and Updates (as of 12/22/96)

NOVEMBER 26, 2015:


Prosecutors cite 5 factors in asking for Mesac Damas to be put to death

Prosecutors intend to cite 5 aggravating factors as the reasons why Mesac Damas should be put to death in the killings of his wife and 5 children, according to court documents filed Tuesday.

The disclosure of aggravating factors before trial is a routine requirement of death penalty cases. None of the 5 factors cited are a surprise given the known facts of the case.

Damas is charged with 6 counts of 1st-degree murder in the September 2009 deaths at his North Naples home. The 39-year-old has confessed to the killings in statements to the Daily News.

The 5 factors that warrant the death penalty, prosecutors said, are that Damas was previously convicted of a felony involving violence; all 6 of the killings were committed in a cold, calculating and premeditated manner; 5 of the victims were younger than 12 years old; 5 of the victims were children of Damas; and 3 of the killings were especially heinous, atrocious or cruel.

No trial date has been scheduled because the case has been temporary put on hold pending a U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The high-court case deals with the constitutionality of Florida's death penalty laws.

(source: Naples News)


MO High Court Tosses 25-Year-Old Death Sentence

The Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday threw out the double-murder conviction of a man who faced the death penalty in the killing of 2 sisters in 1991.

In a 4-3, 118-page decision, the state's high court sent Reginald Clemons' case back to the state court.

Clemons was 1 of 4 men convicted of raping and killing Julie Kerry, 20, and Robin Kerry, 19. The Kerrys took their cousin, Thomas Cummins, then 19, to the old unused Chain of Rocks Bridge spanning the Mississippi River between Missouri and Illinois to show him a poem they had written there.

On the bridge they encountered a group of men that allegedly included Clemons, who raped the sisters and forced them and Cummins off the bridge. Only Cummins survived the plunge into the river.

The majority opinion cited the finding of Michael Manner, a retired judge appointed by the court to review the case, who concluded that prosecutors wrongly suppressed evidence and that detectives beat Clemons in order to coerce a confession out of him.

"Here, the fact that the trial court denied Mr. Clemons' claim in his motion to suppress that his confession was physically coerced and allowed into evidence Mr. Clemons' confession without having the benefit of [probation officer] Mr. [Warren] Weeks' testimony substantially supports the master's finding that Mr. Clemons was not given a 'fair trial,'" Chief Justice Patricia Breckenridge wrote. "This is particularly true in light of the fact the trial court's primary basis for not suppressing Mr. Clemons' confession was because Mr. Clemons could not prove at whose hands and when he suffered his injury."

Justices Laura Denvir Stith, Richard B. Teitelman and Special Judge Lisa White Hardwick made up the majority opinion. But Justices Paul C. Wilson, Zel M. Fischer and Mary R. Russell dissented, concluding there was no failure to produce evidence by the state.

"Free to tell anyone what he remembered, Weeks never contacted Clemons' counsel, and they never contacted him," Wilson wrote in the 66-page dissent. "Clemons, of course, knows best who he met with in the hours and days following the interrogation, particularly those who volunteered remarks about an apparent injury to Clemons' face. Yet defense counsel made no effort to depose Weeks prior to Clemons' suppression hearing and trial, even though the state disclosed him as a potential witness and disclosed that he had been working at PTR in the early morning of April 8 when Clemons was booked."

Prosecutors have 60 days to retry the case.

In a statement emailed to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce said her staff would review the decision.

"As this crime occurred almost 25 years ago, we will need to review the state's evidence, determine the availability of witnesses and reporting officers in the case, and discuss our options with the victims' family," Joyce said. "Once we have completed this process, we will then determine the appropriate course of action within the allotted period of time."

She added, "Our thoughts and prayers are with the friends and family of Julie and Robin Kerry."

A representative for Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster told the Post-Dispatch that the office is still reviewing the decision.

(source: Coyurthouse News)


Dexter Lewis files notice of appeal in Denver bar massacre----Lewis was convicted of stabbing five people to death in a Denver bar but avoided death penalty in sentencing

Attorneys have filed a notice of appeal for a man convicted of stabbing 5 people to death in a Denver bar.

In August, a Denver jury convicted Dexter Lewis of killing 5 people inside Fero's Bar & Grill. Lewis, now 25, was convicted of 16 charges including 10 counts of 1st-degree murder - 2 for each of the victims.

But the same jury that unanimously found Lewis guilty of the murders was unable to agree on whether he should receive the death penalty. On Aug. 27, during the 2nd stage of a 3-part sentencing hearing, at least 1 of the jurors found that the details of Lewis' life that suggested mercy - including chronic abuse and neglect as a child - outweighed the heinous details of the crime that suggested death.

Lewis was eventually given 5 consecutive sentences of life in prison without the possibility of parole and an additional 180 years.

Young Suk Fero, 63; Daria M. Pohl, 21; Kellene Fallon, 44; Ross Richter, 29; and Tereasa Beesley, 45, were killed in the attack on Oct. 17, 2012.

On Nov. 18, Lewis' attorneys filed a notice of appeal and requested court transcripts and the case file.

The 3-page filing offered few details about what Lewis' appeal will focus on. But the notice did state that the issues addressed in the appeal may include issues raised by attorneys during trial, sufficiency of the evidence presented and sentencing.

It will likely be months before defense attorneys file an opening brief with the Colorado Court of Appeals. That filing will detail the issues attorneys are appealing.

Because the details of the appeal are unknown, it is unclear if Lewis could face the death penalty a 2nd time, said Christopher Decker, a Denver attorney and legal analyst.

"In a very fundamental way, if you raise certain structural issues you're back to square one," Decker said.

If the court agrees with the appeal, it can hand down a variety of remedies, all depending on what issues are raised. Outcomes can range from overturning a conviction and ordering a new trial for a big error to simply correcting the record for a small mistake.

If Lewis' attorneys appeal fundamental issues with his trial - such as problems with the jury or major errors by the judge - and a new trial is ordered, he could possibly face the death penalty again, Decker said. It is less likely the death penalty will be at issue if Lewis' attorneys appeal smaller points within the trial itself, such as evidence or testimony that was admitted.

"It is likely that Lewis' attorneys have carefully gone through the issues of appeal and will limit them to those that will only relate to a new trial and not the sentencing," Decker said.

The day before the jury was unable to agree on a sentence for Lewis, a judge in Arapahoe County sentenced James Holmes to life in prison for killing 12 people and injuring more than 70 others in an Aurora movie theater. The jury in that case was also not unanimous and as a result Holmes was spared the death sentence.

Defense attorneys announced in August that they would not seek an appeal for Holmes. The final deadline for them to do so was Nov. 18.

Lewis' appeal is being handled by attorneys with the Colorado Public Defenders Office, which also represented Lewis during trial.

Brothers Joseph and Lynell Hill were charged with similar counts in the murders and accepted plea agreements before Lewis' trial.

Joseph Hill, who was sentenced to life in prison without parole, violated his plea agreement and refused to testify during Lewis' trial. Lynell Hill was sentenced to 70 years in prison.

A fourth man connected to the crime, Demarea Harris, was working as a confidential informant for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives at the time of the attack and reported it to his handlers hours later. He was never charged or arrested in the case.

(source: Denver Post)


Deadline to file for possibility of death penalty against John Lee extended again

The deadline for prosecutors to decide whether or not they will seek the death penalty in the case against alleged Moscow shooter John Lee has been extended again.

The Latah County Prosecutor's Office will now have until Jan. 16 to decide if it will pursue the possibility of the death penalty. The newly approved deadline by Latah County 2nd District Court Judge John Stegner also includes any pretrial motions or briefs by both sides.

Lee, 29, of Moscow faces 3 counts of 1st-degree murder for the deaths of his adoptive mother, Terri Grzebielski; landlord David Trail; and Belinda Niebuhr, and 1 count of aggravated battery by use of a deadly weapon for injuring Michael Chin.

The request to extend the deadline was supported by both the prosecutors and defense attorneys that more time is needed to further investigate circumstances of the case, the defendant and to have "sufficient information to better determine the scope and extent of potential statutory aggravating factors and mitigation." According to court documents, both sides remain actively engaged in review of voluminous materials in the case.

The deadline had previously been extended to Dec. 1 with a similar request for more time to review case materials.

If the death penalty is not sought in the case and Lee is found guilty, he still faces a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life for 1st-degree murder. An additional 15 years could also be added on to the sentence for the use of a firearm in the commission of the crime.

Aggravated battery carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, plus 15 additional years for the firearms enhancement. All four charges also have the possibility of a $50,000 fine and a $5,000 civil fine to the victims.

Lee's next court hearing is scheduled for Feb. 16 in Latah County 2nd District Court.



Death penalty deadline extended in Renfro case----Prosecutors still have yet to decide if they will seek the death penalty against Jonathan Renfro

A district judge says prosecutors have until the New Year to decide whether to pursue the death penalty of an Idaho man who is accused of killing a police officer and stealing his patrol car in northern Idaho.

The Spokesman-Review reports that District Judge Lansing Hayes extended the capital crime deadline until January 4 on Wednesday. The deadline was previously set to expire on Friday.

Investigators allege that Jonathan Renfro, who was on parole, shot Coeur d'Alene Police Sgt. Greg Moore on May 5 as the officer questioned him because he feared Moore would find a handgun in his pocket - a parole violation.

Moore died later that evening.

John Adams, Renfro's lawyer, has also filed a motion seeking to exclude cellphone evidence from the trial.

(source: Associated Press)


Prosecutor fighting motions in Rector case

The prosecutor in a Bullhead City death penalty case filed his response to three previous defense motions.

Justin James Rector, 27, is charged with 1st-degree murder, kidnapping, child abuse and abandonment of a dead body. He is charged with the murder of 8-year-old Isabella Grogan-Cannella on Sept. 2, 2014 and leaving her body buried in a shallow grave near her Lakeside Drive home.

Deputy Mohave County Attorney Greg McPhillips responded to one defense motion by arguing that the state has disclosed victim impact evidence and is currently collecting additional victim impact evidence to be released soon. The prosecutor said that Rector's attorneys, Gerald Gavin and Ron Gilleo, are wasting the judge's time by filing motions instead of asking McPhillips for evidence requests.

McPhillips also asked the judge to deny a defense motion to excuse any juror who cannot consider mitigation evidence during the penalty phase of the trial if Rector is convicted of murder. All parties agree that a juror who refuses to consider mitigation factors or who automatically votes for the death penalty should not sit on a jury. The judge should not be striking jurors 11 months before the trial, the prosecutor argued.

McPhillips also asked the judge to deny a defense motion asking the judge to record his reasons for overruling any objections raised by the defense attorneys during the trial.

Superior Court Judge Lee Jantzen has denied about 90 % of the previous defense motions that Gavin and Gilleo have filed so far.

The defense attorneys have filed about 5 dozen motions on behalf of Rector since they took the case in March.

Rector's next status hearing is set for Dec. 9. Rector's 10-week murder trial is set to begin Oct. 17, 2016, with a pre-trial hearing set for Aug. 23, 2016.

(source: Mohave Valley Daily News)


Florida chaplain to speak out against death penalty in Oregon; Says Bible used wrongly for justification

A Catholic death row chaplain from Florida will visit Oregon March 13-17 to give talks on the death penalty.

Catholic teaching has solidified in past decades, holding that the death penalty is no longer necessary to protect society. Many Catholic groups oppose executions as part of a consistent ethic of life. Archbishop Alexander Sample has spoken out in opposition to the death penalty.

Dale Recinella, also an attorney, will start with a talk at University of Portland March 14. His schedule is still being finalized, but he is expected to appear in Portland, Salem, Eugene, Corvallis and elsewhere.

Ron Steiner, head of Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, is issuing a special invitation to high school students to attend the talks. He hopes to have a measure on the 2018 ballot to abolish the practice, which has been put on hold in Oregon.

Recinella is chaplain for Florida's death row and solitary confinement. In his talks around the nation, he counters those who use scripture to justify executions.

"The death penalty's continued existence in the U.S. is inextricably tied to mistaken notions that God demands it," Recinella told a New Hampshire crowd in 2012. He calls those notions "flawed applications of Divine Revelation" similar to past justifications for slavery.

Recinella says prosecutors in the U.S. have been using Bible quotes to obtain death sentences from juries for years and that their theology is bad.

Recinella also points out botched executions and that sometimes states kill the wrong person. Life in prison is far cheaper than prosecuting a death penalty case, he says.

His wife Susan, a psychologist, counsels families of murder victims and families of executed inmates. They often speak together.

(source: Catholic Sentinel)


'Weekly' executions under Duterte - Dino

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte will reimpose the death penalty and implement it weekly if he is elected president, erstwhile PDP-Laban presidential bet Martin Diño said Wednesday.

Diño, the current chairman of Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, said in case Duterte wins, the latter will reimpose the death penalty 6 months into his presidency and have weekly executions of convicts of heinous crimes.

"Once na nanalo siya, itong death penalty ay [restored] within six months. Kapag ito ay na-restore na, we will implement it weekly," he said.

"Gusto niya magkaroon ng atmosphere ng katahimikan."

Duterte, after months of blowing hot and cold about his presidential bid, said over the weekend that he is finally gunning for the country's top post.

Duterte, known for his heavy handed approach on criminals, has attracted Filipino voters clamoring for an iron-fist leadership. However, not everyone is happy with his demeanor and spotty human rights record.



Maldives initiates final appeal in death sentence over MP's murder

Prosecutors filed for final appeal Thursday the death sentence handed to Hussain Humam over the brutal murder of former Ungoofaru MP Dr Afrasheem Ali.

Regulations on death penalty that came into effect last year require the prosecution to exhaust the appeal process -- the High Court and Supreme Court -- even if the convict wishes to not file for appeal.

High Court had on September 7 upheld the death sentence handed to Humam.

The prosecutor general's (PG) office forwarded the case to the Supreme Court Wednesday to initiate the final stage of appeal after Humam failed to appeal the sentence against him within the appeal window.

Humam was found guilty of the MP's murder and sentenced to death in January. He later appealed the sentence.

A 5-member High Court bench had heard the closing arguments from both the defence and the prosecution on August 16.

The bench unanimously backed the Criminal Court's verdict Monday afternoon.

The defence during the closing argument had maintained that Humam's initial confession had been made under duress and the retraction of his earlier statement should have stood.

They also argued that the trial had been shrouded by doubt as the state had failed to present an eyewitness to the actual crime.

However, the prosecution had stressed that the lower court's ruling had not only been based on the confession but also on the strong forensic evidence linking Humam to the murder.

The judges had raised doubts over the defence's claims of Humam's psychological state. The defence, however, insisted that no test had been done so far despite several requests.

Afrasheem was found brutally stabbed to death on the stairway of his apartment building in October 2012.

Criminal Court had acquitted Ali Shan of Hicoast in Henveyru district of Afrasheem's murder.

Maldives has recently adopted a series of new rules and regulations and is currently drafting a law on death penalty.

The Supreme Court issued new guidelines on Sunday allowing death sentences and public lashing rulings issued by lower courts to be appealed automatically at the High Court.

In a circular, the Supreme Court said if the defendant fails to appeal death sentences and public lashing verdicts within 10 days, the court that had initially issued the verdict should forward the relevant documents to the High Court. The appellate court would have 7 days to notify both the defendant and the prosecution of the appeal and during that period should take the necessary steps to begin appeal proceedings, it added.

The new rules follow similar guidelines issued by the apex court early this month.

The Supreme Court issued new guidelines on November 8 giving a month-long window for the last chance to appeal death sentences and public lashings backed by High Court.

According to the guidelines, if a defendant fails to appeal a High Court verdict in favour of death sentences and public lashing rulings within a 30-day period, the appeal can then only be filed at the Supreme Court by the prosecution.

The guidelines, included in a circular signed by Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed, did not specifically mention sentences of death and public lashing. However, it says that High Court rulings that need to be reconfirmed by the Supreme Court had to be appealed within 30 days, including public holidays.

Under local laws, the only sentences that need to be reconfirmed by the Supreme Court are death sentences and public lashing verdicts.

Judicature Act earlier granted a 90-day period, excluding public holidays, to appeal rulings by any court.

However, the Supreme Court had in January annulled that clause and issued new guidelines under which rulings issued by lower courts had to be appealed at the High Court within 10 days and appeal over High Court verdicts needed to be filed at the Supreme Court within 60 days.

Meanwhile, the government has included funds in the proposed state budget for next year to establish an execution chamber at the country's main prison to carry out the death penalty.

The state budget for next year, which was approved by the parliament on Monday, includes MVR4 million to build an execution chamber. However, the correctional service was not immediately available for comment.

Maldives adopted a new regulation last year under which lethal injection would be used to implement the death penalty.

However, over mounting pressure from human rights bodies, companies have been refusing to supply the fatal dose to countries still carrying out capital punishment.

Home minister Umar Naseer had earlier said the correctional service would be ready to implement the death penalty by the time a death sentence is upheld by the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, the government announced on November 16 that it was in the process of drafting legislation on implementing death penalty.

Attorney General Mohamed Anil told reporters that the bill being drafted by his office would expand on the already existing regulations on death penalty. The bill would include procedures on conducting murder investigations, filing charges in such cases and conducting proceedings in murder cases, he added.

There are around 10 people on death row at present, but none of whom has exhausted the appeal process thus far.



EU won't punish Caribbean countries over death penalty, says official

Secretary General of the International Commission against the Death Penalty, Dr Asunta Cavaller, has described the death penalty as "cruel, inhumane and degrading" even as the European Union said it would not punish Caribbean countries that refuse to abolish the death penalty.

Speaking at the Caribbean Regional Conference on the Abolition of the Death Penalty that ended here on Tuesday, Cavaller agreed that abolishing the death penalty does not mean those found guilty of heinous crimes will not be punished.

"By doing this you run the risk of executing innocent people. It targets those who are marginalised, ethnic minorities and people who don't have access to defence lawyers or are denied a fair trial; it alienates the right to life and human dignity," she said, adding that there was no evidence that the death penalty resulted in fewer crimes.

"The death penalty has not proven to be a deterrent. Here in the Caribbean, many countries that retain the death penalty are the ones with the highest crime rates," she said.

The two-day conference was organised by the European Union, in co-operation with the British High Commission and the International Commission against the Death Penalty.

Minister of Governance Raphael Trotman, who addressed the opening of the conference, acknowledged that the matter was indeed controversial, but gave no indication that Georgetown would be supportive of abolishing the death penalty.

He said Guyana welcomed what he described as a "thought-provoking conference".

"Are we ready to take that step and do we have the political will? These are the questions that need to be answered in the near and medium-term future," Trotman said, adding that while the death penalty remains law here, there is an unspoken moratorium in effect where it was not applied in sentencing for over 2 decades.

He told the conference of the move by the Parliament several years ago to remove the mandatory death sentence for people convicted of murder.

EU Ambassador to Guyana, Jernej Videtic, said the abolition of the death penalty remains one of the main human rights issues for the EU, and welcomed the decision by Suriname in this regard.

Head of the Political Division at the EU embassy in Guyana, Derek Lambe, told a news conference that Europe would not punish any Caribbean country that fails to abolish the death penalty.

"There is no question that the EU would carry out sanctions or halt development aid or anything like that against any country that didn't abolish the death penalty; we don't work that way, we work in a spirit of partnership with countries in the Caribbean," he said.

Lord Nanit Dholakia of the UK All Parliamentary Committee on the Abolition of the Death Penalty told the conference that there was no evidence anywhere in the world that proved that by establishing the death sentence it has reduced crime.

He called on civil society to press their governments to abolish such laws. He also urged governments not to hide behind public opinion on this matter, but lead public opinion.

(source: Jamaica Observer)


Saudi Arabia's Next Terrible Move

2 reports in local Saudi Arabian media reveal that a mass execution is planned to take place in that nation in a few days. The prisoners are not named, but one report states that more than 50 individuals are to be executed and that all of them are from the eastern part of the country, and another explains that all of the prisoners have been charged with terrorism.

Both of these statements describe Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, the young man who was arrested when he was a teen; his uncle, Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr; and Ali Saed Al-rebeh, Mohammed Faisal al-shyookh, Dawood al-Marhoon, Abed allahhassan al-Zaher, Ali Mohammad al-Nimr, and Mohammad Suwaymil. Each was charged with terrorism and they all are from the east.

Ali Adubisi, the Director of the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights in Berlin (ESOHR) published a brief article earlier today in which he explained his findings: "These 52 individuals are all to be executed based on terrorism-related charges. The group comprises a mix of individuals, who will all be executed across different regions of the kingdom in a single day. We do not have full details of all the 52 individuals." He added that 2 of the articles he had seen were quickly taken down, but one remains standing. (If those who can read Arabic, here is the link: Okaz. ESOHR reports the number as 52; Reprieve, the human rights watchdog group, reports 55.

Adubisi has been in regular contact with the families of the prisoners, so he has one other detail that outside news sources do not have: "All the activists have recently been given an unexplained medical examination." He adds: "Medical examinations are common in the lead up to an execution."

The Saudi Arabian government considers its Eastern region to be a hotbed of insurgency. This stems from sectarian differences between the people who live there and the rest of the country. Shiekh al-Nimr and the 6 underage defendants are all from that region and are considered terrorists because they were considered possible activists. Silencing activists is the Saudi Arabian government's way of preventing future change.

Almost every prisoner sentenced to die in Saudi Arabia is beheaded, a method that I have seen argued online (chillingly) as being more humane than the American method of lethal injection (which I am also vehemently against). There are videos online, several videos, that are purported to show a genuine judicial beheading in Saudi Arabia. I have not seen if these have been verified as real or if they even could be real. To me, every method of judicially administered death is chilling. Some prisoners in Saudi Arabia are executed by firing squad. Others are stoned. Most are beheaded. All are dispatched in public; almost all punishments in Saudi Arabia, corporal and capital, are delivered in public, as if they are an entertainment.

Only the nations of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran, and Qatar have beheading as a legal means of execution; Saudi Arabia is the only nation that actually employs the method.

As Ali Adubisi reported, he does not know the stories of the other 45 individuals. He adds, "Such a mass execution is an uncommon move by the Saudi authorities and signals a new approach to the implementation of the death penalty." He also reports that conditions for each of the 7 prisoners has deteriorated in the last 2 weeks: the recent torrential rains in Saudi Arabia flooded the prisons, the condemned men's cells flooded also, but none of them were moved to dry cells or even given towels to dry themselves.

I recently wrote about a death-row prisoner in Saudi Arabia, Hussein Abu al-Khair. I reported last week:

Hussein Abu al-Khair was arrested in 2014 after he was pulled over by police. They charged him with smuggling drugs across the border between Jordan and Saudi Arabia. According to his sister, Zeinab Abdle, he was told by the police that they were arresting him for drug smuggling even though they did not inspect the vehicle. Why look for something you are not going to find when officially you have found it already?

Zeinab described what followed in a letter to me: "He was detained and was tortured for 12 days by being hung up-side down by the ankles with the help of thick chains. He was beaten with sticks, hands and other methods. He has been spat on, insulted and shamed through insults. His body has been hung with his legs and hands stretched out as he was being hurt. When his body and spirit were broken, he was forced to sign a false declaration saying that he admitted to smuggling drugs into Saudi Arabia. From this moment on, he was thrown into the Tabook jail awaiting his trial."

He was convicted of drug smuggling and sentenced to death.

I asked Zeinab earlier today if she or her sister have been able to speak with Hussein Abu al-Khair in recent days. She told me that her sister has spoken with him. It seems likely, but we do not know this definitively, that he is not among the 52 that ESOHR reported on today. He was not charged with terrorism, and he is not originally from the eastern portion of Saudi Arabia; he is Jordanian.

Saudi Arabia is in a bloodthirsty moment in its history, something that usually comes from desperation.

(source: mark Aldlrich,


Saudi Arabia To Sue Twitter User Who Called Poet's Death Sentence 'ISIS-Like'

Saudi Arabia's justice ministry plans to sue a Twitter user who compared the death sentence handed down on Friday to a Palestinian poet to the punishments meted out by Islamic State, a major government-aligned newspaper reported on Wednesday.

"The justice ministry will sue the person who described ... the sentencing of a man to death for apostasy as being `ISIS-like'," the newspaper Al-Riyadh quoted a source in the justice ministry as saying.

The source did not identify the Twitter user or the possible penalty.

On Friday, a Saudi Arabian court sentenced Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh to death for apostasy - abandoning his Muslim faith - according to trial documents seen by Human Rights Watch.

Fayadh was detained by the country's religious police in 2013 in Abha, in southwest Saudi Arabia, and then rearrested and tried in early 2014.

Saudi Arabia's justice system is based on Islamic Sharia law, and its judges are clerics from the kingdom's ultra- conservative Wahhabi school of Sunni Islam. In the Wahhabi interpretation of Sharia, religious crimes, including blasphemy and apostasy, incur the death penalty.

In January, liberal writer Raif Badawi was flogged 50 times after he was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for blasphemy last year, prompting an international outcry. Badawi remains in prison, but diplomats say he is unlikely to be flogged again.

In 2014, a Saudi court in Riyadh sentenced three lawyers to up to eight years in jail after they criticized the justice ministry on Twitter.

The charges were dropped in early 2015 after King Salman inherited the throne from his brother.

"Questioning the fairness of the courts is to question the justice of the Kingdom and its judicial system based on Islamic law, which guarantees rights and ensures human dignity", Al-Riyadh quoted the justice ministry source as saying. The ministry would not hesitate to put on trial "any media that slandered the religious judiciary of the Kingdom," it said.

Saudi Arabia's Justice Ministry or other officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

(source: Reuters)


Death penalty reduced to life imprisonment for Seychellois trio convicted of drug trafficking in Egypt following 'intensive diplomatic representations'

The Seychellois trio who were facing death row in Egypt, after being found guilty of drug trafficking, have had their sentence commuted to life imprisonment.

According to a statement issued by State House on Wednesday evening, the decision was taken by the Egyptian President, Abel Fattah El-Sisi, "as a result of intensive diplomatic representations at the highest levels."

The 3 men, Ronny Norman Jean, Yvon John Vinda and Dean Dominic Loze, were sentenced to death by execution on April 7, 2013.

This followed their arrest on April 22, 2011 by Egyptian police aboard a boat near the Red Sea coastal town of Marsa Alam with 3 tonnes of cannabis on board.

Jean, Vinda and Loze, were together with the skipper and owner of the vessel, a British national identified as Charles Raymond Ferndale, who was also sentenced to death.

On October 15 last year, the Egyptian Court of Cessation rejected their appeal and upheld the death penalty.

The Seychelles government had been engaging with the Egyptian authorities for quite a while to find a way for the death sentence to be commuted to a less severe punishment of life in jail.

Seychelles is a not a country that applies the death penalty and the Indian Ocean archipelago is a strong advocate for the abolition of this practice worldwide.

"President James Michel has, in his direct appeals to his Egyptian counterpart on several occasions, played a strong and proactive role in ensuring the Seychellois in Egypt are spared the death sentence," reads the State House statement issued on Wednesday.

"From the onset of the trial President Michel had tasked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Transport of the Republic of Seychelles to ensure that the Seychellois nationals are given legal assistance to defend themselves within the Egyptian judicial system, treated humanely and with dignity, facilitated contact between their family members as well as dispatching diplomats to Egypt on a regular basis to hold talks with their Egyptian counterparts and meet with the detainees."

For the families of the 3 men since travelling to Egypt to see their loved ones on November 4 last year, they had been awaiting the outcome of negotiations between the governments of Egypt and Seychelles, on the fate of the 3 convicts.

Speaking to SNA, in a phone interview this morning, Nola Loze, the mother of Dean Loze, said she was given the latest news about the convicts' situation by President Michel himself.

"I am very happy. I was informed yesterday while I was at work... I fell to my knees," said Loze.

The last time the lady who is from Anse Boileau, a district on the Western Coast of the Seychelles main island of Mahe had seen his son was in November last year.

Since that time she says that she has been receiving regular updates through a priest who is used to visiting inmates, at the prison where the 3 Seychellois nationals are being detained.

While the Egyptian President has allowed for the death sentences to be commuted to life imprisonment this does not mean the 3 Seychellois will be returning to Seychelles immediately.

According to the State House statement the island nation's ambassador accredited to Egypt, Joseph Nourrice is in Cairo to discuss the next step with the Egyptian authorities.

Discussions will be focussing on a possible 'prisoner exchange agreement' to allow the 3 men to serve their life sentences in Seychelles.

It is to be noted that the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi issued a decree in November last year that would allow foreign prisoners in Egypt to be repatriated to their country of origin to serve their sentences.



A silent church ignores a wave of executions in Pakistan----Hundreds put to death since moratorium lifted, but church officials say little

Pakistan is close to achieving a notorious new milestone of becoming one of the world's top executioners, with almost 300 inmates already put to death this year and thousands more waiting.

According to figures from Pakistan's independent Human Rights Commission, 295 people have been hanged in the country - a new record - since December last year.

Amnesty International, however, puts the toll of executed inmates at 299.

Abdul Basit, a paraplegic man who was convicted of murder, could have become the 300th, but his Nov. 25 execution was delayed at the 11th hour after the Pakistani president intervened.

This was the 3rd time that an execution warrant had been issued for Abdul Basit, who was first scheduled to be hanged on July 29.

Despite being unable to stand and being reliant on a wheelchair, jail authorities are adamant about carrying out his inhuman and unlawful hanging.

"The hanging of a wheelchair-bound prisoner simply cannot be conducted in a humane and dignified manner as required by Pakistani and international law. Proceeding with Abdul Basit’s execution in the circumstances will offend against all norms of civilized justice," the rights group's chairwoman, Zohra Yusuf, said in a statement.

The outspoken group has taken a principled approach to defending the rights of Pakistan's death row prisoners. If only the local church would do the same.

Pakistan lifts moratorium

Pakistan's record on executions this year is all the more astounding given that prior to December 2014, the country had not carried out any executions in 6 years.

But Islamabad lifted its moratorium on the death penalty shortly after Taliban militants stormed a school in Peshawar, killing 150 people - including 130 schoolchildren.

The horrific attack shocked the nation and triggered countrywide protests and demands to rein in the Taliban's campaign of terror and violence.

As media and public pressure grew, the Pakistani military and political leadership rushed to restore capital punishment and announced the establishment of controversial military courts to fast-track the trials of terror suspects.

Initially, the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif opted to execute only terror convicts, but pressure from Islamist parties and clergy convinced authorities to order executions for all kinds of death row convicts - a move that drew condemnation from the United Nations, the European Union, Amnesty International and other groups.

Rights watchdogs say the government is ignoring its responsibilities to reform the legal system. They say that the circumstances that prompted the suspension of capital punishment in the first place have not changed after 6 years, and that the deeply flawed criminal justice system continues to pose the threat of wrongful convictions.

Rights groups also argue that there is no evidence to suggest any correlation between the death penalty and reducing crime rates.

When compared to 2014 statistics, Pakistan’s nearly 300 executions this year would put it near the top of an unfortunate list. This year, Saudi Arabia has executed at least 151 people, while Iran has put to death almost 700, according to Amnesty.

Death row

According to the Justice Project Pakistan, a Lahore-based nonprofit law firm that helps marginalized people in the legal system, more than 8,000 people are currently on death row. Pakistan’s government, on the other hand, says there are 6,000.

Asia Bibi, a Catholic mother of four, is among those who have been handed the death sentence after her disputed conviction for blasphemy. Bibi's final appeal is pending before the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

Among those who have already been executed are Aftab Bahadur Masih, a Christian man who was arrested in 1992 in a case involving the murder of a woman and her 2 sons.

According to the Justice Project Pakistan, Bahadur was only 15 years old at the time of his arrest - too young to face the death penalty. The Catholic Church in Pakistan had made an unsuccessful appeal for clemency to Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain.

In August, Pakistan executed Shafqat Hussain, convicted of killing a child in 2004. His lawyers claimed he was 14 when found guilty and his confession was extracted by torture, but officials say there is no proof he was a minor when convicted.

Church response disappointing

In September this year, Pope Francis called for the global abolition of the death penalty in his address to a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress.

"The golden rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development," Francis said in his speech to Congress.

"This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty. I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred."

Despite Pope Francis' clear and unambiguous stance on capital punishment, the Catholic Church in Pakistan has failed to take a stand against the record numbers of executions in the country this year.

Apart from an appeal for clemency for Bahadur, neither the church nor the human rights arm of its bishops’ conference, the National Commission for Justice and Peace, has issued even a single statement on the death penalty.

In fact, 2 senior officials from the commission told that they personally supported the government's move to resume capital punishment, reasoning it would help solve the country's long-standing terrorism woes. The 2 officials, however, asked not to be named.

Although some clergymen individually opposed the executions in media interviews, there has been a muted and disappointing official response from the church, to say the least.

It is high time that the Catholic Church in Pakistan took a principled stance against capital punishment. It would be in line with international laws, and indeed in line with the views of Pope Francis himself.

(source: Zahid Hussain is a Pakistani journalist covering human rights and issues affecting


Execution spree

Due to a timely intervention by President Mamnoon Hussain, a disabled murder convict was given a fourth stay of execution for 2 months just hours before he was due to be hanged. Abdul Basit, 43, a convict paralysed from the waist down, was scheduled to be hanged on Wednesday morning, November 25 when a presidential decree halted the execution. He was convicted of murder in 2009 and contracted tubercular meningitis in prison in 2010. Earlier, his execution was harrowingly postponed thrice on medical grounds and concerns about how a wheelchair-bound man would mount the scaffold. Authorities acknowledge that as Abdul Basit was unable to stand on the gallows, it was impossible to carry out the execution according to prison rules. This particular case brings to the forefront a sorry state of affairs of the justice system in Pakistan where even the disabled cannot escape the merciless procedure of hanging after conviction. Although the execution has been stayed again, what about the agony he and his family have been passing through? This is an additional punishment for a disabled convict who has become a victim of the faulty justice system in the country. It has also raised questions about the standard of human rights and the concerned authorities’ ability to fulfil moral obligations. In fact, a flawed justice system, unfair trials and notoriety of the police for fabricating cases through torture have made the whole judicial procedure a murky phenomenon. It is a result of this failed system that cruel and unusual punishment is being meted out to a convict irrespective of his physical disability.

Another terrible aspect is that the government has virtually been on an execution spree since the lifting of a moratorium on the death penalty. Convicts are being executed on an almost daily basis. According to Amnesty International, Pakistan has executed 299 people since the death penalty was controversially reinstated following a Taliban mass killing at a school in Peshawar last December. The Amnesty figures suggest Pakistan is on track to become one of the world’s top executioners in 2015. Hangings were initially reinstated only for those convicted of terrorism, but in March 2015, they were extended to all capital offences. At a time when the death penalty is being abolished in most countries, Pakistan is using this centuries old punishment as deterrence against crimes. In reality, the death penalty has failed to prove a deterrent against crime and terrorism. The time has come for the government to reform the judicial system. Instead of relying on cruel punishment, there is a need to introduce a reform culture in society where criminals could be treated as human beings. Remember, no society can succeed without equity, justice and fair play.

(source: Editorial, Daily Times)


Bangladesh Executions Over War Crimes Trigger Mixed Reactions

Sunday's executions in Bangladesh of two opposition leaders, accused of committing crimes during the country's 1971 war of independence from Pakistan, have sparked mixed reactions in the country and outside.

Bangladesh's International Crime Tribunal found Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid, a senior politician from the opposition Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) party, guilty on charges of conspiracy in abduction, torture and killing of intellectuals during the war. ICT also convicted Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, a leader of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), on charges of torture, rape and genocide.

Following the executions, the ruling Awami League (AL) party and some groups supporting Bangladesh's war crime trials held victory rallies saying that Mujahid and Chowdhury deserved to be hanged for their war crimes.

But JeI and BNP said the executions were politically motivated and aimed at eliminating political rivals. Rights groups and legal experts charged that Bangladesh executed the men after a flawed trial.

Pakistan decries executions

Since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina set up the ICT in 2010, it has convicted 24 people - mostly JeI leaders - of war crimes. Barring 2, all those convicted were handed out death sentences by the tribunal. So far, 4 - including Mujahid and Chowdhury - have been executed.

Protests against Sunday's executions came from different corners, including Pakistan.

Pakistan's foreign ministry issued a statement saying the trials of the two men were flawed, and that "Pakistan is deeply disturbed" by the executions. In a sharp reaction, Bangladesh summoned Pakistan's high commissioner in Dhaka and handed over a protest note.

Bangladesh's junior foreign minister, Mohammed Shahriar Alam, said Pakistan had "no right" to make any comment on internal issues of Bangladesh.

"On the issue of these trials of war criminals, who committed crimes against humanity, we shall not tolerate any negative comment from any country," Alam said.

Victim's family welcomes punishment

Dr. Nuzhat Choudhury's father, an eye specialist, was killed by Al Badr militia that Mujahid was convicted of leading during the war. Choudhury said after the execution of Mujahid that she felt justice had been delivered.

"Mujahid was directly responsible for enlisting the names of top intellectuals of the time, like my father, and abducting them from their homes, brutally torturing them and subsequently murdering them. Therefore, in his trial and execution, my family and I personally got justice today," Choudhury told VOA.

On Friday, the U.S. State Department said the executions of Mujahid and Chowdhury should not take place until it was clear that the trial processes had met international standards.

Tureen Afroz, an ICT prosecutor, denied the tribunal's actions were motivated by politics.

"But if a trial is taking place in an independent judicial forum where a defendant can freely exercise his internationally recognized rights, we call it a fair trial. I would like to say that all trials of the ICT have been very defense friendly," Afroz told VOA.

Trials have 'serious flaws,' some say

Earlier this month, Amnesty International noted that the trial and appeal processes had suffered from "serious flaws."

"They were brought to the attention of the government by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other independent observers," said Abbas Faiz, senior south Asia researcher of AI. "The government authorities who had the power to stop the executions had full knowledge of these concerns. Yet, they went ahead with the executions."

Sam Zarifi, Asia-Pacific regional director of the International Commission of Jurists, said the human rights committee of the United Nations is very clear that if a government wants to carry out a death penalty, it has to ensure that the judicial process in the case has been absolutely fair.

"In the case of the International Crime Tribunal in Bangladesh, unfortunately this hasn't been the case," Zarifi said to VOA. "We saw witnesses not being allowed to testify, evidence that could exculpate the defendants not being admitted on vague grounds."

Alex Carlile, a lawyer and member of Britain's House of Lords, said the trials in the cases of Mujahid and Chowdhury fell "far, far short of acceptable standards."

Pointing to the case that Bangladesh executed the 2 men just 3 or 4 hours after their reported presidential clemency petitions had been rejected, Carlile said Bangladesh resorted to unusual haste in carrying out the executions.

"I think the speed at which the executions took place is obscene," he said. "It falls way outside any acceptable criminal justice policies. I think the Bangladesh government has lost all respect among lawyers the world over."



Bangladesh refutes UN claim on war crimes trial

Bangladesh has refuted the claim of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights that the trials of war criminals at the International Crimes Tribunal were not fair.

Saying that the statement is "highly disturbing," the government has sent a reply to the OHCHR and protested such claim.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a press release in this regard on Thursday, 2 days after the UN rights body issued the statement involving war crimes trial in the country.

On Tuesday, the UN human rights body renewed its call to the government of Bangladesh to immediately institute a moratorium on the death penalty and abolish it.

The statement came two days after BNP leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury and Jamaat-e-Islami leader Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid were executed for crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War.

In a statement, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Ravina Shamdasani said: "We've long warned given the doubts that have been raised about the fairness of trials conducted before the Tribunal, the government of Bangladesh should not implement death penalty sentences."

In reply, the foreign ministry press statement said: "Both the convicted individuals have been handed down the death sentence by the ICT-BD for charges proven against them beyond reasonable doubts. The verdicts were subsequently upheld by the Appellate Division of Bangladesh Supreme after a full bench hearing.

"On the judgment of the Supreme Court, the Review Petitions submitted by the convicted persons have also been heard by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court on 18 November 2015, and subsequently disposed of.:

Bangladesh explained that the ICT-BD trials takes solely into consideration the crimes committed by the individuals accused and convicted for crimes against humanity they had committed in 1971, and has no preoccupation with their present political status, reads the press release.

"Mr Chowdhury or Mr Mujahid's cases have nothing to do with their political identity or affiliation, and the point that they belong to some opposition political parties is only a coincidence as far as the trials are concerned."

"Moreover, certain accused and convicted individuals in the ICT-BD trials are with ruling party and its electoral allies. In this regard, Bangladesh has given a full account of the trials and proceedings related to the 2 cases of Messers Salauddin Quader Chowdhury and Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mujahid," it added.

Bangladesh also reiterated that as a state party to the ICCPR, along with its Optional Protocol, Bangladesh is obliged to maintain international standards in its judicial process. The provisions of the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, 1973 (ICT Act 1973) and the rules made thereunder are not inconsistent with the rights of the accused enshrined under article 14 of the ICCPR.

The Government recognises its responsibility towards its citizens and is committed to fulfill its obligations to the citizens of Bangladesh.

Bangladesh's response to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights emphasised that the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, 1973 (ICT Act 1973) of Bangladesh was enacted by the Bangladesh Parliament which is vested with the legislative powers of the Republic under the Constitution.

Read the Full Response of Bangladesh Government:

The ICT Act provides for the detention, prosecution and punishment of persons for genocide, crimes against humanity and other crimes under international law and for matters connected therewith, stated the release. "Thus, the ICT Act provides for the detention, prosecution and punishment of persons liable for such crimes committed during the War of Liberation of Bangladesh from 25 March to 16 December 1971."

The violations involved the indiscriminate killing of civilians, including women and children; the attempt to exterminate or drive out of the country a large part of population of approximately 10 million people; the dislocation of, at any one stage or another, of nearly half of the country's population of 75 million people; the arrest, torture and killing without trial of suspects; the raping of women; the destruction of villages and towns; and the looting of property. In addition to criminal offences under domestic law, there is a strong prima facie case that criminal offences were committed in international law, namely war crimes and crimes against humanity and acts of genocide under the Genocide Convention 1948.

Article VI of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948 Genocide Convention) provides that persons charged with genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in Article III shall be tried by a competent tribunal of the State in the territory of which the act was committed. The Convention also provides that (Article 6.2) in countries which have not abolished the death penalty, sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes in accordance with the law in force at the time of the commission of the crime and not contrary to the provisions of the present Covenant and to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

This penalty can only be carried out pursuant to a final judgement rendered by a competent court. This clearly is the case, which has been maintained by the Supreme Court in Bangladesh with regard two verdicts under discussion.

Article V of the Convention also provides that The Contracting Parties undertake to enact, in accordance with their respective Constitutions, the necessary legislation to provide effective penalties for persons guilty of genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article III of the Convention.

It has been categorically found that the rights of defense and procedure given in the ICT Act and the Rules of Procedure are manifestations of "due process of law" and "fair trial" which make the legislation of 1973 more humane, jurisprudentially sound and legally valid.

The International Bar Association (IBA) Committee, in a report has also opined that "The 1973 Legislation together with the 2009 amending text, provides a system which is broadly compatible with current international standard". This opinion should alone suffice, as far as the minimum standard required by international law is concerned.

Besides, the ICC Statute never denies the primacy of the national law. Article 10 of the Statute explicitly recognizes that "nothing in this part shall be interpreted as limiting or prejudicing in any way existing or developing rules of interpreted as limiting or prejudicing in any way existing or developing rules of international law for the purpose other than this Statute".

In conclusion, Bangladesh mentioned that The ICT-BD trials have created an opportunity for ending the culture of impunity, ensuring justice to the victims, and paving the way for truth and reconciliation. This was duly recognised by the European Parliament in its Resolution of16 January 2014 where it posited, "... the International Crimes Tribunal has played an important role in providing redress and closure for victims of and those affected by the Bangladeshi war of independence."

Similarly, the European Parliament earlier also acknowledged the need for reconciliation, justice and accountability for the crimes committed during the 1971 war of independence while stressing the important role of ICT in this matter.

It is unfortunate that while the international community across the board has embraced the trials as an effort to end the culture of impunity for mass atrocity crimes committed over 4 decades ago, some selected quarters are still resorting to sweeping, biased and unfounded comments about the trials as fed to them by the agents and sympathisers of those accused and convicted.

The Government and the people of Bangladesh are confident that plausible legal arguments can be provided for all the fabricated charges being leveled against the trials, and that the fact that fair trial and due process standards had been upheld through out the trial process, would ultimately prevail.

In view of the above, to any discerning observer, the position taken by the OHCHR in the said press briefing note raises a question - whether the OHCHR is siding with the perpetrators of war crime, genocide and crimes against humanity. It is also a question if the OHCHR is choosing to undermine the cry for justice of the families of innumerable victims; whether the impunity that the majority of the people of Bangladesh want to see gone, is being upheld by the OHCHR.

The present government of Bangladesh came to power with an overwhelming majority who supported their declared manifesto of bringing an end to the impunity so long enjoyed by the perpetrators of war crime, genocide and crimes against humanity and no democratic government could ignore such a demand in Bangladesh.



Man to die for killing wife for dowry

A court here yesterday sentenced a man to death for killing his wife for dowry in Sadar upazila in 2000.

Judge Saiful Islam of the Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal handed down the verdict.

The death penalty awardee is Bappi Mia, 37, son of Abdus Samad of Manik Chok Hotilapur area in the upazila.

The Tribunal acquitted three charged sheeted accused as charges brought against them could not be proved. They are Bappi's elder brother Papu Mia, Rani Begum, wife of Bappi's brother Tutul Mia, and mother Arefa Begum.

According to the case statement, Bappi married Kohinoor Begum, 19, daughter of Abul Hossain of Joypurpara in the upazila, in 1999.

On June 14, 2000, Bappi put pressure on Kohinoor to bring money from her parents as dowry. As she refused to do so, Bappi beat her dead and dumped the body in a nearby water body.

Police recovered Kohinoor's body the following day and sent it to Mohammad Ali Hospital for autopsy.

Kohinoor's father filed a case with Bogra Sadar Police Station, accusing 4 identified and 2 unidentified people.

Sub-inspector (SI) Mojibur Rahman, investigation officer (IO) of the case, submitted a charge sheet mentioning the names of the accused on November 10, 2000.

(source: The Daily Star)


Mothers of Saudi juveniles facing beheading appeal for mercy, as executions loom----Local media in Saudi Arabia have reported that more than 50 people detained will be executed over the coming days

The mothers of 5 juvenile prisoners facing the death penalty in Saudi Arabia have called for their children's convictions to be quashed, amid fears they may about to be executed.

A joint statement released by the mothers on Tuesday described the potential execution of their children as "unique in the history of Saudi justice".

"Saudi authorities have subjected our children to multiple forms of injustice," the statement said, with the mothers accusing the government of arbitrarily detaining and torturing their children, as well as subjecting them to unfair trials.

"We demand that the Saudi government drop their sentences and order their re-trial. These trials must be public, in accordance with international principles, and must be attended by neutral observers," they said.

Mohammed al-Shioukh, Abdullah al-Zaher, Ali al-Rebh, Dawood al-Marhoon, and Ali al-Nimr have been sentenced to death. All of them were under 18 years old at the time of their arrests in 2012, which were for taking part in anti-government protests organised by the Shia community in the Eastern Province.

Fears have risen that the 5 young Saudis will be imminetly beheaded after local news outlet Okaz reported on Monday that 55 people convicted of "anti-government offences" will be executed over the coming days.

Okaz did not reveal the names of those to be executed, nor did they reveal the exact date of the potential executions, but they did say some of those to be beheaded will be prisoners from the Eastern Province.

Anti-death penalty advocacy group Reprieve described the reports as "extremely concerning".

"These reports are [...] suggesting the Saudis may be just days away from executing people convicted when they were children, who were demanding political reform in their country," Maya Foa, director of Reprieve's Death Penalty Team, said in a statement.

"These executions must be stopped," she added.

Saudi Arabia's Shia community make up around 10 to 15 % of the kingdom's 29 million population. They are concentrated in the country's Eastern Province, which is rich with oil but rife with poverty.

The Shia community have long complained that the government discriminate against them, particularly in areas of employment and education.

In 2011, inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings, protests erupted in the Eastern Province, with the local Shia community pouring onto the streets to demand increased representation and more rights in the kingdom.

The leader of those protests, firebrand cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, was arrested in July 2012 after a gun battle with authorities.

Nimr, the uncle of juvenile detainee Ali al-Nimr, is among those slated to be executed for their role in the Eastern Province protests, which continue to take place but have dramatically decreased in size since the 2012 crackdown.

Saudi authorities reject that Nimr led peaceful rights-based protests, and instead allege that they faced - and continue to face - armed anti-government gangs in the Eastern Province.

"The al-Nimr family members pursued violence and attacks on security forces and government facilities beside terrorising civilians, hooliganism and vandalism," Saudi authorities recently said in a statement given to the Daily Telegraph.

"We have all the rights to maintain safety and security of our citizens and we cannot understand the demands to make it go unpunished."

The mothers of the 5 young Saudis facing execution said on Wednesday that they will not go quiet even if their children are beheaded.

"We [...] will only stay silent over this crime if they kill us alongside our children," the statement said.

Saudi Arabia has executed at least 151 people so far in 2015, nearly doubling last year's total of 88.



Concerns as reports suggest juvenile executions in Saudi may be days away

International human rights NGO Reprieve has raised concerns over Saudi media reports, which suggest that juveniles Ali al Nimr and Dawoud al Marhoon could be executed in days.

Saudi news outlet Okaz has today reported that 55 people convicted of 'anti-Government offences', are to be executed in the coming days. A number of those are apparently from the same region as juveniles Ali al Nimr and Dawoud al Marhoon, and Ali's Uncle, the high profile pro-democracy activist Sheik al Nimr. The fears were compounded after the young men were taken for an announced medical examination in the prison, which suggests their execution has been scheduled.

The reports have raised concerns at human rights NGO Reprieve, which is assisting the two juveniles, that their executions could be imminent, as well as that of Abdallah al-Zaher, who was only 15 when he participated in protests. Both Ali and Dawoud were convicted in part on trumped-up anti-Government charges, despite their being youth activists who attended pro-democracy protests.

Ali al Nimr and Dawoud al Marhoon were both sentenced to death when they were under 18, for attending pro-democracy political protests. Both are understood to have been held in solitary confinement in Riyadh.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has previously called on the Saudi authorities to stop the planned execution of Ali al Nimr, and his government cancelled a bid to provide services to the Saudi prisons because of human rights concerns.

Maya Foa, Director of Reprieve's Death Penalty Team, said: \"These reports are extremely concerning - suggesting that the Saudis may be just days away from executing people convicted when they were children, who were demanding political reform in their country. These executions must be stopped, and Saudi's allies in the UK must once again make representations to prevent them going ahead."



Call to save death row prisoner aged 15 at time of alleged crime

Execution of 17 prisoners, including 6 young men aged 20 to 25, only 5 days after UN condemns executions in Iran

The Iranian Resistance calls for measures to save the life of Mr. Salar Shadi Zadi, a young prisoner on death row who was merely 15 at the time of his alleged crime, and asks all international human rights dignitaries and organizations to protest this barbarity and medieval viciousness, and to take effective action to prevent the execution of this young man.

Salar Shadi Zadi is scheduled to be executed on November 28 after already enduring 9 years behind bars. At least 72 prisoners under the age of 18 have been executed under the mullahs' rule during the past decade, Amnesty International reported.

The religious fascism ruling Iran, dubbed by the people as the "Godfather of ISIS," has in the past 5 days alone executed at least 17 prisoners. This follows the recent United Nations resolution condemning vicious human rights violations in Iran and a UN call to stop executions in Iran. 6 of those executed had only 20 to 25 years of age.

A 20-year-old man in the town of Mayamey in Semnan Province was hanged on Wednesday, November 25. Despite calls made by international organizations a day earlier, Alireza Shahi, aged 25, was executed along with 4 other individuals. From the age of 18 he had been behind bars for 7 years.

3 prisoners hanged on November 21 in Zahedan Central Prison were all young men. Mojtaba Lak-Zehi, 22, was aged 17 at the time of his alleged crime. He and Hassan Dori Moghadam, 20, were both from Iran's Baluchi minority community. Nazir Ahmad Rigi, 24, was an Afghan national.

Also on November 21, Mehdi Budineh was executed in Zabol Central Prison at the age of 25.

The mullahs' regime is resorting to the execution of youths in public and in prisons across the country in an attempt to cement a climate of fear across the society and prevent massive uprising by the disgruntled population described by regime officials as the "army of the hungry." The Iranian Resistance calls on all Iranian people, especially the youth, to rise up and protest these crimes.

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


Young Prisoner Hanged in Public in Northern Iran

A young prisoner charged with rape was hanged to death in public in Meyami, Semnan. Iranian state-run media Javan News has identified the prisoner by the initials A.M. and stated his age as "about 30 years old." Iranian offiials have not released any more information about the case, making it unclear whether the prisoner was over the age of 18 at the time of his arrest.

Commenting on the execution, Abbas Ali Akbari, the head of Meyami's Judiciary, says: "The offender was arrested for committing several counts of rape and was sentenced to lashings and death."

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Holloway prison closure will be mourned by few ---- Notorious Victorian prison’s inmates have included Sylvia and Christabel Pankhurst, Myra Hindley and Ruth Ellis

The announcement that the site of Holloway prison is to be sold to become a chic London housing address would have astounded generations of women incarcerated there.

Despite repeated alteration and rebuilding in the 163 years since it opened, so that barely a trace of the original architecture survives, Holloway was still described in the most recent report by the prison inspectorate as having "a fearsome reputation".

Its inmates have included the sisters Sylvia and Christabel Pankhurst and other suffragettes, many of whom suffered the pain and sometimes broken teeth of repeated force-feeding to break their hunger strike. Many were freed from Holloway when they became ill enough to embarrass the government, only to be rearrested and locked up again under what was known as "the cat and mouse act".

The Moors murderer Myra Hindley fell in love with one of her prison officers in Holloway. Ruth Ellis became the last woman to be executed in England, in Holloway. She was hanged by the state executioner Albert Pierrepoint while a crowd of 500 outside the gates chanted protests against the death penalty. Her body was exhumed with those of other executed prisoners during rebuilding work in the 1970s, and reburied in a churchyard in Buckinghamshire under the name Ruth Hornby to protect the grave from ghoulish souvenir hunters.

A more aristocratic prisoner entered the high gates in 1940. Lady Diana Mitford was often described as the most beautiful woman in England - "her beauty rang through the room like a peal of bells", a smitten Evelyn Waugh wrote. She became a friend of Adolf Hitler, who sent a chauffeur-driven Mercedes to take her to the Olympic Games in Berlin, and she married the British fascist leader Oswald Mosley at the home of the Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels, with Hitler as a guest. Mosley was imprisoned in Brixton in 1940, and Mitford soon afterwards in Holloway, which was then in a terrible state, its plumbing system badly damaged by German bombing.

Mitford's treatment was far from that meted out to thousands of poor women without grand connections. Winston Churchill personally ordered that she should be allowed a daily bath, though in fact water was so scarce that she was reduced to weekly bathing. Mitford ordered in supplies through her Harrods account, and later - again at Churchill's intervention - Mosley was allowed to join her to live in a small house within the prison walls, where they grew aubergines and fraises du bois in the yard. When both were released in 1943, 20,000 people signed a petition in protest.

Like many other Victorian prisons that would acquire notoriety, Holloway was constructed in an attempt to improve conditions for inmates held in overcrowded buildings that had hardly changed since medieval times. In the 1850s Holloway was still a pleasant semi-rural area, with market gardens and cottages. The prison was originally for men and women, but in 1903 it became the largest women's prison in the country.

Within a decade, the imprisonment of the suffragettes and the vivid accounts of many, including Sylvia Pankhurst, of the torture of force feeding had made Holloway infamous.

In the most recent report by the chief inspector of prisons, Nick Hardwick, he wrote that although the rate of self-harm was falling, at 63 incidents a month it was still high, as in many women's prisons, and that Holloway prisoners were anxious and fearful about their safety. "This was not surprising," he wrote. "Holloway has a fearsome reputation."

Although there will undoubtedly be protests if the site is sold for luxury housing, few will mourn the death sentence for Holloway as a prison.

(source: The Guardian)

NOVEMBER 25, 2015:


Texas court gags news coverage of mass murders

The district court in this East Texas town (Palestine) has approved a defense attorney's gag order to restrict news coverage of the recent campsite murders of six victims, including evidence and testimony presented in pretrial proceedings.

The prior-restraint order forbids the news media from reporting "in detail" evidence presented to the court by police, prosecutors or witnesses "other than reporting that certain persons testified" at pretrial hearings.

It also prohibits participants in the case - the parties, lawyers, law enforcement officials, and witnesses - from talking to the news media on the grounds such a restriction is necessary to protect defendant William Hudson's right to a fair trial.

The gag order was approved Friday without comment by a judge, the same day it was submitted by Hudson's court-appointed attorney, Stephen Evans of Palestine.

Surprisingly, news outlets received no advance notice of the motion or the court's quickie decision to approve it.

Normally, before a court restricts the news media from publishing information, a hearing is conducted before a judge to allow objection to whether a gag order is necessary or even constitutional under the First Amendment right to publish news.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a landmark 1976 decision in a widely-publicized Nebraska murder case, overturned a judge's gag order, declaring the government has a heavy burden to prove it is necessary to gag the news media from reporting lawfully obtained news no matter what. That ruling characterized a gag order as a last resort, not a first option.

The 6 victims of the campsite carnage at Tennessee Colony just northwest of Palestine were murdered only 10 days ago. Capital murder charges were filed promptly against Hudson, 33, who lived adjacent to the murder scene, and was identified by the lone survivor.

Hudson is being held without bail in the Anderson County Jail, awaiting the outcome of a grand jury hearing on the case. He faces the death penalty or life in prison without chance of parole if convicted.

The court gag order strictly bans the media from taking photographs or video of defendant William Mitchell Hudson while he is being transported to court, and rules out any photography, televising or radio broadcasting from inside the courthouse.

The motion further directs the case judge to hold all pretrial hearings in the judge's private chambers, "outside the presence and hearing of the public and the press."

Defense attorney Evans said in the gag order motion his client "intends to produce evidence during pretrial hearings which might impair the possibility of a fair and unprejudiced jury."

(source: Dalton Daily Citizen)


Harvey family killer to remain on death row after judges deny latest appeal

The man who killed the Harvey family in their South Richmond home nearly 10 years ago will remain on Virginia’s death row. The Federal 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has denied killer Ricky Gray’s most recent appeal of his conviction and death sentence. Gray filed the appeal before a a 3-judge panel in September.

In explaining the appeal's denial, Judge Diaz wrote:

Ricky Jovan Gray appeals the district court's denial of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus. His appeal presents 2 questions. First, whether the Supreme Court of Virginia, in resolving factual disputes regarding an ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim without an evidentiary hearing, made an "unreasonable determination of the facts" under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), 28 U.S.C. # 2254(d)(2).

Because we find that the state court did not ignore Gray’s evidence or otherwise reversibly err in resolving factual disputes on the record, we reject this 1st challenge.

The 2nd question is whether Gray may belatedly raise in the district court a claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel under the Supreme Court's decision in Martinez v. Ryan, 132 S. Ct. 1309 (2012).

We find that the claim Gray seeks to raise was presented to, and decided by, the state court. Therefore, it is not subject to de novo review in the district court under Martinez.

Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the district court.

Senior Circuit Judge Davis disagreed, in part, with the decision to deny Gray's appeal:

I agree with my friends in the majority that Ricky Jovan Gray exhausted his claim that trial counsel were constitutionally ineffective in failing to present evidence during the penalty phase of his trial that he was voluntarily intoxicated during the commission of the crimes.

Furthermore, because a "reasonable fact-finder . . . could have found the facts necessary to support [Gray's] claim from the evidence presented to the state court[]," Winston v. Kelly, 592 F.3d 535, 551 (4th Cir. 2010), I agree with the majority that the district court properly dismissed Gray's Martinez claim.

But I disagree, respectfully, with the majority's determination that the Supreme Court of Virginia's resolution of disputed issues of fact, based on conflicting and partially unaddressed sworn affidavits, without an evidentiary hearing, did not amount to an unreasonable determination of the facts under 28 U.S.C. # 2254(d)(2).

I therefore concur in part and dissent in part.

In his habeas petition to the Supreme Court of Virginia, Gray presented several claims of ineffective assistance of counsel.

He grounded one such claim in his trial counsel's alleged failure to undertake a reasonable investigation into the circumstances surrounding his confession. Gray alleged that, during the course of his January 7, 2006 police interrogation, he had repeatedly requested an attorney and a phone call, but the police denied both requests, continued the interrogation, and ultimately obtained his written confession.

Gray also asserted that he had told the police that he could not remember many details of the crimes because of his drug use during the day in question.

Gray claimed that the police had responded by showing him the statement of one of his accomplices, Ray Dandridge, and by helping Gray fashion his own confession in reliance on many of the details included in Dandridge's statement.

Importantly, Gray alleged in his habeas petition that he had expressly informed his trial counsel of the details surrounding his interrogation and confession during a February 10, 2006 meeting.

Even though Gray had relayed this information, his trial counsel allegedly failed to conduct a reasonable investigation into these matters.

Had his trial counsel adequately investigated the circumstances surrounding Gray's interrogation and confession, Gray asserted, his trial counsel could have moved to suppress his confession or used the results of the investigation to impeach the testimony of Detective Howard Peterman during trial.

Gray supported his ineffective assistance of counsel claim and his recollection of the January 7, 2006 police interrogation and confession with the affidavit of Melvin B. Knight. Knight was an investigator with the Office of the Capital Defender of the Central Region of Virginia and was tasked with assisting Gray's trial counsel in preparing Gray's defense.

Prior to his employment with the Office of the Capital Defender, Knight was a law enforcement officer with the City of Richmond Police Department for more than 25 years.

In his affidavit, Knight recounted his February 10, 2006 interview with Gray and explained that Gray had expressly stated that he had asked for an attorney and a phone call during his questioning by police. Knight also remembered Gray mentioning that he could not remember many details of the crimes because he had been high on a combination of marijuana, ecstasy, and PCP at the time the crimes were committed.

Gray also indicated, according to Knight, that he had shared this information with the police. Gray then told Knight that, because he had been unable to remember many details of the crimes during his interrogation, the police had assisted Gray in crafting a written statement based upon the statement prepared by Dandridge. In short, a plausibly credible witness offered sworn facts more than trivially corroborative of Gray's allegations supporting a claim of ineffective assistance.

The crime

On New Year's Day 2006, Bryan and Kathryn Harvey and their 2 young daughters were bound, beaten and stabbed inside the basement of their South Richmond home. The home was also set on fire. Gray confessed his role in murders to police. A jury later convicted Gray and sentenced him to death. An execution date could not be set until Gray exhausted all his appeal possibilities.

(source: WTVR news)


Could student accused of killing parents face death penalty?

There are only 5 women on Florida's death row. Could 21-year-old Nicole Nachtman be next?

Nachtman, a student at Florida State University, is charged with killing her parents in August.

Before Nachtman goes to trial, prosecutors must decide whether they will seek the death penalty. It's not a simple decision.

Defense Attorney Rick Terrana has handled 30 death penalty cases in his legal career. The most notorious was the case of Adam Davis, who killed his girlfriend's mother by injecting her with bleach and stabbing her.

He says the decision to seek the death penalty in any case isn't left up to 1 person. The decision is made by a committee.

The committee includes Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober, his chief assistant and the felony chiefs of each division.

Terrana said it's a life and death decision that needs a lot of voices.

"You want nothing less than a committee deciding this. You certainly don't want 1 person making this decision unilaterally on whether someone lives or dies. Imagine if that person had a bad day at home or in the office," said Terrana.

Investigators said Nachtman killed her step dad first, and then waited until her mother returned home the next day and killed her too.

Terrana said the committee will weigh whether the murders were "especially heinous, atrocious or cruel" and whether they were calculated or premeditated.

The Public Defender's Office represents Nachtman. They will weigh in on the decision as well.

"I'm sure they are diving into the mental state of this defendant as deep as anyone could ever look into that," said Terrana.

The committee doesn't vote, but rather comes to a consensus on whether the case is death-penalty worthy. It's a decision that Terrana said should never be rushed.

Nachtman is due back in court on December 10th. Prosecutors are expected to announce their decision then.

(source: Fox News)


Eluding death: Ohio prosecutors charge far fewer capital murder cases

Prosecutors across Ohio are changing the way they charge suspected killers. They are indicting far fewer with the death penalty and pushing more sentences of life in prison without parole.

The number of capital murder indictments filed across the state since 2010 has plummeted by 77 %, as just 19 have been brought this year.

During the same time period, the number of inmates sentenced to life without parole has spiked 92 %, according to a Plain Dealer examination of state prison records and other public documents.

The Ohio numbers mirror a national trend involving the death penalty. Legal experts cited the high costs of taking a capital case to trial. They also said decades of appeals make the death penalty extremely burdensome on the criminal justice system and traumatic for victims' families.

Many inmates who will spend their lives behind bars are like Robert Clark, 30, who robbed and killed an elderly couple outside their rural Ohio home in January. Others are like Julian Whitaker, 35, who killed a 5-year-old boy by slashing his throat in the child's Cleveland home in June 2011.

As the death penalty in Ohio sits stalled in a moratorium over the drugs used in executions, the emerging trends of how prosecutors handle aggravated murder cases offer insight into the way justice is meted out in Ohio courtrooms.

"We simply are not charging people with the death penalty like we once did,'' said Michael Benza, a senior instructor of law at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

Ohio has 141 inmates on death row, with the most, 25, from Hamilton County, in Southwest Ohio and home to Cincinnati. Cuyahoga County has 22, and records show it has sent far fewer inmates to death row in recent years.

Since late 2012, when Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty took office, 5 men have been indicted on death-penalty charges. But there were 75 cases that met the criteria for the penalty, according to prosecutors' records. That means McGinty's office pushed the death penalty in less than 7 % of the possible cases.

The 5 indicted are:

* Hernandez Warren, 60, who was sentenced in May 2014 to life in prison for raping and killing 14-year-old Gloria Pointer in 1984. He pleaded guilty in a deal with prosecutors and will get his 1st chance of parole in 30 years.

* Michael Madison, 38, who is accused of killing 3 women in 2013 in East Cleveland. His trial is pending.

* Ronald Hillman, 47, who was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the August 2014 rape and slaying of Michaela Diemer. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced in August.

* James McAlpine, 32, who was sentenced to life in prison in May 2014 for killing 2 people years earlier. His 1st chance of parole is in 34 years.

* Douglas Shine, 20, who is accused of killing 3 men at a Warrensville Heights' barbershop in February. His case is pending.

Compare McGinty's record to his predecessor, Bill Mason: From 2009 through much of 2012, Mason's office indicted 89 death-penalty cases out of a possible 114 that met the requirements for the charge, or 78 %, according to prosecutors' records.

McGinty told The Plain Dealer that he believes in the death penalty when going after the worst of the worst.

"The death penalty used in the correct case - a case that leaves no doubt - is, I believe, a strong deterrent to crime,'' McGinty said. "But the endless appeals process has undermined the death penalty.

"In every case, I have to ask, 'Are we going to survive this?' We have to take a case to a judge and jury and then face 25 years of appeals. Is it fair to families of victims? Is it fair putting them through a quarter century of appeals?''

Since taking office, McGinty has used an internal office review committee to examine whether the death penalty is justified in each case brought to his office.

Specifically, the panel looks at whether the crime fits the letter and spirit of the law, whether a reasonable jury would return a guilty verdict and whether it would be worth the resources to spend decades fighting the appeals. Based on the panel's recommendation and the family's wishes, McGinty makes the decision.

Several attempts to reach Mason were unsuccessful. But in 2008, his then-office spokesman summed up Mason's policy in an interview with the Associated Press: "If a defendant is eligible for the death penalty, the defendant is charged with the death penalty.''

Under state law, crimes that can qualify for death-penalty charges include killing a person while committing another crime, such as rape, robbery or burglary and if the slaying involves a police officer.

Emerging trends

Life in prison without parole became an option to jurors in death-penalty cases in 1995. Ten years later, state lawmakers made it possible for prosecutors to seek the life-without-parole sentence in other murder cases.

Years later, the trends have become quite clear.

* Death-penalty indictments dropped 77 %, going from 81 in 2010 to 19 this year, according to records from the Ohio Public Defender's Office.

* The number of felons convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole has jumped 92 %, going from 283 in January 2010 to 544 in October, according to state prison records. The inmates make up about 1 % of the 50,370 inmates in the system.

* It costs $22,836 a year to house an inmate in Ohio. Since there are 544 serving sentences of life without parole, that means the total dollar amount for the group is $12.4 million a year. Because many are under the age of 35, the costs will grow for years to come.

"Most prosecutors have become much more circumspect about death-penalty cases.''

But counties and the state also bear major costs in death-penalty trials. The trials can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars prosecuting and defending complex cases at trial - and much more during the appeals process.

Ohioans to Stop Executions cited a study by WHIO-TV in Dayton that found it costs $3 million to execute a person in Ohio - from arrest to death. By comparison, the television station found, it costs $1 million to keep an inmate in prison for the rest of his or her life.

A study of the death-sentence costs in Maryland found similar dollar amounts, according to the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile, prosecutors across the country have filed far fewer indictments seeking the death penalty in recent years, said Robert Dunham, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

He cited costs, the strain on victims' families and the waning public sentiment of the death sentence.

"Most prosecutors have become much more circumspect about death-penalty cases,'' Dunham said. "The single most likely outcome of a capital case after a defendant has been sentenced to death is not that he will be executed but that the conviction or sentence will be overturned.''

The Death Penalty Information Center's statistics show that the number of inmates sentenced to death nationally has dropped 35 percent since 2010, when judges ordered 114 to be executed. Last year, the number fell to 73.

Also, the number of inmates executed has dropped by nearly 50 % since 2010, when 52 were put to death. So far this year, 27 have died, according to the center's statistics.

'A good thing'

For years, Ohio Public Defender Tim Young has pushed the sentence of life without parole.

"It is a good thing as an alternative to the death penalty for a myriad of reasons,'' Young said. "There's closure for the family, and it is cheaper to put a person in prison for life than litigating the case for 15 to 20 years.

"At the end of the day, it's a good thing for our society.''

Others disagree.

"Yes, life without parole is the lesser of 2 evils, but we have to be careful of applauding these sentences,'' said Ashley Nellis, the senior researcher at the Sentencing Project, a Washington, D.C., group that seeks criminal justice reform.

"It would be wrong to simply toss them away and forget about them.''

Nellis said she is not opposed to sending the most violent convicts to prison for life. But she believes that their cases should be reviewed.

"These people should not be kicked to the curb,'' she said. "Life in prison is a death sentence, without the execution.''

If there is enough evidence that shows the inmates have grown and matured behind bars, Nellis said, then they should receive consideration before the parole board or judge.

Stephen JohnsonGrove, the deputy director of the Ohio Justice and Policy Center, agreed.

"After a certain point, we're not gaining any safety or moral vindication by keeping people in prison,'' said JohnsonGrove, whose agency is a nonprofit law office in Cincinnati that focuses on criminal justice reform. "By and large, life without parole is over-used.''

A severe sentence

Some critics, however, believe the death penalty is the best punishment for a heinous killer. Others say life in prison without parole is even more severe.

"It is true that they get three hots, a cot and cable television,'' McGinty said. "But prison is a godawful place. There's an argument that life without parole is a far greater punishment than the death penalty. Death is the easy way out.''

Robert Clark avoided the death penalty.

Prosecutors in rural Coshocton County, which is about 2 hours south of Cleveland, indicted Clark, 30, on death-penalty charges for the brutal attack on Doyle and Lillian Chumney of Strasburg in January. Doyle Chumney was 88; his wife was 79.

Clark broke into their home, robbed the couple, shot them and then torched their car with them inside. As the case was set to go to trial in August, Clark entered a plea agreement that spared him the death house.

Julian Whitaker also was spared. He admitted in court that he slashed the neck of 5-year-old Larvelle Smith in June 2011 in what Whitaker said was a drug-fueled rage. After Whitaker took a plea deal, a judge sentenced him to life in prison without parole.

"We have to be extremely selective because of the ever-changing realities of the situation,'' McGinty said. "We can only go after the worst of the worst cases that have the highest degree of evidence.''



Prosecutors not ruling out death penalty for defendants in Blackburn murder

The 2 men facing murder charges in the slaying of an Indianapolis pastor's wife have said little upon facing a judge for the 1st time since their arrest.

A Marion County judge entered not guilty pleas for 18-year-old Larry Taylor Jr. and 21-year-old Jalen Watson during a hearing on Tuesday morning.

A decision is yet to be made whether the death penalty will be sought against the 2 men. On Monday, Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said his office will review evidence in the coming weeks and meet with the family of Amanda Blackburn before making a death penalty decision.

The Associated Press reports that, the two men quietly answered the judge's questions about whether they understood the charges, but didn't say anything about the accusations that they broke into the home of 28-year-old Blackburn.

Indianapolis police announced Monday the arrest of Mr. Taylor on murder charges in Blackburn's killing. Later that day, police announced they had taken 2 additional men into custody in relation to a string of robberies in the area where Ms. Blackburn was killed.

According to court records, Taylor was charged with 3 counts of murder as well as burglary, theft, auto theft, and carrying a handgun without a license. Mr. Watson was charged with 2 counts of murder as well as burglary, theft, robbery resulting in serious bodily injury, and auto theft.

The arrests came nearly 2 weeks after Blackburn's husband, Pastor Davey Blackburn, found his wife critically injured after being shot in the head inside her house on Nov. 10 and died the following day. She was 13 weeks pregnant and the baby did not survive. Mr. Curry says he hasn't determined yet whether to pursue charges related to the death of the unborn child.

The Blackburns, moved to Indianapolis from South Carolina in 2012 and founded Resonate Church, an independent Christian church. Mr. Blackburn released a statement Monday after receiving news of the arrests via the church Facebook page:

"Though it does not undo the pain we are feeling, I was extremely relieved toget the news of the arrest made last night of Amanda's killer. The investigators have assured me they have a solidly-built case to ensurejustice is levied and the process is expedited. The family and I couldn't be more thankful for the level of compassion and professionalism the IMPD and investigators have shown us through the last couple of weeks. My hopeis for 3 things in the weeks and months to come:

(1) That the court system would have wisdom on how to prosecute thisman, so that no one else endures the pain Amanda and our family havehad to endure because of his actions.

(2) That through all of this and although there will be great consequences for his actions, he would become truly sorry for what he has done and would even begin to experience the life-transforming power of the Graceand Mercy of Jesus Christ.

(3) That Jesus would give me and our family a heart of forgiveness.

Though everything inside of me wants to hate, be angry, and slip into despair I choose the route of forgiveness, grace and hope. If there is one thing I've learned from Amanda in the 10 years we were together, it's this: Choosing to let my emotions drive my decisions is recipe for a hopeless and fruitless life. Today I am deciding to love, not hate. Today I am deciding to extend forgiveness, not bitterness. Today I am deciding to hope, not despair. By Jesus' power at work within us, the best is STILL yet to come. Even when I don't see it, I believe it to be true.

(source: Christian Science Monitor)


No, Amanda Blackburn's accused killers aren't 'animals'

The legal analyst for FOX News grew more agitated the longer she spoke Tuesday night about a murder case that has horrified Indy for more than 2 weeks.

"They got rid of the electric chair in Indiana in 1995," Katie Phang, a Miami-based trial lawyer and regular guest on Greta Van Susteren's talk show, said. "And I think frankly they should bring it back for these 3 animals that were involved in the murder of Amanda Blackburn."

Let's think about that comment, echoed by others in our city. Not to debate the ethics of the death penalty, or to argue over whether a particular means of execution is more appropriate than another (Indiana uses lethal injection).

And not about whether an officer of the court should have publicly convicted suspects immediately after their arrest. (For the record, only 2 men, not 3, have been charged in Blackburn's murder thus far).

No, I want to focus on the use of the word "animals" to describe Amanda's accused killers.

It's the wrong word, and, more important, it's one that sends the wrong message.

Hear me out, please. I am in no way defending those accused of this barbaric crime. If convicted, these men should never taste another day of freedom again. And if Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry does decide to pursue the death penalty, I won't object.

But I do object to using words such as "animal" to dehumanize the accused - not for their sake. But for our own.

The fact is these young men are products of our community. They grew in our midst from the innocent children we all are at birth to become the dangerous predators they appear to be today. They attended our schools, lived in our neighborhoods, mingled with the rest of us on our streets.

As ugly as it is think about: Our city, parts of our culture, helped to mold them into criminals so wanton that they invaded homes, terrorized the innocent, and, in a last despicable act, apparently murdered a young woman and her unborn child.

Those facts should prompt us to ask why this happened in our city? Why has Indy suffered through another year marred by rampant violence? Why are we losing so many of our children to criminal depravity? Why have we failed as a community to successfully intervene in so many wasted lives?

An earlier conversation about such questions lingers in my mind. Jay Height, who for 20 years has poured himself into trying to rescue thousands of young men and women from paths to destruction on Indy's Eastside, reminded me of another crime that shocked Indy at the time.

"Remember the 4th of July shooting in Downtown a couple of years ago? The shooter was nicknamed "Monster," Height said this spring. "These are our children. Monster is our kid. We need to understand that every kid is going to be mentored by somebody. The question is by who?"

Compare the idea of "Monster is our kid" to that of execute "these 3 animals."

One approach speaks to collective ownership - not of the crime, of course, but of the opportunity and the obligation to work together to prevent future horrific acts. To step in as neighbors, coaches, tutors and mentors when families fail; to invest generously in organizations like Height's Shepherd Community Center; to insist as citizens and voters that elected leaders reform the justice system.

The other approach speaks of distancing ourselves from the sicknesses that give rise to the violence that plagues our city day after day, year after year.

Ownership is hard and messy; distancing is easier and cleaner. But we can't distance ourselves. This is our home, our beloved city. And we must fight for it together.

So, by all means, if convicted, let's punish Amanda Blackburn's killers severely. They deserve it, and we must demand it.

But our work doesn't come close to stopping there.

(source: Commentary, Tim Swarens, Indianapolis Star)


Amnesty International USA Statement on Reggie Clemons

The Missouri Supreme Court yesterday threw out the 1st-degree murder conviction and death sentence of Reggie Clemons, who was sentenced to death in St. Louis as an accomplice to a 1991 murder of 2 young women. Steven W. Hawkins, executive director of Amnesty International USA (AIUSA), issued the following statement in response:

"Reggie Clemons' case has long highlighted many of the flaws in the U.S. death penalty system. The decision by the Missouri Supreme Court is an acknowledgement of the deeply flawed process that led to his death sentence. From the police investigation to the appeals process, his case was dogged by serious problems, allegedly including police brutality, racial bias, a stacked jury and prosecutorial misconduct.

"Clemons says he confessed as the result of a violent police interrogation. The arraigning judge even sent him to the emergency room because of his injured appearance. Clemons later retracted his confession and has maintained his innocence throughout.

"4 federal judges found the conduct of the prosecutor in the case to be 'abusive and boorish,' and Clemons' legal representation was inadequate. His lead attorney was later suspended from practicing law following numerous complaints.

"The question of race overshadowed the investigation and trial as well. Clemons was 1 of 3 black defendants convicted of killing the 2 white victims, and both key witnesses were white. Blacks were disproportionately dismissed during jury selection.

"AIUSA activists have worked for years to draw attention to this case. Yesterday's ruling removes the threat of death that has been hanging over Clemons for the past 2 decades. His future is uncertain, but we will work to ensure that he never again faces the death penalty."

Amnesty International USA opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception as the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. As of today, 140 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice.

Last year, executions in the United States were at a 20-year low, and death sentences were at their lowest level since 1976. Nineteen states plus the District of Columbia have banned capital punishment, and seven other states have not carried out an execution in 10 years. Missouri executed 10 prisoners last year, more than any other state and tied with Texas, making it one of just a handful of states that continue to aggressively pursue executions.

(source: Amnesty International USA)


Scot jailed in US for killing could be freed or sentenced to death in landmark case

A Scottish man jailed in the US for 3 decades is awaiting a decision that could set him free or see him retried and sentenced to death in a landmark case that may result in the erosion of protections afforded by the 6th and 14th amendments of the Constitution.

Tom Richey was jailed in 1987 aged 18 for shooting 2 people and killing 1 while on the psychoactive drug LSD The Herald reports.

He was spared the death penalty and instead handed a 65 year prison sentence, but could now end up on death row.

In 2008 Mr Richey's older brother Kenny was freed from death row after he served 21 years in prison in Ohio for starting a fire that killed a 2-year-old baby girl.

At the age of 17, Mr Richey's flew to the US to enlist in the US Special Forcesnear Tacoma in Washington State.

His court-appointed lawyer, Larry Nichols, said: "The day following the shootings, Tom turned himself in and confessed, which left me few cards to play with.

"65 years is 3 times higher than the standard sentence for murder, but it's a great deal better than the death penalty."

In a telephone interview from Washington State Penitentiary Mr Richey told The Herald: "Since entering prison, I've focused on educating myself and being a better person.

"People always judge you by your worst moment, but we're a sum of many parts.

"That's not to say I'm marginalising what I did. I senselessly took a life and there's no undoing that, ever."

In 2004, the US Supreme Court announced that the procedure used to sentence defendants like Mr Richey was unlawful - but the ruling did not have retrospective effect.

He said: "It disappointed me, but I'm in no position to complain. Whether the length of my sentence is unlawful doesn't mean it wasn't the right price I deserve to pay.

"But I am human, so I still feel human desires, like the desire to be free."

The Federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held last November that he was entitled to a federal review, with a decision due from the Western District Court in Washington in the coming weeks.

Peter Aveno, a lawyer assigned to the Northwest Federal Public Defende's Office in Seattle explained the importance of the case.

He said: "Richey's case is the first on record in the history of American jurisprudence, where a court has arbitrarily entered a judgment of conviction without satisfying the necessities of due process, such as the right to a trial by a jury of one's peers.

"If the district court doesn't order the state court to vacate the conviction, then they'll effectively open the door to states to abolish the due process protections guaranteed by the 6th and 14th Amendments of the US Constitution."

While Mr Richey expects to be freed, Mr Nichols did not think the case would be clear cut.

He said: "In the event Tom's conviction is vacated, he'll return to square one.

"He'll face the remaining original murder charge, a capital offence, and be subject to the death penalty again.

"Of course, it would be difficult to try such an old case, where evidence has been destroyed and witnesses have passed away and dispersed."

(source: Scottish Legal News)


Deadline set for death penalty decision in Montana killings

Prosecutors will have until next summer to decide whether to seek the death penalty against a Wyoming teenager charged with a double slaying on Montana's Crow Indian Reservation, after defense attorneys on Tuesday requested more time to argue against making it a capital case.

"The goal here is to stop this now," said Donald Knight, a Colorado attorney specializing in the death penalty and member of the defense team. "We are looking to get all the information we can get in that time frame."

Authorities accuse Jesus Deniz Mendoza, 18, of fatally shooting Jason and Tana Shane and wounding their daughter on July 29. The family had stopped to help Mendoza along a rural roadway near Pryor.

U.S. District Judge Susan Watters gave the defense team until early May to present their arguments against the death penalty to prosecutors.

Another of Mendoza's attorneys, David Merchant, said during a court hearing in Billings that interviews need to be conducted with relatives of the defendant, who was born in Mexico and still has family there. He had been living in Worland, Wyoming at the time of the shootings.

Mendoza faces 12 criminal charges including 2 counts of 1st-degree murder, carjacking, attempted murder and multiple assault and firearms charges. He's pleaded not guilty.

The U.S. Attorney's Office now has until July 1 to say whether it intends to seek Mendoza's death if he were convicted. That decision will be up to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch or her successor, following a review by a panel known as the Capital Review Committee.

The case landed in federal court because the U.S. Justice Department has jurisdiction over major crimes in Indian country.

Watters set a tentative Sept. 6 trial date. That date would be canceled and likely pushed back if the U.S. Attorney's Office pursues a death sentence.

A recommendation on the death penalty already has been submitted by prosecutors, but it could be amended if the defense provides additional information, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lori Suek said. Suek did not disclose the recommendation.

About a dozen relatives of the victims attended Tuesday's hearing. Some expressed frustration with the months-long wait for a trial, but declined to comment further.

In a separate ruling, Watters turned down a request from prosecutors seeking a court order for the release of Mendoza's substance-abuse treatment records.

The records sought covered past treatment, not ongoing treatment, and prosecutors said they were of "paramount interest" as they decide on the appropriate punishment to seek against Mendoza.

Mendoza's attorneys objected, saying the information was protected under federal law and should be kept confidential. Watters agreed.

"The records could contain information that may give the government reason to pursue the death penalty," the judge wrote in a Nov. 13 ruling. "That risk of injury to the defendant outweighs the public’s interest and need for disclosure."

The Death Penalty Information Center, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that studies death penalty issues, counts 62 people currently on federal death row, none of them for crimes committed in Montana. The most recent addition is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was convicted earlier this year in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

Mendoza faces a separate accusation of attempted second degree murder in Washakie County, Wyoming, where authorities say he shot a man at a campground near the small town of Ten Sleep during a 2013 robbery attempt.

(source: Associated Press)


Luhut Backtracks on Death Penalty Moratorium

A senior Indonesian official reported earlier this month as saying there would be a moratorium on the death penalty has denied making any such statement.

Luhut Pandjaitan, the chief security minister, told reporters at the State Palace in Jakarta on Tuesday that he never said executions would be stopped in order for the government to focus on boosting the economy.

"There is no moratorium on the death penalty. The government never mentioned any moratorium," he said.

"I never said that. What I said was that we are still focused on handling the economy," he added.

Luhut was widely reported by local and international media last Thursday as saying that executions would be put on hold while the government concentrated on reviving a slowing economy.

The administration of President Joko Widodo has drawn widespread condemnation from the international community for reviving the death penalty that the previous administration of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had largely shelved.

Under Joko, Indonesia has this year put to death 14 people convicted of drug offenses, 12 of them foreign nationals, including a mentally ill Brazilian and 2 Australians who had reformed and were providing classes and ministry for fellow prisoners.


The last surviving member of the terrorist cell responsible for the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people has expressed regret for his actions and condemned the violence wrought by the Sunni militant group Islamic State.

Ali Imron, serving a life sentence for his role in the October 2002 attacks on nightclubs in the popular resort island, said his goal all along was for the establishment of a nation grounded in Islamic values, but conceded that achieving this through violent means was wrong.

"We still dream of establishing a country based on Islamic values, but in a good way. It is wrong to reach this goal through bomb attacks like we once did," he told reporters on Wednesday at the Jakarta Police headquarters, where he is currently in custody.

(source for both: Jakarta Globe)


Iran regime hangs 11 after adoption of UN resolution on rights abuses

The cycle of suppression, in particular group hangings, continues in Iran after the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly adopted of a resolution condemning rights violation on 19 November.

At least 11 prisoners have been executed in Iran since the resolution has been adopted.

On Tuesday, November 24, the Iranian regime hanged Alireza Shahi, a 25 year old prisoner, along with four other prisoners in Gohardasht (Rajai Shahr) Prison despite calls by international organizations. He had been in prison for seven years since age 18.

2 prisoners were executed in Tabriz central prison on November 23. Four other prisoners, including a female prisoner by the name of Hajar Safari, were also executed on November 12 in this prison.

On Saturday, November 21, regime's henchmen hanged 3 Baluchi compatriot prisoners in Zahedan central prison. On that day, a 25-year-old prisoner by the name of Mehdi Boudineh was executed in Zabol central prison.

Execution of a prisoner in Miandoab prison and a Pakistani prisoner by the name of Mohammad Younes Jamal-e-dini at Zahedan Central prison were carried out on November 18. These executions, together with the hanging of another 4 prisoners in Karaj Central Prison were among the other crimes perpetrated by the Iranian regime in the past 2 weeks.

During this interval, the transfer of group after group of prisoners on death row to solitary confinements continues, including in Miandoab Prison. Some of the prisoners have been transferred to Gohardasht solitary cells for the 2nd time. Taking prisoners to the gallows to watch the hanging of other prisoners is one of the common tortures practiced in the prisons of this antihuman regime.

These criminal executions, particularly a few days after the adoption of a resolution condemning human rights violations in Iran, bespeaks of the confrontation of the Iranian regime with the international community and it amplifies the need to refer the file of human rights violations in Iran to the UN Security Council. Trade with a regime that transgresses against all international norms and standards must be made contingent upon a cessation of barbaric punishments, especially the capital punishment.

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


December verdict for trio in Al Ain murder trial----Court to give final verdict in Al Ain murder case involving 3 siblings

3 siblings accused of killing Omanis in Al Ain will hear the verdict in their case on December 29.

The Court of Appeals had upheld the death penalty ruling for the first defendant, altered the verdict for the 2nd to 10 years and acquitted the 3rd.

Additionally, the court also ruled against 3 government employees, 2 Emiratis and a Lebanese, accused of installing cameras in a women's section of the local authority they work for.

The trio has been sentenced to 6 months plus suspension and deportation for the 3rd defendant.

(source: Gulf News)


UN wants 'moratorium' on death penalty in Bangladesh

The UN has appealed to the Bangladesh government for an 'immediate moratorium' on the death penalty.

The call comes immediately after the executions of war crimes convict Salauddin Quader Chowdhury and Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid on Sunday.

"We have long warned that, given the doubts raised over the fairness of trials conducted before the Tribunal, the Government of Bangladesh should not implement death sentences," the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement now available on its website.

Its spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said in the statement they were now renewing the call for total abolition of the death penalty as it was an "inhumane practice."

She said similar concerns were expressed by UN human rights experts who, on several occasions, called on the government to stop the executions.

"The trials did not meet international standards of fair trial and due process as stipulated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bangladesh is a party," said the statement.

"The UN opposes the use of the death penalty in all circumstances, even for the most serious international crimes," it said.

Jamaat-e-Islami Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid and BNP leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury were executed in the early hours of Nov 22.

Both were found guilty of supporting the Pakistan army in 1971 and for their role in the massacre of Hindus, freedom fighters and those who supported Bangladesh's independence.

Bangladesh won its independence after 9 months of a bloody war.

So far, 3 Jamaat-e-Islami leaders and a BNP leader have been hanged after they were found guilty by the International Crimes Tribunal for committing 'crimes against humanity'.

On Monday, a spokesperson for the UN Secretary General said the executions have attracted their attention. "I think it's clear that the Secretary General opposes the use of the death penalty in all circumstances and has called on those countries that continue to use it to at least initiate a moratorium on the use of the death penalty".



SC may hear Nizami's appeal 5 days more

The Supreme Court may have 5 more dates left to hear the appeal of Motiur Rahman Nizami challenging his death penalty for war crimes.

The court said it will hear argument from Nizami's defence from November 30 to December 2 while from the attorney general on December 7.

Then, the apex court will hear the reply from the defence on December 8.

A 4-member bench of the Appellate Division headed by Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha said this after concluding 6th day's hearing on Nizami's appeal.

A Lawyer, who was present at the courtroom today, sought anonymity to tell The Daily Star that the SC may fix the date for delivering verdict on Nizami's appeal after holding hearing on December 8.

International Crimes Tribunal-1 on October 29 last year handed Nizami the death penalty on 4 charges of war crimes, including murdering intellectuals. The 71-year-old was also awarded life imprisonment on 4 other charges.

On November 23 last year, Jamaat-e-Islami chief Nizami challenged the ICT-1 verdict.

(source: The Daily Star)


Nizami appeal hearing resumes

The Appellate Division resumed hearing the appeal filed by condemned war crimes convist Matiur Rahman Nizami challenging the death penalty handed down by International Crimes Tribunal (ICT). The 4-member Appellate Division bench of Bangladesh Supreme Court (SC), led by Chief Justice SK Sinha, is hearing of the appeal petition for 6th day on Wednesday.

The other members include - Justice Nazmun Ara Sultana, Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain and Justice Hasan Foez Siddique. Defense lawyer SM Shahjahan is placing his arguments for the petition in the court. On Tuesday, the apex court adjourned the proceedings of the appeal hearing till Wednesday, according to a news agency.

(source: The Financial Express)


Belgian accused of killing son to be remanded another week

The Belgian man accused of killing his 5-year-old son in their D'Leedon condominium home will be remanded for another week at the Central Police Division to assist in investigations.

Philippe Marcel Guy Graffart, who appeared in court looking calm and relaxed on Wednesday (Nov 25), is being represented by defence lawyer Ramesh Tiwary.

District Judge Eddy Tham granted the prosecution's application for Graffart to be taken out of remand to assist in investigations.

The 41-year-old was charged on Oct 7 with the murder of Keryan Gabriel Cedric Graffart. He allegedly committed the act at his 32nd-storey home at 3, Leedon Heights.

He was then remanded for 4 weeks at the medical centre in Changi Prison for psychiatric assessment.

Graffart works for the Singapore investment management arm of Nordea, a company that describes itself as the largest financial group in northern Europe.

General manager of Nordea Private Banking in Singapore, Mr Kim Osborg Nielsen, was seen in court together with 3 other company representatives.

The case will be heard in court again on Dec 2.

If convicted of murder, Graffart faces the death penalty.

(source: Straits Times)


Apex court mulls over plea to quash killer's execution Photo: Reuters Apex court mulls over plea to quash killer's execution

The fate of convicted murderer Jabing Kho, who made an 11th-hour bid more than 2 weeks ago to stave off execution, still hangs in the balance as a 5- judge Court of Appeal mulls over his lawyer's arguments to quash his death sentence.

Kho, a 31-year-old from Sarawak, was due to go to the gallows on Nov 6 for the brutal murder of a construction worker 7 years ago, after his appeal for clemency was rejected by the President last month.

Less than 24 hours before he was to be hanged, lawyer Chandra Mohan K. Nair got a temporary stay of execution to prepare his case.

Yesterday, Mr Mohan argued for the 5-judge court, which gave a split 3-2 verdict in January in favour of sending Kho to the gallows, to set aside its own decision. He said the court should reopen its landmark decision as errors had been made.

In 2008, Kho bludgeoned Chinese national Cao Ruyin, 40, with a tree branch while robbing him. Cao died of head injuries 6 days later.

Kho was given the death penalty - then mandatory for murder - in 2010. His appeal failed but he was re-sentenced to life imprisonment in 2013, after the law was changed to allow judges to opt for a life term for murder with no intention to kill.

The prosecution appealed.

As Kho's case was the first of its kind to reach the apex court since the law was changed, it laid down the legal principle for judges to apply in deciding when the death penalty was warranted.

The principle - whether the actions of the offender would outrage the feelings of the community - was based on a local 1970s case of kidnapping for ransom.

Yesterday, Mr Mohan argued that the court had applied the wrong sentencing principles. He argued that every murder outraged the feelings of the community and the court was restricting its own discretion.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Francis Ng argued that the assertion was simply a disappointed litigant's attempt to convince the court to revisit a point that has been thoroughly considered.Mr Mohan also argued that in the re-sentencing stage, Kho was denied the chance to testify as to the number of blows and the force used when he attacked Mr Cao.

But DPP Ng said Kho had already testified during his original trial that he hit the victim twice and did not know the force he used.

Kho's mother and sister, who were in court, spoke to him briefly after the hearing. They then left with tears in their eyes and declined to be interviewed.

The court will give its decision at a later date. Kho's stay of execution was extended.



bolish mandatory death penalty: Bar associations

The Malaysian Bar, Advocates' Association of Sarawak and Sabah Law Association are glad that Attorney General Tan Sri Dato' Sri Mohamed Apandi will propose to the Cabinet that the mandatory death penalty for drug-related offences be abolished.

The 3 Bar associations of Malaysia also welcome Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Nancy Shukri's reported statement that she hopes to table legislative amendments next year for such abolition.

"There is great wisdom in leaving the decision on punishment for such offences to the discretion of the Judiciary. By abolishing the mandatory death penalty, the judiciary will have the discretion to sentence a convicted person to either death or imprisonment. However, concrete action on this issue is long overdue," they said in a statement.

At the recent meeting held in conjunction with the Tripartite Bar Games in Miri, the Malaysian Bar, Advocates' Association of Sarawak and Sabah Law Association resolved to jointly urge the Government to give real meaning to the statements it has made, on at least four other occasions over the last 5 years, regarding its willingness to review the mandatory death penalty.

It has been 2 years since the Government and the Attorney General's Chambers informed those present at a dialogue, with Members of Parliament on discretionary sentencing for capital punishment on 14 November 2013, that they were in the midst of such a review.

Sentencing is part of the cardinal principle of judicial independence, and should always be left to our Judges.

Judges use their experience in hearing cases, take into account the peculiar facts and circumstances of each case, and consider the case comprehensively before meting out punishment.

Apart from serious questions relating to the efficacy and effectiveness of mandatory death sentences as a means of deterrence, the resort to mandatory sentences is an unnecessary fetter on judicial discretion, and an unwarranted impediment to the administration of justice.

They said the mandatory death penalty, including for drug-related offences, has no place in a society that values human life, justice and mercy.

The abolition of this extreme, degrading and inhumane form of punishment is consonant with the belief that every individual has an inherent right to life.

This right is absolute, universal and inalienable, irrespective of any crimes that may have been committed.

It added, moreover, there appears to be no significant reduction in the crimes for which the death penalty is currently mandatory.

"The Government should, in the interest of justice, declare and implement an immediate official moratorium on any and all executions in such cases.

"All of these sentences should be stayed pending the results of the review.

It is unfair and unjust to carry out the death sentence when there is currently a possibility of reform which, if effected, should apply retrospectively."

On a related matter, the 3 also expressed concern over the case of Kho Jabing, a Sarawakian currently on death row in Singapore.

The Singapore courts had initially imposed the mandatory death penalty on him, for murder.

However, pursuant to amendments to the law in Singapore that abolished the mandatory death penalty for murder (with retrospective effect), he was resentenced by the High Court to life imprisonment and whipping (24 strokes). The prosecution appealed, and the Court of Appeal, by a slim 3-2 majority, reinstated the death penalty. Kho Jabing was scheduled to be executed on Nov 6 after his petition to the President of Singapore for clemency failed.

However, the execution has been temporarily stayed pending the hearing on Nov 23 of his application to review and set aside the sentence.

In the event the application fails and the death sentence on Kho Jabing is maintained, the Malaysian Bar, Advocates' Association of Sarawak and Sabah Law Association called on the Government to support any further application for clemency, and urge it to do its utmost to intercede with the Singaporean authorities to commute Kho Jabing's death sentence to one of life imprisonment.

(source: Daily Express)


Appeals Court Upholds Ex-Tow Truck Driver Death Sentence In Najadi Murder Case

Tow truck driver Koong Swee Kwan's appeal against the death penalty for the murder of former Ambank founder Hussain Ahmad Najadi was dismissed by the Court of Appeal today.

Koong was also jailed 18 years for an attempt to cause the death of Najadi's wife, Cheong Mei Kuan, at Kuan Yin Temple in Jalan Ceylon, 2 years ago.

Datuk Wira Mohtarudin Baki, who led the panel of judges comprising Datuk Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat and High Court judge Kamardin Hashim, who is sitting as Appeal Court judge, said the decision was unanimous.

"We find no merit in the appeal. In totality of the evidence, we find the conviction is safe. Appeal is dismissed," said Mohtarudin.

On Sept 5, 2014, the High Court sentenced Koong, 46, to death for the murder of Hussain, 75.

Judge Mohd Azman Hussin also sentenced Koong to 18 years jail for attempting to murder Cheong at the temple between 1.30pm and 2pm on July 29, 2013. Koong appealed against the sentence and conviction.

Earlier, Koong's lawyer, Hisyam Abdullah @ Teh Poh Teik, submitted that Koong's trial was not a fair trial and asked for a court order for a re-trial.

DPP Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin said the judge had considered Koong's statement from the dock and found it to be "bare denial."

He also said there were no miscarriage of justice and asked the court to dismiss the appeal.

(source: Malaysian Digest)

NOVEMBER 24, 2015:


Death Penalty to Be Sought After Kentucky Officer's Death

Prosecutors will seek the death penalty for 2 men accused of involvement in the fatal shooting of a central Kentucky police officer earlier this month.

Multiple media outlets report that prosecutors said during arraignments Monday that 34-year-old Raleigh Sizemore Jr. and 25-year-old Gregory Ratliff should be eligible for capital punishment if found guilty in the slaying of 33-year-old Richmond Police Officer Daniel Ellis.

Investigators say Sizemore was the gunman and Ratliff failed to warn Ellis that he was in danger while the officer was investigating a robbery. Sizemore and Ratliff both pleaded not guilty Monday to numerous charges, including Sizemore to murder and Ratliff to complicity to murder.

Kentucky law allows the death penalty in murder cases where there is an "aggravating circumstance" such as robbery, rape or the death of a police officer.

(source: Associated Press)


Missouri Supreme Court throws out Reginald Clemons murder conviction

The Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday threw out the 1st-degree murder convictions for Reginald Clemons, who had been sentenced to death for a 1991 double-murder on the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge.

Clemons had been fighting his conviction and death sentence in the 1991 rape and killing of sisters Julie and Robin Kerry.

In a 4-3 decision written by Chief Justice Patricia Breckenridge, the Court threw out the convictions and sentences for 1st-degree murder and sent the case back to circuit court.

The state has 60 days to retry Clemons. If it does not, the case will be dismissed, and Clemons will remain in prison on a 15-year sentence in different case.

Reached on the phone, Richard Kerry, father of the victims, said, "I'm not going to express any opinion at this point in time."

Michael Manners, a retired judge appointed as by the state's highest court as "special master" to review Clemons' case, concluded that St. Louis prosecutors wrongly suppressed evidence and that detectives beat Clemons into confessing to the crimes.

The judge said those factors were unlikely to change the verdict but were not harmless mistakes as the state claimed.

The Supreme Court had the power to do anything with Clemons' case, from leaving him on death row to tossing out his conviction.

Clemons was among 4 men convicted of raping and murdering sisters Julie Kerry, 20, and Robin Kerry, 19, on the old Chain of Rocks Bridge in April 1991. A jury convicted Clemons without physical evidence of rape. He was sentenced to death in 1993.

In testimony during a rare, special hearing on his case more than 2 years ago, Clemons asserted his Fifth Amendment right against incriminating himself more than 30 times. In the past, he has acknowledged being on the bridge the night of the killings but claims police beat a confession out of him and was railroaded by an overzealous prosecutor.

Manners also concluded that Clemons' death sentence "was not disproportionate," considering that Clemons' co-defendant, Marlin Gray, was executed for the crime in 2005, Manners concluded. In Gray's case, the state's high court ruled the death penalty was appropriate punishment.

The Kerry sisters led a visiting cousin, Thomas Cummins, then 19, to the unused bridge span on the night of April 5, 1991, to show him a poem they had scrawled there, but they ended up encountering a group of men. The women were raped, and they and Cummins were forced into the Mississippi River. Only Cummins survived.

Police identified the suspects as Clemons, Gray, Antonio Richardson and Daniel Winfrey. Winfrey testified in exchange for a 30-year term and has been paroled. The others were sentenced to death. Gray was executed; Richardson's penalty was later changed to life without parole.

Clemons was weeks from being executed in June 2009 when the 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals blocked it. The Missouri Supreme Court then agreed to consider the case.

Judges Laura Denvir Stith and Richard B. Teitelman concurred with Breckenridge, as did Lisa White Hardwick, a special judge assigned to rule in the Clemons case.

Judges Paul C. Wilson, Zel M. Fischer and Mary R. Russell voted against granting Clemons' petition.



KSBY Investigates: Death row debate

California has 746 convicted murderers, rapists, and torturers on death row, the highest number in the nation by more than 300 inmates. Since the death penalty was reestablished in 1973, only 13 people have actually been put to death, leaving many victims' families waiting for justice to be served and asking, 'why have a death penalty if sentences are not carried out?'

On the 2012 ballot, a measure to abolish the death penalty was narrowly defeated. Looking toward 2016, 2 measures have been sent to the state's attorney general for consideration: One again asks voters to abolish the death penalty, the other would reform it to bring swifter justice for victims' families. This is fueling the flames of an already heated debate.

"I would reverse the question and ask you, 'why would someone who deliberately murdered in a very painful, horrible way, should not receive the death penalty,'" questioned Richard Riggins, whose son was murdered in 1980. "What redeeming grace could you expect from this individual and why would you want this individual back in society, maybe living next door to you?"

It was a foggy December morning in 1980 in Davis, California. John Riggins and Sabrina Gonzalves, both freshman at University of California Davis, were on their way to a family birthday party. The young couple never made it. 3 days later, their bodies were found in a ditch.

It took until 2013 for Richard Hirschfield to finally be tried and convicted for the so-called "Sweetheart Murders" and given a sentence of death.

"I was convinced that should someone be held responsible for their murder that they certainly should receive the death penalty. That has never been a question in my mind," said Kate Riggins as she recalled the trial of her son's murderer.

Kate and Richard Riggins make up just one of thousands of families who have lived through the terror of losing a loved one to murder.

"They have deliberately and cruelly destroyed another human being. They just don't accidentally kill. They are the most part very aware of what they are doing," said Kate Riggins.

Their son, John, has been dead for 35 years and the Riggins still wait for justice.

"I think that the fact that there are very evil people out there and they do need to have, some way, an ultimate punishment to take place," said Kate Riggins.

San Quentin State Prison is located in the San Francisco Bay Area. It is home to all of California's male death row inmates. The inmates live in single cells with a cot and get three meals a day.

Of the 746 convicted, 3 cases are out of San Luis Obispo County and 10 are out of Santa Barbara County. They include Rex Krebs, Richard Benson and Ryan Hoyt.

The upcoming 2016 election could shake things up. Two capital punishment initiatives have been submitted to the State Attorney General for review. The Death Penalty Reform and Savings Act of 2016 would keep and speed up executions. The Justice that Works Act of 2016 would replace execution with life without parole.

According to the Justice that Works Act, California has spent $4 billion on the death penalty system.

"The fiscal in dollars and cents reasons to deal with this is (it's) vastly cheaper to eliminate the death penalty," said San Luis Obispo Criminal Defense Attorney Jeff Stein.

Backers of the Justice that Works Act claim it would save the state $1 billion in 5 years without ever releasing a prisoner into society.

"We, with China and the Saudi Arabians, are the only place where the death penalties are common events," explained Stein. "It doesn't have any positive effect for making society safer."

San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow is one of many district attorneys in California standing behind the Death Penalty Reform and Savings Act.

"It's all about justice and justice for victims," said Dow.

Currently, it takes 5 or more years for capital defendants to be appointed an appellate lawyer. This act would create a prompt appeals process.

"But when the facts warrant a verdict of death, then we need to make sure we go ahead and implement that once a proper appellate process is preceded," said Dow. "We need to make sure we are not delayed by loopholes, or really, a broken system."

"I sort of smile when I think about, 'oh it is so inhumane,'" said Richard Riggins. "I have often thought, 'well, if you think it is inhumane, why don't you dispatch them with the same method that they dispatched their victims?' They certainly thought that was good for them, so, good enough for themselves and the perpetrator. And if you really hear how, I am sure, by injection, I don't really know how many people have been put to sleep, but that is exactly what it would be like, except that you wouldn't wake up and I am all in favor of that."

Both initiatives are active and pending review. Enough funding and signatures are needed for both measures before they can be put on the 2016 ballot.

(source: KSBY news)


MPLs debate death penalty referendum

KwaZulu-Natal Transport, Community Safety and Liaison MEC Willies Mchunu on Tuesday dismissed calls for the death penalty to be reinstated.

Mchunu, who was responding to demands in the provincial legislature by the National Freedom Party (NFP) that a referendum on the death penalty was needed, said: "We cannot return to the primitive era where the state was killing people. There is no evidence to back the claim that a death penalty results to a reduction on crime, so the call is a false hope."

The debate over the death penalty went ahead in the legislature despite Democratic Alliance (DA) caucus leader caucus leader Sizwe Mchunu pointing out that such a debate needed to take place in the national assembly and not the provincial legislature.

The NFP said it was time to revisit the matter in light of the province's high crime statistics. "Seeing that it is 21 years that you (the ANC) have been in power, let us (go) to the people and get their response," said NFP provincial deputy chairman Erickson Zungu as he directed his gaze to ANC members.

He cited statistics which showed that violent crime was on the rise and that the spate of attacks on police was proof of the need to take a tough stance against crime.

Sizwe Mchunu said the uncontrollable levels of crime was an evidence of failed leadership, naming both MEC Mchunu and KZN police commissioner Lieutenant General Mmamonnye Ngobeni.

"What can you expect from an MEC who does not attend committee meetings where crime issues can be discussed? The fact of the matter is you cannot expect a lot when leadership is failing," Mchunu said.

The Economic Freedom Front's Vusi Khoza said attacks on police were an end result of anger from community members.

"When people are complaining about service delivery they are shot at like Andries Tatane, when they want better salaries they are shot at like in Marikana and when students call for a freeze on fee increase they are shot at by police. What attitude do you expect from members of the public?" quizzed Khoza.

Nhlanhla Msimang from the Inkatha Freedom Party and Shameen Thakur-Rajbansi from the Minority Front said they supported the call for a referendum on the death penalty.

(source: IOL Mobile News)

PAKISTAN----execution stayed

Execution of disabled Pakistani man delayed for 4th time

A disabled Pakistani murder convict was given a fourth stay of execution late Tuesday just hours before he was due to be hanged, as rights activists slammed Islamabad for a executions spree on track to see 300 deaths in under a year.

Abdul Basit, a paraplegic who was convicted of murder in 2009, was scheduled to be hung early Wednesday. His execution has already been harrowingly postponed several times after rights groups raised concerns about how a wheelchair-bound man would mount the scaffold.

The presidency issued a statement late Tuesday saying the execution had been delayed for two months while President Mamnoon Hussain ordered an inquiry into Basit's medical condition.

The statement said the president had vowed that "human rights will be upheld".

"We are very happy to hear the TV news that (the) president of Pakistan has stayed the execution," Basit's mother Nusrat Parveen told AFP in response to the last minute delay.

"We also got confirmation from a jail staff," she said, adding that the family hoped the stay would be extended beyond 2 months.

Earlier, Basit's sister Asma Mazhar had issued a plea to the president to spare her brother.

She told AFP she had gone with her mother to see him on Tuesday for what they had believed was the last time, and found him "helpless and quiet".

She said he told them that authorities had come to measure his body and that it was an "awful moment".

Pakistan has executed 299 people since the death penalty was controversially reinstated following a Taliban mass killing at a school in Peshawar last December, according to Amnesty International.

"Pakistan will imminently have executed 300 people since it lifted a moratorium on executions, shamefully sealing its place among the world's worst executioners," it said in a statement.

45 people were executed in October alone, Amnesty said, making it the deadliest month since the moratorium was lifted.

No official figures are available. The rights group Reprieve told AFP Tuesday that by its tally the number of executions has just passed 300, while other local activists said the figure was below 260.

"Pakistan's ongoing zeal for executions is an affront to human rights and the global trend against the death penalty," David Griffiths, Amnesty's South Asia research director, said in a statement.

"Even if the authorities stay the execution of Abdul Basit, a man with paraplegia, Pakistan is still executing people at a rate of almost one a day."

Pakistan ended a 6-year moratorium on the death penalty last year as part of a terror crackdown after Taliban militants gunned down more than 150 people, most of them children, at an army-run school in the restive northwest.

The massacre shocked and outraged a country already scarred by nearly a decade of extremist attacks.

Hangings were initially reinstated only for those convicted of terrorism, but in March they were extended to all capital offences.

Supporters argue that executions are the only effective way to deal with the scourge of militancy in the country.

But critics say the legal system is unjust, with rampant police torture and poor representation for victims during unfair trials, while the majority of those who are hanged are not convicted of terror charges.

There is no evidence the "relentless" executions have done anything to counter extremism in the country, Griffiths said in the Amnesty statement.

Recent research by the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies also suggests that death is no deterrent for militants who are "committed to dying for their cause".

The Amnesty figures suggest Pakistan is on track to become one of the world's top executioners in 2015.

In 2014 607 people were put to death in 22 countries, according to Amnesty, though that figure does not include China, where the number of executions is believed to be in the hundreds but is considered by authorities to be a state secret.

(source: Yahoo News)

ALABAMA----new execution date

Alabama Supreme Court sets execution date for man in 1992 Homewood rape and murder

The Alabama Supreme Court today set Jan. 21 as the execution date for death row inmate Christopher Brooks, who was convicted in the 1992 rape and murder of a Homewood woman.

Brooks had exhausted his direct appeals and the Alabama Attorney General's Office on Sept. 24 asked the Alabama Supreme Court.

The execution is to take place at the William C. Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore where the majority of death row inmates are housed.

But John Palombi, assistant federal defender with the Federal Defenders for the Middle District of Alabama, said the execution date is too early because Brooks, along with other inmates, should be given a chance to continue their legal fight against the state's lethal injection method to its conclusion.

"This action is premature," Palombi wrote Monday in an email to "Mr. Brooks has moved to intervene in an action challenging Alabama's method of execution."

Palombi wrote that the Alabama Attorney General's Office has not opposed Brooks' motion to intervene. U.S. District Court Judge Keith Watkins approved the motion to intervene today.

A final evidentiary hearing for the other 5 death row inmates is set for April 19, 2016, Palombi stated. "To execute him (Brooks) before then using the present method would subject him to a substantial risk of serious harm, as the current protocol uses an inadequate anesthetic, a paralytic that causes suffocation and a third drug that causes the sensation of being burned alive from the inside," he wrote.

If Brooks were to be executed, it would be the 1st in Alabama in more than 2 years.

Brooks' attorneys have said that Brooks' conventional appeals ended in March 2014 when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review his case.

Brooks was convicted in 1993 of murder during the course of a rape, robbery, and burglary for killing Jo Deann Campbell. A jury recommended Brooks receive the death penalty and a judge sentenced him to death.

According to the appeal court records Campbell and Brooks had met while working as counselors at a camp in New York state. On Dec. 31, 1992, her body was found under the bed in the bedroom of her Homewood apartment. She had been bludgeoned to death, and was naked from the waist down.

DNA taken from semen found in the victim's body, a palm print on one of Campbell's ankles, and bloody fingerprints on her bedroom door were all linked to Brooks.

A friend of Brooks, who also was at the apartment, was not indicted on charges.

Brooks and other death row inmates this spring had executions stayed pending the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the case of Oklahoma inmate Richard Glossip, who along with other inmates, challenged the constitutionality of the use of the sedative midazolam in Oklahoma's 3-drug execution protocol.

Alabama was among 13 states to file briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court in support of Oklahoma's execution method, which is similar to their own methods.

An injection of 500 milligrams of midazolam hydrochloride is part of Alabama's new 3-drug combination used for lethal injections. The other drugs are 600 milligrams of rocuronium bromide to stop breathing, and 240 "milliequivalents" of potassium chloride to stop the heart.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, did not believe the arguments that the drug combination including midazolam was cruel and unusual punishment.

The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling is based on facts in the Oklahoma case, not on Alabama's 3-drug lethal injection protocol, Brooks' attorneys' argue in their response.



Capital Murder Possible for Alleged Killer of Pregnant Woman in Mobile

News 5 has learned capital murder charges are possible for Nicholas James. Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Wright confirms to News 5 that the filing of capital murder charges against Jones is "under review". Capital murder would carry the possibility of the death penalty under Alabama law.

New information revealed in court on Monday involving a young woman from Mobile, who police say, was shot and killed by her boyfriend. The crime happened Friday morning at the Ashford Place Apartments on Grelot Road. Mobile Police investigators say Kelwanna Bruno was shot 5 times with a .45 caliber handgun inside her apartment. The victim was 22-years-old. Police arrested Nicholas Jones the same day. Investigators say Jones called police after the shooting and stated he had a cocaine addiction. During his bond hearing on Monday, it was revealed the victim was 3 months pregnant with the suspect's child.

A judge set bond at $150,000, and $50,000 of it has to be in cash. A quick search of Mobile Metro Jail records shows only one prior arrest for Jones. He was charged with shoplifting.

(source: WKRG news)


Caddo Parish Elects First Black District Attorney As Spotlight Shines on Death Penalty and Jury Selection Controversies

Caddo Parish, Louisiana, known nationally for its aggressive pursuit of the death penalty, has elected its 1st black District Attorney. In a November 21 runoff election conducted against the backdrop of controversial remarks about the death penalty by the current DA and a threatened civil rights lawsuit over systemic racial discrimination by Caddo Parish prosecutors in jury selection, former judge James E. Stewart, Sr. defeated current Caddo Parish prosecutor Dhu Thompson, 55% to 45%.

10 days before the election, the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center announced that it intends to sue Caddo Parish over the District Attorney's office's practice of striking black citizens from juries at 3 times the rate of other jurors. James Craig, co-director of the New Orleans-based non-profit law center, called the racially-biased jury strikes "a blight on our criminal justice system." A recent study by the human rights group Reprieve Australia had revealed that Caddo prosecutors used peremptory strikes against 46% of black jurors but only 15% of other jurors. The study showed that Thompson's exercise of juror challenges was even more racially disproportionate, striking more than 1/2 of all prospective black jurors but fewer than 1 in 6 of all other jurors.

Craig said that the announcement of the suit was not intended to influence the election: "This is not a problem of 1 person. This is a culture that needs to be acknowledged and changed...In the absence of concrete, specific changes in the office's culture and approach to jury selection, this practice will continue under the administration of either of the 2 final candidates for district attorney. For this reason, no matter who prevails in the special election this month, the MacArthur Justice Center will proceed with the federal civil rights lawsuit that we are preparing to file."

The suit is seeking an injunction to block practices that result in under-representation of blacks on juries. In his election-night victory remarks, Stewart pledged "to bring professionalism and ethics back to the district attorney's office."

(source: Death Penatly Information Center)


Prosecutors seek death penalty in Massillon murders----He is accused of killing 47-year-old Kimberly Clupper and 23-year-old Kendra Carnes.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against a man accused of fatally shooting two women this year in northeastern Ohio.

A Stark County grand jury has indicted Leeroy Rogers Sr. on aggravated murder, kidnapping and weapons-related charges.

The Canton Repository reports ( ) last week's indictment included factors that can lead to a death sentence if Rogers is convicted.

A message seeking comment was left Monday at Rogers' attorney's office.

The 58-year-old Rogers is accused of killing 47-year-old Kimberly Clupper, whose body was found April 11 in a Massillon park.

He also is accused of killing 23-year-old Kendra Carnes. Her body was discovered Aug. 5 in a creek.

Both women were shot in the head.

Massillon police say a gun used to kill the women was found in Rogers' home.

(source: WKYC news)


Details released in shooting death of Amanda Blackburn, officials say----2nd man charged in Amanda Blackburn's death

Police in Indianapolis announced Monday the arrest of a second man in connection with the death of a former Upstate youth pastor's wife.

The pregnant wife of an Indianapolis pastor was shot and killed this week in what police are calling a home invasion. The victim was 12 weeks pregnant, according to CNN affiliate WXIN.

Jalen Watson, 21, has been charged with murder, felony murder and other charges related to the burglary, police said.

A decision hasn't yet been made whether the death penalty will be sought against the 2 men facing murder charges in the death Amanda Blackburn.

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said Monday his office will review evidence in the coming weeks and meet with the family before making a death penalty decision.

Sunday night, police said Larry Taylor, 18, of Indianapolis, was arrested in connection with the death of Amanda Blackburn.

WTHR said Taylor is facing 13 charges including 3 for murder, 3 related to burglary (with serious bodily injury), theft, criminal confinement while armed with a deadly weapon and auto theft.

Investigators said a 3rd man was involved in 2 other burglaries that Watson and Taylor committed before they broke into the Blackburn home.

Officers from the department's gang and violent crime units arrested Taylor with help from U.S. Marshals. Investigators said they believe Taylor killed Amanda Blackburn.

Investigators said they believe the Blackburn burglary and the homicide are random crimes and there is no connection between the couple and the suspects.

Taylor is 1 of 4 people questioned in connection with the case.

Watson remains behind bars on an unrelated charge. Watson has not been charged in the Blackburn case.

Police Chief Rick Hite said in the release "We are thankful to our federal, state and local partnerships that aided in the apprehension of the suspect in this terrible and senseless crime. All victims of criminal homicides deserve closure, and as a community we must send a collective message that violence is not an option."

The Blackburn family has connections to the Upstate. Davey was a former youth pastor at New Spring.

Background on shooting, investigation

--Nov. 10: Davey found Amanda shot in the head. He had returned home from the gym when he found his wife, officials said.

--Nov. 13: Authorities hold news conference about the investigation. To watch the news conference, click here. Homicide detectives say they have surveillance video from 2 houses in the neighborhood. Detectives say they believe the person caught on camera could be the same burglar who broke into the Blackburns' neighbor's house the same morning.

--Nov. 18: Investigators release surveillance image of a person of interest.

--WTHR sources confirmed that Amanda Grace Blackburn was sexually assaulted and police said they have DNA evidence.

(source: WYFF news)


July deadline sought for death penalty decision in murders

Federal prosecutors want until July 1 to decide if they will seek the death penalty for an 18-year-old Wyoming man accused of killing a husband and wife on Montana's Crow Indian Reservation.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Lori Suek said in a court filing that a decision will not be made before defendant Jesus Deniz Mendoza has a chance to offer the government any relevant evidence.

A status conference in the case is scheduled for Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Susan Watters.

Mendoza, of Worland, has pleaded not guilty in the July 29 killings of Jason and Tana Shane near Pryor.

Authorities say the couple was shot after stopping to help the defendant along a rural roadway on the southeastern Montana reservation.



Death penalty possible in Downey cop killing; charges filed

2 men were charged with capital murder Monday, bringing to 3 the number of defendants accused in the shooting death of a Downey police officer killed during an apparent botched robbery as he sat in plain clothes in his personal vehicle in a parking lot near the police station.

Steven Knott, 18, and Jeremy Anthony Alvarez, 21, were both being held without bail. They appeared in court in Downey along with along with a 16-year- old Bellflower boy who was previously charged as an adult with the murder of Officer Ricardo Galvez.

Abel Diaz, who will turn 17 at the end of this week, is being held in lieu of $1 million bail.

Arraignments for the 3 were postponed to Dec. 17.

If convicted of the murder charge, Diaz could face up to life in state prison, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

The amended complaint includes the special circumstance allegation that the murder occurred during an attempted robbery. Each of the 3 defendants is also facing 1 count of attempted 2nd-degree robbery and gang and gun allegations.

Prosecutors have yet to decide whether to seek the death penalty against Knott and Alvarez. Diaz is not eligible for the death penalty because of his age.

Galvez, 29, was fatally shot about 11 p.m. Wednesday while sitting in his BMW 335, clad in street clothes, in a public civic center parking lot adjacent to the Downey police station in the 11000 block of Brookshire Avenue. The 5-year department veteran died at the scene.

Alvarez, the alleged getaway driver, was taken into custody following a police pursuit that ended in the 1000 block of Carob Way in Montebello soon after the shooting. He was caught by officers as he tried to run through the backyards of some homes.

Authorities said the other 2 suspects were seen fleeing into a nearby home and taken into custody by members of a sheriff's special weapons team after warrants were obtained.

Outside the Downey courthouse last Friday, Diaz's sister said her brother told her he did not shoot Galvez. Maricela Alvarado showed reporters a text message Diaz sent her at 11:18 p.m. Wednesday, about 20 minutes after the shooting.

"Mari I love all y'all," the message read. "My homie (expletive) up n did something."

Investigators believe the suspects were out to rob someone and were unaware that Galvez was a police officer or that they were in a rear parking lot of the police station, sheriff's Lt. John Corina told reporters Thursday at police headquarters.

A handgun allegedly discarded by one of the suspects was recovered. Investigators believe it was used to kill Galvez, according to the sheriff's department.

Downey police said Galvez was on duty and returning to the police station from a training program during which he acted as a K-9 agitator.

Corina said a Downey police officer in his patrol vehicle heard the shooting and chased the suspect vehicle into Montebello, where the suspects bailed out. At the same time, another Downey officer came outside and found the fatally wounded officer.

Referring to Galvez as "Ricky,' Downey police Chief Carl Charles described the officer as "a tremendous young man, who loved serving the residents of Downey."

Downey police spokesman Lt. Mark McDaniel said Galvez is survived by his mother, a brother and 2 sisters. Galvez was in the U.S. Marine Corps prior to becoming a police officer, serving 2 tours of duty, 1 in Iraq, 1 in Afghanistan.



EU team to lobby gov't, judiciary on abolishing death penalty

A team from the European Union (EU) Delegation in Guyana will tomorrow be meeting with government and the judiciary to discuss Guyana's need to join with other countries worldwide in abolishing the death penalty.

Derek Lambe, Head of Political, Press and Infor-mation Section of the EU Delegation, told Stabroek News that dialogue will be held with Minister State Joseph Harmon at the Ministry of Presidency and also with the acting Chancellor of the Judiciary Justice Carl Singh.

According to Lambe, this will present an opportunity to lobby the government and get a sense of how it views the issue.

(source: Stabroek News)


Absence of Lawyer Grounds Trial of 7 Suspects Over MP's Killing

The trial of 7 suspects held for the murder of Kabete MP George Muchai hit a snag at the High Court on Monday when one of their lawyers failed to turn up in court.

The prosecution was ready to proceed, with 5 witnesses who included a newspaper vendor, 2 women allegedly carjacked and were on board a getaway vehicle as the MP and his aides were gunned down, a taxi driver and an anonymous witness said to have been in contact with the suspects, lined up.

However, the court declined to take their evidence in the absence of the lawyer, and instead adjourned the matter.

It is mandatory that murder suspects are tried in the presence of their lawyers.

The 6th suspect, Ms Margaret Njeri's State -appointed lawyer has never made an appearance in the case since his appointment, the trial court heard.

This has raised a new dimension in the case over the legality of the murder plea as the suspect answered to the charge in his absence.

On Monday, parties agreed to return to court on December 2 for a mention and to find out whether a substitute lawyer has been appointed to represent the suspect.

"We have no objection to the request for adjournment," Prosecutor Catherine Mwaniki said.

She also asked the trial judge to record that she was ready with witnesses in court.

The suspects face 2 different capital offences before 2 courts in Nairobi, arising out of the killing of the trade unionist-cum-politician.

Eric Isabwa alias Chairman, Raphael Kimani alias Kim Butcheri, Mustapha Kimani alias Musto, Stephen Astiva alias Chokore, Jane Wanjiru alias Shiro, Margaret Njeri and Simon Wambugu have denied the 4 charges of murder at the High Court implicating them in the February 6 killing of the MP and his aides.

In the magistrate's court, the suspects face 10 counts of robbery with violence, in which they were alleged to have robbed different people on the same night they allegedly killed the MP.

Isabwa and Njeri faced 2 other charges of being in possession of a firearm and ammunition without a certificate, and for handling stolen property.

If found guilty, the suspects could be sentenced to hang "twice" since each of the 2 separate capital offences attracts the death penalty.

They have denied they murdered Mr Muchai, his 2 bodyguards Samuel Kimathi Kailikia and Samuel Lekakeny Matanta, and his driver Stephen Ituu Wambugu.

(source: Daily Nation)


5 get death penalty for raping minor

A local court in Odisha's Keonjhar district has awarded death penalty to 5 persons on charges of raping and murdering a minor girl.

Describing the crime as heinous, Additional Sessions Judge, Champua, Jadumani Mishra, sentenced 5 persons, identified as Mata Munda, Jiten Munda, Biswanath Gopa, Mangal Purty and Harjeet Singh, to death.

On August 1, 2012, the 13-year-old girl was returning from tuition class when she was accosted by the accused. They took her to a jungle area near Belkundi village near Barbil in Keonjhar district. They sexually assaulted her and later killed her apprehending that she might disclose their identity.

The gang-rape had evoked public anger across the State. A bandh was observed in the industrial township of Barbil subsequently. Social activists and people from different walks of life had submitted a memorandum to the Keonjhar District Collector seeking justice for the victim.

(soruce: The Hindu)


Pakistan PM urged to suspend execution of paraplegic convict

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was urged to suspend the execution of a paraplegic death-row convict scheduled to be hanged on Wednesday, the media reported on Tuesday.

Abdul Basit, 43, who is paralysed from the waist down, a former administrator at a medical college, was convicted in May 2009 of the murder of the uncle of a woman with whom he was allegedly in a relationship. He has denied the charges.

In a letter addressed to Sharif, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) chairperson Zohra Yusuf said that the prison authorities were still awaiting a response after writing to the federal government for guidance on how to proceed in the case, Dawn online reported.

"It is shocking that orders for Basit's execution have been issued for a third time, despite the fact that concerns about the legality of his hanging remain as unsatisfied as ever and because he is simply not fit to be hanged," she wrote.

This was the third time that execution warrants have been issued for Basit. He was first scheduled to be hanged on July 29, but the execution was stayed by the Lahore High Court, when the legality of his execution was challenged.

On September 1, that petition was dismissed. A new warrant scheduling the execution for September 22 was issued, but it was again put on hold after the Supreme Court issued an order that the execution could not proceed.

Pakistan has executed more than 200 people since reintroducing the death penalty in December 2014.

At the time the government said it was a measure to combat terrorism after the Taliban massacred more than 150 people, most of them children, in a Peshawar school.

Pakistan's jail manual gives no instructions on how to execute disabled prisoners.



Pakistan set to execute paraplegic man as it nears 300 hangings in a year ---- Hanging of Abdul Basit, who was convicted of murder, will make Islamabad one of the world's worst executioners, says Amnesty

Pakistan plans to execute a disabled man this week, as Amnesty International said the country was nearing 300 hangings in less than a year.

The execution of Abdul Basit, a paraplegic man who was convicted of murder in 2009, has been postponed several times after rights groups raised concerns about how a man in a wheelchair would mount the scaffold.

Amnesty said the hanging had been scheduled for Wednesday and accused the country of "shamefully sealing its place among the world's worst executioners".

Pakistan's human rights commission said it had written to the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, seeking to delay the execution, and that prison authorities were awaiting an answer from the government on how to proceed with the hanging.

The rights group Reprieve said the number of executions in Pakistan had exceeded 300, while other local activists said the figure was less than 260. No official figures are available.

David Griffiths, Reprieve's south Asia research director, said: "Pakistan's ongoing zeal for executions is an affront to human rights and the global trend against the death penalty. Even if the authorities stay the execution of Abdul Basit, a man with paraplegia, Pakistan is still executing people at a rate of almost 1 a day."

There was no evidence that the "relentless" executions had done anything to counter extremism in the country, he added.

The rights group also alleged that many of the executions had come after court proceedings that "do not meet international fair trial standards".

Pakistan ended a 6-year moratorium on the death penalty last year as part of a crackdown after militants gunned down more than 150 people, most of them children, at an army-run school in the restive north-west.

Hangings were initially reinstated only for those convicted of terrorism, but they were extended in March to all capital offences.

Supporters argue that executions are the only effective way to deal with the scourge of militancy in the country. But critics say the legal system is unjust, with rampant police torture and poor representation for victims, while the majority of those who are hanged are not convicted of terror charges.

The human rights activist and lawyer Asma Jahangir said: "The state is hanging petty criminals while known terrorists are still in prisons."

The Amnesty figures suggest Pakistan is on track to become one of the world's top executioners this year. In 2014, 607 people were put to death in 22 countries, according to Amnesty, though that figure does not include China, where the number of executions is believed to be in the hundreds, but is considered by authorities to be a state secret.

(source: The Guardian)


Double standard over hangings alleged

Rights activist Asma Jahangir has criticised the government for demonstrating "disproportionately high passion" against the execution of 2 opposition politicians in Bangladesh through unfair trials over those being hanged by military courts or Pakistanis executed in Saudi Arabia.

The response sent a message that the government of Pakistan had extraordinary love and affection for the opposition members in Bangladesh than its citizens, Ms Jahangir told reporters at the Supreme Court on Monday.

She was reacting to the response by the Foreign Office and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan expressing anguish and concern over the execution of Bangladesh National Party leader Salahuddin Quader Chowdhry and Ali Ahsan Mujahid of Jamaat-i-Islami.

"Equal passion, we hope, will be shown by the government" for the people on death row in Pakistan than being hanged elsewhere in the world by denying due process, she said.

She was of the opinion that the hangings in Bangladesh would further deepen the divide and haunt its politics in future. She said that all human rights activists who monitored these trials agreed that due process had not been given to the two accused.

"We have condemned the unfortunate developments and even given out urgent appeals to the Amnesty International and other international human rights organisations in this regard," she added.

But, Ms Jahangir said, Pakistan should first take up the issue of capital punishment through unfair trials here and of those Pakistanis who were being consistently executed in Saudi Arabia and then show disproportionately high passion for the politicians of Bangladesh.

She said the government was only confirming the fact that two men were political agents and working for the cause of Pakistan. Are these 2 Bangladeshi more important than the people living in Pakistan, she asked. If the answer is in the affirmative, the government should also explain why and what for.

Ms Jahangir admitted that the 2 politicians had been executed without affording due process, but regretted that the same right was being denied to the people facing trial in military courts on terrorism charges.

"We are against the death penalty and unfair trials whether in Pakistan, Bangladesh or elsewhere," she said, adding that everybody knew that the trial of the 2 Bangladeshi politicians was flawed, but the role of Pakistan was something which was not understandable.

"If they (Pakistan government) are against the death penalty or the undue process, they should look into the trials being conducted by the military courts," she said.



UN calls on Dhaka to abolish death penalty

The United Nations has renewed its call on the Bangladesh government to immediately institute a moratorium on the death penalty and abolish this inhuman practice altogether.

The call was made by Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in a statement issued in Geneva today following Sunday's execution of 2 war criminals.

"We have long warned that, given the doubts that have been raised about the fairness of trials conducted before the Tribunal, the Government of Bangladesh should not implement death penalty sentences," she said.

"Similar concerns were expressed by UN human rights experts who, on several occasions, called on the government to halt the executions, as the trials did not meet international standards of fair trial and due process as stipulated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bangladesh is a party," Ravina Shamdasani.

She said the UN opposes the use of the death penalty in all circumstances, even for the most serious international crimes. "We renew our call on the Government of Bangladesh to immediately institute a moratorium on the death penalty and abolish this inhuman practice altogether."

The UN statement said the execution in Bangladesh on Sunday of Salauddin Quader Chowdhury and Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed brings to four the number of people hanged following convictions by the Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal.

Mojaheed, leader of Jamaat-e-Islami and Chowdhury, of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, were sentenced to death by the Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal on charges of war crimes and genocide. The Supreme Court rejected their appeals on 18 November 2015.

Since its inception in 2010, the Tribunal has delivered 17 verdicts, of which 15 have resulted in the imposition of the death penalty against members of the Jamaat-e-Islami and Bangladesh National Party.

All those who were convicted were accused of committing crimes against humanity, genocide and other international crimes in 1971.

(source: The Daily Star)


Mujib killer Noor Chowdhury extradition effort gets Tk1.6 crore

The government has allocated Tk1.6 crore to have Noor Chowdhury, one of Bangabandhu's killers, extradited to Bangladesh to serve his death sentence.

Canadian authorities, citing Canadian legal limitations, have repeatedly declined to extradite Noor, official sources said.

In 2009, the Supreme Court upheld a High Court verdict that handed down the death sentence to 12 people, including Noor Chowdhury, for the murder of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his family on August 15, 1975.

Last April the government appointed US-based law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom LLP - Skadden in short - to help repatriate fugitive murderers of Banglabandhu resident in North America.

The extradition of Noor is bound to be a difficult process. Bangladesh and Canada do not have an extradition agreement. Moreover, Canadian does not allow the deportation of any person who might face the death penalty in their home country.

Law Minister Anisul Huq told the Dhaka Tribune: "Negotiations between Bangladesh and Canada are now in progress to bring back Bangabandhu killer Noor Chowdhury from Canada." But he did not elaborate further.

"We are trying to bring back Bangabandhu's other killers from several countries. This is a political pledge of the Awami League government," he added.

The Finance Division's Budget Wing 1 advised the Foreign Ministry that the allocation could come from a sub-head of the current fiscal year budget titled Law Expenses which contains Tk6 crore.

More funds may be allocated if needed in the revised budget, according to a Budget Wing letter issued by Finance Division Deputy Secretary Humaira Begum yesterday.

5 of Bangabandhu's convicted killers - Syed Farooq Rahman, Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan, Bazlul Huda, AKM Mohiuddin Ahmed and Mohiuddin Ahmed - were executed in January 2010.

(source: Dhaka Tribune)


Abolish the mandatory death penalty and restore judicial discretion in sentencing - Bar associations of Malaysia

The Malaysian Bar, Advocates' Association of Sarawak and Sabah Law Association are heartened by the reported remarks of the Attorney General, Tan Sri Dato' Sri Haji Mohamed Apandi, that he will propose to the Cabinet that the mandatory death penalty for drug-related offences be abolished.

The 3 Bar associations of Malaysia also welcome Minister in the Prime Minister's Department YB Puan Hajah Nancy Shukri's reported statement that she hopes to table legislative amendments next year for such abolition.

There is great wisdom in leaving the decision on punishment for such offences to the discretion of the Judiciary. With the abolition of the mandatory death penalty, the Judiciary will have the discretion to sentence a convicted person to either death or imprisonment. However, concrete action on this issue is long overdue.

At the recent meeting held in conjunction with the Tripartite Bar Games in Miri from November 19 to 21, 2015, the Malaysian Bar, Advocates' Association of Sarawak and Sabah Law Association resolved to jointly urge the Government to give real meaning to the statements it has made, on at least 4 other occasions over the last 5 years, regarding its willingness to review the mandatory death penalty. It has been 2 years since the Government and the Attorney General's Chambers informed those present at a dialogue, with Members of Parliament, on discretionary sentencing for capital punishment on November 14, 2013, that they were in the midst of such a review.

Sentencing is part of the cardinal principle of judicial independence, and should always be left to our Judges. Judges use their experience in hearing cases, take into account the peculiar facts and circumstances of each case, and consider the case comprehensively before meting out punishment. Apart from serious questions relating to the efficacy and effectiveness of mandatory death sentences as a means of deterrence, the resort to mandatory sentences is an unnecessary fetter on judicial discretion, and an unwarranted impediment to the administration of justice.

The mandatory death penalty, including for drug-related offences, has no place in a society that values human life, justice and mercy. The abolition of this extreme, degrading and inhumane form of punishment is consonant with the belief that every individual has an inherent right to life. This right is absolute, universal and inalienable, irrespective of any crimes that may have been committed.

Moreover, there appears to be no significant reduction in the crimes for which the death penalty is currently mandatory. Further, a major survey on the mandatory death penalty in Malaysia in July 2013, found that there is very little public support in Malaysia for the mandatory death penalty for drug-related offences.

In light of the impending review of the mandatory death penalty for drug-related offences, the Government should, in the interest of justice, declare and implement an immediate official moratorium on any and all executions in such cases. All of these sentences should be stayed pending the results of the review. It is unfair and unjust to carry out the death sentence when there is currently a possibility of reform which, if effected, should apply retrospectively.

The Malaysian Bar, Advocates' Association of Sarawak and Sabah Law Association are also extremely concerned over the case of Kho Jabing, a Sarawakian currently on death row in Singapore. The Singapore courts had initially imposed the mandatory death penalty on him, for murder. However, pursuant to amendments to the law in Singapore that abolished the mandatory death penalty for murder (with retrospective effect), he was resentenced by the High Court to life imprisonment and whipping (24 strokes). The prosecution appealed, and the Court of Appeal, by a slim 3-2 majority, reinstated the death penalty.

Kho Jabing was scheduled to be executed on November 6, 2015, after his petition to the President of Singapore for clemency failed. However, the execution has been temporarily stayed pending the hearing and disposal of his application to review and set aside the sentence. In the event the application fails and the death sentence on Kho Jabing is maintained, the Malaysian Bar, Advocates' Association of Sarawak and Sabah Law Association call on the Malaysian Government to support any further application for clemency, and urge it to do its utmost to intercede with the Singaporean authorities to commute Kho Jabing's death sentence to one of life imprisonment.

The Malaysian Bar, Advocates' Association of Sarawak and Sabah Law Association support all efforts by the Malaysian Government towards abolishing the mandatory death penalty. In this regard, the immortal words of the late Justice Ishmael Mohamed, the former Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, should not be forgotten:

Death is different. The dignity of all of us, in a caring civilisation, must not be compromised by the act of repeating, albeit for a wholly different objective, what we find to be so repugnant in the conduct of the offender in the first place.

(source: * Issued on behalf of the respective Bar associations of Malaysia by Steven Thiru, President, Malaysian Bar; Leonard Shim, President, Advocates' Association of Sarawak; and Brenndon Soh,President, Sabah Law Association. ** This is the personal opinion of the writers and/or the organisations in whose name they represent and does not necessarily represent the view of Malay Mail Online.)


Lawyers: Freeze all executions while mandatory death sentence under review

The government should stop all executions of convicted drug offenders ahead of the expected review of Malaysia’s mandatory death sentence for drug-related crimes, lawyers nationwide said today.

The 3 professional bodies representing the country's lawyers - Malaysian Bar, Advocates' Association of Sarawak (AAS) and the Sabah Law Association (SLA) - said no one should be executed while the government has yet to decide on the death penalty.

"In light of the impending review of the mandatory death penalty for drug-related offences, the Government should, in the interest of justice, declare and implement an immediate official moratorium on any and all executions in such cases," the 3 bodies said in a rare joint statement.

"All of these sentences should be stayed pending the results of the review. It is unfair and unjust to carry out the death sentence when there is currently a possibility of reform which, if effected, should apply retrospectively," said the statement signed by the Bar president Steven Thiru, AAS president Leonard Shim, SLA president Brenndon Soh.

The 3 bodies said concrete action on the frequently-discussed abolition of the mandatory death penalty is "long overdue", noting that the government had in the last 5 years on at least 4 instances made remarks on its willingness to review this punishment.

"It has been 2 years since the government and the Attorney General's Chambers informed those present at a dialogue, with Members of Parliament on discretionary sentencing for capital punishment on 14 November 2013, that they were in the midst of such a review," the 3 bodies pointed out.

Backing the government's efforts to scrap the mandatory death penalty, which they said was "extreme, degrading and inhumane", the 3 bodies agreed that such a move would be consistent with the right to life that should be absolute, universal and inalienable regardless of the crime committed.

"Moreover, there appears to be no significant reduction in the crimes for which the death penalty is currently mandatory.

"Further, a major survey on the mandatory death penalty in Malaysia in July 2013, found that there is very little public support in Malaysia for the mandatory death penalty for drug-related offences," they said.

They also said the removal of the mandatory death penalty will give judges the discretion to sentence a convicted person to either death or imprisonment.

In a recent interview with The Malaysian Insider, Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali said that he wished the courts had discretion on sending convicts to the gallows or otherwise.

On November 17, de facto law minister Nancy Shukri said she hopes to take her proposal to amend the Penal Code and abolish the mandatory death sentence to the Dewan Rakyat as early as March next year.

Under Malaysia's current law, the death sentence is a must for firearms, drugs, treason and murder related offences.

In a written reply to Ipoh Barat MP M. Kulasegaran dated November 3, Nancy cited statistics from the Prisons Department and said there are currently 1,022 convicted inmates awaiting execution, but these sentences could not be carried out as the inmates are still appealing the court's decision.

In her reply on behalf of the prime minister, the minister in the Prime Minister's Department said 33 prisoners were executed between 1998 to October 6 this year, while 127 inmates received lighter sentences or clemency in the same period after their pleas and petitions were considered.



Top Russian human rights body opposes attempts to bring back death penalty

Members of Russia's Presidential Human Rights Council have unanimously rejected calls to re-introduce the death penalty for terrorist crimes, saying that the measure would be both inhumane and ineffective.

The council will soon issue an official statement drawing public attention to the unacceptability of restoring the death penalty in Russia, the body's chairman Mikhail Fedotov told Izvestia daily. Fedotov reminded reporters that in 2009 the Constitutional Court prolonged the moratorium on the death penalty, with President Vladimir Putin voicing his strong support of the decision.

In their message, which will be released later in the week, the activists write that the death penalty is an inhumane measure which is against the latest rulings of the Russian Constitutional Court. They also claim it has proved an ineffective measure in the war on global terrorism.

The council members also note that using the death penalty in Russia is extremely undesirable because of the imperfections of the current justice system, where the conviction of an innocent person is still a possible, if unlikely, scenario.

The activists also claim that society's fear of terrorism could be used by politicians as an excuse to curb civil freedoms and citizens' rights.

One of the council members, Yelena Topoleva-Soldunova, noted in press comments that the "death penalty only leads to the adoption of harsher morals in society, despite activists' efforts to introduce some humane values." She also said that the cancellation of the moratorium, as well as restrictions on general freedoms, could be exactly what terrorists are trying to achieve, and therefore must be avoided.

Russia introduced a moratorium on the death penalty in 1999 when it was seeking membership of the Council of Europe. The Russian Constitution still allows capital punishment for particularly grave crimes, but only after a guilty verdict has been handed down by a jury court.

Since the moratorium was introduced, various Russian politicians and law enforcement officials have repeatedly raised the issue of reintroducing capital punishment, especially after large-scale terrorist attacks or other crimes that have made big news in the mass media. This was the case after the deadly crash of the Russian A321 passenger jet in Egypt, which has been labeled a terrorist bombing.

Earlier this month, members of the nationalist opposition party LDPR, together with the head of the center-left party Fair Russia, called for the Russian authorities to abolish the moratorium, saying the death penalty should still be reserved for convicted terrorists and their accomplices.

President Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov commented on the proposals, saying that that the question was complex, but for the moment the moratorium remains in place.



Minor's death sentence goes for automatic appeal

A death sentence issued to a minor has become the 1st such verdict to be automatically appealed under new regulations issued by the country's top court.

An official from the Juvenile Court said on Tuesday that the death sentence issued early this month over the murder of Noor Adam Hassanfulhu in March had been automatically appealed after the defendant did not file for appeal within the 10-day appeal window. The case file was forwarded to the Department of Judicial Administration (DJA) as per the new regulations, the official added.

Juvenile Court had on November 2 handed a death sentence to one of the over the murder of Noor. The other defendant in the case was acquitted.

Noor, 29 was attacked on March 29 at around 1.35am in Buruzumagu near Indhira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH). He had died while receiving treatment at the hospital at around 3.25am.

The resident from capital Male was knifed on his neck and sides.

Noor, who had been accompanied by a group of his friends, was attacked directly outside the emergency entrance of IGMH by an individual on the backseat of a motorcycle.

The murder came amid a wave of stabbings in the capital Male. A Bangladeshi expatriate worker Shaheen Mia was stabbed to death in the place of his work - Lhiyanu Cafe just a week before, after which there were more reports of stabbings targeting expatriates.

The death sentence issued over Noor's murder was automatically appealed under new regulations issued by the Supreme Court early this week.

The court issued new guidelines Sunday allowing death sentences and public lashing rulings issued by lower courts to be appealed automatically at the High Court.

In a circular, the Supreme Court said if the defendant fails to appeal death sentences and public lashing verdicts within 10 days, the court that had initially issued the verdict should forward the relevant documents to the High Court. The appellate court would have seven days to notify both the defendant and the prosecution of the appeal and during that period should take the necessary steps to begin appeal proceedings, it added.

The new rules follow similar guidelines issued by the apex court early this month.

The Supreme Court issued new guidelines on November 8 giving a month-long window for the last chance to appeal death sentences and public lashings backed by High Court.

According to the guidelines, if a defendant fails to appeal a High Court verdict in favour of death sentences and public lashing rulings within a 30-day period, the appeal can then only be filed at the Supreme Court by the prosecution.

The guidelines, included in a circular signed by Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed, did not specifically mention sentences of death and public lashing. However, it says that High Court rulings that need to be reconfirmed by the Supreme Court had to be appealed within 30 days, including public holidays.

Under local laws, the only sentences that need to be reconfirmed by the Supreme Court are death sentences and public lashing verdicts.

Judicature Act earlier granted a 90-day period, excluding public holidays, to appeal rulings by any court.

However, the Supreme Court had in January annulled that clause and issued new guidelines under which rulings issued by lower courts had to be appealed at the High Court within 10 days and appeal over High Court verdicts needed to be filed at the Supreme Court within 60 days.

Meanwhile, government has included funds in the proposed state budget for next year to establish an execution chamber at the country's main prison to carry out the death penalty.

The state budget for next year, which was approved by the parliament on Monday, includes MVR4 million to build an execution chamber. However, the correctional service was not immediately available for comment.

Maldives adopted a new regulation last year under which lethal injection would be used to implement the death penalty.

However, over mounting pressure from human rights bodies, companies have been refusing to supply the fatal dose to countries still carrying out capital punishment.

Home minister Umar Naseer had earlier said the correctional service would be ready to implement the death penalty by the time a death sentence is upheld by the Supreme Court.

There are around 10 people on death row at present, but none of whom has exhausted the appeal process thus far.


NOVEMBMER 23, 2015:

GEORGIA----new execution date

Execution date set for Georgia man convicted in 1992 slaying

A Georgia death row inmate convicted of stealing checks from and then killing a friend os his mother is set to be put to death next month. Brian Keith Terrell, 47, has been given an execution date for Dec. 8; it should be considered serious.

(sources: Atlanta Journal Constitution & Rick Halperin)


Prosecutors seek death penalty in Massillon murders----He is accused of killing 47-year-old Kimberly Clupper and 23-year-old Kendra Carnes.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against a man accused of fatally shooting 2 women this year in northeastern Ohio.

A Stark County grand jury has indicted Leeroy Rogers Sr. on aggravated murder, kidnapping and weapons-related charges.

The Canton Repository reports ( ) last week's indictment included factors that can lead to a death sentence if Rogers is convicted.

A message seeking comment was left Monday at Rogers' attorney's office.

The 58-year-old Rogers is accused of killing 47-year-old Kimberly Clupper, whose body was found April 11 in a Massillon park.

He also is accused of killing 23-year-old Kendra Carnes. Her body was discovered Aug. 5 in a creek.

Both women were shot in the head.

Massillon police say a gun used to kill the women was found in Rogers' home.


Prosecutors plan to seek death penalty in case of murdered Richmond, Ky. police officer

Prosecutors in Madison County, Ky. say they will seek the death penalty for the man accused of killing Richmond Police Officer Daniel Ellis, according to the Madison County Circuit Clerk's Office. The death penalty will also be sought for the person accused of leading Officer Ellis into an ambush.

A total of 4 defendants went before a judge in Madison Circuit Court on Monday morning, according to WDRB partner WKYT.

The Commonwealth's Attorney informed the court it would seek the death penalty against Raleigh Sizemore, who authorities say shot Officer Ellis in the head on Nov. 4, as well as Gregory Ratliff. Authorities say Ratliff led Officer Ellis into his apartment and was aware Sizemore was waiting.

Ratliff has been charged with complicity to murder, 2 counts of attempted murder and complicity of unlawful imprisonment.

Rita Creech and Carl Banks each face robbery charges.

(source: WDRB news)


Are Last-Minute Death Penalty Delays Cruel And Unusual Punishment?

America's death penalty is under scrutiny after a series of botched executions, drug mix-ups and difficulty acquiring lethal injection drugs. Just last month, President Obama called certain parts of capital punishment "deeply troubling."

Some say long waits and repeated last-minute delays are tantamount to torture.

Friends and family of Richard Glossip gather around a cell phone outside the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, straining to listen to the death row inmate's voice over a tinny speaker.

Glossip was convicted for hiring another man to kill his boss in 1997. He was scheduled to die by lethal injection in September - but at the last minute, Glossip received a stay of execution.

Glossip didn't know why he wasn't dead yet until a TV reporter told him over the phone - the governor stopped the execution because the state had the wrong drug.

"That's just crazy," Glossip said.

His friends and family listening around the phone agree.

Twice in September, Richard Glossip ate his last meal and prepared himself for the execution chamber. Both times, his execution was stopped hours before he was supposed to die. The U.S. Supreme Court stopped a previous execution in January.

California's death row at San Quentin State Prison.

The 2-Way

Federal Appeals Court Upholds California's Deliberative Death Penalty Process

Last year, a federal judge ruled California's death penalty as unconstitutional, partially because of excessive delays. An appeals court overruled that decision recently on a technicality.

Other states are struggling to acquire execution drugs because pharmaceutical companies are refusing to supply them. Oklahoma, Montana, Arkansas and Ohio have all put executions on hold in the last month.

Standing outside the prison, Glossip's attorney Don Knight says repeatedly pulling his client back from the cusp of death at the last minute is cruel and unusual punishment.

"When you see torture, is it torture? It looks like torture. I would wish that they would stop torturing Mr. Glossip. I wish they would stop trying to kill Mr. Glossip," Knight says.

"Going through this repeatedly definitely has a tremendous emotional, psychological toll on an individual," John Blume, a Cornell law professor, says.

Blume used to represent death row inmates. He's seen them go through the process of preparing to die and says that eleventh hour delays aren't always welcome.

"Sometimes it's a relief, and sometimes the people almost feel like, well, I don't want to go through this again because it was so hard. And then the process begins again," Blume says.

Capital punishment advocates blame the lengthy delays on defense attorneys, who inundate the court system with appeals.

And Blume says the long wait times can also be tough on relatives of the victim.

"It's very hard, I think, on the surviving victim's family members who may or may not necessarily support the execution but believe the case is finally drawing to a close," he says.

Robert Dunham with the Death Penalty Information Center thinks repeated last-minute stays are torture. Still, he doesn't think the courts will ever do anything about it.

"When a stay of execution is the product of court proceedings, those are necessary proceedings. So yes, it is cruel but it's not unnecessarily cruel in the eyes of the courts," Dunham says.

Richard Glossip, the Oklahoma death row inmate, continues to maintain his innocence. Now he has several more months to make his case while the state investigates the drug mix-up that inadvertently spared his life.



Manila seeks death for foreign 'drug lords'

A powerful committee in the House of Representatives has approved a bill imposing the death penalty on foreign "drug lords" arrested in the country to stem the alarming increase in the number of illegal drug users especially the youth.

The House Committee on Dangerous Drugs passed and endorsed the bill to the chamber for plenary debate and approval as it pointed out the urgent need for its enactment into law, citing the major role that foreign-based syndicates have played in spreading the use of illegal drugs in the Philippines and elsewhere.

A law passed by Congress in 2006 abolished the death penalty and replaced it with life imprisonment for those convicted by the courts for "heinous" crimes like illegal drugs, murder, kidnap-for-ransom and plunder.

The law was supported by then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who reportedly wanted it as a "gift" for the Pope when she visited the Vatican in 2006 in line with the Catholic Church's firm stand against the death penalty.

But the bill's principal sponsors, Congressman Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro City in Manila and his brother Congressman Maximo Rodriguez Junior of the party list Abante Mindanao (Advance Mindanao) argued the death penalty should be imposed on foreign drug lords arrested and charged in court for operating in the country.

The Rodriguezes cited the examples of China and Indonesia that imposed the death penalty on "drug mules" including Filipinos caught smuggling illegal drugs like cocaine, marijuana as well as methamphetamine hydrochloride, more popularly known as "shabu," into their territories.

The 2 brothers pointed out the intention of the law banning the death penalty was "clear and noble" but they also stressed: "There are some sectors in society who believe that this law is not just and equitable because while foreigners may not be executed in the Philippines for drug trafficking, Filipinos who commit drug offences are executed in other countries with the death penalty."

As a result, they emphasised this emboldened foreigners to establish illegal drug factories in the Philippines because once convicted, they would suffer only the maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

(source: The Gulf Today)


Delhi assembly passes bill proposing amendments in CrPC

Delhi Assembly today passed a Bill proposing amendments in the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), setting up another flashpoint with the Centre, as it seeks to broaden the scope of magisterial probes into cases of kidnapping, rape and disappearances.

The Opposition BJP accused the AAP government of "challenging" the authority of Parliament by empowering itself through the move. CrPC is a subject in the Concurrent list.

Till now, magisterial probe is ordered only in cases of custodial death, homicide, suicide of a woman or death of a woman.

Through the amendment to section 176(1) of CrPC the government wants to widen its scope to cover any other cases of suspicious disappearance, rapes in police custody, suspicious death, Delhi Home Minister Satyender Jain, who tabled the Bill, said.

Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said that except three issues - police, land and law and order, the city government has the power bring amendments in laws governing other areas.

"No question should be raised over the power of Delhi Assembly," he said. Sisodia said that the bill will now be sent to President through the Lt Governor.

"It is up to President whether he pass or reject this bill on the advise of Centre," Sisodia added.

Leader of Opposition Vijender Gupta lodged his protest against the Bill saying only Parliament has powers to amend the CrPC.

"By introducing this Bill the Delhi government is challenging the authority of parliament. It is disrespect of Parliament," he said.

Significantly, he assured the government of assistance provided it approaches through the "proper channel." "In that case we will approach the Centre as well for the amendments," he said.

The government also tabled the Delhi (Right of Citizen to Time Bound Delivery of Services) Amendment Bill under which officials are liable to pay penalty for delay in providing services included in the citizens' charter.

It also seeks to ensure "automatic and mandatory" compensation for people doing away with the need to separately apply for it.

The Bill envisages entrusting a Competent Officer with the purpose of effecting payment of compensation to an individual and recovery of the compensation from the officer or person responsible.

(source: Press Trust of India)


Palestinian poet to appeal Saudi death sentence----Defense attorneys have until mid-December to appeal penalty for apostasy handed down to Ashraf Fayadh

A relative of the Palestinian artist sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for apostasy says his defense lawyers plan to appeal.

Saudi Arabia's Al-Watan news website quoted Ashraf Fayadh's brother-in-law, Osama Abu Raya, as saying the verdict announced last Tuesday is an initial sentence. Defense lawyers have until mid-December to file the appeal.

Fayadh was arrested in January 2014. Al-Watan reported that he was charged with blasphemy, spreading atheism and having long hair, along with other charges.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said Monday that Fayadh has denied the charges, which stem from a published book of his poetry and from a complaint lodged by a man who accused Fayadh of making blasphemous statements during a heated discussion at a cafe.

Last week's decision, apparently after an appeal, overturned another lower court's ruling in 2014 sentencing Fayadh to 4 years' prison and 800 lashes.

As the verdict is a lower court ruling, it can still be reviewed by an appeals court and the supreme court. All executions also have to be ultimately approved by King Salman.

Under Saudi Arabia's strict Islamic legal code, murder, drug trafficking, armed robbery, rape and apostasy are all punishable by death.

London-based Amnesty International said earlier this month that 151 people have been executed in Saudi Arabia this year, the highest figure since 192 people were put to death in 1995.

(source: Tiomes of Israel)


Authorities must stop execution of young man convicted of murder in unfair trial

The execution of a 25-year-old man who has been sentenced to death after an unfair trial lacking basic safeguards would be both cruel and an aberration of justice, said Amnesty International today following an announcement that he will be hanged at Raja'i Shahr Prison in Karaj, near Tehran at dawn tomorrow.

Alireza Shahi was sentenced to death in June 2012 under the Islamic legal principle of qesas (retribution-in-kind) for involvement in a fatal stabbing which took place during a fight among several young men in December 2008 when he was 18 years old. After his arrest he was placed in detention for two weeks where he says he was tortured and otherwise ill-treated to confess. He was also denied access to both a lawyer and his family.

"It is always cruel and inhumane to take away an individual's life by hanging but the cruelty is compounded when the execution follows an unfair trial which has relied on coerced confessions, and ignored allegations of torture and other ill-treatment," said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme.

Alireza Shahi had only 1 hearing, before Branch 71 of the Criminal Court in Tehran. According to court documents, during primary investigations which were conducted without a lawyer present, Alireza Shahi admitted to stabbing the victim. However, he later retracted his confession alleging that he had been tortured and accused another man who was also involved in the fight of inflicting the fatal stab wound. His death sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court in May 2013.

"The rate of executions in Iran is deplorable which, if they continue at the current rate, could reach more than 1,000 this year. In case after case we hear allegations of torture, fundamentally flawed trials, all in breach of international law and standards. The Iranian authorities must immediately stop the execution of Alireza Shahi, commute his death sentence and investigate the allegations that he was tortured or otherwise ill-treated."

Amnesty International is also calling on the authorities to stop the hanging of a juvenile offender, Salar Shadizadi, which is feared to have been scheduled for Saturday 28 November. He has been sentenced to death for killing a friend when he was 15 years old, in breach of international law's prohibition on the use of the death penalty against people who were under 18 years old at the time of the crime.

Iran is the 2nd most prolific executioner in the world after China, according to Amnesty International's latest global death penalty report.

(source: Amnesty International USA)


Prosecutors seek death penalty in northeast Ohio killings

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against a man accused of fatally shooting 2 women this year in northeastern Ohio.

A Stark County grand jury has indicted Leeroy Rogers Sr. on aggravated murder, kidnapping and weapons-related charges.

The Canton Repository reports ( ) last week's indictment included factors that can lead to a death sentence if Rogers is convicted.

A message seeking comment was left Monday at Rogers' attorney's office.

The 58-year-old Rogers is accused of killing 47-year-old Kimberly Clupper, whose body was found April 11 in a Massillon park. He also is accused of killing 23-year-old Kendra Carnes. Her body was discovered Aug. 5 in a creek. Both women were shot in the head.

Massillon police say a gun used to kill the women was found in Rogers' home.

(soure: Associated Press)


Fate of Sarawakian on death row in limbo after Singapore court reserves judgment

The Court of Appeal in Singapore today reserved judgment on whether it should review the death sentence meted out on Sarawakian Kho Jabing for murder 8 years ago.

Lawyer Chandra Mohan K. Nair, in his 2-hour submission this evening, told the court that Jabing should be given a lighter sentence given that a lower court had earlier sentenced him to life imprisonment and 24 strokes of the cane. Jabing was found guilty of killing a man in a botched robbery in 2007.

"The lawyer today urged the judges to reconsider the death sentence," Kirsten Han, co-founder of Singapore's anti-death penalty group, We Believe in Second Chances, told The Malaysian Insider.

In 2010, the Sarawakian was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Chinese national Cao Ruyin. His case, however, was remitted to the Singapore High Court in 2013 for re-sentencing after the island-state reviewed their mandatory death penalty laws in 2012.

He was then sentenced to life imprisonment with caning.

His family's relief was shortlived when the death penalty was reimposed by the Court of Appeal in a close 3-2 decision.

Today's proceedings ended with the court reserving judgment to a date which has yet to be decided. Until then, Jabing's stay of execution remains.

Han said that it was likely that judgement would only be announced after the court, which would be on vacation at the end of next week, resumed its session in the new year.

Jabing, who is of Iban and Chinese descent, was scheduled for execution at dawn on November 6, but received a surprise stay of execution the day before after the Singapore Court of Appeal granted his lawyer time to file a criminal motion for a review of his case.

Jumai, and their mother Lenduk with the help of civil society groups in Malaysia and Singapore, have since ramped up efforts to appeal for support from Malaysian lawmakers and the public in calling for the Singapore government to grant him clemency.

Jumai, who was in Kuala Lumpur with her mother on November 11 to meet Sarawakian lawmakers and civil society groups, told The Malaysian Insider that her brother was "truly repentent". "He was so naive when he first went to Singapore, he had never worked or lived away from home.

"He was easily influenced, and he knows he is wrong. He just wants a 2nd chance at life, even if it is behind bars," she said.

(source: The Malaysian Insider)


Kovan double murder: Verdict on 4 December

The verdict of the Kovan double murder trial will be delivered by Justice Tay Yong Kwang on 4 December.

Iskandar Rahmat is standing trial for murdering Tan Boon Sin and his son Tan Chee Hong on 10 July 2013. The former police officer will be hanged if found guilty of the charges.

The accused was in court on Monday morning for the final submissions by both defence and prosecution for his case.

No intent by suspect

Iskandar's lawyer, Shashi Nathan, appealed in his submission for Justice Tay to lower the original charge of murder with the intention to kill under Section 300 (a) of the Penal Code, which carries the mandatory death penalty, to that of Section 300 (c) of the Penal Code.

Section 300 (c) of the Penal Code prescribes that an act is murder if it is done with the intention of causing bodily injury to any person and the bodily injury intended to be inflicted is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death.

The death penalty is not mandatory under Section 300 (c) of the Penal Code, but Iskandar faces life in prison and possibly caning.

Shashi said that he is not asking for his client to be acquitted as Iskandar had already admitted to stabbing both his victims.

"Yes he stabbed both of them but he had no intention to kill them," said Shashi.

The lawyer added that his client is financially strapped and his only motive was to rob the elder Tan to pay off his debts.

He pointed out that his client did not bring a change of clothes and had not parked his car anywhere near the vicinity of the crime scene to facilitate his escape.

"He did not bring a knife and ultimately no knife was found," said Shashi, who added that his client panicked after murdering his victims and left empty handed.

Iskandar wanted to silence victims

The prosecution, led by Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Lau Wing Yum, maintained that Iskandar had planned to kill his victims in order to silence them.

He urged Justice Tay to convict Iskandar under Section 300 (a), arguing that the accused intended to kill his victims and was not acting in self-defense during the incident.

DPP Lau said that the total number of 40 stab wounds found on both victims showed that Iskandar was not defending himself during the incident and that he was determined to kill his victims.

"The accused admitted that he had a knife in his hand when he was defending himself yet there were wounds to the head, neck and chest of both victims," said DPP Lau.

(source: Yahoo News)


7 On Trial Over Murder of Former Kabete MP George Muchai

The State has lined up 4 key prosecution witnesses in a case in which 7 suspects face trial for the murder of former Kabete MP George Muchai.

Mr Muchai, his 2 bodyguards and driver were killed aides in Nairobi early this year.

The witnesses include 2 sisters who were carjacked shortly before the killings and who are "eyewitnesses" in the prosecution's list.

Another witness is a taxi driver who was called after the fatal shooting and who was "warned not to disclose what he had seen or heard or else he would be killed in the next 2 days."

The prosecution also has an "unnamed" witness" who was in contact with the accused persons and who revealed that while in their company, they warned him against mentioning what he had seen and heard and if he did so they would kill him."

The suspects face 2 different capital offences before two courts in Nairobi arising out of the gangland style killing of the trade unionist-cum-politician.

Eric Isabwa alias Chairman, Raphael Kimani alias Kim Butcheri, Mustapha Kimani alias Musto, Stephen Astiva alias Chokore, Jane Wanjiru alias Shiro, Margaret Njeri and Simon Wambugu have denied the four charges of murder at the High.


In a magistrate's court, they also face multiple robbery charges in which the 2 sisters are complainants, having been allegedly carjacked and are eye witnesses of the killing.

If found guilty, the suspects could be sentenced to hang "twice" since each of the 2 separate capital offences attracts the death penalty.

The 7 suspects were charged before Lady Justice Lessit with 4 counts of murder.

The charges state that on the night of February 7, 2015 along Kenyatta Avenue in Nairobi, they murdered Mr Muchai, his 2 bodyguards Samuel Kimathi Kailikia and Samuel Lekakeny Matanta, and his driver Stephen Ituu Wambugu.

At the magistrate's court, the suspects face ten counts of robbery with violence on the same night they allegedly killed the MP.

A lone gunman shot Mr Muchai, who, prior to the incident, had said his life was in danger.

The gunman reportedly stepped out of a car which had brushed Mr Muchai's at around 3am on February 7, 2015 at the Nyayo House round-about within the CBD as the MP was being driven home from a family gathering at Galileo's restaurant in Westlands, Nairobi.

Police reports stated that the gunman motioned 2 other accomplices from their getaway car who then stole the bodyguards' pistols and a briefcase before speeding off.

The getaway car had been robbed from Ms Glady's Waithera and her sister Irene Muthoni.

The 2 have since testified in the robbery case.

(source: Daily Nation)


Experts Divided over Death Penalty Abolishment

Scholars and experts were divided over retaining capital punishment on Monday in a public hearing held by the parliamentary legislation and judiciary committee.

Lawyer Kim Hyung-tae claimed that abolishing the death penalty will eliminate the risks of wrongful executions, noting that murders decreased in Canada after it abolished the death penalty.

Seoul National University law professor Han In-seop said that 140 of 200 countries effectively abolished the death penalty, adding capital punishment cannot be a resolution.

Meanwhile, Sookmyung Women's University law professor Lee Young-ran said that the death penalty has a deterrent effect, warning against a hasty decision to abolish it.

The parliamentary committee has been deliberating on a bill aimed at abolishing the death penalty, after 171 lawmakers made the proposal in August.



Poet Sentenced to Death for Apostasy----Reverses Earlier Ruling of 4 Years, 800 Lashes

A Saudi court sentenced a Palestinian man to death for apostasy on November 17, 2015, for alleged blasphemous statements during a discussion group and in a book of his poetry.

The accused, Ashraf Fayadh, 35, denies the charges and claims that another man made false accusations to the country's religious police following a personal dispute. Fayadh has 30 days to file his appeal.

"Regardless of what Fayadh said or didn't say, Saudi Arabia should stop arresting people for their personal beliefs," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director. "The fact that Ashraf Fayadh is facing the prospect of being beheaded only adds to the outrageousness of this court ruling."

The Guardian reported that Fayadh was born in Saudi Arabia and is a member of the British-Saudi art organization Edge of Arabia, and has curated art shows in Jeddah and Venice.

The trial documents, which Human Rights Watch reviewed, indicate that members of Saudi Arabia's Committee on the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, or religious police, arrested Fayadh at a cafe in Abha, in southern Saudi Arabia, in August 2013. The religious police went to the cafe after a man reported that Fayadh had made obscene comments about God, the Prophet Muhammad, and the Saudi state. The man also alleged that Fayadh passed around a book he wrote that allegedly promoted atheism and unbelief.

After Fayadh was arrested, the court documents indicate, the religious police discovered on his phone photos of Fayadh with several women, whom Fayadh said he met at an art gallery.

The religious police held him for a day, then released him, but authorities re-arrested him on January 1, 2014. Prosecutors charged him with a host of blasphemy-related charges, including: blaspheming "the divine self" and the Prophet Muhammad; spreading atheism and promoting it among the youth in public places; mocking the verses of God and the prophets; refuting the Quran; denying the day of resurrection; objecting to fate and divine decree; and having an illicit relationship with women and storing their pictures in his phone.

During the trial, which consisted of six hearings between February and May 2014, Fayadh denied the charges, and called three witnesses contesting the testimony of the man who reported him to the religious police. The defense witnesses said that the man reported Fayadh following a personal dispute, and that they had never heard blasphemous statements from Fayadh. Fayadh also said that his book, Instructions Within, published a decade before, consists of love poems and was not written with the intention of insulting religion.

During the last session, Fayadh expressed repentance for anything in the book that religious authorities may have deemed insulting, stating, according to trial documents, "I am repentant to God most high and I am innocent of what appeared in my book mentioned in this case."

On May 26, 2014, the General Court of Abha convicted Fayadh and sentenced him to 4 years in prison and 800 lashes. The court rejected a prosecution request for a death sentence for apostasy due to trial testimony indicating "hostility" between Fayadh and the man who reported him, as well as Fayadh's repentance.

The prosecutor appealed the ruling. Human Rights Watch was not able obtain a copy of the appeals ruling on the initial verdict, but the case was eventually sent back to the lower court. On November 17, 2015, a new judge with the General Court of Abha reversed the previous sentence and sentenced Fayadh to death for apostasy.

According to the judge's ruling, he dismissed the testimony of the defense witnesses in the initial trial and ruled that Fayadh's repentance was not enough to avoid the death sentence.

"Repentance is a work of the heart relevant to matter of the judiciary of the hereafter; it is not the focus of the earthly judiciary," the ruling said.

The case moves next to the appeals court. The sentence must be approved by the appeals court and the Supreme Court.

Saudi Arabia has executed 152 people in 2015, which according to Amnesty International is the highest recordednumber since 1995. Most executions are carried out by beheading, sometimes in public. The vast majority are for murder and drug crimes, but Saudi courts occasionally hand down death sentences for other "crimes" such as apostasy and sorcery.

In February 2015, a Saudi court sentenced a Saudi man to death for apostasy for allegedly posting a video to YouTube showing him tearing pages of the Quran. A local activist associated with the case told Human Rights Watch that the man suffered from a mental disorder.

Human Rights Watch opposes capital punishment in all countries and under all circumstances. Capital punishment is unique in its cruelty and finality, and it is inevitably and universally plagued with arbitrariness, prejudice, and error.

Saudi authorities regularly pursue charges against individuals based solely on their peaceful exercise of freedom of expression, in violation of international human rights obligations. The Arab Charter on Human Rights, which Saudi Arabia has ratified, guarantees the right to freedom of opinion and expression under article 32.

"This death sentence against Fayadh is yet another indictment of Saudi Arabia's human rights record," Whitson said. "The Saudi authorities should immediately vacate this sentence and order Fayadh's release."

(source: Human Righs Watch)


Bangladesh on high alert after 2 opposition leaders executed

Bangladesh was on high alert Monday after executing 2 opposition leaders for war crimes during the country's 1971 independence war, despite threats of violence by their supporters and international concerns that the legal proceedings were flawed.

A reporter was shot and wounded Sunday after covering the funeral of 1 of the men, though it was not clear who was responsible.

On Monday, paramilitary border guards and thousands of other security officials were patrolling cities including the capital, Dhaka, in an effort to prevent any violence as the South Asian country's main Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami, called for a nationwide strike.

The party is protesting the hanging Sunday of its general secretary, Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid, and Bangladesh Nationalist Party leader Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury.

Mujahid had been found guilty on charges of genocide, conspiracy in killing intellectuals, torture and abduction during the South Asian nation's independence war against Pakistan, while Chowdhury was convicted on charges of torture, rape and genocide.

Authorities did not expect many to follow the call to strike, given that Jamaat-e-Islami has only about 3 percent of the country's vote. Nevertheless, authorities were being cautious after a spate of killings claimed by Islamist extremists this year, including the murders of four secular bloggers, a publisher and two foreigners since February.

While there has been concern over the legal process that led to the executions, most leading Bangladeshi newspapers and TV stations supported the hangings.

The leading English-language Daily Star in one story detailed the atrocities for which Chowdhury was convicted. A 2nd story narrated how minority Hindus had been brutally attacked and killed and their homes torched under Chowdhury's leadership.

2 top Bangla-language dailies, Samakal and Prothom Alo, also published reports demonstrating support for the trials and executions.

A few hours after the men were hanged at Dhaka Central Jail in the nation's capital, a security detail escorted ambulances carrying their bodies to their homes, where their families were to perform burial rituals.

Rajib Sen, a reporter for the Mohona TV station, was on his way back from Chowdhury's funeral in Chittagong district when his car was sprayed with bullets, the station said. 3 other journalists in the car escaped unhurt, and Sen was rushed to a hospital in Chittagong. The TV station is owned by a member of the ruling Awami League party.

Police would not provide any details on the shooting, and it was not immediately clear who attacked the car.

Last Wednesday, Bangladesh's Supreme Court upheld the men's death sentences. President Mohammad Abdul Hamid rejected a clemency appeal on Saturday, clearing the way for the executions, according to both the justice minister and home minister. The families denied that the 2 men asked for mercy, according to a spokesman.

Jamaat-e-Islami and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party say the trials were politically motivated - an allegation Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has denied. 2 other senior Jamaat-e-Islami party leaders have already been executed for war crimes, among 18 people convicted of war crimes since the tribunal was set up in 2010 - most of them leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami.

The party had campaigned openly against independence for Bangladesh, which was part of Pakistan until the 1971 war. Bangladesh's government says that Pakistani soldiers, aided by local collaborators, killed 3 million people and raped 200,000 women during the war.

Mujahid, 67, was the head of Islami Chhatra Sangha, then the student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami . He was accused of being the mastermind behind the killing of intellectuals, including teachers and journalists, days before the Pakistani military surrendered to a joint force of freedom fighters and Indian army units on Dec. 16, 1971, after a bloody 9-month war.

Chowdhury, 66, whose father was the speaker of Pakistan's National Assembly and, at times, the acting president of Pakistan, also actively opposed Bangladeshi independence. He was accused of carrying out war crimes, including killing more than 200 civilians, mostly minority Hindus, during the independence war, according to evidence presented at the tribunal.

In a statement late Sunday, Pakistan's Foreign Ministry said the men's trials had been flawed, and that "Pakistan is deeply disturbed" by the executions.

U.S. lawmakers overseeing foreign policy also described the war crimes tribunal, set up in 2013, as "very flawed" and a means of political retribution. Leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in a letter sent Tuesday to the top U.S. diplomat for South Asia, voiced concern that "democratic space is shrinking" in Bangladesh amid "a growing climate of violence, fear and self-censorship."

Since February, 4 secular bloggers, a publisher, and 2 foreigners - an Italian aid worker and a Japanese agriculture researcher - have been killed in attacks linked to Islamic militants.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for some of the attacks, but authorities say the Sunni extremist group has no presence in the country. Instead, Hasina has blamed the attacks on the opposition, accusing them of trying to destabilize the country and halt the war crimes trials. Both opposition parties denied the allegation.

Such extremist violence was once rare in Bangladesh, which is mostly Muslim but has a strong secular tradition. Meanwhile, at least a dozen Christian bishops or priests have received death threats by phone or SMS from suspected radical groups, according to a Christian association.

(source: Associated Press)


Brotherhood condemns Bangladesh execution of opposition leaders .

The Muslim Brotherhood has condemned the "unjust and unfair" execution of 2 opposition leaders in Bangladesh.

On Saturday, the authorities in Dhaka carried out the death sentences passed on the Secretary General of the Islamic Group in the country, Ali Ahsan Mujahid, and an MP of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, Salauddin Quader Chowdhury.

"The fierce attack on the symbols of Islamic Action by imprisonment and the death penalty will not succeed in dissuading the Mujahideen fighters who walk the path of freedom and dignity," said a Brotherhood statement on its website.

Bangladesh's highest court sentenced the 1 opposition leaders to death for crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the country's war of independence in 1971.

(source: Middle East Monitor)


War Crimes Trial ---- 4 major appeals pending with SC; Hearing on Nizami's appeal may end next month

Appeals of four top Jamaat-e-Islami leaders, among others, against death penalties handed down to them for war crimes are now pending with the Supreme Court and those would be dealt with 1 by 1.

The convicts are: Jamaat Ameer Motiur Rahman Nizami, Mir Quasem Ali, ATM Azharul Islam, and Abdus Subhan.

The Appellate Division of the SC is now hearing the appeal of Nizami.

The SC might complete hearing Nizami's appeal by December 15, said Attorney General Mahbubey Alam while talking to reporters yesterday at his office.

After disposing of the appeal of Nizami, the apex court might hold hearing on the appeal of death-row inmate Quasem, and then of Azharul's and Subhan's, he said.

Besides, the appeals of condemned war criminals Mobarak Hossain, an expelled Awami League leader of Brahmanbaria, and Syed Mohammad Qaisar, former state minister of HM Ershad's government, were also pending with the SC, court sources said.

So far, trials of five war criminals have been completed with the SC's latest verdicts on Jamaat leader Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed and BNP leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury.

Mojaheed and Salauddin were executed in the early hours of yesterday, as the apex court finally upheld their death penalty on November 18 for their crimes against humanity and war crimes in 1971.

Earlier, the SC upheld the death penalties of Jamaat leaders Abdul Quader Mollah and Muhammad Kamaruzzaman for their wartime offences. Mollah was executed on December 12, 2013, and Kamaruzzaman on April 11 this year.

The SC on September 17 last year commuted the death penalty of Jamaat leader Delawar Hossain Sayedee and sentenced him to imprisonment until death.

Mahbubey said his office would move a review petition before the Appellate Division seeking to reinstate the death penalty for Sayedee after the SC releases the full text of the judgment that commuted his sentence.

The SC verdicts on Mojaheed, Salauddin, Kamaruzzaman, and Quader Mollah had satisfied family members of the war crimes victims, justice seekers, war crimes trial campaigners, state counsels, and investigators, but the judgement on Sayedee has frustrated them.

The convicts' families, defence counsels, and the party they belong to were dissatisfied with the trials and verdicts and pointed to controversies.

Eminent jurist Shahdeen Malik told The Daily Star that in spite of some controversies and shortcomings, the war crimes tribunals have certainly worked well.

The accused war criminals had received adequate opportunities to present their cases and the trials have been conducted and completed well, he said.

"I strongly feel that most of the international criticisms are unfair."

Khurshid Alam Khan, an SC lawyer and editor of Dhaka Law reports, told The Daily Star that the war crimes trials were fair despite controversies.

War crimes were different from other crimes and there was no need for eyewitnesses, he said, adding that the documentary evidence was enough for holding such trials.

After the International Crimes Tribunal-2 sentenced Sayedee to death in 2013, activists of Jamaat and pro-Jamaat student body Islami Chhatra Shibir resorted to violence that left 65 people dead and several hundred injured in just 1 week.

International Crimes Tribunal-1 chairman Justice Md Nizamul Huq resigned on December 11, 2012, following the "leaked Skype conversation between him and expatriate legal expert Ahmed Ziauddin".

Bangla daily Amar Desh also published "transcripts of the Skype conversation of Justice Huq with Ahmed Ziauddin".

Kamaruzzaman on January 2, 2013, sought retrial of the war crimes case against him following the "scandal".

Other accused, particularly Salauddin, filed several petitions with the tribunals and the SC to delay the proceedings.

Salauddin and his men had used every means at their disposal to cause delays and create controversies.

His family members and others allegedly leaked the draft tribunal verdict of his case and launched an online campaign to create a controversy.

A controversy surfaced a few days before the SC verdict that upheld Salauddin's death penalty. Janakantha, a Bangla daily, published an article headlined "Saka Paribarer Totporota! Palabar Path Kome Gechhe" (Lobbying by Salauddin Quader's family! Escape route narrowed). Among other things, the opinion piece claimed that a member of the SC bench hearing the appeal of Salauddin met the convict's family members.

Later, the SC found the newspaper editor and the writer of the article in contempt and punished them.

Salauddin submitted a forged certificate from Punjab University of Pakistan before the SC to prove that he was not in Bangladesh during the country's Liberation War in 1971. However, the apex court saw through that and dismissed his review petition and upheld his death penalty.

(source: The Daily Star)


5 get death penalty for rape and murder of Odisha minor

A local court in Odisha's Keonjhar district today pronounced death sentence to 5 accused in the rape and murder of a minor girl in Beklundi village in the district in 2012.

Pronouncing the quantum of sentence, Champua Additional District and Sessions Judge court today awarded death sentence to the 5 accused.

On the day of the crime, the victim did not return home from morning tuition at Barbil basti. Following this, the family members launched a frantic search and found her body with injury marks on her body about 1 kilometer from the village.

According to reports, the deceased, a Class VIII student of a high school in Barbil, was attacked by some persons earlier also but her family had not taken the matter seriously.

While 5 of the accused were awarded death sentence, 2 others accused in the case are yet to be apprehended by the police.

The convicted are Mata Munda, Mangal Prusty, Jiten Munda, Harjit Singh and Biswanath Munda.

(source: Odisha Sun Times)


Iranian Authorities Hang 5 Prisoners Including Afghan Citizen

According to confirmed sources, Iranian authorities have executed at least 5 prisoners in the span of 4 days.

Close sources and the human rights group HRANA report that 3 prisoners were hanged by Iranian authorities on Wednesday November 18 at Zahedan Central Prison (Sistan & Baluchestan) for alleged drug related offenses. The names of the prisoners have been reported as Hassan Doroiee Moghaddam, Morteza Lakzaie, and Nazir Ahmad Reigi. A confirmed source who asked to be anonymous tells IHR: "Nazir Ahmad Reigi is an Afghan citizen who was held in prison for 6 years prior to his execution."

According to the Kurdistan Human Rights Network, two prisoners were hanged at Miandoab Prison (West Azerbaijan). One of the prisoners has been identified as Ali Latini, a man who was sentenced to death for an alleged drug related offense. No confirmed information is available about the other prisoner.

Official Iranian sources have been silent on these 5 executions.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Moratorium or not, Indonesia could be abandoning the death penalty

A number of news outlets reported last week that Indonesia had placed a moratorium on the death penalty. Indonesian's co-ordinating security minister, Luhut Panjaitan, was said to announce this by saying:

We haven't thought about executing a death penalty with the economic conditions like this.

However, Panjaitan later denied this meant an end to capital punishment in Indonesia:

No, I told them we will not carry out executions for the time being because we are now focusing on the economy.

What is a moratorium?

A moratorium means the suspension of executions. It may be official and announced, or simply practised.

Therefore, on the face of it, Indonesia has entered a moratorium of an indeterminate period. The dozens on death row in Indonesia may eventually see their sentences commuted to life imprisonment.

The last - unofficial - moratorium in Indonesia ran from 2008 to 2013 under the presidency of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY). SBY is reported to have deeply disliked capital punishment. But his replacement, Joko Widodo, embraced executions as part of a hardline stance against drug offending.

Capital punishment globally

140 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. 58 retain the death penalty.

Many jurisdictions have abandoned capital punishment in recent years. A moratorium is a well-established step along the path to full abolition.

However, capital punishment remains a global human rights concern. In 2014, at least 22 countries carried out 607 or more executions. At least 2,466 people were sentenced to death around the world.

The 5 countries responsible for the most executions, according to confirmed data, were Iran (289), Saudi Arabia (90), Iraq (61), the US (35) and Sudan (23). These statistics do not include the suspected thousands of executions in China, which does not report statistics.

Are the reasons for a moratorium important?

There are many persuasive arguments against capital punishment. The death penalty violates the right to life, inflicts torture and is especially wrong where it is carried out in discriminatory ways or for crimes that are not really serious.

Further, the death penalty risks the lives of innocent people wrongly convicted. It has no proven special deterrent value.

Where a country introduces a moratorium or abolishes the death penalty, it might seem reasonable to assume that public and political opinion has identified the practice as wrong. However, capital punishment has often been abandoned for reasons that have little or nothing to do with the ethics of the practice.

31 American states retain capital punishment in law but only about 8 states currently practise it. The number of executions has dropped significantly in recent years. Oklahoma introduced a moratorium in 2014, following the botched and torturous execution of Clayton Lockett.

Similar incidents have led doctors to refuse to participate in executions, and pharmaceutical companies to refuse supply of the most-tested lethal injection drugs.

In the US, as in Indonesia, moratoriums have come in response to the high costs of death-penalty prosecutions and executions.

A win for death penalty opponents?

This is not Indonesia's 1st moratorium on capital punishment. And the practice could easily be reinstated. This may depend on whether the current moratorium is purely motivated by the economy, or whether it is also an indirect response to international condemnation of the most recent executions.

The 2 factors are possibly related. Foreign investors are more cautious about Indonesia due to the controversy caused by its recent executions of foreign nationals.

Whether Indonesia's new moratorium is genuine or temporary, this is an advocacy moment for Australia to seize.

Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs responded to the executions of Australian drug smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran in Indonesia in April with a call for abolitionist lobbying across Asia and the Pacific. Triggs noted that the death penalty has been abandoned in New Zealand, Cambodia, Timor Leste, the Philippines, Bhutan and Nepal. De facto moratoriums are operating in Fiji, Thailand and Laos.

Philip Ruddock is chairing a federal parliamentary inquiry into Australia's advocacy for the abolition of the death penalty. Asked whether Indonesia's economic justification for the moratorium might be a strategy to mask its desire to respond to international pressure, he said:

My view is that any change is desirable ... There are a very large number of Indonesians on death row in other countries that [the Indonesians] work hard to have released, so they have an interest in seeing a more just outcome in relation to dealing with these issues around the world.

During his recent visit to Indonesia, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull refrained from raising capital punishment. But in line with the parliamentary inquiry's objectives, Turnbull could capitalise on the moratorium by renewing dialogue with Indonesia on the issue.

(source:Amy Maguire, Lecturer in International Law, University of Newcastle----The Conversation)


Hanging of wheelchair-bound Pakistan prisoner to go ahead despite no new guidelines----Abdul Basit due to be hanged on Wednesday despite fears that execution of disabled prisoner could mean prolonged and cruel death

Abdul Basit, 43, who is paralysed from the waist down, had received a last-minute reprieve in September after the duty magistrate said the execution was impossible under prison rules as he was unable to stand on the gallows.

But a fresh death warrant for Basit was issued by the Faisalabad district court on Friday after the provincial government insisted the execution can proceed without waiting for new guidelines.

Campaigners fear that any attempt to hang Basit could see him either facing decapitation or prolonged strangulation as the procedures set out in prison rules for assessing the length of rope only cover prisoners able to stand.

A prison official told the Telegraph that a letter requesting new instructions for carrying out executions for disabled prisoners had been sent to the interior ministry in September, but that none had been received.

"In our report from jail authorities, we clearly mention that Abdual Basit is paralysed," said the official, under condition of anonymity.

The duty magistrate will now decide if the execution goes ahead on Wednesday.

Basit's mother Nusrat Perveen said she had been asked to pay her son a final visit on Tuesday before his execution the following morning.

"I was shocked when jail officials asked me to have a final meeting with my son," she said. "He is still paralysed and unable to move himself, he is unable to stand on the gallows-board."

"I sent a mercy petition to the president weeks ago to pardon my son but received no reply. I appeal to the president and prime minister of Pakistan to pardon my son on humanitarian grounds."

Sara Belal of Justice Project Pakistan, a non-profit law firm representing Basit, said: "Nothing has changed since Basit's execution was halted earlier this year, on the grounds that his disability could mean that he might suffer from a prolonged, needlessly cruel execution."

International human rights groups reacted with outrage to the decision, which they claim violates Pakistani and international laws.

Reprieve, the international human rights group, described the decision as "bewildering".

The group says Basit's paraplegic condition is the result of mismanagement of a tubercular meningitis infection he contracted in prison in 2010.

Basit, a former administrator at a medical college, was convicted in May 2009 of the murder of the uncle of a woman with whom he was allegedly in a relationship. He has always maintained his innocence.

(source: The Telegraph)

NOVEMBER 22, 2015:


Court ruling ups the ante for double murderer facing the death penalty

A midstate man who has been on and off the execution list for the April 1987 murder of a restaurant manager had his odds of returning to death row increased this week by a state court ruling.

A state Superior Court panel decided that a jury which will consider whether David Allen Sattazahn should receive the death penalty can hear evidence about his conviction for another killing that occurred eight months after manager's murder.

That decision overturns a Berks County judge's ruling that barred prosecutors from telling the jurors about the later killing.

Sattazahn's case has taken a twisted course since the former Lebanon County man was arrested for the April 12, 1987 robbery/murder of 36-year-old Richard Boyer, who was shot while leaving his Heidelberg Township restaurant.

Sattazahn was first convicted of 1st-degree murder in 1991 for Boyer's killing. The jury deadlocked on whether he should receive the death penalty, so he was sentenced to life in prison.

After winning an appeal of that conviction, Sattazahn was retried for the Boyer slaying. The 2nd time, he was again convicted of 1st-degree murder and the jury ruled that he should be sentenced to death.

That death sentence, imposed in 1999, was upheld by the Superior Court, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Yet in 2006, Berks County Judge Scott D. Keller ruled that Sattazahn deserved a new hearing on whether he should receive the death penalty because his lawyer had been ineffective in arguing against execution. Keller let Sattazahn's murder conviction stand, but ordered that another jury be selected just to rule on the death penalty issue.

Another legal snag cropped up as jury selection on the death penalty issue was about to begin in March 2014. The prosecution announced that it planned to tell the jurors about Sattazahn's third-degree murder conviction for a slaying that occurred in December 1987, more than eight months after Boyer was killed.

Sattazahn's lawyers objected, arguing that the jury should hear only about crimes he committed before the Boyer murder. Another county judge, John A. Boccabella, agreed to bar prosecutors from mentioning the third-degree murder case.

The district attorney's office appealed, and once again Sattazahn's case headed for the Superior Court.

In that court's latest opinion, Judge Victor P. Stabile found that Boccabella was wrong to bar the DA from telling jurors about the 3rd-degree murder conviction, which resulted from Sattazahn's guilty plea for the killing of 26-year-old Michael Protivak of Schuylkill County.

Interestingly, Stabile based his conclusion in part on a 2000 state Supreme Court ruling on one of the unsuccessful appeals Sattazahn's filed after his 2nd trial for the Boyer murder. In that decision, the Supreme Court rejected Sattazahn's argument that crimes he committed after the Boyer slaying shouldn't have been used against him during his 1999 retrial.

"The fact that the offenses occurred after the (Boyer) murder is irrelevant under the law," the high court ruled in 2000.

The new decision by Stabile's court ups the ante for Sattazahn because evidence of a "significant history" of felony convictions is an aggravating circumstance prosecutors can cite in pressing for the death penalty.



Pennsylvania to seek death penalty against man accused in killing spree ---- Prosecutors say Todd West deserves to be put to death if convicted of 1st-degree murder in the deaths of 7 people in 2 states

A New Jersey man who is accused of killing 7 people in 2 states over a 7-week span this summer could face the death penalty if he is convicted in Pennsylvania, prosecutors said.

Todd West, 23, is charged in Pennsylvania with homicide and robbery counts in three deaths. Lehigh County prosecutors say he fatally shot a man in Easton and a man and a woman in Allentown on 5 July.

Police have also alleged that West also killed his cousin in an apartment building in his home town of Elizabeth, New Jersey, on 18 May. He is also accused of killing 3 other victims in Elizabeth on 25 June. Authorities have agreed to try West in the Pennsylvania cases 1st.

Prosecutors, who have said the victims were chosen at random, said in court documents filed last week that West deserved to be put to death if convicted of 1st-degree murder. West and 2 co-defendants are scheduled to be formally arraigned on Tuesday.

If West is convicted of 1st-degree murder, however, he may not face execution. In February, Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf placed a hold on executions in a state which has executed only 3 prisoners since the reinstatement of the death penalty by the US supreme court in 1976.

New Jersey abolished the death penalty in 2007.

Investigators said West told them he spotted Kory Ketrow, 22, walking down an Easton street early on 5 July and directed a co-defendant to pull their SUV over, then emptied his 6-shot, .38-caliber revolver at the victim.

A few minutes later, authorities allege, West opened fire on a motorist stopped at a red light - striking the vehicle but missing the occupants - and then headed to Allentown, less than 20 miles away, firing out of the SUV's window during the ride.

Authorities allege that he shot 2 more people minutes after getting to Allentown. Police found Francine Ramos, 32, dead of gunshot wounds in the driver's seat of a car. Her passenger, Trevor Davante Hall-Gray, 21, was found leaning against a nearby parked car, with gunshot wounds. He died a short time later.

Authorities said West told them he heard voices in his head and believed the devil was speaking to him.

Defense attorney Robert Sletvold, who has said he will seek a mental health evaluation of his client, said he was not surprised by the decision to seek capital punishment.

"From the beginning, this appeared to be the way the Commonwealth was going to take the case," Sletvold told the (Easton) Express-Times.

(source: The Guardian)


State may vote again next November on death penalty ban

Californians may be asked again to repeal the state's delay-plagued death penalty law next November, four years after narrowly retaining the law.

State election officials on Friday cleared a new initiative for circulation that would ban executions in California and make life imprisonment without parole the mandatory sentence for all capital murderers, including the nearly 750 condemned inmates on the nation's largest death row.

A similar measure got 48 % of the vote in 2012. The new initiative, like the previous one, would require convicted killers to work while in prison and would send 60 % of their prison wages to their victims' families.

State finance officials say the repeal would save California up to $150 million a year by eliminating Death Row and the cost of litigating lengthy capital cases. The new initiative would send the savings to state coffers, unlike the 2012 m The lead sponsor is Mike Farrell, the former co-star of television's "MASH" series, who recently stepped down as executive director of the advocacy group Death Penalty Focus to run the campaign. Although the measure has now been approved for circulation, Farrell said Friday no decision will be made to start gathering signatures until backers have lined up the needed funding.

The initiative will need 365,880 signatures of registered voters within 180 days to qualify for the ballot. It may wind up competing with an initiative by death penalty supporters to speed up executions in California.

The rival measure, which is awaiting state clearance to begin circulation, would set strict deadlines for filing death sentence appeals and for rulings by the state Supreme Court. It would also seek to expand the pool of lawyers for death penalty cases to all attorneys who accept court appointments to represent impoverished defendants. Another provision would eliminate a requirement of a period of public comment before final state approval of a new single-drug execution method, proposed by state officials to replace 3-drug executions in settlement of a lawsuit by death penalty supporters.

Executions in California have been on hold since 2006, when a federal judge ruled that defects in the state's lethal injection procedures created an unacceptable risk of a botched execution, but an appeals court overturned that ruling last month.

18 states have abolished the death penalty and voters in Nebraska will decide next November whether to uphold their legislature's decision to eliminate capital punishment. All the other repeals were by legislative action rather than at the ballot box.

(source: San Francisco Chronicle)


Ex-con accused in execution of 3 Pinoys found guilty

After 3 years, a verdict has arrived for the man believed to have shot and killed 4 people, including 3 Filipino Americans, at an illegal boarding house in Northridge, California.

On Thursday, a jury at a San Fernando court has found Ka Pasasouk guilty of 1st degree murder for the shooting deaths of Teofilo Navales, Robert Calabia, Amanda Ghossein, and Jennifer Kim.

According to the testimonies, Pasasouk had planned to kill Navales whom he had an altercation with several months before the Dec. 2, 2012 murder. He shot and killed the other three in an attempt to hide witnesses.

Because of the nature of the execution style murders, Pasasouk faces a possible death sentence.

The penalty phase of the hearing is scheduled for next week.

Local authorities have been blamed for failing to protect the public from Pasasouk, who has had a history of violence and drug related cases.

(source: ABS-CBN news)


Combat experience is factor in death penalty cases, experts say

Over 22 days in October 2002, John Allen Muhammad and an accomplice terrorized residents of Washington, D.C., shooting 13 people while they shopped, dined, or stopped for gas.

Known as the "D.C. Sniper," Muhammad was an Army veteran who had enlisted in the National Guard at age 18, transferred to the regular Army in 1985 and served three months as a combat engineer in the Persian Gulf War.

By his ex-wife's account, Muhammad was once the "life of the party," and a good soldier. But he returned home from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait a changed man, "moody, confused, diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder," Mildred Muhammad said during a speech on domestic violence at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in 2012.

Shortly after Muhammad left the Army in 1995, his life began to unravel. He began abusing and threatening his wife, kidnapped his children, and in 2002, systematically began killing people across the U.S.

At his trial, Muhammad represented himself. He lost and was sentenced to death. In his final appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court before he was executed in 2009, medical experts said he lacked rational understanding to represent himself, was delusional and actually had 3 lesions in his brain.

Now a new report from the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center argues that Muhammad's military experience and mental health condition should have been considered as part of his defense and he should not have been allowed to represent himself.

In a broader context, the report also charges that the veterans on death row in more than 35 states face a legal system that poorly understands the trauma of war and the significant impacts that combat can have on the human psyche.

Few states keep tabs of the number of veterans on death row, but extrapolation of data from several states, including California and Florida, which have the highest known numbers, indicate that 275 to 300 of the nation's 3,057 death row inmates have served in the military.

Richard Dieter, author of "Battle Scars: Military Veterans and the Death Penalty," said that in death penalty cases involving known veterans, most of the vets not only served in the military, but also deployed to combat zones.

"The issue is that they have combat experience, often facing shocking traumatic experiences of war and it had an effect on them," Dieter said. "Often, this didn't come out in trial and this seems, to me, like mitigating evidence that's out of line with receiving the death penalty."

In March, Vietnam veteran Andrew Brannan became the 1st person to be executed in the U.S. in 2015.

Brannan, who had been rated 100-percent disabled for PTSD by the Veterans Affairs Department, murdered a sheriff's deputy after he was pulled over for traveling 98 mph on a country road.

In a flurry of last-minute appeals, Brannan's attorneys argued that at the time of his trial, the medical community knew little about the psychiatric impact of combat.

"The nation's understanding has evolved so much in the past 14 years," said Tom Lundin, one of Brannan's attorneys. "This case violates the Eighth Amendment. It is cruel and unusual punishment for a combat veteran suffering from documented PTSD and he should not be executed."

Although the death penalty is being acted on with less frequency in the U.S., Iraq War veteran Courtney Lockhart may be one of the next to receive the punishment. The former Army private kidnapped and killed Auburn University freshman Lauren Burk, 18, as she was getting into her car on campus in March 2008. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court declined to consider his case.

Lockhart spent more than 15 months in Ramadi, Iraq, during a time when 64 members of his brigade died in combat. A jury sentenced him to life without parole, but the judge overruled that and sentenced Lockhart to death.

Dieter said Lockhart's trial attorneys "did little to investigate or portray his military background" and says many lawyers don't know how to handle such cases.

"They are not trained to explore what may have happened in the war zone, what kind of effect having your life threatened may have on your mental stability," Dieter said.

He added that while PTSD or combat-related trauma "is no excuse," it is a factor that should be considered by the prosecution and the defense.

"There ought to be a check on a case if a veteran is involved," he said. "Not that they are different than teachers, firefighters, police officers or others who are in public service, but it should be delved into that veterans have experiences no one else has had."

The unique needs of veterans who enter the legal system were the primary reason that specialized "veterans treatment courts" were developed starting in 2008.

These courts remove veterans from the traditional court system and provide support, counseling and treatment by legal professionals familiar with veterans' issues.

They handle only cases that can be adjudicated with probation, mental health treatment or community service. Still, the system has "raised awareness in communities of veterans in the justice system" and called attention to the mental health consequences of combat deployments, said Christopher Deutsch, communications director with Justice For Vets.

"More than any other time in our history, the public has an understanding for how much issues like PTSD affect men and women who have been in combat," Deutsch said. "The justice system as a whole is moving toward a place where judges want to have as much information as possible about defendants."

But, he added, national data on the number of veterans in the justice system is more than 10 years old, and the task of identifying vets and considering their unique needs still rests with individual courts.

"The vast majority of veterans return from service and lead exemplary lives and are heroes in our community. But we also have to accept that issues like combat PTSD can lead to violent behavior," Deustch said.

Michael Rushford, president and CEO of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, a nonprofit that supports the death penalty, said a veteran's military record should be considered by a jury in sentencing, one of many mitigating factors that may draw sympathy in sentencing.

But, he added, even in the cases of veterans sentenced to death, "the public has a right to have that sentence for the worse murderers. In some cases, we think it’s the only appropriate sentence."

Dieter's organization stopped short of calling for an across-the-board exemption for veterans facing the death penalty, and said DPIC officials wrote "Battle Scars" to call attention to the "forgotten cases, the unexplored cases."

"It's hard for a jury to put aside the multiple murders and cold-bloodedness of many of these crimes and say it's mental illness," he said. "But I don't think that should be off the table."

(source: Military Times)


Religion is the problem

What if a church group started murdering homosexuals, adulterers, and atheists? Nearly everyone would say that these church members were not true Christians. Yet the killers could readily cite Biblical authority to justify their executions: Leviticus chapter 20, verses 10 and 13, and 24:16.

Confronted with such texts in their holy books, religious believers have 2 typical responses: (a) that the verses are being taken out of context; or (b) that these laws no longer apply. These are not intellectually honest rebuttals. In respect to the first claim, believers can never give a context which alters the natural meaning of these texts; in respect to the 2nd, this would logically mean that their god changes his mind and therefore no text can be taken as authoritative.

Of course, Christians don't usually execute sinners nowadays. But apologists for Islam like to point out that Christianity of the Middle Ages committed many of the same atrocities that Muslim extremists are doing today. This is a curious defence, however, since it is an assertion that 2 wrongs make a right. But this just shows how religious belief retards moral reasoning.

Consider, for example, this scenario: you are a ruler on a tropical island which is not technologically advanced enough to build prisons. Three men have robbed a fisherman, murdered him, and stolen his boat. When they are caught, you have 3 options for punishment: (1) banish them from the island; (2) execute them; (3) stake them to the hot sand on the beach, puncture their eyeballs with sharpened sticks, cut off their hands and feet, and let them bleed to death.

Now whether you choose (1) or (2) will depend on whether you support the death penalty or not. But most people would not choose the third option, since execution by torture is a punishment disproportionate to the crime. Yet, in this scenario, all devout Muslims must choose Option#3: for this is exactly what the Prophet Muhammad is recorded in the Hadiths as doing and, according to Islamic doctrine, his actions are considered a perfect guide on all questions of morality and law.

Now, clearly, when Muhammad ordered this punishment 1,400 years ago, that was considered justice. In the 21st century, however, the majority of religious believers would probably not view such acts as just or even civilised. But what has changed? Not the holy texts, obviously. Instead, believers twist and turn to avoid the clear meanings of such texts. Even when I cite Sura 4:34 of the Q'uran, which instructs men who fear being horned to beat their wives, Muslim apologists claim I am misquoting the text.

But why are Muslim believers arguing against a verse in their own holy book which they say is God's absolute truth? Even if we accept the argument of different interpretations, this would mean that their God has failed in the most basic goal of clarity: which would make me a better writer than Allah. The fact is, Muslims are embarrassed by this text because wife-beating is considered reprehensible in modern society. And that shows that interpretations of religious texts are really shaped by secular values. Also, as the British philosopher A C Grayling notes in his book The God Argument, "Non-fundamentalist religion, by definition depends upon cherry-picking the given religion's doctrines, discarding the uncongenial teachings and reinterpreting others to make them more comfortable to live with."

This is not to say that holy books are irrelevant. After all, Jainism has injunctions which specifically abjure violence, whereas Islam has many texts justifying it: that is why Jains generally do not commit suicide with bombs in crowded places. But the attitude of religious believers is mainly determined by their holy books as interpreted under specific socioeconomic and political conditions. So Muslims who are a minority group in any country are relatively more tolerant, at least in action, than their counterparts in Muslim majority nations. But theirs is not genuine tolerance - ie respect for different beliefs, philosophies and lifestyles. After all, not one Muslim leader in T&T has ever agreed that homosexuals should have the same rights as heterosexuals or that the marriage age for Muslim females should be raised from 12 years old.

All this hinges on a core question of moral philosophy: Is an act good because God makes it so or because it is inherently so?

If an act is only good because it is ordained by God, then God could make sex with babies morally right. If, however, we assert that such an act could never be moral, it means that we are applying a standard of morality without reference to God. I have found that believers have a hard time understanding the simple logic of this argument. Some of them even insist that "God would never make such acts good," without realising that this assertion also means that God is constrained by some antecedent moral standard which exists outside Himself.

This is why people who base their morals on religion can always justify any atrocity, whereas persons whose morality is based on secular ethics never can.

(source: Opinion, Kevin Baldeosingh----The Guardian)


Death penalty for foreign drug traffickers gets nod

The House committee on dangerous drugs has passed and endorsed for plenary approval a bill imposing stiffer penalties, including death, on foreigners found guilty of engaging in drug-related activities in the country.

The panel, chaired by Iligan City Rep. Vicente Belmonte Jr., recently approved House Bill 1213 principally authored by Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and Abante Mindanao party-list Rep. Maximo Rodriguez Jr.

"The measure allows the imposition of death penalty if prescribed under the national laws of the alien offender," the authors said.

The bill is entitled "An Act Adopting the Higher Prescribed Penalty, Including Death, of the National Law of An Alien Found Guilty of Trafficking Dangerous Drugs and Other Similar Substances, Amending for the Purpose Republic Act 9165, Otherwise Known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002."

"This means that the imposition of the penalty for drug offenses as prescribed under the national law of the foreigner or the penalty under Republic Act 9165, whichever is higher, is the rule to follow," the authors said.

Rodriguez originally introduced the bill during the 15th Congress.

He said the previous measure was approved on 2nd, 3rd and final reading by the House during the 15th Congress. But it was not acted upon by the Senate.

The authors noted that in June 2006, RA 9346 was enacted into law prohibiting the imposition of death penalty in the Philippines.

"While the rationale for passing the law was clear and noble, there are some sectors of society who believe that this law is not just and equitable because while foreigners may not be executed in the Philippines for drug trafficking, Filipinos who commit drug offenses are executed in other countries with death penalty," they said.

Because of the ban on death penalty, an argument against the law states that many foreigners are emboldened to establish their drug factories in the country because once convicted, they only suffer life imprisonment as opposed to the penalties that they may suffer in their own countries which, in some cases, is death, like in China.

(source: Philippine Star)


PM pleas for leniency over death penalty

Prime Minister John Key has asked China's president to consider New Zealand's opposition to the death penalty in the case of a Kiwi man facing drug charges in China.

Peter Gardner was arrested at Guangzhou airport in November last year, when he was found to be carrying nearly 30 kilograms of methamphetamine. If found guilty he could face the death penalty.

New Zealand was opposed to the death penalty, and Mr Key said he asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to take that into consideration, when the pair met at the East Asia Summit in Malaysia yesterday.

"I didn't ask for him to not be treated appropriately. In other words, if he has broken the law he needs to be held to account for what is potentially a very serious issue with drugs trafficking.

"But what I did say to the Chinese president is New Zealand has a very strong view about the death penalty."

Mr Gardner said at his hearing in May that he had been duped by an intermediary who headed a large Australian gang.

He holds dual Australian and New Zealand nationality but entered China on his New Zealand passport, for what he said was intended to be a pick-up of athletic performance enhancing drugs, arranged by the Sydney intermediary.

(source: Radio New Zealand)


2 top Bangladesh war criminals hanged

The 2 top Bangladesh war criminals - Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury and Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed - were hanged tonight for committing crimes against humanity during the country's liberation war in 1971.

The executions took place at around 12:45 am tonight at the Dhaka Central Jail after their appeals, the last resort, seeking Presidential mercy were turned down by the head of the state following completion of all legal procedures.

Executed Mojaheed is the secretary general of Jamaat e Islami and was the commander of the Al Badr killing squad, an auxiliary force of the Pakistan army, which had annihilated scores of Bengali intellectuals in 1971.

Chowdhury, currently the presidium member of Bangladesh Nationalist Party(BNP), was convicted by the apex court for crimes against humanity as the key collaborator of Pakistan army, some 44 years ago.

Just before the execution, family members of the 2 convicts, who served as ministers and in various key positions during Gen H M Ershad and Khaleda Zia's tenures, were allowed to meet them amid tightened security around the high security prison in Dhaka . The authorities have also deployed, hundreds of police, paramilitary Border Guards Bangladesh and elite RAB in hundreds in all major towns across the country to prevent possible violence by the supporters of the 2 widely known war criminals .

Earlier on Wednesday, a four member appellate division bench led by Chief Justice S K Sinha wrapped up the long judicial process which the Sheikh Hasina government had initiated in 2010, more then 3 decades after Bangladesh becomes an independent through a devastating war in 1971.

In October 2013, a war crimes tribunal found Chowdhury, 66, guilty of 9 out of the 23 charges for crimes against humanity, including killing and torture of scores of pro-independence people in Chittagong, where he is known as a "terror". The apex court on June 16 this year upheld the death penalty of Mojaheed, 67, for planning and instigating the killing of secular intellectuals and professionals towards the end of the Bangladesh's Liberation War.

The 2 death row convicts have sought presidential clemency on Saturday as the last resort to safe their lives.

While the 2 were the 1st such convicts to seek presidential mercy, the other 2 - Abdul Quader Mollah and Kamaruzzaman -- executed earlier, had declined to do so. In seeking the Presidential clemency, they both have acknowledged the horrific crimes they perpetrated in 1971 to thwart Bangladesh’s independence as the cohorts of the Pakistan army.

The execution took place in the backdrop of a strong defence by Chowdhury's party, BNP, led by Khaleda Zia, which claimed their leader was in Pakistan in 1971, hence did not get justice . Jamaat-e-Islami has claimed their leader did not seek presidential mercy.

(source: The Hindu)


War criminal Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid buried in Faridpur after execution

The secretary general of the Jamaat-e-Islami and BNP leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury were both hanged at Dhaka Central Jail for the crimes against humanity they committed in 1971.

Prison authorities said the executions took place at 12:55am.

An ambulance carrying Mujahid's body left the jail premises for Faridpur at 2:55am.

It arrived at west Khabashpur in Faridpur district around 6:30am.

He was buried at the premises of Ideal Cadet Madrasa - run by local Jamaat activists - around 7:25am following a funeral prayer attended by family members and Jamaat activists.

Local residents and journalists were not allowed to enter the madrasa premises during the burial.

Mujahid, a minister in Khaleda Zia's coalition Cabinet, planned and executed mass murders, including those of intellectuals, scientists, academics and journalists in 1971.

On July 17, 2013, the ICT passed the death sentence on him after he was proven guilty of the mass killings and torture of Hindus during the Liberation War.

He had appealed against the verdict, but the Supreme Court had upheld the death penalty.

His petition to review the sentence was also rejected by the top court.

The only hurdle for the execution was a possible presidential clemency, which he sought on Saturday. In the end, the clemency appeal was turned down.



The death of conscience ---- Oishee was responsible for murdering her parents, but a deeper disease plagues our society

With the rendition of Nur Hossain from India, the media is abuzz with every minute detail, from his handover to his appearance before court in Narayanganj. It was expected, since he is the principal accused in the gruesome seven-murder case in the river port city.

The close relatives of the slain and several people, mainly journalists and political commentators, who have been following events since that fatal day in April of last year, are raising many questions, and pertinent questions they are too. I guess the law will take its course.

However, only a few days ago, another landmark judgment was made -- the death penalty for young Oishee, who confessed to killing her parents. With due respect to the courts, my personal opinion is that it may prove counter-productive in this case.

This was not a run-of-the-mill case of cold-blooded murder -- it was the murder of progenitors by the progeny. Someone killing her parents is the rarest of events, especially someone as young as Oishee.

There are instances of people murdering a parent or parents or a sibling from avarice -- their removal may ease the way to inherit a property of value. Such vile crimes do happen in our society. It definitely was not the motive behind the gruesome actions of Oishee.

It seems very plausible that Oishee, a drug-addled spoiled kid, on the verge of adulthood, had deep-rooted psychological problems.

She should have been given psychiatric help, an attempt at rehabilitation. She also needs better representation in the higher courts, since she had already complained of coercion and torture during the process of obtaining her confessional statement and the question of being still officially underage during questioning, persists.

This case also leaves room for introspection into the state of our social conscience.

It was reported that Oishee was provided unlimited pocket money by her police officer father, some reports put the figure as high as Tk50,000 a month. Now, how does a police officer afford such lavish spending? The corruption and hypocrisy that have seeped into every tier of the administration and a certain section of society are giving rise to monsters.

The memory is still fresh of the rich drunken kid who ran over a number of rickshaws, grievously injuring some people in the process. We see an honorable MP shooting a village boy in the legs and then getting out on bail, garlands around his "honourable" neck.

There are, and will be, many such instances. When a boy or a girl realises the wealth of his/her parents are ill-gotten or inconsistent with their professions, he/she will no longer remain under the circle of control that parents should have over their kids up to a certain age. How can corrupt parents give lessons in morality to their children? They can only help open the doors of arrogance, apathy, and wanton behaviour for their kids.

Such reckless living has already given rise to a generation of young people who live a life of extremes, in their lifestyles as well as in their behaviour pattern, which is wholly devoid of any respect for the rights of others.

This generation is quite often into drug and alcohol abuse at a massive scale, depravity is a cornerstone of the structure of it, and it naturally leads to disillusionment about life and ultimate ruination.

Worse still, once adults, these spoilt brats will continue the cycle of immorality and eventually cause the death of conscience of the society, if that conscience is still breathing.

Sending Oishee to the gallows means we are just sweeping the dirt under the carpet.

Oishee is just a manifestation of the disease that plagues our society, and such harsh judgment in one case will not deter others from leading their lives unconcerned about the accepted civilised norms of social behaviour, and they will remain disrespectful to the law of the land -- a notion will persist that money and power can buy all.

The judgment on Oishee is like giving strong medicine to subside a fever, no attempts are made at locating and attacking the disease that's causing the fever, the disease will go merrily along.

In his satirical play The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, Berthold Brecht, the playwright, tried to show the rise of Adolf Hitler, in allegory, by chronicling a Chicago mobster, Arturo Ui, trying to control the cauliflower racket by ruthlessly disposing of the opposition.

At the fall of the monster, Brecht warned: "Do not rejoice in his defeat, you men. For though the world has stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again."

(source: Op-Ed, SM Shahrakh----Dhaka Tribune)


Nizami's appeal hearing may end by Dec 15: AG

Attorney General Mahbubey Alam today expressed hopes that the Supreme Court hearing on the appeal of war criminal Motiur Rahman Nizami against his death penalty will be completed by December 15.

Otherwise, the court will have to finish it in January as the apex court will go to a 20-day vacation from December 16, the attorney general said while talking to reporters at his office this afternoon.

Earlier on November 23 last year, Jamaat-e-Islami chief Motiur Rahman Nizami challenged the death penalty awarded to him by a war crimes tribunal for his crimes against humanity committed during the Liberation War in 1971.

International Crimes Tribunal-1 on October 29, 2014 handed him the death penalty on 5charges of war crimes, including murdering intellectuals. The 71-year-old was also awarded life term imprisonment on the other 4 charges.

In his appeal Nizami mentioned that the tribunal had failed to consider that he was never associated with any auxiliary force controlled by Pakistan army in 1971, Shishir Manir, a lawyer for Nizami, told The Daily Star last year.

(source: The Daily Star)


'Halt execution until disposal of 21 Aug case'

The family of death-row convict Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed on Saturday demanded a halt in execution of his death penalty until the 21 August grenade attack case is disposed of.

The family told the media that Mojaheed wanted to know the state of the case in which he has been implicated as an accused.

Attorney general Mahbubey Alam termed the demand illogical. "If someone is convicted and executed in one case, proceedings in all other against him/her come to an end automatically," he said when newsmen drew his attention to the matter.

Mojaheed's wife Tamanna-e-Jahan addressed a press conference at the Supreme Court Bar Association auditorium.

"He (Mojaheed) will want to know in writing from the state about the state of the 21 grenade attack case," she said.

Asked if Mojaheed would file mercy petition to the president, his son Ali Ahammad Mabrur said his father is "innocent, innocent and innocent (in case of crimes against humanity)". "So, he wants to talk to lawyers on grenade attack case."

Mojaheed's wife said her husband wanted to fight legally to clear his name from the charges of 21 August grenade attack case as his name was included in the supplementary charge-sheet.

"He wants to be free from being stigmatised as killer through legal battle," she said.



Man, wife get death for killing brother in Chittagong in 2005

A court has handed down the death penalty to a man and his wife for stabbing his elder brother to death in Chittagong a decade ago.

The convicts - Nur Mohammad and Rahima Begum - are on the run.

Chittagong's Public Safety Tribunal Judge Syeda Hosne Ara pronounced the verdict on Sunday.

Public Prosecutor Jahangir Alam said the couple had been absconding since they secured bail.

The victim is Abul Kalam of Mirsarai Upazila.

Prosecutor Alam said Nur Mohammad had served a jail term in an arson case filed by his elder brother Kalam and that this had motivated him to kill Kalam.

"Nur and his wife Rahima hacked Kalam with sharp weapons when he was returning home after visiting his sister Salma Khatun on Nov 11, 2005.

"Salma saw the couple dump the body in a nearby pond," the public prosecutor added.

Kalam's wife Anowara Begum filed a case with police the same day.

Police pressed charges in court against the 2 on Jan 2, 2006.

The court indicted the couple on May 18, 2010.


NOVEMBER 21, 2015:


Prosecutor will seek death penalty in Texas campsite mass murders

Anderson County District Attorney Allyson Mitchell said she will seek the death penalty against the man accused of killing 6 members of 2 families at a campsite near this East Texas town.

Mitchell announced the decision to the Palestine Herald-Press late Friday afternoon. She filed capital murder charges earlier this week against William Hudson, 33, whose property abutted the campsite. He is being held without bond at the county jail.

The penalty for capital murder in Texas is death by lethal injection or life in prison with no chance for parole. A jury makes the decision if the prosecutor asks for the death penalty.

Mitchell said the case will be presented first to a county grand jury. Attorney Stephen Evans of Palestine was appointed to represent Hudson.

The district attorney said the massacre was the "single most horrific crime committed in Anderson County's modern history. Our hearts grieve for the Johnson and Kamp families. We will use all resources available to prosecute Hudson to the fullest extent of the law."

She told a news conference 5 of the victims were shot to death, and the 6th died from blunt force trauma, a deadly blow to the body.

The sole survivor of the carnage, Cynthia Johnson, 73, hid in the woods from Hudson on Saturday night when authorities said he carried out the carnage. She called 911 about 7 a.m. Sunday to report the killings. He was arrested at his mother's nearby home.

The district attorney said Hannah Hudson, 40, an insurance adjustor from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, died of blunt force trauma. Shot to death were her son, Jade, 6, her father, Carl Johnson, 77, her fiance Thomas Kamp, 46, and Kamp's 2 adults sons - Austin, 21, and Nathan, 24 - from a previous marriage.

Mitchell said intense publicity raises the question of transferring the case to another jurisdiction in Texas, but she will insist it be prosecuted and tried in Anderson County.

Arrest affidavits said survivor Cynthia Johnson, husband of Carl, told investigators Hudson befriended the campers Saturday afternoon when he used his tractor to free a vehicle stuck in mud. She said he later socialized and drank with them before slaughtering the victims.

Investigators found the bodies of the Kamps and the Johnson child in a pond behind Hudson’s home. Hannah Johnson and her father were found dead in a silver travel trailer at the campsite, where Mrs. Johnson said they ran for their lives from Hudson.

(source: The Daily Item)


Stories of murder and execution to be heard Saturday

The Mother Emanuel AME tragedy is part of the reason a North Carolina advocacy group decided to hold their annual conference in the greater Charleston area.

The stories of murder and execution will be heard Saturday in North Charleston at the Hilton Garden Inn off International Boulevard.

The group, "Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation" (MVFR) focuses on giving hope and healing to families of murder victims' and the death penalty.

"It wrecked my life," said Teresa Avent, a member of the group whose brother was murdered.

Avent said her brother's death turned her life upside-down.

After several years she finally got to a place where she could face the accused killer and find a level of forgiveness.

"Forgiveness is not so much for the offender," Avent said. "It's so much for us as the victims. It releases us to move forward in a productive manner.:

Back in June the word 'forgiveness' rang across the Lowcountry and the nation.

Family members of the victims killed in the Mother Emanuel AME shooting spoke of forgiveness to the accused killer.

It's part of the reason MVFR chose this location for their conference.

"Also because there's a broader suffering community and we wanted to highlight, amplify community, build voices to those who have been adversely affected by homicide," said Jeremy Collins, a board member.

"We invited people from the community and the nation to come together and share experiences and stories they have of losing loved ones to murder and execution," said Executive Director, Jack Sullivan, Jr.

The group also focuses on the death penalty and finding a better way to deal with that issue from a family victims' standpoint.

Sullivan's sister was murdered 18 years ago. Her killer was never found, but to this day he said he wouldn't ask for execution.

"We want to talk to the person and find out what he or she was going through," Sullivan said. "Why did he or she have to pull the trigger on my sister, our sister, and what is the best way for this person to be held accountable for what took place."

South Carolina leaders from the NAACP President, Black Lives Matter, and Reverend Dr. Nelson Rivers will be in attendance.

The day-long workshop will begin at 9:00 a.m. Saturday at the Hilton Garden Inn.

The group welcomes families in the community that have been affected.

On Sunday members will attend the church service at Mother Emanuel AME as a way to show the victims' families their support.

(source: WCSC news)


Fla. man guilty of killing daughter he kept in freezer

A Polk County man was convicted Thursday of murdering his 3-year-old daughter and keeping her body in a freezer, then killing her mother and burying them both in an orange grove, WFTV reported.

Lester Ross, 37, was found guilty Thursday by a Polk County jury of 1st-degree murder and aggravated manslaughter.

In December 2010, police found the bodies of MaSarah Ross and Ronkeya Holmes buried at an orange grove in Winter Haven. Police said Ross allegedly killed his daughter, MaSarah, in 2009 and kept her in a freezer.

When Holmes came to check on her daughter, Ross poisoned her, then buried the bodies together, according to police. Ross' ex-wife admitted in court that she drove Ross to bury the bodies "because she feared her husband would kill her if she talked to police," WFTV reported.

Ross was arrested 2 years after the murders and will face life in prison or the death penalty.

(source: Palm Beach Post)

CALIFORNIA----new death sentence

Jury gives death penalty to man convicted in Hawaiian Gardens triple homicide

A jury recommended Friday that a Montebello man be sentenced to death for murdering a former girlfriend, along with her brother and father, during an early morning shooting rampage in Hawaiian Gardens 5 years ago.

Joseph Mercado, who will turn 32 on Monday, is due back in a Norwalk courtroom Jan. 29 to be formally sentenced by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Raul A. Sahagun.

Mercado was convicted last week of 1st-degree murder for the May 6, 2010, killings of his ex-girlfriend, Serena Tarin, 23, and her father, Alfredo Tarin, 53, and 19-year-old brother, Alfred "A.D." Tarin.

He also was convicted of 3 counts of attempted murder and one count each of first-degree burglary with a person present, shooting at an inhabited dwelling, child abuse and arson of an inhabited structure, and jurors found true the special circumstance allegations of multiple murders, murder while lying in wait and arson during the commission of a murder.

He was acquitted of 1 count of assault with a machine gun or assault rifle on a peace officer.

At the start of the trial's penalty phase, in which jurors were asked to recommend whether he should be sentenced to death or life in prison without the possibility of parole, the panel heard recordings of frantic 911 calls made by Serena Tarin and her younger brother shortly before they were killed.

"I need an officer here. My ex-boyfriend's here and he's not welcome here ... He has no business being here ... I think he's trying to get inside," she reported in the call made at 3:41 a.m.

'Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God,' she said frantically after popping sounds can be heard in the background. "Please hurry. Oh my God, please hurry."

The 911 operator asked, "What was that noise?' with the young woman responding, "I don't know" and later informing them of Mercado's name and age when asked his identity.

She is later heard saying, "Joseph, don't do this, please don't do this ... the baby," referring to their child.

As the recording was being played in court, Mercado sat with his hands covering his face and appeared to be crying after jurors heard the recording.

The panel also heard a recording of a 911 call made by the woman's brother shortly before he was killed.

"You'll hear A.D. take his last breath," Deputy District Attorney Robert Villa told jurors.

'Please hurry, please help, please!' the 19-year-old could be heard pleading in the recorded 911 call in which he reported gunshots.

A 911 operator could later be heard repeatedly asking if he was OK as a woman screamed in the background.

Authorities said shortly after the crime that Mercado was involved in a child custody dispute with his ex-girlfriend and tried to set the home on fire.

Mercado then broke into the back of the home and opened fire with an assault rifle, killing the mother of his young son and the other 2 victims. 2 others, including Tarin's mother, were wounded.

About a half-dozen other family members escaped, with some hiding on the roof.

The couple's son was later adopted by Serena Tarin's sister and her husband.

Mercado was shot by a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy as he emerged from the home that morning, and has remained jailed without bail since then.

(source: Press-Telegram)


Man convicted of killing 4, including SCV resident

A 34-year-old man has been convicted of 4 counts of 1st-degree murder for shooting and killing 4 people, 1 of them a Castaic resident, outside a Los Angeles boardinghouse 3 years ago.

The district attorney's office says jurors found Ka Pasasouk guilty Thursday after deliberating for less than 2 hours.

He could face the death penalty for the December 2012 killing of 49-year-old Castaic resident Teofilo Navales, along with 34-year-old Robert Calabia of Los Angeles, 24-year-old Amanda Ghossein of Monterey Park and 26-year-old Jennifer Kim of Montebello.

Jurors will return Dec. 2 for the beginning of the trial's penalty phase. They will be asked to recommend whether Pasasouk should be sentenced to death or to life in prison without parole.

Deputy District Attorney Dan Akemon said the crime began as a drug- and alcohol-fueled robbery and the killings continued for the purpose of eliminating witnesses.



State's death penalty prospects mixed

Is the death penalty viable in California? Until recently, opposing it usually meant political suicide at the state level. In 1986, Rose Bird, chief justice of the California Supreme Court and Gov. Jerry Brown’s appointee, was booted from office by voters after she overturned 64 straight death-penalty convictions. So were 2 like-minded associate justices.

After that, even Democrats promised to execute the worst criminals. Democratic Gov. Gray Davis executed 5 men. His successor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, terminated three, the last being Clarence Ray Allen, convicted of organizing three murders. As the Los Angeles Times reported, "At the time of the killings, Allen was in prison, convicted of the 1974 murder of Mary Sue Kitts."

In his 2010 bid to return to the governor's office, Gov. Brown said he would uphold the death penalty. In 2012, voters defeated Proposition 34, which would have repealed capital punishment in California. Ever enigmatic, after that election, the governor said, "Yeah, I voted yes, of course."

In recent years, the death penalty has been suspended because of accusations the "drug cocktail" used in executions violated the Eighth Amendment's guarantee against "cruel and unusual punishments." However, there are 2 new developments the past month. Reuters reported California prison officials "filed proposed new guidelines for using lethal injection to kill condemned inmates, a step that could lead to a resumption of the death penalty." And AP reported "a federal appeals court reversed a lower court ruling that had found [the death penalty] was unconstitutional because of excessive delays."

Voters again could get a say. One initiative advanced for the November 2016 ballot by actor Mike Farrell would repeal the death penalty. Given that Prop. 34 lost, 52 % to 48 %, it has a chance.

The other proposed initiative is backed by county district attorneys across the state, including Riverside County's Michael Hestrin and San Bernardino County's Michael Ramos. According to Californians for Death Penalty Reform and Savings, the measure would streamline "the existing inefficient appeals process" by "providing prompt appointment of attorneys" and restricting "frivolous and unnecessary claims."

Under state law, if 2 similar initiatives pass, the 1 with the most votes becomes law.

However, California elects a new governor in 2018. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who already has announced his candidacy, in 2013 came out strongly against the death penalty. Other Democratic candidates likely will take the same stance. Republicans now are so weak a statewide electoral force, supporting the death penalty won't help much. Which means a death penalty opponent almost certainly will move into the Governor's Office in 2019.

(source: Editorial, Press-Enterprise)

BELARUS----new death sentence

Belarusian Man Sentenced To Death On Murder Charges

Belarusian court has sentenced a man to death for 2 fatal robberies, the 2nd death sentence this year to be handed down in the only country in Europe that still uses it.

Judges in the court in the western city of Hrodno found Ivan Kulish guilty on November 20 of killing 3 saleswomen during 2 robberies in 2013 and 2014.

Kulish, 28, refused to testify during the trial and didn't make any remarks after the verdict.

In March, a court in the southeastern city of Homel sentenced a man to death for the murder of a young woman.

According to rights groups, more than 400 people have been sentenced to death in the ex-Soviet republic since the early 1990s.

The European Union on November 20 urged Belarus to join a global moratorium on the death penalty as "a 1st step towards its abolition."

"The death penalty is a cruel and inhuman punishment, which fails to act as a deterrent and represents an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity," the EU said in a statement.

(source: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)


Jewish community opposes death penalty in Russia

The Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia (FJCR) believes there is no point in introducing the death penalty in the country, including for terrorists.

"Terrorists are very often suicide bombers and it's stupid t scare them with death. In the course of a big part of human history, classical assassins of the past committed crimes when much lesser sins were punishable by death. Criminals who commit murder are not stopped by the threat of death," Boruch Gorin, the head of the public relations department at FJCR, told Interfax-Religion on Friday.

He said it is important to society that a murderer should not walk free, that a dangerous organization or group of people should be isolated and the state has a duty to ensure this isolation.

"In this sense, I believe that situations when people who were sentenced to the death penalty and are serving life in prison are suddenly amnesties and walk free are unacceptable. It's unacceptable and deeply criminal," he said.

He said such precedents are more dangerous to international security in general and "support global terrorism to a much greater degree that the abolition or non-introduction of the death penalty, which in any case doesn't stop anything." People who have committed terrorist attacks should spend the rest of their life in deep isolation, Gorin said.

"Theoretically, the death penalty has a right to exist. Virtually every human court not only potentially, but also practically cannot guarantee the punishment of the person who really deserves the death penalty," Gorin said.



France's Jean Marie Le Pen Calls For Decapitating Terrorists

The founder of France's far-right National Front (FN) Jean Marie Le Pen has urged France to reinstate the death penalty and commit convicted terrorists to the guillotine, French weekly news magazine Marianne reports.

Speaking at a press conference held at his palatial home in the west Parisian suburb of Saint Cloud, the controversial politician outlined his proposals to stop Islamist attacks, such as the ones that claimed 130 lives last week in the French capital.

"We must restore the death penalty for terrorists," Le Pen said, before adding "with decapitation." Some of his other proposals included deporting illegal immigrants and creating 100,000 more places in prison to deter further extremist attacks.

According to French weekly news magazine Le Point, Le Pen also called for the removal of dual citizenship and instead "force dual citizens to make a choice," while also making military service of up to six months compulsory.

Jean Marie Le Pen's statement mirrored those of his daughter in the wake of the Islamist attacks on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January. At that time, Marine Le Pen, who now leads the National Front, vowed to hold a referendum on the death penalty should she be elected president in 2017.

She has topped several presidential polls since she took leadership of the far-right nationalist party from her father, but the 2 are involved in a bitter dispute at present over Le Pen senior's reference to the Nazi Holocaust as a historical "detail." Marine Le Pen excluded her father from the party as a result, while he mounted a legal challenge against the decision.

The death penalty has been outlawed in France for years, as the right to execute convicts was abolished by President Francois Mitterrand's government in 1981. The last execution took place only 4 years earlier and the standard method of delivering it was still the use of a guillotine.

The last man to be executed in France was Tunisian Hamida Djandoubi who was convicted in 1977 of torturing and murdering a 21-year-old woman and was also accused of assaulting and raping a 15-year-old girl, French public radio RFI reports.

It is also currently the policy of the European Union that no states can be accepted into the union without having abolished the death penalty.

(source: Newsweek)


Family says Pakistan to execute paraplegic man next week

The mother of Pakistan's only paraplegic death-row inmate says jail officials have informed her that her 43-year-old son will be executed next week.

Nusrat Perveen says jail officials Saturday asked her to have a final meeting with her son, Abdul Basit, on Tuesday before he is hanged the following morning. She appealed to the president and prime minister of Pakistan to pardon her son on medical and humanitarian grounds. 2 months ago, authorities halted Basit's execution at the 11th hour following appeals from the family.

Basit has been paralyzed from the waist down since contracting meningitis in prison in 2010 and uses a wheelchair.

He has been on death row since 2009, convicted of murdering a man in a financial dispute in Punjab province.

(source: Associated Press)


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Pakistan president rejects school attackers' mercy pleas----Massacre left more than 140 people dead, mostly children

Pakistan's President Mamnoon Hussein rejected the mercy petitions of 4 militants found guilty of orchestrating a gun and bomb attack on an army-run school in Peshawar in December.

The massacre left more than 140 people dead, mostly children. All four convicts were sentenced to death by a military court in August.

"The brutal and merciless killing of our children convinced us that the perpetrators of such crimes do not deserve any mercy," Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said earlier this week.

The government had lifted a six-year de facto ban on the death penalty after the Peshawar school massacre. Over 200 convicts have been hanged since then.



Bangladesh leaders on death row seek clemency----The Bangladeshi leaders who have received a death sentence have sought a presidential pardon. Human Rights Watch has urged for Bangladesh to suspend executions

2 top Bangladesh opposition leaders who are expected to be hanged within days sought clemency from the president Saturday in a last-ditch attempt to escape the gallows, the country's justice minister said.

Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid and Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury, facing execution for their roles in Bangladesh's 1971 independence war with Pakistan have sent mercy pleas to the home ministry, Anisul Huq told AFP.

"It won't be treated as a mercy petition by an ordinary condemned prisoner, which means it will be treated on an urgent basis," the minister said.

The 2 leaders have exhausted all legal appeals to avoid execution and their fate now rests with President Abdul Hamid, who has the power to pardon or commute the death sentences of any convict.

Mujahid, 67, is the second most senior member of Bangladesh's Jamaat-e-Islami, while Chowdhury, 66, is an ex-lawmaker and a top aide to Khaleda Zia, leader of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

Bangladesh's Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed their final legal appeals, upholding the leaders' death sentences originally handed down by a controversial war crimes tribunal in 2013.

The president will seek advice from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina before making a decision, Huq said, adding the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the sentences "reflected the desire of the country".

They are among more than a dozen leaders of the opposition alliance convicted by the tribunal, which was set up by the secular government in 2010.

The convictions triggered the country's deadliest violence since independence, with some 500 people killed, mainly in clashes between Jamaat activists and police.

There are fears the latest verdicts could spark fresh unrest in the Muslim-majority nation, which is reeling from a string of killings of secular bloggers as well as the murders of 2 foreigners in recent months.

Immediately after Wednesday's verdict, authorities shut down Facebook and messaging and voice call services Viber and WhatsApp in an attempt to stop Jamaat supporters from mobilising to protest against the rulings.

Human Rights Watch urges halt to execution

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Friday urged the Bangladesh government to halt the executions of 2 opposition leaders convicted of war crimes.

Bangladesh's Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected the final appeals by 2 opposition leaders, Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid and Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury, against the death penalty for atrocities committed during the 1971 war of independence.

"Justice and accountability for the terrible crimes committed during Bangladesh's 1971 war of independence are crucial, but trials need to meet international fair trial standards," said Brad Adams, HRW's Asia director.

"Unfair trials can't provide real justice, especially when the death penalty is imposed," he said in a statement, adding the sentences should be suspended immediately.


NOVEMBER 20, 2015:


Lehigh DA seeks death penalty against gunman in Valley killing spree

Lehigh County authorities will seek the death penalty for the alleged gunman in a double killing in Allentown, according to court records.

Todd West, 23, is scheduled for a formal arraignment Tuesday, along with 2 alleged accomplices in the July 5 murders of 2 people at Sixth and Greenleaf streets. West and the men are also charged in a killing in Easton.

West deserves to be put to death if convicted of 1st-degree murder because the crime placed others at the risk of death and he is charged with a killing that was either committed before or after the Allentown deaths, according to court records filed Wednesday.

Under Pennsylvania's death penalty law, capital punishment can only be imposed in cases of premeditated murder where at least one of 18 aggravating circumstances is present. All 12 jurors must agree it is appropriate.

Juries make the decision at a hearing held separately from the trial. In it, prosecutors present aggravating circumstances - for instance, multiple murders -- to justify the death penalty. Jurors weigh those against mitigating circumstances that the defense details, such as a defendant's age or ability to appreciate the criminality of the actions.

West, of Elizabethtown, N.J., remains in Lehigh County Jail along with his alleged accomplices, Kareem Mitchell, 23, of Newark, N.J., and Robert A. Jourdain, 20, of Easton.

The men are charged in the murders of 22-year-old Kory Ketrow on Lehigh Street in Easton and the killings of Francine E. Ramos, 32, and Trevor Gray, 21, in Allentown. The men also allegedly fired shots at 2 others in downtown Easton during the crime spree, authorities say.

West told a detective he heard voices in his head during the killing spree and believed the devil was speaking to him.

West and Jourdain are also charged with 3 knifepoint robberies in Allentown the morning after the slayings. And West is also charged in New Jersey with gunning down 4 men and wounding a 5th in May and June in his hometown of Elizabeth.

Authorities have said there was no motive in the killings.

(source: Morning Call)


2 state senators to take a shot at Missouri's death penalty laws

At least 2 Missouri senators will once again attempt to scrutinize or abolish the death penalty during the 2016 legislative session.

Sen. Paul Wieland, R-Imperial, was elected to the Senate in 2014 and previously served in the Missouri House. He doesn't expect the bill to abolish the death penalty he's introducing in the upcoming session to pass, but he said he hopes it'll be heard be in committee.

Weiland has filed similar legislation for at least the past 4 sessions, according to the Missouri House and Senate websites. None of the bills were taken up for committee discussion.

"I file it every year and talk about the issue because I think it needs to be discussed," Wieland said. "The more we talk about it the more people become educated on the issue."

Missouri has executed 18 inmates since November 2013, according to The Associated Press.

Wieland is refiling a version of his 2015 bill, but he's significantly revamping the text. He's removing a provision that would have created the Death Penalty Costs Reinvestment Fund. With the fund, the state could have reallocated to violence prevention programs the money it uses to fund public defenders who represent death row inmates.

"I just don't see how we could enforce it," Wieland said.

For at least the past 4 sessions, Sen. Joe Keaveny, D-St. Louis, has filed bills to require the state auditor to compare the costs of death penalty cases and 1st-degree murder cases in which prosecutors don't seek the death penalty.

2 of the bills were passed out of a committee but were never discussed on the Senate floor. The other received a committee hearing but was not voted on.

But Keaveny isn't giving up - he's filing the legislation again for the 2016 legislative session.

Keaveny said the state auditor has never commissioned an investigation comparing the taxpayer cost of death penalty cases against the alternative, life without parole cases. The state auditor's office didn't respond to repeated requests to verify this information.

"I am an opponent of the death penalty," Keaveny said. "Until we have some facts and figures, we're not going to get into a serious discussion about it."

(source: The Missourian)


Statement by the Spokesperson on a death sentence in Belarus

"A death sentence was handed down on 20 November to Ivan Kulesh by the Hrodna Regional Court of the Republic of Belarus. The European Union expects that Mr Kulesh's right to appeal will be fully guaranteed.

Mr Kulesh was convicted for serious crimes and we extend our deepest sympathy to the family and friends of the victim of these crimes. Nevertheless, the European Union opposes capital punishment in all cases as it cannot be justified under any circumstances. The death penalty is a cruel and inhuman punishment, which fails to act as a deterrent and represents an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity.

The European Union urges Belarus, the only country in Europe still applying capital punishment, to join a global moratorium on the death penalty as a first step towards its abolition."



SC paves way for trial of 3 in Beant Singh's murder

The Supreme Court today paved the way for trial of three accomplices of Babbar Khalsa militant Jagtar Singh Hawara, the mastermind in the killing of Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh in 1995, by asking its Registry to send judicial records to the trial court.

A Bench comprising Justices TS Thakur and V Gopala Gowda, which has been hearing the appeal of the CBI seeking death penalty for Hawara, serving life term in the case, directed the apex court registry to send case records back to the Chandigarh Sessions Court concerned for initiation of trial against co-accused Jagtar Singh Tara, Paramjeet Singh Bheora and Devi Singh.

Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, appearing for the CBI, told the court that the trial in the Beant Singh's murder has not concluded against Tara, who was arrested earlier this year after he had escaped from Burail jail at Chandigarh in 2004.

He said the additional sessions judge has sought records of the case in order to proceed with the trial as they are presently with the apex court registry. Kumar requested the Bench to direct the registry to send the records to the trial court.

Taking note of the submission, the court deferred the hearing on the plea of CBI, which had sought death penalty for Hawara saying the offence fell under the category of 'rarest of rare' cases.

It is also hearing the appeal of Hawara, lodged in Tihar jail here, against the trial court decision awarding jail term for remainder of life.

In 2004, Hawara had escaped from maximum security jail at Burail in Punjab along with Tara, Bheora and Devi Singh by digging a 90-feet tunnel with bare hands. Jagtar Singh Hawara and Bheora were re-arrested within the next 2 years.



HC acquits ''tantrik'' facing death penalty

Setting aside death penalty awarded by a district court, the Orissa High Court acquitted a tantrik of Jajpur district who was charged with human sacrifice of an 8-year-old boy 5 years back.

Justice Vinod Prasad and Justice Raghubir Dash yesterday quashed Jajpur the district session court s death sentence and upheld the appeal of the 'tantrik' Pitambar Goipoi of innocence setting him free of murder and other related charges.

The bench annulled the lower court s verdict on the ground there was lack of clinching evidence in the case.

District judge Jivan Ballav had in August this year convicted the tantrik of abduction and murder of infant Srikant Bag and sentenced him to death.

Sukinda police had retrieved the beheaded body of Srikant from a deserted place in Damodarpur village on February 13, 2010, two days after he went missing.

Police subsequently recovered the infant s head along with some puja materials from a deserted place near the tantrik s house.

On a complaint from the boy s relative that the tantrik had sacrificed the boy to propitiate the local deity and public outrage, police arrested him.

While the 'tantric' could not defend the case in the lower court by engaging a lawyer, the High Court had appointed an amicus curiae to conduct his case.

(source: Press Trust of India)


Man charged with 6 counts of capital murder in East Texas campsite killings

A man was charged with 6 counts of capital murder Thursday in the killing of a family at an East Texas campsite.

William Mitchell Hudson, who remained jailed on a $2.5 million bond, is accused of shooting 2 of the victims at a travel camper and dumping the other 4 bodies in a pond near his property.

The warrants were issued by the Anderson County district attorney's office after preliminary autopsy results showed all 6 victims died by homicide. The autopsies identified the dead as Carl Johnson, 76; Hannah Johnson, 40; Kade Johnson, 6; Thomas Kamp, 46; Nathan Kamp, 23; and Austin Kamp, 21. No other details from the autopsies would be released, Sheriff Greg Taylor said.

According to a previous warrant, the 33-year-old suspect was drinking with the group Saturday when he accompanied four of them into surrounding woods. The warrant says the lone survivor, Cynthia Johnson, heard gunshots before Hudson returned alone to the campsite, chased her husband and daughter into a travel camper and shot them.

No motive has been released.

"There are no adequate words to truly describe this horrific and senseless act. 6 members of 2 different yet joined families are gone," District Attorney Allyson Mitchell said in a statement issued Thursday afternoon. "Our hearts grieve for the Johnson and Kamp families and we will use all our resources to prosecute Hudson to the fullest extent of the law."

Capital murder in Texas is punishable by either death by lethal injection or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. No decision has been made on whether the death penalty will be sought.

Hudson's attorney, Stephen Evans of Palestine, declined to comment. After-hours messages seeking more information from the district attorney's office were not returned Thursday.

(source: Associated Press)


Death penalty can be sought for Ross murder retrial

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has cleared the way to seek the death penalty against Paul Aaron Ross of the Hollidaysburg area, who is awaiting a new trial in the death of a 26-year-old woman at Canoe Creek State Park more than 11 years ago.

(source: Altoona Mirror)


Racial discrimination remains plague on criminal justice system

One of the fundamental promises of the American criminal justice system is that ordinary citizens have the power to help decide how justice is handed down. But the truth is, we have never fully extended this power to African Americans.

The U.S. Supreme Court underscored that truth this month, when it heard arguments in Foster v. Chatman, a Georgia case in which jury selection notes reveal that prosecutors purposely excluded every potential black juror and that they ranked the African Americans in case "it comes down to having to pick one of the black jurors."

If the court rules for the defendant in Foster, its decision will force courts across the country to stop ignoring clear evidence that African Americans have been systematically denied the right to serve on juries across the country. Here in North Carolina, we should watch this case closely.

In the investigation of cases tried under N.C. Racial Justice Act, we found evidence even stronger than that which drew the Supreme Court's attention this month. The prosecutor's handwritten notes in a Cumberland County capital case labeled jurors with terms like "blk wino" and "blk, high drug neighborhood." Another juror was deemed "ok" because she was from a "respectable blk family."

RJA defendants also discovered that their prosecutors attended a training seminar, sponsored by the N.C. Conference of District Attorneys, where they were given a cheat sheet of "race-neutral" excuses they could use to justify excluding African-American citizens from jury service.

To top it off, a comprehensive statewide study of more than 150 capital cases from 1990-2010 found that prosecutors dismissed qualified African-American jurors at more than double the rate of white jurors. The disparity was even more pronounced when the defendant was African American.

Despite this clear evidence, North Carolina has hardly begun to remedy the problem.

The courts' record

In the 30 years since it became illegal to strike a juror based on race, the North Carolina appellate courts have heard more than 100 cases where prosecutors were accused of intentionally excluding jurors of color. These courts ruled there was evidence of discrimination against African-American jurors in only 1, a case where the prosecutor failed to provide any explanation for his strikes."

The courts' record was so troubling that the General Assembly enacted the Racial Justice Act, a law that forced the courts to consider statistical evidence of racial disparities in jury selection and charging and sentencing. The hope was that RJA would finally force our courts to root out racial injustice, a major factor in wrongful convictions. (8 of the 9 innocent men who have been sent to death row in North Carolina are black.)

Following 2 evidentiary hearings under the RJA, the court found "powerful" evidence that prosecutors "regularly took race into account in capital jury selection and discriminated against African-American citizens." The defendants involved in these hearings were resentenced to life without parole. Sadly, only these 4 of the state's nearly 150 death row inmates had their RJA claims heard before the legislature repealed the law. Now, the state Supreme Court is mulling whether to overturn the lower court's finding of pervasive race discrimination in those 4 cases.

Sometimes it feels as if no amount of evidence will force our state to change. But watching the arguments this month in the U.S. Supreme Court, I find reason to hope.

Hope that North Carolina will not sweep this problem under the rug forever. Hope that we will finally see that denying African Americans the right to serve on juries not only violates their rights, but makes wrongful convictions more likely and undermines the integrity of our system as a whole. Hope that we will one day truly live up to our creed: Equal Justice Under Law.

(source: Opinion; Gretchen Engel is the executive director of the Durham-based Center for Death Penalty Litigation. N.C. Policy Watch is a project of the N.C. Justice Center----News & Observer)


Georgia carried out what is likely the last execution of 2015 after Supreme Court denied appeals

The last execution currently scheduled to take place in the United States this year was carried out Thursday evening when Georgia executed a man convicted of raping and murdering a woman in 1994.

As the execution approached, attorneys for Marcus Johnson had petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a reprieve and continued to argue that he is innocent. However, the justices denied these requests on Thursday.

Johnson was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson at 7 p.m., but the execution was delayed for a little more than 3 hours due to the appeals.

He was sentenced to death for killing Angela Sizemore. In March 1994, Johnson and Sizemore met at a bar in Albany, Ga., and left together. Her body was found several hours later, having been brutally beaten and sexually assaulted, according to a summary of the case released by the office of Sam Olens, the Georgia attorney general. 4 years later, Johnson was convicted and sentenced.

In a filing to the Supreme Court, Johnson's attorneys argue that his "conviction for murder is based on fundamentally inaccurate and unreliable evidence."

Johnson told police he had sex with Sizemore in a nearby vacant lot before punching her in the nose "when she became clingy," his petition states, but he said she was alive when he left.

His attorneys argue that no physical evidence has linked him to the murder. They say that as a result, the case relied upon eyewitnesses who identified Johnson as being in the area shortly before Sizemore's body was found, even though studies have shown that eyewitness testimony is unreliable.

A filing from Olens, on behalf of the state, insists that the people who say they saw Johnson leaving the area were reliable and dismisses his other claims in arguing for the justices to reject the request to stay the execution.

The Supreme Court rejected the request without explanation or any recorded dissents Thursday night, but Johnson's lawyers quickly filed another appeal and Georgia officials also asked the justices to dismiss it. Shortly after 9 p.m., the justices denied the 2nd appeal, also without explanation or any recorded dissents.

On Wednesday, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles rejected Johnson's request for clemency. In Georgia, only the parole board can commute a death sentence or change it to life in prison or life without parole.

"The duty of the Board of Pardons and Paroles is to act as a fail-safe to prevent miscarriages of justice such as the execution of persons whom the evidence shows may be innocent," Brian Kammer, an attorney for Johnson, said in a statement. "The board failed egregiously in this respect, and as a result the state of Georgia is about to execute an innocent man."

Johnson's execution will likely be the country's last one in 2015. On Wednesday evening, Texas carried out its last scheduled execution of the year, putting Raphael Holiday, 36, to death for killing 3 children by burning their home down in 2000. In his last statement, Holliday thanked his "supporters and loved ones."

Georgia has carried out 4 executions already in 2015, trailing only Texas and Missouri for the most so far this year. However, the total number of executions this year is the lowest in nearly a quarter of a century, something that occurs as states like Oklahoma, Arkansas, Ohio, Florida and others have scheduled and postponed or scrapped executions due to court challenges, an ongoing drug shortage and other issues.

The last inmate executed in Georgia before Johnson was Kelly Gissendaner, who was put to death in September after the state twice tried to execute her and had to cancel its plans (first due to a winter storm, then because of "cloudy" lethal injection drugs). Gissendaner was 1 of 3 inmates executed during a brief window that saw states schedule 6 lethal injections, though half of those were ultimately not carried out.

If no other executions are scheduled before the end of the year, Georgia will have carried out the 1st and last executions of 2015, as the state executed Andrew Brannan in January.

(source: Washington Post)


Man faces death penalty for killing daughter, girl's mother

A central Florida man has been convicted of killing his 3-year-old daughter and her mother.

The Lakeland Ledger ( ) reports that a Polk County jury found 37-year-old Lester Ross guilty Thursday of 1st-degree murder and aggravated manslaughter. He faces life in prison or the death penalty.

Authorities discovered the bodies of Ross' daughter, MaSarah Ross, and the girl's mother, Ronkeya Holmes, buried in a Winter Haven grove in December 2010. Ross was arrested about 2 years later, following an intense investigation.

Ross' ex-wife, Sharon Evans, testified that she drove Ross to bury the bodies in 2009 because she feared her husband would kill her if she talked to police.

(source: Associated Press)


The 5 women on Alabama's death row have this in common The 5 women facing execution by the state of Alabama all have 1 thing in common -- they were convicted of killing their child or someone else's child.

Women make up less than 3 % of the 188 inmates facing the death penalty in the state, according to the Alabama Department of Corrections.

Lisa Graham, currently held at the Russell County Jail, will soon join 4 other women at the female death row at Tutwiler Prison. The 183 condemned men are housed at Holman and Donaldson Prisons.

Graham was sentenced to die Wednesday for paying a family friend to kill her 21-year-old daughter Stephanie Shae Graham in July 2007. Despite the fact Graham has an IQ of 77, a judge upheld a jury's recommendation of death, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported.

Here are the 4 other women on death row in Alabama:

--Patricia Blackmon, convicted in the May 1999 capital murder of her 2-year-old adopted daughter, Dominiqua Bryant. The child's body sustained numerous injuries, including a fractured skull, and was stomped with such force that an imprint from a shoe was left on her chest.

--Tierra Gobble, convicted in the death of her 4-month-old son Phoenix Jordan ''Cody'' Parrish in 2004. The child suffered a fractured skull, 5 broken ribs, broken wrists and numerous bruises. An autopsy showed he died from head trauma consistent with child abuse.

--Christie Michelle Scott, convicted of setting a house fire that killed her 6-year-old son Mason Scott in order to collect life insurance in 2008.

--Heather Leavell-Keaton, convicted of murdering her common law husband's 3-year-old son Chase DeBlase in 2010. Prosecutors allege that Leavell-Keaton cooked anti-freeze into the children's food.

Alabama has not executed a woman since 2002, when Lynda Lyon Block was put to death for killing Opelika police officer Roger Motley. Block's execution marked the last time Alabama used its electric chair. The state switched to lethal injection after her execution.

Since 1927, when Alabama switched from hanging to electrocution, the state has executed only 4 women. Records are not available for executions prior to that year.

Block was the 1st woman executed in Alabama since 1957. Rhonda Bell Martin was executed after she confessed in 1956 to poisoning her mother, 2 husbands, and 3 of her children.

Earle Dennison in 1953 became the 1st white woman to die in Alabama's electric chair after poisoning her 2 nieces for insurance money.

The 1st woman to die in Alabama's electric chair, Silena Gilmore, said she shot a waiter as he begged for mercy because she was drunk. "Crime does not pay," she said before her 1930 execution.

More than 2 years have passed since Alabama executed an inmate.

The U.S. Supreme Court in June approved the use of the lethal injection drug combination that Alabama and other states use to kill the condemned, but it is not clear when executions will re-start in the state and which death row inmate will be 1st. has joined with other news organizations around the nation in "The Next to Die," a project to track the upcoming executions of death row inmates.

Led by The Marshall Project, a non-profit, non-partisan journalism group that covers the criminal justice system, "The Next to Die" is currently set up to track execution dates in 10 states.



3 murder suspects deny guilt in Fairfax and San Francisco shootings

3 young itinerants charged with murdering a Fairfax hiker and a San Francisco tourist entered pleas of not guilty Thursday, 6 weeks after their arrest in Oregon.

The defendants - Morrison Haze Lampley, 23, Sean Michael Angold, 24, and Lila Scott Alligood, 18 - appeared in court for the 4th time before Judge Kelly Simmons, who has been postponing their arraignment while initial legal representation was arranged.

Simmons set May 9 as the date for the preliminary hearing, the proceeding at which she will decide whether there is sufficient evidence to hold the defendants for trial.

All 3 could face the death penalty. Lampley is being represented by the Marin County Public Defender's Office, while Angold and Alligood have been assigned to court-appointed attorneys.

The body of the 1st victim, Audrey Carey, 23, was found Oct. 3 in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. Carey, a resident of Quebec, was on a backpacking trip to the United States when she was killed.

The killers stole Carey's tent, a sleeping bag, a passport, airline tickets, camping equipment and a tarp, according to prosecution filings.

The alleged murder weapon, a Smith and Wesson handgun, was stolen from a car in the Fisherman's Wharf area of San Francisco, police said.

2 days later, the 2nd victim, 67-year-old Steve Carter, was shot to death while walking his dog on a trail off Sir Francis Drake Boulevard in the Loma Alta Preserve near Fairfax. The dog, a Doberman Pinscher named Coco, was shot and survived.

The suspects then allegedly stole Carter's car and headed north. They were arrested in Portland on Oct. 7 with the stolen car, Carey's stolen property and the stolen gun allegedly used in the crime spree, authorities said.

The defendants are charged with 1st-degree murder with the special circumstances of lying in wait and committing murder during a robbery. The special circumstances mean the defendants could be eligible for the death penalty if convicted, but prosecutors could instead seek life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The defendants are also charged with robbery, vehicle theft, possession of a stolen vehicle, animal cruelty and being in possession of property stolen from both victims.

Lampley, the alleged gunman in both deaths, faces additional charges of possessing a stolen gun and being a convicted felon with a gun. Prosecutors say he was convicted of possession of a stolen vehicle last May in San Diego County.

The defendants are being prosecuted in Marin Superior Court for both the Fairfax and the San Francisco homicides.

Carter, a yoga and Tantra instructor, was living in San Geronimo with his wife Lokita. The couple, who had previously lived in Lake County and Costa Rica, moved to Marin so she could receive breast cancer treatments.



Sotomayor Says Congress Should Not Tell Judges How to Review Cases

The framers of the Constitution should have barred Congress from telling judges how to review certain types of cases, such as challenges brought under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said this week.

"I probably would have told the framers that Congress could not specify our standards of review," Sotomayor said in a conversation with law students at the University of Richmond School of Law. "I personally think judicial independence is compromised when Congress decides with detail what the standards should be - [the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act] is one of them."

Cases under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, or AEDPA, generally come to the U.S. Supreme Court as habeas petitions from prisoners challenging their sentences or convictions. Sotomayor had been asked by a student what structural changes she would make in the high court or what more she would have liked the framers to say about the court in the Constitution.

Because of AEDPA's standard of review, she said, "We are now in a place where a clearly constitutional wrong or one that's clear enough will still be upheld because AEDPA tells us if it's not 'unreasonably' wrong, it's OK. Try explaining that to someone in jail or try explaining that to the founding fathers who might have had a very different view of what justice is about."

Roaming through the audience, as has become Sotomayor's style, the justice fielded a wide range of questions from students on Nov. 17 following a brief conversation with Dean Wendy Perdue. The "roaming" style, Sotomayor said, was a reflection of her innate restlessness. Being a restless child, she said, her family called her "aji," meaning "hot pepper."

Sotomayor called her failure to do a judicial clerkship a "professional mistake," and she strongly urged the law students to clerk for a judge.

"Clerking will substitute for anywhere from 5 to 10 years of legal experience," she told them. "You will see more styles of advocacy than you can see in private practice. You'll see what advocates do and figure out what works best and doesn't work. And you'll get exposed to every facet of legal practice. I thought it meant just going to work in a library and I didn't want to do that."

A clerkship, she added, is a "human exposure to learning." And, she said, most clerks become part of their judge's family "and that mentorship lasts a lifetime."

Her other mistake was a "life mistake," she said. "It took me too long to realize that really being open to people, letting them into you life and into your feelings, is a positive thing. I spent too many years of my life being closed off from my pain and my fears of pain." Once you open yourself to people, they reciprocate by being more open to you, she said.

Sotomayor's prior jobs as a district attorney and a federal trial judge, she said, prepared her best for her position on the high court. "The ability to understand how facts should be developed and how arguments can flow from the creation of facts and influence doctrinal outcome are what make a really great lawyer," she said.

Sotomayor also recounted the period during her Senate confirmation hearings when she thought about withdrawing. "There were many who said I wasn't intelligent enough, smart enough to be on the court," she recalled. "It was very, very painful to me. I had spent a lifetime of legal work, making colleagues on the Second Circuit, and all of a sudden things I thought people thought of me were proven wrong by some. I talked to a dear friend and said, 'Is it worth getting to the court with a diminished reputation?'"

Her friend was angry with her. "She said: 'This is not about you. This about my daughter. She's 8 years old and there's no Hispanic in high position of power in the United States of America. Your presence there will give her and many other children of similar backgrounds the possibility of hope. Yeah, you feel bad. Get over it.'" And Sotomayor did.

Sotomayor said she considers the late Constance Baker Motley, a federal judge and civil rights lawyer, a role model who, one day, said to her: "To those whom blessings are given, you have an obligation to give back."

(source: National Law Journal)


Adjusting IQ Scores so More Minorities Are Eligible for the Death Penalty

In 2002, in Atkins v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court held that executing an intellectually disabled (formerly called mentally retarded) individual violates the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishments. Since then, a number of experts have come forward with the following claim: IQ tests, used as a component of assessing intellectual disability for Atkins purposes, are biased against minorities, whose scores should accordingly be upwardly adjusted for a more accurate picture of their intelligence. Some state prosecutors and courts, moreover, have been friendly audiences to this line of argument. In this column, I will consider the argument along with how it ought to fare in the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Atkins Case

The Supreme Court in Atkins determined that executing an intellectually disabled person is unconstitutional, in part because of the disproportionality between the ultimate punishment and the necessarily diminished culpability of an intellectually disabled defendant. In the years following Atkins, the Court had occasion, in Hall v. Florida, to flesh out the meaning of intellectual disability and to clarify that it includes more than a simple IQ score. Nonetheless, IQ scores remain an important component of intellectual disability assessment, both clinically and for Atkins purposes.

An excellent article by Robert Sanger calls attention to a particular sort of challenge to IQ scores that has developed in the Atkins context. This challenge or critique provides that African Americans, Latinos, and Latinas are disserved by IQ tests, as life experiences of deprivation, for instance, produce artificially low scores on such tests, relative to the test-takers' true ability. In some contexts, this critique could help minorities applying for jobs and educational opportunities. Here, however, the proposal is to give minority defendants a "bump up" on their IQ scores so that they qualify to be executed.

My 1st reaction, upon considering this phenomenon, was to imagine a story in The Onion (a satirical online magazine) titled "Ku Klux Klan Acknowledges Racial Bias in IQ Tests; Seeks to Remedy By Executing More Minorities." In the "What Do You Think?" section of The Onion, one African American's reaction could be, "Finally, the Klan recognizes that standardized IQ tests are unfair to us. And if I'm not good enough for Harvard, at least I might be good enough for death row; it's a 1st step." Jonathan Swift might have had fun with this very different kind of "modest proposal."

These arguments, however, are not jokes and must therefore be taken seriously, notwithstanding their vulnerability to satire. According to Sanger, the highest courts of several states, including Alabama, have allowed the proposed racial IQ adjustments. So what is wrong with this practice?

Race Discrimination

The 1st thing wrong with racially adjusting minority IQ scores upward for execution purposes is that it constitutes blatant and invidious race discrimination against minority individuals. It basically says that a person with an IQ test score of X will live if he is white but (potentially) die if he is black. And this result is not simply a matter of observed disparate impact but of intentional practice in the courtroom.

Sanger does an admirable job of arguing that racially adjusting IQ scores is a scientifically unsupported and invalid project. The correct comparison for an individual IQ, he contends, is the larger community's IQs.

But even if there is some validity to discounting or elevating IQ test scores based on race, one needs to ask when such a move is constitutionally - not just scientifically - valid. And Sanger addresses this issue thoroughly as well, explaining that race-based adjustments are subject to - and handily fail - strict scrutiny, under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

For our limited purposes here, retaining a healthy skepticism toward the Supreme Court's stingy attitude toward race-based assistance to minorities, consider that upwardly adjusting minority test scores sounds like a form of state-sponsored affirmative action, something to which the Supreme Court has arguably been too hostile. Generally, affirmative action at its best is aimed at either rectifying specific racial injustices or at fostering a needed diversity in such venues as educational environments.

Neither of these justifications has any purchase in the death penalty context. We do nothing to rectify past racial injustices by rendering more minority defendants eligible for execution. Indeed, we arguably do just the opposite, given the existing overrepresentation of minorities within the criminal justice system and the complex history of discrimination within the death penalty itself.

On the diversity front, there is no need for racial diversity on death row that we would foster by permitting the execution of minority defendants who would otherwise qualify as intellectually disabled. It is indeed bizarre to suggest that we might "enrich" the environment of death row by adding racial diversity, and I cannot imagine anyone even articulating this argument with a straight face.

The Supreme Court has made clear, in Atkins and Hall, that executing the intellectually disabled is constitutionally unacceptable and that care must be taken to avoid the risk of such executions, such as by attending to the imprecision of IQ tests and the standard error of measurement (SEM). If it were not truly happening, we could find funny the notion of admitting minority candidates to execution "under the wire" despite their disqualifying IQ scores. But because it is actually going on, the Supreme Court must step in and for once display a completely well-founded opposition to a benighted form of affirmative action, one that would give minority candidates with prima facie intellectual disability a "leg up" to a lethal injection.

(source: Sherry F. ColbSherry F. Colb, a Justia columnist, is Professor of Law and Charles Evans Hughes Scholar at Cornell Law


Ex-CIA director: Snowden should be 'hanged' for Paris

A former CIA director says leaker Edward Snowden should be convicted of treason and given the death penalty in the wake of the terrorist attack on Paris.

"It's still a capital crime, and I would give him the death sentence, and I would prefer to see him hanged by the neck until he's dead, rather than merely electrocuted," James Woolsey told CNN's Brooke Baldwin on Thursday.

Woolsey said Snowden, who divulged classified in 2013, is partly responsible for the terrorist attack in France last week that left at least 120 dead and hundreds injured.

"I think the blood of a lot of these French young people is on his hands," he said.

Woolsey, who served as the head of the CIA from 1993 to 1995, said the Snowden leak was "substantial."

"They turned loose not only material about some procedural aspects of something, they turned loose, for example, some substantial material about the Mexican intelligence service and law enforcement working together against human trafficking," he said.

Woolsey wondered if Snowden were "pro-pimp."

Current CIA Director John Brennan has recently echoed his predecessor's sentiments, arguing that Snowden's disclosures make it harder for intelligence officials to track terror plots.

"I think any unauthorized disclosures made by individuals that have dishonored the oath of office, that they have raised their hand and attested to, undermines this nation's security," Brennan said about Snowden at the Overseas Security Advisory Council's annual meeting on Wednesday.

Snowden fled the country after stealing classified information and disclosing the extent of U.S. surveillance programs. He currently resides in Russia, where he has been granted temporary asylum.



Call For Bangladesh To Halt Imminent War Crimes Executions

The Bangladeshi government should halt the imminent executions of 2 men convicted of war crimes, Human Rights Watch said Thursday. The authorities should immediately suspend the death sentences of Ali Ahsan Mohammed Mujahid of the Jamaat-e-Islam Party and Salahuddin Qader Chowdhury of the Bangladesh National Party pending an independent and impartial review of their cases.

On November 18, 2015, the Bangladesh Supreme Court rejected review petitions by Mujahid and Chowdhury despite serious fair trial concerns surrounding their convictions. Both men were convicted of alleged war crimes during the 1971 Bangladesh war of independence in trials before the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT).

"Justice and accountability for the terrible crimes committed during Bangladesh's 1971 war of independence are crucial, but trials need to meet international fair trial standards," said Brad Adams, Asia director. "Unfair trials can't provide real justice, especially when the death penalty is imposed."

The death sentences against Mujahid and Chowdhury follow a disturbing pattern from previous ICT cases. In December 2013, Abdul Qader Mollah was hanged following hastily enacted retrospective legislation prohibited by international law. Another accused, Delwar Hossain Sayedee, was convicted despite credible allegations of the abduction by government forces of a key defense witness from the grounds of the courthouse, with the ICT refusing to order an independent investigation into the charge. Mohammed Kamaruzzaman was hanged in April 2015 even though witnesses and documents were arbitrarily limited by the courts and inconsistent prior and subsequent statements of prosecution witnesses were not allowed into evidence.

The trials of both Mujahid and Chowdhury have been marred by similar complaints, with arbitrary limitations on witnesses and documents. Mujahid's lawyers submitted 1500 names of defense witnesses. The court acted reasonably in refusing to consider all 1500, but acted unreasonably by ordering that only 3 witnesses could testify for the defense. The court did not identify the most relevant witnesses; instead, it chose this number arbitrarily. Mujahid was sentenced to death for instigating his subordinates to commit abuses, although no subordinates testified or were identified. Shortly before the hearing on the review petition, one of his lawyers had to go into hiding following a raid on his house and the arrest of another defense counsel in a related case.

In Chowdhury's case, the court refused to accept any testimony from his alibi witnesses while still demanding that Chowdhury prove that his alibi was valid beyond a reasonable doubt. Despite allowing the prosecution to call 41 witnesses, the ICT limited Chowdhury's defense to 4 witnesses.The authorities reportedly ordered international airlines flying into Dhaka to declare whether any of Chowdhury's defense witnesses were booked on their flights ahead of Chowdhury's review hearing, presumably with an eye to denying them entry on arrival.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Bangladesh is a party, affords the accused the right "to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his or her behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him or her."

"Treating the prosecution and defense equally is a basic fair trial principle, but the ICT has routinely ignored that principle in its seeming eagerness to convict the accused," Adams said. "The accused in all these cases were allowed a minuscule fraction of witnesses, counsel were regularly harassed and persecuted, defense witnesses faced physical threats, and witnesses were denied visas to enter the country to testify."

Government assurances that it would adopt recommendations from the US government, Human Rights Watch, and others to improve the proceedings and amend the law have yet to be fulfilled. Stephen Rapp, the former US ambassador for war crimes, who has long advised the government to make changes to ensure fair trials, spoke out this week on the miscarriage of justice in the cases of Mujahid and Chowdhury:

"Throughout my engagement, my first interest has been to achieve justice for the victims and survivors through trials and appeals that would establish the undisputable truth and hold the major surviving perpetrators to account. For such a process to stand the test of time, I urged that the judicial proceedings of the International Crimes Tribunal respect the highest legal standards. It saddens me to say that I do not believe that was done in the cases of Salauddin Qader Chowdhury and Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid. Under the provisions of international law that Bangladesh has bound itself to uphold, the imposition of sentences of death in these cases is not justified ..."

Trials before the ICT, including those of Mujahid and Chowdhury, have been replete with violations of the right to a fair trial. The ICT has fundamental flaws because of article 47(A) of the constitution, which states, "This Article further denies any accused under the ICT Act from moving the Supreme Court for any remedies under the Constitution, including any challenges as to the unconstitutionality of Article 47(A)."

The article specifically strips people accused of war crimes of certain fundamental rights, including the right to an expeditious trial by an independent and impartial tribunal, and the right to move the courts to enforce their fundamental rights. This article has permitted the ICT overly broad discretion to deny those accused in this and prior cases the rights and procedures accorded to other defendants.

Many of the trials before the ICT have been marred by evidence from intercepted communications between the prosecution and the judges that has revealed prohibited and biased communications. The ICT’s response on several occasions to those who have raised objections about the trials has been to file contempt charges against them in an apparent attempt to silence criticism rather than to answer substantively or to rectify any errors. Human Rights Watch, the journalist David Bergman, and staff members of The Economist magazine have all been tried for contempt for publishing articles critical of the trials.

Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances because of its inherent cruelty. Bangladesh should join with the many countries already committed to the United Nations General Assembly's December 18, 2007 resolution calling for a moratorium on executions and a move by UN member countries toward abolition of the death penalty.

The UN Human Rights Committee, which interprets the ICCPR, has said that "in cases of trials leading to the imposition of the death penalty, scrupulous respect of the guarantees of fair trial is particularly important" and that any death penalty imposed after an unfair trial would be a violation of the right to a fair trial.

"Bangladeshis are rightly demanding justice for the atrocities in the liberation war," Adams said. "But delivering justice requires fairness and adherence to the highest standards, particularly when a life is at stake."

(source: Eurasia Review)


Arrest warrants for PML-N MNA issued in Pakistan

The PML-N MNA who had won from NA-107 Gujrat-4 during the May 2013 general election was awarded death penalty by an anti-terrorism court.

The Supreme Court has issued arrest warrants for PML-N MNA Chaudhry Abid Raza for his alleged involvement in the murder of 6 people in Gujrat.

The PML-N MNA who had won from NA-107 Gujrat-4 during the May 2013 general election was awarded death penalty by an anti-terrorism court (ATC) in 2003. However, Raza was acquitted after the families of the deceased forgave him after compromise.

An apex court bench headed by Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali took notice of his acquittal on terrorism charges. The bench stated that a compromise under Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 is not allowed.

(source: Khaleej Times)


Death penalty: Govt not sharing data on executions, says JPP

The government has executed at least 300 people over the past 11 months, according to an independent assessment undertaken by the Justice Project Pakistan (JPP).

There is also confusion over the scale of Pakistan's death row, believed to be the largest in the world, says the JPP.

"2 weeks ago, the Pakistani government said that some 6,000 people were facing execution in the country; however, this is incompatible with another government estimate, of 8,000, made by the Interior Ministry at the beginning of the year," it said in a statement.

"Despite appeals by human rights organisations for clarity on the number of people executed and the number on death row, the government is refusing to share official information on either issue."

The JPP said this indicated that there might be uncertainty over who was being executed. It said police torture and forced confessions were common in Pakistan.

Rights organisations have voiced concerns that many of those on the death row were sentenced in unfair trials. "Since more than 73 % of births are unregistered in Pakistan, there are also fears that many of those who have been executed may have been juveniles when arrested," the JPP said. JPP Executive Director Sarah Belal said, "We know that Pakistan is executing people at a record rate. Worse still, there is overwhelming evidence that many of those hanged have been tortured into 'confessing,' or were sentenced as children. The government needs to put a stop to this chaotic killing spree."

(source: The Express Tribune)


Pardon For Foreigners Must Go Through Malaysian Legal System

The pardon for foreigners who are given the death penalty in Malaysia must go through several procedures specified by the country's legal system, said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

"In making the appeal for a decision made by the court, those people concerned can do so to the Court of Appeal or can take it straight away to the Federal Court subsequently," he told a media conference after receiving a courtesy call by the Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Binsar Panjaitan at his office, here Friday.

He said the Indonesian government had submitted 36 appeals for its nationals who had been sentenced to death by hanging to the Pardons Board through the appointed lawyers.

Ahmad Zahid, who is also the Home Minister, said just as the other convicts, Indonesian nationals who had been handed the death sentence had also gone through the legal process specified, and it was something that must be respected.

The decision on the appeals had yet to be made and Luhut, who was informed about it, respected the legal process implemented in this country.

Ahmad Zahid said 81 Indonesian nationals who were given the death sentence were among the 4,896 nationals of that country who were serving the jail sentence in several prisons in Malaysia.

"Of the 81 convicts sentenced to death by hanging, 65 were involved in offences under the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, 13 murder cases, 2 kidnapping cases and 1 was involved in a firearms case," he said.

Meanwhile, Ahmad Zahid said Luhut took the opportunity at the meeting to record his country's appreciation to Malaysia, particularly the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) which was directly involved in the mission to put out the fire in South Sumatera recently.

He said Indonesia deeply appreciated the manpower mobilised by the agency, including the MMEA's willingness to send the Bombardier CL 415 aircraft, which was capable of carrying huge amounts of water to put out forest fires in several areas there.

In addition, the meeting also discussed, among other things, the Agreement on the Prevention of Cross Border Crimes between Malaysia and Indonesia which was presented by Malaysia to Indonesia earlier, he said.

(source: Bernama)


Lawyer advocates abolition of death sentence

Female lawyersAn Abuja-based legal practitioner, Mr Victor Okwudiri, has advocated abolition of death sentence as penalty for any crime or offence in the nation's law books.

Okwudiri, who spoke to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Friday, argued that capital punishment was a waste of "human capital" and a double jeopardy for the nation.

The legal practitioner said that there were 3 purposes to the administration of criminal justice - to secure justice for the victim, to protect the society and to rehabilitate the criminal.

He stressed that "it is only a victim with a vendetta mentality" that would want to pursue justice to the point of termination of the life of a human being.

According to him, taking life as a punishment will not bring back the life of the victim.

"And in the long run society will suffer double jeopardy by losing 2 persons, the victim and the criminal, instead of one."

Okwudili said, "each time a soul dies, the nation looses human capital because everyone has the potential to transform the world.

"The transformation of a place like Saudi Arabia is tied to a man.

"We have heard of great men like Nelson Mandela and Lee Kuan Yew. What if they were killed prematurely?

"The national and global transformation that their nations and entire world witnessed would not have happened if they were prematurely aborted.

"Similarly, if we keep taking lives in the name of punishment for crime, we will be robbing ourselves of great potential that will have been instrumental to the development we earnestly seek," he said.

Okwudiri insisted that life imprisonment was a better option to death sentence.

He, therefore, recommended that the Nigerian Prisons Service should be overhauled for maximum rehabilitation of criminals as obtainable in the western world.

He added that the prison could re-orientate its inmates and positively change the psychology of criminals if they were well managed.

"If re-orientation and indoctrination can make suicide bombers blow themselves up, they can as well be used positively to change murderers to better citizens," he argued.

Okwudiri added that life is sacred and only God gives life, therefore, only God has the right to take life, not the government.



Saudi court sentences Palestinian poet to death for apostasy-HRW

A Saudi Arabian court has sentenced a Palestinian poet to death for apostasy, abandoning his Muslim faith, according to trial documents seen by Human Rights Watch, its Middle East researcher Adam Coogle said on Friday.

Ashraf Fayadh was detained by the country's religious police in 2013 in Abha, in southwest Saudi Arabia, and then rearrested and tried in early 2014.

The verdict of that court sentenced him to 4 years in prison and 800 lashes but after appeal another judge passed a death sentence on Fayadh three days ago, said Coogle.

"I have read the trial documents from the lower court verdict in 2014 and another one from 17 November. It is very clear he has been sentenced to death for apostasy," Coogle said.

Saudi Arabia's justice system is based on Sharia Islamic law and its judges are clerics from the kingdom's ultra conservative Wahhabi school of Sunni Islam. In the Wahhabi interpretation of Sharia, religious crimes including blasphemy and apostasy incur the death penalty.

In January liberal writer Raif Badawi was flogged 50 times after his sentencing to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for blasphemy last year, prompting an international outcry. Badawi remains in prison, but diplomats say he is unlikely to be flogged again.

Saudi judges have extensive scope to impose sentences according to their own interpretation of Sharia law without reference to any previous cases. After a case has been heard by lower courts, appeals courts and the supreme court, a convicted defendant can be pardoned by King Salman.

Fayadh's conviction was based on evidence from a prosecution witness who claimed to have heard him cursing God, Islam's Prophet Mohammad and Saudi Arabia, and the contents of a poetry book he had written years earlier.

The case went to the Saudi appeals court and was then returned to the lower court, where a different judge on November 17 increased the sentence to death. The 2nd judge ruled defence witnesses who had challenged the prosecution witness' testimony ineligible.

Saudi Arabia's Justice Ministry or other officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

(source: Reuters)


Common Sense Needed if Reinstating Death Penalty in Russia - Kremlin

The reinstatement of the death penalty in Russia would require common sense and not an emotional approach, Kremlin Chief of Staff Sergei Ivanov said Friday.

Earlier today, the leader of the center-left A Just Russia party suggested reinstating the capital punishment for terrorists and their collaborators in the wake of terror attacks on a Russian airliner in Egypt and public venues across Paris.

"Sometimes it's necessary to rely not on emotions, but on common sense and Russia's international obligations. In my personal opinion, to put it mildly, is that this [reinstating the death penalty] is premature and inappropriate," Ivanov said.

Ivanov said that he did not believe this move would gain the support of over 90 percent of Russian citizens, should the country hold a referendum on the issue.

Russia suspended the death penalty indefinitely in 1999, although it was retained in the Constitution. The capital punishment by firing squad is reserved for especially severe offenses, such as aggravated murder and genocide.



Ruddock welcomes Indon execution reprieve----Anti-death penalty advocate Philip Ruddock says Indonesia's decision to pause executions to focus on its economy is a move in the right direction.

A veteran Liberal MP welcomes news that Indonesia has placed a moratorium on all executions, but says Australia won't stop pursuing an end to the punishment worldwide.

Philip Ruddock, co-chair of the Australian Parliamentarians against the death penalty group, said a reprieve in Indonesia is a move in the "right direction".

"I think if the United States were to change it would be quite powerful in relation to influencing other countries," he told ABC radio on Friday.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, who was in Jakarta on Thursday, said the federal government's position on the death penalty was well known.

"The Australian government welcomes the announcement from the Indonesian government," he told reporters in Brisbane on Friday.



Indonesia's turnaround on death penalty means heartbreak for 2 Australian families

There are 2 Australian families facing what's meant to be a happy time of year with heavy hearts. There are 2 Australian families that lost their sons to the firing squad in Indonesia after 10 years in prison. And there are 2 Australia families who will be sickened by the latest news from Indonesia: they have halted executions.

According to the country's top security minister, the current death row inmates will not be facing the firing squad in the near future.

Luhut Binsar Panjaitan told a news conference the government's priority was to address the economic slowdown, during bilateral meetings aimed at boosting trade with the Australian government.

It's a step to patch up the damaged relationship fractured by the killing of 2 Australian citizens: Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan in April.

"We haven't thought about executing a death penalty with the economic conditions like this," Mr Panjaitan told reporters in Jakarta.

BBC reports Indonesian correspondents have said no executions are scheduled at this time, a stark contrast from the hurried nature of Chan and Sukumaran's last days.

Indonesia's economic growth dropped below 5% in 2015, and executions cost not only government money, but tourism to the country as Western nations generally oppose their hard line on prisoners.

This year Indonesia executed 14 people by firing squad, including citizens from Brazil, the Netherlands and Nigeria, as well as Australia, damaging relationships and losing ambassadors from the majority.

Currently, there are dozens of people awaiting their fate, although none are Australians.

It remains to be seen whether Chan and Sukumaran would still be alive today if executions were halted, but it's a question that their families will no doubt be thinking about.


NOVEMBER 19, 2015:


Texas 'Out of Step' With Other US States on Ending Death Penalty

Texas is not following the practice of other US states to eliminate using capital punishment, advocacy group Equal Justice USA Executive Director Shari Silberstein told Sputnik.

"The 6 states, including Texas, that have participated in executions this year are out of step with the growing number of states that have completely abandoned the death penalty," Silberstein said.

On Wednesday, Texas put to death its 13th convicted killer this year. The killer, 36-year-old Raphael Holiday, was convicted for intentionally set fire and killed his 18-year-old daughter and 2 step sisters.

"Even Texas' 13 executions this year, almost 1/2 of the national total, are down significantly from 2000, when the state executed 40 people," Silberstein noted. "The death penalty is in deep decline throughout the United States, with executions at all-time lows."

More than 800 people have been executed in the United States in the past 15 years, according to the non-profit Death Penalty Information Center. The state of Texas has executed 329 people since 2000.



Georgia executes Marcus Ray Johnson for 1994 murder

Marcus Ray Johnson has been put to death, the 1st of 7 expected to come over the next weeks and months as issues of the state's lethal injection drug has been resolved and death penalty cases complete the usual round of appeals.

The appointed time of his death was 7 p.m., but actual execution almost never comes until hours later, after all the courts have reviewed last-minute appeals and decided.

He was pronounced dead at 10:11 p.m.

Johnson visited with 3 paralegals, an attorney, 2 investigators, 1 friend and 5 family members until around 3 p.m., and then was moved to a holding cell just a few steps from the death chamber. He declined to make a recorded final statement.

Johnson, 50, had asked for a 6-pack of beer for his last meal but that request was turned down because, the Department of Corrections said, alcohol is "contraband" inside a prison. Instead, Johnson settled for the same meal served to the rest of the inmates at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison about 50 miles south of Atlanta. But he did not eat his dinner.

Outside the prison, death penalty opponents gathered at the edge of the prison property and about a mile from the building that houses the execution chamber. They prayed as they waited on final word.

Wednesday night the state Board of Pardons and Paroles denied Johnson's request for clemency and court after court on Thursday also rejected his appeals, in which he claimed he was innocent of murdering Angela Sizemore.

Johnson and Sizemore met at an Albany bar called Fundamentals shortly after midnight on March 24, 1994. They drank, danced and kissed before leaving for a nearby empty lot where they had sex. Johnson told police he remembered little because he had drank so much tequila, but he did recall punching Sizemore because she wanted to cuddle.

He insisted, however, that she was alive when he left her sitting in the field, crying. Her body was found around 8 a.m. inside her SUV, which was parked behind an apartment complex on the other side of town from the bar. She had been stabbed 41 times.

Johnson's lawyers said there was little physical evidence connecting the 2 - a drop of her blood on his jacket (which Johnson said got on him when he punched Sizemore) and the remnants of their sexual relations. His lawyer said there would have been copious amounts of blood on his clothes if he had stabbed her, and his fingerprints and other DNA would have been inside her SUV if he had driven it across town. He also challenged the eyewitnesses who said they saw him in the neighborhood where Sizemore's Suburban was found.

The Parole Board, as is its practice, did not give a reason for denying Johnson's clemency request, writing in the order only that the 5 members had "thoroughly and painstakingly reviewed and considered all of the facts and circumstances of the offender and his offense, the clemency application, argument, testimony and opinion in support of and against clemency."

The courts turned down his appeals on the basis that his arguments had been heard before and were not new.

Johnson becomes the 4th condemned inmate put to death in Georgia this year and the 59th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1983.

Johnson becomes the 27th and final condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA, and the 1,421st overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977. The 27 executions continues a downward trend in the USA since 2010, and represents the fewest amount of executions in the USA since 1991, when the nation carried out 14 executions.

The next scheduled execution in the US is set for January 20, 2016, in Texas.

(sources: Atlanta Journal Consitution & Rick Halperin)


Marcus Ray Johnson executed----U.S. Supreme Court denies stay Thursday night

After the U.S. Supreme Court denied an appeal by convicted killer Marcus Ray Johnson, he was executed at 10:11 p.m. Thursday, the Georgia Department of Corrections said.

Johnson declined a final prayer and refused to record a final statement.

With his plea for clemency denied by the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole late Wednesday and his appeals to the Georgia Supreme Court rejected Thursday afternoon, convicted Johnson's attorney, Brian Kammer, had asked the nation's high court for a stay of execution.

Johnson, 50, was sentenced to death in Dougherty Superior Court for the 1994 murder of Angela Sizemore, whom he was seen with in an Albany bar hours before her death.

In addition to denying Johnson's motion for a stay of execution, the Georgia Supreme Court denied his request to appeal a ruling made Wednesday by the Butts County Superior Court. The Superior Court both denied his motion for a stay and dismissed his claims, including his claim that new evidence shows the eyewitness testimony was unreliable and the State failed to disprove that someone else could have committed the crime. That led to the appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court Thursday night that went past the scheduled 7 p.m. execution time.

In a preface to the clemency application, Kammer placed in quotes: "It would be an atrocious violation of our Constitution and the Principles upon which it is based to execute an innocent person."

Johnson was scheduled to die by lethal injection at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, which was the 4th death penalty carried out this year in Georgia.

Johnson was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Angela Sizemore, who he had met at a west Albany bar named Fundamentals, in the early hours of March 24, 1994. The bar owner and its security officer, who both knew Johnson, testified they had seen Johnson and Sizemore kissing and behaving amorously.

Evidence at trial indicated that Johnson and Sizemore left Fundamentals together and authorities say they were seen walking toward 16th Avenue. Around 8 a.m. on March 24, 1994, a man walking his dog found Sizemore's white Suburban parked behind an apartment complex in East Albany, her body lying across the front passenger seat. Later reports showed she'd been cut and stabbed 41 times with a small, dull knife.

Kammer has maintained Johnson's innocence, stating that no incriminating DNA or fingerprints were found in Sizemore's SUV, that there was only a "drop" of Sizemore's blood found on Johnson's leather jacket, and none was found on the alleged murder weapon. Johnson has admitted having consensual sex with Sizemore, then punching her in the nose and drawing blood because she later insisted on "snuggling."

Johnson told police that the last time he saw the victim she was sitting in a field and crying.

Deputy Attorney General Beth Burton wrote on Tuesday in response to a filing by Johnson's attorney that the condemned Johnson "has been repeatedly given avenues and opportunities to attempt to present evidence to support his claim (of innocence). He has repeatedly failed. The miscarriage of justice in this case would be if the victim's 26-year-old daughter, who was 5 at the time of her mother's murder, is not allowed closure in this case."

Officials with the Georgia Department of Corrections said Johnson requested a 6-pack of beer as his last meal, but the request was denied because the alcohol was a contraband item. Johnson was to get the same one the other 78 death row inmates were to have.

The department said there have been 57 men and 1 woman executed in Georgia since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1973. 35 prior to Johnson were put to death by lethal injection.

(source: Albany Herald)


Georgia ranks high with number of death row inmates

As of Wedensday there have been over 1,400 executions in 31 death penalty states in this country.

Georgia is one of those death penalty states.

According to Georgia has had 58 executions since 1976 and as of April 1st of 2015, Georgia is the 9th highest state with death row inmates.

Dougherty County District Attorney Greg Edwards said that number is high because of the appeal process.

"There is a long process that is automatically put into place at the conclusion of a trial anyway. There would be first a series of appeals through the state appeals system and then generally what follows is an appeal process that is carried out in the federal which goes all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court," said Greg Edwards, District Attorney, Dougherty Judicial Circuit. "Just in general terms it will take at least a minimum of about 5 years for just the state processes to be generally completed by the time a person is convicted," he added.

Edwards said a death penalty sentence can only be handed down by a jury. In Georgia a life sentence without the possibility of parole is an option. He also said as of recently Georgia changed the law where now a judge can decide life with or without the possibility of parole in homicide cases.

(source: WFXL news)


Jury finds Tampa man guilty of Lakeland woman's killing----Benjamin Smiley was found guilty of 1st-degree murder Wednesday.

A 23-year-old Tampa man was found guilty Wednesday of fatally shooting a Lakeland woman in her home in 2013.

Benjamin Smiley faces the death penalty for killing Carmen Riley, 46.

The death penalty phase of the trial before Circuit Judge Jalal Harb is expected to begin in 2016. A separate panel of jurors will be chosen to determine whether to recommend death for Smiley.

In addition, Smiley faces a 2nd death penalty trial in 2016.

Smiley is accused of killing Clifford Drake about a month after Riley was shot and killed.

A jury of 4 men and 8 women deliberated for 5 hours before finding Smiley guilty of 1st-degree murder and robbery with a firearm.

Riley's brother said his only sister was well-liked in the community.

? "She was the big mama of the neighborhood," Dwain Babb said after the ruling.

Babb said Smiley deserves to die.

"He killed somebody so he deserves that," Babb said.

In closing arguments Tuesday, Kristie Ducharme, assistant state attorney, said Riley, who sold liquor and food out of her home, was targeted because of the money from the business.

"He went to her house, and knocked on the door with a .38-caliber in hand," Ducharme said.

Smiley was on a mission to steal, Ducharme said. When he found $2,000 and marijuana after the shooting, he ran out the back door.

No one learned of the connection to Smiley until earlier this year when officials say a break in the case came when a concerned citizen called police after finding clothing that did not belong to him in the bed of his truck, which was parked at his home near the crime scene.

A dark-colored, hooded jacket with a pair of latex gloves in the pocket was seized by police.

Detectives were able to link DNA from the clothing to DNA found on a backpack left behind at the scene of the Drake homicide, but at that point, they did not have a suspect.

Smiley was later charged after investigators were alerted to a DNA match following his arrest in Hillsborough County for armed robbery, for which he's currently serving a 6-year sentence. A witness questioned about the Drake killing told police about Smiley's involvement in the death of Riley.

David Carmichael, Smiley's lawyer, said the witnesses in the case were unreliable, dishonest and only talked to investigators so they could avoid charges.

Carmichael pointed to a text message exchange one of the witnesses had with another witness about possibly making up a story to avoid jail time.

"I felt like they made me make up this story so I wouldn't go to jail when I really don't know nothing about it," the text exchange read from one of the witnesses.

Carmichael said there wasn't any scientific evidence to link Smiley to Riley's death.

"The only evidence is that testimony," Carmichael said. "He's a liar, convicted felon and the state gave him immunity," Carmichael said of the state's witness.

There was no reaction from Smiley when the verdict was read.

(source: The Ledger)


Polk man faces death penalty for killing daughter, girl's mother

A central Florida man has been convicted of killing his 3-year-old daughter and her mother.

The Lakeland Ledger reports that a Polk County jury found 37-year-old Lester Ross guilty today of 1st-degree murder and aggravated manslaughter. He faces life in prison or the death penalty.

Authorities discovered the bodies of Ross' daughter, MaSarah Ross, and the girl's mother, Ronkeya Holmes, buried in a Winter Haven grove in December 2010. Ross was arrested about 2 years later, following an intense investigation.

Ross' ex-wife, Sharon Evans, testified that she drove Ross to bury the bodies in 2009 because she feared her husband would kill her if she talked to police.

(source: Associated Press)


Slain Covington purse-snatch victim's credit card found in Tenn.

Covington police are investigating whether suspects in a fatal purse-snatching at a Wal-Mart earlier this week have a connection to a Chattanooga poultry processing plant, where the victim's credit card was found.

Police believea man seen on surveillance video struggling with Marsha Johnson before running over the woman Monday night outside the Wal-Mart at 103000 Industrial Blvd. fled to Tennessee with a female who was also in the vehicle.

Johnson, who police said fell to the ground as the man grabbed her purse and then was run over multiple times by the same man, died later at Newton Medical Center.

Covington detectives were in Chattanooga on Thursday distributing sketches of the couple suspected in the killing.

Capt. Craig Treadwell said the victim's VISA card had been found in a walkway of the Koch plant, leaving detectives to speculate that either the couple worked at the plant or had a friend or relative who did.

"No one has been named a suspect," Treadwell said at a news conference Thursday in Covington. "That is why we are in Tennessee distributing the flyers. We feel somebody there will know them or know somebody who knows them."

Are these the same suspects who were involved ina purse snatching that led to a woman's death in Covington and a purse snatching a week ago outside a Family Dollar store in St. George, S.C.?

There was no indication that the Johnson's bank card had been used, police said.

After the attack on the Covington woman, the suspects drove off in a silver or gray, mid- to late-1990s Honda Accord, police said. The car has damage on the driver's side door and may have a dealer drive-out tag, police said.

The bank card is one of the department’s strongest leads at this time despite running down numerous tips about the couple, who are also suspected in a violent purse-snatching in St. George, S.C., Treadwell said.

A week ago, a 75-year-old woman was walking into a Family Dollar store in St. George when she was approached by a woman who pointed a handgun at her head and grabbed her purse, police said.

"As the victim fought to keep her purse, the victim felt a gun against her head heard the click where the suspect had pulled the trigger, but the gun did not fire," St. George police said in a statement. The victim fell to the ground, breaking the purse strap, and the suspect ran to a car with a man inside. The 2 then drove off with the victim's purse.

The couple appeared to match the description of the couple involved in the Covington incident, and the getaway vehicle was similar to the one seen in surveillance video in Covington: a gray Honda Accord with paper tags.

Treadwell said the descriptions of the couple and car and the fact that both crimes were in close proximity to I-20 made detectives believe the same 2 people were responsible for both crimes and are possibly on a crime spree.

In the Covington case, Treadwell said surveillance video made him think that the driver did not see Johnson before he initially struck her with his vehicle.

"But there is no way possible that he could not have known she was under the vehicle," Treadwell said. "That is what the death penalty is for - these totally innocent victims. They are shopping at the Wal-Mart and the next thing they are dead."

Police also have announced a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Johnson's killer.

(source: Atlanta Journal Constitution)


'Western Bandit' suspect charged with 53 counts, including 2 murders

A man authorities believe to be the "Western Bandit" was charged Nov. 2 in connection with a series of armed robberies and shootings beginning in 2011, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

Patrick Watkins, a 51-year-old black man, is charged with murder in the deaths of Nathan Vickers, 32, on Jan. 17, 2011, and Larise Smith, 56, on Dec. 8, 2014. The special circumstance of multiple murders makes Watkins eligible for the death penalty, if convicted (though prosecutors will decide later whether to seek the death penalty).

Watkins also faces 51 other counts, including 26 counts of attempted murder, 13 counts of assault with a firearm, 5 counts of shooting at an occupied motor vehicle, 4 counts of 2nd-degree robbery, and felon in possession of a firearm. The incidents occurred between November 2011 and November 2014.

Watkins is accused of riding his bicycle up to people sitting in their cars, then either demanding cash or opening fire on the occupants. The prosecutor also suspects that he approached people on foot and either robbed or shot them.

Watkins is scheduled to return to court Dec. 1.

(source: Los Angeles Times)


California Death Penalty Repeal Supporters Cleared To Gather Signatures

Supporters of a measure to repeal California's death penalty can begin gathering signatures, the state attorney general's office announced on Thursday.

The Justice That Works Act of 2016 aims to repeal the death penalty and would apply retroactively to people already sentenced to death.

The measure cites the high cost of maintaining the death penalty system versus only 13 executions by the state since 1978, and none in nearly 11 years, as well as the fact violent murderers are typically sentenced already without the chance of parole.

The measure comes from Mike Farrell, who played Capt. B.J. Hunnicutt on the long-running TV series M*A*S*H.

A report from the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office finds the measure could save the state money by removing consideration for the death penalty from trials - a move that can dramatically lengthen trials. However, in the absence of a death penalty, the report says some cases resolved by plea agreements would instead go to trial, offsetting those cost savings.

The report also points to savings by removing the need for death penalty appeals. When it comes to prisons, the report says the state would save on not having separate death row sections.

In all, it estimates the measure could save the state "around $150 million within a few years," give or take tens of millions of dollars depending on its implementation.

(source: CBS news)


Students aim to use Innocence Project to help young Kenyan----Ben-Hadad Kimani was convicted of murder, but many believe he is innocent

When Griffith College dean of law and founding director of the Irish Innocence Project David Langwallner was teaching Liz Harpur intellectual property law and jurisprudence, he had no idea he would one day be pleading in a death penalty case in Kenya on behalf of her nephew Ben-Hadad Kimani.

Kimani was 17 when he was arrested on August 29th, 2001 for a double murder in Kenya. He was convicted and sentenced to death row but has always maintained his innocence.

Some time early next year, at the behest of Kimani's aunt in Dublin and the invitation of the Kenyan government - and dependent on funding - the Irish Innocence Project at Griffith College hopes to send a delegation to appear before the power of mercy advisory committee to plea on Kimani's behalf.

The committee, a government body founded in 2011 and chaired by the attorney general, advises Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta on matters pertaining to miscarriages of justice, pardons and commutations. According to a 2014 report prepared by the committee, there were nearly 24,000 petitions received between June 2013 and July 2014 seeking presidential review, including 3,376 serving life sentences and 1,107 on death row.


"We are enormously grateful for this opportunity to appear before the power of mercy advisory committee in Kenya on behalf of Ben Kimani, who has been sentenced to death as a result of a murder conviction. We thank the committee for their openness and welcomeness," says Langwallner. "We respect the authority of this government advisory committee and welcome the chance to meet with its members."

Kimani's case was first referred to the Irish Innocence Project in 2013 by Harpur, a Dublin resident and barrister. She sought the project's assistance after she learned from her sister during a trip to Kenya for her mother's funeral that her nephew had been sentenced to death and was imprisoned at Naivasha prison.

"On July 24th, 2013, I met Ben briefly at the Kenya high court where his appeal was being heard. He was in the custody of a prison officer and was holding his own brief. There was no sign of his lawyer. He handed me the brief and said to me, 'Please, Auntie, help me !'" says Harpur. "When I returned to Ireland I got in touch with Ben's lawyer who provided me with more details of the case. We worked on some points to put forward in the appeal which had been put forward to November. Unfortunately the appeal was dismissed."

Reviewing the case

Harpur had contacted Langwallner about enlisting the help of the Irish Innocence Project while preparing for the appeal. Langwallner and a number of student caseworkers have been reviewing the case and consulting with Kimani's lawyers.

On the night of August 29th, 2001, Kimani claims he bought a bus ticket from Buscar Company and boarded a bus at 7.30pm to travel from Nairobi to Mombasa. About that same time, 232km away in the Mtito Andei township, a small town of fewer than 5,000 people, shopkeeper Irene Ng'endo and her young son Stephen Mwaura were shot to death.

Kimani claims the bus finally pulled away from the bus-stop in Nairobi at about 8.30pm and on the way to Mombasa stopped at a canteen called the Wayside in Mtito Andei for a tea break at about 11.45pm. It was there that the canteen supervisor reportedly told police that Kimani and a 2nd man were acting suspiciously and Kimani was arrested.

The Irish Innocence Project was launched in September 2009 by Langwallner to investigate and overturn suspected wrongful conviction cases in Ireland. It is one of 68 projects recognised globally by the Innocence Network and 1 of 2 such projects with both law and journalism students working together on cases. It currently has 22 law and journalism students from Griffith College and Trinity College Dublin working on about 30 cases under the supervision of 12 pro-bono lawyers.

The services of the project are provided free and the project was recognised as a tax-exempt charity in Ireland by the Revenue Commissioners in December 2014. While Griffith College provides an institutional home, it is otherwise self-funded. It is the only Innocence Project in Ireland.

In order to fund the delegation, which will include Langwallner, along with at least one student caseworker, the Irish Innocence Project journalism interns launched a month-long crowd-funding campaign at Indiegogo with a target of raising 5,000 euros. The campaign concludes on December 7th, and the proceeds from the crowd funding campaign will be used to support the project and underwrite the expenses of the trip.

"We've received incredible support from the public with previous crowd-funding campaigns," said Therese Ekevid, an Irish Innocence Project journalism caseworker. "They've helped us raise awareness on wrongful convictions as a human rights issue, enabled us to provide the people whose cases we're on with support and professional help, as well as getting influential contributors to discuss wrongful convictions at public programmes. This time, the funds and public awareness we raise will not only do that, but we actually have a chance of saving Ben from death row."

Wrongful convictions

According to the Innocence Project in New York, which was founded in 1992 to investigate cases in which DNA evidence could be used to prove a wrongful conviction, research suggests that somewhere between 2.3 and 5 % of all convictions in the US are actually of innocent people.

Langwallner says this is a concern in every country since wrongful convictions know no boundaries. "I would say that the Innocence movement has become a Medecins Sans Frontie

PAkres of lawyers. There are mistakes made in every jurisdiction and we hope to help correct them or, even better, prevent them from happening."

Anne Driscoll is the journalist project manager of the Irish Innocence Project at Griffith College and a 2013-2014 US Fulbright scholar. Simon Walsh is an Irish Innocence Project journalist student intern

The Indiegogo campaign can be found at

(source: Irish Times)


No mercy for APS convicts ---- Sharif advises president to reject appeals | Says killers of our kids don't deserve any leniency

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif yesterday advised President Mamnoon Hussain to reject mercy pleas of all the 4 convicted terrorists involved in last year's bloody attack on Army Public School in Peshawar.

The military courts had sentenced the 4 terrorists - Sabeel alias Yahya, Abdu Salam, Hazrat Ali and Mujeebur Rehman alias Najibullah - to death in August after finding them guilty of committing the massacre that left more than 150 dead - 135 of them children.

On December 16, 2014, 7 Taliban gunmen launched the terrorist attack on the APS.

The militants, all of whom were foreign nationals, included 1 Chechen, 3 Arabs and 2 Afghans.

They entered the school and opened fire on school staff and children.

A rescue operation was launched by the Pakistan Army's Special Services Group (SSG), who killed all the 7 terrorists and rescued 960 people.

This was the deadliest terrorist attack ever to occur in Pakistan since the 2007 Karachi bombing on former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's homecoming.

The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attack, describing it as revenge for operation Zarb-e-Azb, the military offensive in North Waziristan that started in summer 2014.

TTP spokesman Mohammed Omar Khorasani said, "We targeted the school because the Army targets our families.We want them to feel our pain."

Later though the Taliban claimed contrary by putting out a statement saying, "More than 50 sons of important army officers were killed after being identified. The attacks were mainly coordinated by TTP leaders operating in Afghanistan."

Investigations were launched to determine the nationalities of the terrorists, who were all found to be foreign fighters.

Chechen fighter Abu Shamil, Afghan militant Nouman Shah Helmand with a $ 500,000 bounty, Afghan national Wazir Alam Herat, Egyptian Khatib al-Zubaidi, Morrocon Mohammed Zahedi and Jibran al-Saeedi - an Arab of unknown nationality were identified by the authorities.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Sharif said, "The perpetrators involved in brutal and merciless killing of our children do not deserve any mercy."

He said the Peshawar tragedy had shaken the country and 'changed Pakistan'.

The premier added, "By rejecting the mercy petition of these terrorists, I am also reflecting the will of the people and honouring the promise made to the families of my children who lost their lives in the Army Public School tragedy."

The December school attack is seen as having hardened the country's resolve to fight militants along its lawless border with Afghanistan. Authorities lifted a 6-year moratorium on executions last December and since that time more than 200 convicts have been executed.

Amnesty International estimates that Pakistan has more than 8,000 prisoners on death row, most of whom have exhausted the appeals process.

Supporters argue that the death penalty was the only effective way to deal with the scourge of militancy in the country.

(source: The Nation)


Open-Government Advocates Wary Of Virginia Supreme Court Decison

Members of the Virginia Supreme Court ruled in September on a case about availability of documents and information about the death penalty. Advocates for open government fear that ruling will have broad consequences that reach far beyond the death penalty.

A Virginia Supreme Court decision that preserves secrecy around death penalty policies is prompting new concerns about open government that go far beyond what happens in the state's death chamber. The debate took center stage this week as members of the Virginia Freedom of Information Council met to chart a legislative strategy for the upcoming General Assembly session.

At issue is a September ruling in a lawsuit filed by Scott Surovell (D-44), a member of the Virginia House of Delegates. He filed a Freedom of Information Act request for policies, procedures, training manuals and details of executions. That request was denied, and the appeals process carried the issue to the state Supreme Court, which ruled against Surovell.

"If anyone is to blame for a broad interpretation of the Supreme Court opinion, it is the plaintiffs in this particular case." - Brian Moran, state secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security

The justices issued a broad ruling in Department of Corrections v. Scott Surovell that allows state agencies to withhold entire documents instead of redacting parts of them. It also says courts must give "substantial weight" to determinations made by government agencies about which documents they want to keep secret and which ones they want to reveal.

Did Surovell pick the right avenue for his fight? To some observers, it's an open question.

"It is surprising, frankly, that the plaintiffs in this case would choose the death chamber to challenge FOIA law," says Brian Moran, secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security in Virginia. "And so if anyone is to blame for a broad interpretation of the Supreme Court opinion, it is the plaintiffs in this particular case."

Surovell, who was recently elected to the state Senate for 2016, disagrees.

"Actually I think the death penalty is the perfect place to start out with transparency," he says."The only place where I know that people are executed in secret under a shroud of secrecy in closed rooms are in places like North Korea, the Soviet Union or in China. That's just not how we do business in this country."

Virginia legal expert Rich Kelsey says the state Supreme Court decision is consistent with a body of federal and state law that gives government agencies discretion. Nevertheless, he says, the decision should indeed raise concerns for open-government advocates.

"This type of decision will have a chilling effect. Will it be dramatic? We don't know," he says. "But it will certainly result in fewer documents rather than more documents being released."

The Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council - a state-run agency that helps resolve FOIA disputes - hopes to have legislation ready for the upcoming session, which starts in January.

Council members directed their staff to draft a bill reversing the court ruling allowing agencies to conceal entire documents that contain sensitive information. Instead, they would have to release them, even if portions are redacted.

Surovell says he also wants to reverse what he considers a dangerous precedent - that courts must give special consideration to a state agency's determination about what information it wants to keep secret.

"That's really scary," said Surovell. "To me, that's like saying you have to trust the fox that's guarding the henhouse. That's nonsense."

(source: WAMU news)


Incoming, outgoing Jesse Matthew prosecutors prepare for transition

The Albemarle County prosecutor who secured murder indictments against Jesse Matthew in the deaths of two Virginia college students has detailed the cases to the former federal prosecutor who beat her on Election Day.

Denise Lunsford tells WTOP she and Robert Tracci, who staged a bitter battle during Lunsford's bid for re-election, have sat down to discuss the specifics of the commonwealth's cases against Matthew in the deaths of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham and Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington.

"Law enforcement officers and I have met with Mr. Tracci regarding the Matthew case," Lunsford said in an email. "He was briefed on many particulars of the circumstances of the offense and investigation, however the matter is quite involved and he will have a great deal of work to do to become familiar with everything."

Tracci will take office Jan. 1, 2016.

Matthew is charged with capital murder in the 2014 death of Graham, and 1st degree murder in the 2009 death of Harrington. He could face the death penalty in the Graham case, which is scheduled to begin July 5, 2016. The Harrington case is scheduled to start Oct. 24, 2016.

Lunsford, who was a defense attorney for 17 years before being elected to the role of commonwealth's attorney in 2008, had been critical of Tracci's lack of experience in trying state crimes, including murder.

From 2008 to 2012, Tracci served as a federal prosecutor in Charlottesville, in cases involving crimes against children, computer crimes, corruption and murder for hire. He has acknowledged he hasn't been lead prosecutor in any felony cases.

Tracci has said he will attach the same level of priority to the Matthew case as he does others, and will ensure justice is done on behalf of the community.

His spokesperson has declined several requests to make Tracci available for an interview on the Matthew case, which is one of the most high-profile matters in the Charlottesville area’s history.

Tracci has not indicated whether he personally plans to prosecute the Matthew cases, or will assign the trials to subordinates.

Most legal experts talked to by WTOP, including those who have tried or defended murder cases, don't expect the transition of prosecutorial power to substantially affect Matthew's trial or punishment.

Typically, in cases where prosecutors change after a case has been charged, prosecutors and their assistants, as well as police agencies involved, sit down and discuss the timeline, as well as potential witnesses, as well as forensic evidence that has been gathered.

Tracci, like Lunsford and all prosecutors in office, will be limited in what he can discuss about ongoing cases.

In the months after Matthew's indictments, Lunsford has said she would seek the death penalty, if Matthew goes on trial for the Graham murder, but she was open to the possibility of plea agreement.

According to Internet searches, it does not appear Tracci has discussed whether he would be open to a plea, or whether he intends to seek the death penalty.

(source: WTOP news)

GEORGIA----impending execution

Georgia Supreme Court denies stay for condemned killer Marcus Ray Johnson----Johnson is scheduled to be executed at 7 p.m. today

The Supreme Court of Georgia has denied a stay of execution for Marcus Ray Johnson, who is scheduled to be put to death at 7 p.m. by lethal injection at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson. The decision was unanimous.

Johnson, 50, was sentenced to death in Dougherty County for the 1994 murder of Angela Sizemore, whom he met in an Albany bar hours before her death.

In addition to denying Johnson's motion for a stay of execution, the state Supreme Court today denied his request to appeal a ruling made Wednesday by the Butts County Superior Court. The Superior Court both denied his motion for a stay and dismissed his claims, including his claim that new evidence shows the eyewitness testimony was unreliable and the State failed to disprove that someone else could have committed the crime.

Johnson's attorney, Brian Kammer, fin response to the lower court denials, Kammer filed with the Georgia Supreme Court an application for Certificate of Probable Cause to Appeal, challenging the constitutionality of Johnson's convictions and sentence of death.

In a preface to the application, Kammer placed in quotes: "It would be an atrocious violation of our Constitution and the Principles upon which it is based to execute an innocent person."

Johnson was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Angela Sizemore near a west Albany bar named Fundamentals in the early hours of March 24, 1994. The bar owner and its security officer, who both knew Johnson, testified they had earlier seen Johnson and Sizemore kissing and behaving amorously.

Evidence at trial indicated that Johnson and Sizemore left Fundamentals together and authorities say they were seen walking toward 16th Avenue. Around 8 a.m. on March 24, 1994, a man walking his dog found Sizemore's white Suburban parked behind an apartment complex in East Albany, her body lying across the front passenger seat. Later reports showed she'd been cut and stabbed 41 times with a small, dull knife.

Kammer has maintained Johnson's innocence, stating that no incriminating DNA or fingerprints were found in Sizemore's SUV, that there was only a "drop" of Sizemore's blood found on Johnson's leather jacket, and none was found on the alleged murder weapon. Johnson has admitted having consensual sex with Sizemore, then punching her in the nose and drawing blood because she later insisted on "snuggling."

Johnson told police that the last time he saw the victim she was sitting in a field and crying.

Deputy Attorney General Beth Burton wrote on Tuesday in response to a filing by Johnson's attorney that the condemned Johnson "has been repeatedly given avenues and opportunities to attempt to present evidence to support his claim (of innocence). He has repeatedly failed. The miscarriage of justice in this case would be if the victim's 26-year-old daughter, who was 5 at the time of her mother's murder, is not allowed closure in this case."

According to the Tribune News Service, Johnson, 50, requested a 6-pack of beer with his last meal on Wednesday, but was denied the alcohol by prison officials. With beer out of the question, Johnson settled for the same dinner other death row inmates will have.

If the execution is carried out, Johnson will be the 4th person put to death this year in Georgia.

(source: Albany Herald)


Marcus Ray Johnson Set to be Executed in Georgia

The state of Georgia is scheduled to execute Marcus Ray Johnson this evening. Johnson was convicted of a 1994 rape and murder and sentenced to death. He has maintained his innocence since his conviction in 1994.

Johnson's attorney asked the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute Johnson's death sentence or delay his execution for 90 days to allow for additional DNA testing that could exonerate his client. The board denied the request last night, clearing the way for his execution.

"The U.S. capital punishment system is costly and broken, and the death penalty itself is cruel and inhuman" said Steven W. Hawkins, executive director of Amnesty International USA. "It risks taking the lives of the wrongly convicted and wastes resources without deterring crime. It's time to end the death penalty once and for all."

Amnesty International USA opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception as the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. As of today, 140 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. The U.S. was one of only nine countries in the world that carried out executions each year between 2009 and 2013.

(source: Amnesty International USA)


More Oklahomans Oppose Death Penalty If Given Alternative

An exclusive News 9/News On 6 poll shows more Oklahomans support the abolition of the death penalty, but on the condition that an alternative is offered.

In the poll, we asked Oklahomans if they would support or oppose the abolition of the death penalty in Oklahoma, if those typically given the death penalty were given life without any possibility of parole and ordered to pay mandatory restitution to the victims' families for the rest of their life.

According to the poll, 52 % said they support the abolition of death penalty, while 34 % said they oppose it. And 14 % said they have no opinion on this issue.

"A lot of people are in support of the death penalty right now, because they were never given an alternative," said Bill Shapard, founder of "Right now the death penalty is really the only alternative to those who have committed some of the worst crimes in our society. But yet, now we are given an alternative, people are open to that."



Idaho's death row now down to 9, after Stuart's sentence reduced to life

Idaho's death row is down to 9 offenders, 1 woman and 8 men, now that Gene Francis Stuart has had his sentence reduced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Stuart pleaded guilty to murder by torture in the 1981 beating death of 3-year-old Robert Miller, the son of Stuart's then girlfriend, and was sentenced to death, but after appeals, was granted a new sentencing hearing in 2013. The Lewiston Tribune reports he's now agreed to a plea bargain in which he will never be released from prison and he gives up all rights to appeal.

Those remaining on Idaho's death row are Azad Abdullah, sentenced to death in 2004 for the murder by arson of his wife, Angie; David Card, sentenced to death in 1989 for the shooting deaths of 2 people in Canyon County; Thomas Creech, sentenced to death in 1983 for the beating death of another inmate while serving a life sentence for 2 other murders; Timothy Dunlap, sentenced to death in 1992 for killing a woman during a bank robbery in Caribou County; Zane Fields, sentenced to death in 1991 for a murder by stabbing in Ada County; James Hairston, sentenced to death in 1996 for shooting 2 people to death in Bannock County; Erick Hall, sentenced to death in 2004 for raping and murdering 2 women in Ada County; Gerald Pizzuto, sentenced to death in 1986 for beating 2 people to death in Idaho County; and Robin Row, sentenced to death in 1993 for the murders by arson of her husband, son and daughter in Ada County.

Idaho has carried out 3 executions since the state's death penalty was reinstated in 1977: Keith Wells in 1994, who waived his appeals and asked that his execution be carried out; Paul Ezra Rhoades in 2011; and Richard Leavitt in 2012.

2 former Idaho death row inmates were released: Charles Fain was exonerated and released in 2001, after serving 18 years; and Donald Paradis moved off death row in 1996 after his sentence was commuted amid questions about his original conviction; he was released in 2001 after pleading guilty to being an accessory to murder.

Idaho's death row inmates are kept in their cells 23 hours a day. They have the option of being in an outside recreation area for 1 hour a day. The only other time they are out of their 12-foot by seven-foot cells is when they are escorted to the shower, meeting with an attorney or being given medical care

(source: Spokesman-Review)


Salinas men charged in gang-related slayings

2 Salinas men who could face the death penalty for a dozen gang-related slayings were arraigned in federal court Wednesday. A 3rd defendant is charged with conspiracy and bank robbery.

Victor Skates, 26, Antonio Cruz, 28, and Anthony Lek, 28, entered not-guilty pleas at the arraignment. Skates, Cruz and several others are also charged with numerous attempted murders and bank robberies.

The crimes were committed in 2009-2011 in Salinas, Watsonville, San Jose and Santa Maria. The 73-count indictment was unsealed Monday. 6 other defendants are awaiting arraignment, which prosecutors said will likely take place in December.

Federal prosecutor Stephen Meyer said, "This is an important case for Salinas. It is our hope that this has an impact" on the violence. He said the Northern District U.S. Attorney's Office has not yet decided if prosecutors will pursue the death penalty, but the indictments indicate several defendants are eligible for capital punishment.

8 of the 9 defendants are alleged Salinas-based Norteno gang members. The ninth defendant is an alleged associate of the gang. Prosecutors seek to prove this is a racketeer-influenced and corrupt organization, or RICO, case in which crimes were committed for the purpose of "gaining entrance to, maintaining or increasing personal position in the Salinas Nortenos enterprise."

Salinas Police Chief Kelly McMillin said, "I was glad to see that the case was taken as a conspiracy case, because that's clearly what this was. It's important to spotlight the violence in Salinas."

All 12 slayings took place in Salinas. The bank robberies the defendants are accused of occurred at a Bank of America and Golden 1 Credit Union in Salinas; Bank of the West in San Jose; Wells Fargo Bank, Rabobank and Bay Federal Credit Union in Watsonville; and Chase Bank in Santa Maria. They are also accused of robbing a Zales jewelry store in Gilroy.

The 64-page indictment was part of Operation Daybreak, a 4-year-long investigation by the Salinas Police Department with the help of the FBI. The operation was named for the time of day that many of the murders occurred, police said. According to McMillin, "One of the hallmarks of this series of murders was that several occurred in the early morning before school started, and some of the victims were high school students."

The indictment alleges that Salinas resident Skates and other Norteno gang members "hunted for rival gang members and other enemies, and shot and killed them and others suspected of being rival gang members."

Prosecutor Meyer said Skates participated in nine of the homicides. Skates alone is charged with killing 15-year-old Alisal High School student Jose Daniel Cisneros as the boy entered campus the morning of Oct. 1, 2010. Witnesses reported seeing an assailant walk past them before he shot Cisneros multiple times in the torso.

The boy died later at a trauma center.

Skates, along with Daniel Chavez, 33, is charged with the November 2012 murder of Jose Vasquez, 32, who was sitting in a wheelchair at the time he was shot. Most of the defendants were already in custody for other crimes at the time that the indictment was issued. Defendants Chavez, Skates, Eduardo Lebron, 36, Eder Torres, 29, Julian Ruiz, 26, Antonio Cruz, 28, Terrell Golden, 24, and Anthony Lek, 28, are currently detained in various state prisons and local jails with no option of bail.

Chavez, Skates, Golden, Cruz, Torres and Lebron face the possibility of the federal death penalty. The maximum sentence for the other defendants is life imprisonment.

The next appearance is set for Feb. 3 in the San Jose courtroom of federal Judge Lucy Koh.

(source: Santa Cruz Sentinel)


Pakistani PM urges president not to pardon 4 sentenced to death over Peshawar school attack

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has asked the country's president to reject a petition for pardon for 4 suspected militants sentenced to death over the Peshawar school attack last December that killed 150 people, mostly children.

The horrific Dec. 16 attack was claimed by the Taliban and prompted Pakistan to lift a 2008-moratorium on the death penalty.

The government released a statement on Thursday quoting Sharif as saying that the "brutal and merciless killings" of the children in Peshawar have convinced him that the perpetrators of such crimes don't deserve any mercy.

Under the constitution, Pakistan's president has the authority to pardon any convicted person.

Since the moratorium was lifted, Pakistan has hanged nearly 300 on death row, most of them convicted criminals - not the Taliban or other insurgents.

(source: Associated Press)


Pakistan set to reform its Blood Money Law

Pakistan is set to reform its controversial Islamic blood money laws that allow murderers to escape punishment if they are forgiven by their victim's heirs, a senior official told AFP today.

Critics contend that the law, which was passed in 1990, allows the wealthy and the powerful to walk scot-free from homicide convictions either by intimidating their victim's loved ones, making them a financial offer that they cannot refuse, or both.

The Qisas (retribution) and Diyat (blood money) law was famously invoked in the case of Raymond Allen Davis, a CIA contractor who shot 2 men dead in the eastern city of Lahore in 2011.

The incident sparked a diplomatic furore which was only resolved when Davis was pardoned in return for a USD 2.4 million settlement with the men's families.

The 2012 killing of 20-year-old Karachi student Shahzeb Khan by 2 young men who belonged to powerful political families also drew national outrage after Khan's parents pardoned the killers, reportedly due to threats.

But under the proposed reforms, a pardon can only be granted if a murderer has been convicted, according to Ashtar Ausaf Ali, the special assistant to the prime minister on legal affairs.

And a convicted murderer will have to face a minimum of 7 years in prison, even if they are pardoned by their victim's relatives and avoid the death penalty, Ali said.

"This law has been abused," he told AFP. "This abuse was to the degree that influential and rich people would get away with murder, literally."

Furthermore, a murder convict must have confessed to his crime before a trial has taken place in order to be eligible to seek such a pardon; or have been convicted on the basis of the eye-witness testimony of 2 upstanding Muslim men -- a condition that is unlikely to be fulfilled in reality.

According to Ali, a pardon would no longer be enough to avert a prison term. "Forgiveness is with God. To safeguard the rights of a person is the obligation of the state."

The proposed changes are likely to be tabled in parliament next month and have also received the blessing of prominent Islamic scholars, Ali added.

According to "The application of Islamic criminal law in Pakistan" by scholar Tahir Wasti, Pakistan's murder conviction rate dramatically declined from 29 % in 1990 to just 12 % in 2000 after the enactment of the Qisas and Diyat law.

The percentage of cases that were cancelled before they were brought to court meanwhile more than doubled in the same period as police "availed the loopholes in the new law".

(source: Business Standard)


Halt the Execution of Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujaheed and Salauddin Quader Chowdhury


(source: Amnesty International USA)


Minister of Justice: "I could consider the death penalty for terrorists"

Finns Party MP and Minister of Justice and Labour Jari Lindstrom says he could be prepared to revoke the passports of persons taking part in terrorist activities. He told Yle on Thursday that he would even consider resorting to capital punishment.

Jari Lindstrom, Minister of Justice and Labour and Finns Party MP suggested being open to harsh measures against terrorism in an Yle interview on Thursday. These measures could involve condemning terrorists to death. Lindstrom made his statements following a Europe-wide heightening of threat levels and the Paris massacre.

Lindstrom's stance on capital punishment made headlines earlier this year when it came to light that he had suggested the measure for especially brutal crimes in a 2011 questionnaire for MPs.

"The death penalty is one way to solve things like these, but I'm not quite sure what the proper kind of punishment would be for these situations," the Minister of Justice said on Thursday. "Would it be to throw the perpetrator in jail for the rest of their life, which society would pay for? Or to kill them and be done with it?"

Lindstrom also says he would be prepared to revoke a terrorist's passport. Causing a person to be stateless is against international human rights.


GEORGIA----impending execution

Georgia man convicted in woman's killing to be executed

A Georgia man convicted of killing a woman he met in a nightclub is set to be executed.

Marcus Ray Johnson is scheduled to die at 7 p.m. Thursday at the state prison in Jackson. The 50-year-old was convicted in the March 1994 rape and murder of Angela Sizemore in Albany.

Johnson's attorneys argue he shouldn't be executed because doubts remain about his guilt. Prosecutors say there is no doubt Johnson killed Sizemore.

A judge on Wednesday rejected a constitutional challenge to Johnson's sentence and conviction and declined to stop his execution. His lawyers have appealed to the state Supreme Court.

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles is the only entity authorized to commute a death sentence. The board held a hearing Wednesday and voted not to grant clemency.

(source: Associated Press)

ALABAMA----new death sentence//female

Jury recommends death penalty in murder for hire plot

A jury has recommended the death penalty for an east Alabama woman convicted of hiring a hit man to kill her daughter.

Multiple news outlets reported Wednesday that a jury recommended the death penalty for Lisa Graham, who was convicted of paying a family friend to fatally shoot her 21-year-old daughter Stephanie Shae Graham in July 2007.

Authorities have said Graham hired Kenny Walton to carry out the slaying. Walton confessed in the case and is serving a life prison sentence.

Graham was convicted during a retrial. Her 1st trial was declared a mistrial because a judge's deteriorating health prevented him from hearing the whole case.

(source: Associated Press)


Jurors weighing death penalty in Alexius Foster case----Alexius Foster was found guilty of 2 counts of capital murder Monday morning at the Tuscaloosa County Courthouse.

Jurors began the sentencing phase Wednesday of a man they found guilty of capital murder earlier this week.

They could decide as early as today whether to recommend life without parole or death for Alexius Foster.

The jury on Monday convicted Foster, 37, of capital murder in the 2013 slaying of his uncle George Foster. They also convicted him of felony murder in the death of his friend Antonio Williams.

The possible death sentence is for the murder of George Foster, who was stabbed or cut more than 60 times before he bled to death in his bedroom.

Tuscaloosa County Senior Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Cross told jurors Wednesday before they started deliberations that the crime was "heinous, atrocious and cruel." He asked jurors to sentence Foster to death.

Foster's attorneys presented a report compiled from interviews with Foster's parents, wife and a friend. The report stated that Foster had bad parents while growing up and had been abusing drugs since 2008.

"You can't help the cards that you're played, but you can help how you play them," Cross said.

Foster graduated from Stillman College in 2004, where he had played baseball.

"This defendant is very intelligent," Cross said. "He knew better."

The jury will recommend either life in prison with no possibility of parole or the death penalty. Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court Judge John England then will make the final ruling at a sentencing hearing scheduled for Dec. 17.

At least 7 jurors must agree to recommend a life sentence. At least 10 must concur to recommend the death penalty. The jury will reconvene at 9 a.m. today.

(source: Tuscaloosa News)


Central Kentucky grand jury issues murder indictments in police officer's shooting death

A grand jury has indicted 4 co-defendants in the fatal shooting of a central Kentucky police officer and in the attempted robbery he was investigating earlier this month.

A Madison County grand jury Tuesday indicted 34-year-old Raleigh Sizemore of Richmond, the man accused of shooting 33-year-old Daniel Ellis, multiple media outlets report.

Sizemore faces murder, 2 counts of attempted murder and 4 other charges.

Madison County Commonwealth's Attorney David Smith would not say whether he will seek the death penalty against Sizemore. Kentucky law allows the death penalty in murder cases where there is an "aggravating circumstance" such as robbery, rape or the death of a police officer.

Ellis died Nov. 6, 2 days after he was ambushed and shot in the head while searching an apartment for a robbery suspect.

25-year-old Gregory Ratliff also was indicted on 4 charges, including complicity to murder. 44-year-old Rita Creech and 35-year-old Carl Banks are facing charges related to the attempted robbery earlier in the day in Richmond.

Authorities said Ellis, a 7-year veteran of the department, went to Ratliff's apartment in search of Sizemore, who had hidden with Creech in the back bedroom. The indictment indicates that Sizmore was armed with a .22-caliber revolver.

Police have said that Sizemore admitted shooting Ellis as Ellis entered the bedroom and firing at 2 other officers as they entered the apartment to help Ellis.

Sizemore is being held at Kentucky State Reformatory in LaGrange in lieu of a $2.5 million bond. Ratliff's, Creech and Banks are being held in the Madison County Detention Center. Their bails are $2 million, $10,000 and $100,000 respectively.

(source: Associated Press)


Preliminary hearing scheduled for man accused of killing Mt. Pleasant couple

The case against a man accused of killing a Mt. Pleasant couple in their home has moved very slowly since prosecutors plan on pursuing the death penalty.

"When you have 2 quality people that lost their lives at the hands of another, you certainly have an important cause," said Sanpete County Attorney Brody Keisel.

That's why Keisel said that seeking justice for Woody and Ann Fullwood, the couple killed 4 years ago, takes not only time but also patience.

Since their deaths at the end of 2011, prosecutors have had to wait for Logan McFarland to be prosecuted for crimes in Nevada before he could be extradited. Since he arrived in Utah in January of this year, it has taken time to get qualified defense attorneys on board, since prosecutors intend to seek the death penalty.

On Wednesday, attorneys told the judge they will be ready for a preliminary hearing in March when the judge will decide if there is enough evidence against McFarland for a trial.

"We look forward to having that hearing," Keisel said. "We expect it to happen. We don't see anything that would keep it from happening in the middle of March."

If McFarland is ordered to stand trial on 2 counts of aggravated murder, Keisel said it could still be several more months before a trial is held. That would include a penalty phase if McFarland is convicted.

The preliminary hearing for McFarland is scheduled to last 3 days, beginning March 15.

(source: KSL news)


Lawyers want to depose all Utah prosecutors on death penalty

Lawyers for a southern Utah man facing a possible death penalty sentence are planning to depose all of Utah's 29 county prosecutors in an effort to show capital punishment is unconstitutional.

The Spectrum of St. George reports ( that attorneys for 34-year-old Brandon Perry Smith said Wednesday that the testimony from the state's prosecutors will help them show the death penalty is unfairly applied.

Attorneys Gary Pendleton and Mary Corporan say that prosecutors seek the death penalty in less than 3 percent of eligible cases, resolving most with a life prison sentence.

Judge G. Michael Westfall says he doesn't want to further slow the progress of the case. A new hearing was set for Feb. 3.

Smith is accused of cutting 20-year-old Jerrica Christensen's throat at a St. George townhome in 2010.

(source: Associated Press)


Idaho death row inmate gets life sentence, can't appeal

A death row inmate in Idaho pleaded guilty Tuesday to a reduced charge as part of a bargain that ensures he will never be released from prison.

Gene Francis Stuart pleaded guilty to 2nd-degree murder by torture for the 1981 beating death of 3-year-old Robert Miller. Miller was the son of Stuart's then-girlfriend, reported the Lewiston Tribune (

Stuart was sentenced to be executed in 1983, but an appeals process began working its way through the court system and he was granted a new sentencing hearing in 2013.

He was offered the plea agreement after a federal court overturned his original death sentence. As part of the deal, Stuart gave up his right to appeal or to file a motion asking for reconsideration of the sentence.

The judge sentenced him to life in prison.

"So it's a done deal," said Clearwater County Prosecutor E. Clayne Tyler. "We won't have to worry about re-sentencing him or retrying him."

Tyler spoke to the Tribune after the hearing at the Idaho Maximum Security Institution in Boise. He said the judge didn't think Stuart could be rehabilitated.

Stuart had appealed on the claim that he had ineffective assistance from his attorney, the late Robert Kinney of Orofino. Although re-sentencing Stuart could have cost Clearwater County as much as $1 million, Tyler said the county was willing to pay.

"This particular case still remains raw in the psyche of the people of Clearwater County," the prosecutor recently told the Tribune. "Those who were around at the time remember it and it brings up emotions that have not been dulled with the passage of 30-something years. It was a terrible, terrible case. The child was beaten for months - I mean badly."

The 3-year-old boy died from blows that damaged his liver and caused him to bleed to death. Stuart was convicted of 1st-degree murder by torture in 1982 for repeatedly hitting the boy over an extended period of time.

Reports from the trial say Stuart was a strict disciplinarian expecting almost adult behavior from the 3-year-old.

Tyler said the Clearwater County office re-evaluated the case 2 years ago, when they heard they might have to re-sentence Stuart.

He said they determined that they probably had enough evidence for a hearing, including potential witnesses like a police officer present for Stuart's confession, a pathologist who testified about Miller's injuries and a radiologist who looked at film from the child's autopsy.

That radiologist "is not only still alive but claims the case haunts him," Tyler said. "He recalled not only the nature of the fractures that he identified but where it was and in what area 34 years after the fact."

Tyler said his office decided to offer Stuart a plea deal in consultation with the attorney general's office, law enforcement and county commissioners.

He said they did the math and realized that if Stuart was given the death penalty, he could appeal again and would likely be in his mid-80s before the sentence could be carried out.

"Mr. Stuart would not see a lethal injection. He would die of natural causes," said Tyler. "So the question then became, why spend up to $1 million in taxpayer money ... when the defense was offering a fixed life if I was to pull the death penalty off the table and resolve all of the appeals and the case would be done?"

"It was a difficult decision, but we were all pretty much on board with, this is what needs to be done," he continued. "My ultimate goal ... was to ensure that Gene Francis Stuart will die in prison. Whether he died by lethal injection or natural causes was something that was secondary to ensure that the man did not walk out."

(source: Associated Press)


Appeals court gets it wrong on death penalty

How can it be that a criminal punishment is unconstitutional, but a federal court can provide no relief? The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Nov. 12 reversed Orange County federal judge Cormac Carney's decision holding that the death penalty as administered in California is so arbitrary as to be cruel and unusual punishment. But the 9th Circuit came to this conclusion without disagreeing with Judge Carney's facts or analysis about the death penalty.

Instead, the court said that the challenge to the death penalty should have been dismissed by Judge Carney on procedural grounds. Although both the Supreme Court and Congress have limited the ability of federal courts to provide relief to convicted criminals, even under these very restrictive rules Judge Carney's decision should have been upheld.

The case, Jones v. Davis, involved a criminal defendant - Ernest Dewayne Jones - who was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 1995. His appeals will last many more years. Judge Carney noted that since 1978, when the current death penalty system was adopted by California voters, over 900 people have been sentenced to death for their crimes. Of them, only 13 have been executed. The average delay between sentencing and execution is 25 years.

Judge Carney explained that "for most, systemic delay has made their execution so unlikely that the death sentence carefully and deliberately imposed by the jury has been quietly transformed into one no rational jury or legislature could ever impose: life in prison, with the remote possibility of death. As for the random few for whom execution does become a reality, they will have languished for so long on death row that their execution will serve no retributive or deterrent purpose and will be arbitrary."

He concluded that such an arbitrary punishment violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.

Contrary to a popular misconception, this is not because of delaying tactics by those on death row and their lawyers. Countless factors - the process of direct review by the California Supreme Court without consideration by a court of appeals, the lack of qualified attorneys to handle death penalty cases, the need for care before imposing the ultimate punishment - contribute to long delays and unpredictability in carrying out death sentences.

The 9th Circuit disputed none of this in reversing Judge Carney. Rather, the court said that it could not consider the issue because Jones' case was in federal court on a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, and a rule created by the Supreme Court prevented providing any relief.

A federal court may grant habeas corpus to a criminal defendant and overturn a conviction or a sentence if it violates the Constitution or federal law. Long before the United States became a nation, English courts could grant habeas corpus to those wrongly convicted or sentenced. The Constitution expressly declares that the writ of habeas corpus may not be suspended except in cases of rebellion or invasion.

But for the past few decades, both the Supreme Court and Congress have imposed many new limits on the ability of federal courts to hear habeas corpus petitions, even for those who have been wrongly convicted or even innocent. A 1989 Supreme Court decision, Teague v. Lane, held that federal courts, in ruling on a habeas corpus petition, cannot recognize constitutional rights that create new procedural rules. Federal courts only can apply existing rights that pertain to the procedures that law enforcement and the courts must follow in handling criminal cases.

The 9th Circuit invoked Teague to reverse Judge Carney. But the court's reasoning was flawed on many levels. Most importantly, the Supreme Court repeatedly has said that changes in substantive constitutional rights, as opposed to procedural ones, always can be the basis for habeas corpus relief. That is exactly what Judge Carney found in holding the death penalty unconstitutional: its application in California is so arbitrary that the state cannot apply it in a constitutional manner.

Also, Judge Carney's opinion did not create a new right. The Supreme Court long has said that arbitrary imposition of the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

The more general point is the extent to which the Supreme Court and Congress have closed the courthouse doors to those who claim to be wrongly convicted and sentenced in violation of the Constitution and federal laws. Federal courts must be available to hear such claims and provide relief. The decision of the 9th Circuit in Jones v. Davis is just the most recent example of justice being denied on habeas corpus.

(source: Opinion; Erwin Chemerinsky is dean of the UC Irvine School of Law----Orange County Register)


Fell's lawyers challenge death penalty law

A Vermont man facing the federal death penalty for the 2000 killing of a woman abducted from outside a Rutland supermarket is asking a judge to declare the death penalty law unconstitutional, court documents say.

In documents filed in federal court Monday, attorneys for Donald Fell argue the federal death penalty is unreliable, arbitrary and adds "unconscionably long" delays in cases. "Most places within the United States have abandoned its use under evolving standards of decency," the attorneys say.

They contend that U.S. Supreme Court justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg earlier this year "issued a clarion call for reconsideration of the constitutionality of the death penalty."

It also noted that the Connecticut Supreme Court, relying largely on Breyer and Ginsburg's arguments, found that state's death penalty unconstitutional.

"Mr. Fell asks this Court to (rule)... that the federal death penalty, in and of itself, constitutes a legally prohibited cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by both the Fifth and Eighth Amendments," his filing said.

Fell, 35, was convicted and sentenced to death in 2005 for the 2000 killing of Terry King, a 53-year-old North Clarendon grandmother who was abducted in Rutland and later killed. A judge last year ordered a new trial for Fell because of juror misconduct during the original trial.

The trial is scheduled for next fall.

U.S. Attorney Eric Miller said his office would respond to the defense filings at the appropriate time.

Vermont has no state death penalty; Fell was sentenced to death under federal law.

In 2002, the judge then hearing the case declared the federal death penalty unconstitutional. But 2 years later, an appeals court overturned that ruling, allowing the trial to go forward.

Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said a decade's worth of data has accumulated showing the legal problems with the federal death penalty since the ruling allowing Fell's case to go forward.

There's more evidence the federal death penalty is overwhelmingly applied in Southern states that have state death penalties, and there are significant racial disparities in the application of the federal death penalty as well, Dunham said.

"You can expect going forward that there will be constitutional challenges of this type filed in most, if not all, federal capital prosecutions," Dunham said.

(source: Associated Press)


The Unfolding Campaign to Save the Death Penalty ---- Supporters rally around a more efficient system of execution.

Late last month, a group of California district attorneys and family members of murder victims launched a campaign to save the death penalty in their state. "This is not pro-death penalty," announced Anne Marie Schubert, the district attorney of Sacramento County. "We have come together to say we acknowledge it's broken but we have come here to fix it." Over somber music in a YouTube video of the event, the advocates describe a ballot initiative, slated for November 2016, that would accelerate appeals for death row inmates and change the way they are housed, all in the interest of saving money and speeding up executions.

This is not the first time supporters of capital punishment have proposed laws to make the death penalty more efficient (President Bill Clinton signed a bill to do so in 1996). What is different now is the sense of urgency: the initiative will be in direct competition with another ballot initiative, already announced, to get rid of the death penalty altogether. "We need to fix the death penalty or it's going to go away," Mike Ramos, the district attorney in San Bernardino County, said by phone shortly before the announcement of the campaign. "It's that simple."

The emergence of Californians for Death Penalty Savings and Reform is the most visible sign of a growing nationwide response to the success of efforts to abolish the death penalty. For decades, executions were carried out steadily, and supporters, always a majority1, were a silent one. But since 2007, seven states have repealed the death penalty and in many others the pace of executions has slowed as prison agencies struggle to find lethal injection drugs and prosecutors decline to pursue death sentences. A group of defense attorneys want to bring a constitutional challenge to the Supreme Court, and even Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush has voiced ambivalence.

According to Gallup polling, national support for the death penalty has stayed between 60 and 80% since the early 1970s, though it has been on the decline in recent years.

All of this activity has led death-penalty supporters to reemerge as a political voice, and California may be their first battlefield. Only 13 executions have taken place there since the 1970s, despite hundreds sent to death row, and a recent judicial ban on executions was recently lifted.

Ramos, who has already announced a campaign for California attorney general in 2018, is positioning himself as a national figure, defending the death penalty in television appearances. He is also president-elect of the National District Attorneys Association and says his colleagues around the country "are looking to California as a bellwether" of the death penalty's future.

Even if California is the bellwether, there are other places to see the backlash in action. In Nebraska, the state legislature repealed the death penalty in May, only to see a grassroots effort to collect signatures - with funding from Gov. Pete Ricketts - to bring a public vote in November 2016 over whether to restore it. Over the last few years, the Florida legislature passed the Timely Justice Act to speed up appeals and North Carolina lawmakers repealed an earlier law, called the Racial Justice Act, that had given death row inmates more power to argue that their sentences were racially biased.

Like many of these movements, the California initiative grew organically in response to efforts to abolish the death penalty. The victims' advocates and prosecutors now leading the charge began working together in 2012 when opponents of the death penalty brought Proposition 34 - a straightforward abolition proposal - to voters. Those opponents included men and women with tough-on-crime credibility, from Jeanne Woodford, the former warden of San Quentin prison, to Ron Briggs and Don Heller, both political figures who championed an expansion of capital punishment in the 1970s.

The pro-death penalty community won the 2012 fight with a nail-biting 52% of the vote, despite being outspent by several million dollars (Silicon Valley money was major factor; Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has already given $150,000 to anti-death penalty efforts in the 2016 election).

Taking this as a sign that the public was fundamentally on their side - and aware that they might not win a rematch - death-penalty advocates started raising money from law enforcement groups and individual donors in order to hire professional signature-gatherers. They enlisted several former governors and ex-NFL star Kermit Alexander, whose family members were murdered by a man who was sentenced to death but has not been executed.

The group developed policy changes to address the cost of capital punishment, which is one of the primary arguments of the anti-death penalty community. Making the death penalty cheaper may appeal to Californians who voted against it last time less out of moral conviction than of fiscal concern.

Despite the rarity of executions, California spends an estimated $184 million per year on death penalty trials and appeals and death row housing. The current reform proposal would give the state supreme court the power to oversee an expedited process for appeals, require that defense attorneys for appeals be appointed faster (currently it can take 5 years). It would also require death row inmates to work and pay restitution to victims' families and allow them to be placed in double-cells (currently each lives in a single cell, which is more expensive).

Death Penalty Focus, the leader of abolition efforts, has cautioned that these changes might lead to less-experienced attorneys and judges taking on death penalty cases, leading to more mistakes. Paula Mitchell, a law professor who co-authored the most comprehensive report on the costs of California's death penalty, says there is little proof that proposals for fixing the system would work: the backlog is already crushing, and even if more lawyers agreed to take capital cases, they would need to be trained, which might negate the savings the reformers are touting. The initiative, says Mitchell, "should be characterized as a Letter to Santa."

A year from now, California and Nebraska will test support for the death penalty at the ballot box. Could other states join them? Last week, the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys issued a statement calling on the state to offer voters a similar choice, explaining that "prosecutors want to know that when we embark on the long and difficult process of capital punishment for the worst crimes inflicted upon our community that we are doing so with the support and approval of the people we represent."



Take no prisoners: Head of Russian region urges tougher stance in war against terror

The head of the Russian republic of Ingushetia told reporters a public debate would be unnecessary if special services were simply allowed to kill terrorists on the spot.

"Upper house MPs propose canceling the moratorium on the death penalty for terrorists. I think we won't have to do this once we give special services the right to search and neutralize terrorists, who threaten the lives and safety of our citizens, the property and infrastructure of our country, wherever these terrorists are found," Yunus-Bek Yevkurov wrote on his Instagram page. "All terrorists must fall under the 'take no prisoners' rule," he added.

The comment came after deputy chairman of Russia's Federation Council, Frants Klintsevich, proposed that senators bring back the death penalty in Russia because of the increased terrorism threat. New challenges have arisen since Russia started its operation against Islamic State in Syria.

Earlier this month, lower house MPs said Russia should cancel the moratorium on the death penalty after the Federal Security Service confirmed the deadliest air crash in modern Russian history - the downing of the A231 jet in Sinai - was caused by a bomb blast.

Russia introduced a moratorium on the death penalty in 1999 when it was seeking membership in the Council of Europe. The Constitution still allows capital punishment for especially grave crimes and after a guilty verdict has been handed down by a jury court.

Russian lawmakers and top law enforcement officials have on several occasions suggested lifting the moratorium for convicted terrorists, pedophiles and people who involve children in illegal drug use. There have also been calls to apply the death penalty in large-scale corruption cases. All these initiatives have been rejected.

According to an opinion poll in April, 60 % of Russian citizens wouldn't object to a reintroduction of the death penalty. This is slightly lower than last year's 66 % and significantly less than 80 % in 2001.



Russian MPs work on petition to reinstate death penalty for terrorism

The State Duma of the Russian Federation (the Parliament) is collecting signatures for a petition to the president about the need to reinstate death penalty in Russia. Many Russian MPs are convinced that in the context of the terrorist threat, the Kremlin administration may decide to reinstate death penalty, given that there are legal nuances that make it possible to lift the existent moratorium.

Currently, the Russian Penal Code envisages death penalty as a punishment for especially grave crimes. In fact, Russia does not practice death penalty, because Russia signed Protocol ?6 to the European Convention on Human Rights in 1997. The document stipulated for the abolition of this form of punishment in peacetime.

Noteworthy, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on the establishment of an interdepartmental commission to block financial channels of terrorists. The decree was signed after the announcement from FSB chief Alexander Bortnikov, who officially confirmed the version of the terrorist act on board the A321 jetliner that crashed over Sinai on October 31.

Interestingly, the leader of the Liberal and Democratic Party of Russia, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, proposed putting captured terrorists on display in cages.

"If we keep them in cages, in a museum, one can show them to students to tell them that this man has committed a terrorist act and killed people. Terrorists should see people's disdain," Zhirinovsky said.

According to him, the relatives of caged terrorists would have a possibility to see them suffering. "A family may then think that there can be a terrorist growing in their family," the politician said.

According to Zhirinovsky, one could take terrorists in cages from one city to another to show them to people. Death penalty is not efficient in the struggle against terrorism, Zhirinovsky said.



ISIS Terrorist Attackers In Paris Should Face The Death Penalty!

We joined the civilized and democratic world in empathizing with the people of France, following the deadly terrorist attack waged against their country by enemies of freedom. The attackers represent no religion, and their actions is reprehensible.

The world should standby France and eradicate terrorism in all its form from the phase of the earth. It is our fervent belief that the earth would be a much better place to live without terrorists. Terrorists should be fought and defeated by any means necessary.

Perpetrators of terrorism often used Islam as a premise to justify their senseless and barbaric killing of humanity and destruction to public property. Islam as a religion, does not advocate for violence in any form. These are misguided and ungodly nonbelievers, who masquerade in the name of religion to wage crimes against humanity. We strongly condemn their ungodly acts.

The terror group ISIS should be exterminated from the phase of the earth. This group is making life miserable for freedom loving citizens around the world. The wanton killings perpetrated by ISIS should be stopped in the interest of world peace. ISIS has no place on this earth. There should be massive global campaign to hunt ISIS and its backers.

I read a piece published by the UK Independent Newspaper, indicating that the mastermind of the Paris terror attack was not a devoted Muslim. That he was not a mosque goer. His own relatives told the Independent that he never attended mosque prayers. What does this tell you as a reader? It means ISIS does not represent any religion.

The war on terror should be intensified. The Obama administration and other western allies have been doing a great job in trying to contain ISIS. Freedom will no doubt prevail over ISIS.

It is also imperative to note that fighting terror should be the job of every freedom loving world citizen. The intelligence community should be alerted for any suspicious activity; in that way their work would be much easier to combat this global menace called ISIS.

Fighting ISIS transcends religion. All people of faith should be unified under one platform to compliment the efforts of the global intelligence community in combating ISIS. ISIS is a threat to humanity and should be wiped from the phase of the earth.

Finally, we know for a fact that the death penalty is a debatable topic in Europe. Many European countries do not have the death penalty in the provisions of their laws. As such offenders are on the rise. This is largely due to lack of tough laws against perpetrators of murder and terrorism.

We hope the perpetrators of the Paris attack will face the death penalty, since they have caused such a collateral damage against innocent lives and freedom loving country France. We rest our case.

(source: Editorial, [Gambia])


Family meet death-row convict Salauddin in Dhaka Central Jail

Family members of Bangladesh Nationalist Party leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury on Thursday met him at Dhaka Central Jail as legal procedure over his execution for war crimes was almost completed.

Chowdhury, a standing committee member of the BNP, was awarded death penalty in 2013 for crimes committed during Bangladesh's 1971 war of liberation from Pakistan.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected his plea for review the appeal court's judgement that upheld the capital punishment handed down by a special war crimes tribunal for nine counts of war crimes.

The family members arrived at the jail gate slightly after midday. Quader Chowdhury, entered the jail as the authorities allowed them to see the convict.

7 others did not get permission.

The copy of Supreme Court decision on the review petition was not reached the central jail until Thursday. Chowdhury has only 1 option left to seek presidential mercy as all other legal procedure in the process of legal battle were completed. The authorities will take measures after the presidential decision once the defendant seek mercy petition.



Defence of war criminals condemned to death simply acknowledges defeat

After the Supreme Court scrapped the death penalty review petitions of Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid and Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, the defence team of the war criminals had only this to say, "We've lost, and that's it."

The top appeals court on Wednesday upheld the death sentences of the 2 former ministers after the final hearings.

A bench headed by Chief Justice SK Sinha pronounced the 2 verdicts with a 1-minute interval. In both cases, Justice Sinha's response was: "Dismissed."

Amid much celebration and satisfaction expressed by pro-liberation forces and the State, the defence had little to say when reporters approached them for reactions.

The convicts' main counsel Khandker Mahbub Hossain said, "We're lawyers. We fought a legal battle. We have lost. That's it. This is our reaction."

Jamaat-e-Islami Secretary General Mujahid and BNP Standing Committee Member Chowdhury are now left with the last option of seeking presidential clemency.

The government will go ahead with the executions if the convicts refuse to ask for mercy or if the president rejects their prayer.

About the execution, Mahbub Hossain said, "It fully depends on the government. The verdicts will be carried out whenever the government wants in line with the International Crimes Tribunal Act."

"These verdicts will go to the tribunal first. Then the government will decide and executions will take place."

Supreme Court Bar Association President Khandker Mahbub also advises BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia.

Asked whether senior BNP leader Chowdhury would seek mercy, he said that completely depended on the convicts.

"The State can commute the sentence or acquit the convicts in line with the law even if the convicts do not seek it," he added.

Responding to queries regarding the Supreme Court's judgment, Hossain said, "As a lawyer, I have nothing to say about the Appellate Division's verdicts."

"Our goal is to ensure that the punishment handed to our clients was awarded lawfully."

"It's not for us to see whether the accused committed the crime. We're there to see whether the charges against the accused are proved based on testimonies and evidence."

"The Appellate Division has given its verdict and upheld the death sentences. We"ve got nothing else to say," he said.

The International Crimes Tribunal had sentenced Chowdhury infamous as Chittagong's wartime terror, to death on Oct 1, 2013 for his role in the mass killing and torture of Hindus and Awami League supporters.

The top court had upheld his death penalty in July after hearing his appeal against the tribunal's judgment.

The tribunal also sentenced Mujahid to death on July 17, 2013 for the murders of intellectuals and his involvement in the killing and torture of Hindus in 1971.

The Al-Badr commander, too, had appealed to the Supreme Court against the sentence; the top court upheld it in June.

The Appellate Division published both full appeal verdicts on Sep 30.



SC publishes full verdict on Salauddin, Mojaheed

The Supreme Court on Thursday published the full text of its verdicts rejecting the review petitions of war crimes convicts Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mojaheed and Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, reports news agency UNB.

The written verdicts were published after the four judges -- chief justice Surendra Kumar Sinha, justice Nazmun Ara Sultana, justice Syed Mahmud Hossain and justice Hasan Foyez Siddique -- of the Appellate Division bench signed the copies of the verdicts turning down the reviews petitions against its earlier orders upholding their death sentences for committing crimes against humanity during the Liberation War in 1971.

Earlier in the day, attorney general Mahbubey Alam at a press briefing at the Supreme Court said the written text of the verdicts will be sent to the jail authorities through the tribunal.

The jail authorities will take necessary steps to execute the verdicts after getting the verdict copies.

On Wednesday, the SC upheld its previous verdicts on Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mojaheed and BNP leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, rejecting their pleas for reviewing death penalties for their war crimes.

A four-member bench of the Appellate Division, headed by chief justice Surendra Kumar Sinha, dismissed the review petitions of the duo.

On 14 October, Mojaheed and SQ Chowdhury filed the review petitions with the SC against its verdicts that upheld their death penalties for their crimes against humanity during the 1971 war.

On 1 October, the International Crimes Tribunal had issued death warrants against them.

The SC on 30 September released the full verdicts awarding death penalties to them for their crimes against humanity during the war, clearing the way for the execution of the judgment.

The court on 16 June upheld the death sentence awarded by the ICT-2 to Mojaheed for killing intellectuals during the war.

The International Crimes Tribunal-2 on 17 July, 2013 awarded Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mojaheed death penalty for committing crimes against humanity during the Liberation War in collaboration with the Pakistan occupation forces, after finding the Al Badr boss guilty of 5 charges, out of 7.

On 11 August, 2013, condemned convict Mojaheed filed an appeal with the Appellate Division against his capital punishment awarded by the ICT-2. Mojaheed was arrested on charge of hurting religious sentiment on 29 June, 2010 and later he was shown arrested in a case filed for committing crimes against humanity on 2 August that year.

Earlier, the court on 29 June upheld the death sentence awarded by ICT-1 to him for committing crimes against humanity, including rape and mass killing, during the Liberation War, 43 years ago.

On 1 October, 2013, the then International Crimes Tribunal-1 found Salauddin Quader Chowdhury guilty of crimes against humanity during the War of Liberation and condemned him to death.

On 29 October of the same year, Salauddin Quader Chowdhury filed an appeal with the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court against the ICT verdict.



PM asks President to reject mercy plea of APS attack facilitators

Nearly 1 month before of first anniversary of deadliest attack in history of Pakistan, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif today wrote a letter to President Mamnoon Hussain seeking the dismissal of mercy pleas of convicted terrorists, involved in carnage at army-run school in Peshawar.

The letter states that the 4 terrorists were involved in brutal massacre of almost 150 Peshawar school children, and have been awarded the death penalty.

All 4 suspects were sentenced to death by military courts on the charges of launching a terrorist attack on the army-run school on 16 December 2014, the black day in Pakistani history.

"The brutal and merciless killings of our children convinced us that the perpetrators of such crimes do not deserve any mercy," the prime Minister wrote to the presidency.

The interior ministry sent the said request to the president earlier this week through Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who advised Mamnoon to reject the mercy petitions of terrorists involved in APS attack.

"Pakistan has changed after the Peshawar tragedy," PM Nawaz said, while performing his constitutional obligation under article 105 of the Constitution.

Immediately, after the Army Public School tragedy, the state, the elected representatives in the Parliament, all political parties and every single state institution unanimously decided to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice even if required amendments in the laws.

"The establishment of military courts through these amendments has enabled us to bring the perpetrators of most heinous crimes to justice in a short span of time," PM Nawaz said. "The death sentence awarded to the 4 terrorists, in fact, was the will of the entire nation."

In August, Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif confirmed sentences of as many as 7 terrorists involved in attacks on APS Peshawar and Safoora Chowrangi, after a military court awarded all of them with death sentences. "The army chief has confirmed that 8 terrorists were tried under the Pakistan Army Act 2015," military's media wing, ISPR, said.

The statement added that convicts were given a fair trial by following all legal formalities and offering/ providing them legal aid and defence counsels.

On December 16, 2014, the Taliban launched a heinous attack on an Army Public School in Peshawar, killing over 150 people, mostly children.

(source: The Nation)


Community service, not the noose, for drug mules

The death sentence for drug-related offences should be reviewed and amended.

Last year, amendments were drafted to review and spare the mandatory death sentence on some drug offences.

It has not seen the light of day, but almost every other day, drug mules are arrested in our airports and traffickers are sentenced to death.

The latest case involved an Iranian woman and her mother, who were sentenced to death for trafficking in 2.5kg of drugs 3 years ago.

The death penalty should be abolished for low-level drug mules who are engaged in trafficking small amounts of drugs.

Many are young females who could have been deceived into bringing in these substances by drug lords. These drug mules should be sentenced to community service instead.

Despite the mandatory death sentence on drug-related offences, it has not curbed or reduced such trafficking in the country.

There are over 1,000 convicts on death row for such offences.

All international flights into our airports remind passengers in various languages of the strict mandatory death sentence on possession of drugs.

It is, therefore, puzzling that passengers still get caught with drugs on them at our airports.

The drugs are mostly concealed in secret compartments in the baggage. And this could have been done without the knowledge of the passenger.

Many of our young girls are also behind bars in other countries serving sentences and even face the death penalty for drug trafficking.

There was a report of a father yearning for the return of his daughter who is in a prison in China for almost 8 years for being a drug mule.

Many of them were offered free trips and vacations to exotic destinations by acquaintances who deceived them and used them as drug mules.

There is no empirical evidence to show the death penalty works as a deterrent to drug trafficking.

We need a concerted effort to fight the drug war and nab the drug lords.

The drug mules should be given community service. Most of the drug mules caught are young and they can do some community service.

It is a waste of human potential to imprison and hang them after a lengthy trial. They can be put to better use.

It will also limit the damage if there is a miscarriage of justice.

(source: New Straits Times)


UN 'Deeply' Troubled by Somalia's Summary Executions

The United Nations is "deeply concerned" about summary executions against suspected militants in Somalia, a UN official said, echoing previous caoncerns by a New-York based rights group which accused Somalia's military court of carrying out rapid executions.

Speaking to the reporters in the Somali capital on Tuesday, Ivan Simonovic, the U.N Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights has urged Somalia's government to give defendant an adequate time to prepare a defense before proceeding to convictions.

"I think we have to act in accordance with the international law." Mr. Simonovic said at the press conference.

He also warned of abuses against militants in the government-run jails, urging the government against convicting and sentencing suspected militants without due process.

"You cannot defeat Al-Shabab only by military operations only, but you should instead address the actual roots and origins of the extremism, which includes poverty, corruption, mismanagement and discrimination against minority people." he said.

The UN's concerns follow previous reports by the Human Rights Watch which called into question the quality of justice in Somalia's military courts.

Under international law, the death penalty is permitted only after a rigorous judicial process - a fair trial in which the defendant has adequate time to prepare a defence and appeal the sentence, among other requirements.

"A central concern was the speed at which death sentences have been carried out." the rights group said in a lengthy report issued this year.

The group has also called for Somali president to impose a moratorium on the death penalty, and that his government to work to ensure that all national courts, civilian and military, respect fair trial standards. "Without serious improvements in the quality of trials, the injustices of the past will continue." the report said. MFA



Jubilee MPs join Cord referendum call, want death penalty for corrupt officials

A group of Jubilee MPs has said it will build consensus with Cord's Okoa Kenya initiative to have the referendum conducted during the 2017 general election.

The MPs, led by Tiaty's Asman Kamama, want the constitution amended for counties to get at least 46 % funding and the CDF doubled.

"We will try to collect 3 million signatures within the shortest time possible to force a referendum," Kamama said during a briefing at Parliament buildings on Thursday.

The Opposition collected 1.4million signatures for the initiative and submitted them on November 9 to the IEBC, which said it will give feedback in 3 months.

Kamama said the MPs, who announced plans for the 'Boresha Katiba' intiative, will work with the Opposition in harmonising a draft for a single referendum drive during the next poll.

They will organise a special kitty for the ward development fund that will be administered by MCA's at the county level, he said, adding 125 legislators support the initiative.

The MPs further proposed the death penalty for for drug dealers and corruption officials, a day after the EACC boss said Kenya needs a 'big fish' conviction.

On Wednesday, EACC boss Halakhe Waqo said more than 300 cases involving alleged corruption by officials are currently pending in Kenya's courts as a result of the work of his commission.

He said the public wants to see a "big fish" convicted. "If you have a government minister, who else are you looking for? As far as I am concerned, you can't talk of a bigger fish," he said

Kamama also proposed Parliament appoints CSs whom he said need insights on connecting with the people.

The constitution states that the President shall nominate and, with the approval of the National Assembly, appoint cabinet secretaries.

It says a CS shall not be an MP, and assumes office by by swearing faithfulness to Kenya and its people and obedience to the constitution.

Cabinet secretaries "may resign by delivering a written statement of resignation to the President", the constitution also says.

Kamama was accompanied by MPs including Gideon Konchella (Kilgoris), Kabando wa Kabando (Mukurweini), Joseph Samal (Isiolo North).



Indonesia holds executions; Mary Jane family rejoices

Mary Jane Veloso's family rejoiced over news that ranking Indonesia official issued a pronouncement that they are not considering carrying out anymore executions.

"We are very happy because this would give the government and our lawyers to look into her (Mary Jane's) case. But we are really asking God to give Mary Jane's freedom as Christmas present," Celia Veloso, Mary Jane's mother, told

Indonesian Politics, legal and security affairs Coordinating Minister Luhut Pandjaitan said in news reports today, Nov. 19, that executions would be put on hold as their country needs to focus on "fixing its weak economy."

"We haven't thought about executing a death penalty with the economic conditions like this," Pandjaitan said in the report.

Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs said they are still verifying the information.

National Union of Peoples' Lawyers and Mary Jane's lawyer Edre Olalia said in a statement that if this is confirmed, it is "certainly welcome not only for Mary Jane Veloso but for all concerned."

"We hope in time that it leads to a permanent abolition as we have serious objections and questions about its effect and purpose in deterring crime, it precludes rehabilitation and reformation and worse, may victimize innocent individuals who are wrongly convicted for different reasons or factors and brought irretrievably to the next life or world," Olalia said.

Olalia told that this is a validation of earlier pronouncements of Indonesian Attorney General Prasetya that executions are not priority.

"But whatever you call it - moratorium, postponement, suspension or not a priority - the net effect is that there will be no execution until further notice for purported reason that they want to focus on their economy," he added.

Mary Jane, a victim of human trafficking, was arrested and sentenced to die in Indonesia some 5 years ago for carrying 2.6 kilograms of heroin. Her execution was stayed at dawn of April 29 due to strong local and international outcry.



British drug granny Lindsay Sandiford is SAVED from facing a firing squad after Indonesia decides to scrap executions... but she still faces a life behind bars in hellish prison

British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford has been given a stay of execution

She was caught at Bali airport in May 2012 carrying 10.5lb of cocaine

Mrs Sandiford, a former legal secretary, was sentenced to death in 2014

A British grandmother facing the firing squad in Indonesia after being caught smuggling drugs has been given a temporary reprieve after the country dramatically decided to halt all executions.

Former legal secretary Lindsay Sandiford, from Redcar in North Yorkshire, has been on death row since her sentencing last year for attempting to smuggle cocaine into Bali.

But Indonesia has decided to stay all executions - temporarily at least.

In an unexpected announcement made today, Luhut Panjaitan, co-ordinating minister for political legal and security affairs, said that a moratorium on executions had been put into place.

The ABC reported that the Minister said Indonesia needed to concentrate on the economy as the country's economic growth had dipped below 5 % for 2 consecutive quarters this year.

Much needed foreign investment was still needed to help build up the country's depleted infrastructure, he said.

Drugs mule Mrs Sandiford was caught at Bali airport in May 2012 carrying 10.5lb of cocaine worth 1.5million pounds and she had lost a number of appeals but recently won the right to a retrial.

She told other prisoners she was still concerned that eventually she would be led before the firing squad.

But her hopes of staying alive have now risen dramatically.

Prison sources said today that Mrs Sandiford, 59, was 'thankful' at hearing the news through the jail 'grapevine' but was still concerned that she might have to spend the rest of her life behind bars.

There had been suggestions earlier this year that Indonesia was considering banning all executions, but lawmakers said that would not be possible until the constitution was changed, perhaps in 2016.

Mrs Sandiford claims she was forced to carry the drugs after threats to the life of her younger son and was sentenced to death despite co-operating with police in a sting operation to arrest people higher up the syndicate.

The plot's alleged ringleader, Briton Julian Ponder - who conducted a behind-bars romance with British Vice-Consul Alys Harahap that led to her sacking - is expected to walk free next year after serving a 6-year term with remission.

Another of the men suspected of masterminding the smuggling plot, 43-year-old Paul Beales, of Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, was sentenced to just 4 years and is expected to be freed and deported before the end of this year.

Ponder's former partner Rachel Dougall, also initially suspected to be a senior member of the drugs smuggling syndicate, was released last year after serving just 1 year on a reduced charge of failing to report a crime.

The British government has repeatedly refused to fund Mrs Sandiford's legal battle against her death sentence despite a recommendation from 5 Supreme Court judges in London who said 'substantial mitigating factors' had been overlooked in her original trial.

(source: Daily Mail)


14 suspects involved in kidnapping businessman's sister nabbed

Selangor police have solved the kidnap for ransom of a businessman's (Tan Sri) sister involving a RM2 million ransom on Nov 10, with the detention of 14 suspects, including the mastermind on Tuesday.

All the suspects including 4 women, aged 19 to 40 years, were locals and nabbed at 3 separate locations on Tuesday in Kuala Lumpur, namely, at a cafe in Jalan Doraisamy, a club in Jalan Tun Razak and a shop house in Cheras.

Selangor Police Chief Datuk Abdul Samah Mat said the victim, 63, who was also a businesswoman, was kidnapped by 3 men in a Toyota Estima while seeking treatment at a traditional treatment centre in Kelana Jaya.

"3 workers at the centre had tried to stop them and 1 was assaulted with a helmet. The victim was detained in a house in Cheras," he told reporters at the Selangor Police Contingent Headquarters here, yesterday.

He said the suspects had demanded a RM2 million ransom from the family of the victim for her release.

The victim's family handed the ransom to the suspects at 10pm on Nov 16 and the victim was immediately freed at the Bandar Baharu Sentul LRT Station in Kuala Lumpur, he said.

Abdul Samah said, subsequently, a task force, which was set up to investigate the case, swung into action.

"A total of RM722,670 in ransom money was recovered and investigations are still ongoing to recover the rest," he said.

Abdul Samah said the mastermind, in his 40s, was also a businessman and police are checking the status of his business.

He added that the suspects would be remanded for a week starting yesterday to help investigations under Section 3 (1) of the Kidnap Act which carries the death penalty or life imprisonment if found guilty.



Indonesia denies moratorium on death penalty

One of Indonesia's most senior ministers has denied there will be a formal moratorium on executions in Indonesia.

Co-ordinating Minister for political, legal and security affairs Luhut Panjaitan had earlier on Thursday said there would not be any executions for the time being because Indonesia was focusing on its economy.

This prompted media reports that the Indonesian government had declared a moratorium on the death penalty.

However when asked by reporters if it was true Indonesia would stop executions, Mr Panjaitan said: "No, I told them we will not carry out executions for the time being because we are now focusing on the economy."

The softening economy, the international backlash and a desire to attract foreign investment have dampened talk of a further round of executions in the near future, although many prisoners remain on death row.

Indonesian Attorney-General Muhammad Prasetyo said in October that his office would not carry out a third round of executions of inmates until the country got out of the current economic slowdown.

"The Attorney-General's Office is currently helping the government in prioritising the economy," Mr Prasetyo told The Jakarta Post.

"We are still very busy with our economy," Mr Panjaitan said, when asked about executions at the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club last week.

14 people were executed by firing squad in Indonesia this year, including Bali 9 heroin smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

(source: Sydney Morning Herald)


MP welcomes govt plan to abolish death penalty

Stampin MP Julian Tan Kok Ping welcomes the government's proposed move to abolish the mandatory death sentence especially for drug-related offences.

He said he was glad the government was moving in the right direction to have the law amended.

"This issue affects us Sarawakians as highlighted by the case of Kho Jabing a Sarawakian who is on death row in Singapore. With the removal of the mandatory death sentence for drug-related offences, it gives more powers and discretion to the courts to decide on case-to-case basis.

"Death penalty is also an irreversible form of punishment and it runs the risk of sending an innocent man to his death," said Tan through a press statement yesterday.

He said he and few others met with the family of Kho Jabing and heard of their plight.

"Together with the family, we met Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Nancy Shukri who told the family that the state government has conveyed a humanitarian plea to the Singapore High Commission."

The PGA Parliamentary Roundtable meeting on the Abolition of the Death Penalty is Malaysia was held in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 17.

Tan, who also attended the meeting chaired by Minister of Tourism and Culture Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz said: "The mandatory death penalty currently is imposed for 5 main offences in Malaysia including murder, offences against the King and Heads of States, Trafficking of Dangerous Drugs, Discharging of Firearms and Accomplice in case of Discharge of Firearms."

Apart from Nancy, those attending the meeting were several other MPs from both sides of the house as well as MPs and High Commissioner from multiple countries, ex-court judges, the Bar Council and members of various NGOs.

(source: The Borneo Post)


Freeze all executions pending mandatory death penalty review, says Ambiga

The National Human Rights Society of Malaysia (Hakam) has urged the government to impose a moratorium on the execution of 1,022 prisoners on death row for the time being, following Putrajaya's announcement that it planned to abolish the mandatory death sentence on drug-related offences.

Hakam president Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan said the plan was a step in the right direction and added that it should also be applied to all criminal offences. She said the mandatory death sentence deprived the sentencing judge the discretion to consider all the relevant facts of the case and the individual circumstances of each convicted person.

"A sentencing judge must be given the option to impose the appropriate sentence," Ambiga said in a statement today.

On Tuesday, de facto law minister Nancy Shukri said Putrajaya planned to table a bill in March to abolish the mandatory death penalty in drug-related offences. She had said this would allow judges to use their discretion to choose between sentencing a person to jail and the gallows in non-criminal cases.

"What we are looking at is the abolition of the mandatory death sentence. It is not easy to amend and we are working on it. "We can get rid of the word 'mandatory' to allow judges to use their discretion in drug-related offences," the minister said.

Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali had told The Malaysian Insider in an exclusive interview recently that he would propose scrapping the mandatory death penalty to the Cabinet, adding that it was a "paradox", as it robbed judges of their discretion to impose sentences on convicted criminals. Apandi said that this would be in line with the "universal thinking" on capital punishment, although he dismissed total abolition of the death penalty altogether.

Ambiga said today that a recent Public Opinion Survey on Death Penalty in Malaysia undertaken by Emeritus Professor Roger Hood QC from the University of Oxford revealed that the majority of Malaysians did not support the death penalty.

It violated the right to life guaranteed under Article 5 of the Federal Constitution and was undoubtedly a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment contrary to international law, she added. As such, the activist and lawyer said Malaysia should show genuine commitment to abide by international norms in relation to the right to life and the prohibition against cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, given that it had been on the United Nations' Human Rights Council and was presently on the Security Council as a non-permanent member.

"We hope that the government will continue taking steps in the right direction towards the ultimate abolition of the death penalty," Ambiga said.


NOVEMBER 18, 2015:


Texas man executed for setting fire that killed 3 children

A Texas inmate was executed Wednesday for setting a fire that killed his 18-month-old daughter and her 2 young half-sisters at an East Texas home 15 years ago.

Raphael Holiday, 36, became the 13th convicted killer put to death this year in Texas, which carries out capital punishment more than any other state. It has accounted for 1/2 of all executions in the U.S. so far this year.

Asked by a warden if he had a final statement, Holiday thanked his "supporters and loved ones."

"I love y'all," he said. "I want you to know I'm always going to be with you."

He thanked the warden. As the lethal dose of pentobarbital began, he took 2 deep breaths and appeared to yawn, his mouth remaining open as he wheezed several times. Then all movement stopped.

19 minutes later, at 8:30 p.m. CST, he was pronounced dead.

Holiday never addressed or looked at witnesses, including the children's grandfather and mother, his former common-law wife. The mother initially stood at the back of the death chamber witness area, watching from behind a corrections officer. About 10 minutes later, with Holiday motionless on the death chamber gurney, she walked toward a window to see him.

She and other relatives of the slain children declined to speak with reporters afterward.

The punishment was carried out after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal seeking to halt Holiday's punishment so new attorneys could be appointed to pursue additional unspecified appeals in his case. Austin-based lawyer Gretchen Sween argued that Holiday's court-appointed attorneys abandoned him after the justices in June refused to review his case. Those lawyers advised Holiday his legal issues were exhausted and new appeals and a clemency petition would be fruitless.

Earlier Wednesday, the judge in Holiday's trial court stopped the execution after Holiday's trial attorney filed an appeal saying the conviction and some trial testimony were both improper. The judge agreed the issues should be reviewed and withdrew his execution warrant. The Texas attorney general's office appealed, the judge's order was voided and the warrant reinstated, clearing the way for the lethal injection to move forward more.

The execution took place about 2 1/2 hours later than scheduled because of the late state court appeal.

Holiday told The Associated Press recently from a visiting cage outside death row that he didn't know how the log cabin he once shared with his wife and the children in the Madison County woods about 100 miles north of Houston caught fire in September 2000.

"I loved my kids," Holiday said. "I never would do harm to any of them."

Evidence and testimony showed Holiday was irate over a protective order his estranged wife obtained after his arrest for sexually assaulting one of the children. Holiday, from prison, contended he knew nothing about the assault.

According to court records, he showed up at the home and forced the girls' grandmother at gunpoint to douse the interior with gasoline. After it ignited, he sped away in the grandmother's car, hit a police car that arrived outside the cabin and then led officers on a chase that ended 2 counties away when he wrecked.

Defense attorneys at his trial suggested an electrical problem or a pilot light started the blaze in the early hours of Sept. 6, 2000, killing Holiday's daughter, Justice, and her half-sisters, Tierra Lynch, 7, and Jasmine DuPaul, 5.

The girls' grandmother told a jury she watched Holiday bend down and then the flames erupted, court records show. Jurors convicted him of capital murder and decided he should be put to death.

The lethal injection was the last one scheduled for Texas this year, but at least 5 inmates have execution dates set for early next year.

Texas carried out 10 executions in 2014.

Holiday becomes the531st condemned inmate to be put to death in Texas since the state resumed capital punishment on Dec. 7, 1982; he is the 13th condemned inmate to be put to death since Greg Abbott became governor in January of this year. Holiday becomes the 1420th inmate to be put to death overall in the USA since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)


Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----13

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----531

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

14---------January 20 (2016)-----Richard Masterson--------532

15---------January 27---------------James Freeman---------533

16---------February 16--------------Gustavo Garcia--------534

17---------March 9------------------Coy Wesbrook----------535

18---------March 22-----------------Adam Ward-------------536

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

GEORGIA----impending execution

Marcus Ray Johnson's request for clemency denied

The State Board of Pardons and Paroles has denied a clemency request from attorneys representing condemned inmate Marcus Ray Johnson.

In reaching its decision, in addition to hearing testimony, the Board prior to the meeting had thoroughly reviewed Johnson's parole case file which includes the circumstances of the death penalty case, Johnson's criminal history, and a comprehensive history of his life.

Johnson was convicted on April 5, 1998, of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, rape and aggravated battery in the March 1994 death of Angela Sizemore in Albany. Johnson was sentenced to death. Johnson's conviction and sentence have been upheld throughout the appeals process.

Johnson is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Thursday, November 19 at 7 p.m. at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson.

(source: WFXL news)

ALABAMA----new death sentence//female

Lisa Graham sentenced to death for hiring man to kill her daughter

Convicted of capital murder for persuading a family friend to gun her daughter down on a remote dirt road in Russell County on July 5, 2007, Lisa Leanne Graham today was sentenced to the death penalty.

After a jury convicted her March 5, Judge Jacob Walker III initially set a sentencing date of May 1, but then postponed it so Graham could have a psychological evaluation. Walker noted then that Graham had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and was taking medications prescribed for schizophrenia.

Today's sentencing is not the end of the story, as Graham is expected to appeal, a process that will add new chapters to what even veterans of the criminal justice system found to be a sordid and surreal story of a mother whose jealousy and disdain for her daughter led to a cold-blooded murder on an isolated Russell County road.

Graham was accused of persuading longtime family worker Kenneth Walton to kill daughter Stephanie Shea Graham, who went by Shea. Walton said the mother met him at the Columbus Public Library that day and loaned him her pistol for the job.

He caught up with Shea at a Victory Drive gas station, where she left her car with friends and rode off in Walton's pickup truck. He took her on a long, night drive down Alabama Highway 165 before pulling off on Bowden Road so they could relieve themselves.

When she got out to squat beside the truck's open passenger door, he pulled out the pistol and shot her in the head from the driver's seat, then got out, walked around the truck and shot her again and again.

He left her half-nude body where it lay, and drove away. Asked in court how his deadly betrayal of a young woman who trusted him made him feel that night, he replied, "I felt normal."

Because witnesses saw Shea leave the gas station with Walton, investigators focused on him immediately. He confessed, and told them of the mother's involvement, particularly of the pistol he had returned to her the next day.

Lisa Graham further incriminated herself when authorities came looking for the gun. She had given it to an elderly neighbor she knew as "Papa" to clean, but told sheriff's investigators she didn't know where it was, and allowed them futilely to search her house before her husband told them "Papa" might have it. Finding ample evidence of her involvement in the homicide, they charged her with murder. Russell County District Attorney Ken Davis said the circumstances warranted the death penalty.

But 5 years passed before the case finally came to trial - the 1st time.

Walton pleaded guilty June 14, 2012, and was sentenced to life in prison. Graham's trial was set for the following fall. But after jury selection and some initial testimony, Circuit Judge George Greene abruptly declared a mistrial on Sept. 25, 2012, saying he could no longer preside because of his failing health.

When prosecutors pursued a 2nd trial, Graham's defense team appealed, claiming Greene could have continued the trial, and to try Graham again would constitute double-jeopardy. During testimony in that appeal, witnesses said Greene had multiple health issues, and had been falling asleep in court, even snoring.

Greene retired in December 2013, and died Jan. 1, 2014.

After the Alabama Court of Appeals rejected the defense's double-jeopardy arguments on Oct. 17, 2013, Graham’s attorneys appealed to the Alabama Supreme Court. It turned them down on Aug. 8, 2014.

Meanwhile other Russell County judges recused themselves from presiding at Graham's next trial. Walker, a Lee County Circuit Court judge, was appointed to fill in.

Jury selection in the 2nd trial began Feb. 17, with witness testimony starting the following week.

That testimony showed Graham repeatedly had remarked to witnesses that Shea was ruining her life, and she would kill her daughter if she could. The daughter was facing aggravated assault charges related to a drive-by shooting in Columbus, and Graham feared she would flee town and leave her parents responsible for her $100,000 bond.

Walton testified he lured Shea into his pickup the night she died with the promise of providing her with a vehicle in which to run away.


NEVADA----new death sentence

Bean sentenced to death

A Third Judicial District Court jury in July sentenced convicted murderer Jeremiah Bean to death.

Judge John P. Schlegelmilch agreed Tuesday.

Schlegelmilch sentenced Bean to 5 consecutive death penalties.

Bean, 27, was found guilty after a 2-plus week guilt phase portion of his trial in July in the murders of Bob and Dorothy Pape, 84, inside their Fernley home on May 10, 2013, and of Eliazar Graham, 52, of Sparks, in Mustang, and of Angie Duff, 67, and Lester Lieber, 69, inside Pape's Fernley home, on May 13. He also burned the Pape home early May 13, 2013.

On July 6, the jury ruled there were aggravating circumstances that warranted the death penalty.

Schlegelmilch affirmed that sentence at Tuesday's hearing.

Schlegelmilch sentenced Bean to death by lethal injection for each of the five murders, with an additional term of 96 to 240 months each for use of a deadly weapon. Each sentence was consecutive.

Schlegelmilch also sentenced Bean on 7 other charges, including burglary with use of a firearm, grand larceny, grand larceny of a motor vehicle, 1st-degree arson, robbery with use of a deadly weapon, burglary to obtain a firearm and grand larceny of a firearm.

The total aggregate sentence is 78 to 195 years.

Lyon County District Attorney Stephen Rye said he was pleased with the outcome.

"It's a just verdict and a just sentence," he said. "He deserves the maximum penalty, and that's what the judge imposed."

(source: Reno Gazette-Journal)


Kenya officially throws out 'Stone The Gays' bill----Bill proposed lifetime imprisonment or death by stoning for both gay Kenyan and foreign people

Kenya's parliament has officially thrown out a proposal that would have punished homosexuality with death by stoning.

The reason is that lawmakers believe current laws, which imprisons gay people for up to 14 years, are satisfactory enough at this time.

This is the 2nd time a proposal to have a law prescribing the death penalty has been denied by a committee.

"The [Justice and Legal Affairs] committee does not agree with the petitioner's proposed legislation as it is unnecessary. Article 45 of the Constitution adequately safeguards and protects family values," a spokesperson for the committee said.

"These provisions adequately protect the family values that apply in our democracy."

But this is not the last we will see of the proposed legislation. The committee said they would reconsider the bill if the leader of the bill, Kiharu MP Irangu Kang'ata, could find more sponsors in parliament.

Speaking to Gay Star News, Kenyan LGBTI rights activist Denis Nzioka said while this is a 'very good step' for Kenya, it should still be a wake-up call.

He said: 'We have seen a lot of anti-gay sentiment being brought out by people, politicians, religious leaders. People want to go the Ugandan way, Nigerian way.

'I thought Kenya was a safe country, the best in the continent apart from South Africa for gay rights.

'But things have got out of our hands. It just shows how in an instant - things can change dramatically.'

(source: Gay Star News)

TEXAS----impending execution

Texas Set To Execute Man Who Says His Lawyers Have "Abandoned" Him----Raphael Holiday is set to be executed Wednesday for burning 3 children to death in 2000. Holiday has asked the Supreme Court to stop his execution, claiming his court-appointed lawyers have refused to help him.

A Texas man is slated to be executed Wednesday for burning 3 children to death - including his 18-month-old daughter - despite his claims that his court-appointed attorneys have "abandoned" him.

In March 2000, Raphael Holiday moved out of the house he shared with Tami Lynn Wilkerson and their 18-month-old daughter, Justice, along with Wilkerson's 2 other daughters - Jasmine DuPaul, 5, and Tierra Lynch, 7. Wilkerson had filed charges against Holiday and sought a protective order against him after she learned he had sexually assaulted Tierra, according to court documents.

On Sept. 5, Holiday returned with a gun and threatened to "burn the house down with everyone it it." He then ordered everyone to sit on the couch and made Wilkerson's mother, Beverly Mitchell, pour gasoline all over the house, court records show.

Mitchell said she saw Holiday "bend down," after which the fire started. All 3 children died in the fire, while Holiday stood outside and watched, court documents stated.

Holiday has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop his execution on the grounds that his 2 court-appointed attorney abandoned him when he wanted to pursue avenues of legal appeal that had not yet been exhausted.

His appeal, filed by a pro-bono lawyer, claims that Holiday's 2 lawyers, appointed under the Criminal Justice Act (CJA), announced that they were through with the case "and then actively blocked Mr. Holiday's efforts to substitute" them, despite having instructed him to look for other death penalty lawyers.

Holiday says his execution should be stopped for new counsel to be appointed. He also claims that after the 2 lawyers, James "Wes" Volberding and Seth Kretzer, refused to file petitions seeking clemency - on the "cynical assumption that clemency has no chance" - they eventually "hrew together" a "sham clemency application" in 48 hours without Holiday's knowledge.

"We decided that it was inappropriate to file [a petition for clemency] and give false hope to a poor man on death row expecting clemency that we knew was never going to come," Volberding told The Dallas News.

Kretzer said in a court letter that they also recognized the "political realities" of Texas.

Last week, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied a motion to replace the 2 attorneys.

Holiday's most recent appeal states that "irreparable harm" will occur if he is executed without him having a "meaningful opportunity to seek clemency and develop unexhausted constitutional claims."

The state responded by saying Holiday's appointed counsel have "sworn their commitment" to represent him and that he had failed to propose alternative counsel to take their place.

After the Supreme Court denied a petition to review the case in June, Volberding and Kretzer informed Holiday in a letter that they would not file additional appeals or seek clemency from the governor, Dallas News reported.

They also opposed a motion filed by an appellate lawyer who helped Holiday by asking the court to assign him new attorneys and threatened her with sanctions.

Holiday could become the 13th person to be executed by Texas this year.



Area man set to be executed for arson-related deaths

A 36-year-old man convicted of killing 3 children by setting fire to their rural Madison County home 15 years ago is set to be executed today.

Raphael Holiday's execution warrant becomes valid at 6 p.m. If there are no ongoing appeals at that time, officials will go ahead with the execution by lethal injection.

The United States Supreme Court denied a petition in June by Holiday's lawyers to review the case, after which his lawyers decided they would not take any further appeals, saying it would only give the inmate "false hope."

Gretchen Sween, a lawyer in Austin, agreed to try to find new attorneys for Holiday, saying he had the right to "conflict-free counsel willing to pursue all relief available to him."

That request was denied by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, so Sween appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court didn't immediately make a ruling. Sween couldn't be reached for comment.

A spokesperson for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said Holiday will begin his day in Livingston -- where death row inmates are housed -- with extended visits with family and friends.

He will be transported to Huntsville at an undisclosed time, then checked in and given a new uniform.

Prison officials will take the Grimes County native to a small holding cell just outside the execution chamber, where he'll be able to make more phone calls to friends and family.

He gets his last meal at 4 p.m. -- whatever the rest of the inmates are having -- and the execution will be carried out two hours later, unless there's a pending appeal.

He will be the 13th prisoner executed this year in Texas, which carries out the death penalty more than any other state, and 26th convicted killer executed nationally this year.

Holiday was convicted in June 2002 of killing 3 young sisters, including his own 18-month old daughter.

He was found guilty of 3 counts of capital murder in the deaths of Tierra Lynch, 7, Jasmine DuPaul, 5, and 18-month-old Justice Holiday.

Prosecutors said Holiday forced the victims' grandmother at gunpoint to douse the living room in the cabin on Lou Bee Lane in gasoline while the girls were sitting on the couch, then he lit the living room on fire.

After it ignited, he sped away in the grandmother's car, hit a police car that had arrived outside the cabin and then led officers on a chase that ended 2 counties away when he wrecked.

"I was at the house, the house blew up," he told an Associated Press reporter recently from a visiting cage outside Texas' death row. "I don't know how the fire started."

Defense attorneys said the fire was started by the pilot light on the stove.

Investigators said they found the remains of the children huddled together on what was believed to be a couch.

Holiday had a record of violent behavior toward the children. The children's mother had been granted a protective order 6 months before the fire -- writing that Holiday had sexually assaulted the 7-year-old.

Prosecutors at Holiday's 2002 trial said he sought revenge because he was getting ready to stand trial for sexually assaulting the girl.

"I loved my kids," he recently told the AP. "I never would do harm to any of them."

Prison officials said the girls' mother, Tammy Wilkerson, planned to witness Holiday's execution. She declined to speak with The Associated Press.

According to a 2002 Eagle story, Wilkerson addressed Holiday after he was sentenced to death.

"You may have destroyed my life, but not my memories," Wilkerson told Holiday through tears. "You can't take those away from me."

Holiday said from prison that he was outside when the fire broke out.

"I was panicking," he said, explaining why he sped off in a stolen car. "I think it was crazy for someone to say I spoke of harming my kids. That doesn't make sense."

(source: The Eagle)


Why Texas county known for death sentences has given none in 2015 ---- As the state prepares to execute its 13th person this year on Wednesday, the case of Harris County, where 124 offenders have been executed, reflects shift among juries and prosecutors in opting for life sentences instead of death penalty

Yosselyn Alfaro was celebrating her 21st birthday at a friend's apartment when the bullet went through her brain. 2 17-year-olds, Daniel Munoz and Veronica Hernandez, also died after shots to the head.

2 others were injured. One held his mutilated jaw in place so he could tell the authorities who did it: Jonathan Sanchez.

The 27-year-old had a string of previous arrests. Prosecutors alleged that at the time of the murders 2 years ago, he was a gang member on a drug binge who sent threatening text messages to a man who lived at the Peppermill Place complex in north-west Houston. Then he turned up, talked his way in and started shooting.

In the county that metes out more completed death sentences than any other in the US, in the state that executes more people than anywhere else in the nation, it seemed obvious that prosecutors would seek the death penalty for such a horrific crime and almost inevitable that they would get it.

Yet, as the Houston Chronicle reported, the jury that convicted Sanchez of capital murder last week opted to spare him from a lethal injection. He was sentenced to life without parole. It was an outcome at odds with Texas's well-earned reputation.

On Wednesday, Raphael Holiday is set to become the 531st Texas inmate executed since 1976, and the 13th this year, for starting a house fire that killed 3 young girls, including his 1-year-old daughter.

Some 124 offenders have been executed after convictions in Harris County, which includes Houston. If Harris were a state it would be second in total executions, behind Texas and 12 deaths ahead of Oklahoma.

Yet no one has been sentenced to death in Harris County this year. Across Texas there have been only 3 death sentences in 2015, and the 1st came as late as October. The previous low in a calendar year was 8.

"We now have more cases this year where jurors rejected the death penalty than where they imposed it," said Kristin Houle, executive director of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

"I think it's the culmination of several things," said Tim Cole, a former district attorney in Texas who tried death penalty cases. Cole believes that the rising number of DNA-based exonerations has made jurors more cautious and sceptical, that the introduction of a life without parole option for capital cases in 2005 has had a major effect, and prosecutors are seeking death less often.

"I think that it is reflective of the change in attitude," Cole said of Sanchez's life sentence. "About 2 or 3 years ago, I began to detect a difference." While polls show a majority of Texans are still in favour of the death penalty, Cole suggested that many would be more circumspect if they found themselves on a jury. He pointed to the case of Gabriel Armandariz, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in March for strangling his 2 young sons near Fort Worth, though prosecutors had sought death.

"Does killing Gabriel make you feel better? Does it make the small town where it happened say, 'Yeah, we killed that sorry SOB?' What good is more death?" his attorney asked the jury during closing arguments.

While Texas prosecutors will not shirk from asking for death sentences for the most egregious murders, Cole said, their risk-v-reward calculations have evolved.

"If you seek death and you don't get it, you've just spent months and perhaps millions on a case you could have [quickly] pled to a life sentence," he said. And with capital punishment no longer a core issue for voters, elected officials worry less about seeming soft on crime if they choose to seek life without parole instead.

"Texas continues to execute more people than any other state, but in many respects the number of executions in the state is misleading. It reflects death sentences that were imposed many years ago," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

"In fact there has been a substantial reduction in new death sentences in Texas, a reduction that suggests the death penalty is in decline there as well as elsewhere in the country."

Texas has also improved the quality of its legal representation for indigent defendants, Dunham said - though court documents indicate that Holiday tried to replace his attorneys after they said that last-ditch attempts to halt his death would be futile.

Holiday and the Georgia inmate Marcus Johnson, scheduled to die on Thursday, are likely to be the last 2 executions in 2015. That would leave the nation with 27 executions this year: the fewest since 1991, down from 35 last year and the modern-era high of 98 in 1999, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

It will be the 7th successive year that the number of executions has declined or remained level.

6 states have carried out executions this year, compared with 13 in 2011. The number of stays of execution has grown, reflecting legal challenges and dwindling drug supplies that have seen states including Texas resort to desperate and dubious measures.

"While Texas has ultimately been able to obtain the drugs to execute people, it is feeling the pinch from the pharmaceutical boycott," Dunham said.

(source: The Guardian)


Exonerated After 18 Years in Prison, Black Man Fights for Reform

Anthony Graves was convicted in 1994 in Texas of murdering a woman, her daughter and her 4 grandchildren. Later proven to be innocent, Graves spent many years in prison, including 12 years on death row waiting to be executed for a crime he did not commit.

"You took 18 years of my life," he said, referring to the Texas criminal justice system. "You tried to murder me and I want to stay in your face every day to remind you that we need to do better."

Graves has used some of the $1.5 million he was awarded by the state of Texas for his wrongful imprisonment to further the cause of reforming the criminal justice system.

There have been 1,700 people exonerated in the United States since 1989, according to the registry kept by Michigan State University Law School.

The Innocence Project, a non-profit group that helps investigate cases in which wrongful conviction is suspected, cites 333 cases since 1989 in which DNA tests resulted in exoneration. The racial breakdown from that figure was 206 African Americans, 101 Caucasians, 24 Latinos and 2 Asian Americans.

The former Texas death row inmate says many of the problems in the criminal justice system across the United States affect people of all races, especially if they are poor. Graves, who is black, spent more than 18 years in the Texas prison system.

The 49-year-old said inequality is the biggest problem. Poor people, regardless of color, cannot afford the best defense attorneys, he noted, and often are pressured by police and prosecutors to take a plea bargain for a lower sentence rather than face many years in prison.

While this practice reduces the need for full jury trials and is seen by prosecutors as more efficient, it also can result in innocent people with inadequate representation and little knowledge of the legal system pleading guilty to crimes they did not commit.

Graves wants citizens to use their power in the democratic system to seek criminal justice reform.

"We can do it; we have the power to do it," he said.

Graves travels the country using his own personal story to illustrate what he calls the "injustice of the justice system."

"I use my story to educate people," said Graves, "but more importantly, keep it on people's minds about the injustice that is going on in our criminal justice system."

The court in Burleson County, Texas convicted Graves in 1994. 6 years later, the chief witness against him recanted his testimony. Graves was still in prison, though, when law professor David Dow brought the case to Nicole Casarez, an attorney and professor of journalism at the University of St. Thomas.

"He [Dow] came into class one day and said, 'Who wants to work on a case that is a death row case, and it has a lot of investigation and a short time fuse," said Casarez. "And my students and I put up our hands and volunteered and it turned out to be Anthony's case."

In 2010, the work done by Casarez, her students and others paid off with the release of Graves from prison and a declaration of his innocence. In June, the State Bar of Texas disbarred the district attorney who prosecuted Graves after its investigation of the case uncovered misconduct.

The problems Graves sees are the same ones cited by many criminal justice experts and law enforcement leaders - including disparities in sentencing between blacks and whites, the imprisonment of people with mental illness or drug addictions, an increase in the number of infractions that can result in someone being jailed and mandatory minimum sentences for some crimes.

Both Graves and Casarez are encouraged by the interest in criminal justice system reform on college campuses and by what appears now to be largely a bipartisan effort. The 2 major political parties agree on little else these days.

"I think stories like Anthony's make a big impression on students and it inspires them to go out and vote and try to make a difference," said Casarez.

For his part, Graves expresses little bitterness about his lost years, saying he is more concerned with the future than the past. Although he came close to be executed for a crime he did not commit, he has not made the death penalty the main focus of his call for reforms.

He and Casarez also spoke of problems with the alternative sentence of life in prison, which excludes any legal representation after it is imposed. They say it also is possible that some innocent people are serving life sentences and have no access to attorneys who could help them appeal their convictions.

Now Graves is applying his singular perspective to help law enforcement get it right when it comes to forensic evidence. He was appointed in June to the board of the Houston Forensic Science Center.

(source: Voice of America)


It's Up to Court, Not Prosecutors, To Say What Death Penalty Law Is

I am staging an intervention. On Nov. 10, the state asked the Supreme Court to stay the resentencing of Cheshire home invasion killer Steven Hayes until the court decides "what impact, if any, the final judgment in Santiago [declaring the death penalty unconstitutional] has on pending death penalty appeals." The request comes hard on the heels of the state's unsuccessful attempts to alter or delay Santiago itself, which included the unusual (moving for a stay of the judgment after the denial of a motion for reconsideration) and the audacious (moving to strike Justice Andrew McDonald's entire concurrence).

Enough is enough. The state's state of denial about Santiago threatens to unravel a key thread in the tapestry of justice: public acceptance of the legitimacy of final judgments.

Although we now take as a given "the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is," an independent judiciary is a radical and recent invention. Less than 2 centuries before Marbury v. Madison, Sir Edward Coke lost his place as England's Lord Chief Justice because he dared tell King James I that, despite a claim of royal prerogative, "he would do that should be fit for a judge to do." We were in Coke's day as humans have been for nearly all of history: A government of men, not laws.

Like every judge before Coke and since, moral authority alone supported his defiance. Legislatures hold the purse strings and governors have the muscle; courts depend on the collective belief of those they judge that obedience is the better part of valor. Such a shared belief is, as Lady Bracknell said of ignorance, "a delicate, exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone." Or, as President Andrew Jackson put it in response to Worcester v. Georgia, a case that gave Native Americans sovereignty over their lands: "John Marshall had made his decision, now let him enforce it."

The specter of "now let him enforce it" looms over our legal landscape. During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus and one of his commanders defied an order from Chief Justice Roger Taney to release a suspected Confederate saboteur. National conflagration aside, we decide in court what other countries decide on the battlefield - but not without strain. The U.S. Supreme Court strove mightily to ensure a unanimous decision in Brown v. Board of Education, lest a dissent encourage Southern disobedience, and Chief Justice Earl Warren added the phrase "all deliberate speed" to the opinion for the same reason. Even when unanimity breaks down and the stakes are incredibly high - as in Bush v. Gore - we still accept the judiciary's right to "say what the law is."

However, judicial authority is a quixotic beast; like Bing Bong, Riley's imaginary friend in the movie "Inside Out," its existence flows from our belief that it exists. Courts have the power to pronounce judgments only so long as we accept that they do. The moment that our acceptance ceases, cracks appear in the foundation.

This brings us to the state's denialist response to Santiago: Leaving aside its scathing motion to strike the concurring opinion, the state titled its motion for reconsideration, a standard filing in an important, 4-3 case, a "motion for argument," a bit of snark that left no doubt of the state's view of the judgment. Though the state Supreme Court denied the state's motions, it then ordered supplemental briefing in another, already-argued death penalty appeal, State v. Peeler, "addressing the issues raised in the state's motion [for supplemental briefing and argument] including the effect of the final judgment in Santiago II." Stare decisis being what it is, one might think that "the effect" of Santiago would be clear as a bell: The death penalty is unconstitutional for Russell Peeler, too. However, the order gave the state the chance to brief issues that, in the view of the three Santiago dissenters, at least, it had not had in Santiago.

The state then sought a stay in Santiago, ostensibly to avoid a legal train wreck should Peeler reach a different conclusion about the death penalty's constitutionality than did Santiago. With the ink barely dry on the denial of the state's motion for reconsideration, one would think that an impossibility, but here's the rub: 1 of the 4 members of the Santiago majority, Justice Flemming Norcott Jr., is no longer on the court; and his replacement, Justice Richard Robinson, has never sat on a death penalty case.

The court's 6-1 denial of the motion for a stay in Santiago suggests that the state will not undo a judgment so recently done, but the motion itself is the problem. I have litigated against, and have enormous respect for, the prosecutors in the Santiago, Peeler and Hayes cases: They are smart, ethical and passionate attorneys, truly, as the rules of ethics demand, "ministers of justice." And so, I offer this conclusion, as a respectful colleague: The state's stubborn refusal to go gentle into that good night has the potential to undermine public acceptance of judicial authority. The next losing litigant may try similar tactics, or may simply defy the judgment altogether, or worse, and down that slippery slope lurks the grim specter of "now let him enforce it."

(source: Daniel Krisch is a partner at Halloran & Sage in Hartford, where he focuses on appellate and civil


Alleged killer of Corrections Officer Eric Williams attempts to avoid death penalty

The defense for a New Mexican Mafia member facing trial in the 2013 stabbing death of a corrections officer from Nanticoke has asked a judge to strike the prosecution's intent to seek the death penalty, citing a maturing society's "evolving standards of decency."

In a nearly 400-page motion filed Oct. 6 in U.S. District Court, the defense for Jessie Con-Ui argues against imposing the federal death penalty for several reasons, claiming among them the punishment is "carried out in an arbitrary and capricious manner that is akin to being struck by lighting."

In a response filed Monday seeking the motion's denial by U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo, prosecutors claim the defendant's arguments are in stark contrast to long-standing legal principles and overwhelming authority to the contrary.

Appealing to the court's sense of decency is merely an attempt to have it rule in contradiction to prevailing law, which it cannot do, wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Francis P. Sempa.

Con-Ui, 37, faces the death penalty in the Feb. 25, 2013 murder of Corrections Officer Eric J. Williams, 34, at U.S. Penitentiary Canaan in Wayne County. In their response, prosecutors argue Williams' murder was carried out in an "especially cruel, heinous or depraved manner."

Despite the defendant's complaint that insufficient evidence has been provided in the prosecution's allegations, prosecutors argue clear video evidence from prison surveillance cameras show Con-Ui ambush and kick Williams down a flight of stairs before pinning him down and stabbing him over 200 times with multiple shanks.

After being escorted from his cell after the attack, Con-Ui allegedly said, "Hey, man, I am sorry but I had to do what I had to do. I am sick of all your people's disrespect," according to an FBI report filed earlier this year. Con-Ui was also reportedly upset that Williams had previously ordered a search of Con-Ui's cell, according to court documents.

Prosecutors argue Con-Ui's propensity for violence justifies the death penalty.

Con-Ui was at Canaan serving an 11-year prison sentence stemming from a 2003 guilty plea for his role in a drug ring run by the New Mexican Mafia. Following that sentence, he was set to begin serving a life sentence after pleading guilty in 2008 to 1st-degree murder.

Court documents claim Con-Ui agreed to or participated in several separate, uncharged incidents while incarcerated between 1999 and 2010, including stabbing another inmate with a homemade knife and assaulting a fellow inmate with a food tray.

While out of jail in 2013, Con-Ui agreed to participate in the murder of a law enforcement officer but was arrested in Arizona before the murder could be carried out.

Con-Ui is currently an inmate at a supermaxium facility in Florence, Colorado known as the "Alcatraz of the Rockies," according to the Bureau of Prisons website.

His trial is scheduled to begin in July, 2016.

(source: Times Leader)


Panel weighs in on death penalty, criminal justice reform in Delaware

With a new legislative session around the corner, some groups are coming together for another push to end capital punishment in Delaware.

Experts on race, the Delaware legal system and civil rights weighed in on racial bias within the criminal justice system.

Delaware Supreme Court Chief Justice Leo Strine said it's a deeply rooted issue that won't be fixed overnight.

"I do believe that our pervasive history of institutional racism has created huge structural problems in our society that we have far from remediated yet and we have a lot of time to go, to get the job done," he said.

The experts discussed the cycle of poverty among communities suffering from high rates of black men in prison.

Keynote Speaker Tamika Mallory said the Black Lives Matter movement is about finding justice for those communities.

"We want to matter in the same way you matter," she said.

The panel discussion was hosted by local civil rights groups who are generating support for death penalty repeal legislation in Delaware. The panel urged communities to continue the conversation about race and criminal justice reform.

(source: WDEL news)


5 Things Wrong With Georgia's Death Penalty ---- On the eve of the next execution, a look at the state's history of bad lawyering and faulty evidence.

Since December 2014, Georgia has executed a man whose drunk lawyer bungled the case, a man with intellectual disabilities, a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder, and a woman who planned but did not actually commit murder.

On Thursday, the state will put to death a man who was not conclusively identified by DNA from the crime scene.

These cases are no outliers; they are emblematic of a particularly harsh time in our state's history when death sentences were handed out frequently despite substantive and procedural flaws. And they encapsulate what's wrong with capital punishment in Georgia.

Here, a closer look at those flaws.

Offering ineffective assistance of counsel

Georgia's statewide public defender office opened in 2005, and in the past 10 years, there has been a sharp decline in death sentences. Before 2005, however, the right to counsel was a crapshoot for capital defendants. Robert Wayne Holsey was convicted and sentenced to death in 1997 for armed robbery of a convenience store and the murder of a Baldwin County Sheriff's Deputy Will Robinson. Andy Prince was appointed to represent him. Prince chose not to present a defense based on Holsey's intellectual disability; he retained a psychologist but never presented evidence of any tests or opinions about Holsey's condition. Tests later confirmed that Holsey had an IQ of 70, a borderline intellectual disability diagnosis. If Prince had shown jurors that Holsey was intellectually disabled, his execution might have been barred under the Supreme Court's mandate in Atkins v. Virginia.

Prince drank a quart of vodka each night during Holsey's trial (he eventually was sentenced to prison and disbarred for his conduct in another case). He brought in an inexperienced attorney to assist him on the eve of the penalty phase and told her to handle mitigation issues. Prince was paid $3,500 by the state to hire a mitigation specialist but didn't do so. If he had, the jury might have learned that Holsey was beaten as a child for wetting the bed until he was 13 years old. A state court judge later found that Holsey had received ineffective assistance of counsel and ordered a new sentencing hearing. But the Georgia Supreme Court reversed that judge's ruling and reinstated Holsey's death sentence. Robert Wayne Holsey was executed December 9, 2014.

Executing veterans with mental illness

Andrew Brannan was a decorated Vietnam veteran who was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1998 murder of Laurens County Deputy Sheriff Kyle Dinkheller during a traffic stop. In Vietnam, Brannan saw many die, including 2 commanding officers, and had survivor's guilt during the following decades. His service records praise Brannan for outstanding conduct in a combat environment. Brannan had no criminal history and had been declared "100 % disabled" by the Veterans Administration due to PTSD in 1990 and bipolar disorder in 1996. Brannan had been living in a shack in the woods without water or electricity.

The traffic stop escalated wildly into a gunfight between Brannan and Deputy Dinkheller after Brannan became erratic and pulled a rifle from his car. The episode was recorded on the dashboard camera of the patrol vehicle. Deputy Dinkheller died at the scene. The jury never heard the details of Brannan's military service or heard from his VA psychiatrist about Brennan's PTSD - or that he had not taken his medication for several days before the crime. Andrew Brannan was executed on January 13, 2015.

Applying an impossibly high standard of proof for intellectual disability

Georgia made history in 1988 when it became the first state to ban the execution of people with intellectual disability (formerly known as mental retardation). But today, Georgia is the only state to require a defendant to prove his intellectual disability "beyond a reasonable doubt," a standard that has, predictably, proven nearly impossible to overcome. In 2002 when the Supreme Court decided in Atkins that it was unconstitutional to execute people with intellectual disability, Georgia maintained its high standard of proof while other states applied the lower, "preponderance of the evidence" standard.

Warren Hill was convicted and sentenced to death in 1991 for killing a fellow prisoner. The State's doctors quickly declared that Hill was not "mentally retarded," clearing the way for his execution. A decade later, however, they came forward and admitted they had been wrong; that Hill was intellectually disabled beyond a reasonable doubt. But procedural barriers prevented Hill's new diagnosis from ever being considered in Georgia's courts or federal courts. Warren Hill was executed on January 27, 2015.

Arbitrarily applying the death penalty

Kelly Gissendaner was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of her husband, Douglas Gissendaner, in 1997. While Gissendaner was legally culpable for murder, she was not the person who killed her husband; she was not even present at the crime scene. Her boyfriend agreed to carry out the planned killing, and now is serving a life sentence. He is eligible for parole in 7 years, because he made a deal with prosecutors. Gissendaner's death sentence was the 1st since the reinstatement of the death penalty in Georgia in 1976 in which a person who did not commit the murder was sentenced to death.

While incarcerated, Gissendaner was a model prisoner, helping fellow inmates who were contemplating suicide. Her case for parole garnered support from Pope Francis and Former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Norman Fletcher, who has recently opposed the death penalty. The Board of Pardons and Paroles heard a renewed request for clemency and pleas from her children to spare her life. Her request was denied. Kelly Gissendaner was executed on September 30, 2015.

Scheduling executions despite inconclusive DNA evidence

Marcus Ray Johnson was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Angela Sizemore in 1994. Johnson's conviction rests on dubious eyewitness testimony and inconclusive physical evidence. The blood on the ground at the site where she was murdered was never tested, for example, and none of Johnson's DNA was found inside or near the car where her body was found.

Johnson was first scheduled to be executed in 2011 but he was granted a stay after police belatedly turned over new biological evidence from the murder scene. That evidence was tested but was not conclusively linked to Johnson. At that hearing, a forensic pathologist also testified that the pocket knife, which prosecutors claimed was the murder weapon, did not test positive for blood and did not match the victim's wounds. Johnson's new trial motion was nevertheless denied. A request for clemency has been made to the Board of Pardons and Paroles, who will hear his case on November 18. His execution is scheduled for November 19, 2015.



Abbeville man receives 2nd indictment on 1st-degree murder

An Abbeville man already jailed on a 1st-degree murder charge faces a 2nd count after a grand jury indicted him in a 2nd killing.

A Vermilion Parish grand jury on Monday handed down a 1st-degree murder indictment against Derrick "Deebo" Mitchell, 24, in the Dec. 7, 2012, shooting death of Kyle Trahan, the 15th Judicial District Attorney's Office said.

The killing happened days before the Dec. 20, 2012, shooting death of Darrell Broussard Jr., in which Mitchell was indicted earlier this year.

Mitchell was apprehended in California in September some 6 months after he was mistakenly released from a Tensas Parish prison. He's since been held at the Vermilion Parish jail without bond and could face the death penalty if convicted in either case.

(source: The Advocate)


Suspected serial killer no longer wants to represent himself

A man charged in the strangling deaths of 2 women has decided not to represent himself in his upcoming capital trial, according to court records.

Darren Vann, 44, of Gary, was scheduled to appear Wednesday before Lake Criminal Court Judge Diane Boswell after he wrote to the court indicating he wanted to represent himself.

One of Vann's defense attorneys, Gojko Kasich, filed a motion to cancel the hearing along with an affidavit that Vann no longer wants to represent himself, according to online court records. Boswell then canceled the hearing.

Vann is scheduled to appear in court again Dec. 18, and his trial is slated to start Jan. 25.

He faces murder charges in the homicides of Afrika Hardy, 19, and Anith Jones, 35, of Merrillville. The Lake County prosecutor's office is seeking the death penalty against him.

Hardy was found dead Oct. 17, 2014, in a bathtub at a Motel 6 in Hammond. According to court records, Hardy met Vann through an online escort service.

Vann allegedly admitted to killing Hardy along with 6 other women whose bodies were left in abandoned buildings in Gary, police said.

Jones was found Oct. 18, 2014, in an abandoned building in the 400 block of East 43rd Street in Gary. Vann told detectives a mutual friend offered him money and drugs to make Jones disappear, according to the affidavit.

Vann has not been charged in the homicides of the other women. The women are Teaira Batey, Tanya Gatlin, Sonya Billingsley, Tracy L. Martin and Kristine Williams.


NEVADA----new death sentence

Man sentenced to death in 2013 Lyon County killing-arson spree

A 27-year-old ex-convict was sentenced to death Tuesday for killing 5 people in northern Nevada during a Mother's Day weekend murder spree in 2013. Jeremiah Diaz Bean's fate had been decided in August by a state court in Yerington.

It was made official by Lyon County District Court Judge John Paul Schlegelmilch, who also imposed maximum consecutive penalties totaling 78 to 195 years for Bean's other convictions including arson, robbery, burglary, auto theft and theft using a firearm.

Bean was found guilty in July of fatally shooting Robert Pape and Dorothy Pape, both 84, in May 2013 in one Fernley home, and Angie Duff, 67, and Lester Leiber, 69, at a house around the corner.

The jury found him guilty of fatally shooting newspaper deliveryman Eliazar Graham, 52, of Sparks, at an I-80 exit near the Mustang Ranch brothel east of Reno.

Bean had been convicted of an unrelated burglary in January 2011 in Lyon County. His probation was revoked 6 months later. He was jailed for about a year and his parole expired in December 2012.

Bean initially agreed to plead guilty in the 2013 slayings in a plea deal that would have spared him the death penalty. He changed his mind in November 2013 and stood trial this year.

A prosecutor told the jury that Bean robbed and killed his victims to get cash to party on a Friday night, and he set the Pape home afire to try to destroy the evidence.

Bean's defense attorney argued that Bean wasn't the only person to blame for the killings.

Bean becomes the 81st inmate on death row at Ely State Prison.

The last execution in Nevada was Daryl Linnie Mack in 2006.

(source: Associated Press)


Suspect in siblings' deaths could face death penalty----Defendant "destroyed a family within minutes," prosecutor said.

A man charged in the shooting deaths of 2 siblings in Southcrest earlier this month was treated "as a family member" by the people he is accused of killing, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

Felipe DeJesus Vega Meza, 38, was arrested last week after he was wounded during a SWAT standoff in City Heights. He is accused of killing Arline Iribe, 20, and her brother Alexis Velarde, 22.

The pair were killed outside a home at Newton Avenue and South 43rd Street on Nov. 8. Police said Velarde had tried to shield his sister from the gunfire.

On Tuesday, Vega pleaded not guilty in San Diego Superior Court to 2 counts of murder and gun-use allegations. Because he also faces a special-circumstance allegation of multiple murders, prosecutors have the option of seeking the death penalty.

The District Attorney's Office had not yet announced whether it would seek Vega's execution or life in prison without the possibility of parole. Such decisions are usually made after a preliminary hearing has been held, and a judge has determined whether prosecutors have enough evidence for the case to go to trial.

At Vega's arraignment, Judge David Szumowski ordered the defendant to remain held in county jail on a no-bail status and appointed the Public Defender's Office to represent him in court. Vega is a Mexican citizen.

Deputy District Attorney Amy Maund told the judge that a sequence of events before the shooting made the defendant angry and he "wouldn't let it go." At some point, Iribe had enough and tried to leave the home where the shooting took place, but the defendant would not let her go.

She called her brother, who tried to protect her, when Vega opened fire, the prosecutor said.

"He destroyed the family within minutes," Maund said. She told the judge that the victims were particularly vulnerable because they knew the defendant and had treated him like family for years.

A warrant was issued for Vega's arrest. Police spotted his car, a green 1998 Oldsmobile Cutlass, Thursday night in Southcrest, not far from where the killings occurred. A 20-minute pursuit ensued, during which the driver tossed a handgun out of the car and onto Interstate 805.

The gun was recovered.

The pursuit ended in City Heights, where police blocked him in at an apartment complex carport on Van Dyke Avenue at Myrtle Street. Police said he got out of the car about 12:20 a.m. and reached for his waistband while turning toward officers and crisis negotiators.

An officer fired a round at Vega, hitting him in his chest.

(source: San Digo Union-Tribune)


Washington Legislature should move to end the death penalty ---- The Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys has the right idea to push for direction on the death penalty. The final decision should rest with Olympia lawmakers, who need to exhibit moral leadership, take a vote and say no to capital punishment.

Washington's death penalty is an albatross - a massively expensive punishment, applied unevenly, that needs to be abolished.

The Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys has the right idea. Sensing a shift in public opinion, the group, whose membership is split, sent a letterto the Legislature asking that a referendum on the death penalty be sent to voters in 2016.

A better idea is for lawmakers to take up this issue, explore the waste of public resources and inequity in its application, and pass a law repealing the death penalty. Gov. Jay Inslee, who announced a moratorium on executions during his tenure, has said that he would sign it.

Bills with bipartisan support have been introduced in Olympia. But so far, none have even squeaked out of committee. A ballot measure that fails could set this abolition movement back.

40 years ago, Washingtonians voted for Initiative 316 to support capital punishment. As the prosecutors note in their statement, most residents today didn't participate in that election. This is a tough issue for public servants who've seen the worst of the worst and work to comfort the families of murder victims. The prosecutors are not taking a formal position, pro or con. Instead, as they write, we "want to know that when we embark on the long and difficult process of capital punishment for the worst crimes inflicted upon our community that we are doing so with the support and approval of the people we represent."

In 2 recent, horrific cases, King County juries have opted against the death penalty. Joseph McEnroe, who murdered 6 members of his girlfriend's family in 2007, including a 3-year-old and a 6-year-old, was spared. So, too, was Christopher Monfort, who murdered Seattle police officer Timothy Brenton on Halloween night 2009.

King County, like Pierce and Snohomish counties, still has the resources to seek the death penalty. According to a Seattle University study, capital cases in Washington cost an extra $1 million on average. In practice that means defendants are much more likely to face the death penalty if the crime is committed in a wealthier county. It's an arbitrary version of justice by geography.

Inslee's 2014 moratorium did not settle the question. State Attorney General Bob Ferguson still defends the state against cases brought by death-row inmates challenging their sentences. And a prosecutor anywhere in the state could seek a death-penalty case tomorrow.

Washington thankfully isn't burdened with some of the systemic death-penalty outrages that characterize other states, from racial disparity to prosecutorial misconduct. And most of those executed in the state over the last three decades have told their attorneys not to bother with appeals. 18 men in Washington have had their death-penalty sentences reversed by appellate courts.

State lawmakers should take a stand.

(source: Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Brier Dudley, Mark Higgins, Jonathan Martin, Thanh Tan, Blanca Torres, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus)----Seattle Times)


Donald Fell fights death penalty law

A Vermont man facing the federal death penalty for the 2000 killing of a woman abducted from outside a Rutland supermarket is asking a judge to declare the death penalty law unconstitutional, court documents say.

In documents filed in federal court Monday, attorneys for Donald Fell argue the federal death penalty is unreliable, arbitrary and adds "unconscionably long" delays in cases. "Most places within the United States have abandoned its use under evolving standards of decency," the attorneys say.

They contend that U.S. Supreme Court justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg earlier this year "issued a clarion call for reconsideration of the constitutionality of the death penalty."

It also noted that the Connecticut Supreme Court, relying largely on Breyer and Ginsburg's arguments, found that state's death penalty unconstitutional.

"Mr. Fell asks this Court to (rule)... that the federal death penalty, in and of itself, constitutes a legally prohibited cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by both the Fifth and Eighth Amendments," his filing said.

Fell, 35, was convicted and sentenced to death in 2005 for the 2000 killing of Terry King, a 53-year-old North Clarendon grandmother who was abducted in Rutland and later killed. A judge last year ordered a new trial for Fell because of juror misconduct during the original trial.

The trial is scheduled for next fall.

U.S. Attorney Eric Miller said his office would respond to the defense filings at the appropriate time.

Vermont has no state death penalty; Fell was sentenced to death under federal law.

In 2002, the judge then hearing the case declared the federal death penalty unconstitutional. But 2 years later, an appeals court overturned that ruling, allowing the trial to go forward.

Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said a decade's worth of data has accumulated showing the legal problems with the federal death penalty since the ruling allowing Fell's case to go forward.

There's more evidence the federal death penalty is overwhelmingly applied in Southern states that have state death penalties, and there are significant racial disparities in the application of the federal death penalty as well, Dunham said.

"You can expect going forward that there will be constitutional challenges of this type filed in most, if not all, federal capital prosecutions," Dunham said.

(source: Burlington Free Press)


Survey offers insights into Japan's death-row inmates' thoughts, feelings and fears

For death-row inmates in Japan, contact with the outside world through visits and the exchange of letters makes life worth living, if only for another day, as they reflect on their crimes or pursue the possibility of retrials.

As one might expect, a questionnaire survey found the biggest pleasure for inmates awaiting execution is contact with family and friends. It also revealed that nearly 80 % of the respondents were either appealing for retrials or planning to do so.

The nationwide survey conducted by an anti-death penalty group called Forum 90 and Mizuho Fukushima, a House of Councilors member of the Social Democratic Party, found that issues such as the treatment of certain medical conditions, and the obvious fear of facing a literal gallows, weighed heavily on their minds.

Others expressed remorse for their crimes and apologies to the victims' families.

The questionnaires were sent out in May to 129 death-row inmates, of whom 73 responded. Fukushima is a senior member of a group of multiparty lawmakers seeking the abolition of the death penalty.

Among the respondents, 50 said they are seeking retrials, while eight more plan to do so.

Asked about their greatest pleasures, 20 cited meeting with visitors, 19 said writing and receiving letters, and 17 said watching DVDs and videos, which they are permitted to do on a periodic basis.

Although most have visitors or engage in correspondence, 13 admitted to having no visitors, while five were not involved in writing letters, and indicated their loneliness.

60 complained of health problems, with 1 inmate saying it is difficult to receive proper treatment for dentures, while another inmate complained of a lack of physical exercise. Many said they regularly receive medical treatment or medication for high blood pressure, backaches and prostate diseases.

Regarding the food they most want to eat, with multiple answers allowed, 10 said noodles, 9 answered sweets, such as cakes, and 8 indicated sushi.

The oldest respondent was 83 years old, while the youngest was 30.

It was the 3rd survey of death-row inmates by Forum 90 and Fukushima, following those conducted in 2008 and 2011. The survey also provides a section for comments.

A 68-year-old man involved in a mass murder case by a radical sect in the early 1970s noted, "Our life continues even if the death penalty on us has been finalized.

"We are making efforts to improve our own personal qualities, while considering why we committed crimes and how we could prevent others from making the same mistakes."

The man criticized the system of capital punishment for condemning death-row inmates for the crimes they committed in the past without acknowledging the work they have done to improve themselves since that time.

"The Justice Ministry announces immediately after executions the details of crimes the hanged inmates committed so it can condemn them for who they were at the time of their crimes," he said.

A 57-year-old man said, "I was scared for the past 10 years as I imagined myself on the gallows and hanged. But the fear stirred a feeling that I'm living, with blood running through my veins."

Given the circumstances, he added, he gradually began to accept his fate.

"I dreamed of the abolition of the death penalty, but at the same time I thought it would not be terminated while I'm alive," he said. "I leave the dream as it is ... I have no regrets about this world."

A 45-year-old inmate convicted of involvement in the sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system as a member of the Aum Shinrikyo cult contributed a poem titled "Sinner."

Calling himself "an absolutely ungrateful child" in the poem, he lamented his powerlessness to support his aging parents. He said he felt crushed by the weight of the crimes he committed.

"I cannot go back into the past ... I am a sinner who stands alone on a cliff," he wrote.

Taku Fukada, a member of Forum 90, said the group hopes to continue conducting the survey "as a way to enable death-row inmates to convey what they are thinking to the outside world."

The government hanged a death-row inmate in June, bringing the total number of executions under the second administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which began in December 2012, to 12.

The U.N. Human Rights Committee urged Japan last year to "give due consideration to the abolition of the death penalty."

In defense of the status quo, the government has mainly cited the outcome of a survey that indicated more than 80 % of people in Japan support the death penalty.

But a recent study by researchers found that the death penalty is not as deeply entrenched in Japan as previously claimed, and that some people change their minds, particularly after being exposed to more information on the subject.

According to human rights group Amnesty International, 140 countries, or about 70 % of all nations in the world, had abolished the death penalty by law or in practice as of the end of 2014. In 2014, only 22 countries, including Japan, continued to execute inmates.

(source: The Japan Times)


Airport Police thwart drug deal worth Rp 39 billion

Soekarno-Hatta International Airport Police thwarted a drug transaction worth Rp 39 billion (US$2.84 million) that was taking place between a courier and a dealer who usually operates around Greater Jakarta.

Soekarno-Hatta Police anti-narcotics unit chief Adj. Comr. Martua Raja Silitonga said the police had already arrested the 2 suspects, the courier identified as NR, 36, and the dealer SD, 34, for further investigation.

"We already arrested the 2 suspects," he said on Tuesday.

In the course of the arrest, police confiscated 1,012 grams of methamphetamine, 2,944 grams of ketamine, 61,251 ecstasy pills and 4,196 strips of erimin-5, also known as Happy Five, according to Soekarno-Hatta Police chief Sr. Adj. Comr. Roycke Langie.

He said that the police confiscated all the drugs from two houses in West Jakarta, but the deal was made in Grogol, West Jakarta.

"We received a tip-off that a drug deal would be conducted at the airport, but then we learned from our investigation that the deal was moved to an area in Grogol," he said, adding that the police could only arrest NR in the 1st raid on Tuesday last week because SD was not present at the location.

"We arrested NR and confiscated 50 ecstasy pills," he said.

Roycke said the police then raided NR's house and found another 42 ecstasy pills and 2 grams of meth.

He went on to say that the police arrested SD the next day, Nov. 11, after they asked NR to call SD to meet for another deal.

"We arrested SD at a gas station around Jembatan Lima in Tambora, West Jakarta. We confiscated 300 ecstasy pills from him," he said, adding that the police then brought SD to his rented house in Grogol where they found the rest of the drugs.

The police are currently hunting another suspect, identified as SM, who allegedly acted as a middleman, according to Roycke, adding that based on the 2 suspects' confessions all the drugs were supplied by syndicates from China and Malaysia.

He said that the 2 suspects made the deal this month so they could distribute all the drugs in time for New Year's Eve parties.

"The drugs were sent to Indonesia via courier services and the suspects have collected them for 3 months," he said, adding that the suspects deceived the services by hiding the drugs inside food boxes.

"For example, we found 300 ecstasy pills hidden inside baby-milk boxes," Maratua said as quoted by

According to Roycke, the 2 suspects will be charged with Article 113 of the 2009 Narcotics Law, which carries a penalty of capital punishment, should the suspects be found guilty.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Indonesia is being used as a major hub for drug trafficking by transnational organized crime groups.

That is why the Indonesian government says it has intensified its war against drug trafficking that is at what it calls "an emergency level" by continuing its use of the death penalty on drug traffickers, despite mounting pressure from the international community to put an end to the practice.

Last week, the West Jakarta District Court sentenced Hong Kong drug kingpin Wong Chi Ping and his Indonesian associate Ahmad Salim Wijaya to death for possessing 862 kilograms of drugs.

The government claims that drug abuse kills an average 40 people every day and estimates the number of drug addicts will total 5.8 million people this year.



Groom discovers bride isn't a virgin, eats genitals of her rapist

2 Indonesian newlyweds have been arrested on accusations they plotted to kill a man the woman said had raped her a week before her marriage, and police said Tuesday the couple ate the victim's genitals after the man was killed.

Lampung police spokeswoman Lt. Col. Sulistyaningsih said Rudi Effendi and his wife Nuriah were being held for further investigation after their arrests Sunday at their house in Tulang Bawang district in Sumatra's Lampung province.

Sulistyaningsih, who uses one name, said police found the victim's body in a burnt minivan Oct. 4. She said the monthlong investigation led to the conclusion that the couple had planned to kill the victim, who was a driver for a travel agency.

The couple had married in September and the husband found on the wedding night that his wife was no longer a virgin. She then said she had been raped 1 week before the marriage.

Police said Effendi, 30, asked his 20-year-old wife to arrange a meeting with the man she accused of raping her. Effendi stabbed the man to death and cut off his genitals before setting ablaze the car.

Effendi said he fried the severed genitals and ate them to cure his heartache over the rape.

Official charges have not been filed. Police said the couple could be charged with premeditated murder, which carries a maximum death penalty.

(source: Associated Press)


'Deceased' death row grandma found alive and well

A 72-year-old woman turned herself in to police Tuesday after allegedly faking her own death to escape the death penalty.

Juree Jan-ngam, who had been sentenced to die for the contract killing of her son's fiancee 8 years ago, turned herself in at the Crime Suppression Division in Bangkok after police were closing in on her whereabouts, nearly 2 years after she allegedly faked her death and disappeared.

In 2007, Juree was accused of hiring someone to murder Riewprae Chotikarn, who was 3-months pregnant with Juree's grandson and was set to marry her son, Wikrom Jan-Ngam. Juree, a wealthy Songkhla businesswoman, reportedly disapproved of her son marrying Riewprae. The hit went down in a clinic, and Riewprae's assistant was also cut down in the gunfire.



5 suspects arrested, more than S$158,000 of drugs seized in raid----The Central Narcotics Bureau seized about 1.56kg of heroin and 1.12kg of cannabis, among other drugs, during an operation on Tuesday (Nov 17).

According to a press release on Wednesday, CNB said its officers were deployed in the vicinity of Kembangan, where a local drug trafficker was believed to be waiting for a fresh consignment of drugs. They then trailed the suspected trafficker, 57, after he boarded the car driven by a 37-year-old Malaysian suspected to be a drug courier.

When he alighted, the officers arrested the Singaporean and recovered about 1.36kg of heroin and 1kg of cannabis from a paper bag he was holding. He had a further 200g of heroin, 120g of cannabis, 146 Ecstasy tablets, nine Erimin-5 tablets and a "small amount" of Ice on him, a further search revealed. They also found about S$2,600 in cash on him.

CNB officers then raided the 57-year-old's hideout in Siglap Road and arrested a 35-year-old female Singaporean, who is suspected to be a drug abuser and had about 5g of Ice on her. About 110g of ketamine and some methadone were also recovered from the unit, the CNB added.

Seperately, another group of officers followed the Malaysian drug courier to Jurong, where he was arrested after alighting from the car. Cash of more than S$5,000 and some Malaysian currency was recovered from him, CNB said.

Follow-up investigations also led to the capture of a suspected drug syndicate leader, 28, in Tampines. He is believed to be coordinating drug consignments for local drug traffickers. A 25-year-old Singaporean female, his suspected associate, was arrested too, the agency added.

Investigations into the drug activities are ongoing. The Misuse of Drugs Act provides for the death penalty if the amount of diamorphine, or pure heroin, trafficked exceeds 15g. Those convicted of trafficking in more than 500g of cannabis may also face the death penalty, the press release noted.



Suhakam lauds proposal to remove mandatory death penalty

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has lauded the proposal to abolish the mandatory death sentence for drug-related offences.

Its chairman Tan Sri Hasmy Agam said Suhakam believed the positive development would place Malaysia on par with many other nations that have lately begun to take the step to abolish the mandatory death sentence.

"Suhakam hopes that the proposal for the amendment will be submitted quickly to Parliament, and while waiting for the decision, a suspension of all offences bringing the death sentence be implemented," he said in a statement on Wednesday.

He also urged the government to review crime laws to ensure that if a death sentence was imposed for an offence, it must only be for the most serious crimes as defined in International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

He said Suhakam also recommended that Malaysia joined ICCPR and the Second Choice Protocol and endeavoured towards abolishing the death sentence in Malaysia, subsequently joining about 140 of 193 nations in the United Nations which had done away with the death sentence or had introduced a moratorium in law or in practice.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Nancy Shukri was reported as saying on Tuesday that the government planned to introduce a bill to abolish the mandatory death sentence for several heavy crimes especially those related to drug offences and possession of firearms.

Nancy said the bill, which was expected to be tabled in the Dewan Rakyat in March next year, would return the punishments on offenders to the discretion of the judge.

(source: The Star)


Malaysian govt wants mandatory death penalty abolished

The Malaysian government wants to abolish the mandatory death sentence for drug-related offences and says the punishment should be left to the discretion of the judge, The Star Online reported, citing an official.

Nancy Shukri, the Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, said the government was looking to table this motion during the next Parliament seating in March.

Nancy said that their aim was to abolish the word "mandatory" from laws for drug-related offences and leave the sentence to the discretion of the judge. She said there were now a total of 1,022 convicts on death row.

Asked if she found death sentences effective to curb with crime, Nancy said, "It doesn't help". "We need to find other ways like education, motivation or something else," she added.

She pointed out that the removal of the mandatory death sentence did not mean that drug offenders would walk off scot-free, adding that they would face other sentences such as life imprisonment.

At present, those convicted of crimes related to drugs, firearm offences, murder and treason face the mandatory death penalty.

Last Friday, Attorney-General Tan Sri Apandi Ali said he would propose to the Cabinet that the mandatory death penalty be scrapped. He said mandatory death sentences were a "paradox" as it robbed judges of their discretion to impose sentences on convicted criminals.



Suhakam urges moratorium on executions pending death penalty review

Lauding Putrajaya's plan to abolish the mandatory death penalty in drug-related offences, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) urged for a moratorium on all executions for the time being.

Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Hasmy Agam also urged for the proposed amendments to the law to be taken to Parliament soon.

In a statement, Hasmy described the government's plan as a positive development that will bring Malaysia's position on the issue closer to many countries that have abolished the mandatory death sentence in recent years.

"The commission recommends that the government consider acceding to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and its Second Optional Protocol, and to aim towards the eventual abolition of the death penalty in Malaysia, joining approximately 140 of the 193 United Nations Member States that have abolished the death penalty or introduced moratoriums, either in law or in practice," Hasmy added.

He also suggested that the government review all criminal laws to ensure that the death penalty, if imposed, is applicable only to the most serious crimes as defined by Article 6(2) of the ICCPR.

Yesterday, de facto law minister Nancy Shukri said that Putrajaya planned to table a bill in March next year to abolish the mandatory death penalty in drug-related offences.

She had said this would allow judges to use their discretion to choose between sentencing a person to jail and the gallows in non-criminal cases, such as drug-related offences.

"What we are looking at is the abolition of the mandatory death sentence. It is not easy to amend and we are working on it.

"We can get rid of the word 'mandatory' to allow judges to use their discretion in drug-related offences," she reportedly said.

Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali had told The Malaysian Insider in an exclusive interview recently that he would propose to the Cabinet that the mandatory death penalty be scrapped, adding that it was a "paradox", as it robbed judges of their discretion to impose sentences on convicted criminals.

"If I had my way, I would introduce the option for the judge in cases where it involves capital punishment. Give the option to the judge either to hang him or send him to prison.

"Then we're working towards a good administration of criminal justice," Apandi told The Malaysian Insider.

He said that this would be in line with the "universal thinking" of capital punishment, although he denied calling for the death penalty to be abolished altogether.



Ekiti Assembly to Pass Law Prescribing Death Penalty for Kidnappers

Members of the Ekiti State House of Assembly have moved to pass a bill to make kidnappers die by hanging in the state.

Expressing serious views over the twin menace of kidnapping and terrorism in the country, the assembly also moves to stipulate penalty for those who pay ransom to these evil doers.

To this end, 2 of the 3 laws that were deliberated upon at the assembly's plenary yesterday dwelt on curbing of crimes that has to do with kidnapping that has become a source of revenues for some criminals.

They were Office of the Public Defender Bill (2015) and Ekiti State Kidnap and Terrorism (Prohibition) Bill (2015.

Both successfully passed 2nd reading and were passed to the appropriate committees to scrutinise for final passage.

The plenary, presided over by the Speaker, Hon. Kola Oluwawole, witnessed a robust debate by members on the matters.

Presenting the bills from the order paper, Deputy Leader of Business, Hon. Adeniran Alagbada, lamented the trauma victims of kidnap and their family members are often subjected to.

Also speaking on the Public Defender Bill, the Chairman, House Committee on information, Hon. Olugboyega Aribisogan, noted that the bill would afford the poor who lack financial capability to pursue their cases the opportunity to access justice.

In the same vein, the Chairman, House Committee on Health, Dr. Babajide Omotoso; Hon. Akinleye Ekundayo, Hon. Titilayo

Owolabi-Akerele, Hon. Wale Ayeni and Ayodele Fajemilehin, who also contributed to the motions on the floor, described the bills as those that would have direct positive bearing on the lives of the people of the state.

Another law, Ekiti State College of Technical and Commercial Agriculture Repeal Bill (2015), had earlier passed through 1st reading.

Ex-Governor Kayode Fayemi had earlier signed the bill into law to enhance the establishment of a School of Agriculture in his Isan Ekiti country home, which the assembly thought would have to be abrogated due to poor financial status of the state.



HC upholds death penalty for 2010 rape, murder of 6-yr-old

The Bombay High Court has confirmed the death sentence given to a 24-year-old youth for raping, sodomising and then brutally murdering a 6-year-old girl in Bhayander in 2010. Observing that society today, especially after the Nirbhaya case, seeks tough punishment to those who sexually assault women, a division bench of acting chief justice Vijaya Kapse-Tahilramani and Justice Ajay Gadkari held that Prakash Nishad, originally a resident of Uttar Pradesh, should hang till death for his crime.

"The sentiment of the society is glaringly explicit, that such heinous crime on helpless women are required to be dealt with an iron hand," said the judges, adding, "The pain and agony the accused must have caused to the deceased minor girl is beyond imagination and is the limit of viciousness. The motivation of the accused, the vulnerability of the victim girl, the barbaric and inhuman nature of the crime and the execution thereof persuade us to hold that this is a 'rarest of rare' case where the sentence of death is eminently desirable not only to deter others from committing such atrocious crimes and to prevent the accused from committing such acts for all times to come but also to give emphatic expression to society's abhorrence of such crime."

The case dates back to June 11, 2010, when the girl, who lived with her family in Bhayander, went missing when she stepped out to play after dinner. The next day her naked body was found in the gutter. The medical report revealed she had been raped and strangled to death. The police investigation led to Nishad's house, where the team found blood-stained tiles in the room. Nishad was questioned and led the police to his blood-stained clothes as well as the victim's undergarments that he had hid in the house. Tests established that the blood group on the clothes matched that of the girl. A sessions court in November 2014 convicted Nishad for committing rape, unnatural sex and murder and sentenced him to death. Nishad, in his appeal before the HC, claimed he had been falsely implicated. The HC disbelieved his claims and discussed in detail if the death penalty should be confirmed in the case. The judges referred to the changes in the rape laws as well as the new Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act and said that "keeping in mind the rising graph of sexual offences and especially of sexual offences against children and public outcry in relation to the same, the sentencing policy now needs to be shaped".

(source: The Times of India)


SC issues arrest warrants for PML-N MNA

The Supreme Court issued on Wednesday arrest warrants for Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) MNA Chaudhry Abid Raza for involvement in the murder of 6 people in Gujrat.

The PML-N MNA who had won NA-107 Gujrat 4 election during the May 2013 general elections was awarded death penalty by an anti-terrorism court (ATC) in 2003. However, Raza was acquitted after the families of the deceased forgave him on the basis of compromise.

Official results: PML-N secures 7 seats in NA

A 3-judge bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, while hearing the case related to Raza's disqualification, took notice over his acquittal in terrorism charges. The bench stated that a compromise for a case under Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 (ATA) is not allowed.

Arrest warrants were issued for Raza despite arguments put forward by his advocate, Ali Zafar.

The hearing of the case has been adjourned for 2 weeks.

Chaudhry Abid Raza was convicted in the murder case of 6 people during an assassination bid on former Gujrat Tehsil Nazim and ex-MPA Ghulam Sarwar Bhooch back in 1998.

(source: The Express Tribune)


Bangladeshi Supreme Court Rejects Appeals Of 2 Senior Leaders Convicted Of War Crimes, Upholds Death Sentence

Bangladesh's Supreme Court Wednesday rejected appeals of 2 senior opposition leaders convicted of war crimes during the country's 1971 war of independence against Pakistan. The court also upheld the death sentences given to the 2 leaders.

Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid of Jamaat-e-Islami were convicted in 2013 by a war crimes tribunal on charges related to rape, torture and genocide.

"There are no legal hurdles to execute the war criminals now," Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said, according to Indo-Asian News Service agency.

Authorities stepped up security in capital Dhaka and other parts of the country after the apex court's announcement, according to local media. Jamaat-e-Islami called a shutdown Thursday to protest the court's decision, according to the Associated Press. The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Authority said in a statement that it blocked social media sites including Facebook, Viber and WhatsApp indefinitely to cease any propaganda that might lead to violence in the country, the AP reported.

Chowdhury and Mujahid can seek presidential mercy. "It is up to them whether they want to seek mercy or not," defense counsel Khandaker Mahbub Hossain said, according to Reuters.

In October 2013, the country's International Crimes Tribunal sentenced the 66-year-old BNP leader to death for 9 of 23 charges, including 4 counts of genocide. Chowdhury was found guilty of killing 200 civilians, mostly Hindus, in Chittagong. At the time, his party maintained that the trial was politically motivated. It is estimated that nearly 3 million people were killed in the 9-month Bangladesh Liberation War that ended in December 1971. Over 15 people, mostly Jamaat-e-Islami leaders, were convicted of war crimes by 2 separate tribunals set up by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in 2010.



Bangladesh suspends net services after verdict on war criminals

The death penalty for 2 opposition leaders was upheld by the Supreme Court for war crimes committed during 1971 independence war against Pakistan.

Bangladesh on Wednesday shut down Facebook and messaging and voicecall services Viber and WhatsApp fearing violence by supporters of 2 opposition leaders whose death penalty was upheld by the Supreme Court for war crimes committed during 1971 independence war against Pakistan.

The 4-member bench led by Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha rejected the final review petitions of Jamaat-e-Islami Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leader Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury.

Immediately after the verdict, authorities shut down Facebook, Viber and WhatsApp aimed at preventing Jamaat supporters mobilising to protest against the ruling.

"We have taken steps to suspend the apps based internet services following the request from law enforcement agencies for security reasons," a Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission spokesman said.

He said the apps based services will remain suspended for an indefinite period until further orders from the government. Internet services were also suspended for over an hour.

Both Mujahid and Chowdhury are in their late 60s and were senior ministers in ex-prime minister Khaleda Zia's BNP-led coalition government with Jamaat being its key partner.

Wednesday's verdict had cleared the way for their execution and they were now left with the last option of seeking presidential clemency.

Bangladesh had overnight stepped up nationwide security amid fears of clashes after the verdict.

(source: Khaleej Times)


Bangladesh top court upholds death sentence to 2 1971 war crime convicts

Bangladesh's Supreme court on Wednesday upheld its previous verdict on the death sentence of 2 war-crime convicts Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid and Salauddin Quader Chowdhury.

The court rejected the pleas of Mujahid, secretary general of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami party, and Chowdhury, leader of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), to review death sentences for crimes against humanity during the country's war of independence in 1971, reported.

A bench of Chief Justice S.K. Sinha heard Mujahid's plea on Tuesday and Chowdhury's on Wednesday.

"There are no legal hurdles to execute the war criminals now," Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said after the verdict.

A special tribunal sentenced Mujahid to death on 17 July, 2013, for the murder of intellectuals and his involvement in the killing and torture of Hindus in 1971.

The former social welfare minister had appealed to the apex court, seeking the revocation of his death penalty but the bench upheld the tribunal verdict on June 16.

Chowdhury was sentenced to death by a War Crimes Tribunal on October 1, 2013, for the mass killing and torture of Hindus and Awami League supporters.

The bench had upheld Chowdhury's death penalty on July 29 after hearing his appeal against the tribunal decision.

Mujahid and Chowdhury are now left with the last option of seeking presidential clemency.



Prafulla: We want immediate execution

Prafulla Ranjan Sinha, son of Nutan Chandra Sinha, has expressed his satisfaction as the Supreme Court has upheld its previous verdict on BNP leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, rejecting his plea for reviewing death penalty for crimes against humanity during the Liberation War in 1971.

In an instant reaction over the verdict, Prafulla Ranjan Sinha told the Dhaka Tribune on Wednesday over phone that they were happy at the verdict.

"We are happy as the verdict was a long awaited one. However, we want immediate implementation of the verdict," said Prafulla who testified before the 1st war crimes tribunal against Salauddin Quader Chowdhury on June 20, 2012.

"We have been waiting agonisingly for 4 long decades for the trial. At long last the justice has been delivered," added Prafulla.

It may be mentioned that Nutan Chandra Sinha, a social worker, entrepreneur and philanthropist was born on December1, 1900. Nutan was a popular figure who he had played a great role in fostering education and social works in his locality by establishing a number of educational institutions, a post office and an herbal medicine factory-Sree Kundeshwari Aushadhalaya Ltd.

Acknowledging the philanthropic activities, Bangladesh government had published a stamp on Nutan Chandra Sinha on December 14, 1993. During the Liberation War in 1971, many people including teachers of Chittagong University and their families took refuge at the educational institutes founded by him.

The septuagenarian philanthropist was killed by Pakistani Army and their collaborators. On April 13, 1971, a group of army men led by Salauddin Quader Chowdhury stormed into the house of Nutan. The soldiers then sprayed bullets on him.

However, it was Salauddin who again shot him 2 to 3 times to ensure his death. Satya Ranjan Sinha, son of Nutan Chandra Sinha filed a case against Salauddin, his father Fazlul Quader Chowdhury and some others with Raozan police station in January 1972. However, the case did not proceed. Sharing his pain before the Tribunal, Prafulla then said: "I am such a hapless son that I could not even light the funeral pyre of my father."



Oishee and our penal culture

"The murderer has killed. It is wrong to kill. Let us kill the murderer" - Arthur Koestler, Drinkers of Infinity (1969).

Oishee Rahman has been found guilty of 'parricide'. The court is satisfied to hand out a death sentence to Oishee. Media reports suggest that the trial judge found the O'level student's offence as 'premeditated' and 'cool-headed'. The trial also came to the conclusion that Oishee had committed the crime with her 'full senses' and she was not in a 'drunken state of mind'. The defense lawyer's plea of Oishee's being a minor and under the influence of toxic elements also did not attain ground. We assume that the verdict will be appealed against and the findings of and the punishment inflicted by the trial court will be tested in the higher judiciary. However, the case being unusual and unique in nature involves extra-legal factors and as such attracts huge public attention from the beginning. We raise a few issues, considering the case's extra-judicial nature, in this short write-up.

The penal statutes by their very nature are rigid. Such rigidity is widely recognised in different jurisdictions. The judges hardly enjoy any freedom in interpreting such statutes. As such, when the commission of an offence is established, they have no other alternative but to strictly apply the provisions of the penal law. In spite of this, judges enjoy a good deal of discretionary power while sentencing given the nature, magnitude and impact of the crime committed. For example, the judge may provide a death sentence or life imprisonment, if somebody is found guilty of homicide. From that perspective, Oishee was considered by the trial court to be a fit case for death penalty as it seriously shocked and shook the conscience of the society. However, the social networks and media narratives suggest that many people see the issue with a flexible and reformist approach.

Oishee's case is not merely legal. It's a psycho-socio-legal matter. The case has brought to light our preparedness to establish a relationship between law and psychology. The discipline suggests a serious study about law's response to appreciate the psychological factors of the offender. Moreover, the discipline also invites attention to the factors that influence the characters of the court (ie. judges, lawyers) in reaching a conclusion. The discipline also permeates the study of the psychology of law in defining a crime and prescribing a particular punishment. We may need to revisit our penal law to see the possible influence of this approach in our penal culture.

Bangladeshi society is bombarded with the news of such crimes on a regular basis. As a result, the public mind favours rigorous punishments including death sentence for the wrongdoers. This social construction also comes from the frustration with the widely practiced culture of impunity that allows criminals to go scot-free. But even then, we cannot remain indifferent to the modern developments of law taking place globally and its cross-disciplinary implications.

The Oishee case also unfolds the necessity of revisiting the aim of our punitive culture. The reformation theory, that the law students are taught, has to have a meaning to our legal understanding. The judiciary should come forward in fashioning new penal jurisprudence against the old state of the colonial penal system. The Oishee case should not be confused with the crimes committed by repetitive wrongdoers. As such, there is scope to apply a reformative approach to the case. For, it is not clear what 'retributive' purpose the death sentence in this case is going to serve. The paradox and pathology of the death sentence is that nobody has better interest in Oishee's parents' lives than herself.

The defense's effort to save Oishee's death penalty largely revolved around proving her to be a 'minor' (below the age of 18). It may be that had they been able to prove that she was a minor, they at least would have been able to invoke the protection of a law that bars death sentence to children. It reminds us about the absence of strong legal arguments in attracting the court's attention to the suitability of death penalty in such psycho-socio-legal cases. It also lacks effort to bring the state machinery under accountability to provide reformist prison system. The legal fraternity should contribute in creating such an opportunity. At least it needs to establish a base for social dialogue. It, however, needs to be noted that the process of age determination in Bangladesh is seriously flawed and largely administrative in nature. We hope that all relevant considerations along with this aspect of the case will be debated in the apex court.

The Oishee case is a question, not an answer. It's a wake-up call for the society constantly changing. Apart from that the case also got its meaning from our penal system, law and legal culture. It has posed a challenge for the judiciary to fashion a reasoned, balanced and reformist penal jurisprudence. Here, we recall Gabriel Mistral's oft-quoted saying: "We are guilty of many errors and many faults, but our worst crime is abandoning the children, neglecting the foundation of life. Many of the things we need can wait, the child cannot, right now is his time- his bones are being formed, his blood is being made and his senses are being developed. To him, we cannot answer 'tomorrow'. His name is 'Today'."

(source: S M Masum Billah and Saeed Ahsan Khalid -- The writers are studying PhD at the VUW, New Zealand and teach law at the University of Chittagong, Bangladesh respectively; The Star)


5 to die for killing minor boy in Jamalpur

A court here yesterday sentenced 5 people to death for killing a minor boy after abduction in Sadar upazila in 2001.

The death penalty awardees are Tofayel Islam Hira, 35 his father Lokman Ali, 57, of Dariahamidpur village; Anwar Hossain, 37, his father Aynul Haq, 60, and Sohel Rana alias Shipon, 36, of Nandina Kharkharia village in the upazila.

According to the prosecution, there was a family feud between Lokman and his brother Lutfur Rahman. As a sequel to that, Lokman's son Hira with the help of Sohel and Anwar picked up Muttasim Billah, 7, son of Lutfur Rahman, an expatriate in USA, from in front of his house at Amlapara in the district town on May 31, 2001.

Later, they took Muttasim to Aynul's house at Nandina Kharkharia village and strangled him.

Following a general diary (GD) filed by Muttasim's family with Sadar Police Station, police arrested Shipon. On the basis of his confessional statement, law enforcers recovered Muttasim's body from a room of Aynul's house 80 days after the murder.

Muttasim's maternal uncle filed a case, accusing with Jamalpur Police Station, accusing Hira, Lokman, Anwar, Aynul, Sohel, and Faruk. After investigation, police pressed charges against the 6.

After examining the records and witnesses, Additional District and Sessions Judge Mohammed Waheduzzaman Shikdar handed down the verdict, acquitting Faruk as allegation brought against him could not be proved.

(source: The Daily Star)

NOVEMBER 17, 2015:

GEORGIA----impending execution

Lawyer: Doubts Remain About Georgia Death Row Inmate's Guilt

A lawyer for a Georgia death row inmate says his client shouldn't be executed this week because doubts remain about his guilt.

Marcus Ray Johnson is set for execution Thursday. He was convicted in April 1998 in the March 1994 rape and murder of Angela Sizemore.

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles plans to hold a clemency hearing for Johnson on Wednesday.

Brian Kammer, an attorney for Johnson, has asked the board to commute Johnson's sentence or to at least delay his execution for 90 days to allow for additional DNA testing that he says could prove his client didn't kill Sizemore.

Dougherty County District Attorney Greg Edwards, who was a prosecutor in the case, said the defense theories have been discredited and there is no doubt about Johnson's guilt.

(source: Associated Press)


Condemned Georgia man asks for six-pack with last meal; prison says no

Marcus Ray Johnson, scheduled to die by lethal injection Thursday evening, asked for a 6-pack of beer with his last meal, but prison officials turned him down.

Georgia Department of Corrections officials disclosed Johnson's request on Tuesday. With beer out of the question, Johnson said he just wants the same dinner that everyone else on Death Row will be served that night: baked fish and cheese grits, officials said.

Also on Tuesday, Johnson's lawyer pressed his claims that Georgia was about to execute an innocent man, while the state's attorney argued it's time for justice for the woman Johnson killed 21 years ago.

Deputy Attorney General Beth Burton wrote Tuesday in response to a filing by Johnson's lawyer that the condemned man "has been repeatedly given avenues and opportunities to attempt to present evidence to support his (innocence) claim. He has repeatedly failed.

"The miscarriage of justice in this case would be if the victim's 26-year-old daughter, who was 5 at the time of her mother's murder, is not allowed closure in this case," Burton wrote.

Johnson, 50, is scheduled to be executed at 7 p.m. Thursday for the 1994 murder of Angela Sizemore, a woman he met in an Albany bar. The State Board of Pardons and Paroles will consider his plea for mercy on Wednesday. Johnson stands to be the 4th person Georgia has put to death this year.

He admitted to police that he and the 35-year-old woman had sex in a field near the Albany bar where they met just after midnight March 24, 1994. But Johnson said he left her alive and crying, having punched her in the nose because she insisted on cuddling.

Sizemore's body was found several hours later inside her SUV, which had been moved across town from where she had parked it before going into the bar, Fundamentals. She was stabbed 41 times.

Johnson's lawyer repeated in court filings on Tuesday what he has argued for several years that Johnson is innocent and was convicted on sketchy evidence. Attorney Brian Kammer said all prosecutors had was Johnson's admission that he had engaged in consensual sex with Sizemore; the physical evidence of those relations; and witnesses who said they saw him near her abandoned SUV.

Kammer said investigators did not find Sizemore's blood on the knife police said was used to stab her or on the tree branch used to brutalize her. He also said the witnesses were inconsistent about the man they saw early that morning. There were no fingerprints or DNA found in her SUV, which police suspected he drove to the the apartment complex where it was discovered.

The descriptions were of a man "with or without facial hair, wearing sneakers, or boots, a black top; or maybe a jacket, boots and a flat wedding band style ring; or a ring with a diamond on it or a ring with a green stone on it," Kammer wrote in a filing on Tuesday.

"These appalling facts, along with helpful expert testimony, are now available and show that Mr. Johnson's conviction and death sentence rest on a foundation made of sand," Kammer wrote.

Burton said an appellate court had already heard all that and found his "evidence of actual innocence was not credible."

She wrote that Johnson continues to say he's innocent even though "the facts of his guilt were and remain overwhelming."

(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

FLORIDA----new death sentence

Bessman Okafor is sentenced to death.

An Orange County judge today sentenced Bessman Okafor to death for masterminding a 2012 witness execution.

Okafor, 30, joins 392 Florida inmates awaiting execution on death row. He is the 1st person in Orange County to receive that fate since 2008, according to the Orange-Osceola State Attorney's Office.

Okafor was convicted of 1st-degree murder in the death of 19-year-old Alex Zaldivar. A jury then recommended capital punishment. In Florida, judges make the final decision.

Okafor was already serving a life sentence for robbing the same Ocoee home months before the killing. Prosecutors argued Okafor broke in again to stop the residents from testifying against him in that case. Okafor was charged with shooting siblings Brienna and Remington Campos in the head and killing Zaldivar.

(source: Associated Press)


Public info about execution drugs argued in Mississippi

The Mississippi Supreme Court is considering whether the state prison system must disclose the name of the pharmacy where it buys execution drugs.

Attorneys made arguments Tuesday about whether the information must be released under the state Public Records Act.

A chancery court judge ruled for disclosure in March, but the information remained secret while the state appealed.

Special assistant attorney general Paul Barnes told justices that releasing the pharmacy's name could expose the business to protests and pressure. He says that happened in Texas.

Jim Craig is an attorney for the New Orleans-based Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, which opposes the death penalty and requested information about Mississippi's execution drug supplier. Craig says the public should know how and where tax dollars are spent.

(source: Associated Press)


Prisoners sentenced to die by Caddo juries lingering on death row

Of the estimated 83 people on Louisiana's death row about 20 % were put there by Caddo juries - more than any other parish in the state.

Yet it's been nearly three decades since a Caddo Parish death row inmate was executed.

Wayne Robert Felde, 38 at the time of his death in 1988, is the only person convicted for a crime committed in Caddo to be put to death since Louisiana reinstated the death penalty in 1973.

Others, such as convicted serial killer Nathaniel Code, who arrived on death row Jan. 25, 1991, and Percy Davis, who arrived April 6, 1992, for the murders of a convenience store owner and night clerk on 2 separate nights, are still there.

Despite earning a black eye for for being one of the top parishes/counties in the nation for sending people to death row, Caddo has seen little success in fulfilling the sentences. That's chiefly due to a number of factors such as lengthy appeals and sentences being overturned or reduced after court challenges.

And, experts say that's good, given that some of the parish's death row convictions have been reversed for lack of evidence, errors and constitutional issues.

Shreveport criminal defense attorney Peter Flowers said Caddo should thank God more executions of those sentenced to die here haven't been carried out.

"That's in spite of the our best efforts, not because of them," he said.


The last execution by lethal injection in Louisiana took place in 2010. Earlier this year, the state put off executions until at July 2016 while its lethal injection procedure is under review.

Nationally, death penalty sentences in the United States were at a 40-year low in 2014, according to the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington D.C. (where are they based?) Louisiana is following the national trend but Caddo Parish remains an anomaly.

"Caddo Parish over the last five years is the per capita leader of death sentences in the United States of America," said Robert Smith, a senior fellow at the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute at Harvard Law School & a visiting scholar at the University of Texas at Austin. Smith has studied death penalty sentencing by county in the United States.

Of the 3 people sentenced to die last year in Louisiana, 2 were from Caddo - Rodricus Crawford and Marcus Reed. The perception is the current Caddo district attorney's office aggressively and blindly pursues death penalty convictions - even in cases that don't warrant it.

"They're sentencing people to death who can't be executed," Smith said.

Questions also have risen about whether death row inmate Rodricus Crawford's 1-year-old son, Roderius, was actually murdered. Experts have called the medical evidence used to convict Crawford as misleading and unreliable.

Crawford's case has been appealed to the Louisiana Supreme Court.

There's also Glenn Ford who was convicted with very little evidence and had an inadequate defense.

After decades on death row, new evidence would result in Ford's death penalty sentence being vacated.

"If you're the governor, first of all, you might not be executing anybody in the state of Louisiana because the state has really moved away from it. But if you're going to execute someone, you're going down the list, are you going to pick the intellectually disabled person? The person who's almost a juvenile who can barely process...? The person who's severely mentally ill, the person with fetal alcohol syndrome or the possibly innocent person? Which one of those people?" Smith said.

Local attorneys say the death penalty should be reserved for the worst cases. "You shouldn't take a case that's not 100 % clear cut," said Alan Golden, Caddo's former district public defender.


Some attribute the perception of Caddo as a death penalty central to interviews acting DA Dale Cox gave to local and national news organizations. Cox told the Times "we need to kill more people" and reiterated his views on the death penalty to the New York Times, The New Yorker and other news outlets.

He didn't respond to interview requests.

Smith points to Cox as one of the central personalities in the DA office to explain why Caddo is an anomaly when compared to the rest of the state and country for the imposition of death penalty sentences.

Flowers said thoughtful lawyers and people in Caddo don't like being thought of as death penalty pusher.

"We do what we can to present the right perception to people about lawyers and the justice system. And we work hard and those of us who this for a living have dedicated our lives and our fortune to this particular industry and we don't like being bandied about by the New York media," Flowers said.

For long-time former Caddo District Attorney Paul Carmouche, the perception of the current DA office as eager pursuers of capital punishment is unfair.

"It bothers me now that the office I ran for 30 years is all of sudden considered unfair and basically bloodthirsty. I just hate to see the office being portrayed that way," said Carmouche, who was DA when Felde was executed.

Carmouche said he always told his ADAs to "play hard but play fair" and didn't have policies that encouraged racial bias in jury selection. Convictions don't always equal justice, he said.

Flowers said he believes the national assessment about systemic issues in Caddo's criminal justice system is correct.

"We're clearly far and away at the forefront of death penalty litigation," Flowers said. "...You know, that's the fact. We're at the forefront of death penalty litigation in Caddo Parish and Louisiana is at the forefront of death penalty litigation in this country. That doesn't necessarily mean we're the absolute top but we're up there with them."

Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said he doesn't believe issues with Caddo's criminal justice system solely limited to Cox.

"Dale Cox's comments in isolation would be looked at as one prosecutor who could be out of control but when you look at what is going on in Caddo Parish you see a systemic problem and not just a problem limited to one individual," he said.

Smith and Dunham said there appears to be evidence of ineffective defense counsel in some cases, alleged prosecutorial misconduct and racial bias in jury selection.

"Some studies have shown that you have the highest rate of death penalty reversals and of being overturned in jurisdictions that most aggressively seek to impose the death penalty because they cut corners because is a lack of commitment to quality representation," Dunham said. "Because of these things the risk of error is much greater and the appearance of of error is much clearer."

Those counties/parishes produce the highest rates of death penalty sentences and have the highest rate of sentences overturned, he said.

And if anything, issues with the death penalty in Caddo expose systemic issues involving race, he said. For example, Reprieve Australia's study of racial bias by Caddo prosecutors in the jury selection process found prospective qualified black voters were more likely to be struck from jury panels than their counterparts.

"It maybe fortuitous the execution body count in Caddo Parish is not as high as Oklahoma County but that doesn't mean that the problem is less pervasive or less serious. It just means that the parish prosecutors have been less successful in having the people they've targeted for the death penalty executed," he said.

Who sends the most?

Caddo, East Baton Rouge and Jefferson parishes accounted for more than 1/2 of the people there. Caddo condemned the most - 17 - people to die with East Baton Rouge and Jefferson Parish trailing with 15 and 10 inmates on death row at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.

The LDOC list included Eric Mickelson whom a new Caddo Parish jury, convene to retry him for the murder of the 86-year-old Charles Martin, would be sentenced to life in prison. Pam Laborde, LDOC spokeswoman, said Mickelson remains assigned to death row as the necessary paperwork to move him had yet to be received.

The list doesn't include those whose death penalty sentences were overturned, such as Corey Williams. Williams convicted of the 1998 death of a fast food worker in Shreveport, is developmentally challenged. His sentence was reduced due a finding of mental retardation, the Death Penalty Information Center says. Williams IQ scores ranged from 65 to 68.

The state electrocuted 3 people Bossier Parish juries condemned to die in the 1980s. Earnest Knighton Jr, Alvin Moore and Edward R. Bryne Jr. According to LDOC, Bossier Parish had 3 people on death row as of Oct. 8.

(source: Shreveport Times)


Attorney says Mark Costello's son 'very remorseful' in politician's death

A defense attorney for a man accused of fatally stabbing his father, Oklahoma's former labor commissioner, said Tuesday that the 27-year-old is "very remorseful" and being examined by a private psychiatrist.

Chief Public Defender Bob Ravitz said following a court hearing in the case that Christian Costello, who is being held in the Oklahoma County Jail without bond and did not appear in court Tuesday, is doing "the best he can do, considering."

Prosecutors say Costello attacked his father, Mark Costello, with a knife and repeatedly stabbed him on Aug. 23 at an Oklahoma City restaurant.

Christian Costello has pleaded not guilty to a 1st-degree murder charge.

"It's a real tragic event," Ravitz said of the man. "He's very remorseful."

Costello's family has said in a statement that he suffers from a mental illness and court records show Costello previously spent 90 days in a mental health facility and taken mood stabilizers. Ravitz declined to reveal whether Costello is taking any medications but said a private psychiatrist is examining him.

"We're studying all of Christian's records," he said. "It's taken a while to get them."

Special Judge Lisa Hammond scheduled a Feb. 5 preliminary hearing in the case. On that day, prosecutors will present evidence that will help Hammond determine whether a crime was committed and whether there is probable cause Christian Costello committed it. First-degree murder is punishable by life in prison with or without the possibility of parole or the death penalty.

Prosecutors filed the charge about a week after Mark Costello was attacked at a Braum's restaurant and ice cream shop in Oklahoma City, where authorities say Christian Costello allegedly pulled a knife and repeatedly stabbed his father. Witnesses said the attack continued after Mark Costello ran into the parking lot where his wife, Cathy Costello, tried to intervene.

Police say they interviewed at least 17 witnesses, all of whom said they saw Costello stabbing his father with a small knife. At least 1 witness knocked Christian Costello off-balance with a vehicle, and others held him down until officers arrived, police have said.

The state Medical Examiner's Office has ruled that Mark Costello died from stab wounds to the neck and classified his death as a homicide.

Last week, Gov. Mary Fallin appointed Melissa McLawhorn Houston, chief of staff of the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office, to serve the rest of Mark Costello's unexpired term, which extends until January 2019. Costello's widow had sought the position. Houston is expected to begin her new role by Dec. 1. She has said she has no plans to run for the office in 2018.

(source: Associated Press)


Man pleads not guilty to murdering his 3 young sons

A man accused of fatally stabbing his 3 young sons inside an SUV in South Los Angeles in September pleaded not guilty Tuesday to 3 counts of murder.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Sergio C. Tapia II ordered Luiz Fuentes, 33, to remain jailed without bail while awaiting his next court appearance Jan. 26.

Fuentes is charged in the Sept. 9 killings of his sons Alexander, 8, Juan, 9, and Luis, 10.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office has yet to decide whether to seek the death penalty against Fuentes, who faces a special circumstance allegation of multiple murders.

A passerby saw Fuentes sitting in the front seat of an SUV parked in the 300 block of East 32nd Street around 7 a.m. on Sept. 9. The man approached the vehicle and saw the children's bodies inside and Fuentes covered in blood from stab wounds.

Police believe Fuentes stabbed himself. He was hospitalized, then booked on suspicion of murder 2 days later.

At a vigil in memory of the victims, a pastor said Fuentes had been having financial problems and was living in the SUV with his children, whose mother died in 2008. He was reportedly battling depression.

The Los Angeles Times reported in September that the county Department of Children and Family Services was investigating whether social workers adequately probed some allegations that the boys were at risk and whether staff responded appropriately to what they learned.

A hotline call to DCFS in September 2010 reporting abuse of the children led social workers to determine that the allegation was true, the newspaper reported, citing anonymous officials with the department.

Lawyers for the DCFS petitioned the juvenile court to open a case, officials told The Times, and the boys remained in the father's home until the case was closed about a year later.

2 more hotline calls alleging physical abuse were made in April 2014, sources told The Times. Social workers who investigated the allegations finally marked the claims "inconclusive" last year.



Americans see a lot of discrimination against people who are Muslim, black or gay

Americans say there is a significant amount of discrimination and a growing feeling of racial tension in the United States, with sharp divides in how different groups view these issues, according to a new poll.

These findings come as the country is still visibly grappling with issues of race and equality, from the protests against how police use force to unrest on college campuses, the presidential campaign trail and recent fights over anti-discrimination statutes and religious freedom laws.

The 2 groups perceived to be facing the most discrimination are Muslims and gay and lesbian people, with 7 in 10 Americans saying those groups are discriminated against "a lot", the Public Religion Research Institute found in a poll released Tuesday.

Majorities also say that black people (63 %) and Hispanic people (56 %) face a lot of discrimination, while a majority of Americans (53 %) say there is not a lot of discrimination against women.

Similarly, most Americans do not believe that evangelical Christians, Jews or atheists face a lot of discrimination, with about 3 in 10 Americans saying that they do.

Interestingly, while a quarter of Americans say that white Americans face a lot of discrimination, the poll found that more than 4 in 10 Americans say that discrimination against white people is as big an issue as discrimination against black people or other minorities. (1/2 of white Americans feel it is as big of an issue, while 29 % of Hispanic Americans and 25 % of black Americans agree.) All told, more than 1/3 of Americans say racial tensions are a major problem in their community, a number that has doubled in recent years, the poll found.

The recent protests against how police use force - spurred by the high-profile deaths of black men and boys in New York City, Baltimore, Cleveland and Ferguson, Mo. - have pushed the issue into the national consciousness repeatedly since last year, but the public remains divided on the topic.

More than 1/2 of Americans (53 %) say these deaths are isolated, rather than part of a broader pattern, pointing again to the yawning gap between different groups and how they perceive deaths at the hands of police officers. While 65 % of white Americans say the deaths are isolated episodes, 15 % of black Americans agree. 4 out of 5 black Americans say these point to a broader trend in police treatment, more than double the number of white Americans who feel that way.

Overall, a majority of Americans (62 %) say they have a great deal or some confidence in the criminal justice system. But, again, there are sizable gaps in the perceived fairness of the system.

A majority of Americans - 57 % - do not think that police officers treat white people the same way they treat black people or other minorities. White people are almost evenly split in how they view this, while big majorities of black (84 %) and Hispanic (73 %) Americans say the treatment is not the same.

[The deep divides in Maryland as the Freddie Gray trial looms]

When it comes to the death penalty, a majority of Americans (53 %) say that a black person is more likely than a white person to be sentenced to death for the same crime. This majority is largely fueled by black Americans and Hispanic Americans, majorities of whom feel this way, while less than 1/2 of white people agree with this sentiment.

(source: Washington Post)


Vermont man facing death penalty seeks to overturn law

Attorneys for a Vermont man facing the federal death penalty are asking a U.S. District Court judge to declare the federal death penalty law unconstitutional.

In documents filed in federal court Monday, the attorneys for Donald Fell argued the federal death penalty is unreliable, arbitrary and there are "unconscionably long" delays in death penalty cases.

The 35-year-old Fell was convicted and sentenced to death in 2005 for the 2000 killing of Terry King, who was abducted in Rutland and later killed. Last year a judge ordered a new trial for Fell because of juror misconduct during the original trial.

In 2002, the judge then hearing the case declared the federal death penalty unconstitutional, but 2 years later an appeals court overruled that order allowing the original trial to go forward.

(source: Associated Press)


Over 300 executed in Pakistan since December

The government of Pakistan has executed at least 300 people in the past 11 months, it's emerged.

In a rare admission, an anonymous Interior Ministry official said yesterday that Pakistan's total for hangings "now stands at 311" since the country resumed executions 11 months ago today. Setting aside the religious holidays, during which no executions took place, according to Pakistan's own figures they have executed at least one person a day for the last 11 months.

The figure was revealed amid confusion over the scale of Pakistan's death row, believed to be the largest in the world. 2 weeks ago, the Pakistani government said that some 6,000 people were facing execution in the country; however, this contradicts another government estimate, of 8,000, made by the Interior Ministry at the beginning of the year.

Reprieve has collated all of the publicly available data on the executions that have taken place since the moratorium broke, and has identified 300 individuals. Among these, Reprieve has found just 16 individuals (less than 0.06% of all executed) with known links to a prescribed terrorist organisation. Reuters revealed in July that to date, more than 83% of those executed had no links to militancy.

Police torture and forced 'confessions' are common in Pakistan, and there are concerns that many of those on the country's death row were sentenced after unfair trials. Since more than 73% of births are unregistered in Pakistan, there are also fears that many of those who have been executed may have been juveniles when arrested. Among those killed so far was Aftab Bahadur, who was 15 at the time of his arrest for a crime which all eye witnesses in the case said he was innocent.

Commenting, Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said: "The Pakistani government has no idea how many people it has on its death row, let alone how many are innocent or were sentenced to death as children. It is appalling that the authorities are proceeding with executions at this rate. If they continue to execute one person a day, by the end of next year they will have killed nearly a thousand people - among whom there will almost certainly be a large number of juveniles, and innocent people tortured into 'confessing' to crimes they didn't commit. This senseless massacre will not make Pakistan any safer, and must be stopped."



"We should not be fearful of abolishing the death penalty"

Human Rights Activist and Attorney-at-Law Mary Francis said she plans to continue advocating for the abolition of the mandatory death penalty in Saint Lucia and the Eastern Caribbean region.

Francis told St. Lucia News Online (SNO) today in an interview that while the law has been bypassed for almost 2 decades here, she still believes that it should be removed entirely from the constitution. The attorney said the European Union (EU) has been pushing the Caribbean to become part and parcel of the world-wide movement against the death penalty for a number of years.

The UN General Assembly had also adopted the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR. This was aimed at encouraging the abolition of the death penalty.

Francis maintains that the death penalty does not serve as a deterrent to crime, but rather a a form of revenge.

"We understand that the crime situation in the Caribbean is very high, but this death penalty is part of our pre and post independence law and by virtue of how our constitution was written," she told SNO.

She reminded that Saint Lucia's laws were adopted from England and it's been more than a quarter of a century since that country has abolished the death penalty.

"It must be recognised that 1994 was the last time we had an execution. So in fact most of the Caribbean and the OECS they have actually put a hold on hanging which is our form of death penalty."

But Francis has advised that the government amend the laws and have it removed and replaced with an alternative such as life imprisonment, stating that killing is wrong whether it is by the state. She continued: "In Saint Lucia I think there are about 50 men right now awaiting trial for murder. If all those young men had to be hanged, what would happen?" she questioned.

While she admitted that they have done vicious crimes and deserves to face the full brunt of the law, she believes that the government must look at the root of crime.

"We have to attack it from societal level, to ensure that young men don't turn into to those types of individuals who commit serious crimes, especially murder," she asserted.

Francis recalls that her advocacy work began in 1999, when she worked on a case alongside a few other prominent lawyers to have the 1st death sentence case committed to life imprisonment. She said the perpetrator was due for execution when the judge decided to stop the prosecution of the individual and accepted the application for the person to be put on life imprisonment.

In the same year, Francis got 5 persons who were on death sentence to be committed to life imprisonment.

"I have done work in the past and continue to believe that maybe in terms of building a more humane society we should set the example and move to do that. We should not be fearful of abolishing the death penalty because it could increase more vicious crimes. There is no scientific evidence to prove that," she told SNO.

Francis, who is very vocal about several other human rights issues here, has been invited to attend a special conference organised by the EU to discuss the death penalty in Georgetown, Guyana this month end.

Human rights groups such as Amnesty International have long criticised Caribbean countries mandatory death penalty as too harsh and in breach of international law.

Even though the capital punishment is on the books in a number of English-speaking Caribbean states and polls have shown strong support for the death penalty, executions are rare in the region. The last execution took place in St. Kitts and Nevis in 2008, when Charles Laplace was hanged for murdering his wife. That was the region's 1st outside Cuba since an execution in the Bahamas in 2000.

Politicians of former British colonies have long complained that the London-based Privy Council, the highest appeal court for many Caribbean countries, has stymied their attempts to execute murderers. The regional Caribbean Court of Justice is the highest court of appeal for Barbados, Belize and Guyana.



NZ Government willing to deport murder suspect if death penalty ruled out

The Chinese Government wants New Zealand to deport a murder suspect back to China to face charges and Prime Minister John Key says it's possible, if the death penalty is ruled out.

It was a decision to be made by Justice Minister Amy Adams.

Speaking with reporters last night in Manila, Mr Key revealed more details about the case ahead of his meeting today with China's president Xi Jinping at the Apec summit.

He revealed in August that the Government wanted the return of a person to face trial. That person was not a Chinese national.

Yesterday Mr Key said the suspect was accused of killing another person.

"It's a long and complicated case."

Mr Key said there had been no deportations of Chinese suspected of fleeing to New Zealand with the proceeds of corruption, although background work had been done on the issue, and it was raised during the official visit of President Xi to New Zealand a year ago.

Mr Key said he would raise at the meeting the issues of China's territorial disputes (with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei) in the South China Sea.

China has recently expanded atolls through reclamation in the Spratly group and built airfields.

"We will be doing and making the same consistent comments that we make which is we don't arbitrate with these issues," said Mr Key. "We don't pick sides but it is a very important passage of waterway to us and we do want to see a peaceful resolution to the issue.

"To a certain extent it is the elephant in the room. It is there and the reclamations have been fairly significant, so it is raising the temperature on that issue."

The Vietnamese Prime Minister had raised the issue when Mr Key had talks with him in Hanoi on Monday.

Mr Key laughed off a newspaper article on the English language newspaper Viet Nam News in which he was described in a photo as the president of the Senate of the Czech Republic, Milan Stech.

"It is all part of my global master-plan to increase my sphere of influence and make you all believe I have so many more people under my control."

(source: New Zealand Herald)


Iran Breaks the World Executions Record----The true face of Obama's "good faith" negotiating partners.

Is the Obama administration aware that it is trusting and dealing with a country that has just broken the world record in executions? Of course the President is aware of that, and it seems that he has decided to turn a blind eye to Iran's increasing aggression and oppression inside and outside of its own country.

According to the recent and 5th report by the special United Nations investigator of human rights, human rights violations in Iran are rising even since the nuclear agreement was reached. Accordingly, execution rates have been increasing at "an exponential rate" in Iran. In 2014, 753 were executed and at least 694 people (including women and juveniles) were executed from January 2015 till mid-September. This is reported to be the highest rate of execution the Islamic Republic has had in 25 years.

If we take the ratio of the population into consideration, the Islamic Republic breaks the world record in number of executions per capita. As Ahmed Shaheed, the U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in Iran, pointed out, "The Islamic Republic of Iran continues to execute more individuals per capita than any other country in the world. Executions have been rising at an exponential rate since 2005 and peaked in 2014, at a shocking 753 executions[.]" According to the UN analyst, Iran is on track to execute more than 1000 people by the end of this year. Of course, these are only the official numbers being reported by the Iranian regime, the unreported number of executions by the government is likely much higher.

An execution may be ordered over many things, such as insulting the Supreme Leader, enmity toward Allah, and other non-violent offenses. According to the U.S. State Department's Human Rights report on Iran, "the law criminalizes dissent and applies the death penalty to offenses such as ....'attempts against the security of the state,' 'outrage against high-ranking officials,' ....(moharebeh), and 'insults against the memory of Imam Khomeini and against the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic.'"

In addition, when it comes to journalists, social media activists, and women, political rights, discriminatory laws, as well as arbitrary detentions have been on the rise as well. According to the global gender gap index of the World Economic Forum, the Islamic Republic is ranked 137 out of 142, followed by Mali, Syria, Chad, Pakistan and Yemen.

In contrast to the report, a more liberal, softer and open image of the Islamic Republic has been repeatedly projected to the international community by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Western-educated foreign minister, and his technocratic team.

There was an assumption by liberals that several developments, including the improving ties between the West and Iran, the nuclear agreement, and the presidency of a moderate political figure would translate into improving civil liberties, social justice and removing restrictions on political critics in Iran. However, the real picture inside the country suggests a much different landscape. As Azita, an Iranian human rights activist and teacher from the ethnically Azeri-populated city of Tabriz said, "This is similar to, or even worse than, the period of Khatami where Basij, moral police, and IRGC increased suppression in order to tell the young people particularly that the laws will not changed."

The State Department report clearly highlights the notion that the superficial illusion of a softer image projected by Iran belies the social, political, and economic reality inside the country.

This explains three phenomena. First, although President Rouhani promised that he will improve several critical issues such as civil liberties, social justice, freedom of expression, assembly, and press, and women's rights, he decided to instead solely focus on the nuclear deal in order to get Iran out of the financial sanctions that restrained its growth.

Secondly, one can make the argument that President Rouhani has also decided not to cross the boundaries of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) by cooperating with them and allowing them to have full control over domestic social and political policies, as well as foreign policy (Syria, Hezbollah, etc.).

Third, the hardliners are increasing their repressive tools and cracking-down on civil liberties in order to send a message to the Iranian young people and the West that the nuclear agreement does not mean Tehran is going to open up its political system and loosen Sharia law.

Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, and his social base (the hardliners) are very concerned that Iranian youth might become a source of revolution. As a result they attempt to keep the country closed and they fear Western political and cultural influence on young people.

As Mr. Khamanei warned the senior cadre of the IRGC, "The main purpose of the enemies is for Iranians to give up on their revolutionary mentality...Enemy means global arrogance, the ultimate symbol of which is the United States....Economic and security breaches are definitely dangerous, and have dire consequences...But political and cultural intrusion by the enemy is a more serious danger that everyone should be vigilant about."

Finally, the nuclear agreement seems to have overshadowed the human rights conditions inside Iran and the repressive Shiite Islamist laws. European countries and the Obama administration appear to have been turning a blind eye and have been becoming less critical of the Islamic Republic's human rights record since the nuclear negotiation began and after the nuclear deal was signed.

It is time for the Obama administration to draw attention to the real face of the so-called moderate president of Iran who contradicts the truth by depicting himself and his country in a softer image to the world while simultaneously allowing executions and egregious, appalling and atrocious human rights abuses on his watch.

(source: Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, an Iranian-American political scientist and scholar, is president of the International American Council and serves on the board of the Harvard International Review at Harvard University. Rafizadeh is also a former senior fellow at the Nonviolence International Organization based in Washington, DC and is a member of the Gulf Project at Columbia


Russian arrested at Vietnam airport for smuggling 6.5 kilos of cocaine from Dubai

Customs officers at Tan Son Nhat Airport on Sunday arrested a Russian man for smuggling around 6.5 kilograms of cocaine from Dubai into Vietnam.

The officers said they found the suspect luggage of the 25-year-old and demanded to check it. They then found a quilt and three jackets and the large amount of drug inside them.

The suspect, whose identity has been withheld, said a strange man paid him US$1,000 to carry the drug from Chile through different countries including Russia, Brazil and the UAE, before Vietnam.

Vietnam has some of the world's toughest drug laws. Those convicted of smuggling more than 600 grams of heroin or cocaine face the death penalty.

The production or sale of 100 grams of heroin or 300 grams of other illegal narcotics is also punishable by death.

(source: Thanh Nien News)


Airport Police arrest 2 drug traffickers with drugs worth Rp 39 billion

The Soekarno Hatta Airport Police seized drugs worth Rp 39 billion after capturing 2 drug traffickers, identified by their initials N and S, on November 10 and 11.

"N was the courier, whereas S was the supplier. The evidence includes 1,012 grams of meth, 2,944 grams of ketamine, 61,251 ecstasy pills, and 4,196 strips of happy 5. The monetary value of these drugs altogether is Rp 39 billion," said Soekarno Hatta Airport Police Chief Roycke Langie, as quoted by Warta Kota today.

The police first arrested N after carrying out a drug deal in Terminal 1A of the airport. The police then followed N to another transaction in Grogol, West Jakarta, and arrested him there.

The next day, N led the police to his supplier, S, in Tambora, West Jakarta. After arresting S, the police located his kost and found the motherload of his drugs stored there, thought to be worth Rp 39 billion in total.

Drug traffickers in Indonesia may face the death penalty if proven guilty.

(source: Coconuts News)

TEXAS----impending executuion

Condemned man's lawyers stop helping, cite 'false hope'

From his cell on death row, Raphael Holiday drafted letter after desperate letter to lawyers who represent the condemned. He begged for their help to plead for mercy from Gov. Greg Abbott, to try any last-ditch legal maneuvers that might stave off his impending execution.

Holiday's appointed lawyers had told him that fighting to stop his punishment was futile, and they wouldn't do it. The 36-year-old thought he'd be left to walk to the death chamber with no lawyer at his side.

Less than a month before his execution - scheduled for Wednesday - Holiday secured help. Austin attorney Gretchen Sween agreed to ask the court to find new lawyers willing to try to keep him from dying.

But Holiday's federally appointed lawyers - the ones who said they would do no more to help him - are opposing their client's attempts to replace them.

Now, just hours before he is set to face lethal injection for burning to death 3 children, including his own daughter, Holiday is awaiting word from the U.S. Supreme Court on his latest request for help.

'False hope' argument

Lawyers James "Wes" Volberding and Seth Kretzer said they worked diligently to find new evidence on which to base additional appeals for Holiday, but that none exists. Seeking clemency from Abbott, a staunch death penalty supporter, would be pointless, they say.

The 2 contend they are exercising professional judgment and doing what's best for their client.

"We decided that it was inappropriate to file [a petition for clemency] and give false hope to a poor man on death row expecting clemency that we knew was never going to come," Volberding said in a telephone interview.

But others say the law under which death row lawyers are appointed doesn't allow that kind of discretion. It requires attorneys to make every possible effort to save a client's life, if that's what the inmate wants.

"This seems unconscionable," said Stephen Bright, president and senior counsel of the Southern Center for Human Rights and a teacher at Yale Law School. "Lawyers are often in a position of representing people for whom the legal issues are not particularly strong, but nevertheless they have a duty to make every legal argument they can."

So far, appeals courts have sided with Volberding and Kretzer. Last Thursday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied a motion to have them replaced. On Monday, Sween appealed to the Supreme Court.

Holiday was convicted of intentionally setting fire to his wife's home near College Station in September 2000, killing her 3 little girls. He forced the children's grandmother to douse the home in gasoline. After igniting the fumes, Holiday watched from outside as flames engulfed the couch where authorities later found the corpses of 7-year-old Tierra Lynch, 5-year-old Jasmine DuPaul and 1-year-old Justice Holiday huddled together.

Volberding and Kretzer were appointed in February 2011 to represent Holiday in his federal appeals. They filed a 286-page petition in federal court, alleging dozens of mistakes in Holiday's case, ranging from assertions that he was intellectually disabled to charges that clemency is so rarely granted in Texas that the process has become meaningless.

On June 30, the Supreme Court denied Holiday's petition for a review of his case.

Such rulings are common; the high court declines thousands of cases each year. Still, it's a major blow to an inmate whose life depends on the court's mercy. Many lawyers for death row inmates deliver the news in person, knowing how devastating it can be when a last, scant shred of legal hope disintegrates.

Volberding sent Holiday a letter.

'The end of work'

"I am sorry, but the Supreme Court just denied your appeal," the Tyler-based lawyer wrote. "This marks the end of work for your appeals I regret."

The 1 1/2-page message informed Holiday that his lawyers would not file additional appeals or seek clemency from the governor. Neither option, Volberding wrote, presented a real chance of sparing Holiday's life.

In the letter, Volberding told Holiday he could seek the help of pro bono lawyers if he wanted to pursue those options.

So Holiday blanketed the small community of Texas death penalty lawyers with letters seeking help.

When none responded, he wrote to the court.

"Your honor, I beg you to consider new appointment of effective counsels to my case," Holiday wrote. "They have refused to help me and it is a disheartening conundrum I am not fit to comprehend."

Kretzer countered with a letter to the court insisting that he and Volberding were still working on the case despite its hopelessness. They refused to seek clemency or file additional pleadings not out of laziness or antipathy toward Holiday, Kretzer said, but because they recognized the "political realities" in Texas.

In late October, Sween, an appellate lawyer from Austin who teaches writing and advocacy courses at the University of Texas School of Law, agreed to help Holiday obtain new lawyers, at no charge.

Sween filed a motion alleging that Volberding and Kretzer had abandoned Holiday in his hour of greatest need. The law under which the 2 were appointed says lawyers for death row clients "shall" represent them in "all available post-conviction proceedings." She pleaded with the court to assign new lawyers who would do so.

Clemency petition

Volberding and Kretzer opposed the motion and sent Sween a letter threatening to seek sanctions if she did not stay away from their client. They said they would agree to her involvement only if she would take on Holiday as her client pro bono. She declined, insisting that she was unqualified because she had never worked directly on a capital case.

"If you can propose a course of action that stands a reasonable chance ... we will pursue it," Volberding said in a letter to Sween. "Otherwise, we respectfully ask that you take no further action in this case. We will respond firmly if you do."

Nevertheless, in an effort to mollify Sween, Volberding and Kretzer filed a clemency petition - hastily. In 2 places on the 1st page, the document cites the wrong execution date for Holiday. The petition painstakingly details the horrific nature of Holiday's crime, while containing little evidence that might persuade the governor to show Holiday mercy.

After the federal district court rejected her attempts to remove Volberding and Kretzer, Sween appealed to the 5th Circuit, calling the lawyers' clemency petition a "sham" and asking the judges to stay Holiday's execution. Additionally, she argued, the lawyers are now in conflict with their own client, opposing his wishes for new attorneys that he trusts to fight until the bitter end.

A 3-judge appellate panel denied the motion and warned Sween that future attempts to dislodge Holiday's lawyers would be viewed skeptically.

Jim Marcus, a UT law professor who specializes in capital punishment, said that while Holiday certainly has an uphill battle to avoid execution, federal law requires his lawyers to push ahead.

"There's a difference between saying that's not a viable strategy or viable claim and abandoning an entire proceeding altogether"” said Marcus, who has represented condemned inmates for more than 20 years. "The latter is not really permissible under the statute."

The statute, though, is rarely enforced and judges provide little oversight of attorneys who represent indigent condemned clients, said Bright, of the human rights center.

In decades of practicing, Bright said he had never seen a case like Holiday's in which appointed lawyers so vociferously fought to keep a death row inmate from retaining a different attorney. In some cases, he said, new lawyers have discovered evidence others overlooked pointing to an inmate's innocence or showing people's intellectual disabilities made them incompetent for execution.

"Most people don't get executed for crimes they committed," Bright said. "They get executed for mistakes their lawyers made."

(source: Dallas Morning News)


The Pilgrimage for Raphael Holiday is The Pilgrimage for Abolition

This Wednesday, Raphael Holiday will be executed minutes after 6pm at the Walls Unit in Huntsville, Texas. Unlike many of those I've encountered on death row, I believe that Holiday deserves to die.

In early 2000, Raphael was partnered with Tami Wilkerson. Together, they lived in a secluded log cabin in Madison County with their infant daughter Justice and Tami's young daughters, 5-year-old Jasmine and 7-year-old Tierra. In March, Tami discovered that Raphael had sexually assaulted Tierra and filed charges against him. Raphael was forced to move out. Despite the protective order, Tami let Raphael occasionally see his daughter. In August, Raphael started to assault and terrorize Tami incessantly. When she cut off all communication, things got worse.

Late in the night of September 5, 2000, Tami saw a figure coming through the woods. By the time family arrived to help, Raphael was in the house. Tami's aunt Beverly Mitchell rushed the oldest girls to the car. Though her uncle Terry Keller had a gun, Raphael choked Tami and made him hand it over. Raphael was unsuccessful in his attempts to burn the car with the girls in it. In the midst of it all, Tami rushed to a neighbor's home for help. By the time she returned to the log cabin, the structure was engulfed in flames and all 3 children were locked inside.

Though Raphael Holiday tried to argue that he didn't mean to kill the 3 little girls, I don't believe him. The jury didn't either. Now, the hour has come for the punishment to be carried out. I still believe that he deserves to die.

There is only 1 question left to ask. Who deserves to kill him? I've sat with this question for many hours. I believe I know the answer.

There once was an execution scheduled. The authorities threw a woman that committed a capital offense at the feet of Jesus. As they raised their stones to kill her, Jesus got down in the dirt to join her in her fate. Looking up, Jesus declared, "Whoever is without sin can cast the first stone!"

Over the next 2 days, I will pilgrimage over 40 miles carrying the cross between death row/Polunsky Unit in Livingston and the Execution Chamber/Walls Unit in Huntsville not because I believe that Raphael Holiday is innocent...but rather because I know he's not.

Jesus taught us to "love our neighbors as ourselves" and Holiday has already shown us that there is no love in killing. May we show Holiday the mercy that he didn't show his victims. Throughout my journey, I will pray that we will stop emulating the killers we claim we are punishing and stop this foolishness of executions once and for all.


(source: Jeff Hood, Fellowship of Reconciliation)


SPEAR "Who Do We Kill" campaign began this week

Students for Prison Education and Reform launched the newest protest campaign, "Who Do We Kill," on Monday.

The campaign is to protest the death penalty in the United States.

The campaign began with a talk by Anthony Ray Hinton, an exoneree who was on death row for 30 years.

"I have been through pure hell," Hinton said, regarding his experience as a death row inmate.

He noted that no one, regardless of race or gender, should ever be on death row for a crime they never committed, and urged for the end of death sentence.

"We need to put an end to the death row," he added.

Steffen Seitz '17, co-organizer of the campaign, said that Hinton's experience is something that few people hear about and it's important for people to understand the torture of living under death row.

SPEAR co-president Clarissa Kimmey '16 said that the 1st piece of the protest would be this Wednesday, when Texas inmate Raphael Holiday is scheduled to be executed.

Kimmey explained that all the students participating in the protests will wear black ribbons around their wrists.

SPEAR advocacy co-chair Margaret Wright '17 said that students can get ribbons in the Pace Center for Civic Engagement.

Maxwell Grear '18, co-organizer of the campaign, said that the goal of the campaign is to start conversation about the death penalty on campus and remind people about its continuing prevalence.

Grear is also a columnist for The Daily Princetonian.

He explained that every time a person is scheduled to be executed in the country, SPEAR will circulate information about each person and hold a protest. He said that the protests are meant to last indefinitely until the death penalty is outlawed in the United States.

Grear explained that although it seems that people are overall sympathetic to the idea of reforming the criminal justice system, they are more accepting of the status quo in terms of the death penalty.

The issue is not on the radar of most people or there is a certain sense of complacency, he added.

Wright said that what is visible in the media is only the stories of the victims in terms of the crimes that were allegedly committed.

"It's really easy not to think about the fact that each one of these people is a human being with an entire life story," she added.

Kimmey said that another one of SPEAR's goals is to let the people being executed speak for themselves. The campaign will distribute letters written by people on death row to students on campus.

"When you talk about drone warfare or police killings or gun violence, there are staggering numbers of people affected that brace people," SPEAR co-president Daniel Teehan '17 said. "With the death penalty, however, if you say the number of people that are executed, that doesn't really register with people, and yet it's really something that exceptional in society that we're still allowing the killing of people."

He added that although the number of executed people are not very large, the system is still something to be protested against.

"Even though it's not 30,000 people every year, even if it's just 50 people, it's 50 people too many. I think that's the message we're trying to convey with the campaign," he added.

Kyle Berlin '18, a participant in the campaign, said, that he thinks the campaign is important because the death penalty is "an act of extreme injustice."

"The fact that we can call ourselves civilized and then kill people, many of whom are African Americans or later proven to be innocent, is a travesty," he said.

He said he hopes SPEAR's protests will spur some conversations on campus so students can start talking about the death penalty and how it represents a larger system of injustice and discrimination.

(source: The Daiy Princetonian)


Prosecutor urges judge to dismiss defense motion in Con-ui case

The attack on the death penalty mounted by gang assassin Jessie Con-ui's defense last month amounts to little more than a "boiler plate" assault on a well-established federal law, prosecutors wrote in a response filed Monday urging dismissal of the defense motion.

Con-ui, 37, faces the death penalty if convicted next July of murdering Nanticoke native Correctional Officer Eric Williams at U.S. Penitentiary Canaan on Feb. 25, 2013. Prosecutors allege Con-ui, angered over a previous cell search, kicked Williams down a flight of stairs before beating and slashing him to death with 2 shanks.

Prosecutors argue Con-ui should die for the crime, which was recorded by surveillance cameras, because it was committed in an "especially heinous, cruel or depraved manner" by a convicted drug trafficker and murderer who has a history of violence, including against law enforcement.

But in a filing last month, Con-ui's defense sought to have U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo strike down the Federal Death Penalty Act of 1994 as unconstitutional, saying it has been implemented in an "arbitrary, capricious, irrational, and invidious manner."

In the filing Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Francis P. Sempa says such motions have become commonplace in capital cases and their arguments are nothing new.

"As daunting as Mr. Con-Ui's Motion to Strike appears at first glance, it is nothing more than a 'boiler plate' assault on the FDPA, which is filed by the defense for consideration 'in nearly every, if not every, federal capital case in recent decades,'" Sempa wrote.

Because the arguments aren't new, prosecutors opted not to "reinvent the wheel," instead citing extensive case law from other judges who have rejected the same arguments, he wrote.

"All of defendant's arguments are afflicted by the same basic and fatal flaw, that is, they are in opposition with long-standing legal principles and overwhelming authority to the contrary," Sempa wrote.

Con-ui's trial is scheduled to begin with jury selection on Monday, July 11, 2016.

(source: Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice)


Death penalty sought against Sanford man in deaths of wife, stepdaughter

Prosecutors said Monday that they plan to seek the death penalty against a Sanford man charged with killing his wife and stepdaughter in July.

Firefighters found the bodies of Calandra McLean and her 13-year-old daughter, Tashonna Cameron, inside the family's 916 Clark Circle home on July 13 after extinguishing a blaze in the home.

A nationwide search ensued for Billy Jo McLean, 54, who was arrested four days later at a motel in the Texas Panhandle, where he had fled with his stepson.

17-year-old Tobias McLean, who had walked to a nearby diner while Billy Jo McLean slept, learned from Facebook about the deaths of his mother and sister and the manhunt for his stepfather and asked diner employees to call 911.

Billy Jo McLean fought extradition to North Carolina but was returned to the state in September.



Sanford man faces death penalty in killings of wife and daughter

The Sanford man accused of burning his wife and teen stepdaughter to death and fleeing to Texas in July could get the death penalty if convicted.

The Lee County District Attorney's Office made the announcement at a hearing Monday.

Billy Jo McLean, 54, was captured in Oldham County, TX days after investigators say he burned his wife, Calandra McLean and his 13-year-old stepdaughter, TaShonna Cameron, on July 13.

McLean is charged with 2 counts of 1st-degree murder. He's due back in court March 7.

(source: WTVD news)

GEORGIA----impending execution

Murder victim's daughter will attend execution

Marcus Ray Johnson is now scheduled to be executed at 7:00 Thursday night at the prison in Jackson, for the 1994 brutal murder of Lee County single mother Angela Sizemore. He was sentenced to death in 1998 after his trial.

Katie Barker was only 4 when her mother was murdered. In a Skype interview from her home in Chattanooga she said plans to be at the prison Thursday to support her other family members who will witness the execution. But says she is not sure if she, herself, will watch.

Katie Barker for almost a decade has attended most of Ray Johnson's death sentence hearings, sitting just feet from the man convicted of stabbing her mother 41 times, brutally murdering her. "I believe in my heart that it's time for justice. He will never own up to his actions. He will never be sorry."

Now 21 years after her mother's death, Barker says she will continue to be there for every step. "We will be at the hearings and we will be at the prison when it takes place. Because someone has got to step up for my mom. Someone's got to make sure that she gets the justice she is supposed to get."

Barker says she will support her family members who will witness the execution, but still has not decided if she will watch. "This is something that has been leading up for 20 something years. Basically my whole life. So, for it to finally come to pass, is just a lot to take in."

Barker says she has no doubts about Ray Johnson's guilt, and that it's time for him to face justice. She said she has been in contact with Ray Johnson's family, including his daughter, who is close to her age.

(source: WALB news)


Judge issues sentence today in Bessman Okafor death-penalty case

An Orange County judge will decide today whether Bessman Okafor, a convicted murderer thought to have masterminded a witness execution plot in 2012, joins 392 Florida inmates awaiting execution on death row.

Okafor, 30, was convicted of 1st-degree murder in August. A jury then recommended capital punishment, but a judge makes the final decision.

The hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.

Okafor is already serving a life sentence for robbing the same Ocoee home months before the killing. Prosecutors argued Okafor broke in again to stop the residents from testifying against him in that case. Okafor was convicted of shooting siblings Brienna and Remington Campos in the head and killing 19-year-old Alex Zaldivar.

If Circuit Judge John Marshall Kest sentences him to death, Okafor will be the 1st person in Orange County to receive that fate since 2008.

(source: Orlando Sentinel)


DEAD WRONG----After giving ineffective counsel in more than 1 death penalty case, the Public Defender's 2nd-in-command may no longer be allowed to do his job

A woman from Meals On Wheels found Andrew Dwelle dead on the bedroom floor of his Jacksonville apartment on Jan. 9, 1997. Dwelle was 82 years old and needed help bathing, dressing and preparing meals. He'd been stabbed twice in the neck. One of the wounds was 5 inches deep.

Jacksonville police arrested Raymond Morrison the next day. He confessed he'd killed Dwelle during a fight after he'd grabbed some of the old man's money.

Morrison even led police to the knife.

It sounds like an open-and-shut case. A jury found Morrison guilty of 1st-degree murder in 1998 and sentenced him to death. But in September 2015, a circuit court judge threw out the verdict and the death sentence and ordered a new trial.

Judge Henry Davis said Morrison's attorney failed to present key evidence. One omission: Morrison had an alibi. Three witnesses said he wasn't even in Jacksonville when Dwelle was murdered. Though Morrison, intellectually, is barely functional, and he'd previously confessed to and spent time in prison for a crime he did not commit, no expert testified as such. The actual perpetrator would have testified, but Morrison's attorney never put him on the stand.

Morrison's attorney was Refik Eler. And this is the 2nd time a court has ruled the Jacksonville attorney gave ineffective assistance of counsel in a death penalty case. It's a big deal. Under a law enacted in 2013, a defense attorney with 2 ineffective counsel findings is disqualified from representing death penalty clients for 5 years. Also, Eler is Public Defender Matt Shirk's chief assistant public defender, leading the public defender's homicide division.

State Attorney Angela Corey may be Florida’s death penalty queen. Since she took office in 2009, she's secured more death sentences than any other prosecutor in Florida, and more than most other places in the United States. On the other side of the bar, Corey and her prosecutors face a chief assistant public defender with a history of providing such inadequate lawyering that it violated his clients' constitutional rights to a fair trial and to legal representation.

In a 3rd case, the court criticized Eler's performance but did not overturn the death sentence. Currently, 2 other cases of Eler's are under court review.

Gung-ho prosecutor. Failed defense. "It's a deadly combination," says Stephen Harper, of Florida International University's Death Penalty Clinic.

Though no one seems to know quite how it will work, the Timely Justice Act of 2013 disqualifies a defense attorney with 2 ineffective assistance of counsel rulings in a death penalty case from those kinds of cases for 5 years. The Timely Justice Act does not, however, address whether it's applied retroactively. Though the ineffective judgments were issued in 2013 and 2015, Eler's cases went to trial in 1995 and 1998, more than a decade before he joined the public defenders office in 2009.

While it's common for someone convicted of a crime to blame his lawyer, filing an ineffective counsel motion is one of the few ways to fight bad lawyering. And it's not easy to win a judgment. The U.S. Supreme Court requires a finding of both deficient representation and that an attorney's omissions might have changed the jury's decision. The Innocence Project found that 81 % of the first 255 defendants exonerated by DNA lost ineffective assistance claims.

In an evidentiary hearing, Eler testified he decided not to present expert testimony on another death penalty defendant's mental illness and hospitalizations, suicide attempt and brain abnormalities as a strategic decision, as a jury weighed whether to recommend life or death for Michael Shellito. Eler thought such information might make the jury less sympathetic.

The Florida Supreme Court disagreed. It threw out Shellito's death sentence in 2013 after reviewing what the court described as a "a plethora of evidence" from multiple experts on Shellito's substantial mental health problems, possible organic brain dysfunction, childhood sexual and physical abuse and neglect, and history of alcohol and drug abuse. The court ruled Eler's failure to fully investigate mitigation in the case deprived the judge and jury of information it needed when considering life in prison or death.

An adequate defense is critical in rendering justice, Harper says.

"It shortchanges the jury in making a fully intelligent and fully informed decision, when making the most important decision any person can make," Harper says, "a life and death decision."

And there's more.

A 3rd ineffective assistance of counsel claim was made against Eler by death row inmate Luther Douglas, though it did not result in Douglas' death sentence being overturned. But in its 2012 decision, the Florida Supreme Court criticized Eler's lack of mitigation work for the penalty phase of the trial. Douglas was found guilty of 1st-degree murder and sentenced to death in 1999 for the sexual battery and murder of 18-year-old Mary Ann Hobgood. Attorney Rick Sichta has appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

And in June 2015, the Florida Supreme Court "made it abundantly clear," according to The Florida Times-Union, the lawyers representing a fourth death penalty defendant, Thomas Bevel, failed him. Eler was the lead attorney. A jury found Bevel guilty of 1st-degree murder and sentenced him to death in 2005 for the murder of his roommate Garrick Strickland and Strickland's 13-year-old son. In oral arguments, 1 justice said it was hard to argue the defense had done a competent job during the penalty phase because it never hired anyone to investigate mitigating circumstances in Bevel's life. Attorney Rick Sichta described Eler's mitigation as an "11th Hour" investigation that failed to uncover a host of mitigating factors.

Glossing over mitigation seems to be a pattern with Eler.

Wilton Manors attorney Linda McDermott, who prevailed in arguing both Shellito's and Morrison's claims of ineffective representation, questions Eler's knowledge of death penalty defense.

"In dealing with Mr. Eler between these 2 cases," McDermott says, "it's clear to me that he doesn't understand the defense available to someone facing the death penalty.

"He is the 2nd person in charge in the public defender's office, and he doesn't seem to understand what the U.S. Supreme Court has said is a [legitimate] defense in a capital case."

Neither Shirk nor Eler returned multiple calls from Folio Weekly requesting comment on whether Eler would continue to lead the homicide defense unit.

Both Sichta and Harper say Shirk should remove Eler from his role as top defense counsel now. Sichta says leaving him in charge will only lead to more claims and ultimately cost taxpayers.

"He may be a good administrator and he may be an improved attorney [than when he defended Shellito, Morrison, Bevel and Douglas]," says Harper, "but if I were the public defender, I would not want someone found deficient [3] times heading up my death penalty defense."

Harper and others say it's not just Eler. An American Bar Association article in 2009 reported on an ABA study that concluded public defenders nationally had too many cases and too little funding to mount an adequate defense. It described the defense of indigent clients as a crisis, where ineffective counsel was the most frequently raised and too often legitimate claim.

While Duval County might be among the deadliest counties in the state and in the nation, Harper predicts the county might also lead in death sentences overturned because of bad lawyering.

"They may be 1st in death sentences, but they will also be [1st in] getting reversals," McDermott predicts. "Constitutional rights are being overlooked in that county because of overreaching of the prosecution and inadequacy of the defense bar."

(source: Folio News)


State seeks death penalty in McLean murder case

The Lee County District Attorney's Office on Monday revealed it would seek the death penalty against the Sanford man charged with murdering his wife and teenage stepdaughter.

Billy Jo McLean, 54, appeared in court for the 2nd time since his capture on July 17 in Oldham County, Texas, where authorities said he fled with his 18-year-old stepson, Tobias McLean, after killing his wife, Calandra McLean, and 13-year-old stepdaughter, Tashonna Cameron, on July 13.

"The state wishes to proceed capitally," said Matt Craven, a prosecutor with the district attorney's office, during a hearing Monday at the Lee County Courthouse.

According to Robert Reives II, a Lee County attorney unaffiliated with the case, a prosecution seeking the death penalty has a profound effect on how a case is tried.

"There are 13 or 14 'statutory aggravators' that the state can use to help them decide whether they want to proceed as a capital case," Reives said. "They can be all kinds of things like [the crime] being particularly heinous and cruel, or based on a person's previous [criminal] record. It changes a lot about the complexion of a case."

Among the major changes are that McLean now will receive a 2nd court-appointed attorney in addition to Stephen Freedman, who represented him during Monday's hearing, and the length of time that the trial will take.

"With a [non-capital] case, you're probably looking at a couple of weeks for jury selection, and the case itself might take a couple of weeks," Reives said. "But with a death penalty case, our last two death penalty cases have gone right around three or four months each. ... You literally will have selected a jury and finished the trial [in a non-capital murder case] before you're halfway through your jury selection in a death penalty case."

During the hearing, Craven said the district attorney's office believed it could prove one or more "statutory aggravators" in McLean's case.

Calandra McLean's mother, Joann Jackson, attended the hearing along with other family members.

"We're ready for this to be ended," she said after the brief hearing. " ... I'll be glad when it's over."

As for her thoughts on the prosecution seeking the death penalty, Jackson said, "I'm not the judge or the jury. I'll have to go with what they decide."

McLean's next court appearance is scheduled for March 7.

Reives said that death penalty trials really are 2 trials in 1.

"First you have the guilt/innocence phase, which is in any trial," Reives said. "Then if the person is convicted, you have what amounts to a separate trial to determine if they'll face the death penalty. ... It's pretty intensive."

(source: The Sanford Herald)

ALABAMA----female faces death sentence

Sentencing hearing postponed for woman who was found guilty of killing her daughter

The Russell County woman convicted of hiring someone to kill her daughter was expected in court on Monday for a sentencing hearing.

But the sentencing for Lisa Graham was postponed and is now scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

Graham was found guilty earlier this year in the shooting death of her 20-year old daughter Stephanie Shae Graham back in July of 2007.

Kenny Walton confessed to the murder and admitted to shooting Shae 6 times and leaving her body on a dirt road near Cottonton.

Walton is now serving a life sentence.

The jury is recommending the death penalty for Lisa Graham.

(source: WLTZ news)


Judge asked to decide if man accused in 2010 fatal shooting in Beauregard Town is mentally disabled

A prosecutor and attorneys for Aramis Jackson are asking a Baton Rouge state judge to resolve a split between 2 psychologists and decide whether the man accused of fatally shooting a woman and wounding her young daughter during a 2010 home invasion in Beauregard Town is intellectually disabled.

It's a move that would take the crucial determination of intellectual capacity out of the hands of a jury.

Accused killers found to be intellectually disabled, formerly called mentally retarded, cannot be executed if convicted of 1st-degree murder.

At this point in the 5-year-old case, the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney's Office intends to seek the death penalty if the 25-year-old Jackson is convicted of 1st-degree murder in the slaying of Alexandra Engler, 42. He also is charged with attempted 1st-degree murder of Ariana Engler, who was 9 years old when she was shot.

A California psychologist hired by Jackson's attorneys concluded earlier this year that he is intellectually disabled, but a New Orleans psychologist hired by the state found last month that Jackson is not mentally disabled.

That led prosecutor Darwin Miller and Jackson's attorneys, David Price and Mario Guadamud, to ask state District Judge Tony Marabella to settle the matter.

"The State of Louisiana and defense counsel are jointly requesting that the court hold an evidentiary hearing to resolve the issue relating to 'intellectual disability' prior to a jury trial in this case," they wrote in a motion filed Thursday.

The prosecutor and defense lawyers are asking for a hearing March 4.

Jackson is accused of shooting Alexandra Engler to death inside her Beauregard Street home on Sept. 24, 2010, and shooting her daughter multiple times. The young girl survived.

Witnesses identified Jackson, of Baton Rouge, as the man they observed in the area shortly after the crime carrying a gun and television believed stolen from the Engler home, police have said.

A forensic consultant, hired by the prosecution, who specializes in footwear impressions testified at a hearing in 2013 that a bloody shoeprint found in the kitchen of the Engler home was left by one of Jackson's shoes.

District Attorney Hillar Moore III has said previously that the shoeprint matched shoes found in Jackson's possession, but he would not say if Jackson was wearing the shoes when he was arrested.

(source: The Advocate)


Review: Song of a Man Coming Through ---- A tale of death row redemption, by Andrew Doss and Joe Morris Doss

Earnest Knighton Jr. killed a man during a robbery in the early 1980s and was sentenced to death. While on death row at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, a team of lawyers appealed his sentence, arguing that if he wasn't black, he wouldn't have received the death penalty. Song of a Man Coming Through, currently receiving its premiere from Southern Rep at the First Grace United Methodist Church, recounts Knighton's time on death row.

Song of a Man Coming Through is co-written by Andrew Doss and his father Joe Morris Doss, who is a character in the drama. Lawyer-turned-minister Joe (Mike Harkins), lawyer Julian Murray (John Neisler) and paralegal Catherine Brame (Cecile Monteyne) pursue the long and arduous appeals process to overturn Knighton's (Robert Diago DoQui) sentence. They argue the system is racist, and if Knighton was white, he would have been sentenced to life in prison. DoQui is a powerful actor, and he plays Knighton with confidence, even when the situation looks hopeless.

The audience surrounds the stage, which is minimally appointed with stacks of long, wooden crates, and the openness creates the sense of a communal experience. Aimee Hayes' direction is excellent, and powerful hymns, led by Brittney James and Barbara Shorts, punctuate scenes.

The show's focus in the second act is unbalanced. Toward the end, Knighton tells Doss to help "tell his story," which ostensibly is the show's purpose. Knighton's story comes through a series of interviews with his lawyers. During these sessions, the lawyers seem to cross-examine him, probing for important information. But instead of adding insight into Knighton's life, these scenes ultimately show more about the lawyers and their growing compassion for Knighton.

We see Knighton as a charming and thoughtful man when he's talking to an inmate played by Lance E. Nichols (TV's Treme). This character gives Knighton perspective and cautions him to be wary of the lawyers' intentions. The 2 men bond and constantly debate the best stance for a baseball player to use in the batter's box, a metaphor for their imprisonment. Nichols gives an extremely funny and dynamic performance full of gripping emotion and insight.

Although there were issues with the play's focus, the show's end is powerful and moving in both its emotional and religious context. The narrative raises many important points, such as the failings of mass incarceration, the ethics of capital punishment and the history of biased sentencing of black criminals. The acting and direction in Song of a Man Coming Through are outstanding, and this production should initiate some tough conversations.


ARKANSAS----female to face death penalty

Trial rescheduled for man accused of killing son, 6

A January jury trial will not take place for the Bella Vista man accused of killing his 6-year-old son.

Mauricio Alejandro Torres' jury trial was scheduled to begin Jan. 12. The trial was rescheduled due to the appointment of 2 new attorneys to represent Mauricio Torres. Jeff Rosenzweig and Bill James replaced attorneys for the Arkansas Public Defenders Commission who had represented Mauricio Torres.

Mauricio Torres, 45, and Cathy Torres , 43, the boy's mother, are charged with capital murder and 1st-degree battery. They have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Prosecutors will seek the death penalty for both.

Their son was pronounced dead at the hospital March 29. A medical examiner later determined Maurice Isaiah Torres suffered from chronic child abuse, and his death was from internal injuries caused by being raped.

Torres appeared in court Monday afternoon for a hearing in his murder case.

Circuit Judge Brad Karren scheduled jury selection to begin at 8:30 a.m. May 6.

Nathan Smith, Benton County's prosecuting attorney, told the judge he expects the trial to take at least 3 weeks.

Rosenzweig told the judge that the previous attorneys had done plenty of work on the case, but they still need to look into Torres' childhood in Central America. He lived there until he was 11 or 12 years old and then lived in California. Rosenzweig said they also had to look into the time that his client lived in California.

Prosecutors have already decided to try Mauricio Torres first.

Cathy Torres' jury trial was set to begin Jan. 26. She is scheduled to appear at 2:30 p.m. Monday for a hearing.

Karren discussed the possibility of setting her trial for Aug. 23 while discussing trial dates during Mauricio Torres' hearing.

The Torreses also were arrested in connection with rape, but prosecutors didn't include that offense in the charging documents. The rape occurred in Missouri, not in Benton County, Smith said.

Smith previously said his office didn't have jurisdiction to charge the couple with rape. The office has jurisdiction in the murder case because the boy died in Benton County, Smith said.

The Torreses are being held without bond in the Benton County Jail.

(source: Arkansas Online)


Sheley change-of-venue hearing reset for January

A change-of-venue hearing for a Sterling man facing the death sentence if convicted of killing his 7th and 8th victims has been moved to Jan. 8.

Nicholas Sheley, 36, of Sterling, already serving 6 life sentences for slayings in Sterling, Rock Falls and Galesburg, is being tried in Jefferson County Court in Missouri for the bludgeoning deaths of Jill and Tom Estes of Sherwood, Arkansas.

The couple were killed in the parking lot of a Festus, Missouri, hotel on June 30, 2008.



GOP candidates face fallout over death penalty for gays conference in Iowa

The fallout from GOP candidates' attendance at a "religious liberty" conference in Iowa continued last week. Right Wing Watch notes that conference organizer Kevin Swanson has repeatedly defended the death penalty for homosexuality:

When 3 Republican presidential candidates decided to address a conference in Iowa this weekend organized by Colorado pastor Kevin Swanson - a radical activist who thinks that Girl Scout cookies and the movie "Frozen" are turning girls into lesbians and has defended the death penalty for homosexuality - it showed once again that the Republican primary seems to be a competition of who can move farther to the right.

Swanson cleverly focused his Iowa conference on the theme of "religious liberties," warning that "persecution against Christians is on the rise in Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan, China, Oregon, and Kentucky." It was apparently an invitation that Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal - who are constantly harping on the theme that American Christians are on the road to facing persecution on par with Christians living under oppressive regimes - couldn't pass up.

Swanson made clear what he meant by anti-Christian persecution in interview at the conference with Seattle-based radio host Michelle Mendoza, when he complained that media reports on his anti-gay comments, including his recent remarks that AIDS is "God's retribution" for homosexuality, is part of a larger attempt to "shut down Christian media."

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow devoted a segment to the conference and Swanson, the Advocate reports:

Rachel Maddow focused Monday night on a tale of 2 forums this past weekend: 1 she hosted in South Carolina featuring the 3 major contenders for the Democratic party nomination, and an Iowa conference featuring 3 antigay Republican candidates for president hosted by a right wing pastor who declared "it's not a gay time!"

"It really was a 'kill the gays' call to arms," said Maddow on her MSNBC program.

The New York Times published an opinion piece taking aim at Swanson:

Earlier this month, in Des Moines, the prominent home-schooling advocate and pastor Kevin Swanson again called for the punishment of homosexuality by death. To be clear, he added that the time for eliminating America's gay population was "not yet" at hand. We must wait for the nation to embrace the one true religion, he suggested, and gay people must be allowed to repent and convert.

Mr. Huckabee later pleaded ignorance. Yet a quick web search will turn up Mr. Swanson's references to the demonic power of "the homosexual Borg," the unmitigated evil of Harry Potter and the Disney character Princess Elsa's lesbian agenda....

Mr. Cruz apparently felt little need to make excuses. He was accompanying another of the featured speakers at the conference: his father, Rafael Cruz - a politically connected pastor who told a 2013 Family Leadership Summit that same-sex marriage was a government plot to destroy the family.

(source: The Column)


Judge hears arguments in cases challenging death-penalty ballot

Lawyers clashed in a Lincoln courtroom Monday in back-to-back hearings on a lawsuit challenging whether the death-penalty question should go before voters next year and another challenging the wording on the ballot if it does.

Lancaster County District Judge Lori Maret made no decisions in the cases.

One, filed by longtime death penalty opponents Christy and Richard Hargesheimer, contends the petition process should be deemed invalid because it failed to disclose Gov. Pete Ricketts as a sponsor.

The other, filed by Beatrice attorney Lyle Koenig, takes issue with the language the Secretary of State has chosen to appear as the title on the ballot.

At hearings Monday, the main questions for Maret were:

* whether the judge should dismiss the Hargesheimers' lawsuit.

* And whether a pro-death-penalty group should be allowed to be a party in the Koenig case.

At the 1st hearing, in the Hargesheimers' case, nearly a dozen attorneys -- 4 on the plaintiffs' side and 7 for the defendants -- sat in the well.

The argument over the next 40 minutes came down, largely, to who qualifies as a "sponsor" of a petition.

Attorney Alan Peterson, who represents the Hargesheimers, contends that Nebraska law requires a sworn list of every person sponsoring a referendum.

"The plaintiff's claim is simple. They didn't do it," he said.

Peterson said the list left off Ricketts. It's Peterson's position that the courts haven't yet defined "sponsors," but there's strong indication Ricketts would meet any definition.

Ricketts and his father contributed 1/3 of the $913,000 raised by Nebraskans for the Death Penalty. Ricketts raised money for the campaign, and his close allies took roles to promote it.

In the end, Peterson said the court probably will have to come up with a legal definition, which can come from the legislature's intent to prevent fraud and to allow the public to be fully informed before deciding to support a petition.

Omaha attorney Steven Grasz, who represents Nebraskans for the Death Penalty and the Ballot Question Committee, said the fact that the plaintiffs can't or won't define "sponsor" only points out that their definition is so vague it would hinder rather than facilitate the referendum process.

"You can't have a gotcha game with the people's referendum rights," he argued.

Grasz said to construe the statute to encompass supporters, contributors and political leaders would put petition drives in a state of perpetual uncertainty.

He pointed to a definition in a prior Lancaster County case.

"Sponsor," he argued, refers to one who assumes statutory responsibility for the referendum once the petition commences.

Secretary of State John Gale interprets it that way, too.

"Your honor, there is no fraud in this case, there is no confusion," Grasz said.

Voters can look at Accountability and Disclosure reports to see all the contributors, he added.

Assistant Attorney General Ryan Post, who represents Gale, said since all parties agree it's a legal question, "there's no reason this court can't decide on a motion to dismiss."

In the Koenig case, which Maret took up next, attorney Chris Eickholt argued against the judge allowing Nebraskans for the Death Penalty to be joined to the suit, which seeks to change a single word to the title should the question end up before voters.

It challenges the Attorney General's proposed ballot language, which describes life in prison as the "maximum" sentence, when in fact it is the only sentence.

Eickholt said the pro-death penalty group didn't file within the time allowed to challenge the decision on the wording or provide an alternative.

On the other side, attorney Stephen Mossman argued the sponsor of the initial petition should have say in how it ultimately ends up on the ballot.

"If you have a problem with (the wording), you're supposed to do what Mr. Koenig did, right?" Maret asked Mossman.

He said the sponsor doesn't necessarily have a problem with that language, but the group has an interest in the outcome of the case.

Maret took motions in both cases under advisement.

(source: Lincoln Journal Star)


Ricketts' involvement in death penalty petition argued in lawsuit

An attorney for a pro-death penalty group urged a judge Monday to toss out a lawsuit by capital punishment opponents that attacks a voter petition drive because it did not list Nebraska's governor as a sponsor.

The lawsuit seeks to invalidate a petition that would ask voters if they want to reverse the death penalty repeal enacted by state lawmakers this spring.

Nebraskans for the Death Penalty properly listed 3 sponsors when the group submitted official paperwork for the petition, said Omaha attorney Steve Grasz. Gov. Pete Ricketts' political and financial support of the petition drive - to the tune of $200,000 - did not constitute sponsorship, Grasz argued.

The Nebraska Constitution says state laws should make voter petitions easier, not harder, to achieve. Allowing death penalty opponents to vaguely define a petition sponsor as someone who contributes money would discourage citizen participation in the referendum process, Grasz said.

"You can't have a 'gotcha' game with the people's initiative and petition rights," he said.

Lawyers for death penalty opponents, meanwhile, argued that citizens should know the extent of the governor's involvement in an initiative petition he helped fund. The law also requires the listing of all sponsors so voters can be fully informed before deciding whether to sign, said Lincoln attorney Alan Peterson, who represents Nebraskans for Public Safety.

The proper listing of sponsors prevents fraud by holding those behind a petition drive legally responsible.

"The provision allows the public and the media to scrutinize the validity and the completeness of any list of sponsors," Peterson said.

Lancaster County District Judge Lori Maret took the matter under advisement Monday and will issue her ruling at a later date. But she learned all legal issues surrounding the death penalty petition - including any appeals - must be decided by Sept. 16, 2016, to meet a deadline for the Nebraska Secretary of State to print ballots.

Death penalty defenders collected about 143,000 valid signatures to put the question on the November 2016 general election ballot.

The number also was enough to put the repeal on hold until the vote.

State senators abolished capital punishment over the governor's veto. In the months that followed, Ricketts solicited contributions for the referendum drive and gave $200,000 to the $1.36 million effort. His father, Joe Ricketts, contributed $100,000.

Among those coordinating the drive were Jessica Flanagain, the governor's privately paid political consultant, and Chris Peterson, whom Ricketts hired to organize the inaugural ball. The governor was "the primary initiating force" behind the referendum, according to the lawsuit.

Alan Peterson said Monday the lawsuit should go forward so witnesses can be questioned about the extent of the governor's involvement in an effort to reverse a law with which he disagrees.

In 2003 the Nebraska Supreme Court invalidated a pro-gambling petition because organizers failed to include a sworn statement including the names and addresses of sponsors. But the majority opinion in the ruling did not define a sponsor.

However, in a concurring opinion, then-Chief Justice John Hendry defined a petition sponsor as someone who identifies himself as "willing to assume statutory responsibilities once the petition process has commenced." Grasz said the 3 sponsors in the death penalty petition meet the Hendry definition.

Secretary of State John Gale reviews petition sponsor listings using the same definition, said Ryan Post, an assistant attorney general.

Alan Peterson contends it was more significant that the court majority did not adopt the Hendry definition in its opinion.

(source: World-Herald)


Attorneys spar over lawsuit to keep death penalty off Neb. ballot

A group that wants to retain Nebraska's death penalty is asking a judge to dismiss a lawsuit that could prevent the issue from appearing on the November 2016 ballot.

However, death penalty opponents who filed the lawsuit argued in court Monday that the lawsuit should proceed.

The lawsuit argues that the ballot measure to reinstate the punishment after lawmakers abolished the death penalty is invalid because Gov. Pete Ricketts wasn't listed as a sponsor.

Ricketts donated $200,000 to the effort, but has said his support for the petition drive didn't make him a sponsor.

Nebraskans for the Death Penalty raised more than $913,000 and spent nearly all of it on the petition drive. The group has said the lawsuit is politically motivated.

(source: KETV news)


Joe Hill, who was executed by firing squad in Utah 100 years ago, inspired generations of musicians from Woody Guthrie to Bruce Springsteen

Nov. 19, 2015, will mark the 100th anniversary of the execution of Joe Hill, a man who gave us the phrase "pie in the sky" and left a legacy that has inspired generations of musicians - from Woody Guthrie to Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen.

He also left an enduring mystery over whether he died a martyr or a murderer.

The crime for which Hill faced a firing squad was the shooting of a Salt Lake City shopkeeper and his son. The prosecution's case was based entirely on weak circumstantial evidence, but he was convicted anyway.

Friends wrote at a funeral that drew 30,000 mourners in Chicago that Hill was "murdered by the authorities of the State of Utah" because of his role in the workers rebellion.

The anniversary is being marked by concerts, museum exhibits and plays all over the U.S. and abroad, including The Subversive Theater Collective's performance of "Joe Hill's Last Will."

Not bad for a man who was born into poverty in Sweden, spent most of his life as a hobo laborer in America, and was dead at 36.

By conventional standards, he had nothing and he knew it. His last will went like this:

"My Will is easy to decide,

"For there is nothing To divide

"My kin don't need to fuss and moan -

"Moss does not cling to a rolling stone."

He's a folk legend today because of the rhymes and tunes he penned for the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), the radical union known as the Wobblies.

The man who'd one day be revered as the bard of American labor was born Joel Emmanuel Hagglund, in Sweden in 1879. His talents emerged early. By 8, he was playing violin, writing poems and songs, and joining in his family's tradition of sing-a-longs.

That all ended when an on-the-job accident killed his father. By the time Joel was 12, he was laboring in a rope mill and, by 17, he had tuberculosis. After years of treatment, the boy recovered just in time for another blow - the death of his mother.

With nothing left at home, he hopped a ship to America, landing in New York City in October 1902, and headed West.

He drifted, an anonymous worker. There's evidence that he was in San Francisco for the 1906 earthquake and, in 1911, he was in Mexico for the revolution.

During those years, he hooked up with the Wobblies, just when the movement was setting its discontent to music. In 1909, the IWW published its inaugural edition of "The Little Red Songbook."

Hill's songs first appeared in the book in 1911. He started with a bang, a scathing satire on churches called "The Preacher and the Slave." This song contains a phrase familiar to everyone, even young people today who have never heard Hill's name.

You will eat, bye and bye,

In that glorious land above the sky:

Work and pray, live on hay,

You'll get pie in the sky when you die.

Hill kept moving around, taking jobs here and there and writing. In time, he became "IWW's preeminent musical voice," wrote William M. Adler in his 2011 biography, "The Man Who Never Died."

On Jan. 10, 1914, Hill was in Salt Lake City, Utah, when a retired police officer-turned-shopkeeper, John Morrison, and his eldest son, Arling, were shot dead. Morrison's younger son, who was in the back room at the time, said he saw 2 men with red bandanas covering their faces burst into the store and start shooting.

Morrison's gun was found near Arling's body. Neighbors recalled 2 men running from the store and that one of them cried out, "Hold on, Bob, I'm shot."

A couple hours later, Hill turned up on a doctor's doorstep, bleeding from a gunshot wound to his chest. The bullet had passed through his body and was never found. Hill told the doctor that he had been shot in a quarrel over a woman. The doctor turned him in to the police.

The case against Hill was flimsy. He had no motive. Even the key to the case - the bullet wound - was questionable, since no one could say for sure if Morrison had gotten off a shot. There were also other men - career criminals - who were more likely to have targeted the shopkeeper.

With the prosecution's weaknesses, it might have seemed easy to raise reasonable doubt, but Hill did not help his cause. He was surly in court and fired his lawyers. He refused to give the name of the man who shot him and the woman who allegedly provoked the jealous rage.

Hill was convicted and sentenced to death after a 10-day trial.

Pleas to spare his life poured in, including from such notables as Helen Keller and President Woodrow Wilson, but nothing would change Utah's decision. When it was apparent there was no hope, Hill wrote to IWW chief "Big Bill" Haywood, "I will die like a true-blue rebel. Don't waste any time in mourning - organize."

Hill was shot at sunrise on Nov. 19 and his body was cremated. A year after the execution, Haywood distributed hundreds of packets of his ashes to union delegates from all over the world and told them to scatter them - anywhere but Utah.

Hill's songs and legend endured, and even his ashes managed to stick around for years after his death.

One packet that had been confiscated by the post office was tucked away and forgotten in the National Archives in Washington, D.C. It wasn't until the mid-1980s that they were rediscovered and then scattered by the IWW.

(source: New York Daily News)


Ending the Death Penalty Because of, not in Spite of, Conservative Principles

A few years ago, any state ending the death penalty struck most political observers as an extraordinary event. Following Gregg v. Georgia (1976), which ended a 4-year hiatus on capital punishment nationally, state after state reinstated the death penalty. This trend continued into the 1990s, as even deep blue states like New York brought it back. In this environment dominated by tough-on-crime rhetoric, a state ending the death penalty seemed impossible.

That changed in 2007, when New Jersey became the 1st state since Gregg to repeal the death penalty legislatively. After New Jersey, other states - New Mexico, Illinois, Connecticut, Maryland - followed suit. With each state that repealed the death penalty, it became less of a surprise. But one development this year caught people off guard: a legislature in a red state, Nebraska, voted to scrap its death penalty.

This move piqued the interest of commentators as diverse as George Will and Rachel Maddow. The news prompted The Daily Show to send a reporter to Nebraska to "investigate." When interviewed by The Daily Show, the lead Republican sponsor of repealing Nebraska's death penalty, Senator Colby Coash, explained to a skeptical reporter that it was because of, not in spite of, his conservative principles that he led the effort. In particular, this aspect of the Nebraska campaign - legislators ending capital punishment for conservative reasons - has fascinated and perplexed observers.

Specifically, the conservative case against the death penalty consists of 3 principal arguments: the death penalty's incompatibility with (1) limited government, (2) fiscal responsibility, and (3) promoting a culture of life.

First, at its most basic level, the death penalty represents an expansion of government power. Capital punishment involves not just removing violent individuals from society, but taking the additional step of killing them after they have been incarcerated. With modern prisons, the government has available non-lethal means to keep society secure without resorting to executions. Furthermore, giving government the power to execute leads to abuse of this power in the form of executing likely innocent individuals and botched executions. After such mistakes, states have turned to keeping secret the details of executions, which only leads to more errors and abuse.

2nd, the death penalty costs states millions of dollars more than incarcerating someone for life. Studies in over a dozen states have reached this conclusion. Because of wrongful death sentences and other errors, the courts require extra due process in capital cases. Therefore whenever prosecutors seek a death sentence, they set in motion a longer, more complex, and costlier legal process. Justifying this expense proves difficult when there is no credible evidence that the death penalty has any impact on murder rates. Moreover, most death sentences are overturned, which means that states often spend extra resources on what ends up being a life without parole sentence.

3rd, the Catholic Church and others have questioned the death penalty's place in a society that values life. The over 155 wrongful death sentences and subsequent exonerations nationwide make clear that the death penalty threatens innocent life. Even for those guilty of grave crimes, their lives have value and there remains the possibility of redemption, which an execution unnecessarily cuts short.

These reasons, of course, do not persuade all conservatives. One objection raised is that, by definition, conservatives support the death penalty. Even if someone is Republican, pro-life, and fiscally conservative, they lose their conservative credentials by opposing the death penalty. But making capital punishment a litmus-test issue proves difficult to defend because it disqualifies as conservative no small number of figures - Robert George, Abby Johnson, Ron Paul, Ramesh Ponnuru, Jay Sekulow, and others - well respected by various conservative constituencies. This view also puts a movement committed to religious liberty in the uncomfortable position of expelling from its ranks those deeply opposed to the death penalty on religious grounds.

Another objection appeals to tradition: capital punishment has existed in America since its founding, and thus the conservative position is to support it. This argument, however, takes a selective view of history. Yes, executions have occurred in America since the 1600s, but at the same time the Founding Fathers expressed reservations about capital punishment and were influenced by the criminologist Cesare Beccaria, who condemned the practice in his treatise On Crimes and Punishments. In this environment, some states dramatically restricted the crimes eligible for the death penalty in sharp contrast to England's Bloody Code, which designated a long list of property crimes as capital offenses. Later in 1846, it was an America state (Michigan) that became the first English-speaking territory to abolish the death penalty.

Experimentation by the states has demonstrated that - contrary to some doomsday rhetoric - repealing the death penalty does not lead to disaster. Currently, 19 states have abandoned the death penalty, with another 4 implementing a moratorium on executions. Massive crime waves have not resulted. In fact, states without the death penalty have lower murder rates on average than states with it. People in states without the death penalty appear content with the status quo, as they support life without parole over the death penalty by a wide margin.

There is a cogent conservative case, then, for ending the death penalty. It will be interesting to see if its impact in Nebraska was an anomaly or part of something larger. Developments elsewhere suggest the latter. Last month the National Association of Evangelicals changed its pro-death penalty position of over 40 years, and now recognizes that Christians have legitimate reasons to oppose capital punishment. In Kansas, the state Republican Party dropped its pro-death penalty plank from its platform, while the College Republicans called for the death penalty's repeal. Legislatures in other red states like Montana have come close to ending the death penalty.

As evidence of the death penalty's brokenness has become harder to ignore, support for its repeal has grown across the political spectrum. If that trend continues and ending the death penalty increasingly becomes a bipartisan cause, its days almost certainly are numbered.

(source: Ben Jones is a campaign strategist for Equal Justice USA (EJUSA) and works in support of Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty (CCATDP), a project of EJUSA. Mr. Jones was the Executive Director of the Connecticut Network to Abolish the Death Penalty, successfully repealing capital punishment there in 2012----The Harvard Law Record)


Death sentences for killing police officer upheld in Bahrain----Abdul Wahid Sayid Mohammad Faqeer's murder was 'calculated and carefully planned'

The Cassation Court in Bahrain on Monday upheld the death sentence for two defendants found guilty of killing an on-duty police officer and of attempted murder.

Police officer Abdul Wahid Sayid Mohammad Faqeer was killed on February 14 last year in the Dair area, in the northern part of Muharraq island.

"The Court of Cassation has upheld the decisions by the Higher Criminal Court and the Court of Appeal to sentence 2 of the individuals to death, in light of the calculated and carefully planned manner in which Abdul Wahid was murdered," Advocate General Nayif Yousuf said. "The Court also upheld the length of the prison sentences handed down to the other appellants."

The Public Prosecution's investigations, which included crime scene forensic evidence, mobile phone evidence, and witness testimonies, found that the defendants had lured security personnel to Al Dair area, where a remote Improvised Explosive Device (IED) had been planted. The explosive device was detonated upon the arrival of the security forces and killed Abdul Wahid and injured several other officers, the Advocate General said.

"2 of the defendants were found guilty of planting and detonating the explosive device, while 10 others were convicted of obtaining and manufacturing explosive devices with the intent to use them in terrorist attacks," the Advocate General said.

"The defendants had been provided with access to their legal representatives and all relevant evidence at every stage of their trial and appeal processes."

(source: Gulf News)


Aust seen as hypocritical on executions

Australia is perceived in Indonesia as having double standards over the death penalty.

That's because there was a huge outcry over the deaths of 2 Australian drug smugglers but none over the 2008 executions of the Bali bombers who killed 88 Australians in 2002.

Speaking via video link to a Senate inquiry into the abolition of the death penalty, Indonesian human rights lawyer Ricky Gunawan said Australia's opposition to the death penalty was seen as hypocritical in Indonesia.

"To be honest, in terms of the death penalty, ordinary Indonesian people also see a double standard from Australia, because you were silent when we executed the Bali bombers," Mr Gunawan told the sub-committee, chaired by veteran Liberal MP Philip Ruddock on Tuesday.

He said Australia needed to reach out to ordinary Indonesians if it wanted to make any inroads in changing the nation's strict stance on the death penalty.

It must also stop publicly criticising the Indonesian government and instead engage in "quiet diplomacy" if it was to win Indonesia's trust.

He advised that developing a good relationship with local media was "crucial, because media influences public opinion".

"You can shape public opinion to show there are dark sides to the death penalty," Mr Gunawan said.

Reaching out to religious groups and giving voice to Indonesian academics opposed to the death penalty would also help.

After the hearing, Mr Ruddock conceded Mr Gunawan was "probably right that we were more focused on Australians on death row than Indonesian Bali bombers, because they committed serious terrorism offences".

"But I don't think it was top of the mind for most people to be protesting about letting the Bali bombers off," he told AAP.

(source: Geelong Advertiser)


Qld MP's death penalty calls 'insensitive'

Queensland's premier has ridiculed an opposition MP's repeated calls for the death penalty to be considered for terrorists.

Liberal National Party MP Dr Christian Rowan, who last week used a parliamentary speech to call for a conversation about the death penalty, renewed his push this week in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris.

"I find it quite insensitive and quite unbelievable that a member of parliament in this day and age in Australia would be calling for that," Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Ms Palaszczuk has reaffirmed the state's commitment to resettle 3500 of the 12,000 Syrian refugees the Federal Government has offered to take in.

It comes amid calls, including from federal MP Bob Katter, for Australia to shut its doors to Syrian refugees for fear of terrorists, posing as asylum seekers, trying to enter the country.

At least 129 people were killed in simultaneous attacks in Paris at the weekend.

(source: Yahoo News)


China Bends Vow, Using Prisoners' Organs for Transplants

When a senior Chinese health official said last year that China would stop using prisoners' organs for transplants as of Jan. 1, 2015, human rights advocates and medical professionals around the world greeted the announcement with relief.

It seemed to end a decades-long form of human exploitation in which hundreds, perhaps thousands, of organs of executed prisoners were harvested each year.

But organs from prisoners, including those on death row, can still be used for transplants in China, with the full backing of policy makers, according to Chinese news reports, as well as doctors and medical researchers in China and abroad. "They just reclassified prisoners as citizens," said Huige Li, a Chinese-born doctor at the University of Mainz in Germany.

The December announcement by Huang Jiefu, a former deputy health minister and chairman of the National Health and Family Planning Commission's Human Organ and Transplant Committee, was "an administrative trick," said Dr. Otmar Kloiber, the World Medical Association secretary general.

The association opposes the use of organs from prisoners in any country that has the death penalty, saying there is no way of knowing if such donations are truly voluntary.

The relabeling of prisoners has enabled Chinese officials to include them in a new, nationwide "citizen donation" system that China is building to reduce its longstanding reliance on organs from prisoners. The move has been described in multiple state reports quoting Dr. Huang and other officials.

In January, People's Daily reported that voluntary donations from citizens had become the sole source of organs for transplant. It quoted Dr. Huang as explaining: "Death-row prisoners are also citizens, and the law does not deprive them of their right to donate their organs. If death-row prisoners are willing to donate their organs to atone for their crimes, then they should be encouraged."

In March, Dr. Huang told The Beijing Times, "Once the organs from death-row prisoners who have voluntarily donated are included in our national distribution system, they are counted as voluntary citizen donations."

Dr. Kloiber said the World Medical Association was aware of reports that China was continuing to use prisoners' organs, in contravention of the association's ethical standards. The China Medical Association is a member of the world body.

The only exception under the association guidelines, Dr. Kloiber said, was donations for immediate family members.

"The practice there is unethical and should be changed to an ethical practice," he said of China. "Administrative tricks don't make it ethical."

The December announcement came at a meeting of the new China Organ Procurement Organization Alliance. It is one of several organizations set up in recent years to help transform China's system from one depending heavily on organs from executed prisoners to one of voluntary donation, as in many developed nations. The alliance, Dr. Huang and National Health and Family Planning Commission officials could not be reached for comment.

At the meeting, Dr. Huang said: "From Jan. 1, 2015, we will completely stop using death-row prisoners' organs as a transplant source. The only source will be organs from dead citizens who have voluntarily donated."

The discrepancy between that public statement and current practice is coming to light as doctors begin to speak publicly about what they call major changes in their country's troubled organ donation system.

Broadly, China is trying to construct a more transparent system with a central organ pool for all, amid public anger at corruption and lack of equal access.

Previously, multiple medical centers operated, often secretly, to procure organs from prisoners or poor migrant workers and supply them to politically well-connected or wealthy patients, according to officials and researchers. Now, the government says it is working to create a single pool that will be fairly managed with organs distributed according to medical need.

China began to solicit organs from the public in 2010. In a 2011 article in the medical journal Lancet, Dr. Huang said about 65 % of transplants in China had been done with organs from dead donors, of which more than 90 % were executed prisoners. The rest had been provided by living donors.

When Chinese officials said last year that they would no longer use prisoners' organs, that meant they would no longer systematically harvest organs from death-row inmates, Dr. Li said.

Dr. Huang "is separating dead prisoners' organs into 2 groups," Dr. Li added. "1 is the traditional style, 'I don't care if prisoners agree or not, we'll use them,'" which has been illegal since 2007, he said. That year, a new law on organ transplants banned trafficking in organs and removing them without written consent, although it did not mention prisoners.

"When he said, 'We will completely stop using prisoners' organs,' he meant stop using that illegal component," Dr. Li said.

Still, China deserves credit for trying to change the system by encouraging more voluntary donations outside prisons, Dr. Kloiber said. "We have to acknowledge they are willing to discuss this," he said.

Anecdotal evidence from Chinese doctors points to progress, but also suggests continuing problems.

Many Chinese are reluctant to donate organs because of Confucian traditions that consider the body a gift from parents to be buried or cremated intact. Also, many people have been reluctant to donate because of a widespread assumption that in a corrupt system their organs would not be fairly used.

"A majority of the lungs I transplanted last year came from convicts," said Dr. Chen Jingyu, a national transplant specialist and a surgeon at Wuxi People's Hospital. He said he and his team did 104 lung transplants in 2014.

He and many other surgeons expected that, with the announced policy change, they would face a severe shortfall. But after Jan. 1, he said, the feared decrease did not happen. He expects about 150 lung transplants in China this year, about the same as last year.

(source: The New York Times)


Bill to abolish death penalty for drug offences on the cards, says law minister

Putrajaya plans to table a bill in March next year to abolish the mandatory death penalty in drug-related offences, de facto law minister Nancy Shukri said today.

She said this would allow judges to use their discretion to choose between sentencing a person to jail and the gallows in non-criminal cases, such as drug-related offences.

"What we are looking at is the abolishment of the mandatory death sentence. It is not easy to amend and we are working on it," she told a press conference after a roundtable discussion on the abolishment of the mandatory death penalty in Parliament today.

"We can get rid of the word 'mandatory' to allow judges to use their discretion in drug-related offences."

She said Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali was supportive of the move, adding the latter's interview with The Malaysian Insider, in which he had thrown support for the abolishment of the mandatory death sentence.

Apandi said, in the report published last Friday, that he would propose to the Cabinet that the mandatory death penalty be scrapped, adding that it was a "paradox", as it robbed judges of their discretion to impose sentences on convicted criminals.

"If I had my way, I would introduce the option for the judge in cases where it involves capital punishment. Give the option to the judge either to hang him or send him to prison.

"Then we're working towards a good administration of criminal justice," Apandi told The Malaysian Insider.

He said that this would be in line with the "universal thinking" of capital punishment, although he denied calling for the death penalty to be abolished altogether. "Not to say that I am for absolute abolition of capital punishment, but at least we go in stages. We take step by step."

A mandatory death sentence is imposed in Malaysia in cases involving murder, certain firearm offences, drug-trafficking and treason. Statistics from the Prisons Department showed 1.022 prisoners on death row as of October 6 and from 1998 until now, 33 convicts had been executed and 127 have had their death sentences reversed to lighter punishments.



Mandatory death penalty law for drug cases to be amended next March

The government will seek to amend the mandatory death penalty sentence for drug offences in March next year.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Nancy Shukri said the decision was reached after discussions with Attorney-General (A-G) Tan Sri Apandi Ali.

"I have discussed with the A-G and he agrees.

"I hope that it can be presented in the Dewan Rakyat next year in March."

Nancy spoke on the matter after the Parliamentary for Global Action (PGA) meeting on "Parliamentary Round Table on the Abolition of the Death Penalty in Malaysia" in Parliament today.

Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz, who was also present at the meeting, said the amendment will allow judges the ability to exercise their discretion when sentencing drug-related cases.

Mohamed Nazri, who was also PGA chairman, stated that the change would signify a positive trend towards the annulment of the mandatory death sentence in the country.

"As a start, we see the abolition of death by gallows for cases that do not involve criminal offences involving drugs.

"We have summarised that as a start we can eliminate the mandatory death sentence and the judges can use their discretion."

(source: The Rakyat Post)


Mujahid's lawyers argue only against death sentence in review petition hearing

Death-row war criminal Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid's defence has not raised any point regarding the charge for which the Jamaat-e-Islami secretary general has been sentenced to life in prison in the hearing of his review petition.

At the hearing of the review petition before the Appellate Division of the High Court on Tuesday, Mujahid's lawyers only presented arguments against the charge for which the Al-Badr commander has been sentenced to death.

"At least his neck will be saved," was the response of his main counsel Khandaker Mahbub Hossain to a query on the matter.

The International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) sentenced Mujahid to death on 3 charges of crimes committed against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War.

The Supreme Court upheld his death sentence on the charge of plotting the murders of intellectuals.

His death sentence on another charge was commuted to life term imprisonment. He was acquitted of 1 other charge.

A 4-member Appellate Division bench headed by Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha heard Mujahid's plea for a review of the appeals on the verdict on Tuesday.

It is set to issue the verdict on Wednesday.

Asked what his expectations were of the verdict, Mujahid's counsel Hossain said, "We expect an acquittal of the accused whenever we file any case."

"But here, we did not go against all the charges. He was sentenced to life on another change and to five years in jail on another. We don't have anything to say on these," Hossain said.

"We have something to say against only 1 charge - for which he got the death penalty. We've argued that it was unlawful to sentence him to death in line with the witnesses' depositions and evidence," he added.

The review is the last stage of the legal battle. The only other option to evade the death sentence is through seeking presidential clemency, if the death penalty is not changed in review.

It is clear from Mujahid's chief lawyer's comments that the defence team has no worries about his life term imprisonment or any other penalty.

When spoke to him about the matter, Hossain again said, "We have sought review of only one charge."

"The scope is very limited in a review. For that reason, we've said that the penalty for charge No. 6 is 'not in accordance with law'; this penalty cannot be given under the corresponding section in line with the witnesses' depositions and the evidences presented during the trial," he said.

About the other charges, he said, "We are not challenging the others."

"And the Appellate Division decisions on the others are 'in accordance with law'. We can't say that the penalties were not in line with the law," he added.

After the hearing, Hossain told reporters that Mujahid had not been named in the 42 cases filed earlier over the murders of intellectuals.

He also claimed the investigators did not find Mujahid's name in any list of Al-Badr force.

"We've shown that the Al-Badr command was army command. We have shown it from an interview of Mr Niazi (Gen Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi of the Pakistan Army) published in a book of Muntassir Mamoon. Mr Niazi said Al-Badr and Al-Shams were under direct army command," he said.

Hossain claimed the charge for which Mujahid was sentenced to death was not specific.

"In other cases, there were specific charges against the accused persons - like the accused carried out the murder at some specific place and tortured specific people. But the charge against Mr Mujahid is not specific," he said.

"The charge was...the killings of he was the secretary of Islami Chhatra Sangha, he will have to take the responsibility for these (killings) - what is known as superior command.

"We have argued that the Al-Badr force was directly under the army, under Niazi," Hossain said.



Hearing on Nizami appeal resumes

Hearing on the appeal of Jamaat amir Matiur Rahman Nizami has resumed at the Appellate Division of Supreme Court on Wednesday.

On September 9, a 4-member bench started hearing on the appeal filed by Matiur Rahman Nizami.

International Crimes Tribunal-1 on 29 October last year gave the Jamaat-e-Islami leader death penalty on 4 charges, including murdering intellectuals.

On 23 November last year, Jamaat chief Nizami challenged the death penalty in the Appellate Division.



4 get death penalty for raping, killing girl

A Dhaka court has awarded death sentence to 4 persons for raping and killing 13-year-old girl Zakia Akter Champa of Faridpur in 2012. Dhaka Speedy Trial Tribunal 4 Judge Abdur Rahman Sarder passed the order on Tuesday.

The convicts who got the death penalty were Md Shamim Mandal, Md Babul Hossain alias Rajib, Zahidul Hasan alias Jazid and Akash Mandol. Of the convicts, Rajib and Akash are on the run.

The court acquitted Mousumi of the charges.

According to the verdict, on December 13, 2012, the victim was taken away from a wedding ceremony of her sister by the convicts in Faridpur town. Later, they killed her and hanged the body with a tree.

On December 15, the victim's brother Md Hasibul Islam filed a murder case with Kotwali police station accusing 5 people.

Police submitted the charge sheet on May 20, 2013.

(source: Dhaka Tribune)


Pakistani Citizen Executed Southest Iran, 5 Other Prisoners Executed in the Northwest

From Thursday November 12 until today, Iranian authorities have executed at least 6 prisoners in 2 different prisons. Most of the hangings were carried out for alleged drug offenses.

On Saturday November 14, a Pakistani citizen, identified as Younes Jamaloldini, was reportedly hanged at Zahedan Central Prison on alleged drug charges. According to close sources, Jamaloldini was around 35 years old and had been transferred from his prison ward to solitary confinement in preparation for his execution.

"Currently there are at least 9 Pakistani citizens in Zahedan Central Prison, 5 of them are sentenced to death for drug trafficking, the rest of them are sentenced to life in prison. Aside from one of them, the youngest is being held in the juvenile ward, the rest are being held in ward 7. There are also more than 15 Afghan citizens in the same ward, most are sentenced to death," says an informed source who has requested to be annonymous.

On Thursday November 12 and Monday November 16, a total of 5 prisoners, incuding 1 woman, were reportedly hanged at Tabriz Central Prison. According to the Kurdistan Human Rights Network, the prisoners on Thursday were executed on drug related charges and have been identified as: Mohammad Ali Zamani, Jafar Azizi, Mohammad Panahvand, and Hagar Safari. The prisoner on Monday was reportedly executed on murder charges and has been identified as Saeed Rahimi.

Iranian official sources have been silent on the recent executions in Tabriz and Zahedan prisons.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

NOVEMBER 16, 2015:


Death penalty sought for NC man accused of killing wife and stepdaughter

Prosecutors announced Monday they would seek the death penalty for a Sanford man accused of killing his wife and stepdaughter.

Billy Jo Mclean is accused of killing Calandra Mclean and Tashonna Cameron, 13, in July.

On July 13, Sanford firefighters responded to an apartment complex in response to a strong gas odor.

When firefighters arrived, they found smoke coming from an apartment nearby and found Mclean and Cameron inside the apartment at 916 Clark Circle.

Authorities said Billy Jo Mclean took his 17-year-old stepson to Texas following the killings.

Billy Jo Mclean was found at the Royal Inn located at in Wildorado, Texas, shortly after midnight July 17.

At a court appearance in Lee County on Monday, prosecutors announced they are seeking the death penalty for Billy Jo Mclean.

Billy Jo Mclean is charged with 2 counts of 1st-degree murder in connection with the case.

Billy Jo Mclean's next scheduled court appearance in in March.

(source: WNCN news)


Tuscaloosa man found guilty of capital murder in uncle's death

Alexius Foster, the Tuscaloosa man accused of stabbing his uncle to death in 2013 and killing a former friend about a month later has been found guilty of capital murder in both of their deaths.

Foster was charged with capital murder in the death of his uncle George Foster, 57, who was fatally stabbed at his home in June 2013. Investigators said robbery was a motive in the crime.

A month later, Foster's former friend Antonio Williams' body was discovered in a shallow grave. Foster is also charged with capital murder in Williams' death.

Investigators believe Williams was killed because Alexius Foster thought he was talking to police about George Foster's murder.

The district attorney will seek the death penalty against Foster. The sentencing phase of the trial begins Wednesday, Nov. 18 at 9:30 a.m.

When asked about his response to the jury's decision, Alexius Foster replied, "Hallelujah, God is good, hallelujah" on Monday morning.

Circuit Judge John England declared a mistrial earlier this year after homicide investigators arrested another man in connection with both murders during Foster's trial.

Foster is being tried separately from Shaddrell Mathews, the other suspect charged in connection with the murders.

(source: WSFA news)


Suspected serial killer Darren Vann wants to represent himself

A man the state is seeking the death penalty against wants to represent himself, according to online court records.

Lake Criminal Judge Diane Boswell scheduled a hearing for Wednesday after Darren Vann wrote to the court indicating he wanted to represent himself, according to online court records.

Vann, 44, of Gary, faces murder charges in the strangling deaths of Afrika Hardy, 19, and Anith Jones, 35, of Merrillville.

He allegedly confessed to killing 5 other women whose bodies were found last fall in abandoned buildings in Gary. Vann has not been charged in those homicides as of this week.

The Lake County prosecutor's office is seeking the death penalty in the case. Vann is scheduled to stand trial Jan. 25.

The request from Vann comes a month after one of his public defenders, Teresa Hollandsworth, withdrew from the case. He is now represented by public defenders Gojko Kasich, Matthew Fech and Mark Bates.

The correspondence to the court from Vann was not available Monday, because the file was not in the clerk's office.

Vann is accused of killing Hardy after meeting her through an online escort service, according to court records. Hardy was found strangled to death Oct. 17, 2014 in a bathtub at a Motel 6 in Hammond.

After Vann was questioned by police in Hardy's homicide, he allegedly confessed to killing Jones along with 5 other women, police said.

Jones was found Oct. 18, 2014, in an abandoned building in the 400 block of East 43rd Street in Gary. Vann told detectives a mutual friend offered him money and drugs to make Jones disappear before an upcoming court hearing, according to the affidavit.

The other women are Teaira Batey, Tanya Gatlin, Sonya Billingsley, Tracy L. Martin and Kristine Williams.



Oregon serial killer sentenced to death after prosecutors sought death penalty for 4th time

A jury on Monday sentenced one of Oregon's most prolific serial killers to death for the 4th time, an ultimately symbolic decision in a state that has not executed anyone in nearly 20 years.

Dayton Leroy Rogers, who killed 8 women in the 1980s, had previously been sentenced to death 3 times for his crimes, and each time the penalty was overturned on legal grounds. The jury's new verdict comes despite a moratorium on executions imposed by the past 2 governors.

Rogers apologized in court Friday. He told jurors the word "sorry" was inadequate, but he was sorry for taking "8 precious lives."

Rogers, a 62-year-old former lawn-mower repairman, was dubbed the Molalla Forest Killer because the bodies were discovered in a forest in the small town of Molalla.

Prosecutors said Rogers drove to Portland to solicit prostitutes, plied them with alcohol, and took them to remote locations where he tied them up and tortured them.

Defence attorney Richard Wolf has said Rogers would waive his right to an appeal if he got a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

During Rogers' most recent sentencing trial in Clackamas County Circuit Court, Wolf said sending Rogers to prison for life would give a resolution to victims' families and avoid the costs of further legal proceedings.

If Rogers is sentenced to death, various appeals could take up another 30 years, cost about $3 million and continue to drag families into court, Wolf said.

The attorney also argued that Rogers' traumatic childhood - including sexual and physical abuse - and the brain damage he suffered should be considered as mitigating evidence.

But prosecutor Bryan Brock said Rogers should get the death penalty because his acts were heinous and deliberate. He said Rogers carefully planned his attacks and was driven by sexual gratification from inflicting pain.

Rogers was convicted of 6 killings in 1989, and each of 3 juries has sentenced him to death. Rogers also was tied to the slaying of a woman identified in 2013 and sentenced to life in prison for the stabbing death of a woman outside a Portland restaurant in 1987.

The state Supreme Court struck down Rogers' death sentences in 1992, 2000 and 2012. The 1st time was to comply with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that invalidated Oregon's death penalty law.

(source: Associated Press)


Grays Harbor County Prosecutor comments on state death penalty referendum

Following an announcement on Friday that state prosecutors plan to send a death penalty referendum to voters next year, Grays Harbor County Prosecutor Katie Svoboda issued a press release to KXRO about the decision.

"The prosecuting attorneys of Washington State overwhelmingly believe that the people of the state should vote on the question of whether the state should retain the death penalty as an option in cases of aggravated murder. As the elected officials entrusted with the fair administration of capital punishment in our state, we call upon the Governor and the Legislature to place a referendum on the ballot next year seeking guidance from the voters about this significant public policy issue."

According to the release, it was 40 years ago, in 1975, that the people of the state approved Initiative 316, which created the death penalty in our state. The previous death penalty setup had been found unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court in the Fuhrman v. Georgia case in 1972. The language of the initiative was amended by the Legislature in 1981.

For the past 34 years Washington prosecutors have pursued capital punishment in the most heinous murders committed in our state. During that time, prosecutors sought the death penalty in 90 of 268 cases where it was a possible sentence according to Svoboda. Jurors returned unanimous verdicts of the death penalty in 32 of those 90 cases.

The 32 death sentences that have been imposed under the current statute have resulted in the execution of 5 men, 3 of whom were "volunteers" who instructed their attorneys to not pursue appeals of their convictions. 9 men currently reside on death row, awaiting more appellate process. 18 men who were sentenced to the death penalty had their sentences reversed by appellate courts and their cases were ultimately resolved without the death penalty.

Svoboda's release said that most of the people in the state of Washington today did not participate in the election 40 years ago that established our state as 1 of 31 U.S. states with the death penalty, and it is time to take it back to the voters.

(source: KXRO)


US set to execute fewest number of people in 24 years ---- The death penalty has faced increased opposition from both the left and right

Executions in the US are set to hit a 24 year low - the combination of increased opposition to the death penalty and a struggle to obtain the lethal chemicals used to carry them out.

The last 2 scheduled executions of the year are set to be carried out later this week, with Texas due to put convicted murderer Raphael Holiday to death on Wednesday and Georgia fixed to execute convicted murderer Marcus Johnson on Thursday.

Reuters said that if those 1 executions go ahead, there will have been 27 executions in the United States in 2015. That would be the lowest number since 1991.

The death penalty, which remains legal in 31 states, has been hit by the left and right in 2015, the news agency said. Court battles and a scramble to secure execution drugs after a sales ban a few years ago imposed by makers, mostly in Europe, have left about 8 states, most notably Texas, Florida and Missouri, as those that conduct executions. In 1999, 20 states put people to death.

Last year nationwide, there were 73 new death sentences, and that number is set to drop by at least 1/3 this year, according to the Death Penalty Information Centre.

Oklahoma, one of the most active death penalty states, has put a halt on executions after mistakes in protocols that led to a flawed execution in 2014 and the delivery of the wrong drug to the death chamber this year. In September, officiacls in South Carolina revealed they intended to seek the death penalty for Dylann Roof, the man charged with six nine counts of murder over the shooting of nine church members.

In some states, such as Nebraska, conservatives have spoken out over the high cost of executions, with some studies suggesting that when appeals and investigations are taken into account, the cost of putting someone to death can be at least double those of housing an inmate for life and are usually far higher. Data cited by the Marshall Project, a nonprofit newsgroup that focuses on criminal justice, has suggested the costs can sometimes be twice as high.

Texas and Virginia have instituted changes in the way death penalty cases are taken through courts that have led to decreased prosecutions.

Death penalty advocate Robert Blecker, a professor at New York Law School, said money should not be a factor.

"The death penalty should not be a utilitarian issue in terms of weighing the costs against the benefits, but rather an issue simply of justice, of who deserves it," he said.

(source: The Independent)


Forensic Pseudoscience----The Unheralded Crisis of Criminal Justice

This past April, the FBI made an admission that was nothing short of catastrophic for the field of forensic science. In an unprecedented display of repentance, the Bureau announced that, for years, the hair analysis testimony it had used to investigate criminal suspects was severely and hopelessly flawed.

The Innocence Project's M. Chris Fabricant and legal scholar Tucker Carrington classify the kind of hair analysis the FBI performs as "magic," and it is not hard to see why. By the Bureau's own account, its hair analysis investigations were unscientific, and the evidence presented at trial unreliable. In more than 95 % of cases, analysts overstated their conclusions in a way that favored prosecutors. The false testimony occurred in hundreds of trials, including 32 death penalty cases. Not only that, but the FBI also acknowledged it had "trained hundreds of state hair examiners in annual 2-week training courses," implying that countless state convictions had also been procured using consistently defective techniques.

But questions of forensic science's reliability go well beyond hair analysis, and the FBI's blunders aren't the only reason to wonder how often fantasy passes for science in courtrooms. Recent years have seen a wave of scandal, particularly in drug testing laboratories. In 2013 a Massachusetts drug lab technician pled guilty to falsifying tests affecting up to 40,000 convictions. Before that, at least 9 other states had produced lab scandals. The crime lab in Detroit was so riddled with malpractice that in 2008 the city shut it down. During a 2014 trial in Delaware, a state trooper on the witness stand opened an evidence envelope from the drug lab supposedly containing 64 blue OxyContin pills, only to find 13 pink blood-pressure pills. That embarrassing mishap led to a full investigation of the lab, which found evidence completely unsecured and subject to frequent tampering.

There have also been scores of individual cases in which forensic science failures have led to wrongful convictions, the deficiencies usually unearthed by the Innocence Project and similar organizations. In North Carolina, Greg Taylor was incarcerated for nearly 17 years thanks to an analyst who testified that the blood of a murder victim was in the bed of his truck. But later investigation failed to confirm that the substance was blood, or even of human origin. Forensics experts have used "jean pattern" analysis to testify that only a certain brand of blue jeans could leave their distinctive mark on a truck, as occurred in the trial of New Yorker Steven Barnes, who spent twenty years in prison for a rape and murder he didn’t commit.

Some wrongful convictions can never be righted - for example, that of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was convicted by a Texas court of intentionally setting the fire that killed his 2 young daughters. After the state executed Willingham, an investigative team at the Texas Commission on Forensic Science concluded that the arson science used to convict him was worthless, and independent fire experts condemned the investigation as a travesty. But those findings came too late to do Willingham any good.

The mounting horror stories, and the extent of corruption and dysfunction, have created a moment of crisis in forensic science. But the real question is not just how serious the problems are, but whether it is even possible to fix them. There are reasons to suspect that the trouble with forensics is built into its foundation - that, indeed, forensics can never attain reliable scientific status.


Some of the basic problems of forensic science are hinted at in the term itself. The word forensics refers to the Roman forum; forensics is the "science of the forum," oriented toward gathering evidence for legal proceedings. This makes forensics unusual among the sciences, since it serves a particular institutional objective: the prosecution of criminals. Forensic science works when prosecutions are successful and fails when they are not.

That purpose naturally gives rise to a tension between science's aspiration to neutral, open-ended inquiry on the one side and the exigencies of prosecution on the other. Likewise, while true understanding is predicated on doubt and revision, the forum must reach a definitive result. The scientist's tentativeness is at odds with a judicial process built on up-or-down verdicts, a point the Supreme Court has emphasized in order to justify allowing judges wide deference as the gatekeepers of evidence.

It shouldn't be controversial to point out that forensic science is not really a science to begin with, not in the sense of disciplines such as biology and physics. Forensic science covers whatever techniques produce physical evidence for use in law. These may be derived from various actual scientific disciplines, including medicine, chemistry, psychology, and others, but they are linked less by their inherent similarity than by their usefulness during investigation and prosecution. Law enforcement agencies themselves have invented a number of the techniques, including blood-spatter and bite-mark analysis.

Law is a poor vehicle for the interpretation of scientific results.

Much forensic knowledge has thus developed by means unlike that of ordinary scientific research. Comparatively few major universities offer programs in forensic science; joint training in forensic sciences and policing is common. Forensic laboratories themselves are a disparate patchwork of public and private entities, with varying degrees of affiliation with police and prosecutors. The accountability of some subfields such as "forensic podiatry" (the study of footprints, gait, and other foot-related evidence) can be dubious, with judges taking the place of accreditation boards. In such a decentralized system, it can be difficult to keep track not only of whether forensic investigation is working well but also of how it even works in the first place.

The close association between forensics and law enforcement is particularly controversial. According to Frederic Whitehurst, a chemist and former FBI investigator, forensic scientists can "run into a sledgehammer" when they contradict prosecutors' theories. "What we seem to know in the world of science is that there are some real problems in the world of forensic science," Whitehurst told a reporter from the journal Nature. "We'd rather work on something cleaner." It is easy to see why a chemist might consider forensics "unclean"; criminal investigations regularly flout scientific safeguards against bias. Analysts often know the identity of the suspect, potentially biasing results in favor of police's suspicions. Even more concerning, some crime labs are paid not by the case but by the conviction, creating a strong incentive to produce incriminating evidence.

Whitehurst's comments echoed a major report in 2009 by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), which painted a damning portrait of forensic practices. "Many forensic tests - such as those used to infer the source of tool marks or bite marks - have never been exposed to stringent scientific scrutiny," the report concluded.

One serious problem with those tests is that they allow for high levels of subjectivity. The NAS authors wrote that fingerprint analysis, for example, is "deliberately" left to human interpretation, so that "the outcome of a friction ridge analysis is not necessarily repeatable from examiner to examiner." I saw this up close while working at the public defender's office in New Orleans. Explaining his procedure for determining a match, a fingerprint examiner said in court that he would look at one, look at the other, and see if they match. When asked how he knew the 2 prints definitely matched, the examiner merely repeated himself. That very logic leads the FBI to claim fingerprint matches are "100 % accurate." Of course they are, if the question of a match is settled entirely by the examiner's opinion. Without any external standard against which to check the results, the examiner can never be wrong.

The NAS faulted a number of methods for this kind of shortcoming. Tool-mark and firearm analysis, for example, suffer the same weaknesses as fingerprint evidence, in that they depend strongly on unverified individual judgment. The report ultimately reached the forceful determination:

With the exception of nuclear DNA analysis . . . no forensic method has been rigorously shown to have the capacity to consistently, and with a high degree of certainty, demonstrate a connection between evidence and a specific individual or source.

That sentence should give any honest forensic examiner some sleepless nights.

But what about DNA? The report affirms that DNA maintains its place of integrity, the pinnacle of sound forensic science. It is not hard to see why DNA has long been the gold standard, deployed to convict and to exonerate the unfortunate defendants victimized by faultier methods of identification. DNA also has the advantage of producing falsifiable results; one can actually prove an interpretation incorrect, in contrast to the somewhat postmodern, eye-of-the-beholder sciences such as tool-mark and fingerprint analysis.

Yet forensic science involves both knowledge and practice, and while the science behind DNA is far from the prosecutorial voodoo of jeans and bite marks, its analysis must be conducted within a similar institutional framework. Analysts themselves can be fallible and inept; the risk of corruption and incompetence is no less pronounced simply because the biology has been peer-reviewed.

Such risk isn't merely theoretical. While Florida exoneree Chad Heins had DNA to thank for the overturning of his conviction, DNA was also responsible for the conviction itself, with an analyst giving faulty testimony about DNA found at the site where Heins's sister-in-law was murdered. Josiah Sutton was wrongfully convicted after a Houston analyst identified DNA found on a rape victim as an "exact match" for Sutton, even though 1 in 16 black men shared the DNA profile in question. Earlier this year in San Francisco, thousands of convictions were thrown into doubt after a DNA technician and her supervisor were found to have failed a proficiency exam. In preparing evidence for a trial, the 2 had also covered up missing data and lied about the completeness of a genetic profile, despite having been disciplined internally for previous faulty DNA analyses.

DNA failures can border on the absurd, such as an incident in which German police tracked down a suspect whose DNA was mysteriously showing up every time they swabbed a crime scene, from murders to petty thefts. But instead of nabbing a criminal mastermind, investigators had stumbled on a woman who worked at a cotton swab factory that supplied the police. That case may seem comical, but a 2012 error in New York surely doesn't. In July of that year, police announced that DNA taken off a chain used by Occupy Wall Street protesters to open a subway gate matched that found at the scene of an unsolved 2004 murder. The announcement was instantly followed by blaring news headlines about killer Occupiers. But officials later recanted, explaining that the match was a result of contamination by a lab technician who had touched both the chain and a piece of evidence from the 2004 crime. Yet the newspapers had already linked the words "Occupy" and "murder." The episode demonstrates how the consensus surrounding DNA's infallibility could plausibly enable government curtailment of dissent. Given the NYPD's none-too-friendly disposition toward the Occupiers, one might wonder what motivated it to run DNA tests on evidence from protest sites in the first place.

The high degree of confidence placed in DNA is especially worrying because successful DNA analysis requires human institutional processes to function smoothly and without mistakes. The four authors of Truth Machine: The Contentious History of DNA Fingerprinting (2008) describe how DNA actually comes to be used in criminal proceedings: as "an extended, indefinitely complicated series of fallible practices through which evidence is collected, transported, analyzed, and quantified." There are endless ways in which analysts can bungle their task. Furthermore, in the courtroom itself, DNA evidence must be contextualized and given significance. Even with well-conducted testing, poor explanation to a jury can enable a situation in which, as the geneticist Charalambos Kyriacou says, "Human error and misinterpretation could render the results meaningless." A cautious approach is therefore valuable, even where DNA is concerned.


It would be unreasonable to expect any human endeavor to be completely without error, and one might wonder just how systemic the problems of forensic science truly are. The claim of crisis is far from universally shared. Forensic scientist John Collins calls this "a fabricated narrative constructed by frustrated defense attorneys, grant-seeking academics, and justice reform activists who've gone largely unchallenged." Those who defend current practices say that the scandals are exceptions, that the vast majority of forensic scientists are diligent practitioners whose findings stand up under scrutiny. For every person exonerated, hundreds of convictions remain untouched.

But this defense actually points to one of the key problems with evaluating forensic science. The measures of its success are institutional: we see the failures of forensics when judges overturn verdicts or when labs contradict themselves. There is a circularity in the innocence cases, where the courts' ability to evaluate forensic science is necessary to correct problems caused by the courts’ inability to evaluate forensic science. At no point, even with rigorous judicial review, does the scientific method come into play. The problem is therefore not that forensic science is wrong, but that it is hard to know when it is right.

Breaking the cycle of uncertainty has therefore been a key part of reform proposals. The NAS report recommended numerous steps to introduce objectivity and accountability, including the adoption of consistent standards in every subfield and the creation of a unified federal oversight entity. One can hear in the lengthy recommendations of the NAS committee members pleas for the introduction of basic quality control.

But so far changes have been sluggish. In fact, in some labs quality may be declining as state budget cuts have reduced resources available for forensics. In Congress, the Forensic Science and Standards Act, which would massively overhaul the field and introduce unprecedented scrutiny and coordination, has repeatedly stalled. Last year, in keeping with the NAS's recommendations, the Department of Justice and the National Institute of Standards and Technology finally put together a forensic science commission to oversee the field and set protocols. But the commission is still in its infancy, and its effects remain to be seen.

The Supreme Court attempted to elucidate some standards in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals (1993) and 2 subsequent cases, which govern the admissibility of scientific evidence. The court ruled that evidence must be generally accepted in the field and open to empirical testing. But even as the Court ostensibly limited testimony to that which is sound and reliable, it undercut the ruling's effectiveness by offering lower courts a high level of flexibility in their decision-making. Ironically, that hands-off approach may have helped to create the very nightmare that the Daubert court feared, in which "befuddled juries are confounded by absurd and irrational pseudoscientific assertions."

Nobody can state with certainty the degree of pseudoscience that clogs the American courts. But even if forensic science largely faces a "bad apples" problem, it may still be in bad shape. As legal scholar and forensic science specialist Daniel Medwed notes, "An absence of careful oversight can allow rogue scientists to flourish." Even if there is no reason to doubt forensic podiatry itself, there might still be good reason to doubt forensic podiatrists. The localized, disparate, and unmonitored nature of so much forensic practice makes for massive nationwide inconsistency.

In fact, so long as forensic science remains forensic - i.e., conducted to meet the demands of the forum rather than those of the scientific method - it is hard to see how it can warrant confidence. For countless reasons, law is a poor vehicle for the interpreting of scientific results. That people's lives must depend on the interpretive decisions of judges and juries is in some respects unsettling to begin with. The chaotic state of forensic science - in theory and practice - and the possibility that unsupported flimflam is passing itself off as fact make the everyday criminal justice process even more alarming.

Thus even as we try various fixes, rooting out bad apples and introducing oversight, a systemic and elementary problem remains: a science of the forum can never be science at all.

(source: The Boston Review)


Feds indict 8 Salinas gang members

A 73-count superseding indictment was unsealed today charging nine defendants with racketeering, murder, attempted murder, armed bank robbery, robbery affecting interstate commerce, and the use of firearms, Acting US Attorney Brian J. Stretch announced in a press release. The arrests followed an investigation referred to as "Operation Daybreak," so named for the early morning attacks that characterized the alleged criminal activity in this case.

8 of the defendants- Daniel Chavez, 33, AKA Youngster; Victor Skates, 26, AKA Demon; Eduardo Lebron, 36, AKA Warlord; Eder Torres, 29, AKA Flaco; Julian Ruiz, 26, AKA JJ; Antonio Cruz, 28; Terrell Golden, 24, AKA G; and Anthony Lek, 28, are alleged to be Salinas-based Norteno gang members. A 9th defendant, Robert Loera, 35, is alleged to be an associate of the gang. According to the indictment, all 9 defendants conspired to commit murder and other violent crimes as part of a criminal RICO enterprise tied to their Norteno gang activity. The superseding indictment alleges that, over a 2-year time period, the defendants committed 12 murders, 7 attempted murders, and 7 bank robberies.

With respect to the murders and attempted murders, the indictment alleges that the defendants hunted for rival gang members and other enemies, and shot and killed them and others suspected of being rival gang members. One of the homicides charged in the indictment occurred on the campus of Alisal High School in Salinas.

"We greatly appreciate the tireless efforts of the Salinas Police Department in reducing violent crime in the Salinas Valley," said Stretch. "Operation Daybreak has been a critical part of exposing crime in the area. While there remains more work to be done, today's indictment is the result of collective leadership of the Salinas Police Department and the FBI."

"This years-long investigation involved thousands of investigative hours by Salinas police detectives with the assistance of the FBI," said police Chief Kelly J. McMillin. "This case demonstrates what we have known for many years; that very few individuals drive the majority of violence in Salinas. It should also serve to remind us all that the role of prevention and intervention efforts cannot be overlooked and in fact must be strengthened further to ensure other young men never think it's okay to shoot another. The Salinas Police Department would like to thank the people of the Office of the United States Attorney, Northern District of California, for their incredible dedication to bringing these individuals to justice."

As alleged in the indictment, the armed bank robberies occurred in Salinas, Watsonville, and San Jose. In addition, there was an armed robbery of a Zales jewelry store in Gilroy.

All 9 defendants have been charged with the crimes set forth in the 1st 4 counts of the indictment:

-- Racketeering conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. # 1962(d);

-- conspiracy to commit murder and assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. # 1959;

-- use of firearms in furtherance of crimes of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. # 924(c); and

-- robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery affecting interstate commerce, in violation of 18 U.S.C. # 1951(a).

In addition, the following defendants have been charged with the following counts and additional crimes under the indictment:

An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The maximum penalty each defendant faces upon conviction is life imprisonment. Chavez, Skates, Golden, Cruz, Torres, and Lebron are charged with death-eligible offenses. The decision whether to seek the death penalty against any or all of these defendants is pending. Additionally, periods of supervised release, fines, forfeitures, and special assessments also could be imposed. However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. # 3553.

The defendants are in law enforcement custody in various jurisdictions, including in the custody of the US Marshals Service. Defendants are scheduled to appear before the Honorable Lucy Koh, US District Judge, at 9:30 a.m.Wednesday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Meyer is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Nina Burney and Susan Kreider. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Salinas Police Department.

(source: Salinas Californian)


Egypt sentenced nearly 600 to death last year

The Egyptian government has sentenced nearly 600 people to death in the last year, with the vast majority of death sentences handed down in relation to political protest, human rights organization Reprieve has found.

Data collected by Reprieve has found that since January 2014, at least 588 people have been sentenced to death in Egypt. In the cases that Reprieve was able to identify, some 72% of sentences were handed down for attending pro-democracy protests.

Reprieve's report, released today, also found that the Egyptian authorities are overseeing a marked rise in actual executions. Between 2011 and 2013, only 1 execution was carried out in Egypt; but since January 2014, some months after President Sisi seized power, at least 27 people have been executed. The report also finds that least 15 mass trials have taken place since March 2014.

Since taking power, President Sisi has overseen a regime of mass trials and sweeping death sentences for protestors - sometimes involving hundreds of prisoners at a time. Among those on trial and facing a potential death sentence is Irish teenager Ibrahim Halawa, who is being assisted by Reprieve. Yesterday, it was revealed that Ibrahim has witnessed torture methods including 'crucifixion' and electrocution being carried out in Wadi Natrun prison, where he is being held.

Mr Halawa's family were last week joined by several British MPs in asking the UK to intervene on the case, during President Sisi's visit to London for talks with the Prime Minister. The Foreign Office has told Reprieve that the UK is 'monitoring' Ibrahim's case, and has said that it has been raised with the Egyptian authorities.

However, there are concerns over the UK government's apparent support for the Egyptian security forces. Reprieve has found that the British government invited security and policing firm G4S to be part of the UK delegation at a recent major Egyptian trade conference hosted by President Sisi.

Commenting, Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, which is assisting Ibrahim Halawa, said:

"President Sisi has overseen an unprecedented surge in death sentences as part of a wave of repression that should attract condemnation from Egypt's allies. Since 2013, many thousands of people - including journalists, activists and juveniles like Ibrahim Halawa - have been locked up for attending protests. Police torture is reported all too often, and Kafkaesque 'mass trials' have seen hundreds of death sentences handed down at a time. More than ever, the UK must use its increasingly close relationship with Egypt to urge an end to these terrible abuses - including the release of juveniles like Ibrahim."



Appellate Division to hear war criminals Salauddin Quader, Mujahid's review pleas Tuesday

The Appellate Division will hear on Tuesday petitions of war criminals Salauddin Quader Chowdhury and Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid to review their death sentences.

The Supreme Court website shows the appeals are on Tuesday's list of business agenda of the full bench headed by Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha.

The bench on Nov 2 set Nov 17 to hear the review petitions of former BNP MP Chowdhury and its key ally Jamaat-e-Islami's Secretary General Mujahid.

Mujahid's petition is on 3nd on the top appeals court's cause list while Chowdhury's petition is 3rd.

Besides these petitions, the appeal (partly heard) of Jamaat chief Matiur Rahman Nizami against his death sentence by the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) is 4th on the Appellate Division's cause list.

On Monday, the High Court dropped a writ petition of Salauddin Quader's wife Farhat Quader Chowdhury challenging the constitution of the war crimes tribunal from its cause list.

Wartime terror of Chittagong Salauddin Quader was sentenced to death on Oct 1, 2013 by the war crimes tribunal for genocide and torture of Hindus and Awami League supporters.

Mujahid, who was the social welfare minister in Khaleda Zia's coalition Cabinet, had planned and executed mass murders including those of intellectuals, scientists, academics and journalists during the Liberation War.

The International Crimes Tribunal on Jul 17, 2013, sentenced him to death for the massacre of intellectuals and his involvement in the murder and torture of Hindus in 1971.

Besides the chief justice, the other members of the bench that will hear the petitions are Justice Nazmun Ara Sultana, Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain, and Justice Hasan Foez Siddique.

The bench on Nov 2 had dismissed a plea of Chowdhury seeking deposition by 8 defence witnesses, including 5 Pakistani nationals.

It also rejected another plea by Mujahid seeking order to let his junior counsels help the senior lawyer at the hearing.

The bench upheld Mujahid's death sentence on June 16 and Chowdhury's on July 29.

The full appeals verdicts were published on Sep 30.

The special court then sent the death warrants to the jail authorities who read those to the convicts on Oct 1.

Chowdhury is in Kashimpur Jail and Mujahid in Dhaka Central Jail.

The last legal hope for the duo to evade execution rests on the review petitions.

If the court does not reverse the verdicts on appeal, they will be left with the option to seek presidential clemency.

The court took only a day to hear and reject review petitions of war criminals Jamaat assistant secretaries general Abdul Quader Molla and Mohammad Kamaruzzaman.

They did not seek president's pardon and were eventually hanged.

Supreme Court Bar Association President Khandaker Mahbub Hossain is the chief counsel for both Chowdhury and Mujahid.

Chittagong braces for extra security

Security in Chittagong has been heightened ahead of the hearing of the review petitions of Salauddin Quader and Mujahid.

Chittagong Metropolitan Police (CMP) Additional Commissioner Debdas Bhattacharya said check posts had been set up at key points of the city.

CMP had already raised the number of check posts after Jamaat's student affiliate Islami Chhatra Shibir's plan to attack oil refineries was revealed last month.

Salauddin Quader was a lawmaker from Chittagong's Fatikchharhi in the 9th Parliament.

After the verdicts of war criminal Jamaat leaders Delwar Hossain Sayedee, Quader Molla and Mohammad Kamaruzzaman, several policemen were killed in clashes with activists of Jamaat and Shibir in the port city.



40 Islamists on trial in UAE linked to Syria's Nusra

40 Islamists charged with attempting to overthrow the Emirati regime are linked to Syrian Islamist militants and have smuggled in weapons for attacks, a court heard Monday.

The defendants include 38 Emiratis, the English-language Gulf News daily reported in its online version, without giving other nationalities.

The trial of the group known as Al-Manara opened in August at the state security court in Abu Dhabi, but the international press is barred from attending.

The group smuggled in weapons, ammunition and detonators "obtained in collaboration with Syria's Al Nusra Front", an Al-Qaeda affiliate, as well as militants in Iran, witnesses told the court, quoted in the daily.

They said the suspects planned to overthrow the government, assassinate leaders, attack malls and hotels and to declare an Islamic state in the Gulf country.

The trial was adjourned to December 8.

Authorities reported their arrest on August 2 and prosecutors immediately levelled the accusations against them and said they would face trial.

The UAE is part of a US-led coalition that has been carrying out air strikes against the Islamic State jihadist group in Syria since September 2014.

In July, it adopted tougher anti-terror legislation and introduced the death penalty for crimes linked to religious hatred and "takfiri" radical Islamic groups.

These measures were taken a week after an Emirati woman convicted of the jihadist-inspired murder of a US schoolteacher was put to death by firing squad, in a rare execution in the UAE.

(source: Agence France-Presse)


2013 capital murder to begin today

The capital murder case of a man accused of killing a former Deshler High School volunteer coach during Thanksgiving 2013 is scheduled to begin today.

Court officials said jury selection in the capital murder case of Jeremy Williams will begin at 8:30 a.m. in Circuit Judge Mike Jones's courtroom.

Williams, 31, of Florence, is charged in connection with the 2013 death of Brioni "Bree" Rutland.

"We're ready to start the selection and move forward with the case," Lauderdale County District Attorney Chris Connolly said.

Williams's defense team of Florence attorneys Chris Childers and Charlie Bottoms have a pending change of venue motion Jones said would be taken into consideration if an impartial jury could not be selected.

More than 350 potential jurors have been called for the case.

Williams is accused of stabbing and shooting Rutland before dumping his body off Old Railroad Bridge. Rutland was last seen alive Nov. 26, 2013.

Authorities said according to a preliminary autopsy, Rutland was stabbed more than 30 times and shot once in the head at close range. Police said he had concrete blocks chained to his feet before he was dumped into the Tennessee River.

Williams pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of mental defect.

He claimed Rutland's death was self-defense after Rutland confronted him at his Florence apartment about a gambling debt and threatened to cut off his little finger if he didn't pay. He told police Rutland tried to choke him, and tried to cut off his finger.

During a preliminary hearing detectives said Williams told police he stabbed Rutland while they were fighting, then got a gun and shot him and dumped the body into the river.

Divers discovered Rutland's body after a jogger saw a large amount of blood on Old Railroad Bridge on Thanksgiving 2013 and called police.

Tuscumbia police initiated a missing person investigation Nov. 27, 2013, after Rutland's girlfriend reported him missing.

Florence police arrested Williams on Nov. 30, 2013. He was indicted in December 2014.

During a January arraignment hearing, the district attorney said he was planning on seeking the death penalty if Williams is found guilty.

Court officials expect the trial to continue for at least a week.

(source: Times Daily)


Taking Action Investigation: Life or Death to air tonight on WHNT News 19 at 10:00

Is Alabama holding an innocent man on death row? A growing number of people say yes, and his name is Billy Kuenzel. WHNT News 19 has spent weeks delving into the case, and the result of our special Taking Action investigation is very disturbing.

Billy Kuenzel was convicted of capital murder for the November, 1987 robbery and murder of a clerk at a convenience store on the outskirts of Sylacauga. He has been on death row since 1988.

Watch Life or Death, a special Taking Action investigation, on WHNT News 19 Monday night at 10:00.

The prosecution's star witness was Kuenzel's roommate, Harvey Venn, who accepted a plea deal in exchange for his testimony against Kuenzel. Venn told the court it was Kuenzel who went in to rob the store and killed Linda Jean Offord, a mother of 3. Venn testified he simply drove the get-away car.

Our Taking Action investigation revealed there was no direct evidence linking Kuenzel with the crime. No fingerprints, no blood splatters on his clothes, no reliable witness who saw him there, other than Harvey Venn.

But the real injustice of this case, there was a wealth of evidence available that could have made a world of difference at the trial, had the defense only known about it; witnesses who changed their testimony, a huge question about the alleged murder weapon, hand written details from the men who investigated the crime. That information remained a secret for more than 2 decades after Kuenzel's conviction.

And now, the state refuses to hear it.

"This is not about the death penalty," says David Kochman, Kuenzel's attorney. He adds, "This is about making sure, as a society, we value life enough to not lock people up and take their lives without knowing in fact they did the crime. This goes to the very fundamental essence of what it means to have a justice system that we each believe in."

(source: WHNT news)


Kansas court's approval of death sentence not seen as shift

Even though the state Supreme Court recently upheld a death sentence for the 1st time under the state's 1994 capital punishment law, Kansas isn't likely to see executions anytime soon or a shift in how the justices handle capital murder cases.

"Symbolically, there is something different," said Robert Dunham, head of the anti-capital punishment, nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center. "But I wouldn't read too much into it."

Several prosecutors are encouraged by this month's decision in the case of John E. Robinson Sr. - who was sentenced to die for killing 2 women in 1999 and 2000 and tied by evidence or his own admission to 6 other deaths, including a teenage girl, in Kansas and Missouri - saying it showed its possible to preserve a death sentence on appeal in Kansas.

2 Kansas law professors said the 415-page decision in John E. Robinson's case issued earlier this month suggests the Supreme Court's examination of future capital cases will remain as thorough as it has been.

The high court's past decisions overturning death sentences inspired a campaign that almost succeeded in ousting 2 justices in last year's elections and handed Republican Gov. Sam Brownback a potent issue in the final weeks of his race for re-election. And there are more capital cases before the justices.

Only 4 days after the Robinson decision, Frazier Glenn Miller Jr., an avowed anti-Semite, was sentenced to death for the fatal shootings of three people at Jewish sites in the Kansas City suburbs.

The court also will hear arguments Dec. 14 in the case of Gary Kleypas, sentenced to death a 2nd time for the 1996 sexual assault and stabbing of a college student after the high court overturned the punishment in 2001. 3 other capital cases are before the justices.

Before the Robinson ruling, the justices had struck down 9 death sentences. 4 are serving lengthy prison sentences instead; 2, including Kleypas, are back before the justices, and the state is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate 3 other death sentences.

Dunham said it was inevitable that the Kansas Supreme Court would uphold a death sentence. He said Robinson still can file additional legal challenges in state and federal courts, forestalling an execution date.

But Attorney General Derek Schmidt, whose office defends death sentences on appeal, said, "It shows that there is a path that allows the statute to operate as it was intended."

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Jeff King said he was "perplexed" by the state high court's previous decisions, arguing that it struck down death sentences over mistakes by judges in handling cases that were harmless, given "mountains" of evidence against the defendants.

"My concern has always been that the Supreme Court requires near perfection by a trial judge in order to uphold a death penalty case," said King, an Independence Republican.

Schmidt and Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe, whose office prosecuted Robinson and Miller, said 2 decades of rulings in capital cases have left guidance for prosecutors and judges on legal issues.

Prosecutors also now know, thanks to the high court, that if a defendant is deemed eligible for the death penalty for multiple killings during a "common scheme or course of conduct," they file a single capital murder charge, not one for each death.

But Kansas still has had relatively few capital cases reviewed compared to others, such as Texas, Oklahoma and Florida, according to Elizabeth Cateforis, a University of Kansas law professor who teaches a capital punishment course.

"Eventually, you get a system in place that does what it is supposed to," she said.

A clue as to why Robinson's death sentence was upheld is the unusual "effusive praise" for how Johnson County District Judge John Anderson III handled the case, Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said, noting it's a message to other judges to follow his example.

The Supreme Court didn't change its legal standards so much as it decided a case free of questionable rulings by a trial judge, said Bill Rich, a constitutional law professor at Washburn University.

"If the judge had not been so meticulous, it would have been a different opinion," Rich said.

Online: The Supreme Court's ruling in Robinson's case:

(source: Associated Press)


Monday Morning Thoughts: Death Penalty Reinstated in California

Last week, a 3 judge panel overturned a district court's ruling that delays in California's death penalty make the procedure arbitrary and therefore unconstitutional. While that got the headlines, beneath that is the fine print that the court did not weigh in on the merits of the argument.

Instead the court argues, "Because Petitioner asks us to apply a novel constitutional rule, we may not assess the substantive validity of his claim."

Last year, Federal Judge Cormac J. Carney wrote in a decision "On April 7, 1995, Petitioner Ernest Dewayne Jones was condemned to death by the State of California. Nearly 2 decades later, Mr. Jones remains on California's death row, awaiting his execution, but with complete uncertainty as to when, or even whether, it will ever come."

"Mr. Jones is not alone," writes Judge Carney, "Since 1978, when the current death penalty system was adopted by California voters, over 900 people have been sentenced to death for their crimes. Of them, only 13 have been executed. For the rest, the dysfunctional administration of California's death penalty system has resulted, and will continue to result, in an inordinate and unpredictable period of delay preceding their actual execution."

He adds, "Indeed, for most, systemic delay has made their execution so unlikely that the death sentence carefully and deliberately imposed by the jury has been quietly transformed into one no rational jury or legislature could ever impose: life in prison, with the remote possibility of death. As for the random few for whom execution does become a reality, they will have languished for so long on death row that their execution will serve no retributive or deterrent purpose and will be arbitrary."

Judge Susan P. Graber writing for the court, notes, "Many agree with Petitioner that California's capital punishment system is dysfunctional and that the delay between sentencing and execution in California is extraordinary."

However, she writes "the purpose of federal habeas corpus is to ensure that state convictions comply with the federal law in existence at the time the conviction became final, and not to provide a mechanism for the continuing reexamination of final judgments based upon later emerging legal doctrine."

Scott Martelle writing for the LA Times notes, "In one sense, the decision is a loss for those hoping for an end to the death penalty (me among them). But it's also a non-decision because the appellate judges didn't take up the heart of Carney's ruling, and his logic is quite compelling."

He continues, "In a nutshell, the very structure of California's death penalty means that who among the condemned actually gets put to death is determined by an arbitrary process that drags out so long that the execution serves neither as a deterrent nor as an act of retribution, important thresholds under previous Supreme Court decisions."

"That argument," he writes, "is still out there, even if the appellate court decided it couldn't review it under court rules established under the Clinton-era Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996."

"The rule is that the federal courts can reverse the state criminal cases for constitutional violations only if the law is 'well established,'" says Natasha Minsker, director of the ACLU of California's Center for Advocacy & Policy. "The idea is that the state courts can only be expected to implement federal rules that they know about. The state courts can't be expected to guess how federal judges will interpret the constitution in the future. The problem: That prevents the federal courts from addressing constitutional violations in many criminal cases.

"It's sort of like instant replay in sports before you could review a call. The ref makes a call, everyone watching at home sees it was a mistake, but it couldn't be fixed."

In short, the 9th Circuit ruled that they lack the authority to "assess and rule on the merits of Carney's decision." Mr. Martelle notes that the state Supreme Court could do so, "but it will be a challenge."

Mr. Martelle continues arguing that "this is another place where the credibility of the legal system crumbles. If the appellate courts can't be led to address the basic question of whether the design and implementation of the state's capital punishment is unconstitutional because it engenders decades-long delays between the crime and the punishment, and the ultimate decision of who gets put to death when is arbitrary, then where does that argument get aired?"

It seems then that unlike gay marriage, the issues of the death penalty may have to be addressed by the voters. In 2016, there may be competing on the ballot. One would ban the death penalty. The other would speed up the process and narrow the sorts of appeals that can be argued. Neither have even reached the circulation process yet.

(source: Davis Vanguard)


Use gas for death penalty

Although I have always been strongly in favor of the death penalty and believe it should actually be carried out rather than letting the condemned languish on death row, I've always wondered why the methods of execution have to be so macabre.

Even lethal injection, with its often multiple needle sticks, seems to be almost medieval. Concern for the suffering of the criminal is universally given for these supposedly humane methods of execution but I sure don't see it that way.

I have a simple and humane solution. Why not execute criminals in a gas chamber using carbon monoxide gas or even just carbon dioxide? They'd peacefully and painlessly fall asleep and ultimately expire. It's foolproof and 100 % effective.

The gases could be safely vented to the outside atmosphere. I sure can't see anything wrong with this approach.

Jess King, Lindsay

(source: Letter to the Editor, Fresno Bee)


Placer County's death row inmates wait as debate swirls

By the numbers

747 people in California on death row

13 executions since 1978

52 % of voters backed death penalty in 2012 California vote

2006 was the year of the last execution in California


A recent photo from San Quentin State Prison shows David Rundle no longer the young man tried, convicted and sentenced to death in Placer County for the murders of 2 women almost 3 decades ago.

Rundle was 21 when he was arrested and 24 when he arrived at San Quentin's death row. He's now 50 - one of 747 convicted murderers awaiting execution in California. He's spent more than half of his life behind bars for the killings, with no end in sight.

Arturo Juarez Suarez was 33 when he arrived at San Quentin. He was convicted of killing 4 people in 1998 on a ranch in rural Auburn. Along with his brother-in-law and another male adult relative, he was convicted by a Placer County jury of burying alive his 5-year-old nephew and 3-year-old niece. Suarez is now 48 and, like Rundle, has no date with death in the foreseeable future.

But moves within California corridors of justice and political power are sending signals to some that the pace of executions could quicken. Earlier this month, California proposed to allow corrections officials to choose 1 of 4 types of powerful barbiturates to execute prisoners on death row, depending on which one is available.

The single drug would replace the series of e drugs that was last used when Clarence Ray Allen was executed in 2006 at San Quentin.

And the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court ruling on Thursday that had found California's death penalty process was unconstitutional because of excessive delays. More than 900 people have been sentenced to death in California since 1978, but only 13 have been executed.

The wait for Rundle has been a long one but it's a wait that families of the victims as well as the prosecutor in the case have had to also face. Jess Bedore, Placer County's prosecutor on the case, now in private practice in Roseville, said that nothing has changed to stand in the way of Rundle's eventual execution.

"Of course, absolutely," Bedore said. "He raped and strangled 2 women in Placer County and admitted a 3rd murder in Sacramento County."

David Humpheys, lead public defender on the Rundle case and now a public defender in Nevada County, said that while moves are being made to speed up the process, he's unsure whether they will actually have an impact. And there are other efforts to move toward abolishing the death penalty. Opponents of the death penalty are gathering signatures for a ballot measure that would ban capital punishment in California. A similar measure for a death penalty ban was defeated by 4 % points in 2012.

At the same time, death penalty supporters are soliciting signatures for a measure that would ask for more appellate lawyers and speedier appeals.

"Some day we'll join the rest of the civilized world but it won't be abolished in my lifetime," Humphreys said.

The Sacramento-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation considers the latest movement within the state as a hopeful one for its cause.

"Resumption of executions in California is at least a foreseeable possibility now," said Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the foundation.

But Applegate's Joe Offer, a Placer People of Faith Together board member and retired federal investigator, said that while he's unsure of the impact of the latest developments, he senses a lack of substantial resolve within the state to move on renewing executions.

"The fact we delay so long on executions is an indication we don't feel right about it," Offer said.

(source: Auburn Journal)


Franklin County prosecutor favors asking Washington voters about death penalty

Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant wants to see Washington voters get asked in 2016 if they support keeping capital punishment as an option for the most heinous crimes.

The death penalty has been on hold in Washington since February 2014, when Gov. Jay Inslee issued a moratorium for as long as he was in office.

Many of the state's elected prosecutors haven't backed off considering the death penalty in aggravated murder cases that merit it.

But the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys - a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization that supports county prosecutors and lobbies on their behalf - says it is time to have the electorate weigh in on the issue.

A 2-page statement issued last week by King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, the association's president, asked Gov. Jay Inslee and the Legislature "to place a referendum on the ballot next year seeking guidance from the voters about this significant public policy issue.

Sant, a Republican, said an overwhelming majority of prosecutors at their October meeting wanted to put this back to the people.

"The intent behind this was making taxpayers aware we, as prosecutors, kind of get a sense that a lot of people are not favoring the death penalty any longer, or their minds have changed from 40 years ago, when Washington got the initiative to have the death penalty," Sant said. He noted that he was speaking for himself, and not the association.

"If that (consensus) has changed, we want to make sure we are in fact carrying out the will of the citizens of the state that we serve in prosecuting for state crimes," he added.

If voters decide to keep the death penalty, Sant says the state then needs to address the funding issue so capital punishment cases aren't a burden on counties, especially smaller ones.

Sant made the decision this summer not to pursue the death penalty against Prudencio Fragos-Ramirez, a Connell man accused of setting fire to his girlfriend's car after shooting the woman and her 3-year-old son inside.

Sant acknowledged that it is concerning when a child is involved in this type of crime, but said his office had reservations after evaluating the circumstances and the available evidence.

"Obviously, we have a strong case," he said, "but for the type of case and the scrutiny that would come with a death penalty case ... we discussed that it wouldn't be appropriate in this case."

Fragos-Ramirez is charged in Franklin County Superior Court with 2 counts of 1st-degree murder, and is facing a minimum sentence of 50 years if convicted. Sant says his office can amend to aggravated charges if the case goes to trial.

Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller is in the middle of a triple-homicide trial and wasn't available to comment on the association's announcement.

Jeremy Sagastegui is the only man from Benton and Franklin counties to be put to death since Washington reinstated the death penalty 34 years ago. He died by lethal injection for the 1995 killing of a child and 2 women.

Former Richland resident Westley Allan Dodd was the 1st to be executed after the reinstatement. The serial killer and child molester was convicted in Vancouver, Wash., and hanged in 1993 at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.

The state has executed a total 78 men since 1904.

Washington reportedly has no active capital punishment cases.

In May, a King County jury spared the life of a man convicted of killing 6 members of his ex-girlfriend's family during a 2007 holiday gathering in Carnation. Satterberg then announced in July that he would no longer seek the death penalty against the co-defendant.

Also in July, another King County jury declined to send a convicted cop killer to death row, and instead sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of release.

Sant said a benefit of having capital punishment is that prosecutors can use the potential sentence as a negotiating tool, like in the case of Gary Ridgway. The Green River Killer, as part of his plea bargain to a life sentence, agreed to disclose the whereabouts of still-missing women.

Sant, who would like to see it remain a law, believes his colleagues have been cautious when exercising the option to seek the death penalty.

Since 1981, Washington prosecutors have sought the death penalty in 90 of 268 cases where it was a possible sentence, Satterberg said. And of those 90, jurors came back with unanimous verdicts for death in 32 cases, he wrote.

5 men have been executed in that time, including 3 who told their lawyers not to pursue appeals of their convictions.

18 men have had their sentences reversed by appeals courts, and "their cases were ultimately resolved without imposition of the death penalty," Satterberg said.

9 convicted killers now live on death row.

Miller, a Democrat, has acknowledged in the past of having mixed feelings on the topic. He's said that if given the option, he might vote as a private citizen to repeal capital punishment because he doesn't know that it "adds anything."

But on the job, Miller is obligated to enforce the law. He is the only active prosecutor in the state who has argued for the death penalty, prosecuted it, defended it all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, and watched the execution.

He has told the Herald that he won't take the death penalty off the table from consideration if the circumstances warrant it, because Washington may elect a new governor in 2016 while a case is still working through the judicial system.



The Odds of Overturning the Death Penalty ---- The man who helped topple it (briefly) in 1972 gauges the likelihood of success.

How vulnerable is the death penalty? It's a question that has been asked with increasing frequency and intensity this year. Over the summer, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer invited defense lawyers to bring a case that would allow the court to decide whether the punishment is "cruel and unusual" - meaning whether it should be abolished completely.

But since then, these lawyers - many of whom have devoted their entire careers to opposing the death penalty - have been divided on whether to actually push a case before the court. Some want to bring a case before the court as soon as possible, arguing that there has never been a set of justices more amenable (Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who signed onto Breyer's opinion, may soon retire). Others say there is no guarantee the court would rule their way, and a loss - a ruling that the death penalty really is constitutional - could set back their cause indefinitely.

Both sides invest much of their energy in psychoanalyzing Justice Anthony Kennedy, whom they view as the key swing vote in a challenge to the death penalty, and who has written at least one opinion limiting its use in the past.

Another place to turn is history. The situation these defense lawyers face is not so different from one their predecessors faced half a century ago. In 1972, a group of lawyers with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, led by Anthony Amsterdam, succeeded in convincing the court to strike down the death penalty, in a case called Furman v. Georgia1.

So what might those NAACP lawyers who won and lost 40 years ago have to say to their counterparts in the anti-death penalty movement today? Would they recommend bringing a case?

We went to Michael Meltsner, a law professor at Northeastern University in Boston and one of the last professionally active members of the cohort of NAACP lawyers who won the Furman case (he wrote a book about that effort called Cruel and Unusual: The Supreme Court and Capital Punishment). At age 24, when he was hired by Thurgood Marshall, he became the second white attorney at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

To set this up: In 1963, Justice Arthur Goldberg suggested in a dissent that a challenge to the death penalty could prevail. This ultimately led to your success in Furman v. Georgia, which struck down the punishment in 1972. This summer Justice Stephen Breyer - who once clerked for Goldberg - published an invitation to defense lawyers to challenge the punishment again. How similar is the situation you confronted to the one facing death-penalty opponents today?

We had a strategy from the 1960s on to stop as many death cases as we could, to collect proof of racial discrimination, and to raise procedural arguments of various sorts. By the early 1970s, we had either gotten what we could out of procedural arguments or lost them. All that was left was the general Eighth Amendment argument, that the death penalty was cruel and unusual. Furman was really the last chance.

The difference between now and then is we had no other choice2. There was nothing left we could do with the death penalty. I would say that there was no way we could have predicted winning in Furman. It's not that we thought we'd lose necessarily. But there was really no confidence in winning.

But we won. And the way we won affected the future of capital punishment.

After your victory, many states scrambled to write new laws to bring back the punishment. Now there's a divide between those who want to bring a challenge to the court and others who are more cautious, saying a loss could set the movement back by strengthening capital punishment.

It is similar to the original situation in that respect. But there are some wrinkles: we didn't have complete control over the movement to end the death penalty, but we had an enormous influence. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund was known by the justices at the time as the organization that owned the issue. They trusted us. This is all happening in the late 1960's. The Legal Defense Fund, when I was first assistant in the 1960's, had successfully argued more cases before the court than any law firm. So you had a fount of great trust, and I think that was important to the justices.

Today, you have a fragmented bar, and nothing can stop somebody from bringing an Eighth Amendment case to the court.

The debate out there is in a way beside the point: it's up to whether the justices take such a case. This is all like Kremlinology - "Oh, Malenkov is closer to Brezhnev this time." This is all total speculation. All the people quoted in the you've read have no idea, no evidence for what Kennedy would do. And I don't either.

In addition to the New York Times report that first delved into the strategic debate among defense lawyers, BuzzFeed has spoken at length to the most active lawyers looking to bring a case before the court.

But some say if you don't bring a case now, it may be the last chance before the court changes its makeup and becomes less open to a death penalty challenge.

I'm much more cautious. Maybe I'm living in the past; I don't know. On the one hand, Kennedy has been the critical voice in certain cases lately, which have significantly restricted the death penalty.

And in those cases, he is able to differentiate between the single case and the social policy. And that's critical here. Because ultimately what supports the death penalty in this country is the horrible crime: Take the Tsarnaev trial. In a place, Boston, that largely opposes the death penalty, he gets sentenced to death because of the facts of his crime. For us, the death penalty is a system that produces certain outcomes, and that is constantly stimulated by the journalism, the sensationalism, the horror of particular events. Every time you read or think 'Oh the death penalty is awful, it convicts innocent people, it's unreliable, it's racially biased.' Then there's, "this guy took this woman..." Etc. and so forth.

And I think Kennedy has shown a capacity to understand the difference between these ways of looking at a subject in his opinions.

But then he has had plenty of opportunities to come out against the death penalty per se and has let executions proceed. So you can see it would take a mind reader to know where 5 votes to abolish come from.

What do you make of the strategizing among defense attorneys about the best possible case to bring before the court?

We were always clear that we weren't going to sacrifice anyone for the sake of strategy. But the tension is always there in the world of impact litigation, between individual cases and social policy interests.

I would be much happier if the story was told as, 'I represent X. He has no more claims. There is no reason why he should be executed given all these arguments, and I'm debating bringing this to the Supreme Court.' That's a different structure than what has come out in these stories. There is something that bothers me about the narrative you see emerging - it's too manipulative. I'm not criticizing these lawyers, who certainly seem to know their business. I would feel a lot more confident if they said, 'We don't know how the court will rule, but our client Mr. Jones has no other claims.' That's the situation we were in.

The Justices don't like to feel they're being manipulated. It's not unknown to them that people strategize on how to get to the court. It's just that this is so public and maybe that would affect somebody on the court's attitude. Look at how Justice Samuel Alito criticized lawyers trying to keep states from getting lethal injection drugs, saying they were using "guerrilla" tactics to stop executions. On the one hand that's lawyers representing their clients. But on the other that's an opening for critics like Alito to throw mud at them, to say 'You're just trying to trick us. This isn't a real issue. It's one you lawyers have created.' That's the dynamic that worries me.

Are you cautious because there was such a backlash after you won in Furman, and state legislatures scrambled to strengthen capital punishment?

It's not so much that. I don't think there would be the same kind of backlash. There would be a public backlash, but I don't think it would be as strong as it was in the 1970's. I'm cautious because I don't like to lose, and there may be negative consequences you haven't considered: The court could get stricter in terms of what future death penalty cases they would be willing to consider. A 2nd possibility is it could be politicized in a particular presidential election.

If the court were to strike down the death penalty, what would people who wanted it to continue do next? What would the backlash look like?

Just like with flag-burning, immediately you'll have a lot of talk about a constitutional amendment. Who knows what Congress would look like. I don't think it would be easy to get that done, for a number of reasons, from the number of states that have abolished it. It's a hard one. But you'd certainly get the talk. There's no cost for a congressperson to say, 'I'm going to amend the Constitution.'

The court would come in for criticism. There would be vicious dissents. But if they write an opinion saying 'Never,' that's it. I think they'd get away with it. But there would certainly be resistance. Even though the death penalty is withering away, it's doing so with deliberate speed.



Justice Department wastes money by sticking nose in local cases

The Justice Department is increasingly jumping into smaller criminal matters so it can look good while "playing daddy" to local authorities - but its efforts are a waste of manpower and tax money, several current and former law-enforcement sources told The Post.

Under the Obama administration, the agency's Civil Rights Division has been readily opening more federal investigations shortly after violent encounters in municipalities across the country instead of allowing local cops and prosecutors to do their jobs first, the souces said.

The latest example came 3 weeks ago, when the department announced within 24 hours that the FBI would investigate a South Carolina school-resource officer caught on video dragging a female student across the floor of a classroom.

"The notion that [the] DOJ would jump in so quickly where the offense was so slight on a federal scale is ridiculous," said retired FBI Deputy Assistant Director Ronald Hosko. "They're just playing daddy when no daddy is needed."

A federal source agreed, saying Sunday, "In light of what just happened in Paris, I think more than ever we need to allocate our resources to fighting terrorism instead of worrying about crimes that take place on the local level."

The Justice Department responded that it gets involved in community-based offenses to lend "support" in gathering evidence and to "regularly" assist local prosecutors.

But Hosko said another glaring example of the department's overreach was the Dylan Roof church-massacre case.

With overwhelming evidence against him, Roof readily confessed to fatally shooting 9 people in a historic black church in Charleston, SC, in June, and state prosecutors promptly charged him with nine counts of murder and announced that they would seek the death penalty.

The feds then charged Roof with 33 hate crimes - charges that also carry the death penalty.

(source: new York Post)


Asking Tough Questions About the Death Penalty----Journalists and prisoners stage a First Amendment challenge to state secrecy regarding executions.

Last week's observance of Veteran's Day brought another opportunity to examine the politics and ramifications of the death penalty, after a new report produced by the Death Penalty Information Center put the number of military veterans on death row at 10% of the entire comdemned prison population.

Scrutiny of capital punishment is increasingly in the national spotlight and last March, Reason TV profiled the ongoing efforts to demand transparency in government pertaining to executions.

A portion of the original writeup is below, you can read the full article here:

Americans may shudder at the barbarity depicted in videos showing public executions by the governments of Iran, Saudi Arabia, and China, but the fact remains that alone among all Western countries, the United States is a death penalty country.

Though the death penalty is legal in the majority of American states, only a handful of them actually carry out executions, numbering in the few dozens annually. Part of the reason the American public maintains a steadfast support of its government killing convicted murderers is due to the cloak of secrecy covering executions and that the most common form of execution, lethal injection, is sold to the public as a medical procedure, akin to putting a sick animal to sleep.

But a series of botched executions in 2014 have exposed a problem largely unknown to the American public: The drugs used for lethal injections are experimental, untested, and proving to be ineffective at killing prisoners without excruciating pain.

(source: Anthony L. Fisher is a Writer/Producer for and Reason


Police arrest 8 for selling illegal guns

The Jakarta Police have arrested 8 men suspected of selling illegal firearms in areas across the city.Jakarta

Police general crime director Sr. Comr. Krishna Murti said that officers had arrested the 8 in 5 separate spots after receiving reports from residents of trade in illegal guns in their neighborhoods.

"Our investigation was also spurred by several recent cases involving illegal guns," he said on Sunday as quoted by, adding that the police had confiscated hundreds of airsoft guns and dozens of firearms in the 5 raids.

2 men, identified as KS and WH, had been arrested in Pasar Baru, Central Jakarta, Krishna said, where the police seized 12 firearms and a haul of ammunition.

1 suspect, identified as HRA, meanwhile, was arrested at Graha Cijantung Mall in Pasar Rebo, East Jakarta, according to Krishna.

"1 suspect, identified as KMR, was arrested in Kelapa Dua, Depok, West Java," he said, adding that the police had arrested 4 other suspects, identified as MS, AS, KV and HR, in separate raids in Depok.

He said the 8 men had been arrested on suspicion of selling unregistered guns and ammunition.

Separately, Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Mohammad Iqbal said that the suspects would be charged with Article 1 of Law No. 12/1959 on illegal firearms with a maximum penalty of death or life imprisonment.



Abolishing the mandatory death penalty a welcome step

Amnesty International Malaysia welcomes attorney-general Apandi Ali's intended proposal to the cabinet to scrap the mandatory death penalty as it signals progress in one area of human rights in the country - the right to life.

"In light of this development, we call on the Malaysian government to impose an immediate official moratorium on the use of the death penalty until Cabinet reviews this proposal and laws which carry the death sentence can be reviewed and changed," AI Malaysia executive director Shamini Darshni said in a statement.

"Half of over 1,000 people on death row in Malaysian prisons are awaiting results of appeals or clemency, thus as the government studies the AG's proposal, these individuals need to know that they will not yet meet the noose. So it goes for any new case which carries the death penalty," she added.

However, abolishing the mandatory death penalty, though welcomed, must be considered a first step towards total abolition, she said.

"Through our work globally, we have seen the death penalty - mandatory or discretionary - imposed on those below 18, people with mental health issues, the poor and minority groups. There is also a sore lack of proof that the death penalty is able to reduce crime rates or prevent new criminals from emerging."

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty at all times, regardless of who is accused, the crime, guilt or innocence or method of execution. Most countries which practice executions have unfair legal systems and commonly justify its use as a crime-control measure. The application of the death penalty is discriminatory and in some countries used as a tool to punish political opponents.

Amnesty International has been working to end executions since 1977, when only 16 countries had abolished the death penalty in law or practice. Today, the number has risen to 140 - almost two-thirds of countries around the world.

"In many countries, including Malaysia, people on death row are imprisoned for many years in solitary confinement before an execution, causing severe mental torture not just to an inmate, but to their families who are innocent of any crime," she said.

"For almost 40 years, Amnesty International has worked to see this cruel and inhumane punishment abolished worldwide. As the years pass, anti-death penalty advocates have become more successful. Now, there are only some 30 countries that retain the death penalty in their law books, including Malaysia."

Malaysia uses the mandatory death penalty for drug offences, murder, treason and certain firearms offences.

In May, Prisons Department director-general Zulkifli Omar reported some 1,043 prisoners are on death row and that 46 % of those awaiting their execution were convicted for drug offences.

Not meeting 'most serious crimes' threshold

Hundreds of executions are carried out worldwide annually for drug-related offences despite the fact that such offences do not meet the threshold of the 'most serious crimes' to which the use of the death penalty must be restricted under international law.

"The death penalty is a blatant denial of human rights. Sentencing someone to death denies them the right to life as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is irreversible and mistakes have happened. As long as the death penalty remains, the risk of executing an innocent person will never be eliminated," she said.

AI Malaysia is currently running campaigns on Kho Jabing, a Malaysian on death row in Singapore; and Shahrul Izani Suparman, local man who has maintained his innocence of a drug trafficking charge for 12 years.



Maldives adopts automatic appeal of death sentences

Maldives top court issued new guidelines Sunday allowing death sentences and public lashing rulings issued by lower courts to be appealed automatically at the High Court.

In a circular, the Supreme Court said if the defendant fails to appeal death sentences and public lashing verdicts within 10 days, the court that had initially issued the verdict should forward the relevant documents to the High Court. The appellate court would have seven days to notify both the defendant and the prosecution of the appeal and during that period should take the necessary steps to begin appeal proceedings, it added.

The new rules follow similar guidelines issued by the apex court last week.

Supreme Court issued new guidelines on November 8 giving a month-long window for the last chance to appeal death sentences and public lashings backed by High Court.

According to the guidelines, if a defendant fails to appeal a High Court verdict in favour of death sentences and public lashing rulings within a 30-day period, the appeal can then only be filed at the Supreme Court by the prosecution.

The guidelines, included in a circular signed by Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed, did not specifically mention sentences of death and public lashing. However, it says that High Court rulings that need to be reconfirmed by the Supreme Court had to be appealed within 30 days, including public holidays.

Under local laws, the only sentences that need to be reconfirmed by the Supreme Court are death sentences and public lashing verdicts.

Judicature Act earlier granted a 90-day period, excluding public holidays, to appeal rulings by any court.

However, the Supreme Court had in January annulled that clause and issued new guidelines under which rulings issued by lower courts had to be appealed at the High Court within 10 days and appeal over High Court verdicts needed to be filed at the Supreme Court within 60 days.

Meanwhile, government has included funds in the proposed state budget for next year to establish an execution chamber at the country's main prison to carry out the death penalty.

The proposed budget for next year, which is currently being reviewed by the parliament, includes MVR4 million to build an execution chamber. However, the correctional service was not immediately available for comment.

Maldives adopted a new regulation last year under which lethal injection would be used to implement the death penalty.

However, over mounting pressure from human rights bodies, companies have been refusing to supply the fatal dose to countries still carrying out capital punishment.

Home minister Umar Naseer had earlier said the correctional service would be ready to implement the death penalty by the time a death sentence is upheld by the Supreme Court.<>P> There are around 10 people on death row at present, but none of whom has exhausted the appeal process thus far.



Terror death penalty debate needed: Qld MP

A Queensland MP has renewed calls for Australian governments to consider the death penalty to deal with terrorists in the wake of the Paris attacks, which have claimed at least 130 lives.

Moggill MP Dr Christian Rowan sparked controversy last week when he used a debate about counter-terrorism laws in parliament to call for considering the reintroduction of the death penalty for "certain or specified terrorist acts".

Dr Rowan stood by his speech on Monday, insisting Queensland and the rest of Australia needed to take "the strongest possible action ... in relation to extremist criminal ideology".

The former Australian Medical Association Queensland president made it clear that although he wasn't necessarily advocating for the death penalty himself, he was saying it needed to be considered for serious terrorism-related offences, including treason and "crimes against humanity".

Those responsible for the Paris attacks would likely be put to death under those circumstances, he said.

"These mass-casualty events that we've seen potentially could qualify," Dr Rowan told AAP.

Dr Rowan insisted the majority of feedback he'd received since his speech in parliament had been supportive.

He rejected civil libertarians' assertions that the death penalty would risk creating martyrs and prompting risk further radicalisation.

"If civil libertarians want to defend terrorist actions and actions that threaten free people around the world - these mass casualty events - let's see what basis and justification they want to put forward for that," he said.

Meanwhile, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said Commissioner Ian Stewart informed her on Monday morning that police were not aware of any threats in Queensland.

But she said police would be adding extra resources at the annual Schoolies celebrations on the Gold Coast.

"We do take any event of significance very seriously in this state, but just to re-emphasise - there is no known threat in Queensland," she said.

Brisbane's French community will hold a vigil in the city's King George Square at 6pm on Monday, which will include a minute's silence for the victims of the Paris attacks.



SC rejects Delhi govt plea seeking death for Nitish Katara's killers

The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a Delhi government plea seeking death sentence for the 3 convicts in Nitish Katara murder case, including cousins Vikas and Vishal Yadav, saying that it did not fall under the "rarest of rare" category warranting the extreme penalty.

A Bench comprising justices J.S. Khehar and R. Banumathi said that it had already dismissed a similar petition of complainant Neelam Katara, mother of Nitish, on the issue.

The court, however, said that it will need the assistance of Delhi government's lawyer in deciding the petitions filed by the 3 convicts, including Sukhdev Pehalwan, on the "limited questions" as to whether the high court was justified in awarding jail term of 30 years to Yadav cousins and 25 years to Pehalwan.

The Bench has now posted the matter for final hearing in February next year.

Last month, the Supreme Court had rejected the plea of Neelam who had also sought death penalty for the convicts.

Vikas (39), Vishal (37) and Sukhdev (40) are serving life term awarded by the lower court in May 2008 for abducting and killing Katara, a business executive and son of a railway officer, on the night of February 16-17, 2002, as they opposed the victim's affair with Bharti, daughter of Uttar Pradesh politician D.P. Yadav.

The apex court had on August 17, upheld the conviction of Vikas Yadav, his cousin Vishal and Sukhdev Pehalwan in the case.

The court, which upheld the findings of the trial court and the Delhi High Court without issuing notices on the appeals of Vikas and Sukhdev, had agreed to consider the limited aspect relating to enhancement of quantum of sentence of the 3 convicts by the high court.

The high court had termed the award of life term "simplicitor" to the convicts as inconsequential and enhanced the life term of 3 convicts - Vikas and Vishal Yadav to 30 years imprisonment and 25 years incarceration to Sukhdev Yadav alias Pehalwan - without the benefit of remission.

The high court had on April 2, 2014, upheld the verdict of the lower court in the case by describing the offence as "honour killing" stemming from a "deeply-entrenched belief" in caste system.



Prosecution dept's 'success rate' : 8,773 convictions in 4 months - death to 8, life term for 977

Uttar Pradesh Police's Prosecution Department claimed its best ever achievement with district courts in the state pronouncing capital punishment to 8 and life imprisonment to 977 accused during the last four months.

As per data produced by the prosecution department, 8,773 persons have been convicted by different district courts of UP between July and October. The maximum number of persons convicted for 10 years and more come from Shahjahanpur and Ghaziabad districts. In Kanpur and Bareilly, maximum number of persons have been convicted below 10 years of imprisonment.

Director General, Prosecution, Surya Kumar Shukla said, "The prosecution department achieved the target through regular hard work by government counsels, policemen who relentlessly pursued the cases and the public prosecutors. Recently, the department started a drive to ensure that prosecution witnesses and the victims did not face any harassment at the hands of the accused." He said there were complaints regarding the accused "harassing and pressuring the witnesses to give statements in their favour" before the court. Directions were issued to all public prosecutors and government counsels to help such witnesses. Counsels have been directed to immediately bring to notice such cases before the local police or the prosecution directorate in Lucknow, he added.

The prosecution department has felicitated some 300 witnesses in various districts for appearing before the court and recording their statement fearlessly, said Shukla.

"A direction has also been issued to all police stations in UP to appoint a nodal officer (of sub-inspector rank) who would help witnesses and tell the counsels about important and heinous cases that were required to be supervised on priority basis," he added.

The courts of Ghaziabad, Lalitpur, Shamli and Firozabad districts awarded death sentence to 8 persons facing murder charges. While 4 accused were sentenced by a local court of Ghaziabad on October 28, 1 was awarded death sentence on August 13 by a Lalitpur court; on July 31 Shamli court sentenced 2 while another 1 was given death penalty by Firozabad court on July 13.

In the last 4 months, as many as 179 persons were sentenced to 10, 14 and 20 years of imprisonment in 121 cases.

As per records, the court convicted 6,341 persons in 331 murder cases and accused are sentenced to either over 10 years or life imprisonment. In 34 cases of Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, the court sentenced 39 persons to 10, 14 and 15 years of imprisonment.

In cases of dowry death, the court sentenced 163 persons who were accused in 68 criminal cases. Accused are sentenced to 10, 14 and life term.

However, in last 4 months, one person each was sentenced under Goonda Act and UP Gangsters Act in Hardoi and Lalitpur, respectively.

A programme 'Bina Dare, Bina Bikey' has been organised by the prosecution department to felicitate witnesses of heinous crimes who fearlessly recorded their statement in the court. The DG said that history-sheeters of different districts have been identified and efforts were on to ensure their conviction.

(source: Indian Express)


Godse is a murderer, doesn't deserve respect: RSS ideologue

The RSS on Sunday opposed the move by some Hindutva organisations to commemorate the 66th death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi killer Nathuram Godse as "Shaurya Divas" on the grounds that he was a "murderer" who deserved no respect.

On November 15, 1949, Godse was hanged in Ambala Jail 7 days after he was given death penalty by a court for killing Gandhi on January 30, 1948, in the national capital.

The Hindu Mahasabha, Hindu Sena and the Maharana Pratap Battalion held different programmes to observe "Shaurya Divas" in Maharastra on Godse's hanging.

"I don't know which organisation it is. But I am against honouring and giving respect to Nathuram Godse. He is a murderer. The fight of thoughts should be fought with thoughts only. It is not right to kill anyone as was done by Godse," RSS ideologue M G Vaidya told a news agency.

The RSS continues to face political charges of killing the Father of the Nation. During the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had slammed the RSS for the killing of the Mahatma. The RSS had denied the charges.

"Some people think that by doing so (killing Gandhi), they have encouraged Hindutva, but that is wrong. In fact, they have insulted Hindutva. I think it was an evil act to kill Gandhi who was such a respected figure in India," Vaidya added.

The Hindu Mahasabha and the Sanatan Sanstha, which had come under the scanner for the murder of rationalist Govind Pansare, were among the Hindutva outfits that reportedly participated in the "Shaurya Diwas" ceremony held at Panvel near Mumbai to eulogise Godse.


NOVEMBER 15, 2015:


Human, monetary cost-cutting

There is little common ground between those who are pro-death penalty, and the abolitionists. If we assume, however, that only guilty people should be punished and that taxpayers want to save money, the system can be improved.

Cost is always an issue. In 1992 The Dallas Morning News calculated the costs of an average Texas execution was $2.3 million compared to $750,000 for life imprisonment. Since 1992, the cost of lawyers, extra time in jury selection, inmate housing, and appeals has risen substantially. Nueces County has had 16 executed offenders which ranks as 5th most in the state. San Patricio, Kleberg and Aransas counties have each had 1. Nueces County currently has three offenders on death row, which includes Larry Hatten who has been sitting there since January 1996 for shooting a 5-year-old boy. Neither Hatten, Richard Vasquez, nor John Ramirez, the other area death row offenders, has as of yet, received an execution date.

Here are some suggestions:

Videotape all confessions. Many states and the U.S. Department of Justice already require this, but not Texas. According to the Innocence Project, false confessions were a factor in 25 percent of convictions overturned by DNA testing. Younger offenders, those who have mental or emotional defects, those "under the influence," or faced with law enforcement pressure, have all falsely confessed. In the past, implementation of videotape would have been costly and cumbersome, but smartphones, tablets and the like have foreclosed any excuses.

Regional mental health panels: If you think lawyers are expensive, try hiring a medical expert witness. When the mental state of the accused is an issue, experts are hired by both prosecution and defense. However, as most capital murder cases involve indigents, taxpayers have a dog, or perhaps are the dog, on both sides of the fight. Smaller counties often have no resident experts. Although we may think medical professionals are unbiased, there are lists of experts who always testify for just one side, and their testimony is not contrary to their paycheck. Regional, neutral panels nominated by their peers would be an improvement. They would review the defendant's interview and other evidence, yet only one would testify. While not totally dispositive of other experts, their objective views would carry overwhelming credibility.

National standards for scientific testing: A few years ago I defended a murder case in Corpus Christi where the main issue was the defendant's location. The state's expert used cellphone "pings" and tower locations to demonstrate that the defendant was in the wrong spot at the right time. We had an attorney who rattled off scientific terms and numbers that no one understood, resulting in a costly, hung jury and retrial. Other "science" such as hair microscopy, bite mark analysis, and shoe print comparisons, have all resulted in errors. Faulty analysis is behind 47 % of wrongful convictions, according to the Innocence Project. Let's set some standards!

Fair division of costs: To "get away with (capital) murder" in Texas or at least not be executed, commit your crime in an average or small county. When I was Willacy County District Attorney I feared capital cases, knowing we couldn't afford them, either in cash or personnel. A Texas Tribune study found more than 1/2 (135) of Texas counties have never executed anyone, and 60 % of the death sentences in the past 5 years have originated from 2 % of our counties. A check of the Texas execution "waiting" list confirms very few small to medium counties pursue the death penalty. The state, not the county, needs to pick up the tab.

Without more safeguards, innocent people inevitably will be executed. Each day we are paying for the 60 % of death row inmates who have been there more than 15 years, as well as for 78-year-old Jack Smith, and 10 other inmates who waited more than 30 years.

We can't placate those with extreme positions, but we can cut costs, improve our justice system, and enhance our reputation as a state.

(source: opinion, Steve Fischer----Corpus Christi Caller-Times)


Komisarjevsky lawyer says uncovered police calls should be added to Cheshire case

A lawyer for convicted killer Joshua Komisarjevsky is filing to rectify the record in his case after additional police calls from the deadly 2007 home invasion were found in a cabinet by town employees.

The calls show police may have tried to stop Komisarjevsky's partner, Steven Hayes, as he drove back from a bank where he had forced Jennifer Hawke-Petit to withdraw money.

The motion, filed Friday morning, claims the calls "support the defense's theory at the guilt-innocence phase that the police response in this case was inadequate" and provide evidence of Komisarjevsky's mental state when he was questioned by police.

Moira Buckley, Komisarjevsky's attorney, declined to comment Friday and deferred to the motion.

Komisarjevsky and Hayes were both convicted of murder and sentenced to death in the 2007 Petit family home invasion. The sentences were handed down before 2012 when the state abolished the death penalty.

An August state Supreme Court decision found the death penalty unconstitutional and spared inmates on death row from execution.

Thousands of calls recorded on CDs were found by town employees in a cabinet and provided to Buckley in November of last year. In a motion to file a record rectification after the deadline, Buckley writes that going through those calls took months and that some were difficult to understand.

A call cited in the motion was from a police dispatcher to a police sergeant and later to other police units to intercept Hayes while driving from a Bank of America to the Petit home.

"Despite the explicit instructions given to Sgt. Cote, neither he nor any other police officer stopped or in any way intercepted the Chrysler Pacifica on its way back to 300 Sorghum Mill Drive from the Bank of America," Buckley said in the motion.

The calls also include police officers commenting on the demeanor of the 2 men, with 1 officer saying that Hayes "just looked evil" and another calling Komisarjevsky "simple."

Komisarjevsky's lawyers argued that it was Hayes that incited the killings.

The timeline of events and police actions is important, Buckley wrote, since it also impacts the credibility of police testimony in the case. That, in turn, could change how Komisarjevsky's motives are viewed.

"At trial, (Komisarjevsky) did not dispute his involvement in crimes that occurred that day and, in fact, upon his arrest gave a detailed statement to the police admitting his involvement," Buckley wrote. "He did, however, dispute that he was guilty of capital felony, maintaining that he did not intend that anyone be killed."

(source: Meriden Record-Journal)


Death warrant signed in Pennsylvania

An execution scheduled for next month will likely not take place, as a moratorium on the death penalty in Pennsylvania remains in effect.

The execution of 46 year-old Antayne Robinson in connection with a 1996 murder, has been scheduled for December 18th. The death warrant was signed, not by Governor Tom Wolf, but by Corrections Secretary John Wetzel.

"The law specifically says that if it's not signed by the governor, I believe its within 30-days, then the Secretary of Corrections shall schedule it. So that's in essence what I am signing is to schedule the execution," Wetzel said.

Governor Wolf has placed executions on hold until a commission studying the death penalty in Pennsylvania issues its findings.

In the meantime, Wetzel says he will continue to follow the law and sign execution orders, leaving the rest to the Governor and the courts.

(source: WITF news)

GEORGIA----impending execution

Debate continues whether Marcus Ray Johnson murdered 35-year-old woman

Facing just days before his clien's execution, the lawyer for convicted murderer Marcus Ray Johnson is adamant his client did not kill Angela Sizemore 21 years ago.

The state and the victim's family say it's past time for justice to be served.

On Wednesday the state Parole Board will be asked to decide. If the board does not grant clemency, Johnson is to be executed Thursday at 7 p.m.

Brian Kammer, a veteran in post-conviction capital defense, says his client's case is unlike others he has had.

"The lack of physical evidence is extremely troubling," said Kammer. "The prosecution compensated for the lack of direct evidence by making extremely inflammatory arguments to the jury."

The trial judge noted to the Georgia Supreme Court after the trial that the evidence was "sufficient to sustain the conviction, does not foreclose all doubt respecting the defendant's guilt."

But he also wrote a death sentence was appropriate.

Former Daugherty County District Attorney Ken Hodges, says claims of Johnson's innocence are "little more than hogwash, unsupported lies just to save his soul."

Johnson admitted to police he had sexual relations with Angela Sizemore, a woman he met in an Albany bar just hours before her battered and bloody body was discovered on March 24, 1994.

But, he said, she was alive when he left her sitting in a field and crying.

However, Hodges says there is no question Johnson did it.

"He raped her. He mutilated her body and he killed her. About that I have no doubt," he said. "You'd have to be less than human to do what he did to her."

The victim's family agrees with Hodges.

"They are grasping at straws," said Sizemore's daughter Katherine Barker, who was 5-years-old when her mother was killed. "There is evidence that puts Johnson at the crime and not just eye witnesses.... I'm not a blood-thirsty person but I do believe my mom deserves justice."

Johnson was shooting pool when an inebriated Sizemore walked into a west Albany bar just after midnight that fateful night.

They met. They drank. They danced. And after spending a while kissing in a back booth, they left the bar for a nearby field where they had sex.

A few hours later, a man walking his dog discovered the 35-year-old woman's battered and bloody body on her SUV, parked miles away beside a retention pond.

Kammer said there would have been "substantial amounts of blood" on her killer and not the single drop they found on Johnson's leather jacket.

Johnson, now 50, told police he couldn't remember much from those early morning hours because he was drunk. He said he woke up on the front yard of his house after daybreak.

In 2011, Johnson came within hours of execution before a Dougherty County judge stopped it to hold a hearing about a box of untested evidence that had been found 17 years after the crime.

During that hearing, witness Janice Parsons provided information Johnson's lawyers said suggested someone else could have killed Sizemore.

Parsons said her boyfriend and Sizemore were long-time partners in a drug business. She said her boyfriend gave Sizemore $3,000 in cash for a load of marijuana that she had brought from Florida to be sold in Albany. The cash was never recovered.

That suggestion angers the victim's daughter.

"My mom was a good mom," Baker said. "He's making her out to be this person wheeling and dealing. If it was a drug deal gone bad, who would want to torture my mom? Johnson tortured my mom death."



Who will be executed last in Ohio?

Ohio conducted its most recent execution in January 2014, putting to death Dennis McGuire for the rape and murder of a pregnant woman. The procedure did not go as planned. The state used an untested and untried combination of drugs for the lethal injection. McGuire gasped and snorted, death arriving in almost twice the time expected.

The state has been searching for a better mix, something closer to what it used in the past, before drug-makers chose, in effect, not to participate in death sentences. The pursuit has come up short so far. So officials have put off any executions until November 2017 at the earliest.

Which leads to the question: Will Ohio ever execute again?

State Reps. Nickie Antonio, a Lakewood Democrat, and Niraj Antani, a Miamisburg Republican, argue the answer should be "no." They have joined in legislation that would make Ohio the 20th state to abolish the death penalty (7 taking the step during the past 10 years).

Antonio makes many familiar - and persuasive - points about a system broken beyond repair. Antani takes a different approach, offering what he views as a conservative case for repealing the death penalty.

He stresses the limits of government and applies heavy doses of skepticism and distrust in weighing what it can achieve. Thus, he looks at the nine Ohio men exonerated while sitting on death row, an average of more than 21 years wrongfully imprisoned, and doubts that government has the capacity to perform at the high level required.

As he told the House Judiciary Committee last month, " ... our flawed death penalty system leaves too high of a chance that we may execute an innocent person."

There is something utopian about the premise of the death penalty. The punishment is irreversible, and thus, the state presumes that each time it will get the result right.

Justice Stephen Breyer of the U.S. Supreme Court explored this thinking in a lengthy, informed and illuminating dissent last summer. He concluded that the time has come for the courts to look again at whether the death penalty violates the constitutional ban on "cruel and unusual punishments."

Among other things, Breyer finds the death penalty cruel in its lack of reliability, or just what concerns Niraj Antani. Since 2002, the number of exonerations of those on death row has risen to 115, some having spent more than 30 years in prison. The most decisive advance has been DNA testing. Breyer cites research that calculates an error rate of 4 % in capital cases from 1973 to 2004. That puts the state at risk of being in the untenable position of killing an innocent person or committing the act it aims to punish.

In 1972, the Supreme Court struck down the death penalty, Justice Potter Stewart famously concurring that "death sentences are cruel and unusual in the same way that being struck by lightning is cruel and unusual." The court reinstated the punishment 4 years later, holding that new procedures, standards and requirements would address the problem of its arbitrary application.

Breyer lays out how those good intentions have proved no match for hard realities. The court wanted the death penalty reserved for the "worst of the worst." Instead, death sentences are driven by a range of factors, including racial bias, geography, the quality of defense counsel and political pressures.

Still, the tinkering continues. Consider the Ohio task force put together by Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor to recommend ways to improve the death penalty. Its 56 proposals, delivered last year, are mostly sound. They also appear no match for the larger problem.

That includes the excessive delays between sentencing and execution. In 1960, the gap was 2 years, then 11 years in 2004 and now close to 18. Might it be narrowed to something closer to 5 decades ago?

Breyer frames the dilemma: Accelerate the process, and the risk of a grievous error increases. Allow the current delays, and the punishment loses any chance of a deterrent effect, let alone timely retribution, families and friends of victims waiting decades for the closing event.

That helps explain why 30 states either do not have a death penalty or have not had an execution in 8 years. Or perhaps why polls show a majority of Americans prefer the option of life in prison without parole.

Justice Breyer sees the shrinking presence of the death penalty as making it more unusual. And he doesn't address the higher cost. It is enough that in 2013, 8 countries conducted more than 10 executions: Yemen, China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan and us.

(source: Michael Douglas is the Beacon Journal editorial page editor)


Death penalty ?petition drive was most successful near Norfolk, site of 2002 murders that put 3 on death row

In August, death penalty supporters plunked down the results of their 3-month petition drive a day before the official deadline.

It was a bold move calculated to show how strongly voters supported their cause.

But it could have come far sooner, according to a World-Herald analysis of petition signatures.

Nebraskans for the Death Penalty needed just 30 days to collect the roughly 57,000 valid signatures - 5? % of all registered voters - necessary to put the issue on the ballot.

In 2 months, the group amassed twice that amount, enough to put the death penalty repeal on hold.

The World-Herald's analysis shows that the biggest successes came in and around Norfolk, the site of the 2002 attempted bank robbery that left 5 Nebraskans dead. 3 of the 10 men on Nebraska's death row were sentenced in that crime.

In Norfolk's Madison County, 26 % of registered voters signed. In Pierce County, just 3 miles north of Norfolk, 35 % of registered voters signed - the highest rate in the state. Knox, Antelope, Wayne and Stanton Counties all had above-average turnout rates as well.

"That's almost mind-boggling," said Chris Peterson, a spokesman for Nebraskans for the Death Penalty. "There's incredible passion in northeast Nebraska for this issue, and it's understandable why."

Peterson said the organization did daily counts to ensure it hit the benchmarks to put the matter up to a vote and to put the law on hold until that election.

But it was sometimes difficult to gauge whether a signature would be counted by election officials. If a record didn't include a person's date of birth, or had an address that didn't match a person's voter registration address, Nebraskans for the Death Penalty excluded it from its unofficial tally.

The group also had to get 5 percent of registered voters to sign in 38 counties, which was another reason the campaign lasted so long, Peterson said.

"We were very conservative," Peterson said. "That's part of why we ended up turning in 166,000 signatures. We wanted to make sure we had a healthy margin of error."

The success of the petition drive means voters will decide next November whether to keep the repeal or reinstate the death penalty.

All told, the petition effort collected signatures from 92 of Nebraska's 93 counties - skipping only McPherson County, population 500. More than 10 % of registered voters signed a petition in 74 counties.

Having a connection to death row crimes didn't always equate to higher participation rates.

2 death row inmates, Raymond Mata and Jeffrey Hessler, were convicted of murders in Scotts Bluff County. Yet just 7 % of registered voters there signed the petitions.

Peterson said it was harder to develop an organization there because of its location far from the main offices in Omaha and Lincoln.

3 death row inmates were convicted of crimes in Douglas County, where 10 % of registered voters signed.

Peterson said the lower signing rates in the urban counties of Douglas, Lancaster and Sarpy may have been because of the presence there of activists against the death penalty.

Dan Parsons, a spokesman for Nebraskans for Public Safety, said it makes sense that signature rates were lower where his volunteers were arguing for the other side of the issue. Polls, he said, show that support for the death penalty falls when other factors are considered.

Anecdotally, he said, it appeared that death penalty advocates spent less time in urban areas, as well.

Parsons found special meaning in the signature rates for a specific subset of voters: those senators who voted on the repeal in the first place.

Not one senator who voted to repeal the death penalty in the final vote flipped to sign the petition.

But not all senators who voted against the repeal signed the petition. 11 signed, and 8 did not.

"It would not surprise me that some of the senators who were not with us during the debate may be now having s2nd thoughts," Parsons said.

The World-Herald reached 5 of the 8 senators who supported the death penalty in the final vote on the matter - whether to override a veto from Gov. Pete Ricketts.

None said there was a change of heart.

"I just felt like the Legislature had made that statement on the part of the body, and I'm abiding by that," said State Sen. John Stinner of Gering. He added: "Even though I was a loser in this situation, I personally felt like we had all weighed in."

State Sen. Jerry Johnson of Wahoo also didn't sign, though he had a simple explanation.

"Basically, nobody approached me," he said.

If he had seen someone circulating the petition, he would have signed, he said.

State Sen. Jim Scheer of Norfolk supported the campaign, even loaning office space for the effort. Scheer said he was confident he signed the petition, but his name did not appear in the records The World-Herald obtained.

Elizabeth Theiss-Morse, a political science professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said the success of the petition campaign doesn't necessarily mean smooth sailing for the effort to reinstate the death penalty.

The issue will be on the ballot during a presidential election, she said, which means higher turnout - especially among Democrats.

At the same time, she said, the death penalty issue isn't necessarily driven by political affiliation.

The issue also is fundamentally different from petition drives around the country. In other states, she said, petition drives tend to be successful based almost entirely on how strong funding is.

"But this one, it happened quickly. There wasn't this buildup we often have in other states, drawn out and driven by external folks. This struck me as much more, well, people feel strongly about it."

While the petition drive was a huge success, she said there's still plenty of time for opponents to get out their message and change minds.

The death penalty opposition will be taking the same arguments it made with lawmakers to the general public. Chief among them, she said, is whether a death sentence can even be carried out.

"I don't think it's a slam-dunk," Theiss-Morse said. "If the state can't get the drugs they need by the time the election hits, that's going to be a real blow to that side."

(source: Omaha World-Herald)


Death or life in prison for serial killer?----Rogers would waive right to appeal if he got life sentence, attorney says

With prosecutors asking that serial killer Dayton Leroy Rogers be sentenced to death for a fourth time, defense attorneys Friday asked jurors to give him life in prison to bring final resolution to a 3-decades-old legal process.

Rogers has been sentenced to death 3 times, and each time the sentence has been overturned on various legal grounds.

1 of Oregon's most prolific serial killers, Rogers tortured and killed several women in the 1980s, binding some of them, stabbing them repeatedly and in several cases cutting off their feet or other body parts.

Now 62, quiet and balding, the former lawn-mower repairman was dubbed the Molalla Forest Killer because the bodies were discovered in a forest in the small town of Molalla.

During Rogers' current sentencing trial in Clackamas County Circuit Court, defense attorney Richard L. Wolf said Rogers would waive his right to an appeal if he got a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

Wolf said sending Rogers to prison for life would give a resolution to victims' families and avoid costs of more legal proceedings. If Rogers is sentenced to death, Wolf said, various appeals could take up another 30 years, cost about $3 million and continue to drag families into court.

"We stand before you today not to deny or excuse Mr. Rogers' crimes," Wolf told the jury. "We're asking you ... to stop the endless courtroom proceedings and permit (the families) to finally move forward, rather than seemingly move forward then backward ... stuck in a never-ending cycle of trial and automatic appeal."

Wolf said Rogers had only 4 minor infractions during the past 27 years in prison. The possibility he'll be a victim in prison is much greater than that of him victimizing others, Wolf said.

Wolf also argued Rogers' traumatic childhood - including sexual and physical abuse - and the brain damage he suffered should be considered as mitigating evidence.

Prosecutor Bryan Brock said Rogers should get the death penalty because his acts were heinous and deliberate. He carefully planned his attacks and was driven by sexual gratification from inflicting pain, Brock said.

Rogers was a "patient and cunning individual" who lived a double life, Brock said. On one hand, he had a wife, son, owned a house in Woodburn, attended church and ran a successful small business. On the other, he drove to Portland to solicit prostitutes, plied them with alcohol, and took them to remote locations where he tied them up, violently bit them and cut them.

Those who resisted were killed and had their feet cut off while still alive, said Brock. He showed the jury a hacksaw recovered from Rogers.

"Violence equals pleasure. He cut off their feet for his pleasure," said Brock, adding that Rogers later burned the dead women's clothes in his stove and cleaned out his blood-soaked truck.

Brock said Rogers, who has spent most of the past 27 years in prison segregation, was a sexual sadist unfit to live in the general prison population.

Rogers was convicted of 6 killings in 1989, and each of 3 juries has sentenced him to death.

The state Supreme Court struck down his death sentences in 1992, 2000 and 2012. The first time was to comply with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that invalidated Oregon's death penalty law. In 2000, the Oregon high court ruled that the jury incorrectly considered only the options of death and life in prison with the possibility of parole. There should have been a 3rd choice: life without the chance of parole.

In 2012, the justices said jury selection was done improperly and the judge incorrectly allowed evidence of Rogers' gay experiences as a teenager.

(source: Associated Press)


U.S. death penalties, executions slow as capital punishment is squeezed

Capital punishment in the United States has moved into the slow lane, with the number of executions and new death sentences likely to hit lows not seen for more than 20 years.

The last 2 executions of the year are set to be carried out next week, with Texas scheduled to put convicted murderer Raphael Holiday to death on Wednesday and Georgia scheduled to execute convicted murderer Marcus Johnson on Thursday.

If those lethal injections proceed, there will have been 27 executions in the United States in 2015. That would be the least since 1991, before "a get tough on crime" movement swept the country and led executions to hit 98 in 1999, the highest since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

The death penalty, which is the law in 31 states, has been hit by the left and right in 2015. Court battles and a scramble to secure execution drugs after a sales ban a few years ago imposed by makers, mostly in Europe, have left about 8 states, most notably Texas, Florida and Missouri, as those that conduct executions. In 1999, 20 states put people to death.

Last year nationwide, there were 73 new death sentences and that number is set to drop by at least a third this year, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Oklahoma, one of the most active death penalty states, has put a halt on executions after mistakes in protocols that led to a flawed execution in 2014 and the delivery of the wrong drug to the death chamber this year.

The high costs of prosecutions and the option of life in prison without the possibility of parole are also cited as major drivers for the decline.

The costs of a death penalty prosecution, with appeals, investigations and other items, can be at least double those of housing an inmate for life and are usually far higher, according to data cited by the Marshall Project, a nonprofit newsgroup that focuses on U.S. criminal justice.


Texas and Virginia have instituted changes in the way death penalty cases are taken through courts that have led to decreased prosecutions. Texas, with 530 executions, has put to death more inmates than any other state since the death penalty was reinstated and Virginia has executed the highest percentage of its death row inmates.

Those states have instituted reforms in recent years to provide more resources for death penalty defenses and increased their access to evidence.

"Both states have changed the way in which indigent capital defense is provided. Counsel makes a huge difference," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes capital punishment but whose data is used by both sides in the debate.

So far this year, Texas has had three new death penalty convictions and is on track for its lowest number since the penalty was reinstated. Virginia has had no new death sentences. In 1999, Virginia had seven new sentences and Texas 48.

Due to the costs, many prosecutors have become more selective about taking capital punishment cases to trial.

Death penalty advocate Robert Blecker, a professor at New York Law School, said money should not be a factor.

"The death penalty should not be a utilitarian issue in terms of weighing the costs against the benefits, but rather an issue simply of justice, of who deserves it," he said.

Next year, voters in conservative Nebraska are set to approve or dismiss a move by Republican lawmakers, who this year made it the 1st Republican-controlled state in more than 40 years to abolish the death penalty.

The lawmakers said the state should get out of the death penalty process due to high costs and the unreliability of the government to carry out the process correctly.

Another Republican-controlled state, Arkansas, tried to resume executions this year after a 10-year hiatus but has been hit with lawsuits that could take years to settle over its protocols and choice of execution drugs.

"The long-term trends both for executions and for new death sentences show the death penalty in decline. There may be from time to time bumps both up and down but the long-term trend is clear," Dunham said.

(source: Reuters)


"Pope Francis should call for a moratorium on Iranian death penalty"----A day before the Pope is due to meet Hassan Rohani, human rights organisations are circulating facts and figures about the excessive use of the death penalty

It is a "deadly injustice". The figures on the implementation of the death penalty in Iran "are very worrying indeed", Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam tells Vatican Insider. Amiry-Moghaddam is an Iranian doctor who has lived in Norway for many years and is founder of the Iran Human Rights organisation. The NGO was created by Iranian citizens who sought political asylum abroad but are still in direct contact with the homeland. Hence, President Hassan Rohani's visit to Europe, which includes stops in Italy and the Vatican, is a chance to call for a moratorium on the death penalty.

The figures contained in IHR's report titled "Deadly Injustice" are alarming: 648 people were executed in Iran in the 1st semester of 2015, a stark increase compared to 2014, when a total of 753 executions took place in one year and 2013, when 687 executions were carried out in total. "The average number of victims is almost 4 people a day. We are concerned because it's the highest average in the last 21 years and we do not know why Rohani's government promotes executions being carried out at such an intense rate," he explained.

Most of the victims (463 out of 648 in 2015) are sentenced to death for drug-related crimes. "But the victims are often the smugglers who are paid pittance, certainly not those who organise the trafficking," Amiry-Moghaddam observed. Drug trafficking and dependency are growing among young people and the authorities are using the death penalty as a deterrent against crime. But the death sentence is not the solution and is not an efficient means of curbing crime. We want the executions to stop."

"We believe that the meeting between Rohani and the Pope scheduled for 14 November, could be important" in drawing attention to the principle of respect for life and the inefficiency of a practice such as capital punishment. "Even though the Vatican is not a political power, it has a strong influence in terms of values as well as in symbolic terms. A comment from the Pope could have an impact: we are asking Francis to put the human rights issue on the discussion agenda."

"Other states avoid this on account of economic, political and security interests. They avoid it out of convenience. The Pope has the freedom to ask for a moratorium on the death penalty in Iran," he continued.

Assessing the standard of respect for human rights in Iran, Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam remarked: "Besides the right to life which we mentioned, looking at the freedom of expression, there has been an increase in the number of blogs and the use of social media but there are also recurring waves of repression against journalists."

Regarding freedom of conscience, he said: "we have been informed that those who convert from Islam to other religions are under pressure and society is faced with a new problem that is growing: discrimination against religious minorities. Blasphemy is punishable by execution. The system uses Islam to put pressure on the people and deny legitimate rights," he affirmed.

But the IHR leader sees a glimmer of hope on the horizon: "Despite these difficulties, the international community has a role to play at the moment and can have a positive impact given the current climate of political and economic openness."

This is where the Pope comes in: "Years ago, there was talk of a "dialogue between civilizations" between Iran and the Vatican and this is still possible: a frank, open and constructive dialogue is always useful and fruitful. When there is sincere dialogue, one can speak not just about the positive points but also about critical aspects, with a view to overcoming them," he said with a sense of hope.

Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam noted that "Pope Francis is popular in Iran, especially among young people. Some months ago, his words against the death penalty went viral and attracted support, particularly given that in the Middle East there are many other religious leaders who call for a more stringent application of it. Francis has created a very positive impression among the Iranian people who appreciate his stance on poverty, care for the environment, dialogue and welcome."

(source: Iran Human Righs)


Man, 41, charged with murder of 75-year-old father

A 41-year-old man was charged in court on Sunday (Nov 15) with the murder of his 75-year-old father.

Tan Kok Meng is accused of killing his father Tan Ah Hin on Friday (Nov 13) at around 5.22pm in their Bedok North flat.

Tan appeared in court this morning wearing a red polo shirt. If convicted, he faces the death penalty.

The prosecution has asked for him to be remanded at the medical complex in Changi Prison for 3 weeks for psychiatric evaluation, as he told the investigation officer that he has a history of mental illness.

The case will be heard again on Dec 4.

Neighbours told reporters that they heard a loud argument in Mandarin coming from 4th-floor unit at Block 416 on Friday evening.

A police spokesman said officers found the elderly man lying motionless in his home with head injuries when they arrived, after receiving a call around 5.20pm.

He was rushed to Changi General Hospital and was pronounced dead at 6.37pm.

(source: Straits Times)


Indonesian court sentences 2 drug smugglers to death

Indonesia sentenced 2 men to death Friday for running an worldwide drug syndicate that smuggled 840 kg (1,850 pounds) of methamphetamine into the country.

The sentences, however, were lighter than those demanded by public prosecutors Teguh Ananto and Leila Qadria, who last week demanded the death penalty for all syndicate members, including the ring leader, Wong Chi Ping, for violating Article 114, Paragraph 2, of Law No. 35/2009 on narcotics.

Wong was believed to have been the mastermind behind the smuggling of methamphetamines from Hong Kong, on southeast China’s coast, to Indonesia, packing the drugs into coffee containers, media reported.

A former fisherman, Wong started a fish business in Indonesia and eventually married an Indonesian woman.

Judges in the trials concluded that there were no reasons for lenience and both defendants deserved death sentences.

"The harsh penalty on drugs will provide a deterrent effect for those who are looking to do such crimes", said Slamet Pribadi, spokesman for the agency, after the West Jakarta District Court delivered its verdict.

Wong's lawyers said they would appeal against the sentence.

The National Narcotics Agency said it appreciated the judge's decision to send the pair to the firing squad, although it had earlier expressed its disappointment that the other 7 were spared. Widodo has accelerated the death penalty campaign - so far 14 drug convicts have been executed during his presidency, 12 of them foreigners.

(source: Rapid News Network)


Walking the tightrope: Kaniza Bibi among 47 women on death row in Pakistan

Kaniza Bibi has been languishing in jail since 1989. According to her relatives, she hasn't said a word in 8 years, since she was admitted to the Punjab Institute of Mental Health (PIMH) in Lahore due to her unstable mental condition. The resident of a small town in Kamlia, a sub-district of Toba Tek Singh, is among 47 women prisoners on death row in Pakistan, which has now made it to the list of the top 3 executioners in the world.

Most of these prisoners are accused of murdering family members or husbands. They have been unable to hire lawyers to plead their cases because of extreme poverty, say interior ministry officials and representatives of civil activist groups. And sooner or later, the Punjab Home Department will hang them under the government's National Action Plan, which was formulated in the aftermath of the brutal Army Public School massacre in Peshawar on December 16 last year.

"Kaniza Bibi recognised me but could not speak or hear me. Police not only harassed her, but also brutally tortured her in jail," alleges Kaniza's cousin, 25-year-old Parveen Bibi, while speaking to The Express Tribune.

Parveen says her mother told her Kaniza was arrested in 1989, before Parveen was born. Kaniza was sentenced to death for murder under Section 302/34 of the Pakistan Penal Code. Not a single member of Kaniza's immediate family is alive, adds Parveen, claiming that jail authorities issued Kaniza's black warrant despite her long history of mental illness. She recalls the time when the President of Pakistan at the time, Pervez Musharraf, rejected Kaniza's plea for mercy. She says the entire village mourned the decision at the time. Around 50 other women had filed for mercy according to the villagers, says Parveen, but none of them were granted clemency.

"She (Kaniza) has always maintained her innocence," says another cousin, 29-year-old Muhammad Munawar, who met Kaniza just before Eid. "Kaniza is almost dead now. Doctors say she suffers from severe schizophrenia."


Kaniza was working at one Khan Muhammad’s residence in Kamila as a housemaid when her employer was accused of killing his entire family because he wanted to marry a girl from the same town, Munawar quoted the police as saying. According to the police statement, Khan allegedly killed his 5 children and his pregnant wife before running away, says Munawar.

The police later arrested both Kaniza and Khan. Khan was executed in 2003, while Kaniza, who was sentenced to death for being an accomplice, still maintains her innocence, adds Munawar. Another relative of Kaniza, however, claims the real killers of Khan Muhammad's family were Mohammad Habib and Allah Yar, who both died of natural causes soon after the brutal murders. Kaniza's cousin Muhammad Akram, 47, claims Allah Yar had a family dispute with Khan Muhammad and ultimately managed to send him to jail. Akram also alleges that Allah Yar, who was a landlord in the area, was involved in the murder of 2 other villagers. "Khan Muhammad was innocent. No one can kill their own family members," he says.

Other relatives of Kaniza are also of the opinion that both she and Khan Muhammad were framed for murders they did not commit. They say Mohammad Habib and Allah Yar were initially arrested for the offence but managed to obtain their release by bribing the local police and then filing a false police report implicating Khan Muhammad and Kaniza. The police, on the other hand, say there is no record of the case at the Kamila Police Station. Wishing to remain anonymous, police officers on duty said that since the case is 2 1/2 decades old, the file has perhaps been closed and the case gone to superior court. When approached, family members of Mohammad Habib and Allah Yar refused to comment, saying the case has been closed now.

Forced confession?

One of the counsels for Kaniza, Justice Project Pakistan's Namra Gilani says her client's mental health is deteriorating with each passing day. She adds they are also planning to move a petition to incumbent President Mamnoon Hussain to review the case. Gilani says Kaniza's health worsened after she was sentenced to death. Jail authorities and paramedics, too, are concerned about Kaniza, she says. "I visited her as her counsel but she is too ill and unable to record her statement. A fresh PIMH report prepared by a medical board also states Kaniza cannot be executed due to her poor mental condition."

Kaniza's diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia has been confirmed by successive medical boards, claims Gilani. In the report sent to the superintendent of Kot Lakhpat Jail, the PIMH wrote that the patient has lost her ability to understand what is going on around her and is even unable to feed and clothe herself. The medical report also confirmed that Kaniza hasn't spoken a word in the last 8 years, says Gilani.

Kaniza's extended family claims she was tortured while in custody to extract a confession. They say she was tortured so brutally at one stage that she had to be admitted to a hospital. Although Kaniza initially challenged the confession, saying it was involuntary, the court relied on it while handing the death sentence to her and Khan Muhammad.

International concern

Another woman prisoner on death row is Aasia Bibi, a Christian accused of blasphemy in 2009 and sentenced to death by a district court judge the following year. Her case has garnered a lot of international attention, with many rights groups flaying Pakistan's government for failing to protect minorities. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has now decided to hear the appeal of her high-profile case after the Lahore High Court upheld her death sentence last year. Other cases of female inmates on death row are also pending in the Supreme Court. Unlike Aasia, these women have no legal assistance, with no one pleading their cases. Gilani said these women would have won their cases had someone been representing them.

"Pakistan's return to using the death penalty, an inherently cruel and irrevocable form of punishment, has been a tragic setback for human rights in the country," says Andrew Stroehlein, European Media Director of the Human Rights Watch.

Amnesty International's Press Officer Asia/Pacific, Olof Blomqvist stresses that the government should impose a moratorium on the death penalty with a view to eventually abolish it completely. "Pakistan has gone from being a country that showed real progress on abolishing capital punishment to this year, becoming one the world's top 3 executioners - a shameful club no one should aspire to join."

Research Director at Death Penalty Worldwide of the International Human Rights Clinic, Cornell University Law School, Delphine Lourtau fears the death penalty is being used against women as part of gender-based violence. "Many women are sentenced to death after being found guilty of killing a close family member, often their spouse, in a context of physical and emotional abuse. Only rarely, however, do courts recognise gender-based violence as a circumstance that should lead to lighter sentencing. Moreover, women facing the death penalty are often abandoned by their families and, having no wealth of their own in many cases, find themselves without resources and support required to ensure that they receive a fair trial," she says.

The government, however, is adamant the death penalty is the only deterrent in the country. "Both, lifting the moratorium and quick executions, are the need of the hour. We are waging a war against militants who are killing our soldiers, our children, our leaders," stresses Minister of State for Interior Balighur Rehman. "Hangings have not only discouraged militants, but also remain a source for boosting the morale of our forces. We understand the concern of rights groups, but we believe that in war, execution is the right punishment for terrorists," he said in response to questions from lawmakers in Parliament recently.

Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Zohra Yusuf says they have taken the issue up with the Ministry of Interior. "But no one has listened to us. There are only a few prisoners involved in terror-related incidents who have been hanged. Deterrence is very low. We have even protested across the country. Bring the official moratorium back, if abolishment is not possible" she urges, adding Pakistan should review the cases of individuals for lesser executions. "We wrote to the Ministry of Interior but their response is still awaited."

The representative for Human Rights Watch in Pakistan, Saroop Ijaz, concurs with Yusuf's argument. He, too, thinks very few of those involved in terror attacks have been hanged. "It is a new low. Instead of making its citizens safer by reforming the criminal justice system to ensure prosecution and conviction of those involved in terrorist attacks, the Pakistan government went on a killing spree after the horrific Peshawar [Army Public School] attack. Only a small percentage of those executed were convicted of offences related to terrorism. And amongst those executed were juveniles and people with disabilities. The Pakistan government needs to reinstate the moratorium on the death penalty and devise and implement legislative and policy measures."

(source: The Express Tribune)

NOVEMBER 14, 2015:


Death penalty possible for 2013 Norwood murder suspect

The Hamilton County Prosecutor is seeking the death penalty for the suspect in the 2013 murder a then 20-year-old woman.

Jaleel Markeith Smith-Riley, 22, shot Porshia Brooks during a robbery in Norwood in Nov. 2013, Prosecutor Joe Deters said. He was arrested by Norwood police earlier this month and is being held on a $5 million bond at the Hamilton County jail.

Deters indicted Smith-Riley on aggravated murder, murder, attempted murder, 2 counts of felonious assault and aggravated robbery. If convicted of all charges, he faces the death penalty.

Aron Martin was also shot in the head that night and survived.

Surveillance video released after the shooting showed 3 potential suspects walking towards the scene of the double shooting.

Martin called the act senseless.

"At what point you just decide OK I'm going out and take someone's life without thinking about OK their loved ones are going to miss them," questioned Martin.

Norwood Police Lt. Ronald Murphy says a 2nd suspect is currently incarcerated in an out-of-state jail with pending charges and Murphy says both suspects admitted involvement in the crime.

The 3rd suspect in the case is deceased.

Police have not released the identities of the other 2 suspects.

(source: WXIX news)


Lewis County's Jonathan Meyer Among Washington Prosecutors Seeking Public Vote on Death Penalty

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer said Friday he agrees with a plan to ask legislators to place a referendum on the death penalty on a 2016 ballot.

"It was enacted by the people and the people need to decide whether they want it or not," he said.

The Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys issued a statement Thursday saying prosecutors in the state believe voters should weigh in on whether Washington should have the death penalty as a sentencing option in aggravated murder cases.

Gov. Jay Inslee enacted a moratorium on the death penalty in 2014.

Meyer said he supports the death penalty.

While expensive, he said it is the only deterrent left in some cases, citing the 2011 murder of Washington State Reformatory corrections officer Jayme Biendl by Byron Scherf, an inmate serving life in prison.

Scherf was sentenced to death in 2013.

"I think there definitely is a place for the death penalty in Washington," Meyer said.

However, he's not confident the state Legislature will put the measure on a ballot. If they did, he said supporters would have to work hard to raise awareness of the vote to make sure each side has their say.

"I have a concern about the vote because of how our voices tend to get lost in King County's," he said. "If it's going to be by popular vote, whoever votes the most will be able to carry the day."

(source: The Chronicle)


Boston Marathon bombing case to be back in federal court in Dec.

The case of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will be back in federal court in Boston next month.

US District Judge George A. O'Toole Jr. has scheduled a hearing for Dec. 1 on several motions filed after Tsarnaev was sentenced to death in June.

One of the motions is a request by prosecutors to order Tsarnaev to pay restitution to his victims, a largely symbolic gesture given Tsarnaev's lack of assets. Prosecutors have not disclosed the amount they are seeking, but it is expected to be in the millions of dollars.

Meanwhile, Tsarnaev's lawyers have asked the judge to extend attorney-client privileges they had with Tsarnaev while he was on trial. Tsarnaev is now being held under tight security measures, and his lawyers argue that tighter restrictions proposed by the US Department of Justice would interfere with attorney client privileges that any prisoner is entitled to, such as the ability to examine work documents with his lawyers.

O'Toole has also agreed to hear arguments on Tsarnaev's motion for a new trial. Such a motion is typical in any criminal case - Tsarnaev's lawyers continue to argue that his trial should have been moved outside of Boston - but O'Toole has agreed to hear arguments solely related to a recent Supreme Court decision that may have redefined some of the charges Tsarnaev was convicted of.

In a June decision, the Supreme Court struck down certain provisions of a law that called for tougher penalties for the use of a firearm or explosive in a crime of violence, finding that the law is too broad and constitutionally vague. Tsarnaev's lawyers argue that the decision applies to 15 of the charges of which Tsarnaev was convicted. Though Tsarnaev was sentenced to death on separate charges, his lawyers argue that the jury could have been influenced by the 15 charges that were affected by the Supreme Court decision.

It was not immediately clear if Tsarnaev will attend the Dec. 1 hearing.

Tsarnaev, 22, admitted his role in the Boston Marathon bombing, which killed 3 people and injured more than 260, the fatal shooting of an MIT police officer, and a firefight with police in Watertown. His lawyers argued that Tsarnaev did not deserve the death penalty because he was influenced by his older brother, who was killed during the confrontation in Watertown.

Tsarnaev is being held at the federal supermax prison in Colorado while he appeals his death sentence.

(source: Boston Globe)


Death Penalty Takes On New Dimension in 2016 Campaign

Less than a month before the New Hampshire primary in 1992, Bill Clinton left the campaign trail and tended to a pressing matter.

Rickey Ray Rector, a convicted killer, was scheduled to be executed in Arkansas. Mr. Clinton, then the governor, returned to Little Rock and was present in the state when Mr. Rector was put to death, a detour that demonstrated his toughness on crime. Democrats "should no longer feel guilty about protecting the innocent," Mr. Clinton had said at a debate a few days earlier, emphasizing, in general, the need to punish criminals.

Nearly a quarter-century later, Mr. Clinton's wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, has taken a strikingly different tone. While stopping short of calling for the death penalty's abolition, she urged a "hard look" at its use, saying it had been applied too frequently, and often in a discriminatory manner. Last week, she said she would "breathe a sigh of relief' if the Supreme Court struck it down.

Mrs. Clinton is one of several presidential candidates from both parties who are voicing skepticism about capital punishment, seizing on a growing national ambivalence. The issue has been a source of political pressure, but in a changed way: While Mr. Clinton leaned rightward, playing up his commitment to law and order, Mrs. Clinton is now contending with an expectant left, as well as passionate calls from her 2 Democratic rivals for the death penalty to be repealed outright.

Presidential Candidates on the Death Penalty

Most candidates support the existence of the death penalty, but many have acknowledged problems or reservations with the current system.

"From Bill to Hillary is a remarkable signal of the changed climate surrounding capital punishment," said Austin D. Sarat, a professor of law and political science at Amherst College who has long studied the death penalty.

But memories of an earlier political era, when crime was high and Democrats found themselves on the losing side of the issue, remain strong. So do memories of the fate of the party's 1988 nominee, Michael S. Dukakis, a death penalty opponent, whose campaign was damaged by his clinical response in a debate when he was asked if he would favor the death penalty if his wife were raped and murdered. He said he would not.

Although public support for the death penalty has waned, 56 % of Americans still support it for people convicted of murder, according to a poll in March by the Pew Research Center.

"Have minds been changed somewhat on the death penalty?" Mr. Dukakis, who supports Mrs. Clinton's candidacy, said in an interview this week. "Yeah, I think so. But I don't think coming out against the death penalty will win you points in this election. And it will certainly provoke plenty of criticism from the other side."

Mrs. Clinton, for all her reservations, has been willing to move only so far.

"Politicians were more comfortable saying 'civil unions' before they were comfortable saying 'gay marriage,'" Mr. Sarat said. "I think that's what you see in the Hillary Clinton kind of approach."

The scrutiny of the death penalty is part of a broader look at the wisdom of the country's criminal justice policies, a discussion motivated in part by concerns over how racial minorities are treated. The parties have found common ground in the need for criminal justice changes, with Democrats and Republicans alike speaking of their desire to reduce the country's prison population.

The use of the death penalty has changed significantly since Mr. Clinton was weighing the fate of Mr. Rector, who had killed two people, including a police officer, and then shot himself, destroying part of his brain. Jeff Rosenzweig, a lawyer for Mr. Rector, contended that he was "in the vernacular, a zombie," too impaired to grasp the punishment he was about to receive, and that "his execution would be remembered as a disgrace to the state."

Mr. Rector, who saved a helping of pecan pie from his last meal so he could eat it later, was put to death by lethal injection, and the next day, Mr. Clinton said he respected death penalty opponents' right to their opinions. "All I ask is that you respect mine," he added, "for I have spent most of my public life worrying about what it would take to give our children a safe place to live again."

Last year, only 7 states conducted executions, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, and the number of people executed, 35, was the lowest in 20 years.

In his address to Congress in September, Pope Francis argued for the death penalty's abolition, saying, "Every life is sacred." And last month, the National Association of Evangelicals, which represents more than 45,000 churches and had for decades stood in support of capital punishment, adopted a resolution affirming that "evangelical Christians differ in their beliefs about capital punishment."

Proponents of abolishing the death penalty said they believed candidates were freer to express reservations now than in past election cycles. For one thing, they have several pragmatic reasons to cite, including how minorities are treated; the high costs of litigation surrounding death penalty cases; and the large number of death row exonerations, including from DNA evidence.

"It's not a litmus test in the same way that it used to be," said Cassandra Stubbs, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Capital Punishment Project.

Although the death penalty is an enduring topic for presidential campaigns, the president's actual power to end capital punishment is limited, because a vast majority of executions are carried out at the state level. Only 3 people have been executed by the federal government in the last half-century; the most recent, in 2003, was Louis Jones Jr., who had kidnapped, raped and killed a female soldier. The president could indirectly influence the future of the death penalty, though, through Supreme Court appointments.

But in the Democratic primary, Mrs. Clinton's rivals have been eager to use the issue as another way to draw a distinction with her, especially among left-leaning voters who may already have doubts about the depth and purity of Mrs. Clinton's liberalism.

Only 40 % of Democrats support the death penalty, according to the Pew survey, and among Democrats who described their political views as liberal, only 29 % were in support of it.

Asked about the death penalty last month while campaigning in New Hampshire, Mrs. Clinton said the country needed to be "smarter and more careful" about how it was applied.

"I think there are certain egregious cases that still deserve the consideration of the death penalty, but I'd like to see those be very limited and rare, as opposed to what we have seen in some states," she said.

The day after Mrs. Clinton's comments, her main opponent for the Democratic nomination, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, drew an implicit contrast by taking to the Senate floor to reaffirm his opposition to the death penalty. He said that the government "should itself not be involved in the murder of other Americans."

The 3rd Democratic candidate, former Gov. Martin O'Malley of Maryland, went directly after Mrs. Clinton on the issue. As governor, Mr. O'Malley successfully pushed for the repeal of the death penalty in Maryland, and before he left office, he commuted the sentences of 4 men who had remained on death row because the repeal was not retroactive.

In an interview on CNN, Mr. O'Malley said that Mrs. Clinton was "often a bit behind the times" about "what works in terms of public policy."

The Republican field has been generally supportive of the death penalty, but not without some reservations.

In a recent interview on NBC News's "Meet the Press," former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida described himself as "conflicted" and said the death penalty was "not a deterrent anymore because it's seldom used." A Roman Catholic, he invoked his faith, saying, "It's hard for me as a human being to sign the death warrant, to be honest with you." But he acknowledged that it could provide "closure" for victims' loved ones.

During Mr. Bush's time as governor, Florida executed 21 people. His emails show him grappling with the subject, calling it, at one point, "an issue that tears at my heart."

But other Republican candidates still take a firm stance in favor of the death penalty.

After a woman was beaten and raped while jogging in Central Park in 1989, Donald J. Trump paid for full-page newspaper advertisements that declared in large capital letters: "Bring Back the Death Penalty." (It was reinstated in New York in 1995 - fulfilling a campaign promise by Gov. George E. Pataki, another presidential candidate - but the state's highest court effectively struck it down before anyone was executed.)

In an interview this summer, Mr. Trump argued that the death penalty deterred crime. When someone is executed, he pointed out, "you know that person's not going to kill again."

(source: New York Times)


Shudhangshu Murder ---- Coffin procession demands death penalty for killers

With the coffin of slain Shudhangshu Boshak, agitating locals brought out a procession in Pabna town yesterday demanding death penalty for his killers.

The demonstrators started marching from Pabna Medical College Hospital and paraded the main streets.

A protest rally was also held before Pabna Press Club.

The speakers sought bringing all the murderers to book for security of the minority communities.

People from all the communities irrespective of religions joined the programme, they said Badol Voumik, president of Puja Udjapan Parishad in Pabna.

Abdullah Al Hasan, officer-in-charge of Sadar Police Station, told The Daily Star that they were trying to arrest the accused as the family gave them their names.

Shudhangshu, 55, a trader of brass-made goods and part-timer of a restaurant, was hacked to death in front of his family Thursday for protesting against drinking near his house.

His widow Taposhi Boshak said some 7 men of Monzil, an alleged drinker, entered their house in the town's Radhanagar Rathghar and hacked Shudhangshu.

(source: The Daily Star)


Prosecutors seeking death penalty in double murder

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Chen Fu-hsiang, who stands accused of a double murder at a Taipei car park in January, allegedly in a dispute over drug money.

The hearing wrapped up at the Taipei District Court on Thursday, with prosecutors arguing that Chen had committed the murder with extreme cruelty by firing his handgun at close range, and that there is little possibility of reforming him.

Prosecutors said evidence from surveillance footage showed that Chen shot Tsai Kai-yang and Tsai Tsung-yu late on the night of Jan. 13 before putting their bodies in a car in a parking lot in the Ximending area of Wanhua District.

In separate civil lawsuits filed by victims' families, Chen is being sued for a total of NT$38.7 million (US$1.18 million) in compensation.

The judge at the Taipei District Court has set Dec. 24 for rulings on both the public prosecution case and the civil lawsuit.

After allegedly killing the men and taking money from their car, Chen fled and hid for 14 days before he was arrested on Jan. 24.

Prosecutors said the investigation found the slaying was due to disputes over money owed from drug deals that went sour.

The slain men, reportedly gang members, had allegedly set up a purchase of narcotics said to be worth NT$4.4 million.

Police said that Chen Fu-hsiang was found to be deep in debt - about NT$20 million - because Chinese authorities intercepted a shipment of ketamine that Taiwanese officials linked to Chen Fu-hsiang and his gang.

(source: Taipei Times)


Death Penalty Sought For Brothers Convicted Of Killing Off-Duty Policeman

A Supreme Court jury on Friday afternoon convicted 2 brothers standing trial for the murder and armed robbery of an off-duty policeman.

After the jury concluded its 2-hour deliberations on 5 weeks' worth of evidence into the December 4, 2014, fatal shooting and accosting of Sgt Wayne Rolle for a $700 Samsung smartphone, prosecutor Uel Johnson informed Justice Ian Winder of the Crown's intent to seek the death penalty for the crimes committed by 26-year-old Dion Bethel and 30-year-old Kevin McKenzie.

The 2011 amendment to the Penal Code provides that any murder committed in the course of/or in furtherance of a robbery, rape, kidnapping, terrorist act, or any other felony is punishable by death, with no explicit requirement of an intent to cause death. A felony is defined as any offence which is punishable by at least 3 years' imprisonment.

Sgt Rolle was in a vehicle with a female friend on Durham Street off Montrose Avenue when he was shot in the head by 2 armed men.

Police were able to recover the stolen smartphone from 19-year-old Kendira Farrington, who testified in court that she had purchased the item for $150 from McKenzie 2 days after the incident.

The cellular phone's identification number, found on the battery of most cellphones, matched that of the one purchased by the deceased member of the police's Mobile Unit.

Crown prosecutors produced a videotaped interview of McKenzie in police custody acknowledging that he sold the cellphone to Farrington, but at a much later date than alleged by police.

Police also produced an alleged confession in which Bethel owned up to his involvement in the robbery and subsequent killing.

Both Bethel and McKenzie alleged that the confessions were obtained as a result of severe beatings while in custody and were not given voluntarily. Both denied any involvement in Sgt Rolle’s murder and armed robbery.

Monique Gomez and Donna Dorsett-Major represented the brothers, who were remanded to the Department of Correctional Services to await sentencing on January 25.

Cordell Frazier prosecuted the case with Mr Johnson.

(source: Bahamas Tribune)


Nitish Katara murder case: Govt wants death for accused?

The AAP government is reportedly in the process of moving the Supreme Court to seek death penalty for Vikas, his cousin Vishal Yadav and accomplice Sukhdev Yadav in connection with the Nitish Katara murder case.

The legal wing of the Delhi administration is reportedly set to move the apex court to seek death penalties for the 3 convicts.

Nitish, son of an Indian Administrative Service officer, was killed by Vikas Yadav, his cousin Vishal Yadav and Sukhdev Pehlwan on the intervening night of February 16 and 17, 2002, after they abducted him from a marriage party in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad. Both Vikas and Vishal objected to Nitish's alleged relationship with their sister, Bharti Yadav.

Recently, the Supreme Court rejected a petition seeking death penalty for Vikas and Vishal Yadav in the Katara murder case. Refusing to call it a case of honour killing, the apex court said that the case does not fall in the rarest of rare category under which death penalty is awarded.

An apex court bench of Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar and Justice R. Banumati had said that while it was a murder and could even be pre-meditated, it certainly was not heinous or a matter of honour killing.

Nitish's mother Neelam Katara had moved the Supreme Court questioning the Delhi high court order sentencing the duo to 25 and 5 years sentences which are to be run one after the other. She had sought an enhancement of the sentence to death or alternatively imprisonment for whole life.

Soon after the ruling, Ms Katara had said: "I respect the court's decision. I will come prepared with more facts next time."

Vikas Yadav was given an enhanced 30-year jail term without remission by the Delhi high court, including 25 years for murder and another 5 years for destruction of evidence. Sukhdev Yadav too was awarded an enhanced life sentence by the high court and is undergoing 20 years in jail without remission.

In August, the Supreme Court had upheld the conviction of Vikas Yadav and Sukhdev Yadav alias Pehlwan, but issued a notice to the Uttar Pradesh government on the quantum of sentence.

(source: The Asian Age)


Maldives budgets for execution chamber to enforce capital punishment

Government has included funds in the proposed state budget for next year to establish an execution chamber at the country's main prison to carry out the death penalty.

The proposed budget for next year, which is currently being reviewed by the parliament, includes MVR4 million to build an execution chamber. However, the correctional service was not immediately available for comment.

Maldives adopted a new regulation last year under which lethal injection would be used to implement the death penalty.

However, over mounting pressure from human rights bodies, companies have been refusing to supply the fatal dose to countries still carrying out capital punishment.

Home minister Umar Naseer had earlier said the correctional service would be ready to implement the death penalty by the time a death sentence is upheld by the Supreme Court.

There are around 10 people on death row at present, but none of whom has exhausted the appeal process thus far.

However, the Supreme Court had issued new guidelines last week giving a month-long window for the last chance to appeal death sentences and public lashings backed by High Court.

According to the guidelines, if a defendant fails to appeal a High Court verdict in favour of death sentences and public lashing rulings within a 30-day period, the appeal can then only be filed at the Supreme Court by the prosecution.



Egypt executions: Figures show dramatic rise in death sentences and mass trials under presidency of Abdel Fatah al-Sisi----Europe accused of 'turning a blind eye' to repression by the former military chief, as 600 are sentenced to death this year

Almost 600 people have been sentenced to death in Egypt since the beginning of last year, according to new figures which also indicate a disturbing rise in the number of executions and use of mass trials under the presidency of Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.

The research, published in the wake of the President's 1st official visit to the UK, shows Egypt has passed the death sentence 588 times, with 72 % of cases involving people who attended pro-democracy protests.

The figures, produced by the human rights group Reprieve, suggest Egypt's justice system has become considerably more brutal since Mr Sisi's rise to power following the army's overthrow in 2013 of President Mohammed Morsi.

The current regime has also executed at least 27 people since the start of 2014, compared with just one execution carried out between 2011 and 2013. At least 15 mass trials have also taken place since March last year, where tens or sometimes hundreds of co-defendants are tried on almost identical charges.

Accusing the Egyptian government of employing a policy of "mass incarceration, mass trials and mass death sentences as a tool of political repression', the report cites figures suggesting that around 41,000 people are currently imprisoned for supporting pro-democracy movements.

1 of these is the Irish teenager Ibrahim Halawa, who has been in prison for more than 2 years after being charged with taking part in a banned protest in Cairo in July 2013. His lawyers say he has endured beatings and other mistreatment as he awaits a mass trial scheduled for December involving almost 500 defendants. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

Egypt's widespread crackdown on dissent has resulted in an explosion in the number of people awaiting trial, forcing authorities to adapt Wadi El-Natrun prison near Cairo so "vast swathes of defendants" can be tried and sentenced simultaneously, the report says. During the mass trials, "little or no evidence" is produced against those accused, it adds.

"President Sisi has overseen an unprecedented surge in death sentences as part of a wave of repression that should attract condemnation from Egypt's allies," said Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at Reprieve.

"Since 2013, many thousands - including journalists, activists and juveniles like Ibrahim Halawa - have been locked up for attending protests.

"Police torture is reported all too often, and Kafkaesque 'mass trials' have seen hundreds of death sentences handed down at a time. More than ever, the UK must use its increasingly close relationship with Egypt to urge an end to these terrible abuses - including the release of juveniles like Ibrahim."

The Reprieve report also says that during the initial hearings for Mr Halawa's mass trial, the co-defendants were held in 3 soundproof glass cages, meaning they were unable to be heard unless the judge activated a microphone inside.

"The defendants never had the chance to speak at their own death penalty trial," it adds. At least 9 of the accused were children at the time of the protest they are charged with attending.

Despite the apparent rise in repression, governments such as the UK are increasingly "turning a blind eye" to abuses in Egypt, the report adds, accusing European administrations of adopting a "business as usual" approach to their dealings with Mr Sisi's regime.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "The Government opposes any use of the death penalty as a matter of principle and the human rights minister Baroness Anelay set out this position most recently on 10 October in a statement to mark World Day for Abolition of the Death Penalty."

(source: The Independent)


Saudi protesters slam Sheikh Nimr's death sentence

Protesters have taken to the streets in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province to express their anger at the Saudi top court's death verdict against the prominent Shia cleric, Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr.

The demonstrators called for Nimr's release in a protest rally in the town of Awamiyah on Thursday, vowing to continue their protests until the verdict is overturned.

On October 25, the Saudi court upheld the death sentence issued against the cleric last year. The execution warrant will be sent to Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to be approved and then carried out.

The Interior Ministry can carry out the execution without any prior warning if the Saudi king signs the order.

Nimr was attacked and arrested in the Qatif region of Eastern Province in July 2012, and has been charged with undermining the kingdom's security, making anti-government speeches, and defending political prisoners. He has denied the accusations.

In October 2014, a Saudi court sentenced Sheikh Nimr to death, provoking widespread global condemnations.

In a recent letter to United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Zeid al-Hussein, the Islamic Human Rights Commission called for exerting pressure on Riyadh to revoke the death sentence and release the cleric immediately.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has also called on Saudi Arabia to halt Nimr's execution.

Peaceful demonstrations erupted in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province in February 2011, with protesters demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners and an end to widespread discrimination against the people of the oil-rich region. Several people have been killed and many others have been injured or arrested during the demonstrations.

International rights bodies, including Amnesty International, have criticized Saudi Arabia for its grim human rights record, arguing that widespread violations continue unabated in the country.

(source: PressTV)


Iranian President claims drugs executions help Europe

In a rare public comment on the death penalty since he took office in June 2013, President Hassan Rouhani claimed Iran has hanged hundreds of drug offenders to prevent drug trafficking into Europe.

In an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera on the eve of his European visit, Mr Rouhani noted that "most executions refer to illicit drugs trafficking", and warned that "if we abolished the death penalty we would enhance their drug trafficking up to the European countries and that would be dangerous for you".

At least 1,000 drug offenders have been hanged since President Rouhani took office, and the rate of drug-related executions has more than doubled this year, with at least than 694 taking place between January and September 2015. Those executed include teenagers like 15 year old Jannat Mir, a schoolboy who was reportedly denied a lawyer before being sentenced to death.

Rouhani's visits to Italy and France present an opportunity for Iran to build support for its drug enforcement efforts. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is negotiating a 5-year funding deal for Iranian counter-narcotics operations, and European governments are expected to contribute significant sums.

Italy is seen as a likely funder of the UNODC's new programme in Iran having long indicated it favours closer counter-narcotics cooperation, while France remains Europe's most committed funder of Iranian drug police. In August, UK Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond also commented that counter-narcotics was an area that Britain and Iran should now be "ready to discuss".

According to the latest report by the UN's Special Rapporteur on Iran, Iranian officials have "pointed to statements about its efforts issued by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to demonstrate international support for its approach."

Last month an overwhelming majority of MEPs voted for a resolution in the European Parliament advising EU member states that "the abolition of the death penalty for drug-related offences should be made a precondition for financial assistance, technical assistance, capacity-building and other support for drug enforcement policy".

Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at the legal and human rights organisation Reprieve, said: "The suggestion that mass executions are the only way to prevent drug trafficking is as absurd as it is dangerous. It is perfectly possible to address drug trafficking without resorting to a brutal execution campaign that has seen over 700 people - many of them juveniles - hanged this year alone. Executions for non-violent drug offences have doubled in Iran this year - if European governments' statements on human rights are to stand for anything, they must make clear that funding for Iran's next drug enforcement programme is conditional on an immediate end to executions for drug offences."


NOVEMBER 13, 2015:


Appeals court refuses to stop execution set for next week

A federal appeals court has refused to stop next week's scheduled execution of an East Texas man condemned for setting a fire that killed his young daughter and her 2 half-sisters at their home 15 years ago.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals late Thursday rejected a petition from an attorney for 36-year-old Raphael Holiday.

Austin-based lawyer Gretchen Sween is arguing Holiday's court-appointed attorneys have abandoned him and his lethal injection scheduled for Wednesday should be stopped so new attorneys can be named for him and pursue appeals.

Sween said Friday she'll appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Holiday's court-appointed attorneys say his legal issues have been exhausted.

Holiday is facing execution for the three fire deaths at the rural Madison County home of his estranged former common-law wife.

(source: Associated Press)


Missouri hearing in double killing postponed until next year

A Missouri change-of-venue hearing on murder charges linked to a double slaying has been postponed for the suspect already serving life sentences for 6 killings in Illinois.

36-year-old Nicholas Sheley was to have had a hearing Friday in Jefferson County, where he argues he can't get a fair trial on charges related to the deaths of an Arkansas couple during an alleged 2-state killing spree seven years ago. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

But the hearing was pushed back Thursday until Jan. 8.

Sheley was extradited to Missouri in February from Illinois. 4 of the people he was convicted of killing were bludgeoned with a hammer and ranged in age from 2 years to 29. The other 2 victims were 65 and 93.

(source: Associated press)


Proposed death penalty fix may fall short

Both friends and foes of the death penalty agree the state’s current system is broken and that voters should do something about it in 2016.

Of course, the 2 sides part ways from there.

Opponents want it replaced by a life sentence without the possibility of parole, a plan the non-partisan Legislative Analyst's Office has estimated would save the state more than $100 million annually.

Proponents want to preserve and fix it with a plan that the LAO has said could save the state "tens of millions" in prison costs annually. That savings would reverse the current phenomenon of death-row inmates costing the state more than those serving life sentences, backers say.

State voters have cast ballots in favor of the death penalty three times, most recently in 2012 when 52 % rejected a ban on executions similar to the one being prepared for next year's election.

If both sides are succeed in qualifying their measures for the ballot next November, the outcome could be in the hands of the voters in the middle - those more concerned about the practical and financial aspects of the law than whether the death penalty is right or wrong.

That's where the plan to resume executions may fall short.

Waiting and waiting

The state hasn't executed anybody since 2006, when the courts determined the 3-drug lethal injection used could cause "cruel and unusual suffering."

Not that the death penalty was working well before then.

The bureaucracy of the appeals process, the lack of available defense attorneys and a backlog of cases at the Supreme Court has resulted the state's death row population growing to 747. Since 1978, 87 have died of natural causes or suicide on death row - 6 times as many as have been executed during that period.

Death penalty advocates cheered 2 incremental steps this month: the Department of Corrections will proceed with the review process toward replacing the 3-drug cocktail with a single drug and an appeals court made a narrow technical ruling that favors the death penalty. But neither move makes it any clearer if and when executions will resume.

District attorneys throughout the state, including Orange County’s Tony Rackauckas and San Bernardino County's Mike Ramos, had already begun pushing for a ballot measure to get executions back on track. The measure, which is awaiting state approval so that signature petitions can be circulated, calls for several key changes:

-- Streamlining the process for approving a single-drug injection that would address the 2006 court order.

-- Expanding the pool of defense attorneys available to represent death row inmates in their appeals process. It now takes 3 to 5 years for an attorney to be assigned because there are so few.

-- Streamlining the appeals process, which takes years to reach the state Supreme Court once attorneys are assigned.

-- Eliminate the single-cell housing of death-row inmates. This, along with expediting the appeals process, would account for the projected savings.

A remaining obstacle

There are currently 18 inmates who've exhausted all appeals and are cleared for death once a suitable form of execution is approved.

Ramos estimates there are another 140 who are awaiting their final appeal before the state Supreme Court.

The proposed overhaul would get the inmates to this final-appeal stage more quickly, but would do nothing about the growing backlog of cases awaiting the 7 justices on the state's high court.

"That's something the California Supreme Court is going to have to deal with," Ramos told me during an Orange County visit this month to raise money for the initiative drive.

A 2014 version of the measure proposed a constitutional amendment that would have routed cases to appeals courts rather than the Supreme Court for the final hearing. But proponents failed to gather enough signatures to qualify it. Removing that provision allows the measure to be proposed as a statute rather than a constitutional amendment, meaning it has a lower signature requirement - 366,000 rather than 585,000.

"I'll watch this closely," Ramos said, referring to the proposal if it becomes law. "And if it doesn't fix everything, we may have to go back to voters with a constitutional amendment."

(source: Orance County Register)


Prosecutors want vote on death penalty

State prosecutors say they'll ask lawmakers to send a death penalty referendum to voters next year.

The Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys issued a statement Thursday saying prosecutors "overwhelmingly believe that the people of the state should vote on the question of whether the state should retain the death penalty as an option in cases of aggravated murder."

Jim Nagle, Walla Walla County Prosecuting Attorney and an association board member, agrees.

"The public needs to advise the Legislature, the courts and the governor what needs to be done with these cases," he wrote today in an email to the Union-Bulletin.

Washington voters approved an initiative in 1975, re-establishing the death penalty here. But it's been on hold since last year, when Gov. Jay Inslee issued a moratorium for as long as he's in office.

A previous death penalty law was ruled unconstitutional in 1972 by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In Thursday's statement, the prosecutors' association said, "Most of the people in the state of Washington today did not participate in the election 40 years ago that established our state as 1 of 31 U.S. states with the death penalty.

"The citizens of Nebraska will vote on the repeal or retention of the death penalty in that state next year. Washington State voters should have a similar choice."

The association's statement Thursday points out that since the current law was enacted, prosecutors have sought the death penalty in 90 of 268 most heinous murders in which it was a possible sentence. Jurors returned unanimous verdicts of death in 32 of those 90.

"The 32 death sentences that have been imposed under the current statute have resulted in the execution of 5 men, 3 of whom were 'volunteers' who instructed their attorneys to not pursue appeals of their convictions," the statement says.

Currently, 9 men are on death row in the state.

Executions are carried out at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. The last execution was in 2010.

Under a previous death penalty law, the last execution of a Walla Walla County defendant was in 1939.

Death penalty cases in the state are still being tried and continue to work through the system. Inslee's moratorium means that if a death-penalty case comes to his desk, he will issue a reprieve, which means the inmate would stay in prison rather than face execution.

The next legislative session begins in January.

(source: Associated Press)


A case for clemency

If ever there was an appropriate case for judicial leniency or presidential clemency it is in the tragic case of Oishee, recently convicted of murdering her parents and sentenced to death as a result.

We are not questioning the verdict nor the honourable judge's decision to impose the sentence that he did. He followed the law and his conscience, and there can be no questions raised about the probity of the process or the soundness of the judgment rendered.

However, we feel that Oishee's tender age at the time the murders were committed together with her diminished capacity due to years of drug abuse make her an appropriate candidate for mercy.

Whatever else she may be, she is not a hardened criminal with a long record of heartless crime behind her. She was a misguided girl, caught in a cycle of drug dependency and all its attendant ills, who made a catastrophic and unforgiveable moral choice.

She has been found guilty of a terrible crime, and she must face punishment for it. However, we feel that for one of her years and record, a lesser punishment than the one served would not be inappropriate.

She may have committed a heinous crime, but she is not a lost cause. With appropriate custodial punishment and rehabilitation, she has the potential to make something of her life and atone for her actions, a possibility the death penalty would foreclose.

It should be noted that caught in a downward spiral of drug abuse and degradation from a vulnerable age, she never received the treatment, guidance, or support that could have led to a happier path. For all these reasons, we feel that society should not give up on her just yet.

Even if she was not a child under the law, she was, without question, at a very young and impressionable age, and to be sentenced to death for a single act committed in her teenage years, that we are sure she will spend her whole life regretting, is a severe punishment indeed.

None of this exonerates Oishee for her actions. However, if she were to receive leniency on appeal or, failing that, the president sought to exercise his august powers of clemency in her favour, we think justice would be well served

(source: Editorial, Dhaka Tribune)

SAUDI ARABIA----execution

Saudi carries out 146th execution this year

Most Saudi executions are carried out by beheading with a sword.

Nabi Baksh, Mohammd Balouh and Omeed Bouledah were executed in the Eastern Saudi port of Dammam, Sabq newspaper said.

Hundreds of people have been beheaded in Saudi Arabia on charges of smuggling drugs and a lot of them were Asians.

Their cases, according to AFP tallies, bring to 145 the number of foreigners and locals executed in the conservative Islamic kingdom in 2015, compared with 87 in 2014.

The last time Riyadh executed over 150 people in a single year was in 1995, when 192 executions were recorded, according to the statement.

Rights experts have raised concerns about the fairness of trials in the kingdom.

Nearly 1/2 of the 151 executions were for offences that do not meet the threshold of "most serious crimes" which involve intentional killing and for which the death penalty can be imposed under worldwide human rights law, Amnesty said. Deputy Foreign Minister Hassan Ghashghavi said that when the Iranians were originally arrested four years ago, Iran attempted to provide them with legal counsel but were prevented from doing so by Saudi Arabia.

Nimr's nephew Ali Mohammed Baqir al-Nimr, and 2 other young Shia activists who were arrested as juveniles after taking part in anti-government rallies, also had their death sentences upheld, Amnesty said.

Saudi Arabia also continues to impose death sentences on and execute people below 18 years of age, in violation of the country's obligations under global customary law and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.



Le Monde: 40 intellectuals urge France to denounce Iran executions

On the eve of the trip to France by the Iranian regime's President Hassan Rouhani, a group of forty intellectuals signed an appeal on Friday published in the French daily Le Monde to denounce the surge in executions in Iran, stressing that no political or economic consideration can justify turning a blind eye to the disastrous state of human rights in Iran.

The following is the text of the appeal by the 40 intellectuals which appeared in Le Monde on November 13, 2015:


We are deeply concerned by the situation of human rights in Iran and the increasing number of executions.

Amnesty International reported that from January to mid-July 2015, about 694 executions were carried out in Iran. That is the equivalent of more than 3 people per day. The NGO stated that "Iran's staggering execution toll for the 1st half of this year paints a sinister picture of the machinery of the state carrying out premeditated, judicially-sanctioned killings on a mass scale."

In the 2 years that the "moderate" Hassan Rouhani has been president in Iran, some 2,000 people, including 57 women, have been executed, some in public, to terrorize the population.

According to Ahmed Shaheed, the UN's Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, the country "continues to execute more individuals per capita than any country in the world."

Hassan Rouhani has defended the executions by saying that "it is the application of divine commandments or laws adopted by parliament."

The Iranian regime has so far executed 120,000 of its opponents, of which 30 % were women. The current Minister of Justice has been designated by human rights organizations as the "Minister of Death" for his involvement in the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in the summer of 1988.

Women are the first victims of the misogynist regime in Iran. In the past year dozens of Iranian women have been the target of acid attacks under the pretext of mal-veiling. Freedom of speech and assembly are non-existent and repression of religious and ethnic minorities continues unabated.

Rights abuses are enshrined in Iran's Constitution, Penal Code and the Iranian civil law. Punishments handed down include stoning, eye-gouging and amputation of limbs.

The international community cannot remain indifferent to these atrocities for which the Iranian people rightly accuse the mullahs' regime of being the godfather of Daech (ISIS, ISIL, IS, Islamic State). No political or commercial considerations can justify turning a blind eye to this situation. Even from the perspective of realpolitik, the long-term interest of our nation would be better protected by staying true to our values and our principles and by partnering with those who seek democracy, respect for human rights and separation of religion and state.

Therefore, we invite France and the President of the Republic to show firmness against violations of human rights in Iran in the dealings with that country.

List of first signatories:

Audrey Alwett (ecrivain), Georges Aperghis (Compositeur), Robert Badinter (ancien Garde des Sceaux), Elisabeth Badinter (Philosophe), Patrick Baudouin (President d'honneur de la FIDH), Brigitte Bellac (auteure scenariste), Pierre Bercis (president des Nouveaux droits de l'Homme), Jose Bove (eurodepute), Jean-Pierre Bequet (ancien depute-maire), Ingrid Betancourt (ex-otage), Herve Bismuth (enseignant-chercheur), Yves Bonnet ( Prefet honoraire, ecrivain), William Bourdon (avocat), Sorj Chalandon (ecrivain), Huguette Chomski Magnis (Secretaire generale, Coordinatrice du Collectif Contre le Terrorisme), Francois Colcombet (ancien depute et magistrat), Erica Dauber-Ziegler (Historienne des arts), Annie Ernaux (ecrivain), Odile Favrat (militante syndicale), Mgr. Jacques Gaillot, Andre Glucksmann (philosophe), Elise Groulx Diggs (Avocate), Elisabeth Helfer-Aubrac (enseignante-officier des Palmes academiques), Renaud Helfer-Aubrac (petit fils du couple Aubrac), Henri Leclerc (President d'honneur de la LDH), Brigitte Lemaine (sociologue et realisatrice), Damarys Maa Marchand (Presidente de la Federation Nationale des Femmes Africaines de France et d'Europe), Andree Michel (directrice honoraire de recherche au CNRS), Jean-Pierre Michel (parlementaire honoraire) Gilbert Mitterrand (Pdt Fondation Danielle Mitterrand - France Libertes), Virginie Molinier (avocate), Maudy Piot (presidente de l'association Femmes pour le Dire, Femmes pour Agir), Alain Piot (Sociologue), Sapho (Chanteuse, ecrivain), Olivier Steiner (ecrivain), Alain Vivien (Ancien ministre), Rama Yade (ancien secretaire d'Etat aux Droits de l'Homme), Jean Ziegler (sociologue, membre du Comite consultatif du Conseil des Droits de l'Homme de l'ONU)...



China sentences 2 convicts to death for jailbreak

A Chinese court on Friday sentenced 2 convicts to death for a jailbreak and for killing a guard.

Gao Yulun, 50, was sentenced to death for intentional homicide and breaking out of jail using violence, while Wang Damin, 35, was sentenced to death for breaking out of jail using violence, larceny, causing intentional injury and intentional destruction of property. Wang also was ordered to pay a penalty of 50,000 yuan ($7,840), reported.

A 3rd man, Li Haiwei, 29, was sentenced to life imprisonment for intentional homicide and breaking out of jail.

Wang and Li said they will appeal to a higher court, while Gao accepted the punishment.

The 3 escaped from a jail in Yanshou county, on September 2, 2014, after killing the guard.

After the escape, over 15,000 police officers were deployed in the hunt and authorities offered a reward of 150,000 yuan for information leading to their capture.

They were captured shortly.

(source: Business Standard)


Some changes would improve the death penalty process

There is little common ground between those who favor the death penalty and those who want to abolish it.

Still, if we assume that only guilty people should be punished and that taxpayers want to save money, the system can be improved.

Cost is always an issue. In 1992, The Dallas Morning News calculated that the cost of an average Texas execution was $2.3 million compared to $750,000 for life imprisonment.

Since 1992, the costs of lawyers, extra time in jury selection, inmate housing and appeals have risen substantially.

Data reported by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice show Tarrant County has had 38 offenders executed since 1976, the 4th-most in the state.

Dallas County ranks 2nd with 55 executed, while nearby Parker County has had 2 and Denton County 6. Johnson and Hood Counties have not fulfilled a death penalty sentence since 1976.

Some suggestions:

-- Videotape all confessions. Many states and the U.S. Department of Justice already require this, but not Texas.

According to the Innocence Project, false confessions were a factor in 25 % of convictions overturned after DNA testing.

Younger offenders, those who have mental or emotional handicaps, those "under the influence" or faced with law enforcement pressure have all falsely confessed. In the past, videotape would have been costly and cumbersome, but smart phones, tablets and the like have foreclosed any excuses.

-- Require regional mental health panels.

When the mental state of the accused is an issue, experts are hired by both prosecution and defense. As most capital murder cases involve indigents, taxpayers pay for both sides of the fight. Smaller counties often have no resident experts.

Regional, neutral panels nominated by their peers could review the defendant's interview and other evidence, yet only one would testify. While not totally dispositive of other experts, their objective views would carry great credibility.

-- Set national standards for scientific testing.

I once defended a murder case in Corpus Christi in which the main issue was the defendant's location. The state's expert used cellphone "pings" and tower locations to demonstrate that the defendant was in the wrong spot at the right time.

We had an attorney who rattled off scientific terms and numbers that no one understood, resulting in a costly, hung jury and re-trial.

Other "science" such as hair microscopy, bite mark analysis and shoe print comparisons have all resulted in errors. Faulty analysis is behind 47 % of wrongful convictions, according to the Innocence Project.

-- Have a fair division of costs.

To "get away with (capital) murder" in Texas, or at least not be executed, commit your crime in an average or small county.

A Texas Tribune study found more than 1/2 (135) of Texas counties have never executed anyone, and 60 % of the death sentences in the past 5 years have originated from 2 % of our counties.

The state, not the county, needs to pick up the tab.

Without more safeguards, innocent people will inevitably be executed.

We can't placate those with extreme positions, but we can cut costs, improve our justice system and enhance our reputation as a state.

(source: Opinion; Steve Fischer of Rockport has been Willacy County district attorney, a criminal lawyer and a professor of criminology----Fort Worth Star-Telegram)


Jury delivers verdict in death penalty trial

A Houston man escaped the death penalty Thursday when jurors opted for a punishment of life without parole.

Jurors deliberated more than 12 hours over 3 days before deciding to spare Johnathan "J-Boi" Sanchez in the shooting deaths of 3 people.

The same jury convicted the 27-year-old last week of capital murder for killing 3 people and wounding 2 others in a Copperfield-area apartment on the afternoon of Nov. 20, 2013.

Sanchez went to an acquaintance's apartment and opened fire, killing Yosselyn Alfaro, who was celebrating her 21st birthday, and Daniel Munoz and Veronica Hernandez, both 17.

The 2 survivors, who were also shot in the head, were able to tell police Sanchez was the gunman.

The trial, in state District Judge Mark Ellis' court, was the 1st death penalty trial in Harris County this year.

(source: Houston Chronicle)


Crime and punishment in Connecticut

In 2012, Connecticut's Democrat dominated General Assembly abolished capital punishment but carved out an exception for convicted murderers awaiting the death penalty on death row. The carve-out for the 11 death row prisoners was a blatant violation of what used to be called the natural law, a series of political, philosophical and penological assumptions that informs all laws, statutory and constitutional.

The abolition should have been applied retroactively to Connecticut prisoners awaiting death, for reasons lucidly stated by Samuel Johnson when he was reporting on debates in the House of Commons. The Nulla poena sine lege doctrine - "where there is no law, there is no transgression" - Mr. Johnson wrote, "is a maxim not only established by universal consent, but in itself evident and undeniable; and it is, Sir, surely no less certain that where there is no transgression, there can be no punishment." By abolishing the death penalty yet leaving the penalty in force for those convicted of capital murder then awaiting punishment on Connecticut's death row, the General Assembly and Mr. Malloy were arranging to execute prisoners in the absence of a law prescribing the death penalty for capital felony. But - where there is no law, there can be no punishment.

The carve-out, however, was POLITICALLY necessary. The abolition bill was signed into law only 5 years after a horrific murder in Cheshire, and wounds were still bleeding. Time, the old adage has it, heals all wounds. In the fullness of time - only 5 years after 2 parolees had invaded Dr. William Petit's home, beat the doctor senseless with a baseball bat, forced his wife to withdraw money from a bank account, raped and murdered both his wife and one of his younger daughters and murdered 3 women by setting fire to the house - the General Assembly and Mr. Malloy at long last had achieved their purpose.

In due course, the Connecticut Supreme Court vacated the death penalty for the 11 death row inmates - for the wrong reason. The court did not argue that it was a violation of justice itself to execute a capital felon in the absence of a law prescribing the death penalty for felony murder; instead, adopting a sociological pretense, the court arbitrarily ruled that "the death penalty was an outdated tool of justice at odds with today's societal values," a judgement correctly characterized by Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers as "a house of cards, falling under the slightest breath of scrutiny."

Those politicians favoring abolition of the death penalty most vigorously - co-chairs of the state's judiciary committee Michael Lawlor, now Mr. Malloy's undersecretary for criminal justice policy and planning, and Andrew McDonald, recently appointed to Connecticut's Supreme Court by Mr. Malloy - argued implausibly that the death penalty had no deterrent value. If the prospect of death is not a deterrent, then NO PUNISHMENT may be regarded as a deterrent; such is the ruling in the court of common sense. Actually, it was the failure to impose capital punishment, a feature designed into Connecticut's rococo death penalty process, that made deterrence less effective. Mr. McDonald has yet to be asked why he did not recuse himself in the death penalty abolition decision.

Death penalty abolition is only one of the carrots in Mr. Malloy's penological reform quiver. Mr. Lawlor, also a prosecutor, has constructed a Rube Goldberg penological machine that permits violent criminals such as rapists to earn get-out-of-jail-early credits while in prison. One of his students, a card-carrying member of a violent gang who burned his mattress while in jail, served as a drug mule and assaulted guards and other prisoners, Frankie "The Razor" Resto, acquired an illegal weapon on release - not, one may be sure, at a gun show -- waltzed into an EZMart store in Meriden, and shot and murdered the co-owner of the store AFTER the victim had obligingly turned over his cash register receipts to Mr. Razor. The vicious murderer plea bargained his sentence and, in any case, presently has nothing to fear from Connecticut's repealed capital punishment law - or, for that matter, from Mr. Malloy's penological reforms, which are all carrots and no stick. Michelle Cruz, Connecticut's Victims Advocate at the time, who performed her duties much too conscientiously, was effectively replaced by pro-abolition activist Malloy and his factotums.

Mr. Malloy's latest attempt to repeal reality by redefining settled concepts involves proposed legislation that would redefine the parameters of juvenile behavior, and never mind that including convicted criminals up to age 24 in the juvenile law bucket is itself a juvenile attempt to change reality through magic thinking - which has little to do with genuine penological reform. A more comprehensive penological reform would abolish ALL punishments on the grounds that only therapeutic forgiveness deters crime. The Malloy administration is not there yet.

(source: Don Pesci; Middletown Press)


'Tarboro 3' members reflect on SPLC case, life after death row

They were sentenced to die in 1973 for a rape they didn't commit, but found freedom after Morris Dees and the SPLC took on the racially charged North Carolina case.

Jesse Walston sounds like many men in their 60s when he speaks.

He talks about life in semi-retirement. He talks about spending time with family and friends. When he speaks about his grandchildren, his voice swells with pride. And when he reflects on life, he speaks with the authority that comes only from life experience.

But what sets him apart from many men his age is what he has experienced.

4 decades ago, Walston and 2 other men were sentenced to die in North Carolina's gas chamber. The black men were wrongly convicted of raping a white woman in Tarboro, North Carolina. Walston and the others - who became known as the "Tarboro 3" - might have remained in prison awaiting their execution had it not been for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which appealed the case and freed them.

"There's no point in feeling bitter about it," said Walston, 65. "You just have to be happy that things turned out the way they did. I don't hold no grudges or no ill feelings for anybody. I'm just glad that the truth came out."

But it took time for the truth to come out.

Walston and his 2 friends - Vernon Brown and Bobby Hines - spent 2 years in prison before they were freed. Convicted of rape in 1973, they remained steadfast in declaring that they had not raped the woman they had given a ride to a popular late-night hangout after spotting her walking alone at night. They even rejected a plea deal that would have spared them the death penalty.

After the story of the Tarboro 3 reached SPLC founder Morris Dees, he took the case.

"When I met these men, they were locked up only 30 feet from the gas chamber," Dees said. "I am so proud that the Southern Poverty Law Center was able to free them and give them a 2nd chance at life. I only wish that the racial injustice at the heart of this case was no longer an issue today. Unfortunately, our nation is still grappling with many of the same issues that almost cost the Tarboro 3 their lives."

Dees found evidence that wasn't introduced at the trial, winning a new trial. Rather than retry the men, prosecutors agreed to release them from prison if they pleaded "no contest" to reduced charges. They accepted the offer, even though they had earlier refused to plead guilty to rape charges in exchange for a lighter sentence, saying they could not admit to a crime they didn't commit.

"When Morris stepped in we felt a little more relaxed and we knew it was just a matter of time that the truth was going to come out because he let us know that he was going to get to the bottom of it," said Walston, who still remains in contact with Dees today.

Life after the Tarboro Three

Once the case ended and the headlines faded, the Tarboro Three had to resume their lives. Walston was reunited with his wife, daughter and 2-year-old son, who was born just before he went to prison. He was even rehired to the job he held before the ordeal.

Today, he's a part-time truck driver and lives in Camp Springs, Maryland, with his wife. A proud father of 6 adult children and grandfather of 10, Walston exudes a content and grateful demeanor. He speaks about summer vacations in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Virginia Beach, Virginia, as well as visits with family - time that he clearly savors.

"The whole life after that [case] has been happy," he said.

On Labor Day, Walston visited Brown in Tarboro. The 2 men's friendship, which began in high school, has endured over time.

"I guess we'll be friends for life," Walston said. The 3rd member of the group, Hines, died in a work-related accident years after the case.

'Looking forward'

As for Brown, he found work shortly after being released from prison. He took a job at a factory that created pressboard for use in furniture and worked there for 31 years. At age 64, this father of 3 adult children and grandfather of 7 now works part-time at a rental car company.

"I'm so grateful for Mr. Morris Dees," he said. "I'm indebted to him for the rest of my life. I'm just glad everything is behind me. I'm just looking forward."

But Brown also admits life is never the same after such an experience.

"I'm never going to forget it," he said. "But I'm doing OK."

Brown still lives in Tarboro, which keeps him near family and friends. He describes himself as a "homebody" - echoing a comment his mother made in a story published by the SPLC 4 decades ago where she questioned how her son, who "stuck by the house," could have ended up in prison.

There are still people who recognize Brown as a member of the Tarboro 3 today, something that's to be expected in a small town of about 11,000 residents. The younger generation, however, seems unaware, he said. Brown just pushes on with life, possibly finding strength and resolve from the memory of the day he was released.

"It looked like a whole new world," he said of that day. "The air was sweet - everything!"

Despite the decades that have passed, both men recognize that the issues at the center of their case are still relevant today, issues such as the mass incarceration, racial injustice and the death penalty. Walston believes there have been some improvements to the justice system since the case but that there is still more work ahead. Brown is more apt to point out that the justice system doesn't always work equally for everyone.

"I hate that it happens to people ... but I know it can happen," he said of people wrongfully convicted.

Walston offered one piece of advice for someone in a similar situation as the Tarboro 3.

"Never plead guilty to something you're not," he said. "Never."



Judge sets hearings for defendants in SC church shooting

A federal judge has set hearings in the cases of the 2 men facing various charges in the shooting of nine parishioners at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel meets Friday with attorneys representing 21-year-old Joey Meek to discuss the status of his case.

Prosecutors allege Meek lied and failed to report all he knew about Dylann Roof's plans for the church shooting. Meek's attorneys want his trial delayed.

Roof, also 21, faces 9 counts of murder in state court and dozens of federal charges, including hate crimes. Gergel meets with attorneys in that case on Dec. 1.

During a similar hearing last month, the judge urged prosecutors to press for a Justice Department decision on whether the government will seek the death penalty against Roof.

(source: Associated Press)


Florida Supreme Court overturns death sentence of former Jabil executive

3 years ago, Patrick A. Evans stood before a judge as he received his sentence for the 2008 murders of his wife and her friend: death.

But Evans will now get a 2nd chance.

In an opinion released Thursday that cited errors in the testimony of a detective and a prosecutor's remarks during Evans' trial, the Florida Supreme Court overturned his 1st-degree murder convictions and death sentences.

They remanded the former Jabil Circuit executive, now 48, to receive a new trial.

"The whole thing is disappointing," said William Loughery, the Pinellas-Pasco assistant state attorney involved in the 2011 trial. "These families have to go through this all over again. The person is clearly guilty."

Evans was a Jabil vice president, earned a 6-figure salary and lived in a St. Pete Beach waterfront home. His wife, Elizabeth Evans, was a sales director and had a daughter. They did not have children together.

They were married for about 3 years when they separated in 2008. Evans, who had been married twice before, filed for divorce, but later dismissed his petition. Elizabeth Evans, 44, later filed for divorce and moved out. She rented a condo at 6080 Gulfport Blvd. S in Gulfport.

On Dec. 20, 2008, she was on a date with a co-worker, Gerald Taylor, 43. At her condo later that day, Evans showed up and confronted them inside her bedroom, prosecutors said during his trial.

Someone called 911, but hung up. When a dispatcher called back, the call was picked up. Although no one answered, the call recorded Elizabeth as she said "Rick," a name that Evans went by. A man can be heard on the audio ordering them to sit on the bed. At one point, Taylor can be heard ordering the intruder to put the gun down.

Moments later, shots were fired.

Pinellas sheriff's deputies found Elizabeth and Taylor. Both had been shot in the neck. She died at the scene. He later died at a hospital.

The recording was among the strongest pieces of evidence in the case. Shell casings at the scene also matched shells fired from the .40-caliber Glock handgun that Evans owned.

Evans was arrested and indicted on 2 counts of 1st-degree murder. A jury convicted him and recommended the death penalty in 2011. The next year, then-Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Richard Luce sentenced him to death, calling the murders "premeditated . . . without any provocation."

Luce, now retired, could not be reached for comment.

An appeal was filed in October 2012. Cynthia Dodge, an assistant public defender in Polk County who handled the appeal, did not return a reporter's call for comment.

3 justices dissented in the 52-page opinion, but the others questioned Pinellas sheriff's Detective Edward Judy's testimony and several remarks by Loughery, the prosecutor.

Judy testified that he believed the voice of the intruder in the 911 call was Evans because he had listened to his jail phone calls several times and was familiar with Evans' voice. But the court ruled that Judy "did not have prior familiarity with Evans or special training in voice recognition."

"It's extremely disappointing, a huge waste of taxpayer money," Judy said Thursday. He retired from the Sheriff's Office in 2013. "My opinion is it's still his voice. That doesn't change. I did say it, and I'm saying it again."

The Supreme Court also flagged the prosecutor for being too speculative.

While cross-examining Evans, Loughery asked if he had hired a private investigator to spy on Taylor. The court ruled that the question was "based on hearsay," and "inadmissible."

The court also took issue with other comments, including Loughery failing to explain to the jury that manslaughter is also considered a "heat of passion killing" or his remarks about the defense's theory, at one point saying "that wouldn't even make it on TV" and "only in a world populated by defense attorneys would that be true."

Reached by phone Thursday, Loughery said: "As a prosecutor, I don't think it's my duty to acquiesce to absurdities, which is apparently what the court is asking us to do."

David Parry, the attorney who represented Evans during the trial, said he was pleased to learn of the court's decision.

"There's so many easier ways to do a case where you don't have to degrade the defense and the defendants," he said. "I'm glad that the court was able to look at it."

Loughery, who retired this year, said that several people had told him Elizabeth believed Evans had hired an investigator. The jury receives instructions, he added, which would have clarified his statement about heat of passion killings.

"That was totally made in good faith," he said of his question to Evans, "and I would ask it again."

(source: Tampa Bay Times)


Prosecutor seeks death penalty for 2013 murder and shooting

The man recently arrested for the 2013 murder of a woman and shooting of her boyfriend in Norwood, could face the death penalty if he's convicted. Prosecutor Joe Deters announced Jaleel Smith-Riley was indicted on charges of aggravated murder, murder, felonious assault, attempted murder and aggravated robbery.

Police say Smith-Riley shot Porshia Brooks and Aron Martin as they sat in a car on Carthage Avenue on November 16, 2013 during a robbery. According to Deters, Smith Riley ordered Martin to get out of the car. He held Martin at gunpoint and searched him. When he didn't find anything of value to steal, investigators say Smith-Riley shot him in the head. He then reached into the car and shot Brooks. Brooks died from her injuries. Martin survived, but suffered devastating injuries.

Recent leads and Crimestoppers tips led police to Smith-Riley and 2 other suspects. 1 of the other suspects is in jail on other charges. The 2nd is dead.

Says Deters, "We don't seek the death penalty unless the perpetrator is the worst of the worst and proof is not an issue. Smith-Riley and his case fit both criteria."

(source: WKRC news)


Warren man could face death penalty

A Warren man has been indicted by a Mahoning County grand jury with the possibility for the death penalty.

46-year-old Lance Hundley was charged with aggravated murder with a death penalty specification, attempted murder, felonious assault, and aggravated arson.

Hundley's charges are in connection to the killing of 41-year-old Erika Huff.

Prosecutors say Hundley attacked Huff at her home on Cleveland Street.

Youngstown police say the victim's mother encountered Hundley and assaulted.

Police say they believe Hundley set the house on fire to cover the up crime.

(source: WFMJ news)


State not yet decided on death penalty in Jonesborough triple murder case

State prosecutors are deciding if they will seek the death penalty in the case of a Jonesborough man accused of killing 3 of his family members.

Daniel Henry is charged with 3 counts of 1st degree murder in the deaths of his parents and aunt last month.

Henry was back in court Thursday.

A judge reset his preliminary hearing date for the 2nd time.

We asked District Attorney General Tony Clark if he is seeking the death penalty for Henry.

"We've discussed that but we have not made a decision on that. There's a lot of factors that weigh in as far as his mental capacity and other factors, prior criminal history, and all that's being looked at right now, but we've not made a decision yet on the death penalty," Henry said.

After the murders, Henry sparked a multi-state manhunt that ended in New Orleans.

Clark also tells us they may bring in the officers from New Orleans who took statements from Henry right after his arrest to testify at the preliminary hearing.

Though we won't know until the hearing what Henry has told officers, we do know after his arrest he told investigators he threw the gun off a Greene County bridge.

Henry's preliminary hearing is now set for December 15.

(source: WJHL news)


UNK Hosts Death Penalty Forum

Nebraska's death penalty continues to be a hot button topic, regardless of what side you're on.

Representatives from each side met at UNK Thursday night for a public debate-one side arguing that the capitol punishment system is broken, the other advocating for it to stay.

"The death penalty is a lot more expensive than life without parole," said Nebraskans for Alternative To Death Penalty's Matt Maly. "It seems counter- intuitive but with the lengthy appeals process the complex and longer expensive trial, it's a lot more expensive and that's tax payers' money that we worked so hard for."

"The cost, you hear about the cost from defendents who plead guilty rather than have the death penalty," said Nebraskans For Death Penalty's Bob Evnan. "And we have a lot of those in the state as well."

Nebraska voters will ultimately have the final decision in the general election in November, 2016.



Testimony begins in death penalty case----Man accused in 2004 double murder in Indio

An Indio woman testified Thursday that she watched hysterically for several minutes as her brother bled, gasped for air and then died after being shot multiple times as he sat in his car near her Towne Street apartment 11 years ago.

Vicki Loera Castro was the 1st prosecution witness in the trial of Elias Carmona Lopez, charged with 2 counts of 1st-degree murder in the execution-style shooting deaths of Erineo Perez and Martin Garcia on Oct. 10 and Oct. 26, 2004. Both victims were shot several times in the face, authorities said.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Lopez, who faces special circumstance allegations of lying in wait, committing multiple murders and murder in furtherance of a criminal street gang.

(source: KESQ news)


California's death penalty process upheld----747 people are on death row in California

A federal appeals court on Thursday announced it has reversed a lower court's ruling that California's death penalty process was unconstitutional because of systemwide delays.

Last year, District Court Judge Cormac J. Carney vacated the 1995 death sentence of Ernest D. Jones, who petitioned the court to determine whether his death sentence was valid.

Carney wrote: "Allowing this system to continue to threaten Mr. Jones with the slight possibility of death, almost a generation after he was first sentenced, violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment."

Judge Susan P. Graber, who wrote the opinion for the 3-judge appeals panel, said Jones' legal team had asked the court to consider what would be a new constitutional rule in a habeas corpus case (ones that determine whether imprisonment is valid). Most are barred by a 1989 ruling in Teague v. Lane, she wrote.

She said the decision was based on the legal maneuvers in the case, not whether the many years death penalty cases take in the system was unconstitutional.

"Many agree with petitioner that California's capital punishment system is dysfunctional and that the delay between sentencing and execution in California is extraordinary," she wrote.

"But 'the purpose of federal habeas corpus is to ensure that state convictions comply with the federal law in existence at the time the conviction became final, and not to provide a mechanism for the continuing re-examination of final judgments based upon later emerging legal doctrine,'" she added, quoting a 1990 habeas case

In California, lawyers can appeal the decision of the appeals court.

There are 747 people on death row in California. No one has been executed since 2006.

Since 1978, more than 900 people in the state have been sentenced to death row, where inmates spend 23 hours alone in their cells. Of those people, 13 were executed; as of 2014, 94 have died of other causes. Many have been on death row longer than 19 years.

Jones was convicted and sentenced to death 20 years ago for raping and killing his girlfriend's mother, Julia Miller, a 50-year-old defense industry accountant.

During the trial, Jones was portrayed as the product of a broken home with alcoholic parents. An aunt described his childhood as "a living hell." He grew up in poverty, and his parents used drugs in front of the children and battled violently. His mother beat him and his siblings. He developed a drug habit of his own, which included marijuana and cocaine.

The court record indicates Jones spent several years in prison for raping the mother of a previous girlfriend.

The California Supreme Court in 2003 upheld the conviction of Jones on 1st-degree murder and rape charges.



Why California's death penalty is back in play

A federal appeals court on Thursday reversed a lower court's ruling that found California's death penalty was unconstitutional because of excessive delays.

In a unanimous decision, the 3-judge panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals found that the long delays prisoners face on death row do not constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

The case centered on a novel constitutional theory that claims death row inmates' sentences have been transformed from one of death to one of "grave uncertainty and torture." The judges wrote in their decision that the theory has "no support" in legal precedent, "nor is it supported by logic."

US District Judge Cormac Carney put the new legal theory to the test last year when he called California's system "completely dysfunctional" and ruled that it led to arbitrary executions.

"California's death penalty system is so plagued by inordinate and unpredictable delay that the death sentence is actually carried out against only a trivial few of those sentenced to death," Judge Carney wrote in his order.

The appeals court said it would not weigh the validity of the claim by a murderer on death row for 2 decades because the lower court had to apply federal law at the time of his conviction and not a novel constitutional rule. Nonetheless, the 3-judge panel agreed that California's capital punishment system is dysfunctional.

Prosecutors appealed Carney's ruling in the case of Ernest DeWayne Jones, a Los Angeles man sentenced to die for the 1992 rape and murder of his girlfriend's mother.

Mr. Jones said in his appeal that the state didn't provide a fair and timely review of his case and that the conditions on death row constituted torture. His lawyer could appeal Thursday's ruling to a larger panel of the 9th Circuit, reports the Los Angeles Times.

California has the largest death-row population in the country, but the state has rarely carried out executions in recent years. Of the more than 900 people who have been sentenced to death since 1978, only 13 have been executed.

Yet California has shown signs that it may be getting closer to resuming lethal injections, reports the Washington Post. While the state has not carried out an execution since 2006, the state proposed a new execution protocol last week after a federal judge ordered an overhaul of the state's procedures for lethal injection.

(source: Christian Science Monitor)


Hijacked and Hitchhiked: America's schizophrenic attitude to the death penalty

There's no room for error in the capital punishment biz. You'd think that alone would inspire the country's distaste for it. Guess again.

I've asked my talk radio audiences throughout the years a very simple question: How many people would you allow to be erroneously killed via state-sponsored murder (capital punishment) before you would demand either a moratorium or all-out abolition of the death penalty? Silly me. I thought for sure the answer would be a resounding ZERO! None. Nada. Just the way the question's phrased, surely gives away the answer. Well, to my shock and horror the answers have varied from an inexplicable number (4. 4?!) to no number or amount was too great.

The death penalty was critical and necessary and like they say when you make an omelet, you have to break a few eggs. Mistakes happen. No system's perfect. You win some, you lose some. The appellate process is enough to weed out the mistakes and if some slip through the cracks, those are the breaks. Apparently they weren't in school for Blackstone's admonition, "For the law holds, that it is better that ten guilty persons escape, than that 1 innocent suffer." Blackstone, they'd surely posit, was another lily-livered liberal.

And, remember, these were God-fearing reasonably good and kind and compassionate folks, usually, but when the subject comes to our American pastime, hard justice, they clung to the idea of the death penalty's criticality with a tenacity that's inexplicable.

I'm a lawyer by profession and I've been a prosecutor and I've seen firsthand what the system's like. And if for no other reason than the inefficacy of the determination of guilt, the death process must be stopped. Now. It's meted out haphazardly, it's proved to be in no wise a deterrent and when it's repealed murder rates don't rise and when it's added the don't fall. You will ofttimes hear the quip that it is in fact a deterrent because the executed defendant will be unable to kill again.

Let's talk methodology. The means of exacting the punishment have been barbaric and the current illusion of compassion, lethal injection, has suffered a spate of problems including administering the death cocktail in reverse order (resulting in the wide-awake condemned suffocating without the ability to utter a protest).

Let me remind the reader that the reason for lethal injection was intended primarily to spare the witnesses having to endure a more efficacious, though messy, means of administering final justice. An overdose of barbiturates would be far more humane (after all, it's the method of choice for dispatching an ailing pet) as would the guillotine, which is problematic to everyone save the condemned.

There are a number of attendant problems associated with the American death penalty system that require review. First, let's look at the caliber of trial counsel that's usually afforded and accorded the defendant. In many jurisdictions court-appointed lawyers are provided who are paid by the county, state or local jurisdiction and in too many cases they've not the experience to handle the complexity of the ultimate criminal sanction. It's not beyond the realm of possibility for a lawyer to be handed a case, a lawyer whose main criterion for selection is being friends with the judge. A lawyer who might have never tried a criminal case in his/her life, much less a capital case. In these matters it's beyond critical to file the necessary pretrial motions and preserve the record for the inevitable appeal when the defendant will inevitably be found guilty and inevitably sentenced to death. If you've any question about this, just look at the frequency of ineffective assistance of counsel post-trial and post-conviction motions and appeals.

Then there's the issue of investigatory costs. The state has unlimited resources, law enforcement personnel, investigators, forensics experts, name it, at its disposal. The amount allocated for pretrial investigation, not to mention the de minimis legal fees involved, is never enough. Just look what happens when an industrious court-appointed lawyer tries to secure additional funds for an experienced investigator or forensics expert to assist. Good luck. And I haven't even mentioned the hurdles that are encountered when an already-convicted defendant tries to secure release or exoneration when newly-discovered evidence is acquired. But that's for another discussion.

And then the issue of guilt itself. Contrary to popular belief, most capital cases don't involve DNA or forensics but eyewitness testimony or the jailhouse snitch. The Judas who'll say anything to anyone to avoid or minimize his or her own criminal fate. And keep in mind; it's hardly rare that the defendant in question is not in possession of a lengthy and most significant criminal history. Defendants are often guilty, but not necessarily of the offense they're charged with. Let me remind the reader that 1st degree murder is the charge that accompanies the death penalty: willful, wanton, malicious, premeditated murder with malice aforethought. Not 2nd degree murder or heat of passion or depraved mind but murder one.

The issue of the imposition itself is complicated in its own right because of the factors that may not necessarily involve guilt per se but the frequency of certain demographics being sentenced. To most folks, it's merely about being guilty. Ah, yes. Guilt. Too bad that the chances of Black-on-White murder receiving the jury's recommendation of death are inordinately more likely than any other permutation.

In all of criminal law, the most difficult to explain is the notion of the insane being ineligible for guilt. Ineligible because they lack the capacity to form the requisite criminal intent to commit a particular specific intent crime. What does that mean? Mumbo jumbo to many who believe that criminal defendants all too often escape the necessary snare of justice. They feel that the actus reus, the physical act of the crime itself, is all that matters. Did this dirtbag shoot, stab, choke or otherwise kill the victim? If yes, case closed.

Next! Criminal intent, mens rea, capacity and/or mental wherewithal mean absolutely nothing. And to be fair, when a jury of ordinary citizens is exposed for the 1st time to the proverbial 8X10 glossies of the mostly mind-blowingly horrible murder scene imaginable, especially when involving a child, the last thing on their mind is mental capacity and culpability. They want justice, better yet; vengeance - and they want it now. And that’s completely understandable, if not unfortunate.

That's why the death penalty must be abolished. There's no room for error when a human life is involved, even when that human life took another. And it has nothing to do with whether anyone "deserves" it. Lock away and warehouse those convicted. I in no wise am arguing for the release of the dangerous. What I am advocating is sober reflection and a mature review of this barbaric system.

You can't appeal an execution.

(source: Op-Ed; Lionel (ne: Michael Wm. Lebron) is an Emmy Award winning trial


Washington prosecutors want death-penalty referendum

State prosecutors say they'll ask lawmakers to send a death-penalty referendum to voters next year.

The Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys issued a statement Thursday saying prosecutors "overwhelmingly believe that the people of the state should vote on the question of whether the state should retain the death penalty as an option in cases of aggravated murder."

The death penalty has been on hold in Washington state since last year, when Gov. Jay Inslee issued a moratorium for as long as he's in office. 9 men are now on death row in Washington state.

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said a public vote would tell prosecutors "1 way or the other" how Washingtonians feel about the death penalty.

The impetus for the prosecutors' action, according to an email from Tom McBride, executive secretary of the association, were the jury decisions in the murder cases involving the killings of a Carnation family in 2007 and a Seattle police officer in 2009.

In the Carnation case, Michele Anderson is accused of joining her then-boyfriend Joseph McEnroe in killing six members of her family. McEnroe was convicted of participating in the killings and sentenced in May to life in prison after the jury could not agree on the death penalty.

In July, Satterberg said his office would not seek the death penalty against Anderson, an announcement made after Christopher Monfort was sentenced to life in prison for killing Officer Timothy Brenton.

The lack of pending death-penalty cases provides "a window where we don't have to think through" immediate impacts, McBride said in his email, noting that the group's Thursday statement had almost "unanimous support from elected prosecuting attorneys who both support and oppose the death penalty."

Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, said the prosecutors' statement is a "really important and momentous step forward" in public conversation over the law.

But Carlyle, who has sponsored bills to ban the death penalty, said he believes any change should come from the Legislature. There's a lot of complexity surrounding a change in the law, he said, and a public referendum would spur an expensive and difficult campaign.

Carlyle added he plans to again sponsor a bill to end the death penalty in the next legislative session, which starts in January.

Death-penalty cases in Washington are still being tried and continue to work through the system. Inslee's moratorium means that if a death-penalty case comes to his desk, he will issue a reprieve, which means the inmate would stay in prison rather than face execution.

In response to the prosecutors' Thursday statement, Jaime Smith, spokeswoman for Inslee, called the death-penalty debate an important one. She added that "The governor made clear his reasons for enacting a moratorium and his support for a discussion among legislators and the people."

Since 1981, most death-penalty sentences in Washington have been overturned and executions rare, according to the prepared remarks of Inslee's 2014 moratorium announcement.

"When the majority of death-penalty sentences lead to reversal," Inslee said in the remarks, "the entire system itself must be called into question."

The death penalty is allowed in 31 states, as well as by the federal government and the U.S. military, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Since 2009, 5 states - New Mexico, Illinois, Connecticut, Maryland and Nebraska - have abolished it.

In a national Gallup poll in October, 61 % of U.S. adults said they favored the death penalty.

The number continues a gradual decline in support since a high of 80 % in 1994, according to the poll findings.

(source: Seattle Times)


Washington prosecutors want death penalty referendum on ballot next year

State prosecutors say they'll ask lawmakers to send a death penalty referendum to voters next year.

The Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys issued a statement Thursday saying that prosecutors "overwhelmingly believe that the people of the state should vote on the question of whether the state should retain the death penalty as an option in cases of aggravated murder."

The death penalty has been on hold in Washington state since last year, when Gov. Jay Inslee issued a moratorium for as long as he's in office.

Currently, 9 men are on death row in Washington state.

Death penalty cases in the state are still being tried and continue to work through the system.

Inslee's moratorium means that if a death-penalty case comes to his desk, he will issue a reprieve, which means the inmate would stay in prison rather than face execution.

The next legislative session begins in January.

(source: Associated Press)


Why Some Prosecutors Want All-White Juries for Death Penalty Cases----Dahlia Lithwick asks, "What goes on in the heads of prosecutors?"

3 decades ago, the Supreme Court ruled in Batson v. Kentucky that race cannot be a determining factor in the process of jury selection. But because it's so difficult to know what is really motivating prosecutors and defense attorneys to strike potential members of a jury pool, Batson has proven very hard to enforce.

Last week, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Foster v. Chatman, a case in which the paper trail strongly suggests that race was a factor in the dismissal of potential jurors. On the latest Amicus podcast, host Dahlia Lithwick spoke with Stephen Bright, president of the Southern Center for Human Rights and lead counsel for the convicted murderer at the center of Foster.

Here's an excerpt from the conversation:

Lithwick: Can you just put yourself in the head of a prosecutor for a minute, and explain to me why they are so confident that striking black jurors is a smart initial move, and that it's worth going through the contortions of justifying it later. Why is there such a deep, deep tradition, particularly in the South, of just saying, "We're going to default to all-white juries"?

Bright: Well, I think what happened in this case is what happens so often - that people are just not treated as individuals but put in groups. I mean, the prosecutors said at one time, "This woman had the most potential of all the blacks in the jury pool," as opposed to just treating her like one of many people - 50 people - in this pool from which the jury was selected. I think in this case, the prosecutors wanted the death penalty. They argued to the jury to give the death penalty, to deter people in the projects, which were 90 % African-American.

It is less likely that that appeal and getting the death penalty - at least the prosecutors figured - if they had African-Americans on the jury.

Now I think what Batson teaches is that you just have to accept people, without regard to race. If the jury decides not to impose the death penalty, you have to accept that. But I think when you've got young, ambitious prosecutors - as both these prosecutors were - they want to win at any cost.

And if the cost is to strike all the blacks so that you have an all-white jury that's more likely to impose the death penalty, that's what they're going to do.

Lithwick: Steve, it strikes me, listening to you talk, that there's such a common thread in so many of the kind of race doctrines we talk about on this show. And the thread is, look, we can't really search your heart. We don't know, at the end of the day, what's going on, but just don't be obvious, right? Don't be ugly about it. We see that in the affirmative action cases. We've seen that in so many strains of constitutional law.

It feels like, at the end of the day, the Supreme Court at Batson said, "Just don't be yucky about being racist. If you're going to be racist, just do it quietly." Certainly, it seems that the takeaway of Foster is, if you're going to be racist, don't put it on paper with the green highlighter. It seems like a very, very short-sighted and kind of naive view of how to combat entrenched racial discrimination in this country.

Bright: Oh, it certainly is. We've had a lot of attention in the country lately to relationships between law enforcement and communities of color. What there's been too little attention to, in my opinion, is, what happens to those people once they get in the criminal justice system - whether they're accused of a minor crime, or whether accused of a crime that carries the death penalty? There are all these discretionary decisions, from whether to grant bail, what to charge, what plea offer to make - if there's plea bargaining in the case - and 95 % of all cases are resolved with plea bargains and the striking of the jury.

You have to remember, 95 % of all prosecutors in this country - the chief prosecutors - are white. So, the criminal justice system does not reflect the society, and the decisions in these cases that have a tremendous effect on communities of color and are really destroying people, families, and communities. These decisions are mostly being made by white people and mostly white men.

(source: Dahlia Lithwick,


Readers disagree with death penalty for terrorists

After Moggill MP Dr Christian Rowan said he believed terrorists should face the death penalty, Sunshine Coast Daily readers have voiced their opinions on the issue.

A poll on the Daily website had 52% of people in favour of reintroducing the death penalty for terrorists to 36% against it.

Many Facebook commenters disagreed with the death penalty though as they believed it was the easy way out.

"That's what they want - to die as Martyrs," Judith Hayes said.

"They want to die. I say keep them in a tiny cell with just enough food and water to keep them alive," Zahnn Hopping said.

"Death is an easy way out compared with spending your life in prison," Lachlan McKay said.

"At the end of the day life imprisonment in some ways is even harsher than death," Karl Valenta said.

"And as if this would deter terrorists who are already more than happy to kill themselves," he added.

A few thought the death penalty would send a strong message to potential future terrorists.

"Totally agree we need to bring back the death penalty and send a message we mean business as in protecting all Australians," Robert Parker said.

"Rid them from society. Doesn't matter about deterrent or not, just get rid of them," Tony Crowley said.

(source: Sunshine Coast Daily)


Irish Teen Who Faces The Death Penalty In Egypt "Witnessed Torture" In Prison----Ibrahim Halawa, who was arrested in 2013 during anti-government protests, said he has witnessed prisoners being forcefully electrocuted.

Halawa, a 19-year-old from Dublin, was arrested along with his 2 sisters while participating in anti-government demonstrations in 2013. Halawa was one of hundreds of activists arrested in Ra’abaa Square during the demonstrations, where it is estimated that around 800 people were killed by Egyptian police.

He is currently being held in the Wadi Natrun prison - one of Egypt's highest-security jails - awaiting a mass trial with other protesters. His lawyers and human rights organisations have warned that if he is found guilty, he could face the death penalty.

During his time there, Halawa has seen prisoners forced to undergo "experimental torture" techniques such as electrocution, his lawyers say.

Free Ibrahim Halawa campaign

In a statement, the human rights organisation Reprieve said: "A caseworker was told by Ibrahim that some prisoners were being tied naked in a crucifix position in the prison's halls, while others had been electrocuted, using pools of water to increase the pain.

"Ibrahim added that he was regularly beaten with rubber bars,and was singled out by one senior guard for particular abuse."

Caseworkers have also noted that Halawa's health was deteriorating, in a statement his legal team gave BuzzFeed News earlier this year.

"Ibrahim Halawa has been through a horrifying ordeal - arrested and tortured as a child, held in deplorable conditions for over 2 years, and now faced with the threat of a mass death sentence" said Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at Reprieve.

"The latest reports of the torture meted out in his prison are deeply shocking - and it's utterly clear that his trial alongside 493 other prisoners has precious little to do with justice. Governments that are closely allied to Egypt - including the UK and Ireland - must urge Sisi's government to release Ibrahim and the many others like him."

The statements come following meetings last week between David Cameron and the Egyptian president Abdel Fatah el-Sisi.

The visit was met with large protests, with many opposed to the meetings due to Sisi's record on human rights, particularly in relation to the large number of arrests of Muslim Brotherhood activists.

Earlier this month, Halawa's sisters appealed to David Cameron to raise their brother's case during the Egyptian president's visit to the UK.

Omaima Halawa told BuzzFeed News that her brother's health was deteriorating due to bad conditions inside the prison, and that he was also on a hunger strike to protest against his treatment.

"We'd say the only way [the Prime Minister] can justify this meeting is to question Sisi on his human rights abuses, the murders he is responsible for in Egypt. Not just my brother, but also the thousands like him."

BuzzFeed News has contacted the Egyptian embassy in London for comment.

(source: BuzzFeedNews)


Let's kick out the death penalty, now!

There is no conclusive evidence that the death penalty deters crime, and countries where the death penalty has been abandoned did not, in general, record a rise in crimes. And again, even the best justice systems have sentenced innocent people to die.

On Tuesday, 6 June 1995, over a year after electing the late Nelson Mandela as its President, South Africa ended the use of the death penalty, with a ruling of its constitutional court.

The death sentence is a barbaric act

Mandela's personal involvement in this outcome has been significant: 5 years earlier, freshly out of prison, he had successfully pressed his predecessor - then President FW De Klerk - to announce a moratorium on executions.

At the inauguration of the court 4 months before the ruling, President Mandela had opened his speech with telling words, referring to the 1963-64 trial in which he and his comrades had feared for their lives: "The last time I appeared in court was to hear whether I would be sentenced to death," he had said.

For decades, South Africa had executed thousands of its citizens, overwhelmingly among its Black population, earning a top ranking among countries with the highest rates of capital punishment in the world.

Announcing the court's decision, Arthur Chaskalson, its president, noted: "Everyone, including the most abominable of human beings, has a right to life, and capital punishment is therefore unconstitutional." Remarkably, each of the court's 11 judges issued a written opinion backing the ruling.

With that ruling, the new South Africa stood at a turning point of what was to follow across the continent. It heralded a momentous shift in the use of the death penalty in Africa, as more countries joined the global trend away from it. Once common, the practice was now being abandoned. By 1999, 21 African countries were abolitionists in law or practice. Of those, 10 had abolished capital punishment and 11 had de-facto moratoriums.

Today, 20 years since South Africa's ruling, 37 out of 54 countries on the continent are abolitionists in law or practice, according to the International Federation for Human Rights. Among them, 18 have abolished the death penalty, 19 have de-facto moratoriums.

Last December, at the United Nations General Assembly, 27 African countries joined 90 others from around the world in voting in favour of a resolution calling for a progressive end to the use of the death penalty. 5 months earlier, in July 2014 in Cotonou, Benin's capital, the continent had adopted a declaration urging countries still imposing it to "consider abolishing the death penalty."

The African Union is now considering an additional protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the abolition of the death penalty, a major development that will further put the continent on the footsteps of Mandela, one of its most illustrious sons.

Yet, as Africa makes major strides away from the death penalty, worrying developments cloud the horizon. Among them, the continued imposition of mandatory death sentences for some crimes in a handful of countries such as Kenya and Nigeria. Uganda, thankfully, has recently taken steps to repel similar provisions from its criminal code.

Another persisting problem is the lack of fair trial guarantees. In March 2014, The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concerns that the hasty judicial process in Somalia, in which there were only nine days between the alleged killings and the executions, deprived the suspects of their rights to legal representation and appeal.

More visible in recent months is the resurgence of the death penalty in contexts marked by a significant deterioration of the security climate. Faced with the mounting threat of violent extremism by Boko Haram, Nigeria has joined the list of countries prescribing the death penalty for vaguely defined "terrorist" activities.

More strikingly, Egypt has resorted to mass trial. In 2013, a court imposed death sentences on more than 1,000 people in 2 such trials for the alleged killing of a police officer and other violent activities.

All these developments point to the need for a stronger advocacy against the use of the death penalty. Across Africa, much like on the global stage, the direction is now clear, but the mobilisation must continue. Leaders should be part of the debate. Civil society actors and academic institutions must join in too. And everyone should know the facts, starting with those that are no longer in dispute.

First, there is no conclusive evidence that the death penalty deters crime, as researchers in various countries have shown. Countries where the death penalty has been abandoned did not, in general, record a rise in crimes. Second, and most unfortunately, the death penalty is a most final punishment. Even the best justice systems have sentenced innocent people to die.

In the United States 20 persons on death row have been exonerated through DNA testing, according to the Innocence Project, a non-profit legal organisation based in New York. Third of those who end up executed are almost always and everywhere vulnerable because of poverty, minority status or mental disability.

These are just some of the many reasons why, at the United Nations, we strongly believe that, as the Secretary-General puts it, "the death penalty has no place in the 21st century." Or, in the simple words of the great Madiba himself: "The death sentence is a barbaric act." It is time to let it go!

(source: By Ivan Simonovic, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for human rights;


Family of Sarawak man Kho Jabing, who is on death row, pleads with Singapore to spare his life

The family of Sarawakian Kho Jabing is pleading with Singapore to commute his death sentence to life imprisonment, claiming he is not a bad person.

Jabing, 31, who is from Ulu Baram, Sarawak, faces the gallows for killing a Chinese construction worker with a tree branch back in 2008 during a robbery attempt.

His mother Lenduk Ak Baling, 54, said that her son was not a bad person and had regretted his actions deeply.

"From the time he was born until he was in school he never fought with his friends, teachers or anyone else ... He is not a bad person," she said, sobbing uncontrollably at a press conference to highlight the case on Friday (Nov 13).

Ms Lenduk said that she hadn't been able to sleep or eat properly since hearing that her son was going to be executed.

Jabing was scheduled to be executed on Nov 6, but received a stay the day before, after his lawyer filed a motion raising points of law about the way the case was handled.

The case will be heard by Singapore's Court of Appeal on Nov 23.

Jabing's sister Jumai Kho, 27, said that her family was initially shocked to learn that he was involved in the case.

"He isn't a bad person... he is loving and always took care of us. I hope Singapore won't give him the death penalty... He is the only brother I have," she said, adding that Jabing was drunk and influenced by his friends when the incident occurred.

At the press conference, several activist groups called on Singapore's President Tony Tan Keng Yam to grant clemency to Jabing.

We Believe in Second Chances founder Kirsten Han said that the group was troubled that Jabing would be executed for a simple majority decision by the Court of Appeal.

"No intent to kill was ever found, nor was a clear sequence of events established. The irreversible nature of the death penalty leaves absolutely no room for error," she said.

Jabing was sentenced to death in 2010 but in August 2013, following revisions to Singapore's mandatory death penalty laws, the High Court sentenced him to life and 24 strokes of the cane instead.

The prosecution challenged the decision before the Court of Appeal, which again sentenced Jabing to death in a 3-2 majority decision earlier this year.

On Oct 19, Dr Tan rejected a clemency petition before a stay of execution by the Court of Appeal.

(source: Straits Times)


Indonesian court sentences Hong Kong drug leader to death

An Indonesian court sentenced a drug leader from Hong Kong to death on Friday for possession of more than 860 kg of methamphetamines in one of the country's biggest drug busts in years. Indonesian authorities in January arrested Wong Chi Ping and members of his drug syndicate in the capital, Jakarta, after a nearly 3-year investigation.

"This was our biggest catch so far in 5 years," said Slamet Pribadi, spokesman for the National Narcotics Agency. "The harsh penalty on drugs will provide a deterrent effect for those who are looking to do such crimes."

Wong's lawyers said they would appeal against the sentence.

"We hope that our client still has a chance to prove himself," said defence lawyer, Rando Vittoro Hasibuan. "We believe that he doesn't deserve to get the death penalty."

Wong was believed to have been the mastermind behind the smuggling of methamphetamines from Hong Kong, on southeast China's coast, to Indonesia, packing the drugs into coffee containers, media reported. After the arrests, police forced Wong and other members of his group to burn 1 trillion rupiah (RM320.9 million) worth of the drugs.

President Joko Widodo has declared war on what he has called a "narcotics emergency" since taking office a year ago. He has repeatedly refused clemency to traffickers and more than a dozen drug convicts, most of them foreigners, have been executed this year after a 5-year moratorium on the death penalty was lifted.



Wong Chi Ping Faces Death Penalty

West Jakarta District Court will be sentencing drug dealer Wong Chi Ping along with his 3 associates, Sujardi, Ahmad Salim Wijaya, and Andika for the death penalty today, November 13.

"There are 4 trial verdicts for Wong Chi Ping and his associates," Wong Chi Ping's attorney, Hazmin A, said after the hearing in West Jakarta District Court on Thursday, November 12.

Wong Chi Ping reportedly had been assisted by Ahmad Salim Wijaya, Surjadi, Syarifudin Nurdin, Tam Siu Luing, Sui Cheuk Fung, Tan See Ting, Cheung Hon Ming and Andika. Those 9 defendants are all charged with capital punishment by the prosecutor.

On Wednesday, 5 of Wong Chi Ping's associates had been given a lighter sentence, Cheung Hon Ming with 20 years imprisonment plus Rp 1 billion fine and Syarifuddin with 18 years imprisonment. Tan See Ting, Siu Cheuk and Tam Siu Liung was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Last Thursday, the West Jakarta District Court postponed the verdict against Ahmad Salim Wijaya and Andika due to incomplete papers, and will be announced the next day (Friday).

4 defendants including Wong Chi Ping, Sujardi, Ahmad Salim Wijaya and Andika will undergo separate trials on November 13.



Appeals court looks anew into Al-Sadeq mosque blast case - 7 suspects face death penalty

The Court of Appeals, presided over by Justice Hani Al-Hamdan, begans proceedings yesterday in the case of the Imam Al-Sadeq Mosque blast, allowing the suspects' lawyers to deliver their defense. On November 5th, the court hearing focused on the civil claimants' pleadings.

On October 29, the court heard the testimony of the case's officer in a closed-door-session. On October 25, the Court of Appeals heard the testimony of defendant Abdulrahman Aidan who was sentenced to death by the Criminal Court, where he and other defendants denied their previous confessions.

The Criminal Court had sentenced 7 suspects to death, 8 to 2-15 years in prison, but acquitted another 15 suspects. The defendants are accused of spreading terror, committing murder, joining an internationally-banned group that promotes toppling the ruling system with illegitimate means, namely terrorism, thus threatening the country's national unity.

The court had held its 1st session on the explosion on August 4th, to look into the cases presented against 7 Kuwaiti defendants, 5 Saudis, 3 Pakistanis, 13 illegal residents and 1 fugitive with unidentified nationality.

The Public Prosecution had demanded tough sentences against the defendants, as the prosecution's representative had presented thorough details on the case. They also provided visual evidence on the role of the 29 defendants in the blast, including hiding vital evidence and helping the driver, Abdulrahman Eidan, to escape. The terrorist attack took place on June 26 during the holy month of Ramadan, leaving 26 worshippers dead and 227 others wounded. The blast sparked wide-scale condemnations from Arab, Muslim and other countries which rejected all forms and manifestations of terrorism.

(source: Kuwait times)


4 Prisoners Hanged in Northern Iran on Drug Charges

On the morning of Sunday November 8, 4 prisoners were reportedly hanged at Karaj Central Prison on drug related charges.

According to close sources, the names of the prisoners are: Kambiz Shahbazi, Iraj Tizmaghz, Mehdi Aflaki, and Cyrus Cheshmeh. According to the human rights group, HRANA, the 4 prisoners were transferred from their prison cells to solitary confinement last Wednesday in preparation for their executions. Their family members were reportedly allowed to visit them for the last time on Friday November 6.

Iranian official sources have been silent on these 4 executions.


President Rouhani Defends Executions of Hundreds For Drug Offenses in Iran

In an interview with the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, President Hassan Rouhani defends Iran's execution of alleged drug offenders. Responding to a question about Iran's large number of executions, Rouhani repeated the answer often given by Iranian authorities: "Most executions in Iran are related to drug trafficking crimes, due to the long and porous border shared with our Afghan neighbour. If we abolish the death penalty, we would make it easier for drugs to be trafficked to European countries, and that would be dangerous for you." The comments were made on Thursday November 12, 2 days before the start of Rouhani's scheduled visit to Italy and France.

Iran Human Rights calls on the Italian and French governments to put the dead penalty on top of the agenda during President Rouhani's visit to these countries. "When the president of a country which executes an average of 3 people a day comes to visit, the death penalty must be the main issue of discussion with him. Italy and France are 2 of the world's foremost countries engaged in the abolition of the death penalty, it is expected that Iran's use of the death penalty will be on top of the agenda in their talks with Mr. Rouhani," says Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson of IHR.

Iran is the country with the highest rate of executions per capita. According to reports by IHR, more than 830 people have been executed in Iran since the beginning of 2015, the highest number in more than 25 years. The number of executions has increased by more than 30% since Hassan Rouhani became the Iranian President.

Most Executions in Iran For Drug Offenses

Since 2010 more than 2500 people have been executed for drug offences in Iran. Unlike what Rouhani says, executions have not deterred drug offenses. Official reports indicate that drug problems, including trafficking and addiction, have been on the rise during the past years. Drug offenders often belong to the poor and marginalized groups in Iranian society; and there are many reports of torture, forced confessions, unfair trials and lack of access to lawyer.

(source for both: Iran Human Rights)

SAUDI ARABIA----executions

Saudi Authorities Deny Medical Help for Protester Sentenced to Death as a Child

The Saudi authorities are refusing to allow Ali al-Nimr, who was sentenced to death aged 17, access to a doctor, according to his family.

Ali was arrested following anti-government protests in 2012, and sentenced to death in a secretive trial on the basis of a "confession" extracted through torture, even though he was a child at the time.

However, despite international criticism over the case, the Kingdom's authorities are refusing to allow Ali access to a doctor, and today defended their plans to behead him in the UK's Daily Telegraph.

A statement on planned "reforms' provided by King Salman's advisers to the newspaper said that they "cannot understand" calls to stop the execution of Ali and other protesters. The statement comes in the wake of an opinion piece written by the Saudi Ambassador to the UK, in which he criticised the British Government's refusal to provide services to the Saudi prison system due to human rights concerns.

Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at international human rights organization Reprieve said: "Despite claims of reforms, the Saudi Government remains unrepentant over plans to execute protesters, many of whom were sentenced to death as children. It is astonishing that they 'cannot understand' why there is such outrage over this issue. Worse still, they are now denying Ali al Nimr - sentenced to 'crucifixion' after severe torture when he was just 17 - access to a doctor. The international community should demand real reform, not smoke and mirror measures to hide these vile abuses."



G seeking to abolish mandatory death penalty

Attorney-General Tan Sri Apandi Ali said he will propose to the Cabinet that the mandatory death penalty be scrapped, so that judges are given the option to choose between sentencing a person to jail or the gallows.

He said mandatory death sentences were a "paradox", as it robbed judges of their discretion to impose sentences on convicted criminals.

"If I had my way, I would introduce the option for the judge in cases where it involves capital punishment. Give the option to the judge either to hang him or send him to prison.

"Then we're working towards a good administration of criminal justice," Apandi told The Malaysian Insider in an exclusive interview. He said that this would be in line with the "universal thinking" of capital punishment, although he denied calling for the death penalty to be abolished altogether.

"Not to say that I am for absolute abolition of capital punishment, but at least we go in stages. We take step by step," he said.

A mandatory death sentence is imposed in Malaysia in cases involving murder, certain firearm offences, drug-trafficking and treason. In May, Prisons Department director-general Datuk Seri Zulkifli Omar reportedly said some 1043 prisoners are on death row, with many waiting for the outcome of their appeal to the Federal Court or Pardons Board.

He reportedly said 46% of those awaiting their execution were convicted for drug offences. Apandi told The Malaysian Insider that many judges were actually reluctant to pass the death sentence on "mere mules", those assigned to carry drugs for syndicates.

"The judges are also hesitant to pass the death sentence on mere mules, the drug trafficker who (is) just earning RM1,000 to feed his family," he said. He said the A-G's Chambers will prepare a memorandum to the Cabinet to scrap mandatory death penalties.

If the Cabinet agreed, then it would propose for the relevant laws to be amended.


NOVEMBER 12, 2015:


Woman gave birth before being charged in connection with son's death

A 21-year-old mother went into labor Tuesday before she could be charged with capital murder in connection with the death of her 10-month-old child.

Fabiola Lopez was more than 9 months pregnant when she was arrested Tuesday in connection to the death of her son and went into labor while in custody. She was taken to a local hospital, where she delivered, according to Hidalgo County Sheriff's Office spokesman J.P. Rodriguez.

After giving birth, she was charged with capital murder of person under 10 years old, a capital felony, by Justice of the Peace Marcos Ochoa. She remained in the custody of the Hidalgo County Sheriff's Office with a $500,000 bond at a local hospital Wednesday night.

The sheriff's office began their investigation Nov. 3, when they were called to Rio Grande Regional Hospital in reference to a 10-month-old boy suffering from critical injuries. The child died Nov. 6 after spending several days on life support, Rodriguez said.

Lopez told doctors her child had fallen off the bed at their home near Edinburg. An autopsy determined the cause of death as blunt force trauma to the head, but during the investigation deputies found probable cause that Lopez caused the death of her child, Rodriguez wrote in an email Tuesday.

Investigators obtained an arrest warrant for Lopez and took her into custody. If convicted of a capital murder, Lopez faces the death penalty or life in prison.

(source: The Monitor)


Admitted cartel hit-man faces death penalty trial for 2 murders in Florida

An admitted Mexican cartel hit-man convicted of murders in California and Alabama is also facing a possible death sentence in Florida for 2 additional killings.

Authorities say 53-year-old Jose Manuel Martinez is being charged with 1st-degree murder in the slayings of 20-year-old Javier Huerta and 28-year-old Gustavo Olivares-Rivas in Florida.

The victims were found in a pickup truck bound and shot multiple times on a road in Ocala National Forest.

Martinez has already been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole after pleading guilty to 9 murders in California over 3 decades. Last year, Martinez pleaded guilty in Alabama to killing a man for making derogatory remarks about his daughter.

The Ocala Star-Banner reports ( that prosecutors in Marion County will seek to extradite Martinez from California.

(source: Associated Press)


Youngstown murder now death penalty case

A Mahoning County grand jury indicted a Youngstown man in what is now a death penalty murder case.

Lance Hundley, 46, of Warren, was charged with aggravated murder, aggravated attempted murder, aggravated felonious assault, and aggravated arson in connection to the Nov. 6 beating death of 41-year-old Erika Huff.

Prosecutors say Hundley beat Huff inside a Cleveland Street house and then set it on fire to cover up the crime.

Huff's mother was also beaten by Hundley, but survived the attack, according to police.

Police say Hundley went to the house and beat Huff, leaving her unconscious. The victim's mother came later after her daughter's medic alert alarm went off and encountered Hundley and was assaulted.

Hundley set fire to the house and tried to leave as police were arriving.

Hundley is being held in the Mahoning County Jail on $2 million bond.

(source: WKBN news)


Tulsa County prosecutors no longer seeking death penalty against 1999 double-murder convict

Tulsa County prosecutors are no longer seeking the death penalty for a man who remains convicted of murdering a retired Tulsa banker and an Owasso trucking company owner in 1999.

Victor Cornell Miller, 52, has been fighting a legal battle against the state since before a jury first convicted him in 2002.

First Assistant District Attorney John David Luton announced in court Tuesday that he will no longer seek the death penalty for Miller.

Luton said the decision came after talking with the victims' family members.

"The consensus of the family was that this was a way to create some finality in the case," Luton said, noting that the matter is already 16 years old.

Miller was convicted in the shooting deaths of Mary Agnes Bowles, 77, a retired Tulsa banker and a former Saint Francis Hospital Auxiliary president, and Jerald Thurman, 44, the owner of an Owasso trucking company.

Prosecutors maintained that Miller shot Thurman before Miller's accomplice, John Fitzgerald Hanson, shot Bowles.

Thurman's son, Jake Thurman, said Wednesday that while this was not his preferred outcome of the case, he and his family are ready to move on.

"I'm not really happy with all of it, but at the same time I'm happy that the family will get some closure and not have to keep opening the wound and stitching it closed again," he said.

At a trial in 2002, Miller was convicted of both murders and was sentenced to die for killing Thurman. He got a no-parole life term for Bowles' murder.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals court overturned those convictions and sentences in 2004 and granted Miller a new trial. He was convicted by another jury in 2008 and was sentenced to death for both murders.

The appeals court in 2013 affirmed Miller's 2 1st-degree murder convictions but modified his death sentence for one of the murder convictions to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

In that decision, the Court of Criminal Appeals directed the Tulsa County District Court to resentence Miller for the other murder conviction, with the death penalty still on the table.

Since the state is no longer seeking the death penalty, a Tulsa County judge will have the option of sentencing Miller to life without parole or life with the possibility of parole after serving at least 85 % of his sentence in prison. For calculation, a life sentence is usually equated to 45 years.

Jake Thurman said he and his family hope the judge will sentence Miller to life without parole.

"As long as he can't ever get out, he won't be able to do this to someone else's family," Thurman said.

Closing the case will allow the family to finally heal, he said.

"We can pick up the pieces and start putting the puzzle back together and move on," Thurman said.

District Judge Dana Kuehn is scheduled to sentence Miller on Dec. 18, court minutes show.

(saource: Tulsa World)


Federal appeals court reverses ruling that said California's death penalty system is unconstitutional

A federal appeals court upheld California's death penalty system Thursday, reversing a judge's order last year that had decried the state's system as unconstitutional because of its extensive delays.

The ruling impacts a state with the largest death-row population in the country, and while California has rarely carried out executions in the modern era, it has shown signs recently that it may be inching closer to resuming lethal injections.

In an order last year, U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney had said California's system was "completely dysfunctional."

"California's death penalty system is so plagued by inordinate and unpredictable delay that the death sentence is actually carried out against only a trivial few of those sentenced to death," Carney wrote in his July 2014 order.

That order was reversed Thursday by a unanimous 3-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which said that while many people agreed with Jones's argument "that the delay between sentencing and execution in California is extraordinary," the district court was not allowed to consider "novel constitutional theories" in reviewing cases like this.

The opinion from Judge Susan P. Graber also added that because it was asked to consider this type of theory, the court could "not assess the substantive validity of [Jones's] claim."

California has more death-row inmates than any other state, with more than 740 inmates currently sentenced to death. That is more than the combined death-row populations of the next 2 states on the list (Florida and Texas, both of which regularly put inmates to death). Inmates on California's death row have been there for an average of a little more than 16 years, a little more than a year longer than the national average, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

And while California has not executed an inmate since 2006, the state proposed a new execution protocol last week that would involve using a single drug, replacing the 3-drug combination that had been struck down by a judge.

Carney's order, and the appeals court's ruling Thursday, involve the case of Ernest Dewayne Jones, who was sentenced to death in 1995 for raping and killing Julia Miller in 1992. Carney had vacated Jones's death sentence in the order, writing that letting California's system threaten Jones with death nearly 2 decades after his sentencing "violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment."

California authorities had argued in favor of overturning Carney's ruling, which the state called "fundamentally misguided" in 1 filing submitted by Kamala D. Harris, the state's attorney general, and Edward DuMont, its solicitor general, among others. The state had argued that there was "no legal basis" for the district court to declare a system they described as thorough, careful and necessary.

In a concurring judgment Thursday, Judge Paul J. Watford said that Carney's order should have been reversed because Jones has not exhausted his appeals through the state courts.

The case is Jones v. Davis.

(source: Mark Berman, Washington Post)


Federal Appeals Court Upholds California's Deliberative Death Penalty Process

A federal appeals court has upheld California's deliberative death penalty, which keeps prisoners on death row for decades.

Last year, a federal judge ruled that the long and dysfunctional process violated the constitutional prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

As we reported at the time:

"[U.S. District Judge Cormac] Carney noted that the death penalty has been imposed more than 900 times since 1978, but only 13 of those prisoners have been executed.

"Carney, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, wrote that Jones was far from alone in waiting decades to find out when and whether he would be put to death.

"Such uncertainty and systemic delays are unconstitutional, he decided. Carney wrote that 'the random few' who are put to death wait so long to face execution that capital punishment serves 'no retributive or deterrent purpose.

"'No rational person can question that the execution of an individual carries with it the solemn obligation of the government to ensure that the punishment is not arbitrarily imposed and that it furthers the interests of society,' Carney wrote."

2 of the 3 judges on the panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals called that constitutional interpretation "novel," and reversed the judgment.

"Many agree with Petitioner that California's capital punishment system is dysfunctional and that the delay between sentencing and execution in California is extraordinary," the judges wrote.

However, they added, the idea that the delay has turned sentences from "one of death to one of grave uncertainty and torture" is not "supported by logic."



Calif. Seeks Comment From Death Row Inmates About Lethal Injection

Prisoners on death row in California are being invited to comment on the procedure that could kill them.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has proposed a single lethal injection to replace the 3-drug method struck down by courts. The state created the rule after a legal settlement to restart the death penalty process, which has stalled since 2005.

The public has until January to comment on the proposal.

"The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has an additional and a unique requirement that no other state agency has," says deputy press secretary Terry Thornton. "Under the law we also must notice the inmate population, and that includes condemned inmates."

Thornton says the rule is designed to give inmates a voice in the policies that govern them and all 747 on death row have received copies.

The state must consider and respond to public comments before finalizing the rule.



Death Penalty and the Law

To the Editor:

Re "Death Penalty Foes Torn on When to Press Case" (front page, Nov. 4):

It's not surprising that opponents of the death penalty are "bitterly divided" after Justice Stephen G. Breyer's powerful dissent about whether to urge the Supreme Court to decide if capital punishment is constitutional. Even when the death penalty was overwhelmingly accepted, it was administered in so contradictory a manner as to suggest deep ambivalence.

It was supposed to deter, but executions were conducted privately after the crime was forgotten. The condemned were thought depraved but rarely treated as mentally ill. Many people talked tough on crime, but then jurors picked only a random few for execution.

The dissent makes the failure to create a just system clear, but I don't think that we will see abolition until the focus is on the system - costly, discriminatory and error-prone - rather than on any particular offender's horrendous crime.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy has shown in his landmark opinions that he understands the difference between a single case and the social costs of a broad policy, but none of the lawyers cited in your article presented the slightest evidence of how he would vote if a test case came before the court.


Cambridge, Mass.

(source: Letter to the Editor; The writer, the author of "Cruel and Unusual: The Supreme Court and Capital Punishment," was one of the lawyers in Furman v. Georgia, the 1972 case that decided capital punishment laws violated the Eighth Amendment----New York Times)


Talk It Out: Death Penalty

Say no to the death penalty----By Madison Teague

No one should hold the right to take another person's life.

The death penalty is a barbaric practice that does nothing but seek vengeance against one person to appease the feelings of another. It is not justice.

Deciding the fate of another human being by taking their life makes one no better than the criminal they are condemning.

A major defense of the death penalty is that it is okay because it is legal. Legality does not equal morality, and the law does not define what is right. Besides, the death penalty is only legal in 31 states, which shows how abhorrent 19 states believe the death penalty to be.

The opposition would assert the death penalty is a better option than life in prison because it saves citizen tax dollars. This statement is simply untrue.

In California, keeping each death row prisoner costs taxpayers $90,000 more per year than an inmate in general population. This wouldn't seem like too much of a problem if the execution happened in a timely manner. However, that is not the case.

According to a 2011 New York Times article, the typical prisoner on death row has spent 13 years in prison. Because of this long stay on death row, more than 1/4 of all inmates sentenced to death died of a cause other than execution from 2000 to 2013.

Do those who die awaiting their execution escape justice?

Not only is it cheaper to house regular inmates, but also giving the offender the option of pleading guilty in exchange for life without parole saves taxpayers millions in court fees.

It is ridiculous to claim a person who has been caught and held in the custody of the law is somehow a great threat to anyone. We have the ability to contain criminals so they are no longer a threat. Death is not necessary.

All human beings possess the right to life, but not the right to take life away. To claim it is justifiable to revoke someone’s natural-born right to life simply because it would make the victim or their family feel better is asinine.

Humans make errors. For every 10 people executed on death row, 1 has been exonerated and set free. If there is even a chance an innocent life could be taken by the death penalty, it should not be seen as a good or moral practice. Innocent people should not be put to death to pacify the masses.

I have seen firsthand how murder can tear apart a family, but what continues to torture the victims of a crime is not the misconduct itself but the inability to forgive. I do not want to be a part of a society that does not believe in forgiveness. Forgiveness should not be seen as a novelty one can turn to if they wish, but as a necessity.

Killing the assailant will do nothing to help a family heal after the murder or attack of a loved one. The only way those family members, and society as a whole, can move on is if they make peace with what happened.

Death allows a criminal to escape the reality of what they have done. It is a far better punishment to force a person to acknowledge the wrong they have inflicted on another and live with the consequences of their actions.

The death penalty is an expensive, inhumane and immoral practice that should be illegal in not just part, but all of the United States.


Why we need the death penalty---- By Shannon Davies Special to The Star

The death sentence has been used by most societies for centuries. While it is not a new concept, the ways people are put to death are far less gruesome than they have been in years past.

Granted, the American justice system is highly flawed. The death penalty should not be taken lightly and just handed out to anyone who commits a crime. Imposing stipulations on the practice is a necessity to ensure no mismanagement. However, enforcing the death penalty nationwide remains up to each state. In each case, the crime must fit the punishment and the jury must be sure of their sentencing.

According to data from the Vera Institute of Justice, taxpayers pay an average of $31,286 per inmate in order to provide shelter, medical care and food for the incarcerated. Relegating the money of citizens to the housing and bedding of someone who has committed murder or rape is not something society should stand for.

Detractors often assert that the death penalty does not serve as a real deterrent, but this kind of thinking could be applied to any law on the books. Fining motorists for texting while driving does not deter them from committing the offense. People still routinely text and drive, but the thought of a pretty hefty fine probably prevents some from doing it. Minimization is all we can aspire to when attempting to resolve criminal activity.

Studies about the deterrence are inconclusive. Not killing gruesome murderers could result in a total lack of deterrence, so instead of weighing the odds, it is better to use the death penalty for whatever small benefit it provides. Without it, who knows the number of innocent targets who could be victimized?

During less modern times, being put to death used to range from actions like hanging or a firing squad, which are all very cruel ways to die. Lethal injection is basically dosing the criminal with a combination of drugs to give them a fairly simple death.

The three-shot system includes sodium thiopental, which is meant to put the inmate to sleep. The inmate is then injected with pancuronium bromide, which paralyzes the entire muscle system and stops the inmate's breathing, and the process finishes with potassium chloride to still the heart.

Compared to the deaths of their victims, most perpetrators get off fairly easily. While violence is never the answer, there needs to be some kind of system in place to keep the offenders at bay.

While states try to figure out what they want to do about having the death penalty, the people who are currently waiting on death row will be met with a relatively painless death. Criminals who commit capital offenses will always be around, and what to do with them punishment-wise will always be up for debate. Until the death penalty has its own fate decided, I'm all for it.

(source: The (Texas State) University Star)


Vets suffering from PTSD need our help: Column

The 1st person executed in the United States this year, Andrew Brannan, was a Vietnam veteran who had been granted 100% disability because of his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other problems stemming from his military service. Approximately 300 other veterans remain on death row and face execution. As retired Army general officers, lawyers and a psychiatrist, these facts concern us greatly, and they should disturb many other Americans, as well.

On Veterans Day, we honor those who bravely served their country and offer our helping hand to assist those who have returned from war with wounds and physical disabilities. Countless veterans have endured violence and trauma that few others can fully imagine. They deserve our thanks. But some are left behind.

Our hospitals and therapists have performed wonders in assisting wounded veterans who lost limbs. A prosthetic is not the same as the original, but with the courage of service-members, combined with an understanding and supportive community, we are making progress. We wish the same could be said for our veterans who come back with deep brain and mental wounds. Their requests for understanding and compassion are too often dismissed.

A new report from the Death Penalty Information Center is a wake-up call for an issue that few have focused on. Even as the use of capital punishment is declining, veterans suffering with PTSD and other service-related problems languish on death rows across the country.

Brannan was executed in Georgia this year for one irrational act of violence that occurred 17 years ago. He killed a police officer who had stopped him for speeding. That is a terrible crime, but as the Veterans Administration had determined, Brannan was mentally disabled with deep scars from his combat in Vietnam.

James Davis is also a Vietnam veteran with PTSD. He belatedly received his Purple Heart medal on death row in North Carolina, thanks to the work of a fellow veteran and therapist and a pastor, Jim Johnson, who visited Davis. When Johnson pinned the medal on him, Davis saluted proudly, before retreating back into the darkness of his mental problems. He could still be executed today for the murders he committed in 1995, and he has all but given up his appeals.

John Thuesen is on death row in Texas - a veteran of the Iraq conflict. His PTSD was not properly diagnosed or treated, and his lawyers did not do enough to explain his condition to the jury that convicted him of murdering his ex-girlfriend. Texas executes far more people than any other state in the country, so there is a real concern that his current appeal could be denied.

PTSD is not as obvious as a missing limb, but it can be deeply debilitating. The trauma from combat can simmer under the surface for years, then erupt in violence, often against family members. It can be triggered by anything that jars a memory of a time when a person was under violent attack, demanding immediate and forceful reaction. Years later, the previous danger is no longer present, but the memory may set off a similar reaction, with deadly consequences. PTSD can be treated, but in one study only about half of the veterans who needed treatment received it.

In a criminal sentencing hearing, PTSD should be a strong mitigating factor. It's not an excuse or a demand for acquittal. However, the very symptoms that define PTSD can be frightening to a jury if not carefully explained by a mental health expert familiar with the illness. Defense attorneys are often not adequately prepared to investigate and present this kind of evidence; prosecutors or judges might dismiss it because others with similar combat experiences did not murder anyone. Perhaps some of the blame should be more broadly shared because we sometimes choose to look away when a veteran's scars are not the kind that we know how to cope with.

We are not arguing here about the morality or the utility of the death penalty. But at a minimum, when a judge or jury is weighing a person's life or death, they should have full knowledge and understanding of that person's life history. Veterans with PTSD - and, in fact, all those with serious mental illness at the time of their crime - deserve a complete investigation and presentation of their mental state by the best experts in the field.

Decision-makers - jurors, judges and governors - should be informed that such information is a valid reason to spare a defendant from capital punishment. There are alternatives, such as life in prison without parole. We should begin by determining the exact scope of this problem: Who are the veterans on death row? How could their military experience have affected their commission of a crime? How well were their disabilities investigated and presented in court? And what should be done when the system fails them? Veterans facing the death penalty deserve this assistance. (source: Opinion; Brig. Gen. (Ret.) James P. Cullen, USA, is a former judge for the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals. Brig. Gen. (Ret.) David R. Irvine, USA, is a former Deputy Commander of the 96th U.S. Army Reserve Command. Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Stephen N. Xenakis, USA, M.D. is an adjunct clinical professor at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences----USA Today)


An Invitation to End the Death Penalty----The time is now, and this opportunity might not present itself again soon.

The death penalty in the United States will end.

In the scholarly community, the debate is over. The proof that capital punishment doesn't work is as conclusive as the evidence that human activities have caused global warming. After 50 years of research, we know that capital punishment either doesn't deter or deters very little, and then only if practiced with such regularity that it virtually guarantees errors. We know that since 1973, 156 people have been sentenced to die and subsequently exonerated. We know that whether a murderer is executed is largely the product of the victim's race and geographic bad luck. We know that the penalty is expensive to implement and, if one is serious about preventing mistakes, cruelly slow.

For these reasons, among others, the international community has largely rejected capital punishment. Of the 193 United Nations members, 137 have abolished the death penalty either by law or practice. In 2013, only 22 countries conducted an execution. Only 8 conducted 10 or more: China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, and the United States. It's simply impossible to imagine the United States remaining on this list for much longer.

The question is how much longer.

Those who hope that the end will come sooner rather than later have reached a momentous crossroads. One path requires a plodding march to eradicate the death penalty state by state. This route isn't entirely hopeless. Indeed, Maryland, Nebraska, and Connecticut have abolished the death penalty since 2013, and 4 other states have governor-imposed moratoriums. But most of the low-hanging fruit has been picked, and the remaining states will be increasingly intransigent. It's easy to imagine Texas, which has executed 530 people since 1976, holding out for a very long time.

The potentially faster track is to seize upon Justice Stephen Breyer’s dissent last term in Glossip v. Gross - in which he comprehensively challenged the constitutionality of capital punishment - and push a case to the Supreme Court. This path is not without its own perils, which need to be understood in historical context. In 1963, Justice Arthur Goldberg issued his own maverick dissent against the death penalty. Perceiving an opportunity, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund began a systematic litigation campaign, culminating in a 1972 decision, Furman v. Georgia, ruling that the death penalty as it was then practiced was unconstitutional. The victory was short-lived. Following a massive backlash, the Supreme Court reversed direction four years later and upheld revised capital punishment laws that included modest procedural protections.

Breyer is saying that he believes Kennedy's vote is available.

Many observers believe that the net of the Legal Defense Fund’s well-intentioned efforts was negative and that the 1976 decision, Gregg v. Georgia, set back the death penalty abolition movement by decades. In the last Gallup poll before Furman, 50 % of respondents said they favored capital punishment. After Gregg, support soared to 66 % and reached an all-time high of 80 % in 1994. The numbers have been dropping since then - down to 61 % in the latest poll. The risk is that if abolitionists do press a case to the Supreme Court and lose, public opinion might surge again, believing that the court has somehow fixed the problems with the death penalty.

Following Breyer's dissent, the need to confront this dilemma has taken on an increased sense of urgency. In the New York Times, Adam Liptak made public the split in the death penalty community over whether a case should be pressed to the Supreme Court. As I reported last year here in Slate, it's a complicated gamble with reasonable arguments on both sides. But those who urge caution today are drawing the wrong lesson from history.

Breyer's dissent means more than Goldberg’s did. When Goldberg and his law clerk Alan Dershowitz penned the opinion, only one legal scholar had ever advanced the argument that the death penalty constituted cruel and unusual punishment. Certainly no Supreme Court justice believed it to be unconstitutional. Quite consciously, Goldberg was beginning a conversation.

Breyer's dissent, by contrast, is situated in a judicial-political conflict that has been running for nearly four decades. The modern battle turns entirely on Justice Anthony Kennedy. On one side, it's clear that Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas and Chief Justice John Roberts will never vote against the death penalty. On the other side are Breyer and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who joined Breyer in saying that the death penalty violates the Constitution. Though they didn't sign on to Breyer's dissent, Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor are safe bets to reject capital punishment if and when the issue is ever put before the court again. Everything comes down to Kennedy.

Over the past 13 years, Kennedy has joined a series of decisions limiting the use of the death penalty for juveniles, child rapists who did not kill, and people with mental retardation. In the juvenile and child rapist cases, Kennedy wrote the majority opinions and cast the decisive vote. In Hall v. Florida, another 5-4 case, he again wrote the majority decision holding that mental retardation couldn't be determined by a hard-and-fast numeric rule, which Florida and other states had used to limit the impact of the Supreme Court's ban. Executing an intellectually disabled individual, Kennedy wrote, with the colorful rhetoric that characterizes his most passionate opinions, "violates his or her inherent dignity as a human being" and serves "no legitimate penological purpose."

Breyer isn't beginning a conversation. He is saying that he believes Kennedy's vote is available. A student of history, Breyer knows the impact that Goldberg's dissent had on the bar. Breyer wouldn't issue a dissent so clearly evocative of Goldberg's unless he wanted to send a loud and clear message that he believes the time is right for abolitionist leaders to push an Eighth Amendment challenge to the Supreme Court.

Breyer could be wrong, of course. Any student of this history knows that it has been fraught with unpredictable twists and turns. But abolitionists have more reason for optimism than the Legal Defense Fund did in 1972, when no one believed they had a chance of winning Furman v. Georgia, and they also have less to lose. For one thing, there are few, if any, lesser battles to be contested before the Supreme Court. Almost all the exceptions to the death penalty one could imagine have already been carved out. For another, it's hard to imagine an adverse decision galvanizing support for the death penalty, as it did in 1976.

The truth is that despite decades of public education campaigns by abolitionists and abundant evidence that the death penalty is unreliable and ineffective, the public opinion dial hasn’t moved very much. Since Gregg, support for the death penalty has never dipped below 60 % in Gallup's annual poll, and for each of the past seven years it has come in between 61 and 65 % in favor.

More importantly, public opinion is firmly entrenched in the states that drive the "American" death penalty. Really, it makes no sense to speak of capital punishment as national policy. The death penalty is almost entirely a Southern phenomenon, driven by a handful of states - and really, as research by the Death Penalty Information Center shows, a handful of prosecutors in a handful of counties within those states. Since 1976, Texas has accounted for 37 % of American executions. Texas plus 2 other states - Oklahoma and Virginia - are responsible for a majority of executions. In Texas, polling shows 73 % support for the death penalty. In Oklahoma it's 74 %. If capital punishment is going to end in these outlier Southern states, the U.S. Supreme Court will need to act.

Today's opportunity may not present itself again soon. Justices die. Presidential elections and Senate confirmations are unpredictable. It's possible to imagine that a stronger majority against the death penalty will emerge on the court someday. It's just as possible to imagine that another bare majority won't again emerge this century. That's why Breyer's invitation needs to be taken so seriously.

The direction of history's arrow is clear. Capital punishment will end. But to finish this fight once and for all, abolitionists at some point will need to seize the moment and force the Supreme Court to a decision. There may not soon again be another moment so promising as this one.

(source: Evan Mandery is a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and author of A Wild Justice: The Death and Resurrection of Capital Punishment in


GOP Candidates Suck Up to Hatemongers

Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, and Mike Huckabee fete a man who thinks the Bible says we should execute gays.

Sometimes I think Republicans get a bad rap from mainstream journalists, who tend to be more sympathetic to liberals and Democrats. The problem may be particularly acute when it comes to social conservatives, whose views seem especially unpopular among journalists.

But right now 3 conservative Republican presidential candidates are mostly getting a free pass from the media on their appalling judgment over the weekend.

Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, and Mike Huckabee spoke at a conference in Des Moines called "Freedom 2015: National Religious Liberties Conference," a 2-day event that began last Friday. Now, that doesn't sound so bad. In fact, my colleagues at the Cato Institute and I have recently defended the rights of Hobby Lobby, the Little Sisters of the Poor, and the bakers and photographers who don't want to participate in same-sex weddings.

But this conference was about something far different from liberty, although you wouldn't know that from bland media coverage like this CBS News article. So it's a good thing that The Daily Beast and Rachel Maddow of MSNBC picked up the story, with video from People for the American Way's RightWingWatch.

The conference was organized by Kevin P. Swanson, a minister in Colorado and host of the Generations Radio Show. Swanson is part of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the far-right fundamentalist Christian Reconstructionism movement, which author Walter Olson wrote about at length in 1998. Swanson gave the conference's opening and closing talks and interviewed Cruz, Jindal, and Huckabee. And in his closing keynote address, Swanson ranted at length about topics that would hardly be characterized as religious liberty:

YES! Leviticus 20:13 calls for the death penalty for homosexuals. YES! Romans Chapter 1, Verse 32, the Apostle Paul does say that homosexuals are worthy of death. His words, not mine! And I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And I am not ashamed of the truth of the word of God. And I am willing to go to jail for standing on the truth of the word of God.

To be sure, he did say that "civil leaders" should not apply the death penalty today, not until the culture has changed and gays have been put on notice that they must repent or be put to death. Thanks for small favors, I suppose. But it's also worth noting that at least 2 other speakers at the conference likewise have advocated the death penalty for gay people.

And as Maddow notes, this is not just something that the conference host has said in the past, though he had said it plenty of times, as a Google search would have revealed. This is what he said in the keynote address at the conference attended by 3 candidates for president.

That wasn't the full extent of the crazy at the conference. As the gay website Towleroad reported:

Swanson has also said that the government should put gay people to death, warned that the Girl Scouts and the movie "Frozen" turn girls into lesbians and blamed natural disasters on gay people and women who wear pants. Swanson has also said that churches accepting gay couples will lead to the persecution, imprisonment and murder of Christians, and wished for the good ole days when country singer Kacey Musgraves would have been hanged for her pro-gay lyrics.

Jake Tapper asked Cruz about his attendance at the conference, and Cruz responded that he did not "know what this gentleman has said" but that religious liberty is a very important issue. Would Cruz accept that answer from a presidential candidate who spoke at a conference where the host and keynoter yelled "God damn America" or said that Christians should be executed? I doubt it. He should be asked about his participation again, as should Jindal and Huckabee.

And American conservatives should be asked if they find all this acceptable. Can you actually support presidential candidates who stand on such a stage, answering questions from such a person?

If the 3 Democratic presidential candidates accepted the invitation of, and answered the questions of, an equally extreme leftist, a person who advocated the execution of peaceful people he disliked, conservatives everywhere would be outraged. I hope they start holding their own candidates to the same standard.

(source: David Boaz is executive vice president of the Cato