as well as those found innocent of wrongdoing.

For a nation that for more than 15 years has been an incubator for Islamist extremists and has been torn apart by terrorist bombings, Iraqis have little appetite for leniency or concern about mitigating circumstances that in other nations could be grounds for clemency. Foreigners in particular are widely assumed to have been the Islamic State's most fervent adherents since they moved here to join the caliphate.

"What concerns me the most in these trials is that the system is fundamentally prejudiced against foreign individuals," said Ms. Wille, who has observed dozens of terrorism trials. "The presumption is because you are foreign, and you were in ISIS territory, there is no need to provide more evidence."

The 14 women convicted in one afternoon this month, 12 Turks and 2 Azerbaijanis ranging from 20 to 44 years old, had lived in Raqqa, the former capital of the group's territory in Syria. When international airstrikes escalated there and several of their husbands were killed, they moved to Iraq and were among those who surrendered outside Tal Afar.

Gaunt, withdrawn and surrounded by plainclothes security guards, they waited in the florescent-lit hallways of Baghdad's counterterrorism court for their trials to start. Eleven toddlers who had spent the last eight months in detention with their mothers accompanied them to the court.

When Ms. Hassan was called, she handed her child to another detainee to look after. The other women cooed and hummed to try to placate her curly-haired toddler. Some appeared to whisper prayers.

Their state-appointed lawyer, Ali Sultan, said he had not prepared for the trials. He said he had no access to the evidence against his clients because information related to terrorism investigations is classified.

He added that his pay - $25 regardless of whether the case goes to appeal - hardly encourages much effort. The fee is paid only after the final appeal is exhausted or the client is executed which, despite the push to expedite trials, can take months if not years.

After Ms. Hassan was sentenced by Judge Ahmed al-Ameri, he swiftly dispensed with the rest of the docket.

Negar Mohammed told him that she was innocent of all Islamic State crimes; he ruled otherwise.

Nazli Ismail told the judge that her husband pushed her family to go to Syria. 3 of her children were killed in an airstrike, she said. The only one to survive was her youngest, a 2-year-old boy named Yahya, who was waiting outside in the hallway.

Judge Ameri asked, "Are you innocent or guilty?"

"I'm innocent," Ms. Ismail replied.

The judge sentenced her to death.

Ms. Ismail accepted her fate with a smile. "This means I will finally go to heaven," she said.

Mother and child left the courthouse under armed guard. It was unclear what would happen to the child.

(source: New York Times)

IRAN:

2 Prisoners in Imminent Danger of Execution

2 prisoners who were sentenced to death on the charge of armed robbery, are transferred to the solitary confinement. They are in imminent danger of execution.

According to a close source, on the morning of Friday April 13, 2 prisoners named Bahman Varmezyar and Mehdi Cheraghi were transferred to the solitary confinement in order to be executed. The prisoners were sentenced to death on the charge of Moharebeh through armed robbery.

Farhad Varmezyar, the brother of 1 of the prisoners whom his execution is scheduled for Tuesday, April 17, told IHR, "Bahman had never been arrested for anything before. He was an athlete. During the armed robbery, people captured 1 of the thieves and turned him into the police. My brother escaped with the jewels but he regretted his action and called the police to tell them that he did this and that he wanted to surrender. 18 days later he turned himself in and returned the jewels, and the plaintiff gave his consent after finding out that Bahman wasn’t a common thief. They never shot anybody at the time of the robbery; they just shot in the air."

He concluded, "After the sentence was issued, we asked Naser Ayatollahs Makarem Shirazi, Jafar Sobhani, and Safi Golpayegani for a Fatwa that if a defendant repents and he has no criminal records, he shall not be executed and his sentence shall be reduced. However, the authorities ignored it. Today, they called us to visit my brother for the last time. They have also called Mehdi Cheraghi’s family."

It should be noted that the robbery took place on March 31, 2015, and Bahman Varmezyar turned himself in on April 7. During the robbery, 4 people were arrested; 2 of them were sentenced to 3 years imprisonment but were released after 1 year in prison, and the 2 others were sentenced to death.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

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

Another Political Prisoner in Iran Is Unfairly Handed a Death Sentence

A 24-year-old Kurdish citizen who is currently in prison has had the death sentence he was handed upheld by Iran’s Supreme Court. The political prisoner, Ramin Hossein Panahi from Iran’s Kurdish minority, has been on hunger strike since the end of January when he first learned of his charge.

Panahi was imprisoned and subsequently given a death sentence for being a member of Komala, an armed Kurdish opposition group. He has been given a hugely unfair trial that did not even last an hour. He was tortured in prison, as evident through marks of violence on his body, and the court failed to investigate.

He was arrested in June last year after being injured in an ambush carried out by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) against the Iranian Kurdistan Komala Party. The party, an armed separatist organisation, has been outlawed by Iran.

Panahi who was allegedly unarmed was the only survivor of the attack. 3 others - Behzad Nouri, Hamed Seif Panahi and Sabbah Hossein Panahi - died after sustaining insurmountable injuries in the ambush.

Panahi's lawyer said that his client's charge was "taking up arms against the state" and he was targeted because he was a member of Komala. Hossein Ahmadi Niaz said that there was no evidence to indicate that his client was involved in any acts that involved intentional killing - the threshold for imposing the death sentence according to international law. The lawyer emphasises that Panahi has not taken up arms against the regime.

With regards to the torture that his client has been subjected to during detainment, Ahmadi Niaz said that the court should have investigated such claims, especially before upholding Panahi's death sentence.

The lawyer is adamant that his client was victim to a trap set up by the notorious IRGC. When the vehicle Panahi was travelling in entered Iran from Iraq, it was put under surveillance and then ambushed with gunfire when it entered Sanandaj.

Furthermore, Panahi was only permitted to meet with his lawyer once, very briefly. There were intelligence agents present during the meeting. This in itself is a violation of the law where the detainee should be allowed to speak to their lawyer in private.

It is unacceptable that anyone in Iran is subjected to such an abuse of the law. Courts are in place so that everyone can receive a fair trial with independent and impartial officials. However, this is not the case in Iran where the ruling authority has the courts under its power. It cannot be accepted by the international community that people are sentenced for death when there is not a single shred of evidence to say that a detainee is guilty of the charges against them.

There are political prisoners put on death row routinely and systematically in the Islamic Republic. Panahi is just one more victim of the ruling system that is desperate to quash all opposition at any cost. The Kurdish community has been particularly targeted as has many other minorities.

(source: NCR-Iran)

APRIL 16, 2018:

TEXAS:

A rush to death risks executing the innocent

Since the Supreme Court's lifting of the moratorium against the death penalty in 1976, more than 1,400 men and women have been killed at the hands of various states. Of that number, nearly 1/3 were executed by the state of Texas. That's 549 people - killed by our state. The cost of those executions has been enormous. According to the group Death Penalty Focus, imposing capital punishment costs taxpayers approximately 2.3 million dollars per defendant. If you're doing the math, one death penalty conviction costs more than 3 times what it would take to incarcerate a person under the highest level of security for 40 years. Ed Barnes, writing for Fox News U.S. in 2010 put it even more simply when he stated, "Every time a killer is sentenced to die, a school closes."

Now, according to an article recently published by the Houston Chronicle, it appears Texas (in a effort to lessen the costs of capital convictions) wants to "opt in" to new federal legislation that would limit the appeals process in death penalty cases and speed up executions. That decision is wrong. Since 1973, 161 people nationwide, 13 of them right here in our Great State of Texas, have been released from death row, due to their wrongful convictions. If the numbers are accurate, it means Texas has spent nearly $30 million dollars getting it wrong.

Just for a moment, however, let's forget about the exorbitant costs associated with killing a fellow human being. The very idea that a person, innocent of a capital crime, could be caused to sit on death row for any amount of time or, worse, wrongfully killed by our government, is offensive to our fundamental notions of liberty and justice. As celebrated English jurist Sir William Blackstone once said, "It is better that 10 guilty persons escape, than 1 innocent suffer." Some of our founding fathers agreed.

Both Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, our nation's 1st Vice President, echoed Blackstone's sentiments. According to Ben Franklin, "It would be better for 100 guilty persons to escape than 1 innocent person suffer." Mr. Adams went even further when he said, "When innocence itself is brought to the bar and condemned, especially to die, the subject will exclaim, 'It is immaterial to me whether I behave well or ill, for virtue itself is no security.'" Our Founding Fathers were right. It is unconscionable for us to live in a society where innocence is condemned, virtue has no security and our society's greatest punishment is expedited for the sake of political expediency.

Granted, at a time when even basic facts are up for debate and every issue is, invariably, reduced to a cacophony of talking heads yelling at one another about right versus wrong, left versus right and conservative versus liberal, there's no wonder that very few in our criminal justice system, aside from the criminal defense bar, have had the courage to stand up and voice their collective opposition to this attempt to limit a defendant's ability to appeal a death penalty conviction. The truth, however, is that speaking out against a proposed course of action that is, at best, legally questionable and, at worst, morally wrong should not fall solely on those who are willing to defend citizens accused of committing society's most heinous crimes. We should all stand together.

It shouldn't matter what one's feelings about capital punishment are or what position a person holds in our system of jurisprudence. Be they judge, prosecutor or defense attorney, for or against capital punishment, each and every member of the criminal justice system should speak with one voice on at least this issue: The ability of a person to lodge a full and fair defense of a death conviction, irrespective of the costs, must be held sacrosanct.

(source: Opinion, Michael Fields is the judge in Harris County Criminal Court No. 14----Houston Chronicle)

OHIO:

Trial today for last of 8 charged in Hamilton's summer of deadly shootings

A trial is scheduled to begin today for a Hamilton man who is the last of 8 defendants charged in 2 deadly incidents in the summer of 2016.

Michael Grevious II, 25, is facing the death penalty if found guilty of aggravated murder for a retaliation shooting that followed a shoot out at the former Doubles Bar in Hamilton's West Side. He is charged with felonious assault for that incident.

The trial is scheduled to begin with jury selection in Butler County Common Pleas Judge Greg Stephen's courtroom.

His death penalty trial has been continued. According to court records, Grevious was part of of the violence at Doubles, standing on a pool table inside the bar and opening fire, along with others.

In the end, Kalif Goens, who did not have a gun, was dead and his brother, Mondale Goens, was facing 2 felonious assault charges in the shooting of Katrina Price and Jariaus Gilbert.

Cornell McKennelly II shot and killed Kalif Goens, according to Butler County prosecutors.

During the same shootout, 3 other people shot and wounded members of the Gilbert family, according to court documents that said: Rodrick Curtis Jr. shot and wounded Tavaris Gilbert; Cory Cook II shot and wounded Orlando Gilbert, who was killed days later in the Central Avenue drive-by shooting.

After the Doubles Bar shooting, Grevious recruited Zachary Harris to kill Orlando Gilbert for $5,000, according to prosecutors.

Harris and 2 ex-convicts, Tony Patete and Melinda Gibby, drove about 90 miles from Fairfield County, Ohio, to Butler County and spent several days driving around Hamilton in search of their target, investigators alleged.

Then on Aug. 3, a Chevrolet pickup truck driven by Gibby pulled up next to a black Ford Mustang occupied by Orlando Gilbert and Todd Berus. Patete, the front seat passenger of the truck, opened fire with an AK-47 multiple times, killing Gilbert and Berus, according to court documents.

At least 1 person was killed when shots rang out inside Doubles Bar on the west side of Hamilton. Police are still investigating.

Prosecutors said that Harris orchestrated the drive-by shooting from the backseat of the pickup truck.

In October, Harris pleaded guilty to 2 counts of aggravated murder, just minutes before his 2-week trial was scheduled to being and was given 2 life sentences.

In December Patete pleaded guilty to 2 counts of aggravated murder and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Gibby pleaded guilty to aggravated murder with an agreed to sentence of 30 years to life. She will not be formally sentenced until after Grevious' trial, where she has agreed to testify.

The 4 other men involved in the gun violence at Doubles have already been sentenced to prison.

Cory Cook II, 23, of 9th Street in Hamilton, pleaded guilty to attempted felonious assault. He was sentenced to 4 years in prison.

Rodrick Curtis Jr., 20, of North 7th Street, accepted a plea deal to aggravated assault. He was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison.

Mondale Goens, 21, of Maple Ave., pleaded guilty to aggravated assault. He was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison.

Cornell McKennelly II , 38, of Franklin Street in Hamilton, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter with a gun specification and having weapons under disability for shooting and was sentenced to 17 years in prison.

(source: Journal-News)

WASHINGTON:

On this day: 17-year-old Walter Dubac becomes youngest to be executed in state history

On April 12, the Washington Supreme Court upheld the death penalty for inmate Conner Schierman, who was convicted in 2010 of murdering an entire family.

Washington's death penalty has been seldom used in recent years. In 2014, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee placed a moratorium on capital punishment, suspending the practice for as long as he’s in office. The state's last execution occurred in 2010 when Cal Coburn Brown, convicted for the 1991 rape and murder of 21-year-old Holly Washa, was put to death by lethal injection.

Following the decision to uphold the death penalty, KIRO 7 looked into the case of Walter Dubac, who in 1932 became the youngest person to be executed in state history.

The following is a recap of the event in a historylink.org essay by David Wilma

On April 15, 1932, Walter Dubuc, at age 17, the youngest person to be condemned to death in Washington, dies by hanging at the State Penitentiary at Walla Walla. His codefendant Harold Carpenter, age 35, is executed at the same time, making this the 1st double execution in state history.

On July 11, 1931, Carpenter, Dubuc, and Ethel Willis robbed Thurston County farmer Peter Jacobsen, age 85, at his home on Chambers Prairie. According to statements given by the defendants later, Dubuc struck Jacobsen, then fled. Carpenter bludgeoned Jacobsen to death with the butt of a rifle. Carpenter was arrested 2 weeks later in Yakima with Jacobsen's pocket knife and $2. Some $3,000 in cash and $650 in gold that Jacobsen was known to own was never located. A Thurston County jury convicted all 3 of 1st-degree murder. In a separate verdict, the jury sentenced Carpenter and Dubuc to death and Willis, the mother of 2 children, to life imprisonment.

Dubuc was variously reported as being 16, 17, and 18 years of age at the time of the offense. He claimed that he was 16. An effort by E. V. Hawks of Seattle, a member of the National Prison Survey Association, collected 6,400 signatures on a petition to Governor Roland Hartley to commute Dubuc's sentence to life imprisonment. Hartley denied the request.

Both men signed a statement in their death row cells claiming that the intention was only to rob the victim and that his death was "all a mistake" (Times). Dubuc believed that his life would be spared and when he learned at midnight that the sentence would be carried out, he "broke" (Star). He was led by 2 guards to the specially built gallows "sobbing and moaning, 'Don't let them hang me' " (Star). His last words, "Oh Jesus save me. Oh Jesus..." were cut off as the black cap was dropped over his head. Carpenter walked unassisted to the gallows and remained emotionless. He even managed a sneer at the 50 witnesses positioned to watch the execution.

At 12:27 a.m., 3 guards pressed buttons, only 1 of which was connected to the traps. Carpenter was pronounced dead after 12 minutes and Dubuc after 14 minutes. The state's only other double execution was to come in 1953, when brothers Turman and Utah Wilson were put to death for the kidnapping and murder of 18-year-old Jo Ann Dewey of Battleground.

see: http://www.historylink.org/File/5469

Sources: "Double Hanging at Walla Walla Set for Tonight," The Seattle Daily Times, April 14, 1932, p. 8; "Man, Youth Pay Penalty on Gallows for Murder," Ibid., April 15, 1932, p. 1; "State Hangs Man and Boy, 19," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April 15, 1932, p. 1; "Two Stolidly Await Death at 12 Tonight," The Seattle Star, April 14, 1932, p. 1, 3; "Youth Pleads and Prays as He is Hanged," Ibid., April 15, 1932, p. 1, 8.

(source: KIRO news)

SOUTH SUDAN:

South Sudan: 1 of just 2 executing states in sub-Saharan Africa in 2017

South Sudan is 1 of just2 countries in sub-Saharan Africa known to have carried out executions in 2017, going against a clear trend by other countries in the region to move forward towards abolishing the death penalty, Amnesty International's Global Report on Death Sentences and Executions 2017 revealed.

South Sudan carried out 4 executions in 2017, 2 of those who were put to death having been juveniles at the time of the commission of the crime, in flagrant violation of international law. The other country that executed people in sub-Saharan Africa is Somalia, which carried out 24 executions in the same period. "With governments in the region continuing to take steps to reduce and repeal the death penalty well into 2018, the isolation of the remaining executing countries could not be starker. Now that 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, it is high time that the rest follow their lead and consign this abhorrent punishment to the history books," said Amnesty International’s Secretary General Salil Shetty.

South Sudan continues to hand down death sentences and execute people. In February 2018, 2 men were sentenced to death - James Gadet, former SPLM-IO Spokesperson, and South African William Endley, a former advisor to rebel leader, Riek Machar.

Amnesty International calls on the South Sudan Government to immediately establish an official moratorium on executions, and quash the convictions of Gadet and Endley and grant them a new trial that meets international fair trial standards.

Background

Amnesty International's Global Report on Death Sentences and Executions 2017 finds that sub-Saharan Africa is a ‘beacon of hope’, having made positive steps towards abolishing the death penalty.

(source: South Sudan)

EGYPT:

Court upholds death sentences against 4 over forming terrorist cell

The Court of Cassation has rejected Sunday appeals by 4 defendants against death sentences in the case known as "Awsim Terrorist Cell."

The court also rejected appeals against sentences of 15 years imprisonment against 14 other defendants, and upheld life imprisonment (25 years) for other defendants in absentia.

In February, Cairo Criminal Court sentenced 4 defendants to death and 12 others to life imprisonment in the "Awsim Cell" case.

The defendants in the "Awsim Cell" case are accused of forming terrorist cells to incite chaos, attack public and private facilities and target security and army personnel.

They are also charged with attempted arson and placing fake explosive devices outside the Awsim Town Council and the local electricity company, as well as detonating an explosive device outside the home of Judge Fathy Bayoumi while he was inside.

On Saturday, Egypt's Court of Cassation upheld a life imprisonment sentence against former Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie over charges of inciting violence in the "Rabaa Operation Room" case.

Earlier this month, the Court of Cassation accepted on Tuesday the appeals against sentences imposed on 5 defendants in the case publicly known as the "Warraq [terrorist] Cell" case, ordering the retrial of the defendants before another criminal court.

The defendants had faced various sentences, including the death penalty, life imprisonment and 5 years in prison.

(source: Egypt Today)

IRAN:

Iran Supreme Court Upholds Death Sentence For Kurdish Opponent

A branch of Iran's Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence of a Kurdish citizen, his lawyer said in an exclusive interview with Radio Farda's Mahtab Vahidi Rad.

In a statement on February 5, Amnesty International (AI) said, "Ramin Hossein Panahi, from Iran's Kurdish minority, started a hunger strike on January 27 after he learned that he had been sentenced to death in connection with his membership in the armed Kurdish opposition group Komala."

According to AI, "Panahi's trial, which took place on January 16, was grossly unfair and lasted less than an hour. His family told Amnesty International that he appeared before the Revolutionary Court in Sanandaj with obvious torture marks on his body, but the court failed to order an investigation."

Panahi, 24, was arrested in June 2017 in Sanandaj after being wounded in an ambush by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) forces of the outlawed Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan, an armed separatist organization.

3 other Komala activists who were present -- Sabbah Hossein Panahi, Hamed Seif Panahi, and Behzad Nouri -- were killed in the attack.

Panahi was the only survivor of the attack and has maintained he was unarmed at the time of the IRGC's ambush.

His lawyer, Hossein Ahmadi Niaz, told Radio Farda that the court sentenced his client to death for "taking up arms against the state" based on his membership in Komala but provided no evidence linking him to acts involving intentional killing, which is the required threshold under international law for imposing the death penalty.

According to Ahmadi Niaz, his client has never taken up arms against the Iranian regime.

"Courts are expected to be impartial, fair, and independent," he said. "How can a court be independent when it is part of the ruling system?"

Panahi's lawyer also insisted his client has testified about being tortured and the court should have investigated his allegation before upholding the death sentence.

Meanwhile, Ahmadi Niaz argued that when his client and his three companions entered Iranian territory from neighboring Iraq, they were under IRGC surveillance.

"Nothing happened until my client and his companions' vehicle entered the city of Sanandaj, where a trap laid by IRGC forces was waiting for them," he said. "There, the IRGC personnel ambushed their vehicle with a barrage of gunfire. 3 were dead; Ramin was wounded and passed out, while none of the IRGC forces was hurt. This shows that the whole clash was a one-sided shooting."

The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) reported, "Panahi was only allowed one brief meeting with his lawyer, which took place in the presence of intelligence officials. This violates the right to consult with one's lawyer in confidence. The judicial authorities also refused to disclose to either him or his lawyer the details of the evidence brought against him before the hearing. His lawyer is planning to appeal his sentence."

Ahmadi Niaz noted, "On January 31, an Intelligence Ministry official visited him in prison and said his death sentence would be commuted to imprisonment if he agreed to make televised confessions denouncing Kurdish opposition groups as terrorists. When he refused, the intelligence official apparently became enraged and said he would pay with his life for his stubbornness."

In his interview with Radio Farda, Ahmadi Niaz also said, "If being a member of Komala is a crime, its punishment is imprisonment not a death sentence."

Komala describes itself as an Iranian-Kurdistan political party that stands for a democratic, secular, pluralist Iran where the rights of Iranians and Kurds are preserved and safeguarded.

(source: radiofarda.com)

INDIA:

Kashmir bar association seeks death penalty for accused, calls for transferring Kathua case to High Court----Qayoom said atmosphere is not “conducive” in Kathua for holding trial in the case.

Saying death sentence should be awarded to the guilty by court in Kathua minor rape and murder case, Jammu and Kashmir Bar Association President Mian Qayoom on Monday said "High Court should transfer case to itself".

Qayoom said atmosphere is not "conducive" in Kathua for holding trial in the case.

"We are not in favor of transferring case. Our demand is that the atmosphere at Kathua is not conducive for holding fair trial of the case. So, High Court has a wing in Jammu, we have a wing in Srinagar. This case should be transferred to HC itself ... They should nominate a judge for this purpose and that judge should be given exclusive task of trail of this case as quickly as possible".

Demanding harsh punishment for the guilty in the case, Qayoom said quantum of punishment in the case should not be less than "death".

Qayoom also said that Bar is ready to provide legal assistance to the victim's family. "If somebody approaches us, we will see how we can help them legally. Till today nobody has approached us. But if they come to us and say we need some kind of legal assistance, we are here; we can provide legal assistance to them," he said.

(source: greaterkashmir.com)

APRIL 15, 2018:

TEXAS:

Texas seeks to fast-track executions

A request by Texas to opt in on the 1996 Federal Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act is drawing sharp criticism from civil rights groups and local defense attorneys.

According to the state Attorney General's office, the move would avoid "stressful delays" and "excessive costs" associated with executions.

Defense attorney Raymond Fuchs said opting in to the act is "a horrible idea."

"Texas spends very little money on counsel, on investigators, on mitigation experts, on psychologists and psychiatrists," he said. "They're as penny-pinching as you can get.

"When I read that (U.S. Attorney) Jeff Sessions is actually considering Texas' application for this fast track, I thought it was a joke. We now have people running this state, who I guess think it's a Wild West show where the idea is, 'Let's have a trial and string 'em up.'"

Whether Texas gets to opt in on the federal law is up to Sessions.

(source: KSAT news)

ALABAMA----impending execution

Walter Leroy Moody seeks stay of execution for judge's pipe bomb slaying

Walter Leroy Moody Jr., 83, the oldest inmate on Alabama death row, is waiting to see if a court will block his execution by lethal injection Thursday for a bombing nearly three decades ago that killed a federal appeals court judge.

Moody maintains he didn't do it.

And in the past few months since his April 19 execution date was set he and his attorneys have filed a flurry of appeals in federal and state courts. Last week both he - in a hand-written motion - and his attorneys filed requests for stay of execution. And now he and his attorneys are awaiting a ruling by the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which listened to arguments in the case last Thursday.

U.S. 11th Circuit of Appeals Judge Robert Vance Sr. was killed Dec. 16, 1989 in a blast from a pipe bomb hidden in a package sent to the judge's Mountain Brook, Ala., home. The judge's wife, Helen, was seriously injured in the blast.

In 1991, a federal jury convicted Moody of 71 charges related to the pipe-bomb murders of Vance and Georgia civil rights attorney Robert E. Robinson, who also was killed in a pipe-bomb blast 2 days after the judge. That federal trial was conducted in Minnesota. Moody was placed on death row after a jury convicted him of capital murder at a trial in Alabama 5 years later. The jury recommended 11-1 that the death penalty be imposed and the judge agreed.

Alabama asked that an execution date be set for Moody on Jan. 9, the day after the U.S. Supreme Court denied his request to consider an appeal.

Moody recently argued to a federal appeals court that the federal government which convicted him first on non-death penalty charges should have him in custody instead.

Both the Alabama Attorney General and U.S. Justice Department have said that the federal government had the right, under an agreement, to allow the state to take custody of Moody and have him serve his state sentence 1st.

"Moody cannot challenge any determination by the United States or Alabama as to the order in which he will face his federal and state sentences. The comity rules that govern priority of jurisdiction between the United States and Alabama do not confer on Moody any legally enforceable right that he may assert in a federal habeas proceeding," according to a federal appeals court brief filed April 10 by the U.S. Justice Department.

Moody lost his appeal on another issue in January before the U.S. Supreme Court. He had appealed an 11th Circuit decision in March 2017. That appeal was about his decision to represent himself at his 1996 capital murder trial in Alabama. After convicting him, the jury voted 11-1 to recommend a death sentence. Courts have found that the trial judge did not err in allowing Moody to represent himself.

Much of prosecutors' evidence centered on the similarities between pipe bombs Moody had previously been convicted of using.

According to a summary of the bombings and investigations in 1 federal court document, prosecutors claimed that in May 1972, a bomb exploded in Moody's home in Macon, Ga. "The bomb, contained in a package addressed to a car dealer who had repossessed Moody's car, exploded when opened by Moody's wife. Moody was convicted in federal court in Macon for possessing the bomb, although he was acquitted of manufacturing it, and he served three years in federal prison."

"Moody eventually became obsessed with overturning his 1972 conviction. He devised an elaborate story to shift the blame to a mythical "Gene Wallace," who Moody had claimed at trial had been attempting to assist him in regaining possession of his car and was responsible for the bomb," according to the court document. "Moody recruited a witness to substantiate his account, a destitute, young handicapped woman, Julie Linn-West, and he paid her in small monthly installments as she learned her fabricated story. Moody petitioned for a Writ of Error Coram Nobis, seeking to overturn his 1972 conviction."

A lower federal court denied his petition and then a panel of 3 11th Circuit judges (Vance was not one of them) affirmed the denial in June 1989. The entire court then denied it in August 1989.< (source: al.com)

OHIO:

Trumbull prosecutor seeks appeal to U.S. Supreme Court of Danny Lee Hill decision

The judges from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati have refused to hear an appeal of a ruling calling for the removal of the death penalty for killer Danny Lee Hill.

The ruling leaves open the possibility a Trumbull County judge will be ordered to resentence Hill, 51, to a life prison sentence instead of the death penalty he received in 1986 for the 1985 killing of Raymond Fife, 12, in a field off Palmyra Road Southwest.

County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins wrote to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine on Monday asking his staff to appeal the 6th Circuit decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Watkins said the attorney general's office's track record of successfully appealing such cases and winning reversals of 6th Circuit decisions "merits 1 last appeal."

He said, "Ohio has nothing to lose and everything to gain with an appeal to the ... Supreme Court in the next 90 days."

On Feb. 2, a 3-judge panel of the 6th Circuit reversed the decision of Judge John Adams, an Akron-based federal judge, who affirmed Hill's death sentence.

The federal appellate panel said Hill is too intellectually disabled to be executed under a 2002 Supreme Court ruling saying that execution of mentally disabled criminals violates the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

In his letter to DeWine, Watkins said he believes the appellate court has not given "proper deference ... to the many Ohio court decisions affirming that Danny Hill was not mentally retarded and thus subject to the death penalty."

The 6th Circuit's ruling Feb. 2 said Ohio courts have unreasonably applied the U.S. Supreme Court's 3-part standard for determining intellectual disability. All 3 parts must be present for someone to be declared too disabled for the death penalty.

The 6th Circuit said there is agreement Hill's IQ score of between 48 and 71 means he "easily meets the 1st element of the clinical definition of intellectual disability."

The federal appellate court also thinks Hill meets the definition of intellectual disability on the 2 other measurements - adaptive abilities and whether his deficits manifested themselves before he turned 18. Earlier judges disagreed Hill was intellectually disabled in the last tw2 areas.

(source: The Vindicator)

ARKANSAS:

Judge[s Lawsuit Against Arkansas Supreme Court Members Claiming Religious Liberty Violations Proceeds

A fascinating case is making its way through the federal courts in Arkansas, as a judge who was removed from death penalty cases because of his stated religious and moral opposition has sued members of the state's Supreme Court for violations of the First Amendment and Arkansas Religious Freedom Restoration Act (ARFRA). Last week, a federal district court allowed claims against the justices to proceed.

Here is an excerpt from the opinion describing the issues raised by the plaintiff judge:

In his Complaint, Plaintiff acknowledges that "in his personal life and his capacity as a pastor, [he] has expressed his personal religious and moral views on the death penalty." He admits participating in prayer vigils as an exercise of his religious expression and claims to have "always conducted his religious activities outside the auspices of his judicial role." Plaintiff contends that "notwithstanding his personal religious beliefs and moral views about the death penalty, [he] has always attempted to interpret Arkansas law on the death penalty fairly, without predisposition and according to law and precedent." Plaintiff admits that on April 10, 2017 he expressed his personal view, in a blog post about religious faith,that "the death penalty is 'morally' - not legally - unjustified."

On Good Friday, April 14, 2017, Plaintiff attended a rally organized to demonstrate opposition to the death penalty on the steps of the Arkansas Capitol. On the same day, he attended a prayer vigil outside the Arkansas Governor's Mansion. ...

Plaintiff alleges that "the Arkansas Supreme Court entered Order No. 17-155 in retaliation for [his] exercise of his religious freedom through attendance at the Good Friday prayer vigil and gathering...

The ruling allows the case to move ahead with discovery.

(source: Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty)

NEBRASKA:

Lawyers question why Carey Dean Moore's pardon request wasn't addressed sooner

Several things struck Nebraska's former defender of the death penalty as unusual about the recent pardon application filed by Carey Dean Moore.

Condemned inmates often submit clemency requests right before their execution dates to force last-minute delays, said J. Kirk Brown, who for 30 years worked on death penalty litigation as assistant attorney general. An execution can't take place while such a request remains undecided.

Moore filed his application 7 months ago, in September, at a time when the state lacked the drugs to perform a lethal injection.

Even more odd, Brown said, is the fact that the Nebraska Pardons Board didn't act on the request months ago. Now the governor, the attorney general and the secretary of state must act quickly next week, or risk seeing the Nebraska Supreme Court withhold a death warrant to carry out the execution.

"I'm kind of shocked that nothing had been done," Brown said. "They are not at liberty to ignore it."

Meanwhile, a leading death penalty detractor, Danielle Conrad, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska, said she is troubled by unanswered questions involving the pardon request as Nebraska moves closer to its 1st execution in 21 years.

Suzanne Gage, spokeswoman for Attorney General Doug Peterson, said, "We don't discuss hearings before they occur," when asked about the matter.

Peterson's April 3 motion for an execution warrant noted that Moore has no appeals or other pending legal challenges to stand in the way of the execution. It did not mention the pardon request.

6 days later, the attorney general filed a supplemental motion calling the court's attention to the clemency application. He said he expected the request to be decided within 10 days.

Peterson, Gov. Pete Ricketts and Secretary of State John Gale will meet at 10 a.m. Tuesday in the Governor's Hearing Room at the State Capitol. Moore will not be present, and public comment won't be received. The board will decide whether to grant the inmate's request for a full hearing.

The Pardons Board has met at least twice since Moore filed his application in September. Pardons Board meetings typically involve full agendas and sometimes last 4 or 5 hours.

Moore, who is not currently represented by a lawyer, said in his application that he deserves to be pardoned because the state has been unable to carry out the sentence for almost 4 decades. He expressed a similar sentiment in a recent letter to The World-Herald.

"I doubt that they'll be able to execute me," he said. "Not that I'm invincible - because I know I am not by the grace of God - but I've been on the row for nearly 38 years and the A.G.'s and the governor are clearly incompetent."

A 3-judge panel sentenced Moore to death for the slayings of Omaha cabdrivers Reuel Van Ness and Maynard Helgeland. The men, shot 5 days apart in the summer of 1979, were both 47-year-old fathers and military veterans.

Moore's letter also said he decided to stop fighting in the courts years ago. "As to why, that is personal," he said.

Despite Moore's prediction, Nebraska is as close to carrying out an execution as it has been in at least 7 years, the last time the Supreme Court set execution dates for Moore and cult killer Michael Ryan, who has since died of cancer. The high court stayed the executions over questions about how one of the lethal drugs was obtained.

Conrad, of the ACLU , said her organization sent a 4-page letter to the attorney general listing several pending actions that challenge the legality of the death penalty. The letter asked Peterson not to file for a death warrant.

Conrad also submitted a letter to the Supreme Court, highlighting the legal questions about Nebraska's execution protocol and how it obtained its current batch of drugs. She urged the court to wait until those matters are settled before it considers issuing a death warrant.

"While Nebraskans of goodwill have differing viewpoints on the death penalty, nobody gave permission to state officials to cut corners or fall out of compliance with state law," she said.

The fact that the attorney general's initial filing did not mention the pardon application reflects a disappointing lack of due diligence, Conrad said. She also said Peterson's apparent confidence that the issue will be decided quickly did not inspire confidence that Moore's request will be seriously considered.

“If we are going to have a pardons process, it needs to be a fair process," she said. "It can’t be a kangaroo court."

Brown, the state's former death penalty litigator, said the Pardons Board staff used to have a procedure that immediately flagged any clemency application by a death row inmate. When one came in, the staff notified the Attorney General's Office so the application could be addressed quickly.

That's why, he said, he was surprised to learn that Moore's application had not been acted upon for 7 months.

The Supreme Court has wide discretion to block an execution or allow it to go forward. Brown said he couldn't predict how the court would react to the delayed notification about Moore's pardon application.

Brown disagreed with Conrad on 1 point: It's inaccurate to compare the Pardons Board to a court. The board falls under the executive branch of government and is, by definition, a political entity.

Unlike a judge, Pardons Board members are not ethically bound to be impartial. The Nebraska Supreme Court has said as much in a key ruling, according to Brown.

"A pardon can be granted for any reason, or no reason," he said. "Granting a pardon is an act of grace ... it's nothing you are entitled to."

Very few death row inmates in Nebraska have received a commutation.

The last was 54 years ago.

(source: mdjonline.com)

<>P>

INDIA:

Kathua rape case: Victim's family demands culprits be 'hanged for heinous crime', say they do not need CBI probe

As the Bakarwals make their way to the upper reaches of Jammu and Kashmir with their belongings, she trudges along burdened by the weight of her 8-year-old daughter's death.

"She was so beautiful and intelligent. I wanted her to be a doctor when she grew up," the biological mother of the girl reminisces.

The grief-stricken mother wishes for death penalty for the guilty. "My only wish is the culprits should be hanged for the heinous crime, so that no other family has to go through it," she said.

The girl was adopted by the woman's brother and his wife in Rasana hamlet of Kathua district when she was 1 year old.

Still in shock, she blames herself for leaving her daughter at brother's house. "Why was she killed? She was grazing cattle and taking care of horses. She was 8 years old. Why did they kill her in such a brutal way. They should be given death sentence," she says.

The girl's father said she was at maternal uncle's home in Rasana. "The killers should be given death penalty. We do not need a CBI probe, we have faith in investigation by the Crime Branch," he said.

Jammu has been on tenterhooks since the brutal rape and killing of the girl belonging to the nomadic Muslim Bakarwal community. Her body was found in Rasana forest on 17 January, a week after she went missing while grazing horses in the forest area.

The couple along with their 2 kids and cattle left their hamlet in Samba and in Round-Domail in Udhampur district as part of their annual trek to Sanasar mountainous belt. The mother said that earlier they had good relations with Hindus and lived in harmony with them.

"But after this incident, the relations have soured and we are fearful. We only want justice for her. She was our dear child. She was beautiful and we loved her," she said.

The parents wanted to take her back, teach her and make her a doctor, the mother said, adding that she was very intelligent.

"The prime minister had said "Beti Padhao Beti Bachao" but how are they teaching and saving girls like this," her adoptive father asks. "The ministers are supporting the rape accused, saying that they are innocent, but they are wrong," he said.

The biological father said the world knows that their daughter, who did not know about the difference between Hindus and Muslims, was wronged and murdered in most barbaric manner.

"The world and entire India knows it. They are supporting them. I do not say she was our only child, she was everyone's child. The incident should not be looked at through the religious lens," he said.

On 23 January, the government had handed over the case to the Crime Branch of the state police which formed a special investigation team and arrested 8 people including 2 Special Police Officers (SPOs) and a head constable.

The police have arrested 8 people in the case, but the Bar Association has opposed the action, alleging targeting of minority Dogras.

(source: firstpost.com)

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

Over 100 death sentences recorded in India in 2017: Amnesty

Over 100 death sentences were handed out last year by courts in India which also expanded the scope of capital punishment by enacting new laws against hijacking, human rights watchdog Amnesty International said.

In 'The Death Sentences and Executions 2017' report released here yesterday, Amnesty said it has recorded at least 993 executions in 23 countries in 2017, down by 4 % from 2016 (1,032 executions) and 39 % from 2015 (when the organisation recorded 1,634 executions, the highest number since 1989).

At least 2,591 death sentences in 53 countries were recorded in 2017, a significant decrease from the record-high of 3,117 recorded in 2016.

These figures do not include the thousands of death sentences and executions that Amnesty International believes were imposed and implemented in China, where figures remain classified as a state secret.

In India, 109 death sentences were recorded in 2017. However, there were zero executions in the country last year.

Amnesty International recorded commutations or pardons of death sentences in 21 countries: India, Bangladesh, Cameroon, China, Egypt, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mauritania, Morocco/Western Sahara, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Qatar, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Tunisia, the UAE, the US and Zimbabwe.

"Against international standards, India, Singapore and Thailand expanded the scope of death penalty by adopting new laws that would impose death sentence for hijacking, nuclear terrorism and corruption, respectively," it said.

In India, a total of 371 people were known to be under sentence of death at the end of 2017.

The report said that 9 countries in the Asia-Pacific region carried out executions, down from 11 in 2016.

Indonesia and Taiwan did not implement any death sentences and India observed a hiatus on executions for the 2nd year running.

The report added that a research by the Centre on the Death Penalty, National Law University, indicated that the courts in India imposed 109 new death sentences, including 51 for murder and 43 for murder involving sexual offences.

This represented a decrease in the total number of death sentences imposed (136 in 2016), as well as in those imposed for murder not involving other offences (87 in 2016).

2 new death sentences were imposed for drug-related offences.

The Anti-Hijacking Act, 2016, which provided for the death penalty for hijacking resulting into death, came into force in July, the report said.

Amnesty recorded drug-related executions in 4 countries China (where figures are classified as a state secret), Iran, Saudi Arabia and Singapore.

The secrecy that shrouded capital punishment in Malaysia and Vietnam made it impossible to determine whether executions for drug crimes occurred.

Singapore hanged 8 people in 2017 all for drug-related offences.

There was a similar trend in Saudi Arabia, where drug-related beheadings rocketed from 16 % of total executions in 2016 to 40 % in 2017.

"Despite strides towards abolishing this abhorrent punishment, there are still a few leaders who would resort to death penalty as a 'quick-fix' rather than tackling problems at their roots with humane, effective and evidence-based policies.

Strong leaders execute justice, not people," Amnesty International's Secretary General Salil Shetty said in the report.

He said the fact that countries continue to resort to death penalty for drug-related offences remains troubling.

"However, steps taken by Iran and Malaysia to amend their anti-drug laws go a long way towards showing that cracks are appearing, even in the minority of countries that still execute people," Shetty added.

(source: The New Indian Express)

MOROCCO:

Amnesty International Morocco Accuses the Government of Using Religion for Political Agenda

Following the publication of Amnesty International annual report, 'The State of the World's Human Rights 2017/2018,' Amnesty International Morocco accused the El Othmani government of instrumentalizing religion to violate scores of human rights.

In a report published on April 13, Assabah said that the executive director of Amnesty International Morocco, expressed the human rights organization's concerns over the Moroccan government's use of religion for its own political ends.

The newspaper reports that the executive director the NGO's Morocco branch, Salah Abdellaoui, made his remarks during a conference on Thursday, April 12. Speaking about the 'rampant' human rights abuses, Mr. Abdellaoui reportedly criticized the government for its inflexibility on some articles in the civil and criminal codes.

Singling out the state of death penalty in Morocco, Salah Abdellaoui allegedly said that the government refuses to take bold steps to abolish capital punishment because of its desire to maintain its in power, especially as Moroccan officials reportedly fear that such 'revolutionary moves' would unsettle some conservative circles, undermining their authority.

According to Mr. Abdellaoui, while it harbors the ideological and emotional needs of a minority of the population, maintaining the death penalty frustrates the aspirations of the majority of Moroccans.

He also explained that the government's resolve to keep some people 'retarded in the criminal code' so as to 'toy with Moroccans' emotions and lure them in believing that keeping the law on death penalty is the surest way to prevent high criminality rates.'

In its 2017 report on the death penalty, Amnesty International pointed out that despite the existence of some positive signs mainly motivated by 'recent judicial reforms,' Morocco and North Africa in general are still faced with the reality of 'disturbing trends' that do not favor for human rights.

The report documented that, although Morocco has witnessed no execution in recent years, death sentences are still being issued. In addition, of the 90 people who were sentenced to death by 2017, over 15 death sentences were issued just last year alone.

In its general 2017 annual report, the group mentioned the repression of political dissent and the bleak prospects of freedom of expression, saying that the prevalence of 'Islamic tenets' in the country's laws and legal system prevents officials from a bold commitment to allowing more fertile grounds for the advancement of human rights.

This is not the first time that such claims are directed at the Justice and Development Party-led government. Since rising to the realm of the executive in 2011, the party has constantly been criticized for its Islamic leanings and a vision of society which opponents claim constitutes a major impediment to the consolidation of a secular way of life in Morocco.

(source: menafn.com)

NIGERIA:

Amnesty International urges Nigerian govt to issue moratorium against executions

Amnesty International has called on the Nigerian government to issue a legally binding official moratorium against executions as a 1st step towards the abolition of the death penalty in the country.

It said this will be in line with global trends.

The country director of the civic group, Osai Ojigho, said this during a launch of Amnesty International Global Report titled "Death sentences and Executions 2017" in Abuja on Thursday.

According to her, Nigeria cannot afford to be left behind and must show a great commitment for protecting lives and ensuring that the criminal justice system is fair.

She said there is need for reforming the judiciary in order to strengthen the system.

"Nigeria imposed the highest number of death sentences in the sub-Saharan Africa region in 2017," she said, with 621 people sentenced to death.

She said Amnesty International believes that these death penalties are retrogressive, unjustifiable as there is no evidence to suggest the death penalty deters crime more effectively than other punishment

"In our reports, it is obvious that executions are reducing and death sentences with death penalty is also reducing but the reverse is the case in few countries in the world and unfortunately Nigeria is among those countries with increasing rate in death sentences and the potential for death penalty is still a risk many people face in the country."

She said it is essential for the federal government to invest in security agencies on the use of technology in the prevention of crime thereby limiting people going through the justice system that is weak, which can be described as discriminatory against the poor and the vulnerable.

Similarly, Damian Ugwu, a researcher with the group said 2285 people were on death row as at December 31, 2017 which includes four foreign nationals.

According to him, Nigeria recorded no known executions in 2017 as compared to 2016 where it executed three death row inmates, although, 621 people were sentenced to death in 2017 compared to 527 in 2016.

Mr Ugwu said death penalty is discriminatory and often used against the most vulnerable in society which includes the poor, ethnic and religious minorities and people with mental disabilities.

"Some government use it to silence their opponents. Where justice system are flawed and unfair trials rife, the risk of executing an innocent person is ever present and when death penalty is carried out, it is final. Mistakes that are made cannot be unmade. An innocent person may be released from prison for a crime they did not commit, but an execution can never be reversed," he said.

But a legal practitioner, Olayinka Ogunmodimu, who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES on Thursday evening, said death penalty should not be totally abolished.

"Once someone is found guilty of a capital offence, the governor should not have the discretion of choosing whether or not to sign. Death penalty should not be abolished. Once a life has been taken, the punishment can only reduce from death sentence to life imprisonment," Mr Ogunmodimu said.

"By Nigerian law, the death penalty will serve as justice for someone who has taken the life of another but the disadvantage is that most governors refuse to sign death warrants by the reason of values, culture and beliefs as they prefer the inmates to die a natural death."

He said Nigeria lacks effective legal system that can quickly dispense justice without considering factors like favouritism, power among others while noting that the judiciary system needs to be strengthened.

"A crime can be prosecuted in Nigeria for 20 years but (that) cannot happen in a developed country. The only case in Nigeria's legal system in which you can know the starting and finishing is election petition and it is because the law have said that it must start and finish within 180 days," he said.

“It is a matter of here and there, when you look at event around you, one might have to agree with existing laws in which death penalty is part of the punishment but Amnesty International is right to say that in most cases, most people at the back end of the law are always victims of the law. Let us look at the case of Offa, will we say death penalty is not an option if the offenders were captured?” Ola Adeosun, a legal practitioner and political analyst said.

Mr Adeosun said the law should be reviewed that the manner of offence should be put into consideration before pronouncing death penalty.

"Someone who robbed with a toy gun, blade and knife if arrested, prosecuted and found guilty will be sentence to death, for me it is too harsh. The manner of the offence should be put into consideration but there are some people who are serial murderers and since there are no forests to keep them, such people should be taken out legally," he said.

He said most leaders in African countries sign all kinds of treaties without reading them, which is the problem the country faces in domesticating most international treaties.

Amnesty International is a world-embracing movement working for the protection of human rights. It is independent of all governments and is neutral in its relation to political groups, ideologies and religious dividing lines.

(source: premiumtimesng.com)

APRIL 14, 2018:

TEXAS:

Why This Judge Dreads Execution Day----"I wondered whether the system I have been a part of for so long was, simply, barbaric."

The execution was set for 6 p.m. I knew because I set the date and time myself.

With a little more than an hour to go, I sat alone by the phone in my office. More than 3 decades had passed since the defendant was first convicted of murdering a police officer. I had been the judge at his final trial, and now there was a chance I'd be called on to spare his life.

Higher courts and the Texas governor had already denied the man's last-ditch appeals. His lawyers had tried to broker a deal with prosecutors to keep him alive, but that had failed, too. Now he was down to his last shot: The defense could present some new argument or evidence to convince me to intervene and stop the execution. If they did, I would have to make a life-or-death decision with essentially no time for research or discussion.

I waited. As the minutes passed, I felt a familiar sense of unease. In the years since I'd presided over his trial, the defendant had become a gray-haired, middle-aged man. He had put together a nearly flawless record helping other inmates. It was hard to see how he still constituted a violent threat to society, a requirement for death penalty cases in Texas. Now, barring a final legal maneuver, he would be erased from the Earth by a system in which I was a key participant.

I stared out the window, feeling jealous of folks headed home or to a happy hour. Eventually, the clock ticked to 6 pm. My phone never rang. I turned on the TV, and learned from the evening news that the execution had proceeded as planned.

As I left the office, I fell into a dark funk. Usually, I was proud and confident about my work as a judge, but a terrible feeling settled over me - the same feeling I had each time I was involved in a death penalty case. Sometimes I was able to rationalize that my role in the outcome of these cases was minimal. After all, jurors were the ones who weighed evidence and reached a lawful verdict. But other times I wondered whether the system I have been a part of for so long was, simply, barbaric.

I ran for office and took the oath knowing that the death penalty would be part of my job, whether I liked it or not. Each time I encountered a capital case - 8 came before me during my 2 decades on the bench - there would be at least one moment that brought my internal conflict starkly into focus. These moments are painfully fresh in my mind.

In my 1st death penalty trial, in 1998, the defendant had sexually assaulted and brutally slashed and stabbed a woman who had befriended him. The jury found him guilty of capital murder, but it was my duty to formally pronounce his sentence in open court. He displayed no emotion - during the trial, he'd only seemed interested in the crime scene and autopsy photos - and there was evidence he was a psychopath, that he felt no remorse. Still, after announcing his sentence, I felt an urgent need to drink and gulped 2 huge glasses of water.

I wondered: Is my throat dry, or am I trying to wash the words out of my mouth?

Years later, I had to sign the order setting a time for this man's death - "by intravenous injection of a substance or substances in a lethal quantity sufficient to cause death and until such convict is dead" - and I remember staring at the paper, feeling strange and unnerved. Later, in my journal, I wrote about how I felt I was "invading God's province." I heard about another judge who placed a smiley face next to his signature on a death warrant. I couldn't comprehend that attitude.

Writing in my journal helped me stay balanced and objective. Once, I wrote about a defendant who was facing the death penalty, "He was almost always seated with his head tilted slightly downward and his eyes staring downward into space." During the trial, he had showed little emotion. But when it was time for me to say the required words pronouncing his death sentence, I looked him in the eye. As I wrote later, "I was struck by a sight I will never forget. He looked so small, helpless, pathetic. His eyes looked like those of the proverbial deer in the headlights. He had been convicted of being a brutal, sadistic killer, and it was hard to argue that he was not getting what he deserved - but at that moment, for an instant, I saw the other side of the man, the side his family loved."

I continued: "If only we could execute the bad side and keep the good side alive."

On another occasion, as an execution was approaching, I was visited by the defendant's lawyers. The appeals had been exhausted; there was nothing they could do. They suggested we get together on the night of the execution. At first, I thought the idea was sick, demented, heartless - a social hour during an execution! But I knew these lawyers; they were compassionate, serious. We kept talking about the idea, and I realized they were dreading the execution as much as I was. They thought sharing the moment would make things a little less difficult. I joined them, and it was a therapeutic, somber evening. Far better than sitting alone in my office.

For some time, I had been thinking about retiring, but it was a moment of pronouncing a death sentence - and thinking "no more of these" - that finally made me decide to leave the bench, 6 years ago. Since then, I have felt a deep satisfaction and pride about my career, despite those terrible, uncomfortable moments.

I suppose they were the price I had to pay.

(source: Mike Lynch, a former judge in Texas District 167, retired in 2012----themarshallproject.org)

MASSACHUSETTS:

Chris McCarthy: Death Penalty Needed for Cop Killers in Mass

Another police officer has been murdered in Massachusetts. Sean Gannon of the Yarmouth Police Department is dead and his alleged murderer is in custody.

The fact that Tom Latanowich, the alleged murderer of Officer Gannon, is still alive is a testimony to the professionalism of police officers in America. According to the anarchists and radicals, the police are the ones who are violent and out of control. Those of us in the less and less silent majority know it is the police who protect our lives and property, and carry a gun for a reason.

Officer Gannon, a New Bedford native and Bishop Stang graduate, was murdered because he decided to defend the life and liberty of the people in his community. He was killed because he represented law and order in the face of a person who didn't want law and order. The criminal who murdered Officer Gannon was going to murder any police officer he encountered. The criminal who shot this young officer in the head understood what too many take for granted or have forgotten. The police are there to serve and protect the public against the criminals who want to terrorize, rob, rape and otherwise victimize.

We need a death penalty in Massachusetts for the convicted killers of police officers, correction officers, and prosecutors. While those individuals employed in law enforcement are not more important than anyone else, they do serve as a canary in a mine shaft; if a person will kill an officer, they will certainly kill a civilian.

In the past, we have seen legislators file a bill to create a death penalty for killing a police officer in Massachusetts. This time it must be different.

The only way to accomplish this is for every city and town to file a local petition with the legislature in support of the death penalty for cop killers. Every local elected official needs to weigh in on this situation and explain their position.

I fully expect many to disagree with the death penalty, and I welcome their input on the matter. I am concerned with wrongful convictions, and it is a horrible tragedy on the level of what happened to Officer Gannon if an innocent person is executed. The advances in technology have helped to convict and vindicate defendants in Massachusetts, and that should be considered in this debate.

I want every local city councilor, mayor, and selectman to take a stand here on the importance of the lives of the men and woman who they employ to keep their citizens' lives and property safe.

Make a motion, see who seconds the motion, and call for the recorded vote.

Officer Gannon had the courage. Do you?

(source: Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford----WBSM news)

PENNSYLVANIA:

DA seeks death penalty in Venango County murder case

A Venango County judge has determined that a high profile murder case may be a little too high profile. The attorneys are being prohibited from talking about the case.

The District Attorney is seeking a death penalty option for Richard Kennedy who, along with Amanda Cypher, is charged with beating and setting 25-year-old Tausha Baker on fire.

Baker's body was found when firefighters put out a small fire on Waterworks Road. Police believe that she was beaten in a home in Franklin then taken to a field to be set on fire.

The judge issued the gag order during a conference to update the status of the court case.

(source: yourerie.com)

FLORIDA:

State seeks death penalty in Jacksonville music teacher's killing----Victim's husband opens up after ex-convict indicted in wife's killing

State Attorney Melissa Nelson intends to seek the death penalty for Adam Lawson, the 25-year-old ex-convict charged in the home invasion killing of beloved Jacksonville music teacher Deborah Liles. Prosecutors notified Lawson of their plans Friday, a day after a Duval County grand jury indicted him on 1st-degree murder charges in the 62-year-old woman's March 2017 beating death.

Liles' murder, which galvanized the community, is especially noteworthy because she was the victim of a break-in decades ago. In that case, she survived and helped send her attacker to prison for life.

"I can't see any other charge with what he made her face. He took her life and I think he set the terms for the value of his life when he did that," Michael Liles, the victim's husband, told News4Jax Friday.

Liles was the one who found his wife bludgeoned to death inside the kitchen of the couple's home in the Panama Park neighborhood March 23. Their house was ransacked. Her car was gone.

"For him to do that to somebody he didn't know, that had no reason to have that level of hatred, it is unconscionable," Liles said of his wife's killing.

Police found her stolen Buick LaCrosse 2 days later. It was ditched near Notter Avenue and Golfair Boulevard. Surveillance video led them to a mobile home park a few miles from the couple's home.

Based on that footage and a tip from a woman who spoke with Lawson after the killing, police searched the man's home. Inside, they said, they found a pair of shoes that had traces of blood on them.

Lawson, who was released from prison in 2016 after a 6-year stint for burglary, was booked on charges of murder, armed burglary, grand theft auto and possession of a firearm by a felon.

Even though a year has ticked by since Michael Liles lost the love of his life, he's still coming to grips with the fact that she's gone. He said he would give anything to spend just one more day with her.

"We had 41 years together of as good of a relationship as you can have," he told News4Jax.

He's not alone. His wife meant the world to the couple's 5 children and 9 grandchildren. She also was a fixture at San Jose Elementary, where she touched thousands of lives over the years.

While the ordeal has been devastating, Liles is glad his wife's case is moving forward. Now in charge of the Justice Coalition, a crime victims advocacy group, Liles knows families don't always get justice.

As executive director of that organization, Liles devotes his time and energy to helping other families of crime victims pick up the pieces after their lives have been upended by violence.

"There's no real way to celebrate somebody facing the death penalty because of what they did to your family. ... But at the same time, I think it is the only fair charge for him to face," he said.

Lawson is scheduled to appear in court next month. Liles said he and his family will be there. While the case is not expected to go to trial for at least another year, he's hopeful that someday he'll get closure.

"I would love for it to be over," he said. "I would."

(source: WJXT news)

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

Florida seeing steady decline in number of death sentences

Florida has been seeing a steady decline in the number of criminals sentenced to death. Currently, there are 347 inmates on death row, but only 96 have been put to death since 1979.

In fact, 2016 and 2017 saw a record low, with only 6 people sent to death row combined; a number far fewer than any single year since the death penalty was reinstated nearly 50 years ago.

Experts claim that a possible reason for these low numbers is the fact that jury convictions for death sentences have to be unanimous

Florida halted executions in January of 2016 after the U.S. Supreme Court claimed that the state's sentencing process was unconstitutional, which led to the requirement of the unanimous jury vote.

Nationally, death sentences have dropped dramatically down 90 % in the last 20 years.

Ingrid Delgado with the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops says that Floridians' attitudes towards the death penalty is also changing.

"We're cautiously optimistic that the higher standard is going to continue to lower number of death sentences," Delgado said. "In general, we support an end to the use of the death penalty, as society can be kept safe with alternatives like life without parole."

However, experts say that the trend toward fewer death sentences isn't likely to continue.

"It would not be unreasonable to anticipate that the numbers may increase again since the legislature has final responded to the U.S. Supreme Court," said Mark Schlakman, a human rights attorney.

There has already been 1 person sentenced to death in Florida since the start of 2018.

(source: WCTV news)

ALABAMA----impending execution

Alabama set to execute 83-year-old for pipe bomb murders

Alabama on Thursday is set to execute its oldest death row inmate, an 83-year-old man convicted of mailing a deadly pipe bomb to a Birmingham judge in 1989.

Walter Moody was convicted of mailing the bomb that killed U.S. 11th Circuit Judge Robert Vance, 58, and seriously injured his wife, Helen, in the kitchen of their Mountain Brook home in December 1989. A similar bomb killed a Georgia civil rights attorney, Robert Robinson, at his Savannah law office the same month.

Moody was convicted in federal court in 1991 on 71 charges before an Alabama jury sentenced Moody to the death penalty in 1997.

The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year declined to take up Moody's appeal, leading Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall to set an April 19 execution date. Moody on Thursday filed a stay of execution motion over jurisdiction issues.

Moody, who maintains his innocence in the case, has previously argued his federal sentence of 7 life terms plus 400 years should take precedent over the state's death penalty sentence, and that Alabama is holding him unlawfully.

"We're fighting until we can't fight anymore, and we appreciate that the courts are giving us an opportunity to be heard," said Christine Freeman, executive director of the Middle District of Alabama Federal Defender Program.

Vance's son, Jefferson County Circuit Judge Bob Vance, said the family doesn't plan to attend Moody's execution.

"I got closure in my life when Mr. Moody was convicted," Vance said. "I realized that he would never be in a position to hurt anyone else.That was the point that was most important to me. The execution coming up next week really, to me, doesn’t add anything to that. I’ve moved on, having gotten that peace of mind with the realization that he would no longer pose a danger to anyone."

The December 1991 explosions set off a massive federal investigation which found and disarmed two additional bombs at an Atlanta circuit court and Florida NAACP office, but also hit several dead ends.

Federal agents at first focused on Alabama salvage shop owner Robert O'Ferrell, who investigators believed owned the typewriter used by a letter writer claiming credit for the bombs.

Investigators ultimately linked Moody to the crimes through a 1972 bombing incident, in which Moody's then-wife Hazel was injured by a homemade bomb in their Georgia home. He was convicted and sentenced to 5 years in prison for possessing the bomb.

Bob Vance still finds Moody's murky motive frustrating.

"When something like that happens, one of the first things that torments you is, 'Who would do this?' That question has been answered," Bob Vance said. "The 2nd question is, 'Why?"

Investigators originally believed the bombings to be racially motivated. Vance, who was white, was politically active and progressive on civil rights issues, his son said.

Prosecutors later alleged Moody harbored an obsession over his 1972 conviction, and anger at the court system motivated Moody in the 1989 bombings. Moody hoped the civil rights links would throw investigators off his scent, prosecutors said.

"There wasn't any real good reason why Moody targeted my dad," Vance said. "It's always so frustrating when you think about it, it's almost a random act of violence." "I try to focus on my dad's life more than the circumstances surrounding my dad's death He was a 1-of-a-kind, larger-than-life person in many respects," Bob Vance said. " ... He was a special guy. He was a great dad. I miss him every day."

Moody's execution date is the 4th scheduled in Alabama this year. 1 execution has been carried out.

(source: Montgomery Advertiser)

MISSISSIPPI:

Court orders tests for inmate convicted of killing prison guard, reopening chance of execution

An inmate convicted of killing a prison guard must be re-evaluated to determine whether he is too intellectually disabled for the death penalty, the Mississippi Supreme Court said Thursday.

In a 5-4 ruling , justices ordered a fresh evaluation of Willie Russell, originally sentenced to death for stabbing and killing prison guard Argentra Cotton in 1989 at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. The case will go before a Sunflower County Circuit Court judge, who will again be asked to decide whether Russell should be executed or spared.

Russell originally went to Parchman on convictions of robbery, kidnapping and escape after abducting a guard from the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson and leading police on a high-speed chase in 1987. He was convicted of killing Cotton, had his death penalty set aside, and then was sentenced to death a 2nd time. He came within an hour of being put to death in 1997 before a federal appeals court stopped the execution.

The current proceedings center on a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that issued a broad ban on the death penalty for people with mental disabilities.

Sunflower County Circuit Judge Better Sanders set aside Russell's death sentence in 2015. But the state Supreme Court found that Sanders should have agreed with the state's position that it needed to administer additional tests before its experts could form an opinion.

Associate Justice James Maxwell wrote for the majority that "Russell was never evaluated on the specific criteria for intellectual disability," set out by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Chief Justice William Waller Jr., dissenting on behalf of the 4 judges, said there had been enough testing and would have allowed Russell's commutation to stand.

2 earlier intelligence tests showed Russell's IQ was low enough that he shouldn’t be executed. Waller wrote there was no reason to administer a 3rd test.

Waller's dissent argued that a 2006 exam was only incomplete because of a need for outside information on Russell's school and life history that the defense provided as part of the hearing before Sanders.

(source: Associated Press)

OHIO:

Potential jurors in Grate case answer questions about death penalty

Jury selection in the Shawn Grate capital murder case got more intimate Friday.

After 8 sessions with about 45 potential jurors at a time, groups of 6 answered individual questions from both sides.

Some of the questions dealt with exposure to pretrial publicity, but most pertained to feelings about the death penalty.

3 groups were called Friday, at 9 and 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

In the afternoon session, there were 5 men and 1 woman. One person at a time answered questions, while the others waited in the jury room.

They were given questionnaires they had already filled out as a reference.

Attorneys disagreed on 1 man in the afternoon session. He said Friday he was in favor of the death penalty, though not in every aggravated murder case.

Defense attorney Robert Whitney was not convinced. On the man's questionnaire, he said the death penalty should be imposed in all capital murder cases.

Whitney asked Ashland County Common Pleas Judge Ron Forsthoefel to excuse the man.

Michael McNamara, a special prosecutor helping the state, objected. He pointed out the man said he could follow the law and recommend imposing a life sentence if the mitigating factors outweighed the aggravating circumstances.

In dismissing the potential juror, Forsthoefel agreed with Whitney, saying the man's questionnaire showed an "underlying bias."

Another potential juror was asked about being on social media. The judge told people in the jury pool to avoid Facebook, Instagram, etc.

The man in question made a post on Facebook on Thursday, though it had nothing to do with the Grate case.

"I totally misunderstood that," he said, adding it wouldn't happen again.

The last juror of the day said he had not been exposed to media coverage of the case.

"I have 5 children," he said. "I don't really have time for TV or newspapers."

He said most of what he had heard about the case came from his wife, who has not brought up the subject since he was summoned as a potential juror.

One man who didn't make the cut said he felt a bias.

"I don't think it would serve justice for me to be on the jury," he told the judge.

Before he was dismissed, the man said he believed the death penalty wasn't being used enough.

Forsthoefel ended up keeping four of the six people in the afternoon session. They are now death-penalty certified.

The next step is for them to come back, tentatively April 23, for consideration for the final jury.

Groups of 6 will continue to be called for most if not all of next week.

(source: Mansfield News Journal)

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

Death penalty sought in Easter house fire in Harrison Twp.; $1 million bond set

The death penalty is being sought against Shawn Albertson in the death of 75-year-old Gerald Manns, who was found in the basement of his home on Easter.

The Montgomery County Prosecutor's Office on Wednesday approved the charge of aggravated murder and aggravated burglary against Albertson, 48. He remains in the county jail on a $1 million bond.

Manns was found unconscious in the basement of his home in the 4200 block of Merrimac Avenue in Harrison Twp. His car had been stolen, his home burglarized and set on fire.

Manns was pulled from the home. He was pronounced dead at Miami Valley Hospital. The coroner's office concluded he died as a result of the fire.

Albertson is due in court Thursday.

Nancy Dalton, 36, arrested at the same time as Albertson, is being detained in jail on drug charges.

Albertson and Dalton were booked into the jail about 12 hours after a neighbor first reported seeing smoke in the residence on that Sunday. Descriptions of the suspects from neighbors led to their apprehension.

"My neighbor across the street, their house, they had smoke rolling out the window," one neighbor told a 911 dispatcher.

Manns' empty driveway offered one of the first clues the fire was arson. Relatives noticed that his car and other belongings were missing. Sheriff's detectives were called to the scene.

(source: WHIO news)

MISSOURI:

Appeals court to hear Columbia death penalty case

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals next month will hear a case challenging a sentence of death by lethal injection in a Columbia murder case.

Ernest L. Johnson's attorneys will argue his case May 16 in Omaha, according to online court records. Johnson was sentenced to death in 1995 for the murders of 3 convenience store employees. The U.S. Supreme Court granted Johnson a last-minute stay of execution in November 2015. In his latest appeal, Johnson argued brain tissue lost during the removal of a brain tumor in 2008 could combine with the lethal injection drugs to cause a painful seizure. Johnson requested the use of lethal gas instead.

Johnson had his case dismissed last year by a district court judge who said he couldn't prove that death by lethal injection would constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

(source: Columbia Daily Tribune)

NEBRASKA:

Nebraska Board to Decide Death Row Inmate's Clemency Hearing

Nebraska's longest-serving inmate on death row says he should be pardoned because he thinks state officials are either too lazy or incompetent to execute him.

The Nebraska Board of Pardons will decide Tuesday whether to grant Carey Dean Moore, 60, a hearing to consider his clemency request.

"Apparently they do not want to execute me, even though I haven't filed any appeals in over 10 years," Moore wrote in his pardon application.

Moore was convicted of 1st-degree murder in the 1979 shooting deaths of 2 Omaha cab drivers.

Courts stayed Moore's execution dates set in 2007 and 2011. Nebraska hasn't executed an inmate in more than 20 years.

The Pardons Board only commuted 2 death sentences over the past 6 decades. The board requires consent from 2 of its 3 members, who are Gov. Pete Ricketts, Attorney General Doug Peterson and Secretary of State John Gale.

Both Ricketts and Peterson have supported the death penalty in the past.

Peterson requested an execution warrant from the Nebraska Supreme Court last week to carry out Moore's execution. The warrant gives state officials a 60-day window to set a date and complete the execution.

It's unclear when or if the state's high court would issue the warrant.

State officials also notified Moore in January of the drugs they intend to use for lethal injection.

(source: Associated Press)

CALIFORNIA:

Former death row inmate gets life in prison for 1981 Newport Beach murder

A former death row inmate who more than 3 decades ago killed a man in Newport Beach was sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

A Santa Ana jury last year convicted James Andrew Melton, 66, of special-circumstances murder for the 1981 killing of Antony Lial DeSousa, ending the 3rd trial Melton had faced for the slaying.

Prosecutors say Melton used advertisements in gay magazines in order to meet rich, older men who he could rob. Prosecutors said that Melton - who had 2 rape convictions - met DeSousa, a 77-year-old retiree, through such an ad, robbed him and strangled him at his condo.

Melton has been behind bars since his 1981 arrest. In 1982, Melton was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. He spent more than a decade on death row at San Quentin State Prison, until a federal judge in 2007 ruled that he had been over-medicated by jail staff during his trial, preventing him from understanding the proceedings.

A 2014 retrial ended with jurors deadlocked 10-2 in favor of conviction. In the lead-up to his 3rd trial, prosecutors opted not to pursue the death penalty, partly because of the case's age.

Melton's attorney, Associate Defender Denise Gragg, unsuccessfully sought a new trial, after a court clerk reported hearing an alternate juror in Melton's latest trial discussing the case with a manicurist at a Fountain Valley nail salon while the trial was still underway. A juror identified by the clerk initially denied being at the salon during the trial, but later said she realized she had indeed been at the salon after checking her credit-card records.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Gregg L. Prickett on Friday denied the motion for a new trial, noting that there was no indication that the alternate juror was biased against Melton, or that outside information about the case was passed to other jurors.

Melton's lawyer wanted her client to at least have a chance at parole someday.

"He sits here before you as someone who has already suffered a punishment beyond (what) others who have committed this type of crime have suffered," Gragg said.

However, Deputy District Attorney Steve McGreevy countered by telling the judge that thanks to Melton, DeSousa suffered an "extraordinarily violent and and vicious death. ...

"For that, the appropriate punishment is life without the possibility of parole," McGreevy said.

Melton did not speak prior to the sentencing. His only comment during the hearing was to answer, "Yes, yes your honor," when the judge asked if he understood his right to appeal.

(source: Orange County Register)

IRAN:

uvenile Offender in Danger of Execution

Mohammad Reza Haddadi, a juvenile offender who was arrested for murder during a robbery at the age of 15, is in danger of execution.

According to a close source, prison authorities have told Mohammad Reza Haddadi's father that if they fail to obtain the consent of the plaintiff, their son might be executed very soon.

Mohammad Reza Haddadi, currently held at Adel Abad Prison in Shiraz, was born on March 17, 1988, and has been in jail since 2002. He is convicted of murder during a robbery along with 3 other people.

Haddadi had pleaded guilty at first, but later he explained that his friends promised him some money to admit the charge because he was a minor and he wouldn't receive a death penalty.

The juvenile offender's lawyer, Hossein Ahmadi Niaz, told Iran Human Rights, "Last year, we were able to delay the execution. The Supreme Court has to apply Article 91 which states that if a juvenile confesses, it should be made clear to him that what would be the consequences. It means the juvenile must be fully aware of his confession and the consequences. A judge in Branch 101 of the criminal court of Kazerun refused to apply Article 91 and claimed that the juvenile was certain about his confession. Whereas, the forensics should decide whether the defendant was mature or not and whether he understood the consequences of his actions. If the judge had accepted our request, we could have saved Mohammad Reza Haddadi."

The lawyer continues, "I asked the head of the Judiciary to permit the review of the case because there are some pieces of evidence which prove the defendant is innocent. Mohammad Reza comes from a poor family, and the other 3 deceived him. He only made that confession because he was ignorant and he needed the money they promised him for his family."

It is worth mentioning that the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Iran has signed, clearly bans execution and life imprisonment of juveniles.

In 2017, at least 5 juvenile offenders were executed in Iran. Furthermore, at least 3 juvenile offenders were executed in January 2018 in Iran.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

KUWAIT:

Arab drug dealer sentenced to death

A Syrian expatriate man was sentenced to capital punishment in a drug-dealing case.

The Criminal Court convicted the defendant of using and selling drugs and handed him down the death verdict, said Alrai.

An anti-narcotic squad raided his bedroom and seized a high-precision scale for weighing drugs and a case containing heroin, in addition to other items.

The convict underwent a drug test which showed traces of heroin, morphine and psychotropics.

(source: gdnonline.com)

FRANCE: Inside the gruesome beheading experiments that ‘proved’ victims stayed conscious for up to 30 SECONDS after the chop----Reports of severed heads reacting angrily to be slapped and shouted at in France after being guillotined fuelled interest in the grisly subject

This is the astonishing story of the grisly experiments which claimed to prove that severed heads remain conscious for up to 30 SECONDS after being guillotined.

Throughout the 19th and 20th Century, French doctors investigated whether the freshly-executed victims stayed alive in the moments following their death.

One noted case involved murderer Charlotte Corday who was publicly executed in 1793.

According to reports at the time, Corday's severed head was lifted up by the executioner and slapped across the face.

And to the shock of the baying crowd, the victim's face blushed and appeared angry at being struck.

But the most famous case was conducted by a Dr Beaurieux who claims a severed head responded to him when he shouted in its face.

Beaurieux documented the experiment, conducted on June 28, 1905, with the body part of criminal Henri Languille in his medical journal.

He wrote: "The head fell on the severed surface of the neck and I did not therefore have to take it up in my hands, as all the newspapers have vied with each other in repeating.

"Here, then, is what I was able to note immediately after the decapitation: the eyelids and lips of the guillotined man worked in irregularly rhythmic contractions for about 5 or 6 seconds.

"I waited for several seconds. The spasmodic movements ceased.

"The face relaxed, the lids half closed on the eyeballs, leaving only the white of the conjunctiva visible, exactly as in the dying whom we have occasion to see every day in the exercise of our profession, or as in those just dead.

"It was then that I called in a strong, sharp voice: 'Languille' I saw the eyelids slowly lift up, without any spasmodic contractions."

Dr Beaurieux compared the glare that Languille gave him with "people awakened or torn from their thoughts.

He continued: "Next Languille's eyes very definitely fixed themselves on mine and the pupils focused themselves.

"I was not, then, dealing with the sort of vague dull look without any expression, that can be observed any day in dying people to whom one speaks: I was dealing with undeniably living eyes which were looking at me."

Beaurieux said he called out for a 2nd time, and again Languille's eyes fixed on his.

He added: "The eyelids lifted and undeniably living eyes fixed themselves on mine with perhaps even more penetration than the 1st time."

The doctor then called out a 3rd time but by this time Languille was most certainly dead and did not respond.

He said: "The whole thing had lasted 25 to 30 seconds."

By the mid-20th Century there was debate within France whether the guillotine was in fact as humane as its supporters claimed.

In 1950s, a government study by doctors Piedelievre and Fournier concluded that death by guillotine "is not instantaneous."

The report, titled Justice Without the Executioner, added: "Every vital element survives decapitation. (It is) a savage vivisection followed by a premature burial."

The last man to guillotined in France was Tunisian-born killer Hamida Djandoubi in 1977 - who tortured and murdered his former girlfriend in 1974.

Djandoubi became the last person in western Europe to be executed by the state while France officially abolished capital punishment in 1981.

French authorities had already banned public executions after the beheading of Eugène Weidmann in 1939 which was secretly filmed by a member of the "hysterical" crowd in Versailles.

However, there is 1 decpitated head which still "lives on" at the University of Lisbon's Faculty of Medicine.

Diogo Alves was Portugal's 1st serial killer and one of the last people to be executed in the country in 1841.

His severed head, which was actually cut off by and studied by scientists following his hanging, is now preserved in a glass jar in the medical school.

(source: thesun.co.uk)

PAKISTAN:

Amnesty slams Pakistan military courts over death penalties

Amnesty International has slammed Pakistan's military courts for violating UN principles and international fair trial standards in imposing death sentences.

Amnesty International's report -- Death Sentences and Executions 2017 - released here on Thursday, expressed concern that Pakistan's military courts "were run by military officers subordinate to the military chain of command - and who had no formal legal training - in breach of the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary".

"The charges against the defendants were not made public and those convicted did not have the right to appeal to civilian courts," it said.

The report said that Pakistani military courts also sentenced civilians to death and added that its special courts "whose proceedings did not meet international fair trial standards imposed death sentences".

Pakistan's Field General Court Martial (FGCM) in April 2017 sentenced Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav to death on charges of espionage and sabotage.

India has denied that Jadhav worked for Indian intelligence agencies or that he has worked in Pakistan. The Amnesty report did not specifically mention Jadhav.

"People continued to be sentenced to death or executed for crimes that did not involve intentional killing and therefore did not meet the threshold of 'most serious crimes', as prescribed by Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights," the report said.

Amnesty said that Pakistan carried out more than 60 executions in 2017, imposed over 200 death sentences and there were more than 7,000 people on death row.

During 2016, Pakistan executed at least 87 people and imposed more than 360 death sentences, according to the report.

Briefing reporters, Amnesty International Senior Director for Law and Policy Tawanda Mutasah said that death penalties have dropped steeply since a peak in 2015 when 326 people were executed.

(source: Khaleej Times)

NIGERIA:

Nigeria's death sentences highest in sub-Saharan Africa

Nigeria imposed the highest number of death sentences in the sub-Saharan Africa region in 2017 with 621 people put to death, Amnesty International has said.

The country bucked the trend seen elsewhere in the region, as Sub-Saharan Africa made great strides in the global fight to abolish the death penalty with a significant decrease in death sentences being imposed.

Guinea became the 20th state in sub-Saharan Africa to abolish the death penalty for all crimes, while Kenya abolished the mandatory death penalty for murder. Burkina Faso and Chad also took steps to repeal this punishment with new or proposed laws.

"The progress in sub-Saharan Africa reinforced its position as a beacon of hope for abolition.

The leadership of countries in this region gives fresh hope that the abolition of the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment is within reach.

Unfortunately, some states in Nigeria continue to expand the scope of death sentences,' said Amnesty International's Secretary General Salil Shetty in the organisation's 2017 global review of the death penalty.

There are a total of 2,285 people on death row in Nigeria, which is also the highest in the region, though no executions were carried out in 2017.

Death sentences in the country have spiked massively over the past 2 years. In 2015, 171 death sentences were handed down, while in 2016 there were 527.

Amnesty International recorded a drop in the number of executing countries across Sub-Saharan Africa, from 5 in 2016 to 2 in 2017, with only South Sudan and Somalia known to have carried out executions. However, with reports that Botswana and Sudan resumed executions in 2018, the organisation highlighted that this must not overshadow the positive steps being taken by other countries across the region.

Elsewhere in Africa, The Gambia signed an international treaty committing the country not to carry out executions and moving to abolish the death penalty. The Gambian President Adama Barrow established an official moratorium (temporary ban) on executions in February 2018.

Developments across Sub-Saharan Africa in 2017 exemplified the positive trend recorded globally, with Amnesty International’s research pointing to a further decrease in the global use of the death penalty in 2017.

Amnesty International recorded at least 993 executions in 23 countries in 2017, down by 4% from 2016 (1,032 executions) and 39% from 2015 (when the organisation reported 1,634 executions, the highest number since 1989).

At least 2,591 death sentences in 53 countries were recorded in 2017, a significant decrease from the record-high of 3,117 recorded in 2016.

These figures do not include the thousands of death sentences and executions that Amnesty International believes were imposed and implemented in China, where figures remain classified as a state secret.

(source: guardian.ng)

INDIA:

Court awards death sentence to 9 in Gunupur triple murder case

Pronouncing the quantum of punishment in the 2-year-old Gunupur murder case, in which 3 members of a family were brutally thrashed to death and then buried on suspicion of practicing witchcraft, the Additional District and Sessions Judge (ADJ) Court here awarded death sentence to all 9 accused on Friday.

"ADJ Gunupur Dr Subhendu Kumar Pati, who adjudicated the case, awarded death penalty to all 9 involved in the case", confirmed Krushna Chandra Senapati, Assistant Public Prosecutor to media.

However, the counsel of the accused Uma Chandra Patnaik expressed his dissatisfaction over the ADJ Court judgment and said he would move to High Court against the verdict.

On the other hand Milita Sabara, daughter of the deceased couple, before whose eyes the ghastly murder took place, expressed her satisfaction over the ADJ court's judgment in the case. She thanked government, police, and media for their cooperation.

The convicts identified as Ajanta Sabara, Bubhuna Sabara, Maluku Sabara, Podantu Sabara, Iru Sabara, Lakia Sabara, Degun Sabara, Dasanta Sabara and Dalsa Sabara attacked the family in Kitung village under Putasingh police station in Rayagada district on September 9, 2016. They killed Asina Sabara, his wife Amai along with their elder daughter Ashamani and buried their bodies in a nearby forest. Later, they dug out the bodies and set those to fire to destroy evidence.

(source: kalingatv.com)

APRIL 13, 2018:

NORTH CAROLINA:

DA to seek death penalty against adoptive mother of Erica Parsons

The District Attorney will seek the death penalty against Casey Parsons, who was charged with murder in the death of her adoptive daughter, Erica Parsons.

This comes after the DA also announced that the death penalty would be sought against Erica's adoptive father, Sandy, in her death.

Casey Parsons was brought back to Rowan County in March, when she stood before a judge and was charged with 1st degree murder, along with 3 other felony charges, including child abuse.

The court document we obtained states there is evidence in the case that the jury could find the capital felony was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel and that's why the District Attorney's office has elected to prosecute this case as capital murder at this time.

Spectrum News spoke with Erica's biological mother, Carolyn Parsons, over the phone. In the past she has said the death penalty would be the easy way out. But now she's just happy the case is moving forward and she hopes justice will be served.

"If they do get the death sentence, if they do get put to death before I die, I want to be in that room. They watched my child take her last breath. I deserve to see them take theirs," she said.

Both Sandy and Casey Parsons have been given court appointed lawyers. At this time they are being held in the Rowan County Jail without bond.

(source: spectrumlocalnews.com)

FLORIDA:

State attorney's office to seek death penalty for man indicted in Summer Place Apartments shooting

A Gainesville man will face the death penalty after a grand jury indicted him for shooting and killing 2 people and abducting another from Summer Place Apartments in February.

Cedric Tremaine Plummer, 24, walked into the leasing office of Summer Place Villas apartment complex, located at 3316 SW 41st Place, in silence and shot 2 employees dead and kidnapped another at about 1:30 p.m. Feb. 13, according to court records. The state attorney’s office said it would pursue the death penalty April 3 for the first time in Alachua County in about 3 years.

Plummer had argued with the apartment complex's management since Feb. 2 for damaging the inside of his apartment, and police had been called at least 3 times because of his aggressive behavior, according to court records.

He scheduled an appointment Feb. 13 with 28-year-old Jude Onyegbulam Osuji Jr. and 61-year-old Robert Earl Brumbaugh in the leasing office. Office manager Hailey Roberts, 19, joined her 2 coworkers for the meeting, according to court records.

Police allege Plummer opened the door and shot both men dead without saying a word. Then he took Roberts to her car at gunpoint and forced her to drive to Georgia, according to court records.

He put the gun to her head as she drove and said to stop crying, telling her to remember what he did to Osuji and Brumbaugh, she later told police.

Police were able to trace Roberts' car and attempted to pull it over.

"Don't stop unless you wanna (sic) see brains in your lap," Plummer said, according to court records.

Roberts was freed in Lowndes County, Georgia, according to Alligator archives. Plummer was eventually arrested on charges of kidnapping and 2 counts of premeditated 1st degree murder, according to court records.

He was indicted on 2 counts of 1st degree murder and a count of kidnapping by a grand jury March 2.

State Attorney Bill Cervone made the decision to pursue the death penalty after about 45 days. He said the decision could be changed if new information is presented, like detailed information on Plummer's current mental health and mental health history.

"I had to make a decision based on what we know now, which is the deliberate execution-style killing of 2 people," Cervone said.

He awaits a hearing at 9 a.m. April 25 in room 3B of the Alachua County Criminal Justice Center on whether his DNA can be collected by the prosecution, according to court records.

Plummer's attorney could not be reached for comment.

(source: The (Univ. Fla.) Independent Florida Alligator)

ALABAMA----impending execution

Execution set for Alabama's oldest death row inmate

Judge Robert S. Vance was at his kitchen table on Dec. 16, 1989, when he opened a package that had been mailed to his home outside Birmingham. The bomb hidden inside exploded with brutal force, killing Vance instantly and severely injuring his wife.

2 days later, a similar device killed an attorney in Georgia. 2 other mail bombs were later intercepted and defused, 1 at a federal courthouse in Atlanta and the other at an NAACP office in Jacksonville, Florida.

The bombings created a wave of terror across the South. Now, nearly 30 years later, Alabama is preparing to execute the man convicted in Vance’s killing, 83-year-old Walter Leroy Moody Jr. of Rex, Georgia. Moody is set for lethal injection Tuesday, April 19, 2018. He is the oldest Alabama death row inmate by 13 years.

The complex investigation that led to Moody's prosecution is a reflection of how difficult it can be to get to the bottom of sporadic bombings like the ones in Texas. And it is also a testament to the lingering effects that such a crime can have.

Tom Thurman, who retired from the FBI's crime laboratory after handling cases including the Vance assassination, said bombings are "more complicated in many aspects" than other crimes.

"On the investigative side it's so different from other crimes that involve personal contact," he said. "An individual is there to stab, hit or shoot somebody ... and a lot of times law enforcement is fortunate to have someone who was there. In most bombing cases, the person who sets the device or sends it is not there. They've got some anonymity."

Vance's son, Robert Vance Jr., said he is thankful Moody is in prison, and he feels for the victims in Texas, where 2 people were killed and 4 were badly injured by package bombs.

"I've been in the place of the families down in the Austin area going through this. It's just so frustrating because you don't know who is responsible or why,' said Vance, now a Democratic state court judge seeking the office of chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.

Moody has always maintained his innocence. Agents arrested him in July 1990 after what leaders called one of the largest federal investigations ever.

Robert S. Vance was a member of the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and prosecutors alleged Moody targeted him out of anger at the 11th Circuit's refusal to overturn a conviction that blocked Moody, who had attended law school, from ever practicing law.

The bomb that killed Robert E. Robinson, a black civil rights attorney from Savannah, Georgia, was meant to cast suspicion on the Ku Klux Klan, as was the bomb sent to the NAACP office, authorities said.

By reconstructing the 2 bombs that killed Vance and Robinson and disarming the 2 others, investigators determined they were wrapped in nearly identical packages and mailed using the same kind of stamps. There were also similarities between the materials used in the bombs, including improvised detonators and wiring methods, Thurman said.

It's the same with any bombing case, Thurman said: Investigators have to consider a multitude of factors, starting with the components of the device. In Moody's case, the bomb was manufactured in a way that led back to its maker, he said.

After Vance's death, officials retrieved an intact bomb from the courthouse that housed 11th Circuit judges in Atlanta. Forensic chemist Lloyd Erwin of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives recognized a unique element of its construction from a previous case: The ends of the pipe bomb were made of flat, welded pieces of metal rather than the screw caps most commonly used.

That tidbit led investigators to Moody, who had been convicted in a 1972 case involving a bomb with flat, welded end pieces.

Moody's former wife testified that she purchased bomb-making materials at his direction, and evidence linked Moody to a manual typewriter with a misplaced "a" that experts said had been used to write a letter claiming responsibility for the bombs. One letter talked about a "declaration of war" against the judiciary and complained about the 11th Circuit's "callous disregard for justice," court documents show.

A prosecution team led by Louis Freeh, who later became FBI director, convinced a federal jury that Moody was to blame for the bombing wave, and a judge sentenced him to seven life sentences plus 400 years in August 1991.

Moody was convicted on a state capital murder charge in 1996 in Vance's killing, and he has been on death row since 1997. Now 82, he is the oldest inmate awaiting execution in Alabama.

The Alabama Supreme Court has set Moody's lethal injection for April 19th at 6:00 p.m. Moody sent a letter to Vance's son and others claiming he is the innocent victim of a government conspiracy. A federal defender has asked a federal court to block the execution, arguing the state can't execute Moody because he's technically in federal custody. A judge has not yet ruled.

Vance said he feels peace "that justice has been done" in his father's case, and he doesn't plan to witness Moody's execution. But every new bombing, like the string of blasts in Texas, dredges up old feelings.

"Usually these days I get up and don't really think about what happened 30 years ago," Vance said. "But when you see that in the media, you go back to December 1989."

(source: WKRG news)

MISSISSIPPI:

I knew I didn't do it----A haunting chronicle of life after death row in Mississippi----Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks spent decades in prison for crimes they didn't commit

Maybe the best argument against capital punishment is that it can kill an innocent man. This almost happened to Kennedy Brewer, who in March 1995 was convicted of the abduction, rape and murder of Christine Jackson, his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter. After a brief trial, the jury condemned him to death. Mr Brewer was driven to Mississippi's notorious Parchman Penitentiary, fitted with a red jumpsuit and locked in a maximum-security cell. His execution was originally set for May of the same year.

Levon Brooks was also at Parchman, convicted of the similarly gruesome rape and murder of Courtney Smith, another 3-year-old girl, only a few miles from Mr Brewer's house. Mr Brooks was sentenced to life imprisonment. Both convictions largely relied on 2 witnesses. One was Steven Hayne, a medical examiner formerly responsible for up to 80% of Mississippi’s annual autopsies; for a spell Mr Hayne performed over 1,500 a year, 6 times the professional standard. The other was Michael West, a dentist with a record of controversial testimony.

After spending a combined 29 years in prison both men were exonerated in 2008, thanks to the painstaking work of lawyers at the Innocence Project in New York, which investigates wrongful convictions. A DNA test in Mr Brewer's case pointed to Justin Johnson, a convicted sex-offender who lived nearby. On his arrest, Mr Johnson admitted to both crimes. He had briefly been a suspect in the murder of Courtney Smith, but Mr West had claimed his teeth failed to match what he identified as bite marks on the victim. It now seems possible that the little girl's body bore no bite marks at all (Mr Johnson made no mention of biting either child in his confession). Mr Brewer and Mr Brooks each received $500,000 in compensation.

These tragic events have yielded a pair of complementary books. In "The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist", Tucker Carrington of the Mississippi Innocence Project and Radley Balko, a journalist at the Washington Post, meticulously document the twin miscarriages of justice, laying bare the systemic problems and structural racism that lead poor black men to be wrongfully convicted in disproportionate numbers. "The core problem with the medico-legal system in Mississippi is that it's easily manipulated - it serves those in power," they write.

The other book is a volume of haunting pictures by Isabelle Armand, a French photographer, with accompanying text by Mr Carrington (see photos). An article about the ordeal of Mr Brewer and Mr Brooks prompted Ms Armand to get in touch with them. "It was so shocking that forensics could be so flawed," she says. She spent 5 years taking thousands of pictures of Mr Brewer, Mr Brooks and their extended families (Mr Brewer has 14 siblings). The black-and-white images stand out for the beauty of rural Mississippi, the poverty of the 2 clans, who live mainly in trailers, and the indomitable spirit of the men - who had, almost literally, come back from the dead. "I never lost hope," Mr Brooks told Ms Armand. "I knew God was on my side."

Mr Brooks died of colon cancer in January. He lived only 10 years after his release, but he made the most of them. He raised chickens, quails and rabbits and married Dinah Johnson in 2016. Mr Brewer is younger and in relatively good health. He has a fiancée too, Omelia Givens. "I did good, some guys go crazy in prison," he told Ms Armand. "I knew I didn't do it."

Mr Carrington now hopes to exonerate Eddie Howard, who has been on Mississippi's death row since 2000 for the rape and murder of an 84-year-old woman. He was convicted largely because of a match of his teeth to bite wounds identified by Mr West. Genetic testing found no traces of Mr Howard on the murder weapon or the body or elsewhere at the crime scene. "In a fair world, he would be free," says Mr Carrington. "But this is Mississippi."

(source: The Economist)

LOUISIANA:

1st-degree murder charges filed once again in 1997 double murder case in Harvey

A Jefferson Parish grand jury has handed up a new 1st-degree murder indictment against a Gretna man sentenced to death for killing a girl and her father 20 years ago, only to have his conviction overturned in 2016 because of problems with his court-appointed interpreter.

Thao Tan Lam, now 46, is charged with 2 counts of 1st-degree murder for the deaths of Han and Dat Truong, whom he allegedly shot and killed in the Woodmere Subdivision of Harvey on Feb. 4, 1997.

Lam was in love with Han Truong, who was 18, and he was upset that she was soon to be married to another man.

Authorities say Lam arrived at her family's home on Chriswood Street as they prepared for the wedding and began arguing with Dat Truong, 57, and another relative, Phuong Tu Tran, 42.

Prosecutors say Lam then shot both of them, killing Truong and wounding Tran, and when Han Truong came running down the stairs, Lam shot and killed her too.

Lam also allegedly shot and wounded Han Truong's mother, Nguyet Lam, as she attempted to flee the house with her 8-year-old son, who was Han Truong's brother.

The boy was physically unharmed but later told authorities that he saw his sister’s head "explode like a tomato."

Thao Lam, who was not related to any of those in the house that day, then turned his gun on himself. He went to the hospital in critical condition but survived his self-inflicted gunshot wound and was convicted at a trial in November 1998.

He was sentenced to death the following year by former 24th Judicial District Judge Kernan "Skip" Hand.

In 2016, however, a Louisiana Supreme Court-ordered hearing was held before Judge Glenn Ansardi that included the testimony of an expert who reviewed the Vietnamese translation provided to Lam during his trial.

After the hearing, Ansardi ruled there were problems with the translation services Lam received that were structural and significant enough to warrant a new trial.

A 1999 news story on the sentencing made no mention of issues relating to the translation. However, it quoted Lam’s attorney complaining that Lam had wanted to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence, but District Attorney Paul Connick vetoed a tentative deal that would have spared him.

Connick denied any such veto, saying that his office sought the death penalty because it was the punishment warranted under the law.

"This was a premeditated act of violence," Connick was quoted as saying in The Times-Picayune. "If any case warrants the death penalty, this case sure as hell did. ... Justice was served."

It remains to be seen, however, whether Connick will seek the death penalty this time around. The DA, who rarely makes public statements, has sought the death penalty far less frequently over the last decade than in the years after he first took office.

There has been an uptick in recent years, however. There are 2 active death penalty cases in the 24th Judicial District Court today: the brutal stabbing death of a Raising Cane's manager in Kenner and the fatal shooting of Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office Detective David Michel.

Connick's office declined to comment, citing its policy of not making statements about open cases.

Lam is being held in the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center without bail.

(source: The New Orleans Advocate)

OHIO:

Prosecutor fighting overturned death sentence in Warren murder case

The Trumbull County prosecutor wants the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on the Danny Lee Hill case.

Hill was originally sentenced to death for murdering 12-year-old Raymond Fife in 1985 in Warren. Hill was 18 at the time.

Earlier this year, a federal appeals court ruled Hill is intellectually disabled and should not be eligible for the death penalty.

Hill has been appealing his death sentence for over 2 decades.

In a letter sent this week, Prosecutor Dennis Watkins asked the Ohio Attorney General to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

If the supreme court doesn't take the case, Hill will be re-sentenced to life in prison.

(source: WKBN news)

MISSOURI:

Arguments set for Columbia man's death penalty appeal

A federal appeals court will hear a Columbia man's case to avoid death by lethal injection next month.

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear Ernest L. Johnson's case on May 16 in Omaha. Johnson appealed a lower court's decision to dismiss his case last year.

Courts have upheld the death penalty for Johnson since 1995, when a jury convicted him of 3 murders. Johnson killed Mabel Scruggs, Fred Jones and Mary Bratcher at a convenience store on Ballenger Lane.

A district court judge dismissed Johnson's lawsuit in May 2017. District Judge Greg Kays said Johnson could not prove lethal injection would cause cruel and unusual punishment, and that death by lethal gas was a readily available alternative in Missouri.

Johnson said a brain tumor surgery he had in 2008 left scarring, which he didn't notice until an MRI in 2011. A doctor's evaluation of Johnson in 2013 said that the scarring would cause Johnson painful seizures when given pentobarbital, the drug Missouri uses for its lethal injections. Johnson's attorneys argue the state can use nitrogen gas to execute him instead, an untried method that they called more humane.

The U.S. Supreme Court put a stop to Johnson's execution in 2015 just hours before it was set to happen. It ruled that the appellate court didn't properly review Johnson's claim. The case was eventually returned to the district court in 2016.

(source: ABC News)

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

Death penalty in Missouri is expensive, cruel

Our state's budget is imploding - school funding is being cut, safety net programs are being cut, the state refuses to accept Medicaid expansion - so why do we continue to have the death penalty, which has been shown in many states to be more expensive than not having it?

In St. Louis, the homicide rate goes higher and higher. In addition to the obvious factor of so many people having guns, why does the state continue to provide a model - by the death penalty? The thing to do about problem people is kill them, right? Oy vey.

Nobody wants innocent people to be executed, so why does Missouri keep opposing appeals filed on grounds of possible innocence?

The Constitution forbids cruel and unusual punishment, so why did Missouri try so hard to kill Russell Bucklew, who has a blood condition that experts say could make the lethal injection excruciatingly painful? Fortunately the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay for another look at the situation.

When a sentencing jury can't agree on the sentence (either death or life without parole), in most states the sentence automatically reverts to life. But why does Missouri allow a sentencing judge to override a split jury and sentence the defendant to death? This happened twice recently, in Springfield and St. Charles, where 11 voted for life, 1 voted for death - and the judge imposed death.

It's time to end the death penalty - long past time.

Margaret Phillips -- St. Louis

(source: Letter to the Editor, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

OKLAHOMA:

Trial of man facing death penalty pushed back to late August----Judge pushes start to August due to conflicts concerning jailhouse informant

A Tulsa County judge on Thursday officially pushed back the trial of a man facing the death penalty in connection with the March 2017 strangulation of a 19-year-old girl inside her apartment.

Gregory Epperson, 42, had been scheduled to begin his trial May 14 in the death of Kelsey Tennant, but District Judge Doug Drummond announced during a Thursday motions hearing that it wouldn't be feasible to begin next month due to outstanding pretrial issues. Drummond said the trial would instead start on Aug. 27 and set a hearing in May to determine the status of discovery, or evidence, exchange between both sides.

Thursday's hearing primarily addressed a conflict related to a jailhouse informant who had the same legal representation as Epperson at the time of the latter's June preliminary hearing, which resulted in Drummond granting Epperson's defense's motion to have that firm recused from the informant’s current rape case.

Epperson received different court-appointed counsel after the Tulsa County District Attorney's Office filed its intent to seek consideration of the death penalty, as his preliminary hearing legal team did not have significant experience with capital cases.

Current defense attorney Beverly Atteberry revealed through questioning on Thursday that the informant’s court-appointed attorney, Ciera Freeman, had awareness on some level about her client providing information to authorities regarding Epperson before the informant - also assigned to Drummond's courtroom - waived his right to a jury trial. Freeman, along with her law partner, were listed as attorneys of record in Epperson's preliminary hearing, although at that point the informant hadn't come forward.

Assistant District Attorney Kevin Gray said in court last month that the informant in question notified an attorney in his federal proceeding that he had information "about some homicides' that included Epperson's case.

Gray said a later interview with Tulsa Police yielded statements from the man about how Epperson confessed to him that he killed Tennant but was not worried because he had beaten 2 murder investigations previously.

The state has announced its intent to use information about a 2015 murder case against Epperson that was dismissed before trial in his punishment stage if he is found guilty of killing Tennant.

Drummond, in deciding to grant the recusal request, said he determined the court should have been notified of the possibility of a conflict before the informant's jury trial waiver was signed. He said it was "very problematic in my mind" to have Freeman or her partner sit next to the informant as he testified, and prosecutors announced they joined in the defense's recusal motion. The informant is expected to receive a different court-appointed attorney.

Freeman testified that she had concerns on the day of her client's February court appearance because the limited information she received from a prosecutor gave her reason to believe there could be a safety issue if Epperson and the informant were brought over from the Tulsa County Jail together.

Despite this, she said she did not believe with certainty that there was a conflict when the jury trial waiver was signed because she didn't know the nature of what information was provided. However, she and her law partner later told Drummond they believe there is now a clear conflict if the informant testifies against Epperson in trial.

(source: Tulsa World)

ARIZONA:

Arguments Against Death Penalty Planned in Phoenix Case

A judge is scheduled to hear arguments about whether to take the death penalty off the table for a former bus driver in Phoenix charged in 9 killings that terrified residents of the city's west side.

Lawyers for Aaron Juan Saucedo want to bar prosecutors from seeking the death penalty as punishment after authorities released video of their client in his jail cell to news organizations.

The hearing is set for Friday morning before Superior Court Judge David Cunanan in Maricopa County Superior Court.

Defense attorneys have said in court papers that the release of the video to The Arizona Republic and other news organizations violated their client's constitutional right to bodily privacy.

Saucedo has pleaded not guilty to 1st-degree murder and other charges in shootings.

(source: Associated Press)

WASHINGTON:

The Washington Supreme Court upheld the death penalty for inmate Conner Schierman, who was convicted in 2010 of murdering an entire family.

Leonid Milkin was serving in Iraq with the National Guard in July 2006 when a neighbor murdered his wife and children, and burned down his house to cover up the crime.

Olga Milkin was found with her sons, Justin, 5, and Andrew, 3, and her sister Lyuba Botvina, in the burned home. Investigators say they were stabbed to death.

Conner Schierman, who had recently moved into the duplex across the street, was tried for the killings and convicted.

In the penalty phase the jury recommended he be sentenced to death. The judge agreed, sentencing Schierman to death in 2010. Schierman's attorney immediately notified the county of his intention to appeal the verdict to the state Supreme Court.

While Conner's appeal sat in court, Milkin vocalized he was upset when state and county leaders considered and favored abolishing the death penalty. Milkin said it should be up to the voters to decide.

"It's shameful. It's deplorable," Milkin said. "They're betraying victims and they're basically helping the murderers get away with murder."

The effort to ban the death penalty fizzled out in the Legislature in March.

Washington's death penalty has been seldom used in recent years. In 2014, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee placed a moratorium on capital punishment, suspending the practice for as long as he's in office. The state's last execution occurred in 2010 when Cal Coburn Brown, convicted for the 1991 rape and murder of 21-year-old Holly Washa, was put to death by lethal injection.

(source: KIRO news)

TUNISIA:

Amnesty: Tunisia not doing enough to abolish death penalty

Tunisia has failed to take steps to abolish its law on the death penalty, Amnesty International said in its latest report.

Since the early 1990s, no death sentences have been carried out in Tunisia but the death penalty still exists in the country. At the end of last year, 77 people were on death row in Tunisian prisons and 25 Tunisian courts handed down death sentences in connection with national security crimes, an increase from 44 in 2016.

According to a poll by the 3C Studies Institute, 70 % of Tunisians are in favour of the death penalty. Moreover, the new anti-terrorism law, passed in July 2015, has maintained the death penalty despite calls to abolish it.

Since independence, Tunisia has completed 135 executions.

Amnesty also deplored the fact that the measure of death sentences in Algeria has not been properly recorded due to authorities not making official data public. Amnesty recorded 27 death sentences in Algeria last year, less than the 50 recorded in 2016.

In Morocco and the Western Sahara, 15 death sentences were handed out in 2017, compared to at least 6 in 2016.

According to the NGO, the use of the death penalty in the Middle East and North Africa region decreased slightly in 2017 and the number of executions recorded decreased by 1 %, from 856 executions in 2016 to 847 in 2017.

Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq carried out the largest number of executions in the region and account for 92 % of recorded executions in the MENA region. However Egypt was guilty of handing out the most convictions in the region during 2017. Of the 619 convictions of capital punishment recorded by the group, 402 were from Egypt - an increase of about 70 % compared to 2016.

By the end of 2017, 106 countries abolished the death penalty in their legislation.

(source: Middle East Monitor)

BAHAMAS:

Crown Seeks Death Penalty In Exuma Shooting Death Case

THE CROWN is seeking the death penalty for 1 of 2 men convicted of the shooting death of a man in his Family Island home during the process of an armed robbery 4 years ago.

Prosecutor Al-Leecia Delancy submitted to Justice Carolita Bethel yesterday that Giordano Rolle Jr "should be made to suffer death" for murdering Dwayne Finnekan in Exuma in February 2014.

Ms Delancy said his accomplice, Demetri Rolle should receive 25 years for manslaughter, and that both men should each get 25 years for robbing Finnekan at gunpoint on that date.

The prosecutor submitted that while Demetri Rolle didn't actually shoot the deceased, he played a "significant role" in the incident by being present when it occurred, and also being armed with a shotgun which he used to hold up the only other person who could have assisted the deceased before he was killed.

And concerning the armed robbery charge for which both men were convicted, Ms Delancy noted the "utterly unnecessary," "senseless" and "heinous" manner in which the offence was executed.

Submissions

The submissions came during a hearing for counsel to make submissions and/or recommendations on sentencing for both men concerning the armed robbery and subsequent shooting death of Finnekan on February 18, 2014.

On March 10, 2017, following a trial by jury over the crimes in question, Giordano Rolle was convicted of murder and armed robbery, while Demetri Rolle was convicted of manslaughter and armed robbery.

According to previous reports, on the date in question, Finniken, also known as Dwayne Nixon, was at home with another man when 2 men armed with firearms entered the residence.

The 2 convicts, while armed with a handgun and a shotgun, subsequently robbed Finnekan of cash, a gold necklace and a hand chain.

One of the men shot the victim, resulting in his death, before they fled on foot. The 23 year old was pronounced dead at the scene by the island's local doctor.

According to Ms Delancey, Finniken was lying face down on the bed when he was shot in the back. The one person who was in a position to assist him in any way was being held at gunpoint by Demetri Rolle in the front room.

In his record of interview, Demetri Rolle said: "We went there because American sent us there…to take the drugs and money..."

When asked if it was he who shot and killed Finnekan, aka "Yardy," and not Giordano Rolle or another individual, Demetri Rolle said: "It was Gio, sir, not me."

Yesterday afternoon, David Cash, attorney for Giordano Rolle, submitted that the crime in question does not fall under the category of "worst of the worst" as mandated by the Privy Council, having regard to all of the circumstances of the case.

Murder

Mr Cash further submitted that while the court has the jurisdiction to sentence someone to death, it is "the duty of the court" to make a determination whether or not the murder in question can be considered to be the "worst of the worst," and if it automatically warrants the death penalty.

In any event, Mr Cash requested the court to consider imposing a 30-year sentence on his client for murder, and 12 years for armed robbery.

Meanwhile, Demetri Rolle's attorney Sonia Timothy, in providing the mitigating factors on behalf of her client, noted that he does not have any previous convictions for offences of a similar nature.

However, she noted that her client has convictions for causing damage and possession of dangerous drugs.

Ms Timothy also submitted that as noted in the probation report, her client has had continuous employment since leaving high school, serving as a space cleaner, landscaper, construction worker, tree-trimmer, as well as a helper in paving roads.

Ms Timothy also noted that he was employed at the time of his arrest. She also said that since being incarcerated, he has participated in at least one programme.

Ms Timothy thus requested Justice Bethel to consider imposing a 12-year and six-year sentence for her client's manslaughter and armed robbery convictions, respectively.

Justice Bethel noted the submissions and adjourned the matter to May 10 for sentencing.

(source: tribune242.com)

YEMEN----female on death row

Young Yemeni woman on death row suffers the wrath of the Huthis' 'psychological war' on opponents

Asmaa al-Omeissy set off from southern Yemen to seek safety and reunite with her father in the capital Sana'a. Instead, the 22-year-old, who has 2 young children, was subjected to a brutal ordeal that has left her as the 1st known Yemeni woman on death row on 'state security' charges.

In September 2016, her husband, an al-Qa'ida suspect, fled and left her during an ambush by forces from the Saudi Arabia-led coalition near the southern city of al-Mukalla. After briefly detaining her following the ambush, the coalition troops let her go. But this was only the start of her troubles.

A family friend had offered to drive her from al-Mukalla to the Huthi-controlled Sana'a so that she could re-unite with her father. Another male passenger travelled with them. On 7 October 2016, Huthi security forces stopped their vehicle at a checkpoint in the capital and whisked them away for interrogation. Following their detention, Asmaa al-Omeissy's father was also summoned and arrested.

Their arrest marked the beginning of a horrific ordeal including enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment, and death sentences following a grossly unfair trial. Because of their connection with the armed conflict in Yemen, these violations by the Huthis may amount to war crimes.

Since the Huthi armed group and its allies took control of large parts of Yemen in late 2014, thousands of people have been arbitrarily detained, forcibly disappeared, and tortured on the basis of their perceived political allegiance or religious beliefs, rights groups say. Amnesty International and other local and international human rights groups have documented such cases and urged the Huthis to respect their obligations under international law.

But far from heeding these calls, the Huthis have been widening their crackdown against opponents and critics, including journalists and human rights defenders. Those detained include people they perceive as supporting their adversaries - Yemen's UN-recognized government, based in the south, and its backers, the Saudi Arabia-led coalition. Moreover, the Huthis have also been increasingly using the judiciary to settle political scores, with several grossly unfair trials resulting in death sentences.

These trials and the process leading up to them demonstrate a complete disregard for Yemeni and international law. Asmaa al-Omeissy and her 3 co-defendants, for example, were barred from contacting the outside world for months while they were taken from one facility to the next, including a "secret" part of the Criminal Investigations Department. She was unable to get any news about her 2 children from a previous marriage - now 4 and 7 years old - who currently live with family members in the south.

Asmaa al-Omeissy was beaten up in front of her 50-year-old father Matir al-Omeissy, including being punched and hit with a cane by a policewoman, the father told me. She was also forced to watch 2 other detainees in the case being tortured, hung from the ceiling by their wrists as they were kicked and punched all over their bodies.

She was interrogated over alleged links to al-Qa'ida, and wrongfully accused of committing an "illegitimate sex act" with her male travel companions. "It was a psychological war," Asmaa al-Omeissy's father told me.

"Can you imagine what it's like for a woman to be kept alone in [an interrogation] room and accused of such things all the while being innocent?" he said, explaining how interrogators tried to break her by attacking her "honour." In Yemen, extra-marital affairs are both illegal and taboo.

It was not until May 2017 that Asmaa al-Omeissy and the others were finally charged and referred to Sana'a's notorious Specialized Criminal Court that handles "terrorism' and "state security" cases. The charges included “aiding a foreign country in a state of war with Yemen," a reference to coalition member the United Arab Emirates. None of the defendants had legal representation during the trial.

While the 3 men were released on bail months before the verdict, including 2 on medical grounds, it is not clear why Asmaa al-Omeissy was the only defendant in the case who remained in custody. All three men subsequently fled to safety in areas of Yemen outside Huthi control, and she alone was present in court on 30 January when the judge sentenced her and 2 of the other defendants to death. The spurious "indecent act" charge landed her an additional sentence of 100 lashes and her father, a 15-year prison sentence.

Those who have spoken to Asmaa al-Omeissy at Sana'a Central Prison have told me her morale is extremely low. Her prison conditions continue to be woefully inadequate. She has to pay for her food, has no access to clothes or hygiene products, and her relatives haven't visited, out of fear of being detained themselves.

Conditions in Yemeni prisons have long been inhuman and degrading, but local activists say they have only worsened under Huthi control. Detainees are crammed into filthy, overcrowded cells, and are systematically extorted for money.

And although abuses against female detainees, including rape and other forms of sexual violence were reported in the past, activists say they are shocked at the recent rise in reports of such abuses. One human rights defender told me his group has documented hundreds of cases of female detainees who were subjected to torture and humiliation, including "degrading use of women prisoners in construction work."

Asmaa al-Omeissy's father tells me he wants the world to know about her case and that she is innocent. A lawyer has filed an appeal request on her behalf, but he has been struggling to obtain the case file from the court. Meanwhile, the court has been liberally issuing death sentences, including in January against 52-year-old prisoner of conscience and member of the Baha'i community, Hamid Haydara.

Huthi authorities must stop making a mockery of justice: they must immediately quash these unsafe convictions and death sentences, and end the use of this inherently cruel punishment. Every day Asmaa al-Omeissy spends behind bars and on death row compounds this injustice, leaves her at risk of further violations, and is time stolen from her children's lives.

(source: Rawya Rageh, Senior Crisis Adviser at Amnesty International)

UGANDA:

Susan Kigula: The woman who freed herself and hundreds from death row

When a young woman was convicted of murdering her partner and sentenced to death, no-one could have imagined that she would study law and free not only herself but hundreds of others from death row. Now Susan Kigula wants to go further and set up the first legal chambers staffed by lawyers behind bars.

What's about to happen next in a small, wooden panelled courtroom in Kampala, will be written up by the local press as a melodramatic confession to a gruesome murder.

Standing in the dock one afternoon in November 2011, Susan Kigula is about to let the weight of the past 11 years on death row get to her as she turns to her stepson.

"Don't you know that I love you so much?" she'll cry to the 14-year-old boy who is sitting with her late partner's family just feet away.

The courtroom will be deadly silent as Kigula falls to her knees.

"You know that I do love you so much?" she'll repeat. "I'm your mother!"

And then, turning to the family of her late partner, Susan Kigula will say sorry.

The local press in Uganda will write it up as if it was a scene in a soap opera. A hammy admittance of a horrific crime.

Except that's not what she meant, she says.

"The press lied."

You didn't confess to the murder of your partner, Constantine Sseremba?

"No, dear," Kigula's voice is calm. She's been asked this question too many times to be offended. "I'll tell you my truth."

Kigula was born in the Central Ugandan cattle-farming town of Masaka, about 134km (84 miles) south-west of Kampala.

"Growing up I was a daddy's girl," she says. "I used to tell him that I wanted to work in a bank because I thought that was a good job and I would be strong and independent if I had a good job. I had a lot of dreams back then because my parents made me believe they could all come true."

She and her three brothers and five sisters enjoyed a sheltered middle-class upbringing, centred around a close-knit church community. The children played in the open fields into the evening and ate together with their parents every night.

"My happy childhood didn't prepare me for what was to come in adulthood," she says simply.

Kigula had been working for a couple of years in a small gift shop in Kampala when she met Constantine Sseremba, who, at 28, was 10 years her senior.

They moved in together. The apartment was small, just 1 rooms, but Kigula says it was ideal for the family, which included Sseremba's young son from a previous relationship. They soon had a daughter of their own.

"We loved each very much," says Kigula. "We would go to the cinema and the park and people would tease us. They would call us twins because we were so in sync. We were not rich but we were happy that we had each other.

"We saw the best in our situation and we didn't dwell on the negative."

It's an outlook that, many years later, would save her life.

The 9 July 2000 could have been another forgettable evening, says Kigula.

The young family ate dinner together. They laughed.

Kigula and Sseremba, his son and their daughter retired to bed. They slept all together in the only bedroom. Their housemaid, Patience Nansamba, was on a mattress in the living area next door.

Kigula says that she was woken up around 2.30am by a piercing, flashing blow to the back of her neck.

"There was hot blood oozing from a wound there. The sheets were wet with blood. It wasn't just mine.

"Because the main lights were off I couldn't immediately take in the scene or see what was happening to us. I sat up dizzily on the bed in confusion.

"Then a small panel of light from the security lanterns outside came on and some of the room was lit. The children were unharmed. They were awake and distressed.

"Constantine was on the floor, groaning. His neck was cut. It was all happening so quickly.

"Our housemaid Patience ran into the room saying she had seen 2 people run out of the flat moments earlier.

"My vision was blurring and I was unsteady on my feet as I made my way outside to alert the neighbours to come help us. I saw a couple of figures running away, but they could have been anyone at this point, I can't be sure they were my attackers.

"I made it to a restaurant outside where I was given a blanket, I hadn't realised that I had run out of the house naked.

"I was still bleeding and then my vision started blurring. I passed out."

Kigula woke up hours later in hospital, the wound to the back of her neck still throbbing, to hear that her partner had died. She was told that her family were looking after their 1-year-old daughter Namata and Sseremba's relatives, with whom she had a frosty relationship, had taken his 3-year-old son into their home.

It dawned on her that up until that moment she had lived a happy life; a contented childhood, a successful relationship, a good job. That was all gone now, she thought.

Kigula's father informed her that the families had arranged Sseremba's burial for the following day.

"My mind was a whirlwind. I couldn't understand what had happened or why. Whoever had come to attack us was targeting both of us. Who wanted me and Constantine dead? I thought about it a lot. It bothers me still."

There was no obvious motive for the attack. Nothing had been stolen.

After Sseremba's funeral, Kigula was being driven back to the hospital when she heard an announcement on the radio that made her freeze.

The news reader announced that Constantine Sseremba and his 21-year-old partner, Susan Kigula, had both been murdered in a bungled burglary.

"I thought, 'Oh my god, the person who tried to kill us both had arranged a joint obituary assuming we would both be dead by now. They thought they'd get us both.'"

Then, 3 days later, Kigula, still receiving treatment for her large neck wound, received a visit from the police. To her amazement, they charged her with murder and took her straight to a maximum security prison on the outskirts of Kampala, to await trial.

Sseremba's family said that her 3-year-old stepson had seen Kigula and the housemaid kill his father.

"I was naive in that moment," says Kigula. "I thought, 'Obviously all of this is a mistake. The poor young boy is traumatised and confused. I'm innocent and of course people will see that.' I had no idea how the legal system worked."

She didn't hire a lawyer. She couldn't afford one and, anyway, she was confident in the justice system.

But two years later, Susan Kigula and Patience Nansamba were found guilty of the murder of Constantine Sseremba - based on the testimony of Sseremba's now 5-year-old son. Police also said that a blood-stained panga, a machete-like farming tool that was found in the doorway to the bedroom of the flat belonged to Kigula.

The murder conviction came with a mandatory death sentence. The women were told the method would be hanging.

Kigula looked at her now 2-year-old daughter, sitting with her parents, and burst into tears.

It was 2005 and 20-year-old British student Alexander McLean was taking a break from his studies, after obtaining a law degree.

After finishing school, a few years earlier, McLean had volunteered at Mulago Hospital in Kampala, hoping to bolster his CV for university, and had been deeply disturbed by the dire conditions there. He saw patients lying on unswept floors, often in pools of vomit and blood.

Their families were required to provide fresh sheets and towels, but when the patients were prisoners, relatives often left them to fend for themselves.

McLean found himself drawn to these patients, some of whom were handcuffed to their beds. Curious about the conditions they faced in custody, he visited Luzira Upper Prison.

"I was struck by how massively overcrowded it was, how young the inmates were, how few had had decent legal representation," he says.

A particularly gruesome, and avoidable, death of a young male prisoner in the jail prompted McLean, on his return to London, to raise money for healthcare facilities for prisoners in Uganda. He set up the African Prisons Project.

When he returned to Uganda in 2005 to oversee the refurbishing of the sick bay at Luzira Women's Prison, Susan Kigula began to act as his translator. She made an instant impression on him.

By this time Kigula had been in the prison for 5 years.

"Every day I would wake up and think, 'Is this the day that I will be hanged?'" she says.

But when asked what conditions were like her response is unemotional.

"Prison is prison," she says, without expanding.

Kigula shared a cell built for one person with 3 other women. They used a bucket as toilet.

A 2011 report into Ugandan prisons by Human Rights Watch said prisoners often slept on one shoulder, packed together so that they could only shift if an entire row agreed to roll at once. Inmates were sometimes confined in isolation cells, the report said, often naked, handcuffed, and sometimes denied food; the cells occasionally flooded with water up to ankle height.

Kigula doesn't want to talk about such things. But she is keen to tell the story of how she obtained her freedom.

I decided, 'We have to do something. We have to change our attitudes.' So I started by forgiving the people who put me in prison.

For the first few weeks in prison Kigula, then aged 24, and the 50 or so women in her section would talk to each other about their impending death, about who would care for their children outside.

"As I got to know the women I began to learn that many of them, like me, had been wrongly accused of crimes. Some were guilty but none of them deserved to be sentenced to death because the crimes they had committed were crimes of passion, they told me. Some of the crimes were a result of years of sexual and physical abuse by partners. I became a leader among the prisoners. I decided, 'We have to do something. We have to change our attitudes.' So I started by forgiving the people who put me in prison. I encouraged the other women to do the same. Then I decided to get to work."

Kigula mobilised a choir, she wrote songs, she started playing netball and led the prison dance troupe. To keep her spirits up, she spent more time with positive thinking inmates.

She learned that the men in the neighbouring wing had access to education whereas women prisoners did not. She asked the prison administration if a small group of them could take courses in History, Economics, Divinity and Management at secondary school level.

The Acting Commissioner for Welfare and Rehabilitation asked Kigula how she planned to operate a school without teachers.

"Let me try and be the teacher to start with," she replied.

They used textbooks donated by their families and the prison wardens connected them to the school in the men's prison, which started sending the women study notes to help them. They held their classes under trees.

When the wardens saw the women were dedicated, they expanded the resources and allowed more classes, with Kigula and some of her friends playing a leading role. Kigula says the prison wardens would provide support and encouragement.

Another motivating voice came from Alexander McLean, the young British founder of African Prisons Project, who had returned to oversee the refurbishment of the sick bay - a project that resulted in a sharp decline in deaths of inmates (from 114 the year before the refurbishment to 12 in the year of completion).

"I saw that Susan was dynamic, she mobilised and motivated people," says McLean. "She had great humility - she would kneel down to speak to the prison wardens, which is the custom at that prison. She never tired of serving others."

McLean had been working with Ugandan authorities to improve conditions beyond the sick bay too. His organisation sponsored sports activities, ran mother-and-baby reading groups and adult literacy classes. Kigula acted as an intermediary between the charity and the prison authorities on a project to open a prison library.

In 2011 Kigula and a group of other prisoners, supported by African Prisons Project, became the first Ugandan prisoners to take a correspondence course with the University of London, studying law.

The project was a huge success. As time went on, prison staff would come to her for legal advice.

Then Kigula started a legal clinic in prison to help fellow inmates with bail applications, writing memorandums of appeal for them, and teaching them how to represent themselves in court, if they couldn't afford a lawyer. She helped dozens of inmates get released from prison.

Emboldened by her academic success, Kigula decided, even before she completed her University of London degree, to organise a petition challenging Uganda's mandatory death sentence. The process would take years.

"The Ugandan public is generally very conservative and reluctant to see what could be perceived as a softening of the law with respect to criminal justice matters," says McLean.

Susan Kigula and 417 Others vs Attorney General is a landmark case. The petitioners, all on death row, aimed to abolish capital punishment by declaring it unconstitutional.

When the Supreme Court of Uganda gave its ruling, on 21 January 2009, it did not abolish the death penalty. However it did rule that a sentence of death should not be mandatory in cases of murder, and that a condemned person should not be kept on death row indefinitely - if a convict is not executed within 3 years, the sentence is automatically turned into life imprisonment. And, in light of these changes, the Supreme Court ruled that death-row inmates could go back to the High Court for retrial.

Kigula would have another day in court.

It was at this moment, in November 2011, that she called out to her stepson, using the word "sorry". But Kigula says this was not a confession - as the press chose to interpret it - it was an expression of regret for what he had been through. She still proclaimed her innocence, pleading not-guilty to murder for a 2nd time, but the court - and the media - were not convinced.

The High Court reduced Kigula's sentence to 20 years, and with 4 taken off for her time in remand, Kigula was released from prison in 2016.

To begin with, it felt like an alien, new world.

"It was like I was walking on the moon! I could not believe what was happening to me," she says.

Her father had died while she was in prison and her mother had been killed in a road accident just 2 months before her release.

Kigula now has new goals.

She wants authorities to reduce the sentence of the remaining 417 inmates from her petition - although dozens were released, like her, some are still behind bars.

Working with Alexander McLean and African Prisons Project, Kigula plans to establish the world's first prison-based legal college and law firm, where prisoner lawyers would represent peers who can not afford legal help.

"The hope is to create a new generation of servant lawyers who follow in the footsteps of Susan and the others who pioneered this alongside her," says Alexander McLean. "The legal system in Uganda is not like the UK's."

"People can be put in prison for being gay, women are on death row for not being able to get care for a sick child in rural areas, or if their husbands commit crimes and can't be found. Of course there are guilty people in prison but we believe that everyone deserves due process. We believe everyone deserves a 2nd chance to be of use to society. Susan has always maintained her innocence and she wants to serve her community."

Kigula now lives with her sister and her 19-year-old daughter.

"My daughter calls me her hero. That was all I needed to hear after 16 years away from her."

Life is good again, she says.

(source: BBC News)

IRAN----execution

A Man Hanged in Kerman Prison

A prisoner who was allegedly sentenced to death on murder charges was executed at Kerman Central Prison.

According to Baluch Activists Campaign, on the morning of Tuesday, April 10, a prisoner was executed at Kerman Central Prison. The prisoner, identified as Omid Damani, 33, was charged with murder.

Habibollah Sarbazi, Baluch human rights activist, told IHR, "Omid Damani was most probably executed on murder charges, and he was also charged with sedition. However, the exact charges are not indicated yet."

The prisoner was buried in Iranshahr on April 12.

According to Iran Human Rights annual report on the death penalty, 240 of the 517 execution sentences in 2017 were implemented due to murder charges.

There is a lack of a classification of murder by degree in Iran which results in issuing a death sentence for any kind of murder regardless of intensity and intent.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

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

Iran Responsible For Over Half of Executions World Over, Says Amnesty International

In a report released on April 12, London-based international human rights watchdog Amnesty International said "more than 1/2 (51%) of all recorded executions in 2017 were carried out in Iran."

Iran ranks 2nd in the world after China in terms of executions and has "carried out 84% of the global total number of executions with Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan."

However, Amnesty International has observed that there has been "a slight decrease (5%) in execution figures" in Iran compared to 2016.

The report said Iran is 1 of the 23 countries that have not yet abolished the death penalty.

According to Amnesty International, "Iran executed at least 507 people, accounting for 60% of all confirmed executions in the region."

Out of the 507 individuals executed in Iran last year, "501 were men and 6 were women. At least 5 juvenile offenders were executed and 31 executions were carried out publicly. The executions were carried out for murder (240); drug trafficking (205); murder and rape 4; robbery 11; "spreading corruption on earth" 2; rape (male on female rape) 16; kidnapping and murder 3;moharebeh (politically motivated) (2); and 19 were for offences that could not be confirmed," the AI reported.

Amnesty International received reports indicating that at least five people in Iran were executed for crimes committed when they were under 18 years of age. Iran also sentenced to death other people who were younger than 18 at the time of the crime. The imposition and execution of the death penalty against people who were aged under 18 when the crime was committed is a violation of international law.

Amnesty International added, "For the 1st time in many years Amnesty International recorded more executions for murder than for drug-related offences. The organization believed that hundreds of death sentences were imposed during the year; however, it was unable to confirm any credible figure."

Amnesty International recorded a noticeable decrease in the overall number of executions carried out for drug-related offences. This was due to the fact that "in November, Iran amended the Anti-Narcotics Law, raising the level of drug possession needed to trigger the imposition of a mandatory death sentence, with potential retroactive effect,” the Amnesty International observed.

Meanwhile, "The widespread use of the death penalty remains a grave concern; Iran continued to use the death penalty for conduct that did not amount to a recognizably criminal offense". such as "enmity against god", "spreading corruption on earth" and "insulting the Prophet".

Amnesty International's research showed that basic fair trial guarantees were absent in death penalty cases and that courts often relied on "confessions" extracted under torture to impose death sentences. The use of torture is absolutely prohibited under the UN Convention against Torture," the AI report stressed.

"In Iran and Iraq some of these 'confessions' were broadcast on television before the trial took place, further violating the defendant's right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty."

Amnesty International believed that hundreds of other death sentences were imposed in Iran but was unable to confirm any credible figures.

The AI noted that execution figures in China are probably the highest in the world, but there are no figures publicly announced as China regards such figures "state secrets." Iran ranks the 2nd with 507 registered executions and Saudi Arabia is the 3rd with 146 executions in 2017 according to Amnesty International.

Raha Bahraini, an Iran researcher with the IA, told Radio Farda that "Iran lags behind the global progress in the move to abolish death penalty."

Bahraini reiterated that Iran even lags behind its neighbors, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iraq, as Tehran has executed far more people than those 3 countries during the past year," adding that these 4 countries and China comprise an isolated minority in the community of nations that still violate people's right to live."

Meanwhile, Mahmoud Amiri Moghaddam, head of the Iran Human Rights Organization in Norway, said in an interview with Radio Farda that some 70 to 80% of executions in Iran are not reported."

(source: Radiofarda.com)

GHANA:

Ghana must abolish death penalty by 2019 - Amnesty International

Human rights organisation, Amnesty International (AI) has reiterated its strong opposition to the death penalty sentence in Ghana's legal system, thus calling on government to totally abolish it by 2019.

According to AI, Ghana is among the countries that have abolished the execution of prisoners on death row but is yet to stop sentencing "criminals" to death by getting rid of the punishment from its legal system.

Speaking at the launch of the 2017 Global Death Penalty Report in Accra, Country Director of Amnesty International, Robert Amoafo Akoto revealed that 7 people were sentenced to death in only 2017 but Ghana's prisons are currently holding a total of 160 persons on death row, including 6 foreigners.

As indicated in the report, some Sub-Saharan African countries including Guinea and Kenya have abolished the penalty, therefore, Ghana, according to the AI must take inspiration from these nations and do same.

Launching the Amnesty International's Death Sentence and Executions 2017 Report in Accra Thursday, International Board Member of Amnesty International, Dr. Vincent Adzahlie-Mensah said the death penalty is a wicked and torturous punishment that must not be practiced by Ghana.

According to him, Ghana is still practicing death penalty as a result of "ignorance and misinformation" and "lack of political will".

"It is important that as a people, we recognise that in this report, it is stated that the year under review 2 countries; Guinea in Africa and Mongolia outside Africa abolished the death penalty. What is it that is happening in Ghana? What evil are Ghanaians than the people in Guinea that we deserve the death penalty," Dr. Adzahlie-Mensah stated.

The AI also argues that death penalty is a revengeful and an inhumane punishment which must be completely abolished from the justice system of a country practicing the democratic system of governance.

"Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of circumstances of the crime," the organisation stated in its 2017 report on death sentences.

Prisoners on death row, reports say, are exposed to various ill-conditions, subjecting them to, among other things, various diseases and psychological trauma, a reason the AI and its partners want Ghana to be part of the abolitionists.

In an interview with www.Ghanaweb.com, Dr. Adzahlie-Mensah maintains the capital punishment should be abolished because "It doesn't solve any problem and it's like a father who has 2 children and one killed the other and so the father says I'll kill the 2nd one. I don't think it makes sense in any human community. In Ghana we don't even apply it so why do you have a law that you don't even apply? That's the problem."

Inasmuch as persons may make a strong case that convicted murderers should also be subjected to the torture their victims went through, he believes no civilised society should operate based on the principles of "a tooth for a tooth and an eye for an eye".

"That is stone age ideology. You see when you have death penalty what it does is it makes our law enforcement very lazy because we all reside in the thought that 'don't worry if somebody kills, if somebody harms you, somebody attacks you we'll kill the person," he stressed.

Amnesty International also pledged its commitment to support government in working towards the total abolishment of the capital punishment.

"We take cognizance of our neighbouring countries like Burkina Faso, Gambia, Senegal, Benin and Kenya that have successfully abolishing the death penalty and encourage Ghana to do same," the organisation stressed.

According to the Amnesty International's Death Sentence and Executions 2017 report, 142 countries worldwide had obliterated death penalty in both law and in practice and 106 countries had also abolished the penalty in law for all crimes.

The report indicates a global decrease of 17 %, reflecting a decrease of over 2591 in 2017 from the high record of 3117 of death sentences in 2016. The number of countries known to have imposed new death sentences reduced from 55 in 2016 to 53 in 2017.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, Amnesty International recorded about an 81 % drop in the number of executing countries from 5 in 2016 to 2 (Somalia and South Sudan) in 2017 resulting to a drastic decrease in number of death sentence imposed and that was from 1086 in 2016 to 878 in 2017.

Guinea abolished the death penalty for all crimes and Kenya abolished the mandatory death sentence of murder.

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

160 on death row in Ghana

Amnesty International (AI) has said that there are 160 people known to be on death row in Ghana.

According to AI, although Ghana has not executed anyone on death row since 1993, the death penalty remains in the statute book with some "7 people sentenced to death in 2017".

This was disclosed by the Director of Amnesty International Ghana, Robert Amoafo Akoto at the launch of the 2017 global death penalty report.

He said Ghana is identified as an abolitionist in practice, meaning "we still have it in our laws, even in 2018 one person has been sentenced to death, the judges are using it in the court and people can go back to it but we don't execute".

Meanwhile, on the global scale, while 106 countries abolished the death penalty in 2017, China continued to be the world's top executioner, according to AI.

Mr Akoto indicated that "over thousands" are executed every year even though the country does not release the official figures.

Launching Amnesty International's Death Sentence and Executions 2017 Report, International Board Member of Amnesty International, Dr Vincent Adzahile-Mensah called on President Akufo-Addo and all well-meaning Ghanaians to support the call for abolishment of the death penalty.

(source for both: ghanaweb.com)

INDIA:

Will make death penalty mandatory for those raping minors, says Mehbooba Mufti

Even as Kathua gangrape continues to fuel national outrage, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti today said that her government will soon table a new law to make death penalty mandatory for those who rape minors.

"We will never ever let another child suffer this way. We will bring a new law that will make the death penalty mandatory for those who rape minors, so that minor's case becomes the last," said Mehbooba Mufti in a tweet.

The chief minister further assured the entire nation that she stands committed not to just ensure justice for the minor girl but will also seek exemplary punishment for the perpetrators of the heinous crime.

The 8-year-old girl, who went missing on January 12, was found dead on January 17 based on a tip off by a local. The chargesheet which was filed on Monday reveal chilling details of the crime. The minor girl was sedated and raped repeatedly before she was brutally murdered.

Several politicians and public figures joined the chorus to demand justice for the deceased. All 8 accused in the gangrape have been arrested by the Jammu and Kashmir Police.

Meanwhile, Congress president Rahul Gandhi has called for a midnight candlelight march at India Gate to protest the Kathua and Unnao gangrapes, both incidents that have sparked nationwide outrage.

Gandhi plans to march from the Congress headquarters in New Delhi to India Gate at midnight and has called on everyone to join his protest. Here are the live updates from tonight's demonstration.

(source: India Today)

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

Maneka wants death penalty for rape of minors under 12 years

With the uproar over the rape and murder of a minor girl in Kathua, the Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi today said that she favours bringing an amendment to the POCSO Act for rape of minors below 12 years.

"I am deeply disturbed by the rape case in Kathua and all the recent rape cases on children. I, and the ministry intend to bring an amendment to the POCSO Act asking for death penalty for rape on children below 12 years," she said in a Youtube video shared by her spokesperson.

The Ministry didn't clarify why there was a cap of 12 years and whether the issue had been discussed with the Ministries of Law and Home Affairs.

Under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, there is a punishment of 10 years to life imprisonment for aggravated penile sexual assault and 5 to 7 years for aggravated sexual assault. Sexual harrasment is punishable with up to 3 years in jail.

(source: The Hindu)

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

Death sentences awarded by Indian courts dip in 2017, 20% fewer than last year

The Indian courts gave 109 death sentences last year, but the country did not execute anyone, according to Amnesty International.

The number of death sentences imposed last year were 27 fewer than the 136 in 2016, the human rights organisation said in its report, "Death Sentences and Executions 2017", released here on Thursday.

Last year, 51 death penalties were imposed for murder alone, down from 87 in 2016, the London-based organisation said quoting the National Law University's Centre on Death Penalty.

For murder charges involving sex offences, 43 death sentences were handed out. 2 death sentences were imposed for drug-related offences.

The report said it also "monitors daily developments on the use of death penalty" and that the number of death sentences it collected were lower than that of the National Law University.

Overall, there were 371 people on death row in India.

The report said that it had recorded commutations of death penalty or pardons in India, but it did not give a number.

The last time India had carried out an execution was in 2015 when Yakub Memon was hanged after being found guilty in the 1993 Mumbai terrorist bombings that killed 257 people.

(source: Financial Express)

GLOBAL:

Death penalty report reveals which country is the 'world's top executioner'----Executions worldwide dropped again in 2017, with at least 993 recorded in 23 countries, Amnesty International said.

A new annual report on the death penalty has called sub-Saharan Africa a "beacon of hope" amid a decline in executions worldwide.

20 countries across sub-Saharan Africa have now abolished the death penalty for all crimes, Amnesty International said.

Just 2 countries in the region, Somalia and South Sudan, carried out executions last year.

Executions worldwide dropped again in 2017, with at least 993 recorded in 23 countries. That is down 4% from the year before and down 39% from 2015.

At least 2,591 death sentences were recorded in 53 countries last year, down from a record high of 3,117 the year before, the London-based human rights organisation said.

The numbers do not include the thousands of executions and death sentences that Amnesty International believes have occurred in China, where they are considered a state secret.

China remained the "world's top executioner", the report said.

Excluding China, 84% of the reported executions last year were carried out in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan.

Countries resuming executions in 2017 were Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

The United States remained the only country in the Americas to carry out executions, with 23 last year, up slightly from the year before.

With the progress in Africa, "the isolation of the world's remaining executing countries could not be starker", said the organisation's secretary general, Salil Shetty.

Even among those countries some "significant steps" were seen.

In Iran, executions were down 11% and drug-related executions were reduced to 40%.

In Malaysia, changes to anti-drug laws now allow discretion in sentencing for drug trafficking crimes.

But Amnesty International called "distressing" the continued use of the death penalty for drug-related offences, with 15 countries last year imposing death sentences or carrying out executions.

Drug-related executions were recorded in China, Iran, Singapore and Saudi Arabia, where "drug-related beheadings rocketed from 16% of total executions in 2016 to 40% in 2017".

The rights group also expressed concern that at least 5 people in Iran were executed last year for crimes committed when they were under the age of 18, with another 80 people with similar pasts still on death row.

People with "mental or intellectual disabilities" were executed or faced a death sentence in the United States, Japan, Pakistan, Singapore and the Maldives.

Worldwide at least 21,919 people are known to be under a death sentence, and Amnesty International said: "Now is not the time to let up the pressure."

Other challenges remain, the report said, including in sub-Saharan Africa: both Botswana and Sudan reportedly resumed executions this year.

And early this year, Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni said he will sign the 1st death warrants in nearly 2 decades to create fear among criminals, vowing to "hang a few".

(source: Associated Press)

APRIL 12, 2018:

FLORIDA:

State Attorney seeking death penalty for man who committed murder at a Gainesville apartment complex

State Attorneys will seek death penalty for Cedric Plummer, who shot and killed 2 employees at the apartment complex he lived at.

State Attorney Bill Cervone filed the notice saying that the state intend to prove that Cedric committed the murder in a cold, calculated, premeditated murder.

Police say Plummer made an appointment with the 2 employees, Jude Osuju Junior, and Robert Earl Brumbaugh, and then shot and killed them in the leasing office of the complex on February 13th.

Plummer then abducted a 19-year old woman and forced her to drive to Georgia, where they were later found.

Plummer's next court hearing is April, 25th where prosecutors will seek approval to conduct a cheek swab test on Plummer for DNA.

(source: WCJB news)

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

Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz: Donate my inheritance to victims

Nikolas Cruz wants the victims of his Valentine's Day rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and their families to choose a charity to receive any money he's got coming to him, his lawyer said Wednesday.

He doesn't want any money from his mother's life insurance policy or any other source of income, defense attorney Melisa McNeill said.

"He would like that money donated to an organization that the victims' families believe could facilitate healing in our community," she said.

Cruz, 19, was in court Wednesday for a hearing to determine whether he has too much money to expect taxpayers to foot the bill for his legal defense. He is now represented by the Broward Public Defender's Office, which handles clients who cannot afford to hire their own lawyers.

But whether Cruz falls into that category remains an open question - one that Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer said Wednesday she will not answer immediately.

Cruz, dressed in a red jail jumpsuit, kept his head lowered throughout the hearing and did not speak. His brother, Zachary Cruz, attended the hearing and also did not speak.

Court records from his late mother's probate case show Nikolas Cruz stands to receive $25,000 from a life insurance policy. McNeill said her office cannot help Cruz access the insurance money.

At one point, the records showed, he had more than $12,000 in a bank account.

That balance was down to $353.43 as of April 5, said McNeill.

Cruz also may have a claim to at least a portion of 24 shares of Microsoft stock purchased in 2003, according to his lawyers. Together, the shares are worth around $2,227.

His mother, Lynda Cruz, received an annuity payment of $3,333 last September, and defense lawyers last month wanted to know whether future payments are pending and whether Cruz can claim any of it.

He does not have access to those funds, McNeill said Wednesday - and further payments have not been deposited since last September.

Even with those assets, Cruz would be hard pressed to find a lawyer willing to take the case with no guarantee of future payments. Cruz faces the death penalty if convicted, and death penalty cases are notoriously time consuming and expensive.

"One of our concerns is that a private lawyer may come in ... and bill taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars," said Public Defender Howard Finkelstein.

There is no current estimate of Cruz's assets that show him with the kind of income needed to pay a private lawyer to take on the case - Cruz would end up declaring financial indigency within weeks or months, and taxpayers would end up footing the bill for his defense anyway.

"The costs on this case are going to be astronomical," said Assistant Public Defender Diane Cuddihy.

Defense lawyers also asked Scherer to consider that Cruz is likely to be named a defendant in numerous civil lawsuits being planned by family members of the victims.

The Public Defender's Office has indicated that Cruz is willing to plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of life in prison, an outcome they say would spare the victims and their families from having to relive Cruz's rampage with multiple witness accounts and videos taken from surveillance cameras at the school and students' cell phones.

But the Broward State Attorney's Office has given no indication that prosecutors are willing to entertain such a deal.

"The state of Florida is not allowing Mr. Cruz to choose his own punishment for the murder of 17 people," prosecutor Shari Tate said.

(source: Sun Sentinel)

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

2010 double murder trial on track for October

Michael Lamar Woods, accused of murdering Marshall Pardee and Chyavana Hampton in 2010, is charged with 2 counts of 1st-degree murder and could face the death penalty.

Attorneys on both sides of the courtroom said Wednesday they are still on track to start the guilt phase of a 2010 double murder trial in late October.

Michael Lamar Woods, 35, charged with 2 counts of 1st-degree murder and facing the death penalty, is accused of murdering Marshall Pardee, 23, and Chyavana Hampton, 20, in 2010. The trial was pushed from April to October so some of Hampton's family members who live out of the country could attend.

Both defense attorney Tania Alavi and Assistant State Attorney Robin Arnold told 5th Circuit Judge Jonathan Ohlman that, as of now, they were on track.

Ohlman set a Sept. 5 deadline for witness lists and the 1st draft of jury instructions. Alavi and Arnold said they will discuss possibly administering a jury questionnaire and drafting that as well.

Alavi said if Woods is found guilty as charged, both sides would need a break to prepare for the penalty phase.

Death penalty cases have 2 phases: guilt and penalty. A jury of 12 will determine whether Woods is guilty of the 1st-degree murder charges. If he is found guilty as charged, the same jury of 12 will then determine whether he should be sentenced to death or to life in prison without the possibility of parole. A vote for the death sentence must be unanimous.

At the time of Pardee's and Hampton's killings, Woods was awaiting trial for shooting and killing Toni Centracco, 20, in 2007. Woods was found guilty and currently is serving a life sentence for that conviction.

Centracco and Pardee were previously a couple. Hampton was Pardee's girlfriend at the time of his and her deaths.

Woods is 1 of 5 Marion County defendants facing the death penalty.

His trial, which will begin Oct. 22, is expected to last a month. He will be in court again July 12.

(source: ocala.com)

LOUISIANA:

House panel rejects attempt to abolish death penalty in Louisiana, but Senate version still live

After nearly 2 hours of testimony and debate, a House panel has rejected a proposal to abolish the death penalty in Louisiana.

"This is a piece of legislation that literally decides life and death," said Rep. Terry Landry, the New Iberia Democrat who authored House Bill 162. "I want to plead to everyone to reach down deep into their spiritual beings."

His bill was rejected in a 10-8 vote after several members of the House Administration of Criminal Justice Committee said they couldn't get past their personal feeling that the death penalty is an appropriate punishment in the heinous crimes.

"A lot of us here are conflicted about this to some point," said Rep. Tony Bacala, a Prairieville Republican who ultimately voted against abolishing the death penalty.

He said that efforts in the state to pare back its use made him more comfortable with it remaining on the books.

Louisiana is 1 of 31 states that still use the death penalty as criminal punishment, though no prisoners have been executed in Louisiana since 2010 because of legal issues.

Proponents of the repeal cited costs to the state and wrongful convictions.

"I think one wrongful execution is not worth having (death penalty)," Landry said.

A separate effort to repeal the death penalty remains alive in the upper chamber. On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary A Committee voted 4-1 to advance Senate Bill 51 to the Senate floor for vetting.

How they voted - House Administration of Criminal Justice:

Voting in favor of HB162 (8): Reps. Bagneris, Carpenter, Gaines, James, T. Landry, Marcelle, Marino and Norton.

Against (10): Reps. Bacala, Crews, Dwight, Hazel, Hodges, Howard, Muscarello, Pylant, Stefanski and Mack.

(source: The Advocate)

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Both sides quote Bible in death penalty debate as effort to abolish dies

A House committee killed a bill to repeal the death penalty here Wednesday, likely ending efforts to abolish the ultimate punishment for another year despite a duplicate bill still alive in the Senate.

Members of the House Criminal Justice Committee voted 10-8 to defer House Bill 162 by Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia, with both sides quoting the Bible to support their positions.

Though Senate Bill 51 by Sen. JP Morrell, D-New Orleans, earned a favorable committee vote Tuesday, he is unlikely to move forward knowing his bill would have to go through House Criminal Justice if it won full Senate approval.

"I'll have to reevaluate for sure," Morrell said in a text to USA Today Network. "I certainly would take the House vote into account when deciding what to do."

Landry, former leader of the State Police, said what has become an annual effort to abolish the death penalty is his most important legislation "because it literally decides life and death."

"The death sentence is barbaric and inhumane," he testified when presenting his bill.

Landry was supported by faith leaders and defense attorneys who cited the sanctity of all life and the inexact administration of justice that has led to some death sentences being overturned.

"This bill has the unified and unwavering support of every bishop in Louisiana," said Robert Tasman, executive director of the Louisiana Conference of Bishops.

On Tuesday in the Senate, Bishop Shelton J. Fabre, representing the conference, said, "The Catholic Church considers the death penalty an offense against the sanctity of life."

Both prosecutors and the majority of the committee said the death penalty is appropriate for the most heinous crimes and a valuable tool in prosecuting criminals.

"I've sat with family members who have lost their children; I've held the hand of a widow whose police officer husband was murdered in the line of duty," said Loren Lampert, a prosecutor in the Calcasieu Parish District Attorney's office.

"This is about standing for victims of the most heinous crimes," he said.

Rep. Raymond Crews, R-Bossier City, said he rejected the testifying clergy's argument that someone who against abortion should support abolishing the death penalty.

"When you take the (death penalty) off the table it degrades the lives taken," Crews said. "We're spending all of this effort on this bill when two people have been (executed) since 2000 and 25 are being killed today in abortion clinics."

Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, is a minister who said the death penalty "is a Biblical precept from beginning to end."

But those supporting Landry's bill disagreed.

"I believe it's the business of God to take lives, not ours," said Rep. Barbara Norton, D-Shreveport.

And some shared the sentiment of Rep. Joe Marino, Independent-Gretna.

"I just can't get past the fact we might execute and innocent person," Marino said.

(source: Monroe News Star)

OHIO:

Data shows fewer death penalty verdicts Ohio ---- Juries in Franklin County have recently spared the lives of 2 convicted killers facing the death penalty.

In 2017, a jury sentenced Lincoln Rutledge to life in prison with no chance for parole for the murder of Columbus police SWAT officer Steve Smith. Fellow SWAT officers gave testimony that Rutledge also shot at them.

Last month, a jury also sent Brian Golsby to prison for the rest of his life for the kidnapping, rape, and murder of OSU Student Reagan Tokes.

Many central Ohioans expressed frustration and outrage on social media after the Golsby jury reached its decision, but Ohio Public Defender, Tim Young, says it's a trend across Ohio, and evidence the death penalty is becoming infeasible.

"If the government does something that it fails over 90 percent of the time, it should stop," said Young.

The Death Penalty Information Center in Washington DC says the number of people executed in the United States peaked 20 years ago at 98. By last year, that number fell to 23.

In 2014, a Quinnipiac poll revealed more Ohioans support life sentences over the death penalty, but Young said asking Ohio whether it supports the death penalty is the wrong question.

"The question should be are you in favor of a system that can't be fair? I think the answer to that would be overwhelmingly no," said Young.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction's most recent numbers show in Ohio, four counties make up nearly half of all inmates at the Ohio death house.

The numbers suggest jurors in Hamilton County are more than twice as likely to send an inmate to death row than Franklin County.

The Death Penalty Information System reports Ohio is 6 times more likely to execute a prisoner convicted of killing a white female than a black male.

Lou Tobin is the president of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorney's Association.

"I think the death penalty is imposed based on serious violent past conduct and the heinousness of the crime," said Tobin.

Franklin County prosecutors are now seeking the death penalty against Quentin Smith, the man charged with murdering 2 Westerville police officers, and Anthony Pardon, who police say tortured his victim before killing her.

Franklin County hasn't handed down a death penalty decision since 2012 when a 3-judge panel sent Caron Montgomery to death row for murdering his girlfriend and her 2 children.

Young said many jurors simply aren't willing to take a life.

"What the death penalty is...is retribution. And that's not justice. Retribution is not justice," said Young.

Tobin said the courts have indicated the death penalty is an expression of society's moral outrage.

"I think it's retribution and justice. And the Supreme Court of the United States has said that retribution is a part of it," said Tobin.

Since 1973, nationwide, at least 155 people have been released from death row.

A recent study from the Death Penalty Information Center shows the number of death row inmates executed in America has steadily dropped since 1999. That could be because jurors are returning with life sentences instead of capital punishment.

"The highest rates we see is when it's a child as the victim," says Tim Young, Ohio Public Defender.

"When it's a police officer as a victim, or when there are multiple homicides, when somebody kills more than 2 people," he adds when asked who jurors are sending to death row.

The recent trial against Brian Golsby in Columbus is one example of a death row case where a convicted murderer received life in prison instead. Golsby was found guilty of killing Ohio State student Reagan Tokes in 2017. The jury decided against the death penalty.

Another high-profile case last summer came back with life in prison without parole instead of capital punishment. Lincoln Rutledge was found guilt of killing Columbus Police SWAT officer Steven Smith in 2016. A jury couldn't unanimously agree and gave Rutledge life in prison with no parole.

(source: WBNS news)

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Death penalty sought in Easter house fire in Harrison Twp.; $1 million bond set

The death penalty is being sought against Shawn Albertson in the death of 75-year-old Gerald Manns, who was found in the basement of his home on Easter.

The Montgomery County Prosecutor's Office on Wednesday approved the charge of aggravated murder and aggravated burglary against Albertson, 48. He remains in the county jail on a $1 million bond.

Manns was found unconscious in the basement of his home in the 4200 block of Merrimac Avenue in Harrison Twp. His car had been stolen, his home burglarized and set on fire.

Manns was pulled from the home. He was pronounced dead at Miami Valley Hospital. The coroner's office concluded he died as a result of the fire.

Albertson is due in court Thursday.

Nancy Dalton, 36, arrested at the same time as Albertson, is being detained in jail on drug charges.

(source: Dayton Daily News)

MISSOURI:

Death Row Exonerees Share Experience of Wrongful Conviction

After being wrongfully accused of crimes that landed them on death row, former inmates Joseph Amerine and Reginald Griffin are touring at schools across the country to speak out about their experience with the criminal justice system.

Wednesday night the exonees spoke at the Kemper Recital Hall at Missouri Western State University. The speech titled "2 Death Row Exonerees: Death is not Justice" gave the men a platform to share their personal testimony of being failed by the criminal justice system.

Amerine was convicted of murder of another inmate while in prison serving a lesser charge. He spent 17 years on death row before the Missouri Supreme Court ruled there was no credible evidence to uphold a conviction.

Looking back on his time on death row, Amerine said the social, racial and mental competency hurdles he saw inmates face when seeking justice in the 1980s are the same problems inmates face today.

"1986, to 2018 it's still the same.I've been out 15 years and the same thing I've learned in 1986 1987 on death row is still here right now," Amerine said.

Prior to his exoneration in 2003, Joseph Amerine served a 17 year sentence awaiting death in a Missouri prison.

"Our court system is not about justice it's about revenge," Amerine said. "I thought they were supposed to represent justice, but that's not the case. They want to get a conviction."

Armine served a portion of his death row sentence alongside fellow exoneree Reginald Griffin. Griffin spent 23 years on death row before the Missouri Supreme Court overturned his death sentence because prosecutors had withheld critical evidence.

"Common sense will tell you that we are human, so we aren't perfect and we can always make mistakes so they need to acknowledge that," Amerine said.

The men each took time identifying the struggles they faced while seeking out the truth.

"I reached out for so long and my cries for help fell on deaf ears for a very long time.When I finally did get some help, it didn't happen overnight," Griffin said.

Griffin said he wants to continue touring universities to help inform the next generation of workers in the criminal justice system of the deadly consequences of ethical courtroom error.

"It's an unfortunate situation and it happens more than people believe. A lot of people don't believe this really happens until it hits close to home," Griffin said.

The 2 men have returned to their families and are now working to pass on a message that the death penalty creates a cycle of violence.

"Inmates are humans and the death penalty does not resolve anything.The death penalty just serves 1 purpose [creating] more victims," Amerine said.

There have been 156 death row inmates exonerated in the United States since 1973. In Missouri, only 4 inmates have ever been exonerated from a death row sentence.

The talk was sponsored by the Peace and Conflict Studies program, the Missouri Western State University Foundation, the Legal Studies Association, Student Government Association and Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

(source: KQ2.com)

NEBRASKA:

Nebraska ACLU, Chambers continue to argue against request for execution warrants

Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers, an ardent opponent of the death penalty, said he can't watch a person be executed by the state without doing everything he can to prevent it.

Although Chambers has never talked to Carey Dean Moore, he said he is aware that Moore seems to have given up fighting his execution.

Moore was 2 months from being 22 years old in 1979 when he killed Reuel Van Ness Jr. during a robbery of his cab, with Moore's 14-year-old brother along. 5 days later he shot and killed another cab driver, Maynard Helgeland, "to foolishly prove to myself that I could take a man's life all by myself," he wrote in 2007.

Moore, 60, has been on Nebraska's death row 38 years. He was notified Jan. 19 of the drugs that would be used to carry out a pending execution. The combination of drugs -- diazepam, fentanyl, cisatracurium besylate and potassium chloride -- has not been used before to execute a condemned prisoner.

On April 3, Attorney General Doug Peterson requested an execution warrant from the state Supreme Court. Moore has not filed litigation to forestall his execution.

Moore has received 2 stays of execution in the past 11 years. When a death warrant was issued for Moore in 2007, he told his attorneys to drop his pending appeals and stop fighting. He was ready to die. In 2011, he allowed his attorneys to seek a stay.

In Chambers' opinion, he said, Moore lacks the will to go on living.

It could be that after so many years on death row Moore is tired of being caged up, knowing that there is little likelihood that he will ever be free again, he said. "He's just tired."

To Chambers, that is a mental state that could be equated to a lack of capacity to make such a decision, he said. In that case, his execution could violate the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, and the Nebraska Constitution against cruel and unusual punishment.

Someone might want to know what right Chambers has to try to determine another person's fate, he said.

He has an obligation to do everything he can to prevent a person's life from being cut off by other human beings, in a ritualistic ceremonial way, he said, when similarly situated people have not met the same fate at the hands of the state.

ACLU of Nebraska sent a letter in late March to Peterson on behalf of Chambers and the Rev. Stephen Griffith, asking him to refrain from asking for an execution warrant for Moore.

Amy Miller, legal director of ACLU of Nebraska, told Peterson then he should wait for the final determination on pending lawsuits challenging his execution before seeking a death warrant for Moore.

Those cases include:

* Sandoval v. Ricketts, brought by eight death row prisoners who contend the Legislature's death penalty repeal went into effect before a referendum vote to nullify the Legislature's repeal became effective. They argue that changed all death sentences as of Aug. 30, 2015, into sentences of life imprisonment.

* An ACLU of Nebraska complaint with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration alleging the Department of Correctional Services failed to comply with federal law in its use of DEA registrations to buy, store and dispense lethal injection drugs.

* A lawsuit on behalf of Griffith and Chambers in Lancaster County District Court contending the department's Jan. 26, 2017, lethal injection protocol violated Nebraska's Administrative Procedures Act. And enactment of the protocol violates the due process clause of the state Constitution.

* A legislative complaint filed by Chambers about the Corrections Department's lethal injection protocol, and questions about the constitutionality of the 4-drug cocktail to be used in Moore's execution.

In a previous stay of execution for Moore, Miller said, the Supreme Court withdrew a death warrant pending the determination of the constitutionality of Nebraska's use of the electric chair for execution. The court said the purpose of a stay was to prevent the state from doing an act that is challenged and may be declared unlawful in a pending proceeding.

The Nebraska Supreme Court has noted that whether a stay is appropriate does not turn on whether a death row prisoner requests a stay, but whether the state should go forward with a potentially illegal or unconstitutional execution.

Ethical rules for prosecutors, she said, note they have the responsibility of a minister of justice and not simply as that of an advocate. And there are obligations to see that the defendant is accorded procedural justice.

Miller asked that if Peterson filed an application for an execution warrant that he attach the ACLU letter and explain why he rejected the request.

In applying for the warrant, Peterson argued the state has a constitutionally acceptable lethal injection law and execution protocol. He attached Moore's federal appeals history, but he did not attach the letter from Miller, nor why he rejected the request.

(source: Hastings Tribune)

IDAHO:

Idaho Supreme Court Rejects Appeal From Death Row Inmate

The Idaho Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by a man condemned to death row twice for 2 separate murders.

In the written ruling issued Wednesday, a majority of the Justices agreed that Erick Virgil Hall was given a fair trial and had adequate representation when he was tried and sentenced to death for the kidnapping, rape and murder of flight attendant Lynn Henneman. 2 justices dissented with the majority opinion, however, saying they agreed Hall was guilty of the crimes but felt there were errors made in the process of sentencing him to the death penalty.

Henneman was on a layover in Boise on Sept. 24, 2000 when she took a walk on the greenbelt. Prosecutors said that's when Hall kidnapped her, raped her and strangled her with a sweater. The investigation went without a suspect for 3 years until police investigating the rape and murder of Cheryl Ann Hanlon in the Boise foothills questioned Hall and realized his DNA sample matched swabs collected from Henneman's body.

Hall was later also sentenced to death for Hanlon's murder.

(source: Associated Press)

CALIFORNIA:

Media outlets sue over death-penalty secrets----48hills, KQED, and LA Times seek to block rules that allow key parts of executions to take place in secret

Attorneys for 48hills, the Los Angeles Times, and KQED filed suit in federal court today to demand that the entire process of the state’s future implementation of the death penalty be open to the news media.

The suit seeks to shed light on a process that would, under current regulations, take place in part behind closed doors. The press, as a surrogate for the public, has the right to see every stage of an execution, the suit argues.

The death chamber at San Quentin allows observers to see the inmate - but not the executioners who are hidden in another room

California's last execution was in 2006, and the state has been scrambling to find a new protocol for lethal injections. The last protocol involved 3 drugs, which have become increasingly difficult to find. The new rules, adopted March 1, call for the warden at San Quentin, which hosts the death chamber, to choose 2 of 2 drugs, thiopental or pentobarbital; a dose sufficient to kill the prisoner is set to be administered by prison technicians.

There's a problem with the plan: Thiopental is not sold in the US, and by law can't be imported into the country, the lawsuit states. FDA approved manufacturers of pentobarbital won't sell it for use in executions.

The rules state that 3 hours before an execution, a team of prison officials are supposed to meet behind closed doors in the "Infusion Room" next to the execution chamber and prepare three doses of the lethal injection (9 syringes for pentobarbital, 15 for thiopental).

Under the protocol, there is no way for the public to know which chemical is being used, where it came from - or even if that actual chemical is in the syringes.

In the past, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has sought to buy execution drugs from Pakistan because no US company would sell them.

The condemned inmate is to be strapped into a gurney in a room with a window, where witnesses can observe the execution. A technician will stick a needle in his vein, and connect it to a tube that leads to the Infusion Room. But there are not witnesses allowed in the Infusion Room.

The executioners are instructed to deliver, from the secret chamber, 1 dose of the deadly chemical. If the prisoner is still alive, they can deliver 2 more doses.

If 3 doses still don't kill the prisoner, the warden is supposed to "stop the execution" and "summon medical assistance" for the inmate. At that point, though, the curtains in the execution chamber will be closed - so nobody will know what "medical assistance" is rendered.

In other words: Key parts of this process will happen without any public oversight.

That means we will never know if the prisoner is subjected to terrible pain and suffering because of improperly prepared or black-market drugs.

We will never know if an inmate who survived three doses of the chemicals actually gets medical assistance from a trained clinician, or if he is left to die in pain.

An execution represents about the most expansive power that the state can wield - and the idea that critical parts of that process are going to be hidden from public view is offensive, and scary.

The complaint seeks an injunction preventing the CDCR from carrying out an execution without full access for the press to every step of the process. We will keep you posted as this moves forward.

The San Francisco Progressive Media Center, which publishes 48hills, is represented by Alan Schlosser and Linda Lye at the ACLU and Ajay Krishnan at Keker, Van Nest, and Peters.

Thomas Burke at David, Wright Tremaine represents KQED and the LA Times.

(source: 48hills.com)

USA:

Feds rejected Rodriguez offer to plead guilty to avoid death penalty

Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., the man on death row for the 2003 kidnapping and murder of University of North Dakota student Dru Sjodin, told federal prosecutors that he wanted to plead guilty to avoid the possibility of being sentenced to death.

The information is in a letter obtained by KFGO News through an open records request to U.S. District Court. The March 8, 2006 letter was sent by Rodriguez's trial attorney, Richard Ney, to former U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley.

Ney's letter informs Wrigley that Rodriguez would like to plead guilty with the understanding that Rodriguez would not contest a sentence of life in prison without parole, and would not appeal any future proceedings in the case. The letter says that while a guilty plea would not end the pain to Sjodin's family or his own mother and siblings, it would "spare both families the agony of a long and distressing trial."

Wrigley is declining to comment on the letter, although in a 2015 interview, he told KFGO News that he "stands firmly" behind his work on the case. A source with close connections to the case says the Sjodin family was aware of Rodriguez's offer.

Rodriguez is in the middle of a lengthy sentence appeal. His attorneys say he's not mentally competent to be put to death.

The next hearing is scheduled in August in U.S. District Court in Fargo.

(source: KFGO news)

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Death penalty is still needed, despite its inhumanity

As inhumane and morbid as it may sound, the death penalty is something that should remain in the United States. There are some crimes that are, frankly, so terrible that there is no other suitable form of punishment.

Aside from my own moral beliefs on the death penalty, it is not fair that taxpayers should have to pay for a murderer to live the rest of their life out in prison. A 2016 report by the Federal Register shows that the average cost of incarceration per inmate is more than $30,000 a year. There is no argument to be made that this money could not go to something that improves our society, such as education and health care, instead of prolonging the lives of those who have decided their own fate.

An argument can be made that death row inmates cost more taxpayer money during their time on death row, considering that criminal cases involving the death penalty cost taxpayers about $90,000 more per year than the average prison inmate, according to deathpenaltyinfo.org. This cost could be balanced out, or at least lessened, by limiting the amount of time inmates spend on death row. In some cases, death row inmates can spend decades in prison before they are finally put to death.

While this does serve to ensure that the chances of executing an innocent person are minimized, there is no reason this process needs to be drawn out over a period of decades. There should be a span of 3 years after the initial sentencing during which the inmate on death row has to appeal the death penalty, with either 1 or 2 appeals in a front of jury or a court with several judges each year, which will give the inmate more than enough time to come to terms with their fate. If each appeal is a unanimous decision then the execution would follow.

Another solution to help lower the amount of taxpayer money being devoted to death row inmates would be to integrate them with the rest of the high-security prison population. One of the largest expenses in regards to death row inmates is the fact that they are kept in separate facilities which require additional upkeep and security, according to criminaljusticedegreehub.com. They should be subject to the same rules as other inmates, and if they became too dangerous, they could be placed in solitary confinement.

I have heard opponents of the death penalty argue that, rather than being sentenced to death, it would be better to put those guilty of murder into solitary confinement. While the death penalty may be cruel and barbaric in some ways, it is much less cruel than putting someone into solitary confinement. Although death isn't nice, I would prefer it over spending the rest of my life in solitary confinement, if I ever were to be put in that situation.

Many will argue that the death penalty is not a deterrent for crime, and I actually agree. Many of the infamous school shootings in recent years have ended with the shooter committing suicide. The people who commit these acts often do not expect to live or already have it planned to take their own life.

The death penalty, however, is not a social experiment to see whether it will stop people from committing crime. It needs to be reserved for those who choose to commit crimes against humanity as a form of punishment, not a deterrent for future crimes.

Although I am in favor of the death penalty, I do not think it should not be decision taken lightly or thrown around liberally. It needs to be reserved for those who have, undeniably, committed acts that break all moral codes. There needs to be absolutely no doubt in the mind of the jury or judge that the convicted person has committed the crime they have been accused of before being sentenced to death.

With that being said, for those who are willing to commit such atrocities, I would almost consider them to not be human. They could have robbed parents of their children, children of their parents and even robbed society of someone who could have gone on to do great things for the world. As far as I'm concerned, the death penalty is not about revenge or closure for the family, it's about taking out the trash in our society; the people, who out of their own selfishness and malice, have cut short the life of another individual and scarred that person's family and friends for life.

(source: Editorial, Erik Cliburn, Daily Reflector)

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Downward trend in death penalty convictions and executions

A recent study from the Death Penalty Information Center shows the number of death row inmates executed in America has steadily dropped since 1999. That could be because jurors are returning with life sentences instead of capital punishment.

"The highest rates we see is when it's a child as the victim," says Tim Young, Ohio Public Defender.

"When it's a police officer as a victim, or when there are multiple homicides, when somebody kills more than 2 people," he adds when asked who jurors are sending to death row.

The recent trial against Brian Golsby in Columbus is 1 example of a death row case where a convicted murderer received life in prison instead. Golsby was found guilty of killing Ohio State student Reagan Tokes in 2017. The jury decided against the death penalty.

Another high-profile case last summer came back with life in prison without parole instead of capital punishment. Lincoln Rutledge was found guilt of killing Columbus Police SWAT officer Steven Smith in 2016. A jury couldn't unanimously agree and gave Rutledge life in prison with no parole.

According to DPIC, the number of executions peaked in 1999 with 98 death row convictions carried out. In 2008, the number dropped to a 10 year low of 37. Executions rose slightly in the years to follow but fell to 16 executions in 2016 and only 23 executions last year.

(source: WBNS TV news)

GLOBAL:

Global executions on the decline, says Amnesty International----Amnesty International's latest annual report has found fewer executions were carried around the world out in 2017 than the year prior. The number of people sentenced to death went down as well.

Last year Amnesty International recorded 923 executions worldwide. Although that number is still high, it is 4 % less than in 2016, when the human rights organization registered 100 more.

4 % fewer executions - is it a global trend? Amnesty International capital punishment expert Oluwatosin Popoola warns there are caveats. The decrease had to do, above all, with the fact that the three countries that carry out the most death penalties worldwide executed fewer people in 2017: Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Iran carried out 11 % fewer executions, according to Amnesty, while Pakistan put 31 % fewer people to death.

Numbers and caveats

The reasons behind the declines in those countries are varied. "In Iran, for instance, the drop can be traced to judicial reforms for dealing with drug-related crime," Popoola told DW. He says it is more difficult to explain the reductions when it comes to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. The only thing that is clear is that "executions [in 2017] have decreased after recent peaks." Amnesty also recorded a 20 % drop in Egypt.

Still, the organization warns those numbers do not tell the whole story: They are based on the minimum number, that is, those that could be confirmed beyond doubt. The true number of people executed last year is believed to be higher. In all, 23 countries around the world executed individuals in 2017.

Not included: China

The findings also highlights a massive blind spot. Amnesty opens its report by stating that executions in China, the country that puts the most citizens to death globally, are not included in its figures. "The true scale of death penalties carried out remains unknown since data is classified secret," the report explains. "The number of 993 worldwide executions does not include the thousands of people likely executed in China."

Excluding China, Amnesty says that 84 % of all executions documented worldwide were carried out in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan.

The exact number of people executed every year in China remains unknown

Popoola says authorities in Iraq "continue to resort to the death penalty as a tool of retribution in response to public outrage after attacks claimed by armed groups, including the group calling itself the Islamic State. Mass executions were carried out on several occasions during the year, with dozens of men being executed in September."

A number of countries actually resumed executions in 2017: Bahrain, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan.

Positive developments in sub-Saharan Africa

One bright spot Amnesty points to in its report is sub-Saharan Africa. Guinea, for instance, abolished the death penalty. And Gambia called a moratorium, promising that the next step would be abolition. Popoola says the region is currently a "hub" for the drop in executions.

Globally, countries are carrying out fewer executions. In 2016 more than 3,100 people were put to death, in 2017 that number dropped to 2,600. However, Amnesty did register almost 22,000 cases of prisoners on death row around the world.

Death penalty not a deterrent

Amnesty prefaced its report with a quote from United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres: "The death penalty does little to serve victims or deter crime."

Experts say the death penalty is not a deterrent when it comes to crime

According to Popoola, there is no credible evidence to suggest that capital punishment is a stronger deterrent than other sentences: "For example in Canada, the homicide rate in 2016 was almost half that in 1976, when the death penalty was abolished there."

Abolition 'within reach'

Popoola says efforts must now be concentrated on working towards abolishing the death penalty in those countries that still practice it, and he has concrete proposals for doing so. Such countries, he says, "can immediately establish an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty. They could commute, without delay, all death sentences" and "remove prisoners from death row," putting them into normal prison settings instead. He adds that those countries could also "immediately remove from their laws any death penalty provisions, which are in breach of international human rights law."

Overall, Amnesty says the 2017 statistics provide a ray of hope: "These important developments confirm that the world has reached a turning point and that the abolition of this utterly gruesome, inhumane and degrading punishment is within reach."

(source: Deutsche Welle)

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The Death Penalty in 2017: Facts and Figures

Amnesty International recorded at least 993 executions in 23 countries in 2017, down by 4% from 2016 (1,032 executions) and 39% from 2015 (when the organization reported 1,634 executions, the highest number since 1989).

Most executions took place in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan - in that order.

China remained the world's top executioner - but the true extent of the use of the death penalty in China is unknown as this data is classified as a state secret; the global figure of at least 993 excludes the thousands of executions believed to have been carried out in China.

Excluding China, 84% of all reported executions took place in just 4 countries - Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan.

During 2017, 23 countries are known to have carried out executions - the same as 2016.

Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) resumed executions in 2017. Amnesty International did not record executions in 5 countries - Botswana, Indonesia, Nigeria, Sudan and Taiwan - that carried out executions in 2016.

Executions noticeably fell in Belarus (by 50%, from at least 4 to at least 2), Egypt (by 20%) Iran (by 11%), Pakistan (31%) and Saudi Arabia (5%). Executions doubled or almost doubled in Palestine (State of) from 3 in 2016 to 6 in 2017; Singapore from 4 to 8; and Somalia from 14 to 24.

In 2017, 2 countries - Guinea and Mongolia - abolished the death penalty in law for all crimes. Guatemala became abolitionist for ordinary crimes only. Gambia signed an international treaty committing the country not to carry out executions and to move to abolish the death penalty in law.

At the end of 2017, 106 countries (a majority of the world's states) had abolished the death penalty in law for all crimes and 142 countries (more than 2/3) had abolished the death penalty in law or practice.

Amnesty International recorded commutations or pardons of death sentences in 21 countries: Bangladesh, Cameroon, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mauritania, Morocco/Western Sahara, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Qatar, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Tunisia, UAE, USA and Zimbabwe.

55 exonerations of prisoners under sentence of death were recorded in 6 countries: China, Maldives, Nigeria, Taiwan, USA and Zambia.

Amnesty International recorded at least 2,591 death sentences in 53 countries in 2017, a significant decrease from the record-high of 3,117 recorded in 2016.

At least 21,919 people were known to be on death row at the end of 2017.

The following methods of execution were used across the world in 2017: beheading, hanging, lethal injection and shooting. Public executions were carried out in Iran (at least 31).

Reports from 2017 indicated that at least five people were executed in Iran who were under 18 at the time of the crime for which they were sentenced to death.

In many countries where people were sentenced to death or executed, the proceedings did not meet international fair trial standards. This included the extraction of "confessions" through torture or other ill-treatment, including in Bahrain, China, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

Regional analysis

Americas

For the 9th consecutive year, the USA remained the only country to carry out executions in the region.

The number of executions (23) and death sentences (41) in the USA slightly increased compared to 2016, but remained within historically low trends of recent years. For the 2nd year in a row, and the 2nd time since 2006, the USA did not feature among the top 5 global executioners, with its position in the global ranking dropping from 7th to 8th.

The number of US states carrying out executions increased from 5 in 2016 to 8, with Arkansas, Ohio and Virginia resuming executions after a hiatus. 4 states - Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri and Nebraska - as well as US federal courts, imposed death sentences in 2017, after a hiatus, bringing the number of US states imposing death sentences to 15 (2 more than in 2016). Kansas, North Carolina and Oregon, which imposed death sentences in 2016, did not do so in 2017.

Only 3 countries in the region imposed death sentences - Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and the USA.

Guatemala became the 142nd country to have abolished the death penalty in law or practice.

Asia-Pacific

At least 93 executions in nine countries were known to have been carried out throughout the region in 2017 - down from at least 130 in 11 countries in 2016. The decrease was linked to a decline in Pakistan, where executions reduced by 31%. These figures do not include the thousands of executions that Amnesty International believed were carried out in China.

Singapore doubled its number of executions (from 4 to 8) compared to 2016. All its executions were for drug-related offences.

At least 1,037 new death sentences were imposed, a slight decrease from 2016. This number is down to a variation in figures for a number of countries, and because of information provided to Amnesty International by authorities. Figures for death sentences in India, Indonesia Pakistan and Thailand, among other countries, were lower compared to 2016.

Increases were recorded in countries including Bangladesh (from at least 245 to at least 273), Singapore (from at least 7 to 15) and Sri Lanka (from at least 79 to 218).

18 countries across the region were known to have imposed death sentences, the same number as in 2016. Brunei Darussalam imposed a new death sentence after it did not impose any in 2016; Papua New Guinea did not impose any death sentences in 2017, after it did so in the previous year.

Across Asia Pacific, the death penalty was extensively used for offences that did not meet the threshold of the "most serious crimes", going against international law.

Europe and Central Asia

In Europe and Central Asia, Belarus was the only country to execute people. The country carried out at least 2 executions in 2017; at least 4 new death sentences were imposed.

1 man remained under sentence of death in Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation and Tajikistan continued to observe moratoriums on executions.

Middle East and North Africa

There was a small reduction in the use of the death penalty in 2017. The number of executions recorded in the Middle East and North Africa decreased by 1%, from 856 in 2016 to 847 in 2017.

Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq remained the top 3 executing countries, accounting for 92% of executions in the region.

Iran executed at least 507 people, accounting for 60% of all confirmed executions in the region. Saudi Arabia executed 146 people, representing 17% of all confirmed executions in the region.

At least 264 executions were carried out for drug-related offences (27% of all recorded executions in 2017).

Amnesty International confirmed that at least 619 death sentences were imposed in the region in 2017, a reduction on the 764 death sentences recorded in 2016. Egypt imposed at least 402 death sentences, the most in the region.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Positive steps were taken across Sub-Saharan Africa, with a reduction in the number of executing countries recorded.

2 countries (Somalia and South Sudan) recorded executions in 2017, compared to 5 countries recorded in 2016. 28 executions were carried out, 24 in Somalia and 4 in South Sudan, a slight increase compared to at least 22 recorded in 2016.

Death sentences decreased, from at least 1,086 in 2016 to at least 878 in 2017.

Nigeria imposed the highest number of death sentences and had the highest number of people under death sentence in the region at the end of the year.

Guinea abolished the death penalty for all crimes. Burkina Faso, Chad, Gambia and Kenya made important strides towards abolition of the death penalty.

(source: Amnesty International)

MIDDLE EAST:

Middle East tops death penalty list with 'gruesome tally' of executions

Iran carried out more than 1/2 of all recorded executions in 2017, a new report from Amnesty International revealed on Thursday. Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq are responsible for carrying out 85 % of all reported death sentences worldwide, the report said.

The figures show that the Middle East and North Africa accounted for 847 of 933 reported death sentences carried out worldwide in 2017.

This was despite an overall decrease of 1 % in executions across the region against figures from 2016, the report said.

Figures for China, where thousands are thought to be executed every year, were not recorded.

The report also does not include figures for executions in Libya and Syria, where militant groups are thought to be responsible for thousands of extra-judicial killings.

Lucy Wake, Amnesty International UK's government and political relations manager, told MEE: "Aside from China, the bulk of the world’s executions are taking place in the Middle East, which sets an important challenge for the UK’s foreign policy towards the region.

"With countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan and Bahrain all appearing in this gruesome tally of Middle Eastern states executing prisoners - many after unfair trials - the UK needs to ensure that abolition of the death penalty is a key part of its Middle East foreign goals.

"As well as condemning executions, we need to see the UK speaking out more often and more critically when it comes to things like torture and unfair trials in Saudi Arabia, especially when these abuses are leading to scores of people being beheaded in public squares every year."

The figures show that Iran executed at least 507 people, accounting for 60 % of all confirmed executions in the region.

"Basic fair trial guarantees" were absent in the country, and death penalty cases often relied on "confessions" extracted under torture, the report said.

More than 200 executions took place in Iran for drug trafficking, despite an amendment to the country's drugs law - which passed last November - to increase the threshold for mandatory death sentences for drug offences.

A further 59 executions were carried out for drug-related offences across the region, the report added.

Saudi Arabia executed 146 people in 2017, a modest decrease from the 2016 figure, according to the rights group. 78 of the executions were for murder, four for terrorism-related acts and 59 were for drug-related offences.

The group said that many defendants were sentenced to death "after unfair trials by courts that convicted them without adequately investigating allegations of coerced 'confessions,' including confessions obtained under torture".

The bulk of the executions were carried out after Mohammed Bin Salman was appointed crown prince in July, figures from rights group Reprieve suggest.

Bin Salman has presented himself as a reformer, but in a recent interview with CBS News, during a visit to the US, he said: "We believe in the notion of human rights, but ultimately Saudi standards are not the same as American standards."

"On average, the Saudi authorities currently execute someone more or less every 2 days," Wake told MEE. "Though rulers like Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman trumpet supposed 'reforms' - Saudi executioners are as busy now as they were 2 years ago."

Amnesty said that authorities in Saudi Arabia also “routinely failed to inform families of their relatives’ imminent execution".

The group pointed to the execution of Yussuf Ali al-Mushaikhass on 11 July - alongside three other men - in connection with anti-government protests in the Eastern Province in 2011 and 2012. His family only found out about his death following a government announcement on television, the group said.

At least 125 executions were carried out in Iraq, compared to 88 in 2016, all by authorities in central Iraq.

The death penalty continued to be used as "tool of retribution in response to public outrage" over attacks by the Islamic State (IS) group, Amnesty International said. This includes a mass execution carried out on 25 September, 11 days after an IS suicide attack in Nasiriyah, which killed at least 84 people.

Egypt executed 35 people last year, and with 402 people sentenced to death compared to at least 237 in 2016, it handed down the majority of death sentences in the region.

The report also expressed the group's concern that Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates all resumed executions in 2017.

On 25 January 2017, Kuwait executed 7 people - the 1st death penalty carried out since 2013. Similarly in Bahrain, 3 men were killed in the 1st executions there since 2010. Amnesty said that the trials of Ali Abdulshaheed al-Sankis, Sami Mirza Mshaima and Abbas Jamil Taher Mhammad al-Samea failed to meet international standards.

The men were executed by firing squad, and Amnesty said their lawyers did not have access to all of the evidence against them.

Sayed Alwadaei, director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), told MEE: "The extra-judicial execution of three men last year was a heinous crime, a disproportionate punishment, which relied on torture. The execution was signed by King Hamad, and the blood-stained clothes of the executed men were handed to their families, an action usually taken by members of a mafia, not a state."

He added that Bahrain had handed down 15 death sentences in 2017 alone, which was "the highest number in a single year since the modern courts were established in Bahrain in 1923".

In the Gaza Strip, authorities carried out executions of 6 men - 3 for "collaboration with Israeli authorities".

They were carried out without the Palestinian president's approval in violation of Palestinian Basic Law (constitution).

(source: Middle East Eye)

MALAYSIA:

Amnesty International: Malaysia taking baby steps to abolishing death penalty

Amnesty International Malaysia (AIM) has lauded the government's move to amend the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 to give judges discretion over the previously mandatory death penalty.

At the launch of its Global Report: Death Sentences and Executions 2017, AIM executive director Gwen Lee said the move, though small, was still positive and that the government was progressing towards eliminating capital punishment.

However, she questioned the impact the amendment will have on reducing executions in the country.

"Those convicted of transporting, sending or delivering a prohibited substance who were also found to have cooperated with law enforcement in disrupting drug trafficking activities have an alternative sentence of life imprisonment and no less than 15 strokes of the whip.

"While this might seem like a positive move, it is unclear what impact these changes will have on reducing the number of people executed as the alternative punishment still amounts to torture.

"It creates an impossible choice for people who have been wrongly accused of crimes - admit to a crime they did not commit or maintain their innocence at the risk of death," Lee said.

She then told reporters after the launch that the 1st case after the amendment had taken place still put 3 men on death row.

"Based on a news article on April 4, the High Court Judge sentenced three men to the mandatory death penalty.

"The lawyers tried to use the new amendment but according to the judge there was no proof that the men actually helped bust a drug trafficking ring, thus they were not eligible for life imprisonment," she said.

Lee also presented that last year Malaysia had carried out at least 4 executions - 3 for murder and 1 for discharge of firearm - although she believed there could be more as data on the death penalty is not made public.

She also disclosed that 38 new mandatory death sentences were imposed for 21 drug related offences, 16 murders and 1 discharge of firearms. 4 of those sentenced were women and 12 were foreign nationals.

As of February, data compiled from the Prisons Department showed that 1,122 convicts are on death row. Malaysia was also 1 of the 11 countries that had consecutively executed convicts over the past 5 years.

Lee also brought to attention the case of Hoo Yew Wah who was arrested in March 2005 when he was 20 years old for being in possession 188.5 grams of methamphetamines and was automatically presumed and later convicted of trafficking.

Hoo was convicted based on a statement he made at the time of arrest without a lawyer present. All his appeals had been rejected by the courts and his petition for pardon to the Sultan of Johor, where the offence took place, is still pending.

The launch was also attended by members of the diplomatic corp including the Mexican Ambassador to Malaysia, Carlos Felix Corona and the Spanish Ambassador to Malaysia Carlos Dominguez Diaz.

(source: themalaymailonline.com)

GUINEA:

"How I brought people together and called for Guinea to abolish the death penalty"

Souleymane Sow, 43, is a man with a mission. He has been volunteering with Amnesty International since he was a student. Inspired to make a difference, he returned to Guinea, set up a local group of Amnesty International volunteers and got to work. Their aim? To promote the importance of human rights, educate people on these issues and abolish the death penalty. Along with 34 NGOs, they finally achieved their goal last year.

I've always been against the death penalty. So many people were killed during the 1st regime - just because of their politics. Seeing people who'd lost their parents made me want to take the fight for abolition further.

When I returned to Guinea, I formed a group of volunteers and we started educating people about human rights. Elections took place in 2015 and a new programme was launched, focusing on renewing all our laws in parliament.

I knew this was a key opportunity to speak out. I contacted Amnesty International's regional office in Dakar, to see how we could lobby against the death penalty. Once they were on board, we issued a statement about the changes we wanted to see.

Momentum was building and 34 other NGOs decided to join our mission to abolish the death penalty in Guinea. One by one, we arranged meetings with ministers and other deputies, explaining why this awful practice had to be abolished. I provided all the information they needed and we had open, honest discussions.

As the campaign ramped up, we made our voices heard. We distributed campaign materials, such as stickers and T-Shirts, calling for an end to the death penalty. I was invited to the Ministry of Justice to discuss the issue further, putting across my argument, with the aim of changing their mindset - it was so important to talk to people and explain why the death penalty needed to be abolished.

We listened to their ideas and questioned their reasoning, providing examples and arguments about why the death penalty didn't have a place in today's society.

My colleagues and I lobbied against the death penalty every day for 5 months. In 2016, Guinea's National Assembly voted in favour of a new criminal code which removed the death sentence from the list of applicable penalties. Last year, they did the same in the military court, too.

It was such an incredible achievement - and it showed the importance of people power. It was the 1st time so many NGOs had come together to campaign on an issue. People said they were happy with our work and they could see that change is possible.

Most of all, it inspired us to continue campaigning. There's still a lot of work to do in Guinea, but having seen the impact we can have, I know much more good can be achieved.

(source: Amnesty International)

KENYA:

Abolish death penalty, Amnesty International urges Kenya

Amnesty International on Thursday praised Kenya for limits it has placed on use of the death penalty but urged it to join the 20 African countries that have abolished capital punishment altogether.

"Kenya has taken some progressive steps toward abolition," said Oluwatosin Popoola, Amnesty's lead advocate for eliminating the death penalty.

RULING

"But Kenya still has a way to go in reaching true abolition," Mr Popoola added in an interview.

His comments coincided with release of an Amnesty report on the status of the death penalty worldwide.

It hails sub-Saharan Africa as a "beacon of hope" in the global effort to end state-sponsored executions.

The report highlights the Kenyan Supreme Court ruling last December that found mandatory imposition of the death penalty to be unconstitutional.

But the court did not strike down the death penalty itself.

As a result, capital punishment remains lawful even though judges are no longer required to order it in cases of murder and armed robbery.

Kenya also has not executed any death-row inmates since 1987.

(source: nation.co.ke)

NIGERIA:

How Dane Killed Nigerian Wife Alizee, Poisoned Daughter, Police Tell Court

Fresh facts have emerged on how rising Nigerian singer, Zainab Alizee, and her 3-year-old daughter, Petra, were murdered allegedly by her Danish husband, Peter Nielsen, at their Banana Island residence, Ikoyi, Lagos, on Thursday.

Effiong Asuquo, a chief superintendent of police, told a Yaba Chief Magistrates' Court, Lagos on Wednesday that the accused hit his wife's head on the wall several times leading to her death and then proceeded to poison his daughter.

Mr. Asuquo, a prosecutor, alleged that the accused killed Zainab and her daughter in the house.

Mr Nielsen allegedly committed the offences on Wednesday at his residence at Block 4, Flat 17, Bella Vista Tower, Banana Island, Ikoyi.

"The accused who was always at loggerheads with his wife had hit her head on the wall several times leading to her death; he also proceeded to poison his daughter.

"He had dragged their lifeless bodies under the gas to create the impression that they suffocated to death as a result of a gas leakage," the prosecutor said.

The offences contravened Sections 223 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015 and carries death penalty.

The case has been adjourned until May 8 pending advice of the state's director of public prosecution.

The accused initially denied culpability in the murder, stating rather that he woke up to find the bodies in the kitchen and that they could have been suffocated by gas.

Meanwhile, Nollywood actress, Omoni Oboli, has called for justice over Alizee's death.

The actress advised Nigerians facing domestic violence to dump the marriage and runaway with their children as nobody is worth dying for.

(source: allafrica.com)

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Over 600 Killed, 2,285 On Death Row In Nigeria – Amnesty

Amnesty International says at least 600 people were put to death and a total of 2,285 people currently on death row in Nigeria.

The international rights group revealed this in its 2017 global review of the death penalty published on Thursday.

It said the figures showed that Nigeria imposed the highest number of death sentences in the sub-Saharan Africa region in the previous year.

Amnesty International, however, commended other countries in the region who made "great strides" in the global fight to abolish the death penalty, with a significant decrease in death sentences being imposed.

According to the report, Guinea became the 20th state in sub-Saharan Africa to abolish the death penalty for all crimes, while Kenya abolished the mandatory death penalty for murder. Burkina Faso and Chad also took steps to repeal this punishment with new or proposed laws.

"The progress in sub-Saharan Africa reinforced its position as a beacon of hope for abolition. The leadership of countries in this region gives fresh hope that the abolition of the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment is within reach. Unfortunately, some states in Nigeria continue to expand the scope of death sentences," Amnesty International’s Secretary General Salil Shetty said.

He noted that the number of people on death row in Nigeria is also the highest in the region, although no executions were carried out in 2017.

The Amnesty International boss decried that death sentences in the country have spiked massively over the past two years, with 171 and 527 death sentences recorded in 2015 and 2016 respectively.

"With governments in the region continuing to take steps to reduce and repeal the death penalty well into 2018, the isolation of the world's remaining executing countries - such as Nigeria - could not be starker.

"Now that 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, it is high time that the rest of the world follows their lead and consigns this abhorrent punishment to the history books," Shetty advised.

According to him, the organisation recorded a drop in the number of executing countries across Sub-Saharan Africa, from 5 in 2016 to 2 in 2017, with only South Sudan and Somalia known to have carried out executions.

The Secretary-General noted that while Botswana and Sudan reportedly resumed executions in 2018, such occurrence must not overshadow the positive steps being taken by other countries across the region.

He disclosed that The Gambia has also signed an international treaty committing the country not to carry out executions and moving to abolish the death penalty.

In furtherance of this, Shetty said The Gambian President, Adama Barrow, established an official moratorium (temporary ban) on executions in February 2018.

(source: channelstv.com)

AFRICA:

Sub-Saharan Africa is beacon against death penalty

When Amnesty International started its global campaign against the death penalty in 1977, the use of this cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment was rife in sub-Saharan Africa.

Not one country in the region had abolished the punishment for all crimes.

40 years on, the region has witnessed remarkable progress against the death penalty.

Starting with Cape Verde, in 1981, some 20 countries have abolished the punishment for all crimes.

Fifteen more can be considered abolitionist in practice because they have not executed anyone over the past 10 years and are believed to have a policy or established practice of not carrying out executions.

DECLINE

This has established sub-Saharan Africa as the beacon of hope in the struggle for the worldwide abolition of the death penalty.

Globally, the use of the death penalty went down last year, according to a new AI report.

AI recorded 993 executions in 23 countries in 2017, a reduction of 4 % from 2016 (1,032) and down by 39 % from 2015 (1,634).

The reduction was due to decreases in Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, which had the highest numbers in 2016.

There were 2,591 death sentences in 53 countries last year, a significant decrease from the record-high 3,117 in 2016.

DEATH SENTENCES

The report also confirms the region as having made the most significant progress towards abolition in 2017.

Generally, death sentences decreased from 1,086 in 17 countries in 2016 to 878 in 15 countries in 2017.

There was a drop in the number of executing countries from 5 in 2016 to 2 in 2017 with Somalia and South Sudan the only ones known to have carried them out.

The Gambia has, within months, under new President Adama Barrow changed its attitude towards the death penalty.

Notorious for its staunch support for the death penalty under former President Yahya Jammeh, it has suddenly become a shining regional example of progress towards abolition.

TREATY

In a series of moves, The Gambia has shown that it is committed to the abolition of the death penalty: President Barrow has pardoned people under sentence of death; on September 2017, the country signed the international treaty that commits state parties not to carry out executions and to take all necessary steps to abolish the death penalty; and, just a few weeks ago, the president announced an official moratorium on executions.

As 2017 came to a close, Guinea became the 20th sub-Saharan African country to abolish the death penalty for all crimes - a remarkable feat for a country which, only 2 years ago, was considered retentionist.

Through reforms that began in 2016, Guinea expunged the death penalty from its laws.

First, it removed the use of death sentences as a punishment in its criminal code.

Secondly, last year, it deleted the death penalty provisions from its military justice law, then the remaining legislation with that provision.

SUPREME COURT

In Chad, a new law, which abolished the death penalty except for terrorism, came into force in 2017.

And in Burkina Faso, a provision outlawing the death penalty completely was included in proposals to revise the Constitution.

In addition, Kenya’s Supreme Court declared the mandatory use of the death penalty for murder illegal.

The effect of this is that judges in murder cases now have discretion not to impose the death sentence.

The apex court ordered cases of people who were given mandatory death sentences, following convictions for murder, to be reconsidered with a view to determining new sentences.

INHUMANE

The sentences of these condemned convicts are likely to be replaced with less severe punishments.

The decision has put Kenya in the same league as other countries in the region, Uganda and Malawi.

Nevertheless, it is not over yet. The abolitionist movement in sub-Saharan Africa, for now, cannot declare total victory against the death penalty.

This inhuman punishment, though dying slowly, is still alive and kicking.

For instance, while only Somalia and South Sudan are known to have carried out executions in 2017, Botswana and Sudan have already resumed executions this year.

Also, the very high number of people under death sentence in Nigeria is extremely worrying.

DEATH ROW

By the end of last year, the courts in Nigeria had sentenced a staggering 621 people to death and the country had some 2,285 people on death row - both being the highest figures in the sub-Saharan Africa region.

However, despite these concerns, victory against the death penalty in the region remains an attainable goal.

(source: Mr Popoola is Amnesty International’s advocate/adviser on the death penalty----nation.co.ke)

PAKISTAN:

'President rejected 513 mercy petitions in 5 years'

Pakistan is among the 5 most prolific executioners in the world with 487 executions in the last 3 years, while the president has rejected 513 mercy petitions in the last 5 years, a report launched on Wednesday has found.

The report, No Mercy: A Report on Clemency for Death Row Prisoners in Pakistan, was launched by Justice Project Pakistan.

It said that the government has executed nearly 500 people since lifting the moratorium on the death penalty in 2014.

And although the president possesses the constitutional authority under Article 45 to pardon death row defendants, in practice in such petitions have been consistently denied since December 2014, operating under a blanket policy for cases with strong evidence of humanitarian abuse and violations.

The report quoted the Ministry of Interior as stating that the president's office had rejected 513 mercy petitions by condemned prisoners - 444 of which were from the first 15 months after the resumption of executions in December 2014.

The interior ministry has also informally confirmed that the government has a de facto policy to summarily reject all mercy pleas.

The report includes case studies of death row prisoner Abdul Basit, Imdad Ali, juvenile offender Mohammad Iqbal and Zulfiqar Ali, a Pakistani citizen on death row in Indonesia. The cases illustrate the systemic problems of Pakistan's criminal justice system.

The report argues that given the procedure failings, individuals on death row should be given a fair chance to obtain clemency and introduce new and potentially exculpatory evidence.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Nusrat Bibi, the mother of the paralysed death row prisoner Abdul Basit whose mercy petition is pending, broke into tears and asked the president: "How can you hang a man who cannot even stand?"

She said her son was sentenced to death in 2009, and contracted tubercular meningitis at the Faisalabad Central Jail due to its unhygienic conditions.

"Due to the failure of jail authorities to provide him treatment, his condition deteriorated and after remaining unconscious for one week, he wasshifted to DHQ hospital. Despite spending 13 months there, he became paralyzed from the waist down," she said.

A mercy petition filed for Basit in 2013 was rejected in 2015 without any written reason for the rejection.

Relatives of other death row prisoners were also present at the launch, and appealed to high-ups to examine mercy petitions in humanitarian grounds.

Commissioner from the National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR) Chaudhry Shafique said at the event that Pakistan's clemency process was deficient and improvements should be made to align it with the country’s constitutional and international human rights obligations.

"The president's power of mercy is critical for ensuring justice under Pakistan's criminal justice system," he added.

(source: dawn.com)

CHINA:

China remains world's top executioner, Iran next, says Amnesty report

China has remained the worlds top executioner amid a decline in global executions, Amnesty International's annual report on capital punishment said on Thursday.

Amnesty International recorded at least 993 executions in 23 countries in 2017, down by 4 % from 2016 (1,032 executions) and 39 % from 2015 when the London-based organisation reported 1,634 executions, the highest number since 1989.

Besides China, 84 % of all reported executions took place in just 4 countries -- Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan.

Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) resumed executions in 2017, the report said.

Executions noticeably fell in Belarus (by 50 %) and Egypt (20 %). However, it increased in Palestine from 3 in 2016 to 6 in 2017; in Singapore from 4 to 8; and in Somalia from 14 to 24.

In 2017, Guinea and Mongolia abolished the death penalty in law for all crimes.

While Kenya abolished the mandatory death penalty for murder, Burkina Faso and Chad also took steps to repeal this punishment with new or proposed laws.

"The progress in sub-Saharan Africa reinforced its position as a beacon of hope for abolition... It is high time that the rest of the world follows their lead and consigns this abhorrent punishment to the history books," said Amnesty's Secretary General Salil Shetty.

The report also showed Amnesty International recorded commutations or pardons of death sentences in 21 countries including India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and the US.

The organisation recorded at least 2,591 death sentences in 53 countries in 2017, a significant decrease from the record-high of 3,117 recorded in 2016. At least 21,919 people were known to be on death row at the end of 2017.

(source: ibtimes.sg)

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