and Updates (as of 12/22/96)

APRIL 20, 2014:

APRIL 19, 2014:

NEW HAMPSHIRE:

N.H. senate death penalty vote 'gut wrenching'----A pair of Democrats from the same city split their votes and showed a deep divide remains.

The opposing votes cast by Manchester's 2 Democratic state senators reflect the deep divide of lawmakers and residents on the topic of repealing the state's centuries-old death penalty. State Sen. Lou D'Allesandro, who has 2 relatives on the Manchester, N.H., police force, voted to retain the death penalty. The state senate split 12-12, which keeps the penalty alive.

State Sen. Donna Soucy voted in favor of repealing New Hampshire's death penalty in an "intensely personal ... and difficult vote."

This year's death penalty debate revolved largely around slain Manchester police officer Michael Briggs and his killer, Michael Addison, the state's only death row convict. The debate was punctuated Thursday by a 12-12 vote, with the tie meaning capital punishment remains on the books.

Manchester veteran Sen. Lou D'Allesandro, a political science professor, voted against repeal while 1st-term Sen. Donna Soucy, a lawyer, voted in favor. They said Friday they were unconcerned about political fallout in their home districts and their votes reflect deeply held beliefs.

"This vote to me, and I believe to my colleagues, was really an intensely personal, emotional and difficult vote," Soucy said. "If I was making a calculating, political decision I would not have voted for repeal."

D'Allesandro, as a state representative in 1974, voted in favor of a new death penalty statute lawmakers crafted to comply with mandates set out by the U.S. Supreme Court when it invalidated death penalty laws nationwide in 1972. He has never wavered in his support of the penalty in 4 decades, but he also called Thursday's vote "gut-wrenching" for all 24 senators.

"We use it judiciously," D'Allesandro said, contrasting New Hampshire to Texas and other Southern states that have high numbers of executions. "We put something in place that we thought would benefit the public, and I think it has."

D'Allesandro was the only Democrat to vote against repeal. 2 Republican senators, Bob Odell and Sam Cataldo, voted in favor.

Addison was convicted of shooting Briggs to death in 2006 and was sentenced to die in 2008. The state Supreme Court in November upheld his conviction and sentence in the 1st death penalty appeal to come before it in 50 years. New Hampshire has not executed anyone since 1939.

Soucy and D'Allesandro spoke passionately about Briggs' life and death before Thursday's vote as Manchester Police Chief David Mara stood in the Senate gallery amid officers looking down on the debate.

D'Allesandro has 2 relatives on the Manchester police force, including a cousin who was a first responder when Officer Dan Doherty was shot 7 times while pursuing a suspect.

"Briggs was killed in my district. Doherty was shot in my district," D'Allesandro said. "There have been numerous murders in my district."

He said he respects Soucy's vote.

"She's a very devout Catholic, and I think she did what she thought was right, and I applaud that," he said.

Andy Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, said he doubts the senators' votes will weigh against them when they run for re-election.

"Although the death penalty is a very emotional issue for a lot of people, for most voters it's not high on the list of things they think about coming into a campaign," Smith said.

He said it could come into play against D'Allesandro in the unlikely event he faces a challenger in a primary. He said he doubted Soucy would suffer any fallout in a primary because she voted along party lines.

(source: Kennebec Journal)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Super 8 stabbing suspect to get mental exam; Wilkins Marte-Escano is due back in court in July for death-penalty case

A man facing the death penalty if convicted of 1st-degree murder in the fatal stabbing of a pregnant woman, which also resulted in the death of their unborn child, will get a competency evaluation.

Wilkins Gerald Marte-Escano, 30, is accused of stabbing Olga L. Vascones-Garcia at the Super 8 motel at 40 Arsenal Road where they had checked in the day before on March 28, 2012.

Vascones-Garcia, 24, was transported to York Hospital where she was pronounced dead. Her male infant was delivered, according to Northern Regional Police reports, but was unable to breathe on his own.

Thursday in York County court, Marte-Escano's attorney, assistant public defender Ronald Jackson, said his client will be evaluated to determine if he is competent to stand trial.M

To be found competent in a criminal trial, the defendant must understand the nature of the charges against him and be able to participate in his own defense.

Judge Gregory M. Snyder scheduled a competency hearing for July 17, following Marte-Escano's evaluation.

The York County District Attorney's Office is seeking the death penalty under the aggravating circumstances of creating a grave risk to others, specifically the couple's then-5-year-old daughter who reportedly witnessed the stabbing, and knowledge that the alleged victim was pregnant.

Aggravating circumstances are specific factors, established by the legislature, that make a 1st-degree murder deserving of the death penalty.

The maximum penalty for 1st-degree murder of an unborn child in Pennsylvania is life in prison without parole.

Marte-Escano remains in county prison without bail.

(source: York Daily Record)

TENNESSEE:

Joining parish gives death-row inmates support, sense of belonging

Some of the newest members of Holy Family Parish will never attend Mass at their church.

They will never talk with fellow parishioners over coffee and doughnuts after Mass, join the church choir or volunteer for a mission trip.

They are inmates on death row at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville. Some have been at Riverbend for decades, with few visitors and limited contact with the outside world.

Parishioner and prison minister James Booth said welcoming them to join Holy Family "gives them a sense that their faith is not in isolation, even though they are." It sends the message that "whatever evil they've done, they are forgiven and accepted," he added.

After some of the prisoners requested church membership this winter, Booth approached the parish council and Father Joe McMahon, the pastor, who granted approval. About a dozen Riverbend prisoners -- from death row and another side of the prison -- are now officially registered as Holy Family parishioners.

"For all the men at RMSI this is a huge deal and a remarkable event," death-row inmate Bill Stevens wrote in an open letter to Holy Family parishioners.

For prisoners like Stevens, who have been abandoned by their families and have no outside support network, weekly visits from Catholic volunteers are a welcome break in their routine existence. According to the prisoners, to feel a sense of belonging at a parish is a true blessing.

The blessing, though, is balanced by the anxiety of the death-row inmates, as the state pushes to execute 10 people in the next 18 months.

Father McMahon said he hopes his parishioners understand how seriously the Riverbend inmates take their faith and their parish membership. But first, Holy Family members must see their brothers as human beings, he said.

The men may have done great harm, Father McMahon told the Tennessee Register, Nashville's diocesan newspaper, but they still deserve respect.

"No one loses their human dignity and no one is beyond redemption," the priest said.

Father McMahon became involved in prison ministry about 3 years ago at the request of Nashville Bishop David R. Choby.

"Father Joe was the 1st person of faith that has ever treated me like a child of God, without making me feel judged and condemned," wrote death-row inmate Ron Cauthern in a booklet introducing himself to Holy Family parishioners. It included calligraphy, photographs and drawings.

Father McMahon said one of his most vivid memories of prison ministry is baptizing Cauthern, surrounded by guards, with his hands and feet shackled.

After pouring holy water over Cauthern's head and blessing him, "I told him, 'Ronnie, real freedom is on the inside,'" he recalled. "It was a profound experience."

When Father McMahon was named pastor of Holy Family last year, he recruited Booth to join the chaplains at Riverbend. Booth, a political science professor at Vanderbilt University who will be ordained a deacon in June, was already making weekly visits to prisoners at the Charles B. Bass Correctional Complex.

Ministering on death row "can be a raucous, messy thing," Booth said. Sometimes he and other volunteers and chaplains meet with the prisoners in the middle of a large room with people streaming in and out. Or they may gather in a small, awkwardly shaped visiting area, cramped together, reading Scripture and sharing their reflections.

Generally, about eight of the 76 death-row inmates attend Booth's Saturday morning service. Some are lifelong Catholics; others are recent converts; some were raised in different faiths but enjoy the discussion.

"Clearly their faith has not followed a straight path, and they are on the periphery, but they are slowly finding their way back," Booth said.

One of the non-Catholics who participates is Charles Wright. For the last 10 years, almost every week, Holy Family parishioner Kathy Ingleson has visited Wright. She has come to know him as a friend, someone who loves motorcycles and is proud of his job as a prison cook, she said.

Ingelson's friend may soon be put to death. Convicted of two first-degree murders, part of a 1984 drug deal gone wrong, Wright has been on death row for 3 decades. He is among 10 men who recently received an execution date from the state: June 23, 2015.

"He asked if I would be in the room when it happened," Ingleson said. "I told him we'd have to talk about it later." While she fervently hopes Wright will be spared execution, she knows abolishing the death penalty "is an uphill battle in this state."

The push to step up executions in Tennessee came after convicted serial killer Paul Dennis Reid died last fall from natural causes, in a hospital room, rather than by lethal injection.

Ingleson considers the death penalty an abomination.

"I feel there is no sense in a death for a death," she said, adding that it is especially hard to understand the value of executing a man who has served 30 years in prison and is no longer the same person who committed crimes decades ago.

Wright "has spent his time trying to make life more meaningful," Ingleson said. "I think I've gained as much from him as he has gained from me."

Ingleson is helping launch Holy Family's "adopt-a-prisoner" initiative that matches volunteers with prisoners to write and visit.

So far, 9 parishioners have stepped up. Steve Hayes, a new volunteer, said he "feels called to go and give the gift of time to someone who doesn't have anything but time."

(source: Catholic Sentinel)

OKLAHOMA----impending executions

Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals denies death row inmates' request to stop executions

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals denied a stay on Friday for 2 death row inmates set to be executed this month, saying it didn't have jurisdiction - even though the state Supreme Court says it's the only court that does.

In a 3-2 decision, the Criminal Appeals court rejected the request from lawyers for Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner, saying it disagrees with a state Supreme Court ruling that the appellate court is the correct authority to issue a stay.

"While the Oklahoma Supreme Court has authority to deem an issue civil and so within its jurisdiction, it does not have the power to supersede a statute and manufacture jurisdiction in this court for appellant's stay request by merely transferring it here," the judges wrote.

Lockett and Warner are suing the state over what they called a "veil of secrecy" surrounding its execution protocol. A lower court ruled in their favor last month that the state statute protecting drug suppliers was unconstitutionally broad because inmates could not find out the source of drugs used in their executions, even during court proceedings.

The case has bounced among four different state and federal courts since it was originally filed in February.

Lawyers for the 2 men had most recently asked the Court of Criminal Appeals for an emergency stay while other courts sort out the secrecy lawsuit. They said they will appeal Friday's decision - but do not yet know in which court.

"In a case where a state court has already ruled Oklahoma's secrecy law unconstitutional, and in which the state's highest court wrote only yesterday of the 'gravity' of the constitutional issues involved, it would be unthinkable to move forward with the executions of Mr. Lockett and Mr. Warner before the Oklahoma Supreme Court has a chance to consider the substantive issues at stake," lawyers for the inmates said in an emailed statement.

Lockett is scheduled to be executed Tuesday for the 1999 shooting death of a 19-year-old Perry woman. Warner is slated to die the following Tuesday for the rape and murder of his roommate's 11-month-old child.

The 2 dissenting judges said the inmates are in imminent danger and should have been granted a stay.

"I would grant a stay to avoid irreparable harm as the appellants face imminent execution," Vice-Presiding Judge Clancey Smith wrote. "I would do so in consideration of the appellants' rights, to avoid the miscarriage of justice, and in comity with the Supreme Court's request for time to resolve the issues pending before it."

A spokesman for the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office, Aaron Cooper, said the court correctly recognizes that the claims raised by the two men "are not about guilt or innocence or about access to the courts, but are instead more shell games designed to delay the punishment handed down by a jury."

The Attorney General's Office had also filed an appeal Friday challenging the decision last month by Oklahoma County District Judge Patricia Parrish. The office said in its appeal to the state Supreme Court that Parrish ruled in error that the state could not keep secret the source of the drugs it uses for executions.

Over the past decade, many major drugmakers have stopped selling the drugs used in lethal injections to U.S. prisons and corrections departments. Some states turned to substitutes made by compounding pharmacies, which custom-mix prescription drugs. Opponents of the death penalty have in turn demanded more disclosure about the suppliers and cast doubts on the effectiveness of the drugs.

(source: Associated Press)

NEBRASKA:

Sen. Ernie Chambers tries to undo Nikko Jenkins' convictions

The Nebraska Supreme Court should refuse to appoint a 3-judge panel to consider whether Nikko Jenkins deserves the death penalty - a move that would effectively nullify, for now, Jenkins' convictions in the killings of 4 Omahans, a state lawmaker says.

Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, a watchdog of both judges and death penalty cases, said he will write a letter to Chief Justice Michael Heavican asking him to halt the formation of the panel and to set aside Jenkins' no-contest pleas to the murders of Juan Uribe-Pena, Jorge Cajiga-Ruiz, Curtis Bradford and Andrea Kruger.

Chambers, who holds a law degree, said District Judge Peter Bataillon was "as crazy in his handling of this (case) as Nikko Jenkins has proved himself to be." Chambers said Jenkins, who represented himself in court, will not walk free again, but he shouldn't go straight to death row.

"Nothing about any of these proceedings has gone forward in a way that could be called judicious," Chambers said. "There are so many irregularities that this could be called nothing but a kangaroo court."

Bataillon declined to comment.

However, both Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine and Public Defender Tom Riley, who served as Jenkins' adviser, said Bataillon governed his courtroom as well as any judge could when dealing with a defendant who insists on representing himself and presenting his grievances.

Chambers said he is not advocating that Jenkins "walk free" - saying the 27-year-old will spend the rest of his life in prison.

However, he questioned how Bataillon could allow Jenkins to essentially plead to death row and make a "Barnum & Bailey" circus of the justice system.

Chambers said Bataillon committed the following "irregularities":

--Allowing Jenkins to essentially fire the Public Defender's Office and act as his own attorney. Chambers pointed to a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that states that even if a defendant is ruled competent to stand trial, that does not mean he is competent to represent himself.

Riley said, however, that there are nuances in that and other high court rulings. In one such ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court said that all defendants, if deemed competent to stand trial, have a right to enter guilty or no-contest pleas, even if they may not be skilled enough to handle a trial.

--Allowing Jenkins to plead no contest for Jenkins' stated reason: that he wanted to proceed with a civil rights lawsuit claiming he was being held on unconstitutionally obtained evidence. Jenkins clearly didn't understand the law, Chambers said.

Jenkins, he said, bought into the folly that other prisoners sometimes follow: that another judge, or a federal judge, will throw out the evidence and free him. Such actions, called writs of habeas corpus, rarely succeed.

--Allowing Jenkins to plead no contest after Bataillon initially said he would accept only a guilty plea.

Just last week, Bataillon rejected Jenkins' attempts to plead no contest to the killings. Bataillon said he had concerns about Jenkins' "competency to act as his own attorney" - noting Jenkins' "incongruent" requests. On one hand, he was complaining about his access to documents to prepare for trial. On the other hand, he was saying he wanted to plead.

With the death penalty on the table, Bataillon said then, Jenkins would have to plead guilty or go to trial.

Fast forward to Wednesday. Jenkins initially pleaded guilty to all the charges.

Prosecutors then gave the factual basis for the crimes, as is customary. The judge turned to Jenkins and asked if he had any problems with the factual basis.

Jenkins, who had scoffed at parts of the accounts, said he did.

Bataillon then asked him if he shot each victim.

To that, Jenkins claimed to have remembered being at the crime scenes but said he didn't remember any of the actual shootings because a serpent god had ordered him to shoot the people.

The judge leaned his head back and let out a long sigh.

He asked prosecutors if they had any objection to Jenkins' pleading no contest - reversing his stance from the week before. Prosecutors stated no objections.

Bataillon then asked Jenkins if his plan to plead no contest was his own "free and knowing" act.

"I wouldn't say 'free,'" Jenkins said.

Bataillon noted that if the pleas weren't freely given, he couldn't accept them.

Seconds later, Jenkins agreed he was doing it of his own volition. He entered the no-contest pleas.

Chambers noted that Jenkins entered the pleas after he had made several complaints about his ability to prepare for trial, including access to police reports and the jail law library.

"There has been so much confusion in this case," Chambers said. "The judge makes statements and then contradicts himself.

"What the judge should have done is just adjourn the hearing. It's clear from the way (Jenkins) comported himself in court that he was not competent enough to represent himself."

Attorneys inside and outside the courtroom disagreed.

They pointed to signs that Jenkins knew what he was doing and several safeguards the judge took before accepting Jenkins' pleas:

--Kleine said Jenkins was crafty and calculating - far from "deranged," as Chambers described him.

Jenkins capably argued some points, including a motion in which he attempted to get his confession thrown out. In that motion, he argued that detectives had coddled him and baited him, even hugging him, as he made his statements.

--A rare in-chambers meeting between Jenkins and the judge. Jenkins - accompanied by Riley and Scott Sladek, assistant public defender - aired several grievances, including his ability to access the jail law library.

No court reporter was present at that in-chambers meeting. However, Bataillon said he advised Jenkins that he would resolve those issues.

And, the judge said, he told Jenkins to be cautious - that Jenkins would forfeit all of his rights if he pleaded to the charges.

--A detailed recitation of Jenkins' rights.

Before allowing Jenkins to enter his pleas, Bataillon rattled off the battery of rights and challenges that Jenkins would be giving up. Judges typically recite that litany before accepting a plea.

Both Riley and Kleine said there wasn't a "circus atmosphere" as Chambers claimed. Outside the courtroom and on his way out of the courtroom, Jenkins often cursed or carried on - at one point, howling like a hound at the moon.

In court, Bataillon wasn't afraid to cut off Jenkins - once pounding his palm on the bench to get Jenkins to be quiet. On Wednesday, he didn't allow Jenkins to present crime scene photos of the killings.

"I don't think he lost control of the courtroom at all," Riley said.

He said judges are obliged to give defendants representing themselves "a little bit of leeway. I think the judge did that - he allowed him to state his case, except when the defendant made statements that were not germane."

Riley said Jenkins has a few options now.

He could try to withdraw his plea. In his more than 35 years as an attorney, Riley said, he can recall only 1 or 2 defendants who have been allowed to do so. High courts almost always uphold pleas.

He could seek civil relief. Chambers and several attorneys say Jenkins' civil lawsuit - seeking to throw out his arrest - is a long shot at best.

He could appeal Bataillon's ruling finding him competent to stand trial and competent to serve as his own attorney. Riley said that is Jenkins' most likely route - after his sentencing.

He said he doesn't know if the Nebraska Supreme Court would have recourse to intervene before appointing the 3-judge panel, as Chambers has suggested.

(source: Omaha World-Herald)

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

Nebraska Supreme Court Denies Latest Appeal From Death Row Inmate

The Nebraska Supreme Court on Friday rejected an appeal by death row inmate Michael Ryan seeking to be released from prison.

The now 65-year-old Ryan was sentenced to death in 1985 for the cult-related killings of 26-year-old James Thimm and 5-year-old Luke Stice in Rulo.

Ryan filed a request with the Richardson County District Court for post-conviction relief in 2012, challenging how Nebraska obtained one of three drugs that would be used to execute him. Inmates typically file post-conviction relief motions after they have exhausted all other appeals. The lower court denied Ryan's request without holding a hearing and Ryan appealed.

The state's high court upheld the rejection of Ryan's request, saying courts can only enter relief when a prisoner shows that a denial or infringement of his constitutional rights would nullify his conviction.

"Like most Nebraskans, I strongly support the death penalty for the most horrific crimes," said Attorney General Jon Bruning. "Michael Ryan committed one of the most brutal murders in our nation's history and he deserves to be put to death. I'm pleased the court turned away Michael Ryan's latest attempt to thwart justice."

(source: WOWT news)

SOUTH DAKOTA:

Debating South Dakota's death penalty

About 100 yards of grass and a life-shattering experience separated Lynette Johnson and Russ Freeburg from about 50 proponents of abolishing the South Dakota death penalty.

Johnson and Freeburg stood Friday afternoon near a sign advertising the RJ Johnson Training Academy on a lawn of the South Dakota State Penitentiary. They watched as the death penalty opponents gathered in a circle just off the prison property and for the 17th year conducted a service memorializing murder victims and their killers who have been put to death by the state.

"They'll never understand how we feel unless they've had somebody kill or try to kill one of their kids or their spouse. Hopefully, they'll never have to," Freeburg said of death penalty protesters.

His son, Matt Freeburg, and Johnson's husband, Ron "RJ" Johnson, were prison guards when inmates Rodney Berget and Eric Robert, in a failed escape attempt in 2011, killed Johnson. Robert, who said he also wanted to kill Matt Freeburg, was executed in 2012.

Berget remains on death row after challenging his own death sentence.

After hearing Russ Freeburg's assertion that circumstances shape perception about the death penalty, Frank Barnett acknowledged, "I know that."

"This is not us versus them. We understand the grief, the hurt and the pain they are going through," Barnett said.

At the service, Barnett sang a spiritual. The words were snatched by a blustery April wind the moment they left his mouth, but Barnett said a theme conveyed in his song was that death ripples out to harm people not directly affected by it; all death, including state-ordered executions.

"Fighting violence with violence doesn't work. Nonviolent Jesus taught us that," Barnett said.

Freeburg challenged the analogy.

"How can they make any comparison with Jesus and Berget?" he asked. "The one perfect man, and they make a comparison with someone like Rodney Berget?"

He acknowledged, though, the gulf that divides South Dakotans with regard to the death penalty.

"We're not going to change their minds," Freeburg shrugged. "They're not going to change ours."

The service, sponsored by South Dakota Peace and Justice Center, South Dakotans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, Pax Christi and Just Peace, was more in the nature of participants affirming their own long-held opposition to execution.

"It's just bringing the circle together of people who know the death penalty only promotes violence in our state," said Mark Sanderson, who helped organize the event.

The annual ceremony this year comes less than a week after a jury in Sioux Falls made James McVay the newest death row inmate. McVay stabbed Maybelle Schein, 75, to death in 2011. McVay pleaded guilty to the murder but said he was mentally ill when he killed Schein.

"Can't we see killing someone who is mentally ill is not justice?" said Denny Davis, of South Dakotans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

"To murder someone because they have murdered? We're better than that."

In prepared remarks, the Rev. Rachel Ciupek-Reed pointed to the array of spiritual and humanist traditions that offer no grounding to executions.

"Justice without mercy is vengeance," she said. "Mercy without justice is foolishness. Justice without humility tears our humanity from us. We need to seek justice with mercy and walk humbly as we do so."

As the ceremony concluded, Elaine Engelgau moved to the sidewalk along busy North Drive and displayed a pair of brightly colored signs. "End the Death Penalty," read one. "South Dakota Stop Killing," read the other. Engelgau says she regularly attends ceremonies opposing the death penalty and vigils at the prison when executions are scheduled.

"My heart just broke when they instituted the death penalty in South Dakota," she said.

Tears welled in her eyes."I love South Dakota," she said. "It hurts to have South Dakota choose to murder somebody."

(source: Argus Leader)

ARIZONA:

Woman convicted in hammer beating speaks to jury

An Arizona woman convicted of bludgeoning her husband to death with a hammer made a tearful plea for mercy Thursday, telling the jury deciding her fate that she is sorry for her actions and wishes she could go back and undo the pain she caused.

Marissa Devault, 36, broke down in tears and repeatedly lost her composure as she spoke to the jury in the penalty phase of her trial. The same jury that convicted her of 1st-degree murder is deciding whether she should get the death penalty or a life sentence.

"I don't know if I can be useful to anybody in this world or in any way ... but I would like the opportunity to try," she said.

Devault was found guilty last week in the killing of Dale Harrell, who suffered multiple skull fractures in the January 2009 attack in the couple's home in the Phoenix suburb of Gilbert. The penalty phase began this week and featured emotional testimony from Devault's daughters a day earlier.

Devault clasped a tissue, removed her glasses, took deep breaths and fought back tears for more than 10 minutes. She expressed regret for inflicting pain on her daughters, saying "this goes into generations that don't even exist yet."

"I can't do anything more than say I'm sorry. I can't push the back button. I can't bring him back. I can't fix everything that was wrong," she said.

She also looked ahead to prison and hoped that she could "talk to someone" and help them make a better choice.

Prosecutors say she killed her husband in a failed bid to collect on a life insurance policy to repay more than $300,000 in loans from her boyfriend, a man 20 years her senior she met on a sugar-daddy website.

Devault said she killed Harrell in self-defense and told investigators he had physically and sexually abused her in the past. She would become the 3rd woman on Arizona's death row if the jury opts for the death penalty.

The case had similar circumstances as the Jodi Arias trial that played out in Phoenix 1 year ago, including a brutal killing of a lover, claims of self-defense and salacious elements such as Devault's 1-time job as a stripper.

But the judge in this case made extensive efforts to keep the trial from becoming the spectacle that enveloped the Arias case.

(source: Associated Press)

WASHINGTON:

Prosecutor seeks new judge in 2007 Carnation slayings; A 50-page motion to the state Supreme Court represents an almost unheard-of move in a death-penalty case and probably would mean further delay in trying the 2 suspects in the 2007 deaths of 6 family members.

More than 6 years after three generations of a family were slain near Carnation, the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office is making the almost unheard-of move of seeking a new trial judge.

On Friday, Prosecutor Dan Satterberg's office filed a 50-page motion with the state Supreme Court asking to have Michele Anderson's and Joseph McEnroe's death-penalty cases taken away from King County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Ramsdell. If granted, the move would undoubtedly delay what has become one of the state's most expensive criminal cases.

Prosecutors, in their filing, cite Ramsdell's "troubling" rulings in the 2 cases. The state Supreme Court has reversed Ramsdell twice in rulings regarding Anderson and McEnroe, and a 3rd issue will be heard before the court in June.

"In sum, the record demonstrates that the trial judge would reasonably be expected upon remand to have substantial difficulty in putting out of his mind previously expressed views or findings determined to be erroneous," prosecutors wrote in their filing. "Furthermore, reassignment is necessary to preserve the appearance of justice."

Ian Goodhew, deputy chief of staff for Satterberg, declined to comment Friday.

Paul Sherfey, chief administrative officer for King County Superior Court, said he doesn't believe King County has ever been faced with finding a new judge in a capital case. A trial date for Anderson and McEnroe has not been set.

Anderson and McEnroe, who are both 35, are accused of fatally shooting Anderson's family in her parents' Carnation-area home on Dec. 24, 2007. Killed were her parents, Wayne and Judy Anderson; her brother and his wife, Scott and Erica Anderson; and that couple's children, 5-year-old Olivia and 3-year-old Nathan.

The slayings were motivated by money, family strife and a concern over leaving behind witnesses, according to sheriff's investigators.

McEnroe and Anderson have each been charged with 6 counts of aggravated 1st-degree murder.

In a 2008 jailhouse interview, Michele Anderson told The Seattle Times she had committed the murders and wanted to die.

"I want the most severe punishment, which would be the death penalty," she said at the time. "I think if I kill a bunch of people, I'm not sure I deserve to live ... I want to waive my trial."

She has since pleaded not guilty, as has McEnroe.

The former couple are King County's longest-serving inmates, according to jail staff.

As of last fall, the cost of their prosecution and defense approached a combined $7?million.

The amount, even when factoring in 2 defendants, already exceeds the average price of an individual death-penalty case - from trial to execution - of $3 million, as determined by a 2008 study by the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C.

Pam Mantle, whose daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren were killed, said Friday that she wants to have the case given to a new trial judge.

"I'm fine with it. I want him gone," Mantle said. "I'm under the impression he's anti-death penalty. As time has gone by it would be hard to be unbiased."

Ramsdell declined to comment Friday.

The state Supreme Court will hear arguments in Olympia on June 30.

In addition to hearing the prosecution's request for the case to be reassigned, justices will also hear a defense motion that could potentially allow Anderson and McEnroe to plead guilty to aggravated murder and face life sentences.

In February, the high court barred Ramsdell from acting on a defense motion that a federal case, Alleyne v. United States, took precedence over state case law involving the death penalty. The main thrust of the Alleyne decision has to do with mandatory minimum sentences. The U.S. Supreme Court has determined that any fact that can increase a mandatory minimum sentence is an "element" of the crime and must be alleged in charging documents.

Katie Ross, one of McEnroe's defense attorneys, has argued that the state needed to include the additional element of "absence of sufficient mitigating circumstances to warrant leniency" in the information used to formally charge McEnroe with the crimes in order for the state to seek the death penalty. Anderson's legal team has joined the argument made by McEnroe's defense team.

In Washington, there are only 2 penalties for the crime of aggravated 1st-degree murder: life in prison without the possibility of release, or death. To seek the death penalty, a prosecutor must determine there is an absence of sufficient mitigating circumstances to warrant leniency - a life sentence - and provide a defendant with a special sentencing notice that the death penalty is being sought.

(source: Seattle Times)

USA:

Where the Death Penalty Stands

Thursday, New Hampshire narrowly failed to eliminate its death penalty. We offer some charts about capital punishment in the United States and abroad.

Yesterday, the New Hampshire state Senate deadlocked on a bill that would have eliminated the state's death penalty, killing the bill for the moment and leaving New Hampshire as the only state in New England that still has a law providing for executions. The bill had already passed in the state House of Representatives and has the support of the governor, so one more vote would have passed it. I thought this was a nice opportunity to look at the state of the death penalty in America and around the world. On to the charts and graphs!

As of now, 32 states still have the death penalty, and 18 (plus the District of Columbia) have eliminated it. 6 of those 18 - Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, and New York - eliminated their death penalties just since 2007. Even in some states that have death penalty laws on the books, capital punishment has all but disappeared. Kentucky, for instance, has executed only three prisoners since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976; Colorado has executed only one. Other states are more, shall we say, enthusiastic about capital punishment. This GIF created by the Pew Research Center shows the quantity of each state's executions over that time. (Go to the link to see the execution explosion.)

Texas alone accounts for 515 of the 1376 executions in America during this period, or 37 %; Virginia and Oklahoma are tied at 110 apiece. But even Texas has been slowing down in recent years. Their annual total peaked at 40 executions in 2000 (George W. Bush attended to business before leaving for Washington), but in 2013 the state executed 16 prisoners. This follows a national trend.

Unfortunately, we're still among the world's top executioners. According to a recent report by Amnesty International, there has been a steady trend away from capital punishment; by the end of last year, 98 countries had officially abolished it. (The number was 85 ten years ago). But while only 22 countries executed prisoners in 2013, the number of executions rose over the previous year. There were 778 confirmed executions, 80 % of which took place in just three countries: Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. Those numbers don't include China, which, it is believed, executes thousands of prisoners every year, but keeps the numbers secret.

That means we come in fourth among the world's countries in the number of prisoners we execute, after a communist dictatorship that hands out death sentences like parking tickets, 2 Islamic theocracies, and Iraq, a country still riven by terrorism and civil war a decade after we invaded and broke it to pieces. So congratulations on that.

(source: The American Prospect)

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Crucify Them! Lessons from Holy Week on Capital Punishment

Standing in a dimly lit Greek Orthodox Church this week with my mother, I was confronted with the icon of Christ crucified. As the life-size cross with a hand painted icon of Christ was solemnly carried by the priest around the Church, I, along with many in the Church, was overcome with grief. The faithful wept for the crucified one who is considered by over a billion humans to be God incarnate.

However, I did not weep for God. I wept for the "others." The poor, the homeless, the people of color and minorities of all varieties and stripes, Women, those who identify as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Queer and Transgender, along with the millions incarcerated in America and around the world. On that cross was a Jesus who for me symbolizes all those who are oppressed and exploited.

I could not help but see this ancient ritual as a commentary on our modern society. Massive crowds chanting for crucifixion of an innocent man whose only crime was that he sought to abolish all forms of state and religious authority and, instead, create a horizontal society of inclusion and mutual aid, where all were equal.

How fitting since this week we are not only commemorating Passover for the Jewish People and Easter for Christian communities but also the one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon Bombing. All of these have a common thread which binds them: confronting the hatred, misunderstanding and prejudice of some with the resilience and love of others. The story of the exile of the Jews with that of Jesus and the people of Boston is one of leading people from darkness of oppression to the light of love and solidarity.

Yet, on Thursday April 17th, the day in which some of the Christian Churches commemorate the Crucifixion of Christ, the Senate of New Hampshire failed to repeal the death penalty by a single vote. Here we are, almost 2000 years after the crucifixion of Jesus and countless others by the Roman Empire and we are still sentencing people to death. How can faithful and non-faithful alike justify a horrific practice?

Amnesty International lists the United States with Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, North Korea, Yemen and China as the top perpetrators of state sanctioned executions. Yes, that's right, the United States is listed along with all 3 members of the so called "Axis of Evil." How fitting. All of the nations who still sanction the ruthless, prejudiced and unethical retributive justice that is known as "capital punishment" are the real axis of evil.

The United States carried out more state sanctioned executions than North Korea and Yemen over the past few years. Additionally, the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Where is the outcry of the faithful filling their places of worship to pray and be together? Where are the Christians who are weeping for an executed Lord fighting for the millions of oppressed and exploited?

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone writing on behalf of Pope Francis reiterated the Holy Father's complete commitment to abolishing capital punishment. Cardinal Bertone writes, "Today, more than ever, it is urgent that we remember and affirm the need for universal recognition and respect for the inalienable dignity of human life, in its immeasurable value." This not only leaves room for reconciliation and love, but to understand the true face of crime and confront its root causes.

Also this week we were made aware of a powerful story about forgiveness. In Iran, a state which tops the list along with China and Saudi Arabia in terms of carrying out executions, one execution did not go according to plan.

In a powerful display of forgiveness and love, the parents of the victim who were helping to carry out the execution of their sons' killer, stopped the execution as the noose was tightened and spared the life of the perpetrator. Is this not how we can reconcile and repair the world?

Reproducing violence begets violence. If we stop the cycle altogether, we can build a better world. This is what Jewish thought has described as Tikkun Olam or Repairing the World. We live in a broken world and it is up to us to take responsibility and change it.

This message comes not as a celebration of Easter or of the successful passing of the Jews into Israel or even the resilience of the people of Boston in the face of terrorism. It comes as a warning. Reproducing this violence and hatred will not change anything but only perpetuate the same evil which we have been combating since the beginning.

Jesus on the cross said "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." (Luke 23: 34) Unlike Jesus, I will emphasize the fact that we do know what we are doing. The time has come to stand up on the side of true justice, love and forgiveness in the face of all forms of hatred, prejudice and revenge.

True courage comes at a cost. Standing before authority and power we, like Sisyphus, may feel helpless and unable to change the world. I consistently hear "It's too big," "I am only 1 person," "How can I change the world?" Yet, if everyone stood up as individuals, we would quickly realize how many there are and how we, in unison, can stand up and give hope to those who have no voice and no hope.

We must dare to believe and face all adversity if we truly want a better world. This is what is meant when the Byzantine Chanters exclaim "I gave My back to scourgings, and turned not away My face from spittings; I stood before the judgment-seat of Pilate, and endured the Cross, for the salvation of the world." (The Ainoi [Praises] of Holy Thursday Evening)

Let us take the true power of this Holy Week, Passover and Marathon Monday and commit to love one another more than ever before. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking in Montgomery, Alabama in 1965 preached that "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." What he omitted was that it bends only when we, standing in solidarity and love, bend it together.

(source: Christopher Helali is Adjunct Professor of History at MassBay Community College----dissidentvoice.org)

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On this day in true crime a white supremacist was executed

Richard Wayne Snell was executed by lethal injection on April 19, 1995.

He was a member of a radical white supremacist group, The Covenant, Sword and the Arm of the Lord (CSA), and frequented the polygamist Elohim City, a private community in Oklahoma linked to the CSA.

Snell was convicted of murderering a pawn shop owner he mistakenly believed was of Jewish descent.

Shortly afterwards he killed a state trooper.

He never denied the murders and he was executed on the same day as Timothy McVeigh carried out the Oklahoma bombing.

(source: The Mirror)

BRUNEI:

Brunei: Sultan institutes death penalty for homosexuality

The United Nations human rights office has criticised Brunei's planned introduction of the death penalty for a raft of new offences, as part of a shift to harsh Islamic punishments in the oil-rich sultanate.

"We are deeply concerned about the revised penal code in Brunei Darussalam, due to come into force later this month, which stipulates the death penalty for numerous offences," said Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN high commissioner for human rights.

He told reporters these offences include rape, adultery, sodomy, extramarital sexual relations for Muslims, but also crimes such as robbery and murder.

The death sentence could also be imposed for defamation of the Prophet Mohammed, insulting any verses of the Koran and Hadith, blasphemy, and declaring oneself a prophet or non-Muslim, he said.

"Application of the death penalty for such a broad range of offences contravenes international law," he added.

Brunei has not carried out any executions since 1957, but Colville said that rather than adding new capital crimes to its books, the sultanate should be working to abolish the death penalty outright.

Brunei's all-powerful Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah announced last October that the country would phase in Islamic syariah law punishments such as flogging and death by stoning.

The new criminal code, expected to enter into force on April 22, also introduces stoning to death as the specific method of execution for rape, adultery, sodomy and extramarital sexual relations.

Colville said that international law classified stoning as "torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment", meaning it is banned under global human rights treaties.

UN studies have shown that women are more likely to be sentenced to death by stoning, due to entrenched discrimination and stereotyping in the justice system, he noted.

Criminalising consensual sex between adults, let alone applying the death penalty for it, breaches a series of rights, while the new code also violates freedom of religion, opinion and expression, Colville added.

Brunei practices a more conservative form of Islam than neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia, banning the sale and public consumption of alcohol and closely restricting other religions.

The sultan has advocated the strengthening of Islam in the country, against what he calls potentially harmful outside influences, recently calling his Islamic monarchy a "firewall" against globalisation.

Officials have previously said syariah cases would require an extremely high burden of proof and judges would have wide discretion applying it.

(source: Muslimvillage.com)

IRAN----executions

Iranian regime hangs at least 6 Afghans: reports

The Iranian regime has executed at least 6 Afghans over drugs smuggle charges, local authorities in northeastern Takhar province of Afghanistan have declared, local Afghan media reported.

The Provincial governor spokesman, Sunatullah Temori said that the bodies of the executed individuals have not been taken to Afghanistan and they will likely be buried in Iran.

The families of victims have confirmed that the Iranian regime authorities have informed them regarding the execution of their relatives, the reports said without mentioning when the executions have been carried out.

He said more Afghans detained in Iran are expected to be executed.

The executed individuals were between 20 to 26 year old and four of them were residents of Kalafgan district while the identities of the two others are still unclear, local officials said.

(source: NCR-Iran)

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Official confirms execution for bank fraud to proceed

Iran's Chief Auditor Nasser Seraj announced that there is no truth to rumours that a death sentence issued in the so-called $3-billion fraud case will be withdrawn.

Seraj, who acted as judge in the trial of Mahafarid Amir Khosravi, said: "A sentence that is issued and approved will no doubt be carried out."

IRNA reports that Seraj indicated that the authorities are continuing to trace the assets of Amir Khosravi, adding that the investigation is proceeding well.

The case, which has been referred to as the "biggest embezzlement case" in Iran's banking history, came to light in 2011, and 39 defendants were charged with misappropriating close to $3 billion; they're accused of using forced documents to obtain credit from banks to buy state-owned companies.

4 people were sentenced to death for the charge of "corruption on earth" including Amir Khosravi, and others were sentenced to prison terms of up to 25 years.

Mohammad Reza Khavari was the CEO of the country's largest bank, Melli Bank, and he remains a major suspect in this case, having fled to Canada as soon as the investigation became public.

(source: Radio Zamaneh)

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Sunni prisoner awaiting execution transferred to hospital

Mohammad Gharibi, a Sunni prisoner of conscience awaiting execution in Iran, was transferred to Sina hospital in Karaj for a short while on Wednesday morning following a deterioration in his health condition.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), Gharibi, who was being held in Rajai Shahr prison in Karaj, had been prevented from receiving adequate medical care by the authorities.

A source told the HRANA, "Mohammad Gharibi had been experiencing severe kidney pain for a long time, and the clinic doctors had said that he needs treatment in [properly] equipped medical centers. But the authorities had always refused to transfer him to hospital, under the pretext that he is facing the death penalty."

He continued, "Finally, on Wednesday when he was sent to hospital, doctors injected a few medicines, and because the authorities had not given him a permit to be hospitalized [i.e. overnight], he was returned to the prison."

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A Kurdish political prisoner is still facing death sentence

Habibollah Latifi, the Kurdish political prisoner of central prison of Sanandaj, is still at the risk of execution.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), Habibollah Latifi, the student of industrial engineering of Ilam University, was arrested on October 23, 2007, and after three months in solitary confinement and physical torture he was sentenced to death in branch number one of revolutionary court, by chief judge Hassan Babayi, on charge of corruption on earth.

After complains of the attorneys, the verdict was sent to appeal court but in the winter of the same year, it was confirmed and sent to Supreme Court, which confirmed the death sentence as well.

Now, after 6 1/2 years, and in contrast with the promise of judicial authorities for cancellation of the sentence, this Kurdish political prisoner of central prison of Sanandaj is still under the execution sentence.

One of his relatives said to HRANA's reporter, "authorities promised to brake the sentence but it never happened".

(source for both: HRANA News Agency)

CHINA:

Death sentence for man who stabbed young wife over 20 times

A wealthy man who was accused of stabbing his wife to death during a heated argument a year ago this month was found guilty of intentional homicide and sentenced to death at the Nanjing Intermediate People's Court in Jiangsu Province, Xinhua said yesterday.

Ji Xingpeng, 25, was suspected of stabbing his 22-year-old wife Qi Kexin at their home in Nanjing on April 25 when a fight broke between the 2 over rumors that she had cheated on him and that he wasn't the father of their 3-month-old daughter. DNA test results later proved that he was.

Reports say that Ji had come home drunk and used a fruit knife to slash the woman 20 to 30 times during the argument.

Qi's death attracted huge media and online attention in China last year, in part because of Ji's status as a second generation rich. He was a member of the elite Nanjing FSC Super Car Club and owned numerous luxury residences, according to ChinaSMACK. He had reportedly exhibited violence after drinking on other occasions.

The 2 were high school classmates, according to a self-proclaimed friend of Qi, who took to Weibo to rebuke netizen speculation that the wife had only stayed with Ji because of his wealth.

"The wife's family is neither poor nor lacks money, marrying this man was completely because he initially treated her very well when he was first pursuing my friend, listening to her in everything, which made her feel that she had found a good man. She was young to begin with and she wanted to marry."

According to the same friend, Ji frequented gentlemen clubs and would often come home drunk and beat his wife. She said that Qi wanted a divorce, but stayed with the man for the sake of their 100-day-old child.

"My friend was such a fool that she was still preparing a birthday present for that beast these past few days. How could you bear to do such a thing to a woman who loves you that much! If he doesn't get the death penalty, it will be an intolerable injustice," the friend wrote.

(source: Shanghailist.com)

INDIA:

Shakti Mills case: Petition for confirmation of death penalty filed

The Maharashtra government has moved the Bombay High Court seeking confirmation of the death sentence awarded to the 3 'repeat offenders' in 2 gang-rapes in the deserted Shakti Mills in 2013.

After a death sentence is awarded by a trial court , it is a legal requirement that it be confirmed by the High Court.

On April 4, Principal Sessions Judge Shalini Phansalkar Joshi had sentenced to death Vijay Jadhav, Qasim Sheikh alias Bengali and Salim Ansari. They had been convicted under Section 376 E of Indian Penal Code which was introduced under the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act after the Delhi gang-rape of December 2012. The new section allows for the death penalty in the case of repeat sexual offenders.

During the course of the trial, the convicts had moved the Bombay High Court against application of Section 376 (E) of IPC but the High Court chose not to intervene while the trial was underway in a Mumbai sessions court. Meanwhile the High Court had also asked the Attorney - General to submit a reply by May 7th on the constitutional validity of section 376(E).

While delivering the judgement Judge Joshi termed it a "rarest of rare" case. "If not in this case, then in which case can death be awarded? she asked. "The accused showed no mercy towards the victim. They were cruel in their conduct and had no remorse for the crime they have committed," the judge observed.

Judge Joshi added, "This is not only a crime against the girl but a crime against society. The common man will lose faith in the system if leniency is shown. There should be zero tolerance for such crimes," she added.

The judge also remarked that the incident had dented the image of the city, for being a safe city for women. "In the heart of the city, like Mahalaxmi area also, young girls are not secure or safe but subjected to most savaged form of sexual assault by the young boys of this very city, was shocking to one and all. It created a feeling of helplessness in parents, in women, in girls and in every section of the society."

(source: The Hindu)

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Delhi high court to find if man on death row is capable of reform

In a rare exercise, the Delhi high court has ordered the behavioural examination of a rapist and murderer on death row, to find out if he is capable of reform or a threat to society.

On Thursday, a bench of justices S Muralidhar and Mukta Gupta upheld the conviction of a 56-year-old man for the gruesome rape and murder of a 3-year-old girl, calling the crime a work of "exceptional depravity".

However, before deciding if Bharat Singh deserves to be hanged, the court said it would inquire into his antecedents, his conduct in jail and take feedback from his family/friends for a comprehensive view.

"Is there a probability that, in future, the accused would commit criminal acts of violence as would constitute a continuing threat to society? Is there a probability that the accused can be reformed and rehabilitated?" the bench said while roping in a probation officer of the Delhi government.

HC asked the officer to inquire from the jail administration and seek a report on the man's conduct in jail." He has also been directed to meet the convict's family and the locals even if that means travelling to his hometown.

"The officer will seek their inputs on the behavioural traits of the accused with a particular reference to the two issues highlighted. He shall consult and seek specific inputs from two professionals with not less than 10 years' experience in clinical psychology and sociology," said the court before deferring its decision on sentencing to July 11.

HC invoked the Supreme Court to explain why it wanted more evidence on Singh's criminal antecedents. "The SC has been emphasizing the need for the trial court, faced with the question on whether to award the death penalty, to be satisfied with the probability the accused would not commit criminal acts of violence and the probability that the accused can be rehabilitated," it noted. Additional public prosecutor Varun Goswami highlighted the depravity of the act.

(source: The Times of India)

APRIL 18, 2014:

NEW HAMPSHIRE:

State Senate upholds death penalty; 1 on death row

After months of emotional debate, New Hampshire's Senate on Thursday voted to leave intact the state's centuries-old death penalty.

Lawmakers voted 12-12 to repeal the death penalty, and the tie means capital punishment stays on the books.

But the Senate then voted to table the repeal bill, leaving open the possibility that it may be resurrected for another vote before the session ends.

"It didn't happen today. It could happen next week," said Renny Cushing, the bill's chief sponsor. Cushing is a Hampton Democrat whose father and brother-in-law were murdered.

"It was a tie vote not to kill the bill," said Cushing, who stood alongside Manchester police Chief David Mara in the Senate gallery as the vote was taken. The 2 men represent opposite sides of the issue. The only man on death row in New Hampshire is Michael Addison, convicted of killing Manchester police Officer Michael Briggs in 2006.

Mara and other Manchester officers have been passionate in speaking against repeal, saying they were echoing the sentiments of Briggs' widow and children.

Sen. Bob Odell, a Lempster Republican, said he had always supported the death penalty.

"But today, I'm going to vote for repeal," he said, saying he wouldn't know how he would explain an execution to his young grandchildren.

The House last month voted in favor of repeal 225-104 and Gov. Maggie Hassan said she would sign the measure into law as long as Addison's death sentence remained intact. The bill is crafted to affect only those crimes that occur after Jan. 1, 2014.

It was the closest a death penalty repeal measure has come since 2000, when both houses passed it but it was vetoed by then-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen.

The state's last execution was in 1939, when Howard Long was hanged for molesting and beating a 10-year-old boy to death.

"I thank the Legislature for their open, fair and compassionate consideration of this sensitive issue," Hassan said after the vote. "I know that each senator listened to all viewpoints and made a difficult decision, and I appreciate the respect they showed for New Hampshire's democratic process."

Before the vote, a number of senators spoke of their respect for their colleagues and the difficult decision they faced, saying it was a vote of conscience. The debate was civil, the mood of the chamber somber.

Had repeal passed, New Hampshire would have become the 7th state in 7 years to abolish capital punishment.

Richard Dieter, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center, testified earlier this month that 4 states have recently repealed measures that left convicts on death row. In Illinois, the governor commuted death sentences to life in prison without possibility of parole. 3 states that repealed the death penalty still have convicts on death row, including Connecticut, Maryland and New Mexico.

Several factors drove the latest repeal effort in New Hampshire, from the marked decline in death sentences and executions nationwide to the cost and perceived racial bias in the Addison case. (Addison is black and got the death penalty; a white defendant who faced the same punishment in a different homicide the same year got life in prison.) Executions have gone from an average of 300 a year in the late 1990s to 39 in 2013.

The voices of those who supported repeal outnumbered death penalty supporters by about 5-to-1 during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing earlier this month and included the parents and children of murder victims. Some new faces supported repeal, including former Chief Justice John Broderick and former Attorney General Philip McLaughlin.

Representatives of 4 police agencies testified against repeal, calling the death penalty a "strategic tool" to deal with the worst of criminals.

(source: Associated Press)

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NH Death Penalty Remains; After an emotional debate, the NH Senate votes 12-12 on the repeal bill.

The death penalty remains in New Hampshire.

A bill to repeal the state law passed the New Hampshire House of Representatives but failed, on a 12-12 vote, to pass the state Senate on April 17.

For supporters of abolishing the statute, 2014 seemed like the year after a strong 225-104 vote in the House.

Yet, as Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley said ahead of the Senate consideration of the vote, the chamber had mixed feelings about the bill. The language of the bill was such that it looked forward, meaning that it would mean nothing to Michael K. Addison, the man convicted of killing Manchester Police Officer Michael Briggs in 2006.

The bill to repeal the death penalty was later tabled.

Gov. Maggie Hassan issued this statement following the Senate deliberation:

"I thank the Legislature for their open, fair and compassionate consideration of this sensitive issue. I know that each Senator listened to all viewpoints and made a difficult decision, and I appreciate the respect they showed for New Hampshire's democratic process."

(source: Merrimack Patch)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Judge: Convicted killer on death row incompetent

A judge has ruled that a man sentenced to death in the murder of a south-central Pennsylvania woman more than 3 decades ago is incapacitated and incompetent.

Judge John Tylwalk's ruling came at the end of a competency hearing Thursday for 56-year-old Freeman May, the Lebanon Daily News (http://bit.ly/1eH2Jcd ) reported. May was convicted of the 1982 stabbing death of Kathy Lynn Fair, 22, whose remains were found 6 years later in woods in Lebanon County.

Forensic psychologist William Russell testified that May suffered from a delusional disorder in which a person "develops a fixed belief that something happened ... despite solid evidence to the contrary."

May has "a very fixed belief that within his letters is evidence of his innocence," Russell said, adding that the letters May sent from prison to lawyers and the judge have "a religious overtone." When questioned about his "evidence," May responded, "It's the Lord's will that this should be," the psychologist said.

Russell said May suffers from "bad genetics, a horribly abusive childhood (including physical and sexual abuse) and substance abuse." He said May can understand what is going on around him but "has an inability to let go of the delusion."

District Attorney David Arnold said an issue that arose following May's third penalty phase hearing could result in another appeal of his death sentence: May was shackled during the proceedings, which courts have ruled could prejudice a jury.

"I believe he should have been executed years ago," Arnold said. "I've seen what's happened with Mr. May over several years. I have nothing to dispute with Mr. Russell. If you're not competent, you can't be put to death."

May was convicted of killing Fair and sentenced to death in 1991. The sentence was reversed but reinstated after a second penalty phase hearing in 1995. An appeals court again vacated the death sentence but it was reinstated by a jury in 2008 following a third penalty phase hearing.

"I believe Mr. May is unable to properly analyze his options," Tylwalk said Thursday. Such options include acceptance of a life sentence, a possible fourth penalty phase trial or death by lethal injection.

(source: Associated Press)

MARYLAND:

In Maryland governor's race, Brown highlights difference with Gansler over death penalty

Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown on Thursday knocked Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, a Democratic rival for governor, for his past support of the death penalty during an appearance before a NAACP-sponsored candidates forum in Baltimore.

Brown told the audience that he had "stood with" Benjamin T. Jealous, the then-president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, when he came to Maryland last year to testify in favor of legislation repealing capital punishment.

"I stood with the NAACP and Ben Jealous when we repealed the death penalty in Maryland," Brown said. "The attorney general supports the death penalty. ... The attorney general says it's a wonderful tool."

Brown, who would be Maryland's 1st African-American governor if elected, cited "racial bias in the system" as one reason capital punishment needed to be repealed.

Brown, Gansler and Del. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Montgomery), a third candidate for governor, appeared separately at Thursday night's forum, sponsored by the Baltimore branch of the NAACP.

Gansler had been on record for years as a supporter of the death penalty prior to the passage last year of legislation repealing it, which was sponsored by Gov. Martin O'-Malley (D).

When asked about his position at Thursday night's forum, Gansler said: "My position is where everybody's position is: We don't have it. We used to have it. The General Assembly overturned it, and the people of Maryland have said they don't want it. So, that's my position on the death penalty."

Gansler also noted that while the death penalty was on the books during his tenure as state's attorney in Montgomery County, he never sought it.

During a radio interview last year, as lawmakers were debating O'Malley's repeal legislation, Gansler reaffirmed his support for capital punishment under certain conditions.

"I think there are certain criminals who commit certain crimes, that they forfeit their right to live on the planet," he told host Kojo Nnamdi on "The Politics Hour" on WAMU 88.5 FM. Gansler added that it was crucial that "we know for sure beyond any reasonable doubt that they are, in fact, the people that committed the crime."

During the same interview, Gansler said that the death penalty was "a wonderful tool" for prosecutors because it could give them leverage to secure plea deals of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

(source: Washington Post)

NORTH CAROLINA:

If NC killer goes free, it would be a travesty of justice

Bobby Bowden is hoping for one more free pass. The last one saved his life. The next one could set him free to enjoy that life.

If he gets it, it will be a travesty of what most of us consider justice.

Bowden and an accomplice held up a 7-Eleven on McArthur Road in August 1975. They shot and killed the convenience store manager, Larry Lovette, and customer Norma Ehrhart. They were quickly caught, tried and convicted. Bowden was sentenced to death.

The next year, he got his first lucky break. The U.S. Supreme Court said state death-penalty procedures in effect at the time he was sentenced were unconstitutional. He was re-sentenced to life in prison.

Today, life in prison on a 1st-degree murder charge means you spend all your remaining days locked up. But North Carolina law was not without some quirks back then (or now, for that matter). Life in prison then was defined as 80 years. Another law on the books at that time cut prison sentences in half. And inmates were all eligible for further sentence reductions for good conduct.

Under those now-defunct rules, his sentence should expire late next year. Good behavior, Bowden said, made him eligible for release in 2009.

The prison system nearly did set him free, until then-Gov. Bev Perdue intervened and canceled his release.

Bowden, who is 65, went before the state Supreme Court this week and his lawyer argued that in light of the laws that were in effect at the time of his sentencing, he should be released immediately. "When the Department of Corrections determined his sentence expired on Oct. 14, 2009, and that he would be released on Oct. 29, 2009," lawyer Katherine Jane Allen said, "DOC crossed the Rubicon. They reached a point of no return. The credits cannot be revoked and release cannot be halted without running afoul of the constitution."

The court is likely to consider the case for a few months before ruling. And given the ludicrous set of laws in effect in the 1970s, we wouldn't be a bit surprised if Bowden goes free.

That's a mockery of what justice should be when a man murders 2 innocent people during an armed robbery. And it is repugnant to the community and to the families of Larry Lovette and Norma Ehrhart.

We hope the Supreme Court finds a way to uphold common sense instead of a sorry mistake lawmakers made 40 years ago.

(source: Editorial, Fayetteville Observer)

GEORGIA:

'Extraordinary Amount of Evidence' in Store Clerk's Killing----Indian American convenience store clerk Dahyabhai Kalidas Chaudhari was murdered Mar. 9 in Dalton, Ga.

Skyy Raven Marie Mims, a 21-year-old aspiring model from Detroit, may face the death penalty in the case of the murder of a Dalton, Ga., store clerk from India.

Mims is accused of stabbing 37-year-old Dahyabhai Kalidas Chaudhari, a clerk at Kanku's Express on Airport Road in the small northwest Georgia town, Mar. 9 (I-W, April 4). Mims then allegedly left the store with cash and around $90 in lottery tickets, leaving Chaudhari to die. A customer called 911 after finding the man on the floor, according to the store's owner.

Mims' friends and relatives are certain that she is being framed for the crime, and are reaching out to the public on Facebook and other social media.

A woman calling herself Mims' cousin, Candace Patterson, has also launched an Internet campaign to prove that Mims is not the killer. In a lengthy post on an online petition site (http://ow.ly/vzsKN), Patterson makes several arguments about the timing of the crime versus Mims' appearance on surveillance video, and asks why Chaudhari was found with his eyes and mouth taped shut - a condition that suggests he was killed by someone he knew.

"The victim had his mouth and eyes taped and had been stabbed several times. This type of violence indicates a psychological connection and/or extreme hatred. This type of violence is normally associated with people in personal relationships. Skyy Mims did not personally know the store clerk," said Patterson.

"I can assure you: we have not just picked up Miss Mims," Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Greg Ramey told India-West by phone April 8. "There is an extraordinary amount of evidence that ties her to this crime. It will be very damning."

In response to a question about Patterson's online petition, Ramey said, "I read a lot of social media about it, too, and you can't believe all that crap. That lady [Patterson] is riding on half-truths and what others have said. You have to be very, very careful about what you believe."

The Dalton Daily Citizen newspaper reported that Assistant Public Defender Brandon Sparks was representing Mims, but if it becomes a death penalty case his office would not have the resources to continue handling it, and other lawyers would have to be hired to represent Mims.

District Attorney Bert Poston told the paper he is still reviewing the facts of the case and has not yet decided whether to pursue the death penalty.

Ramey says that despite her family and friends' claims, they haven't seen all the evidence his office has - and declining to go into details about an ongoing investigation, he said the evidence against Mims is overwhelming.

"At an appropriate time, we'll submit our files to the District Attorney, and we will provide our files to the attorney representing [Mims]," Ramey told India-West.

(source: India-West News)

FLORIDA:

New Smyrna drug dealer found guilty of murder

Prosecutors said drug dealer James Desmond Booth killed a police informant who was going to testify against him because Booth was worried he would face more time in prison.

But the New Smyrna Beach man could now face the death penalty following Thursday's guilty verdict on a charge of 1st-degree premeditated murder in the death of Debra Gibson.

After 75 minutes of deliberations at the Volusia County Courthouse, the jury also found Booth guilty of witness tampering, a 1st-degree felony that could earn him up to 30 years in prison.

Jurors will decide Monday, when the penalty phase begins, whether to recommend Booth get the death penalty or a life sentence without parole. Circuit Judge Randell H. Rowe III ultimately will decide if Booth should be put to death for his crimes.

Booth testified Wednesday he was drinking and dealing drugs out the back door of the Surf Lounge when the 46-year-old Edgewater woman was shot and killed Jan. 25, 2011.

Assistant State Attorney Ed Davis, who prosecuted the case with J. Ryan Will, said Booth had New Smyrna Beach prostitute Jessica Hickson lure Gibson to Hickson's house for a drug trade.

When Gibson walked out of Hickson's house, Booth shot the police informant once in the back of the head, once in the back of the neck, once in the face and a grazing shot to one of Gibson's arms, Davis said.

Hickson, 33, who also bought drugs from Booth, confessed to prosecutors that she had initially lied about who was responsible because she "had seen what happened to someone who talks to the police."

Booth's former girlfriend, Magean Ward, who had fled to Boston to try to avoid testifying against Booth, said she thought her former boyfriend may have killed more than 1 person when she heard multiple gunshots as she sat in the getaway car.

Ward, 31, told the prosecutors when she and Booth arrived at the Surf Lounge on New Smyrna Beach's North Causeway after the killing that Booth confessed to shooting Gibson in the head to make sure she was dead.

With 7 prior felony convictions under his belt, Booth testified he would miss the first years of his son's life, like he had his daughter's, if he went back to prison.

During his testimony Wednesday, Booth said an investigator had tried to show him a picture of Gibson's body, but he refused to look, claiming that even paper cuts make him queasy.

Booth also testified his former girlfriend was lying because she was upset with him for seeing another woman, whom he got pregnant, at the same time he was still in a relationship with Ward.

(source: Pensacola News-Journal)

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

Convicted killer who gunned down woman faces death-penalty hearing; James Desmond Booth fatally shot confidential informant Debra Gibson on Jan. 25, 2011.

A Volusia County jury next week will begin death-penalty deliberations in the case of a 30-year-old man convicted of fatally shooting a New Smyrna Beach woman 3 years ago.

James Desmond Booth was convicted Thursday of murder in the shooting death of a confidential informant, Debra Gibson, on Jan. 25, 2011.

Booth gunned down Gibson after he was arrested for drug trafficking, suspecting she gave information to authorities before his arrest, records show.

He plotted to kill her to prevent her from testifying in his drug case, officials say.

"He asked Jessica Hickson to set up a drug sale with Gibson while he hid in the bushes. When Gibson left Hickson's house, he shot her on the sidewalk 4 times," Klare Ly, a spokeswoman for the State Attorney's Office said in a statement.

He shot her in the face and in the back.

A jury deliberated for 75 minutes on Thursday before finding him guilty of 1st-degree murder and tampering with a witness.

The prosecutors were Ryan Will and Ed Davis, both assistant state attorneys. The 1st phase of the death-penalty sentencing hearing is set to begin at 9 a.m. Monday before Circuit Judge Randell H. Rowe, III.

After a jury makes a recommendation for either life in prison or the death sentence for Booth, a judge will hand down the final decision.

(source: Orlando Sentinel)

OHIO----impending execution

Arthur Tyler, slated to die May 28 in controversial capital case, asks Ohio for mercy; Arthur Tyler has been on Ohio's death row for 3 decades.

Arthur Tyler, who has been on Ohio's death row 3 decades for the murder of a produce vendor during a robbery in Cleveland, has asked the Ohio Parole Board to commute his sentence to life in prison with a chance of parole.

The parole board will hold a clemency hearing April 24 to hear Tyler's pleas. The board will make a recommendation to Gov. John Kasich, who will ultimately decide Tyler's fate.

He is scheduled to be executed May 28.

Tyler's case has been controversial because he was 1 of 2 people convicted in the killing of Sanders Leach, but the only one sentenced to die. And there are questions as to who actually pulled the trigger.

Tyler's co-defendant, Leroy Head, confessed almost immediately. Head admitted to police, family and friends that he shot Leach in a struggle for the gun during the March 1983 robbery attempt, according to court records.

He signed a confession, but later changed his story, telling prosecutors that Tyler fired the gun.

Tyler was convicted of aggravated murder and aggravated robbery and sentenced to die. Head pleaded guilty to the same charges and was sentenced to prison. He was released in 2008.

Tyler's lawyers, in a brief filed with the parole board, said Tyler recognizes he shares responsibility for Leach's death. But they urge clemency be granted, commuting his death sentence to life imprisonment with parole eligibility.

"Ideally, Arthur Tyler should be granted parole and released from prison for time served, they wrote. "As we will demonstrate, Arthur Tyler did not shoot Mr. Leach. Head falsely testified against Mr. Tyler in order to save himself from the death penalty."

(source: Cleveland.com)

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

Castile ruled competent; Accused of fatally stabbing 11-week-old baby

A Sandusky man accused of fatally stabbing his cousin's infant in May is competent to stand trial.

Denzel Castile, 20, made an appearance in an Erie County courtroom Wednesday morning for the 1st time since he was admitted to the Northwest Ohio Psychiatric Hospital last spring.

Castile allegedly stabbed his cousin's 11-week-old child, Athena Castile, in a relative's Dewey Street home May 16. After a brief tussle with relatives, then with police, Castile was arrested.

He was charged with aggravated murder, felonious assault and assault on a police officer, and a grand jury later indicted him on a charge of aggravated murder. And, given Athena's age, he now faces the possibility of the death penalty.

Relatives later told police Castile displayed a noticeable change in mental status following his 1st year at the University of Toledo. Athena's death came shortly after Castile returned home for summer vacation.

Castile pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity last summer. In October, Dr. Lucia Hinojosa conducted a psychological evaluation on Castile and determined he did not fully understand his legal charges, nor could he assist in his own defense. Castile has remained in the care of the hospital ever since.

At Wednesday's hearing, however, Hinojosa issued a new opinion after further evaluation.

Castile is now competent to aid his attorneys, Jeff Whitacre and Peter Rost, in his defense, Hinojosa stated in a report that Erie County Common Pleas Court Judge Tygh Tone read at the hearing.

One more key evaluation is necessary before the court proceeds with Castile's case.

Because Castile entered a plea of "not guilty by reason of insanity," doctors must now determine if he was legally insane when he allegedly stabbed Athena, Erie County prosecutor Kevin Baxter said.

If they decide he was indeed legally insane at the time, Baxter said he'll likely ask for a 2nd opinion in the interest of being thorough.

At that point, Castile's legal proceedings will move forward, with the doctors' opinions included as evidence, Baxter said.

In the meantime, Castile will continue his stay at the Toledo psychiatric hospital.

At Wednesday's hearing, more than 1/2 the seats in the courtroom were filled by family of Castile and Athena. Some shed tears, while others could be heard saying "We love you Denzel" as he walked into the courtroom.

(source: Sandusky Register)

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

Division over death penalty; Ohio justice says he's not surprised

Divisions were to be expected on a panel that spent more than 2 years studying capital punishment in the state, the chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court said as the group wraps up its work.

The panel convened in 2011 by Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor finalized its recommendations last week and now awaits a dissenting report from prosecutors on the committee who disagreed with some proposals.

"There was going to be some really divisive topics and going to be diametrically opposed positions," O'Connor told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "I'm not surprised. And I think it's healthy."

Recommendations include reducing the number of crimes eligible for the death penalty and creating a statewide board that would have the final say over death penalty charges in the state. Defense attorneys, judges, prosecutors and capital punishment experts sat on the committee.

Many recommendations focused on reducing the role that race plays in capital punishment. Data show in Ohio and other states the killers of white victims are more likely to receive a death sentence than those who kill blacks.

O'Connor, a Republican and former county prosecutor, has said the goal of the committee was a fair, impartial and balanced review of the state's 3-decade-old death penalty law. She made it clear from the start abolishing capital punishment was not on the table.

Implementing the panel's 56 recommendations would reserve the death penalty for the worst of the worst criminals as lawmakers envisioned when they enacted the 1981 law, according to supporters of the proposals.

Prosecutors said the recommendations would make it virtually impossible to sentence anyone to death in Ohio.

Many of the proposals would require lawmakers' support, while others could be approved as Supreme Court rules. O'Connor said she hopes lawmakers take a comprehensive approach to any recommendations they consider.

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

Ohio man given death sentence for 1983 slaying seeks mercy, says co-defendant was shooter

A man sentenced to death for a Cleveland produce vendor's 1983 slaying should be granted mercy partly because a second defendant repeatedly admitted being the shooter, defense attorneys argued in a clemency application Thursday.

Attorneys for Arthur Tyler also alleged that a jury was coerced into issuing a death sentence and that a prosecutor and some of Tyler's defense attorneys at trial had a conflict of interest.

"The unfairness in the proceedings has plagued this case for decades," the defense request to the state parole board says.

A spokesman for the Cuyahoga County prosecutor's office said the prosecutor had no comment Thursday but the office plans to file a statement next week with the board. The board makes a recommendation to the governor, who has the final say on whether to grant clemency.

Tyler, 54, is scheduled to be put to death May 28.

His attorneys contend in the clemency application that a 2nd man imprisoned in the case was responsible for the shooting and confessed to multiple people but falsely testified against Tyler in court.

Prosecutors blocked efforts to have the co-defendant present the true version of events under oath before a judge, the defense said. And the man was released from prison nearly six years ago, according to the clemency application.

Tyler's attorneys are arguing in a separate lawsuit that he has health problems that put him at risk of suffering during lethal injection. Tyler has a history of heart problems and diabetes and risk factors including high blood pressure, breathing difficulties and being overweight, according to the complaint filed in federal court in Columbus earlier this month.

The complaint argues that lethal injection drugs would amount to cruel and unusual punishment. The drugs are the only execution method under Ohio law.

(source for both: Associated Press)

TENNESSEE:

Measure allowing use of electric chair for executions headed to governor

Tennessee could electrocute death row inmates if lethal injection drugs are unavailable under legislation that's headed for Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's desk.

The Senate voted 25-3 on Thursday to agree to changes to the legislation made by the House, which approved the measure 68-13 the day before.

The legislation keeps lethal injection as the preferred method for executions, but allows the electric chair if the state were unable to obtain the necessary drugs or if lethal injections were found unconstitutional.

And electrocutions would be allowed regardless of when the crime was committed.

Under Tennessee law, death row inmates could choose to be electrocuted if their crimes were committed before 1999, when lethal injection became the preferred method.

There are 76 inmates on Tennessee's death row, including 1 woman.

(source: Associated Press)

ILLINOIS:

Darrow was 'attorney for the damned'

Clarence Seward Darrow once quipped, "I have suffered from being misunderstood, but I would have suffered a hell of a lot more if I had been understood."

For instance, in 1902, the warden of Cook County Jail in Chicago invited Darrow to address the inmates under his charge. His remarks reflected the iconoclastic views that made him one of America's most notable, and notorious, attorneys.

"I do not believe," he began, "there is any sort of distinction between the real moral conditions of the people in and out of jail. One is just as good as the other."

Acorn fell not far from the tree

Darrow was born on April 18, 1857, on his family's farm in Kinsman, Ohio. His father was an arch-abolitionist and outspoken religious free thinker who was called the "village infidel." His mother was active in support of women's suffrage and rights.

He attended but did not graduate from the University of Michigan Law School, and passed the Ohio bar in when he was 21.

Darrow worked in Democratic politics and as a Chicago city attorney, after which Illinois Gov. John Altgeld got him a job as corporate lawyer for the Chicago & Northwestern Railway Co.

For the defense

In 1894, Darrow abruptly quit the railroad and defended Eugene V. Debs, who was head of the American Railway Union and leader of the strike against the Pullman Co. The strike ended after 30 people were killed in riots. Though Darrow won a partial victory, Debs went to jail.

That year, he also defended Patrick Prendergast, the accused killer of Chicago Mayor Carter Harrison Sr. He lost, and Prendergast was hanged. He was the only one of Darrow's clients to be executed.

In 1911, Darrow represented the McNamara brothers, who bombed the Los Angeles Times building, killing 21 people, during a union fight against the newspaper. The brothers went to jail, and Darrow was charged with attempting to bribe jurors. He was acquitted of 1 charge and received a hung jury in the other. In exchange for avoiding another trial, Darrow agreed not to practice law in California.

Attorney for the damned

When his 1st murder case ended with his client's execution, Darrow became an ardent opponent of the death penalty, and gravitated to some of America's most heinous and controversial cases.

His most famous murder trial was his defense of the "thrill killers," Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, who he successfully kept from execution.

Because of H.L. Mencken's coverage, Darrow's defense of Tennessee high school teacher John T. Scopes against charges of violating the Butler Act, which forbade teaching the theory of human evolution, is considered his most memorable. Darrow came out of retirement to face William Jennings Bryan in 1925. He lost; Scopes was fined $100.

'More poet than lawyer'

Darrow was more interested in people than justice, writing:

"I was dealing with life, with its fears, its aspirations and despairs. With me it was going to the foundation of motive and conduct and adjustments for human beings, instead of blindly talking hatred and vengeance and that subtle, indefinable quality that men call 'justice' and of which nothing really is known."

(source: The Tennessean)

MISSOURI:

Missouri bishops urge opposition to death penalty

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The state of Missouri has executed 5 individuals in the last 5 months. This represents a dramatic escalation of executions taking place in our state.

As Catholic Bishops we have consistently opposed the use of the death penalty. This ultimate penalty promotes a culture of death and undermines respect for human life, the dignity of the human person, the conditions for the common good, and definitively removes from the offender the possibility of redeeming himself (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2267).

At the same time we reiterate and affirm our support for, and solidarity with, the families and loved ones of murder victims. As we bear witness to the Gospel message of Christ, we call for a new response to violence that upholds the sacredness of all human life.

The canonization of John Paul II on April 27th, Divine Mercy Sunday, provides an opportunity for reflection on the death penalty and the need to take action to oppose it. Saint John Paul II, himself a victim of a serious shooting, was an outspoken opponent of the death penalty. In his historic visit to St. Louis in 1999, he called for "a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary."

We urge you to let your lawmakers know of your opposition to the death penalty and to ask them to find other ways to impose punishment on offenders that does not resort to taking another's life and add to the use of violence as a solution to society's problems.

We invite you to be a visible witness against executions by participating in local vigils and prayer services. Follow the lead of Saint John Paul II by asking the governor to show mercy and spare the lives of those on death row. Contact the Missouri Catholic Conference, the public policy agency of the bishops of Missouri, for assistance in getting involved in these actions.

In this holy season of the year, let us acknowledge the sacredness of all human life and work to end the executions in our state.

(source: The Catholic Key)

OKLAHOMA----impending executions

Oklahoma Justices Send Execution Case To Lower Court

Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner have sued the state seeking more information about the drugs that would be used to kill them.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court says it is not the place for death-row inmates to go if they want a stay of execution.

Justices said Thursday that the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals should take up stay requests from 2 inmates scheduled to die in the next 2 weeks. The appeals court had said previously it didn't have the authority because the inmates hadn't met all technical requirements under the law.

Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner have sued the state seeking more information about the drugs that would be used to kill them. They say they need stays of execution so they can continue their challenge.

The justices wrote that the Court of Criminal Appeals erred in not taking up the request.

Death penalty abolitionists and others who seek to end the death penalty will protest the executions of two death-row inmates on the days of their executions.

The Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty will host "Don't Kill for Me" demonstrations at the governor's mansion followed by silent vigils on Tuesday for death-row inmate Clayton Lockett and on April 29 for Charles Warner.

The inmates have been in a legal battle with the state over the secrecy surrounding which drugs are used in executions and their origins. The executions are still scheduled to take place, despite pending litigation in the case.

Lockett was found guilty of the 1999 shooting death of a 19-year-old woman, Stephanie Nieman. Warner was convicted for the 1997 death of his roommate's 11-month-old daughter.

(source: Associated Press)

NEBRASKA:

Nikko Jenkins: Parolee Guilty Of Killing 4, Said Demons Made Him Do It

Nikko Jenkins has been found guilty of killing 4 people after a trial in which he spoke in tongues and laughed as prosecutors recounted details of the slayings.

The Omaha man had originally pleaded guilty to the 4 seemingly random murders, but withdrew his plea after disagreeing with prosecutors' account of the killings. He then pleaded no contest, and a judge found him guilty this week.

Jenkins' murder spree took place after he was released from prison, where guards noted that he was incredibly violent and had homicidal tendencies.

In the trial that ended this week, he was found guilty of the August killings of Jorge Cajiga-Ruiz and Juan Uribe-Pena, who had been lured to a park on the pretense of having sex with 2 of Jenkins' female relatives. Both men were shot in the head.

Nikko Jenkins was also found guilty of killing a man described as his "little homie," Curtis Bradford. Jenkins lured him with the promise of a robbery, and then had his sister shoot the man. Jenkins then told her she didn't do it right and executed Jenkins himself.

The 4th murder victim was Andrea Kruger, a mother of 3 who was driving home from her job to tend to her sick child. Nikko Jenkins was with 3 relatives looking for an SUV to steal so they could rob people at a Lil Wayne concert, and pulled in front of her car.

Jenkins pulled the woman out of the driver's side and then shot her in the head, neck, and back.

But Nikko Jenkins argued with the assertion that she was killed during a robbery, arguing during the trial that he had pulled off several car jackings without hurting anyone. He said he would never kill unless his demon god, Ahpophis, commanded him to.

"Kill them, destroy them, attack them," he said during the trial. "I was alone. And weapons. And the demons and Ahpophis and Lucifer.

"They were attempting to kill me. So I killed them under orders of Ahpophis."

Nikko Jenkins will now move on to a death penalty hearing, which is likely to take place this summer.

(source: The Inquisitr)

ARIZONA:

Wife Breaks Down And Apologizes For Killing Husband With Hammer

The Arizona woman convicted of bludgeoning her husband to death with a hammer is making a tearful plea for mercy to the jury deciding whether she should live or die for the crime.

Marissa Devault broke down in tears and repeatedly lost her composure Thursday as she spoke to the jury in the penalty phase of her murder trial. She apologized to family members for the pain and suffering she has caused, and said several times that she is sorry.

Devault was convicted last week of 1st-degree murder for killing Dale Harrell, who suffered multiple skull fractures in the January 2009 attack in the couple's home in the Phoenix suburb of Gilbert.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

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

Prosecutors Win Appeal in 1989 Son Killing Case

A retired detective who refused to take the stand again, asserting his right against self-incrimination, will be forced to testify at the retrial of an Arizona mother charged with having her son killed in 1989, the state Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.

"As citizens, each of us has a duty to testify in criminal proceedings in our courts when called upon to provide relevant information," the 3-judge panel wrote in its decision overturning a lower court judge's ruling that allowed the former officer to assert his Fifth Amendment right.

The ruling is a major victory for prosecutors who insist Debra Milke is guilty and are planning a 2015 retrial.

Authorities say Milke had 2 men shoot her 4-year-old son in the desert outside Phoenix. She was found guilty in 1990 and spent more than 2 decades on death row before a federal appeals court last year overturned her 1st-degree murder conviction. Milke has since been released on bond.

The original case against Milke rested largely on her purported confession, which now-retired Phoenix police Detective Armando Saldate did not record. That left jurors with his word alone that she told him about her involvement. Milke has maintained her innocence and denied she ever confessed.

In its ruling overturning Milke's conviction, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals cited the prosecution's failure to reveal evidence that could have called Saldate's credibility into question.

The court cited numerous instances in which he committed misconduct in previous cases, including lying under oath and violating suspects' rights - details that were not provided to Milke's defense lawyers during her trial. The federal appeals court also asked the Justice Department to investigate whether Saldate had committed civil rights violations.

Saldate, who has not returned repeated telephone calls from The Associated Press, claims that he fears potential federal charges if he testifies again based on the appeals court accusations of misconduct.

In December, Superior Court Judge Rosa Mroz granted Saldate's request to assert his Fifth Amendment right, allowing him to refuse to take the stand at Milke's retrial.

Prosecutors, however, argued before the state Court of Appeals last week that Saldate did not have the right to assert the Fifth Amendment because he has no reasonable fear of prosecution after both county and federal authorities informed him that they don't intend to seek charges based on any of the accusations leveled by the federal appeals court.

Saldate's attorney countered that authorities had offered no guarantees that he wouldn't face charges in the future based on his testimony at the retrial.

"Based on a review of the record before us, Saldate has not shown a real and appreciable risk of prosecution for such claims," the state Court of Appeals wrote in ordering that he may be compelled to testify against his will.

The ruling was crucial to the state's case against Milke because Judge Mroz had previously said that if Saldate didn't testify again, the purported confession likely couldn't be used at her retrial.

Saldate's attorney, Treasure Van Dreumel, didn't return a telephone message seeking comment on Thursday. Milke's attorneys also did not respond to a request for comment. Prosecutors declined to discuss the ruling.

However, on Wednesday, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said that if the court ruled in the state's favor, he expected Saldate's attorney to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Milke's defense lawyers are still seeking dismissal of the entire case against her, noting in a previous motion that "the only direct evidence linking defendant to the crimes is the defendant's alleged confession to Saldate."

Milke, whose mother was a German who married a U.S. Air Force military policeman in Berlin in the 1960s, has drawn strong support from citizens of that nation and Switzerland, neither of which has the death penalty.

The 2 men convicted in the child's death did not testify against Milke and remain on death row.

(source for both: Associated Press)

CALIFORNIA:

Prosecutors seek death penalty in killing of 8-year-old girl

The Alameda County District Attorney's Office said Thursday that it will seek the death penalty for the man accused of fatally shooting an 8-year-old girl during a sleepover at an East Oakland home last July.

Prosecutor John Brouhard made the announcement at a brief hearing for 23-year-old Darnell Williams in Alameda County Superior Court today.

Williams' case marks the 1st time in many years that the Alameda County District Attorney's Office is seeking the death penalty.

Brouhard declined to say why his office is seeking the death penalty for Williams.

The last time the office sought the death penalty was for David Mills, who was convicted of murdering 3 people in a shooting in 2005 and killing a 4th person in a separate case in 1997.

Mills was convicted and sentenced to the death penalty in 2012.

Williams is accused of firing multiple shots into an apartment in the 3400 block of Wilson Street at about 11:15 p.m. last July 17, killing 8-year-old Alaysha Carradine and wounding 2 other children and a 63-year-old woman.

Prosecutors allege that the shooting was in retaliation for the shooting death of 26-year-old Jermaine Davis in the 1800 block of Derby Street in Berkeley about 4 hours earlier.

Davis was a close friend of Williams, according to Oakland police.

Antiowne York, 25, of Pittsburg, has been charged with murder for Davis' death.

In addition to the murder charge for Alaysha's death, Williams is also accused of murdering 22-year-old Anthony Medearis in the 1400 block of Eighth Street in Berkeley in an unrelated shooting at about 5:45 p.m. on Sept. 8, about seven weeks after Alaysha was killed.

Williams is also charged with three counts of attempted murder in connection with the shooting in which Alaysha was killed and the other three people were wounded.

In addition, he faces three special circumstance allegations: committing multiple murders, lying in wait in the shooting that claimed Alaysha's life and murdering Medearis during the course of an attempted robbery.

(source: KTVU news)

WASHINGTON:

Inslee denies co-victims closure

Another Crime Victim's week has come and gone, and this is where we are. Violent crime victims are co-victims. We have grief, pain and suffering; many different degrees and length of time. Much depends on severity of the crime to their loved ones. The victim's death produces co-victims who never had the time to say goodbye, to say I love you, to say I am proud of you. This stays with each co-victim to different degrees. Many people cannot and do not understand.

The justice system can help bring some closure. This brings me to our state of Washington, which now has shut off the executions of the murderers. This is closure for many of the co-victims. The justice system already made a decision for execution, however, someone who is not a judge, not on a jury, not on an appeals court decided that co-victims are to be sentenced to additional grief, pain and suffering. How easy it was to dismiss the co-victims. Any closure that would be received is now denied in the state of Washington.

I have heard the stories first-hand. I have seen the tears. I have heard the tremble in the voice.

These co-victims have experienced years of trials, waiting for the verdict, appeals over years and some decades just to have justice for the senseless and cruel murder of their loved one. I believe it is not finished until the execution.

I can give Gov. Jay Inslee more insight to what I have seen, heard and lived.

Ken Paulson----Tacoma

(source: Letter to the Editor, The Herald)

USA:

Judge rejects most of defense's requests

A federal judge yesterday denied most of the defense team's discovery motions in the death penalty case against Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev but said he will consider allowing them to see statements made to the FBI by his older brother's now-deceased friend.

U.S. District Court Judge George A. O'Toole Jr. said the court would analyze statements Ibragim Todashev - a friend of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's dead brother Tamerlan - made to the FBI before he was killed by an agent last May to determine "what will be produced to the defendant and ... what the government seeks to withhold from production."

Tsarnaev's attorneys asked for a laundry list of evidence in two filings March 28. David Bruck, a death penalty expert on Tsarnaev's team, asked for memorandums stemming from FBI interviews with his client's family members, information on the Tsarnaev family's "alien files" and any evidence that showed the FBI reached out to Tamerlan Tsarnaev and asked him to be an informant.

Attorney Timothy G. Watkins made further requests in a separate motion, including information from the murder investigation of MIT police officer Sean Collier.

O'Toole denied those requests but left open the possibility that FBI interviews with Todashev, who allegedly implicated himself and Tamerlan Tsarnaev in a Sept. 11, 2011, triple murder in Waltham, could be released.

In his discovery motion, Bruck said those interviews could paint Tamerlan Tsarnaev as an "all-powerful force" over his younger brother.

(source: Boston Herald)

INDONESIA:

Appeals court affirms death sentence for drug trafficker

The Court of Appeal yesterday affirmed the decision of the Miri High Court meted on a former court interpreter who was sentenced to death for a drug trafficking charge.

Datuk Mohamd Ariff Md Yusof, Datuk Rohana Yusuf and Datuk Dr Hamid Sultan Abu Backer, who unanimously made the decision on Mervyn Chan, 30, ruled that the findings of the Miri High Court were correct.

Among others, they said the prosecution witnesses were reliable and thus had no reason to disturb the verdict.

Chan was convicted by a Miri High Court judge who found him guilty of trafficking 460grammes of methamphetamine. He committed the offence at 1.05pm on Jan 29, 2010 when he was arrested at the Miri Pos Laju office to collect parcels which contained the drugs.

Chan went to the Court of Appeal with the aim of reversing the death sentence after being convicted under Section 39B(1)(a) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 which carries the mandatory death penalty.

He has another chance to appeal his case to the Federal Court. Chan was represented by counsels Janbir Singh and Orlando Chua while DPP Farah Exlin Yusof Khan prosecuted.

(source: The Borneo Post)

IRELAND:

60 years since Dublin's last hanging ---- Opinion: How long will we have to wait for US to abolish executions?

Sunday marks the 60th anniversary of a gruesome but important event in Irish history, namely the final occasion that an English hangman came to Dublin to work the gallows at Mountjoy prison.

The last man in Ireland to feel Albert Pierrepoint place a noose around his neck was Michael Manning, a 25-year-old carter from Limerick. Manning had ambushed and suffocated Catherine Cooper, a nurse 40 years his senior. This was a brutal crime involving a vulnerable victim who had been badly beaten and sexually assaulted.

By Manning's own account he was making his way home after a day's drinking when he saw a woman he did not recognise walking alone. As he put it afterwards, "I suddenly lost my head and jumped on the woman and remember no more until the lights of a car shone on me." Manning took flight at this point but was arrested within hours.

He apologised for what he had done and blamed his appalling conduct on the effects of the large quantity of alcohol he had consumed. He also argued that while guilty, he was insane. The jury was not persuaded and convicted him of murder. In accordance with the law the judge imposed the death penalty.

Manning wrote to the minister for justice from his prison cell seeking mercy but his entreaties were to no avail. Similarly, a petition for clemency signed by members of the Cooper family failed to deflect justice from its dismal course.

Adding to the poignancy of the occasion, Manning's 22-year-old wife was heavily pregnant with their 1st child. She wrote to the governor of the prison the week after her husband's execution to thank him and his staff for their kindness, and to request a death certificate so she could claim her widow's pension.

Hang house

It appears that Manning bore his sentence well, passing his time smoking cigarettes and reading the Irish Independent . On the morning of his execution he attended Mass. The prison’s Catholic chaplains reported that he faced death with "fortitude and resignation".

Just before 8am on April 20th, 1954, Pierrepoint and his assistant entered the condemned man's cell and pinioned his wrists. Together they made the short journey to the hang house. Upon arrival Manning was positioned on the heavy oak trap doors. His legs were strapped, a linen cap was pulled over his head and the rope, made of Italian hemp, was fixed in place.

The officials stood aside, the trap doors were thrown open, and Manning fell to his death. Pierrepoint prided himself on his skill calculating the drop required to break a prisoner's neck swiftly. This calculation related the length of the rope to the prisoner's weight and physical condition. Having carried out several hundred hangings Pierrepoint had unrivalled expertise in this area. For Manning, death was instantaneous.

(source: Irish Times)

IRAN----executions

3 Juvenile Offenders Executed in Southern Iran----4 prisoners were hanged in the prison of Bandar Abbas. 3 of the prisoners were juvenile offenders. Execution of a 5th prisoner was interrupted 2 minutes after he was hanged and postponed.

4 prisoners were hanged in the prison of Bandar Abbas (Southern Iran) yesterday April 17. According to the group "Human Rights and Democracy activists in Iran" (HRDAI) 5 prisoners were transferred to solitary confinement on Wednesday April 17, for implementation of their death sentences.

4 of the prisoners were executed on Thursday morning. These prisoners were identified as: Zargham Jahangiri (27) been 5 years in prison; and 3 Juvenile offenders: Ahmad Rahimi (21) been in the prison since he was 17 year old (Juvenile offender); Ali Fouladi (22) been in the prison since he was 16 year old and Ali Sharifi (29) been in the prison since he was 14 year old.

Execution of a 5th prisoner was interrupted 2 minutes after being hanged and his execution was postponed. He is identified as Falak Nazmoradi (60) been 18 years in the prison. He is reported to be in a serious condition at the prison hospital.

Iran Human Rights (IHR) has confirmed this information through 2 independent sources.

Despite ratification of the UN convention on the rights of the child which bans death penalty for offences committed at under 18 years of age, Iran stays as the biggest executioner of juvenile offenders in the world. In 2013 at least 8 juvenile offenders were executed in Iran.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

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

Kurdish political prisoner executed by Iranian authorities

Kurdish political prisoner Simko Xursidi has been executed in the prison of Kirmasan.

He had been arrested in 2010. Xursidi is one of tens of prisoners awaiting executions in Iranian prisons.

Meanwhile, Kurdish political prisoner Hebibulla Letifi is still threatened with death row at central prison in Sine (Sanandaj). 27 year old Hebibulla Letifi, engineering student at the University of Ilam has been in Sine prison since 2007 after being accused of aiding PJAK (Free Life Party of Kurdistan). A revolutionary court imposed the death sentence on Letifi on 12 August 2008 and on October 2009 he was put in solitary confinement.

Following pleas from the Kurdish people and civil society organizations, the death sentence imposed on Hebibulla Letifi was postponed, but according to his lawyer, Salih Nikbext, the death sentence could be implemented at any time; he called on the international human rights organizations to step up their campaign to halt the execution.

The Iranian authorities informed Letifi's lawyers on the 14th of December 2010 that he would be executed. The decision was announced when then Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in Istanbul attending an economic cooperation summit. KCK Executive Council Chair Murat Karayilan called on the Iranian authorities to halt the execution. After strong reactions from Kurds the death sentence was halted.

Now, after more than 6 1/2 years, despite promises of judicial authorities to abolish the death penalty, the Kurdish political prisoner remained under sentence of death in Sine Central Jail.

In the latest action by the international community against inhumane policies of Molla's regime, a few weeks ago, the European Parliament adopted a resolution against the Iranian government listed "In Iran still remains systematic violations of human rights and fundamental rights, and Iranian regime still refuse to cooperate with UN bodies on human rights and also Iran with denying entry visa to the United Nation Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, has prevented from performing his duties".

According to report from Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran: "The Iranian regime has executed more than 170 people in the first months of 2014".

According to a list compiled by ANF, at least 24 Kurdish political and civil activists are currently on death row in Iranian jails; Hebibulla Letifi, Sami Huseni, Cemal Mihemedi, Rustem Erkiya, Mistefa Selimi, Enwer Rostemi, Irec Mihemedi, Mihemed Emin Agusi, Ehmed Puladxani, Hesen Tale'i, Eziz Mihemedizade, Ebdulah Siruri, Resid Axkendi, Loqman Muradi, Zanyar Muradi, Bextiyar Mimari, Sirwan Nijwari, Hoseng Rezayi, Simko Xursidi, Mensur Arwend, Sirwan Nejad, Hebib Esrefi, Ali Esrefi, Ibrahim Isapur.

7 more Kurdish political prisoners are being held in Iranian prisons with an already issued death sentence. The names of these are; Behruz Alkani, Reza Molazadeh, Arman Pervizi, Muhammed Abdullahi, Sabir Mukled Muvaneh, Abdullah Sarvarian, Ali Ahmed Sileman.

(source: Firat News)

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

Iran killer's reprieve stokes campaign against executions

It is Wednesday, early in the morning. Balal is walking to the gallows to face execution in the city of Nour, in northern Iran.

It is before sunrise but hundreds of people have gathered near the prison to watch it.

His mother and sisters are crying hard, but blindfolded Balal cannot see them as he steps on the wooden stool.

Some in the crowd start shouting "forgive him, forgive him". They are asking the family of the victim to pardon him.

Balal stabbed Abdollah Hosseinzadeh to death 7 years ago in a street fight. He was 19 at the time, Abdollah was 17.

The guards put the rope around Balal's neck. Now he cries hard.

As the dramatic scenes - captured in photographs by onlookers - unfold, the mother of Abdollah goes towards Balal and slaps him in the face.

Then, in front of the surprised crowd, she takes the rope from around his neck. She has forgiven her son's killer, sparing his life. Now even the police officers start crying.

The mother says she had a dream that her deceased son had asked her not to take revenge.

According to Iran's sharia laws, murder and several other crimes are punishable by death. But the victim's family has the right to spare a convict's life in return for 'blood money'.

For months, many Iranian celebrities had taken part in a campaign to save Balal's life. They started collecting money to pay compensation to the relatives.

Adel Ferdosipour, a famous television sports presenter, raised the issue in his popular show just days before the execution.

He called on people to ask Abdollah Hosseinzadeh's parents to pardon Balal. One million people texted the show and supported the campaign.

Ghani Hosseinzadeh, Abdollah's father, used to be a football player and many Iranian footballers called him in person.

He and his wife finally agreed to forgive Balal. They said they would build a football school under their son's name using the compensation collected.

But not all the people on death row in Iran have been as lucky as Balal.

Behnoud Shojaee was executed in Evin prison in 2009 when he was 21, although many Iranian actresses and actors started a campaign to save his life.

Behnoud was found guilty of killing a boy when he was 17 and the family of the victim refused to pardon him.

Iran is said to have the 2nd highest number of executions of any country in the world.

Public execution is common as the government believes it sets an example.

Iranian lawyer Afrouz Maghzi blames the high number of executions on the legal concept of "qisas" - a law based on the principle of "an eye for an eye" that gives victims the right to retaliate.

"Iran's law gives the family of the victim this right to kill another person.

"Everyone has the right to life, and no citizen should be given this permission to take it from another person."

Widespread debate

After saving Balal's life, Iranian campaigners are hopeful they will be able to save more.

Attentions are now focused on the case of Reyhaneh Jabbari, who is currently on death row. She killed a man in 2007 and claims she acted in self-defence after a sexual assault.

Even Asghar Farhadi, the Oscar-winning Iranian director, asked the victim's family to forgive the 26-year-old woman in the name of "humanity".

In his letter, the director - whose titles include A Separation - said Reyhaneh had played a short role in one of his films when she was a child.

This week Ahmed Shaheed, the UN's Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, urged the country to stop Reyhaneh's planned execution.

He also published a report on 13 March, which condemned the execution of juveniles in Iran as well as the use of capital punishment for offences that do not classify as serious crimes under international law.

Balal and Reyhaneh's cases have provoked widespread debate in the country - especially on social media - about the use of capital punishment.

Iranian journalist Siamak Bahari praised the pardon of Balal in his blog, describing society as more united and "ready to pose new challenges against the death penalty".

He called the campaign "a historic decision by society against a system that was born with a noose".

Tahmineh Milani, a renowned Iranian filmmaker, has for years been donating money from her movies to victims' families as blood money in order to spare killers.

She told BBC Persian she also believes campaigners' success in Balal's case can lead to a change in the law.

"People should take their influence seriously, as each signature can change the destiny of a person," she said.

(source: BBC News)

BELARUS----execution

Belarus executes convicted murderer: rights group

Belarus has executed a man convicted of a gruesome double murder, a rights group said Friday, the latest case of capital punishment in the ex-Soviet country.

Pavel Selyun had been found guilty of murdering his wife and her lover in August 2012 after he found out they were having an affair.

He had decapitated the man and stuffed his body down a rubbish chute, but took his head with him as he fled town and still had it when he was arrested on a train.

Last year a court sentenced Selyun, 23, to death, a punishment that is usually carried out in secret by shooting in the back of the head.

The execution, the first of 2014, was apparently carried out in recent days, although Selyun's lawyer and family found out only on Friday.

"Today the mother of Pavel Selyun found out from the lawyer that the punishment had been carried out," rights group Viasna said in a statement. "The lawyer went to meet the defendant but was told by prison officials that Selyun 'had left in accordance with the sentence'."

"In other words, that means he was executed," it said.

Belarus is the only country in Europe to administer the death penalty.

Last September the Supreme Court confirmed the sentence in Selyun's case, however the defence filed a complaint over the decision and was awaiting a response when the execution took place.

(source: Global Post)

INDIA:

SP chief bahu wants death for rapists

Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav's younger daughter-in-law Aparna Bisht Yadav feels that rapists should be hanged to death. Her father-in-law, Mulayam Singh Yadav, had kicked up a controversy a few days ago when he said at a rally in Moradabad that, "Boys will be boys. They make mistakes (rape)."

In an interview to a news channel on Thursday, Aparna said, "Netaji (Mulayam) is right in saying that death penalty is being debated around the world. But, as a woman, my personal view is that if the accused has been found guilty of rape, he should be hanged."

Aparna also defended her father-in-law and said that his choice of words could have been inappropriate and his comments were taken out of context by the media.

"I think his comments were misinterpreted. Rape is a sensitive issue and his choice of words were probably wrong but if one reads his comments in entirety, the meaning is very clear," she said.

She explained that he probably implied that at times innocent people were also implicated in rape cases which should not happen.

Aparna further said that her father-in-law was a pro-women leader.

"He encouraged Dimple and me to enter politics. Netaji has even appointed a DIG level officer and an entire team for redressing grievances of women in UP. No other party has taken such an initiative for women," she said.

(source: The Asian Age)

APRIL 17, 2014:

TEXAS----impending execution

Texas again set to execute from crime committed at 18----see: http://www.amnestyusa.org/sites/default/files/uaa09014.pdf

(source: Amnesty International USA)

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

'It does kind of burn,' Texas inmate Jose Villegas says as he gets lethal injection for murders of 3

A man convicted of fatally stabbing his ex-girlfriend, her young son and her mother 13 years ago at a home in Corpus Christi was executed by Texas prison officials Wednesday evening.

The lethal injection of Jose Villegas, 39, was carried out after his attorneys unsuccessfully argued to the U.S. Supreme Court that he was mentally impaired and ineligible for the death penalty.

"I would like to remind my children once again I love them," Villegas said when asked if he had a statement before being put to death. "Everything is OK. I love you all, and I love my children. I am at peace."

Just as the dose of pentobarbital began taking effect, he said, "It does kind of burn. Goodbye." He gasped several times, then began breathing quietly. Within less than a minute, all movement had stopped.

Villegas was pronounced dead at 7:04 p.m. CDT, 11 minutes after being given a lethal dose of pentobarbital. He became the seventh prisoner executed this year in the nation's most active death penalty state.

His lawyers filed a last-day appeal asking the Supreme Court to stop his punishment, saying testing in February showed he had an IQ of 59. The high court denied it several hours later.

The Supreme Court has prohibited execution of mentally impaired people, although states have been allowed to devise procedures to make their own determinations. Courts also have embraced scientific studies that consider a 70 IQ a threshold for impairment, and the high court justices are reviewing a Florida law stipulating that number for death penalty eligibility.

The Texas Attorney General's office disputed the IQ finding, saying previous examinations of Villegas showed no mental impairment and the number cited in his appeal was based on testing after he received an execution date and had no incentive to do well on the test. State attorneys also argued his lawyers had 10 years to raise impairment claims but didn't do so until days before his scheduled punishment.

Villegas was convicted of fatally stabbing Erida Salazar, 23, her 3-year-old son, Jacob, and Salazar's mother, Alma Perez, 51, in January 2001. Their bodies were discovered by Salazar's father when he returned home after being excused from jury duty. Each had been stabbed at least 19 times.

Villegas, a former cook, dishwasher and laborer, was free on bond for a sexual assault charge and was supposed to go on trial the day of the killings for an incident in which a woman said he punched her in the face.

Police spotted Villegas driving Salazar's stolen car and he led them on a chase that ended with him on foot and urging officers to shoot him. When arresting him, police found 3 bags of cocaine in his baseball cap.

Following his conviction for capital murder, Villegas was convicted of two counts of indecency with a child related to the daughter of the woman he was accused of punching in the face prior to the slayings. Relatives have said Salazar's mother had urged her daughter to break up with Villegas when she learned of the sex charges against him.

Villegas also had convictions for making terroristic threats to kill women, burglary and possessing inhalants.

Attorneys argued the slayings were not intentional and Villegas was mentally ill. A defense psychiatrist testified Villegas experienced "intermittent explosive disorder," a condition that led to uncontrollable rages.

Villegas became the 3rd Texas inmate executed with a new stock of pentobarbital from a provider corrections officials have refused to identify, citing the possibility of threats of violence against the supplier. The Supreme Court has upheld that stance.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Dallas Police Association responds to convicted cop killer's death penalty appeal

A federal appeals court is allowing the convicted killer of an off-duty Dallas police officer to move forward with an appeal that contends his trial attorneys failed to provide evidence of a troubled childhood that could have swayed jurors from sending him to death row.

Lawyers for Licho Escamilla argued to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that details of his abusive upbringing weren't disclosed until after his trial. If successful, the appeal could result in a new punishment trial for the 31-year-old Escamilla. He was condemned for the 2001 fatal shooting of Christopher James, who was working security at a Dallas club.

Escamilla's 2002 trial was marked by him throwing a pitcher of water toward the jury and hitting and kicking people as the judge read his sentence.

The Dallas Morning News reported in 2001 that Escamilla was wanted on an unrelated murder charge when he went to the Northwest Dallas club that night. James and another officer went to break up a fight when Escamilla opened fire on them.

James was struck in the upper arm, and he fell to the ground, unable to use his duty weapon. Escamilla, who was 19 at the time, then stood over James and shot him 3 times in the head.

James' widow Lori said in a 2011 interview with The Dallas Morning News that "our world as we knew it came to an end," that night.

James was a Dallas Police Association board member, and was the only sitting member to ever be killed in the line of duty.

In response to the appeal moving forward, current Dallas Police Association Vice President Frederick Frazier said: "We understand that every individual deserves their due process no matter what crime they have committed. But in the eyes of the DPA, (James) is a member who paid the ultimate sacrifice and saved lives. We stand by the jury and judges' original decision on this case, as well as the family of officer Christopher James, who have been waiting for justice and closure for all these years."

On a more personal note, Frazier added: "This was a true, hardened criminal. He doesn't deserve to share the same air we do. He was an animal in that courtroom, he was an animal in the street."

The Assist the Officer Foundation, which helps sick and wounded officers, set up an endowment fund in his name.

(source: Dallas Morning News)

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

Texas has been holding this man hostage for 12,600 days; This is what passes for justice in the Lone Star State

Last week, in a decision that contorted both law and fact, a state judge ruled against an illiterate, intellectually disabled black man named Jerry Hartfield.

Hartfield has been imprisoned for more than 33 years - without a valid conviction or sentence authorizing his confinement. In the latest decision, the judge ruled that even though state and local officials clearly were negligent in letting Hartfield slip through the cracks all these decades, there is nothing in the Constitution that provides him with any protection from being retried. Not the Sixth Amendment's guarantee of a speedy trial. Not the undisputed fact that key evidence in that long-ago trial - like the alleged murder weapon, for example - has disappeared. Not the fact that there is no proof that Hartfied, with an IQ testing far below standards for mental retardation, strategized to keep himself in prison for 30 years as a way of avoiding a retrial.

It's not just the third of a century of unlawful confinement that is egregious here. It's the fact that 10 months have passed since the state courts in Texas (after many years of prodding) first acknowledged the terrible mistake that was made in this case. Even this lesser period of delay is unconscionable. Jerry Hartfield, who first would have been eligible for parole in 2003 had Texas followed the law, should be free.

***

On June 30, 1977, Hartfield was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death for killing a woman named Eunice Lowe. This verdict and death sentence were overturned on Sept. 17, 1980, because prosecutors had unconstitutionally precluded from the jury a woman who had reservations about the death penalty.

The typical remedy for such a violation would have been to grant the defendant a new trial. But Texas instead sought to defend the conviction and transform Hartfield's sentence from one of death to one of life. On March 4, 1983, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals formally vacated Hartfield's conviction. Eleven days later, on March 15, 1983, Gov. Mark White moved to commute Hartfield's sentence.

But then came a series of terrible, unforgivable miscommunications. The courts did not notify the governor's office or the members of the Board of Pardons and Parole that Hartfield's conviction and sentence had been vacated. Executive branch officials did not follow up on the purported commutation. Instead, public officials in the county where Hartfield had been tried notified the Court of Criminal Appeals that its mandate - to give him a new trial - had been carried out when in fact it had not. Hartfield was not told about this at the time. If his lawyer knew, he certainly didn't raise any immediate flags. There was no cross-check. The justice system simply broke.

From 1983 until 2008, Hartfield had no lawyer.

In 2006, Hartfield, with the help of other inmates, began to inquire into his legal status. It took him seven years from that point, and round upon round of legal wrangling by his new lawyers, to gain a measure of relief. Last June, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the same one that had vacated his conviction and sentence in 1983, the same one that consistently rules against criminal defendants, acknowledged that he was wrongfully imprisoned and granted him the right to pursue his claim that his constitutional right to a speedy trial had been violated by Texas' failure to retry him after his initial conviction was overturned. This Hartfield promptly did.

Between that June ruling and last week, prosecutors and defense attorneys sparred over the meaning of the Sixth Amendment's right to counsel. Prosecutors immediately moved to retry Hartfield - even without the murder weapon and eyewitnesses - so they could use an old confession they coerced out of him. There was no evidence that the incarcerated man with an IQ of 51 actually wanted a new trial, prosecutors argued in their briefs. Worse, Texas argues, Hartfield committed a fraud on the court, deliberately keeping himself imprisoned so that one day, decades later, he could spring a speedy-trial argument upon an unsuspecting court. The argument isn't just facile. It's insulting.

But the judge bought it. Never mind the commutation of Hartfield's death sentence from Gov. White way back when. The decades-long delay in a retrial actually benefited Hartfield, Judge Estlinbaum concluded last week, because it is far less likely today that he will be sentenced to death than it would have been had he been retried in the 1980s. The judge reached this conclusion in the same ruling in which he acknowledged that Hartfield's ability to mount an effective defense has been diminished by the passage of time and the loss of witnesses and evidence. It's either one or the other - it cannot be both.

The Constitution did not require Jerry Hartfield, mentally retarded and unable to read, to jump up and down all those years and beg the state to retry him. There was no lawyer in his corner during the vast majority of that time to look after his rights. And Judge Craig Estlinbaum acknowledged that Texas had been negligent in its handling of this case. But you know what else this judge found? That "there is no evidence that Hartfield has suffered any anxiety relating to his pretrial detention." Now, tell me please, if you were locked in prison for 33 years without being convicted of a crime, would you suffer any anxiety?

This is yet another reminder of how thoroughly "the law" can create barriers to prevent constitutional rights from being enforced in a way that gives real meaning to their text. In Texas especially, judges have been allowed, encouraged even, to pile up one procedural technical hurdle after another, limiting the rights of criminal defendants. As Hartfield's lawyers repeatedly have said, if this intellectually disabled man who lingered so long under an unlawful detention cannot establish a viable speedy-trial-right claim under the Constitution, then who can?

Mistakes happen in our legal system. Judges make them and pardons officials make them and court clerks make them. Lawyers make them and prison officials make them and witnesses make them. But in this case, only 1 man has suffered as a result of all of the mistakes Texas made. We teach our children to take responsibility for their mistakes. But Judge Estlinbaum's deplorable ruling is another sign that Texas still is unwilling to accept responsibility for its mistake here, even if by doing so it means a man once convicted of murder spends only half his life in prison.

This is neither law nor justice. Either we have a right to a speedy trial or we don't. And if we do, surely it applies even if it means this man accused of murder goes free after 36 years of confinement. Enough is enough.

(source: The Week)

NEW HAMPSHIRE:

New Hampshire lawmakers fail to pass death penalty repeal

New Hampshire's Senate failed to repeal the death penalty on Thursday, in a vote that capped weeks of emotional debate while focusing attention on the state's lone death row inmate.

The Senate deadlocked 12 to 12 on a bill to abolish capital punishment, meaning it did not pass. New Hampshire's House had earlier passed the bill, and first-term Governor Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, had said she would sign it.

New Hampshire would have been the 19th state to scrap the death penalty under rising pressure from activists who contend that execution does not reduce crime and that innocent people are sometimes put to death.

Proponents argue the death penalty deters crime and provides relief for victims and their families.

The repeal would not have been retroactive. But the debate focused attention on Michael Addison, 33, who became New Hampshire's only death row inmate in 2008 for fatally shooting a policeman.

New Hampshire's top court in November dismissed an appeal by Addison's attorneys seeking a mistrial, but said it was still reviewing whether the death sentence was appropriate in his case. New Hampshire has not executed a prisoner since 1939.

A Gallup poll released in October showed 60 % of Americans favor capital punishment for convicted murderers, the lowest percentage since 1972, and down from a peak of 80 % in the mid-1990s. here

There have been 17 executions in the United States so far this year, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, which tracks capital punishment.

(source: Reuters)

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

New Hampshire won't repeal the death penalty

New Hampshire will keep the death penalty after all, despite coming very close to becoming the last state in New England to abolish capital punishment.

The New Hampshire State Senate voted Thursday to leave the death penalty intact; the final tally was a tie, according to the Associated Press, which means the repeal failed by a single vote.

It appeared, for a time, that the Granite State was close to repealing the death penalty. The state's House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the repeal, while Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) has also said she supported the repeal. (New Hampshire has come close before: A death penalty repeal passed both chambers in 2000 but was vetoed by then-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen; another repeal in 2009 passed the state's house but never made it through the senate.)

The death penalty is on the decline in this country, with drops in the number of executions and the public support for capital punishment. Had New Hampshire abolished the death penalty, it would have become the 19th state in the country to ban the practice and the 7th state since 2007. (Connecticut abolished it in 2012, leaving New Hampshire as the lone state in New England that still has the death penalty.)

1 inmate sits on death row in New Hampshire: Michael Addison. He was convicted of fatally shooting a police officer in 2006 and sentenced to death.

(source: Washington Post)

VIRGINIA:

Shafer facing death penalty in murder case

A Shenandoah County grand jury indicted Claude Delmus Shafer Jr. Wednesday on a charge of capital murder, the 2nd death penalty case to be filed in the county in the last year by Commonwealth's Attorney Amanda Wiseley.

"This is a death penalty case, you certainly are entitled to have attorneys representing you," Circuit Judge Dennis L. Hupp told Shafer.

Hupp appointed Edward Ungvarsky, a member of the Northern Virginia Capital Public Defender Unit, to serve with Public Defender Timothy Coyne as Shafer's co-counsel.

Authorities have accused Shafer, 35, formerly of 14447 Old Valley Pike, Edinburg, of robbing and killing Phyllis Kline, 65, of 14887 Old Valley Pike after entering her home near Edinburg on June 14.

Court records say 2 anonymous witnesses told members of the Sheriff's Office that they saw Shafer covered with blood on the day of the murder. One of the witnesses said Shafer was carrying a knife in his hand. The other witness told investigators of seeing Shafer breaking into Kline's house.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner later determined that Kline had died of stab wounds.

Shafer was initially charged with 1st-degree murder and robbery but Wiseley dropped the first-degree murder charge at a preliminary hearing. Prosecutors commonly will drop a charge against a defendant at a preliminary hearing in general district court and then revive the same case weeks later before a circuit court grand jury.

Hupp set Shafer's next court appearance for 2 p.m. May 7 before ordering him back to jail.

The death penalty case against Shafer follows a decision by Wiseley to also seek the death penalty against Nicole Miller, a Woodstock resident, who was arrested and charged around the same time as Shafer. Authorities attributed fatal injuries suffered by a 20-month old boy to Miller, who was caring for the victim at the time he was injured.

(source: NVDaily)

NORTH CAROLINA:

4 inmates who won reduced sentences under racial justice law seek to uphold the decisions

The North Carolina Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Monday in the cases of 4 death-row inmates who had their sentences reduced to life in prison under the state's now-repealed Racial Justice Act.

The North Carolina law, passed in 2009, allowed defendants to use statistics to help support claims that their death sentences were affected by racial bias.

The 1st person to win a reduced sentence under the law was Marcus Reymond Robinson, the New York Times reports. His case was part of a study finding that race was a substantial factor in prosecutors' peremptory challenges in 173 death penalty cases.

Robinson's lawyer, Donald Beskind, and a lawyer for the state, Danielle Elder, differed on the interpretation of the law in the oral arguments on Monday. The Times covered the arguments, along with the Associated Press and the Raleigh News & Observer.

Elder argued that the Robinson's lawyers had not shown evidence of specific or intentional racism. Elder said the judge who reduced Robinson's sentence interpreted the racial justice law "in such a way that a capital defendant can obtain relief even if that defendant has never personally experienced racial discrimination in his case at any point in the criminal justice process."

Beskind countered that the law didn't require the racism to be intentional or to be the sole reason for a death sentence. He told the court that prosecutors used challenges to eliminate 1/2 of the qualified black jurors for Robinson's trial.

The court also considered the cases of 3 other inmates whose death sentences were reduced to life in prison: Tilmon Golphin, Quintel Augustine, and Christina Walters. Their sentences were reduced based on the law as it was amended in 2012.

(source: ABA Journal)

GEORGIA:

Gwinnett DA seeks death penalty in triple homicide

The man accused of killing 3 people at a Gwinnett County home last year could face the death penalty if the district attorney gets his wish.

DA Danny Porter is seeking the death sentence for Robert Erik Bell, accused of shooting four people, based on "aggravated circumstances," according to a court document filed in Gwinnett County Superior Court. 3 people died in the Sept. 15 shooting and the 4th was seriously injured, according to police.

The killings were "outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible, or inhuman in that it involved torture, depravity of mind or an aggravated battery," the notice of intent to seek the death penalty states. Bell was charged with 3 counts of murder and 1 count of aggravated assault.

Bell, 34, had an assault rifle and was waiting for Angelina Benton, 34; Benton's 12-year-old son, Joseph McDonald; her 19-year-old godson, Raynard Daniel; and her boyfriend, Justin Cato, to return to Benton's home after a weekend trip, Gwinnett police previously said. Benton had recently opened up her Anderson-Livsey Road home to Bell, according to police.

The boy and teen were shot moments after walking through the door of the home, Cpl. Deon Washington with Gwinnett County police previously said. Benton was shot 4 times and didn't make it inside the home, instead collapsing in a neighbor's yard, police said. Cato was shot in the leg and survived his injuries.

"They were pretty much ambushed when they got home," Washington said.

Bell then allegedly ran away from the home and stole a pickup truck about a half-mile away, police have said. It was that truck that later led investigators to Bell, who eluded capture for more than a month.

On Oct. 2, the stolen truck was located in New Orleans, and 3 weeks later, Bell was found in a homeless shelter and arrested.

Bell fought his extradition to Georgia, but was returned Jan. 31 and booked into the Gwinnett County jail, where he remained Thursday morning without bond. Police have not released information about a possible motive in the shootings.

(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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

Gwinnett County DA to seek death penalty for accused triple murderer Bell

The District Attorney in Gwinnett County announced Wednesday he will seek the death penalty for Robert Bell. Bell is accused of killing a woman and her son and godson from Albany last September in Snellville.

The death penalty is exactly what accused triple murderer Robert Bell should get according to Tracy Benton.

"I don't feel that man had any conscious doing what he done, he didn't take any regard of his own life, let alone my family's life," Benton said. "He is a coward in my opinion, you know what I'm saying, by that, he gets what he deserve."

Angelina Benton, her 12 year old son, Joseph McDonald and Benton's godson, 19-year -old Raynord Daniel were gunned down at their home in Snellville on September 15th. Benton allowed Bell and his wife to stay with them when they fell on hard times. Tracy still can't believe it happened.

"It's just why questions because we have no clarifications. There will never be no closure because there is no understanding," Benton said. "She was always trying to put a smile on somebody's face, you know she always went out of her way to help somebody."

Her absence is felt with the family in Albany.

"You know, when you are used to being a unit, you know what I'm saying and then part of your unit is being snatched away from you," Benton said. "Its torture, living torture."

Bell was on the run for a month before being captured in Louisiana. He was extradited to Gwinnett County in February and indicted on 10 counts.

(source: WALB news)

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

Defense cries foul over prosecutor's motion in Athens death penalty case

Defense attorneys for a woman charged in the murder of a pregnant Athens convenience store clerk more than 3 years ago have accused prosecutors of violating a court order in the death-penalty case.

The attorneys claim in a motion recently filed in Clarke County Superior Court that the district attorney's office improperly commented about the contents of a letter from defendant Shameeka LaShae Watson that a judge had previously placed under seal.

The commentary was in a prosecution motion that requested permission to conduct a latent examination of the letter in order to authenticate that it had been written by Watson so that it could be used as evidence against her.

That motion refers to statements in the letter as being "admissible in a trial as an admission by (Watson)" in the 2010 fatal stabbing of KeJuan Charde Hall that also resulted in the death of Hall's unborn child.

"The letter was a communication initiated by the defendant, lacking any constitutional protection," the prosecution motion states.

The motion never quotes from the letter or describes its contents in detail.

Nonetheless, Watson's attorneys argue that just by characterizing the letter's contents the district attorney's office violated the judge's order that placed the letter under seal.

"The content of the state's motion of March 13, 2014, violates the agreement between the state and defendant and, more importantly, the order of the court regarding the document under seal," according to the defense motion signed by Athens attorneys Eric Eberhart and Elizabeth Grant.

A news story about the state's motion having revealed that Watson made admissions in the letter to the judge was published by the Athens Banner-Herald on March 19.

"Shameeka Watson is being subjected to due process harm from media attention and public commentary generated by the state's motion," the defense motion states.

Western Judicial Circuit Chief Judge David Sweat on Dec. 10 notified prosecuting and defense attorneys that he had received a letter from Watson and ordered that it be filed with the court clerk.

When the defense objected, the judge settled on a compromise that it be filed with the clerk under seal.

But by characterizing the letter's contents as an admission by Watson, Eberhart argues, prosecutors violated the judge's order and subjected themselves up to a possible contempt of court finding.

The defense attorney does not ask the judge to use his contempt powers, however, but that he "remedy the harm done by removing the document from the clerk's docket and barring its use in the case."

A hearing on the matter has been scheduled for April 28.

Watson faces murder, feticide, kidnapping and other charges along with her husband, Clarence McCord III. She was previously granted a request to be tried separately from McCord.

The defendants are accused of killing Hall on Dec. 30, 2010, as the victim clerked at the Golden Pantry at Timothy Road and Atlanta Highway.

An indictment states that Watson and McCord killed Hall by stabbing her 31 times with 2 different weapons.

The victim was 25 years old, a single mother of an 8-year-old daughter, and was 3 months pregnant. Athens-Clarke County police said they believe the motive behind the killing was robbery.

(source: Athens Banner-Herald)

ALABAMA:

Jury to consider death penalty for Birmingham woman after guilty verdict in 2011 slaying

A jury will be asked to consider whether to recommend Katrina Porter be put to death after convicting her this morning of capital murder in the 2011 brutal beating and shooting death of another woman.

The jury in Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Laura Petro's courtroom began deliberations shortly after 4 p.m. Wednesday and returned at 9 a.m. today to continue. The jury had reached the verdict by 10 a.m. today.

Mike Blalock and Alaric May represent Porter. Deputy Jefferson County District Attorneys Joe Hicks and Julie McMakin are prosecuting the case.

McMakin said the sentencing phase will begin after a mitigation expert witness arrives from Tuscaloosa.

This is the 2nd time Katrina Porter, 32, has been tried on the charges. The judge in November declared a mistrial at the 1st trial.

2 others, Porter's husband, Alex Carter, and her brother, Kevin Porter also were charged with capital murder in the in the death of 51-year-old Barbara Freeman.

Kevin Porter, also was convicted last May in the case and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Freeman was found brutally beaten and shot once in the back of the head inside her apartment in the 1200 block of 12th Court North shortly after midnight on Dec. 22, 2011.

A witness had testified at Kevin Porter's trial to seeing Katrina Porter beat Freeman as her brother held the woman prior to the shooting. Freeman's boyfriend broke up that first attack. But later neighbors say the three return followed by a gunshot from inside Freeman's apartment.

(source: a.com)

MISSISSIPPI:

Miss. death row inmate challenges rape conviction

The Mississippi Supreme Court has set out a timetable for attorneys for a death row inmate to file briefs by late May supporting his appeal of a 1994 rape conviction.

In refusing to set an execution date for Charles Ray Crawford in March, the Supreme Court said it would resolve the appeal of prior rape conviction first.

That conviction was cited as an aggravating factor by prosecutors in justifying the death sentence Crawford received in 1994 for the slaying of a junior college student.

The Supreme Court filed an order Monday setting out the briefing scheduled. Prosecutors will have 30 days after Crawford's lawyers file his arguments to file a response.

If the Supreme Court upholds Crawford's conviction in the earlier case, Attorney General Jim Hood could again petition the court to set an execution date.

Crawford's attorneys have argued in court documents that if the rape conviction is reversed, the jury would have considered "an invalid aggravator in imposing the death sentence." They argued reversal would mean Crawford would have the right to have his death sentence thrown out and a new sentencing hearing scheduled in Tippah County.

Prosecutors have said a reversal of the earlier rape conviction would be a harmless error because of the abundance of evidence supporting the death penalty in the capital murder case. They said Crawford was also convicted of aggravated assault in the early trial, another aggravating factor used to justify the death penalty.

Few details of the prior rape and aggravated assault convictions are discussed in the earlier briefs in the death penalty case.

Crawford, now 43, was sentenced to death for the murder of Northeast Mississippi Community College student Kristy Ray in rural Tippah County.

In 1993, Crawford was out on bond awaiting trial on charges of aggravated assault and rape. 4 days before his trial, the 20-year-old Ray was abducted from her parents' home in Chalybeate. After his family and attorney notified police that they feared Crawford was committing another crime, he was arrested. Crawford told authorities he did not remember the incident but later led them to the body buried in leaves in a wooded area.

Crawford later was tried and convicted on the original charges in the rape and aggravated assault case and sentenced to 66 years in prison.

(source: Associated Press)

OHIO:

Death penalty update divisive; Crawford prosecutor says proposals would limit use

Divisions were to be expected on a panel that spent more than 2 years studying capital punishment in the state, the chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court said as the group wraps up its work.

The panel convened in 2011 by Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor finalized its recommendations last week and now awaits a dissenting report from prosecutors on the committee who disagreed with some proposals.

"There was going to be some really divisive topics and going to be diametrically opposed positions," O'Connor told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "I'm not surprised. And I think it's healthy."

Recommendations include reducing the number of crimes eligible for the death penalty and creating a statewide board that would have the final say over death penalty charges in the state. Defense attorneys, judges, prosecutors and capital punishment experts sat on the committee.

Crawford County Prosecutor Matt Crall believes death penalty cases, and others, are best left in the hands of local officials.

"As the person who was elected to make those decisions, I think it's best when left to the people closest to the case," Crall said Wednesday.

The last death penalty case tried in Crawford County was Kevin Keith in 1994. Keith was convicted of killing 3 people in a Bucyrus apartment.

Then Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland reduced Keith's death sentence to life without parole in September 2010. He remains incarcerated in a northeast Ohio prison.

While the attorney general's office is helpful in dealing with cases, Crall said he agrees with Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien's assessment.

"With these rules, you couldn't execute Timothy McVeigh," O'Brien said, referring to the Oklahoma City bomber who was prosecuted and executed by the federal government.

Crall said the reason is that there was no DNA evidence presented in the McVeigh case.

The 22-member panel is looking at 56 recommendations, including banning execution of the mentally ill, setting up a statewide capital litigation fund, requiring DNA or videotape evidence for a murder conviction and reserving capital punishment for the "worst of the worst" crimes.

Many of the recommendations focused on reducing the role that race plays in capital punishment. Data show that in Ohio and other states the killers of white victims are more likely to receive a death sentence than those who kill blacks.

O'Connor, a Republican and former county prosecutor, has said the goal of the committee was a fair, impartial and balanced review of the state's 3-decade-old death penalty law. She made it clear from the start that abolishing capital punishment was not on the table.

Implementing the panel's recommendations would reserve the death penalty for the worst of the worst criminals as lawmakers envisioned when they enacted the 1981 law, according to supporters of the proposals.

Prosecutors say the recommendations would make it virtually impossible to sentence anyone to death in Ohio.

Many of the proposals would require lawmakers' support, while others could be approved as Supreme Court rules. O'Connor said she hopes lawmakers take a comprehensive approach to any recommendations they consider.

"The morals and opinions of our public should be upheld, and our public has said they're in favor of the death penalty," Crall said.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Ohio Supreme Court hears appeal of Ashford Thompson April 8 in murder of Officer Joshua Miktarian

--Appeal arguments from Ashford Thompson:

"The defendant's right to due process, equal protection, and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment is violated when the State excludes an African-American juror without providing a satisfactory race-neutral reason;" (2) "The defendant's rights to a fair trial, impartial jury, due process and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment are violated when the trial court refuses to allow counsel to question jurors who are hesitant about imposing the death penalty and applies the wrong standard in deciding whether to exclude jurors for cause;" (4) and

"Thompson's sentence of death is inappropriate. The circumstances of the offense, his good character, the love and support of his family, and the ability to successfully adjust to a prison sentence all favor a life sentence. Moreover, Thompson's death sentence is not proportionate when compared to other similar offenses." (17)

[source: Ohio Supreme Court]

The Ohio Supreme Court heard an appeal April 8 from convicted murderer Ashford Lamar Thompson in the July 13, 2008, killing of Twinsburg Police Officer Joshua Miktarian, and much of the hour-long deliberations focused on whether Thompson acted under duress that night.

Thompson, 28, remains on death row at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution, more than 5 1/2 years after shooting and killing Miktarian, 33, following a late-night traffic stop at Thompson's Glenwood Drive home. An execution date has not yet been set.

The capital case was stayed by the state trial court Aug. 23, 2013, to await a decision by the Ohio Supreme Court, which heard Thompson appeal of his death sentence at the Moyer Justice Center Columbus. Thompson filed the appeal July 26, 2011.

Defense attorney Rachel Troutman argued that Thompson had no other convictions for violent crimes - rather, he was a home health-care nurse and religious man who did not set out to murder anyone.

Thompson was afraid that the officer and a dog in the police car were going to harm him and panicked, Troutman said.

"Ashford Thompson made a very bad judgment call on July 13, 2008," she said. "... This was not a man who had been convicted of anything violent. He was deeply religious and he was young... He did not set out to kill someone that night."

She added later, "Who he was, the good person inside him, and everything he did before that horrible decision, makes him worthy of a life sentence."

Troutman also questioned the role of Thompson's race in the incident.

"Ashford Thompson was a 23-year-old black male, and he killed a white police officer," she said. "The thoughts that he had in his mind were because of the experiences that he has had. He was pulled over for a noise ordinance violation and ended up on the hood of a car with a handcuff on his wrist."

But Summit County assistant prosecutor Richard Kasay, representing the state, said justices must also weigh threatening statements Thompson allegedly made at a bar earlier the night of the crime.

"There was testimony... at 11:30 [p.m.] he's sitting at a bar drunk and makes a statement, I will kill if some m-f'er threatens me," Kasay said.

"So this is his state of mind going into the ensuing hours."

He added later, "The argument is that this is a law-abiding, religious, mild-mannered nurse. And maybe before this night he was, but... there's evidence that what was going on in Mr. Thompson's psyche was not what others perceived...."

Supreme Court justices questioned both attorneys about the duress issue.

"There's no question there was a struggle," said Justice William O'Neill. "There's no question that the police officer was threatening him with both weapons and a dog. And I'm just wondering how do we get past the subjective statement by the defendant that he thought the cop was taking him and he was in fear for his life?"

Kasay offered, "This court has defined duress in the context of the mitigating circumstance as something that a defendant is compelled or forced to do. So let's ask ourselves: What forced Ashford Thompson to shoot Officer Miktarian 4 times in the head?"

A ruling on the appeal could take weeks, according to the Ohio Supreme Court Clerk of Courts office.

Public defenders Kimberly Rigby and Robert Barnhart, also representing Thompson during the capital appeals process, cite 18 errors at the common pleas level in the appeal.

Errors cited include violations of Thompson's due process by improperly excluding an African-American jurist during voir dire; a tainted jury pool due to outside-the-courtroom discussions of Thompson's initial guilty plea; various other violations of Thompson's due process, including excessive pre-trial publicity; and violations of his freedom from cruel and unusual punishment.

The state filed a response brief Dec. 12, 2011, summarily rejecting each of the 18 counts and concluding that the death penalty, among others, must be affirmed by the high court.

Thompson was found guilty by a Summit County jury June 11, 2010, of 2 counts of aggravated murder, 1 count of escape, 2 counts of resisting arrest, 3 counts of tampering with evidence and 1 count of carrying a concealed weapon in the murder of the 11-year Twinsburg officer. The death sentence was handed down by Summit County Court of Common Pleas Judge Elinore Marsh Stormer June 23, 2010, and Thompson has been incarcerated in Chillicothe since June 25, 2010.

Miktarian, a 1993 graduate of Tallmadge High School, was shot 4 times in the head at close range in the driveway of Thompson's former Glenwood Drive home after stopping Thompson for loud music and suspicion of drunken driving just before 2 a.m. July 13, 2008.

Thompson, an LPN who possessed a concealed carry permit at the time, was arrested less than an hour later at a Bedford Heights residence (following a struggle with police) with a set of Miktarian's handcuffs still attached to one of his wrists.

Miktarian was the 1st Twinsburg Police Department officer to be killed in the line of duty.

(source: The News-Leader)

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

Wilks has outburst after found guilty of aggravated murder

The jurors who convicted Willie Gene Wilks Jr. in a murder case will return to the Mahoning County Courthouse later this month to decide whether he lives or dies.

A jury of 9 women and 3 men convicted Wilks on Tuesday of all charges and of death and firearm specifications after 5 hours of deliberations.

The jurors now must return for the penalty- determination phase, tentatively scheduled to begin April 28, during which Wilks' defense lawyers will present evidence as to why they should spare his life.

Wilks, 42, of Elm Street, was convicted of killing Ororo Wilkins, 20, and felonious assault and attempted aggravated murder in the shooting of Alex Morales, 25, who survived being shot in the back.

Wilkins died instantly of a gunshot wound to the head.

Both were shot on the porch of a Park Avenue residence May 21, 2013.

Wilks was arrested the day after the shooting when he was seen driving a van belonging to Wilkins' mother.

When the shooting occurred, Morales was holding a baby and Wilkins was reaching for the baby. The 5-month-old fell to the ground but was not hurt.

Wilks also was charged with attempted aggravated murder for firing a shot at Wilkins" brother, Willie Wilkins, who was upstairs in the home when police say Wilks appeared with an AK-47 assault rifle. That shot missed Willie Wilkins.

Wilks was dating Wilkins' mother.

Rebecca Doherty, chief of the criminal division of the county prosecutor's office, said in her opening statement last Wednesday the shooting stemmed from a dispute with Willie Wilkins, who was upset his mother couldn't withdraw money from a bank because Wilks had all her bank cards.

"I feel like it was justice," Morales said after the jury rendered its verdicts. "It was a stupid act. It could have been handled differently. Somebody like that just needs to be in jail."

"It's all in God's hands," said Ororo Wilkins' grandmother, Hattie Wilkins of Youngstown, adding that she considers the verdicts just. "God's will will be done," she said.

"I'd like to see him die just like he killed my granddaughter," she said of Wilks.

Hattie Wilkins also lost another granddaughter, Maressia Patterson, 17, who died in a May 26, 2007, drive-by shooting on Ford Avenue. "I'm living through it again," she said.

In March 2009, Judge Lou A. D'Apolito sentenced Deon Glenn to 35 years to life in prison after a jury convicted Glenn in that murder.

Wilks faces the death penalty in the Wilkins' murder because he was charged with killing 1 person while trying to kill 2 or more people.

When Judge D'Apolito, of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, read the guilty verdict on the aggravated-murder charge, Wilks slammed his fist on the defense table.

After he was escorted out of the courtroom in handcuffs by sheriff's deputies, Wilks yelled, "I didn't do anything!" and kicked a hole in the wall next to the prisoner elevator.

The jury deliberated 3 hours Monday before being sequestered in a local hotel overnight and resuming deliberations Tuesday morning.

Defense lawyer Ron Yarwood declined to comment on the guilty verdicts.

Doherty declined to comment because the penalty phase of the case is still forthcoming.

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

Ohio AG: Danny Lee Hill has no valid claim to seek new trial

The Ohio Attorney General's office says the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals should deny a request for hiring attorneys to argue that Warren murderer Danny Lee Hill should get a new trial for the 1985 torture and mutilation killing of 12-year-old Raymond Fife.

The grounds for the request relate to evidence presented at Hill’s trial as to whether bite marks on Fife's genitals were made by Hill.

The March 31 request by Hill's attorneys was filed under seal, meaning the public cannot see it, but the April 10 response from the Ohio Attorney General's office is accessible to the public.

It argues that no valid claim relating to bite-mark evidence would give the circuit court reason to allow lawyers to be hired to seek a new trial.

The attorney general's office says any suggestion by Hill's attorneys that it has any newly discovered evidence relating to bite marks is a "gross distortion of the role the bite-mark evidence played at his trial."

First, Fife died of heart and lung failure as a result of the injuries he suffered at the hands of Hill and Timothy Combs, including asphyxiation and multiple trauma, the filing says.

Any new bite-mark evidence "would not absolve [Hill] of murder," the filing says, noting the other types of lethal trauma the boy suffered.

The attorney general's office cites an Ohio Supreme Court summary of the trial that says a state-hired bite expert testified that Hill is the person whose bite marks were on Fife's body.

It recounts that a defense-hired bite expert testified that it was inconclusive whether Hill's teeth caused the bite marks.

"What I'm saying is either Hill or Combs, or both, could have left some of the marks," said Dr. Lowell Levine. But he added that at least 1 bite mark was "most likely" left by Hill.

Allowing testimony by a new expert regarding bite marks 28 years after Hill's initial trial in Trumbull County would be "nothing more than a new opinion on an old topic, which does not amount to 'newly discovered evidence,'" the attorney general's filing says.

Ohio law allows a new trial for "consideration only of facts which were in existence at the time of trial, not opinions, which can be formulated at any time," the filing says.

Hill, 47, was sentenced to death in 1986 after a trial in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court. Combs is serving a life sentence and was not eligible for the death penalty because he was a juvenile at the time of the crime.

(source for both: Youngstown Vindicator)

TENNESSEE:

Tenn. House passes bill to allow electric chair

Tennessee could electrocute death row inmates if lethal injection drugs are unavailable, under legislation what won approval Wednesday in the state House.

The chamber voted 68-13 for the measure sponsored by Rep. Dennis Powers of Jacksboro, but the Senate would have to agree to changes to the bill before it can head for Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's desk.

The bill would keep lethal injection as the preferred method for executions, but would allow the electric chair if the state were unable to obtain the necessary drugs or if lethal injections were found unconstitutional.

Tennessee's lethal injection protocol uses a sedative commonly used to euthanize animals, but states are exhausting supplies.

Democratic Rep. Johnny Shaw of Bolivar said he could not support the bill because he opposes the death penalty on religious grounds.

"I believe in the law and allowing the law of God to punish a man for his sins," Shaw said. "But it is not for me to say I should throw that rock to administer death to him, because life and death is not in my hands."

Powers responded that he had theological reasons for sponsoring the bill.

"I agree with you, it's not our job to judge, that's God's job to judge," Powers said. "Our job is to arrange the meeting."

Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, spoke in support of Powers' bill, arguing that it was "a more humane way" of conducting executions.

"Some of the states now still have hangings and firing squads," he said. "I'd be in support of that, too."

The Senate approved its version on a 23-3 vote last week.

Under Tennessee law, death row inmates could choose to be electrocuted if their crimes were committed before 1999, when lethal injection became the preferred method.

There are 76 inmates on Tennessee's death row, including 1 woman. The state has not executed a prisoner since 2009. Tennessee last electrocuted a prisoner in 2007.

(source: Associated Press)

INDIANA:

Death row inmate sentenced to 65 years in 2nd killing

Judge Susan Orth accepted William Clyde Gibson guilty plea and sentenced him to 65 years in prison nearly a month after he pleaded guilty to killing Karen Hodella.

Hodella disappeared in 2002 and her body later washed up on the shores of the Ohio River in early 2003, but Gibson wasn't charged in the case until 2012 when he was arrested in the murder and mutilation of his mother's friend, Christine Whitis.

During the interrogation, police said he admitted to the Hodella case.

Gibson was sentenced to death in the Whitis case last year and prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty when he goes to trial in the illing of a third woman, Stephanie Kirk, this summer. Investigators found Kirk's body buried in Gibson's yard in 2012.

Gibson had nothing to say before the sentencing.

During his previous death sentence in the Whitiscase, Gibson spoke against his attorney's wishes.

Hodella's family members were not in the courtroom Thursday. They live in Florida, her mother is ill and they couldn't financially make the trip work, but prosecutor Keith Henderson said they are in agreement with Gibson's sentencing.

At Gibson's plea hearing he showed up with a tattoo on the back of his shaved head that said Death Row X3.

The judge ordered Gibson not to cut hair so the tattoo will be covered up by the time he goes to trial this summer for Kirk's slaying.

Gibson's hair has begun to grow in over the tattoo and was not as prominent as last time but can still be seen.

Gibson's trial in Kirk's slaying is set to begin in June.

Jurors for that case will come from Vanderburgh County because of the amount of media associated with the case. The jury came from Dearborn County in the Whitis trial.

(source: WLKY news)

NEBRASKA:

Nebraska man could face execution after conviction in 4 killings

A Nebraska man was convicted on Wednesday of killing 4 people during a 10-day murder spree last summer within days of his release from prison and could face the death penalty in a state that has not carried out an execution since 1997.

Nikko Jenkins, 27, was found guilty of 1st-degree murder, use of a weapon to commit a felony and felon in possession of a weapon in each of the 4 killings by Douglas County District Court Judge Peter Bataillon, court officials said.

Jenkins had pleaded no contest during a court hearing in Omaha to the charges that he killed Jorge Cajiga-Ruiz and Juan Uribe-Pena on August 11, Curtis Bradford on August 19, and Andrea Kruger on August 21.

Jenkins was released from prison on July 30 after serving 10 years for robbery, use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony and assault, according to online prison records.

A sentencing date has not been set. A 3-judge panel will be selected to determine whether Jenkins is eligible for the death penalty, according to state statute.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine has said he likely would seek the death penalty for Jenkins. Republican Governor Dave Heineman expressed support for that position in September.

Nebraska has put 3 people to death since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld capital punishment in 1976, the last in 1997, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

(source: Reuters)

OKLAHOMA:

Death penalty abolitionists to protest executions

Death penalty abolitionists and others who seek to end the death penalty will protest the executions of 2 death-row inmates on the days of their executions.

The Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty will host "Don't Kill for Me" demonstrations at the governor's mansion followed by silent vigils on Tuesday for death-row inmate Clayton Lockett and on April 29 for Charles Warner.

The inmates have been in a legal battle with the state over the secrecy surrounding which drugs are used in executions and their origins. The executions are still scheduled to take place, despite pending litigation in the case.

Lockett was found guilty of the 1999 shooting death of a 19-year-old woman, Stephanie Nieman. Warner was convicted for the 1997 death of his roommate's 11-month-old daughter.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Throwback Tulsa: Executioners first used 'Old Sparky' in 1915

With 2 jolts of electricity, Oklahoma in 1915 executed its 1st man condemned to die by electrocution.

Oklahoma's method of execution has been in the headlines again recently. State officials say they have obtained from a manufacturer the drugs necessary for 2 executions scheduled for this month.

State law allows electrocution if lethal injection is found unconstitutional, and the use of a firing squad if the electric chair is banned.

Also known as "Old Sparky," the electric chair was used to execute 82 condemned inmates from 1915 to 1966. The relic remains at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.

The last inmate to die in Oklahoma's electric chair was killer James D. French, but do you know who was 1st?

He was Henry Bookman, a 28-year-old black man who was convicted of killing a white McIntosh County farmer on April 2, 1915. Bookman said he acted in self-defense but there was scant evidence of his motive for the brutal crime.

Justice was swift in 1915. Within 2 months of his arrest, Bookman was convicted and sentenced to death by electrocution. After 2 delays, he was executed on Dec. 10, 1915.

In the days before the sentence was to be carried out, the World reported that McAlester prison officials thought Bookman was pretending to be insane.

"...He heeds no remarks addressed to him but keeps in a continuous death chant which in its weird execution grates on the nerves." However, "prison officials are loath to admit that (Bookman) is crazy," the newspaper reported.

Bookman asked the prison orchestra to play "Mama Don't Know Where I'm At" 2 days before the execution, the World reported on Dec. 9. One of his final requests was for his body to be sent to his mother in Chico, Texas.

Following the execution, the World reported that prison officials waited 4 days for word from Bookman's family. Receiving none, they buried him in a pauper's grave at the penitentiary. The story said no funeral was held, but black convicts were planning a memorial service the following Sunday.

The story reported that Bookman was the 7th person legally executed since statehood (and 6 of the 7 were black). Also, 22 others had been hanged by mobs.

The account of his execution, as reported in the Tulsa World, is both grotesque and poignant. And some of the language wouldn't be used today.

Here's the story:

HENRY BOOKMAN GOES TO DEATH MUMBLING PRAYER; FIRST LEGAL EXECUTION WITHIN 4 WALLS

Asks to see daylight once more.

Special to the World

M'ALESTER, Dec. 9. - Bookman this evening made 2 requests of Warden R. W. Dick when the warden called at his cell. One was that he be permitted to see daylight once more; the other that his body be sent to his mother in Chico, Texas. He asked the prison storekeeper for a black suit in which to die, but finding that there was nothing nearer solid black than a blue serge, he selected a novelty suit of blue and brown.

By J.W. PERRY

(Special Correspondent)

M'ALESTER, Dec. 10 - At 12:42 o'clock this morning a silent signal was given, a hidden hand behind a drawn curtain pulled a lever in the switchboard and 2,500 volts of electricity shot through the form of Henry Bookman, the McIntosh County negro who was sentenced to death for the murder of Rich Hardin, a white farmer, April 2 last.

At 12:45 the prison physician pronounced Bookman dead and Oklahoma's 1st victim of electrocution had passed into eternity. 2 shocks from the electric switchboard were required to complete the electrocution. After a 1st application of ten seconds Bookman still showed signs of life. His eyes slowly opened, the pupils rolled in their sockets and the tongue protruded through the gaping insertion in the death mask. A second shock of 17 seconds and Bookman's body was lying limp in the chair.

Under the shock of the electric current, Bookman's body stiffened suddenly, gripped hard as if holding onto life, then relaxed. The seeming gripping was repeated at the beginning of the 2nd shock then the whole form collapsed.

Bookman's body will be held by a local undertaker until word is received from his mother in Chico, Texas. If she wants it, it will be shipped, if not, buried in the Potters field. Sixty-eight witnessed the electrocution.

E.H. Hardin and Daley Hardin of Fame, Okla., McIntosh County, sons of Bookman's victim, accompanied by 7 farmer boys from near Fame arrived late tonight to attend the electrocution.

Daley Hardin with 4 other boys from Fame were refused admission to witness the electrocution because they are under age.

"Die like a man"

A half hour before the time set for the electrocution, a corps of 6 newspaper men were permitted to visit Bookman in his death cell. "I'm ready," he said. "I'm goin' to walk right in and walk right through it like a man. Ain't that the way to do it?"

When the bars of the death cell sprung open, however, Bookman's legs were wobbly, he walked steadfastly into the death chamber, slowly mumbling a prayer, but the prison chaplain, A.B. Johnson, and Night Sergeant Charles Campbell had to sustain him on both sides. 2 seconds later he was strapped into the chair.

"Be good, boys," Bookman said to the crowd as the straps began to tighten about him. Then he dropped into a mumbling prayer of "Oh, Lord, have mercy on my soul," the sound slowly dying out until only his lips moved in prayer.

Sings for reporters

An old-time negro melody, "I am Going to Meet My Jesus Over There," he told the newspaper men, was his favorite song. He sung 1 stanza and chorus in a quavering and plaintive voice, then stood in his cell and, reaching through the bars, shook hands with the entire bunch of visitors. ...

Bookman has taken special delight in the music of the prison orchestra since Wednesday afternoon. Negro convicts played sacred hymns Wednesday afternoon, again this morning while attendants were shaving his head and calves of his legs, then again this afternoon and tonight up until he made a 2nd attempt to commit suicide, this time by swallowing the chain of the toilet in his cell. Attendants rushed in and stopped him. ...

The electrocution of Bookman not only marks the beginning of the use of the electric chair as a means of inflicting the death penalty in Oklahoma, but also marks the revival of capital punishment as a penalty for crime. Capital punishment has never been removed from the statute books of Oklahoma, but, because of Governor Lee Cruce's objections to its use, the death penalty has been totally abandoned during the last 4 years.

23 persons were sentenced to die during the administration of Governor Cruce, but only 1 of them was executed. That was at the beginning of the Cruce administration, before he had announced his definite policy of opposition, when Frank Henson, a negro, was hanged at Tulsa for the murder of Charles Stumper at Dawson. The punishment of the other 22 was commuted to life imprisonment.

No motive for crime

No motive for the killing of Rich Hardin, for which Bookman was sentenced to be electrocuted, has ever been discovered, although the testimony in Bookman's trial at Eufaula indicated that it was a premeditated and unusually brutal assault.

Bookman himself, testifying in his own defense, declared that Hardin had threatened his life, that the white man had attempted to kill him when their final trouble began and that, as a means of protecting himself, he had wrested a shotgun from Hardin's hands and used it upon his assailant.

The killing occurred at the home of George Booth, a negro farmer for whom Bookman was working. According to the story of Lizzie Booth, George Booth's wife, Hardin had come to their house for the purpose of buying an old buggy wheel with which to replace one that had broken down. Both Booth and Bookman were in the field at the time. Within a few minutes after Hardin arrived, Bookman appeared at the door, explaining that he was sick and wanted the negro woman to prepare him some medicine. She went into the next room to get the medicine but before she crossed the room she heard 2 shots in quick succession.

Brutal attack

When she left the room Hardin was sitting just inside the door and Bookman was standing in the doorway, above which a double-barreled shotgun was resting. When she ran back to the door both men were standing and Bookman was beating Hardin over the head with the shotgun and Hardin, with hands uplifted, was attempting to ward off the blows. The negress cried to Bookman to stop his attack, but failing to gain his attention, she ran out into the yard, crying for help.

Hardin emerged from the front door a moment later, ran 10 or 15 steps, then fell to the ground face downward. Bookman, following, struck the white man several times over the head after he had fallen.

After the killing Bookman attempted to leave, but the negro woman, with the aid of her husband, who arrived soon afterward, forced him to remain.

Mob went after him

The killing occurred in the afternoon of April 2 this year. On the night of April 3 a mob of farmers went to Eufaula, where Bookman was confined in jail, intent upon lynching the black man. The McIntosh county sheriff spirited his prisoner away, however, and brought him to the state penitentiary for safekeeping. To prevent further attempts of mob violence, District Judge R.W. Higgins made a special setting of the case for May 21. On the 29th of that month a jury in the district court returned a verdict of murder, fixing Bookman's penalty at death in the electric chair.

Judge Higgins 1st set the date of the electrocution on August 6, but, pending the action of the state court of criminal appeals, to which appeal had been taken, the date was extended to October 6. A further stay of execution was granted at that time, since the court hadn't yet acted upon the case, and when the judgment of the trial court was affirmed October 11 the date of execution was finally fixed as December 10. Friday of last week Gov. R.L. Williams announced that he would not interfere with the mandates of the state court.

7 since statehood

With the electrocution of Bookman, the number of persons who have been legally executed since statehood is raised to 7. The 5 who were executed during Governor Haskell's administration were: --Frank Ford, a negro, executed at Frederick for the murder of his wife;

--John Hopkins, a white man, who killed his sweetheart, Lena Craig, near Miami;

--Will Johnson, negro, twice convicted of the murder of Mary Cuppy, an aged white woman;

--Alf Hunter, negro, who was hanged in Blaine County for the murder of Sheriff George W. Garrison of Oklahoma County; and

John Black, a negro, who was executed at Holdenville for the murder of J.M. Stephens.

22 have been hanged since statehood by mobs.

(source: Tulsa World)

CALIFORNIA:

Death Penalty Debate: End Executions or Expedite Process?

Catina Salarno knew her killer well. They lived across the street from each other in San Francisco and dated throughout high school. When she broke up with him the summer before college started she thought she'd have a fresh start at the University of the Pacific in Stockton. But on the 1st day of classes Steven John Burns was there. He'd enrolled without telling her, and now - after growing increasingly aggressive - he said he just wanted one last conversation to hash things out.

"He kept calling her to meet just 1 more time to say goodbye and then he would leave the school," says Harriet Salarno, Catina's mother.

The conversation didn't go the way Burns had hoped. As Catina walked away he pulled out a gun he'd stolen from her father - his own godfather - and executed her. He then left Catina to die as he went back to his dorm to watch football.

That was 35 years ago, but Harriet Salarno has not forgotten.

"He's a true sociopath," she says. "If they don't get their way they destroy."

Catina's murder was the 1st trauma the Salarnos faced. The 2nd was the "horrible" trial, in which the family was not even allowed into the courtroom. "After going through the criminal justice system I soon found out that the justice system is not for the victims," Harriet says. "It's for the perpetrator."

In her grief, Salarno became an activist. In 1991, she and her husband founded Crime Victims United of California, an organization that advocates for victims and a tougher criminal justice system. Since then, Salarno has become one of California's most public faces in the fight for victims' rights and tougher sentencing. She's currently involved with dozens of public safety bills, including an effort to reform California's beleaguered death penalty system.

A proposed ballot initiative - endorsed by former governors George Deukmejian, Pete Wilson and Gray Davis - would resume and expedite executions for the 700-plus people living on California's death row. (Salarno's daughter's killer is not one of them.) Executions were halted in 2006, and both advocates and opponents of capital punishment agree that the state's death penalty is a "broken system." But the divide comes on how it should be fixed.

"The side that's fighting to replace the death penalty (with life sentences) says that it's broken beyond repair, there's no political will to fix it, and we shouldn't be spending our precious state dollars trying to figure out how to fix it," says Ana Zamora, senior policy advocate for the American Civil Liberties Union's Northern California chapter. "The other side, which has district attorneys and other members of law enforcement, says that investing money, time and expertise in an attempt to change the system is a good use of California's resources."

The origins of the debate go back to the 1970s when California - mirroring decisions in the U.S. Supreme Court - engaged in a series of legal battles over the constitutionality of capital punishment. Ultimately, voters approved the death penalty with Proposition 17 in 1972. Another ballot initiative would need to be passed to overturn it. "California is sentencing all these people to death row - 24 people last year - but the system is so broken and expensive that California has not executed anyone in years."

Even though voters sanctioned the death penalty, legal challenges held up the first execution, carried out by gas chamber, until 1992.

In 2006, the state's lethal injection protocol, which began a decade prior, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation was told to discontinue the practice until it rewrote its policy. Since the CDCR has yet to do so, no one in the state has been put to death.

Without a constitutional amendment to overturn the death penalty, a bizarre system exists in which people can be sentenced to death but can't be executed. California's death row population has grown so vast that it represents "almost 1/4 of the people on death row in the United States," according to Matt Cherry, executive director of the group Death Penalty Focus.

Maintaining this system comes at a steep cost. Taxpayers have spent $4 billion on the death penalty since the 1970s, or $184 million per year. Santa Clara County has sentenced just two people to death between 2000 and 2007, and the estimated cost was $2.2 million.

"California is sentencing all these people to death row - 24 people last year - but the system is so broken and expensive that California has not executed anyone in years," Cherry says. "So all along it's been a broken and ineffective system at achieving its stated goals."

The logical solution is to abolish the death penalty and replace it with life in prison without the possibility of parole, Cherry argues. The change would "save millions of dollars" and "guarantee public safety and adequate punishment for the worst offenders."

In 2012, Proposition 34 attempted to do just this, but voters rejected it by a few percentage points. Still, the vote showed public opinion has shifted. When capital punishment was reinstated in 1972, 67.5 % voted in favor of it. 40 years later, that number is only 53 %.

The answer is reform, not abolition, according to death penalty advocates like Salarno. "Reform the appeal process, reform death row housing and victim restitution, reform the appointment of appellate counsel and the agency that overlooks it - those are the key things - 1, 2 3," she says.

The proposal she's backing - which needs at least 800,000 signatures by mid-July to make it onto November's ballot - would eliminate the need to rewrite the state's lethal injection procedure, so that executions can resume. The plan would also limit the appeals process to 5 years, transfer challenges to lower courts and require prisoners to work and pay restitution to their victims.

"We want the cases reviewed in a timely manner," says Kent Scheidegger, who helped draft the proposal and serves as legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation. "In the typical case, it is entirely feasible for all state court reviews to be completed in 5 years, as opposed to 10 or 15 now. It will save money by shortening the amount of time prisoners are kept on death row."

In addition, Scheidegger says, hastening executions is good for public safety. "If you carry it out more quickly and with more certainty, it'll have a stronger deterrent effect," he says.

Cherry calls the proposal "misguided and deeply flawed" because it would "result in endless constitutional challenges" that would cost the state even more money. More importantly, he points out, shortening the review process increases the chances an innocent person could be executed. "If it wasn't for that time allowed for reviews and appeals he would have been executed a long time ago and we never would have gotten to see the evidence that he was innocent."

Just last month, Glenn Ford, a 64-year-old Louisiana man, was exonerated after spending more than 30 years on death row for a crime he did not commit - making him the 144th American freed under such circumstances in the modern era. "If it wasn't for that time allowed for reviews and appeals he would have been executed a long time ago and we never would have gotten to see the evidence that he was innocent," Cherry says.

Across the nation, public support for capital punishment is in decline. 18 states plus the District of Columbia have abolished the death penalty, and in recent years states like Washington and Oregon have placed moratoriums on executions citing costs, flawed prosecutions, racial discrimination and a shortage of lethal injection drugs.

"The death penalty is front and center nationally right now, not because states are changing death penalty procedures, but because states are getting rid of it," Zamora says. "We should be thinking about how to spend our time and money making California a better place. Education should be a priority, not how to fix our multi-million dollar debacle known as the death penalty."

(source: San Jose Inside)

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Alameda County DA's office seeks death penalty against child killer

The Alameda County District Attorney's Office announced Thursday that it is seeking the death penalty against an Oakland man charged with 2 murders, including the killing of an 8-year-old girl.

Darnell Williams, 23, is the 1st defendant to face a death penalty prosecution since David Mills was sentenced to death in 2012 for killing 3 people in Oakland in 2005.

Williams is the 1st person Alameda County has sought death against since District Attorney Nancy O'Malley took office in 2011.

Williams is accused of killing 8-year-old Alaysha Carradine and wounding two children and a grandmother in a revenge shooting in East Oakland on July 17.

He is also charged with murder in the fatal shooting of 22-year-old Anthony Medearis Jr. in Berkeley on Sept. 8.

The special allegation of multiple murders makes Williams eligible for death penalty prosecution.

Attorneys in the case declined to comment Thursday.

(source: Oakland Tribune)

OREGON:

Oregon Supreme Court upholds conviction of Ricardo Serrano, on death row for slaying Bethany family

The Oregon Supreme Court has upheld the aggravated murder conviction and death sentence of Ricardo Serrano, who killed the family of his wife's lover.

Serrano, of Aloha, fatally shot Melody Dang, 37, and her sons Steven, 15, and Jimmy, 12, in their Bethany-area home Nov. 2, 2006.

Prosecutors said Serrano sought revenge on Mike Nguyen, who had an affair with Serrano's wife and got her pregnant. Nguyen discovered the bodies when he returned from work.

On appeal, the high court affirmed Serrano's conviction and sentence Thursday.

The justices rejected the defendant's arguments, which included: the trial judge had erred in failing to acquit him on the aggravated murder charges; there was insufficient evidence that the murders occurred in furtherance of a burglary and theft; the trial judge failed to strike testimony in the penalty phase about racially-organized prison gangs.

(source: The Oregonian)

USA:

Supreme Court to clarify limits on executing the mentally disabled

Freddie Hall is the longest serving of the 397 inmates currently on Florida's death row. He does not dispute that he committed the horrific crime for which he was sentenced to death in 1978 - beating, raping and shooting a 21-year-old woman. And he no longer is pursuing any claims concerning the fairness of his trial. Hall's sole claim is that he is mentally disabled and thus ineligible for execution. As evidence, he points to his many IQ test scores, the opinions of several clinicians and his poor functioning as both a child and adult.

At issue in the case of Florida v. Hall, argued last month, is whether this is enough. The Supreme Court has only weighed in on this branch of Eighth Amendment jurisprudence on 2 occasions. In 1989, the Court held in Penry v. Lynaugh that the Eighth Amendment prohibition on "cruel and unusual" punishment did not prohibit the execution of the mentally disabled. Just 13 years later, in 2002, the Court doubled back on this on this decision in Atkins v. Virginia, holding that the practice had become so "unusual" and disfavored that it no longer was constitutional.

Though the command of the Court was clear enough - under no circumstances can a mentally disabled inmate be executed - the Court provided almost no guidance on how to actually determine whether someone is mentally disabled. The states have accordingly stepped into the breach and developed a host of different standards and methods. Some use multifactor tests that involve a number of different prongs, such as IQ, intellectual functioning and social history; others rely more heavily on IQ scores alone.

Under Florida's current approach, an inmate must satisfy three separate criteria with clear and convincing evidence to prove that he or she is mentally disabled:

(1) "significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning";

(2) "existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior"; and

(3) "manifested during the period from conception to 18."

Though the second, and perhaps the third, criteria leave some room for discretion and interpretation, the Florida Supreme Court has interpreted the 1st prong as imposing a strict IQ score cutoff. Under Florida law, any inmate who cannot prove by clear and convincing evidence that his or her IQ score is lower than 70 is eligible to be executed and cannot satisfy the 1st prong; in legal parlance, this is what is often referred to as a "bright-line rule."

For Freddy Hall, this bright-line may prove fatal. At a December 2009 hearing held to determine whether he was mentally disabled or not, he presented evidence of past IQ test scores of 71, 76, 79, 80, 73, 72 and 69. Labeling the lone score below 70 as an "aberration," the court rejected his claim because of his inability to demonstrate that his IQ is less than 70.

Before the Court, Hall is arguing that this strict cutoff does not accord with accepted clinical standards. In particular, Hall argues that Florida's approach is constitutionally deficient because it fails to account for the standard error of measurement that informs any statistically imprecise tool such as an IQ test - and thus does not comport with the best practices of the American Psychiatric Association and the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Using this approach, IQ scores are estimated within 95 % confidence intervals, which usually have a spread of 8 to 10 points. For Hall, this would mean that most of his IQ tests resulted in estimates with a lower bound under the cutoff of 70.

Florida has raised a number of objections to Hall's proposed methodological changes. To begin with, Florida argues that the accepted clinical practice with regards to determining mental disability is unsettled and constantly evolving. Therefore, there is simply no "accepted" standard for it to adopt. Florida also insists that its approach does comport with accepted clinical practice, as everyone agrees that 70 is the generally accepted cutoff. In this respect, Florida argues that incorporating the standard error of measurement would effectively raise this cutoff from 70 to 75 - unnecessarily expanding the number of inmates ineligible for execution. It also notes that its approach allows for a series of IQ tests to be administered, as Hall's case demonstrates, which should eliminate any statistical aberrations.

From a broader perspective, Florida contends that it is simply inappropriate to defer to the private medical community for a constitutional judgment of such importance. If such a delegation of authority were made to clinicians, Florida argues it would create perverse incentives. After all, Florida's goal is to prevent eligible death row inmates from evading execution, while many in the psychiatric community may seek just the opposite.

At oral argument, Justices Scalia and Alito seemed to support Florida's assertion that the medical community should not be allowed to determine constitutional standards. At least five other justices, however, appeared to side with Hall. Justice Kennedy, often the swing vote in death penalty decisions, was particularly vocal and repeatedly questioned whether Florida was sincerely trying to determine if inmates are mentally disabled, or simply using an arbitrary cutoff to game the system. With Kennedy's support, Hall is likely to prevail, although it is not necessarily clear that he will be deemed mentally disabled under the new standard formulated by the Court.

Interestingly enough, Justice Kennedy also peppered Florida's lawyers with questions about why inmates such as Hall have such lengthy stays on death row; the last 10 inmates executed by Florida had been on death row for an average of nearly 25 years at the time of their respective executions. Justice Scalia, as he has often done in the past, defended Florida by asserting that the Court itself, and the elaborate procedural mechanisms it has created in the death penalty context, are ultimately to blame. Though collateral to the case, this exchange neatly demonstrates that larger issues are always simmering below the surface when the Court confronts the death penalty. A sweeping decision in Hall may well foreshadow a further narrowing of those eligible for execution in the future.

(source: The Stanford Daily)

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U.S. seeks death penalty in Milwaukee drug, homicide case

Federal officials have indicted 27 people in a drug conspiracy case involving homicide, money laundering and the sale of heroin, crack and more than 650 pounds of cocaine over several years in southeastern Wisconsin.

Officials are seeking the federal death penalty against 3 men, including Kevin R. Arms, 40, of Pewaukee, who they said is the kingpin of the operation.

Authorities arrested 18 defendants on Wednesday. 3 were already in custody and 6 are still at large. Authorities recovered 31 firearms and about $143,000.

Several family members of Arms, including his 21-year-old son Kevin C. Arms, were charged with money laundering on allegations they bought a boat, cars, motorcycles, houses and expensive watches with drug money.

U.S. Attorney James L. Santelle declined to say who was slain but said it was unusual to seek the death penalty in federal homicide cases in Wisconsin.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's homicide database, only 1 person was slain in Milwaukee on the date - Nov. 16, 2008 - outlined in the federal indictment charging Kevin R. Arms, John Bailey, 37, and Phillip Moffett, 32, with homicide by firearm. Paula P. Jackson, 43, was shot to death that day in a car as she pulled into a tavern parking lot near the 4200 block of W. Burleigh St. A 49-year-old woman in Jackson's car was wounded.

"The criminal conduct of the 27 people charged by the grand jury has now come to an end, a decisive end," Santelle said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon. "The neighborhoods that have long been victimized by the destructive trafficking in illegal drugs, their use of firearms, their use of dirty money to purchase assets can now begin working toward a restoration they want and deserve."

Some of the defendants were charged with selling drugs, some were charged with allowing drugs or drug money to be kept at their homes and businesses, and some were charged with laundering drug profits. All of the defendants are from Milwaukee except Kevin R. Arms and 2 men from Atlanta, Ga.

Cars, watches seized

Among the assets seized by the government were 2008 and 2014 Cadillac Escalades, two Harley-Davidson motorcycles, a 21-foot fishing boat, early '70s muscle cars, sports cars, a pickup truck, a van and SUV, 3 men's Breitling chronograph watches, money from 2 companies - True Boss Entertainment and Arms Investments - and 11 homes on Milwaukee's near north side. Federal officials also seized a money judgment for $3 million.

Santelle declined to reveal details about the $3 million judgment.

Drug Enforcement Agency assistant special agent in charge James Bohn said Kevin R. Arms and his organization threatened citizens in Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin with violence and illegal drugs.

"Today that came to an end. Their years of drug dealing, intimidation and violence are over," Bohn said.

An investigation into Kevin R. Arms began in 2011 with investigators discovering his organization was responsible for transporting and distributing more than 660 pounds of cocaine in the city of Milwaukee, Milwaukee Assistant Police Chief Kurt Liebold said.

(source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

SAUDI ARABIA----execution

Saudi beheaded for killing man with machinegun; His execution in Riyadh brings to 13 the number of death sentences carried out this year

The authorities in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday beheaded a citizen convicted of shooting dead a compatriot, the interior ministry said.

Mohammad Matrak Mohammad Al Dosari was found guilty of killing Mubarak Zafir Manahi Al Dossari using a machinegun, the ministry said in a statement carried by the state news agency SPA.

The killing came after a fist fight over a financial dispute, it said.

His execution in Riyadh brings to 13 the number of death sentences carried out this year in the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia beheaded 78 people in 2013, according to an AFP count.

Last year, the UN High Commission for Human Rights denounced a "sharp increase in the use of capital punishment" since 2011 in Saudi Arabia.

According to figures from rights group Amnesty International, the number of Saudi executions rose from 27 in 2010, of whom 5 were foreigners, to 82 in 2011, including 28 foreigners.

In 2012, the number of executions dipped slightly to 79, among them 27 foreigners.

Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Saudi Arabia's strict version of Islamic sharia law.

(source: Gulf News)

BRUNEI:

Brunei's plan to stone gays riles UN

The Sultan of Brunei has announced that those committing same sex relations could be stoned to death. The draconian law has brought condemnation from the UN, with the tiny Asian oil rich nation having a virtual moratorium on the death penalty since 1957.

Homosexuality has long been a criminal offence in Brunei, which is situated on the island of Borneo, with a penalty of 10 years in prison previously handed out for the offence. However, stoning is now set to be allowed for a range of sexual offences, such as rape, adultery, sodomy, extramarital sexual relations. The law is planned to come into force on April 22.

The United Nations has been very critical of the move, with Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights saying, "the application of the death penalty for such a broad range of offenses contravenes international law." The death sentence could also be imposed for insulting any verses of the Quran and Hadith, blasphemy, declaring oneself a prophet or non-Muslim, and murder. The new law will only apply to Muslims, who make up about 2/3 of a total population of just over 400,000.

Speaking at a conference in Geneva, Coville urged the Brunei government to conduct a comprehensive review of their planned law saying, "under international law, stoning people to death constitutes torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and is thus clearly prohibited."

A change in Brunei's criminal code to introduce stoning was first mooted in October 2013. The Sultan, Hassanal Bolkiah, who has ruled the country since 1967 has been keen to introduce sharia law, to strengthen Islam within the nation.

Brunei practices a more conservative form of Islam than neighboring Malaysia and Indonesia, although they ban the sale and public consumption of alcohol and closely restrict other religions.

The use of stoning as a punishment is allowed in just a handful of countries around the world.

(source: rt.com)

LEBANON:

Abdullah Azzam Brigades Member Arrested, Death Penalty Issued against 6 Fugitives

Army Intelligence arrested a member of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades terrorist group, while Military Examining Magistrate Fadi Sawan asked on Thursday for the death penalty against 6 Palestinian fugitives on charges of forming an armed group aimed at carrying out terrorist attacks.

Palestinian Bilal Kayed Kayed was arrested on charges of carrying out criminal acts in Lebanon, announced the army in a statement.

They include an attack against a United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon patrol in al-Qassemiyeh area in 2007, which resulted in the deaths of several members of the Spanish contingent.

He is also charged with carrying out terrorist attacks, transporting weapons, committing and attempted murder, and sabotaging public and private property.

Kayed was captured in an ambush in the Bekaa region of Arsal on Wednesday, reported al-Manar television.

Al-Jadeed television meanwhile revealed that the confessions of detainee Naim Abbas, a top official in the al-Qaida-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades, led to his arrest.

3 Spanish and 3 Colombian peacekeepers were killed in June 2007 when a booby-trapped car exploded as their patrol vehicle drove by in southern Lebanon.

On Thursday, Sawan asked the death penalty against fugitives Bilal and Kamal Bader, Sari al-Hujair, Mahmoud Azab, Ali Khalil, and Nidal Mohammed, reported the National News Agency.

He issued arrest warrants against them and referred their case to the permanent military court.

Several of the latest bombings in Hizbullah strongholds in Beirut's southern suburbs and the eastern Bekaa valley have been claimed by the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, whose leader, Majed al-Majed, was captured by Lebanese authorities in December and died in custody later.

(source: Neharnet.com)

INDIA:

Modi Says He Deserves Death If Any 2002 Riot Allegations True

Narendra Modi, the frontrunner to become India's next prime minister, said he deserves the death penalty if any allegations about his involvement in sectarian riots that took place 12 years ago are proven true.

"If there's any truth to the allegations, I should be made to stand in the crossroads and hung," Modi, prime ministerial candidate for the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, said in an interview with ANI News broadcast yesterday. An apology would serve no purpose because "it isn't the right way" to deal with such an issue, he said.

Modi, who has ruled the western Gujarat state for the last 13 years, has been criticized by opponents for failing to control riots in the state in 2002 that killed more than 1,000 people, most of them Muslims. In the current election campaign, he has focused on how he will spur India's economy, helping in part to neutralize the issue.

"I have said what I had to say, and now I am in the people's court, and I am waiting to hear from them," Modi, 63, said in the interview broadcast on several Indian television channels. "I don't want to waste time going into allegations, and want to focus on the development agenda."

When asked about India's nuclear-weapons policy, Modi said he would continue the course set by the last BJP-led government, which conducted atomic tests in 1998. He said he would stick to India's existing policy of not being the 1st to use nuclear weapons in an armed conflict. Neighbor Pakistan also has nuclear weapons.

Election Campaign

Several opinion polls have projected the coalition led by the BJP will win the general election for the 543-seat lower house of India’s parliament. For the 1st time, a poll earlier this week found that the coalition may win an outright majority.

India's elections, the world's biggest-ever exercise in democracy, began on April 7 and will end on May 12 after nine phases of voting. Counting will take place on May 16.

Modi, a former activist in the Hindu nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, has promoted his image as a magnet for investment and a record of stronger-than-average growth in Gujarat, where he's been chief minister since 2001. The state has attracted investment from companies such as Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL), Ford Motor Co. and billionaire Gautam Adani's Adani Enterprises.

Modi has been attacked by opponents for failing to control a pogrom in Gujarat that took place over three days starting Feb. 27, 2002. After Muslims set fire to a train, killing Hindu activists, ensuing riots killed about 1,100 people, mostly Muslims, according to a government report by Justice G.T. Nanavati and Justice Akshay Mehta.

Human rights groups including the Concerned Citizens Tribunal say Modi failed to control the mob. Modi denies wrongdoing and a panel appointed by India's Supreme Court in 2012 found no evidence that his decisions prevented victims from receiving help.

Modi said yesterday that he has repeatedly come clean on questions about the incident, and that the allegations are being fanned by people who have failed to defeat him in polls.

(source: Bloomberg News)

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

Honour killing: High Court commutes to life death sentence of 3

The Delhi High Court on Thursday commuted to life term the death sentence awarded to 3 members of a family for the honour killing of a teen couple in 2010, saying there is a possibility of their reformation.

A special bench of justices S Muralidhar and Mukta Gupta acquitted 2 others - the girl's mother and aunt - who also had been awarded capital punishment by the trial court, saying they were only "spectators" to the crime and did not share the common intention to murder the couple.

"The court is of the opinion that ends of justice would be met if convicted appellants Om Prakash and Suraj are awarded the sentence of imprisonment for life which will not be less than 20 years actual. Since, appellant Sanjeev is a young man who was not married, the court considers it fit to sentence him to imprisonment of life subject to remissions.

"Appellants Maya (mother) and Khushboo (aunt) are acquitted of the offences with which they were charged," the bench said.

It said, "The 2 ladies could be at best be said to be spectators to what was being done by the 3 men in the house.

"No doubt, as a mother and aunt there was an omission on their part to have not saved at least Asha, their daughter.

However, the said omission does not qualify the test that they shared the common intention with the 3 men to commit the murder....," the high court said.

Defence lawyer Sumeet Verma had argued that in the absence of an overt act being attributed to Khushboo and Maya, they cannot be convicted for offence of murder on the ground that they shared a common intention to commit the crime.

The court reduced to life term the death sentence awarded to the girl's father, uncle and cousin brother - Suraj, Om Prakash and Sanjeev respectively - saying there is no material placed on record by the State to show they cannot be reformed or are a menace to the society.

"Although there are aggravating circumstances, there is no material placed on record by the State to show that the appellants Om Prakash, Suraj and Sanjeev are persons who cannot be reformed or are a menace to the society...."Thus, this court is of the considered opinion that the penalty of death cannot be awarded to convicted appellants," the bench said.

(source: Deccan Chronicle)

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

Mulayam's daughter-in-law backs death penalty for rape

Unlike Mulayam Singh Yadav who feels capital punishment is debatable, his daughter-in-law Aparna Yadav is strictly of the view that rapists should be hanged to death.

While talking to News18 on Thursday, she said, "Netaji is right in saying that death penalty is being debated around the world. But, as a woman, my personal view is that if the accused has been found guilty of rape, he should be hanged."

Earlier, Mulayam had invited the ire of political opponents when he opposed capital punishment for rape, saying "ladke, ladke hain... galti ho jati hai (boys will be boys... they commit mistakes)."

His remarks came during a rally he was addressing in Moradabad on April 11. Following massive uproar, even the Election Commission took cognizance of the matter and sought a detailed report from poll authorities over his controversial remarks.

Meanwhile, calling her father-in-law a pro-women leader, Aparna claimed that his choice of words were inappropriate but, his comments should have been taken in the right context by the media.

"As rape is a sensitive issue, his choice of words were probably wrong, but if one reads his comments in entirety, the meaning is very clear," she said, claiming that he meant rapists should be punished, but at times innocent people are also implicated in rape cases which shouldn't happen.

"He encouraged Dimple and me to enter politics. He is pro-women. Netaji even appointed a DIG level officer and an entire team for redressing grievances of women in UP. I think his comments were misinterpreted," she said.

(source: IBN Live)

BANGLADESH:

Bangladesh SC wraps up death penalty review for war crimes suspect

Bangladesh's Supreme Court today wrapped up the appeal hearing against the judgement of a special tribunal that had sentenced to death a key 1971 war crimes suspect with the final verdict due any day now.

"The date of the verdict is (hereby) kept on CAV (Curia Advisari Vult)," which means the verdict would be delivered any day, chief justice Muzammel Hossain declared in the open court as he wrapped up the hearing on appeal by the accused Delwar Hossain Sayeedi.

Experts said the legal term meant the court was yet to take any decision on the verdict and the judges would like to take time for deliberations.

Ahead of closing the hearing the 5-judge apex court rejected 2 nearly identical petitions by the prosecution and defence lawyers seeking to search out an old case document against Sayeedi, a leader of the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami.

Emerging from the courtroom, attorney general Mahbubey Alam told newsmen that the state believed "we could prove the allegations" and expected the apex court to uphold the tribunal verdict for the accused.

Chief defence counsel Khondker Mahbubuddin, on the other hand, claimed they successfully pointed out that a wrong man was tried and sentenced to death as another person with Sayeedi's name had actually carried out the atrocities.

The defence had raised the same argument during Sayeedi's trial at the International Crimes Tribunal but it rejected the claim as baseless and sentenced him to death on February 28, 2013 for "crimes against humanity" for siding with Pakistani troops during Bangladesh's 1971 liberation war.

The tribunal found valid 8 of the 20 charges, including mass killing, arson, looting and forcefully converting non-Muslims to Islam, against the 73-year-old Islamist leader, a former lawmaker and orator.

On March 28 last year, Sayeedi filed an appeal with the SC seeking acquittal from all the charges. The same day, the government submitted a separate appeal to it, demanding capital punishment on all eight charges.

But the verdict sparked nationwide violence killing at least 32 people within hours of the judgement and Bangladesh in subsequent weeks witnessed protracted unrest that left over 100 people dead.

(source: Zee News)

SINGAPORE:

Indonesia probes real age of maid accused of murdering employer

Indonesian authorities have launched an investigation to determine if the Indonesian maid accused of murdering a socialite is younger than stated in documents.

Dewi Sukowati is accused of causing the death of her employer, 69-year-old Nancy Gan, on the morning of 19 March this year at Victoria Park Road.

Ms Gan was found dead in her bungalow's pool. She was said to have suffered head injuries.

On Thursday, defence lawyer Mohamed Muzammil told the media that an Indonesian MP from Dewi's hometown said they are investigating those responsible for falsifying Dewi's age.

He added that while it is not known how old Dewi is, she is not 23 years old as stated in court documents.

Previously, the court heard the defence's request to verify Dewi's age.

Under the law, Dewi has to be at least 23 years old to be employed as a helper in Singapore.

If she is found to be below the age of 18 at the time of the offence, Dewi will escape the death penalty if convicted.

It also heard that the psychiatrist needs to interview the parents of Dewi to complete the evaluation report.

Mr Mohamed Muzammil said on Thursday that the Indonesian embassy had arranged for Dewi's father to come to Singapore to assist the psychiatrist.

Dewi's father was in Singapore for 4 days and had left on Wednesday.

This case will be heard again on 15 May.

(source: Channel News Asia)

IRAN----execution

Kurdish Political Prisoner Executed in Western Iran Today

A Kurdish political prisoner identified as Samko Khorshidi was hanged in the Dizelabad prison of Kermanshah, reported the "Kurdistan Human Rights Organization" today.

The prisoner was arrested in 2011 near Tehran, and sentenced to death charged with "Moharebeh" (waging war against the God) and "Corruption on earth", for membership in a Kurdish opposition group.

The execution took place today and the news of the execution has not been announced by the official sources yet. The body of the prisoner has not been delivered to his family yet.

At least 3 Kurdish political prisoners were executed by the Iranian authorities in 2013. All the executions were carried out secretly.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

SCOTLAND/GLOBAL:

Time the entire world barred capital punishment; The last hanging in Scotland was as late as 1963

In the Grassmarket in central Edinburgh, a round stone known as the "shadow of the gibbet" marks the site's history as an execution spot.

While capital punishment continued in Britain long past the last Grassmarket execution in 1784 - the last hanging in Scotland was as late as 1963 - this memorial to such a gruesome practice is an important reminder that barbarity is a part of our history.

Yet in many places around the world, capital punishment is a live issue. While more than 2/3 of countries have now abolished the death penalty, there are still hundreds of state-sanctioned executions each year. This number excludes China as the number of people being put to death is considered a state secret, but is thought to be in the thousands.

Amnesty International's annual report on the use of the death penalty worldwide makes for chilling reading. Excluding China, almost 4/5 of all executions worldwide took place in just 3 countries – Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Iran sentenced at least 369 people to death - this was the official number of executions acknowledged by the authorities, but there is credible evidence of the death penalty being carried out in secret, meaning the total number may be more than 700 executions - in just 1 year.

There are many sensible, pragmatic arguments to be made against the death penalty - it is often impossible to prove a crime without any doubt and there is no conclusive evidence that the death penalty acts as a deterrent.

However, there is an even more fundamental reason to object. Human life is priceless. The deliberate ending of another's life is not a tool to be used by governments in cold blood. In extreme cases of murder or sexual assault, there will always be a public lust for vengeance. The death penalty has never been solely about these extreme cases.

Throughout history, untold horrors have been perpetrated at the hands of governments and regimes for petty crimes or over religious or political disputes. Humanity has now ended these practices across most of the world - let us look forward to state executions being ended forever in our lifetimes.

(source: Marco Biagi is MSP for Edinburgh Central----The Scotsman)

INDONESIA:

Filipino denies murdering countryman

A Filipino construction worker pleaded not guilty to murdering his countryman before the High Court here yesterday.

Arjie Saremio, 26, denied the charge, which was read to him in the Visayan dialect, before Justice Ravinthran Paramaguru who, then fixed May 15 this year for pre-trial case management.

The accused was alleged to have murdered one Roldan, an immigrant without any documents, on Jan 24, this year at a construction site in Kampung Sinsuron, Tambunan.

The charge, framed under Section 302 of the Penal Code, carries the mandatory death penalty upon conviction.

Deputy public prosecutor Chow Siang Kong prosecuted while the accused was represented by Datu Baginda Datu Laja.

In a separate case, Justice Chew Soo Ho fixed April 29 to hear the prosecution's appeal against local restaurant manager Riduan Masmud.

On Feb 2 this year, the lower court sentenced Riduan, 41, to 12 years' jail and 2 strokes of the cane for raping a 13-year-old girl, whom he then took as his 2nd wife.

The statutory rape offence under Section 376 (1) of the Penal Code carries a maximum of 20 years' jail and whipping, on conviction.

The Sessions Court found him guilty of raping the then 12-year-and-6-month-old girl inside a car by the roadside near the Kionsom Waterfall in Inanam about 10am on February 18, 2013.

Riduan is currently on a stay of execution, pending disposal of the appeal.

(source: The Borneo Post)

APRIL 16, 2014:

TEXAS----execution

Man Executed for Killing 3 Members of Texas Family

A man convicted of fatally stabbing his ex-girlfriend, her young son and her mother 13 years ago at a home in Corpus Christi was executed by Texas prison officials Wednesday.

The lethal injection of Jose Villegas, 39, was carried out after his attorneys unsuccessfully argued to the U.S. Supreme Court that he was mentally impaired and ineligible for the death penalty.

"I would like to remind my children once again I love them," Villegas said when asked if he had a statement before being put to death. "Everything is OK. I love you all, and I love my children. I am at peace."

Just as the pentobarbital began taking effect, he said, "It does kind of burn. Goodbye." He gasped several times, then started to breathe quietly. Within less than a minute, all movement had stopped.

Villegas was pronounced dead at 7:04 p.m. CDT, 11 minutes after the lethal dose of the sedative began. He became the seventh prisoner executed this year in the nation's most active death penalty state.

6 relatives of his victims witnessed the execution but declined to comment afterward.

"I was struck by the calm and peacefulness inside that room as opposed to the utter terror the victims must have been in as Jose Luis Villegas stabbed them," Mark Skurka, the Nueces County district attorney who prosecuted Villegas, said after watching the execution.

"He made no attempt to make peace with the family, apologize to the family or show any remorse for taking the lives of 3 people," Skurka said. "The family expressed to me that they are glad that this is finally over and that justice has finally been done, even though it took a very long time in their minds for this to happen."

Villegas' lawyers filed a last-day appeal asking the Supreme Court to stop his punishment, saying testing in February showed he had an IQ of 59. The high court denied it several hours later, slightly delaying the punishment. 4 of the 9 justices indicated in the brief court order that they would have given him a reprieve.

The Supreme Court has prohibited execution of mentally impaired people, although states have been allowed to devise procedures to make their own determinations. Courts also have embraced scientific studies that consider a 70 IQ a threshold for impairment, and the high court justices are reviewing a Florida law stipulating that number for death penalty eligibility.

The Texas Attorney General's office disputed the IQ finding, saying previous examinations of Villegas showed no mental impairment and the number cited in his appeal was based on testing after he received an execution date and had no incentive to do well on the test. State attorneys also argued his lawyers had 10 years to raise impairment claims but didn't do so until days before his scheduled punishment.

Villegas was convicted of fatally stabbing Erida Salazar, 23, her 3-year-old son, Jacob, and Salazar's mother, Alma Perez, 51, in January 2001. Their bodies were discovered by Salazar's father when he returned home after being excused from jury duty. Each had been stabbed at least 19 times.

Villegas, a former cook, dishwasher and laborer, was free on bond for a sexual assault charge and was supposed to go on trial the day of the killings for an incident in which a woman said he punched her in the face.

Police spotted Villegas driving Salazar's stolen car and he led them on a chase that ended with him on foot and urging officers to shoot him. When arresting him, police found 3 bags of cocaine in his baseball cap.

Following his conviction for capital murder, Villegas was convicted of 2 counts of indecency with a child related to the daughter of the woman he was accused of punching in the face prior to the slayings. Relatives have said Salazar's mother had urged her daughter to break up with Villegas when she learned of the sex charges against him.

Villegas also had convictions for making terroristic threats to kill women, burglary and possessing inhalants.

Attorneys argued the slayings were not intentional and Villegas was mentally ill. A defense psychiatrist testified Villegas experienced "intermittent explosive disorder," a condition that led to uncontrollable rages.

Villegas became the 3rd condemned inmate executed with a new stock of pentobarbital from a provider corrections officials have refused to identify, citing the possibility of threats of violence against the supplier. The Supreme Court has upheld that stance; he becomes the 7th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Texas and the 515th overall since the state resumed executions on December 7, 1982. Villegas becomes the 276th condemned inmate to be put to death in Texas since Rick Perry became governor in 2001.

Villegas becomes the 17th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1376th overall since the nation resumed executions on Janaury 17, 1977.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

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

Executions under Rick Perry, 2001-present-----276

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982-present----515

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

277------------May 13--------------------Robert Campbell------516

278------------May 21--------------------Robert Pruett-------517

(sources for both: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

MARYLAND:

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley accepted the Mario Cuomo Acts of Courage Award from Death Penalty Focus for sponsoring a bill repealing capital punishment.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley accepted the Mario Cuomo Acts of Courage Award from Death Penalty Focus at its awards dinner Tuesday night in Beverly Hills, CA, for sponsoring a bill repealing capital punishment.

"We led with the truth that the death penalty doesn't work, but we also led with things that do work," O'Malley said at the dinner at The Beverly Hilton.

O'Malley "displayed true leadership by not only signing the legislation, but making death penalty repeal a top legislative priority," Chelsea Bond, program director of Death Penalty Focus, said before the dinner.

"Taking a stand against the death penalty is no longer the political third rail it once was, as politicians see now that ending the death penalty is a common-sense solution that saves money, protects innocent people from being executed, and upholds human rights," Bond said.

"However, it still requires leadership to change a long-established law. The national trend away from the death penalty would not be possible without the bold leadership of elected representatives like Governor O'Malley."

O'Malley's opposition to the death penalty drew criticism earlier this week from Maryland Delegate John W.E. Cluster Jr., R-Baltimore County, who called it a deterrent to murder, citing the sharply lower murder rates in Baltimore County, where prosecutors seek the death penalty, than in adjacent Baltimore, where they do not.

Cluster, a former police officer, sponsored an amendment to the bill to keep the death penalty for murdering a police officer while he or she was performing his duties and supported an amendment keeping the death penalty when an inmate kills a correctional officer.

"There's nothing deterring these prisoners from killing correctional officers," Cluster told City News Service in a telephone interview. "What are they going to get? Another life sentence? They've already got a life sentence."

O'Malley has said he is looking at the possibility of running for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

Death Penalty Focus describes itself as one of the world's largest organizations solely dedicated to the abolition of the death penalty.

The award is named for the former New York governor who vetoed multiple bills seeking to reinstate the death penalty "when it was politically unpopular to oppose the death penalty," and "refused to back down from his stance" when "opponents tried to use his opposition to the death penalty against him during campaigns," Bond said.

Cuomo was the 1st recipient of the award in 1996.

(source: Potomac Patch)

GEORGIA:

Defense cries foul over prosecutor's motion in Athens death penalty case

Defense attorneys for a woman charged in the murder of a pregnant Athens convenience store clerk more than three years ago have accused prosecutors of violating a court order in the death-penalty case.

The attorneys claim in a motion recently filed in Clarke County Superior Court that the district attorney's office improperly commented about the contents of a letter from defendant Shameeka LaShae Watson that a judge had previously placed under seal.

The commentary was in a prosecution motion that requested permission to conduct a latent examination of the letter in order to authenticate that it had been written by Watson so that it could be used as evidence against her.

That motion refers to statements in the letter as being "admissible in a trial as an admission by (Watson)" in the 2010 fatal stabbing of KeJuan Charde Hall that also resulted in the death of Hall's unborn child.

"The letter was a communication initiated by the defendant, lacking any constitutional protection," the prosecution motion states.

The motion never quotes from the letter or describes its contents in detail.

Nonetheless, Watson's attorneys argue that just by characterizing the letter's contents the district attorney's office violated the judge's order that placed the letter under seal.

"The content of the state's motion of March 13, 2014, violates the agreement between the state and defendant and, more importantly, the order of the court regarding the document under seal," according to the defense motion signed by Athens attorneys Eric Eberhart and Elizabeth Grant.

A news story about the state's motion having revealed that Watson made admissions in the letter to the judge was published by the Athens Banner-Herald on March 19.

"Shameeka Watson is being subjected to due process harm from media attention and public commentary generated by the state's motion," the defense motion states.

Western Judicial Circuit Chief Judge David Sweat on Dec. 10 notified prosecuting and defense attorneys that he had received a letter from Watson and ordered that it be filed with the court clerk.

When the defense objected, the judge settled on a compromise that it be filed with the clerk under seal.

But by characterizing the letter's contents as an admission by Watson, Eberhart argues, prosecutors violated the judge's order and subjected themselves up to a possible contempt of court finding.

The defense attorney does not ask the judge to use his contempt powers, however, but that he "remedy the harm done by removing the document from the clerk's docket and barring its use in the case."

A hearing on the matter has been scheduled for April 28.

Watson faces murder, feticide, kidnapping and other charges along with her husband, Clarence McCord III. She was previously granted a request to be tried separately from McCord.

The defendants are accused of killing Hall on Dec. 30, 2010, as the victim clerked at the Golden Pantry at Timothy Road and Atlanta Highway.

An indictment states that Watson and McCord killed Hall by stabbing her 31 times with 2 different weapons.

The victim was 25 years old, a single mother of an 8-year-old daughter, and was 3 months pregnant.

Athens-Clarke County police said they believe the motive behind the killing was robbery.

(source: Athens Banner-Herald)

KANSAS:

Was Kansas Shooting Avoidable? White Supremacist was Ex-Informant with Criminal Past & Hateful Views

Notorious white supremacist Frazier Glenn Miller has been charged with killing 3 people at 2 Jewish community sites in Kansas. Miller, also known as Frazier Glenn Cross, has openly railed against Jews and African Americans for decades. He served 3 years in prison on weapons charges and an assassination plot, but avoided a longer sentence after testifying against other white supremacists. Miller claims to have been an FBI informant, and the federal government reportedly shielded him in the early 1990s as part of the witness protection program - the possible source of his multiple names. We are joined by 2 guests who have tracked Miller for years: Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, and broadcaster David Pakman, who interviewed Miller in 2010.

Transcript

AMY GOODMAN: The man accused of killing 3 people at 2 Jewish community sites in Kansas made his 1st court appearance Tuesday by video conference. Frazier Glenn Miller, also known as Frazier Glenn Cross, has been charged with capital murder for killing 14-year-old Reat Underwood and his grandfather, William Corporon, outside a Jewish community center Sunday. He also faces a 1st-degree murder charge for killing Terri LaManno, who was visiting her mother at a nearby retirement complex.

Miller is a notorious white supremacist who had openly railed against Jews and African Americans for decades. He is the founder and former "grand dragon" of the paramilitary-style Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. In 1986, after forming the White Patriot Party, he was convicted of violating the terms of a court order settling a lawsuit by the Southern Poverty Law Center. He disappeared while out on bond and was later caught with other Klansmen and a stash of weapons. Miller went on to serve 3 years in prison on weapons charge and for plotting the murder of Morris Dees, the founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center. He reached a deal with federal prosecutors to testify against other white supremacists in a 1988 sedition trial.

This is Frazier Glenn Miller speaking in 1986 at a meeting of far-right leaders. It's from the documentary Blood in the Face. A warning: This is filled with hateful language.

FRAZIER GLENN MILLER: I'm going down the street marching, and I got my bullhorn out there, and I yell out, "We thought y'all had some niggers down here! Where are they at?" And we got about 2 more blocks, and I seen where they was at. They were about 8 deep on each side of the street. And we marched right in the middle of them, but we didn't have trouble. They didn't attack anybody; they just jumped up and down on the street. Have you ever seen monkeys when they get excited, how they jump up and down?

AMY GOODMAN: That was the white supremacist Frazier Glenn Miller speaking in 1986. The Kansas City Star reports the federal government appears to have shielded Miller in the early '90s as part of the witness protection program, the possible source of his multiple names. Records show Frazier Glenn Cross Jr. received a Social Security number in 1990, the year Miller was released from prison. In his book, A White Man Speaks Out, Miller claims to have been an FBI informant. In 2010, Miller ran for U.S. Senate as a write-in candidate for Missouri. Radio stations aired his virulent ads - with an unusual disclaimer.

2010 RADIO AD: The following is a paid political advertisement and may not be suitable for children, but this station is required to carry it by federal law.

FRAZIER GLENN MILLER: White men have become the biggest cowards ever to walk the Earth. The world has never witnessed such yellow cowards. We've set back and allowed the Jews to take over our government, our banks and our media. We've allowed tens of millions of foreign mud people to invade our country, steal our jobs and our women, and destroy our children's future. America is no longer ours. America belongs to the Jews who rule it and to the mud people who multiply in it. The undeniable proof is at DavidDuke.com. It's time for white men to unite, to join together and to take our country back. This is Glenn Miller, and I approve this message.

AMY GOODMAN: That's Frazier Glenn Miller in a 2010 radio ad. To talk more about him, we're joined by 2 guests. In Montgomery, Alabama, Mark Potok is with us, senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups and had been following Frazier Glenn Miller for decades. Here in New York, David Pakman is with us. He's host of The David Pakman Show. He interviewed Frazier Glenn Miller in 2010.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Let's start with Mark Potok. So, actually, the Southern Poverty Law Center is also at the center of this white supremacist history. Mark, talk about who Frazier is.

MARK POTOK: Well, I would say he was one of the best-known white supremacist activists in the country for a very long time. He has been active for more than 40 years in the movement. He joined as a very young teenager, joined things like the National States' Rights Party, a descendent of the American Nazi Party, and some other groups, as well. So he was an important player, but, as you mentioned, he testified in a sedition trial in 1988 in Fort Smith, Arkansas, against most of his comrades, some 13 leaders of the white supremacist movement. That very much put him, of course, on the outs. He was seen as a snitch, derided very widely. He's been banned right up to this day on certain racist web forums.

So there are, I think, mixed feelings in the movement about him. He has, in some ways, worked his way back into the good graces of his former fellows, in the sense that he's written an autobiography describing himself as an aggrieved white man. This was back in 2002. Since 2005, he has been publishing a newspaper called The Aryan Alternative. So, there are mixed feelings about him out there on the scene. It is even conceivable that Miller engaged in this mass murder, if in fact he is proven to have done so, as a way of showing that he really wasn't a snitch, he was really in it for real.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to play part of an interview with Heidi Beirich, head of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project, that she did with Frazier Glenn Miller just months ago in the fall of 2013.

FRAZIER GLENN MILLER: Whites are in fact dying out. Jews are increasing.

HEIDI BEIRICH: God, Glenn, you and your crazy numbers. You know, whites are not dying out.

FRAZIER GLENN MILLER: Well, it is all a matter of goddamn simple arithmetic. You refuse to recognize.

HEIDI BEIRICH: Well, for you, it's a matter of really stupid, simple argumentation.

FRAZIER GLENN MILLER: I wouldn't even be in the movement if not for that.

HEIDI BEIRICH: Well, then, you shouldn't - you - FRAZIER GLENN MILLER: We went from - we went from 90 - 90 %. When I was 25 years old, the United States was 90 % white.

HEIDI BEIRICH: Yet that doesn't mean whites are being exterminated. There's just other people here.

FRAZIER GLENN MILLER: Everything that's killing us was brought about by Jews.

HEIDI BEIRICH: Killing us? Killing us?

FRAZIER GLENN MILLER: Legalization - the legalization of abortion that has already killed, what, 40 million white babies in the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: That's Frazier Glenn Miller. He went on to praise Joseph Paul Franklin, a serial killer who was executed last year for the sniper killing of a man outside a synagogue in 1997. He killed a number of other people, including an interracial couple and 2 black teenage boys, and firebombed a synagogue. And he famously tried to kill Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt and civil rights activist Vernon Jordan Jr. This is what Frazier Glenn Miller said about Franklin just months ago.

FRAZIER GLENN MILLER: You know they're going to kill him November 20th.

HEIDI BEIRICH: Yeah. What he did was pretty, pretty heinous, you have to admit. He was gunning people down.

FRAZIER GLENN MILLER: Well, he did have a rationale for it.

HEIDI BEIRICH: A rationale?

FRAZIER GLENN MILLER: I mean, it wasn't - it wasn't unreasonable -

HEIDI BEIRICH: Yeah.

FRAZIER GLENN MILLER: It wasn't unreasonable in his mind. He thought he was doing the right thing.

HEIDI BEIRICH: Yeah, but that's what all murderers have, some kind of rationale.

FRAZIER GLENN MILLER: And he's a vigilante. A righteous vigilante is what I would call him.

AMY GOODMAN: That's Frazier Glenn Miller just months ago talking about Joseph Paul Franklin, who was executed last year for the killing spree that he went on. Mark Potok, also the center, your center, the Southern Poverty Law Center, talk about the plot against the founder, Morris Dees.

MARK POTOK: Well, Miller saw Morris as his mortal enemy. At that point, Morris and the center were becoming well known. We were just starting our 1st major lawsuits against Klan groups. The 1st one was against the United Klans of America, based here in Alabama. And so, you know, this idea was going around that Morris Dees was the absolutely number one enemy of white supremacy in America, and he needed to be taken out. Miller, in fact, created a "point system," quote-unquote, where people like Joseph Paul Franklin would get one point for killing black people, 10 points for killing Jews, 50 points for killing judges and 888 points for killing Morris Dees. So, you know, and I think that reflected more or less the way other people in the white supremacist world saw Morris. You know, at another point, there was another plot which involved scourging Morris. They wanted to tear the skin off his body. So there's a lot of hatred there. And that's, of course, one of the reasons why I work in a building that is just surrounded by immense security.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, what actually happened in that case?

MARK POTOK: Well, what happened was that he was initially charged with conspiracy, very serious charges, in 1987, that could have sent him to prison for 20 or 30 years. But he did in fact cut a deal with the federal government and agreed to testify in Fort Smith against his comrades. That wound up meaning a mere 5-year sentence for him, and he served only 3 years. As you've noted, the Kansas City paper has now reported that in fact he did change his name legally. It's clear that he was in the witness protection program. As you said, he wrote about it in his autobiography. And, you know, perhaps if he had been in prison all those years rather than a witness in this trial, which collapsed spectacularly, we wouldn't have experienced what we saw in Kansas City the other day.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to a clip of our other guest today, David Pakman, interviewing Frazier Glenn Miller in April of 2010 when Miller was running for the U.S. Senate as a write-in candidate for Missouri. David Pakman asked Miller if he personally hated him.

DAVID PAKMAN: Do you personally dislike me? So, like, could we get along even though I'm Jewish and you hate Jews? Like, do you have anything personal against me? Or how does that work?

FRAZIER GLENN MILLER: Yes, I hate all Jews.

DAVID PAKMAN: OK.

FRAZIER GLENN MILLER: And I'll tell you why. For me to say out of the one corner my mouth that I didn't hate all Jews and then out of the other corner of my mouth say that Jews caused the deliberate murders of over 300 million of my people during the 20th century alone -

DAVID PAKMAN: Right, OK.

FRAZIER GLENN MILLER: Of course I hate you. And you've earned my hate.

AMY GOODMAN: That's the white supremacist who's charged in the Kansas killings, talking to David Pakman, who joins us now. David, you exchanged emails with Frazier Glenn Miller just months ago, that interview done in 2010.

DAVID PAKMAN: That's right. Initially we were in touch because Craig Cobb, another white separatist, who was trying to create a whites-only community in one of the Dakotas, was friends, I guess, of - or that's at least what they would describe each other - with Glenn Miller. Glenn Miller put me in touch with Cobb and then was trying to insert himself back into my program, asking that I interview him. When I explained that I have nothing against interviewing him in principle, but that there's really no news or there's no reason to interview him right now, he kind of resorted to the same anti-Jewish statements and rhetoric.

AMY GOODMAN: So talk about that 1st interview in 2010.

DAVID PAKMAN: Yeah, the big difference - I interview a lot of extremists - anti-gay extremists, religious extremists, many, many extremists. The one difference with Miller versus all of the others is that the others, while their rhetoric is incredibly discriminatory and hateful against huge groups of people, they're usually very nice to me, and sometimes they say they want to save me or they want to help me in some way. In their internal logic, that's what they want to do. As you saw, Miller told me very directly that he hated me. And that was an outlier.

AMY GOODMAN: So, these most - the most recent emails, that he wanted to come on again, was there any indication of what he wanted to say?

DAVID PAKMAN: Well, there - I've released these emails. They're on DavidPakman.com. The full transcript is there, so people can kind of judge for themselves. If I were to speculate a little bit and kind of characterize them, there was a desperation for attention, seemed to be the main priority, just really wanted attention, wanted to be on. When I said, "Well, why would I have you on now?" he said, "Well, I think I'm going to run for something again soon." And I said, "Well, let's talk at that time."

AMY GOODMAN: One of the emails said, "As you know, your listenership, including the archive, skyrocketed after having me on your show. So don't say I'm not interesting. Since I'll be a candidate next year for US Congress, 7th district of MO, you can use that as a reason to have me on."

DAVID PAKMAN: That's exactly right. And then he also explained - this was kind of a running thing with him, where before the interview in 2010, he said I would never run it, because he would so badly embarrass me. Immediately after the interview - we recorded it earlier in the day before it aired - he said, "You're not even going to publish that, because I so embarrassed you." Of course, we did publish it, as it's now been widely disseminated. And that idea continued, that we were scared to have him on.

AMY GOODMAN: During his Senate campaign in 2010, Frazier Glenn Miller was interviewed by Howard Stern on his radio show.

HOWARD STERN: We call Glenn the only honest politician out there, actually. You made the good point yesterday, Robin: At least he doesn't lie. Hi, Glenn.

FRAZIER GLENN MILLER: Hey, good morning. And good morning to my friends at VNNForum.com. That's where I hang out. It's a discussion forum for pro-white people.

ROBIN QUIVERS: I see.

FRAZIER GLENN MILLER: But anybody is invited on, Howard. I'd love to have you come on there and debate me 1 on 1 and let everybody decide who’s right and who's wrong.

AMY GOODMAN: That's Frazier Glenn Miller referring to VNNForum - or Vanguard News Network Forum - dot-com. Mark Potok, can you talk about this site?

MARK POTOK: Well, VNN is essentially the 2nd-largest white supremacist web forum in the country - really, in the world. The largest is one called Stormfront. Miller was actually banned from Stormfront, which is run by a former Alabama Klan leader -and as I said, it's the largest - because of his informing against other leaders. But what he did, essentially, was land on VNN, where he's posted close to 13,000 times in recent years.

You know, we have recently completed and will very shortly release a report showing that, for instance - how these forums really help to create killers, or at least nurture killers. We found that at Stormfront, over the last 5 years, registered members of that forum have been responsible for almost 100 murders. There are also many people who have become murderers who post on VNN. So these are sort of Petri dishes, breeding grounds for people like Glenn Miller. You know, VNN is a particularly vicious site. They use language that you won't even find on Stormfront that's rather similar to the clips you played from Glenn Miller. It's run by a guy named Alex Linder, another old-time neo-Nazi. And, in fact, Linder is the guy who writes The Aryan Alternative that Miller published.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask you about the Nevada rancher who is declaring victory after hundreds of armed supporters backed his standoff with the federal government. The Bureau of Land Management began seizing Cliven Bundy's cattle this month, saying he owed more than a million dollars in fees for grazing his cattle on federally controlled land. Bundy refused to comply, saying he doesn't recognize the federal government. And hundreds of people from right-wing, anti-government and pro-gun groups flocked to his site. Just this past weekend, they shut down Interstate 15, leading to a standoff that ended with the government backing down and releasing the seized cattle. Cliven Bundy appeared on Fox News on Monday.

CLIVEN BUNDY: Listen, do you think they really have taken it over? I don't think so. Now they might have took over our Clark County sheriff, but they never took over we, the people, the sovereign people of this nation. We're standing. And we're going to stand until we take the guns away from those bureaucracies, and then we'll start making America great one more time.

AMY GOODMAN: Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, can you talk about Cliven Bundy and the wider significance of this standoff in Nevada?

MARK POTOK: Yeah. It was an incredible moment. I mean, look, the bottom line, first of all, is that Cliven Bundy is stealing from the government. He is stealing from you and me. This is a guy who simply refuses to pay over a million dollar in grazing fees that every other person who grazes cattle on public lands in this country must pay. So, you know, that's the context. It's hardly about defending the Constitution or anything like that.

It is true that hundreds and hundreds of militiamen and others, members of the very groups you referenced at the very top of the show, have flocked to Bundy's ranch. I have seen really terrifying pictures, photographs of some of these militia types sitting on a highway overpass with their sniper weapons trained on law enforcement officials. Really, it was a terrifying situation. We had a reporter out there. It seemed obvious that at any moment we could have seen gunfire and, really, blood in the desert. You know, this is the latest iteration, really, of the kinds of conflicts that we've seen perenially over the last 15, 20 years with the militia movement - the idea that somehow the government has no right to, you know, impose any kind of law on people, particularly in the West, where there is so much resentment directed at Washington.

AMY GOODMAN: Is this kind of white supremacist, far-right violence increasing, Mark?

MARK POTOK: Well, it has been - it has been increasing, or at least very much up, since Barack Obama came into office. It was in fact rather quiet during the Bush years, between 2000, 2008. But pretty - even before Obama took office, as a matter of fact, immediately after he was inaugurated [nominated] in the summer of 2008 in Denver, we began to see plots, various attempts at domestic terrorism, really proliferate. So, the Glenn Miller murders, or alleged murders, are not unique at all. There are a number of - for instance, in June of 2009, after Obama took office, I'm sure many people will remember another well-known neo-Nazi, James von Brunn, shot and killed a guard at the Holocaust Museum in Washington. A couple of years after that, another neo-Nazi - again, fairly well known - tried to bomb a parade with a very powerful IED he built on Martin Luther King Day in Spokane, Washington. Yet a third neo-Nazi invaded a Sikh temple in August of 2012 and murdered 6 people. And these are only a few examples, but we really have seen quite a number of these. There's no question that we're seeing more violence from the domestic, non-Islamic radical right than we are at this point from jihadists.

AMY GOODMAN: And how does the government organize? I mean, number one on the domestic terrorism list, according to a top FBI official, is eco-terrorism, is the animal rights movement. We don't hear very much about white supremacists except when something horrific like this happens.

MARK POTOK: Well, let me say, the idea that eco-terrorists, so-called, are the major domestic terror threat, which was in fact said to Congress a couple of times by FBI leaders during the Bush years, I think is just patently ludicrous. You know, no one has been killed by anyone in the radical animal rights movement or the radical environmentalist movement. There are certainly groups out there that are involved in things like burning down SUV dealerships and so on, but no one has been killed yet. And that is in just, you know, wild contrast to what we're seeing from people like Glenn Miller. You know, we've also had a real problem with the Department of Homeland Security, in the sense that ever since a particular report on the right wing was leaked to the press in April of 2009, DHS has sort of cowered, in a sense. They essentially gutted their non-Islamic domestic terrorism unit and really have not been putting out very important reports.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain that just very quickly, Mark. Explain that for people who do not remember what happened in 2009.

MARK POTOK: Sure. The report did things like say the extremists are interested in recruiting returning veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq. There was a hue and cry on the right wing, the political right wing of this country, that DHS had characterized all military people, all veterans, as white supremacists and extremists and so on. And that's not at all what the report said. But Janet Napolitano, then the head of DHS, withdrew the report, apologized, and ultimately the unit fell apart.

AMY GOODMAN: David Pakman, as we wrap up, when you heard who was involved with the killings, who was the shooter in Kansas, your thoughts, having interviewed Miller?

DAVID PAKMAN: Yeah, I heard about it in pieces. First I heard about the shooting. And much later - it was Sunday night - I started getting tens and dozens of tweets from people saying, "The shooter is the guy you interviewed." Of course, the interview was 4 years ago; it didn't immediately click. It was Kansas, when I associated Miller with Missouri. Once I figured out what this was, initially I was just shocked, and then realized that this is - this was the guy who spoke to me in one way, and then took what he said and it now became real-world violence, which, of course, was horrifying.

AMY GOODMAN: And to those who say, "Why give him a platform?"

DAVID PAKMAN: Right. Well, if I were giving him a platform in the way that corporate news gives non-science-based climate change ideas an equivalent platform as if there is a 50/50 view, that would be wrong. That's not what I do. I have an opinion program. I bring these people on. It's abundantly clear that what I'm doing is exposing their views. And that's really why. Imagine if we had no video. We had - you know, often we have these crimes, and then people say, "We never heard anything. There's nothing. We don't know who this person is." Now we know.

AMY GOODMAN: David Pakman, I want to thank you for being with us, The David Pakman Show. David broadcasts on radio and television, on Free Speech TV, as well. And Mark Potok, the senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, has been tracking Frazier Glenn Miller for years. We'll link to your reports at democracynow.org.

When we come back, another group of people who have been tracked in New York - Muslims - and what the New York Police Department has announced: the ending of the so-called Demographics Unit that spies on Muslims. Stay with us.

AMY GOODMAN: A cover of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros' "Home" performed by Jorge and Alexa Narvaez. The Narvaezes, whose cover went viral online with 27 million views, garnering them an appearance on the daytime talk show Ellen, are back in the news this week after ICE arrested and rejected the asylum bid of their mother and grandmother, Esther Alvarado. DREAM activists are calling on the Obama administration to release her. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman.

(source: Democracy Now!)

NEBRASKA:

Jenkins found guilty on 12 counts

An Omaha man is found guilty of 4 murders last summer and of weapons charges. It was just last week that Nikko Jenkins wanted to enter a plea of no contest to those crimes but Douglas County District Judge Peter Batallion refused that plea stating. Jenkins on Friday filed a hand written document stating he was ready to plead guilty however that isn't exactly what happened in court today.

Judge Batallion did accept Jenkins' no contest plea on all 12 charges. Judge Batallion then declared him guilty for the murders of Juan Uribe-Pena, Jorge Cajiga-Ruiz, Curtis Bradford and Andrea Kruger. He was also found guilty on 8 gun charges.

At one point Venita Glasgow, the mother of murder victim Curtis Bradford, ran from the courtroom sobbing when prosecutors detailed that murder.

Jenkins previous court hearings have been described as a circus and today was no different. At times Jenkins interrupted, spoke in the language of what he called a serpent god and broke out in laughter. At one point Jenkins claimed he had no knowledge of the murders and objected to the evidence presented by prosecutors. At that point Judge Batallion asked the prosecutor if he had any problem with accepting Jenkins' no contest plea. The prosecutor agreed and Judge Batallion found him guilty.

Jenkins faces the death penalty and he will be sentenced by a 3 judge panel later this year.

(source: Nebraska Radio Network)

ARIZONA:

Defense Attorney Pleads for Life Sentence in 2009 Hammer Slaying Trial

On April 8, Marissa DeVault was found guilty of using a hammer to viciously attack and kill her husband while he was sleeping in 2009. Now, it is up to jurors to decide whether the Arizona woman deserves life in prison or the death penalty.

DeVault was convicted of the first-degree murder of her husband, Dale Harrell, 34, at Arizona's Maricopa County Superior Court, reports the Associated Press. The 36-year-old mother of three used a claw hammer to bash Harrell's head while he was sleeping in their home on Jan. 14, 2009. He suffered multiple skull fractures and died almost a month later in a hospice.

The penalty phase in the notorious hammer slaying trial began on Tuesday. However, defense lawyer Alan Tavassoli pleaded with jurors to spare her life, telling jurors that DeVault was sexually abused as a child and had no adults who protected her, reports KPHO.com.

Contrariwise, prosecutor Eric Basta told jurors that the case boils down to making choices.

Throughout the trial, prosecutors argued that the former stripper killed her husband in order to collect his almost $300,000 life insurance policy and use it to pay off a $360,000 loan to her secret boyfriend. However, defense attorneys maintained that she was a battered wife who killed her spouse in self-defense. Prosecutor Michelle Arino also pointed out that Devault carried out the attack on her husband in an especially cruel manner.

The jury found 1 aggravating factor that would make her eligible for execution on Monday, however, it was unable to reach a verdict on a 2nd aggravating factor. If no aggravating factors are found, the judge will have to sentence DeVault to life in prison either with or without parole.

(source: Latino Post)

IRAN:

Iranian killer's execution halted at last minute by victim's parents; Convict had noose around his neck when victim's mother approached, slapped him in the face and spared his life

When he felt the noose around his neck, Balal must have thought he was about to take his last breath. Minutes earlier, crowds had watched as guards pushed him towards the gallows for what was meant to be yet another public execution in the Islamic republic of Iran.

7 years ago Balal, who is in his 20s, stabbed 18-year-old Abdollah Hosseinzadeh during a street brawl in the small town of Royan, in the northern province of Mazandaran. In a literal application of qisas, the sharia law of retribution, the victim's family were to participate in Balal's punishment by pushing the chair on which he stood.

But what happened next marked a rarity in public executions in Iran, which puts more people to death than any other country apart from China. The victim's mother approached, slapped the convict in the face and then decided to forgive her son's killer. The victim's father removed the noose and Balal's life was spared.

Photographs taken by Arash Khamooshi, of the semi-official Isna news agency, show what followed. Balal's mother hugged the grieving mother of the man her son had killed. The 2 women sobbed in each other's arms - one because she had lost her son, the other because hers had been saved.

The action by Hosseinzadeh's mother was all the more extraordinary as it emerged that this was not the first son she had lost. Her younger child Amirhossein was killed in a motorbike accident at the age of 11.

"My 18-year-old son Abdollah was taking a stroll in the bazaar with his friends when Balal shoved him," said the victim's father, Abdolghani Hosseinzadeh, according to Isna. "Abdollah was offended and kicked him but at this time the murderer took an ordinary kitchen knife out of his socks."

Hosseinzadeh Sr has come to the conclusion that Balal did not kill his son deliberately. "Balal was inexperienced and didn't know how to handle a knife. He was naive."

According to the father, Balal escaped the scene of the stabbing but was later arrested by the police. It took 6 years for a court to hand down a death sentence, and the victim's family deferred the execution a number of times. An date for execution was set just before the Persian new year, Nowruz, but the victim's family did not approve of the timing.

Hosseinzadeh said a dream prompted the change of heart. "3 days ago my wife saw my elder son in a dream telling her that they are in a good place, and for her not to retaliate ... This calmed my wife and we decided to think more until the day of the execution."

Many Iranian public figures, including the popular TV sport presenter Adel Ferdosipour, had called on the couple, who have a daughter, to forgive the killer. Although they did so, Balal will not necessarily be freed. Under Iranian law the victim's family have a say only in the act of execution, not any jail sentence.

In recent years Iran has faced criticism from human rights activists for its high rate of executions. The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, accused Hassan Rouhani of doing too little to improve Iran's human rights, especially reining in its staggering use of capital punishment.

As of last week, 199 executions are believed to have been carried out in Iran this year, according to Amnesty, a rate of almost two a day. Last year Iran and Iraq were responsible for 2/3 of the world's executions, excluding China.

At least 369 executions were officially acknowledged by the Iranian authorities in 2013, but Amnesty said hundreds more people were put to death in secret, taking the actual number close to 700.

Iran is particularly criticised for its public executions, which have attracted children among the crowds in the past. Iranian photographers are often allowed to document them.

Bahareh Davis, of Amnesty International, welcomed the news that Balal had been spared death. "It is of course welcome news that the family of the victim have spared this young man's life," she said. "However, qisas regulations in Iran mean that people who are sentenced to death under this system of punishment are effectively prevented from seeking a pardon or commutation of their sentences from the authorities - contrary to Iran's international obligations."

She added: "It's deeply disturbing that the death penalty continues to be seen as a solution to crime in Iran. Not only is the death penalty the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment with no special deterrent impact, but public displays of killing also perpetuate a culture of acceptance of violence.

"Public executions are degrading and incompatible with human dignity of those executed. In addition, all those who watch public executions - which regrettably often includes children - are brutalised by the experience."

In October last year an Iranian prisoner who survived an attempted execution and was revived in the morgue was spared another attempt, though his family said he had lost mental stability and remained in jail.

(source: The Guardian)

TEXAS----impending execution

Condemned killer Jose Villegas of Corpus Christi set to die Wednesday

Jose Villegas was out on bond for a sexual assault charge and was supposed to go on trial in Corpus Christi for punching a woman in the face on the same day 13 years ago that he stabbed his ex-girlfriend, her son and her mother to death.

The former cook, dishwasher and laborer was arrested after a police chase and charged with capital murder for the deaths of Erida Salazar, her 3-year-old son, Jacob, and her mother, Alma Perez.

Villegas, 38, was set for lethal injection Wednesday for the slayings. He would be the 7th Texas inmate executed this year and the 5th in as many weeks in the nation's most active death penalty state.

His attorneys argue that the punishment should be put off so they have additional time to investigate evidence they've recently found that Villegas is mentally impaired and ineligible for execution. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals refused Monday to halt the punishment, and lawyers for Villegas said they would take their appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Salazar's father, returning home Jan. 22, 2001, from jury duty, found the bloody body of his 51-year-old wife and had a neighbor call police. He then went back inside to find his 23-year-old daughter and his grandson also dead. Court documents show Salazar was stabbed 32 times, her son 19 times and mother 35 times. A television and car also were taken from the home.

Police spotted Villegas driving Salazar's car and he led them on a chase that ended when he bailed out on foot. When he was caught, officers found 3 bags of cocaine inside his baseball cap.

Testimony at his 2002 capital murder trial showed Villegas told police he pawned the stolen television for $75, used the money immediately to buy cocaine and hoped to commit suicide by overdosing.

"We had a confession, DNA, witnesses who saw him leaving the house afterward," Mark Skurka, the Nueces County district attorney who prosecuted the case, said. "He killed the mom first, then his girlfriend, then the baby."

Jurors deliberated less than 20 minutes before convicting him.

Following his conviction for capital murder, Villegas was convicted of two counts of indecency with a child related to the daughter of the woman he was accused of punching in the face prior to the slayings. He also has convictions for making terroristic threats to kill women, burglary and possessing inhalants.

Records showed he had spent at least 200 days in jail and 4 years on probation.

Defense attorneys at his trial acknowledged Villegas committed the slayings but said they were not intentional and he was mentally ill. A defense psychiatrist blamed his behavior on uncontrollable rages caused by "intermittent explosive disorder."

"Punishment was the only issue," Grant Jones, one of Villegas' trial lawyers, recalled this week. "I've been trying criminal cases over 40 years and I'd say in about 80 % of the cases, mental health is a factor to one degree or another."

Relatives said Salazar's mother had urged her to leave Villegas when she learned of the sex charges against him.

Villegas would be the third Texas inmate executed with a new stock of pentobarbital from a provider corrections officials have refused to identify, citing the possibility of threats of violence against the supplier. The Supreme Court has upheld that stance.

Texas and other death penalty states have been scrambling for substitute drugs or new sources for drugs for lethal injections after major drugmakers - many based in Europe where death penalty opposition is strong - stopped selling to state corrections agencies.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Texas Candidate Faces Thorny Death Penalty Choice

The death penalty is like gun rights in Texas politics: Candidates don't dare get in the way of either. But Republican Greg Abbott, the favorite to succeed Gov. Rick Perry, must soon make a decision as attorney general that could disrupt the nation's busiest death chamber.

It's an election-year dilemma for Abbott. But in Texas, it's one that Democratic rival Wendy Davis can't easily exploit, illustrating how little room there is to maneuver on this issue.

Abbott must soon decide whether to stick with his earlier opinions that Texas must disclose the source of the execution drugs it uses. That revelation that could prompt attention-shy suppliers to halt their drug deliveries and stop Texas' executions.

If Abbott holds firm, he'll please death penalty opponents who prison officials say want to target the companies with protests and threats. Reversing course would go against his vows for transparency in government.

"There's no political upside. It puts him in a little bit of a tough position," said Republican consultant Matt Mackowiak said.

The predicament comes up as Davis, the feisty Fort Worth lawmaker who has attracted national attention, is eager to find ways to shake up the campaign and prevent Abbott from riding a solid lead in the polls to a general election victory in the GOP-dominated state.

But Abbott's difficulty leaves her with few opportunities since portraying the law-and-order attorney general, who has held the position since 2003, as somehow soft on crime would be implausible. Both Abbott and Davis support the death penalty.

"I don't think any accusations here stick," said Harold Cook, a onetime leader of the Texas Democratic Party and now a consultant.

Polls in recent years have shown public support in Texas for capital punishment at more than 70 %. The state has executed an average of 20 inmates a year since Perry took office in 2001.

"In Texas, a lot of people feel like it's a settled issue," said Texas Democratic state Rep. Jessica Farrar, whose multiple bills to abolish the death penalty have attracted only a handful of supporters.

But death penalty opponents have managed to halt executions in some states, including conservative ones, by putting pressure on the suppliers of the lethal drugs, charging that the chemical executions can be cruel and unusual.

Since 2010, Abbott has rejected three attempts by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to keep information about its execution drug suppliers confidential. He ruled that the benefits of government transparency outweighed the state's objections.

With prison officials warning that threats against suppliers are escalating, Abbott is expected to issue a ruling on the latest request in coming weeks.

When asked last weekend about Abbott's options, Davis avoided calling Abbott out personally. She referred to an earlier statement that said she believes the execution drug information should be public.

"I support capital punishment and I believe that as it has worked in this state it's been one that has provided due process in a way that I think we all would hope would occur," she said.

Unless the issue is resolved, it could be a problem for whoever is elected Texas governor, some strategists say.

"If you are the governor when we run out of drugs and you can't buy anymore, that's where you're going to create a problem," said Republican consultant Allen Blakemore, a veteran of district attorney election races in Harris County.

Anti-capital punishment groups concede that Texas embraces the death penalty tighter than most but say public support for it is declining nationwide. 32 states still have the death penalty after Democratic governors in Illinois, Maryland and Connecticut, led by Democratic governors repealed capital punishment in recent years.

"It's certainly not the issue it used to be. And I would say that's probably true politically," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington.

2 death row inmates in Texas were put to death this month with the state's available supply of pentobarbital.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Witness To An Execution: Part 2

A follow up conversation with Stephen Lich Tyler

Stephen Lich Tyler drove to Texas last week to witness the execution of his father's killer, Ramiro Hernandez Llanas. Before he left, he spoke on The State of Things about his struggles with the decision to attend and his expectations of the execution. He returned to the studio today to talk with host Frank Stasio about the experience and how it shaped his perspective on the death penalty.

"I hadn't realized this but coming into the room I realized just how confrontational it felt," he said. "I was stepping up to a fight and I had to confront, face-to-face, this person who had done so much to affect my life."

It was the 1st time Lich Tyler had seen Hernandez Llanas in person. "We all dread... stepping up to our fears and stepping up to things that cause us anxiety," Lich Tyler said. "And I hadn't fully anticipated how much he himself distressed me and how much I was stepping up really to one of the worst things in my life, one of the worst experiences of my life, in a physical form."

Hernandez Llanas gave a statement just prior to his death. In it, he asked for forgiveness from Lich's family and referred to Lich as "my boss." He blew loud kisses towards the witness rooms. "It was one of the most grotesque things that I've seen," Lich Tyler said.

"I felt angry. I felt upset. I felt offended that he spoke to the family of 'his boss,' not his victim." he said. Lich Tyler made vulgar gestures in response. "I hope he saw. I hope he saw how I felt," he said.

Lich Tyler spoke about how witnessing an execution might help a victim's family restore a sense of control. "Someone exerted power and changed your life. It makes us feel helpless to know the event was not within our control, that the world is not within our control," he said. "At least to see that this one person who had hurt us was gone, to me it made that sense of being controlled go away."

(source: WUNC)

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

Mexican's Execution Confirms U.S. 'Decline' and 'Xenophobia' (La Jornada, Mexico)

"The death of Ramiro Hernandez Llanas was the culmination of a process characterized by the systematic denial by U.S. prison authorities of multiple appeals by the defense, and provisional measures granted to our compatriot by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. ... The execution confirms a growing pattern of racism and xenophobia within U.S. society and institutions, which paradoxically coincide with the arrival of the 1st non-Caucasian president in the White House."

Mexican Ramiro Hernandez Llanas, convicted and sentenced for murder in 2000, was executed April 8 at the Walls Unit of the Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville. His death was the culmination of a process characterized by the systematic denial by U.S. prison authorities of multiple appeals by the defense, and provisional measures granted to our compatriot by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

In general terms, capital punishment is an abominable and inhumane punishment that not only highlights the inefficiency and failure of law enforcement in countries that practice it, but it goes against the most fundamental right of human beings - the right to life. In the case of Hernandez Llanas, this sanction was an even greater injustice, since it was the result of procedural errors present in almost all cases of Mexicans sentenced to death in the United States.

Yesterday, in condemning this in a statement, Foreign Secretary Kuribrenare called that Hernandez Llanas was the 4th Mexican executed in clear violation of the decision of the ruling by the International Court of Justice delivered in the Avena Case, which was a demand presented by our country against the Washington government to review the 50 cases of Mexicans who had been arrested, tried, and sentenced to death, without respect for their right to consular assistance. Among them we also find Edgar Tamayo Arias, who was executed last January.

From another point of view, the penalty we mentioned confirms a growing pattern of racism and xenophobia within U.S. society and institutions, which paradoxically coincide with the arrival of the 1st non-Caucasian president in the White House. According to a 2012 report by Amnesty International, 1/3 of those executed in Texas during the previous year were Hispanic, while of the total of death penalty victims in that country over the last decade, 65 % belonged to the Hispanic and Black population.

The inescapable corollary of the discriminatory application of the death penalty is the exorbitant rate of deportations under Barak Obama's presidency, totaling nearly 2 million since the beginning of his administration, and more than 140,000 thousand this year alone.

As with the application of the death penalty, which constitutes an atrocious form of legalized murder, the expulsion of undocumented foreign nationals mainly effects Mexican and Central American citizens. This policy is doubly hypocritical, first because it doesn't follow a strictly legalistic zeal, but the need to regulate the cheap labor force in that country. Second, because it demonizes undocumented migration while the U.S. simultaneously benefits from the invaluable contribution this phenomenon makes to its economy and culture.

The state murder committed against Hernandez Llanas stands at the vortex between the persistence of a judicial aberration like the death penalty, and the social, political and institutional decline of our neighboring country regarding the minorities present in the country. Both processes show how invalid are the claims of the United States, which hold itself up as a world leader with respect to human rights.

(source: Editorial, World Meets.US)

NEW HAMPSHIRE:

New Hampshire should abolish death penalty

New Hampshire stands on the verge of repealing its death penalty, and needs just a few more senators to come out against the increasingly indefensible practice before a vote planned for Thursday. Momentum in Concord has been growing since the state House of Representatives passed a repeal measure in March in a bipartisan vote, and Governor Maggie Hassan has said she will sign the legislation should it make it out of the Senate. But enough senators - including Democrat Jeff Woodburn and Republicans Bob Odell, Russell Prescott, Andy Sanborn, and Jeanie Forrester - remain undecided to leave the measure's fate in doubt.

By now, the undecided legislators have heard all the arguments against capital punishment. Death-penalty prosecutions are expensive, verdicts often reflect racial bias, and there's little evidence that executions actually deter violent crime. Social attitudes have shifted, with more viewing the punishment as inhumane. And the possibility of executing a wrongfully convicted defendant looms over the whole debate; a state with a libertarian heritage like New Hampshire's should regard with deep suspicion a punishment that can only make sense if the government has the right suspect 100 % of the time.

Despite the objections, some New Hampshire lawmakers appear sympathetic to the argument that prosecutors need the death penalty in their toolbox so they'll have more leverage to negotiate tougher plea bargains. Facing the possibility of death if they're convicted at trial, the theory goes, criminals will be more likely to accept life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Yet that's among the weakest of reasons to keep the death penalty, because it could serve to coerce an innocent or less culpable defendant into taking a plea bargain just to avoid the possibility of death.

Because New Hampshire has not put a convict to death since 1939, past debates on capital punishment in Concord have taken on an overly philosophical feel. The tenor of the debate this time is slightly different: New Hampshire now has a death row prisoner, Michael Addison, who was convicted of murdering a Manchester police officer in 2006. The current repeal proposal wouldn't void Addison's sentence and will only apply to future convictions. Still, his case should serve as a reminder that lawmakers can't approach the death penalty like it's a legalistic bargaining strategy divorced from the reality of executions. The death penalty hasn't been shown to be an effective deterrent to crime and distorts the normal processes of justice. New Hampshire should get rid of it.

(source: Editorial, Boston Globe)

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

N.H. Senate to decide on death penalty repeal; Some say Senate tie is possible

The state Senate takes up the death penalty repeal tomorrow.

"We think it will be very close," said Arnie Alpert, spokesman for the New Hampshire Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

2 Southern New Hampshire senators are among those who repeal proponents believe are on the fence: Nancy Stiles, R-Hampton, who represents Newton, and Russell Prescott, R-Kingston.

Stiles earlier this month said she has opposed repeal in the past and believes it is a deterrent to crime, but would listen to advocates.

"It's fair to say a number of senators are giving deep thought to repeal," Alpert said. "I would say if you are giving it deep thought, you are more likely to come down on the side of repeal."

Some are wondering if this is the closest of votes, a tie.

"There is talk among the legislators that this may be a tie," said Paul Lutz, a member of the repeal coalition from Derry.

A tie isn't good enough for repeal proponents.

"A tie is not a majority," Lutz said. "The status quo would prevail."

Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, opposed repeal in a 3-2 committee vote.

Alpert said Sens. Chuck Morse, R-Salem, and Jim Rausch, R-Derry, are believed to be leaning against repeal.

But he said Morse, the Senate president, and Republican leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, have taken the position this is a vote of conscience and won't insist the GOP stand together for a partyline vote in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Proponents see Bradley as a no vote as well.

In the Judiciary Committee, Sen. David Boutin, R-Hooksett, joined with Carson in voting against repeal.

Sens. Betty Lasky, D-Nashua, Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, and Sam Cataldo, R-Farmington, voted for repeal.

(source: Eagle Tribune)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Indian American facing charges of murdering elderly woman, her grand-daughter, requests delay in trial; Defense lawyers want witnesses to come from India

The legal team defending Raghunandan Yandamuri, the Indian American man arrested in 2012 for allegedly killing an elderly woman and her infant grandchild, has requested that the start of his trail be delayed to allow time for a number of key witnesses to come to the US.

Although the trial is set to begin in just a few weeks' time, on May 5, many of the most crucial witnesses for Yandamuri's defense are not in the US. Yandamuri's defense attorneys, Stephen Heckman and Henry Hillis, are trying to bring people from India to take the stand for their client, but immigration hold-ups are preventing that.

According to their motion, filed with the court in eastern Pennsylvania, the list of people that Heckman and Hillis are attempting to bring to the trial include Yandamuri's wife and brother, as well as others who were not specifically named in the filing.

The new motion is just the latest in a long line, in what has become a lugubrious and drawn-out litigation process. Over the last few months, Yandamuri's defense team filed a number of motions to help increase their client's chances of being acquitted. These have included asking to have all crime scene photos at the trial shown in grey-scale, rather than color to avoid bringing undue prejudice against Yandamuri with overly intense photographs, limiting the amount of computer-generated video shown to the jury to demonstrate what Yandamuri allegedly did, and dismissing a previously circulated video in which Yandamuri apparently confessed to the crime (a confession he later withdrew).

The details of what allegedly transpired on the night of October 26, 2012 are sordid and disturbing. According to police reports, Yandamuri hatched a scheme to kidnap a ten month-old girl named Saanvi, the daughter of Latha and Venkata Venna Konda, in the King of Prussia area of Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia.

Yandamuri was friends with the Venna Kondas, and was therefore intimate with the layout of their house, as well as their comings and goings. On the night of October 26, he went to the house to kidnap Saanvi, who he allegedly planned to hold for ransom. However, the girl's grandmother, Satyavathi Venna, was in the house, and confronted Yandamuri when she saw him break in to nab Saanvi.

That's when Yandamuri allegedly slit the grandmother's throat, killing her. When Saanvi began crying, Yandamuri then allegedly stuffed rags down the baby's throat, causing her to suffocate and die. He was arrested shortly thereafter; at the time of his arrest, he had a wife, who was pregnant with the couple's 1st child.

Upon arrest, Yandamuri apparently gave a confession. But earlier this year, he recanted it, saying that it was coerced by police officers who did intimidated him and did not even allow him his customary phone call. Yandamuri is now pleading "not guilty" to murder charges, saying that 2 men he does not know actually committed the crime.

If Yandamuri is convicted, he faces the possibility of the death penalty. In fact, it is because of the possibility of capital punishment that so much of the case has been prolonged, as the defense team has argued that they must be allowed to prepare for trial as thoroughly as possible, given the severity of the potential punishment.

(source: The American Bazaar)

VIRGINIA:

Father of Pulaski County infant charged with capital murder

The father of a 5-month-old boy found dead in a wooded area of Pulaski County in January is now indicted on a capital murder charge.

Howard Samuel Cole, 32, is also facing 1 count of illegal disposal of a body, county Commonwealth's Attorney Mike Fleenor announced Tuesday afternoon.

Cory Cole's body was located Jan. 30 in a rural area of Draper off Old Route 100.

According to a search warrant filed recently in Pulaski County Circuit Court, Howard Cole led detectives in January to the area where he said he had taken and left Cory. Whether or not the infant had been alive when he was abandoned in the woods was not clear in the warrant.

The manner of Cory's death has not been released.

The punishment for a capital murder conviction is either the death penalty or a life sentence without parole. Illegal disposal of a body carries 1 to 5 years in prison or up to 12 months in jail.

Virginia law allows capital murder charges in a number of situations, including when a victim is younger than 14 and the suspect older than 21.

Fleenor said neither his office nor the Pulaski Police Department will have any additional comment on the case until the matter has been tried and a verdict has been returned.

Cory was first reported missing on Jan. 29 by his mother, Samantha Warden, who told police that her fiance, Howard Cole, had left with the baby. She signed an arrest warrant affidavit on that same day accusing Cole of abusing Cory.

When Cole was arrested on Jan. 30 outside the Walmart in Fairlawn, Cory was not with him. He was questioned as to Cory's whereabouts and well-being, and after being questioned, he led detectives to the wooded area, according to the warrant.

Until this week, no one had been charged in relation to Cory's death, but both his mother and father have been held in jail for some time.

Cole was charged with child abuse when he was arrested in January. Warden, 29, who is also known as Samantha Anna-Jane Taylor, was arrested Feb. 12 on a warrant for child neglect.

Warden has told The Roanoke Times that she, Cole and Cory were temporarily living in her brother's house on Crestline Drive in Pulaski while the family saved money and worked toward buying a home. Warden has said that she left the residence in the afternoon of Jan. 27 to spend the night at a friend's house in Pulaski County and visit with her uncle.

According to the warrant, Warden left that day to stay with a boyfriend.

She said she received a call on Jan. 28 from her sister-in-law advising that Cole had left the house in a vehicle but that Cory did not appear to be with him, according to the warrant. The next day, Warden reported Cory missing and filled out a criminal complaint so that an arrest warrant could be obtained against Cole.

In the arrest warrant filed in Pulaski County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court on Jan. 29, Warden detailed an incident when Cory was crying and Cole got irritated.

"He picked him up from his crib held him in the air & said shut the fock [sic] up & threw him down on the bed across the room 4ft," according to the handwritten affidavit signed by Warden.

According to the affidavit, the alleged abuse occurred on or about Jan. 26 - the day before Warden left Cory in Cole's care. The affidavit appears to conflict with statements Warden made Feb. 5 to The Roanoke Times. Warden said then that she was having a hard time comprehending the allegations against Cole because she said she had never seen him abuse her children.

In addition to Cory, Warden and Cole have a 3-year-old daughter together, and Warden has a 6-year-old daughter with her ex-husband.

The search warrant had been obtained for Warden's DNA. According to the document, the commonwealth's attorney requested bedding and clothing items be tested for possible evidence. DNA samples from family members were "requested by forensic biologist for identification and/or exclusion to any recovered DNA," the warrant stated.

Additional search warrants filed in relation to the case are not available publicly. On Jan. 31, Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Marc Long granted Commonwealth's Attorney Mike Fleenor's request that search warrants, subpoenas, records and filings related to the case pending against Howard Cole be sealed.

(source: The Roanoke Times)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Endless death penalty folly

I wish I could have attended arguments in 2 Racial Justice Act cases before the N.C. Supreme Court yesterday.

I trust reports by The N&O and WRAL provide reliable summaries.

The court is considering the state's appeals in two cases in which convicted murderers, who are black, were found by a lower court to have been victims of racial discrimination at trial.

Not that they did not commit 1st-degree murder. That is firmly established.

But they were sentenced to death because, across the state and in a particular prosecutorial district, black defendants are more likely to receive a death sentence, the lower court found. Or that the killers of white victims are more likely to get that punishment.

I've cited the case of Lesley Eugene Warren, a white serial killer of young white women, including one in High Point, who filed an RJA bias claim -- and could prevail. If he does, surely that would prove the absurdity of RJA logic.

More than 150 RJA cases were filed after the law was enacted in 2009. The legislature repealed the law last year, but defendants argue their cases must be heard under the law as it existed when they filed.

I've expressed utmost skepticism about the RJA from the start because, as defendants' attorneys noted yesterday, it does not require case-specific evidence of bias. Simply applying statistics is enough to prove the claim.

At the same time, the RJA itself treats defendants differently solely on account of their race. In an identical crime, it could be used to prevent a death penalty being imposed upon a black defendant and allow a death penalty to be imposed upon a white defendant. It perverts the principle of impartial justice.

Furthermore, one way to correct the racial disparities in death sentences would be for trial courts to impose the death penalty against a lot more white defendants. Or, perversely, against more black defendants whose victims are black -- because one of the statistical disparities is that murderers whose victims are black are less often sentenced to death.

What the RJA has achieved so far is to tie a big knot in the court system, on top of all the other legal knots having to do with the death penalty.

There's a simple way to untie all of it, and that is to do away with capital punishment in North Carolina. The legislature should pass a law to do that, and the governor can get the ball rolling by commuting the sentences, to life in prison without parole, for all 153 offenders on death row.

North Carolina has not carried out an execution since 2006. Have we really missed executions these last eight years? Have we been less safe?

We won't miss the death penalty when it's gone, which it will be someday. Why not now? We'll sure be better off without the endless legal wrangling.

The RJA was misguided, in my opinion. But the death penalty is more so. The legal process to get there is riddled with inconsistencies and potential for error. We'll never catch up with the death row backlog, and heaven help us if we really want to.

(source: Doug Clark, Greensboro News-Record, blog)

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

Appeal to Return 4 to Death Row Is Heard

The North Carolina Supreme Court on Monday heard arguments about whether it should reinstate death sentences for four inmates whose punishments were reduced under a law that allowed certain criminal defendants to challenge their sentences by raising claims of racial bias in their prosecutions.

The 2 arguments before the elected court were the latest chapter in a legal and political drama that has played out since 2009, when the state's Racial Justice Act was signed into law, creating a path for new court challenges by scores of inmates awaiting execution. The law was repealed by the Republican-dominated legislature in June 2013, and the state is trying to reimpose death penalties that were overturned while it was in place.

The centerpiece of the session on Monday in Raleigh, the capital, was the case of Marcus Reymond Robinson, a black man who was the 1st person to have his punishment reduced under the Racial Justice Act. Mr. Robinson, who was convicted of kidnapping and killing a teenage boy, said racial biases had tainted jury selection during his trial. A judge in Cumberland County overturned his death sentence in 2012.

Mr. Robinson's case was part of a study by researchers at Michigan State University, who found "powerful evidence that race was a substantial factor" in prosecutors' decisions to strike potential jurors in 173 death-penalty cases in North Carolina, including 11 in Cumberland County.

On Monday, one of Mr. Robinson's lawyers, Donald H. Beskind, told the justices that a county prosecutor had deliberately diluted the jury of blacks through his use of peremptory challenges, forming a pattern that he said "did not happen by chance."

"No one should die at the hands of the state if racial discrimination played a significant role in that person being charged, convicted or receiving a sentence of death," Mr. Beskind said. He noted that the prosecution had stricken half of the qualified black jurors for Mr. Robinson's trial.

But Danielle M. Elder, a lawyer for the state, said that statistics alone did not amount to evidence of conscious racial bias that should void a death sentence.

"Statistical disparities do nothing to get this court any further in determining why a juror was struck," Ms. Elder said. She argued that the black jurors who were eliminated from jury service had "completely obvious reasons for being stricken."

Echoing other prosecutors who have criticized the Michigan State University report, which is central to Mr. Robinson's case, Ms. Elder also contended that the study was defective because it could not account for every factor lawyers weigh when selecting jurors. "Jury strikes in capital cases are not by chance," she said. "They're decisions. They're motivated."

Mr. Beskind responded that the Racial Justice Act, which was heavily amended in 2012 and repealed last year, did not stipulate that discrimination had to be purposeful and overt to yield a modified sanction.

The 3 other cases, which were argued as a group before the Supreme Court on Monday, also originated in Cumberland County, which has a population of about 326,000 and includes Fayetteville, one of North Carolina's largest cities.

The death sentences for those defendants, 2 black men and a Native American woman, were reduced in 2012 to life imprisonment without parole.

Ms. Elder accused the county judge in those appeals, Gregory A. Weeks, of making his decisions "before the first bit of evidence came in." Judge Weeks also overturned the original death sentence given to Mr. Robinson.

But a lawyer for the 3 defendants, Jay H. Ferguson, cited problematic training programs for prosecutors regarding juror selection before the crimes took place and "the disparate treatment of jurors and strike decisions" as evidence of clear discrimination in Cumberland County.

The Supreme Court did not say when it would issue opinions in the cases. North Carolina has not executed an inmate since 2006.

(source: New York Times)

GEORGIA:

Death penalty to be sought in Centerville triple homicide

The death penalty will be sought against Robert Erik Bell, the man accused of ambushing and killing 3 people near Snellville last September.

Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter filed a motion last month declaring his intent to pursue the death penalty in Bell's case "based on aggravated circumstances." Georgia law offers several strict guidelines for circumstances in which capital punishment can be imposed, and Porter has filed under the section that allows it if "the offense of murder, rape, armed robbery, or kidnapping was committed while the offender was engaged in the commission of another capital felony."

In Bell's case, murder is the alleged offense and the "other" capital felony.

"Bell, 34, was arrested at a New Orleans, La., homeless shelter in October, about 5 weeks after police believe he opened fire at 4630 Anderson Livsey Lane in Centerville. According to authorities, Bell and his wife had been living there with Angelina Benton's family after falling on hard times.

On Sept. 15, 2013, Bell was allegedly armed and waiting inside the home when Benton, her 12-year-old son, 19-year-old godson and boyfriend returned from a short trip in Bell's SUV. Joseph McDonald and Raynard Daniel - the son and godson, respectively - were shot and killed as they entered the home. Benton, 34, was killed in the driveway.

Justin Cato, the boyfriend, was shot in the leg but survived after hiding in a ditch until police arrived.

Bell reportedly fled on foot before stealing a car nearby. The latter was eventually recovered in New Orleans, helping lead authorities to their suspect. Bell was indicted in November on 3 counts apiece of murder, felony murder and aggravated assault, as well as a single charge of aggravated battery.

A potential motive for the shooting has never been revealed.

Since November, Porter has now filed to pursue the death penalty in 3 separate murder cases.

The district attorney intends to seek capital punishment for Eman and Tiffany Moss, the parents of 10-year-old Emani Moss. Starved to death, put in a trash can and set on fire last fall in Lawrenceville, the young girl's death has helped spur changes in the state's Division of Family and Children Services.

"Ki Song Kim will also face the death penalty when he goes to trial for the July 27, 2013, murder of Young Chan and Sun Hee Choi, his former employers at a local restaurant supply business. According to authorities, the couple was stabbed multiple times inside their Duluth home. Sun Hee Choi's throat was cut.

(source: Gwinnett Daily Post)

FLORIDA:

Our Opinion: Death penalty----Require a unanimous decision from jurors

The death penalty has been a subject of disagreement for years, with endless arguments over whether it's being carried out too much or not enough, too quickly or too slowly, and of course whether Florida should even have the death penalty.

On one point, though, everyone should be in agreement: If we are to have the death penalty, it should be carried out fairly.

That's why it's unfortunate that bills intended to help ensure that fairness are languishing in the state House and the Senate. Senate Bill 334, introduced by Sen. Thad Altman, R-Melbourne, and the similar House Bill 467, introduced by Rep. Jose Javier Rodriquez, D-Miami, would require that an advisory sentence of death by a jury be unanimous.

A little background. In Florida, a jury in a capital case determines guilt - and the vote must be unanimous. But in the sentencing phase, the jury has only an advisory capacity, and after considering the aggravating circumstances that might call for the death penalty, it makes its recommendation based on a simple majority vote.

Florida is 1 of only 2 states (the other is Delaware) with such a low threshold. In Alabama, 10 of 12 jurors must recommend death, and in every other state with the death penalty, the jury vote must be unanimous.

Florida leads the nation in death sentences and is second in actual executions. It also leads the nation in reversals of death sentences. That is not something to brag about.

Though the judge in a case can override the jury's recommendation, that is rare. So, what the jury decides matters, and it is inconsistent that a decision on guilt should require unanimity - while the decision to take the life of the accused needs only a simple majority.

Here's food for thought: Since 2006, the state Supreme Court has not overturned any sentence in which the jury recommended death by a 12-0 vote.

Surely, with a requirement of unanimity, jurors would have an extra incentive to engage in a thorough discussion before making a recommendation. That extra time would ensure extra fairness.

And isn't that what we all want?

(source: Editorial, Tallahassee Democrat)

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

Jury recommends death penalty for Joshua Douglas

An Escambia County jury has unanimously recommended the death penalty for a man who was convicted last week of sexually assaulting and killing a Pensacola woman.

The jury recommendation will carry significant weight when Joshua Wayne Douglas, 32, is sentenced for the 2010 murder of 25-year-old Jamie Miranda Broxson, but it is not final.

Circuit Judge Terry Terrell will ultimately decide Douglas' sentence, and he has the option to give Douglas life imprisonment if he finds it more appropriate.

The next stage of the process will be a Spencer hearing May 23. This hearing is held for the purpose of presenting any further evidence for Terrell to consider before imposing sentence.

During the 2-day penalty phase of the trial, the jury heard evidence that wasn't disclosed in the criminal portion of the trial and testimony on Douglas' criminal and personal background.

The State Attorney's Office sought the death penalty for Douglas because of the cruel circumstances of Broxson's murder.

Medical Examiner Andi Minyard concluded in an autopsy that Broxson was violently sexually assaulted, bound around the face and extremities with duct tape and strangled.

Her body was left in the woods near a Gulf Power Co. substation on Jernigan Road.

The jury took only an hour and a half to conclude that the death penalty is fitting.

(source: Pensacola News Journal)

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

Judge Denies New Trial For Death Row Prisoner, Convicted of Winter Haven Murders

A circuit judge has denied Thomas Rigterink's request to be taken off Florida's death row for fatally stabbing two people in Winter Haven.

The 42-year-old former model and Warner Southern College student argued in a motion that his lawyers provided ineffective assistance when defending him at his 2005 trial.

Circuit Judge J. Dale Durrance conducted a hearing in August on Rigterink's claims.

The judge denied Rigterink's request to remove his death sentences and convictions in a detailed 61-page order dated April 11.

Durrance wrote that he did not find Rigterink's trial lawyers, Byron Hileman and David Carmichael, were unreasonable or deficient in their legal assistance.

The judge noted that prosecutors presented "compelling evidence" that Rigterink was guilty of the killings.

"Mr. Rigterink provided law enforcement with a confession to the murders," the judge wrote.

"There was significant physical and circumstantial evidence tying him to the murders."

Prosecutors argued that Rigterink planned to rob Jeremy Jarvis, 24, of drugs on Sept. 24, 2003.

He went to where Jarvis was living, a warehouse unit at County Road 542 and Jimmy Lee Road, near Winter Haven.

Rigterink stabbed Jarvis, who ran for help to the nearby offices where Allison Sousa, 23, worked as a secretary.

(source: The Ledger)

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

Florida Supreme Court upholds murder conviction, death penalty

The Florida Supreme Court has affirmed the conviction and death sentence for Toney Deron Davis. In 1995, Davis was convicted of 1st-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and sexual battery.

In December 1992, the victim, 2-year-old Caleasha Cunningham, was left under Davis' care while her mother ran an errand. During that time, an acquaintance of the defendant arrived at the apartment and found the child injured. The victim was found wet, unconscious, and bleeding from her mouth. Doctors examined the child and found bruising, swelling of the brain, and pools of blood in the skull.

The girl later died as a result of 4 separate blows to the head, which caused a cerebral hemorrhage.

In 1995, Davis was found guilty and sentenced to death. He appealed, and each court which reviewed the case upheld his conviction and sentence. Davis appealed again to the Florida Supreme Court, which has now denied this latest set of claims.

(source: news4jax.com)

MISSISSIPPI:

Miss. death row inmate challenges rape conviction

The Mississippi Supreme Court has set out a timetable for attorneys for a death row inmate to file briefs by late May supporting his appeal of a 1994 rape conviction.

In refusing to set an execution date for Charles Ray Crawford in March, the Supreme Court said it would resolve the appeal of prior rape conviction first.

That conviction was cited as an aggravating factor by prosecutors in justifying the death sentence Crawford received in 1994 for the slaying of a junior college student.

The Supreme Court filed an order Monday setting out the briefing scheduled. Prosecutors will have 30 days after Crawford's lawyers file his arguments to file a response.

If the Supreme Court upholds Crawford's conviction in the earlier case, Attorney General Jim Hood could again petition the court to set an execution date.

Crawford's attorneys have argued in court documents that if the rape conviction is reversed, the jury would have considered "an invalid aggravator in imposing the death sentence." They argued reversal would mean Crawford would have the right to have his death sentence thrown out and a new sentencing hearing scheduled in Tippah County.

Prosecutors have said a reversal of the earlier rape conviction would be a harmless error because of the abundance of evidence supporting the death penalty in the capital murder case. They said Crawford was also convicted of aggravated assault in the early trial, another aggravating factor used to justify the death penalty.

Few details of the prior rape and aggravated assault convictions are discussed in the earlier briefs in the death penalty case.

Crawford, now 43, was sentenced to death for the murder of Northeast Mississippi Community College student Kristy Ray in rural Tippah County.

In 1993, Crawford was out on bond awaiting trial on charges of aggravated assault and rape. 4 days before his trial, the 20-year-old Ray was abducted from her parents' home in Chalybeate. After his family and attorney notified police that they feared Crawford was committing another crime, he was arrested. Crawford told authorities he did not remember the incident but later led them to the body buried in leaves in a wooded area.

Crawford later was tried and convicted on the original charges in the rape and aggravated assault case and sentenced to 66 years in prison.

(source: Associated Press)

OHIO:

Ohio justice: division over death penalty expected

The chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court says divisions about the death penalty on a panel that spent more than 2 years studying capital punishment in the state were to be expected.

Justice Maureen O'Connor said Tuesday that diametrically opposed positions and divisive topics were a healthy part of the panel's work.

The panel convened in 2011 by O'Connor finalized its recommendations last week and now awaits a dissenting report from prosecutors on the committee who disagreed with some proposals.

Recommendations include reducing the number of crimes eligible for the death penalty and creating a statewide board that would have the final say over death penalty charges in the state.

O'Connor says the committee's goal was a fair analysis of Ohio's 3-decade old capital punishment law.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Gloria Pointer was just 14 years old when she was raped and murdered on Dec. 6, 1984

The murder of Gloria Pointer was a cold case for nearly 30 years. It's now in the courtroom, as Hernandez Warren, 58, faces the death penalty if convicted of the crime.

Pointer was just 14 years old when she was raped and murdered on Dec. 6, 1984.

Warren was not arrested until May 2013, when a new DNA test showed a match. He faces 2 counts of aggravated murder, 1 count of rape, 4 counts of kidnapping and 1 count of aggravated robbery.

After his arrest last year, Warren confessed to police in a taped interview, but now his attorneys want that confession thrown out of court.

Warren showed no emotion as prosecutors played portions of the interview in a pretrial hearing Tuesday.

Gloria Pointer's mother, Yvonne, stood outside the courtroom, at the judge's suggestion, while the graphic tape rolled.

"We cannot have people thinking that they can do horrendous crimes and get away with it," said Yvonne.

Yvonne has devoted her life to preventing crimes like those that took her daughter.

"(Warren) has an opportunity I think to fill in some of the gaps for me that I've had for the past almost 30 years. I've had to wonder about -- if he's willing to do that," she said.

Through the video in the hourslong interview, Warren appears at times subdued and at times explosive.

"I killed her. But why and how, I just, look me. Man I was (expletive) up. I was (expletive) up. I don't know. I swear for God I don't know," Warren said in a room with two detectives in May 2013.

"It's a long time, almost 30 years to go without knowing who did this, so that part has been answered. We may not ever get to the why. Sometimes there's no why," Yvonne said.

"On behalf of my family and I, we just want this to be over with. We would like to see more remorse coming from Mr. Warren, but it doesn't seem that is going to happen," she said.

Yvonne Pointer says she's satisfied knowing who did it, but she says if the jury needs the confession to get to conviction, she hopes it will be shown.

"This individual is accused of murdering my daughter, but he did not kill her soul and neither has he done that to mine, so, like I said, he's insignificant," she said.

Tuessday Cleveland police detectives testified that Warren was read his rights and agreed to be interviewed without an attorney. On the tape, he can be seen penning and signing a handwritten confession.

His attorneys are arguing he requested an attorney be present.

(source: WKYC)

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

Youngstown man found guilty of murdering woman could face death penalty

The jury that convicted a Youngstown man of murdering a woman will now help decide if he'll be sent to Ohio's death row.

42-year-old Willie Wilks, Jr. reacted with anger on Tuesday morning when a jury in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court found him guilty on all counts for the shooting death of 20-year-old Ororo Wilkins and wounding of 24-year-old Alexander Morales as they stood on the porch of a home on Park Avenue in Youngstown last May.

Wilkins was holding a baby in her arms when she was gunned down.

After deliberating a short time Monday night and part of Tuesday morning, the jury found Wilks guilty of murder, felonious assault and weapons violations.

Upon hearing the guilty verdict on the murder charge, Wilks slammed his hands on a courtroom table and claimed that he did not commit the crime.

Wilks could still be heard shouting after he left the court. Authorities say he kicked a hole in a hallway wall as he was being led away.

The same jury is expected to be back in court next week to begin the mitigation phase of the trial.

Attorneys will present arguments that could determine if the jury will recommend that the judge sentence Wilks to be executed for the crimes, or sentenced to life in prison.

(source: WFMJ)

KANSAS:

Prosecutors Seek Death Penalty for Kansas Anti-Semitic Gunman; Former KKK leader Frazier Glenn Cross facing hate crimes charges; if found guilty could face death penalty.

Prosecutors filed a death penalty murder charge Tuesday against a white supremacist accused of fatally shooting 3 people at Jewish sites over the weekend, judicial sources said.

Frazier Glenn Cross, 73, was charged with 1 count of capital murder for the deaths of a 69-year-old physician and his teenage grandson outside the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City.

He also faces 1 count of 1st-degree murder for the death of a 53-year-old woman at the nearby Village Shalom retirement community where she was paying a weekly visit to her mother.

Cross was scheduled to appear in court Tuesday at 1:30 p.m., a spokeswoman for Johnson County District Attorney Stephen Howe told AFP by telephone.

Sunday's bloodshed - on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Pesach (Passover) - occurred in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park. All 3 victims were Christian.

Local police, FBI agents and federal prosecutors said Monday they intended to pursue Cross for hate crimes, which under federal law calls for tougher sentencing.

Cross shouted "Heil Hitler" from the back of a police car when he was taken into custody Sunday.

The Southern Poverty Law Center and Anti-Defamation League described Cross as a North Carolina native and former US army Green Beret commando who, in the 1980s, founded and led the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Patriot Party.

The center, which monitors hate groups, said Cross, a Vietnam war veteran, is well-known for espousing anti-Semitic and white supremacist views.

He spent 3 years in federal prison after being indicted on weapons charges and for plotting robberies and the murder of the law center's co-founder Morris Dees.

More recently, resettling in rural Aurora, Missouri, Cross helped launch a short-lived newspaper called The Aryan Alternative and "actively promoted his racist and anti-Semitic views online," the Anti-Defamation League said.

"I'm a patriotic white man... The only thing I ain't figured out is whether to hate all you (expletive) Jews or just the Zionists," Cross candidly told Kansas City television station KMBC in a 2006 interview.

(source: Israel National News)

CALIFORNIA:

Favor it or not, death penalty changes needed

Few topics divide California as consistently or as evenly as the death penalty. The last time voters had their say on it, they opted by a vote of just over 51-49 percent to keep it around.

How avidly do supporters of capital punishment maintain their opinions? 2 years ago, when the Proposition 34 ballot initiative aimed to dump capital punishment in California and disband the state's only death row, in San Quentin Prison, its supporters raised $7.3 million while those wanting to keep the death penalty had barely $300,000. The no's prevailed despite that huge financial disadvantage.

So death row persists, with 736 denizens at last count, all convicted of the most vicious crimes, some of them repeat killers. As of March 1, 233 had killed children and 42 were cop killers.

It takes so long for any of them to exhaust their appeals that the most common causes of death on death row are linked to old age. "It's just wrong for these people to live that long after they have deprived others of their lives and taken the victims away from their families," says former Gov. Pete Wilson.

While the death penalty is opposed by groups from the California Nurses Assn. to the League of Women Voters and by every Roman Catholic and Episcopal bishop in the state, it is still reality, and the reasons for making it less time consuming include everything from finances to better justice for convicts. No one is talking about a rush to the gas chamber here.

Little has ever united Wilson and his predecessor and fellow Republican George Deukemjian with Democratic ex-Gov. Gray Davis. But all back a proposed new ballot initiative to clean up the capital punishment process.

How flawed is that process? It normally takes 5 years before a person under sentence of death has a lawyer assigned to his (almost all are men) case. It often can take 4 times that long before death penalty appeals are heard by the state Supreme Court, even longer before they reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

One argument against the death penalty is that California has the nation's highest rate of wrongful convictions, running as high as 7 percent in some categories. But that’s also an argument against the current inefficient administration of capital punishment cases. For the longer the appeals process drags on, the longer a victim of a mistaken or manipulated conviction is penalized. Appointing appeals lawyers right after death sentences are dispensed would likely cut that time.

"The 30 years it can now take for the entire process to be resolved is also far too long for the families of victims," said Davis. "They need resolution, too."

Phyllis Loya's son Larry Lasater, an ex-Marine and a policeman in the East San Francisco Bay suburb of Pittsburgh who was slain in 2005, is an example of the delayed process. "My son's killer was sentenced in Aug. 2007, but didn't get an appeals lawyer appointed until late in 2011, almost 4 1/2 years," the bereaved mother said. "Then the lawyer got 9 extensions of the deadline for filing his opening brief over the next 2 years. That's ludicrous, it's nonsense."

Kermit Alexander, a former UCLA football player who was a pro-bowl defensive back for the San Francisco 49ers, shares her frustration. His mother, sister and 2 nephews were murdered in 1984 - 30 years ago - when gang members seeking someone else mistakenly invaded their home.

"These vultures are still alive," Alexander said. "I have not slept well since my mother was murdered." He also wants the process speeded.

Then there's the issue of how to house death row inmates, each of whom now gets an individual cell, usually outfitted with radio and TV. Backers of the death penalty efficiency initiative, led by San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos, want them housed two to a cell, a change the state's non-partisan legislative analyst says could save $10 million yearly.

"Why should the worst criminals live more comfortably than the general prison population?" Ramos asks.

While death penalty opponents say this is all strictly about retribution and note that killing criminals can't reverse their crimes, most Californians still want capital punishment. And if California is going to have it, what sense is there in dragging cases out decade after decade because of bureaucratic delays, thus frustrating everyone from victims' families to the wrongly convicted?

(source: Handford Sentinel)

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Police: Sex Offenders Killed 4 Women While Wearing GPS Ankle Monitors

2 convicted sex offenders who allegedly killed and raped 4 women in Orange County while wearing their required GPS monitoring devices may have had additional victims, police said Monday.

Steven Dean Gordon, 45, and Franc Cano, 27, who were both described as transients who frequented the Anaheim area, were arrested Friday night, Anaheim police Lt. Bob Dunn said.

They were convicted of sex crimes with children in 1992 and 2007, respectively, and about three years ago both cut off their ankle bracelets and fled to Las Vegas together, court records show.

They had been arrested in that Nevada case and had recently been in compliance with requirements to register as sex offenders in Orange County during the time of the recent killings and rapes, according to police.

Their 4 alleged victims were identified as: Jarrae Nykkole Estepp, 21, of Oklahoma; Kianna Jackson, 20, of Las Vegas; Josephine Monique Vargas, 34, of Santa Ana; and Martha Anaya, 28, also of Santa Ana.

"Our hearts go out to the victims in this case. The families are all very distraught and concerned," Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said at a Monday afternoon news conference.

The 2 men were charged Monday with 4 felony counts each of both special circumstances murder and forcible rape, according to Rackauckas. The special circumstance sentencing enhancements included murder in the commission of rape, multiple murders, and lying in wait, a news release from Rackauckas' office stated.

Cano and Gordon could face life in prison or the death penalty if convicted, Rackauckas' said.

(source: KTLA news)

USA:

Anti-Death-Penalty Activists Target Pharmacist Association's Ethics Code

As some states increasingly turn to compounding pharmacies to provide drugs needed for lethal injections, an online petition seeking to change the American Pharmacists Association's code of ethics is gaining steam. Activists see it as a way to bring more pressure to bear in their fight to end the death penalty for good.

According to some activists, it's a sentence that could change everything about the death penalty.

It's a sentence, activists say, that’s missing from the ethics code of the American Pharmacists Association (APhA), and the omission is raising serious questions for the organization and the role of the Hippocratic Oath in pharmacists' work. More details below:

I look at the American Pharmacists Association as a partner in this process, and when it comes to almost all of the pharmacists I spoke to, I see them as future allies.

What raised the issue? In January, Ohio death row inmate Dennis McGuire was executed for the 1989 rape and murder of 22-year-old newlywed Joy Stewart. While McGuire had accepted his fate - going so far as to acknowledge he committed the crime in a letter to Ohio Gov. John Kasich - it was the way he died that drew activists' attention. McGuire was given a new kind of lethal-injection cocktail, one that had never been tried before in the United States, and there were complications. It took 24 minutes for McGuire to die after he received the drugs, which blocked his airflow and reportedly led to a dramatic scene in the execution chamber.

Activists speak up: McGuire's protracted death outraged anti-death-penalty advocacy groups. It also brought attention to the pharmacy industry, particularly makers of compounded drugs, which are not federally regulated. (This is changing, however; new legislation signed by President Obama last week allows compounding pharmacies that produce drugs in bulk to register voluntarily for FDA oversight.) A small number of compounding pharmacies have agreed to produce the kind of 2-drug cocktail used in McGuire's lethal injection because supplies of the single drug used traditionally are becoming scarce, as many drug manufacturers are restricting use of their products in capital punishment. A civil rights lawsuit filed in Missouri last year seeks to force the state to disclose the names of the pharmacies providing the drugs it uses in lethal injections.

An ethics code omission? According to some protesters, led by progressive activist Kelsey Kauffman, part of the difficulty may be with APhA's ethics code, which - unlike those of other major medical groups, such as the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association [PDF] - does not specifically prohibit its members from assisting in executions. While such a code provision would not be legally binding, it could make pharmacists who currently compound lethal injection drugs less willing to do so - if, for example, it would result in their losing their professional certification. That's why the nonprofit petition site SumOfUs has launched a campaign to get the association to add a prohibition to its code. The petition, which argues that “the association could help put a stop to the manufacturing and supplying of drugs used for lethal injections and help end the use of the death penalty in the U.S. once and for all," has been signed by more than 36,000 people and has gained support from the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP, and other civil rights groups.

The association's take: In its policy manual, APhA opposes laws that either "mandate or prohibit the participation of pharmacists" in executions, but also objects to the use of the term "drug" for chemicals used in lethal injection. APhA spokeswoman Michelle Spinnler told the Associated Press that the association may consider the issue at its next annual meeting, reflecting the group's long policy development process. For activists like Kauffman, APhA's response is heartening. In comments to Think Progress after attending the group's annual meeting in March, she said that association members seem receptive to the campaign. "I look at the American Pharmacists Association as a partner in this process, and when it comes to almost all of the pharmacists I spoke to, I see them as future allies," she said.

Although the move could prove a breakthrough for the anti-death-penalty movement, it wouldn't be the 1st time an association has switched gears on the issue. In 2010, the American Board of Anesthesiology made a similar change to its ethics policy.

(source: Associationsnow.com)

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The death penalty, politics and the Boston Marathon bombing

Should accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev receive the death penalty?

As the 1-year anniversary of the April 21 Marathon approaches, we should all be asking that question. And a quick glance at the history of the federal government and capital punishment should provide a clear answer: no.

The Justice Department announced in January that it would seek the death penalty for Tsarnaev, who is charged with participating in attacks that killed three people and injured more than 260 others. Tsarnaev would become only the 4th American to be executed by the federal government since Congress reinstated capital punishment in 1988, following a 16-year hiatus.

Earlier in our history, though, Uncle Sam put hundreds of people to death. Those decisions inevitably reflected the political passions of the moment, just as the Tsarnaev prosecution does. And that's precisely why our government should not be in the business of determining who lives or dies, no matter how repulsive their behavior.

Consider the fate of Nathaniel Gordon, the only person executed in the United States for slave trading. Although the transatlantic slave trade was outlawed in 1809, American vessels engaged in it with impunity for the next few decades.

Then came the Civil War. In November 1861, a few months after the war began, Gordon was convicted of transporting nearly 900 Africans for the purpose of selling them. Gordon was sentenced to death and executed early the following year.

Slave trading was one of the most evil practices in the Western world, and of course it deserved to be penalized. But the only reason Gordon got the ultimate penalty - while most of his fellow outlaws got off scot-free - was that he came up for trial during a war that was fought over slavery itself.

Granted, Gordon was no martyr; it's hard to shed a tear for a departed slave trader. But the government effectively martyred him, anyway, by giving him a harsher punishment to tack with the political winds.

And Gordon wasn't the only one. The same year he was executed, Lakota Sioux in Minnesota attacked whites who had settled on Lakota reservation lands. After U.S. Army forces suppressed the uprising, 393 Lakota were charged with murder and rape; 303 were sentenced to death.

President Abraham Lincoln reviewed the sentences and commuted most of them. But 38 executions were allowed to proceed. On the day after Christmas in 1862, the U.S. Army hanged all 38 Lakota from a single scaffold. Conducted in front of a cheering crowd, it was the largest mass execution in American history.

Some of these Lakota had surely committed horribly violent acts. Again, though, the decision to execute them reflected the politics of the era. Lincoln feared that if he blocked all of the executions - or if he did not allow enough of them to proceed - white vigilantes in Minnesota would kill all of the accused Lakota. Indeed, three Lakota defendants had already been murdered by mobs.

Nearly a century later, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg would become the only Americans executed for espionage. Despite years of debate among historians, it's now clear that Julius Rosenberg passed scientific secrets to Soviet intelligence agents.

But it's also clear that the decision to execute the Rosenbergs had more to do with the politics of their times than it did with the content of their crimes. The information that Julius provided was of little strategic value to the Soviet nuclear program, especially compared to the secrets divulged by other spies.

But the Rosenbergs' 1951 conviction came on the heels of the Soviet testing of a hydrogen bomb, the Maoist revolution in China, and the outbreak of the Korean War. "You have undoubtedly altered the course of history to the disadvantage of our country," their sentencing judge declared. "No one can say that we do not live in a constant state of tension."

We live in constant tension, too, thanks to a different threat: international terrorism. The Boston Marathon bombings were the first terrorist strikes on our soil since September 11, 2001. There are other people plotting to do us grave harm, of course, and we need to remain on constant guard against them.

But we also need to guard against our own emotions in sentencing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. As the Justice Department correctly noted, Tsarnaev's acts were "heinous, cruel, and depraved." Yet so were the deeds of hundreds of other federal murder convicts, most of whom will not face execution.

To be sure, all of our criminal penalties reflect judgements about cruelty and depravity and especially about responsibility; for example, we typically assign more guilt to a person who shows contrition than to one who doesn't. But our decisions are also highly influenced by our political climate, which can change as quickly as the weather. And a death sentence is the only kind that can't be reversed.

I don't have a single ounce of sympathy for Tsarnaev, who caused unfathomable grief and horror in Boston last year. But if we single him out for death, future generations will accuse us of letting our present-day politics get the best of us. Nobody can really know who is evil enough to deserve the ultimate penalty. And that's ultimately why nobody should receive it.

(source: newsworks.org)

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

Don't execute Dzhokhar Tsarnaev: Why present-day politics shouldn't dictate criminal penalties ---- Yes, his alleged acts were heinous. But the reason he could get the death penalty is based on the wrong principle

As the Boston Marathon bombing reenters the news on the occasion of its 1-year anniversary, one critical question is gaining renewed interest: Should accused bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev receive the death penalty?

It's a fine question for us as a nation to consider. But a quick glance at the history of the federal government and capital punishment should provide a clear answer: no.

The Justice Department has indicated that it would seek the death penalty for Tsarnaev, who is charged with participating in attacks that killed 3 people and injured more than 260 others. He would become only the 4th American to be executed by the federal government since Congress reinstated capital punishment in 1988, following a 16-year hiatus.

Earlier in our history, though, Uncle Sam put hundreds of people to death. Those decisions inevitably reflected the political passions of the moment, just as the Tsarnaev prosecution does. And that's precisely why our government should not be in the business of determining who lives or dies, no matter how repulsive their behavior.

In 1862, Lakota Sioux in Minnesota attacked whites who had settled on Lakota reservation lands. After U.S. Army forces suppressed the uprising, 393 Lakota were charged with murder and rape; 303 were sentenced to death.

President Abraham Lincoln reviewed the sentences and commuted most of them. But 38 executions were allowed to proceed. On the day after Christmas in 1862, the U.S. Army hanged all 38 Lakota from a single scaffold. Conducted in front of a cheering crowd, it was the largest mass execution in American history.

Some of these Lakota had surely committed horribly violent acts. But the decision to execute them reflected not so much criminal justice consistency or moral principle but the politics of the era. Lincoln feared that if he blocked all of the executions - or if he did not allow enough of them to proceed - white vigilantes in Minnesota would kill all of the accused Lakota. Indeed, three Lakota defendants had already been murdered by mobs.

Then there was the fate of a hideously unsympathetic figure, Nathaniel Gordon: the only person executed in the United States for slave trading. Although the transatlantic slave trade was outlawed in 1809, American vessels engaged in it with impunity for the next few decades.

Then came the Civil War. In November 1861, a few months after the war began, Gordon was convicted of transporting nearly 900 Africans for the purpose of selling them. He was sentenced to death and executed early the following year.

Gordon was no martyr; no one's shedding a tear for a departed slave trader. But the government effectively martyred him, anyway, by giving him a harsher punishment to tack with the political winds.

Slave trading was one of the most evil practices in the Western world, and of course it deserved to be severely penalized. But a prime reason Gordon got the ultimate penalty - while most of his fellow outlaws got off scot free - was simple timing: He came up for trial during a war that was fought over slavery itself.

Nearly a century later, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg would become the only Americans executed for espionage. Despite years of debate among historians, it's now clear that Julius Rosenberg passed scientific secrets to Soviet intelligence agents.

But it's also clear that the decision to execute the Rosenbergs had more to do with the politics of their times than it did with the content of their crimes. The information that Julius provided was of little strategic value to the Soviet nuclear program, especially compared to the secrets divulged by other spies.

But the Rosenbergs' 1951 conviction came on the heels of the Soviet testing of a hydrogen bomb, the Maoist revolution in China, and the outbreak of the Korean War. "You have undoubtedly altered the course of history to the disadvantage of our country," their sentencing judge declared. "No one can say that we do not live in a constant state of tension."

Nowadays, we live in constant tension, too, thanks to a different threat: international terrorism. The Boston Marathon bombings reignited for many the feelings of instability that they last felt after Sept. 11, 2001. There are other people plotting to do us grave harm, of course, and we need to remain on constant guard against them.

But we also need to guard against our own emotions in sentencing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. As the Justice Department correctly noted, Tsarnaev's acts were "heinous, cruel, and depraved." Yet so were the deeds of hundreds of other federal murder convicts, most of whom will not face execution.

All of our criminal penalties reflect judgments about cruelty and depravity and especially about responsibility; for example, we typically assign more guilt to a person who lacks contrition than to one who shows some. But our decisions are also highly influenced by our political climate, which can change as quickly as the weather. And a death sentence is the only kind that can't be reversed.

Naturally, I don't have a single ounce of sympathy for Tsarnaev, who allegedly caused unfathomable grief and horror in Boston last year. But if we single him out for death, we will have let our present-day politics get the best of us. While passions of a crowd can be hard to resist, nobody can really know who is evil enough to deserve the ultimate penalty. And that's ultimately why nobody should receive it.

(source: Jonathan Zimmerman is a professor of education and history at New York University. He is the author of Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory and three other books----salon.com)

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

Ruling in Chicago terror case may apply to Tsarnaev defense

A year after the deadly marathon bombings, prosecutors and attorneys are still wrangling over evidence ahead of accused terrorist Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's November trial, and a closely watched ruling in a Chicago terrorism case could have a bearing on whether the defendant can force the government to hand over any secret records in his case, one expert said.

"The ruling has the opportunity to open a window for defense attorneys to see how the government obtains its information," said Daniel J. Collins, a former federal prosecutor who led the U.S. investigation into Pakistani-American David Headley's involvement in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. "Historically the defense hasn't had the ability to see what's in those applications."

On Friday, prosecutors filed court papers objecting to a request from Tsarnaev's lawyers to obtain any classified national security information about him.

The request follows a Chicago federal judge's ruling this year granting lawyers for accused terrorist Adel Daoud, 20, access to secret applications submitted through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. That case is under appeal.

It's unclear if U.S. District Court Judge George A. O'Toole Jr. will rule on Tsarnaev's request at a status hearing scheduled for tomorrow morning. Tsarnaev faces the death penalty if convicted of placing pressure-cooker bombs near the finish line with his brother, Tamerlan, who died in a shootout with police. The bombings and a subsequent manhunt killed 4 and wounded more than 200.

(source: Boston Herald)

BANGLADESH:

Owner of Collapsed Bangladesh Factory Faces Murder Charges

Bangladesh police today announced that they will press murder charges against Sohel Rana, the owner of the 9-story factory building that collapsed and killed 1,135 garment workers last April. Infuriatingly, the accident - which was the worst in the nation's history - was highly-preventable: although workers warned their employers that there were major cracks in the building's walls several days before the collapse, they were ignored and forced to continue laboring in wildly unsafe conditions.

Lead investigator Bijoy Krishna Kar told AFP that Rana is one of about 40 people who will be charged in connection with the disaster: "We are planning to press murder charges against Sohel Rana and some other accused," he said - adding that, if convicted, Rana could face the death penalty. Also among the accused are Rana's father, who is a co-owner of the building, and 5 bosses of other garment factories operating within the complex.

Kar stated that police investigators have questioned 900 - 1,000 people and found "irrefutable evidences" against the "greedy and irresponsible" owners. They hope to press charges within the next month. However, while it's good to see these factory owners being held responsible for their unmitigated greed and corruption, the issue of unsafe working conditions extends much further than them. According to PBS, 12 hours of overtime, in addition to a 48-hour workweek, are routine for Bangladeshi garment workers - but, obviously, this demand doesn't just spontaneously spring up out of the ether. American garment producers (and, of course, consumers) have a deeply unrealistic, unhealthy expectation of low-priced goods sold at massive profits. Our shopping habits are what cause the harsh and dangerous working conditions in garment factories overseas.

"The buyer says if you can't give it [to us] for our price, we'll go somewhere else," Shabbir Mahmood, who owns two factories, told PBS. Exactly. If factory owners in Bangladesh start paying their employees more than their current unlivable wages, what's to stop big U.S. companies from looking elsewhere - like India or Cambodia - for exploitatively cheap goods? Simply put, the consumer has to be willing to absorb the cost of improved factory conditions. It's really not a lot; frankly, it's shameful that reform is taking so long. (Here's a list of the companies that have so far signed the Bangladesh Safety Accord, so you know which places are at least nominally committed to improving and which places to boycott entirely).

(source: jezebel.com)

INDIA:

No Noose Is Good News----In 13 months, the President has rejected 13 mercy petitions. The Supreme Court on the other hand has commuted the death sentences of 19 convicts this year. Should the court's moves prompt the government to review the necessity of capital punishment, asks Smitha Verma

Navneet Bhullar is a woman on a mission. For 2 decades, she has struggled to save the life of her convicted husband. Now Bhullar is on what could be the last leg of the campaign - his release from jail.

Last month, the Supreme Court commuted Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar’s death sentence to life on grounds of delay in deciding his mercy plea and on the basis of his medical condition. Termed a terrorist with the Khalistan movement, he was convicted for bomb blasts that shook Delhi in 1993. Subsequently sentenced to death, his mercy plea was rejected by the President in 2011.

"Having spent 19 years and three months in jail, without any parole ever, he should now be released soon," says Bhullar, 47, who spent only 2 months with her husband in their 22 years of marriage. These days, the Canada resident's life revolves around her lawyer's office and the hospital where her husband is being treated for depression. "The death sentence has become a political tool. And so have mercy pleas and remission," she adds.

The issue of death penalty is back in the news. After the December 2012 gang rape in Delhi, the law dealing with rape was revised. The amended Section 376E of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) provides for death in cases of repeat offenders. Earlier this month, a sessions court in Mumbai sentenced 3 people to death for rape because they were repeat offenders.

But the country has been witnessing conflicting views on execution. In 13 months, President Pranab Mukherjee has rejected 13 mercy petitions awarding the death penalty to 17 convicts - the highest for a President in the last 16 years. But the judiciary has seemingly taken a different turn. In a landmark judgment in January, the Supreme Court commuted the sentence of 15 condemned death row convicts to life. The decision was taken in view of the "inordinate delay" by the government in deciding on their mercy pleas. The court on similar grounds commuted the death sentence of Rajiv Gandhi's killers to life in February. This year, 19 death row convicts have been granted life by the Supreme Court.

The President's powers to grant pardon arise from Article 72 of the Constitution which empowers him to pardon, grant reprieve or suspend, remit and commute the sentence of a person convicted of any offence. The President is guided by the home minister in his decision.

Among the 1st mercy petitions to be disposed of by Mukherjee included that of Mumbai 26/11 terrorist Ajmal Kasab. He was executed in November 2012 which was the 1st hanging after 2004. 4 months later Afzal Guru was hanged for his involvement in the 2001 Parliament attack case.

Of course, many believe that the death penalty is an essential part of justice. Execution, they argue, is a deterrent to crime. "In terms of punishment, humans fear death the most. It has both sociological and psychological impact," says Supreme Court lawyer Pinky Anand. "It works as a punishment to criminals and as a deterrent to society."

Anand doesn't agree with people who argue that the death penalty doesn't bring down the crime rate. "There can never be any statistics to show how many people stopped committing a crime for fear of this punishment," Anand adds.

Global human rights watchdog Amnesty International believes India is not giving a clear message on where it stands. "While the President has a record number of rejections of mercy petitions, the Supreme Court has shown the way for a progressive and humanitarian India where the degrading practice of executions has no place," says Divya Iyer, senior researcher, Amnesty International India.

According to Mumbai-based human rights activist and lawyer Yug Mohit Choudhry, the apex court's position is not new. "In 1982, the Supreme Court in the case of Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab upheld the constitutionality of Section 302 of the IPC, which prescribes the death penalty as punishment for murder. And in so upholding its validity, the court prescribed that the death penalty be accorded only in the 'rarest of rare cases'," Choudhry explains. "While earlier, death was the norm and life term an exception, after the Bachan Singh case our courts turned this around."

Despite these moves, India was among the 39 countries in 2012 which voted against a UN General Assembly draft resolution calling for abolishing the death penalty. India had argued that each state had the sovereign right to determine its own legal system.

The apex court's concern, on the other hand, is over not just the long wait that people on death row have to go through, but also over cases where death is not merited. Between 2000 and 2011, 130 death sentences were pronounced by the trial courts on an average every year. "But only 3 or 4 were upheld by the Supreme Court every year," Choudhry says.

Amnesty International's latest report says that there are 435 convicts on death row with appeals at various stages - from high courts to clemency petitions awaiting the President's nod. In the last 18 years, only 3 people have been executed, with the last 2 executions happening in the last 2 years.

But the December 16 incident has triggered a move towards an increase in death sentences. "Death sentences by trial courts since then are at their peak," says Anup Sundernath, who heads the death penalty research project at the National Law University, Delhi. The project which will come up with its report later this year highlights the fact that sexual crimes are attracting death from the trial courts as a norm now.

"The executive wants to show that we are tough on crime and by rejecting mercy petitions they think they can contain the current public outrage against lawlessness," Choudhry says.

Last year, 14 retired judges wrote to the President, pointing out that the Supreme Court had erroneously given death to 15 people from 1996. 2 of them were hanged. The judges called this "the gravest known miscarriage of justice" since Independence. "Yet in recent months, our government has shown an alarming tendency to implement the death penalty," rues Saswati Debnath, a senior researcher with Human Rights Law Network, a Delhi-based non-government organisation.

Many believe that the time has come for the government to reconsider its position. "The government should now build on these progressive judgments to review the legality and necessity of capital punishment, declare an immediate moratorium on executions, with a view to abolishing the death penalty," Iyer says.

(source: The Telegraph)

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

Derby cousin's tears of joy as professor is off death row after 19 years

The cousin of a man who has been on death row for more than 19 years has spoken of her delight that his sentence has been commuted.

Kamalpreet Kaur, of Littleover, has not seen her cousin, Professor Devender Pal Singh Bhullar, since he was sentenced to death in India.

The family, along with members of the Sikh community in Derby and across the world, joined together to lobby for his release.

And that dream has taken a step closer to becoming a reality after he was finally released from death row.

Mrs Kaur said: "I first received a call from India and later I spoke to his wife.

"I was very happy when I heard. I was crying because it was so emotional.

"We are hoping that he will be free soon and that we will be able to see him again.

"I last saw him in 1991. He has been imprisoned and later on death row for more than 19 1/2 years; his mental and physical health has been seriously affected."

Mrs Kaur, who travelled from the Punjab to live in Derby in 2001, believes that her cousin has been wrongly imprisoned for a crime that he did not commit.

Derby campaigner Bhajan Singh Dheansay said that Professor Bhullar's father, uncle and best friend were murdered in 1991.

He said: "Those people were murdered by the state in the Punjab because the professor was a lecturer and 42 of his students went on a demonstration and never came back.

"The professor started asking questions about the system and, because of this, his father, brother and best friend were murdered."

Professor Bhullar was then accused of detonating a car bomb in Delhi in 1993 in an attack on a politician.

The professor fled to Germany in an attempt to gain political asylum but was deported back to India.

At his trial he was found guilty and sentenced to death.

He has spent more than 19 years not knowing if he would see the next day and, despite various appeals, his suffering has meant he was placed in a psychiatric ward for prisoners.

But now Professor Bhullar's sentence has been commuted to life, giving the family hope that he could be soon released.

Mrs Kaur said: "It has been extremely hard for all the family, particularly for his wife and his mother. This is the first good news that we have had in all those long years.

"I would like to thank every one who has helped over the years, especially the Sikh community in Derby and MPs, including Chris Williamson.

"We dearly hope and pray for Professor Devinder-Pal Singh to be home again with his family."

Sikh community leader Jaz Rai said: "The love and support that we have seen from the Sikh community and the wider Derby community has been fantastic.

"It is good news that he is now off death row.

"The next step is to have him released but he has already been in prison for a life sentence.

"I would also like to thank the Derby Telegraph who have helped highlight the case of the sorts of injustices that are going on in what is supposed to be the biggest democracy in the world."

Labour Derby North MP Mr Williamson, who is the secretary of the cross-party group of MPs focused on the global abolition of the death penalty, backed the campaign.

He said: "It is fantastic news but now the campaign to get him fully released begins.

"I believe his conviction is unsafe and I will be continuing to support the campaign and the family to see him freed."

(source: Derby Telegraph)

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

SC to see Dec 16 gang-rape victim's dying declaration

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the police to produce the dying declaration of Delhi's December 16 gang-rape victim, saying if her statement was convincing enough, it would not re-look into with the death penalty awarded to 4 people convicted in the case.

A bench of Justices B S Chauhan and J Chelameswar also extended the stay on the execution of capital punishment of the convicts.

Taking up the special leave petition filed by convicts Mukesh and Pawan, the bench said, "We would like to see the dying declaration of the victim. If it is convincing, we don't think there is anything in the matter."

The court's observation came after advocate M L Sharma, appearing for the petitioners, read out the injuries mentioned in the post-mortem examination of the 23-year-old victim and contended that her condition did not indicate the severity of the assault alleged by the police.

Hearing the argument, the bench reminded the counsel that the incident had taken place on December 16, 2012, while she had expired on December 29 at a Singapore hospital, saying her condition might have improved due to the treatment she was given.

The court then asked Sharma to produce the dying declaration of the victim.

Counsel, however, expressed his inability. On this, the bench directed Additional Solicitor General Sidharth Luthra to submit a photocopy of the record.

The Delhi High court had, on March 13, upheld the conviction and death sentence of Mukesh, Pawan, Vinay Sharma and Akshay Thakur, awarded by a trial court.

Another accused, Ram Singh, had committed suicide while being kept in judicial custody in Tihar jail, while a juvenile, also involved in the case, was tried separately.

The incident, in which the paramedical student was sexually assaulted brutally inside a private bus, had caused massive outrage across the country. The victim was returning home in south-west Delhi with a male friend when the incident took place.

(source: Deccan Herald)

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES:

New death penalty hearing for Abu Dhabi motorist who ran over boy

The death sentence on a man who deliberately ran over and killed a 12-year-old boy has been overturned.

The Court of Cassation sent the case back to the Court of Appeal to reconsider the sentence.

The driver, a Pakistani expatriate, had been sitting in his car in Musaffah in October 2012 when 3 boys opened the door and threw in a pile of rubbish.

The children ran away and were joined by a 4th boy, Hazaa Khaled from Sudan. The driver believed Hazaa had thrown the rubbish, drove after the boy and knocked him down.

He denied denied intending to kill the boy, and said he meant only to scare him and was driving at only 40kph. However, scientific evidence showed the car's impact was so powerful that it crushed the boy's skull.

Abu Dhabi Criminal Court found the man guilty of manslaughter and sentenced him to 15 years in prison. He was also ordered to pay blood money of Dh200,000 and compensation of Dh21,000 to the boy's parents.

The case then went to the appeals court, which sentenced him to death.

(source: The National)

PAKISTAN:

Persecuted Christian Asia Bibi's Appeal Hearing Delayed for 3rd Time

Appeal proceedings have been delayed again in the case of Asia Bibi, the Christian mother of 5 sentenced to death for blasphemy.

Lahore high court judges Sardar Tariq Masood and Abdul Sami Khan adjourned the case shortly after the hearing began and arguments were presented.

Court sources say that a new date for the appeal is expected tomorrow in a case that has dragged on without any progress for quite some time.

For several months, extremist groups have been making threats against the judges in order to pressure them to confirm the death penalty imposed by the lower court.

However, the woman's lawyers say they remain confident and hopeful that the high court will soon overturn her conviction and let her go.

In recent days, Pakistani Christians have promoted days of fasting and prayer on behalf of Asia Bibi and Sawan Masih, both of whom are innocent but sentenced to death under the infamous "black law."

Asia Bibi, who has been on death row since November 2010 and held under solitary confinement on security grounds, has become a symbol of the fight against blasphemy.

Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer and Federal Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic, were killed in 2011 for coming to her defense.

Masih, a 26-year-old Christian from Lahore, was convicted recently by a lower court on false charges as a result of a personal dispute with the person who reported him.

It is sad "to see how the situation in Pakistan is getting worse by the day, not only for minorities, but especially for women and girls," Father James Chand, from the Archdiocese of Lahore, told AsiaNews.

"Let us continue to pray for Asia Bibi and Sawan Masih," he added.

Father Arthur Nat, a priest from Central Punjab, joined Chand's appeal, calling for "a day of fasting and prayer on Wednesday."

(source: Charisma News)

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

Special Court resumes treason case hearing against Musharraf

The Special Court has resumed the hearing of high treason case against former president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf after the interval of 2 weeks on Tuesday, Geo News reported.

A 3-member special court headed by Justice Faisal Arab and consisting of Justice Tahira Safdar and Justice Yawar Ali Khan is hearing the case against the former dictator in the premises of Federal Shariat Court instead of National Liberary due to security concerns.

During today's proceedings, Justice Faisal Arab said that Musharraf's lawyer Anwar Mansoor Advocate had accused Prosecutor Akram Sheikh of being biased, and the verdict in that regard will be announced on April 18.

Musharraf's lawyer Barrister Farogh Naseem demanded to include all the persons involved in the imposition of November 3 emergency in the trial. He argued that as per the international laws, charges cannot be framed against one accused only.

Barrister Farogh further stated that the investigative report prepared by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) was not made public nor it included the details of interrogation from those involved in the implementation of emergency.

He told that the note of dissent by the probe team member, Hussain Asghar, against the FIA report was also not included in the report and requested to disclose the content of the letter.

Earlier on March 31, the court had exempted Musharraf from personal appearance, saying that it could not restrict one's free movement until the accused was arrested.

Also, the Special Court had indicted Pervez Musharraf on five counts of high treason, a charge that potentially carries death penalty.

The 1st charge was that Musharraf abrogated the Constitution by slapping emergency on November 3, 2007 and trampled fundamental human rights.

The 2nd charge stated that he introduced illegal amendments to the Constitution between November 20 and December 14, 2007 which was an unconstitutional act.

The 3rd charge was that he issued the PCO illegally, forced the superior court judges to take oath under it and removed those who did not take oath.

The 4th charge was that the accused removed those judges who did not take oath under the PCO and put them under house arrest. The 5th charge was related to the imposition of the November 3, 2007 emergency and holding the Constitution in abeyance.

The accused denied all the charges against him and pleaded not guilty.

(source: geo.tv)

INDONESIA/SAUDI ARABIA:

Media reports may harm effort to save Satinah

Reporting from various media outlets may be complicating the government's efforts to secure the release of Satinah, an Indonesian migrant worker on death row for murdering her Saudi employer.

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Djoko Suyanto said the family of Satinah's victim in Saudi Arabia was offended by media reports that portrayed the migrant worker as a victim.

"We're not blaming the media [for complicating the matter], but there were a number of statements, even from public figures, which portrayed Satinah as innocent. This has agitated the victim's family," said Djoko on Tuesday.

One such report accused the victim's mother of abusing Satinah, which offended the family to the extent that the blood money negotiations almost collapsed.

The victim's family had said it would grant clemency if Satinah - convicted of killing her employer Nura Al Gharib and stealing 37,970 Saudi riyal (US$10,124) from her home in Gaseem, Saudi Arabia, in July, 2007 - provided the blood money, or diyat.

The victim's family initially requested the payment of 15 million riyal in 2011, but then reduced it to 10 million riyal the following year and today the amount required is 5 million in a single payment and 2 million in installments.

Due to intensified media exposure, the family then declined payment of the diyat.

2 weeks ago, according to Djoko, the government sent a task force led by Maftuh Basyuni, former Indonesian envoy to Saudi Arabia, an Indonesian Military (TNI) officer and an official from the coordinating ministry, to deliver a third letter from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, reassuring the victim's family that the government did not stand by the media reports on Satinah. The victim's family members relented and negotiations resumed.

Maftuh, a former religious affairs minister, said Satinah would eventually be spared from the execution, thanks to the President's letter and his team's intensive lobbying.

"It was the toughest negotiation we've ever gone through. After lobbying back and forth, we finally saw the [victim's] family agree to our terms. Now we need only wait for them to conclude their internal discussions," said Maftuh.

The government had already deposited the 7 million riyal for the diyat, and with the help of a clemency council, persuaded the family to agree on the terms. They in turn requested more time to come to an official decision, pushing back the case for another 1 or 2 months.

Satinah's beheading has been postponed 3 times since she was sentenced to death in August 2011.

In his statement, Maftuh also lashed out against Manpower and Transmigration Minister Muhaimin Iskandar, who criticized the task force for being incompetent in lobbying for the release of Satinah, due to the language barrier.

"Even if I can't speak Arabic, I was accompanied by our ambassador [to Saudi Arabia], who dreams in Arabic," he said.

Foreign Ministry director for legal aid and the protection of Indonesian nationals abroad Tatang Razak said Indonesian nationals spared from the death penalty reached 184 people worldwide. Satinah would be the 49th person in Saudi Arabia to be freed if she is granted clemency.

(source: Jakarta Post)

IRAN----executions

6 prisoners hanged in Bandar Abbas

In a group hanging on April 10, the Iranian regime hanged 6 prisoners in Bandar Abbas prison. 2 of those executed by the names of Ahmad Rahimi, 20, and Omid Shekari, 21, were held in the youth ward of the prison. Ahmad Rahimi was less than 17-years-old at the time of his arrest.

In another development, there is word out that the clerical regime's henchmen intend to hang a young female prisoner Rayhaneh Jabbari.

Once again the Iranian Resistance calls for the life of this prisoner to be saved and it calls for urgent intervention by the international bodies, defenders of human rights, to prevent her execution.

Previously, in an international call on March 29, the Women's Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran called for urgent action to save the life of Ms. Rayhaneh Jabbari.

She is a decorator that has spent the last 7 years in prison.

Rayhaneh had defended herself against one of the mullahs' intelligence agents who had tried to assult against her which led to the death of the criminal agent.

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

SIERRA LEONE:

14 Accused of Mutiny Stand Trial in Sierra Leone

A court martial of 14 soldiers accused of mutiny has opened in the capital of the West African nation of Sierra Leone.

Each soldier faces 8 counts of mutiny, according to the charge sheet read out in court on Monday. The soldiers were arrested in August 2013 on suspicions they were planning a meeting aimed at destabilizing the democratically elected government.

All 14 pleaded not guilty to the charges, and they were denied bail. The penalty for mutiny is death by firing squad.

Sierra Leone is still slowly recovering from a devastating civil war that ended in 2002, though it has held elections since them that were deemed to be transparent.

(source: Associated Press)

APRIL 15, 2014:

TEXAS----impending execution

Condemned killer of 3 in Corpus Christi set to die

Attorneys for a Corpus Christi man convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend, her 3-year-old son and her mother are trying to keep him from execution this week.

Jose Villegas is set to die Wednesday evening in Huntsville for the three slayings in January 2001. His lawyers say they've found new evidence that he's mentally impaired and ineligible for execution and need more time to investigate.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Monday refused to stop the punishment and his attorneys have said they'll appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Villegas' former girlfriend, 23-year-old Erida Salazar, her son, Jacob, and her mother, 51-year-old Alma Perez, were stabbed repeatedly at the Perez home in Corpus Christi.

At the time, Villegas was out on bond on a sexual assault charge.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Testimony set to begin in death penalty capital murder trial

After 6 weeks of grueling jury selection, testimony is set to begin Tuesday morning in the capital murder trial of Carnell Petetan.

Petetan faces the death penalty, if convicted.

Judge Ralph Strother of Waco's 19th State District Court already delayed the original start of testimony because it took attorneys in the case about twice as long as expected to select the 12-member jury and 2 alternate jurors.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys considered or questioned 318 prospective jurors before seating the panel, compared to about 185 potential jurors in the past 2 capital murder cases in which McLennan County prosecutors sought the death penalty.

"We appreciate the many people who were willing to serve their community by coming in during the long jury selection process and we look forward to starting the evidence portion of the trial," said Waco attorney Michelle Tuegel, who is defending Petetan with Russ Hunt Sr. and Walter M. Reaves Jr.

Petetan, 36, of Port Arthur, is accused of shooting and killing his estranged wife, Kimberly Farr Petetan, in 2012 at her Lake Shore Drive apartment in Waco.

Officials have said Petetan shot his wife in front of her 9-year-old daughter and then kidnapped the girl. He was arrested later that night in Bryan. The girl was not harmed and is expected to testify about what she saw.

Petetan was released from prison 5 months before the alleged killing after serving 20 years for attempted murder. He claims to suffer from an intellectual disability that his attorneys say makes him ineligible for the death penalty.

McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna, who is prosecuting the case with his top assistants, Greg Davis and Michael Jarrett, said Monday only that "the state is ready to proceed." He declined additional comment because of the pending case.

Court officials say the delay in jury selection was caused primarily by potential jurors who expressed extreme views on both sides of the capital punishment issue.

2 alternate jurors - a 51-year-old male city inspector and a 46-year-old female owner of a landscaping business - were selected Monday.

The jury panel includes a 62-year-old retired man, a 62-year-old businessman, a 61-year-old female homemaker, a 26-year-old female nurse, a 41-year-old female teacher, a 69-year-old retired male minister, a 26-year-old male engineer, a 44-year-old male heavy equipment operator, a 40-year-old male college administrator, a 50-year-old female real estate agent, a 46-year-old female mortgage officer and a 44-year-old fireman.

Court officials expect the trial to last 2 weeks or longer.

(source: Waco Tribune)

MARYLAND:

Maryland Governor to Be Honored for Fight Against Death Penalty

Gov. Martin O'Malley will be in California tonight to receive the Mario Cuomo Acts of Courage Award from abolitionists Death Penalty Focus.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley is scheduled to accept the Mario Cuomo Acts of Courage Award from Death Penalty Focus at its awards dinner Tuesday night in Beverly Hills, CA, for sponsoring a bill repealing capital punishment.

"Taking a stand against the death penalty is no longer the political third rail it once was, as politicians see now that ending the death penalty is a common-sense solution that saves money, protects innocent people from being executed, and upholds human rights," said Chelsea Bond, program director of Death Penalty Focus, which describes itself as one of the world's largest organizations solely dedicated to the abolition of the death penalty.

"However, it still requires leadership to change a long-established law. Governor O'Malley displayed true leadership by not only signing the legislation, but making death penalty repeal a top legislative priority. The national trend away from the death penalty would not be possible without the bold leadership of elected representatives like Governor O'Malley."

O'Malley's opposition to the death penalty drew criticism from Maryland Delegate John W.E. Cluster Jr., R-Baltimore County, who called it a deterrent to murder, citing the sharply lower murder rates in Baltimore County, where prosecutors seek the death penalty, than in adjacent Baltimore, where they do not.

Cluster, a former police officer, sponsored an amendment to the bill to keep the death penalty for murdering a police officer while he or she was performing his duties and supported an amendment keeping the death penalty when an inmate kills a correctional officer.

"There's nothing deterring these prisoners from killing correctional officers," Cluster told City News Service. "What are they going to get? Another life sentence? They've already got a life sentence."

The award is named for the former New York governor who vetoed multiple bills seeking to reinstate the death penalty "when it was politically unpopular to oppose the death penalty," and "refused to back down from his stance" when "opponents tried to use his opposition to the death penalty against him during campaigns," Bond said.

Cuomo was the first recipient of the award in 1996.

(source: Catonsville Patch)

NORTH CAROLINA:

N.C. Supreme Court justices hear arguments about Racial Justice Act used in Fayetteville cases

A state attorney at the N.C. Supreme Court on Monday accused Cumberland County Superior Court Judge Gregory Weeks of having a "misapprehension of law" when he decided in 2012 to commute the sentences of four death row inmates to life in prison under the N.C. Racial Justice Act.

2 lawyers for the 4 inmates argued that Weeks made the right call when he found that racial discrimination tainted the jury selection in the 4 killers' cases.

"We see that the evidence shows a culture of a pervasive and preoccupation and reliance upon race by the Cumberland County prosecutors," defense lawyer Jay Ferguson said during oral arguments before the court.

The case drew about 100 spectators to the Supreme Court's chamber; others observed via a feed to an overflow room. The audience included state troopers - one of the killers murdered Trooper Ed Lowry - Lowry's brother-in-law Jim Davis and the parents of slain Fayetteville Police Officer Roy Turner Jr.

Cumberland County prosecutors and advocates for repeal of the death penalty also attended.

The justices asked few questions today, and those that were asked tended to be about the facts.

The state Supreme Court is expected to take months to decide whether Weeks correctly applied the controversial Racial Justice Act in their cases. If they say he was wrong, the inmates will go back to death row.

The Racial Justice Act of 2009 was a law that gave death row inmates a chance to argue in court that racism influenced their trials. If they could persuade a judge that they were right, the judge would convert their sentences to life in prison without parole.

By the end of 2011, there were 159 pending claims filed by inmates of all races.

Marcus Reymond Robinson of Cumberland County in early 2012 was the first to get a hearing. He killed a teen in a 1991 robbery.

After Weeks commuted Robinson's death sentence based on statistical evidence of racism, the state legislature in summer 2012 amended the Racial Justice Act to require other evidence in addition to statistics to prove a claim. It also narrowed the scope of acceptable statistics that could be used.

In late 2012, Weeks used both the 2009 edition of the law and the 2012 edition to commute the death sentences of Quintel Augustine, Christina "Queen" Walters and Tilmon Golphin.

Augustine had been convicted of killing Turner, the Fayetteville police officer. Walters led a gang that kidnapped 3 people at random and killed 2 of them. Golphin killed Lowry and a Cumberland County deputy in a traffic stop.

All 4 inmates used a section of the Racial Justice Act that said if they could prove that prosecutors considered the race of potential jurors when deciding whether to exclude them from a trial, then they could win their Racial Justice Act claims.

Lawyers for the four defendants persuaded Weeks that prosecutors had a practice of illegally using their peremptory challenges to prevent black citizens from serving on juries.

Weeks, in Robinson's case, cited statistics that suggested there was racial discrimination in jury selection in trials statewide and locally. He also concluded that blacks were wrongly excluded by the prosecution from serving on Robinson's jury.

But today Special Deputy Attorney General Danielle Marquis Elder argued that Weeks made a mistake. His ruling allows a person to come off death row based on racism in other people's cases, even if there is no evidence of racial discrimination in his own case, she said.

"That is simply not what the legislature could have intended, because it gives an absurd result," she said.

Elder said Weeks also was wrong "to find that statistical disparities in jury selection was sufficient to establish a racial justice claim."

"And that was the predominate part of this lower court's ruling, was the statistical disparities," Elder said.

Robinson's lawyer, Donald H. Beskind, disagrees and said Elder has it wrong.

"We are here today because the prosecutor in Mr. Robinson's trial chose to strike 50 percent of the black jurors who were qualified for jury service, and only 14 percent of the non-black jurors," Beskind said. "By 'qualified jurors,' I'm referring to jurors who have passed challenges for cause."

A black juror was 3.5 times more likely to be struck from Robinson's trial than a non-black juror, Beskind said. "This was not a random event. It did not happen by chance."

The Justice Act claim of Walters, Augustine and Golphin were conducted before Weeks in late 2012. The judge was biased, Elder told the Supreme Court, before the case even began.

"First and foremost, the lower court erroneously concluded that its previous findings of fact in the Robinson order precluded any litigation of the issues in the instant case," she said. "So the lower court had already determined that racial discrimination existed in these three cases before any evidence was accepted at the evidentiary hearing."

Weeks had plenty of evidence of racial bias beyond the statistics shown in Robinson's case, countered defendant lawyer Jay Ferguson. He represents Walters, Augustine and Golphin.

"In fact, the lower court ... said that its findings were primarily based, not upon statistics, but primarily based on the words and deeds of the prosecutors themselves," Ferguson said.

A prosecutor's notes from jury selection noted which potential jurors were black, Ferguson said.

When another prosecutor was accused during a trial of using race to dismiss a black juror, she cited the defendant's age - which is considered an acceptable reason - Ferguson said. Yet the judge pointed out that she accepted a white juror who was born the exact same day, Ferguson said.

Among the follow-up questions, Associate Justice Robin Hudson questioned Elder on whether the 2009 edition of the law should be interpreted to rely on statistics.

Associate Justice Barbara Jackson suggested in a question that the prosecutor's notes listing the race of potential jurors were intended to be descriptive and simply reflected what he was told.

Associate Justice Cheri Beasley, formerly of Fayetteville, did not participate in the portion of the arguments covering Golphin, Walters and Augustine's cases. She said she has a conflict of interest. She served as Golphin's lawyer in 1998.

After the arguments concluded, the parents of Turner, the slain police officer, declined comment.

Davis, Lowry's brother-in-law, said the arguments sounded much like what he heard at the Racial Justice Act hearing in 2012.

Cumberland County prosecutor Rob Thompson, who presented the state's case to Weeks in 2012, wouldn't comment on the substance of what he heard in the arguments, but praised the state's presentation. Elder and the state Attorney General's office "did a fantastic job. I can say that without reservation," he said.

Ferguson is hopeful that the inmates will win.

"We are cautiously optimistic," he said.

(source: Fayetteville Observer)

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

N.C. Supreme Court justices must mull over weighty decisions about Racial Justice Act

I sat in Monday morning as the N.C. Supreme Court considered controversial cases out of Cumberland County - cases in which convicted killers' death penalty sentences were overturned by the now-repealed Racial Justice Act.

It's not really the kind of statewide stage that puts our county in the best light. On one side are Cumberland crimes that rank, according to a state prosecutor, among "the most horrific crimes in our state in the last 20years." On the other are Cumberland prosecutors for whom racial bias was "prominent in their minds and decisions," say defense lawyers.

The 7 justices asked only a few questions of the lawyers on both sides but took lots of notes.

Another Cumberland connection in the mix was Justice Cheri Beasley, who once lived and served here. She heard just one of the RJA cases, involving defendant Marcus Robinson. She recused herself in the 2nd case, which includes defendants Tilmon Golphin, Christina Walters and Quintel Augustine. Beasley helped defend Golphin.

The small courtroom was nearly full when I got there, with about 100 people. The courtroom has high ceilings, portraits of past chief justices ringing the room and is outfitted in burnished wood, with columns behind the justices' bench.

No defendants were there, but their deeds hung like a shadow over the proceedings.

In 1991, Robinson shot 17-year-old Erik Tornblom in the face, despite the boy's pleas to live. Golphin, along with his brother, Kevin, murdered N.C. State Trooper Ed Lowry and county sheriff's deputy David Hathcock during a traffic stop in 1997. The younger Golphin's death sentence was commuted to life in prison after the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed executing juveniles.

Augustine was convicted of killing Fayetteville Police Officer Roy Turner Jr. in 2001. Walters shot and killed 2 women and injured a 3rd as part of a Crips gang initiation in 1998.

3 of the defendants are black; Walters is Lumbee.

Several Highway Patrol troopers were in court in support of Lowry. Also present: Roy Turner's parents and Lowry's brother-in-law.

Danielle Elder, with the N.C. Attorney General's office, told the justices that in the Robinson case, racial bias had not been proven. She said the original RJA statute was so broad that it produced "an absurd result which the legislature did not intend."

Defense lawyer Donald Beskind countered that the overwhelming statistical evidence showed bias in the county's jury selection, a standard that would call for overturning Robinson's sentence, which Judge Gregory Weeks did in 2012.

In the 2nd case, lawyers argued, among other issues, whether a 2nd, weaker form of the RJA would apply to the 3 defendants, or the original law. The N.C. General Assembly overturned the rest of the law last year.

At least in the Robinson case, questions from Justice Robin Hudson and others seemed to suggest the statistical evidence might be hard for prosecutors to get around.

But I suspect few would be willing to guess how the justices will vote. Beasley's recusal in one case at least opens the possibility of a tie, which leaves the lower court decision intact.

The courtroom emptied quickly during a break just before noon. Now a months-long wait begins as the justices mull these difficult, emotional cases.

(source: Commentary, Myron Pitts; Fayetteville Observer)

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

Appeal to Return 4 to Death Row Is Heard

The North Carolina Supreme Court on Monday heard arguments about whether it should reinstate death sentences for four inmates whose punishments were reduced under a law that allowed certain criminal defendants to challenge their sentences by raising claims of racial bias in their prosecutions.

The 2 arguments before the elected court were the latest chapter in a legal and political drama that has played out since 2009, when the state's Racial Justice Act was signed into law, creating a path for new court challenges by scores of inmates awaiting execution. The law was repealed by the Republican-dominated legislature in June 2013, and the state is trying to reimpose death penalties that were overturned while it was in place.

The centerpiece of the session on Monday in Raleigh, the capital, was the case of Marcus Reymond Robinson, a black man who was the 1st person to have his punishment reduced under the Racial Justice Act. Mr. Robinson, who was convicted of kidnapping and killing a teenage boy, said racial biases had tainted jury selection during his trial. A judge in Cumberland County overturned his death sentence in 2012.

Mr. Robinson's case was part of a study by researchers at Michigan State University, who found "powerful evidence that race was a substantial factor" in prosecutors' decisions to strike potential jurors in 173 death-penalty cases in North Carolina, including 11 in Cumberland County.

On Monday, one of Mr. Robinson's lawyers, Donald H. Beskind, told the justices that a county prosecutor had deliberately diluted the jury of blacks through his use of peremptory challenges, forming a pattern that he said "did not happen by chance."

"No one should die at the hands of the state if racial discrimination played a significant role in that person being charged, convicted or receiving a sentence of death," Mr. Beskind said. He noted that the prosecution had stricken half of the qualified black jurors for Mr. Robinson's trial.

But Danielle M. Elder, a lawyer for the state, said that statistics alone did not amount to evidence of conscious racial bias that should void a death sentence.

"Statistical disparities do nothing to get this court any further in determining why a juror was struck," Ms. Elder said. She argued that the black jurors who were eliminated from jury service had "completely obvious reasons for being stricken."

Echoing other prosecutors who have criticized the Michigan State University report, which is central to Mr. Robinson's case, Ms. Elder also contended that the study was defective because it could not account for every factor lawyers weigh when selecting jurors. "Jury strikes in capital cases are not by chance," she said. "They're decisions. They're motivated."

Mr. Beskind responded that the Racial Justice Act, which was heavily amended in 2012 and repealed last year, did not stipulate that discrimination had to be purposeful and overt to yield a modified sanction.

The 3 other cases, which were argued as a group before the Supreme Court on Monday, also originated in Cumberland County, which has a population of about 326,000 and includes Fayetteville, one of North Carolina's largest cities.

The death sentences for those defendants, 2 black men and a Native American woman, were reduced in 2012 to life imprisonment without parole.

Ms. Elder accused the county judge in those appeals, Gregory A. Weeks, of making his decisions "before the 1st bit of evidence came in." Judge Weeks also overturned the original death sentence given to Mr. Robinson.

But a lawyer for the 3 defendants, Jay H. Ferguson, cited problematic training programs for prosecutors regarding juror selection before the crimes took place and "the disparate treatment of jurors and strike decisions" as evidence of clear discrimination in Cumberland County.

The Supreme Court did not say when it would issue opinions in the cases. North Carolina has not executed an inmate since 2006.

(source: New York Times)

FLORIDA:

Florida Supreme Court upholds murder conviction, death penalty

The Florida Supreme Court has affirmed the conviction and death sentence for Toney Deron Davis. In 1995, Davis was convicted of 1st-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and sexual battery.

In December 1992, the victim, 2-year-old Caleasha Cunningham, was left under Davis' care while her mother ran an errand. During that time, an acquaintance of the defendant arrived at the apartment and found the child injured. The victim was found wet, unconscious, and bleeding from her mouth. Doctors examined the child and found bruising, swelling of the brain, and pools of blood in the skull.

The girl later died as a result of 4 separate blows to the head, which caused a cerebral hemorrhage.

In 1995, Davis was found guilty and sentenced to death. He appealed, and each court which reviewed the case upheld his conviction and sentence. Davis appealed again to the Florida Supreme Court, which has now denied this latest set of claims.

(source: news4jax.com)

OHIO:

Death penalty report is good starting point----Our view: Committee lays out issues for statewide conversion

A committee appointed more than 2 years ago by Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor has made dozens of recommendations on how to change the state's death penalty law. It was a contentious process, as anyone might have predicted. But the final report has done a good job of framing issues that state legislators and the public should weigh in on.

O'Connor created the 22-member committee after reviews by the Ohio State Bar Association and The Associated Press of death penalty cases revealed racial and other disparities from county to county.

O'Connor wisely put off-limits the question of whether Ohio should continue to execute people, which would have overshadowed any other work she assigned the attorneys, legislators, judges, prison officials and law professors on the committee.

The issues she asked the committee to explore related instead to the fairness and uniformity of the process - concerns that led to the biggest and possibly most controversial proposal, that county prosecutors no longer have the final say on whether to seek the death penalty in individual cases. Instead, a panel directed by the state attorney general would be given that authority.

Other recommendations range from limiting the kinds of evidence that qualify cases for the death penalty to requiring judges to give jury instructions in plain English.

Many of the recommendations are themselves reminders of how complex the issues are. Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien rightly points out, for example, that the suggested ban on executions of those with "serious mental illness" fails to define that term.

But the majority report released last week is an excellent starting point for a necessary statewide conversation about how Ohio and its 88 counties carry out their gravest responsibility.

(source: Canton Repository)

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

Youngstown man found guilty of murdering woman could face death penalty

The jury that convicted a Youngstown man of murdering a woman will now help decide if he'll be sent to Ohio's death row.

42-year-old Willie Wilks, Jr. reacted with anger on Tuesday morning when a jury in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court found him guilty on all counts for the shooting death of 20-year-old Ororo Wilkins and wounding of 24-year-old Alexander Morales as they stood on the porch of a home on Park Avenue in Youngstown last May.

Wilkins was holding a baby in her arms when she was gunned down.

After deliberating a short time Monday night and part of Tuesday morning, the jury found Wilks guilty of murder, felonious assault and weapons violations.

Upon hearing the guilty verdict on the murder charge, Wilks slammed his hands on a courtroom table and claimed that he did not commit the crime.

Wilks could still be heard shouting after he left the court. Authorities say he kicked a hole in a hallway wall as he was being led away.

The same jury is expected to be back in court next week to begin the mitigation phase of the trial.

Attorneys will present arguments that could determine if the jury will recommend that the judge sentence Wilks to be executed for the crimes, or sentenced to life in prison.

(source: WFMJ news)

ILLINOIS:

Follow facts, not pressure, in criminal cases

Every criminal case should be investigated and tried based on facts, not political winds.

That's crucial to keeping in mind when considering the intertwined murder cases of Anthony Porter and Alstory Simon, now under re-examination by Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez's Conviction integrity Unit. Simon, who was convicted in 1999 for a double murder and is scheduled to be paroled in August 2017, for the last decade has said he was tricked into confessing and wants his conviction thrown out.

Porter, originally sent to death row for the 1982 double murder in Washington Park, was freed in 1999 after Simon gave a videotaped statement that he was the real killer. But on Sunday, the Sun-Times reported that 4 city attorneys had sent a 2001 memo to their boss, then-Corporation Counsel Mara Georges, calling the freeing "a political decision." In an earlier story, the Sun-Times also reported that then chief of criminal prosecutions for the state's attorney's office, Thomas Epach, last fall said in an affidavit that his advice to investigate the case more thoroughly before charging Simon wasn't heeded. Porter had a checkered background, to be sure, but the murder case against him simply raised too many substantial unanswered questions. Dropping the case against Porter was a reasonable call by the state's attorney's office. Also, the other guy, Simon, a 3-time convicted felon, did confess in 1999, repeated his confession 6 months later in court, apologized in open court to one of the victim's mothers and faced other evidence against him. Generally, when people make false confessions under pressure, they recant right away. So we can't agree with the city lawyers who in 2001 said that dropping the case was "political."

But our Sunday Sun-Times story does call welcome attention to something that is very true - it's never crazy to worry that elected officials are feeling political pressure to pursue a case or to drop a case (or even never honestly pursue it).

That certainly was true in the cases of Stephen Buckley, Rolando Cruz and Alejandro Hernandez, who were charged with the murder of Jeanine Nicarico of Naperville just 12 days before a crucial primary election - and who years later turned out to be innocent. The Duke lacrosse players who eventually were exonerated were charged in the course of a 2006 election important to a North Carolina district attorney. Even Chicago's NATO 3 case looks, in retrospect, like authorities were so determined to root out terrorism that they thought they had found it where it didn't exist.

The Porter case was big news because he was just 50 hours away from execution in 1998 when it was put on hold because of his low IQ. Former Gov. George Ryan cited the case when he imposed a moratorium on the death penalty in Illinois. And there's a strong argument Simon should be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea because of an unusual twist: An investigator on the Porter side of the case, who had an interest in freeing Porter, arranged for Simon's lawyer. But even if Simon is innocent, it doesn't mean Porter is guilty.

After all these years, witnesses against both Porter and Simon have changed their stories. Only one thing can be said for sure: Our criminal justice system - and every criminal justice system - inevitably feels political pressure not just to convict, but to free. The biggest challenge for police and prosecutors can be resisting those political winds, however they blow.

(source: Chicago Sun-Times)

KANSAS:

Jewish center gunman suspect in Kansas faces hate crime charges, possible death penalty; Frazier Glenn Cross, 73 - also known as Frazier Glenn Miller - was a former 'grand dragon' of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. He was arrested Sunday after allegedly killing 3 people near a Jewish center outside Kansas City. Prosecutors say they have enough evidence to charge him with federal crimes that could get him the death sentence.

An aging Ku Klux Klansman was facing federal hate crime charges Monday, accused of killing 3 people, including a doctor and his grandson, during a Passover eve rampage at Jewish facilities in Kansas.

Prosecutors are confident they have enough evidence to charge Frazier Glenn Cross, 73, with federal crimes that could get him the death penalty.

"We will be filing hate crime charges," said Barry Grissom, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Kansas. "We are in a very good place from an evidence standpoint, and we will be presenting to a grand jury."

Cross of Aurora, Mo., who also goes by the name Frazier Glenn Miller, opened fire with a shotgun Sunday at the crowded Jewish community center in Overland Park and a nearby Jewish elderly home.

Johnson County Sheriff's Office Frazier Glenn Miller, 73, who was charged for a deadly shooting at Jewish facilities near Kansas City, has a long history of anti-Semitism as a member of the Ku Klux Klan, according to a group that monitors hate crimes.

Witnesses said the gunman, screaming "heil Hitler," killed Dr. William Lewis Corporon, 69, and his 14-year-old grandson, Reat Griffin Underwood, ambushing them in the parking lot of Jewish Community Campus of Greater Kansas City.

Cross, former "grand dragon" of the Carolina Knights of Ku Klux Klan, then stormed to the nearby Village Shalom senior living facility, where he gunned down Terri LaManno, 53, who was visiting her elderly mother, authorities said.

While detectives suspect Cross was out to target Jewish victims, Corporon and his grandson were Methodist, relatives said.

Corporon's son, Will, 48, told The News on Monday that his family was overwhelmed with the burden of planning funerals for his slain nephew and the family patriarch.

"It's unlike anything I can imagine," he said over the phone. "These things happen and, wow, it's just random and awful and senseless, you know, that some crazy old nut from the sticks can have some impact on people whose lives he's never even met."

He added that the family isn't spending any energy worrying about the fate of the alleged killer.

"I know there are a lot of people interested in the weirdo, but he's obviously some crazy lunatic," he said. "Whatever's going to happen, is going to happen. We truly don't care. We're glad that if that's him, that he's obviously off the street and isn't going to hurt anybody else."

Grieving mother Mindy Corporon said her father had volunteered to take her son, Reat, an Eagle Scout, to the community center to try out for an "American Idol"-like singing contest.

The mother told mourners gathered at a vigil service Sunday night that she raced to the center from another son's lacrosse game as soon as she heard of the shooting.

"I was there before the police and I was there before the ambulance. And I knew immediately that they were in heaven, and I know that they're in heaven together." She said she got to tell her son and her father that she loved them.

"I was the last person in the family who saw them," the mother said.

Cross was arrested shortly after the shootings at an elementary school near the Village Shalom senior living facility.

Witnesses said he spewed anti-Semitic slurs and repeatedly shouted "heil Hitler" as cops handcuffed him and put in the back of a police car.

Police said Cross fired at 2 others during the rampage, but missed.

A police car is seen at the entrance of the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, Kan., after 3 were killed when a gunman went on a shooting spree on Sunday.

Cross is expected to make his 1st court appearance as early as Tuesday morning.

The well-known hate-monger led his white supremacist group into the 1980s before forming another, the White Patriot Party, according to the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups.

A nationwide manhunt for Cross was launched in 1987, when he violated the terms of his bond while appealing a North Carolina conviction for operating a paramilitary group.

But authorities soon found him with 3 other men in a Missouri mobile home filled with a cache of automatic weapons, thousands of rounds of ammunition and hand grenades.

Cross eventually pleaded guilty to possession of a hand grenade and received a 5-year sentence in exchange for his testimony against other prominent white supremacists in a 1988 Arkansas case, the Anti-Defamation League said Monday.

"[His] decision earned him the enmity of the majority of the white supremacist movement, which now considered him a traitor to the movement," ADL officials said in a statement.

Cross was released from prison in 1990.

He wrote a disturbing autobiography titled "A White Man Speaks Out" in 1999 about his lifelong involvement with white supremacist groups. He even tried running for Congress in 2006 and the U.S. Senate in 2010, but failed both times.

"He is one of the more frightening characters out there, no question about that," Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said of Cross.

Sunday's attacks left the small Kansas City suburb shaken.

Friends of the teen victim, a freshman at Blue Valley High School, remembered him as a friendly spirit who often volunteered at the Church of Resurrection.

"He was just a kind spirit. So much talent every day that he showed us all and the smile he gave us every day and his devotion to others. And his church," family friend Samuel Cordes said during Sunday night's vigil.

"He touched the hearts of many," Cordes said.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback vowed to bring justice to those found responsible for the senseless killings.

"We will pursue justice aggressively for these victims and criminal charges against the perpetrator or perpetrators to the full extent of the law," Brownback said.

(source: New York Daily News)

OKLAHOMA:

Defense attorney still concerned with execution drugs

Will we finally see an end in the court battles over execution drugs this month?

Attorney General Scott Pruitt announced in the News Channel Four studios Friday that the state found manufactured versions of all of the lethal injection drugs.

They'll be used to kill Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner this month.

The move will mean the state will not have to use compounding pharmacies to create the drugs.

Earlier this month, the executions were delayed due to a court battle surrounding the effectiveness of the drugs.

At that point, the state was going to use a compounding pharmacy to create the 3-drug cocktail and refused to release the name of the company in an effort to protect pharmacists from threats.

Defense attorneys for the men on death row felt that secrecy was unconstitutional.

They felt the public should know who supplies the drugs so the drugs can be investigated in order to test their ingredients and effectiveness.

With the manufacture-made drugs, Pruitt felt the questions could stop.

"Each of the drugs are now manufactured drugs, and the questions that have been raised by the defense are mute. The executions should happen," said Pruitt. "The manufacturer that makes these drugs are all FDA approved. The drugs they produce are all FDA approved."

However, Federal Defense Attorney Madeline Cohen isn't satisfied.

"We want to know that the drugs that are being used to execute our clients are safe and effective and not going to result in a prolonged and torturous death that is unconstitutional," Cohen argued. "Just to give you an example, the Oklahoma protocol that's being used called for a 50 mg to 100 ml concentration of Midazolam, and our research indicates there is no FDA approved source of manufactured Midazolam in that concentration."

Cohen wants to know the name of the manufacturer to check.

However, Pruitt says he won't reveal the name.

He will only hand over lab studies confirming effectiveness.

"Why do you need to know the source if those things can be affirmed?" Pruitt questioned.

He says he wants to protect the manufacturers from public threats and intimidation.

"As long as the secrecy is being maintained with respect to the source of those drugs, we have no real assurances about their safety," said Cohen.

Despite efforts to delay Lockett's and Warner's executions, the 2 are set to be executed April 22 and April 29.

(source: KFOR news)

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

UCO debates Oklahoma Justice Commission

A 1 % chance that an innocent person could be executed for murder is justification to end capital punishment, said Greg Munday, who favors the abolition of the capital punishment. The American Democracy Project of the University of Central Oklahoma on Saturday hosted a debate on the best strategy to end the death penalty.

The debate did not focus on whether the death penalty is a good or bad idea, said professor Matthew Moore, UCO debate team director. Instead, the debate focused on whether or not the Oklahoma Justice Commission report is a good solution, Moore said.

"We are asking the question of whether the Oklahoma Justice reforms will actually result in the abolishment of the death penalty," Moore said. Derek Hilligoss spoke in favor of the OJC reforms, while Munday and Austin Fredericks argued against the OJC reforms. Each of the speakers spoke against the death penalty, while favoring a sentence of life in prison without parole.

"Innocent people are dying everyday due to the lack of reforms in our criminal justice system," Hilligoss said. "...4 people were on death row before there was exoneration in Oklahoma alone."

Not only are innocent people being put to death, but the actual cause of the crime is not being solved, Hilligoss said. Convicted people are instantly seen as being guilty in the eyes of everyone, he continued. Families are being torn apart due to wrongful convictions, Hilligoss argued.

Reforms in other states have already improved the number of misidentification cases.

"The Innocence Project shows a case where a lack of reforms of identification allowed a man to be put in jail for 22 years," Hilligoss said. The Post Conviction DNA Act would allow anyone who is convicted of murder to at anytime file for DNA testing with evidence found at the scene of the crime, Hilligoss said. This practice has allowed 24 people in New York to be exonerated from wrongful convictions, he said.

"One state that has already implemented this has exonerated 9 people that would have been killed," Hilligoss said of OJC reforms. The Oklahoma Innocence Collaboration Act would create a group formed by higher education institutes, law enforcement agencies and forensics laboratories to investigate whether people who are sentenced to death are getting the rights they deserve, Hilligoss said.

"These reforms are key steps in making sure that injustice is not something Oklahomans become accustomed to," Hilligoss said. Fredericks suggested that the legal system is so infallible that there is not a zero chance of an innocent person being put to death.

"There are 2 key points. First, there is already momentum being created to abolish the death penalty," Fredericks said. "And 2nd, that reforms just serve to make legitimate and re-entrench the death penalty as practice." Fredericks said there are problems making a "scientific death penalty." A death penalty supported by science makes some people feel supportive of the death penalty, Fredericks said.

"No matter what the case is, unless you can be entirely certain that someone has committed a crime, the death penalty is unjust," Fredericks said. "And no matter how scientific the death penalty is, there is never 100 % certainty."

Munday said the debate is about how to make changes to the death penalty. Abolition of the death penalty is the correct perspective, he said.

OJC reforms makes the abolition of the death penalty more difficult to pass, Munday said. "Thus we should focus our efforts and attention on reaching total abolition of capital punishment, rather than the small reforms like the OJC guidelines," Munday said. Abolition, he argued, is necessary to uphold the credibility of the United States' credibility on human rights.

The U.S. ranks 4th only behind China, Iran and Saudi Arabia on the amount of execution that it allows occur every year, Munday said. The U.S. should not be in the business of executing its own citizens, Munday said. Capital punishment allows the state to pick and choose which citizens it believes are fit to live, he said.

"Abolition is the correct force of action because capitol punishment is morally wrong," Munday said. "Capital punishment takes innocent men and women from their homes and rips them from their families while children are left parentless and pushed into the system."

Audience member Nancy Vollertsen of Edmond is the sister of the late Greg Wilhoit, who died in February. He died in his sleep in California, she said. Wilhoit was exonerated after serving nearly 5 years on death row in Oklahoma for a crime he did not commit.

"We've been talking about post DNA testing," Vollertsen said. "I don't think a lot of people are aware that less than 10 % of cases even have DNA available." Wilhoit's exoneration in the murder of his wife was not a DNA case, said Vollertsen, a board member of Witness to Innocence. "One of our members said, 'I think very eloquently; you can always free a man from prison. You can never free a man from the grave.'"

To view reasons to support capital punishment, go to http://www.heritage.org/research/testimony/the-death-penalty-deters-crime-and-saves-lives. To learn more about supporting the abolition Capital Punishment, go to http://www.deathpenalty.org/section.php?id=13

(source: The Edmond Sun)

SOUTH DAKOTA----new death sentence

U.S. man sentenced to death for killing nurse in plot to assassinate Obama

A U.S. man with a history of mental illness was sentenced to death by a jury on Monday for killing a hospice nurse as part of a plot to assassinate President Barack Obama.

James McVay had pleaded guilty but mentally ill to a murder charge in 2012 in the stabbing death of 75-year-old Maybelle Schein. The Sioux Falls, South Dakota jury chose the death penalty, though jurors could have sentenced him to life in prison without parole.

McVay, 43, said he killed Schein and stole her car as part of his plan to drive to Washington and kill the president.

Authorities said McVay walked away from a minimum-security prison in July 2011 in Sioux Falls and was mixing cough syrup and alcohol when he climbed under Schein's slightly open garage door, entered her house, killed her and drove away in her car.

After Schein's car was reported stolen, police used a tracking service in the vehicle to find McVay on a freeway. He was arrested after a brief chase.

Police Officer Kipp Hartman testified that he was trying to get McVay to reveal his name when McVay began saying he "killed a little old lady" in South Dakota and stole her car to get to Washington, D.C., to kill the president.

Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, earlier this month said the death penalty is traditionally reserved for the worst of the worst, and it's rare for a state to seek the punishment of death after finding someone guilty but mentally ill.

Dieter said the guilty but mentally ill verdict gained popularity in a dozen states as part of the public outcry over John Hinckley being found not guilty by reason of insanity in 1982 in the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan.

Prosecutor Aaron McGowan said McVay stabbed Schein 9 times, with the final blow cutting her vocal cords and carotid artery, causing her to bleed to death within 16 seconds.

Public defender Traci Smith on Monday said McVay's characterization by the prosecution as monstrous didn't square with the facts of the case or his history, the Argus Leader reported. Smith said McVay's mental health wasn't properly monitored or cared for by the prison staff. She added that McVay poses no threat when his illness is cared for.

Public defender, Amber Eggert, argued before the jury that McVay has suffered from mental illness as well as alcohol and drug issues for much of his life and his life should be spared.

She said that the night before the killing, McVay mixed alcohol with a DXM-based cough syrup, which can cause hallucinations. McVay said he awoke briefly at 3 a.m. to find spiritual entities surrounding him and awoke again hours later to find them still there, telling him to follow through on his plan, she told jurors.

(source: Associated Press)

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

'No one else will be harmed': McVay sentenced to death

James McVay, born to a prostitute, fed drugs as a child and raised by the criminal justice system, was condemned by a Sioux Falls jury on Monday to die in South Dakota's death chamber.

The 43-year-old Texas native and lifelong inmate was sentenced to death by lethal injection for the stabbing of Maybelle Schein in her Sioux Falls home. McVay, who pleaded guilty but mentally ill to 1st-degree murder in late 2011, joins 3 other men on death row in South Dakota.

The jury of 7 men and 5 women deliberated just over 6 hours before returning the verdict for the 43-year-old, who pleaded guilty but mentally ill to 1st-degree murder in late 2011.

Members of Schein's family said the jury made a just decision for a man who'd plotted a murderous rampage for months and left an innocent stranger he described as a "piece of meat" in a pool of blood.

"I think it's important that we can feel as though no one else will ever be harmed the way she was, in her bed," said Marge Anderson, Schein's best friend since the 5th grade. "This protects society."

The jury's verdict ensures that McVay will be treated by the Department of Corrections as one of the state's most dangerous inmates. By law, death row inmates are housed alone, not allowed physical contact with anyone but prison staff and are shackled at the hands and feet before moving anywhere in the facility.

Because he'd faked wellness for mental health staff as he plotted to kill and lashed out at officers after his arrest, Minnehaha County State's Attorney Aaron McGowan said McVay had earned his place alongside Briley Piper, Rodney Berget and Charles Rhines.

"I think the jury saw how vile this was, how heinous this was, and I think they also took serious consideration into future dangerousness," McGowan said.

McVay sneaked under Schein's open garage door July 2, 2011, after spending a night under a bridge in Sertoma Park, hallucinating under the influence of cold pills and Jack Daniels whiskey.

McVay said he had been guided by Lucifer to her home, where he woke her and stabbed her nine times before stealing her car and driving it to Madison, Wis., in what he described as the 1st step in a plan to kill and steal his way to Washington, D.C., to assassinate President Obama.

He told the arresting officer in Wisconsin that he had taken pleasure in the murder because Schein was a Christian and that he taunted her as she fought for her life, although he said on the witness stand that he had made that up.

McGowan urged jurors to picture the nightmarish scenario that the 75-year-old hospice nurse found herself in on the morning of her murder.

"The final vision before Maybelle's eyes was seeing this defendant standing over her with a buck knife," McGowan said.

Defense: Influenced by mental illness

Defense lawyers had argued that McVay's behavior was driven by psychosis, a mental illness that bubbled over into the bizarre assassination plot during 2 months in segregation at the South Dakota State Penitentiary.

McVay walked away from a minimum security unit a day after his release into a community transition program to carry out his bizarre mission, but defense lawyers say he had to use drugs to steel himself for the job.

Despite being locked up almost his entire adult life in three states, she said, McVay never had been charged with attacking another inmate or guard. His 8 previous felony convictions were not violent, but largely drug-related.

"The state has continually downplayed the effect of mental illness," Minnehaha County Public Defender Traci Smith said during closing arguments.

McVay had spun out of control because he was uncared for. He made a series of incriminating statements immediately after his arrest, including that he wanted to kill police officers and he wanted the death penalty, because he had been left alone to bask in grandiose fantasies of martyrdom, Smith said.

He also expressed remorse quickly after killing Schein, Smith said. He attempted suicide 2 months after killing Schein, but later decided he had something to offer other mentally ill inmates.

The lawyers also called witnesses who spoke to McVay's troubled childhood. He had been thrown in a pool and left for dead by his birth mother, a heroin-addicted prostitute. His brothers in his adopted family fed him drugs by age 10, sparking a habit that would keep McVay in and out of prison from age 15 through most of his adult life.

Defense lawyers wept as the verdict was read and declined to offer comment afterward.

Schein family: 'A little emotional'

Stan Fetters, Schein's older brother, said he and the 2 rows of friends and family who gathered to hear the verdict Monday night after 7 days hearing the crime recounted felt overwhelmed.

"It's pretty hard to contain yourself at that moment," said Stan Fetters, Schein's brother. "We got a little emotional. But we did as the judge asked and stayed quiet as we could."

Fetters and Anderson said they both hoped Schein could be remembered as a fun-loving woman who spent her life caring for others. The hospice nurse spent most of her career testing the poor, displaced and downtrodden for tuberculosis.

"I would not like her to be remembered as the woman who was so brutally murdered," Anderson said. "She gave so much to society."

McVay will be formally sentenced at a later date. His sentence will automatically be reviewed by the South Dakota Supreme Court, after which he'll be allowed direct and habeas corpus appeals in state and federal court.

All 3 of the men executed by South Dakota in the modern era - Eric Robert, Elijah Page and Donald Moeller - gave up their appeals voluntarily before their deaths.

A 4th man, Robert Leroy Anderson, committed suicide while on death row.

The man who's spent the longest time on death row, Charles Rhines, has a pending appeal in federal court..

Major developments in James McVay case

JULY 1, 2011: James McVay walks away from the South Dakota State Penitentiary's Community Transition Program unit. He shoplifts a knife, liquor, cold pills and clothing from the Walmart on Louise Avenue in Sioux Falls, then spends the night in Sertoma Park.

JULY 2, 2011: McVay slides under a garage door at the residence of 75-year-old Maybelle Schein in southern Sioux Falls. He slashes her throat in her bed, steals her car and drives to Madison, Wis., where he is captured. He says he was on a mission to travel to Washington, D.C., and assassinate President Obama.

DECEMBER 2011: McVay pleads guilty but mentally ill to 1st-degree murder.

MARCH 2014: Jury selection begins for the 2-phase death penalty trial: to determine whether McVay is eligible for the death penalty and whether he should receive it.

APRIL 14, 2014: Jury gives McVay the death penalty.

ON DEATH ROW:

Briley Piper: Admitted his role in the killing of 19-year-old Chester Allan Poage in 2000 in Spearfish. The state Supreme Court in 2009 overturned a trial judge's decision to sentence Piper to death, saying a jury should decide his fate. A jury then sentenced Piper to death in August 2011.

Charles Rhines: Was convicted in the 1992 stabbing death of Donnivan Schaeffer, 22, of Black Hawk. In January, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his appeal.

Rodney Berget: Pleaded guilty to 1st-degree murder in the 2011 beating death of Ronald "R.J." Johnson, 63. The state Supreme Court ordered a stay of execution in 2012.

WHO'S BEEN ON DEATH ROW:

Robert LeRoy Anderson: Sentenced to death in 1997 and 1999 for the murders of Larisa Dumansky and Piper Streyle. Committed suicide in 2003.

Elijah Page: Sentenced to death in 2001 for his role in the murder of Poage. Executed in 2006.

Eric Robert: Sentenced to death in 2011 for his role in murder of Officer Johnson. Executed in 2012.

Donald Moeller: Sentenced to death in 1997 for the rape and murder of Becky O'Connell, 9. Executed in 2012.

(source: Argus Leader)

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

Death Penalty Opponents React To Verdict

The jurors' decision to sentence James McVay to death isn't sitting well with everyone.

In the 2014 session State Rep. Steve Hickey tried to pass a bill through the South Dakota Legislature. However, it was 1 vote short of getting onto the house floor. Hickey said the verdict handed down Monday evening is an example of why the death penalty is wrong.

He said it's unfortunate the 12 men and women felt fighting violence with violence was the right thing to do. He added human life is a sacred thing that should be respected. Hickey also said Maybelle Schein was against the death penalty. And he said Judge Peter Lieberman never told that to the jury, which would have been important information for them to know. Hickey said it's unfortunate that yet another person now sits on South Dakota's death row.

"People you know see something horrible happen, and the instant human reaction is to bite back," Hickey said. "We've thought that works, maybe it deters people, but I think when people look at the death penalty in America they'll see that all the things we thought it did, it doesn't do at all. It doesn't bring the family closure, in fact it delays closure, it doesn't save anybody body, and in fact it costs everybody more money."

Hickey said there are still options for McVay. He could appeal the decision made Monday, and Hickey said he supports that right.

Hickey said he is going to continue his fight to repeal the death penalty in South Dakota. He said in the last bill, the names of the three men on death row did not appear so their sentences wouldn't have been repealed if the bill were to pass. He said the next time around that might change.

18 people have been executed in South Dakota.

(source: KDLT news)

COLORADO:

Judge Won't Halt 2nd Sanity Review Of James Holmes

The judge in the Colorado theater shooting case on Monday rejected defense lawyers' attempts to block a 2nd sanity evaluation of defendant James Holmes.

Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. said he would keep the new examination on hold in case Holmes' lawyers wanted to appeal his order. He also agreed to modify his instructions to the psychiatrist for the new evaluation to address some of the defense attorneys' concerns, but the instructions were not made public.

Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to charges of killing 12 people and injuring 70 in the July 2012 attack on an audience watching "The Dark Knight Rises" in the Denver suburb of Aurora. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Holmes underwent a mandatory sanity evaluation last year. The key findings have not been released, but prosecutors asked for a new evaluation, saying the doctor who conducted the first one was biased.

Samour ruled the 1st exam was inadequate and ordered a 2nd.

Holmes' lawyers objected, saying the order was improper and violated Holmes' rights.

Many of the specifics of their objections have not been made public, and more than 80 pages of the five orders Samour signed Monday are redacted.

Holmes' trial is scheduled to start in October with jury selection, which is expected to take weeks. It isn't yet clear whether the defense objections to the 2nd sanity evaluation will force another postponement.

The decision on whether Holmes was legally insane - unable to tell right from wrong - will be up to jurors. The opinions of the doctors who conduct the psychiatric evaluations will be key to that decision.

Defense lawyers have also asked for a change of venue, citing intense media coverage and the emotional toll of the attacks on potential jurors in Arapahoe County. The judge has not ruled on that request.

Also Monday, prosecutors agreed with defense lawyers that part of a pretrial hearing scheduled for May 5-6 should be closed to the public and the media during a discussion about a questionnaire that potential jurors will be asked to fill out.

Samour has not ruled on that request either.

(source: Associated Press)

ARIZONA----female may face death sentence

Penalty phase to begin for Arizona woman convicted of fatally beating husband with hammer

Lawyers are scheduled to make arguments Tuesday over whether an Arizona woman convicted of fatally bludgeoning her husband with a hammer should spend the rest of her life in prison or be sentenced to death.

Jurors have already found that Marissa Devault qualifies for the death penalty because she killed Dale Harrell in an especially cruel manner. Defense lawyers are expected to call some of Devault's family members to testify.

Devault was convicted last week of first-degree murder after jurors deliberated for 5 1/2 days.

Prosecutors say Devault killed Harrell in a failed bid to collect on a life insurance policy to repay more than $300,000 in loans from her boyfriend. Devault says she killed her husband in self-defense and told investigators he had physically and sexually abused her in the past.

Harrell, 34, suffered multiple skull fractures in the January 2009 attack at the couple's home in the Phoenix suburb of Gilbert. He died nearly a month later at a hospice because of complications from his head injuries.

Devault initially told investigators that her husband attacked her while she was asleep and choked her until she was unconscious. She also told police that when she woke up, she saw another man who lived at their home beating Harrell with a hammer.

But investigators say Devault later confessed to attacking her husband, saying she pummeled him in a rage as he slept after he sexually assaulted her.

The key prosecution witness was Devault's former boyfriend, Allen Flores, a businessman who is 20 years older than Devault and had loaned her more than $300,000 during their 2-year relationship.

Flores testified that Devault wanted to either hire someone to kill Harrell, or kill him herself and tell police he tried to rape her after a night of drinking.

Devault's attorneys attacked Flores' credibility, noting he was given an immunity agreement on child-pornography allegations in exchange for his testimony. The child pornography was found on Flores' computer during a search that was part of the murder investigation, authorities said.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Jury finds aggravating factor in Devault murder trial

Marissa Devault could face the death penalty after jurors on Monday found an aggravating factor in her murder trial.

Devault was convicted in the 2009 death of her husband, Dale Harrell, who was fatally beaten with a hammer.

The jury has already spent 2 days considering whether there were "aggravating factors" that would make her eligible.

To make her eligible for the death penalty, the jury had to determine that she killed her husband in an especially cruel manner.

If jurors had found Devault didn't qualify for execution, then a judge would have had to sentence her to life in prison.

Attorneys on both sides will now make arguments to jurors on whether she should be imprisoned or executed.

Prosecutors say Devault killed Harrell in an unsuccessful attempt to collect on life insurance money.

Devault says she acted in self-defense against an abusive husband.

The final penalty phase will begin Tuesday at 10:30 a.m.

(source: East Valley Tribune)

CALIFORNIA:

Jesuit death row chaplain: 'We allow revenge to ruin many lives'

Jesuit Fr. George Williams

Age: 56

Profession: Death row chaplain at San Quentin State Prison

Lives in: San Quentin, Calif.

Sr. Camille: Jesuits are admired for their intelligence, learning and leadership qualities. Some readers might wonder if you're wasting your time, your life, ministering to men on San Quentin's death row.

Williams: I've been asked that question many times by colleagues who are correction officers. 2 groups have never asked me that: Jesuits and my friends who know me well. Jesuits know that St. Ignatius spent time ministering to prisoners and other outcasts, and he even mentioned prisoners in the founding documents of the Society of Jesus.

In the "Formula of the Institute," which defines what Jesuits are, Ignatius wrote: "Moreover, he should show himself ready to reconcile the estranged, compassionately assist and serve those who are in prisons or hospitals, and indeed, to perform any other works of charity, according to what will seem expedient for the glory of God and the common good."

Ignatius' vision of what it means to be a Jesuit included serving those in prisons. The educational institutions came later.

My closest friends have always seemed to grasp the value of a life of service to others. I remember that when I began to talk about entering the Society of Jesus while still a captain in the Air Force 30 years ago, my Air Force colleagues for the most part thought I had lost my mind. One Air Force friend who was Jewish got it, though. He said, "I get it, you are trying to answer a higher calling."

What attracted me most to the Society of Jesus were men who were not afraid to "waste their lives" for the ideals of our Christian faith. By the standards of "the world" -- our culture, our social standards -- religious life probably seems crazy to those who measure their value in money and power. But Jesuits are called to a different standard -- the banner of Christ. At its best, the Society of Jesus (indeed, the Christian church) is a countercultural voice in a world hell-bent on selfishness. So working with prisoners has always felt like a calling to me, a great gift. It has been the defining work of my life, and for 20 years it has brought me more joy than I ever could have imagined.

As far as wasting my time with the men on death row, whom some consider "undeserving monsters," I just don't see it that way. For one thing, even though some of them have done horrible things to others, they are still very much human beings. I think each one of them has dignity and value, and God loves each one of them. My job isn't to fix them or undo the damage they've done. I see my work as offering them a path for healing of their souls, to make peace with themselves and with God. I know many are sociopaths, but they are damaged human beings. They are not monsters.

Can you identify your critics?

Some are victims' rights people who think that caring for criminals equals not caring for victims. This is simply not true. I do care very much about the victims of the crimes of the men on death row. (These victims include their own loved ones who have to bear the burden of shame of having a son, brother, father or friend on death row.) I cannot serve both groups, but the care of the victims is something a lot of other people can do and can do better than I could. While I care for the men in prison, others need to be attending to the victims of crime and the families of the incarcerated.

What drew you to this ministry?

How often do we remember that Jesus Christ was arrested, thrown in jail, put on trial, convicted and sentenced to death? That he was given the death penalty and was executed by the state as a common criminal? So was John the Baptist. So were Peter, Paul, James and countless followers of Christ.

How did you get into prison ministry?

When I was a novice making a 30-day Ignatian retreat, the most powerful experience of prayer I had was when, unable to picture Jesus' face in my meditations, I asked him to show me his face. I distinctly remember his reply: "I will show you my face when you are ready to see me."

A few months later, it was time to choose a ministry "experiment." I read the description a novice had written about three years prior about his "experiment" working at one of Massachusetts' state prisons. It sounded utterly horrifying to me. So I saw that as a challenge and opted to try prison ministry. I spent three months at Massachusetts Correctional Institution in Norfolk under the supervision of St. Joseph Sr. Maureen Clark, who is now the Catholic chaplain at the Massachusetts prison for women in Framingham.

The very first day I was there, she took me to visit the men in the "hole." I remember distinctly walking away from one man's cell after we had been conversing through a narrow slot in his door used to pass food through or to handcuff inmates prior to removing them from their cells. The slot was only about 36 inches from the floor, so I had to crouch or kneel to speak to him. As I walked away, it just hit me -- I had been looking at the face of this man in solitary confinement in prison, and it was through him (and thousands more prisoners to come) that Jesus was showing me his face.

Would you please share some personal connection with someone you've met along the way?

Here's a story about an early formative experience in prison ministry, written in April 1998:

Mikey was confirmed a year ago in at the House of Correction. I always have the guys write a letter to God at the beginning of the confirmation class. He wrote in his letter, "I find some answers during Mass on Sunday. But not all. God, maybe when I go through the gates of heaven, You will tell all. I would like to end this letter with I love you God no matter what happens to me."

After he was rearrested that fall and I saw him at the Nashua Street Jail in Boston, we talked several times about getting him into a halfway house. He had a bed waiting for him there two weeks before he died.

About 6 weeks before that, he sent me a card in which he wrote:

Brother George:

I can't thank you enough. I want to let you know you really helped me through some bad times. Brother George, you brang God back in my life and my family too. I really thank God for you. And your always in my prayers. I thank you for believing in me. Not many have. Today my little girls call me Dad and it feels great. Thank you!

Your friend, Mikey

I have felt both the crushing helplessness of the prison ministry and its moments of sheer exhilarating grace. I have felt the power of Christ's suffering and death, as well as his love and compassion incarnate in Mikey's story and in many others', and I am deeply consoled that I have been privileged to offer many prisoners the chance to own and express their love for God in their own words.

As Mikey's letter says, at the time, I was a Jesuit brother. I knew I wanted to be a Jesuit from the beginning, but I was not moved by the idea of being a priest. After working in the jail and prisons for about five years as Brother George, I began to hear different prisoners say to me something along the lines of, "Why don't you be our priest? You know us better than the priests you bring in here for Mass." After about the 100th time I heard this, it dawned on me that I would like to be a priest for them, not for myself, especially for the sacrament of reconciliation. Forgiveness is perhaps the one greatest thing prisoners yearn for. So I asked for permission to change grades in order to be able to minister to the prisoners as their priest. This is something I have never regretted.

When did you begin work in San Quentin?

In 2010, when I was asked if I'd be interested in the job of Catholic chaplain there. I was thrilled at the idea, having visited San Quentin a few times when a fellow Jesuit, Steven Barber, was its chaplain. It seemed both attractive and terrifying, especially the idea of death row. The thought of accompanying a man to his execution as chaplain is nightmarish. But several of the men have asked me to be there for them should they ever be executed. I hope I don't ever have to do this, but I would certainly do it in order to be present to the men.

How does our nation's incarceration rate stand in comparison to that of other countries?

The United States of America is now the prison capital of the world. We incarcerate a higher proportion of our population than any other country on Earth.

What really troubles me is what this says about our country and the culture we accept as normal today. What are we saying to the world when we talk about human rights and the dignity of man yet consign so many of our own citizens to prison and, once there, treat them like animals?

What I see every day are men with faces and names and children and memories who suffer greatly from the pains of life in prison. I know several men in our most highly secured unit who have been in what is essentially solitary confinement for over 20 years. Just to put this in perspective, international standards consider more than 2 weeks in solitary to be akin to torture, if not outright torture. Two weeks. And I know men who have done more than 1,000 weeks.

How many currently call San Quentin's death row home?

About 750, and we keep adding more and more inmates to it.

Of that number, how many make up your congregation?

I see about 100 men on death row who come to Catholic services. But I don't limit my ministry to just Catholics -- I try to meet them where they are and help them no matter what their spiritual path is.

Please describe the setting of what passes for a chapel.

The chapel in San Quentin State Prison's death row is a windowless old shower room encased in a heavy metal cage. Inside it, there are 6 wooden benches bolted to the floor upon which the members of my congregation sit.

There's a harsh florescent light overhead, and as I raise the consecrated host, the light illuminates it. I look past the host to the men in the cage. They are quiet and focused.

Do you wear priestly vestments when you celebrate Eucharist with them?

I wear both priestly vestments and a black stab-proof vest inside my own cage, which is about twice the size of an old phone booth. As required by the department, I padlock myself inside.

Can you give us some sense of what it feels like to be there?

Death row is not very noisy. The impression one gets walking in is like you're in some sort of giant ship or warehouse. There are five tiers back-to-back in the building with 60 cells on each tier. The cells themselves are pretty small: 5 feet wide by about 10 feet long. They don't have windows because all the cells are in the middle of the building, and they are covered at the entrance with heavy black iron mesh and bars. Almost all of the men on death row have a television and a radio, their main contact with the outside world.

I guess if there is one feeling to sum it all up, I'd say "claustrophobic." There's heaviness about the place -- physically, emotionally and spiritually. It's dark.

Have any been executed on your watch?

No, thank God, and I hope none will be. The last execution was conducted in 2006.

Have any been exonerated?

I know of 2 men who had their death sentences reduced to life in prison. I don't know of any who have been completely exonerated of their crime, but we certainly have been reading of cases around the country where more advanced forensic science has proven some prisoners condemned to death innocent.

Some of the men on the row may have committed a single lethal crime; others may have proven themselves serious threats to society. If you could design a system to deal with those convicted of murder, what would it be like?

There are a lot of men at San Quentin who have murdered others. Most of them are probably not serious threats to society, the crimes having been committed while drunk or high or just young and stupid. Some of the most evolved people I've met in my life have been convicted murderers. Although we have a handful of serial killers on death row, most of the men don't fall into that category.

I think no matter what the crime, the punishment of removing a person from society and taking away their freedom is the punishment. Once a person is incarcerated, even if it is for the rest of his or her life, why does his or her life have to be one of unremitting dehumanization? The "country club" propaganda of the right wing is utterly wrong. The argument of "Why should a convicted killer get to watch TV, play sports, get education," you name it, is wrongheaded and based on vengefulness, not justice. Victims and their families need to be given support and opportunities for healing. They don't need to be used to inflame hostility toward prisoners.

Can you share an example of this?

I remember when I worked in Boston, a young man was murdered in a housing project in Charlestown. I knew the killer. The crime was brutal and senseless. But the media and some political interests used the mother of the victim to prevent any improvements in the ways prisoners in Massachusetts were treated. "Why should he get to have Christmas with his kids when my son will never get to have Christmas?" The pain of this woman is clear and poignant. But this pain was then used to enforce a steadily increasing level of dehumanizing treatment by the Massachusetts Department of Correction. By the logic of the victim's mother, we should not give prisoners food or clothing either because their dead victims don't get food or clothing. Instead of just one tragic loss of life, we allow revenge to ruin many lives. The young children of the man who committed the murder were also denied Christmas with their father.

In a time before your life's work began, where and with whom did you grow up?

I was born in Connecticut -- Welsh/Irish/German/Italian/Yankee ancestry. I come from a long line of Protestant blue-bloods. My paternal ancestors arrived in New England in the 1630s. I'm descended from Roger Williams, Anne Hutchinson and Mary Dyer, which prompted my friend, Jesuit Fr. Jim Martin, to observe a long time ago, "You're descended from heretics and witches -- no wonder you became a Jesuit!"

I grew up Catholic but never went to Catholic schools. I had no idea what Jesuits were until I met some in Alaska, where I was stationed as an Air Force officer after college. They impressed me most with their open minds and great senses of humor. I knew I wanted to be like them.

What in your development do you believe equips you for your role?

That is a good question. I think having gone through a period of depression in my 30s helped me know what suffering is. There are all kinds of prisons that people can wind up in, and depression is certainly one awful place to be.

My parents always modeled for me the value of service to others. My father was a firefighter and my mother always expressed compassion for people who were mistreated, so working with prisoners seems to be a way of serving those who society as a whole rejects.

Do any chide you for working in a prison system many consider unjust?

No. I don't get this from anyone who knows me. I think they realize that in order to be able to minister to men and women in prison, one has to be able to work with the system to some extent without becoming co-opted by it. Some people can help change the system through advocacy and even protests, but I feel my calling is to be there in the trenches with the prisoners.

Where do you find support?

From my friends, from the Jesuits I know and live with, and from the prisoners I serve.

How do you relax?

I'm a Jesuit workaholic. What does "relax" mean? Actually, I like to get out to hike in the beautiful places around the Bay Area. I like movies, reading and dinners with friends. I miss having pets or a garden -- where I live doesn't afford the possibility of either -- but I enjoy caring for plants, and once I move to a bigger room, I intend to have a nice aquarium.

How and with whom do you pray?

I pray every day. As Jesuits, our contemplative life is essential. Without daily prayer and meditation, I don't think my work could be sustained. I spend most of my liturgical life in the prison setting, but I enjoy getting out from time to time to see what's going on in the local church in parishes. I also like to visit and see what our evangelical brothers and sisters are doing. This began with my experience of working at an evangelical-sponsored halfway house in Massachusetts. I've imported a lot of their praise music into our San Quentin liturgies.

Does a particular Scripture passage move you?

Hebrews 13:3: "Be mindful of prisoners as if sharing their imprisonment and of the ill-treated as of yourselves."

Thank you, George, for being so utterly mindful of them.

[Mercy Sr. Camille D'Arienzo, broadcaster and author, narrates Stories of Forgiveness, a book about people whose experiences have caused them to consider the possibilities of extending or accepting forgiveness. The audiobook, renamed Forgiveness: Stories of Redemption, is available from Now You Know Media.]

(source: National Catholic Reporter)

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9 purported gang members could face death penalty; Attorney asks DA's office to not prosecute as death penalty cases

Alleged members of 3 East Palo Alto gangs who were indicted for murder with special circumstances in March could face the death penalty, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said Monday.

The 9 defendants -- Roberto Bustos-Montes, 24; Nina Cragg, 23; Emmanuel Hyland, 25; Tyrone Love-Lopez, 21; Eric Valencia Vargas, 20; Marvin Ware, 26; Raymond Bradford, 28; Jerry Coneal III, 19; and Miguel Angel Rivera Jr., 23 -- are among 16 people who face charges that include murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder, dissuasion of witnesses and bribery, possession of firearms and attempted robbery. The DA's office announced the indictments on March 24. They include a string of alleged crimes stretching from San Francisco to East Palo Alto between September 2012 and December 2013. All 16 are alleged members or associates of the Da Vill, Sac Street and Taliban gangs, who were at war with each other during this time, according to the DA's office.

The murder charges stem from 4 homicides: the shootings of Christopher Baker, 21, in East Palo Alto on Oct. 5, 2012; Stoney Gipson of San Francisco on Oct. 27, 2012; and East Palo Alto residents Jonathan Alcazar, 24, on Jan. 14, 2013, and Lamont Coleman, 21, on Jan. 26, 2013, according to the DA's office.

Paul DeMeester, the attorney representing Bustos-Montes through the county's private defender program, has called for the DA's office to not prosecute the nine as death penalty cases. He has cited the costs of death penalty trials as the principal reason, Wagstaffe said.

But the majority of California voters rejected eliminating the death penalty in 2012, he noted.

"What Paul is asking us to do is to override California law," he said.

DeMeester could not be reached for comment.

Wagstaffe said that if found guilty, the defendants could receive the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole due to the fact that the murders were committed as gang killings and some defendants have been charged with multiple murders.

But he cautioned that his office has not yet decided on whether to pursue the death penalty in any of the cases.

"Any time you are dealing with multiple murders, the death penalty is a topic of discussion," he said. "We want to give the defense a chance to present mitigating evidence. The 9 people are technically eligible for it, but their involvement is dramatically different."

He added that his office will consider factors such as the role each defendant played in the murders and whether they have a longer track record of crime.

The costs of prosecuting death-penalty cases would not be a hindrance, he said.

"I'm cognizant of taxpayer resources. But you could make the argument, why even charge anyone with murder because of the costs of prosecuting the case? You could prosecute it on a (lesser charge) and save a lot of money," he said.

Wagstaffe said the DA's office wants families in East Palo Alto to feel safe in their homes and when they walk down the street. Since the arrests, he has heard reports from police that the streets have been quiet.

"We've had 2 homicides in the last 3 days, and I'm very pleased to say that neither is in East Palo Alto," he said. "We hope we can make a difference."

Most of the defendants appeared in court on Friday, April 11. Judge John Grandsaert postponed their hearings to await the availability of the grand jury transcript. The case was reset to June 16 for entry of pleas and to set jury trial and pretrial conference dates.

(source: Palo Alto Weekly)

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2 California men charged with serial killings of prostitutes

2 Southern California men have been charged with murder in the slayings of 4 women over the last 6 months, after the body of 1 victim was found on the conveyor belt of a recycling center in the city of Anaheim, police said on Monday.

The 2 suspects, Franc Cano, 27, and Steven Dean Gordon, 45, both registered sex offenders from Anaheim, were booked on suspicion of murder late on Friday and remained held without bail, Anaheim police Lieutenant Bob Dunn said.

Both men have since been formally charged with committing 4 killings that police were treating as serial murders, and they are suspected in at least 1 additional homicide, Dunn said.

"We're working with other jurisdictions to ascertain whether there are any further victims," he added.

The investigation began after employees at a recycling facility in Anaheim, about 25 miles south of Los Angeles, found the body of a woman from Oklahoma left slain on a conveyor belt, Dunn said.

Detectives subsequently linked her death to the disappearances of 3 other women who were reported missing last fall from the neighboring city of Santa Ana and who are presumed also to have been killed, Dunn said.

The men, registered sex offenders who had to meet police monitoring requirements, were wearing GPS devices when the women were assaulted and investigators used positioning data to link them to the victims, Dunn said.

He said police have determined that the four women, all of them in the 20s and 30s, were "engaged in prostitution" at the time they were killed, but authorities were not disclosing any details about the circumstances of the murders.

The bodies of the 3 women reported missing in Santa Ana, 1 of them a resident of Las Vegas, have yet to be recovered, he said.

If convicted they face a minimum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole and are eligible for the death penalty, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said in a statement. The men are to be arraigned on Tuesday.

(source: Reuters)

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Sex offenders accused of killing 4 O.C. women could face death penalty

2 registered sex offenders could face the death penalty in slaying of 4 women

2 homeless sex offenders accused of killing 4 women in Orange County could face the death penalty after being charged with murder in the commission of rape and lying in wait, authorities said.

Franc Cano, 27, and Steven Dean Gordon, 45, were formally charged Monday, 3 days after they were arrested in an industrial area of Anaheim not far from the trash-sorting facility where the body of 21-year-old Jarrae Nykkole Estepp was found last month on a conveyor belt.

They are also accused of killing Kianna Jackson, 20, Monique Vargas, 34, and Martha Anaya, 28. Police have not said whether they have found their bodies.

Both men were ordered to register as sex offenders for life after they were convicted of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14, court records show. Cano pleaded guilty in 2007 to the charge and was sentenced to 3 years in state prison, according to the records.

Gordon was convicted in 1992 of the same charge and was also sentenced to 3 years in prison, court records state.

Cano and Gordon have known each other since at least April 2012 when they cut off their electronic monitoring devices and fled to Nevada, using the aliases Dexter McCoy and Joseph Madrid, according to federal court records. They stayed at the Circus Circus Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas for about 2 weeks, until they were arrested, the records said.

Following their arrests, they pleaded guilty in Nevada federal court to failing to register as sex offenders. As part of their probation, the men had to provide a DNA sample, and their computers were monitored by federal agents, according to records. Gordon and Cano checked in monthly with Anaheim police as required, said Lt. Bob Dunn, a spokesman for the Anaheim Police Department.

The string of disappearances in Santa Ana began in early October soon after Jackson arrived in the city for a court hearing on 4 misdemeanor charges of prostitution and loitering to commit prostitution, according to court records. Jackson had grown up in a small, rural Northern California town but moved to Las Vegas after one semester of college.

Her mother, Kathy Menzies, said Jackson stopped responding to her text messages shortly after she arrived in Santa Ana.

Nearly 3 weeks after Jackson disappeared, Vargas, who grew up in Santa Ana, left a family birthday party and said she was going to the store. She was not seen again.

When Anaya disappeared Nov. 12, she had been planning her daughter's birthday party at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant. She asked her boyfriend to pick up their daughter so she could work, but stopped responding to his messages later that night.

(source: Los Angeles Times)

USA:

Justice Stevens Is Right: Good Or Bad, Death Penalty Is Constitutional----Just because you think something is a bad idea doesn't make it unconstitutional

Justice John Paul Stevens has been getting lots of attention lately for his views on the Second Amendment - he still doesn't like the individual right to keep and bear arms, and would amend the Constitution to get rid of it - but it's his views on the death penalty that have provoked the more troubling reaction.

Here's the back-story: Justice Stevens has published a book, Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution. Three of these amendments are structural: (1) requiring state officials to enforce federal law; (2) eliminating state sovereign immunity; and (3) doing away with political gerrymandering. The other 3 are from the populist-progressive playbook: (4) the aforementioned Second Amendment tweak (which doesn't make sense as drafted); (5) allowing Congress and state legislatures to censor political speech limit the money people can spend on election campaigns; and (6) outlawing the death penalty.

The Atlantic's Andrew Cohen latched onto this last one, lamenting that Stevens is:

a man who consistently upheld capital convictions and the death penalty itself for over 35 years, who helped send hundreds of men and women to their deaths by failing to hold state officials accountable for constitutional violations during capital trials, who more recently endorsed dubious lethal injection standards because he did not want to buck up against court precedent, now wants the Eighth Amendment to read this way, with 5 new words added: ". . .nor cruel and unusual punishments such as the death penalty inflicted."

(The reference to lethal-injection standards relates to the 2008 case of Baze v. Rees, which upheld Kentucky's particular method of execution. Stevens concurred in that ruling but wrote separately to question "the justification for the death penalty itself.")

Now, I don't have any particular ax to grind regarding the death penalty as a policy matter - it's probably warranted for serious crimes, but there are real problems with the way our justice system administers it - but as a question of law, it's hard to argue that it’s always unconstitutional. The Fifth Amendment references "capital" crimes and outlaws putting someone's "life" in jeopardy twice for the same crime, and both the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments protect against being deprived of "life" without due process of law.

To be sure, the Eighth Amendment does prohibit "cruel and unusual punishments," but that just means that the death penalty can't be applied in a particularly inhumane way (for example, vivisection).

Moreover, debates over the death penalty almost always occur in the context of state criminal law, over which the federal government has little authority. Yes, there's a federal criminal code - much of which is itself of dubious constitutional authority given the outlandish reading courts have given Congress's power to regulate interstate commerce - but it imposes capital punishment exceedingly rarely (3 times in the last 50 years, not counting military justice).

All the highest-profile Supreme Court cases thus force the justices to consider whether a state's imposition of the ultimate punishment is "cruel or unusual," not whether the death penalty is unconstitutional altogether. So if you want to abolish the death penalty, you either have to go state-by-state - 18 states have done away with it, 6 since 2007 - or, as Justice Stevens suggests, you have to amend the Constitution.

But just because someone, even a Supreme Court justice, concludes that the death penalty is a bad idea, or immoral, or otherwise inappropriate, doesn't make it unconstitutional. There can certainly be bad policies that are constitutional - or, for that matter, good policies that are unconstitutional.

Indeed, given that it's my wont to label legislation and government action as unconstitutional, I'm frequently asked if there are any policies I like that I nevertheless think violate our founding charter. It's a hard question, given that the Constitution is fundamentally a classical liberal, or libertarian, document, which fits with my political philosophy. Nevertheless, my top 2 examples are environmental regulation - properly conceived; it's inefficient to have a tort-law based system of regulating pollution that crosses state lines - and federal tort reform.

But regardless of my personal views, too many commentators conflate that with which they agree with that which the constitution requires. Justice Stevens, even if he errs in his understanding of the right to armed self-defense and shouldn't be proposing amendments, gets that right.

(source: Ilya Shapiro is a senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute and editor-in-chief of the Cato Supreme Court Review; The Federalist)

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Boston Marathon survivor calls for death penalty

A Boston Marathon bombings survivor has told ITV News those responsible for the attacks should be handed the death penalty.

Marc Fucarile, who lost his right leg above the knee and broke his spine, Washington Correspondent Robert Moore: "You know they're sick, sick people. They killed people that didn't do anything to them and I think they should pay the ultimate sacrifice.

"I think that anyone that thinks in that direction should also pay the sacrifice".

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who died in a shoot-out with police four days after the attacks, and his brother Dzhokhar have been accused of carrying out the Boston Marathon bombings.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to 30 charges.

(source: ITV news)

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Let's Stop Pretending the Death Penalty Is a Medical Procedure; The use of drugs to carry out capital punishment is putting bona fide medical patients at risk

In January the state of Ohio executed the convicted rapist and murderer Dennis McGuire. As in the other 31 U.S. states with the death penalty, Ohio used an intravenously injected drug cocktail to end the inmate's life. Yet Ohio had a problem. The state had run out of its stockpile of sodium thiopental, a once common general anesthetic and 1 of the key drugs in the executioner's lethal brew. 3 years ago the only U.S. supplier of sodium thiopental stopped manufacturing the drug. A few labs in the European Union still make it, but the E.U. prohibits the export of any drugs if they are to be used in an execution.

Ohio's stockpile of pentobarbital, its backup drug, expired in 2009, and so the state turned to an experimental cocktail containing the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone. But the executioner was flying blind. Execution drugs are not tested before use, and this experiment went badly. The priest who gave McGuire his last rites reported that McGuire struggled and gasped for air for 11 minutes, his strained breaths fading into small puffs that made him appear "like a fish lying along the shore puffing for that one gasp of air." He was pronounced dead 26 minutes after the injection.

There is a simple reason why the drug cocktail was not tested before it was used: executions are not medical procedures. Indeed, the idea of testing how to most effectively kill a healthy person runs contrary to the spirit and practice of medicine. Doctors and nurses are taught to first "do no harm"; physicians are banned by professional ethics codes from participating in executions. Scientific protocols for executions cannot be established, because killing animal subjects for no reason other than to see what kills them best would clearly be unethical. Although lethal injections appear to be medical procedures, the similarities are just so much theater.

Yet even if executions are not medical, they can affect medicine. Supplies of propofol, a widely used anesthetic, came close to being choked off as a result of Missouri's plan to use the drug for executions. The state corrections department placed an order for propofol from the U.S. distributor of a German drug manufacturer. The distributor sent 20 vials of the drug in violation of its agreement with the manufacturer, a mistake that the distributor quickly caught. As the company tried in vain to get the state to return the drug, the manufacturer suspended new orders. The manufacturer feared that if the drug was used for lethal injection, E.U. regulators would ban all exports of propofol to the U.S. "Please, Please, Please HELP," wrote a vice president at the distributor to the director of the Missouri corrections department. "This system failure - a mistake - 1 carton of 20 vials - is going to affect thousands of Americans."

This was a vast underestimate. Propofol is the most popular anesthetic in the U.S. It is used in some 50 million cases a year - everything from colonoscopies to cesareans to open-heart surgeries - and nearly 90 % of the propofol used in the U.S. comes from the E.U. After 11 months, Missouri relented and agreed to return the drug.

Such incidents illustrate how the death penalty can harm ordinary citizens. Supporters of the death penalty counter that its potential to discourage violent crime confers a net social good. Yet no sound science supports that position. In 2012 the National Academies' research council concluded that research into any deterrent effect that the death penalty might provide is inherently flawed. Valid studies would need to compare homicide rates in the same states at the same time, but both with and without capital punishment - an impossible experiment. And it is clear that the penal system does not always get it right when meting out justice. Since 1973 the U.S. has released 144 prisoners from death row because they were found to be innocent of their crimes.

Concerns about drug shortages for executions have led some states to propose reinstituting the electric chair or the gas chamber - methods previously dismissed by the courts as cruel and unusual. In one sense, these desperate states are on to something. Strip off its clinical facade, and death by intravenous injection is no less barbarous.

(This article was originally published with the title "The Myth of the Compassionate Execution.")

(source: Editorial, Scientific American)

BANGLADESH:

Sayedee appeal hearing ends

The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court has ended the hearing on Jamaat-e-Islami leader Delwar Hossain Sayedee's appeal against his death sentence meted out by the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT).

A 5-member bench of the Appellate Division, headed by Chief Justice Md Muzammel Hossain, ended hearing of both the prosecution and defence on Tuesday and said an order will be given on Wednesday.

Attorney General Mahbubey Alam was present in the hearing. He was assisted by Additional Attorney General MK Rahman.

Khandker Mahbub Hossain and SM Shahjahan argued for the defence.

The court said during the hearing, "How much time should we give you? The hearing is going on for days and months. You are now repeating it.

"This is not Appellate Tribunal, this is Appellate Division. Here we don't conduct hearings of the Tribunal only," it said.

On Feb 28 last year, the ICT-1 had ordered Sayedee's execution for his involvement in crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War.

Of the 20 charges against him, Sayedee was given the death penalty for 2 - the murder of Ibrahim Kutti and Bisabali, and for setting fire to Hindu households in Pirojpur district in 1971.

6 other charges were also proven beyond doubt but no sentencing followed as he had already been given the death penalty.

Sayedee had, on Mar 28 last year, appealed against the death sentence, seeking acquittal.

The prosecution has appealed for punishment for the 6 other proven charges for the sake of 'full justice'.

The hearing of Sayedee's appeal began on Sep 24.

The Tribunal in its 1st verdict on Jan 21 last year had ordered the death sentence to former Jamaat leader Abul Kalam Azad aka Bachchu Razakar.

But he has not appealed against the verdict as he has been absconding.

In its 2nd verdict on Feb 5 that year the Tribunal had sentenced Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Molla to life.

However, the Supreme Court, on Sept 17, had sentenced Molla to death after hearing appeals filed by Molla and the prosecution.

Molla was hanged on Dec 12.

The Tribunal ordered Sayedee's death sentence in the 3rd verdict.

6 more judgments are pending.

(source: bdnews24)

BRUNEI:

UN condemns Brunei over new law allowing gays to be stoned to death

The United Nations has condemned Brunei for adopting a new penal code that calls for death by stoning for same-sex sexual activity.

It has long been a crime in Brunei, but the maximum punishment had been a 10-year prison sentence.

However, Brunei, a predominately Muslim state, has now adopted a new penal code that calls for death by stoning for consenting same-sex sexual activity, adultery, rape, extramarital sexual relations, and for declaring oneself to be non-Muslim.

The new penal code will come into effect on 22 April.

"Application of the death penalty for such a broad range of offenses contravenes international law," said Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Rape, adultery, sodomy, extramarital sexual relations for Muslims, insulting any verses of the Quran and Hadith, blasphemy, declaring oneself a prophet or non-Muslim, and murder are the other offences for which the death penalty could be applied under the revised code.

Noting that Brunei has maintained an effective moratorium on the use of the death penalty since 1957, OHCHR urged the government to establish a formal moratorium and to work towards abolishing the practice altogether.

"Under international law, stoning people to death constitutes torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and is thus clearly prohibited," Mr Colville stated.

He added that the criminalisation and application of the death penalty for consensual relations between adults in private also violates a whole host of rights, including the rights to privacy, equality, freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention.

Hassanal Bolkiah has been the Sultan of Brunei, head of government and state, since 1967.

Brunei gained independence from the UK in 1984.

(source: Pink News)

IRAN:

Tehran government postpones execution of woman charged with killing her accused attacker

The Tehran government has postponed Tuesday's scheduled execution of a 26-year-old Iranian woman charged with killing a man accused of attempting to rape her.

Following last minute pleas, the regime pushed back the hanging of Rayhaneh Jabbari, who was headed to the gallows on charges that in 2007 she stabbed and killed Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, a former employee of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry.

The government announced that the execution will be postponed but did not give any indication the sentence had been overturned. It also did not disclose if any future execution date had been set.

Jabbari, who has already served 7 years in prison, claims Sarbandi drugged her and attempted to have physical contact with her.

Activists around the globe have been working tirelessly to prove Jabbari's innocence and to have her death sentence revoked.

Then 19-year-old Jabbari met Sarbandi at a cafe, where he learned that she was an interior designer. He then asked her to meet him in his office to discuss a remodeling project, according to Jabbari's accounts.

When Jabbari arrived, she realized the location, a remote, rundown site, did not resemble an office. At that time, Sarbandi offered her a fruit juice, which contained a date-rape drug, or "roofie," based on forensic tests conducted by the police during investigation and related to Fox News by human rights activists.

Jabbari then attempted to defend herself by stabbing Sarbandi in the shoulder with a small pocket knife and fled the scene. Sarbandi bled to death, and Jabbari was later arrested and imprisoned.

"She has been tortured in so many ways in prison. They may have pressured her to confess," said Shabnam Assadollahi, an Iranian activist based in Canada.

Assadollahi and 3 other women, Nazanin Afshin-Jam, Shadi Paveh and Mina Ahadi, launched an international campaign to shed light on Jabbari's case

They successfully circulated a petition that gathered more than 126,700 signatures from around the world.

"This is a verdict of "Ghessas" ["an eye for an eye"], but the details of the case don't make sense," Assadollhai said.

Jabbari's family and advocates, including Assadollahi, have pointed to the fact that a small pocket knife and 2 stabs in the shoulder would not result in fatal consequences for a large man, which is how Sarbandi was described.

Those petitioning against her execution believe that a third party may have been involved in the case and that Jabbari was set up. There is also skepticism that there may have been interference in the case and that crucial evidence that would potentially save Jabbari's life was either tampered with or destroyed.

Ahmed Shaheed, the United Nations' special investigator on human rights also spoke up against the execution, stating that Jabbari did not receive a fair trial and that she should be re-tried because she acted out of self-defense.

(source: Fox News)

IRAQ:

Iraq executes more than 600 Iraqis in 4 years; It is worth mentioning that international human rights organisations, including Human Rights Watch (HRW), have criticised these executions in the past years

The Iraqi justice ministry has executed more than 600 "terrorists" in the past four years, the Iraqi justice minister Hassan al-Shimri has said.

Speaking publicly in Al-Nasiriyeh City, Al-Shimri said that his ministry was not famous four years ago. However, he reiterated, it has became known to everyone as a result of the execution of "criminal terrorists." He called this "an achievement" for his ministry.

Al-Shimri noted that the "terrorists" used to completely control the reformatory prisons and run their operations from inside.

The minister said that his ministry has "forcefully" fought "terrorists," brought the prisons under control and prevented any political or religious party from interfering in how his ministry works.

He stressed that executing more than 600 "criminal terrorists" in the past 4 years was an achievement. He was reported saying that the justice ministry has not executed such a huge number since 2003. His ministry ignored calls by a number of Iraqi parliamentarians to cancel the executions based on calls by a number of international organisations.

It is worth mentioning that international human rights organisations, including Human Rights Watch (HRW), have criticised these executions in the past years. In April 2013 HRW accused the Iraqi justice system of failure to meet international standards for fair trials.

"A striking increase in executions in Iraq points to the failure of Iraq's justice system to meet international fair trial standards," the organisation said.

(source: Middle East Monitor)

INDIA:

No crime deserves death

"Context. Context. Context," is my oft repeated advice to my research students. What we say and what it means depends significantly on where, when and how we say it. But of course sometimes there are absolutes. So let's get one thing clear, Mulayam Singh Yadav (MSY) and friends, rape is not a "mistake", it is a crime and should be punished.

However, I along with many, (though by no means all), feminists, am against the death penalty. I would also argue that awarding the death penalty to lower-class men in no way addresses the rape culture in India. So does this mean I agree with MSY?

There is a case for context here too. People seem very confused about what feminists want. And this may be because we are often making nuanced arguments about all kinds of things, but in the present context (that lovely word again), about rape cultures, patriarchal ideologies and systems of justice.

The feminist position is not against punishing the perpetrators, but against the state arrogating to itself the right to kill. We argue that the certainty of punishment is a far greater deterrent than its severity. Further, as was seen in the Shakti Mills case, the death penalty is often awarded by making the "rape is a fate worse than death", "the victim is rendered a zinda laash", kind of arguments that are built around patriarchal notions of honour and in fact co-exist quite happily with rape cultures where everyday forms of sexual harassment and assault are brushed aside in precisely the kind of "boys will be boys" argument that MSY is making, in relation to rape.

Statistical data from across the world demonstrates that men from poor and minority communities make up a disproportionate per cent of death row prisoners. The media reportage of the December 16, 2012, Delhi gang rape as well as the Shakti Mills gang rapes focused relentlessly on the deprived backgrounds of the perpetrators, intentionally or unintentionally, making the case that it is lower-class, and often "footloose migrant" men who are the rapists. This often has the effect of obscuring the fact that rapists are in the majority of cases known to their victims and are often neighbours or kin and also of completely erasing the middle and upper class perpetrators of rape. But more on this anon.

The feminist position then, while against the death penalty and aware of the marginal location of poor men, is quite different from that of MSY and his ilk. Unlike the Abu Azmis and sundry khaps of this country, feminists assert women's right to consent (both within and outside of marriage) and to make choices about our bodies. We reject the offers of conditional safety and demand our right to public space.

The recent comments of MSY and Abu Azmi have the media shrilly baying for their blood and the Right and Left alike denouncing them on various social media. In a similar vein have been comments such as those of Asaram Bapu (himself a rape accused) who counselled that the young physiotherapist could have saved herself if she had called the men her brothers. Khap panchayat member, Jitendar Chattar averred (perfectly seriously) that such acts are caused by the consumption of chowmein which creates 'hormonal imbalance'. Not to be outdone, Nanki Ram Kanwar, Chhattisgarh home minister, argued that the alignment of the stars were to blame for the crime. These assertions are rivalled only by the calls for the policing of women's clothing, the denial of cell phones to women and the calls for women to willingly consent to house arrest, ostensibly in order to stay safe. These constitute in some ways the almost lunatic fringe of the spectrum. I write, 'almost' because unfortunately they are far from few in number. Yet, public debate even in the mainstream media counters them unequivocally.

Far more dangerous, I would argue, are the other voices - the ones that masquerade as progressive. Recently, journalists Manu Joseph and separately, Seema Mustafa wrote articles calling into question the testimony of the Tejpal assault survivor. It is important to mention here that these articles are based on the viewing of CCTV footage that, as per court guidelines, should not have been accessible to them at all.

Joseph under the aim of writing the balanced story jeopardizes the identity of the survivor and succeeds in creating reasonable doubt about the survivor testimony. Mustafa goes a step further and in her concluding lines, argues that the CCTV footage suggests that there was no apparent force that propelled her (the survivor) to enter the lift. Her final words are, "The jury is clearly out on this one".

There was a strong negative response to these articles that accused them of being part of a campaign to discredit the survivor. The Network of Women in the Media wrote to the Press Council of India and the Editors' Guild of India contending that these pieces were against journalistic ethics, were biased against the complainant and could be seen as part of a deliberate attempt to influence the case. In response, Seema Mustafa hit out at feminists for what she perceived was an intolerance to "differing views".

The challenge for feminists then is not just to counter the ludicrous comments of the politicians but to place them alongside those who seem to be making 'reasoned' arguments. Yes it is important to counter the ridiculous misogyny of MSY, but many would rush to agree that certainly these deprived/depraved young men deserve punishment. It is however harder, but just as important, to counter those voices that protect the privilege of the Tarun Tejpals of this world. Ultimately, MSY sympathizing with the perpetrators of the Shaki Mills gang rapes and the victim-blaming engaged in by journalists (among others) in relation to the Tejpal case are part of the same context where if women are attacked, it must be because we asked for it. These and others like them must all be seen and countered as part a spectrum of attacks which are attempting to silence women's voices and capacities to defend ourselves and seek justice.

(source: Shilpa Phadke, DNA India)

APRIL 14, 2014:

NEW HAMPSHIRE:

New Hampshire can do better

To kill someone to show that killing is wrong makes no sense to me. 2 wrongs don't make a right. The death penalty is wrong. It perpetuates the cycle of violence.

According to Amnesty International, the majority of public executions now take place in just 7 nations: Iran, Iraq, China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the United States. Surely, the U.S. can do better.

Despite 2 of his relatives being murdered, Rep. Renny Cushing of Hampton continues to urge repeal of the death penalty. As he says, killing a murderer gives more power to the killer by turning society into killers. At the New Hampshire Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on April 3, I was deeply moved by the testimony of so many who have experienced murder within their own family and yet they, too, testified in support of repealing the death penalty.

The U.S. can no longer afford to pride itself as a leader in human rights one day and be one of the world's leading executioners the next. Most of the nations of the world have already abolished the death penalty, and in the U.S. 18 states have done the same. Now is the time to make New Hampshire the 19th.

The New Hampshire House has voted in strong support of repeal. I urge the Senate to do the same.

DWIGHT HAYNES----Concord

(source: Letter to the Editor, Concord Monitor)

SOUTH DAKOTA:

Jury Starts Deliberations In McVay Death Penalty Case

A Minnehaha County Jury is deciding if James McVay should spend the rest of his life in prison or be given the death penalty.

McVay killed 75-year-old Maybelle Schein in her Sioux Falls home in July of 2011, stole her car and claimed to be heading to Washington D.C. to kill the president.

Monday morning, the final witnesses were called to testify and attorneys on both sides gave closing arguments.

Minnehaha County State's Attorney Aaron McGowan asked the jury to put themselves in Schein's shoes as they begin deliberating.

"The final visions before Maybelle's eyes were seeing this defendant standing over her with a Buck knife," McGowan said. "Maybelle fought the last minute and a half of her life."

But Minnehaha County Public Defender Traci Smith said that McVay is a man who suffers from delusions and a mental illness. She sasy McVay was not receiving the proper treatment when he walked away from a transitional program at the South Dakota State Penitentiary shortly before Schein's murder.

"This wasn't the plan of a rational person. Under the delusion he saw him sacrificing himself to accomplish a mission," Smith said. "He was completing the mission based on what he thought Lucifer would have him do."

Smith went on to say that McVay is not the heinous killer many believe him to be but he has become her friend in the three years since his arrest.

"Despite what the prosecution might say he is human," Smith said.

The jury of 7 men and 5 women started deliberations at 12:30 p.m.

(source: Keloland)

ARIZONA:

Jury: Devault eligible for death penalty in hammer killing

The jury in the trial of Marissa Devault found 1 aggravating factor that would make her eligible for execution, but it was unable to reach a verdict on a 2nd aggravating factor.

Still, Devault could face the death penalty in the 2009 death of Dale Harrell.

The final penalty phase will begin at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, according to a Maricopa County Superior Court tweet.

Jurors left for the weekend after deliberating a 2nd day on Thursday and reconvened on Monday morning. The court announced the jury had reached its verdict just after 11:30 a.m.

Jurors will now be asked to consider whether she should be sentenced to life in prison or death.

If no aggravating factors had been found, the judge would have sentenced Devault to either the rest of her life in prison or life in prison with the possibility of release after 25 years.

Prosecutor Michelle Arino said Devault carried out the 2009 attack on Harrell in an especially cruel manner for the purpose of getting life insurance money.

Devault's attorney Alan Tavassoli said the argument that the killing was carried out to collect insurance money is undermined by the fact that 1 of the 2 policies in question covered only accidental deaths, and Harrell's death wasn't an accident.

Devault claims she killed Harrell in self-defense and told investigators that Harrell had physically and sexually abused her in the past.

Prosecutors contend the January 2009 attack on Harrell was premeditated and that she wanted to collect on an insurance policy taken out on her husband because she owed about $300,000 in loans from her boyfriend.

They said Devault has given conflicting accounts of her husband's death and that people who Devault claimed had witnessed some of the past abuse didn't back up her claims.

Harrell died nearly a month after the attack at a hospice after suffering complications from head injuries.

The jury convicted her of 1st-degree murder on Tuesday.

(source: KPHO news)

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES:

Former bodyguard to Abu Dhabi royal family could face death penalty

A man from Slough could face the death penalty if he is convicted of possessing and selling drugs in Dubai.

Hasnain Ali, 32, who grew up in Cippenham, was on holiday in Dubai in May 2013 when he was arrested.

Foreign Office documents detail claims by Mr Ali that he was subjected to repeated beatings by police, who threatened him with tasers, firearms and the prospect of sexual assault.

The former bodyguard to members of the Abu Dhabi royal family also alleges he was denied access to his family and a lawyer, resulting in him signing a "confession" in Arabic - a language he doesn't understand - related to charges of possessing and selling drugs.

His brother, Jed Ali, has said: "There is no way my brother should be convicted on the basis of a "confession" he was tortured into signing.

"Hasnain must be released and the people responsible for this must be punished."

UK Foreign Office documents which were obtained by legal charity Reprieve, who are representing Hasain, give a detailed account of his treatment including that he "had a gun held to his head," and was "repeatedly kicked" by the Dubai CID officers who arrested him.

A verdict is expected to be reached tomorrow.

(source: Slough Express)

LIBYA:

Libya adjourns trial of ex-Gaddafi officials and sons

Libya opened the trial of deposed leader Muammar Gaddafi's sons and dozens of his ex-officials on Monday in a test of its transition to democracy, but it was quickly adjourned as some of the investigations had not been completed.

Neither son, Saadi Gaddafi and Saif al-Islam, was in court at Tripoli's Al-Hadba prison, but the late ruler's spy chief Abdullah al-Senussi was among the former senior aides sitting in blue jumpsuits behind a fenced-off section.

The defendants face charges ranging from corruption to war crimes related to deaths during the 2011 uprising against Gaddafi, who went on the run for months before being captured and quickly killed by rebels.

If convicted, some of them could face the death penalty.

The North African OPEC member has struggled to establish basic institutions and the rule of law as Gaddafi left behind a shell of a government after absorbing all the power into his own hands during his 4-decade rule.

The International Criminal Court and other human rights organisations worry about the fairness of Libya's justice system although the government won the right last year to try Gaddafi's former spy chief at home instead of at the ICC in The Hague.

Saadi Gaddafi, known as a playboy with a brief career in professional football who was extradited to Libya from Niger in early March, did not appear in court because prosecutors said the investigation against him was unfinished.

Gaddafi's more prominent son, Saif al-Islam, remains in the custody of the powerful Zintan tribe in southwest Libya who have refused to hand him over to the central government, saying they believe it cannot provide a secure trial. Saif was only expected to appear via video-link.

The trial began a day after interim prime minister Abdullah al-Thinni resigned following an attack on his family and the ousting of his predecessor barely a month ago.

Proceedings were adjourned until April 27 to give investigators more time to prepare their cases and organise videolinks with the Gaddafi brothers and 6 defendants in Misrata who could not be taken to Tripoli due to a lack of security en route.

LEGAL CONCERNS

Post-Gaddafi Libya has so far been defined by a weak interim government and growing unrest, with former revolutionary fighters refusing to give up their weapons, and armed protesters blockading crucial oil exports.

Addressing the 4 judges, many defendants complained they had not been given access to lawyers or only saw them at court appearances. Reuters counted only 9 lawyers, far fewer than the 25 defendants present.

"I want to be treated like other prisoners. I want visiting rights. I don't have a lawyer. It's not fair," said Senussi, who has been in prison for over a year.

Prosecutors said Senussi had been allowed to see relatives, but denied lawyers had been prevented from assisting clients.

Senussi was joined in the dock by Gaddafi-era prime minister Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, former foreign minister Abdul Ati al-Obeidi and ex-intelligence chief Buzeid Dorda.

Sidiq Al-Sour, head of investigations for the prosecutor's office, said there were 36 ex-officials on trial. Four defendants had already been released, but not acquitted, and another was sick and unable to attend.

"This case has been riddled with procedural flaws right from the beginning, which have made it grossly unfair to the defendants," Richard Dicker, international justice director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

Defence lawyers have been frustrated by delayed and constrained access to the thousands of pages of evidence. Human Rights Watch also said prisoners had no lawyers present during interrogations. Prosecutors said they only allowed lawyers to view the evidence in their offices to avoid its release to the public.

Libya's justice minister insisted the trial was open to the public and this would ensure the process was fair and not turn into a "Mickey Mouse" show trial.

"I will not allow any crazy stuff, I will make sure it meets international standards ... that is why we are having open trials," Salah al-Merghani told Reuters.

"We heard there were complaints from the lawyers ... The court will see if the complaints are genuine or not."

(source: Reuters)

IRAN----impending female execution

UN Expert calls on Iran to halt execution of Iranian woman expected to take place tomorrow

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, today urged the Islamic Republic of Iran to halt immediately the execution of an Iranian woman, Reyhaneh Jabbari, reported to be scheduled for tomorrow.

Ms Jabbari, an interior designer by profession, was sentenced to death for the alleged murder of Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, a former employee of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry, in a case that has raised legal concerns.

"The Iranian authorities should review her case and refer it back to court for a re-trial, ensuring that the defendant due process rights guaranteed under both Iranian law and international law," Mr Shaheed said.

According to reliable sources, Mr. Sarbandi offered to hire Ms. Jabbari on 7 July 2007 to redesign his office. Mr. Sarbandi arranged to take Ms. Jabbari to his office, but instead took her to a residence where he physically and sexually forced himself upon her. Ms. Jabbari reportedly stabbed Mr. Sarbandi in the shoulder in self-defense, fled for safety, and called for an ambulance out of concern for her alleged attacker.

Since her arrest and throughout her prosecution, Ms. Jabbari has maintained that her actions were taken in self-defense, and were aimed at preventing a potential serious assault on her person. She has also alleged being coerced to confess to actions under severe duress.

"Ms. Jabbari's case raises serious due process concerns, particularly with regard to her interrogation and the reluctance of the court to take into account all relevant circumstantial evidence into its judgment," the Special Rapporteur said, stressing that her conviction for pre-meditated murder was allegedly based on confessions made under duress possibly amounting to torture.

"Evidence in the case, including the medical examiner's report highlighting the presence of a tranquilizer in a glass of juice found at the crime scene, possibly intended use in the immobilization and sexual assault the defendant, raises serious questions as to whether or not factors eminently relevant to the case were considered in the court's judgment and sentencing of this young woman," Mr. Shaheed said.

"If her allegations are true, Ms. Jabbari may have been doubly victimized; 1st by her attacker, and then by the judicial system, which is supposed to protect victims of intended and actual sexual and physical assault," the expert stressed. "Sexual violence, often directed against women, must always be fought in all of its forms."

Mr. Shaheed regretted the spike in executions this year in Iran and renewed his call to the Government to immediately halt them. Over 170 persons including at least 2 women have been executed since the beginning of 2014 and a large number of prisoners on death row risk imminent execution.

"The imposition of the death penalty plainly goes against the current international trend to encourage a moratorium on, and abolition of the death penalty. We urge the authorities to join this world trend by establishing a moratorium on execution with a view of abolishing the death penalty," the expert stressed.

(source: NCR-Iran)

NEW HAMPSHIRE:

As Senate Takes Up Death Penalty, Committee Vote Could Be Key

Senate lawmakers are set to take up a bill this week that would repeal the state's death penalty.

The Senate's Judiciary committee last week voted in favor of recommending the bill for passage, which NHPR's Josh Rogers says could prove key to the measure's ultimate fate.

"Because the bill is emerging from committee with a 3-2 majority and an-ought-to-pass recommendation, that means the 1st vote when it hits the floor will be for its passage. If that vote fails, and it very well could, the bill would then be open to amendment."

New Hampshire hasn't executed anyone since 1939.

Michael Addison is the state's lone death row inmate. He was sentenced to death for the 2006 murder of Manchester police officer Michael Briggs.

This week's Senate vote is seen as the last major hurdle for the proposal.

The House has already passed the bill and Governor Maggie Hassan says she will sign it into law as long as it does not affect Addison's sentence.

(source: New Hampshire Public Radio)

DELAWARE:

Death penalty bill comments miss the mark

I read an article talking about the death penalty repeal bill and how supporters are saying House leadership is holding up the bill in committee. They say that the only way to do something about it is to suspend rules and force the bill to the floor for a vote.

I need to correct the record for my constituents. Regardless of your position on the death penalty - and I've made mine very clear that I support keeping the death penalty - this bill has had a fair process in the House. It bothers me to hear people say the opposite. We have a process for bills and it has been followed the same as it has been for any other bill.

When Senate Bill 19 came to the House, Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf assigned it to the Judiciary Committee. That was the right committee for the bill, and probably was the best chance for it to get out. Looking at the committee membership, it's apparent that death penalty repeal would not have gotten out of public safety, corrections or administration. Judiciary was the best committee, and the bill's sponsors haven't disagreed.

Most importantly, the bill got a full hearing in committee. It failed by a 6-5 vote. Bills sometimes fail in committee. If you've been a legislator long enough, it's probably happened to you at some point. That's the process. If you don't get the result you want, you can try to change some minds or you can try again next session. You don't accuse people of abusing the process.

It's fair to point out that Rep. Schwartzkopf had this happen to him a few years ago. He introduced a bill and couldn't get a committee hearing, so he brought the bill to the floor - because the process wasn't being followed. The next session, he got his committee hearing on the same bill and it failed in committee. Pete walked away from the bill because he respected the committee’s decision.

This is a contentious bill for a lot of people, but you cannot say that it hasn't been given a fair hearing. I think everyone should keep that in mind when talking about it.

John C. Atkins----State Representative 41st District

(source: Cape Gazette)

NORTH CAROLINA:

NC high court to review sentences changed under Racial Justice Act

The Racial Justice Act was repealed by state lawmakers almost a year ago, but questions about whether the short-lived legislation will have any life after its death go before the state's highest court on Monday.

The N.C. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in the cases of the 4 prison inmates who had their death sentences converted to life without possibility for parole under the act.

Though the justices will weigh arguments specific to the plights of Marcus Robinson, Tilmon Golphin, Quintel Augustine and Christina Walters - the inmates whose sentences were changed - the rulings could have an impact on cases of other death row inmates who filed racial-bias challenges before the repeal of the landmark act.

All but a few of the 153 death row inmates have cases pending in the court queues. Their challenges contend that racial bias had a role in their fate, and they plan to cull from studies showing, among other things, that African-Americans are systemically excluded from serving on death-penalty juries.

Prosecutors refute such claims, arguing that the race of a potential juror rarely plays into their decision for keeping or excluding someone from the panel. But Racial Justice Act advocates counter that a study of 173 capital trials over a 20-year period in North Carolina shows otherwise.

Though there have long been legal avenues for prisoners challenging sentences with claims of racial bias, those who continue to advocate for the overturned act highlight what they describe as shortcomings of those procedures.

Racial biases, they say, can infect the outcome of cases in nuanced ways that do not always produce the “smoking-gun” statement or evidence a judge might need.

A Michigan State University study of capital cases in North Carolina between 1990 and 2010 shows that qualified black jurors were more than twice as likely as whites to be removed from juries by prosecutors with peremptory strikes.

Judges were not allowed to consider those kinds of statistics when weighing racial bias claims until North Carolina adopted the Racial Justice Act.

The 2009 legislation, adopted in a vote along partisan lines, provided inmates and people accused in capital cases a way to use statistics to bolster their bias claims.

The law, the only of its kind in the country, was weakened by additional legislation in 2012 by the N.C. General Assembly two years after Republicans gained control of both chambers. It was overturned in 2013 after the Republicans also had control of the governor's office.

Critics of the law had long contended it was nothing more than a back-door attempt to do away with the death penalty in North Carolina.

1 case heard under law

Robinson, 41, housed in Brown Creek Correctional Institution, a medium-security prison in Polkton, about 120 miles southwest of Raleigh, was the only prisoner to have his challenge heard under the 2009 law.

Robinson was convicted of killing 17-year-old Erik Tornblom in 1991, and he was sentenced to death for the murder.

Cumberland County Judge Gregory Weeks ruled in April 2012 that race had played a role in Robinson's case, and his ruling touched on statistics about jury selection within Cumberland County and from across the state.

In challenging the decision, prosecutors argued that Weeks' ruling - and ultimately the Racial Justice Act - was based on a range of statistics that were too broad.

"A defendant convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death can obtain relief in post-conviction review under the RJA even if the capital defendant has never experienced any racial discrimination in his own case at any stage of the criminal process," North Carolina prosecutors contend in their challenge. "This is an absurd result and cannot be a correct interpretation of the RJA." After that ruling, legislators changed the act to limit the statistics inmates could use to bolster their claims.

Weeks ruled after that amendment that Augustine, Golphin and Walters had experienced similar bias, both on a county level and statewide, and changed their sentences to life in prison without possibility for parole.

Augustine, 36, still in Central Prison after the 2012 ruling, was convicted of shooting Fayetteville police Officer Roy Turner Jr. to death in November 2001.

Walters, a Lumbee Indian housed at the N.C. Correctional Institution for Women, was convicted of killing 2 white women and shooting a black woman in a gang initiation murder in 1998.

Golphin, 35, in Lanesville Correctional Institute, was convicted of killing a state trooper and a sheriff's deputy during a traffic stop in 1997.

Augustine and Golphin are both black. Augustine's victim was black and Golphin's were white.

A decision in the N.C. Supreme Court case could be months in coming.

But questions from the justices could offer a glimpse of the strengths and weaknesses of the cases.

(source: News & Observer)

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

Capital punishment back before North Carolina Supreme Court

North Carolina's highest court is again looking into the state's capital punishment laws.

The state Supreme Court scheduled oral arguments Monday in 2 cases involving convicted murderers whose trials were scrutinized under the now-repealed Racial Justice Act. The justices may decide whether the 4 condemned prisoners resentenced to life in prison should have to return to death row.

Marcus Robinson, Tilmon Golphin, Quintel Augustine and Christina Walters originally were sentenced to death, but a Cumberland County judge gave them reduced sentences because he said race played unjust roles in jury selections.

The law was repealed last year. Critics of the law say it was flawed and only extended death penalty appeals further.

North Carolina hasn't executed anyone since 2006 because of litigation.

(source: Associated Press)

OHIO:

Attorneys to argue today over accused killer's confession in slaying of 14-year-old Gloria Pointer

Defense attorneys for a Cleveland man accused of killing 14-year-old Gloria Pointer in 1984 want a judge to throw out his confession because authorities failed to let him speak with an attorney.

Cuyahoga County prosecutors countered, saying Hernandez Warren, 59, "was ready and willing to confess" to the rape and slaying. They also said that he knew his rights, as officers read them to him on multiple occasions.

They said Warren told officers that he "knew this day would come" when he would be charged in the girl's death.

"(Warren's) attitude was clear - he wanted to provide his version of the homicide without the assistance of counsel," prosecutors wrote in court documents. They added that "there was no indication that the detectives placed undue pressure on him to talk."

The issue of whether the confession can be used at Warren's trial will go before Common Pleas Judge David Matia today in what could be a days-long hearing. He is charged with aggravated murder. If convicted, he could face the death penalty. His trial is set for Sept. 8.

Over 2 days of interviews, Warren told authorities that he attacked Gloria while she was on her way to Harry E. Davis Junior High School, prosecutors said in documents. He told authorities that he sexually assaulted her and then beat her with a pipe, prosecutors said.

Defense attorneys David Grant and Mark Stanton said in documents that Warren "made dozens of references to wanting an attorney and/or wanting to make a phone call." They said detectives ignored his requests. They said his rights were violated, adding that "Simply stated (Warren's) requests for an attorney were ignored by police."

Prosecutors, however, said Warren's requests were ambiguous. They said in documents that "unless the suspect actually requests an attorney, questioning may continue." They also stressed that officers did nothing wrong in the interviews.

Warren was arrested in May and quickly indicted after prosecutors said a DNA profile from evidence in the case matched the Cleveland man. The partial profile had been identified years before but never entered into crime databases that identify criminals and link crimes.

He was released from prison about 10 years ago after serving a 15-year sentence for a rape and felonious assault.

Warren spoke with authorities May 13. Besides aggravated murder, he is charged with rape and kidnapping.

Gloria Pointer's partially undressed body was found Dec. 6, 1984, in a back stairwell leading to the basement of an East 105th Street apartment building.

Her walk to school normally took just 15 minutes. She had left slightly earlier on the day she was attacked so she could stop at a friend’s home to get a comb for a new hairstyle. She was to earn an award for perfect attendance the day she died.

Defense attorneys motion asking that Hernandez Warren's confession to police be suppressed.

(source: Cleveland.com)

KANSAS:

Cheatham defense attorney labeled self 'country lawyer' without death penalty experience

Lawyer Dennis Hawver referred to himself as a country lawyer as he appeared before a disciplinary panel to defend his law license in his handling of a capital murder case.

"It's a country practice," Hawver told the three panelists when he testified in November. Hawver told them his law practice in "rural" Jefferson County included 60 % civil work and 40 % criminal cases, all in his home county and surrounding counties. He works in a one-lawyer office.

Hawver's business card carries on the country theme, reading, "Your country lawyer." Printed on a mellow blue card stock, the car features a tree standing in a lush, grassy field. For about 10 years, Hawver practiced law in Hawaii.

While defended by Hawver, Phillip D. Cheatham Jr., now 40, was convicted in the shooting deaths of two women and the wounding of a third woman. The shootings occurred in December 2003 in a southeast Topeka house.

After he was convicted in 2005, Cheatham was sentenced to death and to prison terms totaling more than 78 years. On Jan. 25, 2013, the Kansas Supreme Court overturned Cheatham's conviction and death sentence based on Hawver's ineffective assistance of counsel. Cheatham's retrial is pending.

But 1 of 3 lawyers sitting on the panel has taken Hawver to task for his country lawyer posturing.

Philip D. Ridenour, the panel's presiding officer, said that while country lawyers often know their clients well and do a good job handling their legal needs, they may not be competent to handle a complex, difficult capital murder case and might lack the training and skills to defend someone who might face the death penalty.

In the 27-page final hearing report, Ridenour included a 2-page "concurring note" talking about the advantages and limitations of being a "country lawyer." For more than 40 years, Ridenour has practiced law in Cimarron in Gray County, which has a population of about 6,000, according to 2010 census figures.

"I have practiced law as a country lawyer in one of the most rural areas of the state of Kansas for more years than Mr. Hawver has been a lawyer," Ridenour wrote.

"We country lawyers live among our clients and come to know them well, to understand their backgrounds, experiences, concerns and aspirations, values and beliefs," Ridenour wrote.

After more than 40 years of life and law practice in southwest Kansas, no "outside" lawyer or law firm can expect to give "my clients the same informed quality of advice on the sorts of legal issues that routinely arise," Ridenour wrote.

"But the converse is also true," Ridenour wrote. "As a country lawyer, I am unqualified and do not have the time or the resources to handle questions that arise in complex legal issues I have never dealt (with) or never had the necessity to research."

Ridenour said he is professionally required to decline to represent a client on a legal issue he is unqualified to handle and he also must recognize the legal issues he is unqualified to represent a client on.

Hawver has admitted he was unqualified to represent Cheatham in a capital case, Ridenour wrote.

"Untold additional hours of time of Kansas judges and lawyers have been and continue to be required to try to remedy the harm done by Mr. Hawver," Ridenour wrote. "Mr. Hawver had a professional duty to decline the representation; he failed to do so, and that failure constituted a violation of the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct."

The panel of the Kansas Board for Discipline of Attorneys submitted its final hearing report on March 14. In the report to the Supreme Court, 2 panelists urged the justices to disbar Hawver, and 1 suggested indefinitely suspending him from practice.

This past Monday, Hawver filed his exceptions to the final report, challenging the panel's findings and the recommendation to discipline him.

In lieu of discipline, Hawver urged the panel in November to order him not to handle any murder cases but to allow him to handle other cases in his rural law practice.

The panel also found Hawver's conduct "caused actual injury to the administration of justice. As a result of the respondent's misconduct, a capital murder case has been remanded for a 2nd trial."

In the hearing report, the panel's conclusions included that Hawver "was not competent to represent Cheatham," including he didn't appreciate the difference between trying a murder case and a capital murder case.

(source: Topeka Capital-Journal)

OKLAHOMA----impending executions

Oklahoma Secures Non-Compounded Execution Drugs

Lawyers for the state of Oklahoma said in a letter to attorneys for 2 death row inmates that no compounded drugs would be used in their executions.

In a letter from Assistant Attorney General John Hadden on Friday the state informed lawyers for Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner that the state had secured non-compounded vercuronium bromide, the 2nd of the 3 drugs it intends to use in the inmates' executions.

"The state previously had acquired manufactured versions of the 2 other drugs used in the lethal injection process (midazolam and potassium chloride)," AG Spokesman Aaron Cooper said in an email. "This means all 3 drugs to be used in the executions of Locket and Warner will be from manufactured sources. There will be no compounded drugs used in their executions."

Lockett and Warner sued the state in February over what they called a "veil of secrecy" surrounding state execution protocol. Lockett is set to be executed April 22, and Warner is set to die a week later.

(source: KGOU news)

MISSOURI:

Finally, a death sentence for Gregory A. Bowman

Time dulls the jagged edges of evil, so we have an obligation to remind one another and teach youngsters so that the acts are not reduced to icons and abstractions. We teach about suffering by victims of Hitler, Stalin and other pogroms for that reason.

We also remember for those who weren't even born that a 14-year-old girl walking home from the spring musical at Belleville West and a 21-year-old nurse's aide stopping at the ATM both disappeared in the late 1970's. A serial rapist and murderer ended their lives and traumatized others.

Gregory A. Bowman is now 62 and awaiting another hearing on whether he should face the death penalty in Missouri for the rape and murder of a third young woman, 16-year-old Velda Rumfelt. The legal system in Illinois failed to keep him locked up for the murders of Elizabeth West and Ruth Ann Jany, and the system in Missouri failed to make the death penalty stick for Rumfelt's killing.

Enter a little cosmic justice: The Missouri death hearing is delayed because Bowman is terminally ill. Bowman's being judged in a higher court, and we who lived through his depravity carry the obligation to remember.

(source: Belleville (Ill.) News-Democrat)

ARIZONA:

Jury mulls whether woman convicted in husband's hammer-beating death qualifies for execution

Jurors are scheduled to resume deliberations Monday on whether an Arizona woman convicted of fatally beating her husband with a hammer qualifies for the death penalty.

The jury has already spent two days considering whether there were "aggravating factors" that would make Marissa Devault (dev-WAH') eligible for execution in Dale Harrell's death in 2009.

If such factors are found, jurors will decide whether she should be sentenced to life in prison or death.

But if those factors aren't found, a judge will sentence Devault to the rest of her life in prison or life in prison with the possibility of release after 25 years.

Prosecutors say Devault killed Harrell in an unsuccessful attempt to collect on life insurance money.

Devault says she acted in self-defense against an abusive husband.

(source: Associated Press)

UTAH----female may face death penalty

Police Find Remains of 7 Babies

Megan Huntsman, 39, was arrested on 6 counts of murder. Her arrest came after the discovery in a previous home Huntsman lived in. Police found the remains of 7 babies in Huntsman's old home in Pleasant Grove, Utah.

The question that comes to mind is why not 7 counts. Apparently the authorities have discovered 1 of the babies was stillborn. How they came to that conclusion is a mystery at the present time.

It has been reported that the current residents were the Huntsman's older children, 2 adults and 1 teenager. It is baffling but the current residents have lived there for 3 years after Huntsman moved out. How did they not make this discovery before is just unbelievable. Had the ex-husband, Darren West, not come over to the home to clean, would anyone even know now?

When West began to clean the garage on Saturday is when the discovery of the remains was made.

The remains were found in a container and reported to the authorities immediately. Once the authorities were contacted they obtained a search warrant for the home and the current residents of Huntsman. During the execution of the warrant the authorities discovered an additional 6 containers, each had the remains of infant bodies in them. Nothing was discovered as of yet in Huntsman's current residence

The ex-husband or Huntsman's children are not suspects at this time. It comes into question why the older children or the ex-husband did not know what was going on. Could Huntsman have really hid the remains of 7 babies she had killed in her Utah home? What about her pregnancies? Did no one wonder what happened to the babies after her pregnancy? This horrific crime has brought up more questions than answers.

Neighbors were shocked at the horrific discovery and accusations of the former resident. They appeared to be nice people and good neighbors on the outside. Huntsman had even done some babysitting for one of her neighbors. How scary that prospect must be now after the shocking revelation of horrific crimes occurring in that home.

The bodies of the babies were sent to the medical examiner's office to be tested. They will be testing for cause of death and taking DNA samples to determine if Huntsman is the parent of all the babies. The prospect that the remains of the babies were not Huntsman just makes this story even more heart wrenching. The Utah examiner will give answers on the remains of the 7 babies police found in the Huntsman's home as soon as the results come back.

Huntsman will make her 1st appearance in front of the court on 6 counts of murder on Monday. The appearance will more than likely be a bail hearing to determine if Megan Huntsman will remain in custody. Huntsman was charged with only 6 counts in the Utah discovery but there were remains of seven babies discovered by police so another charge of murder may be coming. Utah does use the death penalty in rare cases. They have sought 7 cases in the last 5 years. Will they seek the death penalty in this case? The pressure will be on prosecution to get it right as this will more than likely be a high profile case as the facts begin to come out.

(source: Guardianlv)

USA:

Secret Drugs, Agonizing Deaths

Facing a critical shortage of lethal injection drugs, prison officials in a number of states have recently engaged in an unseemly scramble to obtain new execution drugs, often from unreliable and even illegal sources. Not only does this trend raise serious questions about the constitutionality of executions, it also undermines the foundations of our democratic process. In the name of security, states are now withholding vital information about their death penalty procedures - from death row prisoners' lawyers and from judges, whose stamp of approval they need to impose the ultimate sanction, as well as from the public, in whose name the sentence is carried out.

States have long shielded the identities of executioners, a reasonable policy that should not interfere with judicial review of execution procedures. But in the past year, Georgia, Missouri, Tennessee and other states have expanded the reach of their secrecy laws to include not just the execution drugs used, but even the pharmacies that supply them.

These laws hide the information necessary to determine if the drugs will work as intended and cause death in a humane manner. For states to conceal how they obtain the execution drugs, whether those purchases comply with the law and whether the drugs themselves are legitimate prevents courts from analyzing the legality and constitutionality of death penalty procedures. And that deprives the public of informed debate.

For more than 30 years, every state carrying out executions by lethal injection used the anesthetic thiopental, in combination with other drugs. In 2011, the American pharmaceutical firm Hospira stopped making thiopental. Departments of corrections at first responded by importing it from abroad, but the federal courts ruled that the Food and Drug Administration was prohibited from allowing in the unapproved drugs.

Other states replaced thiopental with pentobarbital, which eventually became the new norm. But Lundbeck, a Danish manufacturer of pentobarbital, did not want its name or its product (Nembutal) associated with executions. Changing its distribution system, it made sodium pentobarbital unobtainable for executions.

With that avenue closed, most states bought pentobarbital from compounding pharmacies, which mix small batches of drugs to order, and whose products are not approved by the F.D.A. Other states have turned to new drugs, including midazolam and hydromorphone.

Even as states adopted riskier and untested drugs, they argued that the identities of the suppliers must remain secret to insulate them from criticism. But that consideration can hardly trump the Eighth Amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishments.

These are not academic concerns. Both compounded pentobarbital and the mixture of midazolam and hydromorphone have resulted in executions that went very wrong.

After receiving an execution dose of pentobarbital, an inmate should quickly lose consciousness and be without awareness until death occurs. But according to The Associated Press, after the drug was administered to Eric Robert in South Dakota in October 2012, he "appeared to be clearing his throat and then began gasping heavily," and "his eyes remained opened throughout." His heart beat for 10 minutes after he stopped breathing, suggesting the drug was not fully effective.

When compounded pentobarbital was administered to Michael Lee Wilson on Jan. 9, in Oklahoma, he cried out, "I feel my whole body burning." 7 days later, Ohio executed Dennis McGuire with midazolam and hydromorphone. A witness reported: "His body strained against the restraints around his body, and he repeatedly gasped for air, making snorting and choking sounds for about 10 minutes. His chest and stomach heaved; his left hand, which he had used minutes earlier to wave goodbye to his family, clenched in a fist." Mr. McGuire took more than 20 minutes to die. No wonder prisoners have been demanding to know how they will be executed - even as departments of corrections refuse to tell them. Recently, courts in 3 states have addressed such legal battles. An Oklahoma trial court decided in favor of the inmates, ruling that Oklahoma's secrecy law violated the state Constitution's right of access to the courts. Similarly, federal courts in Louisiana ordered the department of corrections to produce information about what drugs would be used in a coming execution and whether they had been tested.

But the prisoners usually don't win. More typical are 2 Texas cases with April execution dates. Although longstanding precedent requires the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to disclose the source of execution drugs, the department has refused to reveal the identity of its new supplier. A federal judge halted 1 execution at least until disclosure was made, but the department won an appeal and the United States Supreme Court declined to intervene. Both executions went ahead.

The Eighth Amendment requires that the ultimate punishment our society can impose and the means by which it is carried out are subject to the highest level of scrutiny. If prison officials conceal crucial information from judges, lawyers and the public, we have only their word that the drugs will cause death in a manner that complies with the Constitution. Clearly, we can't leave that to trust.

(source: Op-Ed; Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno are staff lawyers in the Death Penalty Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law----New York Times)

INDIA:

Never said rape victims should be punished, says Abu Azmi; Abu Azmi had said women having sex outside marriage should also be hanged.

Samajwadi Party leader Abu Azmi, who is in a soup for making controversial comment on rape, has said that he never advocated punishing rape victims.

A TV channel quoted him saying that he had said that everyone should show solidarity with the rape victim.

He said that he never meant that the rape victims should be punished and that only a mad person would say such things.

Replying to a question on Yadav's remark, the former Rajya Sabha member and sitting MLA had told Mid-Day: "Rape is punishable by hanging in Islam. But here, nothing happens to women, only to men. Even the woman is guilty."

"In India, if you have sex with a person with consent, it's fine. But if that same person complains, it's a problem. Nowadays, we see a lot of such cases. Girls complain when someone touches them, and even when someone doesn't touch them. It becomes a problem then, and the man's honour is ruined in this. If rape happens with or without consent, it should be punished as prescribed in Islam," Azmi added.

National Commission for Women had issued a notice to the state SP chief for his insensitive remarks.

Azmi's remarks, however, did not find favour with his son and SP's Lok Sabha candidate from Mumbai North Central constituency, Farhan Azmi, who disagreed with his father and advocated death penalty for rapists.

His daughter-in-law, actress Ayesha Takia Azmi also expressed shock on Twitter, saying she was ashamed at the remark.

(source: India Today)

LEBANON:

Lebanon charges 38 over Tripoli clashes

Lebanon's Military Prosecutor Saqr Saqr Monday charged an additional 38 individuals over gunbattles in the northern city of Tripoli.

Among the 38 suspects were 18 from the mainly Alawite Tripoli neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen and 20 from nearby predominantly Sunni Bab al-Tabbaneh, according to a judicial source.

The 2 districts have been feuding since the 1975-1990 Lebanese Civil War, but the traditional rivalry between them has been aggravated by the 3-year-old crisis in neighboring Syria.

Only 2 of the suspects - one from Jabal Mohsen and another from Bab al-Tabbaneh - are in custody. The others remain at large, the source told The Daily Star.

The source said among the Bab al-Tabbaneh suspects were 2 field commanders known as Bilal Baqqar and Raef Dandashi.

Saqr charged all 38 men of undermining the authority of the state, belonging to an armed organization and murder conspiracy. The suspects could face the death penalty if convicted.

Saqr referred the case and the 2 detained men to Military Investigative Judge Fadi Sawwan who is expected to interrogate the suspects on Thursday.

The Lebanese Army said it arrested a wanted suspect identified as Suleiman Mahmoud al-Ali from Jabal Mohsen, part of a larger security plan to end violence in the restive city.

(source: The Daily Star)

PAPUA NEW GUINEA:

Death penalty policies being drawn up in PNG

Policy-makers in Papua New Guinea are drawing up a framework on how the death penalty might work there.

The justice minister, Kerenga Kua, says once the policy is written up, members of government will debate the details.

He says the government will have the final say on which execution method will be used - lethal injection, firing squad, deprivation of oxygen, hanging, or electrocution.

Mr Kua says the government will choose which method is used by what the public wants, resources availiable and the need to use the most humane method that preserves human dignity.

"We will drive a message that this nation is very serious. It is up to its neck, fed up with violent, gruesome crimes already and is prepared to stand up for itself and the majority of the law abiding citizens. I'm definitely certain that a lot of would-be criminals would be deterred by it."

Kerenga Kua says there are 14 prisoners on death row, all of whom have exhausted their avenues of appeal.

(source: Radio New Zealand)

IRAN:

Controversial public executions in Iran draw crowds

The punishment of criminals in Iran is sometimes carried out in public. Ahmed Shaheed, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, has reported several cases of public execution and the humiliation of criminals. According to his March 2013 report on human rights in Iran, Shaheed "joins the [UN] Secretary-General's view that 'executions in public add to the already cruel, inhuman and degrading nature of the death penalty and can only have a dehumanizing effect on the victim and a brutalizing effect on those who witness the execution.'"

However, public executions constitute a small percentage of all executions in Iran, as is the case with criminals being publicly flogged or humiliated. In a recent case, three thieves were given 74 lashes in public. These occurrences have become more common and intensified since the launch of a police operation targeting petty criminals some 8 years ago. In some cases, male criminals were stripped in public and forced to wear women’s clothing or have a toilet ewer hung around their necks.

The police and the Justice Department defend these punishments and have even called them necessary. Lt. Gen. Ahmadi-Moghaddam, the high police commissioner, has frequently defended the police's harsh and humiliating treatment of the street toughs, stating that these criminals' intimidating character and notoriety must be broken in front of the people they terrorize.

Ahmadi-Moghaddam said that by mistreating criminals - including a case of forcing two convicts to wear women's clothing in the city streets - the police were simply enforcing a court-ordered punishment. At the same time, he does not fully approve of these punishments and has encouraged judges to employ more deference when handing out such rulings.

Due to a spike in a return to criminal activity, the police have concluded that the most effective way to break the character and standing of the convicts is in public, thus preventing them from continuing their criminal actions. However, since the public aspect of punishment is considered extra punishment in itself, the carrying out of such measures needs to take place under the supervision of courts. Based on Article 290 of Iran's penal code, the place and manner of carrying out a flogging punishment has to be decided by the court, which then ascertains its compliance with Sharia and principles of public safety.

A judicial official in the province of Tehran told Al-Monitor that convicts with extensive records are punished publicly in their own neighborhoods, so victims can have a chance to bring up charges. Also, in cases where the convict enjoys local notoriety or has committed a crime of public security, he will be punished publicly to deter other local criminals.

Based on a judicial system memorandum, public execution can only take place when it is seen as necessary for the community. Additionally, no one can photograph the event without a permit from the head of the judicial system.

Others believe that public punishments have not only been unsuccessful in bringing a sense of safety to society, but they have even failed as a preventive measure. years ago, a man convicted of raping 30 women - known by the pseudonym the Black Scorpion - was executed publicly. Before his execution, one of his victims told Shargh newspaper: "Once, during the public execution of another rapist, a man was molesting and abusing me! Public execution does not prevent this sort of crime."

Public executions occasionally bring out compassion in the people watching. The unusual reactions of the criminals, showing their lack of remorse, also weaken the effects of the punishment. In one such event, a murderer known by the pseudonym Ahmad Roussi (Russian Ahmad) kissed the penal officer, while another murderer called Kavousi laughed throughout the whole ordeal, waving to the crowd.

Serious criticism of the inhumane and humiliating aspects of these punishments, as well as their total disregard for human rights, has also been raised. 2 months ago, Ahmadi-Moghaddam quoted a speech of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to police, reminding them of the need to be respectful of criminals' rights so as to avoid answering these convicts' complaints on judgment day.

Some religious figures also oppose these punishments. Ayatollah Sanei, a marja, or religious authority, in Qom, was asked a question in this regard. He replied that Sharia stipulates there is no need for public punishment, except in cases of adultery. He also specified that if public punishment violates human rights, bothers the convict's relatives or creates a negative view of Islam, then it is forbidden. He also said that taking children to witness these punishments is a sin and equally forbidden.

Surprisingly, Ayatollah Nouri Hamadani, a pro-government marja in Qom, replied differently. Penalties are better carried out in public, he said, and if it has adverse effects on some, then they should not participate.

In Islam, there is another punishment, tashheer, which is basically public naming. It is designed for cases of bearing false witness, fraud and embezzlement. Tashheer has a practical use: By identifying a criminal, others will be saved from further incidents of fraud.

In the end, public punishment enjoys popularity, and it seems there is little will to change it. Instead, many insist it continue.

(source: Al-Monitor)

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

Iran court overturns former U.S. marine's death sentence

Iran's Supreme Court has overturned the death sentence handed to a former U.S. Marine convicted of espionage, with the penalty being cut to 10 years in jail, media reported Sunday.

Amir Hekmati, a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen, was arrested in August 2011, put on trial and found guilty of spying for the CIA. In January 2012, he was sentenced to death.

His lawyer was quoted on Sunday as saying the sentence had now been overturned.

"The death sentence was overruled in the country's Supreme Court and reduced to a 10-year jail term," attorney Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabie told the Sharq daily newspaper.

Hekmati, born in the United States to Iranian parents, served as a U.S. Marine and as a private contractor who provided translation services. His family insists he was visiting Iran to see relatives.

U.S. lawmakers and his family had appealed to Iran to free him, saying it would serve as a goodwill gesture after Tehran reached an interim deal with the United States and other powers on suspending its nuclear program.

The former Marine's father, Ali Hekmati, who lives in Michigan, has said his son is suffering from a brain tumor.

The U.N. Human Rights Council's Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in December faulted Iran for not charging Hekmati for 6 months after his arrest and for letting his lawyer see him only briefly, without access to the case file.

The panel said Iran's "non-observance of international norms" in the case was "of such gravity as to give the deprivation of liberty of Mr Hekmati an arbitrary character."

U.S. President Barack Obama raised the case of Hekmati and 2 other U.S. citizens in a landmark telephone conversation last September with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Since Iran elected the more moderate Rouhani, the Hekmati family has seen hopeful signs with the ex-Marine's grandmother being allowed to visit him.

(source: Al Arabiya)

APRIL 13, 2014:

TEXAS:

'Spider' response given until June----More delays as long federal appeal continues

20 years will have come and gone by the time the Michael Dean "Spider" Gonzales case is resolved, with a recent extension in federal court to allow document responses by June 9.

Gonzales, who is in the middle of a federal habeas corpus appeal on his 1994 capital murder conviction and subsequent 2009 resentencing to death, is claiming in his appeal that he was not competent to stand trial in 2009; he had ineffective assistance of legal counsel; the trial court violated his due process by not inquiring into his competency; and doubt about his guilt remains due to a number of factors.

Gonzales was convicted in the April 22, 1994, stabbing deaths of Manuel and Merced Aguirre, and Gonzales said in testimony he was going to rob the couple. Autopsy testimony revealed that Merced Aguirre had at least 80 wounds, many of which were defensive, and Manuel Aguirre had at least 5 fatal wounds.

Rick Aguirre, who lives in San Antonio and is one of the slain couple's sons, said he doesn't believe the case will see a resolution until several years down the road.

"I prefer sooner than later, but as long as he's locked up and it goes forward, as long as we end up where it's resolved..." Rick Aguirre said. "I'd prefer it to be sooner, but I'll continue to wait for it to be resolved."

Rick Aguirre is still aware of the anniversaries - the 20th anniversary of his parents' death in less than 2 weeks and the 20th anniversary of Gonzales' trial in December.

He said he keeps up with the case through his family and email updates from the attorney general's office.

On the other side, one of Gonzales' friends said she doesn't feel the wait is fair for Gonzales either.

Adonica Nunez, who said she has known Gonzales her whole life and feels like he is family, said they should already know what will happen to Gonzales.

"I don't think it's fair to either party," Nunez said. "But I don't believe in the death penalty either. You can't kill somebody and say that's justice."

Nunez also said she doesn't believe the allegations against Gonzales are true, but said she hasn't spoken with him since after his resentencing hearing because they had an argument.

Members of the Aguirre family have multiple times said they hope to see an execution date set for Gonzales.

And while the appeal has been going on for almost a year and a half, earning him a stay of execution on his original March 21, 2013, execution date, a law expert said that's not out of the ordinary.

Arnold Loewy, a professor at the Texas Tech School of Law, said death penalty cases in general take longer than others, and it's a good thing to avoid executing innocent people.

Loewy said there have been a number of cases where a person was on death row for close to 20 years and was eventually found to be factually innocent. Loewy, not knowing the specific facts of Gonzales' case, said it's not unusual for this type of appeal to last years.

"I think we have a sense that most people don't really want to rush the procedures," Loewy said.

Ector County District Attorney Bobby Bland said whenever he takes on a capital murder case, he uses the Gonzales case as an example of how long it can take before the case is resolved.

"It's obviously taken way too long. Nobody wanted it to take this long," Bland said. "I always felt like it never should have been reversed in the first place."

Bland said with the death penalty under scrutiny, the outcome can be unpredictable.

"My hope is that it will proceed forward in a more rapid fashion, but at this point, you never know," Bland said.

According to a document explaining the federal habeas corpus appeal created by the Oregon Department of Justice, a person convicted of a crime must raise federal constitutional claims in court to begin the appeal.

The person can only use evidence that has previously been admitted unless an evidentiary hearing for new evidence is held, according to the document.

At the end of the case, according to the document, the federal judge has the option to either uphold the conviction and sentence, order a new trial, modify the sentence, or order other relief as necessary.

Then, either party may appeal the decision made by the judge, according to the document.

In Gonzales' case, both his attorneys and the attorneys for the Texas Attorney General have filed requests to extend deadlines for filing their responses to each other.

While Gonzales' attorneys have claimed he was not competent to stand trial during his resentencing, lawyers with the attorney general's office have said that claim is not reviewable by federal courts, and even it if was, they claim Gonzales was competent and the 358th District Court was not required to hold a competency hearing in this case.

(source: Odessa American)

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

Texas Executions

Tommy Lynn Sells was executed on Thursday, April 3 and Ramiro Hernandez-Llanas was executed on Wednesday, April 9 in Huntsville, Texas. The fact that these 2 executions made national headlines caught my attention. Judge Vanessa Diane Gilmore, a US District Judge for the Southern District of Texas and an appointee of former president Bill Clinton had earlier halted their executions on grounds that not enough details about the drug, pentobarbital, were available to the plaintiffs. In reading one of the legal documents, the 8th Amendment cites 'cruel and unusual punishment'. The condemned prisoner must show 'that the risk is substantial when compared to the known and available alternatives'.

The legal documents state:

The information both inmates seek, as the Sells panel described it, is the source of the pentobarbital, documentation reflecting the purchase of the drug, the timing and means of storage of the drug, the date of manufacture/mixing of the drug, any lot numbers which may exist, the raw ingredients used to make the drug and the source of same, the testing that was conducted on the drug and the results of that testing, and the laboratory and names of its personnel which conducted the testing.

I remember one of my first questions about 'cruel and unusual punishment' what about the victim? Sells was convicted of 13 slayings, including the death of 9-year-old Mary Bea Perez who was celebrating Fiesta in downtown San Antonio with her family in April of 1999. Sells managed to abduct her and days later her decomposed body was found in Alazan Creek. Sells claims he killed 50 or more people and was able to get away with so many murders because he was a 'drifter'. A convicted murderer, Ramiro Hernandez Llanas had escaped from a Mexican prison and found refuge working at a ranch in Kerrville, Texas. He murdered his employer, Glen H. Lich and then proceeded to terrorize and rape Lich's wife repeatedly. It is interesting that their lawyers and Judge Gilmore felt it necessary to grant them some clemency knowing it would fail. The injunction to stop their executions was reversed by the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Texas is known for its death penalty and leads the nation with 514 executions since 1976. To date, in Texas there have been 6 executions in 2014. Contrast this with the number of abortions in Texas during 2011, which was 73,200. These numbers should put the fear of God in all of us. All life is sacred but shouldn't the innocent get a reprieve before the guilty? This court injunction to halt the executions by an activist liberal judge shows how progressives care more about the pain and suffering of an adult convicted serial killer and murderer than the life and pain and suffering of an innocent unborn or the mother.

(source: Sonja Harris, texasgopvote.com)

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New lethal drug supply found for Texas executions

A serial killer was put to death on April 3 in Texas. This followed the U.S. Supreme Court rejecting the lawyers' demand that the source of the lethal injection drug be revealed.

The person put to death was Tommy Lynn Sells, 49. He is the first inmate to be injected with a dose of newly replenished pentobarbital, according to The Guardian. A jury convicted Sells of capital murder in 2000 for the death of Kaylene Harris and slashing of her 10-year-old friend, Krystal Surles, who survived and helped police find Sells.

Prior to the execution the Supreme Court declined a request from Sells' attorneys to delay the killing. The lawyers wanted more information from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice about the supplier of the new drug stock. However, Texas state prison officials argued that the pharmacy must be kept secret to protect it from threats of violence.

The issue of the source of execution drugs is a growing one. Questions arisen in several states in recent months, particularly as numerous pharma companies have refused to sell their products if they will be used in executions. One such company is the Danish pharmaceutical firm Lundbeck.

Pentobarbital (sometimes called pentobarbitone) is a short-acting barbiturate. In high doses, pentobarbital causes death by respiratory arrest.

Faced with a diminishing supply, Texas officials have resorted to using compounding pharmacies. These facilities are not as heavily regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As Digital Journal readers are aware, compounding pharmacies have been under the spotlight in recent years due to a run of contamination issues.

Texas is the U.S.'s busiest state for the death penalty. With a new supply of a killer-drug found, the state is set to continue with its death penalty mandate.

(source: Digital Journal)

NEW HAMPSHIRE:

Reasons HB 1170 is wrong

This week the fate of a death penalty repeal bill will be debated on the floor of the New Hampshire Senate.

While HB 1170 passed the House with room to spare, its fate in the Senate is not so clear. However, the best guess is the vote will be close.

One reason for an expected close vote appears to be a much greater concern House Bill 1170 would spare cop killer Michael Addison the death sentence, which he is currently appealing.

We sometimes wonder if our editorials have an impact. At least in the case of HB 1170, our words help motivate an effort to amend the bill.

In past editorials we have pointed out that to eliminate the death penalty will most likely take Addison off death row.

That concern was brought to the floor of the House by Steve Vaillancourt, R-Manchester, after reading one of our editorials.

We differ on the fate of HB 1170, standing in opposition to repeal. Vaillancourt favors repeal. But he does agree with us that you can't have your cake and eat it to. That to repeal the death penalty going forward while arguing it remain in force for Addison is wrong.

That argument failed to persuade in the House, with the bill passing 225-104.

In the Senate, however, the vote is expected to be much closer and our concerns for equal justice taken more to heart. That means the issue of Addison's fate could make all the difference.

Evidence of this came during the bill's consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee

According to news reports, committee chair Sen. Sharron Carson, R-Londonderry, echoed our concerns - that if the death penalty is repealed Addison may not be executed. His reasons, however, were a bit different.

Under the bill, Addison's death sentence does not change. However, Carson argues if portions of the proposed law dealing with the capital murder procedure and the execution are repealed, it would make a death sentence impossible.

On the other hand, our concern has been that the courts now considering Addison's appeal would be hard pressed to uphold his death sentence if the legislature deems it unjust for all but the killer of Manchester Police Officer Michael Briggs.

But even if the court grants the distinction, we have little doubt a governor somewhere down the road will commute Addison's death sentence - in the name of fairness.

In a court of law, all this would add up to reasonable doubt that New Hampshire should repeal the death penalty.

And we hope the Senate is convinced to allow Addison and future killers to be executed.

As noted in prior editorials, we understand moral objections to the death penalty. And we respect those who argue it is wrong.

What we don't countenance - and neither should the Legislature - is the schizophrenic belief that future murderers should live and Addison should die.

Appearing on WGIR Wednesday, former N.H. Attorney General and now U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte rebutted the argument HB 1170 would not affect Addison's death sentence.

"I think that is absurd. These people who are voting on this need to understand they could effectively be commuting Michael Addison's sentence - or reducing his sentence for having killed Michael Briggs in the line of duty," Ayotte said. "I think that is wrong. I think it is sending the absolute wrong message. That may be a good political explanation, but it is not a good legal explanation."

(source: Opinion, Foster's Daily Democrat)

ALABAMA:

Justification of the death penalty

Re "Execution secrets" (Speak Out, April 4):

I disagree with Speak Out writer Margit Suesser. I believe in the death penalty, if for no other reason than it guarantees this monster will never claim another victim.

I could care less if that person ever gets the right to know what drug will be used to kill him/her. I believe in an eye for an eye.

I find it barbaric that a law lets these monsters live for years before getting what they deserve, if at all. Do you really think these people would live each day in prison thinking about what they did? I hardly think so.

It also saddens me that the people who coddle these monsters rarely think about the victims who had no say whatsoever in the way they died or why.

Think about all of this if one of your loved ones should ever have the misfortune to be a victim to one of them.

Charles Smith----Weaver

(source: Letter to the Editor, Anniston Star)

OHIO:

US the only developed country executing people

It was horrifying to read in The Enquirer a report titled "Death sentences continue in Ohio" (April 6). I note that 12 executions are already scheduled for this year and next.

Since 1999, 54 Ohio individuals, all men, have been executed.

The U.S. is the only developed country still putting people to death. Belgium, for instance, had its last execution in 1863; Switzerland in 1874; Sweden in 1921; Ireland in 1944; West Germany in 1949; and England in 1955.

In the 1960s, a governor of Ohio, Michael DiSalle, wrote a book about his opposition to the death penalty. He felt that the only way to protect citizens was to eradicate the causes of violent crime – in poverty and destitution, racial abuse and mental illness. "I believe human life is a divine gift," DiSalle wrote, "and deliberately to destroy it is as much a crime for the state as for the individual."

To take a man who has done no one any harm, in 15-20 years in prison, walk him down a corridor, strap him to a table and poison him to death - what kind of people would not shrink from so brutal an act by their own government?

Martha Stephens, Paddock Hills

(source: Letter to the Editor, cincinnati.com)

OKLAHOMA:

Oklahoma says it has obtained secret supply of execution drugs

Oklahoma officials on Friday said the state had obtained manufactured pharmaceuticals from a secret supplier for use in the executions of 2 men later this month, avoiding concerns over the use of compounded drugs but leaving unanswered questions about how it obtained them.

In a letter to defence lawyers, an assistant attorney general, John Hadden, said the state "has recently acquired a manufactured source of vecuronium bromide. That means there will be no compounded drugs used in the executions of your clients. This will resolve the concerns you and your clients have expressed regarding compounded drugs."

Despite a judge's ruling that a state drug secrecy law violated the inmates' constitutional rights, Hadden declined to identify the supplier of the new drugs.

"This information is irrelevant to your clients and disclosure could lead to harassment or intimidation which will have a chilling effect on the state's ability to acquire these drugs for future executions," Hadden wrote.

Oklahoma plans to execute Clayton Lockett on 22 April and Charles Warner on 29 April. Both were convicted of murder and rape.

The state said on Friday it would use midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride to kill the men, with dosages untried in US executions. Florida uses the same combination of drugs, but employs a dosage of midazolam, which acts as a sedative, that is 5 times larger than what Oklahoma plans to use. Vecuronium bromide is a paralytic agent; potassium chloride stops the heart.

Oklahoma had planned to use a different drug - compounded pancuronium bromide - as the 2nd drug in the method, but lawyers objected to the use of loosely regulated compounded drugs that may lack purity and cause an unconstitutionally cruel death.

Hadden said the state will now use drugs that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Madeline Cohen, a lawyer for one of the men due to be executed, said the state needs to reveal details beyond that the pharmaceuticals were manufactured rather than compounded.

"If they disclosed that the drugs were manufactured by a specific company, in a particular lot, and imported with this licence, for example, we would have some ability to evaluate that," she said.

"Without that, we don't know if it's actually an FDA-approved drug or if it has been imported or sold legally, or if it is what the state says it is."

She said there is no FDA-approved midazolam that comes in the concentration specified in Oklahoma's lethal injection protocol, and the state has not said if it will dilute the drug to make the concentration.

The state could change the concentrations in the protocol, if any numbers were incorrectly written, Hadden said in his letter.

(source: The Guardian)

COLORADO:

No reason to relocate Aurora theater shooting trial

The responsibilities of jurors in a death penalty case are extraordinary and abundantly clear.

They know they hold a defendant's life in their hands. And they very well might see bereft victims' families in the courtroom every day.

In combination with rigorous pre-trial screening for potential biases, there is every reason to believe jurors will take their mission very seriously and decide a case fairly - even for accused mass killer James Holmes and even in Arapahoe County.

Our strong belief in the integrity of jurors and the effectiveness of the voir dire process undergirds our opposition to Holmes' demand last week that his murder trial be moved to another venue.

District Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. should deny that request.

In a motion filed with the court, the defense claims the media coverage on the case has been unrelenting. The 39-page pleading is filled with one reference after another to the many news articles and television pieces that have been done on the case.

Well, when 12 people are shot dead in a movie theater and dozens more injured by a gunman with hair dyed red to imitate a movie character, yes, there's going to be news coverage of that event. A lot of it.

It was a tragedy in the community that reverberates to this day.

The depth of the anguish caused by the July 2012 shootings is another reason Holmes argues the trial should not be held locally.

"The impacts of this case on the community are sufficiently complex and deep-seated that they cannot be cured, even by individual voir dire," the defense contends.

History doesn't bear out such a claim.

There are many examples of high-interest cases that have been successfully tried in the communities where the crime occurred.

No one can credibly argue, for example, that George Zimmerman's rights were infringed on when he was tried in Sanford, Fla., for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman was found not guilty in the case despite highly unflattering, intense coverage.

As with the Zimmerman case, there's no place to which the Holmes case could even be transferred where it hasn't been highly publicized.

The answer is not one that involves relocation. Rather, it's one that centers on the integrity of the process and belief in the people who solemnly swear to uphold it.

(source: Editorial, Denver Post)

ARIZONA:

Maricopa County prosecutors seek death penalty against man accused of fatally stabbing boy

Maricopa County prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against a man charged with fatally stabbing his 12-year-old half-brother.

Prosecutors say 27-year-old Andrew Ward should face the death penalty in the March 12 killing of Austin Tapia because Ward killed a child in an especially cruel manner.

Investigators say Ward explained his motive by saying, "Honestly, I just felt like killing."

Ward has pleaded not guilty to a murder charge in Tapia's death.

While in jail, Ward was booked on suspicion of 1st-degree murder in the April 2 death of his cellmate at the Lower Buckeye Jail.

Investigators say Ward used a golf pencil to stab 33-year-old Douglas Walker in the eyes, beat him and forced a plastic bag and peanut butter sandwich down Walker's throat.

(source: Associated Press)

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Hypocrisy in how we handle death penalty

I was fascinated by the long article in The Republic on March 27 describing the great difficulty the Arizona Department of Corrections is having in finding just the right "cocktail" for them to put people to death.

Doesn't anyone see the hypocrisy in the fact that the majority in Arizona are Christians who believe in the Ten Commandments, one of which is "Thou shalt not kill," and we continue to work so hard to find just the right way to do it?

And that when a person on death row wants to commit suicide we go to great lengths to keep him from doing it so we can do it later?

It is curious to me that in Arizona we struggle to continue a practice that many other states have outlawed.

Marge Thornton, Tempe

(source: Letter to the Editor, Arizona Republic)

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Jodi Arias Retrial Set for September; Arizona Capital Murder Trials Have 3 Parts

The Jodi Arias retrial has been pushed back from March 17 because Juan Martinez, the prosecutor in the Arias case, is prosecuting in another trial that conflicts with Arias' trial. According to the Arizona Republic, Juan Martinez is scheduled to begin the trial on May 12.

Capital-murder trials in Arizona have three parts. First, a jury determines whether the person is guilty of 1st-degree murder. Then, jurors determine whether there are any aggravating factors. Jodi Arias was found guilty on May 8, 2013. The jury found that the murder was committed in an especially cruel fashion one week later. The 33-year-old Arias was convicted of killing her boyfriend at his suburban Phoenix home in 2008. Jodi Arias said she did it in self-defense. She claimed Travis Alexander had a violent outburst while they were shooting a nude video and she dropped his camera. The jury found her guilty but couldn't decide whether to sentence her to life in prison or give her the death penalty but the jury couldn't reach a verdict on her sentence.

Under Arizona law, Jodi Arias' murder conviction stands, but prosecutors can pursue a death sentence in the penalty phase with a new jury. If the 2nd jury fails to reach a verdict, the death penalty would be removed as an option. Judge Stephens would then sentence Jodi Arias to either spend her entire life behind bars or be eligible for release after 25 years.

The Jodi Arias retrial is being delayed because Juan Martinez, the prosecutor in the Arias case, will be busy with another trial that conflicts with Jodi Arias' retrial. The trial is the oldest capital murder case in Maricopa County and may also be a death penalty trial. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Joseph Welty ruled the trial of Bryan Hulsey, who was accused of killing a police officer in the Phoenix area in 2007 will go 1st. The Bryan Hulsey trial is scheduled to begin May 12.

Judge Sherry Stephens denied 2 motions by Jodi Arias to fire her lead attorney, Kirk Nurmi.

Jodi Arias delivered a 12 page handwritten letter saying that she no longer trusts her lawyer Kirk Nurmi. Arias says that she hasn't seen the Nurmi since the end of the 1st phase of the trial on May 23. Jodi Arias' complaint says he "does not listen or respond to my concerns."

In the motion, Jodi Arias wrote "Mr. Nurmi, however, in his utter poverty of people skills, simply said to me with contempt, 'You're not going to get your way just because you throw a tantrum.' Judge, this was no tantrum. Far from it. This was a full-blown emotional meltdown. I wasn't throwing a fit, I was falling apart. Having known me for 3.5 years at that point, Kirk Nurmi should have easily discerned this, but his failure to do so shows he lacks the capacity for empathy and chooses anger over attempting to understand any impairment his client may be experiencing in direct relation to the case and court proceedings."

Cassandra Collins's, Jodi Arias' cellmate claimed that the convicted murderer said she wanted to give the prosecutor a "Mafia Bowtie," slang for cutting his throat. Jodi Arias was convicted of cutting the throat of Travis Alexander. Jodi Arias says her former cellmate's claims are lies.

Because of the excessive publicity, Jodi Arias attorneys have already filed motions requesting that the sentencing phase of the trial be moved out of the Phoenix area. Jodi Arias' lawyers filed a motion for a change of venue after finding that 70 % of the media coverage in the state started in Maricopa County. Lawyers also want Jodi Arias trial live stream television coverage prohibited for the retrial.

(source: kpopstarz)

SOUTH AFRICA:

NFP calls for referendum on death penalty

The death penalty was abolished in the early 90's in South-Africa.

With an increase in violent crime, rape and farm murders groups from various sectors of society has called for its reinstatement.

Recently the National Freedom Party (NFP) Women's Movement joined these groups in a call for the return hangman and his gallows.

The standard method for carrying out executions was hanging, sometimes of several convicts at the same time.

The number of executions steadily rose during the 1st half of the 20th century, the only country in the world to see a clear and unbroken development in such a direction.

Mandatory death penalty for murder was abolished in 1935. at the same time, criminal justice saw an increased racialisation in disfavour of the non-white majority, who was represented in the vast majority of culprits in capital cases.

Hanging was maintained following the instatement of a Republic in 1961. The last execution carried out by the South-African government was the hanging of Solomon Ngobeni in November 1989. The last woman executed was Sandra Smith on 2 June the same year along with her boyfriend Yassiem Harris, in all cases following a murder conviction.

(source: The New Age)

IRAN----executions

2 prisoners hanged in Bandar Abbas Prison

Early morning on Sunday, the Iranian regime hangmen in Bandar Abbas Prison in Iran hanged 2 men, a state-run news agency reported.

The 2 men were identified by their initials as A.M. and M.A., according to the report by Tasnimnews affiliated to the terrorist Quds Force of the Iranian regime.

The report said "Qisas (law of retribution) was carried out for the 2 prisners in Bandar Abbas Prison".

The rate of hangings has increased sharply over last year, since Hassan Rouhani, the regime's new president has taken office.

In a report to the U.N. Human Rights Council, the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said between 500 and 625 people were executed last year, including 57 in public. More than 40 people were executed during the first half of January 2014, he said.

"The new government has not changed its approach regarding the application of the death penalty and seems to have followed the practice of previous administrations, which relied heavily on the death penalty to combat crime," Ban said.

(source: NCR-Iran)

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URGENT: Iranian Woman Reyhaneh Jabbari (26) at Imminent Danger of Execution----The 26 year old Iranian woman Reyhaneh Jabbari might be executed in less than 48 hours. Reyhaneh is sentenced to death for the alleged murder of a former ministry of intelligence officer whom she stubbed in self defense 7 years ago. Iran Human Rights urges all countries with diplomatic relations with Iran to use all their channels to stop the execution.

Unofficial reports from Iran indicate that the death sentence of the 26 year old Iranian woman Reyhaneh Jabbari can be carried out on Tuesday April 15.

Reyhaneh Jabbari, aged 26, was arrested in 2007 for the murder of Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, a former employee of Iran's Ministry of Intelligence. Following her arrest, Reyhaneh Jabbari was held in solitary confinement for two months in Tehran's Evin Prison, where she did not have access to a lawyer or her family. Reyhaneh confessed that to the murder immediately after her arrest, though she did not have a lawyer present at the time she made her confession. She stated that the murder took place in self-defence.

Reyhaneh Jabbari was sentenced to death under qesas ("retribution-in-kind") by a criminal court in Tehran in 2009. The death sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court the same year. Her family was told in March 2014 that the sentence had gone for implementation and unofficial reports indicate that she might be executed on Tuesday.

IHR urges the international community to act immediately in order to stop the execution of Reyhaneh. Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson of IHR, said: "International reactions may be the only possibility to save Reyhaneh. We ask all the countries with diplomatic relations with Iran to use all their channels to stop Reyhaneh's planned execution".

According to IHR's annual report on the death penalty at least 687 people were executed in 2013, the highest number in more than 15 years in Iran. So far in 2014 at least 170 people have been executed, 96 being announced by the official reports.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

APRIL 12, 2014:

TEXAS----impending execution

The Cost in Time and Money of the Death Penalty

Time is running out for convicted killer Jose Villegas, who was convicted of fatally stabbing his ex-girlfriend, her mom and her 3-year old son in 2001.

Villegas is out of appeals, and after 14 years on death row, is set to be executed next Wednesday.

The appellate process is long and arduous for all death penalty cases, and it's also an expensive undertaking. From trial to execution, studies show it costs taxpayers on average more than $1.5 million.

As of this week, Villegas' request to withdraw his pending execution has been in the judicial process for 14 years. He is 1 of 5 Nueces County defendants sentenced to death.

"I'm ready. Ain't no point in staying in here any longer," convicted murderer Daniel Lopez said. "I'm in a, in a box. So I'm ready, right."

Lopez was convicted in 2010 of capital murder in the death of Corpus Christi Police Lt. Stuart Alexander. He has made it clear that he wants to be put to death, but the appeals process for him continues.

"Let me have my final say," convicted murderer John Henry Ramirez said. "Let me say my peace, you know. Before you kill me, know what I mean?"

Ramirez was convicted of capital murder in 2008 for the 2004 stabbing of Times Market clerk Pablo Castro. His appeal is also in the works.

As is the case for 33-year old Richard Vasquez, who was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death for the 1998 beating death of 4-year old Miranda Salazar, his girlfriend's daughter.

"I want to end these proceedings and let the sentence be carried out," convicted murderer Larry Hatten said.

On Thursday, Hatten, who 22 years ago was sentenced to death for fatally shooting a 5-year old boy, asked to be executed.

The cost of justice is expensive.

"Well, the point is, we don't want to execute someone who hasn't had every opportunity possible," Appellate Prosecutor Doug Norman said.

Norman said it is the cost that ensures the integrity of the criminal justice system. Even if an inmate waves all appeals, Norman said that person's mental competency is called into question.

"You know, the courts really want to make sure that that's his will, that he understands and he's able to understand," Norman said. "He's mentally able to understand the consequences of the decision he's making."

Death penalty opponents said the cost of the death penalty is so expensive, close to $1.5 million, while life without parole will cost taxpayers $1 million to house a prisoner for 50 years.

(source: KIII news)

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Skinner transcripts received by attorneys----Defense attorneys requesting extension to 21-day deadline.

Attorneys with the state Attorney General's Office and convicted murderer Hank Skinner's defense team say they have received copies of the court transcripts from Skinner's evidentiary hearing in Gray County on Feb. 3 and 4.

Receipt of the transcripts triggers a 21-day period for attorneys to file their findings from the witness testimony back to the 31st District Court.

Lauren Been, a spokeswoman for the AG's Office, said both sides are required to respond.

Skinner, who is on death row for the brutal murders of Pampa resident Twila Busby and her 2 adult sons on New Year's Day 1993, is being represented by attorneys Douglas Robinson and Robert Owen. If District Judge Steven Emmert rules favorably for Skinner, his attorneys could seek an appeal.

Emmert does not have a deadline to file his decision, but his bailiff, Wayne Carter, said the judge wants to move along quickly with the case.

A spokeswoman from Robinson and Owen's office in Washington D.C. said Thursday they are waiting for a few exhibits from the court and are requesting the court to extend the filing deadline to May 30.

Skinner was not at the hearing in which both sides presented evidence from a series of recent DNA tests.

Skinner's original attorney, Harold Comer of Pampa, did not seek DNA testing at the time of his original trial, partly out of his concern that the results would have implicated his client.

According to Skinner's attorneys, new DNA test results support the inference that Busby's uncle, Robert Donnell, who made sexual advances to Busby on the night of the killings, committed the crimes and not Skinner.

The AG's office maintains that DNA and crime scene evidence overwhelmingly point to Skinner as the killer.

(source: The Pampa News)

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Struggles continue in Petetan jury selection

It has taken attorneys in the capital murder trial of Carnell Petetan 6 weeks to select 12 jurors, but the trial can't start until 2 alternate jurors are selected.

Jury selection in Petetan's case has taken about twice as long as in most death penalty cases, with attorneys questioning or considering 316 potential jurors to seat 12.

By contrast, in the past 2 capital murder cases in which McLennan County prosecutors sought the death penalty, attorneys went through 185 prospective jurors or fewer and jury selection took about 3 weeks.

The 12th juror might not have made the panel if defense attorneys Russ Hunt Sr., Walter M. Reaves Jr. and Michelle Tuegel had not run out of their allotted 15 strikes and Judge Ralph Strother, frustrated by the amount of time it has taken, denied their request for more strikes.

Strother told the defense team Thursday they chose to strike "several eminently qualified jurors" and now they would have to live with those choices.

Juror 12 is a 44-year-old fireman and a former prison guard.

Petetan, 36, of Port Arthur, is on trial in the 2012 shooting death of his estranged wife, Kimberly Farr Petetan, at her Lake Shore Drive apartment in Waco.

Officials have said Petetan shot Kimberly Petetan in front of her 9-year-old daughter and then kidnapped the girl. He was arrested later that night in Bryan.

Petetan, who was released from prison five months before the alleged killing, served 20 years for attempted murder. He claims to suffer from an intellectual disability that his attorneys say makes him ineligible for the death penalty.

Court officials say the delay in jury selection has been caused by potential jurors who have expressed extreme views on both sides of the capital punishment issue. There are some who don't think the death penalty should ever be used and those who think it should be used more often.

In either event, attorneys are using strikes to dismiss those who they think have views unfavorable to their side of the case.

McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna and his top assistants, Greg Davis and Michael Jarrett, have used 6 of their allotted 15 strikes.

On Friday, the defense used its one and only remaining strike to dismiss a prospective alternate juror.

Strother has said if 2 alternates can be selected on Monday, testimony will begin Tuesday morning. If the panel is not completed on Monday, testimony will begin the next day after the alternates are seated, Strother said.

Court officials expect the trial to last at least 2 weeks.

The rest of the jury panel includes a 62-year-old retired man, a 62-year-old businessman, a 61-year-old female homemaker, a 26-year-old female nurse, a 41-year-old female teacher, a 69-year-old retired minister, a 26-year-old male engineer, a 44-year-old male heavy equipment operator, a 40-year-old male college administrator, a 50-year-old female real estate agent, and a 46-year-old female mortgage officer.

(source: Waco Tribune)

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USA Violates International Law; Executes Mexican Citizen

The United States has once again violated international law, with its execution of Mexican citizen Ramiro Hernandez, who was denied the consular attention included in a Vienna convention, the United Nations charged today.

"Mr. Hernandez did not have consular access, established in Article 36 of the Vienna Convention for Consular Affairs," OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville told the press.

Colville recalled that in 2004 at the U.N. headquarters in Geneva, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a resolution noting that the United States should review and reconsider the cases of 51 Mexicans sentenced to death, including the case of Hernandez, since they had not received the required assistance.

"Under international law, the violation of the right to consular notification affects due process, so, we are witnessing a new case of arbitrary deprivation of life by a signing country, since 1992, of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights", Colville highlighted.

The spokesperson said Wednesday's execution, which took place in Texas was regrettable.

This is the 16th time the United States has applied the death penalty this year; the 6th in Texas. The U.N. opposes this punishment under any circumstance, but even more so in the recent case due to the aforementioned violations, Colville stressed.

(source: plenglish.com)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Attorneys for Craigslist killing suspect say knife was improperly seized

Attorneys for Miranda K. Barbour claim the knife investigators say was used in November's Craigslist-related killing was confiscated improperly.

A suppression motion filed Thursday in Northumberland County court is based on a technicality. The search warrant affidavit listed a Market Street address in Selinsgrove but the knife was confiscated Dec. 9 in a Water Street house with the same number.

Barbour, 19, is accused of using the knife to repeatedly stab Troy LaFerrara in her car in Sunbury on Nov. 11 while her husband Elytte, 22, allegedly restrained him from the backseat with a piece of television cable around his neck.

The Barbours are jailed without bail awaiting trial on criminal homicide, robbery and other charges. They were living in Selinsgrove after they moved from North Carolina where they were married.

District Attorney Anthony J. Rossini Friday expressed confidence the knife will be allowed into evidence because he said there is sufficient evidence to support a search without a warrant.

The owner of the Water Street home gave permission to search, the knife was not in an area where the Barbours were permitted to be and therefore they had no expectation of privacy, he said.

"In this case, given the area where the knife was hidden, we believe the owners' consent was sufficient to sustain the search," he said.

Miranda Barbour is accused of arranging through Craigslist a meeting with LaFerrara, 42, of Port Trevorton, in a parking lot along Routes 11-15 north of Selinsgrove. She drove him to Sunbury while her husband was hiding on the floor of the backseat under a blanket, the charges allege.

LaFerrara was stabbed repeatedly and his body was found in alley behind Catawissa Avenue. Rosini has filed notice he intends to seek the death penalty if the couple is found guilty of 1st-degree murder.

(source: PennLive)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Racial Justice Act rulings could provide road map for other cases

The fate of dozens of death row inmates hoping to have their sentences commuted to life in prison could be decided by a pair of cases scheduled to be heard by the state Supreme Court on Monday morning.

At issue is if and when capital defendants can make use the Racial Justice Act and which version of the now-repealed law applies to their cases. The act allowed defendants to use statistics, among other evidence, to show that race-based decisions played a role in the choices made by prosecutors or other court officials.

Despite its 2013 repeal by the General Assembly, the Racial Justice Act remains part of a thicket of legal questions that continue to impose what amounts to a de facto moratorium on the death penalty in North Carolina. More than 150 defendants have filed motions for relief under the act, and the 2 cases on Monday's docket give the seven Supreme Court justices their first chance to pick through a number of issues related to the act.

"Even if all four of these defendants win, it doesn't mean everyone else is going to win," said Ken Rose, senior staff attorney with Durham-based Center for Death Penalty Litigation.

Cases involving Racial Justice Act claims are complicated by the fact that, after a legislature controlled by Democrats passed the original measure in 2009, a Republican-lead General Assembly revised the measure in 2012 before eliminating it entirely last year.

Opponents of the act in both of its forms focus their ire on its use of statistical evidence. But Rose said those statistical findings have helped defense lawyers find specific instances of race-based decision-making by prosecutors that would have otherwise remained hidden.

"Almost all the judges handling these cases have looked at it and said that the state Supreme Court is going to have to give us guidance on this," Rose said.

Lawyers and advocates on both sides of the larger death penalty debate agree that decisions in the cases scheduled for oral arguments Monday could answer questions with which Superior Court judges hearing Racial Justice Act claims are struggling.

"It is my understanding that these two cases, if they are upheld, will certainly provide a road map for future RJA hearings," said Peg Dorer, the executive director of the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys. "If they are overturned, then I think that could end the RJA entirely."

However, those familiar with the cases to be heard Monday say there are enough issues at play that the court could ignore the broader questions surrounding the Racial Justice Act and craft rulings that fit only the four murder convictions at hand. No matter the outcome, experts on both sides of the issue say there are still plenty of thorny issues the courts have to sort through before carrying out another death sentence.

Death penalty still on hold

North Carolina has not executed a prisoner on its death row since Aug. 18, 2006, when Samuel R. Flippen was put to death by lethal injection for the beating death of his 2-year-old stepdaughter.

Since then, an evolving tangle of state and federal court cases have blocked the state from proceeding with any new executions. Currently, there are 153 inmates on North Carolina's death row, including 2 women.

Aside from the Racial Justice Act cases, the state cases providing the biggest roadblock to executions involve challenges brought in 2007 by prisoners contesting the methods and procedures governing how condemned prisoners are put to death. Those individual challenges were consolidated into a single case.

The prisoners claimed the state had not gone through the proper process to write its death penalty rules and that the actual lethal-injection procedure violated state and federal constitutional prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment. In particular, the defendants claimed that the combination of drugs used could render them immobile but still able to feel pain as the lethal drugs were administered.

That case reached the state Court of Appeals, but before appellate judges could make a decision, the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 306 in last summer. The same measure that wiped the Racial Justice Act off the books also set down new death penalty procedures and gave the state Secretary of Public Safety the ability to issue new execution protocols.

Secretary Frank Perry signed a new 1-drug protocol in October.

Writing for the appeals court, Judge Robert C. Hunter said the case had to go back to the trial court because the facts had changed.

Among the issues the prisoners will press at that new trial will be whether Perry can actually issue new rules on his own or whether the state should go through the formal rule-making process that governs everything from environmental regulations to historical designations.

"Much more mundane, pedestrian things in state government get much more consideration and process," said David Weiss, an attorney who has been in private practice but will be returning to work for the Center for Death Penalty Litigation this month. "This is so serious and so complicated, it seems like, at a minimum, there ought to be some sort of public process."

Weiss would not guess how long it would take to re-hear the case in the lower courts. However, given that it took years for the original cases to reach the Court of Appeals, it is unlikely a final decision will be forthcoming quickly.

Once issues related to the method of execution are settled, there are sure to be other legal challenges. Rose pointed to a number of death penalty cases in which evidence analyzed by the crime lab could be called into question after high-profile problems identified with the lab. Also, there are at least three federal cases that are on hold waiting for the outcome of state cases.

Perhaps most telling about the length of time it would take to clear the remaining legal hurdles: The Department of Public Safety has not yet obtained pentobarbital, the drug called for in the new execution protocol.

2 cases, 4 inmates, many questions

The 1st of the 2 cases the Supreme Court will consider Monday involves Marcus Robinson, who was convicted for the 1991 shooting death of a 17-year-old, Erik Tornblom. Robinson was the first inmate whose sentence was commuted to life without parole under the Racial Justice Act.

Although the exact number has changed, prosecutors who appealed the Robinson decision said no fewer than 152 motions under the act were filed prior to 2013.

Cumberland County District Attorney Billy West and lawyers with the Attorney General's Office declined to speak about pending litigation. But in their briefs to the state Supreme Court, they argued that Superior Court Judge Greg Weeks had made critical mistakes in applying the RJA to Robinson's case.

State prosecutors argued that, under Weeks' ruling, "A defendant convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death can obtain relief in post-conviction review under the RJA even if the capital defendant has never experienced any racial discrimination in his own case at any stage of the criminal process. This is an absurd result and cannot be a correct interpretation of the RJA."

In their briefs, lawyers for Robinson said the RJA didn't require them to show specific instances of racism in Robinson's case, but they were able to cite "over a hundred evidentiary examples" from cases throughout North Carolina.

His lawyers also argued that the RJA process allowed them to find specific examples of discrimination in Robinson's case.

"Prosecutors intentionally used the race of (potential jurors) as a significant factor in decisions to exercise peremptory strikes in capital cases in North Carolina," Weeks wrote in his ruling.

The 2nd case has three defendants - Quintel Augustine, Tilmon Golphin, and Christina Walters - but will involve many of the same issues. However, the timing of that case complicates it.

Justices will have to decide whether the original Racial Justice Act applies to the inmates or whether a redrafted RJA passed in 2012 that limited the use of statistical evidence should apply.

In the 2012 version of the law, the General Assembly limited the use of statistics in RJA cases. The original bill allowed the courts to rely on statewide data. The revised bill required that there be statistical findings with regard to the specific county or prosecutorial district in which a case was heard.

The 3 defendants in the Golphin case argue they should win because both state and county statistics bear out their claims and because they were able to use the RJA hearing to find evidence of specific race-based decisions by prosecutors in their own cases.

"The court found that the prosecutor recorded negative comments about black potential jurors, repeatedly explicitly referred to the race of jurors and disparaged black potential jurors on the basis of group characteristics," lawyers for the trio wrote.

Given those specific instances, it is possible that the Supreme Court could rule about the specific circumstances in the two cases and leave broader RJA questions aside. Perhaps the most pressing is which version of the RJA, if any, applies to a case - even for defendants who have yet to be charged or tried.

"If their crime occurred before the repeal, that can't be taken away," Rose said. He and other lawyers say the state can't retroactively change laws about crime and punishment.

But Phil Berger Jr., Rockingham County's district attorney and president of the state Conference of District Attorneys, said prosecutors disagreed.

"It was a statutorily created right," Berger said of the RJA. The legislature, he said, should be able to take it away.

Like many prosecutors and victims' families, Berger describes the RJA as an attempt to derail the death penalty entirely.

"Justice was done by the prosecution, by the judge and by the jury, and these defendants were appropriately sentenced for their heinous crimes," he said.

If there were instances of discrimination, Berger said, the defendants "ought to be able to go through the normal appeals process."

However, Berger did agree with others familiar with the RJA that the court's decisions in Monday's cases will affect other RJA cases in his district and across the state.

"These are essentially test cases to see how the act will be applied going forward," he said.

(source: WRAL news)

GEORGIA:

DA seeks tougher penalty in stabbing----Dacula man charged with 2013 slaying of Gainesville woman

The Gwinnett County District Attorney's office has given notice of intent to increase the punishment in the slaying of a Gainesville woman.

Peggie Robinson, 61, was stabbed to death in Dacula by 35-year-old Wolf Griffin, according to investigators with the Gwinnett County Police Department.

Police said they believe she was facilitating the custody exchange of a child between Griffin, the 6-year-old boy's father, and her son's ex-girlfriend, when she encountered Griffin on the afternoon of Dec. 28 at 2995 Evergreen Eve Crossing, Griffin's residence in Dacula.

Robinson had been acting an intermediary between Griffin and the 6-year-old boy's mother. The 2 were involved in a prolonged dispute over the child's custody. And according to her obituary, Robinson had devoted a significant amount of time and energy to helping raise the child, named Paul.

"In her role as Nana Peggie, she found joy and happiness," her obituary states. "In the end, she gave her life for this child. She believed that children deserve to have adults in their lives that care about them unconditionally. Her life is testimony to that belief."

Robinson was also described as an avid lover of animals. She served on the board of the Humane Society and could frequently be found at PetSmart working in the adoption center, her obituary states. A North Georgia College graduate, she worked in the insurance industry and later became a financial adviser in partnership with her father at Merrill Lynch in Gainesville.

Griffin was arrested at the scene. He was indicted on 2 counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault on Feb. 19.

The maximum penalty for murder with aggravating circumstances is the death penalty. Intent to seek the death penalty is usually filed as a separate motion.

The minimum sentence for murder would be life with parole. The minimum sentence for aggravated assault is 1 year.

Police said Griffin admitted to killing Robinson. His defense attorney, Lewis Lawrence, filed a motion in February challenging whether the statements by his client were made voluntarily. The judge ordered Griffin to be mentally evaluated in March.

Notice was filed April 3 by the district attorney's office, citing Georgia code, that "any criminal conduct or conviction described in the police report, or any discovery materials, would be used by the state in aggravation of punishment." Assistant District Attorney Robbie King also filed notice the prosecution would attempt to impeach Griffin's testimony if he testified, based on his prior criminal convictions.

Griffin is being held in the Gwinnett County Jail.

(source: Gainesville Times)

FLORIDA:

New Smyrna Beach drug dealer on trial, accused of killing informant

A New Smyrna Beach drug dealer was so determined not to go back to prison that he was willing to kill and that, prosecutors said at his trial Friday, is what James Desmond Booth did.

Prosecutors say Booth ambushed and gunned down a police informant who would have testified against him.

The 30-year-old Booth could face the death penalty if convicted of 1st-degree murder in the Jan. 25, 2011, killing of Debra Gibson, 46, an Edgewater woman who was a confidential informant, or "CI," for police. Booth is also charged with witness tampering in the trial before Circuit Judge Randell H. Rowe III in the Volusia County Courthouse in DeLand.

Booth had sold drugs to Gibson in August 2010, and he was arrested for that sale in December 2010, Assistant State Attorney Ed Davis, who is prosecuting the case along with J. Ryan Will, told the panel of 12 jurors plus three alternates.

"After his arrest when he found out that Debra Gibson had been working for the police as a CI he decided to kill her, because in his words he was not going back to prison," Davis said.

As Davis spoke about the killing he motioned with his right hand at Booth. Booth, dressed in a cream-colored suit and blue shirt and tie, stared down at his table, apparently reading something.

Booth's defense attorney J. Peyton Quarles said in his opening statement that there were plenty of people in the illegal drug community that would have had an interest in getting rid of Gibson. Quarles said during his opening statement that another woman said there was a man in the house known by his nickname "G" just before Gibson was shot.

Quarles also said that Booth did not know that Gibson was the confidential informant.

Prosecutor Davis said Booth had Jessica Hickson, a New Smyrna Beach prostitute nicknamed "Dirty Foot" who was also one of his drug customers, lure Gibson to Hickson's house on Oak Street. It was Hickson who initially told police about a man named "G" but she later changed her story.

Prosecutors say the setup worked this way: Gibson had wanted to trade some pills for crack cocaine and Hickson said she could arrange that.

Hickson called Booth to tell him they were headed to her house on Oak Street near New Smyrna Beach. Booth then told his girlfriend Magean Elizabeth Ward, 31, of New Smyrna Beach to park her car in the area of the house. Booth dressed himself in all black and grabbed a long-barreled .38-caliber revolver.

Hickson thought Booth was going to rough up Gibson, Davis said. But when they arrived Booth wasn't there. Hickson started calling Booth telling him Gibson was at the house and asked where he was. Gibson grew worried and decided to leave.

When Gibson walked out of the house, Davis said, Booth jumped out from some bushes and shot her 4 times: once in the back of the head, once in the back of the neck, a grazing shot to an arm, and once in the face.

Booth then ran to Ward's car and told her to drive. The two headed to a spot along the canal in New Smyrna Beach where Booth heaved the revolver into the water, near a spot with a coquina wall, Davis said.

Next they went to a Dumpster where Booth stripped to his underwear and threw away his clothes. Then he told Ward he needed to go get some clothes and then he wanted to go someplace where they would be seen, Davis said. They headed to the Surf Lounge.

But eventually Ward and Hickson both talked to police about what happened. Ward led police to where Booth tossed the gun in the water and divers found the rusting revolver with 6 empty shell casings in the cylinder, prosecutors said.

Hickson, 33, was charged with witness tampering. Ward has been charged with accessory after the fact to a capital felony.

Prosecutor Will called Hickson to the stand late Friday. He asked her who killed Gibson.

"Mr. Booth," Hickson said.

Hickson admitted initially lying to police and telling them that someone named "G" was responsible. Will asked her why she lied.

"I just had seen what happened to someone who talks to the police," Hickson said.

(source: New Journal)

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Barahona Seeks To Have Attempted Murder Trial Moved To Miami

The Miami man accused of killing his 10-year-old adoptive daughter and nearly killing her twin brother wants his attempted murder trial moved out of Palm Beach County.

According to the Palm Beach Post, attorneys for Jorge Barahona asked Circuit Judge Sandra McSorely on Tuesday to move the case to Miami.

The Palm Beach trial is scheduled to start in May for the attempted murder of Victor Barahona in February 2011.

Barahona, along with his wife Carmen, already faces a potential death penalty for the murder of Victor's twin sister, Nubia.

The grisly case began on Valentine's Day 2011 when Nubia Barahona's decomposing body was found in her father's pesticide truck alongside I-95 in Palm Beach County. Her brother was alive but he had been doused with chemicals. He was found in the front seat, suffering from severe chemical burns.

The judge has not ruled on the request to move the trial.

Nubia and Victor were adopted by the Barahonas in 2009 after living in their home since 2004. The kids, authorities discovered, had endured starvation, beatings, medical neglect and they had been tied and forced to stay in a bathtub.

The Department of Children and Families came under fire during the course of the police investigation into Nubia's death for failing to piece together warning signs from medical professionals and school officials that something was wrong in the Barahona home. A Blue Ribbon task force was charged with looking into DCF's handling of the case. he agency blamed it on a system wide failure, including poor judgment by child protective investigators, overwhelming caseloads and missed opportunities at every turn.

(source: CBS News)

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

Gonzalez death sentence upheld in Billings murders

The Florida Supreme Court unanimously upheld the conviction and death sentence for the man authorities said masterminded the robbery and killings of Byrd and Melanie Billings nearly 5 years ago.

Leonard Patrick Gonzalez Jr., 40, was convicted in 2010 of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder and 1 count of home invasion robbery with a firearm.

Gonzalez led a group of men who forced their way into the Billings home in Beulah in July 2009 and gunned down the couple during an attempted robbery. The Billingses had 17 children, 13 of them adopted. 9 of the children were home at the time of the killing.

On Feb. 17, 2011, Circuit Judge Nicholas Geeker followed a jury recommendation and sentenced Gonzalez to death.

In imposing the death sentence, Geeker found as aggravating factors that Gonzalez had a conviction for a prior violent felony, that the murder was committed during the course of a robbery, and his crimes were heinous, atrocious and cruel.

In upholding the conviction, the state Supreme Court found that the convictions were supported by competent, substantial evidence, according to the State Attorney’s Office.

"We're very pleased with the decision and the court's opinion on the sentence and use of the death penalty," said Assistant State Attorney John Molchan, who prosecuted Gonzalez along with State Attorney Bill Eddins.

Although Gonzalez's direct appeal was denied, he still can attempt to have his conviction or sentence overturned.

Gonzalez has the option to seek post-conviction relief, a review of whether deficiencies in his attorney's performance led to Gonzalez’s conviction. He also can file a petition for a U.S. District Court to review the case, which could overturn the conviction or overturn his sentence.

(source: Pensacola News-Journal)

ILLINOIS:

Secret city attorney memo called death row decision 'political'

Fight or settle?

That was the question in 2001 when the city was facing a multimillion-dollar lawsuit filed by high-powered attorneys representing former death row inmate Anthony Porter.

In the lawsuit, Porter accused the city of putting him on death row for nearly 17 years for a double murder in 1982 he didn't commit.

The stakes were high for the city, with a potentially huge payday for Porter if the city went to trial and lost.

But after reviewing the evidence in the case, 4 city attorneys sent a memo to their boss, then-Corporation Counsel Mara Georges, with an answer:

Let's fight.

At the heart of the memo, obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times, is an explosive allegation that's never been made public.

The memo alleges that the decision by Cook County prosecutors to drop the murder case against Porter and charge Alstory Simon - who made a videotaped confession to the murders - was a "political" one.

"A political decision was made that this case should be put to rest because it caused too much publicity against the imposition of the death penalty, caused great doubt about the validity of death penalty punishment for mentally challenged individuals and incited a significant amount of negative press concerning death row reversals," the memo said.

The 4-page memo outlined the key evidence in the case against Simon that led to Porter's release, including Simon's confession. The city's attorneys noted Simon's wife gave a statement implicating him in the 1982 killings. She later recanted that statement on her death bed.

The memo also said there was still compelling evidence against Porter, including statements from 7 witnesses, 1 of whom later died. 1 witness, Kenneth Edwards, told a grand jury in 1999 - after Porter was freed - that he saw Porter pull the trigger and kill Jerry Hillard and Marilyn Green in the bleachers near a pool in Washington Park on the South Side.

Another man said Porter robbed him of $2 at gunpoint on the pool deck just before the killings on that warm day, Aug. 15, 1982.

Still, the state's attorney's office was comfortable releasing Porter, despite the evidence against him, because he served some prison time, the memo said.

"The State's Attorney's Office felt that some justice was served because he [Porter] served 15 [sic] years behind bars and any conviction for the armed robbery would be considered time-served," the memo said.

The memo from the attorneys doesn't make clear what they based their conclusions on regarding the political nature of the prosecution. In an interview, attorney Kimberly E. Brown, who was on the team, said she couldn't recall.

But Brown, who's in private practice now, said: "All the evidence lined up against Anthony Porter," adding that the circumstances leading to Porter's release and Simon's prosecution "seemed very, very fishy."

In 2005, Porter's lawsuit went to trial in U.S. District Court, and a jury found in favor of the city. Porter didn't get a dime, a decision that stunned many observers.

After the verdict was announced, the city's trial attorney, Walter Jones, pointed to Porter in the courtroom and said: "The killer has been sitting in that room there all day."

One of Simon's current attorneys, Terry Ekl, said the 2001 memo supports Simon's claim that he was railroaded.

At the urging of Ekl and attorney James Sotos, the Cook County state’s attorney's office last year opened a new review of Simon's conviction. Earlier this month, the office's chief of criminal prosecutions interviewed Simon.

Simon, who is serving a 37-year prison sentence, is eligible for parole in 2017.

The Sun-Times reported last week that Thomas Epach - Cook County's chief of criminal prosecutions in 1999 - has raised questions about Porter's release and Simon's prosecution.

Epach last fall gave a sworn affidavit to Ekl saying then-Cook County State's Attorney Richard Devine didn't heed his advice to investigate the case more thoroughly before charging Simon. The 1999 decision followed a local television station's airing of Simon's videotaped confession.

"In my years of experience as a prosecutor, it is my opinion that it was highly unusual, if not unprecedented, to make a decision to release an individual convicted of murder based upon the broadcast of a video, the reliability and authenticity of which had not been thoroughly investigated and established," wrote Epach, who is now retired.

Devine told the Sun-Times last week that he didn't recall Epach expressing doubts about the decision to charge Simon in 1999. There was no "substantive claim" that Simon was innocent at the time, he said.

"I can't go into the mind of a person who pleads guilty," Devine added.

But Ekl accused the prosecutors and Simon's defense attorney at the time, Jack Rimland, of failing Simon.

During Simon's guilty plea before a judge, neither side mentioned eyewitness evidence that was favorable to Simon.

Then-Assistant State's Attorney Thomas Gainer Jr. presided over a grand jury in 1999 that was convened to reinvestigate the murders and the circumstances surrounding Simon's confession.

The grand jury obtained fresh statements from three witnesses who put Porter in the bleachers at the time of the shooting and from Edwards, who said Porter pulled the trigger.

The grand jury also heard from Paul Ciolino, a private investigator who was working with Northwestern University professor David Protess and his students to free Porter from death row.

Ciolino acknowledged to the grand jury that he obtained Simon's videotaped confession through deception, by showing him a video of an actor who claimed he knew Simon committed the murders. On the confession tape, Simon said he committed the killings in self-defense after he thought he saw one of the victims, Jerry Hillard, pull a gun on him at the pool.

On Sept. 7, 1999, Simon appeared before Judge Thomas Fitzgerald to enter his guilty plea. The judge asked about the evidence that prosecutors would have presented if the case had gone to trial.

Gainer, the prosecutor, said he would have presented testimony about Simon's confession and his wife's statement implicating him.

He also said he would have presented 4 witnesses who saw people in the bleachers and heard gunshots.

But Gainer did not tell the judge that the witnesses were favorable to Simon and implicated Porter.

"There was a great deal of media attention brought to bear upon the statement by Alstory Simon to private investigator Paul Ciolino," Gainer told the judge, according to a transcript. "It was heralded as a confession to the murder of Marilyn Green and Jerry Hillard. We have reviewed that statement at great length. And we think that based on that statement and all of the other evidence, that this is an appropriate sentence."

Jack Rimland, the defense attorney for Simon, didn't tell the judge about evidence that pointed to Porter, either.

Asked about those omissions, Devine told the Sun-Times that witness testimony against Porter was also in the record of Porter's 1983 trial.

"Judge Fitzgerald, I am certain, was aware of that background," Devine said.

In court, the judge didn't mention the Porter evidence before accepting Simon's guilty plea.

Ekl, meanwhile, said Rimland's representation of Simon posed a potential conflict of interest. Simon got his defense attorney, Rimland, through the man who took his confession. Rimland and Ciolino - the private investigator who worked to free Porter - shared the same office. Ciolino told the grand jury he recommended Rimland to Simon.

Rimland declined to comment last week.

But he has previously said that he obtained a good deal for Simon - 37 years - as opposed to the death sentence that Porter got. He has also responded to questions about his potential conflict of interest, telling reporters after he was hired to represent Simon in 1999: "I will look out for his [Simon's] best interests."

Gainer, who is now a Cook County judge, declined to comment. Epach didn't return a call seeking comment.

Porter's supporters have said the latest attempt to free Simon serves only to smear Porter, an innocent man.

They also note that his release was a driving force for former Gov. George Ryan to declare a moratorium on the death penalty in Illinois.

The Cook County state's attorney's office hasn't said how long the review of Simon's conviction will take.

(source: Chicago Sun-Times)

SOUTH DAKOTA:

Suspect must be guilty of aggravating factor to get death penalty

In South Dakota, the jury must find a suspect guilty of at least 1 aggravating circumstance in order to impose the death penalty.

There are currently 3 men on death row in our state - Charles Rhines, Briley Piper and Rodney Berget. In the past decade, 3 men have been executed. Elijah Page in 2007 for the murder of Chester Allan Poage; Eric Robert in 2012 for the murder of correctional officer Ron Johnson; and Donald Moeller in 2012 for the murder of Becky O'Connell.

Anyone under 18 at the time of the crime is constitutionally exempt from death penalty charges.

These are the aggravating factors:

--The murder was especially heinous, atrocious, cruel or depraved (or involved torture)

--The capital offense was committed during the commission of, attempt of, or escape from a specified felony (such as robbery, kidnapping, rape, sodomy, arson, oral copulation, train wrecking, carjacking, criminal gang activity, drug dealing, or aircraft piracy) - The defendant knowingly created a grave risk of death for 1 or more persons in addition to the victim of the offense - The murder was committed for pecuniary gain or pursuant to an agreement that the defendant would receive something of value

--The defendant caused or directed another to commit murder, or the defendant procured the commission of the offense by payment, promise of payment, or anything of pecuniary value

--The murder was committed to avoid or prevent arrest, to effect an escape, or to conceal the commission of a crime

--The defendant has been convicted of, or committed, a prior murder, a felony involving violence, or other serious felony

--The capital offense was committed by a person who is incarcerated, has escaped, is on probation, is in jail, or is under a sentence of imprisonment

--Any murder is wantonly vile, horrible, and inhuman if the victim is less than 13 years of age

The victim was a government employee, including peace officers, police officers, federal agents, firefighters, judges, jurors, defense attorneys, and prosecutors, in the course of his or her duties

--The person murders a peace officer or fireman who is acting in the lawful discharge of an official duty and who the person knows is a peace officers or fireman

--The victim was a correctional officer

(source: KSFY news)

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McVay, Brother To Take Stand In Death Penalty Case

James McVay and his brother will be taking the stand on Friday as his death penalty case continues.

McVay admits to killing Maybelle Schein 3 years ago in Sioux Falls.

Early Friday morning, the defense called James Aiken to the stand. Aiken runs a correctional consulting firm and said on the stand that McVay seems ready to accept spending the rest of his life behind bars.

His defense argues McVay is sorry and a prison sentence is a sufficient punishment.

Prosecutors say he would be a threat to others if he gets life in prison, rather than the death penalty.

(source: Keloland)

COLORADO:

Aurora theater judge denies defense request on "frivolous" motions

The judge overseeing the Aurora movie theater murder case on Friday denied defense attorneys' request to reconsider calling some of their motions "frivolous."

In March, Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour canceled 2 weeks of hearings on arguments related to the death penalty. Defense attorneys have filed several motions challenging the constitutionality of the death penalty in Colorado.

After reading 5 defense motions concerning the death penalty, Samour said he didn't find it necessary to hold the hearings, which were scheduled for the end of April and beginning of May.

Soon after, the judge denied those motions and called 4 of them frivolous. He noted that the Colorado Supreme Court had already rejected similar arguments in previous cases.

In a motion filed Thursday but made public on Friday, attorneys for James Holmes - who faces the death penalty for killing 12 and injuring dozens more in a 2012 attack at the Century Aurora 16 movie theater - asked Samour to reconsider his characterization of the motions and criticized the judge for doing so in a public filing.

"When the Court wrongly denigrates defense counsel in its orders for filing 'frivolous' motions, it improperly undermines the important role of defense counsel in our adversarial system and incorrectly portrays defense counsel as wasting the Court's time," the filing read.

But Samour quickly shot back on Friday, and said none of the motions he denied in March sought to change existing death penalty laws and they failed to present legitimate arguments.

"Instead, his motions urged the Court to disregard binding case law directly on point," he wrote.

Currently, the trial is set to begin in October.

(source: Canon City Daily Record)

ARIZONA:

Death penalty sought against man in boy's death

Maricopa County prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against a man charged with fatally stabbing his 12-year-old half-brother.

Prosecutors say 27-year-old Andrew Ward should face the death penalty in the March 12 killing of Austin Tapia because Ward killed a child in an especially cruel manner.

Investigators say Ward explained his motive by saying, "Honestly, I just felt like killing."

Ward has pleaded not guilty to a murder charge in Tapia's death.

While in jail, Ward was booked on suspicion of 1st-degree murder in the April 2 death of his cellmate at the Lower Buckeye Jail.

Investigators say Ward used a golf pencil to stab 33-year-old Douglas Walker in the eyes, beat him and forced a plastic bag and peanut butter sandwich down Walker's throat.

(source: Associated Press)

CALIFORNIA:

Attorney says San Mateo County DA shouldn't seek death penalty against 9 murder defendants

An attorney for 1 of the 9 murder defendants indicted by a San Mateo County criminal grand jury last week said Friday that District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe should not seek the death penalty.

"With limited funds, he (Wagstaffe) should drop death for all 9 of these people," Paul DeMeester, a participant in the county's private public defender program, said outside the county Hall of Justice in Redwood City. He said death penalty trials are costly because defendants must have 2 lawyers to ensure sufficient representation and the preparation work is more exhaustive and time-consuming. Life in prison without parole is a better option, he noted.

DeMeester represents Roberto Bustos-Montes, 24, of East Palo Alto, accused in the fatal shooting of 27-year-old Stoney Gipson, who died in San Francisco on Oct. 7, 2012; and Lamont Coleman, killed on Jan. 26, 2013, in East Palo Alto.

In Gipson's case, DeMeester said San Mateo County is trying his client for a homicide that allegedly took place in San Francisco. That city's district attorney, George Gascon, has publicly spoken against the death penalty, citing the potential for wrongful convictions and the expensive trial costs.

"We've made no decision," Wagstaffe told The Daily News on Friday. "We'll do a very thorough review of every case."

Wagstaffe acknowledged death penalty trials are expensive and indicated that will be taken into account as his office decides how to proceed.

But he noted that in 2012 the majority of California voters said no at the polls when asked if they wanted to end capital punishment.

"What Paul (DeMeester) is asking me to do is asking me to override the will of the electorate," Wagstaffe said.

All but one of the defendants is currently represented by publicly-funded private defenders, Wagstaffe said.

In all, 14 men and 2 women ranging in age from 19 to 28 have been charged with crimes under the grand jury's indictment. All are members or associates of 3 East Palo Alto gangs that were at war against each other, according to prosecutors.

The murder charges that the 9 defendants face are related to 4 homicides: the shooting of Gipson and Coleman as well as of Christopher Baker, 21, on Oct. 5, 2012 in East Palo Alto, and Jonathan Neri Alzacar on Jan. 14, 2013, in East Palo Alto. Other charges include attempted murder, conspiracy to murder, firearms possession, attempted robbery, dissuading witnesses and bribery.

The arrests, announced on March 24, concluded a year-long investigation by multiple law enforcement agencies that was called "Operation Sunny Day," the code reportedly used by gangs to announce a killing.

The defendants appeared in court Friday to be arraigned, but Judge John Grandsaert postponed the proceedings until June 16 to give defense attorneys time to review the indictment.

Friends and family members of the defendants and the homicide victims packed the courtroom. Among them was Annette Booker, 56, the mother of Lamont Coleman, who reportedly was gunned down because gang members believed he had cooperated with police.

"They shot him in the back 3 times," Booker said. "They set him up. Somebody called him and he left his girlfriend's house. They said he was snitching."

Booker knew the men who allegedly killed her son and said they used to hang out in her East Palo Alto home and called her "mama."

Now she wants prosecutors to seek the death penalty against them.

"They killed my son," Booker said. "Why should they still live?

(source: Mercury News)

USA:

Tsarnaev friend asks judge to dismiss charges

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 20, faces a 30-count federal indictment stemming from the twin April 15, 2013, bombings.

One of the college friends of alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a federal judge Friday to dismiss charges that he lied to investigators about visiting Tsarnaev's dorm room several days after the attack, saying he repeatedly told authorities he could not recall the visit because he was high on marijuana.

Robel Phillipos attended the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth with Tsarnaev, and he ultimately admitted that he accompanied 2 friends to Tsarnaev's dorm room after authorities released a picture of the suspected bomber to news organizations. The other 2 friends were later accused of removing evidence from the dorm room, including a backpack filled with fireworks and a computer.

Lawyers for Phillipos said in a court filing Friday that their client spent the entire day of the visit smoking marijuana and that federal agents would not accept his repeated statement that he did not recall entering the room. Phillipos, who knew Tsarnaev from their days at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, also gave differing accounts of what the other 2 friends did, but said he could not recall clearly, because he was "stoned."

The lawyers asserted in a motion to dismiss the case that Phillipos was repeatedly interrogated over seven days and was forced to sign a statement of what occurred, much of which he did not remember. They also noted he did not have a lawyer.

"Phillipos had no intention of misleading the authorities in any way," the attorneys, Derege B. Demissie and Susan Church, said in a prepared statement.

The court request was one of several filings Friday in US District Court in Boston related to Tsarnaev's case and the charges against his friends, who were accused of lying to authorities and covering up evidence.

Tsarnaev, now 20, faces charges that carry the possibility of the death penalty related to the April 15, 2013, bombings that killed 3 people and injured more than 260. He and his older brother and alleged accomplice, Tamerlan, were also accused of fatally shooting an MIT police officer before trying to flee. Tamerlan, 26, was killed during a confrontation with police in Watertown.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is being held without bail at the federal prison at Fort Devens in Ayer.

In one of the court filings Friday, federal prosecutors asked a judge to force Tsarnaev's defense lawyers to disclose by May 7 whether Tsarnaev suffered from any type of mental illness and whether he will present that claim as part of his defense or to prevent the death penalty.

Defense attorneys have not suggested in court filings so far that Tsarnaev was mentally ill. But they have indicated they will argue he was under the "psychological domination" of his older brother, who had turned toward radical Islam. They have asked prosecutors to turn over any evidence supporting that claim.

In a separate filing Friday, prosecutors disputed claims from Tsarnaev's lawyers that the FBI recruited Tamerlan as an informant, and they maintained that they have turned over all information in the case that they are required to under court rules. A federal judge has slated a hearing for Wednesday on defense lawyers' arguments for more records, but prosecutors argue those requests are "hyperbole" by an "imaginative defense team" fishing for information.

Prosecutors also asked US District Court Judge George A. O'Toole Jr. to force defense lawyers to turn over any evidence they plan to use in the scheduled November trial.

In the days after Tsarnaev's arrest, authorities charged Phillipos and 2 friends, Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, both college students from Kazakhstan.

They allegedly went into Tsarnaev's dorm room after receiving a text message from him saying they could take what they wanted, after his photo had been released. Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov allegedly threw out a backpack and fireworks tubes, and took his computer. The backpack and fireworks were later recovered from a New Bedford landfill.

Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov, who have been charged with obstruction of justice, have been held without bail, and face deportation. Phillipos, a US citizen and native of Massachusetts, has been charged with lying to authorities about the visit to the dorm room and has been released on $100,000 bond.

On Friday, Kadyrbayev's lawyer asked a federal judge to dismiss the case, saying the charges are too broad, that his client would not have known of the consequences, and that authorities have failed to specify what acts he committed were illegal.

Kadyrbayev also asked a judge, if the case is not dismissed, to strike any references to terrorism and "to the emotional and difficult facts of the bombing," saying it could prejudice a jury.

(source: Boston Globe)

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

Q&A: Death penalty proponent Robert Blecker

Our Q&A is with New York Law School professor Robert Blecker, death penalty proponent and author. Based on thousands of hours inside maximum security prisons and on death rows in several states, his recently published crime-and-punishment memoir "The Death of Punishment" urges a fresh look at our criminal justice system.

You have heard the arguments from appellate lawyers who are trying to block executions that use untried drugs, based on the objection they might cause pain. What's your reaction?

This whole controversy obscures deeper disagreements about the death penalty itself. Abolitionists - those who oppose capital punishment - try to clog the system with specious attacks. Clearly we can administer a lethal anesthetic to painlessly kill. Why should the FDA approve the drug? This is not medicine to cure; it's poison to kill.

A massive dose of anesthetic might produce dying twitches, making it falsely appear that the condemned, completely unconscious, experiences pain. To maximize its deterrent effect, ideally punishment should appear painful to the public while actually experienced as painless to the punished.

I once witnessed an execution. It struck me as obscenely similar to my father-in-law's death in a hospice: The dying lay on a gurney, wrapped in white sheets, an IV in his arm, poison coursing through his veins.

How we kill those we love should never resemble how we kill those we rightly detest. Thus, I too, oppose lethal injection, not because it possibly causes pain, but because it certainly causes confusion - conflating medicine with punishment.

What form of execution do you favor?

I prefer the firing squad. I would allow a representative of the victim's family, if they wanted, to take the first shot from any range, before the sharpshooters finished the execution.

In your book, you lay out the case for retributive justice, kind of a just-deserts doctrine. Please explain.

We have the responsibility to punish those who deserve it, but only to the degree they deserve it. Retributivists do not justify the death penalty by the general deterrence or safety it brings us. And we reject over-punishing no less than under-punishing. How obscene that aggravated murderers who behave well inside prison watch movies and play softball.

We also find it obscene, as the ACLU has recently documented, that 3,000 persons serve life without parole for non-violent crimes in the U.S. For all true retributivists, the past counts. Don't ask us what good will it do. Regardless of future benefits, we justify punishment because it's deserved. Let the punishment fit the crime. The past counts.

How does retribution differ from revenge, in your view?

Opponents wrongly equate retribution and revenge, because they both would inflict pain and suffering on those who have inflicted pain and suffering on us.

Whereas revenge knows no bounds, retribution must be limited, proportional and appropriately directed: The retributive punishment fits the crime. We must never allow our satisfaction at doing justice to deteriorate into sadistic revenge.

DNA tests have proven the fallibility of the U.S. justice system, something we've seen frequently in Texas. How do you defend capital punishment in light of that?

Social life proves the fallibility of every human institution. We do imperfectly define, detect, prosecute and punish crime. We have not yet provably but nevertheless have, most probably, executed an innocent person in the modern era. Any true retributivist feels sick at this thought. We support the mission of the Innocence Project.

Fortunately, as we raise the stakes we drastically reduce the mistakes. Before we sentence a defendant to life without parole, and especially before we condemn him to die, I would require a higher burden of persuasion than proof beyond a reasonable doubt. A jury should have no nagging doubts, however unreasonable. Before they sentence a person to die, a jury should be convinced beyond any residual doubt that he did it, and also be convinced "to a moral certainty" that he deserves to die.

Many times daily we risk the lives of those we love for the sake of convenience. Surely then, we will occasionally risk the lives of those we detest for the sake of justice.

You take issue with some death sentences, wondering whether the system has always targeted the "right people." Who are the "right people," and when has the system gone overboard?

We can never exactly and exhaustively define in advance the worst of the worst - those who most deserve to die. But thousands of hours documenting the lives and attitudes of convicted killers these past 25 years have shown me clear examples of who deserve to die.

As "The Death of Punishment" urges, we should reserve capital punishment for those who rape and murder, especially children or other vulnerable victims, serial killers, hired killers, torture killers, mass murderers, and terrorists.

It comes down to cruelty and viciousness, really: Did the killer exhibit intense pleasure or a selfish depraved, cold indifference? As Aristotle taught us, evil lies at the extremes.

At the same time, we should refine our death penalty statutes to eliminate other aggravating circumstances: Robbery-murder has put more killers on death row than any other aggravator, and too often unjustifiably so. Texas particularly makes a huge moral mistake, in my view, by focusing on future dangerousness, rather than past desert.

We can construct prisons to incapacitate the dangerous. We should only execute those who most deserve it. And not randomly. Refine our death penalty statutes and review the sentences of everyone on death row. Release into general population those who don't really deserve to die. The rest we should execute - worst first.

Overall, you suggest that the American system has lost its appetite for punishment. Can you explain?

As bizarre as this sounds, inside prisons it's nobody's job to punish. Consult the department of correction's mission statement in the 50 states, including Texas. You will not find the word "punishment."

Officers and prisoners in the many prisons I've visited in 7 states - but not yet Texas - speak with one voice: "What a guy did out there is none of my business. I only care how he behaves once he's inside."

Vicious cowards who prey on the vulnerable, once captured, often become the best behaved - "good inmates" from corrections point of view. They live the good life inside prison, with the most privileges. Thus, even as we mouth it, we mock our basic credo of justice: Let the punishment fit the crime. Inside prison, too often, those who deserve it most, suffer least.

Explain your idea of "permanent punitive segregation" for convicted killers and how it is or isn't catching on among decision-makers.

Whether we keep or abolish death as punishment, we need to rethink prison for the worst of the worst. A jury should specially convict and condemn them to permanent punitive segregation. Life for them, every day, should be painful and unpleasant - the harshest conditions the Constitution allows.

They would eat only nutraloaf, a tasteless patty, nutritionally complete but offering no sensory pleasure. All visits should be non-contact and kept to a constitutional minimum. A person who rapes and murders a child, or tortures another to death should never touch another human being again.

These most heinous criminals would never watch TV. They would get one brief, lukewarm shower a week. Let photos of their victims adorn their cells - in their face but out of reach.

Connecticut, even as they abolished the death penalty, recently took steps in this direction. Let's reconnect crime with punishment. For the question of justice really is not whether they live or die, but how they live until they die.

(source: Editorial writer Rodger Jones conducted and condensed this interview; Dallas Morning News blog)

INDIA:

Shocking remarks: Boys make mistakes, it's not right to give death penalty for committing rape, says SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav

Joining the bandwagon of making irresponsible & callous remarks, Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav today made a shocking comment by saying that he is against death penalty for committing rape.

In his rally speech today in Moradabad district of western Uttar Pradesh, the former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister said that it's not right to give death penalty for committing rape.

Giving example of Mumbai's Shakti Mills gangrape case, the SP chief said, "Boys make mistakes and if we come to power, we will check misuse of anti-rape law."

"Those 3 are given capital punishment," he added citing example of convicts of the infamous gangrape case in the financial capital of the country.

In Shakti Mill case, Court found 3 culprits repeat offenders and awarded them capital punishment for the gang rape of a photo-journalist last year.

The amendments in anti-rape law were made after recommendation of Justice Verma committee which was formed after December 16 Delhi gangrape case.

(source: ABP Live)

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

Rape victim Is guilty too, should be hanged: SP leader

A day after Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh created controversy by saying rapists should not be hanged, another leader has now caused a storm by saying women having sex outside marriage should be hanged, including rape victims.

In an interview with a Midday reporter, Maharashtra unit chief Abu Azmi reportedly said, "It's the death penalty for rape in Islam. But here, nothing happens to the woman; only the man bears the punishment. But, even the woman is guilty. In India, if you consent to sex, there's no problem. But if there's a complaint, then there's a problem. These days, the number of such cases has increased where girls go and complain whenever they want. If one touches them, they complain, and if no one touches them, they still complain. Then, the problem starts, and the man's honour, which he has earned throughout his life, is destroyed. Rape with or without consent should be punishable as per Islam."

Azmi went on to say that the solution to rapes is that any woman who goes with a man, with or without her consent, should be hanged, along with the rapist.

However, his son expressed disagreement with these comments and said that he believes in awarding death sentence to rapists.

(source: Kashmir Times)

EGYPT:

Stop Mass Executions in Egypt

An Egyptian court has sentenced 528 men to death, most in their absence, following a grossly unfair mass trial.

The convicted men are supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi and were tried for their alleged role in a riot in which one policeman died.

This mass trial represents the largest number of death sentences handed down in one case in recent years. It is a grotesque example of the shortcomings and selective nature of Egypt's justice system.

This is definitely not justice. Its the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, and it could be an attempt to wipe out political opposition.

http://takeaction.amnestyusa.org/siteapps/advocacy/ActionItem.aspx?c=6oJCLQPAJiJUG&b=6645049&aid=520781

(source: Amnesty International)

APRIL 11, 2014:

TEXAS:

Fort Bliss soldier accused of killing infant son arraigned----Pfc. Adam Keith Jackson is accused of killing his son and faces capital murder charges in the February death; he has pleaded not guilty

A Fort Bliss soldier was arraigned Thursday on capital murder and injury to a child charges in connection with his infant son's death.

A state district court grand jury indicted Pfc. Adam Keith Jackson, 22, earlier this month in the death of 11-month-old Aiden Jackson. He has pleaded not guilty.

A capital murder conviction carries an automatic sentence of life in prison if the death penalty is not sought. State prosecutors have not said whether they will seek the death penalty against Jackson.

Police arrested Jackson, who is originally from Georgia, on Feb. 24. He remains incarcerated at the El Paso County Jail Annex on a $250,000 bond. His next court hearing is scheduled for May 8 before 210th District Judge Gonzalo Garcia.

According to Jackson's indictment, prosecutors allege Jackson struck Aiden on the head and neck with and against an unknown object and choked the boy, causing his death. Jackson is also accused of failing to provide "care, protection and control" despite his duty as a parent to do so.

A police complaint affidavit states Jackson allegedly admitted to dropping his son in his crib about 10 p.m. Feb. 7 after Jackson became frustrated with the boy's crying. At the time, Jackson was caring for Aiden while the boy's mother ran errands.

Jackson allegedly told police that the next morning, he discovered Aiden was unconscious and called for help.

Aiden was later pronounced dead at University Medical Center.

The affidavit also states that after a search warrant was executed, police found blood in Aiden's crib and bloody clothes belonging to Aiden in a dumpster located in the parking lot of the apartment complex.

An autopsy showed Aiden had a fractured skull and injuries to his throat and ankles, according to the affidavit.

(source: El Paso Times)

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

Mexican Government Condemns Texas Execution Of 'Mentally Impaired' Inmate

The Mexican government condemned the execution of a Mexican national for fatally beating a former Baylor University history professor and attacking his wife more than 16 years ago.

On Wednesday, the Mexican government's Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement saying the execution of Ramiro Hernandez Llanas, 44, through lethal injection was "in clear violation of the judgment of the International Court of Justice."

"The Government of Mexico expresses its most vigorous protest at the failure to comply," the ministry said.

Hernandez Llanas was in the United States illegally when he was arrested for the October 1997 slaying of 49-year-old Glen Lich. Just 10 days earlier, Lich had given Hernandez Llanas a job helping with renovations at his ranch near Kerrville, about 65 miles northwest of San Antonio, in exchange for living quarters.

Investigators said Hernandez Llanas lured Lich from his house by telling him that there was a problem with a generator, then repeatedly clubbed him with a piece of steel rebar. Armed with a knife, he then attacked Lich's wife. She survived and testified against Hernandez Llanas, who also had been linked to a rape and a stabbing.

Strapped to a gurney inside the death chamber, Hernandez Llanas asked for forgiveness. He also said he was at peace and thankful for being able to see relatives, and he urged them not to be sad.

"I'm happy... I am sorry for what I have done," he said, speaking in Spanish during a nearly 5-minute final statement. "I'm looking at the angel of God."

He raised his head from the gurney three times and blew 3 loud kisses toward a brother, a sister and 2 friends watching through a window. He also thanked prison officers and the warden.

"I say this with a lot of love and happiness: I have no pain and no guilt. All I have is love," he said.

As the lethal drug took effect, he snored loudly twice, then appeared to go to sleep. Within seconds, all movement stopped. He was pronounced dead 11 minutes later, at 6:28 p.m.

Lich's son, who also witnessed the execution, declined to speak with reporters afterward.

Hernandez Llanas was the 2nd Texas inmate to receive a lethal injection of a new supply of pentobarbital. Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials have refused to identify the source of the powerful sedative, contending secrecy is needed to protect the drug's provider from threats of violence from capital punishment opponents. The U.S. Supreme Court backed the state's position in a related case last week.

Texas and other states that have the death penalty have been scrambling for substitute drugs or new sources for drugs for lethal injections after major drug makers - many based in Europe with longtime opposition to the death penalty - stopped selling to prisons and corrections departments.

Hernandez Llanas' appeals were exhausted, and the Texas parole board on Tuesday refused to delay his death sentence or commute it to life in prison.

He was among more than 4 dozen Mexican citizens awaiting execution in the U.S. when the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, ruled in 2004 that they weren't properly advised of their consular rights when arrested. A measure mandated by the U.S. Supreme Court to enforce that ruling has languished in Congress.

The issue raised by the Mexico's Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding an alleged violation of an international court judgment never surfaced in Hernandez Llanas' appeals, which focused primarily on claims that his mental impairment made him ineligible for the death penalty. Testimony from psychiatrists who said he was not mentally impaired and would remain a danger was faulty, his attorneys argued.

According to trial testimony, Hernandez Llanas was arrested just hours after the attacking Lich and his wife. He was sleeping in the bed where he had wrapped his arm around the terrorized woman, who managed to wriggle from his grasp and restraints without waking him and call police.

Evidence showed Hernandez Llanas was in Texas after escaping from a Mexican prison, where he was serving a 25-year sentence for a 1989 bludgeoning murder in Nuevo Laredo. He was linked to the rape of a 15-year-old girl and a stabbing in Kerrville. While awaiting trial, evidence showed he slashed another inmate's face with a razor blade. In prison, he was found with homemade weapons.

"This is exactly why we have the death penalty," Lucy Wilke, an assistant Kerr County district attorney who helped prosecute Hernandez Llanas, said ahead of the execution. "Nobody, even prison guards, is safe from him."

Hernandez Llanas was the sixth prisoner executed this year in Texas, the nation's busiest death penalty state.

(source: Fox News)

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

Dispatches: 3 Strikes in Texas Death Penalty Case

Just after 6:00pm local time this evening the state of Texas is scheduled, once again, to put a man to death in blatant disregard of his rights.

The man, 44-year-old Ramiro Hernandez Llanas, from Mexico, was convicted in 2000 for capital murder. At the time of his arrest, law enforcement officials failed to inform him of his right to contact the Mexican consulate for assistance, as required under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, an international treaty to which the US is a party. "Consular notification," as this requirement is known, is an essential due-process protection, because consular offices can assist with much-needed legal assistance and representation. That's all the more important when a defendant faces the ultimate punishment.

If this scenario sounds familiar, it's because just 2 months ago the state of Texas executed another Mexican national, Edgar Tamayo, who hadn't been told of his right to consular notification–over the objections of both the Mexican and US governments.

Hernandez's case is particularly poignant because it raises so many other rights concerns. For one: He has presented evidence that he has an intellectual disability, evidence one law professor notes was "overwhelming". The US Supreme Court has ruled in the 2002 case that it is cruel and unusual punishment to execute someone with such a disability. (The Court is currently considering a case, Hall v. Florida, which may clarify and expand that protection.)

Hernandez has also sought a temporary stay of the execution on the grounds that the state refuses to divulge the name of the company supplying the lethal injection drugs for his execution. His attorneys have pointed to the risk of using an unverified, secret drug in an execution, which could result in excruciating pain. A federal judge granted the stay a week ago, but the Fifth Circuit court of appeals reversed that decision on Monday.

Governor Rick Perry has the authority to delay this execution. Though he may not be moved by arguments around international law, he needs to look no further than the Texas Constitution, and the rights declared within its first article, to justify a delay: a right to due process and a ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Tack on the lack of accountability involved in the state's refusal to disclose the source of the drugs, rendering it impossible for Hernandez's defense to even determine whether the particular mix of drugs involved would support a claim for cruel punishment, and that's not 1, not 2, but 3 strikes against human rights.

(source: Human Rights Watch, April 9)

NEW HAMPSHIRE:

New Hampshire's centuries-old death penalty could be repealed; Senate Judiciary Committee recommends repealing state's death penalty

The New Hampshire Senate Judiciary Committee is recommending passage of a bill to repeal the state's death penalty.

The 3-2 vote Thursday sets the stage of a potentially historic vote by the Senate to repeal the state's centuries-old death penalty.

The committee voted 2-2 Tuesday with one member absent. The tie vote would have sent a message to the Senate that it ought to be killed.

The committee reconsidered the issue Thursday, in deference to Democrat Donna Soucy of Manchester, who missed Tuesday's meeting due to a family medical issue.

The state is the closest to repealing the death penalty that it's been since 2000, when both houses of the Legislature approved a proposal, but then-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen vetoed it.

The Senate is due to vote on repeal April 17.

(source: WCVB news)

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

Committee gets votes needed to move death penalty repeal bill forward

Repealing the death penalty picked up a little more life Thursday when the Senate Judiciary Committee revisited an earlier decision.

On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee had voted 2-2 to kill House Bill 1170, but on Thursday members voted 3-2 to pass the bill the House approved by a better than 2-to-1 margin.

Committee member Sen. Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, had to take her father to an appointment Tuesday and was unable to return in time for the committee vote.

She cast the deciding vote on Thursday to recommend the bill pass the Senate.

The chairman of the committee, Sen. Sharron Carson, R-Londonderry, has concerns that passing the bill could prevent the state from carrying out the death sentence on Michael Addison, who was convicted of capital murder of Manchester police Officer Michael Briggs in 2006.

Under the bill, Addison's death sentence does not change, according to the bill's prime sponsor, Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, noting that state law forbids changing any sentence that occurred prior to a law's repeal.

He said the state Supreme Court ruled on the issue in its 2014 opinion in New Hampshire v. Kurt Carpentino.

Supporters had proposed an amendment to clarify that Addison would remain on death row if the bill passes and to extend the death penalty possibility for capital murders committed before July 1.

Cushing praised Soucy for taking a stand on the bill.

"People are being thoughtful," he said. "The conversations will continue."

The Senate is expected to vote on the bill April 17, and it will likely decided by 1 or 2 senators.

In committee, Carson and Sen. David Boutin, R-Hooksett, voted to kill the bill, while Sens. Sam Cataldo, R-Farmington, Bette Lasky, D-Nashua, 2 bill sponsors, and Soucy voted to approve the bill.

New Hampshire has not executed anyone since 1939.

(source: Union Leader)

DELAWARE:

4 people involved with death penalty cases argue for repeal

St. Ann Catholic Church's Salt & Air Committee held an adult panel last month, educating against the death penalty.

The Rev. Walter Everett spoke of his own personal loss - his son Scott, who had been murdered at the age of 24, and how the tragedy caused him to form an unlikely bond with the man who murdered him.

"Nobody should have to bury a son or a daughter," he said. "When it's a violent death...that increases the trauma exponentially."

He was 1 of 4 people who spoke at St. Ann on March 13 about repealing the death penalty in the state of Delaware.

Everett said that he and his family had difficulties throughout the entire process - not only dealing with the grief aspect, but with the legal system.

After visiting his son's apartment, Everett had been given information by neighbors that he thought was pertinent to the case against his son's murderer. Upon arrival at the police station to share the news, he said, he was not given the time of day.

"They didn't even have the courtesy to face us. They were busy reading the morning paper and drinking coffee," he said, adding that, after he began to tell the officers what he had heard, they turned around. "'Look - you don't need to do this. We've already made an arrest... We've had 4 homicides this weekend, and we're burned out,'" he recalled them telling him.

Everett said that, after stewing in his anger about his son's death and the lack of empathy from police, he attended a meeting for survivors of homicide, at which someone who had lost a loved one said that anyone who commits murder "should be taken out and shot immediately - no questions asked."

"I was angry, and I understood her anger. But I certainly didn't agree with her conclusion, because I've always opposed the death penalty."

Everett soon found out that the woman had had a loved one die more than 14 years earlier.

"They were saying that after all that time," he emphasized, adding that he wondered at the time if, years later, he would be just as angry about the loss of his son.

Scott Everett's murderer, Mike Carlucci, received a plea bargain, reducing his charges to 2nd-degree manslaughter and getting a sentence of 10 years in prison, out in 5.

At his trial, Carlucci apologized to the Everett family.

"'I'm sorry I killed Scott Everett. I wish I could bring him back. Obviously, I can't. These must sound like empty words to the Everetts, but I don't know what else to say. I'm sorry,'" Everett recalled him saying.

Taking the apology as a sign from God, Everett wrote Carlucci on the anniversary of his son's death, with the letter concluding, "I forgive you."

From that, the 2 men began writing to each other, and eventually Everett visited Carlucci in prison. He would even eventually testify at a parole board hearing for Carlucci's early release.

"'You're not the same guy who killed Scott, You're not the same guy who went to prison,'" Everett recalled telling Carlucci. "Mike is doing extremely well these days," he added.

Everett said that Carlucci is a good person and that, had he been executed, he would not have had the opportunity to turn his life around.

"That doesn't mean Mike should die and another one of God's people should be killed," he said. "God doesn't want us to take into our hands the killing of another human being."

Kristen Froehlich, president of Delaware Citizens Opposed to the Death Penalty, agrees. Froehlich's brother David was murdered in Connecticut in 1995, along with four other young men. He and his roommates had been in a rent dispute with their landlord, who would later shoot them and set fire to the house in which they were living.

"It was the worst of the worst," she said. "The whole community, as you can imagine, was devastated. We're all sort of shell-shocked... nobody knows how to feel when there's been an event like that."

Froehlich said it took 3 years for the case to go to trial - something she said she had at one point been overly focused upon.

"When people say, 'We need to kill that person,' I can understand that. I can understand that visceral reaction..." she explained. "That wasn't helping me. It increased the sense of powerlessness I felt."

Froehlich said that attending survivor groups helped her work through the grief she was dealing with following her brother's tragic death.

"In my fumbling around trying to live, I started to going to survival groups... That's what really has helped me heal. None of it had to do with the legal piece," she said.

Froehlich said her brother's murderer was sentenced to life in prison, which she said was enough.

"I was satisfied that he was safely away and would not hurt anybody else," she said. "That would in no way have healed my pain," she said of the man's potential execution. "It would not have given me closure in any degree."

Barbara Lewis, the mother of former death row inmate Robert Gattis, whose 1992 death sentence was commuted to life in prison without parole in January 2012, spoke about the grief and shame she and her family endured throughout.

"I'm ashamed, hurting, and there's really no one to talk to," she said of how she felt following her son's arrest. "Boldly I stand before you today and say: no mother, no daughter should have to live through what we lived through."

Grattis had taken the life of his girlfriend, in what Lewis described as a "fatal attraction."

She said that, following her son's conviction, she had lost 2 people in her family to violent crimes, but she didn't know how to process what was happening to her family as a result of her son's actions.

"Every day I got up knowing, 'They're going to kill my son'... Every individual became a possible person who was going to execute my son," she said, recalling herself asking, "'God, what good am I supposed to get from this?'"

She said that the trial, and later impending execution, cast a shadow on her entire family, even when taking her granddaughter to college as a freshman.

"We're standing there and she said, 'Grandmom, are they going to execute my uncle?'"

Lewis said that, although she is a woman of God, a great deal of her strength came from a support group she attended.

"It gave me life when I was sinking deep and sad - not the church where I was a member. They didn't know what to do because they don't deal with this issue... I never thought I'd be standing here... We were good people, raised in the church. We had moral values, but my son got on a road and he didn't know what to do. He got into a bad relationship."

Lewis said she wasn't seeking pity but wanted to encourage others to take the time to consider that "You can't kill 1 person and fix the world."

"We want to live in a community that has a place for forgiveness, reconciliation, moral values and people who will talk to each other," she said. "Get onboard and morally talk about it - 'What do we really want in the state of Delaware?' Give it real deep thinking."

Brian Boyle of the Delaware Repeal Project said that he has met people who are for and against the death penalty.

"I try to find a place where we can agree," he said, noting that everyone seems to agree that citizens want safe communities and innocent people shouldn't be executed, and that Senate Bill 19, to repeal the death penalty, should be debated and receive a vote by a full House.

Boyle said that the death penalty is not needed in order to have safe communities.

"That's not a deterrent," he said, noting that Delaware is the 3rd highest state in executions per capita, and also for crime. "The death penalty does not keep us safe in Delaware."

Boyle also said that death penalty cases are, on average, 3 times more costly than those that don't include a potential death penalty.

"Legal costs for a death penalty are astronomical," he said, stating that, in Maryland, an average death penalty case costs $3 million, while a case seeking life in prison costs an average of $1 million. "I would posit to you that there are better things we can spend our money on."

He added that there has been a 10 % failure rate with execution sentences in the United States, meaning that 10 % of death penalty sentences could involve a suspect who might be exonerated of the crime of which they were convicted.

"We shouldn't execute innocent people," he said. "For every 10 people we kill in this country, we exonerate 1 person. I don't know if there is an acceptable fail rate when it comes to someone's life, but certainly 10 % is unacceptable."

In speaking to human rights, Boyle said that everyone agrees that justice should be fair.

"That's not the case," he said of the death penalty in Delaware. "We have the highest minority population on death row, at 78 % - higher than Texas. When you look at the race of the victim, the bias is even stronger. A study by Cornell University found that a black defendant who kills a white victim is 6.5 times more likely to receive the death penalty than a black victim.

"The majority of murder victims in Delaware are African-Americans, but the majority of people on death row are there for killing white victims. So, what does that say about our value of life?"

Boyle pointed out that, last year, Senate Bill 19, which would repeal the death penalty in Delaware, passed in the Senate by a vote of 11-10. The bill was reviewed by the House Judiciary Committee, but after debate it failed to make it out of committee by a vote of 6 to 5.

"I would argue that, even if you agree with the death penalty, you don't agree with that when we live in a democracy," he said. "It deserves a vote from all... We think Senate Bill 19 deserves a vote."

Following their individual presentations, members of the audience spoke to the panel.

"I think, as a citizen of the United State of America, that is mournful that we present ourselves as the moral leaders of the world but we have this tremendously flawed system and this terrible error," said Jeannie Fleming. "That it just destroys our credibility on speaking about human rights."

Boyle agreed and said that the United States currently ranks 5th in the world in executions, along with countries including Iran and Iraq.

"Those countries are not democracies. They are certainly not human-rights champions."

Daniel Cowell, a psychiatrist, thanked the panelists for their time and said he believes that change must come from within.

"If you work with people, you will learn after many years, unless change comes from within - maybe by providence, maybe by insight, maybe by exposure by a good loving role model - if it lasts, it has to come from within."

He spoke directly to Lewis and said there are no guarantees, but that the world needs more loving homes.

"We need more homes like yours, with involved and caring people who try their very best to do... That's where it begins."

Ann Crawford said that, earlier in the evening, she hadn't been sure if she would brave the cold to attend the panel.

"I wasn't sure I would come tonight, but I'm so glad I did," she said. "It really has made an impact on me, and I want to thank you so much. When you hear the impact, it makes all the difference."

Froehlich urged those who attended the panel to take what they had heard about the death penalty home with them and to start a conversation.

"Take what you hear tonight and have conversations... and keep the conversation going."

(source: Coastal Point)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Allentown businessman shot in neck in killing, prosecution will 'likely' seek death penalty, district attorney says

Eric Ervin was just trying to sell his BMW on Craigslist.

Police said Ervin exchanged calls and text messages with Tyrell Young about meeting to look over the 2003 BMW series 745 LI, which Ervin had listed on the online site for $18,000.

The 2 met at Ervin's business, Aces High Auto Detailing, in the 600 block of Nelson Street in Allentown, on Tuesday evening and Young even went on a test drive, Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin said today.

But at 1 a.m. Wednesday Ervin's girlfriend had not heard from him and called police to file a missing person's report.

Police went to Aces High where they found Ervin's body in a car trailer on the property, Martin said. Ervin was shot in the neck and a shell casing was found at the scene, Martin said. No one reported hearing gun shots.

Martin said prosecutors don't know the exact time Ervin was killed, but estimated it was between 6:45 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. based on Ervin's cellphone records.

Car found in Reading

After Ervin's body was discovered, police put out an alert for the BMW.

At the same time, officers began gathering cell phone records and found the phone of the man who was communicating with Ervin, later identified as Young, was in the 100 block of South Fourth Street in Reading, according to court records.

Reading officers found the car, with Young driving it, at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday on South Fourth Street, Martin said.

An officer standing outside the car saw a handgun inside. The FN Herstal 5.7 caliber gun was reported stolen from Cumru Township on Jan. 13, police learned.

The casing found where Ervin's body was discovered matches the ammunition in the gun, Martin said. Young has a felony conviction related to a carjacking in Northampton County and cannot legally possess a firearm, Martin said.

The 27-year-old Young admitted shooting Ervin with the gun, court records say.

Young, of Reading, was initially held in Berks County on charges related to the stolen car and stolen gun. He was brought to Lehigh County this afternoon and arraigned before District Judge Michael D'Amore on charges including homicide for Ervin's death.

Young is now in Lehigh County Prison without bail.

Because the killing was done during the commission of a felony -- stealing the car -- Martin was asked if he will seek the death penalty.

Martin said it's too early to tell but "it's likely."

Finding a safe place to sell

Prosecutors today commended the teamwork between Allentown and Reading police, which led to a speedy arrest in the case.

"That is truly fine police work," Martin said.

Fitzgerald took the opportunity to remind residents to use well-lighted, public locations, including police stations, when selling items online. The police chief said some jurisdictions have set up "safe zones" where online transactions can take place.

"You never know who is on the other side of the keyboard," Fitzgerald said.

In this case, the other person was a convicted carjacker.

In 2005, Young, who was 19 at the time, was sentenced to 6 years and 9 months to 16 years and 6 months in a Pennsylvania state prison for a carjacking in Northampton County.

Records say Young went to Faulkner Chevrolet-Cadillac in Hanover Township and took a ride in a $62,000 Cadillac Escalade with Sharon Cafiso-Solomon, who had to drive because he had no driver's license. While the two were traveling along Stoke Park Road in Hanover Township, Young pulled out a knife and told Cafiso-Solomon to pull over in a supermarket parking lot.

Young drove away but was later captured by police on Route 33 after fleeing at speeds exceeding 100 mph, records say.

When reached by phone today, Solomon declined to talk about the case.

(source: LehighValleyLive.com)

FLORIDA:

Wrongful Conviction: Compensate James Richardson

The presumption of innocence is - or is supposed to be - a hallmark of justice in the United States. Yet for decades the burden has been on James Richardson to prove that he was innocent of the murder charges brought against him in 1968.

A poor, black citrus picker, Richardson was accused of poisoning to death his 7 children in rural DeSoto County. Its county seat of Arcadia is just 47 miles south of Polk's county seat in Bartow.

Richardson was convicted by a jury of 1st-degree murder and served 21 years in state prison, 5 of them on death row. In 1972, his sentence was commuted to life in prison.

In 1988, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune revealed that the children's former baby-sitter admitted to the October 1967 killing of Richardson's children. What's more, then-Gov. Bob Martinez was given information showing that prosecutors did not provide, as required by law, the defense attorney with evidence that would have supported Richardson's claim of innocence.

In response, Martinez - to his credit - appointed a special prosecutor to review Richardson's case. The investigation was led by Janet Reno, who was then the Dade County state attorney and later became U.S. attorney general.

Reno issued a scathing report that cited evidence of perjury and police brutality. Criticizing both the DeSoto sheriff and state attorney at the time, she wrote: "A totally inadequate and incomplete investigation was conducted." Furthermore, Reno concluded that "not only couldn't the state prove James Richardson was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, but James Richardson was probably wrongfully accused."

In April 1989, Richardson was released from prison. Subsequently a court vacated his judgment, conviction and sentence.

BACKWARD STANDARD

Richardson's release was welcome, but it did not compensate for the fact that, as a direct result of a severely flawed prosecution, he had faced the death penalty, and lost 21 years of his life, his health and his ability to earn a decent living.

He later sought compensation from the state, based on a 2008 law that makes it possible for Florida to award individuals wrongly convicted with $50,000 for each year spent in prison.

Unfortunately, the state attorney at the time challenged Richardson's petition.

In 2009, an administrative-law judge found a clear "absence of evidence proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt." However, the judge denied the compensation claim, concluding that Richardson failed to meet the law's burden to prove that he was innocent. That failure was no surprise: Witnesses in the Richardson case and potential culprits in the poisoning murders had died. Evidence (much of it questionable in the first place) had disappeared.

More recent legislative attempts to compensate Richardson were met with indifference or concerns about exposing the state to additional liabilities.

MORAL LEGISLATION

Yet 2 legislators - Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, and Rep. Dave Kerner, D-Palm Beach - recognize the moral case for compensating Richardson for the state's wrongful actions. They are the sponsors of bills that would compensate Richardson at the same levels authorized under the 2008 law.

Senate Bill 326 and House Bill 227 deserve the support of legislators and the public - and passage this year, before the measure is too late to help Richardson, who is 78.

Only Richardson, not his heirs or representatives, would be able to seek compensation, by the terms of the bills. An exemption to the prove-your-innocence requirement would only apply to people who were convicted or sentenced before Dec. 31, 1979, and had their cases examined by a special prosecutor and charges dropped by a state attorney. The exemption would end in 2018.

If this legislation is adopted, requiring wrongly convicted Floridians in the future to prove their innocence to gain compensation would still cause concern. However, the need for reasonable criteria to prevent frivolous claims and protect taxpayers' interests is understandable.

Richardson was denied fundamental rights - to a fair trial, to liberty. Providing compensation is a small price to pay to this victim of injustice. Do so now, before this poor man is gone.

(source: Editorial, The Ledger)

ALABAMA:

Grand Jury indictments include possible death penalty case

A Cullman County Grand Jury handed down multiple indictments this week in circuit court including a capital murder charge of an elderly Cullman man.

2 men were indicted for the murder of Frederick William Galin, 71, who was slain in his St. Joseph Drive home on December 19, 2013.

John Edward Cole, 31, was indicted on charges of capital murder (2 counts), burglary 1st degree (4 counts), theft of property 1st degree and receiving stolen property. The upgraded capital murder charge carries the possibility of the death penalty.

(source: Cullman Times)

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Capital murder conviction for Calhoun County suspect in 1999 shooting

A Calhoun County cold case from 1999 closed with a conviction Thursday afternoon.

Jurors found 38-year-old Torrance Perin Vincent guilty on 2 counts of capital murder. Vincent shot and killed 20-year-old Prince Damian Wright during the robbery and burglary of Wright's home in Weaver in December 1999.

Wright and 5 of his friends were playing a game of Dungeons & Dragons when Vincent and 2 other men entered the house through the back door to steal marijuana and money. Witnesses said the men wore masks and had guns.

Wright defended himself against Vincent, who fired 1 shot which traveled through Wright's arm, face and chest. The medical examiner said Wright bled to death.

"He was in his own home, minding his own business, and he died on the floor of his own home, for a little bit of money," district attorney Brian McVeigh told jurors in his closing arguments.

"It wasn't necessary. It wasn't justified. It was not self-defense or accident. If we don't hold him responsible, what message does it send to this community? What message does it send to his mother and father?"

One of the other intruders, Bokassa Montgomery entered a guilty plea to felony murder in 2001. He told police at the time that Vincent was the shooter, but investigators were unable to find another witness to place Vincent at the scene of the crime.

Weaver police lieutenant Charles Plitt continued to search for leads in the case. In 2008, a witness told investigators she remembered seeing Vincent bleeding several hours after the shooting. Police matched Vincent's DNA to blood found on the pants worn by Wright on the day he died.

"It's been a long road but we're happy for the family. We're happy for the verdict that we've received today. It's a blessing," Plitt said.

Wright's friends testified the masked burglar who shot Wright removed the victim's wallet from his pants. Then the 3 intruders stole money and drugs from the other people playing the game, which Montgomery confirmed in his testimony.

"When you're 5 guys sitting there, playing a board game, and you're high and you see your friend shot and killed, do you need any more convincing they intend to kill you and you need to comply," assistant district attorney Lynn Hammond asked the jury.

She told them she started working for the district attorney's office 5 years before the shooting happened.

"It is one that has pended a long time, not only for Mr. and Mrs. Wright, but Chuck Plitt of Weaver. I remember when it happened. This deserves justice," Hammond said.

"It has waited a very long time for justice. It has waited a very long time for attention. It has waited a very long time for this man to serve his time, to pay his price for taking a life."

The district attorney said he is glad the family has closure after all these years. McVeigh joined the district attorney's office 3 months after the shooting, and the case was pending his entire time there. He became district attorney about 2 years ago, and said it is a good day to close the case.

"From here I feel like all the pressure is relieved a little bit. That family can rest throughout this weekend knowing that the person that killed their son will be held accountable," McVeigh said.

The sentencing phase of the trial will begin Monday. Jurors will hear testimony from witnesses who will ask them to consider the death penalty, or sending Vincent to prison for the rest of his life, without the possibility of parole.

McVeigh said the prosecution does not intend to request a particular sentence. "We're just asking the jury to make an appropriate decision," he said.

(source: ABC News)

OHIO:

OHIO'S DEATH PENALTY; Panel advises slashing list of capital offenses ---- Report also urges exempting mentally ill

The ultimate punishment under Ohio law would be reserved for the "worst of the worst," and mentally ill people could not be executed if recommendations from a state task force become law.

That's a big "if."

The panel, named 2 years ago by Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor and the Ohio State Bar Association, also calls for taking the death penalty off the table simply because a death occurred during the commission of a felony, such as a robbery, kidnapping, and murder. The task force wants to open to public view elements of the state's clemency process that now occurs behind closed doors.

Some of the recommendations would require legislative action, far from a sure thing. Others could be accomplished through change in judicial rules adopted by the Supreme Court.

The death penalty itself was never on trial. A moratorium on carrying out executions during the review process was also not considered.

Instead, the task force concentrated on the application of capital punishment in Ohio, when it would and would not be appropriate, the long-term preservation of evidence, and racial and geographic disparities in its implementation.

The 22-member task force - consisting of judges, legislators, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and members of law enforcement and academics - was not unanimous in support of all 56 recommendations. A separate dissenting report from some members, in particular prosecutors, is expected to follow.

Highlights of the recommendations include:

-- Mandatory recording of interrogations of suspects while in custody.

-- Taking the death penalty off the table for someone legally determined to be suffering "severe mental illness" at the time of the crime or at the time of scheduled execution. Court rulings have already found that executing the mentally retarded is unconstitutional.

-- Removing the death penalty as an option simply because a death occurred during the commission of certain felonies, such as kidnapping, rape, aggravated arson, aggravated robbery, and aggravated burglary.

-- Creation of a Capital Litigation Fund to pay for all costs for the prosecution and defense of capital cases.

-- Prohibiting the death penalty in cases lacking biological or DNA evidence, a recorded voluntary confession, a video recording "conclusively" linking the defendant to the murder, or other factors as determined by the General Assembly.

-- Prohibiting the death penalty in cases where the prosecutor relied on jailhouse informant testimony uncorroborated by other evidence.

-- Requiring the Ohio Parole Board to record clemency hearings and its private interviews with condemned inmates with those recordings considered public record.

-- Mandatory continuing education on racial bias for attorneys and judges involved in capital cases.

State Sen. Bill Seitz (R., Cincinnati), a task force member, said he agrees with most of the recommendations, but he questioned whether some may condemn the report as a whole.

"I come at this from the standpoint of knowing my colleagues in the legislature," he said. "The minute the prosecutors say we are not for this, it's not going to happen. ... If you put too many controversial recommendations in here, you're going to have the whole ... report go into the trash can."

Chief among his disagreements with the final report is the elimination of "felony murder."

But that is one of the most important recommendations in the report, according to Ohio Public Defender Tim Young.

"You limit the death penalty to just the most heinous murders," he said.

A running theme throughout the report was providing "adequate funding" for such costs as public defenders for indigent defendants.

"It impacts both sides," Mr. Young said. "... The defense has always been underfunded. Almost everywhere in every case there isn't adequate funding. ... We have long fights to hire experts that are desperately needed. Funding has got to go up significantly."

Judge Linda Jennings of Lucas County Common Pleas Court, a task force member, said she generally agrees with the report and will not join in the dissent.

"It was difficult, because sometimes we would have discussions about whether or not we should even have the death penalty," she said. "We knew we could not even consider that. We had to just look at the [American Bar Association] recommendations and see in Ohio where there was a problem and see what we could recommend to make it more fair."

State Sen. Edna Brown (D., Toledo), who did not serve on the task force, has unsuccessfully sought the end of the death penalty in Ohio.

"Decades of studies have shown that capital punishment is arbitrarily applied, enormously expensive and wasteful, fails to deter criminal activity, and always carries the possibility of sentencing an innocent person to death," she said. "Unfortunately, the task force was prohibited from exploring abolishment, the only solution that fully addresses these systemic flaws."

(source: Toledo Blade)

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

'With these rules, you couldn't execute Timothy McVeigh,' argues task-force dissent

A deeply divided Ohio Supreme Court Death Penalty Task Force wrapped up 2 years of work yesterday, but odds are not all the sweeping recommendations will be adopted. During a contentious 4-hour final meeting, the committee approved 56 recommendations in a draft report - including banning execution of the mentally ill, creating a statewide capital-litigation fund, requiring DNA or video evidence for a capital-murder conviction and reserving capital punishment for the "worst of the worst" crimes.

(source: Columbus Dispatch)

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poll----should Ohio change its death penalty policy?----vote at: http://www.tribtoday.com/page/polls.detail/id/2325/

(source: tribtoday.com)

TENNESSEE:

This state wants to bring back electric chair, citing shortage of lethal drugs for executions: Justice?

Lawmakers in Tennessee are fixing to fire up Old Sparky again. That's right, politicians in the Volunteer State are talking about bringing back the electric chair to speed up the execution of some 81 inmates on death row.

The move by the state Senate comes as lethal drugs used in executions have become increasingly more difficult for states to secure. This, because international drug companies frown upon executions and U.S. pharmacies who supply the drugs have come under pressure from death penalty opponents.

So Tennessee Senators voted overwhelming this week to reinstate the electric chair to execute capital inmates in the event that the state is unable to procure the necessary chemicals to perform lethal injections, Time.com is reporting.

The Capital Punishment Enforcement Act would provide the state's Department of Corrections with the legal backing to kill inmates with the electric chair as an alternative, according to The Tennessean. The state House is advancing a similar measure.

And a similar move to bring back the electric chair is underway in Louisiana, as well.

Background according to Time: The vote follows the Volunteer State's decision last year to use the sedative pentobarbital as the lethal pharmaceutical agent to execute.

States that rely on pentobarbital are increasingly having a difficult time procuring a steady source of the drug, as European pharmaceutical firms object to supplying their products to execute inmates.

Despite the passage of the bill, activists remained hopeful that the chair will not see active duty again in Tennessee.

Executive director for the Death Penalty Information Center Richard Dieter told Reuters that execution by electrocution is "painful and torturous," which means the use of the chair would likely be challenged in court on the grounds that such a method violates the Constitution's protections against cruel and unusual punishment.

(source: pennlive.com)

MISSOURI:

Convicted killer sick, sentencing delayed a year

A man convicted of one killing and suspected in 2 others may never face a possible death sentence in Missouri, in part because of sentencing delays caused by a prosecutor's stroke and the killer's own failing health.

Gregory Bowman, 62, was convicted of abducting and strangling a teenager in St. Louis County in 1977. He was also convicted of killing a 14-year-old girl and a 21-year-old woman in Belleville, Ill., both in 1978, but the convictions were overturned and he was never retried.

The Missouri Supreme Court upheld Bowman's conviction in the Missouri case in 2011 but ordered a new sentencing hearing. Unusual circumstances have led St. Louis County Circuit Judge David Vincent to allow repeated delays, the latest moving the hearing to April 2015. That hearing would determine whether Bowman would be sentenced to life in prison without parole, or death.

Bowman's original attorney was Stephen Evans. He was convicted of federal fraud charges last year and is serving a 15-month prison sentence.

A public defender was appointed for Bowman. But in January, the assistant St. Louis County prosecutor handling the case suffered a stroke, said Colleen Blake, Vincent's clerk. The judge was also informed that Bowman has a serious and potentially fatal kidney ailment, Blake said. She did not know specific details of the illness and a Missouri Department of Corrections spokesman declined to comment, citing privacy rights.

Bowman's attorney, Robert Steele, did not respond to messages seeking comment. St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch declined to comment.

The Missouri victim, 16-year-old Velda Rumfelt, grew up in the St. Louis County town of Brentwood before moving to Kansas City, Mo., to live with her mother. In June 1977 she hitched a ride back to suburban St. Louis with an acquaintance, and the 2 spent the day at the Six Flags St. Louis amusement park.

Then she disappeared, last seen walking with an older man along a street. Her body was found in a field the next day. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled with a shoestring.

A year later, 2 killings shook Belleville, another St. Louis suburb. Bowman confessed to killing 14-year-old Elizabeth West and 21-year-old Ruth Ann Jany.

West was last seen alive April 22, 1978, as she walked away from her high school. Her body was found nearly 2 weeks later in a small creek near Millstadt, Ill. Jany, a nurse, disappeared from a bank parking lot on July 7, 1978. Her body was found several months later.

Bowman pleaded guilty in March 1979, but recanted days later, claiming his statements were coerced. He was convicted, but a judge granted a new trial in 2001 after a St. Louis Post-Dispatch investigation indicated that Bowman had been denied information about police tricks that created doubt about the confession. Bowman was briefly freed on bond in January 2007.

Meanwhile, St. Louis County police obtained Bowman's DNA profile from Belleville investigators, and used it to connect him to the killing of Rumfelt. He was arrested soon after his releases in Illinois, and convicted in 2009. Illinois prosecutors said at the time they did not intend to re-try Bowman on the Belleville killings.

In April 2011, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that during the sentencing phase of Bowman's trial in the Missouri case, jurors improperly heard information about the Belleville murders. The conviction stood but the court ordered a new sentencing hearing.

Bowman is imprisoned at the Potosi Correctional Center in southeast Missouri.

(source: Associated Press)

KANSAS:

Federal prosecutor in Topeka to serve on death penalty review committee; Committee evaluates whether to recommend AG should order prosecutors to seek death penalty

Before a federal prosecutor can seek the death penalty against a defendant in U.S. District Court, a tiny committee of attorneys throughout the United States must evaluate the case.

If the Attorney General's Review Committee on Capital Cases recommends pursuing the death penalty, the case is shipped to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who makes the ultimate decision on whether to pursue capital punishment.

On April 16, senior assistant U.S. attorney Tony Mattivi, who is posted in Topeka in the U.S. Attorney's Office, will join that group.

"I'm definitely looking forward to it," Mattivi said Thursday. "It will be a very interesting and challenging experience for me and definitely a learning opportunity. It will be a great chance to work with some very talented and very smart people."

Mattivi, 49, has been a federal prosecutor for 15 years. Mattivi's regular assignment is handling national security cases and a general caseload of prosecuting defendants charged with federal offenses.

Mattivi grew up in Colorado Springs, Colo., worked for 10 years as a paramedic, including during his time as a college student, graduated from Metropolitan State College of Denver, then graduated from the Washburn University School of Law in 1994.

Before joining the U.S. Attorney's Office, Mattivi was an assistant Shawnee County district attorney, then an assistant Kansas attorney general. Mattivi also is an adjunct law professor at Washburn.

The capital case review committee is made up of senior officials from the Department of Justice's criminal division and the deputy attorney general's office, as well as experienced assistant U.S. attorneys. Assistant U.S. attorneys serve 2-year terms on the committee.

For a defendant to be considered for the death penalty, the case must have 2 basic criteria.

"It has to be a federal case, and then for the death penalty to be considered, there has to have been an intentional murder," Mattivi said.

When a potential capital case surfaces, copies of the case file are sent to each of the 6 committee members hearing it, then you study the case, and you do your own analysis as to whether the death penalty can and should be sought, Mattivi said.

Then, via conference calls, committee members discuss the case and decide whether to seek the death penalty, he said.

Committee members can expect to review several cases a month. The majority of the committee work can be done in their offices.

The committee has 11 prosecutors, but at any given time some will be in court prosecuting cases or otherwise tied up.

Members serve on a rotating basis and carry normal caseloads because the assignment isn't a full-time commitment. As a prosecutor, Mattivi has presented cases to the committee, sometimes seeking the death penalty and sometimes making a "no-seek" recommendation. That means the prosecutor doesn't ask for authorization to seek the death penalty.

Mattivi has been involved in death penalty cases that were resolved with plea agreements rather than going to trial, where jurors would have to decide verdicts and whether to impose death penalties.

Once the committee decides to seek or not seek the death penalty, that will end Mattivi's role in a case. If Mattivi has a Kansas case that may involve the death penalty, he won't hear the case as a member of the death penalty review committee.

(source: Capital Journal Online)

OKLAHOMA:

Anti-death penalty group to honor Okla. legislator

An anti-death penalty group plans to honor an Oklahoma lawmaker who filed legislation to study Oklahoma's use of capital punishment.

The Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty will honor Democratic Rep. Seneca Scott of Tulsa during its 23rd annual membership meeting on Saturday.

Scott introduced a bill to propose creation of a Death Penalty Review Task Force. Among other things, it would have examined whether prosecutors seek the death penalty uniformly, whether the death penalty is applied randomly in the state and the cost of capital punishment trials and appeals. The measure died in the House Rules Committee.

Death Penalty Information Center records indicate Oklahoma has executed 110 prisoners since 1976, when the U.S. Supreme Court reinstituted capital punishment. Another 132 were executed by the state prior to 1976.

(source: Associated Press)

ARIZONA----female faces death penalty

Jurors mull execution for Marissa Devault

Jurors who convicted an Arizona woman of fatally beating her husband with a hammer are scheduled to resume deliberations Monday over whether she warrants the death penalty.

The jury at the trial of Marissa Devault has already spent 2 days considering whether there were "aggravating factors" that would make her eligible for execution for the 2009 death of Dale Harrell.

If such factors are found, jurors will decide whether she should be sentenced to life in prison or to death. But if those factors aren't found, a judge will sentence Devault to either the rest of her life in prison or life in prison with the possibility of release after 25 years.

Prosecutors say Devault should face the death penalty because she carried out the crime in an especially cruel manner for the purpose of collecting on life insurance, pointing out that Devault caused a fist-size hole in Harrell's skull.

Defense attorneys say Devault never filed any claim in Harrell's death and added that the insurance-money theory is undermined by the fact that 1 of the 2 policies in question covered only accidental deaths - and Harrell's death wasn't an accident.

Authorities say Devault killed Harrell in a failed bid to collect on a life insurance policy to repay about $300,000 in loans from her boyfriend. Devault says she killed her husband in self-defense and told investigators that he had physically and sexually abused her in the past.

Harrell, 34, suffered multiple skull fractures in the January 2009 attack at the couple's home in the Phoenix suburb of Gilbert. He died nearly a month later at a hospice because of complications from his head injuries.

Devault initially told investigators that her husband attacked her while she was asleep and choked her until she was unconscious. She also told police that when she woke up, she saw another man who lived at their home beating Harrell with a hammer.

But authorities say Devault, 36, confessed to the killing after bloodstain evidence showed Harrell was alone in the bed at the time of the attack.

The key prosecution witness was Devault's former boyfriend, Allen Flores, a Yale University-educated management consultant who is 20 years older than Devault and had loaned her $300,000 during their 2-year relationship.

Flores testified that Devault wanted to either hire someone to kill Harrell, or kill him herself and tell police he tried to rape her after a night of drinking.

Devault's attorneys attacked Flores' credibility, noting he was given an immunity agreement on child-pornography allegations in exchange for his testimony. The child pornography was found on Flores' computer during a search that was part of the murder investigation, authorities said.

(source: Associated Press)

USA:

Defense medical expert offers new cause-of-death opinion in Williams trial

A 3rd defense medical expert is offering yet another opinion on the child abuse beating death of 5-year-old Talia Williams.

Pediatrician and child abuse expert Eli Newberger said Thursday morning in U.S. District Court that when Talia died on July 16, 2005 she was experiencing multiple organ system failures liked to injuries sustained in preceding months. He said her body would have had difficulty repairing the injuries because of food deprivation.

Newberger, however, said he is not able to pinpoint exactly what killed the girl. "I cannot identify a single organ system the failure of which is associated with Talia's death," he said.

Talia's father, former Schofield Barracks soldier Naeem Williams, is on trial in for capital murder for killing his daughter. He is facing the death penalty for killing a child through child abuse or as part of a practice and pattern of assault and torture.

Williams has already testified that Talia never got up from a blow he delivered to her back, causing her to hit her head on the concrete floor of their military family quarters at Wheeler Army Airfield.

A previous defense medical expert testified that Talia died from infection of her blood and back of her abdominal cavity wall from injuries she could have suffered 17 days earlier.

Talia's stepmother Delilah Williams testified that she stomped on Talia multiple times and slammed her stepdaughter's head into a wall on June 29, 2005.

Another defense medical expert testified that the girl died from complications of injuries to her head, chest and abdomen that could have sustained during Delilah Williams's admitted stomping.

Forensic pathologist Dr. Kanthi De Alwis performed Talia's autopsy in 2005 when she was Honolulu Chief Medical Examiner. Dr. De Alwis testified that Talia died when her head hit a flat object. The impact caused Talia's brain to twist inside her skull cutting off connections to the area of the brain that controls breathing.

(source: Honolulu Star Advertiser)

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STUDIES: Murder of Female Victims More Likely to Result in Death Sentence

A recent study by researchers at Cornell Law School found that the gender of the murder victim may influence whether a defendant receives the death penalty. Using data from 1976 to 2007 in Delaware, the study found that in cases with female victims, 47.1% resulted in death sentences, while in those involving male victims, only 32.3% were sentenced to death. The researchers looked at a number of factors other than the victim's gender that might have affected sentencing decisions, including the heinousness of the crime, whether there was a sexual element to the murder, and the relationship between defendant and victim. The study found that some of the gender effect in sentencing could be explained by factors other than just the gender of the victim. Crimes involving sexual violence were more likely to result in a death sentence, as were crimes in which the victim and defendant knew one another, and victims of both of those types of crimes are more likely to be women.

The authors concluded, "While more research needs to be done, using both larger databases and information from other regions, our analyses suggest that victim gender continues to influence capital sentencing decisions."

(C. Royer, et al., "Victim Gender and the Death Penalty," 82 University of Missouri-Kansas City Law Review 429 (forthcoming, 2014)).

(source: DPIC)

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This has been a big week in the death house in Texas. The state executioner was assigned to dispatch not 1, but 2, evildoers. He could put away his needle with the satisfaction of a job well done. 5 more executions are scheduled before summer.

Texas is No. 1 in the business, having dispatched 513 men and women (nearly all men) since the states were freed by the U.S. Supreme Court to resume state-sanctioned killing in 1976. Virginia and Oklahoma are 2nd, each with 110 executions (so far), but measured by executions per capita, Oklahoma, which competes with Texas to be No. 1 in so many things, is No. 1.

Opinions on capital punishment are sharply divided and passionately held, but the stereotype that executions are favorites of conservatives is slowly dissolving. Young conservatives seem particularly willing to take another look at the death business.

Roy Brown, the former majority leader of the Montana House of Representatives, founded an organization called Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, and he travels the country spreading the word. He led a forum, in partnership with the Young Americans for Liberty, last month at Georgetown University. Marc Hayden, the group's national coordinator, says he finds conservatives deciding the death penalty is "wasteful, unfair, error-prone and out of step with conservative values."

No one, liberal or conservative, disputes the fact that it's a grisly business, once universally endorsed by both church and state. There's the story that an ancient mariner, cast ashore when his ship foundered on the rocks, looked up to see a gallows outlined against a gray, wintry sky. "Thank God!" he cried out. "I've landed in a Christian country." The hangman once presided over a thriving business.

Now, not so much. Only 32 states retain the death penalty and it has been abolished in many places overseas. The preferred chemicals used in executions are no longer manufactured in the United States, and European manufacturers will no longer sell to the states for executions. But capital punishment is still popular in many places, particularly in the South.

Bill Clinton famously interrupted his 1st presidential campaign in 1994 to return to Arkansas to preside over the execution of Ricky Ray Rector, a mentally retarded black man. When it was time to walk the last mile, Rector carefully put aside a piece of pecan pie, saved from his last meal, to enjoy "later."

Capital punishment is nowhere as popular as in Texas, where swift and harsh justice is prized. The late Joe Frank Cannon, a Houston lawyer known as "greased lightning," was appointed to represent poor defendants so many times that 10 of his clients were executed. Greased lightning or not, Joe Frank often went to sleep during trials, twice when his clients were sentenced to death.

This was regarded by the courts merely as an impediment to the rocket dockets much loved by judges, and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals held that "the Constitution requires a defendant to be represented by a lawyer; it doesn't say the lawyer has to be awake." A federal appeals court disagreed, but only after asking whether the lawyer had slept through "important parts" of the trial.

Executions can be badly botched. Witnesses to a Mississippi execution had to be banished when they were overcome after the prisoner started banging his head on a steel pole in the chamber, apparently to hasten death. The executioner was drunk.

The electric chair, largely abandoned because lethal injections are less expensive, is particularly "problematic." Prisoners occasionally catch fire, and the sight and scent overcomes everyone watching.

DNA has rescued some innocent prisoners from death row, but states are always loath to admit mistakes. No one should confuse the law with justice. One governor of Illinois, deeply troubled when new evidence freed an innocent man 2 days before his scheduled execution, commuted to life the death sentences of 167 others awaiting execution because he did not think the death penalty could be administered fairly.

Prisoners on death row are nearly all bad men (and women), who deserve no mercy on their own merits. But killing them does not deter others; first-degree murder is by definition a crime of unthinking passion. Death removes evildoers from society, but at the price of coarsening and making cheap that society.

No one feels better after the state commits premeditated murder in the name of the law. Society keeps trying new methods of execution, eager to relieve pangs of conscience. But conscience is a stubborn overseer, and won't be satisfied until death gets no sanction and the executioner is banished for once and all.

(source: Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times)

UGANDA:

For 300 years Britain hanged homosexuals

When President Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act into law, Europe and the United States went into overdrive.

Aid was and continues to be cut. Threats were made if the law was not repealed. Travel bans are to be imposed on those responsible for the law. How can we be so stupid to the extent that we criminalise a human right?

These punitive actions are intended to bring us back to our senses. Now our minister of Foreign Affairs has rushed to America to cool down angry donors. But I think the Americans and Europeans are taking it out on us because of a collective sense of guilt. The anger is not about us. It is an attempt to cleanse a deeply-soiled conscience.

They are struggling to come to terms with their past and we have offered the opportunity for them to look good. In 1533 King Henry VIII signed into law the Buggery Act. The law prohibited all homosexual activities and prescribed the death penalty for contravention. In addition, all property of the convict was confiscated. The heir(s) would inherit nothing.

The death penalty was scrapped in 1861 and replaced with life imprisonment. For over three hundred years, British courts convicted and the government hanged its citizens for male-male sexual activity. A sample of records shows that between 1806 and 1861 alone, 8,921 men were prosecuted for sodomy in Britain. Four hundred and four were sentenced to death.

The 1st person to be convicted under that law was Walter Hungerford who was beheaded (not hanged) at Tyburn in 1540.The last 2 were James Pratt and John Smith, both hanged on November 27, 1835.

For attempted sodomy, the prison sentence was severe and included pillory. This sentence consisted of being put on display in a marketplace or crossroads with your head protruding from a piece of wood. People would then gather to taunt, jeer, mock and laugh at the convict. Often he was pelted with rotten food and mud, but sometimes the crowd used stones and bricks ending in the death or maiming of the convict. This sentence was abolished in 1837.

But too many suspects were being acquitted due to difficulties in proving sodomy. Accordingly, the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885 introduced a new offence called gross indecency. This offence did not require evidence of homosexual activity. Actions such as "lewd" touching between males fell under that offence.

It became easier to prove and punish homosexual activity. Oscar Wilde, the Irish writer and poet, served 2 years in prison with hard labour (kiboko) for gross indecency. It was not until 1967 that the British government decriminalized sodomy but only for males above 21 years. It remained a crime for those below that age until 2001. From 1533 to 2001 homosexual activities were punished in Britain as a crime.

In my view, this holier-than-thou attitude by the West is nothing but a coverup for a collective sense of guilt. And it is unfair to take it out on Uganda. It does not cleanse their guilt. What is required is for the West to come clean instead of bullying others.

In 2009 Prime Minister Gordon Brown made an official apology on behalf of the British government in respect of Alan Turing who was prosecuted in the British courts for homosexuality in 1952. He was given a choice: prison or be chemically castrated. He chose to be castrated. He committed suicide in 1954.

On December 24, 2013, the Queen gave him a posthumus pardon. Today, he is widely recognised as the father of theoretical computer science which is responsible for the technological advances we have made in this century.

But an apology in respect of one man is not enough. The apology should extend to the thousands the British government hanged over a period of 300 years. Their heirs should be compensated for the properties the British government routinely seized.

President Obama and all European leaders should also offer the same apology and reparations. Sodomy was a criminal act punishable by death all over Europe and the United States. It was decriminalised in Netherlands in 1811, Portugal 1852, Italy 1889, Iceland 1940, Switzerland 1940, Sweden 1944, Greece 1951, Ireland 1982, Germany 1994, Romania 1996, Bosnia 1998 and Northern Cyprus 2014. But laws like gross indecency were introduced instead.

The 1st American state to decriminalise homosexuality was Illinois in 1961, followed by Connecticut in 1969.Florida, both Carolinas, Idaho, Texas and 10 other states refused to decriminalise homosexual activities until the Supreme court forced them to do so as recently as 2003.

For Western governments to claim not to understand how we can criminalize homosexuality is the highest level of legal hypocrisy and diplomatic absurdity. To now claim it is a human right, there is need for an explanation as to how they forgot to include it in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948.

The offence of sodomy became law in Uganda by virtue of Section 15 (2) of the Uganda Order in Council 1902. By that Order, laws of general application subsisting in Britain automatically become law in Uganda.

Therefore, from 1902 homosexuality was a crime in Uganda carrying a sentence of life imprisonment. It was amended by the Penal Code Act of 1930 by altering the sentence to 14 years with hard labour (kiboko). Attempted sodomy was maintained at 7 years. By section 10 of ordinance 21 of 1955, corporal punishment (kiboko) was removed.

That is what the British handed to us on October 9, 1962 and that is what we have religiously followed. The Bahati law simply builds on the British position. Even if the Bahati law is repealed, homosexual activities will continue to be a crime, thanks to the British.

Billions have been poured into this country with a law forbidding homosexuality on our books since independence; so what is new today? Guilt!

What is needed now is not this holier- than-thou attitude but an apology to Uganda for bringing "bad laws' here. Another apology should be rendered to any Ugandan who suffered as a result of the "bad" laws and compensation made. Thereafter, we require an exhaustive explanationas to why values the West held dear for 500 years have now become very bad.

You cannot lead me to do something for over 100 years and when you change your mind you order me to change mine as well. Patronizing!

Instead of travel restrictions on Bahati and his colleagues, they should be given free visas and their expenses paid to travel to America and Europe and study this subject more deeply. That is how civilized nations ought to behave. Who knows, Bahati may change his mind.

Lastly, there is no consistency. In an interview with NTV last week, the American ambassador, when quizzed why there were no aid cuts when the Public Order Management law came into force, claimed the Act itself was not bad but rather its implementation. I don't think so and I will be proven right when the Constitutional court strikes that law down. As it surely will do.

(source: Wandera Ogalo; The writer is a former politician and veteran advocate----The Observer)

TRINIDAD:

Court rules May 27 on killer's appeal

A man who was convicted and sentenced to hang in 2005, for the murder of his 16-year-old cousin three years earlier in Diego Martin, suffers from a borderline personality disorder that makes him impulsive and self-destructive, said psychiatrist Dr Gerard Hutchinson at the Court of Appeal on Tuesday.

In December 2005, Marcus Jason Daniel was found guilty of stabbing to death Suzette Gibson and sentenced to the death penalty by former High Court judge Justice Herbert Volney.

During the trial, Daniel said he was listening to heavy metal rock music and was high on drugs when he murdered Gibson.

Following the conviction and sentence, Daniel approached the Court of Appeal and subsequently the Privy Council, arguing that his conviction was unsafe.

In 2008, the Privy Council remitted the matter to the Court of Appeal after three clinical and forensic psychiatrists concluded that he suffered from the disorder and satisfies the criteria for alcohol and drug-induced psychosis.

The law lords had said that the diagnosis raised a credible defence of diminished responsibility and should have been raised at the trial.

During Tuesday's hearing before Chief Justice Ivor Archie and appellate judges Justices Rajendra Narine and Prakash Moosai, Dr Hutchinson said after getting 2 different accounts of the killing by Daniel, it seemed likely that Daniel had a mixed personality disorder that also included traits of an anti-social personality, marked impulsivity in certain areas, self-mutilative behaviour and affective instability.

He said the treatment of such cases was challenging given that the traits are persistent, adding that it would be based on the patient's own commitment to stopping the substance abuse.

Hutchinson said, ideally, the best chance is long-term psychotherapy and treatment in an institution similar to St Ann's Psychiatric Hospital, as opposed to prison.

The Appeal Court will give its judgment on May 27.

(source: Trinidad Express)

EGYPT:

Death Sentences In Egypt 'Mockery Of Justice' - Analysis

A group of 8 United Nations human rights independent experts have urged the Egyptian authorities to quash the 529 death sentences announced in Egypt and give the defendants new and fair trials, in line with international human rights law.

"The right to life is a fundamental right, not a toy to be played with. If the death penalty is to be used at all in countries which have not abolished it, international law requires the most stringent respect of a number of fundamental standards," the experts said in a news statement.

On March 24, 2014 the 529 defendants were convicted of various charges, including membership in an unlawful organization (the Muslim Brotherhood), incitement to violence, vandalism, unlawful gathering and the killing of 1 police officer. All the charges relate to events in August 2013 after the Government of President Mohamed Morsi was ousted. The exact charges against each defendant are unclear as they were not read out in court, and at least 600 more individuals are currently under trial for similar charges.

"We are appalled by the lack of clarity of the charges under which each individual was sentenced to death. Reports that some of them received capital punishment for charges of unlawful gathering, or any other offence not involving murder, indicate a clear violation of international law," the experts stressed, recalling the "most serious crimes" provision under international law, according to which only crimes of intentional killing may be punishable by death.

"The imposition of the sentence of death on 529 defendants, after a 2-day trial that was rife of procedural irregularities, and on unclear or sometimes insignificant charges makes a mockery of justice," added the experts. "There is a clear need for a serious and comprehensive reform in any legal system that allows for such developments to occur."

The independent experts also expressed deep concern about numerous procedural irregularities reported during the recent proceedings, such as limited access to lawyers, trials in absentia, or the mass imposition of the death sentences, all of which are in breach of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Egypt is a party.

"International law also requires that, in cases of capital punishment, trials must meet the highest standards of fairness and due process," they noted.

Warning that the absence of a fair trial is likely to "undermine any prospects for reconciliation within the Egyptian society," the experts reminded the Egyptian authorities "how crucial it is that the future of the Egyptian society be based on dialogue, justice, and respect of human rights."

Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

The group of 8 experts was comprised of: Christof Heyns, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Gabriela Knaul, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers; Juan Mendez, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and Pablo de Greiff, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence.

Also a part of the statement were: Mads Andenas, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Frank La Rue, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; and Ben Emmerson, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism.

"The astounding number of people sentenced to death in this case is unprecedented in recent history," Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), told a news conference in Geneva.

"The mass imposition of the death penalty after a trial that was rife with procedural irregularities is in breach of international human rights law."

(source: Eurasia Review)

GABON/EL SALVADOR:

Abolition of the death penalty - Ratification of the Optional Protocol by Gabon and El Salvador

France welcomes the ratification of the UN Protocol on the abolition of the death penalty by Gabon and El Salvador.

80 states are now party to this Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.

France renews its appeal for the universal ratification of this protocol. It reaffirms its resolute and constant commitment to the universal abolition of the death penalty.

(source: France Diplomatie)

BELARUS:

Authorities planned death penalty for Ploshcha participants

Participants of the protest rally on December 19, 2010 could be faced by charges which allow for 15-year-old imprisonment and death penalty.

Words of Mikalai Autukhovich, who was released yesterday after more than 5 years' term in prison, prove that the authorities had prepared provocations against Belarusians who gathered on the Square (Ploshcha). As said by the former political prisoner, there had been plans to charge him with smuggling a shipment of weapons through the border of Belarus. He is convinced that the authorities wanted to connect it to the upcoming protest rally. Valyantsin Stefanovich, a human rights activist, explained to charter97.org website consequences of such an accusation.

"Everything depends on the aims for which this "shipment of arms" had been imported, according to investigators. So it is hard to say in which way it could be determined. There is an article "conspiracy and other actions with the aim of take-over." There is an article "a terrorist attack", which could be related to use of firearms, "diversion". All of them are included to the chapter of the Criminal Code called "Crimes against the State" and allow for different kinds of punishment. For instance, "a plot with the aim of take-over" is punished by a term from 8 to 12 years in prison, while "seizure and retention of power" - from 10 to 15 years. When all these crimes go together with by deaths of people, the punishment is up to a capital punishment," Valyantsin Stefanovich stated.

The human rights activist agrees with the political prisoner Mikalai Autukhovich that such charges could have been used in order to apply harsher repressions against Ploshcha participants.

"All these articles could have been used in full. Both actions to seize the power, diversions... It is hard to say how it could be treated, but I think that at least as a terrorist attack, for sure. And if it would be connected to deaths of people, a capital punishment could have been used I think. I cannot say for sure, as those who had invented such charges should be asked about that. Just imagine a blast could have taken place on the Square. There would be a search for those who guilty, and they would face capital punishment," the human rights activist said.

We remind that the protest rally on October 19, 2010 was one of the greatest mass actions of Belarusian opposition. More than 50,000 citizens of the country gathered to protest against rigged presidential election results. The protest was cruelly cracked down on by the troops and police.

(source: Charter 97)

BRUNEI:

UN concerned at broad application of death penalty in Brunei's revised penal code----Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

The United Nations human rights office today voiced deep concern about the revised penal code in Brunei Darussalam which stipulates the death penalty for numerous offences, including robbery, adultery, and insult or defamation of the Prophet Mohammed, and introduces stoning to death as the specific method of execution for crimes of a sexual nature.

Rape, adultery, sodomy, extramarital sexual relations for Muslims, insulting any verses of the Quran and Hadith, blasphemy, declaring oneself a prophet or non-Muslim, and murder are the other offences for which the death penalty could be applied under the revised code, which is due to come into force on 22 April.

"Application of the death penalty for such a broad range of offences contravenes international law," said Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

"We urge the Government to delay the entry into force of the revised penal code and to conduct a comprehensive review ensuring its compliance with international human rights standards," he told a news conference in Geneva.

Noting that Brunei has maintained an effective moratorium on the use of the death penalty since 1957, OHCHR urged the Government to establish a formal moratorium and to work towards abolishing the practice altogether.

Among other measures, the revised code introduces stoning to death as the specific method of execution for rape, adultery, sodomy and extramarital sexual relations.

"Under international law, stoning people to death constitutes torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and is thus clearly prohibited," stated Mr. Colville.

He added that a number of UN studies have also revealed that women are more likely to be sentenced to death by stoning, due to deeply entrenched discrimination and stereotyping against them, including among law enforcement and judicial officers.

The criminalization and application of the death penalty for consensual relations between adults in private also violates a whole host of rights, including the rights to privacy, to equality before the law, the right to health and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, Mr. Colville noted.

"The provisions of the revised penal code may encourage further violence and discrimination against women and also against people on the basis of sexual orientation," he warned.

(source: UN News Centre)

INDIA:

Ideal rape trial, or travesty of justice? 2 high-profile rape cases deliver death penalties and touch off questions.

The 2 high-profile rape trials, which made history as the first cases to be tried under the newly amended rape law, have been "successfully" concluded. Having had a ringside view of the trial, it is time now to raise some uncomfortable questions. Were these "ideal" trials or a travesty of justice? Were these fit cases to hand out the death penalty to three young boys, one of them barely 18, from impoverished backgrounds, or an exercise in appeasing the collective conscience of the nation or restoring the wounded pride of a city?

The death sentence was meted out in a case that started off as the first incident of gangrape after the amendment to the rape law. Coming close on the heels of the gruesome Delhi gangrape and murder case, it invited unprecedented media glare, and punctured the image of Mumbai as a safe city. Hence, it had to be dealt with, with the severest of punishment. The 2nd case that came to light accidentally a few days later, of the telephone operator (a convenient misnomer given to the 18-year-old from the lower strata, still struggling to complete her basic schooling), provided the perfect prop to the entire setting.

In the hands of an astute public prosecutor, with several death penalties under his belt but without any credentials for conducting rape trials with dignity and sensitivity, the trial that started off as the first and the most high profile was turned into a "subsequent case", and the subsequent one transformed itself into the first. The trials went on parallelly, and convictions were pronounced within minutes of each other. But the design of pronouncing the convictions provided scope for entertaining an application to add the additional charge under Section 376E, warranting death penalty, at this late stage. Logically, the case that was registered 1st and the trial that commenced prior in time ought to have concluded first. But that was not to be, as it would not warrant a death penalty. Hence, the 2nd case is rendered a mere prop for the first.

By this, the very meaning of "repeat offender" became skewed, setting a dangerous precedent, diluting the premise of "rarest of rare" in our criminal justice system. While there have been death penalties in the past, the public prosecutor has boasted that this is the first instance where the death penalty was secured in a case where the victim was alive. Worst, a child in conflict with the law can only be punished for 3 years, but the moment he crosses the threshold, he can be sent to the gallows. On the other hand, there is no accountability for the state that failed in its duty to reform a "child in conflict with law" when he became an adult offender, while this factor can be invoked to press for the death penalty.

Does this argument serve to advance the cause of women's rights, or defeat it? If rape is worse than death, if women who have lost their chastity and prestige have no reason to live, it sets another dangerous trend. Placing rape and murder on the same scale is an open invitation to anyone who commits rape to also commit murder. Women's lives, already cheap and dispensable, will be rendered even cheaper. It then becomes the duty of a gender-sensitised judge to restrain the prosecution from advancing such archaic arguments and to advance the cause of gender justice.

(source: Indian Express)

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Why capital punishment still makes sense in rape cases

In her article on the verdict in Shakti Mills gangrape trial, Surabhi Vaya argues that there are two primary reasons why death penalty is not the most appropriate verdict in this case: the uncertain deterrence impact of capital punishment and its brutality that is not befitting a civilised and conscientious society.

Before going into the merits of her case, it is pertinent to highlight a small contradiction in her choice of these 2 arguments out of a much larger set of arguments against death penalty. You cannot on the one hand assert that a punishment is brutal, while arguing at the same time that it might not have a deterrence impact on rational human beings. Unless of course the criminal was a psychopath who was incapable of thinking about the consequences of his actions, in which case we are better off without him.

I agree that there is no scientific way to measure whether death penalty acts as a deterrent. However, concrete proof of deterrence is not a prerequisite for any punishment, especially capital punishment. Making deterrence the bedrock of criminal jurisprudence betrays an incomplete, utilitarian understanding of why laws exist. As Immanuel Kant would argue, law codifies the civil and moral duties of citizens and penalizes their violations. Therefore, you punish someone because they deserve it - not because you want to prevent possible future crimes in society by making that individual a sacrificial lamb and punishing him more than what he deserves.

In fact, punishing someone to simply deter others and not for the individual's actions is the classic definition of cruelty. As author C.S. Lewis wrote, "If deterrence is all that matters, the execution of an innocent man, provided the public think him guilty, would be fully justified."

Like Pascal's famous wager on the existence of God, if potential criminals are deterred by death penalty, it's an added bonus for the public. However, if there is no deterrence, we have simply executed a criminal whose actions shocked the collective conscience of society. That's not a hard choice to make. Although personally, I am inclined to side with those who believe that capital punishment has deterrence effect. Have you ever come across a defence lawyer who argued in favour of death penalty instead of a life sentence? That is because their clients value the sanctity of life and would rather stay in jail than meet their maker. Let me leave you with a final thought about deterrence. Since 9/11, passengers are not allowed to enter cockpits as a security measure. Now we don't know how many potential hijackings have been prevented because of this restriction- there is no scientific way to calculate it. But do you want to take a chance and find out?

Next, let us look at this question of brutality. Allow me to clear the misconception that we are a trigger-happy society that consigns criminals to death penalty at the drop of a hat. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, around 3,30,000 cases of murders have been reported in the last decade. This means that, on an average, around 33,000 murders are committed every year out of which the court hands a death sentence only in 132 cases (that is 0.003% of the total cases). Even in these 132 cases, the Supreme Court confirms only around 3-4 death sentences in a year. In other words, you are more likely to lose your life by joining the armed forces than murdering someone.

All arguments about the inhuman nature of death penalty in which "brutality is countered with brutality" is based on the flawed assumption that mere equality of outcomes makes two acts morally equivalent. It is like saying that kidnapping and imprisonment are equally wrong because both entail a loss of personal freedom. Or charging a fine from a defaulter is equivalent to theft because both result in a loss of property.

Capital punishment is awarded after a careful deliberation of the facts of the case and mitigating circumstances by impartial judges and their decision is further confirmed by higher courts of the country. It cannot be treated as being on all fours a criminal act of murder, simply because both result in a loss of life for the individual.

Capital punishment ensures both justice for the victim and protection for the society. Our state and central governments have started the unhealthy culture of granting en-masse remissions under section 432 of the Criminal Procedure Code to people with life terms. Convicts started demanding release after 14 years almost as a matter of right and the state did oblige them with mass release on "festive occasions". All this continued till the Supreme Court, our saviour of last resort, passed a judgment saying that life convicts don't have an automatic right of remission after 14 years and the government must take precautions about the possible harm that the society might suffer if these hardened criminals are let loose. As a society, are we willing to take the risk that even one innocent life is endangered by an Indian equivalent of Scott Lehr or Arthur Shawcross?

Vaya concludes her article with the assertion that "rapes haven't stopped since amendments". But poor enforcement is never a good reason to repeal a good law. Legal statutes are also an expression of societal values. Would you reconsider a ban on dowry just because its practise has not stopped in India? Or legalize murder simply because people continue to kill people despite a ban?

Rapes haven't stopped because we are not sentencing enough rapists and murderers to death. If the determination and efficiency that was shown by our criminal justice system in the Nirbhaya case and the Shakti Mills case became the norm instead of the exception, the number of rapes would come down in India. Strict, swift and guaranteed punishment is not just the best antidote to increasing criminality but also a moral imperative for a civilised and conscientious society.

The "collective conscience" of the nation, which is celebrating this judgment, will bemoan its harshness and its skewed interpretation only when it is applied to a case involving a "person like us". It is indeed a travesty of justice, when deplorable poverty, young age, or even the presence of dependent toddlers, cease to be "mitigating" circumstances. To add insult to injury, when defence lawyers presented these factors by means of the mothers to plead the court to spare the lives of their young boys, the court allowed itself to be a free-for-all media jamboree. Lapses had been committed even earlier, when public prosecutors and defence lawyers were not ticked off for holding media briefings regarding the goings-on within the court while proceedings were held in camera, and allowing exaggerated, distorted or orchestrated versions to be projected in a sensational manner.

The fear of the intrusive media glare has been the greatest bane of the victims of these high-profile cases. The eventuality of cameras capturing their images and flashing them in newspapers is a constant fear they live with, causing them unwarranted anxiety and depression, hindering them from going about their normal chores. It is this fear that made the woman in the "Spanish rape case" go about in a burqa, in hired cars, with tinted glasses, until she left the country. It is due to this fear that victims in the present case had to be taken to court in burqa, surrounded by escorts. It is this fear that makes the victims live like fugitives.

Care, protection and treatment ought to be the state's paramount concern and this is where the state has lapsed most. Even while securing the death penalty in a showpiece case, the victims are left to fend for themselves. Despite the fact that the Manodhairya scheme for financial support was launched as an outcome of this incident, they are not its beneficiaries and do not qualify for the Rs 3 lakh it assures. The telephone operator who suffered serious injuries not only did not receive any treatment at the state-run hospital, but was subjected to the humiliating 2-finger test, totally unwarranted in her case, despite the fact that such tests are banned. Even today, she is coping with the psychological scars and extreme financial hardship.

These brave souls, the fearless ones, the Nirbhayas, need to be rewarded for their bravery and not cast by the wayside, nor treated as mere cogs in the wheel of justice to secure the death penalty.

The writer, a legal scholar and women's rights lawyer, is the director of Majlis, a legal resource centre, and consultant to RAHAT, the survivor support programme for sexual violence.

(source: First Post)

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Opposing The Award Of Death Penalty As Punishment For Rape--By Peoples Union for Democratic Rights

Peoples Union of Democratic Rights (PUDR) is concerned that close on the heels of the Supreme Court's judgment of 21st January 2014, whereby the Court had commuted the death sentences of 15 convicts to life imprisonment, the Delhi High Court and the Mumbai Sessions Court, have in 2 significant judgements delivered separately have chosen to uphold the death penalty as punishment for rape in both the 16 December 2012 rape and murder case and the Shakti mills rape case of 22 August 2013. The nature of the crime, and the involvement of young persons, including juveniles, is not a matter of dispute. What is disturbing is the sentencing and the reasoning advanced for justification of death penalty in both these cases by the two concerned courts.

On 13 March, the 2-judge bench of Delhi High Court, comprising Justice Reva Khetrapal and Justice Pratibha Rani, dismissed the appeals of 4 convicts - Akshay, Vinay Sharma, Pawan Gupta and Mukesh - and upheld the sessions court's September verdict of last year, which had sentenced them to death, taking note of the gruesome nature of their crime. The High Court opined that "if the rising trend towards such crimes is not nipped in the bud and arrested at its inception, the poison is likely to spread like wild fire through the social order, rendering it hapless and defunct". Thus, according to it, the "need of the hour" is exemplary punishment.

Similarly in the Shakti Mills case, the Principal Sessions Judge Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi accepted the plea of the Special Public Prosecutor, Ujjwal Nikam, for framing an additional charge under S.376E of IPC (repeat offenders), for which the maximum punishment is death penalty on the three accused - Vijay Jadhav, Kasim Bengali and Mohammed Salim Ansari. Introduced through a recent amendment in law following the 2012 Delhi rape case, section 376E was brought in supposedly to punish unrepentant criminals who had been previously convicted, but had not changed their attitudes. The award of death penalty to the three accused by the Sessions court is the 1st such case where the section has been applied.

Where rape is concerned the poor rate of convictions and lack of empathy for women in conflict areas, communal, caste and class considerations etc come in the way of filing of complaint of sexual crimes against women. With poor investigation and even lackadaisical prosecution contribute to making rapists feel immune from being brought to justice. To compensate for this poor conviction rate by awarding the extreme sentence in the name of deterrence is a flawed argument as there is no conclusive evidence that keeping the hang-man 'feverishly busy' results in the dawning of a 'crime-free society.'

The presence of the provision for capital punishment in statute books and continuation of the actual practice of awarding the extreme sentence to those who come from impoverished background has also a brutalizing effect on both the state and the society at large, as it further reinforces different standards for rich and powerful people as against the poor and marginalized. This helps perpetuate a culture of cruelty.

Both the Delhi High Court and the Mumbai Sessions Court, thus, had an opportunity to distance themselves from giving into satisfying "rage of the society". And to take cognizance of the fact that the pervasive patriarchal structures and psyche that breed the gender-based inequality, discrimination and insensitivity at all levels from family to societal to state institutions must also be taken into account and their complicity recognized. In this particular case too, the courts have turned a blind eye to the lapses on the part of the state agencies responsible for ensuring safety and maintaining law and order and in doing so it has completely absolved them of their implicit connivance in the said crime. And, considering the gravity of the crime, justice would have been served by keeping the convicted confined behind the bars rather than by laying to the gallery.

PUDR firmly believes in the certainty of punishment in all cases of violence against women, as also fair investigations and fair trials. We reject the argument that brutal crimes deserve "exemplary punishment". Or that sentence must be in proportion to the heinousness of the crime. This retributive approach of 'an-eye-for-an-eye' does neither deter the crime of rape nor helps in curbing the 'culture of cruelty' where death penalty becomes a matter of public celebration.

PUDR would like to recall that Judge Jyotsna Yagnik chose to sentence the accused Babu Bajrangi and Maya Kodnani and others in the Naroda Patiya massacre of 2002 in which 96 persons including children were killed and women raped before killing. The judge recognized that the crime was brutal & bereft of any extenuating circumstances. But when it came to sentencing she argued that violent crime should be addressed "in a more constructive way" and awarded graded life sentence to the convicted saying that "when alternatives to death penalty is available, it is better to embrace the same'. PUDR draws strength from this to reiterate its opposition to the penalty of death as being inhuman, barbaric, retributive in nature, irreversible and thus unacceptable, and condemns the recent judgments of both the Delhi High Court and the Mumbai Sessions Court to award and uphold death penalty in rape cases.

(source: Countercurrents.org)

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

SP shocker again, Abu Azmi says punish sex out of marriage by stoning

Joining the group of India's retrograde politicians now is Samajwadi Party's Maharashtra unit chief Abu Azmi. Azmi, in an interview, has said that sex out of marriage should be punished by stoning.

He also backed death penalty for both men and women, irrespective of whether it is rape or consensual sex.

"In modern days, boys and girls are roaming together and living together. In the olden days, such things would have been dealt with seriously. No dharma allows this. In Islam, if a woman is involved in a crime, both the man and the woman will be punished. Even if the woman is forced, she will be punished," he said.

"Women having sex with consent too should be hanged. Islam says that even a father can't stay with his daughter alone in the same room because 'shaitaan jaag sakta hain'.

He, while backing death penalty for rapists, also seemed to defend his party head Mulayam Singh who on Thursday questioned capital punishment for rapists.

"He respects women. He made Phoolan Devi an MP. He made a regulation in the party if anyone is harassing women, they would not be given a ticket. I don't know in what context he said this," Azmi said.

The BJP condemned the remarks. "These statements come from a party that has not been able to protect women in their state. We condemn these statements," spokesperson Nirmala Seetharaman said.

(source: IBN Live)

UNITED KINGDOM/UNITED ARAB EMIRATES:

Childhood friends of man facing death penalty in Dubai after allegations of torture set up campaign calling for him to be freed

Childhood friends of a bodyguard who could face the death penalty after allegedly being tortured into confessing drug dealing in Dubai are demanding the British government steps in to save their friend.

A group of 12 friends from Slough have set up a Facebook group and petition to Prime Minister David Cameron in a bid to rally support for 32-year-old Hasnain Ali.

He has been on trial since January for drug charges while on holiday in the Arab Emirates' city after being arrested in May last year, after getting into what he thought was a friend's car.

The former The Windsor Boys' School pupil, who grew up in Cippenham, says he was held incommunicado in a prison cell for 4 days, where he was allegedly beaten, kicked and threatened with tasers and sexual assault.

Despite not speaking the language, the former bodyguard to members of the Abu Dhabi royal family was allegedly told to sign a document written in Arabic. It was a confession relating to charges of possessing and selling drugs - an offence that carries the death penalty.

After speaking with Mr Ali's family, currently in Dubai, his childhood friends have started a campaign called 'Release Hasnain Ali'.

The Facebook page has got more than 100 likes and the petition has been signed by more than 70 people, many from Slough, less than 24 hours after they were set up, on Wednesday evening.

The petition states: "The conduct by the authorities must be condemned and we petition the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary to do all they can to secure Hasnain's release from the grotesque ordeal he has suffered at the hands of the Dubai police."

Visit https://www.facebook.com/releasehasnainalinow or https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/the-rt-hon-david-cameron-help-free-hasnain-ali

(source: Slough Observer)

IRAN:

Iranian Resistance appeal to save 4 death row prisoners in Bandar Abbas

The Iranian Resistance calls for urgent action to save 4 inmates in Bandar Abbas prison, who have been transferred to solitary confinement on April 9 to await execution.

Ahmad Rahimi, now 20, was less than 17 when arrested., along with Omid Shekari, was held in youth ward of the prison. The 3rd prisoner has been named as Zargham, aged, 30, and the 4th is unnamed.

Between February 26 and March 4, four other prisoners who were minors when they were arrested were also hanged. Iran's judicial chief Sadegh Larijani last week branded a European Parliament resolution that condemned the execution of minors as a 'lie'.

Mohammad-Javad Larijani, the head of Iran's 'Human Rights Council', also said on April 10: "The problem is that the West does not understand that Qisas (law of retribution) is different from execution. We are not ashamed of stoning or any of the Islamic decrees.

"No one has the right to tell a judge to avert some sentences because the United Nations gets upset. We should firmly and seriously defend the sentence of stoning."

The continuing and unabated executions in Iran, particularly of minors, during Hassan Rouhani's presidency are aimed at intensifying the atmosphere of intimidation to prevent an uprising by the suppressed people of Iran.

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

NIGERIA:

Governor Pardons Death Row Inmate 18 Years After Conviction

Following intensive advocacy efforts made by Avocats Sans Frontieres France (ASF France), the governor of Kogi State, Captain Idris Ichalla Wada, has granted amnesty to Mr Lasisi Yusuf, a 67 year old convict who has been on death row in Kaduna Prison for nearly 18 years. A statement? issued by ASF's Communications Officer, Esther Akpa Eleojo Esther said? Mr Lasisi, a Kogi State indigene was arrested over charges of culpable homicide and was sentenced to death in 1996 by the High Court of Justice in Kogi State.

He was transferred to Kaduna Prison in 1997 and had been on death row since then Lasisi's case was taken up by ASF France through the medium of its Saving Lives (SALI) project targeted at promoting international standards on human rights in Nigeria generally and, the restrictive pronouncement of capital punishment and abolition of death penalty specifically. Other detainees released from incarceration owing to the legal intervention of ASF France include Zuwaira Tukur, Fatima Haruna and Mohammed Isyaku, all of whom were also convicted of capital offences in Kaduna State.

(source: All Africa News)

CHINA:

Top Chinese Transplant Official Says There's No Plan to Stop Using Prisoner Organs

Wang Haibo, an unofficial representatives to the world on China's organ transplant policies, recently told a well-known German journalist that the Chinese regime had no intention of announcing a schedule for weaning itself off the use of organs from executed prisoners.

"The question is, 'When can China solve the problem of the shortage of donor organs?' I wish we could end it tomorrow. But it requires a process," he said in a radio program on ARD, a major German public broadcast network.

"Many things are beyond our control," he added. "Therefore, we can not announce any time schedule."

The journalist, Ruth Kirchner, said that Wang agreed to the interview "after long hesitation, because organ donation connected to the death penalty is a sensitive issue in China."

Wang, director of the China Organ Transplant Response System Research Center at the Ministry of Health, would not say how many organs come from executed prisoners. Some outside groups suggest that there are 4,000 executions per year, though only a portion of those would yield organs viable for transplant.

One of the major disputes that international Western medical groups have with the Chinese authorities is its practice of harvesting the organs from executed prisoners.

In the way this is generally meant by the Chinese authorities, the term refers to organs from criminals who are sentenced to death and have their organs extracted after they are executed given that, at least in theory, they and their families have signed a consent waiver. Families are also entitled to compensation for agreeing to the organ extraction.

Both The Transplantation Society and the World Health Organization forbid the use of organs from executed prisoners, because they say that there can be no true consent from a prisoner on death row.

Many analysts also point to a more sinister source of prisoner organs: those that come from executed prisoners of conscience, who are not formally sentenced to death through the courts for any crime, but who are held in arbitrary detention, blood-tested, and killed as their organs as required.

Reports emerged in 2006 and 2007 of the widespread harvesting of practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline heavily persecuted by the Chinese regime. The extent to which the practice persists to this day is unknown, due to the lack of transparency in Chinese data and the secrecy of the persecution.

Wang's remarks are the second set of high-profile comments from a top Chinese transplant official that openly sets forth what appears to be a new official public stance on the use of prisoner organs.

In March, Former Chinese Vice Minister for Health Huang Jiefu said that hospitals and judicial authorities should form ties in order to source organs.

These new remarks have been a break from what was the previously accepted, and stated, official view. For the last 6 years, and in particular the last 2, the Chinese had promised to move to a system of purely voluntary donation, and vowed repeatedly that it would phase out the use of prisoner organs.

In an interview with the World Health Organization in late 2012, Wang himself affirmed this shift in policy by China. "While we cannot deny the executed prisoner's right to donate organs, an organ transplantation system relying on death-row prisoners’ organs is not ethical or sustainable," he said. "Now there is consensus among China's transplant community that the new system will relinquish the reliance on organs from executed convicts."

That has evidently changed, to the consternation of international transplant officials who for years practiced quiet diplomacy with China in an effort to bring it around.

A letter by 2 major international medical organizations, including The Transplantation Society, said that the Chinese practice of taking organs from executed prisoners was "scorned by the international community."

(source: Epoch Times)

APRIL 10, 2014:

TEXAS----impending execution

Jose Villegas: A Retardation Claim

Jose Villegas, apparently angry that his girlfriend's mother did not want him in her Corpus Christi home, in January 2001 repeatedly stabbed 51-year-old Alma Perez and then did the same to his girlfriend, Alma's 24-year-old daughter Erida, and to her son, 3-year-old Jacob. Villegas then stole the family's TV (he pawned it for cash to buy cocaine) and left the home in Erida's car. He was picked up by police not long after the triple murder, to which he ultimately confessed.

In May 2002, he was tried and sentenced to die for the crime. Unless a court grants his request to pull the date, Villegas will be put to death on April 16.

At issue now is whether Villegas is intellectually disabled, which would make him ineligible for execution. Villegas' attorneys have asked the Nueces County court where Villegas was tried to modify or to withdraw the current execution date in order to allow time to have his claim of mental retardation evaluated by a court. Lawyers for the state say there's no merit to Villegas' claim. They note that Villegas' trial attorney "swore" that the defense team conducted a thorough investigation into Villegas' background and mental health history and found no indication that he is retarded. Indeed, the state notes that individuals who have now provided affidavits regarding Villegas' intellectual difficulties have previously testified on his behalf and "none of them testified that they believed he was mentally retarded or intellectually disabled," reads the state's reply brief. At press time, the district court had rejected the motion to withdraw the execution date, and an appeal filed with the Court of Criminal Appeals was pending.

If executed next week, Villegas will become the 7th inmate executed this year and the 515th executed in Texas since reinstatement of the death penalty.

(source: Austin Chronicle)

NEW HAMPSHIRE:

Senate panel sets stage for potentially historic vote to repeal centuries-old death penalty

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday revisited the idea of repealing New Hampshire's death penalty and recommended that it pass, setting up a potentially historic vote in the chamber next week.

The bill represents the most energetic recent effort to repeal the state's centuries-old death penalty. It passed the committee by a 3-2 vote, days after the same panel issued a tie vote that could have sounded the death knell on the repeal effort.

The House has voted resoundingly for repeal, and the governor supports it. The April 17 vote in the Republican-controlled Senate is said to be too close to call.

"I think it will be a tight vote," Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley told the Associated Press. "I think it will not break down all that much on party lines."

"It's a vote of conscience," said Bradley, a Wolfeboro Republican who opposes repeal.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 2-2 Tuesday with one member absent, an outcome that would have automatically sent a message to the Senate to kill the repeal measure.

The committee reconsidered the issue Thursday in deference to Democrat Donna Soucy of Manchester, who missed Tuesday's meeting due to a family medical issue. There was no debate.

Sens. Soucy; Bette Lasky, D-Nashua; and Sam Cataldo, R-Farmington, voted for repeal; Sens. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, and David Boutin, R-Hooksett, voted against.

The state is the closest to repealing the death penalty that it's been since 2000, when both houses of the Legislature approved repeal, but then-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen vetoed it.

Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan has said she would sign the repeal measure, because it wouldn't affect the death sentence of Michael Addison - convicted of killing Manchester Police Officer Michael Briggs in 2006. Addison is the only death row convict in a state that has not seen an execution since 1939.

Death penalty opponents greeted Thursday's vote with cautious optimism.

Rep. Renny Cushing, a Hampton Democrat whose father and brother-in-law were murdered in separate crimes, has not wavered in his opposition to the death penalty through nearly 2 decades of sponsoring repeal measures.

"Everybody's a swing vote," Cushing said after Thursday's vote.

"It's not a party issue," he added. "There are a lot of senators genuinely wrestling with this."

The worldwide Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty is holding its quarterly meeting in Concord this weekend, and its members are meeting with Senators to urge repeal.

"They see this as a historic vote," said Arnie Alpert, spokesman for the New Hampshire Coalition Against the Death Penalty.

The House last month voted 225-104 in favor of repeal. The vote in the 24-member Senate - with 13 Republicans and 11 Democrats - could come down to a 1-vote margin. A tie vote would kill the measure.

(source: Associated Press)

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

New Hampshire could become next state to abolish the death penalty

New Hampshire, which has sentenced only 1 man to death since it reinstated the penalty, could become the next state to abolish it.

A bill repealing the death penalty that passed the state House of Representatives 225-104 was released Tuesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee in a 2-2 vote. The full Senate is expected to act on the measure next week in what is likely to be a close vote.

Gov. Maggie Hassan supports abolition and is expected to sign the bill if it gets to her desk. In 2000, then-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, like Hassan a Democrat, vetoed an abolition bill.

New Hampshire reinstated the death penalty in 1991, after the U.S. Supreme Court found it to be constitutional while overturning most state capital punishment laws in the 1970s. But the state has not executed anyone since 1939 and has not set up an execution chamber for lethal injections.

The only inmate under sentence of death is Michael Addison, who was convicted of killing Manchester Police Officer Michael Briggs in 2006.

During Tuesday's committee hearing, most of the speakers were pro-repeal. But Sen. Sharron Carson, the Republican chairwoman of the committee, said she feared Addison's execution would be impossible if the bill becomes law, even though, as written, it would not commute any death sentences.

New Hampshire would be the 19th state to abolish the death penalty, along with the District of Columbia.

Legislatures in 5 states have repealed death penalty statutes adopted after the Supreme Court rulings, beginning with New Jersey in 2007. New Mexico, Maryland and Connecticut still have inmates under death sentence after abolition.

New Hampshire is the only New England state where the death penalty remains legal. Neighboring Maine abolished the penalty in 1887 and Vermont in 1964, while Massachusetts and Rhode Island had statutes on the books until 1984, when they were overturned by the courts.

(source: United Press International)

CONNECTICUT:

Death Row Inmate Fights Lawyers' Bid; His Attorneys Are Seeking Competency Evaluation

Russell Peeler Jr., facing execution for ordering his younger brother to kill a woman and her 8-year-old son in Bridgeport in 1999, is taking on his own attorneys as he moves toward the start of a hearing on his final petition to win a new trial.

Last month, Peeler's attorneys - taking a page from the legal strategy of serial killer Michael Ross' defense team - filed a motion seeking a competency evaluation for Peeler. Attorneys William H. Paetzold and Jeffrey C. Kestenband said Peeler's petition, or writ of habeas corpus, often a convict's last-resort bid for a new trial, is premature since the appeal of his death sentence is not complete and still in the briefing stage.

"Given the potentially fatal consequences of the petitioner's course of action, counsel seeks the same type of evaluation that Michael Ross underwent in 2005 when he decided to waive any further post-convictions challenges to his death sentence," the attorneys wrote in the motion.

Ross was put to death in 2005, the 1st execution in Connecticut since 1960.

Paetzold and Kestenband said the exam was needed to determine whether Peeler "is competent to make such a self-destructive choice" to move ahead with the hearing. The attorneys said his decision is "particularly puzzling ... not to mention extremely hazardous because he is serving 2 separate life sentences apart from his death sentence," they wrote.

Peeler, in a handwritten motion penned on notebook paper, is fighting back, seeking dismissal of his attorneys.

"This is rank absurdity and it's absolutely baseless but what their efforts underscore is the glaring disconnect on the behalf of these attorneys in terms of representing the petitioner with due diligence," the motion, filed late last month, said. Peeler "was taken by surprise" by his attorneys' filing, the motion states.

Peeler, 42, was sentenced to death after a Superior Court jury convicted him of ordering his younger brother, Adrian Peeler, to kill Karen Clarke and her young son, Leroy "B.J." Brown Jr., at a Bridgeport apartment. The boy was expected to be the key witness against Peeler in the fatal shooting of Clarke's boyfriend.

Adrian Peeler, 38, was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and received a 20-year prison sentence for his role in the slayings.

Connecticut lawmakers abolished the death penalty in 2012 but left in place the death sentence imposed on Peeler and the other men currently on death row. A challenge based on that action is pending before the state Supreme Court.

A Superior Court judge in Rockville is expected to take up motions on Peeler's habeas petition Thursday morning. A hearing on the petition is scheduled to begin next week.

Peeler's petition alleges that he is being held unlawfully on death row at Northern Correctional Institution in Somers. It focuses on a series of constitutional claims, including that prosecutors violated Peeler's fair trial and due process rights.

In his petition, Peeler argues that the state failed to disclose phone records that were favorable to his defense and that he was tried too close in time to 2 other trials that he said "generated a considerable amount of negative publicity" about him. The petition also says Peeler went to trial before his attorneys "had sufficient time" to prepare.

Peeler charges that the jury was not made aware of a plea agreement the state made with one of its key witnesses. The information, Peeler says, could have been used to impeach the witness's credibility.

He says the state did not disclose audiotapes that "tended to show the pressure investigators placed" on the key witness, pressure that made the witness "frustrated, afraid and scared of investigators such that she aimed to please them," the petition states.

The killings of Clarke and her son shocked the state, drew national notice, and exposed flaws in the state's witness protection program that prompted state legislators to pass new protections for witnesses, including enabling law enforcement authorities to intervene when parents refuse offers of protection for their children.

After Clarke's boyfriend was killed and her son was determined to be a witness to the slaying, police said they set up special patrols outside Clarke's house but discontinued the patrols at Clarke's request.

(source: The Hartford Courant)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Poplawski seeks new trial in state Supreme Court appeal

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Ronald Castille on Wednesday questioned how the judge and lead prosecutor handled the high-profile homicide trial of convicted cop killer Richard Poplawski, but he did not say whether he should get a new trial.

Poplawski, 27, is on death row at a state prison in Montgomery County for killing Pittsburgh police officers Eric G. Kelly, Stephen J. Mayhle and Paul J. Sciullo II on April 4, 2009, in an ambush at his Stanton Heights home. The state's highest court heard arguments on Poplawski's case at the City-County Building, Downtown, because he is seeking a new trial. The court did not set a deadline to make a ruling.

Poplawski's attorney, Carrie Allman, argued that former Deputy District Attorney Mark V. Tranquilli presented improper evidence during both the guilt and penalty phases of the June 2011 case.

She said Tranquilli told jurors Poplawski posed a threat to prison guards and inmates, introduced evidence that he visited a white supremacist website and played on jurors' emotions by showing photos and video from the officers' funerals, including a clip of “Amazing Grace” played on bagpipes.

"What the DA did was build in a new trial for this," Castille said. "Why is all that necessary? The crime itself is horrible."

Castille said Tranquilli, now a family division judge, disregarded many of Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning's pre-trial rulings.

"When you read the record, it seems like he didn't do anything to enforce these pre-trial agreements," he said.

Tranquilli declined to comment, citing judicial ethics rules.

"I have the utmost respect for the Supreme Court and the difficult job they have in reviewing these most difficult cases," Manning said.

Assistant District Attorney Margaret Ivory said she didn't recall hearing bagpipes in the video, but she addressed Tranquilli comparing Poplawski to a dog who "bit and will bite again."

"They are very strong words," Ivory said. "Maybe he was not the most eloquent."

While Castille's comments appeared to take Poplawski's side, at least 3 of the other 6 justices must agree with him to form a majority, said John Burkoff, a University of Pittsburgh law professor.

"If the Supreme Court finds a problem only in the penalty phase, certainly an appropriate remedy is to remand for a new sentencing," Burkoff said.

No trial is perfect, Burkoff added, and sometimes errors are deemed to have had no impact on the verdict or penalty.

"I certainly get some sense from the oral argument that at least one (justice) is sympathetic to the defense's description of the problems, but we still don't know yet if the chief justice's sympathies will lead to a reversal," Burkoff said.

Ivory appeared to become flustered toward the end of questioning and didn't respond when Justice Debra Todd asked if she needed to pause for a minute or when several justices offered her a drink of water.

Justice Correale Stevens asked if Ivory agreed there was "overwhelming evidence to justify the jury's verdict in this case?"

"Yes. That's probably the most important point," she said.

Mike Manko, a spokesman for District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr., said in a statement regarding the hearing: "This was an emotional matter for our community, and the court believes that we should have done a better job at controlling that emotion."

(source: triblive.com)

DELAWARE:

4 people involved with death penalty cases argue for repeal

St. Ann Catholic Church’s Salt & Air Committee held an adult panel last month, educating against the death penalty.

The Rev. Walter Everett spoke of his own personal loss - his son Scott, who had been murdered at the age of 24, and how the tragedy caused him to form an unlikely bond with the man who murdered him.

"Nobody should have to bury a son or a daughter," he said. "When it's a violent death... that increases the trauma exponentially."

He was 1 of 4 people who spoke at St. Ann on March 13 about repealing the death penalty in the state of Delaware.

Everett said that he and his family had difficulties throughout the entire process - not only dealing with the grief aspect, but with the legal system.

After visiting his son's apartment, Everett had been given information by neighbors that he thought was pertinent to the case against his son's murderer. Upon arrival at the police station to share the news, he said, he was not given the time of day.

"They didn't even have the courtesy to face us. They were busy reading the morning paper and drinking coffee," he said, adding that, after he began to tell the officers what he had heard, they turned around. "'Look - you don't need to do this. We've already made an arrest... We've had 4 homicides this weekend, and we're burned out,'" he recalled them telling him.

Everett said that, after stewing in his anger about his son's death and the lack of empathy from police, he attended a meeting for survivors of homicide, at which someone who had lost a loved one said that anyone who commits murder "should be taken out and shot immediately - no questions asked."

"I was angry, and I understood her anger. But I certainly didn't agree with her conclusion, because I've always opposed the death penalty."

Everett soon found out that the woman had had a loved one die more than 14 years earlier.

"They were saying that after all that time," he emphasized, adding that he wondered at the time if, years later, he would be just as angry about the loss of his son.

Scott Everett's murderer, Mike Carlucci, received a plea bargain, reducing his charges to 2nd-degree manslaughter and getting a sentence of 10 years in prison, out in 5.

At his trial, Carlucci apologized to the Everett family.

"'I'm sorry I killed Scott Everett. I wish I could bring him back. Obviously, I can't. These must sound like empty words to the Everetts, but I don't know what else to say. I'm sorry,'" Everett recalled him saying.

Taking the apology as a sign from God, Everett wrote Carlucci on the anniversary of his son's death, with the letter concluding, "I forgive you."

From that, the 2 men began writing to each other, and eventually Everett visited Carlucci in prison. He would even eventually testify at a parole board hearing for Carlucci's early release.

"'You're not the same guy who killed Scott, You're not the same guy who went to prison,'" Everett recalled telling Carlucci. "Mike is doing extremely well these days," he added.

Everett said that Carlucci is a good person and that, had he been executed, he would not have had the opportunity to turn his life around.

"That doesn't mean Mike should die and another one of God's people should be killed," he said. "God doesn't want us to take into our hands the killing of another human being."

Kristen Froehlich, president of Delaware Citizens Opposed to the Death Penalty, agrees. Froehlich's brother David was murdered in Connecticut in 1995, along with 4 other young men. He and his roommates had been in a rent dispute with their landlord, who would later shoot them and set fire to the house in which they were living.

"It was the worst of the worst," she said. "The whole community, as you can imagine, was devastated. We're all sort of shell-shocked... nobody knows how to feel when there's been an event like that."

Froehlich said it took 3 years for the case to go to trial - something she said she had at one point been overly focused upon.

"When people say, 'We need to kill that person,' I can understand that. I can understand that visceral reaction..." she explained. "That wasn't helping me. It increased the sense of powerlessness I felt."

Froehlich said that attending survivor groups helped her work through the grief she was dealing with following her brother's tragic death.

"In my fumbling around trying to live, I started to going to survival groups... That's what really has helped me heal. None of it had to do with the legal piece," she said.

Froehlich said her brother's murderer was sentenced to life in prison, which she said was enough.

"I was satisfied that he was safely away and would not hurt anybody else," she said. "That would in no way have healed my pain," she said of the man's potential execution. "It would not have given me closure in any degree."

Barbara Lewis, the mother of former death row inmate Robert Gattis, whose 1992 death sentence was commuted to life in prison without parole in January 2012, spoke about the grief and shame she and her family endured throughout.

"I'm ashamed, hurting, and there's really no one to talk to," she said of how she felt following her son's arrest. "Boldly I stand before you today and say: no mother, no daughter should have to live through what we lived through."

Grattis had taken the life of his girlfriend, in what Lewis described as a "fatal attraction."

She said that, following her son's conviction, she had lost 2 people in her family to violent crimes, but she didn't know how to process what was happening to her family as a result of her son's actions.

"Every day I got up knowing, 'They're going to kill my son'... Every individual became a possible person who was going to execute my son," she said, recalling herself asking, "'God, what good am I supposed to get from this?'"

She said that the trial, and later impending execution, cast a shadow on her entire family, even when taking her granddaughter to college as a freshman.

"We're standing there and she said, 'Grandmom, are they going to execute my uncle?'"

Lewis said that, although she is a woman of God, a great deal of her strength came from a support group she attended.

"It gave me life when I was sinking deep and sad - not the church where I was a member. They didn't know what to do because they don't deal with this issue... I never thought I'd be standing here... We were good people, raised in the church. We had moral values, but my son got on a road and he didn't know what to do. He got into a bad relationship."

Lewis said she wasn't seeking pity but wanted to encourage others to take the time to consider that "You can't kill 1 person and fix the world."

"We want to live in a community that has a place for forgiveness, reconciliation, moral values and people who will talk to each other," she said. "Get onboard and morally talk about it - 'What do we really want in the state of Delaware?' Give it real deep thinking."

Brian Boyle of the Delaware Repeal Project said that he has met people who are for and against the death penalty.

"I try to find a place where we can agree," he said, noting that everyone seems to agree that citizens want safe communities and innocent people shouldn’t be executed, and that Senate Bill 19, to repeal the death penalty, should be debated and receive a vote by a full House.

Boyle said that the death penalty is not needed in order to have safe communities.

"That's not a deterrent," he said, noting that Delaware is the third highest state in executions per capita, and also for crime. "The death penalty does not keep us safe in Delaware."

Boyle also said that death penalty cases are, on average, 3 times more costly than those that don't include a potential death penalty.

"Legal costs for a death penalty are astronomical," he said, stating that, in Maryland, an average death penalty case costs $3 million, while a case seeking life in prison costs an average of $1 million. "I would posit to you that there are better things we can spend our money on."

He added that there has been a 10 % failure rate with execution sentences in the United States, meaning that 10 % of death penalty sentences could involve a suspect who might be exonerated of the crime of which they were convicted.

"We shouldn't execute innocent people," he said. "For every 10 people we kill in this country, we exonerate 1 person. I don't know if there is an acceptable fail rate when it comes to someone's life, but certainly 10 % is unacceptable."

In speaking to human rights, Boyle said that everyone agrees that justice should be fair.

"That's not the case," he said of the death penalty in Delaware. "We have the highest minority population on death row, at 78 % - higher than Texas. When you look at the race of the victim, the bias is even stronger. A study by Cornell University found that a black defendant who kills a white victim is 6.5 times more likely to receive the death penalty than a black victim.

"The majority of murder victims in Delaware are African-Americans, but the majority of people on death row are there for killing white victims. So, what does that say about our value of life?"

Boyle pointed out that, last year, Senate Bill 19, which would repeal the death penalty in Delaware, passed in the Senate by a vote of 11-10. The bill was reviewed by the House Judiciary Committee, but after debate it failed to make it out of committee by a vote of 6 to 5.

"I would argue that, even if you agree with the death penalty, you don't agree with that when we live in a democracy," he said. "It deserves a vote from all... We think Senate Bill 19 deserves a vote."

Following their individual presentations, members of the audience spoke to the panel.

"I think, as a citizen of the United State of America, that is mournful that we present ourselves as the moral leaders of the world but we have this tremendously flawed system and this terrible error," said Jeannie Fleming. "That it just destroys our credibility on speaking about human rights."

Boyle agreed and said that the United States currently ranks 5th in the world in executions, along with countries including Iran and Iraq.

"Those countries are not democracies. They are certainly not human-rights champions."

Daniel Cowell, a psychiatrist, thanked the panelists for their time and said he believes that change must come from within.

"If you work with people, you will learn after many years, unless change comes from within - maybe by providence, maybe by insight, maybe by exposure by a good loving role model - if it lasts, it has to come from within."

He spoke directly to Lewis and said there are no guarantees, but that the world needs more loving homes.

"We need more homes like yours, with involved and caring people who try their very best to do... That's where it begins."

Ann Crawford said that, earlier in the evening, she hadn't been sure if she would brave the cold to attend the panel.

"I wasn't sure I would come tonight, but I'm so glad I did," she said. "It really has made an impact on me, and I want to thank you so much. When you hear the impact, it makes all the difference."

Froehlich urged those who attended the panel to take what they had heard about the death penalty home with them and to start a conversation.

"Take what you hear tonight and have conversations... and keep the conversation going."

(source: Coastalpoint.com)

VIRGINIA:

Capital murder suspect in VB court

Jamiel Graves was sentenced Monday to life in prison, convicted of killing a Norfolk mother. Police also charged Graves with capital murder in the death of his girlfriend.

The Commonwealth's Attorney has not decided if it will seek the death penalty against Graves for the strangulation death of 29-year-old Mandi Myers in November of 2012. Defense attorneys, however, are proceeding as if it is a capital case.

WAVY News' Ava Hurdle reported Graves appeared expressionless Wednesday as he was escorted into the courtroom in Virginia Beach. His attorneys asked for and received a separate judge to hear its motions for expert witnesses on a confidential basis before the case heads to trial.

The trial, set for July, has been continued to allow the defense to talk to 20 mental health experts who interacted with Graves over the years. His attorney pointed out Graves was diagnosed with PTSD after military service in Iraq, where he witnessed the killing of several people during a roadside bombing.

The defense wants one of its mental health experts to have access to Graves in jail for a "meaningful evaluation," and plans to meet with the Sheriff to try and get that done. Prosecutors expect to decide in 2 weeks if they'll seek the death penalty against Graves.

(source: WAVY News)

FLORIDA:

Bradley juror details death sentence deliberations

At first, only 8 out of 12 jurors felt Brandon Bradley should die.

According to Juror 107, who spoke with FLORIDA TODAY, an initial vote Tuesday afternoon showed one juror was unsure and 3 jurors were in favor of life without parole.

So they went over the crime: the "aggravating circumstances" that would justify a death penalty and the "mitigating circumstances" that would suggest life in prison is more appropriate. Juror 107 said they then took a secret vote -- each juror wrote the penalty they supported on a sheet of paper and passed it to the foreperson. They delivered a 10-2 vote in favor of the death penalty.

It took them about 3 hours to deliver a recommendation for the death penalty, which about twice as long as it took them to find Bradley guilty of 4 crimes including 1st-degree premeditated murder.

Juror 107 said all 12 jurors were in agreement about Bradley's guilt during the initial vote. They spent time going around the table, having each juror explain how they came to their conclusion.

He said the video of Pill's death was overwhelming for all of them.

"He shot her in a way that was indescribable," Juror 107 said. "He gunned her down, she didn't have a chance."

The decision to recommend a death penalty was more difficult for them than deciding on guilt.

"I think it would be for anybody," Juror 107 said.

Juror 107 said the group was not impressed with the testimony of Jacquelyn Olander, a neuropsychologist who said Bradley had a low IQ score and is easily manipulated. Juror 107 said she seemed to fight with the prosecutor.

"It seemed like she was going around the question," he said.

One detail from the video stood out to Juror 107 -- he said Bradley used his turn signal as Pill followed him before pulling him over. For Juror 107, that stood out as an indicator that Bradley wasn't so intoxicated.

The video of Pill's shooting hasn't been made public, but Juror 107 said Pill approached the car and was shot as she reached inside.

"I saw this innocent police officer gunned down like she was nothing," Juror 107 said. "I saw the calculated way he did it-- it seemed like he drew her in."

Juror 107 said during jury selection he retired after working more than 40 years as a general foreman for Con Edison in New York. FLORIDA TODAY previously reported that he agreed with the Casey Anthony verdict, but he said Wednesday that he didn't. He raised 4 children in New York and has 5 grandchildren. He told the court he considers himself a trustworthy and honest person. He sees 2 sides to every story.

"Never thought in a million years I would ever be chosen to go on trial and not only find them guilty but, as far as I know, put them to death."

He said he voted for the death penalty.

"I hope it sends a message out to everybody out there that you can't go around killing the police."

(source: Florida Today)

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

Cannon Appeals Death Sentence in Christmas Eve Murder

A Gadsden County man on death row for a Christmas Eve murder is appealing that sentence to the Florida Supreme Court.

Marvin Cannon was sentenced to death for the 2010 murder of Zachariah Morgan.

Investigators say Morgan walked into a trap and was stabbed more than 30 times when he and a friend showed up to pick up some deer corn.

Cannon's attorney argued before the state Supreme Court Wednesday.

Defense attorney Baya Harrison claims the death sentence is cruel and unusual punishment and is disproportionate to the life sentence given to Cannon's co-defendant Antone McMillan.

Harrison claims there was insufficient evidence to sustain accompanying robbery and attempted robbery convictions as well as errors in the jury instructions.

(source: WCTV News)

ALABAMA:

Man suspected of 40 murders in US; Investigators say Jose Manuel Martinez, facing charges in several states, admitted decades-long career as hitman

Authorities say that a man charged with carrying out 9 contract killings in central California has confessed that he actually killed 40 people over several decades.

Jose Manuel Martinez, 51, allegedly told investigators he carried out the crimes working as an enforcer for a drug cartel, said Errek Jett, the district attorney in Lawrence County, Alabama. Jett said they believe Martinez because of the details he gave investigators.

Martinez was arrested last year shortly after crossing the border from Mexico into Arizona and sent to Alabama, where he awaits trial on one murder charge. Once word got out, a steady stream of investigators from across the country came to question Martinez, Jett said.

Defense attorney Thomas Turner, who represents Martinez in that lone case, said his client is eager to start a June trial in Alabama, so he can return to California. Turner said Martinez maintains his innocence to the charge there and doesn't seem to be a hardened killer.

"I've found him to be polite and a likable individual," Turner said. "He has a good personality as far as talking with him."

Prosecutors in California say otherwise.

Martinez targeted victims in several counties between 1980 and 2011, said Tulare County assistant district attorney Anthony Fultz, who filed charges on Tuesday.

Victims ranged in age from 22 to 56, investigators said.

1 man was shot dead in 1980 driving to work in the morning, while 2 men were shot in 1982 working on a ranch, 1 surviving. The same year, another man went missing before being found 2 days later by ranchers shot and stabbed to death. Yet another was found in 2000 shot to death in bed with his 4 children at home.

In addition to the 9 murder counts, Martinez was charged in California with 1 count of attempted murder and the special circumstances of committing multiple murders, lying in wait and kidnapping. 4 murder charges include the allegation he committed the crime for financial gain, the criminal complaint says.

The California charges would make Martinez eligible for a death sentence if convicted.

Martinez has lived on and off in Richgrove, a small farming community in central California, north of Bakersfield. He's being held in Alabama, awaiting trial in a 2013 slaying, and Fultz said he's also wanted in Florida on suspicion of 2 killings there in 2006.

Fultz declined to comment on any connection Martinez may have with drug cartels, saying he did not want to damage the case at this early stage. Fultz said that too will remain under investigation.

Fultz said he is confident Martinez committed at least the 9 killings he's charged with, but he has heard higher figures from across the nation.

"We're actually not sure what the full scope is," Fultz said. "It will depend upon what the investigation shows."

Martinez has spent brief stints in state prison following a 2007 conviction on theft and drug charges, according to the California department of corrections and rehabilitation.

Acting Tulare County sheriff Mike Boudreaux said his deputies came in contact with Martinez while investigating a rash of home-invasion robberies in late 2012 and early 2013.

Martinez was at a home they searched and was questioned by Sgt Christal Derington, but not considered a suspect.

From his cell in Alabama, Martinez requested a meeting with Derington, who flew across country three times, because Martinez said "he wanted to talk to her," Boudreaux told the Fresno Bee. The cases in California came together, he said.

"As a result of Detective Derington's initial investigations and interviews, we began working on new leads," Boudreaux said. "While this case has been filed, there is plenty of work to be done."

Meanwhile, Martinez's mother told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday that she was completely overwhelmed by the news of her son's alleged crimes.

"This is hard for me - really hard," Loreta Fernandez said in Spanish. "I'm still shaking. I'm not in a condition to deal with this."

Fernandez told the paper that the last time she spoke with her son was in June, when he was detained while crossing the Mexican border because there was a warrant for his arrest in Alabama.

She said she didn't believe he committed the murders.

"All I can say is God bless him and that not everything he's saying is true," Fernandez said.

(source: The Guardian)

OHIO:

Future is unclear for report on Ohio death penalty, with prosecutors opposing many proposals

Ohio's capital punishment law would look much different if all recommendations from a committee studying it were put in place, death penalty supporters and opponents said Thursday while disagreeing with the proposals' ultimate impact.

The committee convened in 2011 by Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor met Thursday to finalize its last report and 56 proposed changes.

All the recommendations could be put in place and capital punishment would remain in Ohio, but in a vastly reduced form, state Public Defender Timothy Young said.

"Ohio would still have capital punishment but I think it would be limited to the worst of the worst cases, which has always been the stated goal of the death penalty in the United States," Young said, a supporter of many of the proposals.

He said many of the proposals are already in laws or rules in other states with the death penalty.

A veteran prosecutor disagreed, saying the recommendations would effectively end capital punishment in Ohio if implemented.

Such mandates as requiring DNA evidence or a videotaped confession for death penalty sentences would make it impossible to convict even the worst criminals, said Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien, a member of the committee and a critic of many of its findings.

"Many of the recommendations are so onerous that you could take Timothy McVeigh, and if he didn't give a videotaped confession, and you didn't have DNA, that you couldn't execute Timothy McVeigh," said O'Brien, a Republican and prosecutor since 1996.

McVeigh was executed in 2001 for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 168 people and wounded hundreds.

O'Brien also criticized the recommendation of a state death penalty panel run by the attorney general that would approve or disapprove of capital charges sought by county prosecutors. He said those decisions should left up to locally elected prosecutors.

A dissenting report will be submitted next week.

Some of the recommendations, such as the DNA requirement or the state charging panel, would need lawmakers' support. Such backing is questionable in what is still a death penalty-friendly state.

Other recommendations, including training for any lawyer involved in a death penalty case, could be approved as a Supreme Court rule.

Retired appeals court judge James Brogan, the chairman of the committee, said he was hopeful all the proposals would be implemented. He acknowledged the strength of the prosecutors' lobby, likely to oppose many recommendations. He said legislators need to put themselves in the shoes of someone who might be wrongly convicted.

"We should narrow the category, we should improve the procedures, and the law that applies, and hopefully the Legislature will give it a careful examination," Brogan said.

Among other proposals:

--Ban death penalty charges in cases where prosecutors used testimony from jailhouse snitches that was not independently verified by the time jurors weigh the sentence.

--Pass a law allowing for the filing of racial disparity claims.

--Ban the execution of defendants who were mentally ill at the time of the crime or at the time of a scheduled execution.

The report also recommends eliminating kidnapping, rape, aggravated arson, aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary as elements of a crime that could lead to a death penalty charge.

O'Connor convened the panel of defense attorneys, prosecutors, judges and death penalty experts to review the state's 3-decade-old now, while making clear that abolition of capital punishment was off the table.

She said the goal was to produce a fair, impartial and balanced analysis of the 1981 law.

Ohio resumed executions in 1999 and has put 53 men to death by injection, with another execution scheduled next month.

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

Death penalty restriction recommended

Ohio should restrict the use of capital punishment charges and create a state panel to approve them, according to 2 of the 56 recommendations in the final report by a committee that spent more than 2 years studying changes to the law.

The committee proposes eliminating cases where an aggravated murder was committed during a burglary, robbery or rape, requiring solid proof of a defendant's guilt such as DNA evidence, and banning the execution of the mentally ill, according to a draft copy of the report obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press.

The state panel would be run by the Attorney General and would approve or disapprove of death penalty charges proposed by a county prosecutor. That panel, similar to the approach taken by federal prosecutors, is meant to reduce the role that race plays in death penalty cases, according to a final draft of the report, dated March 31. It would include former county prosecutors and members of the Attorney General's staff.

The death penalty review committee, created in 2011 by Ohio Supreme Court Justice Maureen O'Connor, convenes Thursday for what's expected to be its final meeting. O'Connor declined comment ahead of the meeting.

The committee "believes that the recommendations made by this report will promote fairness in capital cases for both the state and the defendant," the report said.

Several of the committee's recommendation would need legislative approval, with support uncertain in what remains a death penalty-friendly state.

Among the recommendations, the report proposes that Ohio:

--Pass a law banning the use of the death penalty unless prosecutors have biological or DNA evidence linking the defendant to the crime, a videotaped, voluntary confession; or a video recording that "conclusively links" the defendant to the killing.

--Ban death penalty charges where prosecutors used testimony from jailhouse snitches that was not independently verified at the time a jury is weighing the sentence in a capital case.

--Pass a Racial Justice Act law allowing for the filing of racial disparity claims.

--Require that police interrogations of defendants in death penalty cases be considered involuntary unless they were recorded.

--Use plain English in jury instructions for death penalty cases.

The report also recommends requiring a condemned inmate's interview with the Ohio Parole Board ahead of a clemency hearing be a public record.

The mental illness recommendation includes defendants who were mentally ill at the time of the crime or at the time of a scheduled execution.

The report also recommends eliminating kidnapping, rape, aggravated arson, aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary as elements of a crime that could lead to a death penalty charge. The committee says such factors rarely lead to death sentences but can increase racial disparities in sentencing. Multiple murders, the murder of a child or a police office would remain as death penalty elements.

A dissenting report is expected from committee members, including prosecutors, who oppose several of the recommendations.

Ohioans to Stop Executions said it will push for passage of proposals with the most impact.

"If we have to have a death penalty, let's make it a fairer one," said Kevin Werner, the group's executive director.

O'Connor convened the committee in the fall of 2011 to look at ways to improve Ohio's death penalty law while making it clear that proposals to eliminate the law were off-limits.

O'Connor, a Republican and a former prosecutor, appointed judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, prison officials and death penalty experts to the committee. She has said the committee's goal was to produce a fair, impartial and balanced analysis of the state's 3-decade-old law.

Ohio enacted its current death penalty in 1981 and it has largely survived any major constitutional challenges. The state resumed executions in 1999 and has put 53 men to death, with another execution scheduled for next month.

(source for both: Associated Press)

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

Supreme Court's death penalty task force report recommends independent panel review captial cases before prosecutors can proceed

Recommendations from a task force charged with reviewing Ohio's death penalty laws would make it more difficult for prosecutors to seek capital punishment.

Among the recommendations from the task force appointed by Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor is the creation of a panel under the Ohio attorney general that would have to approve death penalty charges before cases proceed.

Other recommendations would limit when the death penalty could be sought and heighten the evidence requirements.

The Joint Task Force to Review the Administration of Ohio's Death Penalty, created in 2011, is to meet today to consider whether to approve more than 50 recommendations, contained in a draft report. If approved, the report would go to the chief justice for her review.

Ultimately the chief justice is expected to make her own recommendations based on the report. Action by the Ohio General Assembly would be required before many of the recommendations could be made law.

The recommendation for a review panel has been much debated. A subcommittee gave it backing last June by a subcommittee vote of 8-6. Ohio Public Defender Timothy Young, who co-chaired the subcommittee, said then that he wouldn't be surprised if prosecutors opposed to the recommendation wrote a dissenting report. That dissent is expected to be filed sometime next week.

Among the other changes the draft report recommends:

--Eliminating several elements that now can lead to a death penalty charge in a homicide case, including kidnapping and rape. Other specific crimes that can trigger a death penalty specification -- such as murder of a police office -- would remain in effect.

--Barring death penalty charges against defendants with serious mental disorders at the time the crime was committed.

--Requiring that a death sentence not be considered unless biological or DNA evidence links the defendant to the murder, or there is a videotaped confession by the accused or a some other video recording that shows the defendant was the murder.

--Banning death penalty prosecutions based on testimony from jailhouse snitches unless there is independent verification of that testimony.

--Urging the General Assembly to enact a racial justice law allowing for the filing of racial disparity claims.

--Providing additional funding for public defender offices to hire expert staff for death penalty cases.

The task force was established in light of a 2007 American Bar Association assessment of Ohio's death penalty system that found the existence of racial bias and geographic disparities in the state's death penalty sentencing.

It found that defendants whose victims were white were nearly 4 times more likely to receive a death sentence than those whose victims were black.

It also found that the chances of a death sentence varied greatly by location. 43 % of those charged in Hamilton County received death sentences, compared to just 8 % in Cuyahoga. Hamilton County's death-sentence convictions were nearly 3 times the state average, nearly 4 times Cuyahoga County's rate and more than 6 times Franklin County's rate.

(source: Cleveland.com)

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

Ohioans To Stop Executions Applauds Death Penalty Task Force, Launches Searchable Database of Recommendations

The Ohio Supreme Court Joint Task Force to Review the Administration of Ohio's Death Penalty meets today to finalize its recommendations. Concurrently, Ohioans to Stop Executions launched a new tool on its web page. This new tool will allow Ohioans to search, sort, and understand the more than 50 recommendations intended to help make Ohio's death penalty more fair. The OTSE/Task Force search tool may be used at www.OTSE.org

"Today the Task Force is completing its work by releasing a report with 56 recommendations that attempt to address the failures of Ohio's death penalty system," said Kevin Werner, executive director of the statewide anti-death penalty coalition. "I personally watched these recommendations evolve from meeting to meeting as the state's appointed experts decided how to solve the problems with the death penalty. Ultimately, we know that there's only one problem - the death penalty itself, which the Task Force was precluded from considering as a whole. Anyone who really looks at this issue tends to agree that the only way to fix the death penalty is to get rid of it. Until that day comes, Ohioans to Stop Executions will work to ensure that the reforms that will make the biggest impact are legislated. If we have to have a death penalty, let's make it a fairer one."

Please also visit www.OTSE.org to see our report issued earlier this month - The Death Lottery: How Race & Geography Determine Who Goes to Ohio's Death Row

(source: OTSE)

TENNESSEE:

Trial in Memphis triple shooting postponed

The capital trial of a Memphis man charged with fatally shooting his girlfriend and her parents has been postponed until June.

Sedrick Clayton's trial on 3 1st-degree murder charges had been scheduled to start Monday with jury selection. However, due to the death in the family of one of the prosecutors, the trial has now been moved to June 9.

Clayton faces the death penalty if convicted of gunning down girlfriend Pashea Fisher and her parents in her parents' home in January 2011. Authorities say Clayton got into an argument with Fisher before shooting her parents in their bedroom, then killing her.

Police say Clayton's 4-year-old daughter was in the house at the time, and that he took her with him before turning himself in hours after the shooting.

(source: Associated Press)

ARKANSAS:

GOP Atty. General Candidates Debate Death Penalty Tactics

Just a few weeks away from the May primary election, the 3 Republicans aiming to become their party's nominee for attorney general debated their merits to a UALR crowd.

The Advance Arkansas Institute sponsored the debate between David Sterling, Leslie Rutledge, and Patricia Nation. The candidates debated a variety of issues, including the death penalty, which continues to be a major issue for the attorney general's office.

Right now, the manufacturers of lethal injection drugs have barred their sale from any state that uses them to put prisoners to death. Without lethal injection, the default execution in Arkansas is the electric chair. Sterling is the only candidate who says he supports the use of the electric chair.

"I'm going to carry out the law that Arkansas has on the books, which the electric chair is a means available," Sterling said.

Rutledge strongly disagreed with Sterling's view on the electric chair.

"The electric chair is in a museum and that's where it belongs," Rutledge said, "We can't just pull it out and plug it in and start using it."

Nation says the ruling that keeps Arkansas from acquiring the drugs for lethal injections needs to be dealt with.

"I understand that the drug protocol that we've used is no longer available and that is the problem, one of the problems that the legislature is facing," Nation said.

There have been no executions in Arkansas since 2005. Current Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has called the state's current system "completely broken" and said the electric chair is "too barbaric for a civilized society."

The primary election is May 20th. The only Democrat running is State Representative Nate Steel.

(source: Arkansasmatters.com)

KANSAS:

Legal Ethics----Lawyer's deficient capital murder defense requires sanction, ethics board says

A Kansas lawyer accused of "a cornucopia of ... ineptness" by his capital murder client is fighting an ethics board's recommendation that he be disciplined for his conduct in the case.

Lawyer Ira Dennis Hawver disputes the March 14 findings by the Kansas Board for Discipline of Attorneys, the Topeka Capital-Journal reports. Hawver had never defended a capital murder case when he represented Phillip Cheatham Jr., whose capital conviction was overturned because of ineffective assistance of counsel in a January 2013 Kansas Supreme Court opinion.

The Kansas Board for Discipline of Attorneys split on its recommended sanction, the story says. 2 members recommended disbarment, and 1 recommended indefinite suspension.

Hawver says in his answer to the hearing board report that he did not violate ethics rules "to a degree requiring discipline," the Capital-Journal says.

According to the Kansas Supreme Court opinion overturning Cheatham's conviction, Hawver told jurors Cheatham had a previous voluntary manslaughter conviction and referred repeatedly to his client as a "professional drug dealer" and "shooter of people." In the sentencing phase, he said that whoever committed the crime deserved to die.

Hawver had tried only three murder cases before representing Cheatham, and none were death penalty cases. Hawver said in an affidavit his $50,000 fee in the case would be paid only if there was an acquittal, but he later recanted and said the fee would be owed in any event. The court said the fee arrangement was a conflict of interest, even if it was a flat fee, because Cheatham had a disincentive to actively investigate the case.

Hawver was running for governor as he prepared for Cheatham's case, sometimes appearing at political events dressed in costume as Thomas Jefferson to reflect his views about the original underpinnings to the U.S. Constitution, the supreme court said. He admitted spending only 40 to 60 hours on case preparation and said he couldn't spend full time on the case because he "had to earn a living." Nor did he hire an investigator to interview potential defense witnesses or pursue possible leads, the court said.

Hawver admitted to the ethics board that he didn't meet ABA standards for counsel in death penalty cases "because I wasn't even aware of ABA standards when I tried this case," according to a prior story by the Topeka Capital-Journal.

The disciplinary board said Hawver's representation caused actual injury to the administration of justice. According to the Capital-Journal account, the board found that Hawver wasn't competent to represent Cheatham and he didn't appreciate the difference between trying a murder case and a capital murder case. He also failed to track Cheatham's cellphone location to support his alibi.

Cheatham "was exercising his rights to select counsel of his choice," Hawver said in his answer to the board's final hearing report. Hawver also maintains the state cannot "lawfully censor, punish, or deprive" him of a property right in the practice of law for his defense of Cheatham, the Capital-Journal says.

(source: ABA Journal)

MISSOURI:

Court sets execution date for killer convicted in Boone County

The Missouri Supreme Court has ordered that a 45-year-old man on death row since 1997 after a Boone County jury convicted him of 1st-degree murder, rape and other charges will be executed May 21.

Russell E. Bucklew was convicted in the 1996 shooting death of Michael Sanders in Cape Girardeau County. After he shot Sanders 4 times, he kidnapped and raped Sanders' girlfriend, with whom Bucklew previously was in a relationship. The case was moved to Boone County on a change of venue because of the attention it received in southeast Missouri. Bucklew also was convicted of kidnapping, armed criminal action and 1st-degree burglary.

Bucklew has fought for a stay in his execution to no avail. The U.S. Supreme Court denied his petition for writ of certiorari on Oct. 7.

His attorney, John William Simon of St. Louis, said he will continue to fight for Bucklew.

"I am working on this," he said when reached by phone this morning. "I was working on it 'til I picked up the phone."

Missouri's death penalty has come under scrutiny lately. The state refuses to release the name of the compounding pharmacy that makes the drug, pentobarbital, for its executions. Missouri previously used propofol but had to switch because the European manufacturer threatened to halt all exports to the U.S. if the drug, used as a surgical anesthetic, was going to be continued to be used for executions.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri has a pending lawsuit against the Missouri Department of Corrections that challenges the state's staunch secrecy surrounding the pharmacy. The state has said it considers the pharmacy a part of the execution team and that allows for its anonymity.

Bucklew, who is being held at the Potosi Correctional Center in Mineral Point is the 4th execution the Missouri Supreme Court has ordered in 2014. 5 men have been put to death in Missouri since November. A message was left with the Missouri Department of Corrections Public Information Office.

(source: Columbia Daily Tribune)

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Death penalty hearing delayed: Murderer could die before sentence

A hearing to determine whether convicted murderer Gregory A. Bowman would once again face the death penalty has been delayed for a year because he has a terminal illness.

Bowman, 62, is facing sentencing for a murder 35 years ago in St. Louis County. Circuit Judge David Vincent, the judge presiding in Bowman's case, set the hearing for April 27, 2015.

Bowman was convicted and sentenced to death for the rape and murder of 16-year-old Velda Rumfelt who was abducted from a busy Brentwood, Mo., intersection. DNA found in Rumfelt's underwear was a 1 in 459 trillion match to Bowman.

Bowman, who also was convicted of killing 2 young women from Belleville, denied his guilt in the Rumfelt case from the witness stand to then-St. Louis County prosecutor Joe Dueker at the first sentencing hearing in 2009.

The Missouri Supreme Court overturned his death sentence in 2011. The court ruled that during the sentencing phase of the trial, the judge erred when he allowed testimony regarding Bowman's conviction of the murders of 14-year-old Elizabeth West and 21-year-old Ruth Ann Jany, both of Belleville.

"It would be hollow if he passes away in prison but as long as he doesn't hurt any other women, we can live with that," said Teresa Rumfelt, Velda Rumfelt's friend and sister-in-law. "He's the lowest of the low. We would rather see him executed, but, at this point, we will take what we can get."

"We were aggravated about what happened with the (Missouri) Supreme Court," Teresa Rumfelt said. "We followed the rules and we did what we were supposed to do and he still slipped out just like he did over there."

West was abducted from West Main Street in Belleville. Her body was found in a small creek near Millstadt on May 5, 1978. 2 months later, Jany was abducted from a Belleville bank's parking lot. Her skeletal remains were found a year later in a field near Hecker.

Both the St. Clair County convictions were overturned after St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporters questioned the manner in which his confession was obtained.

The newspaper reported that Bowman was "tricked" into confessing by former investigator Robert Miller, who got jail prisoner Danny Stark to plot an escape with Bowman, who confessed to delay his transfer to Menard Correction Center where he was to serve a sentence for abducting another Belleville woman from a coin laundry.

Associate Judge Richard Aguirre found the confession to Miller was not given freely and gave Bowman a new trial. Bowman posted bond and was released from jail for the 1st time in 29 years.

His freedom didn't last long.

Former Belleville Police Chief James Rokita, then retired, took a DNA profile offered by Bowman in the Belleville cases to Missouri and urged investigators there to compare it to their cold cases.

Scientists were able to discover the semen in Rumfelt's underpants. Prosecutors said Bowman allowed Rumfelt to dress after her rape, preserving the DNA that would eventually be matched to Bowman's DNA profile.

Bowman was free just over a week before he was arrested for the Rumfelt murder. This time, the trial would be in St. Louis County, where Bowman would face a capital murder case.

Steve Evans, Bowman's defense attorney, argued that Bowman's conviction was the only one in the state based solely on DNA evidence. Evans argued further that the DNA evidence should have never been sent to Missouri for comparisons to cold cases there.

Jurors voted to convict Bowman of Rumfelt's murder. Her body was discovered June 6, 1977, in a field near the Six Flags amusement park in Eureka, Mo. She had been raped and strangled with a shoestring, and her throat had been slashed.

After Bowman received the death sentence in Missouri, then St. Clair County State's Attorney Robert Haida dismissed the West and Jany murder charges.

Bowman remains in the Potosi Correctional Center in Missouri.

(source: The News-Democrat)

SOUTH DAKOTA:

Jury: James McVay eligible for death penalty

A jury in Sioux Falls has determined that a man accused of killing a Sioux Falls hospice nurse as part of a plan to assassinate President Barack Obama is eligible for the death penalty.

The sentencing trial of 43-year-old James McVay will now enter a 2nd phase, in which jurors will decide whether McVay dies by lethal injection or gets life in prison without parole.

McVay earlier pleaded guilty but mentally ill to murder for the 2011 stabbing of 75-year-old Maybelle Schein. McVay said he killed Schein and stole her car as part of his plot to drive to Washington, D.C., and kill the president. He was arrested in Wisconsin after a brief chase.

Arguments in the case will continue on Thursday morning.

(source: Associated Press)

ARIZONA:

New Trial Date Set for Man Indicted in Arias Stalker Case

A new trial date has been set for a New York man charged with threatening two popular TV hosts that covered the Jodi Arias murder case.

Investigators say David Lee Simpson, 48, of Bath, N.Y., threatened two national TV commentators, Nancy Grace and Jane Velez-Mitchell, via Twitter for their coverage of the original Jodi Arias trial in 2013, in addition to an Arizona woman. His trial is set for May 8, reports the Associated Press. The original date was April 1.

Simpson faces five felony counts related to the Twitter threats against the HLN network anchors who spoke extensively about the Arias' murder trial in Phoenix, Ariz. last year, reports AZ Central.

Authorities say Simpson was in New York when he sent the tweets, but Arizona asserted jurisdiction since the threats were made against individuals for conduct during their coverage of a case that was occurring in Maricopa County.

Simpson has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Last May, a jury found Arias, 33, guilty of 1st-degree murder in the ghastly death of her former boyfriend Travis Alexander in his Phoenix home in 2008.

However, the jurors failed to reach a unanimous decision on her sentencing. As a result, a retrial is set for Sept. 8 to determine whether she should be sentenced to death, life in prison or life with a chance of release after serving 25 years, reports Reuters.

Should the jury deadlock again, then the death penalty will be completely off the table and Judge Sherry Stephens will decide whether to give Arias life in prison with or without parole.

(source: Lation Post)

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Ex-Socialite Found Guilty In Tucson Car Bomb Death Of Husband

After spending years abroad living a lavish lifestyle across Europe, a once-prominent socialite has been convicted in the 1996 car bomb killing of her ex-husband in southern Arizona.

Pamela Phillips was convicted Tuesday of 1st-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder after less than 3 days of deliberations that began last week. She faces life in prison at her May 22 sentencing hearing.

Phillips, 56, can't receive the death penalty because of her extradition from Austria, which has a treaty with the U.S. that won't allow anyone to be extradited for prosecution if they face capital punishment.

Phillips shook her head after the verdict was read in Pima County Superior Court. Her attorneys said they will file an appeal.

"We have now 2 people who are going to be serving imprisonment for something they didn't do," defense lawyer Paul Eckerstrom told KGUN-TV, referring to Phillips and convicted hit man Ronald Young. "They're innocent."

But prosecutor Nicol Green said Phillips' head shaking after the verdict "went right along with the reasons she felt that she could do this and get away with it."

During the trial that began in February, Phillips' lawyers told jurors their client had nothing to gain from the death of businessman Gary Triano and that she was the victim of overzealous authorities who failed to follow other leads. They said Phillips was already a successful real estate broker with her own money, and suggested that Triano had numerous other enemies.

But prosecutors described Phillips as a gold digger who hired a former boyfriend to kill Triano to collect on a $2 million life insurance policy so she could maintain her extravagant taste for the good life.

It's been nearly 2 decades since Triano died when his car exploded as he was leaving a Tucson-area country club after playing golf. Authorities said Phillips paid Young $400,000 to carry out the hit.

Young, who was Phillips' ex-boyfriend, was convicted in 2010 and sentenced to 2 life terms in prison, but jurors weren't allowed to consider his case while determining Phillips' fate.

Prosecutors presented a portrait of a woman who grew accustomed to the high life and found herself struggling financially with an easy $2 million way out.

The state's case against her hinged largely on the purported secret arrangement between Phillips and Young, whom the defendant dated while working as a real estate broker in Aspen, Colo., after she divorced Triano.

While Phillips claimed she had paid Young the $400,000 for assistance with business ventures and financial planning, prosecutors argued the money was clearly payment for the hit.

Triano was a developer who made millions investing in Indian bingo halls and slot-machine parlors in Arizona and California before Congress authorized tribes to open full-blown casinos. But after the real estate market declined and he lost control of his gambling interests, Triano went broke.

That's around the time Phillips filed for divorce, prosecutors said.

The couple, who had 2 children together, separated, but Phillips remained the beneficiary of Triano's insurance policy, paying the premiums herself.

She eventually moved to Aspen and worked in real estate before meeting Young, and prosecutors said the 2 would later hatch a plan to kill Triano and collect on the policy.

After the killing, Young was on the run from a warrant for his arrest in Colorado on fraud charges while Phillips was sending him money for the hit, eventually adding up to $400,000, prosecutors told jurors.

The investigation into Triano's killing stalled until Young's arrest in 2005 in Florida on the fraud charges. That's when both Phillips and Young became the key suspects in the killing. Authorities say he kept detailed records of his financial transactions with Phillips, including recorded telephone conversations and invoices. Prosecutors said police also found divorce records pertaining to Phillips and Triano in a van rented by Young.

By then, Phillips had received the $2 million insurance payout and had left Aspen for a life overseas.

She was arrested in Austria in 2009 and extradited to Tucson. Her case was delayed after a judge ruled she was mentally unfit to stand trial at the time.

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Jury mulls whether woman is eligible for execution

A prosecutor urged a jury on Wednesday to find that an Arizona woman convicted of killing her husband with a hammer is eligible for the death penalty, saying the 2009 crime was carried out in an especially cruel manner for the purpose of collecting life insurance.

The jury that convicted Marissa Suzanne Devault of 1st-degree murder is considering whether there were "aggravating factors" in the death of Dale Harrell that would make her eligible for the death penalty.

If such factors are found, jurors will be asked to consider whether she should be sentenced to life in prison or to death. But if no such factors are found, a judge will sentence Devault to either the rest of her life in prison or life in prison with the possibility of release after 25 years.

Jurors, who didn't reach a verdict on the death-penalty eligibility question after one day of deliberations, will continue considering the issue Thursday.

Devault whispered to her defense team and often looked away from the jury as lawyers argued over whether she should qualify for the death penalty.

Prosecutor Michelle Arino said Devault killed Harrell for insurance money, adding that Devault wasn't paying household bills and let her mortgage lapse yet still made sure to pay a life insurance policy on her husband.

Arino said Devault struck her husband in the head with the hammer at least 5 times and left a fist-sized hole in her husband’s head. The prosecutor also said that Devault had access to two guns but chose instead to use a hammer.

"She wanted him to know what it felt like," Arino said. "She wanted him to experience pain."

Alan Tavassoli, one of Devault's attorneys, said the argument that the killing was carried out to collect insurance money is undermined by the fact that 1 of the 2 policies in question covered only accidental deaths - and Harrell's death wasn't an accident. "There is no way she could have gotten any money," Tavassoli said of the one policy, adding that his client never filed a claim.

Tavassoli also said if his client's aim was to be especially cruel to her husband, as prosecutors allege, then why did she strike him with the ball of the hammer, rather than with its claw, which would have inflicted more pain and damage.

If jurors find Devault is eligible for the death penalty, attorneys on both sides will make arguments to jurors on Thursday over whether she should be imprisoned or executed.

Such a penalty portion of the trial is expected to stretch into next week and include appearances from Devault's mother and grandmother, both of whom will testify on her behalf. Some of Devault's daughters also have written letters that are expected to be read in court.

Prosecutors contend that the attack on Harrell was premeditated and say Devault, 36, gave conflicting accounts of her husband’s death. Harrell, 34, suffered multiple skull fractures in the January 2009 attack at the couple's home in the Phoenix suburb of Gilbert. He died nearly a month later at a hospice because of complications from his head injuries.

Devault initially told investigators that her husband attacked her while she was asleep and choked her until she was unconscious. She also told police that when she woke up, she saw another man who lived at their home beating Harrell with a hammer.

But authorities say bloodstain patterns showed Harrell was alone in the bed at the time of the attack and that bloodstains on Devault's clothes were consistent with a person swinging an object repeatedly over his or her head.

Investigators say Devault later confessed to attacking her husband, saying she pummeled him in a rage as he slept after he sexually assaulted her.

The key prosecution witness was Devault's former boyfriend, Allen Flores, a Yale University-educated management consultant who is 20 years older than Devault and had loaned her $300,000 during their 2-year relationship.

Flores testified that Devault wanted to hire someone to kill Harrell or kill him herself and tell police he tried to rape her after a night of drinking.

Devault's attorneys attacked Flores' credibility, noting he was given an immunity agreement on child-pornography allegations in exchange for his testimony. The child pornography was found on Flores' computer during a search that was part of the murder investigation, authorities said.

Flores also testified that he once feared Devault would harm him, but he said that concern lifted after she was arrested. He went on to bail her out of jail, get her a lawyer and resume their intimate relationship.

(source for both: The Associated Press)

CALIFORNIA:

Decision over death penalty to be determined in murder trial

Though the trial is set to begin in early October, prosecutors have yet to determine whether or not they will seek the death penalty for 3 defendants facing charges for the murder of a young military wife.

The body of Brittany Dawn Killgore, a 22-year-old wife of a Camp Pendleton Marine, was found on April 17, 2012 in Riverside County.

Louis Ray Perez, 47, Dorothy Gracemarie Maraglino, 38, and Jessica Lynn Lopez, 26, are being tried for kidnapping, torture, 1st degree murder, and other charges related to the crime.

Law enforcement officials believe that Killgore was planning on going on a dinner cruise with Perez when she disappeared on April 13, 2012.

During the most recent status hearing at the Vista courthouse on April 8, prosecutors and defense attorneys stated that they are currently working on processing large amounts of evidence related to the case.

So far, over 7,000 pages, more than 150 dvds, and 2 external hard drives containing multiple terabytes of data have been collected as part of the case.

Progress preparing for trial has been slowed because the attorneys representing Perez and Lopez have changed in recent months, according to the attorneys.

Judge Michael Kirkman urged both parties to strive towards being prepared to go to trial by Oct. 7.

"We must keep our eye on a reasonable trial date," he said.

Kirkman requested that both parties meet with the district attorney to decide whether the death penalty will be sought for any of the defendants before the case's next hearing on July 11.

"The issue of whether the death penalty will be sought in this case needs to be resolved as soon as possible," he said.

(source: The Coast News)

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Driver in Antelope crash killing father, daughter could face death penalty; Twin brothers face murder charges in the April 2, 2014 deaths of an Antelope dad and his daughter in a collision culminating a high speed police pursuit of a stolen vehicle. Ruslan and Roman Glukhoy pleaded not guilty.

The assumed driver of the stolen truck that crashed into a father, daughter could face the death penalty. Twins were in the truck that lead police on a high speed chase.

Twin brothers who were in a stolen Ford pickup truck that crashed into a father and daughter in Antelope pleaded not guilty to charges in Placer County Court Wednesday.

Ruslan and Roman Glukhoy, 19, are accused of stealing the truck and leading officers on a high-speed chase from Loomis to Antelope. The pursuit ended when the brothers crashed into the Kia of Jose Luis Barriga-Tovar, 35, and his daughter Anahi, 14, killing them instantly.

The pair are charged with murder. Placer County prosecutor Dave Tellman added special circumstance allegations of murder in the commission of a felony and multiple murder victims to Ruslan Glukhoy's charges. His brother's attorney said based on the special circumstance additions, it appeared Ruslan Glukhoy was the driver.

"I would surmise from the charging decision of the district attorney that that is their belief that Ruslan is the driver," David Cohen said.

If found guilty, Glukhoy could face the death penalty.

"If a jury were to find true one or both special circumstances, depending on whether or not our office seeks the death penalty, they would then have to determine whether or not the death penalty is appropriate," Tellman said.

The prosecutor said his team would continue pouring the enormous amounts of evidence to determine if they'll actually seek the death penalty in the case.

The crash that killed the Tovars was early on the morning of Wednesday, April 2. Police believe the Glukhoys stole the truck after crashing a stolen BMW in Loomis.

The 2, and a 3rd man, Yuri Merkushev, 21, are accused of burglarizing homes earlier that morning. When police arrived, investigators said they stole the BMW and drove at officers.

Later, the 3 abandoned the stolen BMW. Merkushev hid in a nearby neighborhood, and the Glukhoys allegedly stole the truck involved in the deadly crash after a high speed police pursuit on Interstate 80.

Merkushev was released from jail on $50,000 bond. As he was leaving the Auburn courthouse, he said, "No, I'm good," when asked for comment.

All 3 men face charges of assault on a peace officer, grand theft, burglary and more.

They'll be back in court May 19.

(source: news10.net)

USA:

Tsarnaev lawyers granted more time for evidence challenges

A federal judge granted a request Wednesday from defense attorneys for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to have more time to prepare challenges to evidence they expect to be brought against him.

US District Court Judge George A. O'Toole Jr., who is presiding over the Tsarnaev case, granted the extension from April 23 to May 7.

In a motion filed Tuesday in US District Court in Boston, the defense lawyers said they need more time to decide what evidence they will seek to suppress, or prevent prosecutors from presenting, at the trial, where Tsarnaev faces the possibility of the death penalty.

Both the prosecution and the defense, the motion said, agreed to allow the time for filing of motions to suppress statements to be extended to April 23.

Both sides also agreed that the time for filing of motions to suppress evidence collected during searches should be extended to May 7.

Tsarnaev, 20, faces 30 federal counts in his alleged role in the April 15, 2013, bombings, which killed 3 people and injured more than 260. Many of the injured lost limbs in the attacks and were scarred by shrapnel.

Tsarnaev and his late brother, Tamerlan, are also accused of killing an MIT police officer.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to all charges and is being held without bail.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty; a jury will decide whether to impose that sentence, if Tsarnaev is convicted.

(source: Boston Globe)

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One Sentence That Could Help End The Death Penalty In America

Dennis McGuire struggled, choked, and gasped for air before he finally died, as his adult children watched on in horror. The state of Ohio used a never-before-used mix of drugs to kill him, and he appeared to slowly suffocate to death. Witnesses said the process took about 25 minutes, making it the longest execution since the state reinstituted capital punishment 15 years ago.

When Kelsey Kauffman, a retired Indiana resident and progressive activist, saw the headlines about McGuire - whose death sparked widespread outrage about the nature of lethal injections in the United States - she wanted to do something in response. So Kaufmann started a petition through SumOfUs, a group that allows citizens to organize to advance social justice causes.

Her ask? Get the American Pharmacist Association to add a sentence to its code of ethics to explicitly ban its members from participating in executions.

It may seem like a strange way to respond specifically to McGuire's case, but this one change could be an indirect method of inching the country toward putting an end to executions altogether. "The Association could help put a stop to the manufacturing and supplying of drugs used for lethal injections," Kauffman's petition, which garnered more than 36,000 signatures, explains, "and help end the use of the death penalty in the U.S. once and for all."

I happen to be opposed to the death penalty. But I'm especially opposed to the medicalization of the death penalty.

"I was reading an article last July about an execution that was postponed in Georgia because the Department of Corrections wouldn't give any information to the lawyers or the judges about what execution drugs were going to be used and where they had gotten them from. The article mentioned that pharmacists, unlike other medical professionals, are not banned from participating in executions. And I remember thinking - wow, that's surprising," Kauffman recounted in an interview with ThinkProgress. "I happen to be opposed to the death penalty. But I'm especially opposed to the medicalization of the death penalty."

Almost all major medical associations - the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, the American Board of Anesthesiology, and the American Nurses Association - prohibit their members from assisting in executions. These professional associations believe that taking another person's life against their will is a violation of the Hippocratic Oath, and can't be reconciled with health workers' ethical obligation to care for their patients. There can be stiff penalties for violating that. The American Board of Anesthesiology, which updated its policy in this area just 4 years ago, stipulates that members who participate in executions will lose their medical certification.

But, while the American Pharmacy Association (APhA) has a similar code of ethics, the issue of executions isn't specifically mentioned.

Kauffman believes that's an oversight, not a calculated policy position.

"It hasn't been an issue until now," she said. It used to be that "when executions took place, you just got your drugs from some European distributor. You didn't have doctors or nurses helping because they're banned, so a lot of the problems with executions have centered around the fact that you have incompetent people doing physical executions - they can't find veins, for example. But it's not been a question of pharmacists."

A controversy that hinges on pharmacies

Over the past few years, that's changed. In 2011, the European Commission imposed tight restrictions on the export of certain drugs used in executions, citing ethical issues with the death penalty. A growing number of the European and Asian companies that make those drugs are now refusing to sell them for use in executions, too. This international opposition to capital punishment has left American states scrambling to get the drugs they need to continue executing inmates. And it's meant that a small group of pharmacists are now participating in the executions.

States are turning to so-called "compounding pharmacies" - facilities that are outside of the regulatory scope of the Food and Drug Administration - to get the ingredients they need for untested cocktails like the one that killed McGuire. Compounding pharmacies, which repackage drugs to keep down the cost of filling prescriptions, are already controversial from a public health perspective. For instance, in 2012, a compounding pharmacy was identified as the source of a deadly meningitis outbreak that killed 36 people. Since then, Congress has worked to crack down on these unregulated facilities, although some public health advocates don't believe the recent legislative push goes far enough.

Some compounding pharmacies have agreed to manufacture the drugs that states need to kill people, but state officials won't always reveal the details. States like Oklahoma and Missouri claim that publicizing where they're getting their lethal drugs will result in too much public pressure on the compounding pharmacies to stop producing them. So the methods they're using for executions are increasingly kept secret, and it's not entirely clear whether they're violating the Constitution's prohibition against "cruel and unusual punishment."

Kauffman hopes that, if the American Pharmacy Association adopts a new policy position that forbids pharmacists from assisting in executions, this will all become moot because the employees at compounding facilities won't be able to continue supplying these drugs. And, after attending APhA's annual meeting at the end of last month, Kauffman believes senior officials in the pharmaceutical industry are receptive.

We're supposed to be about healing, and this is the exact opposite of that.

"I look at the American Pharmacy Association as a partner in this process, and when it comes to almost all of the pharmacists I spoke to, I see them as future allies," she said, pointing out that medical professionals don't have to be personally opposed to the death penalty to agree that it's against their code of ethics to participate in them.

Dr. Leonard Edloe is one of those allies. Edloe, who now serves as a pastor in Virginia after owning and operating a community pharmacy for 4 decades, received a lifetime achievement award from the APhA at its most recent meeting. He believes very firmly in the policy change regarding lethal injection.

"I've always been against this method of execution," Edloe said. "We're supposed to be about healing, and this is the exact opposite of that. I don't think most pharmacists are aware of the policy. They should be supportive of this campaign."

The push to change APhA's policy has also won the support of most of the country's major human rights organizations. Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, the NAACP, and the United Methodist Church are all co-sponsors of SumOfUs' campaign, and have signed onto a letter that was sent to the association at the end of last month regarding the issue.

"I hope the Association takes a position that says we're against it, and then pharmacists have enough ethical backbone to go along with it," Edloe added.

The medical community's problems with lethal injections

To the average American, lethal injection may seem like the best, most humane option for the people on death row. But that's not necessarily the case.

Since pharmacists are the sole hold-out in this area, the health workers who typically ensure that injections are administered properly are barred from overseeing executions. With no experts in the room, the process can go awry.

Medical professionals don't mince words about what that means in practice. At the end of last year, an anesthesiologist published an op-ed calling for the abolishment of lethal injection as a method of killing inmates, claiming that "what appears as humane is theater alone."

"States may choose to execute their citizens, but when they employ lethal injection, they are not practicing medicine. They are usurping the tools and arts of the medical trade and propagating a fiction," anesthesiologist Dr. Joel Zivot wrote in USA Today last December. He went on to explain that the drug shortages and the heightened secrecy surrounding compounding pharmacies have created an environment in which inmates are suffering painful deaths. Zivot believes that, if states want to continue executing people, they must return to the firing squad or the electric chair.

Medications that were designed to heal have been repurposed to kill.

Writing in Slate, another medical professional, Dr. Matt McCarthy, agrees. "Part of the problem is the terminology: Words like injection and cocktail and gurney give the illusion that this form of capital punishment is civil," McCarthy points out. "This allows, regrettably, for a softening of the perception of what is actually happening: Medications that were designed to heal have been repurposed to kill."

Even the doctor who developed the original 3-drug cocktail that has been used in lethal injections since 1977 has publicly come out against it. In 2007, three decades after Dr. Jay Chapman developed what he thought was the most humane method of ending a life, he suggested that the formula should be revisited - pointing out that it's a complicated method that can fail in the hands of prison officials who aren't medical experts.

"The simplest thing I know of is the guillotine. And I'm not at all opposed to bringing it back," he said at the time.

Chapman's suggestion brings up a central issue with capital punishment: The moral questions surrounding the death penalty come into sharp focus when inmates' lives are ended in more obviously violent and graphic ways. And that's exactly what the SumOfUs campaign is counting on.

Running out of options

Putting a definitive end to lethal injections means that states will have to find an alternate method for killing inmates. The majority of the states that still allow the death penalty don't sanction another method for executing inmates other than lethal injection. So that would require getting the legislature to pass a bill to approve one.

But the other options - gas chambers, guillotines, hanging, fire squads - aren't necessarily palatable to the American public. Even the states that technically have back-up methods on the books, like Missouri, which authorizes the use of a gas chamber to execute inmates, face significant roadblocks to actually putting that type of capital punishment method into practice.

"The [Missouri] attorney general last year asked the governor to request an appropriation of a million dollars to build a gas chamber. The governor, who's very pro-death penalty, basically said - are you kidding me? In 2014, we're going to build a gas chamber in Missouri? Forget about it," Kauffman recounted. "The gas chamber is simply not going to come back." In 2014, we're going to build a gas chamber in Missouri? Forget about it.

Similarly, Americans likely won't be excited about bringing back hanging, which evokes the United States' history of lynching black men. Virginia recently began pushing for the electric chair, but that bill stalled after an executioner testified against it, saying that electrocution isn't a good option because it often leaves inmates' bodies burned and blistered. And although some lethal injection opponents are joining Dr. Jay Chapman in arguing for the guillotine, which is the only method of execution that would allow inmates' organs to be harvested, it's not clear that Americans would actually have the stomach for that - particularly since public support for the death penalty as a whole has already plummeted to a 40-year low. States are running out of real options.

Kauffman believes the most realistic alternative is probably a firing squad. It's certainly still gruesome, but it wouldn't present ethical issues of medical professionals' participation or counsel, since we already train people to be sharpshooters. It's not just a hypothetical - at the beginning of this year, lawmakers in Missouri and Wyoming made headlines for proposing authorizing firing squads.

So execution by gunfire may be exactly where the states that don't seem likely to give up capital punishment, like Texas and Louisiana, are headed. But that could also make those states seem particularly extreme.

"Just getting lethal injections banned does not end the death penalty. We're well aware of that," Kauffman acknowledged. "You've got these outlier states that are really into the death penalty, and they're just going to switch to something else. But they’re also going to make themselves even more isolated than they already are. I think at some point, they're going to be so few in number that the Supreme Court is going to say that the prevailing morality in the nation is that we no longer do these executions."

(source: Tara Culp-Ressler, thinkprogress.org)

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Death Penalty in Decline

Capital punishment has had a turbulent courtroom history. Inmates on death row routinely spend years appealing their sentences. Numerous legal challenges have shown that the death penalty is disproportionately applied to nonwhite minorities. IQ and DNA tests are often catalysts for last-minute reprisals. Even at the highest level, the issue is rarely uncontroversial; the Supreme Court suspended capital punishment in 1972, only to reverse itself 4 years later. Given that the death penalty rests on perennially unstable legal terrain, people have long been tempted to look at the courts for signs of its future. They are probably looking in the wrong place. The end of capital punishment will not come from the judiciary, but will instead arise from subtler, more unassuming trends.

It has long been established that carrying out a death sentence from conviction to execution is more expensive than life in prison. The exact savings are no small matter: a 2008 study by the California Commission for the Fair Administration of Justice found that by eliminating the death penalty, California could cut costs from $137 million to $11.5 million annually. Other states have calculated similar fiscal windfalls. Yet it was only after the 2008 recession - when state governments found their budgets squeezed - that legislators started to look seriously at these numbers. As luck would have it, the people most concerned about budgetary restraint are often found in places with high rates of execution. Republican-leaning states administer the death penalty more frequently than their liberal counterparts, and some conservatives have realized that this conflicts with their creed of fiscal responsibility. Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, a new but flourishing organization, reflects the Right's increasing skepticism over capital punishment. If the forces of cost cutting win out, the death penalty's most ardent practitioners will ultimately leave it out in the cold.

Even if they do have the funds and the political will to carry out a death sentence, states are increasingly unable to find the means to do so. Cash is not the only limiting factor for capital punishment these days. Even if they do have the funds and the political will to carry out a death sentence, states are increasingly unable to find the means to do so. In 2011 the only American firm that manufactured sodium thiopental, an essential drug for lethal injections, went out of business. States then turned to pentobarbital as a substitute, but its Danish manufacturer soon halted execution-related sales. That same year, the European Union banned lethal-injection drugs from being exported to the United States. In 3 rapid blows, state governments were confronted with an imminent death penalty bottleneck. Now in 2014, domestic stockpiles of sodium thiopental and pentobarbital are on their last legs. Oklahoma recently stayed the execution of 2 inmates because it didn't have the necessary drugs. Texas, America's all-time leader in executions, is experiencing a similar problem. Tennessee has pushed in the other direction, submitting simultaneous petitions to execute 10 people on death row - more than over the last 60 years - so that it may carry out their sentences before all the remaining pentobarbital is gone or expires. While some local legislators have proposed using firing squads to relieve the shortage, such archaic, cruel, and unusual methods are doubtlessly unconstitutional. Without some sort of divine intervention, it seems that states will soon be unable to send convicted killers to meet their maker.

While there are clear pragmatic reasons for the death penalty's decline, others are much more opaque. Most inexplicable of all is the decreasing support for capital punishment among the American public. The Pew Research recently revealed that popular approval of the death penalty has slid over the past 2 decades. This trend has coincided with an aggregate drop in crime, so it is possible that the public is more willing to scale back tough justice" policies of the past. Yet no matter how precipitous the decline, given that a majority of Americans still support capital punishment, one would not expect this trend to be reflected in the actual number of sentences and executions. Nonetheless, both have dropped markedly since 2000.

It might be the case that courts are taking their cues from the growing popular shift against capital punishment. Perhaps they have come to their own conclusions about how the death penalty is an ineffective way to deter crime; a 2005 study published in the Stanford Law Review found that "the existing evidence for deterrence" by capital punishment "is surprisingly fragile." The recent slew of high-profile exonerations - driven by DNA advances - may have also prompted lower courts to 2nd-guess themselves. But regardless of the cause, it remains clear that the judiciary will not be the death-knell of this judicial issue. The Supreme Court is divided along the old debate of capital punishment, meaning that the only real change will come from exogenous factors. As executions become more politically, fiscally, and even medically harder to maintain, this legally contentious issue will be settled by decidedly non-legal trends.

(source: Ian Tarr, Brown Political review)

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

Guantanamo defense attorneys want CIA names to prepare USS Cole case

Just-released transcripts of a secret session at the Guantanamo war court show defense lawyers want a list of the countries where the CIA secretly jailed the alleged USS Cole bomber, and the names of people who worked at the agency's black sites. But the prosecution won't provide them.

The tug-of-war over transparency emerged days after the Senate voted to declassify a portion of an investigation of the so-called CIA Torture Program that could contain some of the answers sought by lawyers for Saudi Abd al Rahim al Nashiri before his death-penalty trial.

Defense lawyers have security clearances that allow them to know certain aspects of the still-secret CIA Rendition, Detention and Interrogation program. But they aren't entitled to a list of nations and names as they prepare for Nashiri's Dec. 4 death penalty tribunal, case prosecutor Navy Cmdr Andrea Lockhart said in a transcript of the closed Feb. 22 Guantánamo hearing posted on the Pentagon's war court website Friday evening.

Lockhart told the judge, Army Col. James L. Pohl, the defense does not have the right to "double-check the government's work, and they certainly don't have the right to do their own independent investigation" of what happened to Nashiri.

Defense lawyers argue otherwise. They want to independently reconstruct what happened to Nashiri in secret confinement - between his capture in Dubai in 2002 and transfer to Guantanamo 4 years later for this trial by military commission - to challenge the integrity of certain evidence and to argue his mistreatment disqualifies a death penalty.

The CIA waterboarded him, and an internal abuse investigation showed its agents also interrogated Nashiri while he was nude; they also threatened him with a revving power drill, handgun and threats to sexually assault his mother.

The chief prosecutor, Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, has already noted that the Obama administration revamped the tribunal to prohibit use of involuntary interrogations at trial. In the transcript, Lockhart says all mistreatment of Nashiri is now in the public domain.

The defendant, just like the public, was excluded from 2 closed hearings in February where the judge and lawyers invoked the classified information the defense is allowed to know in trial preparation.

The Pentagon released the heavily censored transcript 6 weeks later.

Defense lawyers argue the who, what, where and how are critical to efforts to exclude statements Nashiri made at Guantanamo ostensibly voluntarily in his 4th year of U.S. custody without benefit of an attorney.

"The name of the country or whatever particular location is not relevant for the purposes of what occurred," Lockhart argued. Who, what, where and when don't matter, she said, "at the end of the day when you boil it down, what matters is what happened to the accused."

Once Nashiri got to Guantanamo, the Justice Department had "clean teams" question him in a less coercive setting, and the military brought him before a panel to question him and confirm his status as an "enemy combatant."

At the closed hearing Feb. 22, Nashiri's long-time defense lawyer argued CIA agents so fundamentally dismantled their prisoner's personality with "enhanced interrogation" program that he told investigators what they wanted to hear.

"The guy that was arrested is dead," said Rick Kammen, Nashiri's lawyer since 2008. "They haven't killed his body but they've killed whoever that guy was. Because that's what this program was designed to do, it was designed to turn people into a state of learned helplessness where they were powerless to say no to government agents."

Navy Cmdr Brian Mizer, another Nashiri lawyer, told the Miami Herald this week that an investigation of the treatment should determine whether any of Nashiri's answers to questions at Guantánamo were truly voluntary: "You have to get back to the past to determine whether this is just a dog barking on command."

A military medical board has diagnosed Nashiri, 49, a self-described former millionnaire merchant from Mecca, as having Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and a Major Depressive Disorder.

Nashiri, at times described by the Bush administration as the al-Qaida's chief of Persian Gulf operations, is accused of orchestrating the Oct. 12, 2000 suicide bombing of the USS Cole off Yemen. 2 men in a bomb-laden skiff motored up alongside the warship at Aden harbor and blew themselves up, killing 17 U.S. sailors.

Because the now-defunct black site program is still classified, the government contends, even defense lawyers with security clearances, aren't entitled to the details. If Nashiri happens to remember the places he was kept, he can volunteer the details to his lawyers. But separately defense lawyers cannot discuss with him 14 % of the so-called discovery in his case because it is classified at a level that Nashiri can't hear about it, according to prosecutors.

At issue now is how much trial preparation the defense lawyers are allowed to do.

They want to interview officials who worked at the black sites, comb through manifests and read approved Standard Operating Procedures on so-called enhanced interrogation techniques that spelled out how to waterboard Nashiri in secret custody. And they want to know which countries hosted the CIA prisons.

Kammen explained it to the judge this way: "If there is an SOP as to how you are going to do a torture and it wasn't followed, that would be really important to know."

To do otherwise, Kammen told the judge, would be unethical.

Prosecutor Lockhart disagreed. "If he was waterboarded, regardless of whether the government said it is right or wrong, is that going change the nature of the ability to present that to the members? It is not. What matters is what was done to him, regardless if somebody said it was OK or not."

Government censors blacked out names, paragraphs and large portions of the argument from the transcript including several lines after Kammen says, "What we want, Your Honor, are the names of witnesses, witnesses who participated in the torture."

The for-public portion picks up with: "What could possibly be more mitigating than that? And if a doctor was part of that, if a psychologist was part of that, and they were being paid by the United States, that is mitigating in the context of a case where the United States is now seeking to kill the guy they did it to."

(source: Miami Herald)

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

Study finds Southern death row inmates more likely to apologize at execution

Being Southern apparently means having to say you're sorry, even if you don't really mean it, especially at death's door.

The last words of death row prisoners executed in the South more often included apologies for their crimes than did final statements of inmates in other U.S. regions, but the prisoners were not necessarily more remorseful, according to research by a Canadian psychologist.

Judy Eaton, associate professor of psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University in Brantford, Ontario, studied final statements of 279 white males and 231 nonwhite males executed in the United States between January 2000 and December 2011.

Her research, "Honor on Death Row: Apology, Remorse, and the Culture of Honor in the U.S. South," is published in the April 2014 issue of SAGE Open, an open-access online publication for academic research.

Eaton's results showed that prisoners executed in Southern states (defined by the U.S. Census bureau as Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Texas) more often apologized for their crimes in their final statements.

Eaton based her research on prisoners' statements available online, primarily from the website of the Prosecuting Attorney of Clark County, Ind.

For example, David Gibbs, who was executed Aug. 23, 2000, in Texas, said, "This is a blow to everything I believe in ... I don't believe in hitting women. But for me to turn around and rape and murder two women ... The point is I did it. We can blame it on my past, but that doesn't take away what I did."

According to information from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Gibbs was convicted in the July 1985 slayings of Marietta Bryant and Carol Ackland. Gibbs, who reportedly worked as a maintenance worker at the women's apartment complex at the time, reportedly burglarized their apartment and cut their throats with a butcher knife.

In his last words before being executed, Gibbs apologized to his victim's family: "Mr. Bryant, I have wronged you and your family and for that I am truly sorry. I forgive and I have been forgiven ..."

Eaton, whose research focuses upon apology and forgiveness, said by email Wednesday that she got the idea for this study after she "stumbled across" the Texas Department of Criminal Justice website and was struck by how many executed prisoners seemed remorseful in their last statements.

"It's such a surreal situation, yet it's also inherently human, to want to make amends on your deathbed," she wrote in her email.

"These statements, many of them heartbreaking, showed very clearly that regardless of the severity of an offense (whether it's a fight between friends or a case of capital murder), many people want to apologize and make amends, and that this can be good for both victims and offenders," Eaton said.

(source: Beaumont Enterprise)

TURKEY/EGYPT:

Turkey Drafts Joint Declaration Against Egypt's Penalties

On Wednesday, Turkey's National Assembly drafted a joint declaration that condemned the death penalty issued against 529 people in Egypt.

Signed by all political parties represented in the parliament, the declaration urged Egypt's administration not to implement the sentences.

"The joint wish of the Turkish nation is that these sentences - which may cast a pall on Egypt's struggle for democracy, as well as its hopes, dreams and future, and be remembered as a disgraceful event in the history of mankind - will not be implemented," the declaration said.

The international community, including officials from the United Nations, EU, the U.S. and human rights watchdogs such as Amnesty International, has also condemned the death sentences.

All the defendants, including 397 people being tried in absentia, faced charges of committing violence, in Minya in August 2013, following the violent dispersal by security forces of pro-democracy sit-ins in Cairo and Giza, which left hundreds of protesters dead.

(source: dailysabah.com)

INDONESIA:

Frenchman could face death for Bali drug smuggling

A Frenchman appeared in court in Bali Thursday accused of trafficking a large stash of crystal methamphetamine into the Indonesian resort island, an offence punishable by death.

Francois Giuily was arrested in January at Bali airport with more than three kilograms (6.8 pounds) of the drug hidden in 2 plastic bags in his suitcase lining, said prosecutor Suryatmaja, who like many Indonesians goes by 1 name.

Airport customs chief I Made Wijaya said at the time of his arrest that the drugs had a street value of $511,280.

The 48-year-old, making an initial appearance in court in the Balinese capital Denpasar, was charged under a law that bans the production, import and distribution of illegal drugs.

The offence carries a maximum penalty of death under Indonesia's tough anti-narcotics laws.

Giuily told officials that a Gambian drug trafficker he met on the Internet asked him to deliver the drugs to Indonesia and promised to pay him $4,000, the prosecutor said.

There are several foreign nationals on death row for drug-related offences in Indonesia.

British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford was sentenced to death in January last year after being found with $2.4 million worth of cocaine in her luggage as she arrived in Bali.

(source: The Star)

INDIA:

Boys make mistakes, death for rape is wrong: Mulayam

Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav said rapists should not be handed death penalty for their 'mistakes', ANI and news channels reported on Thursday.

He also reportedly said during a rally in Moradabad that there would be changes in the tough anti-rape law if his party came to power after the 2014 general elections.

An ANI tweet quoted Mulayam as saying, "Rape ke liye phaansi dena ghalat hai, ladkon se ghalti ho jaati hai, hum satta mein aaye to kanoon mein badlav karenge (Handing death sentence for rape is not fair... boys make mistakes... there will be changes in the law if we come to power)."

Mulayam's statement triggered a controversy at a time when women's security hasemerged as one of the key issues in the general elections, especially against the backdrop of the December 16, 2012, gang rape of a paramedical student in Delhi.

Less than a week ago, a Mumbai court had sentenced three repeat offenders in the 2 Shakti Mills gang rape cases to death.

It was the 1st time in the country that rape convicts were sentenced to death underthe provision of section 376E under the Indian Penal Code brought in by the new Criminal Law (Amendment) Act in 2013.

Tougher anti-rape laws came in after the brutal Delhi gang-rape case.

Reacting to Mulayam's statement, former IPS officer Kiran Bedi tweeted: "Such pol-leadership deserves not a single vote (sic)".

The SP chief's statement comes close on the heels of party leader Azam Khan stirring up a massive row by saying that India won the Kargil War solely because of Muslim soldiers.

The SP has declared in its manifesto that if voted to power, it will check misuse of anti-rape law.

(source: Hindustan Times)

SINGAPORE:

2 men charged with murder of tour agent

2 men were jointly charged at Magistrates Court here today with the murder of a tour agent Michael Abraham, 60, in a hotel room here last month.

The duo Mohd Shahrul Ruzaimy ?Maznan, 21, from Alor Star and Norazmi Ahmad, 25, nodded when the charge was read before Magistrate Nurshahida Abdul Rahim.

They are jointly charged under Section 302 of the Penal Code which carries mandatory death penalty upon conviction.

The duo are alleged to have committed the murder at Room 411 of Regency Hotel in Jalan Sultan Badlishah, Alor Star about 2.33pm on Mar 13.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Rozana Mohd Nor prosecuted while the duo were not represented.

No plea was recorded and the court fixed June 6 for mention.

It was reported that the hotel staff discovered Michael's body in the room after he failed to check-out on Mar 14.

Police later classified ?the case as murder after post-mortem result confirmed that the victim had died from strangulation.

(source: New Straits Times)

BANGLADESH:

'Sayedee's crimes worse than Molla's'

The attorney general has said Delwar Hossain Sayedee's crimes against humanity were far more terrible than those of his Jamaat-e-Islami comrade Abdul Quader Molla.

The Jamaat leader's death penalty for war crimes should be upheld, Mahbubey Alam told an Appellate Division bench on Thursday, the last day for arguments from the state side.

A 5-strong bench led by Chief Justice Md Muzammel Hossain heard the attorney general.

Quader Molla's death verdict came from a full bench of the Appellate Division, which upturned the International Crimes Tribunal's life sentence. The next hearing is due on Sunday when the defence will reply to the state's arguments. Then the state may give further replies if it wants. After that the case will be kept waiting for verdict.

The attorney general said in the case against Quader Molla, Momena's witness account was sufficient to get him a death penalty.

"In Sayedee's case there are many such reliable witnesses. Their statements show, Sayedee's crimes are even worse. He has done everything, from murder, to rape, looting, arson and soliciting the Pakistan army," Alam said.

"He has done something even worse than murder. He has forcefully converted people from their religion."

The court asked him whether Sayedee was physically present while these crimes were committed.

Attorney Genral Alam replied that he was present in all instances.

"He was there, and he was instructing the Razakars and the Pak army in Urdu to shoot," he said.

"Sometimes he was telling the Hindus to convert to Islam or lose their lives. What can be a more heinous crime?" he said.

The attorney general argued that for the sake of justice, the tribunal's verdict should be upheld at the Appellate Division.

On Feb 28 last year, the ICT-1 ordered Sayedee's execution for his involvement in crimes against humanity during the Liberation War in 1971.

Of the 20 charges against him, Sayedee was given the death penalty for 2 - the murder of Ibrahim Kutti and Bisabali, and the torching of Hindu houses in Pirojpur district in 1971.

6 other charges were also proven beyond doubt but no sentencing followed as he had already been given the death penalty.

Sayedee on Mar 28 last year appealed against the death sentence, seeking acquittal.

The prosecution has appealed for punishment for the 6 other proven charges for the sake of 'full justice'.

The hearing of Sayedee's appeal began on Sep 24 last year.

(source: benews24.com)

KENYA:

2 South Rift MPs Say Duale Can Be Replaced

2 URP MPs from South Rift yesterday accused majority leader and Garrisa Township legislator Aden Duale of being "sympathetic to terrorists".

Speaking separately, Narok West MP Patrick Ntutu and his Bomet East counterpart Benard Bett asked Duale to make good his threat to quit Jubilee.

They said there are more capable MPs who can take over Duale's position of majority leader. The two said Duale is attempting to portray the fight on terrorism as a religious one.

Speaking at Enelerai Secondary School in Narok South when he presented a cheque worth Sh600,000 for the building of a girls' dormitory, Ntutu said: "Duale should realise that we cannot compromise our security. His utterances indicate he is sympathetic to those who have been killing innocent Kenyans."

He asked the government to intensify its fight against terrorism and urged Kenyans to help police officers identify suspicious characters living among them.

Ntutu condemned those criticising the shoot-to-kill order. Speaking in Longisa, Bett called for the amendment of the Crime Prevention Act as the law is "lenient on terrorists".

He said he is in talks with his colleagues with a view of tabling an amendment to the act in the National Assembly. Bett said he wants it to have a provision of the death penalty for terrorists.

"Currently the maximum penalty for terrorists is a life sentence. Those hell-bent on killing others should also face the death penalty. This will act as a deterrent to others," he said.

Bett called on the police to apprehend and punish those radicalising the youth. He said the tourism industry will be dealt a heavy blow if crime keeps rising.

"The intended economic growth will not be realised because no businessperson will be willing to invest in an environment that security is not guaranteed," Bett said.

He called on the police to investigate and apprehend the mosque leader who asked youths in Mombasa on Friday to arm themselves and fight non-Muslims.

(source: The Star)

VIETNAM:

Justice ministry propounds reduction of death penalty

The Vietnamese Ministry of Justice has suggested that the government consider limiting the scope of capital punishment, reducing charges subject to jail term sentences and expanding the application of non-custodial reforms.

The proposal is included in a recent report submitted by the ministry to the government about an orientation for amending the Penal Code, Tran Tien Dung, chief secretariat of the ministry, said Tuesday at a press briefing to review the justice sector’s performance in the first quarter of this year.

The ministry has also proposed non-criminalization of a number of offenses defined in the Penal Code, for the current criminalization of such offenses has no longer been conformable to the 2013 Constitution, Dung said.

At the same time, the ministry has also suggested the criminalization of many other offenses that are highly dangerous to society but are not yet governed by the Code, such as getting illicit gains.

22 charges subject to capital sentence In 1985, the Penal Code stipulated 29 charges subjected to the death penalty, accounting for 14.89 % of the total number of charges provided for the Code.

After that, the Code underwent 4 amendments, which brought the number of charges facing death to 44.

In 1999, the Code was revised again and the number of offenses subject to the death penalty was reduced to 22 out of the total number of 272 prescribed in the Code.

In a conference on death penalty reduction jointly organized in Hanoi by the Ministry of Justice and the UNDP in late December 2013, many law experts suggested that the highest penalty should be abolished for 9 of the 22 above counts.

If the proposal is approved in the future, this means the number of charges subject to a capital sentence will be lowered to 13.

Lethal injection

In regards to the execution of death sentences, Vietnam switched from firing squad to lethal injection in November 2011, under Decree 82/2011 by the government, based on the Law on Criminal Verdict Execution approved by the National Assembly in 2009.

The government also designated 3 types of drugs that had to be used to execute death row inmates.

All 3 must be imported from other countries because they cannot be produced at home.

However, the new execution method took years to implement due to a failure to import the drugs from the European Union (EU), which banned the exportation of lethal injection drugs because it considers capital punishment a violation of human rights.

The Vietnamese government then issued Decree 47/2013 to amend Decree 82, allowing domestically produced drugs to be used for executions.

Decree 47 took effect on June 27, 2013 and the 1st execution by lethal injection was carried out in Hanoi on August 6 last year.

(source: Tuoi Tre News)

APRIL 9, 2014:

TEXAS----execution of foreign national

Mexican national executed for 1997 Texas slaying

A man who escaped prison in his native Mexico while serving a murder sentence was executed in Texas on Wednesday for fatally beating a former Baylor University history professor and attacking his wife more than 16 years ago.

Ramiro Hernandez-Llanas, 44, was lethally injected in the state's death chamber in Huntsville.

He was in the U.S. illegally when he was arrested for the October 1997 slaying of 49-year-old Glen Lich. Just 10 days earlier, Lich had given Hernandez-Llanas a job helping with renovations at his ranch near Kerrville, about 65 miles northwest of San Antonio, in exchange for living quarters.

Investigators said Hernandez-Llanas lured Lich from his house by telling him that there was a problem with a generator, then repeatedly clubbed him with a piece of steel rebar. Armed with a knife, he then attacked Lich's wife. She survived and testified against Hernandez-Llanas, who also had been linked to a rape and a stabbing.

Strapped to a gurney inside the death chamber, Hernandez-Llanas asked for forgiveness. He also said he was at peace and thankful for being able to see relatives, and he urged them not to be sad.

"I'm happy... I am sorry for what I have done," he said, speaking in Spanish during a nearly 5-minute final statement. "I'm looking at the angel of God."

He raised his head from the gurney 3 times and blew 3 loud kisses toward a brother, a sister and 2 friends watching through a window. He also thanked prison officers and the warden.

"I say this with a lot of love and happiness: I have no pain and no guilt. All I have is love," he said.

As the lethal drug took effect, he snored loudly twice, then appeared to go to sleep. Within seconds, all movement stopped. He was pronounced dead 11 minutes later, at 6:28 p.m.

Lich's son, who also witnessed the execution, declined to speak with reporters afterward.

Hernandez-Llanas was the second Texas inmate to receive a lethal injection of a new supply of pentobarbital. Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials have refused to identify the source of the powerful sedative, contending secrecy is needed to protect the drug's provider from threats of violence from capital punishment opponents. The U.S. Supreme Court backed the state's position in a related case last week.

Texas and other states that have the death penalty have been scrambling for substitute drugs or new sources for drugs for lethal injections after major drugmakers - many based in Europe with longtime opposition to the death penalty - stopped selling to prisons and corrections departments.

Hernandez-Llanas' appeals were exhausted, and the Texas parole board on Tuesday refused to delay his death sentence or commute it to life in prison.

He was among more than 4 dozen Mexican citizens awaiting execution in the U.S. when the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, ruled in 2004 that they weren't properly advised of their consular rights when arrested. A measure mandated by the U.S. Supreme Court to enforce that ruling has languished in Congress.

On Wednesday, the Mexican government's Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement condemning the execution.

"This is the 4th case of a Mexican being executed in clear violation of the judgment of the International Court of Justice," the ministry said. "The Government of Mexico expresses its most vigorous protest at the failure to comply."

But that issue never surfaced in Hernandez-Llanas' appeals, which focused primarily on claims that his mental impairment made him ineligible for the death penalty. Testimony from psychiatrists who said he was not mentally impaired and would remain a danger was faulty, his attorneys argued.

According to trial testimony, Hernandez-Llanas was arrested just hours after the attacking Lich and his wife. He was sleeping in the bed where he had wrapped his arm around the terrorized woman, who managed to wriggle from his grasp and restraints without waking him and call police.

Evidence showed Hernandez-Llanas was in Texas after escaping from a Mexican prison, where he was serving a 25-year sentence for a 1989 bludgeoning murder in Nuevo Laredo. He was linked to the rape of a 15-year-old girl and a stabbing in Kerrville. While awaiting trial, evidence showed he slashed another inmate's face with a razor blade. In prison, he was found with homemade weapons.

"This is exactly why we have the death penalty," Lucy Wilke, an assistant Kerr County district attorney who helped prosecute Hernandez-Llanas, said ahead of the execution. "Nobody, even prison guards, is safe from him."

Hernandez-Llanas becomes the 6th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Texas, and the 514th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on December 7, 1982; he becomes the 275th condemned inmate to be put to death in Texas since Rick Perry became governro in 2001.

Hernandez-Llanas becomes the 16th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1375th overall since the nation resumed executons on January 17, 1977.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

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

Executions under Rick Perry, 2001-present-----275

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982-present----514

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

276------------Apr. 16-------------------Jose Villegas--------515

277------------May 13--------------------Robert Campbell------516

278------------May 21--------------------Robert Pruett-------517

(sources for both: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

NEW HAMPSHIRE:

Ayotte fears killer Addison's sentence will be commuted

Former Attorney General and current U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who helped prosecute killer Michael Addison's case, says repealing the death penalty will allow his sentenced to be commuted.

Appearing on WGIR radio this morning on Jack Heath's show, Ayotte refuted the contention that repealing the death penalty would have no effect on Addison's death sentence for killing Manchester Police Officer Michael Briggs in 2006.

"I think that is absurd. These people who are voting on this need to understand they could effectively be commuting Michael Addison's sentence - or reducing his sentence for having killed Michael Briggs in the line of duty," Ayotte said. "I think that is wrong. I think it is sending the absolute wrong message. That may be a good political explanation, but it is not a good legal explanation."

Tuesday the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 2-2 to kill House Bill 1170.

After an all-day public hearing last week largely in support of repealing the death penalty, concern was raised about whether repeal would affect Addison's sentence.

Under the bill, Addison's death sentence does not change, although several people including Ayotte contend it could lead to his sentence being commuted.

Supporters had hoped to amend the bill to make it clearer that Addison would remain on death row if the bill passes. They expect to attempt to amend the bill when it is on the Senate floor April 17.

Repeal proponents are buoyed by Gov. Maggie Hassan's support and the 225-104 House vote to repeal.

The vote in the Senate is expected to be close and likely to be decided by 1 or 2 senators.

In committee Tuesday, Carson and Sen. David Boutin, R-Hooksett, voted to kill the bill, while Sens. Sam Cataldo, R-Farmington, and Bette Lasky, D-Nashua, 2 bill sponsors, voted against killing the bill.

Sen. Donna Soucey, D-Manchester, had to take her father to an appointment and was unable to return in time for the committee vote.

New Hampshire has not executed anyone since 1939. Addison is the only New Hampshire inmate on death row.

(source: Union Leader)

LOUISIANA:

U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear Louisiana case over execution protocol

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a key Louisiana death-penalty case, as well as a parallel case from Missouri, both of which would have forced states to divulge where they acquired their lethal-injection drugs.

The moves come as the climate of capital punishment becomes increasingly tumultuous, with states scrambling for new ways to kill death row inmates amid lethal-injection drug shortages.

In the Louisiana case, death-row inmate Christopher Sepulvado argued he has a constitutional due-process right to know how he will be killed. Specifically, he and his attorneys want to know what drugs will be used and where they were manufactured and tested. They contend that poor-quality drugs could lead to a cruel and unusual punishment.

The Missouri case involved whether prisoners have to propose an alternative method of execution, but it also examined the provenance of the drugs.

In both instances, the court's decisions mark the end for those particular legal efforts, and could allow states to continue to argue for secrecy when it comes to lethal injection.

Sepulvado has been involved in more than a year of court battles and has seen execution dates come and go. He was convicted in 1993 of torturing and killing his stepson.

The Supreme Court's decision lets stand the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision that Sepulvado does not have a due process right to know his execution protocol.

In the Missouri case, a district court required that the state Department of Corrections disclose the identities of the pharmacy, laboratory and physician prescribing the lethal injection drug.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals said that Missouri's court was in error requesting pharmacy information because it wasn't relevant to inmate David Zink's argument that his pending execution could result in a cruel and unusual death.

The Eighth Circuit added that the state could have trouble obtaining the lethal injection drugs if identities of suppliers are made public - an argument that Louisiana Department of Corrections officials have also made in legal filings.

"Our analysis must begin with a basic proposition: '[C]apital punishment is constitutional. It necessarily follows that there must be a means of carrying it out,'" the Eighth Circuit wrote.

The judges also shifted burden to the death-row inmate and said he failed to offer a constitutional means by which Missouri could execute inmates.

Zink was convicted of abducting, killing and burying a woman named Amanda Morton. He confessed that he kidnapped her after getting into a traffic accident with her, then tied her to a tree, broke her neck, stabbed her and buried her in a cemetery.

The issue of the source of the drugs, though, is still in play in federal court in Louisiana. The Fifth Circuit has ordered the state to provide information about the manufacturers of the drugs the state will use, and the state has said it doesn't plan to appeal that ruling.

Other inmates nationwide have claimed they have a constitutional right to know how states intend to execute them.

When nation's supply of drugs such as sodium thiopental and pentobarbital began to dwindle, states started turning to unorthodox or new methods of execution.

In Georgia, for example, officials began buying from a compounding pharmacy for a July 2013 execution. Compounding pharmacies aren't always regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Documentation revealed in January later raised the question whether or not the state obtained its drugs from a pharmacy that was considered for use by the Louisiana Department of Corrections.

In Ohio, officials used a new combinations of drugs in January, which led to an unusually long execution in which the condemned man convulsed and gasped for air.

So far, states have managed to obtain new death penalty drugs, but not without difficulty. In order to avoid bad publicity, companies have declined to sell drugs to states for lethal injection.

In response, states such as Louisiana have argued the need for secrecy, to be sure that they can keep replenishing supplies.

In an brief filed in support of Sepulvado's petition to the Supreme Court, physicians and from across the nation called lethal injection methods "sheer speculation" that is highly imperfect and could therefore result in "human experimentation."

(source: The Lens)

OHIO:

56 proposals for Ohio death penalty

A committee that spent more than 2 years studying changes to Ohio's death penalty law is recommending 56 updates to the law, including restrictions on the use of capital punishment charges.

The committee's final report proposes eliminating cases where an aggravated murder was committed during a burglary, robbery or rape and banning the execution of the mentally ill.

The 71-page draft report obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday also recommends the creation of a state panel that would approve or disapprove of death penalty charges proposed by county prosecutors.

The death penalty review committee, created in 2011 by Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, convenes Thursday for what is expected to be its final meeting.

Most recommendations would need legislative approval.

(source: Associated Press)

TENNESSEE:

Senate authorizes use of electric chair for execution when lethal injection drug not available

The Senate has voted to allow the state to electrocute death row inmates if lethal injection drugs cannot be obtained.

The measure sponsored by Sen. Ken Yager passed on a 23-3 vote on Wednesday. The Harriman Republican said current law allows the state to use its alternate execution method only when lethal injection drugs are not legally available. But Yager said there was no provision for what do if there was a shortage of those drugs.

Tennessee has 10 prisoners on death row, but has not executed a prisoner since 2009.

The state's lethal injection protocol uses a sedative commonly used to euthanize animals, but states are exhausting supplies. The state's last electrocution was in 2007.

The companion bill is awaiting a House floor vote.

(source: Associated Press)

KANSAS:

Defendant fires attorney who got death penalty option off the table; Trial involves murder of woman in March 2010 in Junction City

The defense attorney who successfully worked to remove her client from a potential death penalty tied to a killing in a drug case withdrew from the case Wednesday after the client filed a disciplinary complaint.

U.S. District Court Judge Julie Robinson told defendant Virok Webb he should thank defense attorney Jackie Rokusek for her work on his case.

"You're not facing a death penalty because of her," Robinson said when granting Rokusek's motion to withdraw as Webb's defense attorney. Robinson noted that Webb has had a number of attorneys during the three years he has been charged in the case.

On Oct. 19, 2011, Webb and Marcus D. Roberson were charged with a federal count of murder to prevent a person from providing information concerning a federal crime to a U.S. law enforcement officer. He also was charged with conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine and conspiracy to distribute powder cocaine, court records said.

On March 6, a federal jury convicted Roberson, 32, of Junction City, of killing a woman 4 years ago to prevent her from providing information to investigators about his involvement in drug trafficking.

Roberson also was found guilty of conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine and conspiracy to distribute powder cocaine.

The murder count stemmed from the March 3, 2010, fatal shooting of Crystal K. Fisher, 25, who was lured to a location near an alley in central Junction City where she was shot 4 times at close range, a statement issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office in March said.

Fisher's body was found seated in the driver's side of her vehicle in the 700 block of W. 11th Street. The murder weapon was a .40-caliber pistol found in a pond behind a Wal-Mart.

Prosecutors also presented evidence of Roberson's involvement in a drug-trafficking organization that distributed powder and crack cocaine throughout the Junction City area, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Roberson, who faces a maximum penalty of a life term for the crimes and a fine of up to $10 million for each drug count, is to be sentenced June 9.

On the day after Roberson was convicted, Webb pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine and faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison, court records said.

From November 2008 to about April 1, 2011, Webb conspired with others to distribute at least 10 ounces of crack cocaine, court records said.

The judge said Webb had complained to the Kansas disciplinary administrator that his attorney hadn't explained the consequences of his guilty plea on the drug count to him.

As of Wednesday, a new defense attorney hadn't been announced. A new date to sentence Webb hasn't been scheduled.

5 other co-defendants are to be sentenced in the case.

(source: Topeka Capital-Journal)

NEBRASKA:

Former death-row inmate to speak in McCook

Death Row exoneree Curtis McCarty will speak in McCook and several other Nebraska towns during May, recounting his two decades on Oklahoma's death row for a crime he didn't commit.

McCarty was convicted twice and sentenced to death 3 times based on prosecutorial misconduct and bad forensics. Narrowly escaping an execution, it was only a lucky break that allowed McCarty to prove his actual innocence.

Since his exoneration in 2007, McCarty has become an internationally-recognized speaker, describing his troubled youth, the way police targeted him for a murder after they'd run into a year of dead ends, and how DNA eventually proved his innocence. Along the way, McCarty brings the listener into the violence and desperation of life on death row.

McCarty's speaking tour includes North Platte, Lexington and McCook. Times and locations are listed below. His appearances are sponsored by Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

These public discussions of the death penalty system come at a time when the state is seriously considering abolishing state executions. A bill to repeal the death penalty had enough legislative support to pass during the 2013 legislature. However, a filibuster prevented a floor vote on the bill. A new bill will be introduced in 2015, and with several new legislators replacing those who will not be returning due to term limits, passage of a repeal bill seems possible.

McCarty's presentations are free and open to the public.

May 19: St. Patrick Catholic Church, Parish Hall, 415 N. Chestnut, North Platte 7:00 pm

May 20: First United Methodist Church, Fellowship Hall, 201 E. 8th St., Lexington 6:30 pm

May 21: Memorial United Methodist Church, Sanctuary, 105 East E St., McCook 7 pm

Contact: Effie Caldarola, NADP organizer, 402-502-5333

(soruce: McCook Daily Gazette)

CALIFORNIA:

California considers ending death penalty - to save money

Convicted murderer Douglas Stankewitz, who has spent more than 3 decades on death row, isn't pinning his hopes of survival on a referendum next month to abolish the death penalty in California.

He knows that, even if voters reject the measure, he may never be executed.

"They can't kill me because the system is messed up so bad," California's longest-serving death-row inmate said in an interview here.

"The death penalty is a joke."

Stankewitz, a 54-year-old who arrived on death row at age 20 for killing a woman during a drug- and alcohol-fuelled carjacking, is 1 of 726 inmates on death row in California.

The state hosts nearly 1/4 of the nation's condemned prisoners but has executed none in the past 6 years.

A federal judge halted all California executions in 2006, saying a 3-drug lethal-injection protocol risked causing inmates too much pain and suffering before death. California revised its protocol, but executions have not resumed.

Public opinion in many states has been shifting away from the death penalty, with 5 states abolishing capital punishment over the past decade. 17 states and the District of Columbia do not allow the death penalty.

QUESTION OF COST

In California, proponents of repealing the death penalty are basing their campaign not so much on moral grounds, but rather on the question of cost. They say the system, with mandated appeals that can take decades, costs so much that the financially troubled state could save hundreds of millions of dollars by instead jailing the worst killers for life.

Polls show the referendum - 1 of 11 ballot measures facing Californians on the same day as the presidential election, Nov. 6 - faces an uphill fight.

A majority of Californians, 51 %, oppose abolishing capital punishment, according to a September USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll of 1,504 people. Just 38 % backed repeal, while the rest were undecided.

State offices do not track specific costs associated with prosecuting and housing death-row inmates, but a number of studies have shown the burden is high.

A 2011 study by Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals senior judge Arthur AlarcDon and Paula Mitchell, an adjunct law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said the death penalty has cost the state roughly $4 billion since 1978, when California voted to reinstate it following a nationwide pause.

It called California's capital punishment system "the most expensive and least effective" in the nation.

An independent budget watchdog, the Legislative Analyst's Office, has said repealing the death penalty could initially save the state $100 million a year, later growing to $130 million a year.

"It is a failed public policy that wastes so much public money. And it is an illusion. We haven't had an execution in over 6 years," said Jeanne Woodford, a former San Quentin warden and a leading advocate of death-penalty repeal.

APPEALS CAN LAST DECADES

Death-penalty costs are driven by mandated appeals and a shortage of public lawyers qualified to handle capital cases, which means inmates can wait decades to make their way through the system.

Condemned inmates wait an average of 5 years to be given lawyers for an automatic appeal to the California Supreme Court, which is mandated by state law, Woodford said, and then another 12 years for a lawyer to handle an automatic federal habeas petition, which is a formal request for a federal court to examine the legality of the petitioner's imprisonment.

The California Supreme Court spends a third of its time on death- penalty appeals alone, she said.

34 YEARS ON DEATH ROW

Stankewitz, who has been on death row for 34 years, is among 44 inmates who have spent 3 decades or longer waiting to die.

Convicted in 1978, Stankewitz had his conviction and sentence reversed by the state Supreme Court in 1982 because his mental competence to stand trial had not been evaluated. He was then retried and reconvicted by a Fresno County court in 1983.

That trial spurred another automatic appeal to California's top court, which in 1990 declined to alter his conviction or sentence, according to court records. His 1st federal habeas appeal was filed in 1994.

By his own count, Stankewitz has gone through roughly a dozen public defenders, whom he refers to disparagingly as "dump trucks," and court records show more than 600 motions, orders and rulings in his case since 1991.

His appeals have run the gamut from questions over his own mental competence to the competence of his previous legal counsel and procedural and evidentiary complaints.

"I'm caught up in this game. I don't like this game," Stankewitz said inside a cramped visiting cell that was locked from the outside, monitored by guards and separated from the main visiting area.

13 AWAIT EXECUTION

Of the state's hundreds of death-row inmates, just 13 have exhausted their appeals and are awaiting execution.

By 2050, California is projected to have sent 740 more inmates to death row, and more than 500 death-row inmates will have died of old age or other causes before they can be executed, AlarcDon and Mitchell said in their study.

21 inmates have committed suicide on California's death row since 1978, and 57 have died of natural causes, prison officials said.

An independent commission said in 2008 that the state's death-penalty system was dysfunctional and warned that, if nothing were done to reverse structural delays in the appointment of lawyers and appeals, the application of capital punishment in California could be declared cruel and unusual punishment and, ultimately, struck down as unconstitutional.

It said that a system with life without parole as the top punishment would cost only $11.5 million a year, well under the $137 million it pegs as the annual cost of capital punishment. The AlarcDon-Mitchell report puts the cost of having the death penalty at $144 million a year.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said housing an inmate costs around $55,500 annually per prisoner. It does not break that down by sentence or crime.

Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, said capital punishment costs could be alleviated if sentencing appeals were not mandated, reducing the time from sentencing to execution to 5 or 6 years.

"That would cost less than we are spending now, and less than to incarcerate them for life," said Scheidegger, a co-chair of the coalition to keep the death penalty.

VICTIMS' FAMILIES SPLIT ON ISSUE

Opponents of ending capital punishment, including San Bernardino District Attorney Michael Ramos, are concerned about the danger of mixing death row inmates with the general prison population, arguing that such serious offenders need the additional security measures that are standard on death row.

Family members of victims of death-row inmates have spoken out on both sides of the issue.

Sandy Friend, for example, wrote a public petition arguing that execution was the only fitting punishment for the man who kidnapped, tortured, raped and killed her 8-year-old son, Michael Lyons, in 1996.

"I believe that the only justice for these horrendous crimes these individuals have committed is the death penalty," Friend said in a video produced by repeal opponents.

Her son was abducted on his way home from school by a man with 2 prior sex-offence convictions, Friend said, and was tortured for 10 hours.

The man convicted of his death, Robert Rhoades, was sent to death row in 1999. His appeals are ongoing.

SAME SCRIPT, DIFFERENT NAME

Stankewitz's defence lawyers have largely based their appeals on questions about his intellect and childhood abuse. He suffered alcohol exposure in the womb, was removed from his home at age 6 after his mother beat him and was bounced between foster-care facilities where he was severely troubled and abused, court documents show.

He was 19 when he and a group of friends carjacked Theresa Graybeal, 22, from a K-Mart parking lot in Modesto and drove across California's rural heartland to Fresno, roughly 160 kilometres away.

There, Graybeal was shot and killed. Her family members could not be reached for comment.

One of Stankewitz's companions, 14-year-old Billy Brown, implicated him as the shooter in exchange for immunity from prosecution, records show.

Stankewitz says he was framed by Brown. A federal judge granted him a new penalty phase trial - one that considers punishment only, not guilt or innocence - in 2009, but that remains under appeal.

"We are a script. Every person on death row is the same script with a different name," Stankewitz said.

(source: Reuters)

TEXAS----impending execution

Mexican national set to die for 1997 Texas slaying

A man who escaped prison in his native Mexico while serving a murder sentence was headed to the Texas death chamber Wednesday for the fatal beating a former Baylor University history professor and attack on his wife more than 16 years ago.

Ramiro Hernandez-Llanas, 44, was in the U.S. illegally when he was arrested for the October 1997 slaying of Glen Lich. Ten days earlier, Lich, 49, had given him a job helping with renovations at his ranch near Kerrville in the Texas Hill Country in exchange for living quarters.

Hernandez-Llanas would be the 6th Texas prisoner executed this year and second in a week to receive lethal injection with a new supply of pentobarbital. Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials have refused to identify the source of the powerful sedative, contending secrecy is needed to protect the provider from threats of violence from capital punishment opponents. The U.S. Supreme Court in a related case last week backed that position.

Texas and other states that have the death penalty have been scrambling for substitute drugs or new sources for drugs for lethal injections after major drugmakers - many based in Europe with longtime opposition to the death penalty - stopped selling to prisons and corrections departments.

Hernandez-Llanas' appeals were exhausted and the Texas parole board on Tuesday refused to delay his sentence or commute it to life in prison.

Hernandez-Llanas was among more than four dozen Mexican citizens awaiting execution in the U.S. when the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, ruled in 2004 that they weren't properly advised of their consular rights when arrested. A measure mandated by the U.S. Supreme Court to enforce that ruling has languished in Congress.

Euclides del Moral, a Mexico Foreign Ministry deputy director general, said Tuesday there were "certain gray aspects" in the consulate notification in Hernandez-Llanas' case. "The execution of a Mexican national is of great concern," he said.

However, the issue never surfaced in Hernandez-Llanas' appeals, which focused primarily on claims that his mental impairment made him ineligible for the death penalty. Testimony from psychiatrists who said he was not mentally impaired and would remain a danger was faulty, his attorneys argued.

He wouldn't be facing execution "but for the testimony of 2 experts, neither of whose testimony can withstand a moment's scrutiny, and neither of whom should have been permitted to testify at all," lawyers Sheri Johnson and Naomi Torr said.

According to trial testimony, Hernandez-Llanas lured Lich from the rancher's house on Oct. 14, 1997, by telling him that there was a problem with a generator, then repeatedly clubbed Lich with a piece of steel rebar. Armed with a knife, he then went inside the house and attacked Lich's wife.

When he was arrested hours later, he was sleeping in the bed where he had wrapped his arm around the terrorized woman, who managed to wriggle from his grasp and restraints without waking him and call police.

Evidence showed Hernandez-Llanas was in Texas after escaping from a Mexican prison, where he was serving a 25-year sentence for a 1989 bludgeoning murder in Nuevo Laredo. He was linked to the rape of a 15-year-old girl and a stabbing in Kerrville. While awaiting trial, evidence showed he slashed another inmate's face with a razor blade. In prison, he was found with homemade weapons.

"This is exactly why we have the death penalty," said Lucy Wilke, an assistant Kerr County district attorney who helped prosecute Hernandez-Llanas. "Nobody, even prison guards, is safe from him."

(source: Associated Press)

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

Texas to execute Mexican national for murder and rape

Texas plans to execute on Wednesday Ramiro Hernandez, 44, a Mexican citizen who was convicted of bludgeoning a man to death and repeatedly raping his wife.

Texas is set to put Hernandez to death by lethal injection at 6 p.m. CDT at its death chamber in Huntsville. If the execution goes ahead, Hernandez would be the 6th convict executed in Texas this year and the 16th in the United States.

The Mexican government has tried to halt other executions of its citizens in the state, arguing Texas has not met international obligations concerning the treatment of foreign nationals taken into custody. It has appealed to Texas to halt the execution of Hernandez.

The Mexican Foreign Affairs Ministry has exhausted all remedies to stop the execution, said Euclides del Moral, the deputy director general for Protection of Mexicans Abroad.

Texas has usually proceeded with the executions despite the diplomatic protests.

Hernandez, a hired hand, was convicted of beating his employer Glen Lich to death with a metal bar in October 1997 in the south central Texas county of Bandera.

"(He) then ransacked the Lich residence and repeatedly sexually assaulted Lich's wife at knife-point," the Texas Attorney General's office said in statement.

A federal court had granted Hernandez a temporary stay of execution, saying the state needed to provide information about the supplier of the lethal injection drug.

The stay was reversed by a U.S. appeals court this week, which said there was no compelling evidence that protections provided by the U.S. Constitution would be violated under Texas' current procedures.

(source: Reuters)

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

Appeals court upholds man's death sentence

A federal appeals court rejected a death row inmate's claims that he's mentally impaired and ineligible for execution for the slaying of an East Texas woman nearly 18 years ago.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on Tuesday moves 57-year-old Robert Ladd closer to execution for the murder of 38-year-old Vicki Ann Garner at her Tyler apartment in 1996.

At the time of the slaying, Ladd was on parole after serving 13 years and pleading guilty to 3 other slayings in Dallas in 1978.

Ladd knew Ms. Garner from Tyler's Andrews Center Behavioral Healthcare System, where she was a client and mailroom employee. Described as mildly retarded, Ms. Garner was capable of living independently, as were her friends and neighbors in her small Fannin Avenue apartment complex, contracted by the Andrews Center to house clients.

Ladd sexually assaulted Ms. Garner, strangled her, beat her with a hammer, bound her hands and legs with a cord and stole appliances and jewelry before setting a fire to destroy evidence.

A Smith County jury in 1997 deliberated 18 minutes before deciding Ladd should die for the murder.

"I was one of the prosecutors in the case where Ladd received the death penalty and he deserves to be executed," 241st District Court Judge Jack Skeen said in 2003, while serving as the county's district attorney. "The murder of Vicki Garner was the 4th murder he committed, so the execution needs to be carried out as scheduled so we can finally receive justice in this case for Vicki Garner."

The Supreme Court's measure for retardation is an IQ of 70. Ladd was tested when he was in prison for the 1978 Dallas murders and the result was an IQ of 86.

A federal judge last year ruled that Ladd's attorneys had failed to prove their claim of mental impairment. The appeals ruling supports that finding.

(source: tylerpaper.com)

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

Death row inmate loses appeal in rape, murder of Tyler woman

The 5th U.S. Court of Appeals rejected another appeal from a man facing the death penalty for a 1996 murder in Tyler.

According to court documents, Robert Charles Ladd, 57, raped and strangled to death Vicki Ann Garner. In addition, her home was robbed and then set on fire.

Police were able to connect the murderer to the crime scene after DNA was found on Garner and a TV set taken from her home. Authorities said he exchanged it for crack cocaine. The death row inmate was found guilty of capital murder on August 23, 1997.

Ladd's execution had been put on hold in 2003 when old evidence showed the suspect was mentally challenged; he received an IQ score of 67. 2 other appeals were previously denied in 1999 and 2000.

Then District Attorney Jack Skeen disagreed with the stay and stated he believed Ladd knew exactly what he was doing when he brutally murdered Garner, a mentally challenged woman.

Ladd was also convicted of murdering a woman and her 2 children and then setting her house on fire in 1978. He was released from prison after serving 16 years of a 40-year sentence.

A date for Ladd's has execution has not been set.

(source: KETK news)

NEW HAMPSHIRE:

Senate panel votes 2-2 on death penalty repeal bill; Senate to vote April 17

The New Hampshire Senate will vote whether to repeal New Hampshire's death penalty next week, but it won't have a clear recommendation from its Judiciary Committee to go by.

The committee voted 2-2 Tuesday with 1 member absent on a recommendation. In such a case, the bill goes to the Senate floor April 17 with a recommendation that it be killed.

The state is the closest to repealing the death penalty that it's been since 2000, when both houses of the Legislature approved a proposal but then-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen vetoed it.

Gov. Maggie Hassan says she will sign the House bill if it reaches her desk and does not affect the death sentence of Michael Addison, who was convicted of killing Manchester police officer Michael Briggs in 2006. (source: Associated Press)

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

Strong arguments for repeal

When I listened to the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on HB 1170, the bill to repeal the death penalty, I was impressed by the arguments made by those supporting repeal. These included the enormous financial cost of trial and appeal in a potential death penalty case, the suffering of the murder victim's family during the long process of trial and appeal and the impossibility of total certainty that the penalty has not been unjustly imposed.

But what most impressed me was the experience in law and law enforcement of those supporting repeal: a former Supreme Court justice, former superior court judges, former attorneys general, former prosecutors and law enforcement officers and current legislators. These witnesses were passionate that their experience had taught them, sometimes against their first beliefs, that the death penalty serves no purpose that could not be served by life imprisonment without parole.

TRUDY MOTT-SMITH

Loudon

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

'Due process' has its limits

Re "Don't repeal the death penalty. Executions save lives" (Sunday Monitor Forum, April 6):

Chuck Douglas's argument centers on the concept of due process. Due process is indeed the greatest accomplishment of mankind in regulating how man deals with his fellow man; for that, I thank the framers. There are, however, limits to the idea.

The limit in this arena is the idea that We the People have the right to remove the inalienable right to life. We the People do not have this right. This in no way excuses any guilty party of any deed. We the People may conclude that an individual may not be allowed to be part of our society, and we may provide for circumstances that protect our society from those persons.

For further discussion, I refer the reader to the writings of Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island. His basic premise, which allowed for the concept of individual liberty, is that there is no justification for any man or state to interfere with another man’s relationship with the creator. Life forms the crucible for that relationship. Any individual's actions can never serve as justification for destruction of that crucible. Due process is a creation of men. As useful as it is, it is limited by the fallibility of man. I call for the repeal of the death penalty.

BILL WISHART

Concord

(source for both: Letter to the Editor, Concord Monitor)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Poplawski To Appeal Conviction, Death Penalty Sentence

One of our city's most notorious cop killers will be back in court Wednesday to try and convince the top judges in the state that he shouldn't have been convicted, and shouldn't have gotten the death penalty.

Richard Poplawski has had plenty of time to think about what happened 5 years ago in Stanton Heights.

He was convicted of shooting and killing Pittsburgh Police Officers Eric Kelly, Stephen Mayhle and Paul Sciullo during a domestic call.

Poplawski is currently living in solitary confinement on Pennsylvania's death row with no daily human contact, except for his jailers.

Even if this appeal fails, Poplawski may never be put to death thanks to state law.

Poplawski spends 23 hours a day in a 15 x 15-foot cell on death row at the State Correction Institution at Graterford, outside Philadelphia.

1 hour a day he has a choice. He can either take a shower or spend time alone in an open air pen.

He is one of 33 death row inmates at Graterford, including John Lesko, who is another prisoner sentenced to death for killing a police officer.

Like Lesko and most of the other 198 inmates on death row across the state, Poplawski has begun filing appeals.

His 1st appeal will be heard here in Pittsburgh tomorrow by the State Supreme Court. Poplawski wants both a new trial and a new sentencing hearing, saying he was unfairly branded as a racist and that evidence of his posts on a Nazi website should not have been admitted.

The district attorney is dismissive and issued this statement:

"The prosecution of this defendant was meticulous and thorough, based on overwhelming evidence. We are confident that his conviction and subsequent sentence will be upheld on appeal."

Like other inmates, Poplawski has also begun sending letters to the news media.

In one sent to KDKA, he never says he's innocent, but claims there may have been another shooter with him in the house, which is something investigators say has no basis in reality.

By all accounts, Poplawski will be able to write letters and file appeals for years to come. The death penalty hasn't been implemented in Pennsylvania since 1999. That's when Philadelphia's "House of Horrors" convict, Gary Heidnik, said he no longer wanted to appeal and wanted to be put to death.

There are no current signed death warrants in the state and there are some inmates who have been on death row since the 1980s.

So, it's unlikely that Poplawski or anyone else will be put to death anytime soon.

The Poplawski house has been torn down and this neighborhood in Stanton Heights hopes it fades into distant memory.

The families of the victims, police officers and the rest of the City of Pittsburgh hope the same about Richard Poplawski.

(source: KDKA news)

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

Morning Call, DA 'demonize' Amanda Hein

The headlines about Amanda Hein are offensive. The story of this unfortunate and mentally unstable young woman and her infant are tragic. The Morning Call articles and the actions of Northampton County District Attorney Morganelli continue to demonize her.

Of course she accepted a plea bargain of guilty instead of the death penalty. Her treatment inculcates the criminal justice system as more criminal than justice. People accused of crimes are often forced to accept unreasonable plea bargains to avoid draconian sentences.

Stop using the terrible picture of Amanda Hein that we have seen endless times. Don't use alarmist headlines. The light within is not extinguished by entering the criminal justice system.

Mimi Lang

Bethlehem

(source: Letter to the Editor, Morning Call)

DELAWARE:

Group rallied for stalled death penalty repeal bill

"Bring that bill to the floor," shouted Pastor Silvester Beaman, president of the Interdenominational Ministers Action Council of Delaware.

Mr. Beaman was joined by IMAC members and allies supporting Senate Bill 19, as they marched together from Wesley United Methodist Church in Dover to Delaware's Legislative Hall where they met with House Leaders on Tuesday.

IMAC is a member organization of the Delaware Repeal Project, which is a coalition of 28 local, state and national organizations working to eliminate Delaware's death penalty.

SB19 would abolish the death penalty, but keep death penalty sentences for the 18 men currently on Delaware's death row.

The bill remains tabled in the 11-member House Judiciary Committee after passing the Delaware Senate, 11-10.

"We are convinced and determined if the bill is brought out of the committee, we will have the votes to get it passed," Mr. Beaman said.

"The death penalty in Delaware is wrong, it's wrong now and will be wrong 5 years from now," he said. "Delaware needs to be on the front end to say enough is enough to repeal the death penalty."

As IMAC members and allies walked over to Delaware's Legislative Hall holding up signs that stated "Repeal Delaware's Death Penalty," a driver in a passing vehicle leaned out his window and said "kill them all," which offended Mr. Beaman.

"It was offensive to me as a clergy person and certainly as an African American male," Mr. Beaman said. "In the state of Delaware, people on death row look like me, and what I heard him say [his interpretation] was, kill all the black people on death row. We have got to help our legislators understand that this is about color for us and we will not be silent."

But Ruth Ann-Purchase, a member of The Green Party of Delaware, who also supports SB 19, believes race doesn't play a factor at all.

"I am concerned that people don't realize that it's not just a black issue, it's everybody's issue," she said. "Delaware has so many struggles to maintain an ethical reputation among the states and in the world, and we want that. We want to have a moral and ethical background that stands up for human rights."

Before the legislative session kicked off, SB19 sponsor Rep. Darryl Scott, D-Dover, stood with death penalty repeal supporters outside the Democratic House offices on the second floor of Legislative Hall.

Despite the influx of rallies, support for the repeal has been weak.

1 signature is all the bill needs to be taken to the House floor.

But 6 votes to move it forward have been difficult to secure.

If the bill is not released out of committee in a traditional vote, two courses of action could be taken: A majority of the committee members can sign the bill in the House of Representatives' clerk's office, where legislation is stored, to get the bill released from committee; or the rules can be suspended to bring it to a full vote on the House floor.

"No progress has been made," Rep. Scott said. He said continued education and outreach is crucial.

However, fellow House Judiciary Committee member, Rep. Steve Smyk, R-Milton, wonders if those outreach efforts are genuine. He is one of the 6 lawmakers who voted against the bill in committee and has received many emails calling for his support on the repeal.

"But I want to hear from you," he said, referencing his constituents. The former state trooper has not seen support in the community for the repeal. "I can't find people that are in favor of it."

All law enforcement agencies, the State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, the Delaware State Troopers Association, the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware and the Delaware Police Chiefs' Council, have banded together against the repeal bill, representing more than 5,000 Delawareans.

"Coming off death row does not equate innocence," said Martin Johnson, executive director of the Delaware Police Chiefs' Council.

However, Dover resident Kathleen Costello is in full support of the bill, as she was inspired by Sister Helen Prejean, a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph and a leading American advocate for the abolition of the death penalty.

"She came to speak here in Delaware and she's a really amazing woman, so when I knew she was here and part of that, that's how I got involved," she said. "I try to be involved any time I can, but I absolutely enjoy it and I don't think we make a difference in killing people to show that killing is wrong."

(source: delawarenewszap.com)

FLORIDA----new death sentence

Jury recommends death penalty for Brandon Bradley

Steve Pill lost half of himself when his wife was murdered. For about 31 years, he was married to Barbara Pill, a Brevard County Sheriff's Deputy.

"When you get married, you take 2 and you make 1," he said.

Pill sat through most of the trial of Brandon Bradley, the man who was found guilty of killing Pill's wife. Pill was in court Tuesday evening to watch the jury recommend that Bradley should be put to death.

"I'm glad the jury came back with what they came with," Steve Pill said. "But again, it's not vengeance we were looking for, it was justice."

They delivered a 10-2 vote, meaning two jurors felt Bradley should get life in prison without parole instead. The jurors had to be unanimous to find Bradley guilty of the crime. While Florida only requires a majority vote to recommend a death penalty, every other state except Alabama requires a unanimous vote, according to Defense Attorney Kepler Funk, who has analyzed the case for FLORIDA TODAY. In 2011, State Senator Thad Altman (R-Melbourne) sponsored a bill that would have changed the law to require a unanimous vote for a death penalty recommendation, but that bill died in committee.

The jury's recommendation represents the conclusion of their work. Bradley's trial began on February 24 with about three weeks of jury selection. Then the chosen jurors watched about 2 weeks of witness testimony, delivering their guilty verdict on April 1. The penalty phase -- in which the state and defense argue for and against the death penalty -- happened Thursday, Friday and Tuesday.

In their closing argument during the penalty phase, the state told jurors Pill ordered Bradley to "get out of the car" 23 times during the traffic stop that ended with her shooting death. Among 6 factors they said supported a death sentence, the state reminded jurors Pill was a deputy on duty.

"That alone justifies the death penalty," Assistant State Attorney Jim McMaster said.

Defense Attorney Randy Moore told jurors no matter what the state presented, they could always choose to recommend life in prison without parole.

"Mercy is always an option," he said.

He described prison as a place where the strong and the smart prey on the weak.

"Look at Mr. Bradley, he's not a big man. He's not exceptionally strong, he's not exceptionally bright...He is a small brain-damaged man who will be thrown into this sewer with the worst of humanity. That will be his life if he gets a sentence of life without parole."

The jury deliberated for about 3 hours when considering whether to recommend life or death -- that's about twice as long as they required to find him guilty of 1st-degree premeditated murder of a law enforcement officer, as well as 3 other crimes.

While deliberating, they asked several questions of the court. They reviewed the video of her shooting that was captured on the dash camera in her patrol car. They were concerned about being polled about how they voted -- ultimately they were each asked if the total vote was correct, but not how they individually voted.

"You know, it is always tough to sit in those jurors' chairs and make those decisions," Sheriff Wayne Ivey said. "And I applaud the jury for returning the appropriate decision and taking us one step closer to the closure we all want in this case."

Judge Morgan Reinman scheduled a "Spencer Hearing" for June 13 where both sides can present evidence to try to influence her decision. She scheduled a sentencing hearing for June 27, where she'll deliver her final order. She can choose either a death penalty or life in prison without parole, but she must give the jury's recommendation great weight.

After the jury recommended he should die, Bradley was lead out of the courtroom in handcuffs.

"Even with the verdict today," Pill said, "It still doesn't bring back what I lost. Barb was a big part of my life."

(source: Florida Today)

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Bill aims to compensate wrongly convicted Arcadia man----James Richardson, exonerated from his conviction in the poisoning deaths of his seven children, returned to Arcadia Sunday to receive the keys to the city. Richardson is still awaiting legislation that would award him money for his wrongful imprisonment.

James Richardson spent 21 years in prison after being wrongly convicted of poisoning his 7 children in Arcadia.

Now, after years of roadblocks, Richardson's advocates hope that a wrongful incarceration bill moving through the Florida Legislature will at last compensate the 78-year-old for what his longtime attorney, Robert Barrar, called an unconscionable case of "Southern justice."

While a Senate compensation bill has passed several committees, the House version remained stalled until Tuesday, when the Criminal Justice Subcommittee reconvened specifically to hear the bill and passed it on a 11-0 vote.

"I think this hearing signifies a lot about where this bill may be going, and I think this may be the year for him," said bill sponsor Rep. David Kerner, D-Lake Worth.

The bill would allow Richardson to receive $50,000 for each year he spent in prison. But Kerner said it is about more than the compensation figure itself.

"It signifies the Florida government, the Legislature, saying a mistake was made and we're going to try to help you fix it," he said.

In 1968, an all-white jury found Richardson, a black man, guilty of killing his children for insurance money and sentenced him to death.

The children had fallen ill and died after Betsy Reese, their baby sitter, fed them a meal. Richardson and his wife, migrant fruit pickers, were working in the groves.

Decades later, Reese said she killed the children. But by then, she was in a nursing home with Alzheimer's disease.

Still, the statement was enough for the governor to assign the case to a special prosecutor, who discovered perjury by informants and misconduct by prosecutors.

In 1989, Richardson was released from prison. His time included 4 years on death row, before the state outlawed the death penalty.

Attorneys and advocates have repeatedly asked the state to compensate Richardson. He was the first person to apply for the 2008 Victims of Wrongful Incarceration Compensation Act, which allows those who were wronged to receive $50,000 for each year of their imprisonment up to $2 million, plus a tuition waiver.

But Richardson does not fit the act's requirements for payment. With no DNA evidence available from the 1967 case and other evidence lost or destroyed, he was not fully exonerated. Without that official badge of innocence, he does not qualify under the law.

After hearing about the "miscarriage of justice" in his case, Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, said she wanted to be part of making Richardson whole.

"He spent over 21 years of his youthful, productive life in prison. He had already lost seven children and during the process he was disconnected with his wife," Thompson said. "So this is a person who has lost so much, and if there is a way to make him eligible for compensation, and to finally recognize and acknowledge his innocence . . . that's what's important."

She sponsored the Senate bill, which would change the criteria of the compensation act for victims who were wrongly locked up and sentenced to death before 1980. Under the bill, someone could qualify for money if a special prosecutor finds that the charges against that person can't be proven and the case is thus nullified.

3 Senate committees have unanimously passed the bill (SB 326). The Rules Committee must hear it before a full Senate vote.

That committee has been waiting to see if the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee would consider the bill (HB 227), Kerner said. The House panel amended the bill to preclude state payments from being used for lobbyist or attorney fees.

The subcommittee's chairman, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, said he decided to hear the bill after Kerner convinced him last week that it would be changing the law not to suit one person, but rather to fix "a systemic flaw that created a loophole that only 1 person happened to fall through."

"I have no earthly idea, from hour to hour, what's going to happen with this bill," Kerner said. "I've been told since I filed it that it was dead on arrival; now here we are calling a special meeting to have it heard."

Kerner said he hopes Richardson will receive the money this year. He is worried about the man's health and weak heart.

Richardson is a minister in Wichita, Kan. If the state grants him money, he will use it to create a church, Barrar said.

(source: Herald Tribune)

ALABAMA:

No executions, for now - Timing is right for Alabama to rethink its stance on the death penalty

On Monday, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange visited Anniston and provided two front-page worthy bits of information.

-- Executions are on hold in Alabama.

-- The state isn't going to return to the days of "Yellow Mama," the not-so-eloquent nickname for the state's electric chair.

In other words, opponents of the death penalty's form of eye-for-an-eye justice, including The Star's editorial board, can find slight solace in the temporary halt to executions caused by legal challenges to lethal injection. But neither opponents of nor advocates for the death penalty should kid themselves: Barring a seismic and improbable shift in attitude, Alabama will resume executing death-row inmates as soon as legal matters are settled and concerns over the availability of the needed drugs are handled.

We wish that wasn't Alabama's future. The death penalty is the ultimate penalty that equates to state-sponsored killing by civilized people. It is not an adequate deterrent against murder. It may offer a sense of closure, but it does not reverse the crime's outcome.

The United States is one of only 22 known nations worldwide that performed executions in 2013, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. (That year, the nations who executed the most prisoners were China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United States. Somalia came in 6th.) That capital punishment is banned in the United Kingdom, France and Germany - allies with which the United States shares similar policies and ideological beliefs - signals how out-of-step the death penalty is with modern governments.

Alabamians can thank the state Legislature for this spring's reopening of discussions about the death penalty in Alabama. Rep. Lynn Greer, R-Rogersville, tried to usher a bill through the Statehouse that would have hidden from public view the names of people or companies who make drugs used in executions. Alabama has run out of at least one of the drugs it needs for executions, and Greer's bill purported to make it easier for the state to find a new supplier. A similar bill had been ruled unconstitutional this spring by a state court judge in Oklahoma.

The Alabama Legislature thought long about Greer indefensible bill, but lawmakers did not pass it. That's worth a cheer.

Often overlooked in these discussions are the victims of murder and their families. That shouldn't happen. It's good that those who advocate on the behalf of victims' families lend a voice to those no longer with us. Everyone has a story, everyone has a life, everyone should have their side heard. It's completely understandable that families and friends of those killed would want justice. American law demands it.

Justice, however, isn't a one-size-fits-all discussion. Execution doesn't have to be Alabama's choice. That the state will soon return to executing death-row inmates is a fact we can't ignore.

(source: Editorial, Anniston Star)

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

Mass murder suspect jailed in AL charged with murder in CA

Documents show mass murder suspect Jose Martinez has been charged with 9 counts of murder in California.

Martinez is currently jailed in Lawrence County on a murder charge.

The documents out of Tulare County, California show Martinez operated as a contract killer with killings that date back to 1980.

The charges against Martinez in California make him eligible for the death penalty in that state.

Martinez is currently awaiting trial for the 2013 murder of Jose Ruiz in Lawrence County. He told authorities in Alabama he has killed more than 30 people in other states.

(source: WAFF news)

OHIO:

Trial begins in Youngstown death penalty case

The trial against a Youngstown man accused of killing a woman and attempting to kill 2 others began Wednesday in Mahoning County Court.

Willie Wilks Jr. is charged with aggravated murder in the May 21 shooting death of Orora Wilkins, 20, of Youngstown.

Wilks pleads not guilty

Wilks is also accused of shooting Alex Morales in the back as he sat on the porch with Wilkins at a house on Park Avenue.

Prosecutors painted Wilks as an enraged man looking for revenge when he went to the house that Tuesday afternoon.

Assistant Mahoning County Prosecutor Becky Doherty said Wilks was looking for Orora Wilkins' brother William "Mister" Wilkins when he went to house because Wilkins had allegedly accused him of stealing money from a family member.

"You walk up to a porch with an AK-47, a big gun, and you shoot her in the head. That is the purpose. The purpose is to kill her," said Doherty.

According to Doherty, Alex Morales and Orora Wilkins were sitting on the porch when Wilks walked up and asked, "Where the (expletive) is he?"

Morales got up to go inside the house and Wilks allegedly shot him in the back. Morales was holding a baby at the time and fell on top of the child. Orora Wilkins got up to go to the baby and was shot in the head and killed.

Doherty said that Wilkins also fired shots at an upstairs window in an attempt to hit William "Mister" Wilkins.

Most of the testimony Wednesday centered on the shooting scene. Doherty questioned Patrolman Melvin Johnson, who was one of the first officers to respond. She specifically asked him about radio traffic and what was reported at the scene, specifically if a Be On The Lookout (BOLO) had been issued for Wilks.

"I heard radio from other officers when I mentioned the name Wilks that was given to me as a potential suspect. I heard radio traffic from other officers in reference to a Wilks based on things they were familiar with about vehicles and license plates," said Johnson. "I am listening to this but not directly because I know these officers are speaking to one another in reference to my initial announcement that Wilks was mentioned."

The jury has been to the crime scene where bullet holes can still be seen near an upstairs window and on the porch.

Several witnesses are scheduled to testify, including Orora Wilkins' sister.

(source: WKBN news)

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

Attorney: Death Too Harsh for Man Who Killed Officer Miktarian

An attorney for Ashford Thompson, 29, argued before justices of the Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday that the death penalty he is serving for the aggravated murder of Twinsburg police officer Josh Miktarian is too harsh.

Miktarian, 33, pulled Thompson over in the early morning hours of July 13, 2008 for playing music too loud in his car.

In the minutes after, a traffic stop escalated until Thompson drew a gun and fired multiple times, killing Miktarian.

His attorney, Rachel Troutman, argued on Tuesday that Thompson was under duress at the time and as things escalated, believed that his own life was being threatened.

"Ashford Thompson made a very bad judgement call on July 13, 2008." said Troutman, adding, "He was a man who identified as a nurse, a caretaker, somebody who only had a concealed carry, a license to concealed carry so he could bring his gun with him when he took care, when he did home health care in bad neighborhoods."

Troutman used the case of Quisi Bryan, convicted of killing Cleveland police officer Wayne Leon in 2000, to illustrate that the death penalty is appropriate in cases where the defendant had a criminal history.

She argued that Thompson's record included only traffic violations until that night and that he was not a violent person.

"This was not a man who had been convicted of anything violent. He was deeply religious and he was young and again he was a nurse, somebody who had dedicated himself to taking care of others," said Troutman.

When asked whether her argument had any difficulty with the fact that Officer Miktarian had been shot 4 times in the head, Troutman said that only demonstrated the amount of panic Ashford Thompson had.

"This was not a cold, calculated pull the trigger once and walk away. This was a man who unloaded his gun and then took off. This was not somebody who, again, had done something violent in the past this was somebody who panicked and then everything went wrong, but because of the man that he is, because of the man that he was the day before that he does not warrant the death sentence," argued Troutman.

Appeals attorney Richard Kasay of the Summit County Prosecutor's Office argued that the trial court got it right.

Kasay said the only time the court heard that Thompson was under duress was from the explanation Thompson himself gave during an unsworn statement at his trial.

"The function of this court, my understanding is that you consider it but you don't have to accept it," said Kasay, adding, "just because a defendant says something, how much credibility does this court have to give it? Well, that's up to this court."

Thompson's attorneys argued that he drew his gun because he believed Officer Miktarian was reaching for his.

Kasay countered that no one will really know exactly what happened.

"He (Miktarian) was reaching for his gun. That's what Mr. Thompson's attorneys would want you to believe. We don't know that. The officer had another set of handcuffs and could just as easily been reaching for those. We don't know that and we never will," said Kasay.

"To jump to the conclusion that the officer was reaching for his gun is speculative and not something that requires, the evidence is not such that this court is required to believe that," he added.

As for the weight the court should give to Thompson's past when considering their ruling, Kasay said that would have to be left up to each individual Justice.

The Supreme Court will take all of the arguments into consideration before issuing its ruling.

(source: Fox8 news)

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

Defense tells Ohio Supreme Court that death penalty imposed improperly in case of slain Twinsburg police officer

In 7 minutes, Ashford Thompson's life got out of control and he murdered Twinsburg Police Officer Joshua Miktarian.

That was the central argument to the Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday as Thompson's attorney asked the justices to vacate his 2010 aggravated murder conviction and death sentence.

On a hot summer night in July 2008, Thompson acted under duress, fearing for his own life, during a struggle with Miktarian after the officer stopped Thompson's car for loud music, attorney Rachel Troutman told the high court.

She said Thompson had a professional career, was only 23 years old at the time of the crime and had no criminal record before the night he shot and killed Miktarian a few minutes after the traffic stop.

"Ashford Thompson made a very bad judgment call on July 13, 2008. He was a man who was identified as a nurse, a caretaker and somebody who only had a concealed-carry license so he could bring his gun with him when he did home health care in bad neighborhoods," Troutman said.

"In 7 minutes," she stressed, "his life got out of control, and Officer Miktarian was murdered."

Moreover, in the sentencing phase of Thompson's trial in Summit County Common Pleas Court, Troutman said the court's findings established that the shooting was not done with prior calculation and design - an essential element of aggravated murder.

"This court can find that Ashford Thompson, being the person he was before, the person he was inside, despite the fact that he made a horrible mistake, is still worthy of living," Troutman said at the conclusion of her remarks.

No timetable for decision

Following arguments that took more than an hour for both sides to present their cases, Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor said the court would take the matter under advisement. No timetable was given for a decision.

The foundation for Thompson's appeal is that the aggravating factors of the crime did not carry more weight than the mitigating factors in sparing his life. Defense briefs, totaling 148 pages, cited 18 legal and procedural errors at his trial as jurisdictional grounds for the high court to hear the case.

Justice Paul E. Pfeifer said nothing during much of the prosecution's argument to uphold Thompson's death sentence, but when he did speak, he departed from legal jargon with a personal recollection of such debates with the late Chief Justice Thomas Moyer.

Stopping Summit County Assistant Prosecutor Richard Kasay in the middle of his remarks, Pfeifer said he had "personally struggled" with mitigating factors in other capital cases before the court, pointing out that Thompson lacked any previous criminal history, served in the military and had an honorable profession as a nurse.

Then, posing a question that Pfeifer said he and Moyer often struggled over in their discussions, he asked Kasay if "those kinds of things don't count for much in mitigation?"

Kasay responded by saying he had no "categorical answer" for the question and that, ultimately, it was up to each justice to arrive at an answer.

The prosecutor also stressed that Miktarian was shot 4 times in the head with a gun that Thompson had carried in his car that night after he and his girlfriend had been at a bar.

Taser gun on ground

In what appeared as an attempt to dispel the claim that Thompson feared for his life, Kasay told the justices there was only 1 thing missing from Miktarian's duty belt when his body was found.

It was his Taser gun. It was found on the ground, and it had not been fired, Kasay said.

After Thompson fled from the scene of the shooting, he went to the home of a relative with one of Miktarian's handcuffs still clasped around his wrist.

Police officers who found him there became involved in a violent struggle in the kitchen, to the point of the refrigerator door being ripped off "in the process of subduing him," Kasay argued.

It was unmistakable evidence, the prosecutor argued, that Thompson had no remorse for what he did.

(source: ohio.com)

TENNESSEE----new execution date

Execution date set for inmate on death row since 1978

Tennessee wants to execute death row's longest-standing resident.

Donald Wayne Strouth, 55, has been on death row since 1978 for the murder of a second-hand store owner in Kingsport. He's accused of knocking out and slashing the throat of Jimmy Keegan in a robbery, leaving his body behind in his store, where his wife later found him.

Strouth, who was known to carry a hawkbill knife, was seen by witnesses afterward with blood still on his hands.

He outlived the man who was convicted alongside him, Jeffrey Dicks. Dicks, like most death row inmates over the past decade or so, died not by execution but by natural causes when he suffered a heart attack in 1999.

But Tuesday, Tennessee's Supreme Court set a date for Strouth's execution: March 15, 2016.

It may seem far off, but the justices built in time for an ongoing lawsuit dealing with the secrecy of Tennessee's death penalty to run its course. Eleven death row inmates are suing the state to turn over details about how it plans to perform its lethal injection, trying to overcome a 2013 law that sealed many of those details behind a veil of secrecy. They argue that if they don't know what the state is using to kill them and where it came from, there's no way to know whether the execution meets constitutional safeguards against "cruel and unusual punishment."

That lawsuit, which is ongoing, has pushed back at least one execution date.

Strouth has argued that he suffers from brain damage and mental illness, but the state's Supreme Court was unswayed.

He is at least the 10th death row inmate to have an execution date. Billy Ray Irick, who raped and murdered a 7-year-old Knoxville girl in 1985, is scheduled to die first, on Oct. 7. The state is awaiting an execution date for an 11th inmate.

Tennessee has not executed a prisoner since 2009.

(source: The Tennessean)

MISSOURI----new execution date

Missouri sets execution date for Russell Bucklew

The Missouri Supreme Court on Wednesday set a May execution date for convicted killer Russell Bucklew, continuing a trend of scheduling 1 execution per month.

Bucklew is set to die by injection at 12:01 a.m. May 21 for killing a man in Cape Girardeau County in 1996.

"We are litigating this in the courts and we are pursuing executive clemency," Bucklew's attorney, John William Simon of St. Louis, said.

Missouri has executed 5 men since November - 1 each month through March. A sixth, William Rousan, is scheduled to be put to death April 23 for killing a St. Francois County couple in 1993.

Missouri executed 2 men between 2005 and November. Executions slowed because the U.S. Supreme Court was considering whether lethal injection was constitutional. A 2008 ruling cleared the way for lethal injection, but major drugmakers about that time stopped selling drugs for use in executions, citing ethical concerns.

Late last year, Missouri switched to a single-drug method, using pentobarbital made by an unidentified compounding agency. All 5 men put to death at the state prison in Bonne Terre, Mo., over the past 6 months - Joseph Paul Franklin in November, Allen Nicklasson in December, Herbert Smulls in January, Michael Taylor in February and Jeffrey Ferguson in March - were executed with pentobarbital.

Bucklew, 45, was convicted in the fatal shooting of Michael Sanders. Sanders was killed on March 21, 1996, about a month after Bucklew and his girlfriend broke up. Bucklew had determined that Sanders was a romantic rival. Authorities said he went to Sanders' mobile home and shot him while his ex-girlfriend and Sanders' 6-year-old son were also inside the home.

Bucklew abducted his ex-girlfriend and raped her before driving north on Interstate 55. A trooper spotted the car and apprehended Bucklew after a gunfight. Both the trooper and Bucklew were wounded.

Buckley briefly escaped from the Cape Girardeau County jail before he went to trial in 1997 but was quickly recaptured.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Death penalty hearing delayed for terminally ill man linked to Belleville murders

A hearing to determine whether convicted murderer Gregory A. Bowman would once again face the death penalty has been delayed for a year because he has a terminal illness.

Bowman, 62, is facing sentencing for a murder 35 years ago in St. Louis County. Circuit Judge David Vincent, the judge presiding in Bowman's case, set the hearing for April 27, 2015.

Bowman was convicted and sentenced to death for the rape and murder of 16-year-old Velda Rumfelt who was abducted from a busy Brentwood, Mo., intersection. DNA found in Rumfelt's underwear was a 1 in 459 trillion match to Bowman.

Bowman, who also was convicted of killing two young women from Belleville, denied his guilt in the Rumfelt case from the witness stand to then-St. Louis County prosecutor Joe Dueker at the first sentencing hearing in 2009.

The Missouri Supreme Court overturned his death sentence in 2011. The court ruled that during the sentencing phase of the trial, the judge erred when he allowed testimony regarding Bowman's conviction of the murders of 14-year-old Elizabeth West and 21-year-old Ruth Ann Jany, both of Belleville.

"It would be hollow if he passes away in prison but as long as he doesn't hurt any other women, we can live with that," said Teresa Rumfelt, Velda Rumfeldt's friend and sister-in-law. "He's the lowest of the low. We would rather see him executed, but, at this point, we will take what we can get."

"We were aggravated about what happened with the (Missouri) Supreme Court," Teresa Rumfelt said. "We followed the rules and we did what we were supposed to do and he still slipped out just like he did over there."

West was abducted from West Main Street in Belleville. Her body was found in a small creek near Millstadt on May 5, 1978. 2 months later, Jany was abducted from a Belleville bank's parking lot. Her skeletal remains were found a year later in a field near Hecker.

Both the St. Clair County convictions were overturned after St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporters questioned the manner in which his confession was obtained.

The newspaper reported that Bowman was "tricked" into confessing by former investigator Robert Miller, who got jail prisoner Danny Stark to plot an escape with Bowman, who confessed to delay his transfer to Menard Correction Center where he was to serve a sentence for abducting another Belleville woman from a laundromat.

Associate Judge Richard Aguirre found the confession to Miller was not given freely and gave Bowman a new trial. Bowman posted bond and was released from jail for the 1st time in 29 years.

His freedom didn't last long.

Former Belleville Police Chief James Rokita, then retired, took a DNA profile offered by Bowman in the Belleville cases to Missouri and urged investigators there to compare it to their cold cases.

Scientists were able to discover the semen in Rumfelt's underpants. Prosecutors said Bowman allowed Rumfelt to dress after her rape, preserving the DNA that would eventually be matched to Bowman's DNA profile.

Bowman was free just over a week before he was arrested for the Rumfelt murder. This time the trial would be in St. Louis County, where Bowman would face a capital murder case.

Steve Evans, Bowman's defense attorney, argued that Bowman's conviction was the only one in the state based solely on DNA evidence. Evans argued further that the DNA evidence should have never been sent to Missouri for comparisons to cold cases there.

Jurors voted to convicted Bowman of Rumfelt's murder. Her body was discovered June 6, 1977, in a field near the Six Flags amusement park in Eureka, Mo. She had been raped and strangled with a shoestring, and her throat had been slashed.

After Bowman received the death sentence in Missouri, then St. Clair County State's Attorney Robert Haida dismissed the West and Jany murder charges.

Bowman remains in the Potosi Correctional Center in Missouri.

(source: bnd.com)

NEBRASKA:

Judge refuses to accept no-contest plea from Nikko Jenkins during hearing full of 'theatrics'

Of late, the widower of Andrea Kruger has purposely avoided the Douglas County Courthouse.

First and foremost, Michael Ryan Kruger takes care of the couple's young daughters, who are not in school, during the day.

Second, he has no interest in giving an audience to his wife's accused killer, Nikko Jenkins, or Jenkins' courtroom actions as he represents himself on charges that he killed 4 Omahans - Jorge Cajiga-Ruiz and Juan Uribe-Pena on Aug. 11, Curtis Bradford on Aug. 19 and Andrea Kruger on Aug. 21.

After days like Tuesday, Kruger says, he has no regrets about that decision.

Jenkins' "theatrics" - as one attorney called them - were in high-definition mode.

In the morning and afternoon sessions in the Douglas County District courtroom, he created a buzz when he repeatedly claimed he wanted to change his not-guilty plea and plead no contest to all charges against him.

The reason he gave: Because he is being detained on "illegal" evidence and wants to be convicted, so that he can expedite a civil rights lawsuit he has filed that claims he is being illegally held.

After District Judge Peter Bataillon refused to accept Jenkins' no-contest plea - telling him he could plead "guilty" instead - Jenkins' voice rose.

He warned that he would continue to plead "no contest" at every hearing.

That wasn't all.

When the judge questioned Jenkins' "competency to be (his) own attorney," Jenkins let out a loud, incredulous laugh.

He spoke over the judge. He called Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine "Donny." And he declared it "(expletive) great" that he had prosecutors "shaking."

And before he ducked down a hallway on his way to a back elevator, he threw his head back and howled 4 times.

"It's just a spectacle," Michael-Ryan Kruger said. "That's why we haven't gone to these things. I think he's hoping for that type of environment, and I really have no desire to give him the satisfaction.

"There's obviously some more courtroom antics to go. I'm just going to let it play out and know that the outcome will come."

It seemed close to arriving Tuesday.

Prosecutors had requested the hearing to discuss discovery issues with Jenkins. Kleine said in court that authorities had some concerns that Jenkins might be disseminating police reports to news media. (Jenkins countered that he has offered reporters only his medical records.)

Jenkins complained that he couldn't properly prepare for trial unless he was able to see more than 25 pages of reports at a time. He also complained that he wasn't able to make copies of crime-scene photos - photos that he needed to submit as exhibits at trial.

Then the routine hearing became anything but.

Jenkins started to read from a handwritten motion to plead no contest "to all felony charges."

Bataillon noted the seeming inconsistency in Jenkins' requests.

"If you intend to enter pleas of no contest," he said, "I'm going to continue this matter until 1:30. I have a concern of whether you are competent to be your own attorney."

At that, Jenkins let out a loud, incredulous laugh.

"In one breath," Bataillon said, "you are complaining about the discovery setup. In the next breath, you are saying you want to plead no contest."

Jenkins interrupted.

"The only thing I'm utilizing is the same dirty tactics that you are allowing the other side to use."

While making his request to plead no contest, Jenkins also referred to his federal civil rights lawsuit.

That led legal observers to conclude that Jenkins wants to plead no contest because he thinks he needs to stop the state from presenting evidence against him in the criminal case.

Under his logic, the federal judge overseeing his civil action would release him for lack of evidence.

Such a move would have as little chance of succeeding as Jenkins' previous attempts to get the case tossed - including an unsuccessful attempt to dismiss all charges because Kleine had revealed that Jenkins was competent to stand trial.

Bataillon told Jenkins he wouldn't allow him to plead no contest. Under state law, the judge said, he doesn't have to accept a no-contest plea.

The reason: Jenkins possibly faces the death penalty, Bataillon noted.

It's too grave a consequence - and too important a matter - to allow Jenkins to plead no contest, the judge said.

"I will not accept your plea of no contest," Bataillon said. "If you want to enter a plea of guilty, you can do that."

A no-contest plea, in which a defendant neither admits nor disputes the charge, typically is treated the same as a guilty plea.

State law gives the judge discretion. A law passed in 1953 says that "the court may refuse to accept" a no-contest plea.

Only 3 Nebraska death-row inmates - John Joubert, Erick Vela and David Dunster - are known to have pleaded to murder charges, but they all entered guilty pleas.

Jenkins said he will continue to try to plead no contest.

"I will not stand trial for these cases, and you cannot refuse me. No legal proceeding will get to transpire because every time I will stand up and say, 'I plead no contest.' That is my constitutional right."

Bataillon told Jenkins he does not have a constitutional right to plead "no contest."

"The case will go to trial," the judge ruled.

Bataillon said Jenkins has a right not to present a defense. However, if Jenkins goes that route, Bataillon said, he may reconsider his decision to allow him to represent himself.

Rebuffed, Jenkins went back to the complaint he has been airing for 3 months: that somehow Kleine violated Jenkins' rights by revealing that he was competent to stand trial.

Bataillon ended the hearing.

Earlier, Jenkins smirked at Kleine - puffing his chest and smiling broadly over his plans to plead no contest.

"You didn't think that was coming, did you, Donny?" Jenkins said.

Kleine didn't respond.

As Kleine walked out, Jenkins stared at him.

"He's still shaking," Jenkins said. (Kleine wasn't.)

"Oh my goodness," Jenkins gloated, "that is so (expletive) great."

Moments later, Jenkins left the courtroom. So did about 20 Millard West High School students who were there as part of a field trip.

Passing from the courtroom to a hallway on his way back to jail, Jenkins struck a pose. It was intended for the bank of TV cameras that are typically gathered there.

Instead, only one TV camera and a handful of high school students were in the hallway.

Jenkins tilted his head back and let loose a howl.

The students giggled. Nervously.

(source: Omaha World-Herald)

COLORADO:

James Holmes' attorneys file to relocate murder trial

Attorneys for James Holmes, the man charged with killing 12 people and injuring 70 in an Aurora, Colo. movie theater, have officially asked a judge to move the trial, saying potential jurors have been exposed to prejudicial news coverage and carry emotional burdens from the massacre.

In motions filed Friday and made public Monday, defense attorneys contend that some of the news coverage "is tantamount to publishing a confession," and that defendant Holmes cannot get a fair trial in Arapahoe County, where the attack occurred.

Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to multiple charges of murder and attempted murder in the July 2012 shootings in the Denver suburb. His attorneys have acknowledged he was the shooter but say he was in the grip of a psychotic episode.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Holmes' trial is scheduled to begin in October in Centennial, a southeast Denver suburb about 10 miles from the shooting scene.

It was not immediately clear whether the request for a change of venue might further delay the trial. District Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr., who is presiding over the case, has not said whether he would consider the request.

The initial deadline for requesting a new venue passed more than a year ago, at Holmes' arraignment hearing on March 12, 2013. The law does allow later requests if the judge deems there is good cause.

The case has been slowed by complicated legal questions involving the insanity plea and death penalty.

The most recent delay came after prosecutors asked for a 2nd mental evaluation. The judge eventually granted the new evaluation, but it was placed on hold amid defense objections.

Moving the trial could be costly and difficult.

A courtroom in the Centennial courthouse has been remodeled at a cost of $26,400 to accommodate a 24-member jury, including the 12 alternates sought by Judge Samour.

He plans to issue 6,000 summonses for potential jurors. It's not known whether that many would be required in a different venue.

A new venue also would raise questions about housing and transporting Holmes. In Centennial, deputies can move him between the courthouse and the neighboring jail relatively easily.

(source: CBS news)

ARIZONA----female may face death penalty

Convicted Gilbert 'hammer killer' Marissa DeVault to face death penalty

A jury has found Marissa DeVault guilty of 1st-degree murder in beating her husband to death with a hammer in 2009.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys will argue over whether DeVault, 36, is eligible for the death penalty for killing her husband, Dale Harrell, in 2009.

After 6 days of deliberations, the jurors in the hammer-killing case found Marissa DeVault guilty of 1st-degree murder Tuesday. Now, they must sentence her to life or death.

On Wednesday morning, they will be back in Maricopa County Superior Court to hear prosecutors and defense attorneys argue over whether DeVault, 36, is eligible for the death penalty for killing her husband, Dale Harrell, in 2009.

Prosecutors Eric Basta and Michelle Arino have alleged that the murder was excessively cruel and that it was performed for monetary gain - statutory aggravating factors that could move DeVault 1 step closer to death row.

The prosecutors told the court that they will not even call witnesses for this next phase of trial, perhaps because they believe the allegations already have been borne out in evidence and testimony over two months of trial.

Cruelty: DeVault put a fist-size hole in Harrell's skull with a claw hammer that she swung so violently that it spattered the bedroom walls of their Gilbert home. Harrell, 34, lingered for 3 weeks before he died of a blood clot to the lungs.

Monetary gain: DeVault had taken out life-insurance policies on Harrell, ostensibly to pay off debts to her lover.

If the jury finds 1 or both of those aggravating factors, defense attorneys Alan Tavassoli and Andrew Clemency will bring new witnesses and mitigating evidence about DeVault's past and character to try to sway the jury to bring back a sentence of life in prison.

DeVault has been emotional at times during the trial. But she remained calm during the short hearing Tuesday, looking furtively back and forth between the jury and the judge as the courtroom clerk read the verdict.

After the judge and jury left the room, DeVault was escorted out without even turning to look back at the members of the media and spectators who filled the gallery.

The trial began in February. The details of the case were sordid.

Early on the morning of Jan. 14, 2009, Gilbert police were called to the Harrell-DeVault house.

DeVault was in the front yard, covered in blood and hysterical. Upstairs in the bedroom, they found Harrell, facedown and naked on the floor. The pillow on the bed was soaked in blood, and there was a bloody hammer on a table nearby.

After hours of questioning, DeVault admitted attacking Harrell, claiming he had raped her and choked her.

"I wanted him to know what it felt like," she told police. She claimed she said, "You don't own me," as she struck Harrell with the hammer.

Later, DeVault tried to blame the attack on a brain-damaged friend who lived in the house with her and her husband; he even signed a confession.

Prosecutors believe that DeVault killed Harrell for the insurance money, in part to pay off more than $360,000 she had been given by her lover, Allen Flores, whom she met on a website that matches "sugar daddies" with women in financial need.

Prosecutors opined that DeVault had asked for the false confession from the housemate in order to collect the insurance money. Flores helped edit the false confession.

Also, according to prosecutors, DeVault tried to enlist a former lover to kill her husband.

That man testified that DeVault wanted him to "take care of" Harrell, though he was not entirely sure what that meant and didn't want to have anything to do with DeVault anyway.

DeVault had told elaborate stories to friends and family about inheriting money, and she told people, possibly including her husband, that Flores was her dead stepfather's gay lover. In fact, her stepfather was neither dead nor gay, and Flores was her lover.

Flores was portrayed as another of DeVault's victims and testified against her - but not before receiving assurances from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Phoenix and the Maricopa County Attorney's Office that his testimony could not be used against him to prosecute him for child pornography allegedly found on his personal computer. Such assurances are referred to as "use immunity."

County Attorney Bill Montgomery has repeatedly averred that Flores can still be prosecuted for the child pornography, most recently at a news conference last week in which Montgomery discussed his office's hard-nosed stance against child pornography.

The pornography on Flores' computer was discovered by a forensic computer specialist hired by the defense. Despite Montgomery's avowals, prosecutors in his office filed motions claiming that the pornography discovery on Flores' computer was a violation of Flores' Fourth Amendment rights against illegal search and seizure.

DeVault's daughter, who was 13 at the time of the murder, testified that her household was "tumultuous," that Harrell was frequently abusive to DeVault - something that none of the couple's friends and neighbors had seen. The daughter also commented on the infidelities of both of her parents.

If DeVault's trial progresses to the mitigation stage, 1 or all of DeVault's 3 daughters might testify or at least provide statements.

(source: Arizona Republic)

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

Appeals court arguments set in son killing case

Arguments set for Wednesday before the state Court of Appeals could determine the outcome of a case against an Arizona mother whose 1990 conviction in the killing of her young son was overturned after she had spent more than 2 decades on death row.

Authorities say Debra Milke had 2 men shoot her 4-year-old son in the desert outside Phoenix in 1989. But an appeals court last year overturned her 1st-degree murder conviction, setting the stage for a 2015 retrial.

Milke has since been released on bond.

The original case against Milke rested largely on her purported confession, which now-retired Phoenix police Detective Armando Saldate did not record. That left jurors with his word alone that she told him about her involvement. Milke has maintained her innocence and denied she ever confessed.

After hearing arguments, Judge Rosa Mroz granted Saldate's request to assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refuse to testify at Milke's retrial.

Prosecutors are now asking the state Court of Appeals to reverse that ruling and force him to take the stand again.

In its ruling overturning Milke's conviction, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals cited, in part, the prosecution's failure to reveal evidence that could have called Saldate's credibility into question.

The court cited numerous instances in which he committed misconduct in previous cases, including lying under oath and violating suspects' rights - details that were not provided to Milke's defense lawyers during her trial.

Saldate now claims he fears potential federal civil rights charges based on the appeals court accusations of misconduct.

Mroz's ruling allowing him to assert his Fifth Amendment right effectively gutted the state's case. Without Saldate's testimony, the judge said, the purported confession would most likely not be allowed at Milke's retrial.

"By allowing the witness to invoke `blanket' privilege, respondent judge's order prevents the witness from disclosing relevant information that is essential to the truth-seeking function of a trial," prosecutors wrote in their filing with the state Court of Appeals.

Oral arguments are set for Wednesday afternoon.

Defense attorneys are seeking dismissal of the entire case against Milke, noting in a previous motion that "the only direct evidence linking defendant to the crimes is the defendant's alleged confession to Saldate."

Saldate and his attorney have not returned repeated phone calls from The Associated Press.

Prosecutors argue that if Saldate doesn't testify again, it "will cause irrevocable harm to the state's ability to present its case and will deny the victims' constitutional rights to justice and due process."

They also contend that Saldate has not met the burden for establishing a reasonable fear of prosecution if he testifies, noting that county and federal prosecutors have said they don't plan any charges against him.

Saldate's attorney argued that prosecutors offered no guarantees that his client wouldn't face charges in the future.

The 2 men convicted in the child's death did not testify against Milke and remain on death row.

(source: Associated Press)

CALIFORNIA:

The lethal injection debate: How much should death row inmates know? If the government insists on executing its citizens, it must do so in as transparent a way as possible.

It's hard to get executions right.

This week, the Supreme Court denied appeals by Louisiana and Missouri death row inmates who argued that they were entitled to know the source of the drugs with which they are to be executed, and that denial of that information compromises their right to due process. It's unclear why the court refused to hear the cases, but the underlying argument remains potent. Another challenge is underway in Oklahoma, where two inmates are seeking stays of execution because state officials have revised protocols on the fly as the lethal drugs they usually use have become more difficult to obtain.

This could well become a problem for California too, which is in the process of selecting a new way to kill the condemned.

This page opposes the death penalty as barbaric and immoral, the irreversible end result of an often flawed judicial process. While most of the industrialized world has done away with the practice, 32 states and the U.S. government still pursue it.

Many states, though, are having trouble procuring drugs because manufacturers are increasingly refusing to sell to executioners. Some states have turned to compounding pharmacies, which ordinarily customize drugs for patients for whom manufacturers' drugs don't work. A subset of those states have adopted laws barring public disclosure of the compounding pharmacies to preclude protests.

This is wrong, as we've said before in the Oklahoma case. If the government insists on executing its citizens, it must do so in as transparent a way as possible, so that death row inmates can know whether their punishment violates the 8th Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

And that goes for California too. In 2006, a federal judge blocked the state's three-drug execution method on the grounds that it might violate the 8th Amendment by causing extreme pain. The state drafted a new protocol in 2010, but after a lengthy legal wrangle over regulatory processes, it announced last July that it would drop its appeal and devise a new single-drug protocol. Corrections officials said recently that the new protocol remained in development, with no timeline for completion.

The new protocol should be worked out with both the U.S. Constitution and transparency in mind. And maybe before this macabre work is finished, Californians - who rejected a 2012 initiative to ban the death penalty - will embrace the liberal and humane worldview for which the state is famous, and end the practice.

(source: Editorial, Los Angeles Times)

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

2 men charged in 2010 Alameda slaying

2 men were charged Tuesday with special-circumstances murder in connection with the 2010 shooting of a 35-year-old man outside his Alameda home during a robbery.

1 of the defendants has also been charged with pulling the trigger in a second killing near San Leandro in 2011.

In the Alameda case, Eric Franklin was shot numerous times on the 700 block of Eagle Avenue shortly before midnight on Sept. 11, 2010. He died at Highland Hospital in Oakland.

A break came the next year. Alameda County sheriff's investigators identified Leondre Paige as a suspect in the June 14, 2011, shooting death of Daniel Bradford at an apartment complex on Kentwood Lane near San Leandro, authorities said.

An arrest warrant was issued, but Paige, 24, was believed to have left the state.

Authorities then found a connection between Bradford's slaying and the Alameda killing, in which Paige was allegedly the shooter.

On March 15, Paige was arrested after he was spotted getting into a stolen rental car in the parking lot of the Arden Fair Mall in Sacramento, police said.

A 2nd suspect in the Alameda case, 24-year-old Daquan Lane, was arrested by Alameda and Oakland Housing Authority police at his Oakland home on March 31.

Alameda County prosecutors have charged Paige and Lane with murder, weapons enhancements and the special circumstance of murder in the course of a robbery.

If convicted, they could face the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole. They are being held without bail at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.

Paige and a 2nd man, Dante Burch Jr., 24, have been charged in Bradford's slaying. Alameda County sheriff's investigators said Paige opened fire after Burch clashed with Bradford's brother during the 2nd of 2 fistfights that day.

The first altercation happened, authorities said, when Burch became upset after his girlfriend asked to buy some marijuana from Bradford's brother but was told by the brother that he didn't have any.

(source: San Francisco Chronicle)

IRAN----executions

1 Prisoner Hanged in Northwestern Iran- 3 to be Hanged in Baluchestan; After a break in the executions on the occasion of the Iranian new year, the executions have resumed in Iran. 1 prisoner was hanged in Ardebil today and 3 other prisoners are scheduled to be hanged in the Baluchestan province in the near future.

1prisoner was hanged in the prison of Ardebil (Northwestern Iran) early Tuesday morning April 8, reported the Iranian state media.

According to the official website of the Iranian Judiciary in Ardebil, the prisoner who was not identified by name, was convicted of possession of 964 grams of heroin.

The official Iranian news agency IRNA reported about the scheduled execution of 3 people in the province of Sistan-Baluchestan in the near future. Quoting Ebrahim Hamidi, head of the Judiciary in Sistan-Baluchestan province, the report said: 3 people convicted of Moharebeh (waging war against the God) for organizing armed groups and murdering the prosecutor of Zabol (Southeastern Iran) will be executed soon. The exact time and place of the executions will be announced soon, said the report.

Iran Human Rights (IHR) had previously warned against an execution wave in Baluchestan Province following the kidnapping of 5 Iranian border guards. One of the border guards was allegedly executed by the kidnappers.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

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

Court prevents lawyer from accessing files of 5 Sunni prisoners

Branch 28 of the Revolutionary court in Tehran has prevented a lawyer from accessing the files of 5 Sunni prisoners sentenced to death in Iran, under the pretext that the cases are 'secret and confidential'.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), the families of the prisoners had tried to appoint a leading Iranian lawyer, Mr Ehsan Mazin, to be involved in the defense of the 5 death-row prisoners.

However, the head of Branch 28 of the Revolutionary court, Judge Mohammad Moghisseh, had prevented the lawyer from accessing the files.

A source told the HRANA, "The judicial authorities did not consent to the involvement of the appointed lawyer under the pretext that the files were secret and confidential."

The 5 Sunni prisoners of conscience, Timor Naderi Zadeh, Barzan Nasrollah Zadeh, Varya Ghaderifard, Farshid Nasseri and Kayvan Momenifard, were sentenced to death by Judge Mohammad Moghisseh for charges including 'enmity against God.'

In December 2013, a human rights lawyer who requested to represent the cases of 6 other Sunni prisoners sentenced to death was also prevented from accessing their cases by Branch 28 of the Tehran Revolutionary court.

Numerous Sunni clerics, preachers and activists have been imprisoned and even executed in Iran, often following unfair trials based on 'confessions' obtained through torture. The Iranian regime commonly falsely accuses Sunni preachers of 'enmity against God', in an attempt to justify their imprisonment and execution.

(source: HRA news)

SOUTH KOREA:

Stepdaughter's murder stirs outrage

Public rage is boiling over against a woman who allegedly beat her 8-year-old stepdaughter to death with more than 250 petitions demanding hash punishment submitted to the Daegu District Court in the last 6 months.

The 35-year-old stepmother who lives in Chilgok, North Gyeongsang Province, is accused of kicking and punching the girl in the stomach repeatedly in August, according to court officials. The elementary school student died from peritonitis caused by ruptured organs 2 days after the beating.

The prosecutors' office in Daegu, North Gyeongsang Province, indicted the stepmother, identified as Lim, for causing injury resulting in death instead of murder and demanded 20 years in prison. The prosecution also sought a 7-year prison term for the dead girl's father for ignoring the abuse.

The public and the media argue that Lim intended to kill the 8-year-old girl, judging by the level of violence, and should face a murder charge. Despite the public outrage, prosecutors decided not to change the indictment.

The court is scheduled to deliver its verdict on Friday.

Another woman from Ulsan, South Gyeongsang Province, was also indicted late last year for beating her 8-year-old step daughter and breaking 16 ribs. The child died at the scene of the crime. The prosecution sought the death penalty against the woman, and the court will sentence her this Friday, as well.

The abuse by Lim was exposed by the Korean Women Lawyers Association (KWLA), a group of female lawyers who fight against violence against children. The association has also been involved in the "Ulsan stepmother" case.

Lim was initially indicted along with another stepdaughter, a 12-year-old biological sister to the dead child. The girl testified that she kicked her younger sister in the stomach when they fought over a doll.

The children's paternal aunt asked the KWLA to take the case in February, and the sister of the dead girl decided to testify 2 days before the final hearing in which the prosecution was going to demand a sentence. The hearing was closed to the public.

KWLA Chairwoman Lee Myung-sook said at a press conference Wednesday that because of inconsistency in the testimonies, her sincerity was in doubt. However, lawyers confirmed that she is honest after interviewing teachers from the 2 schools she went to. They had taken photos of bruises on her body and had reported it to anti-child abuse bodies.

According to the Yonhap News Agency, the sister told the judges in the closed hearing that Lim kicked the dead girl in the stomach 10 times in the afternoon and punched the same area 15 times on the evening of Aug. 14.

She wrote a letter to the court, claiming that Lim forced her to testify that she killed her sister and demanded a death sentence for the stepmother.

Various media outlets reported that the sister testified that Lim put her in a washing machine and switched it on. The father allegedly recorded the dead child in a critical condition with his mobile phone before she died and later showed it to the sister.

The biological mother of the 2 children asked April 4 that the family court divest the father of his parental rights.

(source: The Korea Times)

CHINA:

Policeman's death sentence appeal rejected

A court on Wednesday rejected the appeal of a former policeman who was given a death sentence for shooting a pregnant woman dead in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

The Higher People's Court of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region upheld the verdict handed down to Hu Ping, who was sentenced to death for intentional homicide at his first trial in February.

Guigang Intermediate People's Court heard the case publicly on Feb. 13.Hu was also ordered to pay 73,324 yuan (12,091 U.S. dollars) in compensation to the victim's family at the 1st trial.

A police investigation found that Hu, 34, was drunk when he shot the woman and her husband, who ran a rice noodle restaurant, on Oct. 28 in Pingnan County.

The husband, Cai Shiyong, sustained minor injuries to his right shoulder. His wife, Wu Ying, and their unborn child died after being shot twice by Hu.

COURT RULING

In his defense during the the appeal hearing held on April 1, Hu denied that he shot three times as prosecutors alleged. He also argued the firearm residue on Cai's sleeve proved he had tried to grab the gun, which caused it to discharge accidentally.

During Wednesday's public trial, the Higher People's Court denied his arguments as several witnesses testified that Cai had not attempted to grab the gun until after his wife had been shot.

The court also rejected the request of Hu's lawyer's for new evaluation on Hu's mental state when the shooting occurred. The lawyer believed Hu was too drunk to be aware of his behavior.

An examination report by the Fifth People's Hospital of Nanning showed that Hu was drunk but in control.

According to the court, Hu, as a policeman, first violated the regulations on gun control by carrying a gun to a dinner party and getting drunk. Then he committed crimes by shooting innocent people and leaving one dead and the other injured, according to the Higher People's Court.

Hu's crime employed "exceptionally cruel methods" and caused "abominable influence on society," said the court.

The ruling of the 1st trial was based on "clear facts" and "valid and adequate evidence," and "the conviction was accurate and then penalty proper," it said.

It will report Hu's case to the Supreme People's Court for verification and approval, it added.

It has not yet been decided when the Supreme People's Court will deliver the final verdict.

(source: People's Daily)

TURKEY/EGYPT:

Turkey rallies against 528 death sentences in Egypt

Thousands gathered at squares across Turkey Wednesday to voice their condemnation of the mass death sentences handed down by an Egyptian court against hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members.

A number of non-governmental organizations along with youth branches of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party held rallies around the country including the cities of Antalya, Kayseri, Izmir and Sakarya.

The demonstrators put up symbolic scaffolds in the main squares and carried placards reading "Humanity is dying, world remains mute", "Oppression of Sisi, shame of the world" and "Egypt has never changed, its dungeons are still full of Yousef's (the Prophet who was unduly thrown into a dungeon in then Egypt)." Messages were also read out decrying the death sentences and maintaining Turkey's clear and firm stance against the coup regime that removed Egypt’s first democratically elected president of Egypt last summer.

Petition campaigns for the annulment of the death penalty have also been launched in some of the cities where the protests were held.

Meanwhile, a member of the Turkish Parliament's Human Rights Investigation Commission, Levent Gok, submitted a petition to the head of commission calling for an urgent meeting to discuss the mass death sentences.

In his petition, Gok asserted that the Egyptian court ruling is unjust in terms of the trial period length and its procedures, warning that the rulings' implementation may lead to further polarization within the Egyptian community provoking feelings of hatred and revenge.

Later on Wednesday, Turkey's National Assembly adopted a joint declaration that condemned the death sentences.

Signed by all political parties represented in the parliament, the declaration urged Egypt's administration not to implement the sentences.

"The joint wish of the Turkish nation is that these sentences -- which may cast a pall on Egypt's struggle for democracy, as well as its hopes, dreams and future, and be remembered as a disgraceful event in the history of mankind -- will not be implemented," the declaration said.

The international community, including officials from the United Nations, EU, the U.S. and human rights watchdogs such as Amnesty International, has also condemned the death sentences.

All the defendants, including 397 people being tried in absentia, faced charges of committing violence, in Minya in August 2013, following the violent dispersal by security forces of pro-democracy sit-ins in Cairo and Giza, which left hundreds of protesters dead.

(source: Anadolu Agency)

BANGLADESH:

1 to die, 4 get life for killing college girl

A Netrakona court yesterday sentenced a man to death and 4 others to life imprisonment for killing a college girl in 2009.

The man, awarded death penalty, is Polash Khan, 22, son of late Mofiz Khan of Khila village under Atpara upazila of the district.

The lifers are Nazrul, 25, son of Abdur Rashid, Kamrul, 28, son of Mofiz Khan, Sajib, 25, and Shah Alam, 27, sons of Abdur Rouf of the same village.

Additional District and Sessions Judge Abdul Hamid fined the lifers Tk 20,000 each, in default they are to suffer 5 more years in jail.

According to the prosecution, Khadiza Akhter, 19, a first year honours student of Eden College in Dhaka, was stabbed to death by Polash and his 4 accomplices in front of their house at Khila village in Atpara upazila of the district on September 1, 2009 as she refused to marry Polash.

Victim's father Mohammad Fazlul Karim filed a murder case with Atpara Police station on the day, accusing Polash, Nazrul, Kamrul, Sajib and Alam.

Police pressed charges against the 5 on May 20, 2010. After examining the witnesses and evidence, Judge Abdul Hamid found them guilty and pronounced the verdict.

(source: The Daily Star)

NIGERIA:

National Conference: Delegate Seeks Death Penalty for Tax Evasion

A delegate at the ongoing National Conference, Dan Nwanyanwu has advocated for the death penalty for tax evaders in Nigeria. While speaking at the conference on Tuesday, Nwanyanwu of the Labour Party pointed out that most of the problems facing Nigeria are self-inflicted. He noted that the problems occur mainly because of Nigerians' persistent recourse to religion and ethnicity. In his opinion, there is no love among Nigerians, yet they pretend to one another as if everything is all right.

Nwanyanwu went on to say "between 1983 and 1985 a Nigerian was adjudged to be the best surgeon and another Nigerian once solved a problem for NASA. Such Nigerians will not come back to the country because they risk either being kidnapped or killed".

He said Nigerians have chased away the best brains in the country and the National Conference must put a stop to that. He also decried the situation where Nigeria relies on foreign anti-corruption agencies to solve economic crimes "it is only in Nigeria that someone will sell N2bn property without paying a dime to government. In China tax evasion attracts death penalty. We should implement that in this country," Nwanyanwu said.

In his contribution, Frank Nweke, a former Minister said Nigeria cannot develop by accident. He cited examples that the countries being looked up to by Nigeria were built by visionaries who were disciplined and continued to make progress on the same premise. While saying that "the world is not waiting for Nigeria", Nweke said great leaders know about the law of Karma, and that for every action, there is a reaction.

While contributing, Chief Jim Nwobodo said religious difference is not an issue in Nigeria. He described it as a creation of those who want to rule. While advocating for religious tolerance among Nigerians, Nwobodo pointed out that the late Abubakar Rimi was his best man during his wedding.

Nwobodo also expressed hope for a better Nigeria as he said he sees the hope of tomorrow in the youth of today. He advocated for employment opportunities for the youth and also urged delegates to replicate what the youths have done for the country, citing the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games as an example.

Jonathan Obaje, a Nigerian living in Singapore and representative of Nigerians in Asia at the conference made it clear that Nigeria does not have a choice but to develop. He said in spite of not having a single mineral resource, Singapore is highly developed. Obaje continued that though even drinking water is imported in Singapore, the country has managed to surmount all odds and has become a developed country.

(source: The Street Journal)

INDIA:

Bombay high court to hear German Bakery blast case from June 15

The Bombay high court from June 15 will commence the final hearing in the death confirmation of Mirza Himayat Baig, the lone convict in Pune's 2010 German Bakery blast case.

The high court will also hear the appeal filed by Baig against his conviction. In addition, it will decide 3 intervention applications - 2 by witnesses and 1 by a journalist - challenging the prosecution case.

Mahmood Pracha, Baig's advocate, sought that Baig should be produced in person so that he could take instructions (from Baig) if required.

Special public prosecutor Raja Thakare said that Baig could be produced through video conferencing like it is being done in recent high-profile cases.

Arshad Shaikh, advocate for 2 witnesses - Shaikh Gous Khurshid Ahmed and Abdul Rehan Ahmed Shaikh - claimed that they were coerced and tutored into making deliberate false statements before the court with a malafide intention of securing conviction of Baig.

The witnesses have also alleged that before they were to depose in the trial court, they were kept separately for several days and tutored by the state Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) personnel as to the nature of recoveries and statements that were relied on to convict the accused in the trial.

Journalist Ashish Khetan has also filed an intervention application praying for a re-investigation in the case by an independent agency alleging fabrication of evidence and tutoring of witnesses by ATS.

Mihir Desai, Khetan's advocate, said the journalist has carried out a sting operation wherein witnesses have said that they were coerced by the ATS to give testimony in their favour.

On February 13, 2010 a bomb exploded inside the German Bakery in Pune's upmarket Koregaon Park area killing 17 persons, including 5 foreigners and injuring 58 others.

On April 19, the sessions court in Pune awarded death penalty to Baig, a resident of Beed.

As per the law, the state government has to get the death sentence confirmed from the Bombay high court.

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

Pune bus rampage: Driver seeks check-up by doctor from outside Pune

Santosh Mane, the state transport bus driver who was given the death penalty for mowing down nine people and injuring several others in an incident in 2012, has sought to be re-examined by a psychiatrist or any doctor from outside Pune to prove that he was in an unsound state of mind.

The 36-year-old driver's lawyer, Jagdish Mane, put this request on Tuesday to the Bombay High Court, which is hearing a petition by the state government to confirm the death sentence.

Mane has challenged his conviction on the ground that he was of unsound mind and was undergoing treatment for mental illness.

The lawyer told a division bench of judges NH Patil and Anuja Prabhudessai that Mane had been examined by doctors from the Yerawada mental facility who certified that he was fit to undergo trial. But the doctors were never examined as witnesses by the prosecution about the certificate they had given.

"The doctors from Pune are biased. Mane should be examined by a psychiatrist from any other civil hospital in Maharashtra," the lawyer argued.

The judges asked the lawyer whether this issue had been raised before the trial court. The judges also observed that if the prosecution had not examined the doctors as witnesses, the defence could always have called them as witnesses.

"You have to make an application if you want the convict to be examined. We will hear your application and see if a case is made out. This plea of unsound mind can be raised during the hearing of the appeal also," judge Patil said.

The court posted the matter for further hearing on April 29.

On January 25, 2012, Mane hijacked an empty state transport bus from the Swargate depot in Pune and drove off on the wrong side of the road, catching oncoming traffic and people unaware.

Mane drove about 25 km, rammed into vehicles and knocked down pedestrians. The police and some passersby chased the vehicle and managed to detain the driver.

In December 2013, the sessions court in Pune held Mane guilty and awarded the death penalty for the crime, calling it a rarest of rare cases that demanded the extreme punishment.

(source for both: DNAIndia.com)

APRIL 8, 2014:

TEXAS----impending execution

Texas parole board refuses to stop execution

Mexican national Ramiro Hernandez-Llanas already had done some carpentry work at Glen Lich's ranch near Kerrville in the Texas Hill Country when he negotiated a deal with the former Baylor University history professor to live on the property in exchange for helping out with ranch renovations.

10 days later, Lich was fatally clubbed with a metal bar outside his home and his wife was attacked by a man covered with blood and threatening her with a knife. Hernandez-Llanas was arrested, still sleeping in the bed where he had wrapped his arm around Lich's terrorized wife, but unaware the woman summoned police after managing to flee from his grasp and restraints without waking him.

On Wednesday, Hernandez-Llanas, 44, was set for lethal injection that would make him the 2nd Texas prisoner within a week executed with a supply of pentobarbital newly obtained from a source Texas prison officials have refused to identify.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected appeals from another Texas death row inmate, Tommy Lynn Sells, whose attorneys argued unsuccessfully they needed the name of the drug supplier to verify its potency to determine he wouldn't be subjected to unconstitutional pain and suffering. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice contends the information needs to be withheld to keep the new drug provider from threats of violence from death penalty opponents.

Sells quietly went to his death Thursday with the new drug.

Hernandez-Llanas also was a plaintiff in Sells' lawsuit. On Monday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a reprieve he won from a lower court, putting his punishment back on track. Attorneys for the condemned prisoner declined to appeal because the Supreme Court turned down the same request from Sells.

On Tuesday, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted 7-0 to refuse to commute his sentence to life in prison or delay his execution. Attorneys had disputed the testimony of 2 psychiatrists at his trial in 2000 who told jurors Hernandez-Llanas was not mentally impaired and would remain a danger.

"Killing him is barbaric as well as unlawful," attorneys Sheri Johnson and Naomi Torr told the parole board.

The Supreme Court last week refused to review an appeal that included similar concerns that Hernandez-Llanas' was mentally impaired, making him ineligible for execution under high court rulings.

Evidence showed Hernandez-Llanas was in the U.S. illegally and had escaped from a Mexican prison, where he was serving a 25-year sentence for murder. He also was linked to the rape of a 15-year-old girl. While awaiting trial in the Kerr County case, evidence showed he slashed the face of another jail inmate with a razor blade. In prison, he was found with shanks, handmade weapons.

Testimony at his trial showed he lured Lich from the house the evening of Oct. 14, 1997, by telling the rancher there was a problem with a generator, then beat Lich as he was examining the machine.

"He just didn't hit to kill him," Lucy Wilke, one of the Kerr County trial prosecutors, recalled this week. "He just bludgeoned him again and again and again."

Mexican government officials said Hernandez-Llanas was among more than four dozen Mexican citizens awaiting execution in the U.S. when the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, found in 2004 they weren't advised of their consular rights under the Vienna Convention when they were arrested. That court urged new hearings in courts where those people were convicted to determine if consular access would have affected their cases.

A year later, President George W. Bush agreed with the international court and urged the new hearings be held. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, overruled Bush, saying only Congress could require states to follow the international court's ruling. Congress has not done so.

Wilke said the consulate was involved in Hernandez-Llanas' case since his arrest.

Euclides del Moral, deputy director general for the Mexico Foreign Ministry's Office of Protection of Mexicans Abroad, said Tuesday there were "certain gray aspects" of the consular notification in this case but acknowledged Hernandez-Llanas' options to avoid execution "are very few."

Hernandez-Llanas would be the 6th inmate executed in Texas this year. Another is set to die next week.

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

Appeals Court: Texas Execution Back On

The execution of a Texas death row inmate was back on schedule Monday after a federal appeals court ruled that the state doesn't have to reveal where it gets its lethal injection drug.

The ruling from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals means Ramiro Hernandez-Llanas, 44, is set for execution Wednesday.

Attorneys for Hernandez-Llanas and another inmate, Tommy Lynn Sells, had filed a lawsuit last week saying they needed the name of the drug supplier in order to verify the drug's potency. They said they feared the prisoners could suffer unconstitutional pain and suffering if the drug weren't tested.

The state argued it was protecting the company from threats of violence.

A lower court initially sided with the inmates, but the 5th Circuit reversed that ruling last week for Sells, who was executed Thursday after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the appeals court decision. The appeals court had said it would rule later on Hernandez-Llanas' case.

The state attorney general's office had urged the 5th Circuit to lift the lower court order, arguing that the new supply of pentobarbital came from a licensed compounding pharmacy. The state also noted that the drug had been used "painlessly and successfully" on Sells, and that there was "no pharmacy, no drug and no assurance of quality that Hernandez would find satisfactory."

Attorneys have decided not to appeal Monday's ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court because the high court turned down the same request from Sells last week, according to Maurie Levin, among the lawyers who filed the drug secrecy lawsuit.

Instead, his lawyers have turned to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, arguing that his sentence should be commuted to life in prison or his execution at least delayed because of what they say was faulty testimony from psychologists at his trial. The psychologists told jurors that Hernandez-Llanas was not mentally impaired and would remain a future danger, which his lawyers dispute.

(source for both: Associated Press)

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

Texas Governor must stop execution of Mexican man with mental disability

Texas Governor Rick Perry must stop Wednesday's execution of Ramiro Hernandez Llanas, a Mexican national with a mental disability, Amnesty International said today.

The state has relied upon racial stereotyping and the views of discredited "expertise" to secure this death sentence - now due to be carried out shortly after 6pm, local time, on 9 April.

After the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles denied clemency for Ramiro Hernandez Llanas on Monday, his final hope for mercy is a reprieve from the state governor.

"This case cries out for Governor Perry to use his power of reprieve. He must recognise that the state has relied upon shoddy 'expert' testimony to get Ramiro Hernandez Llanas to the death chamber," said Rob Freer, Amnesty International's researcher on the USA.

At the 2000 trial, the prosecution turned to the testimony of a discredited psychiatrist, Dr James Grigson, to rebut the opinions of mental health experts retained by the defence. Grigson, who had never examined the defendant, declared that Ramiro Hernandez Llanas would likely commit future acts of criminal violence because he was a sociopath who lacked a conscience. Persuading the jury that the defendant will be a "future danger" to society, even in prison, is a prerequisite for a death sentence in Texas.

"Testimony like Dr Grigson's has been discredited over the years as 'junk science', and he himself was reprimanded and then expelled from the American Psychiatric Association because of his resort to such unscientific testimony in capital trials," said Rob Freer.

"Given what came next - psychiatric testimony tainted by racial stereotyping - this case stands out starkly as another Texas injustice about to be turned into permanence in the lethal injection chamber."

Another psychiatrist, Dr Richard Coons, was presented by the state at a 2008 hearing to rebut a defence expert's finding that Ramiro Hernandez Llanas has 'mental retardation' - which would render his execution illegal under a 2002 US Supreme Court ruling.

Dr Coons never met the prisoner or anyone who knew him, does not speak Spanish, and claimed that the prisoner's criminal conduct was appropriate for his "cultural group".

"It is a fundamental principle of international law that everyone is equal before the law and has the right to criminal proceedings free from racial or other discrimination," said Rob Freer.

"While we believe that the death penalty never equates with justice, surely even proponents of judicial killing should see the injustice of a death sentence secured after the presentation of such tainted testimony."

The Mexican government filed a brief in the US Supreme Court in January condemning the "defamatory stereotyping of the functional abilities of persons raised in Mr Hernandez's low socio-economic, Mexican culture".

The American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, founded in 1876, together with The Arc of the United States, the USA's largest community-based organization working with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, also urged the Court to intervene. It refused to do so.

Last week the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued "precautionary measures", calling on the USA not to go ahead with the execution so that the Commission could have time to consider a petition before it. Today, the Commission stressed that for the USA to allow the execution to go ahead in these circumstances would "seriously contravenes its international legal obligations".

"Texas is no stranger to injustice when it comes to the death penalty," said Rob Freer.

"Here it is again, about to carry out a death sentence secured with highly questionable testimony against someone whose mental disability calls the constitutionality of his execution into serious question. Governor Perry must act as a matter of urgency."

Background information

Ramiro Hernandez Llanas was sentenced to death in February 2000 for the murder of his employer, Glen Lich, who was bludgeoned to death at his ranch in Kerr County on 14 October 1997.

Ramiro Hernandez Llanas was born into a childhood of abuse and severe poverty in Mexico, with his family living in a cardboard shack next to a rubbish dump on which they would scavenge. In tests conducted over the past decade, Ramiro Hernandez Llanas has been assessed as having an IQ in the 50s or 60s. He suffers from severe adaptive functioning deficits across a range of skill areas including linguistic, academic, conceptual, social, work and domestic.

There have been 15 executions in the USA this year, 5 of them in Texas. Since judicial killing resumed in the USA in 1977 under revised capital statutes, there have been 1,374 executions nationwide. Texas accounts for 513 of these executions; 274 of them have occurred during Governor Perry's time in office.

(source: Amnesty International)

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

Death penalty, open records: Follow it all.

The killer who was executed in Huntsville on Thursday had a long and gruesome history: Tommy Lynn Sells, 49, was sentenced to death for the 1999 murder of a 13-year-old Texas girl.

He confessed to other murders and has been linked to more than a dozen ("Killer is executed; appeals on drug rejected," Page B1, Friday).

Sells was by all the evidence a wretched human being who deserved punishment; in Texas, along with 31 other states, that penalty is the death sentence. In this case, the question was not whether he should be executed, but whether his constitutional rights were being violated because the state refused to divulge information on the lethal drugs that would be used to kill him. His attorneys claimed that without such information, their client could be subjected to "cruel and unusual punishment," which is unconstitutional.

After a helter-skelter rush of hearings, reversals and a last-minute stay-of-execution appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which was denied, the state prevailed, and Sells was executed.

The state's refusal to reveal those details is unjustified. Although prison officials insisted they could not reveal the source because they feared for the safety of the supplier, the state attorney general's office consistently has refused to deny open-records requests for the names of drug suppliers, according to Associated Press reports, and, with the exception of a few protests, has little evidence of threats to suppliers.

This quandary over execution drugs and their sources has been brewing nationwide for about 4 years, when major drug manufacturers - many of them opposed to the death penalty - stopped selling drugs to be used in executions.

Texas chose to substitute pentobarbitol, a powerful sedative, for the 3 drugs formerly used. By last year, with the drug increasingly scarce, Texas and other states resorted to using "compounding pharmacies," which alter and combine drugs and do not come under federal regulation. Nor has the state given any indication that it sought medical input on the changes.

Last October, Texas lost that pharmacy after its name was made public and has since found a new supplier. Sells was the 1st to be executed with the new supply. A 2nd prisoner, Ramiro Hernandez-Llanas, who was originally included in the Sells case, is scheduled to be executed Wednesday. We are on record as opposing the death penalty, but as long as the death sentence remains Texas law, and as long as the state open records law applies, our prison officials, like all other state officials, have an obligation to follow those laws honorably and transparently. When justice is served, we all benefit.

(source: Editorial, Houston Chronicle)

NEW HAMPSHIRE:

N.H. Senate panel tied on death penalty repeal bill

The New Hampshire Senate will vote whether to repeal New Hampshire's death penalty next week, but it won't have a clear recommendation from its Judiciary Committee to go by.

The committee voted 2-2 Tuesday with one member absent on a recommendation. In such a case, the bill goes to the Senate floor April 17 with a recommendation that it be killed.

The state is the closest to repealing the death penalty that it's been since 2000, when both houses of the Legislature approved a proposal but then-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen vetoed it.

Gov. Maggie Hassan says she will sign the House bill if it reaches her desk and does not affect the death sentence of Michael Addison, who was convicted of killing Manchester police officer Michael Briggs in 2006.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Death penalty can't be applied with total fairness

The Sunday Monitor's prominent play of Chuck Douglas's argument that there is statistical support for having the death penalty ("Don't repeal the death penalty. Executions save lives," Forum, April 6) does a great disservice.

I would urge people who believe there is some reality to what he wrote to read a Denver Post article from June 2013 about how few academics think there is any validity in the tortured statistical model used to reach this dubious conclusion back in 2007. It is available at: denverpost.com/ci_23374844/no-credible-evidence-whether-death-penalty-deters-experts.

As to Douglas's argument that we need to have a deterrent for people already serving life without parole, this misses the mark, too. Prison guards do not all wear halos. The possibility that one would use the opportunity to kill another guard and frame a prisoner is all too real. The power dynamics and the desire we have to believe in the credibility of our law enforcement personnel could lead inexorably to the execution of someone who was innocent in that case. It is a stretch perhaps, but that person could also have been innocent in the case that put him in prison for life and still be working toward finding a way to establish that innocence.

The death penalty will never be applied with total fairness and complete certainty that it is just. And it is irrevocable.

JAY SMITH

Pembroke

(source: Letter to the Editor, Concord Monitor)

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

Death penalty repeal: Now is the time

To the Editor:

On March 12, Exeter's 4 members of the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted to repeal New Hampshire's death penalty statute. We joined with other local House colleagues in a strong bipartisan vote of 225 to 104. They included Stratham's Abrami and Lovejoy, Newfields' Cahill, Moody and Schroadter, Hampton's Cushing, Emerick and Muns, Hampton Falls' Andrews-Ahearn and Khan, and Brentwood's Comerford. The passage of HB 1170 would ensure that in any future criminal case, the State of New Hampshire would not be in the role of executioner.

We understand that good people of deep faith disagree on the merits of repealing the death penalty. Fortunately, in New Hampshire we have a very public process to consider and debate all bills that come before the legislature. The vetting of Rep. Renny Cushing's HB1170 repeal bill is no exception. From Jan. 8 through March 12, HB 1170 went through an extensive hearing and voting process in the House, and on Thursday, April 3 the Senate Judiciary Committee held and all day public hearing in Representatives' Hall, attended by over 200 individuals. People shared their stories and opinions, including a number of religious leaders, the former chief justice of N.H.'s Supreme Court, fathers of at least two murder victims, as well as other murder victim's family members.

New Hampshire is the only New England state that still has the death penalty. The bill's sponsor, whose father was murdered in 1988, spoke eloquently in favor of the repeal during the House and Senate hearings, as he has done on numerous occasions over the past two decades. Rep. Cushing stated that he has never advocated for the death penalty for his father's murderer because "If we let those who kill turn us into killers, evil triumphs, violence triumphs and things just get worse. The death penalty 'doesn't do the one thing that we really want, and that's to bring our loved ones back.'"

We have heard again and again, from so many angles, that the death penalty does not deter these awful crimes nor does it make us safer.

We in the House have taken a strong position to repeal the death penalty. The Governor has said she will sign it. Our eyes are now focused on the Senate to help New Hampshire do the right thing. The vote will be close and Senators need to hear from all caring constituents. We urge you to join us in this historic effort and call Sen. Russell Prescott (772-4312) or Sen. Nancy Stiles (918-0553) and urge them to vote to repeal the death penalty. Thank you.

Rep. Donna Schlachman, Frank Heffron, Eileen Flockhart, Steve Briden

Rockingham District 18, Exeter

(source: Letter to the Editor, seacoastonline.com)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Durham prosecutors can seek death penalty in child's killing

Durham prosecutors can seek the death penalty in the January shooting death of a 9-year-old boy, a judge ruled Tuesday.

District Attorney Leon Stanback confirmed that his office plans to seek the death penalty against Everett Lamont Graves, 23, who is charged with shooting Jaeden Sharpe and his mother, Lakeisha Holloway, in an SUV about 6 p.m. Jan. 4 on Lucas Drive. Jaeden died 6 days later after he was taken off life support. His mother survived.

Police have said the shooting did not appear to be random, but they've released few details about the case.

Graves remains in the Durham County Jail under a $1.75 million bond.

Jaeden was a student at W.G. Pearson Magnet Elementary School in Durham.

A tribute was held in February for Jaeden at an annual charity basketball tournament at the Emily K. Family Life Center, and a nonprofit was created in the child's honor.

(source: The Herald-Sun)

ALABAMA:

Lethal injections could be on hold in AL after bill fails in legislature

Lawmakers failed to pass a measure in the waning hours of the legislative session that would have kept information about lethal injections secret from the public.

Supporters of the bill argued that keeping by keeping the manufacturers and drugs themselves secret, the state could secure a reliable supply of the drugs needed to conduct lethal injections.

Last month the Department Corrections and the Office of the Attorney General confirmed that the state has exhausted its supply of drugs required to conduct lethal injections.

Department of Corrections Commissioner Kim Thomas said he was disappointed by the legislature's failure to pass the death penalty secrecy bill.

Now the state of Alabama could be in a position where it won't be able to carry out executions by lethal injections because its supply of the drugs used in the procedure has run out.

"We could be going back to a system of using the electric chair" said Sen. Cam Ward who sponsored the bill in the Alabama Senate. "There has to be a more humane way."

The Alabama Department of Corrections retired its electric chair, known as "Yellow Mama" for its paint color, back in 2002.

The controversy over the drugs used in lethal injections has become a recent issue. Back in January, a death row inmate's execution was botched when he was still alive during a lethal injection after 30 minutes on the table.

"We can't have what happened in Ohio happen here" Sen. Ward, R-Alabaster, said on the Senate floor last week.

European drug manufacturers have also stopped supplying one of the key drugs, pentobarbital, to US states that intend to use it for lethal injections.

Pentobarbital is a chemical that's used to stop the breathing of the person being injected.

Death penalty supporters have said that the state has an obligation to keep the identities of the companies that supply drugs a secret. Some compounding pharmacies and chemical manufacturers have reported threats of harm against them and their families.

"We owe it to them and their families" to keep the names and identities secret, said House sponsor Rep. Lynn Greer.

Democrats opposed to the death penalty said the state shouldn't keep anything secret about the death penalty secret.

Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greene, said, "I'm not for the death penalty personally but if they've been served and they get the death penalty then I think who are administering the drugs in terms of who doing it? I think that should be public."

Singleton added that the public should know what the state is doing with its tax dollars in all circumstances and efforts to restrict that should be cut off.

"We talk transparency a lot around here about everything and if we're going to be transparent on everything else let's be transparent on this" Greene said.

(source: WSFA news)

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

AG visits Anniston, says lethal injection debate slows justice for victims

Alabama's attorney general said Monday the state has no other legal options to execute death-row inmates while litigation involving drugs used in executions is tied up in federal courts.

Attorney General Luther Strange was in Anniston on Monday as the keynote speaker for the local chapter of Victims of Crime and Leniency's National Crime Victims’ Rights Week candlelight vigil at Zinn Park. Strange also stopped at the Calhoun/Cleburne County Children's Center Monday afternoon to speak with director Joe Nabors and tour the facility.

Strange spoke to a reporter about the state's status on the death penalty, and said that Alabama has put a hold on executions. A shortage of drugs used in executions has crippled several states from performing them, as many drug companies from overseas have stopped manufacturing the drugs. Death-row inmates have challenged the legality of the use of new drugs under the Eighth Amendment, which bars cruel or unusual punishment.

"Lethal injection is the only option we have now," Strange said. "We can explore other options, but that would be left up to the Legislature. Lethal injection is used in most states and it has been held up as an appropriate and humane form of execution."

While state law permits someone on death row to choose between lethal injection or the electrical chair, Strange said Monday the state was not going back to the electric chair as a form of execution. The attorney general said Alabama's only other option would be for state officials to pass a law allowing for alternative methods of execution, but said it was unlikely any new law would hold up in federal courts.

Richard Dieter, the executive director for the Death Penalty Information Center, said by phone Monday that there has never been a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the legality of the electric chair, although no state now has the electric chair as its main form of execution. 4 states, including Alabama, give death row inmates the option to use the chair, and as recently as 2012, a Virginia inmate was executed using an electric chair, Dieter said. According to the Death Penalty Information Center's database, Alabama executed its last inmate by electric chair in May 2002. Alabama changed its execution method to lethal injection in July 2002.

Alabama's shortage of execution drugs came to light in the most recent legislative session with the House passing a bill sponsored by Rep. Lynn Greer, R-Rogersville, that would make confidential the names of the people or companies who make the drugs used in executions. State lawmakers failed to pass it by the final day of the legislative session Thursday.

Greer said last month that if the bill didn't pass, the state would have to go back to using the chair, but Dieter said it would be extremely unlikely for Alabama to return to that method.

"First off, they would have to change the law, and the Department of Corrections can't just decide that," Dieter said. "They can't just go back to using the chair because there is a shortage of drugs."

Dieter said if a state went to using the chair for its main form of execution, it would likely go all the way to the Supreme Court, which he suspects would find the change unconstitutional.

"Today it would be different," Dieter said. "It's certainly become an unusual form of punishment."

Strange said Monday that there are 16 death row inmates in Alabama who have exhausted all their appeals. Their executions are on hold indefinitely.

As for when the state could once again perform executions, Strange said he couldn't offer a timetable.

"It's very tough for the families of these victims who are now involved in the justice system through no fault of their own," Strange said. "I hope this matter will be settled soon, because some of these families have been waiting decades to get closure, or as much closure that is possible considering the situation."

Strange's speech at Zinn Park Monday afternoon touched on the subject of the death penalty, promising victims' families his office was pursuing justice on the close-to-200 inmates on death row in the state. Strange said 1 of the 16 inmates who has exhausted all his appeals committed his crime 35 years ago.

"There is no excuse for that," Strange said. "Justice should be swift and sure for victims of crime."

Strange's stop in Anniston is just one of several planned for the attorney general this week as he makes his way across the state for Crime Victims' Rights Week. Strange also made a stop Monday in Shelby County and will deliver a speech Friday in Baldwin County.

(source: Anniston Star)

LOUISIANA:

In Ahlittia North murder case, public defenders short on money for defense

The attorneys representing the only Jefferson Parish defendant currently charged in a death penalty case said Monday they are unlikely to be ready should the trial start as scheduled next month. That's because the public defender's office, which is representing the man accused of killing 6-year-old Ahlittia North last year, says it does not have the money needed to provide an adequate defense.

Matthew Flugence, 20, of Marrero, is charged with first-degree murder, accused of raping the child and fatally stabbing her behind a row of apartment buildings in Harvey on July 13. She had disappeared from her bed, triggering a massive search by the Sheriff's Office. Her body was found days later in a garbage bin by the curb on Destrehan Avenue.

District Attorney Paul Connick Jr., wants a death sentence in the case. It is the only capital prosecution currently filed in the 24th Judicial District Court, which had not seen a 1st-degree murder indictment filed since December 2005.

It's also a case that could bankrupt the public defender's office, which has a $3 million annual budget but no money set aside to pay for a costly death penalty case, Chief Public Defender Richie Tompson said. He said he could face having to lay off attorneys.

Death penalty cases are given a higher degree of scrutiny than non-capital cases. They involve an array of experts, including mental health doctors who evaluate the defendants.

Louisiana has not done a study to determine how much it costs on average to defend people charged with a capital offense. However, studies have shown it can cost anywhere from $230,000 in Nevada to an average of $621,000 in the federal courts to defend someone charged with a capital offense, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Tompson said his office has operated at a deficit for the past 5 years, but closed out those years with a fund balance in part because the district attorney's office hasn't indicted a death penalty case. "I don't have the money to fund a capital case," Tompson said Monday.

Judge Robert Pitre, who is presiding over the case, said during a hearing Monday, that he wants the May 26 trial date to stand. While the attorneys are skeptical that the trial would go as planned, Pitre, a veteran jurist who faces mandatory retirement at the end of the year, appears resolute. "I think it's going to go on that date," Pitre said.

The only way Flugence's attorneys would be ready for trial next month would be if the district attorney's office decided to not seek the death penalty, said Paul Fleming Jr., who is defending Flugence with Cesar Vazquez.

That doesn't appear likely. Assistant District Attorney Doug Freese indicated that while the state will be ready for trial but said the defense will not likely be so. The May 26 trial date "appears unrealistic, given the posture we currently are in," said Freese, who is prosecuting the case with Sunny Funk.

Fleming said after Monday's court hearing that the law requires people charged with capital offenses have two attorneys, an investigator and a mitigation specialist, someone with skills to seek clinical, mental and other information that could be used to explain a defendant's conduct. Citing a lack of money, Flem