and Updates (as of 12/22/96)

MAY 26, 2016:


Stop the execution of Jeff Wood in TX!

Please sign and share this petition for Jeff Wood. TX has set his execution for August 24th - despite the fact that he killed no one. Jeff's sister sits on the CEDP's board and is a fierce advocate against the death penalty.

Jeff was sentenced under the Law of Parties - which allows the death penalty for those who aid in felony murder. Even if a person did not harm anyone, they can still get the death penalty if they were involved in a crime where someone else killed a person, because they should have "anticipated that a human life would be taken."

For more information:

(source: CEDP)


State Supreme Court Ruling On Abolishment Of Death Penalty Expected Thursday

The Connecticut Supreme Court is expected to release its ruling Thursday on whether to uphold or overturn its decision last year to abolish the state's death penalty, including for inmates on death row.

The justices ruled 4-3 last August that the death penalty was unconstitutional for all - including 11 convicts on Connecticut's death row - following the legislature's abolition 3 years ago of capital punishment in Connecticut. Lawmakers made the law prospective, meaning it applied only to new cases and kept in place the death sentences already imposed on those facing execution before the bill was passed.

Attorneys for those on death row challenged the law, saying it violated the condemned inmates' constitutional rights. The ruling last August came in the case of Eduardo Santiago, who had faced the death penalty for the December 2000 killing of Joseph Niwinski in West Hartford. Santiago has been resentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release.

In the August ruling, the justices in the majority wrote that executing an inmate "would violate the state constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment" and that the death penalty "no longer comports with contemporary standards of decency."

In October, the high court denied a request by the chief state's attorney to postpone the Santiago decision, a ruling that followed its denial of a request by prosecutors to re-argue Santiago.

Prosecutors then filed briefs arguing for the Santiago decision to be overruled in the pending appeal of Russell Peeler, who was sentenced to death for ordering the 1999 killings in Bridgeport of 8-year-old Leroy "B.J." Brown Jr. and his mother, Karen Clarke. The justices heard arguments on those briefs in January.

Prosecutors said in deciding the Santiago case, the court "did not confine its analysis" to the actual claim raised -- whether enacting the 2012 law invalidated the death sentences of those sentenced before the law went into effect. The court made its ruling, prosecutors said, "for reasons having little or nothing to do with" enactment of the 2012 law and "erred in its ruling on lines of analysis and authorities the parties had not discussed."

Prosecutors also argued that the justices relied on "flawed historical analysis" to justify their "departure from well-established principles of law" and incorrectly determined that state residents prior to the 1818 constitution gave the high court the authority to act independently to invalidate a penalty.

Prosecutors said the justices' "new insights" into Connecticut history came from Lawrence B. Goodheart's book "The Solemn Sentence of Death: Capital Punishment in Connecticut," which actually says, according to prosecutors, that the legislature, not the court, "has been the historical source for both limiting capital punishment and providing relief to those sentenced to death."

Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers, who joined with Justice Carmen E. Espinosa and Justice Peter T. Zarella in the August dissents, wrote then that "every step" of the majority's opinion was "fundamentally flawed." During the arguments last January, both the majority and minority raised concerns about the idea of a reversal following the retirement of Justice Flemming Norcott Jr., who had joined with justices Richard N. Palmer, Dennis G. Eveleigh and Andrew J. McDonald to ban capital punishment. Norcott was replaced by Justice Richard A. Robinson.

"Why shouldn't the court be concerned that every time there's a hotly contested 4-3 decision ... that this isn't just going to become a numbers game, that the parties will then wait until somebody retires or leaves the court and raise the issue again?" Rogers said. "It just seems like a very slippery slope."

"At a minimum," Palmer said, "it looks awfully odd to have a case of this magnitude decided differently within months simply because the panel changes. That's really what would be happening here."

But Senior Assistant State's Attorney Harry Weller countered that citizens' confidence in the judicial system is harmed if a wrong decision stays in place and that it is the court's job to fix it.

"This court's ultimate responsibility is to uphold the Constitution and to get the law right," he said.

Public defenders for Peeler made several arguments against overruling the Santiago decision in court briefs, pointing foremost to the legal doctrine of "stare decisis" -- letting decided issues stand. Senior Assistant Public Defender Mark Rademacher told the justices that the state faced an "uphill battle" in getting the ruling reversed.

"What the state is asking this court to do ... is simply breathtaking," Rademacher said at the January hearing. "It is asking this court to overrule a long line of cases that have affirmed the court's authority as a constitutional matter to protect the citizens of this state against cruel and unusual punishment."

(source: Hartford Courant)


Death penalty weighed in Easter double homicide in Henrico

A Henrico man could face the death penalty in the double slaying of his parents on Easter Sunday.

William Roy Brissette, 22, is charged with 2 counts each of capital murder and use of a firearm in the deaths of his parents, Henry J. Brissette III, 59, and Martha B. Brissette, 56. He appeared in Henrico Circuit Court on Wednesday for a hearing.

His face was emotionless when he entered the courtroom. After he was released from handcuffs, William Brissette hugged himself as if he were cold and broke into visible tremors throughout the hearing.

His fiery red hair, which he inherited from both parents, was buzzed close to his scalp, and he wore a thin beard. The back of his neck was covered in red blemishes.

When Judge James Stephen Yoffy asked Brissette if he understood he faced the possibility of life in prison or the death penalty if convicted on the capital murder charges, he spoke so softly it was difficult to hear.

Several family members attended the hearing, including Martha Brissette's brother and Henry Brissette's sister; the couple's daughter was not in court. They sat on the far side of the courtroom gallery opposite from William Brissette, who kept his eyes forward.

Capital murder is a 1st-degree murder under a specific set of circumstances - in this case, the killing of more than 1 person and the killing of more than 1 person within 3 years. It is punishable by death or life imprisonment.

Whether Brissette faces the death penalty is left up to Henrico Commonwealth's Attorney Shannon Taylor. After the hearing, Taylor said the death penalty hasn't been "taken off the table."

Taylor said there are multiple psychological and mental health issues, which may prove to be "an aggravating factor or a mitigating factor."

Police responded to mental health calls at the Brissette home in the 3800 block of Forge Road, where Brissette lived with his parents, on 2 occasions within 5 months of the deaths of Martha and Henry Brissette. William Brissette was arrested at the home on March 27 shortly after a 911 call was made.

The court appointed Doug Ramseur, a capital defender, to help in Brissette's defense, which is led by veteran attorney Jeffrey Everhart. Ramseur said nearly all capital cases involve a mental health component, and that Brissette would be evaluated before a trial.

Ramseur told the judge it could take up to 2 years to prepare the case for trial.

Another hearing was set for June 2 to set a trial date.

(source: Richmond Times-Dispaptch)


Suspected priest killer to face death penalty trial

The man accused of killing a Florida priest in Burke County has been indicted and District Attorney Ashley Wright filed notice this week that she intends to seek the death penalty.

The Burke County grand jury on May 19 indicted Steven James Murray, 28, on charges of murder and weapon violations in the April 18 fatal shooting of the Rev. Rene Robert of St. Augustine, Fla.

Investigators believe Murray tricked Robert, who was trying to counsel the former Aiken resident, into going to Aiken to visit Murray's children on April 10. When Murray was denied access to the children, Murray forced Robert into the trunk of Robert's Toyota and proceeded to commit a number of burglaries and an arson in Aiken, according to earlier reports.

Murray told investigators that he pulled off the side of the road at one point, took Robert from the trunk and shot him there. The following week, Murray agreed to show law enforcement where he killed Robert, which was off River Road in Burke County.

According to the notice of the intention to seek the death penalty, Wright listed 4 statutory aggravating circumstances: the slaying was committed while Murray was committing kidnapping with bodily injury, Murray killed the priest while engaged in aggravated battery, that Murray killed Robert for money or something of value, and Robert's slaying was outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible or inhuman in that it involved torture, depravity of mind, or aggravated battery on the victim.

Murray has been previously represented by the public defender office for the Augusta Judicial Circuit. Since his case is now a death penalty case, it will be assigned to the Atlanta-based Capital Defender office.

(source: Augusta Chronicle)


District Attorney to seek death penalty against man accused of kidnapping, killing St. Aug priest

Steven James Murray is accused in the death of Father Rene Robert of St. Augustine back in April could face the death penalty.

Murray was indicted by a Grand Jury in Burke County, Ga. last Thursday and on Wednesday of this week, the District Attorney filed a letter of intent to seek the death penalty against Murray.

Murray faces 1 count of murder in Father Rene's death, 1 count of aggravated battery, 1 count of felony false imrpisonment 1 count of possession of a firearm while committing a crime and one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, according to court documents



State appeals in case overturning death penalty law

The state has filed an appeal in a Miami-Dade County case in which a circuit judge struck down a law that allows death sentences to be imposed without unanimous jury decisions.

The appeal, which had been expected, was filed last week in the 3rd District Court of Appeal, according to an online docket.

Circuit Judge Milton Hirsch ruled May 9 that unanimous jury decisions are required in imposing death sentences, rather than recommendations from majorities or super-majorities of juries.

The issue deals with the sentencing phase of death-penalty cases after defendants are found guilty.

Hirsch's ruling came after a series of events that started in January when the U.S. Supreme Court found that Florida's death-penalty sentencing system was unconstitutional because it gave too much power to judges, instead of juries.

State lawmakers then passed a measure to revamp the sentencing process to try to address the Supreme Court's ruling.

As part of that new law, judges cannot impose the death penalty without receiving a recommendation from at least 10 jurors.

In the past, a majority of jurors could make such a recommendation.

Hirsch wrote that unanimity is required, as he ruled in a 1st-degree murder case involving defendant Karon Gaiter.


Local mother voicing her concerns

The fight over Florida's death penalty procedures will stretch into the summer.

The state supreme court is expected to hear arguments on one of the biggest issues in the debate. One local mother will continue her push to see the death penalty thrown out in the murder trial of her daughter's accused killer.

On Thursday night, Darlene Farah will talk about the death penalty and the trauma inflicted on victims of crime. The event is called "Not in My Name". Her daughter Shelby would have turned 23-years-old today.

Police say she was shot and killed by James Rhodes during a robbery at the Brentwood cell phone store where Farah was working at in 2013.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. Farah's mother wants Rhodes to spend the rest of his life behind bars. It's all part of the debate causing a lot of confusion in Florida courtrooms.

On what would have been Shelby Farah's 23rd birthday, her mother Darlene, prepares for another chance to be her voice.

Farah is speaking about something very personal, something she believes to be right- a chance to make a difference.

"It's going to be non-stop. It's to bring awareness to the death penalty," said Farah.

Awareness and compassion- for Farah, every time she sees the man charged in Shelby's murder, she feels victimized all over again. She says the trauma of not being able to move forward is real. She's not alone. "The victim's families are reaching out to me to let their story be heard. They've been pushed away," said Farah.

With Florida's death penalty now in the legal forefront, the process is drawn out more.

Back in January, the United States Supreme Court ruled Florida's death penalty sentencing process unconstitutional. Florida lawmakers rushed to make changes after that, the current law says 10 of 12 jurors must recommend death.

Since then, a circuit judge in Miami-Dade struck that down, saying the recommendations need to be unanimous. Lawmakers are expected to discuss that in June.

The process is still ongoing. But for Farah, this is about something much bigger than legalities. She also wants to see changes in the system. That starts with juveniles who've been in trouble.

"12-year-olds, 15-year-olds, that are being tried as adults and they get 25, 30 years and we all know what's going to happen. I mean they're going to end right back in the system," said Farah. "It's basically, to break the silence. They are their loved one's voice and they need to be heard."

"Not in my Name" starts at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Mount Sinai Baptist Church and will last about 2 hours. A lot of people are speaking- including 2 men who were on death row but have since been exonerated. We'll also hear from someone specializing in behavioral health to talk about trauma this puts on families.

(source for both:


Death penalty battle reaches high court

A legal battle over whether the death penalty question will be put to Nebraska voters in November reached the state's highest court Wednesday.

Death penalty opponents Christy and Richard Hargesheimer of Lincoln contend the petition drive that gathered some 169,000 signatures should be deemed invalid because those behind it had failed to disclose Gov. Pete Ricketts as a sponsor.

But the state and a pro-death penalty group both contend that even though Ricketts and his father contributed one-third of the $913,000 raised by Nebraskans for the Death Penalty and his close allies took roles to promote it, it didn't make the governor a sponsor.

Last year, the Hargesheimers sought an injunction to keep Secretary of State John Gale from placing the question on the ballot. In February, Lancaster County District Judge Lori Maret dismissed it, and the couple appealed to the Nebraska Supreme Court.

In oral arguments Wednesday, an attorney for the couple got 15 minutes to make his case for why Maret's decision should be reversed and to answer questions from the Supreme Court justices before attorneys for Nebraskans for the Death Penalty and the state got a shared 15 minutes to argue why the decision should stand.

Nebraska law requires proponents to file a sworn list of every sponsoring person, company or association of a referendum prior to gathering signatures but it does not define how one qualifies as a sponsor, and many of the justices' questions went to that issue.

Lincoln attorney Alan Peterson, who represents the Hargesheimers, made 2 arguments. One, that Ricketts was a sponsor; and two, that the statement wasn't sworn.

Asked how he would define sponsor, Peterson said a reasonable approach would be to define it as the primary initiating force.

He said to meet the requirements set out in the 2003 decision in Loontjer v. Robinson, "it seemed to us ... the public has to be informed who is behind the initiative or referendum."

"Who is the initiator, the instigator?"

But Assistant Attorney General Ryan Post argued that Peterson's proposed standard is "unworkable and would chill involvement in the democratic process."

He and Omaha attorney Steven Grasz, who represents the pro-death penalty group, said sponsors are those who assume statutory responsibility for a referendum once a petition process begins.

"It's a question of law. It's not a moving target," Grasz said.

He said the other side was "grasping at straws" in raising one additional issue: Alleging it was an error for Judge Maret to consider a sworn statement of petition sponsors in her decision to dismiss the lawsuit.

He said Peterson hadn't raised the issue of whether the document was sworn until a reply brief to the Supreme Court, so he couldn't raise it now.

"It's very clear that the decision in this case really had nothing to do with whether she took judicial notice of the document or not. It's a question of law and it was decided on the face of the complaint," Grasz said.

At most, he argued, it was harmless error, and therefore not worth a reversal.

Peterson said he raised the issue in response to a misstatement of facts. He argued the statement listing sponsors was not sworn because those who signed it were not under oath and that the judge was wrong to rely on it in reaching her decision.

"There is a difference," Peterson said, "and it is critical."

The Supreme Court took the case under advisement.

Last week, Maret heard arguments in a 2nd suit involving the same petition. In that case, Beatrice attorney Lyle Koenig is challenging the title and explanatory statement, drafted by Attorney General Doug Peterson, that would appear on the ballot if it does go before voters.

She hasn't yet ruled on that case.

(source: Lincoln Journal Star)


In shock move, convicted Berkeley murderer says he'll take the stand

Darnell Williams Jr. has been found guilty of 2 murders and faces either the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole. Today, as it was winding up, his trial took a new, surprising turn. Williams who has extensive and longstanding impulse-control problems suddenly said he wanted to testify - against the advice of his attorneys.

His attorneys said it wasn't the 1st time they had discussed the subject, but were not expecting the announcement Wednesday, just as they were about to rest their case in the "penalty phase" of the trial.

At the end of testimony, the Alameda County jury that found Williams guilty earlier this month of 2 murders will make a sentencing recommendation to Judge Jeffrey Horner: either the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The 2-person defense team had just completed questioning the woman they said would be their final witness - forensic psychologist Gretchen White - when the attorneys and judge said they needed to have a brief discussion out of the presence of the jury.



Why We Must Stand Against The Death Penalty, Even In The Case Of Racist Murderer Dylann Roof

Note: the following is adapted from a 2013 essay the author co-wrote with former ThinkProgress reporter Zack Beauchamp, "The Case Against The Death Penalty For Dzhokhar Tsarnaev."

Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced on Tuesday that federal prosecutors will seek the death penalty against Dylann Roof. And, indeed, if anyone deserves such a consequence for his actions, it is this particular individual. Roof allegedly joined a Bible study group at an historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, waited for the parishioners to close their eyes in prayer, and then opened fire upon them. 9 people died, including the church's senior pastor, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney. Roof later confessed to the killings. He told friends that he wanted to start a "race war."

So Dylann Roof presents one of the strongest possible cases for the death penalty. He stands accused of a racist act of terror, and there is little doubt about his guilt. And yet, even in this case, the argument for pursuing a death sentence against Roof does not hold up.

We are a nation of laws, and our most fundamental law says we cannot create a brutal, rarely applied punishment targeting just a handful of crimes.

The best argument for the death penalty is that it deters people from committing homicides in the first place, an argument that suggests we should execute far more people than just Dylann Roof. If you think the death penalty is about deterrence, then more executions means less crime. By killing the guilty, we can potentially save innocent lives.

The deterrence argument, however, is doubtful at best. According to Dartmouth University statistician John Lamperti, "an overwhelming majority among America's leading criminologists [have concluded that] that capital punishment does not contribute to lower rates of homicide." While some studies do claim a deterrent effect, these studies are based on tiny data samples that yield doubtful results. As Yale Law Professor John Donohue explains, death sentences are "applied so rarely that the number of homicides it can plausibly have caused or deterred cannot reliably be disentangled from the large year-to-year changes in the homicide rate caused by other factors." Murder rates in states without the death penalty are consistently lower than those in states that do sentence people to die.

Meanwhile, few institutions expose the hazards inherent in government-mandated punishment more nakedly than the death penalty. Capital cases are difficult and incredibly expensive for prosecutors. As a consequence, the wealthy and privileged, who have the resources to hire outstanding legal counsel, are very rarely executed. The people that are convicted, by contrast, tend to be poor and disproportionately non-white. Nor is such arbitrariness limited to the way we distinguish among defendants, as the way we dole out death sentences also gives the lie to any claim that America values all human life equally. According to one study, defendants who kill high-status white people with college degrees are 6 times more likely to be sentenced to die than defendants who kill black victims closer to the margins of society.

Indeed, there is simply no escaping the role that race plays in determining death sentences. To take 1 demonstrative statistic from an ocean of them, 6 % of murders in Alabama involved black defendants and white victims, but 10 times that percentage of black death row inmates were convicted of murdering whites.

The death penalty also kills innocent people. Roughly 139 death row inmates have been exonerated since 1973, 61 % of whom were people of color. At least 10 innocent people that we know of have been executed - and these are only the ones that we know of.

These 3 realities - the impact of wealth, the disparate treatment based on race, and the risk of killing innocents - are themselves reasons why the death penalty should not exist. But are they arguments against applying it, so long as it does exist, in the most heinous of cases?

Roof isn't just a white man, he is a white man who admits to committing a brutal hate crime. Unlike many capital defendants, Roof has outstanding counsel - 1 of his attorneys defended Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as well as 80 other individuals accused of homicide. And there is very little doubt that Mr. Roof is guilty.

The Charleston massacre is as horrible a crime as one can imagine, so Roof’s case raises the difficult question of whether America can limit executions to only the most heinous crimes - at least under circumstances where the defendant's guilt isn't in question and there's no evidence that his trial will be conducted unfairly in any fashion. Can we limit death sentences only to people as evil as Roof appears to be?

The simplest answer to this question is that we are a nation of laws, and our most fundamental law says we cannot create a brutal, rarely applied punishment targeting just a handful of crimes. The Constitution forbids "cruel and unusual punishments. So as a punishment becomes more "unusual" - or, in the Supreme Court's words, as it no longer can be squared with "evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society" - it stands on increasingly weaker constitutional ground.

Indeed, it is likely that the death penalty is already unconstitutional under this rule. The number of death sentences has been on the decline in the United States, but not principally because of legal reforms limiting the death penalty to a small number of cases: it's a combination of full legal abolition in some jurisdictions and the spread of anti-death penalty norms among citizens and prosecutors in others. 60 % of U.S. counties have stopped seeking the death penalty entirely as a punishment for any crime.

One study of death sentences and executions from 2004-2009 discovered that just 10 % of counties returned a single death sentence, and only 1 % of counties produced more than 1 death sentence. Just 4 states made up 65 % of national new death penalty convictions. In 2011, there were an estimated 14,612 murders in the United States, but only 43 executions. In 2015, only 6 states performed executions, killing a total of 28 individuals. That's down over 70 % from 1999, when annual executions peaked at 98.

These data strongly suggests that executions no longer comport with our "evolving standards of decency." We are increasingly uncomfortable with death sentences, and unwilling to execute people.

But beyond the cold language of the law, there is a deeply personal reason why we should not preserve the death penalty simply for the most heinous criminals like Roof. If you think the death penalty is a just response to murder or important to provide victims' families with closure, then trying to limit it to a small number of multiple murders makes no sense. Why does taking one life not merit death, while taking 2, 3, or any other arbitrary number does? Why is the pain of one victim's family any less important to address than the pain of families whose loved one was part of a multiple murder?

There are many families that deserve the satisfaction of knowing their loved one's murderer received society's stiffest sanction for their crime, and it's far from clear that the death penalty fills that need better than life without parole - indeed, it may even prolong a families' grief. Yet the moment we say 1 victim, or set of victims, must be avenged by death, we lose the ability to consistently limit the death penalty's application to rare cases - and the uncertainty and arbitrariness that plagues capital sentencing generally comes flooding back. When life without parole is the harshest penalty our courts dole out, such a sentence will stamp everyone who receives it as among the very worst criminals without opening the door to an unjust and unconstitutional policy.

So the death penalty is arbitrary. It discriminates on the basis of race and income. It kills the innocent. It is unconstitutional. And it may even deepen the wounds of families already grieving from the most terrible tragedy imaginable. Even in the worst of cases, it cannot be justified.

(source: Ian Millhiser,


Church slaying families accept pursuit of death penalty

Several family members of the 9 people gunned down at a historic black church in Charleston say they support decisions by state and federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty for the man charged in the slayings.

Steve Hurd, whose wife, Cynthia, was among those killed June 17 during Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal, said he won't be at peace until Dylann Roof is put to death.

"What would give me full closure would be if I were the one who pushed the plunger on the lethal injection, or if I were the one to pull the switch on the electric chair or if I was the one to open the valve on the gas chamber," he told The Associated Press on Wednesday. When "Roof's body is cold, sleeping in the ground - that's closure."

Roof, 22, faces 9 counts of murder in state court and hate crimes and other charges in federal court. The killings reignited discussions about race relations and led to the removal of a Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina Statehouse. Roof, who is white, had previously posed for photos with a rebel flag.

This week, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced that federal prosecutors would seek the death penalty. South Carolina Solicitor Scarlett Wilson announced her decision in September. Roof's state trial is scheduled for next year. No date has been set for his federal trial.

When Roof faced a judge last summer, family members of the victims told him they forgave him for his alleged crimes. Their expressions of grace and sympathy, in the face of their own monumental pain, moved many.

"As we said in Bible Study, we enjoyed you," said Felicia Sanders, whose son Tywanza was killed. "But may God have mercy on your soul."

In a statement released through Roof's lawyer at the time, his family said they had been "touched by the moving words ... offering God's forgiveness and love in the face of such horrible suffering."

Both state and federal prosecutors have spent time consulting with relatives of the shooting victims over the pursuit of the death penalty, and Roof's federal attorneys have said their client would be willing to plead guilty if the maximum punishment weren't on the table.

Due in part to problems in obtaining lethal injection drugs, no one has been executed in South Carolina since 2011. The federal government hasn't put anyone to death since 2003.

"There is no room in our society for hatred and racism," Hurd's brother Malcolm Graham said. "I support the attorney general's decision to seek the death penalty. I believe he should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

On Wednesday, a portrait was set to unveiled in the South Carolina Senate to remember Sen. Clementa Pinckney, the pastor at Emanuel who was killed in the attack. Pinckney had been a state senator since 2001.

(source: Associated Press)


Prosecutors Still Using Race to Choose Juries in Death Penalty Cases, Despite Century of Supreme Court Rulings

Tuesday's 7-1 Supreme Court decision in Foster v. Chatman was a huge victory for Timothy Foster, a 49-year-old Black man who has been on Georgia's death row for 29 years. The ruling also reflects a systemic problem with the death penalty: prosecutors' repeated, deliberate use of race to choose jurors. This practice alone makes capital punishment so fundamentally unfair that we must end it.

In 1987, Foster had been convicted of murdering a white woman and was sentenced to death by an all-white jury. During jury selection, the prosecutors in his case deliberately eliminated potential Black jurors based on their race. Those prosecutors violated the Constitution when they excluded those jurors, and yesterday the Supreme Court held them to account. The justices struck down Foster's conviction and death sentence and ordered a new trial because it's unconstitutional to choose jurors according to race.

While this ruling may save Foster's life, it doesn't represent a big advance in the law. The court applied a legal doctrine that was already a settled principle: prosecutors may not use race as a basis to select - or exclude - jurors. In fact, the Supreme Court has been condemning racial bias in jury selection in capital cases since 1880 when it outlawed the practice in Strauder v. West Virginia. But more than 100 years after the court's 1st decision on this problem, and 40 years into our modern experiment with the death penalty, widespread racial bias continues in jury selection for capital cases. We continue to send people to die from trials tainted by racial bias.

In criminal cases, prosecutors and defense counsel are each granted "peremptory strikes," whereby each side is permitted to dismiss a set number of potential jurors. A handful of studies have undertaken systemic investigations of prosecutors' use of peremptory strikes in capital cases. Each one has uncovered damning patterns of discrimination, showing disproportionate strikes of Black jurors by prosecutors.

Most recently, a 2015 study of prosecutor strikes in Caddo Parish, Louisiana, found that prosecutors struck Black jurors at 2 to 3 times the rates of other jurors. An extensive study of strikes in capital cases in Philadelphia found prosecutors struck Black jurors at twice the rates as other jurors. Here in North Carolina, researchers conducted the only state-wide study and found the same All across the state, city and country alike, discrimination against qualified Black jurors remains depressingly constant.

During jury selection, if the defense can point to some signs that prosecutors are using their strikes in a discriminatory manner, the prosecutors will be required to give explanations for their strike decisions. In Foster, the Supreme Court criticized the prosecutors' "concerted effort" to keep Black people off the jury in the Georgia case, as well as their "shifting explanations" and "misrepresentations" to the courts intended to camouflage those efforts. Foster involved the rare indisputable proof of discrimination: Prosecution notes showed a planned strategy to avoid selecting any Black jurors.

.In North Carolina, we litigated extensively jury discrimination practices in four capital cases. (All four were recently sent back from the North Carolina court for new hearings on their claims alleging discrimination.) As in Foster, we found handwritten notes showing racially influenced jury selection in individual cases. Even worse, we uncovered evidence that several prosecutors were trained in how to provide canned explanations for why they removed Black jurors. A statewide prosecutor training handed out a cheat sheet with a list of the top 10 explanations for use in responding to allegations of racial bias. Prosecutors were instructed to complain of the juror's "age," or body language - 2 of the very same explanations offered by the prosecutors in Foster to hide their discrimination.

With so much evidence of racial bias in jury selection for capital cases, we know the damage is too pervasive for our courts to rectify. After more than 100 years of racially biased jury selection, the inescapable truth is that capital punishment can't be squared with the Constitution or any other commitment to equality. It's time to shut it down.

(source: Cassandra Stubbs, Director, ACLU Capital Punishment


2 Prisoners Hanged in Southern Iran

2 prisoners were reportedly hanged in Shiraz (Fars province, southern Iran) on Tuesday May 24.

According to the human rights news agency, HRANA, one of the prisoners, identified as "Hadi Shekasteh", was hanged at Adel Abad Prisoner on drug charges. According to the Baloch Activists Campaign, the other prisoner's name is "Moslem Mahmoud Zehi Khash". It is not known at this time what charge Mr. Zehi Khash was sentenced to death for and whether he was executed in a prison or in public. Iranian official sources, including Iranian state run media and the Judiciary, have been silent on these 2 executions.

Iranian authorities have ramped up the number of executions in the lead up to Ramadan.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Verdict: PHC stays execution of militant

A division bench of the Peshawar High Court suspended the execution of a militant who was awarded death sentence by a military court and sought record of his trial. The bench, comprising PHC Chief Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel and Justice Ikramullah Khan, heard a writ petition on Wednesday. The petition was filed by Alam Khan through his counsel Barrister Amirullah Chamkani. Chamkani said the petitioner's brother Muhammad Umar, a resident of Battagram, was arrested by intelligence agencies on August 10, 2014 from Mansehra. The counsel said little was known about his whereabouts since then. However, his family came to know on May 3, 2016 that he was awarded the death penalty by a military court and his execution was approved by chief of army staff. He said the convict was sentenced to death on charges of having affiliation with militant organisations, carrying out attacks on security forces and keeping explosives.

(source: The Express Tribune)


Australian woman caught with 3 kilos of heroin at Vietnam airport

Police and customs officers at Tan Son Nhat Airport on Thursday arrested an Australian national for attempting to smuggle around three kilograms of heroin to Australia.

The 76-year-old woman hid the drug in 5 jars of fermented fish paste among other items in her luggage.

She said she owed gambling money to some people in Australia and they forced her to smuggle the drug over to clear the debt. The heroin is estimated to have a street value of around US$720,000.

Vietnam has some of the world's toughest drug laws. The production or sale of 100 grams of heroin or 300 grams of other illegal narcotics is punishable by death.

Those convicted of possessing or smuggling more than 600 grams of heroin or more than 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine also face the death penalty.

(source: Thanh Nien News)


MHA: Sole purpose of the applications by Kho's counsels was to try and delay his execution

Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued a media statement on 26 May 2016 stating that there had been several inaccurate points made in relation to the legal process in the case of Kho Jabing, a Malaysian national who has been executed on 20 May 2016. It went on to state that sole purpose of the applications by Kho's counsels was to try and delay his execution.

MHA noted that Kho had been represented by counsel throughout the whole process and was given every opportunity to file appeals and apply for re-sentencing and petition the President for clemency.

After amendments were made in 2012 on the laws on the death penalty in Singapore, Kho was re-sentenced to life imprisonment and 24 strokes of the cane after an appeal to the High Court.

The prosecution, however, appealed the re-sentencing and the case was brought to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal then proceeded to overturn the previous ruling and reversed the sentence back to death sentence in 2013.

In 2015, the court rejected his application for clemency.

On 23 November 2015, Kho was granted a temporary reprieve pending the outcome of a petition filed by his lawyers, which raised questions of fact and law.

MHA said that the above process by Kho's counsels was a pattern which was to be repeated more than once subsequently.

On 6 April this year, the Court of Appeal lifted the temporary reprieve after dismissing the appeal and upheld its decision to impose the death penalty on Kho Jabing, saying that it observed that there were in reality no new arguments.

On 19 May, Lawyer, Gino Hardial Singh filed a criminal motion citing grounds of apparent bias on the part of Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang, who had sat on both Jabing's appeals. He argued Justice Andrew Phang's involvement in the 2013 appeal essentially involved the judge deliberating over an appeal against his own decision - the one made in 2010.

However, this criminal motion was dismissed by the Court of Appeal.

On that same day, an originating summons was filed by lawyer, Ms Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss. She challenged the constitutionality of certain aspects of the amendments to the mandatory death penalty in Singapore.

Mrs Chong-Aruldoss had sought a stay of execution pending the scheduling of a hearing date for her application to be heard and was given 9am, the next day for the application to be heard.

MHA's view is that while lawyers' reasons were ostensibly that they were going to make new arguments. But in fact, there were no new arguments and said that it appeared that the sole purpose of the applications was to try and delay the execution which had been set for 20 May 2016.

The 5 judges in the Court of Appeal which JA Phang again sat in, dismissed all the applications on 20 May.

Tthe Court of Appeal said that Kho's multiple court applications after the conclusion of his appeal were an abuse of court process. MHA noted that it had said in its judgment in April this year that the case was to come to an end.

The government decided to hang Kho in the afternoon of Friday after the temporary stay of execution was lifted in the morning. Hangings in Singapore always take place at dawn on Friday until Kho's execution on 20 May 2016.

The full media statement of MHA as follow below.

Several inaccurate points have been made in relation to the legal process in the case of Malaysian national Jabing Kho ("Jabing").

Jabing brutally killed a person in 2008. Jabing continued to strike the victim multiple times even though the victim stopped retaliating after the 1st blow. The victim suffered 14 fractures to the skull with severe haemorrhage in 3 areas. Jabing was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 2010.

Jabing was represented by counsel throughout. He was given every opportunity to file appeals, apply for re-sentencing consequent to amendments to the mandatory death penalty regime under the Penal Code, and petition the President for clemency.

Following the conclusion of the legal and clemency process in 2015, Jabing was initially scheduled to have his sentence carried out in November 2015. However, he instructed his lawyers at the last minute, after the date for the execution was set, to rush to Court to try and get a stay, based on 'new' arguments which he wanted to raise. This was a pattern which was to be repeated more than once subsequently. The Court of Appeal ordered a stay of execution, and agreed to hear the arguments. The Court of Appeal, after hearing the arguments, dismissed them, in April this year. It also observed that there were in reality no new arguments.

The date for execution was then set for 20 May 2016, and Jabing and his family were informed. New lawyers were then instructed to file a last-minute criminal motion to the Court of Appeal on Wednesday, 18 May 2016. Their applications were dismissed by the Court of Appeal. Then another 2 sets of new lawyers were instructed, to file yet another set of 2 applications at the last minute. The lawyers' reasons were ostensibly that they were going to make new arguments. In fact there were no new arguments. It appeared that the sole purpose of the applications was to try and delay the execution which had been set for 20 May 2016.

The Court of Appeal dismissed all the applications. The Court of Appeal said that Jabing's multiple court applications after the conclusion of his appeal were an abuse of court process. The Court of Appeal also noted that it had said in its judgment in April this year that the case was to come to an end.

After the Court of Appeal dismissed the applications, the sentence was carried out, on the date which had been fixed, 20 May 2016.



Malmesbury woman fights to save pen-pal prisoner from Nevada death row

A mother from Malmesbury who is campaigning to get a man released from death row in Nevada after 13 years of imprisonment says poor publicity in national newspapers is a small price to pay in her fight for justice.

Katie Menham, 25, of Newnton Grove, began writing to prisoner Julius Bradford 6 months ago and believes he does not deserve to die.

Unknown to Mr Bradford, the Blue Cross volunteer has started a petition lobbying Governor Brian Sandoval, the Governor of Nevada, to release him from death row.

Miss Menham said: "I am one of those goons that wants to try and change the world. I saw this website advertising writing to prisoners, and I was intrigued so I had a look. I didn't want to write to someone who was a murderer or anything like that and then I found Julius.

"If you read his letters, he is so eloquent and not what you would expect."

The 25-year-old, who is also doing a degree in advanced counselling and advanced psychology, said those around her have been quite supportive after reading his letters, but she has received criticism too, especially after her story was published in national papers this week.

Miss Menham said: "I read it and I didn't say most of that. They have made me sound like a nutter. I am taking it on the chin - at the end of the day it is raising awareness and if that comes at the expense of my reputation that is fine. I have my freedom but Julius doesn't.”

The campaigner also hit back at the suggestions that she would introduce her four-year-old son Alfie to the prisoner if he was released.

"I am not suddenly going to introduce him to a stranger that I have never met that is in prison, let alone any stranger," she said indignantly. "Alfie doesn't know I write the letters, I write when he is in bed or in school - he's four and he doesn't even know about my university course."

"In our letters, we talk about our lives and not once have we ever talked about his conviction but I have to do something.

"He deserves to serve his sentence, but he doesn't deserve to die for something he didn't do. There is probably not a great deal I can do from Malmesbury to be honest but I want to raise awareness of his case.

"For people who are not sure about this, read up on the case and you will see it is quite a shocking miscarriage of justice. Everyone makes mistakes and although this is a big mistake, he should serve his punishment but he doesn't deserve to die."

Mr Bradford and 2 others were charged in March 2004 with murder with use of a deadly weapon and armed robbery with use of a deadly weapon, which resulted in the death of Benito Zambrano-Lopez on June 8, 2003. One of the group, 16-year-old Tyrone Williams was identified as pulling the trigger but all three men were charged with murder.

This month, pharmaceutical company Pfizer announced new controls that would prevent its drugs being used to make lethal injections, preventing executions in a number of states including Nevada.

Miss Menham added: "I don't agree with the death penalty anyway and if this helps Julius' case, I'm not going to complain."

For more information about the campaign, visit



UN rights office 'deeply concerned' about possible imminent executions in Gaza

Expressing concern about possible imminent executions in Gaza, the United Nations human rights office today urged the authorities in Gaza to uphold their obligations to respect the rights to life and to a fair trial and not carry out death penalty.

"We also urge the Palestinian President to establish a moratorium on executions in line with the strong international trend towards ending the use of the death penalty," said spokesperson Rupert Colville of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

He said that the office is "deeply concerned about recent statements made by the authorities in Gaza, including the Attorney General, of their intention to implement a number of death sentences, and fear that the first executions may be imminent."

The Gaza authorities' statements follow the demands of several families for the death penalty to be carried out against individuals accused of killing their relatives.

Death sentences may only be carried out in extremely limited circumstances, and pursuant to a trial and appeals that scrupulously follow fair trial standards, he said, adding that the office has serious doubts as to whether capital trials in Gaza meet these standards, and is concerned about reports indicating that these executions will be implemented without the approval of the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, which is required under Palestinian law.

Media reports indicating that the sentences could be carried out in public also raise alarm, as this is a practice prohibited under international human rights law, the spokesperson said.

(source: UN News Centre)


Shabaab bombing suspects to know fate

A Ugandan court is due on Thursday to give its verdict on 13 men tried for masterminding a 2010 bombing by the al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab that killed 76 people.

The July 2010 suicide bombings claimed by Somalia's Shabaab targeted football fans watching the World Cup final between the Netherlands and Spain at a restaurant and a rugby club in Kampala, and were the region's worst attacks in more than a decade.

"There are 13 suspects and the judgement is expected to be delivered today," judiciary spokesman Solomon Muyita told AFP Thursday.

All have pleaded not guilty.

Judge Alfonse Owiny-Dollo is expected to deliver his verdict at the High Court in Kampala, and could apply the death sentence if the men are found guilty.

"It has been a long trial, but all will come to end today when the judgement will be delivered," Muyita said.

The suspects have been tried on a range of charges including terrorism, murder and membership of a terrorist organisation.

2 men were already found in guilty in 2011 for their role in the attacks.

Edris Nsubuga, who admitted terrorism charges, was spared the death penalty because he expressed contrition over the carnage and was jailed for 25 years. Co-accused Muhamoud Mugisha received 5 years for conspiracy to commit terrorism.

The Kampala trial was delayed after the lead prosecutor was murdered in March 2015. Joan Kagezi, acting assistant director of public prosecution, was shot dead by men on a motorbike as she drove home with 3 of her children.

Al-Shabaab continues to target countries in the region, carrying out the 2013 assault on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi that killed at least 67 people, and the attack on Kenya's Garissa university in April 2015, killing at least 148 people.

Thousands of Ugandan troops form the backbone of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the UN-backed force established to fight the Shabaab Islamists and protect the internationally recognised government.

(source: Agence France-Presse)


Indonesia introduces death penalty and chemical castration for paedophiles----President Joko Widodo introduces new measures after the brutal gang-rape and murder of a schoolgirl

"This regulation is intended to overcome the crisis caused by sexual violence against children," President Joko Widodo said late Wednesday at the presidential palace in Jakarta.

"Sexual crimes against children are extraordinary crimes, because they threaten the lives of children."

The presidential decree brings the new punishments into immediate effect, although parliament could later overturn it.

Widodo was spurred into action after the murder and gang-rape in April of a 14-year-old girl, who was set upon by a gang of drunken men and boys as she walked home from school on the western island of Sumatra.

Her battered body was found 3 days later in woods, tied up and naked. 7 teenagers, aged 16 and 17, were jailed earlier this month over the assault.

The attack sparked a national debate on sexual violence, led to calls for harsher punishments for child sex offenders and prompted protests in the capital Jakarta.

The case has drawn comparisons with the fatal gang-rape of a student on a bus in Delhi in 2012, which sparked mass protests and led to an overhaul of India's rape laws.

Indonesia is likely to draw fire for expanding its use of the death penalty. Jakarta has faced criticism for use its use of capital punishment against drug traffickers, and sparked international outrage last year when it put 7 foreign drug convicts to death by firing squad.

Under previous laws, the maximum sentence for rape - including of a minor - was 14 years in jail.

By introducing chemical castration, Indonesia joins a small group who use the punishment worldwide, including Poland and some states in the US. In 2011, South Korea became the 1st Asian country to legalise the punishment.

Widodo did not give further details about tagging suspects with monitoring devices. Local media previously reported that a microchip could be implanted in child sex offenders' legs on their release from jail.

(source: The Guardian)

MAY 25, 2016:


Jury To Mull Death Penalty Arguments In Sisters' Slayings

A jury must determine whether a Pittsburgh man deserves the death penalty or life in prison for killing his next-door neighbors, 2 sisters of an Iowa state lawmaker, while stealing a bank card from them in February 2014.

The same jury convicted 45-year-old Allen Wade of 1st-degree murder and other charges in the deaths of Sarah and Susan Wolfe. The jury will hear closing arguments in the penalty phase of Wades murder trial Wednesday. The jury must then unanimously vote for the death penalty, otherwise Wade gets life in prison.

The women were sisters of Democratic Iowa state Rep. Mary Wolfe when Wade shot them, separately, as they returned from work that night. Allegheny County prosecutors say he used the card to withdraw $600 he needed for rent.



Attorneys battle over whether death penalty should end up on November ballot

A legal battle over whether the death penalty question will be put to Nebraska voters in November reached the state's highest court Wednesday.

Death penalty opponents Christy and Richard Hargesheimer of Lincoln contend the petition drive that gathered some 169,000 signatures should be deemed invalid because it failed to disclose Gov. Pete Ricketts as a sponsor to those signing.

But the state and a pro-death penalty group both contend that even though Ricketts and his father contributed one-third of the $913,000 raised by Nebraskans for the Death Penalty, the governor was not a sponsor.

Last year, the Hargesheimers sought an injunction to keep Secretary of State John Gale from placing the question on the ballot. Lancaster County District Judge Lori Maret dismissed it in February, and the couple appealed to the Nebraska Supreme Court.

In oral arguments Wednesday, an attorney for the couple got 15 minutes then attorneys for Nebraskans for the Death Penalty and the state got a shared 15 minutes to state their position and answer questions from the Supreme Court justices.

Nebraska law requires a sworn list of sponsors of a referendum be provided but does not define how one qualifies as a sponsor, and many of the justices' questions went to that issue.

Lincoln attorney Alan Peterson, who represents the Hargesheimers, said a reasonable approach would be to define sponsor as the primary initiating force. Further, he said, it seems like "the public has to be informed who is behind the initiative."

But Assistant Attorney General Ryan Post said that proposed standard is "unworkable and would chill the democratic process."

He and Omaha attorney Steven Grasz, who represents the pro-death penalty group, contended that sponsors are those who assume statutory responsibility for a referendum once a petition process begins.

Grasz said the other side was "grasping at straws" in raising one additional issue: Alleging it was an error for Judge Maret to consider a sworn statement of petition sponsors in her decision to dismiss the lawsuit.

He said Peterson hadn't raised the question until a reply brief to the Supreme Court, so couldn't raise it now.

"It was a question of law and it was decided on the face of the complaint," Grasz argued.

At most, Grasz said, it was harmless error, and therefore not worth a reversal.

On the other side, Peterson said he raised the issue in his reply brief in response to a misstatement of facts. He argued a statement regarding sponsors was not sworn because those who signed it were not under oath and that the judge was wrong to rely on it in reaching her decision.

"There is a difference and it is critical," he said.

The Supreme Court took the case under advisement.

(source: Lincoln Journal Star)


Child Rapists Face Death Sentence Now As President Approves New Law

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has approved a law prescribing the death penalty as the maximum sentence for child rapists, after several brutal gang rapes sparked public outrage in the country.

Sexual violence is prevalent in Southeast Asia's most populous country, but gang rape is unusual.

Social media erupted in calls for harsher punishment following a case early this month, in which a group of men was charged with raping and killing a schoolgirl in Bengkulu in the western island of Sumatra. The case prompted rights groups to accuse the government of not doing enough to protect women and children, and provoked a tweet by Widodo himself seeking punishment of the perpetrators, although his call came more than a month after the event.

Today however, Widodo said those responsible for sexual abuse of children, as well as repeat sex offenders, could also face chemical castration and be tagged with an electronic chip to track their movements, citing the law he signed.

"Sexual violence against children is an extraordinary crime," Widodo told a news conference at the presidential palace. This regulation is meant to overcome (such) incidents, in which we have seen a significant rise."



Indonesian president introduces death penalty for child rapists

President Joko Widodo on Wednesday (May 25) signed a government regulation in lieu of the law approving the death penalty as a maximum sentence for sexual crimes against children.

According to the regulation, offenders could face chemical castration and be monitored with an electronic chip tracking their movements. Other forms of punishment included in the bill extend to life imprisonment, as well as a minimum of 10 to 20 years in jail.

"Sexual violence against children is an extraordinary crime," the President said at a news conference at the presidential palace, adding that he hoped the regulation would keep perpetrators in check and discourage sexual crimes.

The harsher stance for child rapists and perpetrators of sexual violence against children comes after activists and masses called for reform, in the wake of the brutal gang rape and murder of a 14-year-old-school girl in Bengkulu on the western island of Sumatra in April.

The incident erupted on social media after activists spoke out, sparking public outrage and prompting protests in the capital.

The National Commission on Violence against Women reportedly gets 35 cases of sexual violence towards women every day. Indonesia meanwhile sentences rapists to a maximum of 14 years in prison.



17 Prisoners Executed in Alborz Province

According to Iran Human Rights (IHR) sources 17 prisoners have been executed in 2 different prisons of Karaj (west of Tehran) on 24 and 25 May.

IHR had previously reported about the scheduled execution of 2 groups of prisoners in Karaj. 6 prisoners were transferred on Sunday (May 22) from the Karaj Central Prison and at leats 8 were transferred from Rajaishahr on Tuesday (May 24) in preparation of execution.

According to close sources the 6 prisoners from the Central Prison were hanged in Gehzelhesar prison of Karaj yesterday morning May 24. All the prisoners were charged with drug offences.

Sources have also reported about the execution of 11 prisoners in the Rajaishahr prison of Karaj early this morning. 10 of the prisoners were charged with murder and 1 was sentenced to death charged with rape. 1 of the prisoners identified as "Mehdi Rajaei" was reportedly under 18 years of age at the time of alleged offence.

IHR is currently investigating to find more details regarding whether Mehdi Rajai was a minor offender.

IHR strongly condemns the new wave of executions in the Iranian prisons. Near 60 people have been executed in different Iranian prisons since the beginning of May. Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson of IHR said: "Despite the alarming rate of executions the international community has not shown any reaction yet. We urge the UN, EU and all countries with diplomatic relations with Iran to condemn these executions and call for an immediate moratorium for the death penalty in Iran".

(source: Iran Human Rights)


State Council deliberates on draft law of new Omani Penal Code

Oman's penal code, covering rulings for the most serious crimes, could see changes since it was first adopted in 1974.

The State Council has been holding marathon sessions to make amendments to the law. Of the code's 398 articles, Council members discussed 172 on Tuesday at a meeting that lasted from mid-morning to early evening.

The discussions will continue on Wednesday to prepare the code before it is sent to His Majesty the Sultan.

Among the major proposals is setting a limit on the number of years in life sentences. During its earlier review of the code, the Majlis A'Shura, recommended setting it at 25 years. At Tuesday's meeting however, State Council members disagreed with the proposal and argued to keep life sentences indefinite. They did agree, however, that a convict could be released early subject to good behaviour.

Another key change could be to allow pardons in crimes like murder that warrant the death penalty. If the family of the victim agrees to a pardon, the death sentence could be commuted to life term, a State Council member told the media.

Members also discussed electronic publishing, child protection and the method of classifying government companies as government property, among others.

Amendments to the penal code originated with the Council of Ministers before heading to the Majlis A'Shura for recommendations and to the State Council.

Several other measures too are up for debate.

These include changing the method of execution from hanging to firing squad and adding a new section on combating piracy and assault on shipping vessels.

The new law also addresses the situation of crimes committed by expatriates.

According to one clause, expatriates who commit a crime abroad may be held accountable for that in the sultanate.



Sudanese pastor may face death penalty after five month illegal detention

Fears were raised a Sudanese pastor could face the death penalty after the government reportedly planned to charge him with crimes against the state.

Sudanese officials have engaged in a crackdown on Christians, according to ICC.

Pastor Taour was arrested on December 21 and has not been allowed to speak to his family or lawyers until this week. His attorney insisted there was no case against him but may face charges that carry the death penalty.

"We believe there is no case," Attorney Mohaned Mustafa told International Christian Concern (ICC). "I think the case will be sent to the court this month."

It was announced on May 10 that the Sudanese Attorney General would take over Taour's custody, a sign that he would soon be charged. Although Sudanese law dictates charges must be bought within 45 days of arrest, Taour had been held for more than five months before he was charged.

It is believed the pastor now suffers a stomach ulcer due to his treatment and was only recently allowed to see his family for the first time.

ICC's regional manager for Africa, Troy Augustine, said the Sudanese government's treatment of Taour followed an "unsurprising pattern that has continued for decades". He said the north African state had shown itself to be an "enemy of religious freedom and one of the prime persecutor's of the church in Africa".

Augustine said: "As Sudan continues to harass and unfairly detain church leaders, the state proves itselfto stand for human rights and religious freedom under the law, but hypocritical and contradictory in practice."

However Augustine said there was still hope for Taour as "Sudan often responds to international pressure.

"ICC calls on everyone concerned to voice your protest with the Sudanese Embassy."



DOH's Garin favors reimposition of death penalty 'for some cases'

Health Secretary Janette Garin on Wednesday said she is in favor of the reimposition of the death penalty, but only "for some cases."

"I am very much supportive na ibalik yung death penalty for some cases because when I was in Congress, we were not comfortable with taking that away," Garin, a former Iloilo representative, said at a forum. In 2012, during her term as lawmaker, Garin threw her support behind House Bill Nos. 4084 and 3993, which sought the reimposition of the death penalty on capital crimes.

However, she said bringing back capital punishment, which was abolished in 2006, should be accompanied with cleansing of the justice system so that only the truly guilty would be executed. Pushers Among the criminals Garin wants to be given the death penalty are drug pushers who use minors in their illegal trade. She said she heard reports of this during the ill-fated music concert in Pasay City over the weekend where 5 people died. "It's actually double jeopardy, we thought we were trying to protect our children. Eto, situation is very clear, the children are being used and abused," Garin said.

"Effects Police said 2 of the 5 fatalities in Sunday's concert died due to massive heart attack, which Garin said was a possible outcome of consuming the drugs distributed at the concert grounds.

"Masyado siyang upper, bibilis yung tibok ng iyong puso made-dehydrate ka, yung iba, yung BP niya magsho-shoot up. Yung iba nagha-hallucinate, they perspire, they become extremely dehydrated, mag re-renal failure 'yan, iba maghe-heart attack," she explained. Garin said the suppliers had no rights to take away "the future of our country" by supplying the dangerous drugs to teenagers and young professionals who merely wanted to have a good time.



Mom rejects plea deal, still faces death penalty in death of daughter----Andrea Bradley, Glen Bates accused of killing toddler

A mother charged with the murder of her 2-year-old daughter will take her chances with a jury, she told the court during a Wednesday hearing.

The parents of a 2-year-old girl are facing murder charges in her death and could face the death penalty if convicted.

Andrea Bradley, 29, of Cincinnati, declined a plea deal which would have taken the death penalty off the table.

The accusations against Bradley and her boyfriend Glen Bates, 33, of Cincinnati, are disturbing - that's why the prosecutor is asking for the death penalty.

Bradley and Bates are charged with the death of 2-year-old Glenara Bates.

The girl was taken to Children's Hospital in March 2015, where she died a short time later.

Prosecutors described disturbing injuries - including bite marks, belt marks and broken teeth.

She weighed just 13 pounds when she died. The coroner said starvation and blunt force trauma were the cause of death.

As Bradley came into court before Judge Robert Ruehlman Wednesday morning, it was still unclear if the deal would go through.

Her defense attorneys explained that they had a potential agreement in place that would have taken the death penalty off the table, but Bradley turned it down. Her attorney Will Welsh went on the record today to make it clear she knows the stakes of going to trial.

"By continuing on this path she is exposed to the possibility of receiving a death sentence and she fully acknowledges that, understands, and wishes to proceed," Welsh said.

Rather than admit to killing her daughter, she will head to trial.

Another member of her defense team, Scott Rubenstein, described the plea offer as "the holy grail" in a death penalty case - avoiding death row.

"That was on the table and we'd be in a position to argue for a possibility that she would be paroled at some point, but she's not comfortable with that and we have to respect what our client wants to do," Rubenstein said.

Her attorneys could not discuss why she turned down the deal.

Bradley's father was at the courthouse on Wednesday. He didn't want to talk on camera, but he said his daughter has mental health problems and he was happy she did not accept the plea.

But talk of a deal may not be done yet.

"Obviously, if there is a way to resolve it short of that and avoid the death penalty that's something that we'll certainly consider and I hope our client will too," Rubenstein said.

Bradley will be back in court on this case next month. This could go to trial later this year.

Bates is scheduled for trial in September, where he could also face the death penalty.

(source: WLWT news)

TEXAS----new execution date

Convicted killer in 1996 Kerrville slaying set to die

A convicted killer on death row for a January 1996 fatal robbery in the Texas Hill Country is set to die later this summer.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark said Monday the agency has received court documents setting 42-year-old Jeffrey Wood for lethal injection Aug. 24.

Wood's 2008 execution was stopped by a federal judge for testing to determine if Wood was mentally competent for capital punishment. Testing showed he was competent and other courts now have upheld those findings.

Wood was convicted under the Texas law of parties, which makes the participant in a capital murder equally culpable of the crime. Evidence showed his roommate, Daniel Reneau, fatally shot 31-year-old Kerrville store clerk Kriss Keeran. Both men then robbed the store.

Reneau was executed in 2002.



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

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

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

20---------June 2-------------------Charles Flores--------538

21---------June 21------------------Robert Roberson-------539

22---------July 14------------------Perry Williams--------540

23---------August 10----------------Ramiro Gonzales-------541

24---------August 23----------------Robert Pruett---------542

25---------August 24----------------Jeffrey Wood----------543

26---------August 31----------------Rolando Ruiz----------544

27---------September 14-------------Robert Jennings-------545

28---------October 19---------------Terry Edwards---------546

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

*******************----impending executions

Charles Flores of Texas Receives Execution Date of June 2, 2016

Charles Don Flores is scheduled to executed at 6 pm CDT, on Thursday, June 2, 2016, at Walls Unit of the Huntsville State Penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas. 46-year-old Charles is convicted of the murder of 64-year-old Elizabeth Black on January 29, 1998, in Farmers Branch, Texas. Charles has spent the last 17 years of his life on Texas' death row.

Charles never graduated from high school, dropping out after the 11th grade. Charles had a history of drug abuse and sniffing gasoline. Charles also claimed that he was abused as a child. Charles had previously been convicted for robbery and possession of cocaine. He worked as a laborer prior to his arrest.

During the morning hours of January 29, 1998, Charles Flores, Richard Childs, and several others were using methamphetamine and marijuana. Around 3:00 am, Flores and Childs left in Childs' Volkswagen and met up with Jackie Roberts. The trio went to buy more methamphetamine from Terry Plunk, and acquaintance of Jackie.

After purchasing the drug, Flores insisted that they had been shortchanged. Jackie told Flores that there was cash hidden at the home of Jackie's husband's parents' home and that she would pay for the missing amount of drugs. Jackie's husband was Gary Black. Child and Flores took Jackie home, and went to Childs' grandmother's house to use the recently purchased drug, before leaving again.

On January 29, 1998, the neighbors of the Black family noticed that the garage door had been left partially open, which was unusual. Neighbor Jill Bargainer told police that she had seen 2 men exit a Volkswagen, which was corroborated by other neighbors. The men were also seen rolling under the partially opened garage door. The following day, Jill was able to identify Childs as the driver of the vehicle and was able to describe the passenger, whom she later testified was Flores.

Inside the home, police found Gary's mother, Elizabeth Black shot to death, along with the family dog. Additionally, a potato was found in the sink and potato was splattered on the wall, likely an attempt at silencing the gunshot.

The day after the murder, Flores told a friend that he had shot the dog, but that Child's shot Elizabeth. 2 days after the murder, Flores and Child disposed of the Volkswagen, by lighting it on fire. They then stole another vehicle.

Childs was arrested shortly thereafter, with ammunition matching what was found at the crime scene, along with a weapon. Police also discovered a pair of gloves, which contained starch grains consistent with those from a potato.

Flores was arrested on April 18, 1998, after being stopped by a police officer in Kyle, Texas. Flores gave police a false name and failed field sobriety tests. He was arrested, after making several attempts to resist arrest, for driving while intoxicated. Police did not discover his connection to Elizabeth's murder until after he had been released on bond.

Flores was again arrested on May 1, 1998, after a high-speed chase through a residential neighborhood, that ended with a head-on collision. Flores again resisted arrested, fleeing and fighting law enforcement officials when they attempted to handcuff him.

On July 10, 1998, Flores attempted to escape police custody at a hospital, threatening the officer escorting him, attempting to steal his weapon, and threatening the hospital staff with pepper spray.

Flores was convicted and sentenced to death on April 2, 1999. Flores insisted that he is innocent of the crime. He also says his family and friends were threatened with prison time if they testified on his behalf and supported his alibi.

Please pray for peace and healing for the family of Elizabeth Black. Please pray for strength for the family of Charles Flores. Please pray that if Charles is innocent, lacks the competency to be executed, or should not be executed for any other reason, that evidence will be presented prior to his execution. Please pray that Charles may come to find peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, if he has not already.


Texas Gives Robert Roberson Execution Date of June 21, 2016

Robert Leslie Roberson III is scheduled to be executed at 6 pm CDT, on Tuesday, June 21, 2016, at the Walls Unit of the Huntsville State Penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas. 49-year-old Robert is convicted of the murder of his 2-year-old daughter Nikki Curtis, on January 31, 2002, in Palestine, Texas. Robert has spent the last 13 years of his life on Texas' death row.

Robert dropped out of school after the 10th grade. He had previously been convicted on more than 1 count of burglary. Robert had previously worked as a cook, construction worker, welder, and laborer.

Nikki Curtis was living in Palestine, Texas with her father, Robert Roberson, who had won a custody battle. Also living with them was Roberson's girlfriend, Teddie Cox, and Teddie's daughter Rachel. During the week of January 31, 2002, Teddie had been admitted overnight to the hospital for a hysterectomy, while Nikki was babysat by her maternal grandparents.

On January 30, the grandparents called Roberson to pick up Nikki, as one of them was sick. According to Teddie, Roberson was upset that he had to retrieve his daughter, but did so.

The following morning, Teddie called, saying she had been discharged and needed a ride home. Roberson told Teddie that Nikki was not breathing and he would need to come to the hospital anyway. Teddie implored Roberson to bring Nikki to the hospital immediately.

When Nikki arrived at the hospital, she was not breathing and her skin was blue. She was pronounced dead later that day. While hospital staff was attempting to save Nikki's life, they also discovered the Nikki had been sexually assaulted. When asked what had happened, Roberson stated that Nikki had fallen off her bed.

Roberson was convicted and sentenced to death on February 21, 2003.

Please pray for peace and healing for the family of Nikki. Please pray for strength for the family of Robert Roberson. Please pray that if Robert is innocent, lacks the competency to be executed, or should not be executed for any other reason, that evidence will be presented prior to his arrest. Please pray that Robert will come to find peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, if he has not already.

(source for both:


Baker reiterates death-penalty support in wake of officer's slaying

Following the killing of an Auburn police officer, and a shootout that resulted in a dead suspect and a wounded state police trooper, Gov. Charlie Baker said a different approach to criminal justice might be warranted and he believes police killers should be executed.

Jorge Zambrano, 35, reportedly died in a shootout after allegedly killing Auburn Police Officer Ronald Tarentino Jr., a 1991 Tewksbury High graduate, early Sunday morning. He reportedly fired on police who discovered him in a neighbor's closet Sunday.

News media have reported on Zambrano's extensive criminal record, and questions have arisen in the courts and with the governor. In an interview on Boston Herald Radio on Tuesday Baker wondered "why this guy was free in the first place?"

"We should make adjustments if we need to, especially with respect to how this guy despite his rap sheet and everything else managed to be sort of slapped on the wrist and had his last 2 trips to court continued without a finding, which is just odd, and led to some horrible consequences," Baker said.

The governor also cautioned that as more information comes out, it can be difficult to separate fact from speculation.

Paula Carey, the chief justice of the Trial Court, expressed "deepest condolences" to Tarentino's family and said the Trial Court was seeking to determine whether the justice system should have taken more action on the man who allegedly killed him.

"Jorge Zambrano had both past and pending cases in the court system including serving a 7-year state prison sentence," Carey said in a statement. "We are carefully examining all of the circumstances regarding Jorge Zambrano's criminal history in order to determine whether additional systemic steps should have been taken in his case."

Lawmakers, the governor and the chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court are backing a comprehensive study of criminal justice in Massachusetts. This session lawmakers removed a barrier for drug offenders to go back to driving after serving their sentences and imposed stricter penalties on those convicted of trafficking in the opiate fentanyl.

Baker said the Auburn police were "shattered" by the killing of their colleague and noted that police regularly put themselves in potentially deadly circumstances.

The death penalty was outlawed by the Supreme Judicial Court 3 decades ago. Baker said he supports imposing capital punishment on murderers who kill police.

"I don't know if it would pass but I've always said I would support the death penalty for people that shoot and kill a police officer," Baker said. "I don't think that's a close call."

Baker supported imposing the death penalty on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Boston Marathon bomber who with his older brother killed MIT Police Officer Sean Collier, a Wilmington native, in 2013. Tsarnaev was sentenced to death in federal court last spring. His brother died in an exchange with police in Watertown.



Convicted killer Stanko to remain on death row

There will be no post conviction relief for a man sentenced to death for a crime spree that raged through Horry and Georgetown counties leaving two people dead and a third severely wounded.

Stephen Stanko, 48, who has been living on South Carolina's death row since August of 2006, asked for relief for his Horry County crimes saying his attorneys didn't defend him adequately in his pretrial hearings and in his Horry County trial, and his appeal attorneys were inefficient in their appeal of his case.

He also argued that South Carolina's death penalty is unconstitutional.

Circuit Judge Benjamin Culbertson ruled against all of Stanko's claims, leaving his Horry County death penalty sentence intact.

Stanko still has a post-conviction relief request pending in Georgetown County.

Stanko was sentenced to death for the 2005 murders of Laura Ling and Henry Turner.

A Georgetown County jury found Stanko guilty in 2006 of killing Ling, a former librarian, and sentenced him to death. An Horry County jury reached the same verdict and sentence in 2009 for Turner's murder.

In the 2015 post-conviction hearing, Stanko's trial attorney Bill Diggs testified for 3 hours that he believed his client suffered from a brain defect, and that defect led him to commit murder.

Under methodical questioning from Stanko's PCR attorney Emily Paavola, executive director of the Death Penalty Resource & Defense Center, Diggs testified that Stanko's personality was inconsistent with the murders he was later found guilty of committing.

"He didn't seem to be the person who would intentionally do those things," Diggs testified.

In his PCR application, Stanko's attorneys argued that Diggs shouldn't have been allowed to represent Stanko in Turner's case because he had already represented him unsuccessfully in his Georgetown County trial when he was convicted of murder, 1st-degree criminal sexual conduct, assault and battery with intent to kill, armed robbery and 2 counts of kidnapping. Stanko's attorneys claim that Diggs had a conflict of interest because there was already a request for post-conviction relief on those charges claiming that Diggs had not defended him adequately.

But in his ruling filed in the Horry County Clerk of Court's Office this past week, Culbertson pointed out that Stanko was questioned and advised extensively regarding Diggs' representation with the PCR application pending, and, despite that, Stanko wanted Diggs to continue as his lawyer and he waived any conflict of interest that may have existed. The same issue was denied in Stanko's appeal, according to Culbertson's ruling.

Stanko's PCR application also claimed that his attorney didn't ask to have the trial changed to a different location before jury selection began in Horry County where his charges had received huge publicity.

But Culbertson says his criminal trial attorney did raise a motion to change the venue before jury selection. However, he said, the State objected to hearing the motion prior to jury selection, so Diggs consented to argue the motion after striking the jury, but before its members were sworn. Diggs also hired an expert, Dr. Tony Albiniak, who testified at the motion hearing that potential jurors are often not forthcoming in their responses during pretrial questioning.

Diggs argued the motion at the agreed time, but the motion was denied, Culbertson noted. The same claim was also denied in Stanko's appeal.

Stanko's attorneys also argued that the S.C. death penalty statute is unconstitutional "because [it] does not genuinely narrow the class of offenders eligible for a death sentence, ..."

But Culbertson said that issue was also dealt with in Stanko's appeal, and he wrote that the constitutionality of the death penalty act "is well settled."

Culbertson wrote that for a post-conviction relief application to be successful, the applicant must prove he is entitled to relief and to establish ineffective assistance of counsel, he or she must prove that a reasonable probability exists that, but for the counsel's errors, the result of the trial would have been different.

Culbertson found that different attorneys would not have secured a benefit more favorable to Stanko.

The request for PCR also argues that Stanko didn't get a fundamentally fair trial because the State presented "false and misleading, inaccurate and unreliable" expert testimony through Dr. Kenneth Spicer who compared Stanko's brain PET scan to an inappropriate database and testified that the PET scan was perfectly normal.

Stanko's defense team provided Dr. Joseph L. Chong-Sang Wu as a rebuttal to Spicer's testimony.

Stanko also believes his attorneys erred in the sentencing phase of his trial because they told the jury that Stanko's family didn't like him and pointed out that they didn't attend the trial; provided expert testimony that Stanko was a psychopath; and didn't investigate well enough his life history, background and mental health.

However Culbertson said this was a conscious decision by the attorneys who believed if they could persuade the jury that Stanko's family was so angry and disappointed with him that they felt justified in not coming to the trial that it would support his defense that he wasn't able to conform to normal behavior.

"Counsel's argument to the jury that Stanko's family was not in attendance at the trial was an intentional trial strategy to curry sympathy for his client," Culbertson wrote.

And, he wrote that providing an expert witness to confirm that Stanko is a psychopath was intended to shore up his insanity defense and make him appear less culpable by showing that he could not control his actions.

Culbertson says Stanko's attorneys did present Stanko's life history, background and mental health, most of which was gathered in the Georgetown County case.

The PCR hearing

When doctors diagnosed Stanko as a psychopath with a personality disorder, Diggs said he decided it was the best way to save Stanko's life, but Russell Stetler, a mitigation expert, said the psychopathy defense dehumanizes defendants in the eyes of a jury and is successful in only 9 out of every 1,000 cases because it immediately brings to jurors' minds thoughts of law breaking, callousness and a lack of empathy.

It doesn't resonate with jurors or make them want to be merciful, he said.

But, Diggs said, he thought Stanko was okay with the defense and was even happy to finally understand why he did the things he did.

He testified that Stanko was a very good student in his younger days and provided pictures from his high school prom that proved his popularity. Diggs also described him as talented, but things began to change for him between the ages of 15 and his mid 20s, he said.

He said Stanko is likeable when he's in 1-on-1 conversations and his problems come when he feels threatened.

Dale Davis, who acted as the mitigation expert in Stanko's Georgetown trial, turned down an offer to stay on the case in Horry County because she disagreed with Digg's plan to stick with the psychopathy defense.

In her mitigation investigation, she learned that Stanko's father was born in Cuba and was a strict military parent. She said Stanko graduated 11th in his class out of more than 200 students and seemed to be headed "for great things."

She didn't think that Stanko was mentally ill, but said she saw some obsessive-compulsive behavior in him.

Vicki Childs, the fact investigator and mitigation expert in the Horry County case, said she relied heavily on information collected in the Georgetown trial.

Childs' job was to review police and autopsy reports and to interview possible witnesses.

She said Diggs was so excited about a PET scan done by one of the doctors on the case that showed brain problems that he was like "a kid in a candy store."

She also said she felt badly for Stanko because there was no one willing to come to the trial to support him.

She testified that Stanko told her he was skeptical about the insanity defense, but agreed that he was happy to find out that there was some indication in his brain to show why he did what he did

Conway attorney Brana Williams, who assisted Diggs with the Horry County trial, testified in the 2015 PCR hearing that the defense team did all it could for Stanko.

Williams said the evidence against Stanko was overwhelming and that avoiding a death sentence was the primary goal in the trial.

"The facts of this case were terrible and as a defense lawyer you do your best to look for any type of explanation and, quite frankly, we were very limited. We just didn't have a lot to work with," she said.

Williams said the defense tried to show that Stanko had organic problems with his brain, and came from a dysfunctional family in hopes that the jury would sentence him to life.

"We were trying to show there's a reason he's like that and, in lieu of death, he should get a life sentence," she said. "He does have an issue and it's so bad his family won't have anything to do with him."



Attorney argues to toss inmate's death sentence

An attorney is asking the Mississippi Supreme Court to toss out the death sentence given to a man convicted of killing a family of 4 in 1990.

Attorney Alexander Kassoff argues that Anthony Carr has an intellectual disability and should not be put to death.

Jason Davis of the Mississippi Attorney General's Office argues that Carr's death sentence should be upheld because experts disagree about his intellectual abilities.

In a 2002 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court barred states from executing people who are mentally disabled. In 2014, the nation's highest court prohibited states from relying only on intelligence test scores to determine whether an inmate is eligible for execution.

Mississippi justices heard more than an hour of arguments in the Carr case Tuesday. They did not say when they will rule.

(source: Associated Press)


Attorneys for death row inmate seek more time for appeal

Attorneys for a Gary man sentenced to death for killing his wife and 2 teenage stepchildren have asked a magistrate to give him more time to sign a document needed for the case to be reviewed.

The attorney asked Lake County Magistrate Natalie Bokota for more time because 50-year-old Kevin Isom has repeatedly refused to sign the document, The (Munster) Times ( reports.

The Indiana Supreme Court last year upheld Isom's conviction and sentence. In January, Isom's public defense attorneys filed a petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that Isom's trial attorneys didn't do a number of things including not presenting his social and mental history during the penalty phase of the trial.

Bokota took the petition under advisement pending the filing of notarized documents. According to court records, Isom has refused to sign a document required for the petition to be reviewed, including twice refusing to sign it during hearings before Bokota.

Bokota then determined that the time for Isom to file the petition expired in January. Earlier this month, she asked the Indiana Supreme Court to vacate the previously scheduled Nov. 28 hearing for the petition.

Defense attorneys Joanne Green, Laura Volk and Anne Kaiser filed three motions asking Bokota to reconsider Isom's petition, arguing he is not making rational decisions. His attorneys argue Isom's behavior is consistent with how he has shut down during stressful situations in the past, including during his trial when he refused to attend a portion of the proceedings.

The motion argues Isom's mental health issues date back to his time growing up in Chicago's public housing projects where he was exposed to trauma that causes people to "emotionally withdraw in order to survive."

Bokota has given the attorneys for the state until June 3 to file a response.

Isom was convicted of murder in the 2007 shooting deaths of his 40-year-old wife, Cassandra, and 16-year-old Michael Moore and 13-year-old Ci'Andria Cole in the family's Gary apartment.

(source: Associated Press)


Will Oklahoma Change Execution Methods?

Tucked inside last week's scathing Multicounty Grand Jury report was a recommendation the state begin moving away from lethal injection. Instead jurors suggested the state hire experts to take a look at moving to nitrogen hypoxia; a suggestion that renewed arguments over the feasibility, legality and moral efficacy of Oklahoma's back-up execution method.

The Grand Jury had been investigating Oklahoma's recent problems in the execution of convicted murderer Charles Warner and scheduled executions of convicted murderer Richard Glossip.

The method of using Nitrogen Hypoxia pipes pure nitrogen into a facemask or a sealed hood around an inmate's head.

According to an unnamed doctor and unnamed professor who testified in front of the jury, the method would be "easy and inexpensive," "simple to administer" and "quick and seemingly painless."

The professor also gave anecdotal evidence from high altitude pilots who were trained to recognize symptoms of nitrogen hypoxia and said they did not feel "any feelings of suffocation, choking or gagging."

Oklahoma opponents of the method, and the death penalty as a whole, say there's no good reason to think the state would get executions right with a different method. The ACLU-Oklahoma linked the method to Nazi concentration camps and human experimentation.

"As a state, we will stand on the shoulders of such lauded men and Reinhart Heidrick and Adolf Eichman, pioneers in the Nazi SS, who developed technologies like hypoxia as ways to kill, not just 1 person, but a whole lot of people," ACLU-OK's Legal Director Brady Henderson said in a press conference one day after the report was released.

Hypoxia was signed into law as a back-up last spring, should lethal injection be deemed unconstitutional or if the drugs used become too hard to find. The latter has already begun to play out during a global shortage of key components to the state's lethal cocktail.

Many major pharmaceutical companies in Europe have said they will not allow their drugs to be used in lethal injections. Most recently the American pharma-giant, Pfizer, said it will follow suit, calling the use of its pharmaceuticals in executions a "misuse of medicines."

Currently, the Department of Corrections does not know how long it would take for the state to switch methods and they have no plans to use nitrogen hypoxia as a method, according to a spokesperson for the department.



State Sen. Colby Coash: Reinstating the death penalty won't fix the system

Voting to reinstate the death penalty in November won't solve any of the problems associated with executions, a Nebraska state senator who supports its repeal says.

"I want the voters to understand they're not voting to fix a system," State Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln said. "They're voting to keep a system that hasn't worked for 20 years and will continue to not work should the Legislature's decision be reversed."

Coash made stops in Kearney, Hastings and Grand Island on Monday as part of a tour for Retain A Just Nebraska, a public education campaign to urge the retention of Legislative Bill 268, which the Nebraska Legislature approved to end the death penalty. Voters will decide in November's general election if they want to keep the measure because death penalty supporters gained enough signatures to place the issue on the ballot.

Coash, a Republican, said he's touring the state to offer voters the same information he had as a senator so they can make an informed decision at the polls.

"The No. 1 message we've been sending is that this is a broken system,' he said. "We can't get the drugs. It's getting more difficult to get drugs, and now we've gotten ourselves into a situation where we're just not being fair to victims on this issue."

Last year, the state tried to import 2 lethal injection drugs from India, but the attempt was unsuccessful and cost $54,500. 1 of the drugs - sodium thiopental - is no longer made by U.S. manufacturers and many foreign suppliers having stopped providing it for use in executions.

Nebraska's last execution occurred in 1997, and 10 inmates currently sit on death row. Repealing capital punishments doesn't mean that those inmates will be eligible for parole, Coash said.

"Life means life," Coash said. "If they're sentence to that, they'll die in prison. That's the important thing I want people to understand. I don't want voters to go out there and think that they need to reverse what the Legislature did just to keep people from getting out of prison."

Coash said he and the other legislators in support of the death penalty repeal did not come to their decision lightly, and that Nebraskans across the state have also voiced their support for the decision for a variety of reasons, from faith-based to economic and practical concerns.

"It's indisputable that this is a broken system. If we executed somebody 3 years ago, I couldn't stand here and say, 'No, we're not doing it, so it's not working,'" he said. "We may feel good about having it (the death penalty) on the books, but that doesn't mean it will be used. That's something both sides have to weigh."



'They die in prison.'

Nebraskans who want to keep the death penalty off the books in Nebraska took a proactive step last week to reassure Nebraskans that when a murderer is sentenced to life in prison, it means just that.

The anti-death penalty group included some Nebraskans who can speak with consummate authority.

Here's what retired District Court Judge Ronald Reagan had to say:

"I want to make sure there is no legal confusion," Reagan said. "Life imprisonment means life in prison, no chance of parole. Anything else is legal posturing and has no grounding in the legal realities."

Reagan ought to know. He's the judge who sentenced John Joubert to death. John Joubert, a sadistic serial killer convicted of stabbing 2 boys to death, died in the electric chair in 1996. He was one of the last people to be executed in the state.

"I have seen the worst of the worst cases in Nebraska and I have studied the laws very carefully," Reagan said. "Let me be perfectly clear about what happens when someone is sentenced to life imprisonment in Nebraska - they die in prison.

Coincidentally, a few days after Reagan spoke to the news media, inmate Randy Reeves died at age 60 in the Nebraska State Penitentiary. Reeves was serving a life sentence for killing 2 women in Lincoln in 1980.

Reagan's point was underscored by 2 Nebraska lawmakers - Sens. Colby Coash and Adam Morfeld -- who serve on the judiciary committee.

The public statements from experts with authoritative credentials were needed because some advocates in the pro-death penalty crowd have been spreading doubt about the meaning and efficacy of life imprisonment in Nebraska.

For example, pro-death penalty spokesman Bob Evnen at a panel discussion at Western Nebraska Community College claimed, according to the Scottsbluff Star Herald, "There is no such thing as life without parole anyway. There is no such thing as life without release."

Evnen apparently was basing his claim on the fact that the Nebraska Pardons Board has the authority to commute life sentences.

The Pardons Board has commuted three life sentences in the past 25 years.

But what Evnen did not say is that the Pardons Board also has the power to commute death sentences. And Nebraska history shows it has also exercised that power.

Only the Pardons Board - currently made up of Gov. Pete Ricketts, Attorney General Doug Peterson and Secretary of State John Gale -- can commute a death sentence or a sentence of life imprisonment.

Don't be misled by the exaggerations and fear-mongering of death penalty supporters. Take the word of retired Judge Ronald Reagan, who actually has imposed sentences in 1st degree murder cases. Nebraskans can be assured that a life sentence in Nebraska means that the convict will die in prison.

(source: Lincoln Journal Star Editorial Board)


Attorney: Williams says 'death sentence is fine with him'

A Berkeley man found guilty of 2 murders earlier this month, who could face the death penalty, asked an Alameda County Superior Court judge Monday to dismiss the jury and make his own ruling on sentencing.

Both attorneys for 25-year-old Darnell Williams Jr. strongly advised him not to waive his rights to a jury trial, they said. But Williams had other ideas.

"He would like the proceedings to end," defense attorney Deborah Levy told Judge Jeffrey Horner on Monday afternoon. He said he would waive his rights and accept the judge's sentence, said Levy, adding, "The death sentence is fine with him."

Defense attorney Darryl Billups told the judge he had advised Williams he "didn't think it was a good idea" to waive the jury trial, which is designed to lead to a sentencing recommendation for the judge. The jury is slated to decide between the death penalty and life in prison without parole.

The jury was not present when the attorneys made the request to Horner on their client's behalf.

Williams also raised a question, through Levy, about how the decision might affect his appeal prospects. He had asked the judge to provide insights into the possible ramifications, which Horner said he would not do.

Horner said he felt it was "totally inappropriate" for a judge to offer legal advice to a defendant in a criminal proceeding.

Levy then said her client withdrew his request for advice, and was simply ready to be done with the jury.

Prosecutor John Brouhard said he had nothing to say about the request.

After a short recess to "do a little thinking on this and a little research," Horner returned to the bench and denied Williams' request.

"I very carefully considered it," Horner said. "I'm not going to allow a waiver."

Horner described the jury as the "trier of fact" and said it would be up to jurors to hear the evidence and make their recommendation.

In response to the ruling, Williams dropped his head and let out a loud sigh in a rare showing of emotion. Levy comforted him by rubbing his shoulder.

Monday, Williams' grandfather and uncle testified about some of the circumstances he faced growing up in Long Beach and Berkeley. Tuesday, the uncle is expected to continue testimony, and Williams' mother is slated to take the stand, along with a forensic psychologist who specializes in death penalty cases and related issues.

The defense could be done presenting its case by Wednesday.

Williams was found guilty earlier this month of fatally shooting 8-year-old Alaysha Carradine at a sleepover and, less than 2 months later, fatally shooting 22-year-old Anthony "Tone" Medearis III, whom he had known since childhood.



Announcing ....


The 23rd Annual Fast & Vigil to Abolish the Death Penalty

June 29 through July 2

Outside the U.S. Supreme Court - Washington, DC

There are 2 areas we need your help with!

1.--Spread the word in your networks and to your membership. Include a blurb about the event in your newsletters, online communications and emails. You can access sample text that you are welcome to edit and customize in the attached PDF. You can also easily do this by connecting with us on Facebook:

2.--Cosponsor the event. We annually have more than 50 national and state death penalty abolition groups that support the Fast and Vigil, making this perhaps one of the most multi-organizational supported events in the abolition movement. Join Amnesty International USA, the German Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Equal Justice USA, MVFR, Pax Christi, the Journey of Hope, Witness to Innocence and many more in cosponsoring this year.  Info at Online registration is open: Sign up before June 1st and get a free t-shirt.


We hope you will consider joining the nearly 100 anti-death penalty activists who come regularly from across the U.S. and Canada - from Florida to Alaska and everywhere in-between.  Participation can be intermittent. Some people come for all 4 days. Some locals come for a few hours here and there. Some just attend our evening teach in programs outside the court. Some fast, some do not. We welcome all levels of participation.

This year there will be a RALLY at Noon on July 2 at the Court to mark the 40th anniversary of the Gregg v. Georgia decision, which allowed executions to resume in the United States. Plus all the usual events, including a last meal together on June 28th, and teach ins each night with death row exonerees, murder victim family members, death row family members and more. Full schedule of events is at

For the full schedule of events, including details on lodging, travel and other logistics, visit To help with funding, or to volunteer, please contact the Abolitionist Action Committee at 518-768-1867 or

Background: The Abolitionist Action Committee (AAC) has held a 4 day vigil at the Supreme Court every summer since 1994, from the dates of June 29 to July 2, to mark 2 very important court decisions about the death penalty. The AAC is an ad-hoc group of individuals committed to highly visible and effective public education for alternatives to the death penalty through non-violent direct action. Visit them online at

(source: Abolitionist Action Committee;


Federal authorities to seek death penalty against Dylann Roof

Nearly a year since gunfire interrupted a Bible study at Emanuel AME Church, federal prosecutors said Tuesday that they will seek the death penalty against Dylann Roof, the 22-year-old suspect in the attack that killed 9 people.

Roof's substantial planning before the assault, his expressions of hatred toward black people and his lack of remorse after the slayings helped drive the decision, a notice in U.S. District Court stated.

The move is a relatively rare one for the federal government since it reinstated capital punishment nearly 3 decades ago. Of thousands of eligible cases since then, the U.S. Attorney's Office has authorized prosecutors to seek execution in about 500.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement that she arrived at the decision after a "rigourous" of the case's factual and legal issues.

"The nature of the alleged crime and the resulting harm compelled this decision," she said.

If he's convicted, Roof will face the ultimate penalty in 2 different courtrooms. In state court, he is set to be tried in January, but his federal trial has not been scheduled.

Surviving victims of the June 17 attack, considered one of the most heinous hate crimes in recent memory, and family members of those who died had differing stances on whether Roof should face execution.

They learned of Lynch's much-awaited decision during a conference call with federal authorities Tuesday afternoon, less than a month before the 1-year anniversary of the shooting. The federal trial has been delayed 4 times as Lynch considered the case.

Steve Schmutz, a Charleston attorney who represents family members of 3 of the slain victims, said the development was not surprising.

"The families will support this decision," he said. "Really, I think the families have mixed emotions about the death penalty. But if it's ever going to be given, this case certainly calls for it."

Roof, an Eastover resident, was indicted in July on 33 federal charges, including the hate crimes. But accusations that he violated the parishioners' right to freely practice a religion are the charges that carry the death penalty.

Officials said he penned an online manifesto about white supremacy before sitting for an hour through the Bible study at the Calhoun Street church, then opening fire.

The shooting left the church's pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, and 8 others dead. 3 adult women and 2 children in the church at the time survived without physical wounds.

In the federal notice Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson wrote that Roof's actions met the legal threshold for the death penalty because he intended to kill the people he shot: Pinckney, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders Daniel Simmons Sr. and Myra Thompson.

The prosecutor also listed 8 aggravating factors, including: multiple deaths, extensive premeditation, the targeting of people more than 70 years old, an intent to incite violence by others, the deaths' impact on the victims' loved ones, endangering the safety of people besides those who were slain, racial motivation and a lack of remorse.

Roof also targeted Emanuel AME, the filing stated, "in order to magnify the societal impact" of the crimes.

(source: The Post and Courier)


Bernie Sanders Opposes Death Penalty For Dylann Roof----The senator sticks with his principles.

The Justice Department announced on Tuesday it would seek the death penalty in the case of accused South Carolina mass murderer Dylann Roof.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) opposes the Justice Department's decision to seek the death penalty in the case of Dylann Roof, the accused killer of nine parishioners at a church in South Carolina last year.

The Democratic presidential candidate has long been an opponent of capital punishment, arguing that it doesn't fit with America's moral values or deter crime. And though the circumstances of the Roof case have prompted cries for severe punishment, his campaign reiterated his position in an email to The Huffington Post.

"Sen. Sanders opposes the death penalty," Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs wrote. "He believes those who are convicted of the most horrible crimes should be imprisoned for the rest of their lives without the possibility of parole."

Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced on Tuesday that the Justice Department would seek the death penalty in the Roof case, following a "rigorous review process to thoroughly consider all relevant factual and legal issues." State authorities had earlier said that they would seek the death penalty for Roof, who they allege was motivated by racial animus and carefully planned the massacre at the Emanuel AME Church. Roof is charged both with federal hate crimes and 9 counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder.

Several prominent Republican South Carolina officials praised Lynch's announcement, including Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.)

Less clear, however, was how Democrats would approach the debate, considering the horrific nature of the incident and the national outrage it sparked. President Barack Obama has called capital punishment "deeply troubling" but something he can rationalize.

"There are certain crimes that are so beyond the pale that I understand society's need to express its outrage," he told the Marshall Project in 2015.

Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton, likewise, has said she supports the death penalty in "certain egregious cases." Aides to Clinton did not respond to requests for comment on the Roof case.

(source: Sam Stein, Senior Policy Editor, Huffington Post)


United States death penalty's inhumanity revisited

To the Editor:

The Supreme Court recently rejected an appeal from an Orange County murderer to overturn the California death penalty.His plea rested on his contention that the sentence, first made in 1984 and overturned because of a police error, but reinstated after a 2nd trial in 1992, has been psychologically inhumane. Out of 743 prisoners on death row in California, only 13 have been executed in 40 years, and none since 2006.

On the same page (Minneapolis Star Tribune, May 3, 2016) is the headline "Exonerated After 50 Years" the story of a Virginia man, convicted of a New York City murder, who accepted a guilty plea with a sentence of 30 years to life, as an alternative to pleading "not guilty" and facing the death penalty if convicted. 11 years later evidence surfaced of his innocence.

The sentence was commuted and he was released from prison. His exoneration marks the 20th time in Brooklyn alone that a review board has cleared defendants who had been found guilty of crimes they did not commit.

Miscarriages of justice have a long, sad history in the United States. Many "more civilized" countries have long since abandoned the death penalty with no apparent effect on the rate of murder and violent crimes. On the contrary, in the U.S., where states (excluding Minnesota, thank God) have retained the death penalty, murder has remained relatively frequent.

The history of our nation, settled largely by Caucasian Europeans with concomitant slaughter of Native Americans, enslavement and torture and murder of blacks, exploitation of Orientals, persecutions of Jews and Muslims and the suppression of women is long and violent.

For a country which many like to call "Christian" and which proclaims respect for its Constitution and its laws, we have an ungodly acceptance of violence and often scorn the peacemakers.

David Harris

Red Wing

(source: Letter to the Editor, Republican-Eagle)


US drug giant will no longer supply lethal injection drugs

Pfizer has moved to stop its drugs being used for executions by imposing strict distribution controls that will stop them reaching execution chambers across the US. This means that all US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved manufacturers of potential execution drugs have blocked their sale and use for the death penalty in the US.

In a statement, Pfizer says it 'makes its products to enhance and save the lives of patients' and 'strongly objects to the use of its products as lethal injections for capital punishment'. It will now introduce a new monitoring system to ensure that its drugs do not end up being used in executions. Pfizer will enforce distribution restrictions on pancuronium bromide, potassium chloride, propofol, midazolam, hydromorphone, rocuronium bromide and vecuronium bromide, selling them only to 'select' purchasers under the condition that they will not resell them for use in lethal injections. Government purchasing entities must certify that products are not for any penal purposes.

The human rights organisation Reprieve hailed the move as a critical turning point in the history of capital punishment in the US, reflecting widespread unease about the use of lethal injection, and raising fundamental questions about the administration of the death penalty. 'Pfizer's actions cement the pharmaceutical industry's opposition to the misuse of medicine,' comments Maya Foa, director at Reprieve. 'Over 25 global pharmaceutical companies have now taken action to prevent the misuse of their medicines in executions.'

"It's very significant that the pharmaceutical industry is speaking with a unified, singular voice saying we don't want our products used this way and actually taking steps to ensure that they aren't," says Megan McCracken, a lawyer at the Death Penalty Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law in the US.

It has been getting increasingly difficult for states to obtain lethal injection drugs. This has driven US states to seek alternative, and in some cases illegal, sources for these drugs, and has caused legal challenges in numerous states. Meanwhile, countries around the world have blocked the use of drugs in lethal injection. Some states have resorted to using unapproved manufacturers from countries such as India or obtained them from 'compounding pharmacies', which mix or alter drugs but whose products are not FDA-regulated. Many states have put laws in place that prevent or prohibit the disclosure of information about the source of drugs and how they're obtained. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, lawsuits have been brought in Texas, Georgia, Arkansas and Missouri to try to force states to identify drug suppliers.

Now, says Foa, instead of passing secrecy laws intended to undermine the safeguards put in place by drug companies, it is up to the states 'to respect the legitimate commercial interests of the pharmaceutical industry and agree to stop misusing their medicines in lethal injection executions'.



Will Pharmaceutical Companies Kill the Death Penalty?----Pfizer's move to prohibit their drugs from being used in executions has made it even more difficult for states to administer lethal injections.

Last week, Pfizer became the latest and largest pharmaceutical company to ban the use of its products in lethal injections.

The ban marks another in a series of setbacks to the implementation of the death penalty. According to a Gallup poll last fall, the death penalty is still favored by 6 out of 10 Americans.

Lethal injection is the preferred means of execution on the federal level and in the 31 states where capital punishment is legal. Typically, the condemned person is first given an anesthetic to make them unconscious. Then they're given drugs that stop breathing and induce cardiac arrest.

Because the person is asleep at the time of death, lethal injection is generally considered the most humane means of execution.

Since lethal injection was introduced in the 1970s, sleep has been induced by an anesthetic called sodium thiopental. But the last U.S. manufacturer of sodium thiopental, Hospira, closed its North Carolina plant in 2009.

Since then, American prisons have experimented with other anesthetics, including several still produced by Hospira. Pfizer acquired Hospira last year, assuming control of those products.

Now, they will only be available to buyers who certify that the drugs won't be resold to prisons, Pfizer officials say.

Ethical Objections

In a statement, the company described its policy as ethically necessary.

"Pfizer makes its products to enhance and save the lives of the patients we serve. Consistent with these values, Pfizer strongly objects to the use of its products as lethal injections for capital punishment," the statement reads.

Similar ethical considerations are cited by professional medical organizations, such as the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association. Both groups discourage their members from participating in executions.

However, Dudley Sharp, an outspoken death penalty advocate, says the notion that medical professionals are ethically required to steer clear of execution is false.

"Neither the Hippocratic Oath nor 'do no harm' have anything to do with executions," he wrote in a 2015 blog post.

According to medical historian Dr. Howard Markel, Hippocrates wrote, "As to disease, make a habit of 2 things - to help, or at least, to do no harm."

Sharp points out that Hippocrates was speaking about treating disease specifically. The issue is about criminal justice, not medical ethics, he says.

Seeking Other Methods

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, there are currently almost 3,000 prisoners on death row in the United States.

To carry out the death penalty, corrections officials are turning to compounding pharmacies, which are more loosely regulated than large pharmaceutical suppliers.

Some states are falling back on older execution methods. Utah, for example, reauthorized use of the firing squad last April.

Sharp says it's up to the Supreme Court to say which methods of execution are acceptable and which are unacceptable.

"The best method appears to be nitrogen gas - well known as painless, even causing euphoria, acts very quickly, easily accessible, impossible to restrict, easy to administer, using only an oxygen mask and a tank of nitrogen gas, no gas chamber needed, extremely inexpensive," he told Healthline in an email.

Having 2nd Thoughts

Recent, highly publicized "botched" lethal injections - in which the condemned person writhed, moaned, or took longer to die than expected - have contributed to the death penalty's decreasing popularity, David Weiss, a lawyer for the Center for Death Penalty Litigation in Durham, North Carolina, told Healthline.

"Even for the folks that agree it should be done they would also say it should be done with care and with dignity and respect for human life. But when you pull back the curtain it's very cavalier," he said. "They're writing these protocols and not following the protocols."

But it's not just the process of execution that is turning people off, Weiss said. The public is also rethinking the fairness and sureness of the judicial system.

"I think jurors are starting to understand that you can never be 100 % sure whether a person is guilty no matter what the evidence looks like at trial," he said. "And for that reason it doesn’t make sense to impose a final, irrevocable punishment."

Those who oppose the death penalty say it's imposed disproportionately on minorities and the mentally ill.

Sharp argues against the notion that executions have been "botched." He thinks that the availability of pentobarbital, another anesthetic, will allow for death by lethal injection to continue.

Weiss, however, sees the practice, however it's performed, as an aging form of justice.

"I think the big thing we can say is either it's over or it's heading in that direction. There are just so many things that point to problems with it," he said. "It's not a fixable institution."



Is Hillary Clinton The Last Democratic Presidential Candidate To Support The Death Penalty?

In 1977, 2 years after he was convicted of robbing a shoe store and stabbing a clerk to death, 22-year-old Henry Giles sat on death row at Arkansas' Cummins Prison Farm, awaiting his execution by electric chair.

Psychologists had termed Giles "grossly retarded." With an IQ of just 59, it was unclear at the time of trial if the young, black defendant fully understood the severity of the charges against him.

"I really didn't know what the death penalty was," Giles wrote in a letter this year.

15 years later, another black inmate, with a similarly low IQ of just 63, sat on the same death row at Cummins. Rickey Ray Rector had been convicted of murdering 2 men - 1 a police officer - and in 1992, the 42-year-old was awaiting his execution by lethal injection.

But Rector had no knowledge or memory of the crimes he had committed. After killing the officer who had come to arrest him for the 1st murder, Rector shot a bullet through his own brain, essentially giving himself a frontal lobotomy. During his trial, experts testified that he was "severely impaired" and lacked the ability to grasp the concepts of past or future. He was only able to respond to immediate sensations.

"When you'd ask him a question, you could tell he was trying to answer but it was kind of like a skipping record," said John Jewell, 1 of Rector's appellate lawyers. "He'd just keep coming back to the same questions. He couldn't communicate clearly, articulately. I had no confidence that anything he was telling me he actually knew."

Rector's attorneys filed numerous appeals, but the timing was not on their side. Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton was also running for president, and he was desperate to send the message that he was tough on crime - an issue that had plagued him in previous campaigns. So he decided to take a break from the campaign trail in New Hampshire to fly home to Arkansas, where he would oversee Rector's execution.

From the governor's mansion, where he repeatedly denied pleas for a stay of Rector's execution, Clinton was joined by the same person who, less than 2 decades earlier, was largely credited with saving Giles' life: Hillary Clinton.

The stories of Henry Giles and Rickey Ray Rector - both black, and both severely mentally disabled - have dramatically different endings. Their fates can be attributed partly to the political climate at the time of their scheduled deaths and perhaps partly to when they crossed paths with the Clintons.

But much of their experiences can be chalked up to the completely arbitrary nature in which capital punishment is applied in the United States - an argument that Clinton herself made in the 1970s. That one mentally disabled black man is living, while another was put to death, tells the story of the criminal justice system in a country in which an inmate's race, zip code, jury composition, and attorney competence are all more likely to determine whether he lives or dies than his crime.

Since launching her campaign for the White House last year, Hillary Clinton has become a vocal supporter of comprehensive criminal justice reform. She has had to apologize for aspects of her husband's '3 strikes' crime bill and has backtracked on some of the 'tough-on-crime' language she used during the 1990s.

But there remains one area in which she is reluctant to embrace progressive reform.

On multiple occasions this year, Clinton has expressed her support for the death penalty. She usually qualifies her support, saying she believes capital punishment should be used for certain federal crimes, like terrorist attacks and mass shootings. And she says she doesn't think states should be able to carry out capital punishment because of the arbitrary nature in which it's applied and the possibility for human error. Nonetheless, she still believes that the federal government should maintain a "very limited" use of capital punishment.

"Maybe it's a distinction that is hard to support, but at this point, given the challenges we face from terrorist activities in this country that end up under federal jurisdiction for very limited purposes, I think it can still be held in reserve for those," Clinton said of the death penalty during a March town hall event.

Her support for the practice distinguishes her from the Democratic challengers she's faced throughout the race. It also distinguishes her from the Democratic electorate.

Just 56 % of Americans say they support capital punishment - a 40-year low, down from 78 % just t2 decades ago. And just 40 % of Democrats favor the death penalty, while 56 % are opposed. Being opposed to capital punishment is no longer a handicap for Democratic presidential candidates; in fact, taking a strong stance against the death penalty may even be beneficial in both a primary and general election. And experts say we can expect to see a time in the near future when support for the practice could actually be a liability.

But Clinton has not always supported allowing the government to end lives. In fact, she launched her legal career by representing a death row inmate and arguing the very opposite.

She has never mentioned it on the campaign trail and her campaign declined to comment on her involvement, but as a young public interest lawyer with the University of Arkansas' legal aid project in the 1970s, Clinton - then Hillary Rodham - served as the lead attorney on the Cummins Prison Project, which worked to defend prisoners at the notorious maximum security detention center. The group frequently sent attorneys and students to Cummins to meet prisoners in need of legal help.

One of those inmates was Henry Giles.

There is no evidence that Giles, who was 17 years old at the time of his crime, planned his attack. According to court documents, he was walking down the street in Forrest City, Arkansas when he noticed through the window of a Shoe Outlet that Evelyn Drummond, a clerk, was alone. He then entered the store, wrapped a wire around her neck, dragged her to the rear of the building, and stabbed her twice with a knife. With the store empty, he rifled through the cash register and pocketed the money. Immediately after, he found his brother, Everett, and told him he had done something wrong.

In a signed confession, Giles told law enforcement he killed Drummond because "something came over me to make me do something wrong." But his attorney said Giles had no idea he was signing a confession.

"Those police wrote down what they wanted and I thought they were writing down what I was saying," Giles wrote in a letter. "And I sign it. They didn't give me no lawyer or said anything about one."

He was convicted of murder 4 months before his 18th birthday, and in May 1975, an all-white jury sentenced him to die.

"I never understood any of it anyway," Giles wrote about his trial. "It was something like me against the world ... The hole [sic] court room was white, so you can see how that turn out."

From the start of his trial, questions were raised about his mental competence. Giles had a verbal IQ of just 51, and Dr. Arthur Rogers, a clinical psychologist employed by the Veteran's Administration in North Little Rock, testified that his mental capacity was "quite, quite low, to put it mildly."

"Rogers was of the opinion, from his testing, that Giles had the intelligence of an average seven or 8 year old person," court documents stated. "He said that Giles' knowledge of arithmetic was essentially nonexistent. He thought Giles could count up to 7 and could subtract 1 from 3, but could not figure out change, even from 10 cents for a 6-cent purchase."

The doctor also testified that "Giles was on the borderline between a moron and an imbecile," that he "tends to react immediately without thinking ahead," and that it was very possible he did not understand his right to an attorney or the charges he was facing.

In their motion to appeal, his attorneys wrote that "Henry Giles does not know the degree of the charges against him ... [he] does not know he has been on trial." They also argued that the jury left his age and mental deficiencies off of the verdict forms - both factors that should have lessened his sentence.

Giles' memory of the trial has faded, and in a letter this year he wrote that he never fully grasped what was happening in the courtroom anyway.

"I really didn't understand what the judge said," he said of first learning of his death sentence. "I thought he said that you are sentence to 16 year in prison. That what he sound like to me. I didn't know until the other lawyer told me what he said."

After his sentencing in 1975, the Cummins Prison Project decided to take up Giles' case. As its lead attorney, Clinton orchestrated the effort to have Giles' sentence commuted to life in prison without parole. The project submitted an amicus brief in Giles' appeal before the state supreme court, arguing that because of his mental retardation, killing him would prove the unconstitutional and arbitrary application of the death penalty.

According to the Arkansas Supreme Court's opinion from April 1977, Clinton and her 2 co-counsel claimed in their brief that the state's capital punishment statute "permits arbitrary selectivity in determining whether a defendant charged with a capital felony murder shall live or die."

"Because the imposition of the death penalty is discretionary with the jury... [and] because of the allegedly uncontrolled selective discretion of prosecuting attorneys, trial judges, juries and the governor in choosing which defendants will live and which will die in cases in which the death penalty might be imposed," Giles should not be put to death, they argued.

The Arkansas Supreme Court sided with Clinton's prison project, and commuted Giles' sentence to life without parole. Bill Clinton signed that commutation in April 1977, as Arkansas' attorney general. The current Democratic presidential front-runner's legal work was largely responsible for sparing Giles from execution.

"The brief was credited with saving the life of Henry Giles, a retarded man convicted of murder," wrote David Brock in his 1996 book, The Seduction of Hillary Rodham.

Timing was another factor that spared Giles from the death chamber. At the time Giles narrowly avoided the death penalty, the practice was not politically popular. The U.S. Supreme Court effectively reinstated it just 2 months after Clinton submitted her brief (4 years earlier, in 1972, it ruled that the death penalty qualified as cruel and unusual punishment because states employed execution in "arbitrary and capricious ways" and had imposed a temporary ban). At the time, states were still reluctant to go through with the ultimate punishment.

"We're in no hurry to bring the electric chair out of storage," Arkansas prison spokesperson Tim Baltz told the AP in 1975. "No one is anxious to take a life."

But this was all about to change. After a crime wave in the 1970s stoked people's panic about violence in their communities, Democrats began to fear being labeled as soft-on-crime. In 1986, both parties helped pass legislation creating mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses - the effects of which are still being felt today.

Clinton herself seemed to be aware of the forthcoming shift in public opinion. Though she led the effort to save Giles from execution, she left her name off the brief that was filed with the Arkansas Supreme Court. She has never explained the decision, but Jeff Rosensweig, a friend of Bill's and a longtime Arkansas criminal defense attorney, pointed out that Bill was running for attorney general at the time and "it would be a problem" for the attorney general's wife to be on the opposite side of a case against the state.

After securing a victory in Giles' case and leaving the Cummins Prison Project, Clinton went on to work at a private law firm. She has since served as First Lady of Arkansas and of the United States, U.S. Senator, Secretary of State, and is now the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination to the presidency.

Meanwhile, Giles, who is nearly deaf and stutters when he speaks, has now spent more than 40 years incarcerated for his crime. "I been in prison longer than I been home, or whatever that is," he wrote this year. Most of the time - except for a few short stays in "the hole," or solitary confinement - he sleeps on one of 50 beds in the north barrack of the East Arkansas Regional Unit, known to the inmates as Brickeys.

"Life in prison is no life," he wrote in one five-page letter of looping script. "You live in fear most of the time. There are time you never know what the next person sitting by you may do. He may flip out anytime. I done seen it happen so many time, it have you on edge, wondering if you next."

Giles said he no longer speaks with any family members and has not received letters or visitors in years. Because of his hearing impairment, he is unable to speak on the phone - the prison has an accessibility machine to help deaf people use the phone, but Giles can't use it because he doesn't know how to type. "In here you have nothing. Know [sic] family, friend, nobody really care about you," he wrote. "But after so long, you know it only you and God."

Though he said he remains grateful that he escaped the electric chair, Giles refers to life in prison without parole as "a death sentence, just a slow death sentence." He writes a lot about what life might be like on the outside. "The world would be a strange place," he said. "Everything is different now." But he emphasizes that any situation on the outside would be better than being locked up.

"If I have to live under bridges, cardboard boxes, that what I do. Or beg for small change. It beat the hell out of coming back to prison."

"I don't feel I would make the same mistakes again," he continued in another letter. "I was still a kid when I came here, never have a life, and I would like to spend the rest of my life a free man. I don't know how much longer I have left but I would like to be free."

As the decades passed and harsh sentencing legislation made its way through Congress, people's perception of the death penalty also changed. By the late 1980s, Americans were obsessed with crime and were willing to go to any length to lock away potential predators.

The Willie Horton ad from the 1988 presidential campaign is perhaps the most memorable moment from that alarmist period. That year, Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis (D) was locked in a close race against George H.W. Bush (R). A few months before Election Day, Bush's campaign released an ad called "Weekend Passes" which attacked Dukakis using the case of Horton, a convicted felon who raped a woman during a weekend furlough program that Dukakis supported.

"Dukakis not only opposes the death penalty, he allowed 1st-degree murderers to have weekend passes from prison," a man's voice booms in the 30-second ad, featuring grainy shots of Horton and Dukakis above bolded words like "kidnapping," "stabbing," and "raping."

During that same election, Dukakis suffered another major blow: When he was asked during a debate what he would do if his wife was raped and murdered, he gave an unemotional response explaining his opposition to capital punishment. It didn't sit well with the public.

Just how important was the death penalty to voters at the time? More respondents to a poll said they would consider a candidate's support for capital punishment when deciding who to vote for than they would his party. Bush ended up defeating Dukakis by a landslide.

Going into the 1992 election, Bill Clinton was well aware of how Dukakis' stance on criminal justice issues had hurt him with the electorate and that dynamic had only become clearer: Polls at the time showed that nearly 80 % of Americans approved of the death penalty. 1 commentator declared, "There is no way the Democrats can nominate somebody against the death penalty and be viable."

As 1 of Rector's earlier attorneys put it: "Poor ole Rickey Rector's timing just happened to be real bad."

In 1981, 29-year-old Rector was at a dance hall in Conway, Arkansas. After getting into a dispute about the entrance fee, he pulled a gun from his waistband and shot 3 men, killing 1. He then ran from law enforcement for several days before deciding to turn himself in to authorities. But when Patrolman Robert W. Martin arrived at Rector's mother's house, where he was waiting, Rector shot him in the jaw and neck, killing him almost immediately.

Rector then walked out of the house, held the gun to his own head, and shot himself straight through his brain. Doctors at Little Rock's University Hospital removed the bullet from behind his ear, and with it, about 3 inches of his frontal brain tissue.

After the surgery, Rector suffered from "gross memory loss" and became "totally incompetent" to assist any attorney who took his case, according to his doctors. Psychologists testified in the ensuing trial that he "seemed unable to grasp either the concept of past or future."

John Jewell represented Rector in his habeas corpus appeal - he was one of many attorneys who took on the case and got to know Rector throughout the appeals process. Jewell said he felt pity and sorrow for his client, but never a deeper personal connection "because there wasn't anyone there to connect to."

Jewell never doubted Rector's guilt. Instead, he had serious doubts about a system in which an all-white jury could condemn a mentally incompetent black inmate to die. His focus was on commuting Rector's sentence to life in prison.

"That's all that we ever asked for - that he not be executed," he said. "Our argument was that he wasn't competent to stand trial to begin with because of the brain damage from when he tried to kill himself."

But multiple judges denied his appeals and Rector's execution was set for January 1992. For Bill Clinton, who had privately wavered on his support for the death penalty, the event was the perfect opportunity for him to look like the tough-on-crime lawmaker he knew the country wanted. With the execution falling right before the New Hampshire primary and Clinton looking to distract voters from allegations about his personal life, Bill and Hillary flew home from the campaign trail in order to be in Arkansas to oversee the execution.

It wasn't the 1st time Clinton scheduled a killing around his own campaigns - his 2 previous executions were both held in an election year, and his next execution would come a few months later - but it was the 1st time a presidential candidate had made a spectacle over an execution.

"Never - or at least not in the recent history of presidential campaigns - has a contender for the nation's highest elective office stepped off the campaign trail to ensure the killing of a prisoner," the Houston Chronicle remarked at the time.

From the governor's mansion, Clinton received multiple calls and pleas from Rector's attorneys for stays of execution and pardons. But he denied all of them.

"There were, I don't remember how many judges that had ruled the same way as Clinton, saying no, I'm not going to pardon him," Jewell said. "It wasn't like he did anything to change the direction of things. He just didn't do anything to stop the execution."

The next year, Jeff Rosensweig, another of Rector's attorneys, would tell the New Yorker that Clinton's decision was likely entirely political. "I think in his heart of hearts Clinton would not have wanted to go through with Rickey's execution," but "he figured he had to," Rosensweig said.

Hours before his death, Rector watched a news report about Clinton on the prison TV. "I'm gonna vote for him. Gonna vote for Clinton," he said to those present. That same execution night, Rector put the pecan pie from his final meal to the side, saying he would save it for later.

Around 9:30 p.m., Carolyn Staley, a close friend of Bill Clinton's, found out that Rector had not yet been killed - medics were having trouble locating a vein and the execution had been delayed. Staley, who strongly opposed the death penalty, decided to call the governor, according to her interview with the New Yorker that year. When Clinton called her back that night, he spoke in a low whisper, saying, "I'm not able to breathe, I'm destroyed."

"It's just awful. Just terrible, terrible," he continued.

At 10:09 p.m. on January 24, 1992, after he yelled out 8 times while medics searched for a vein, Rector was pronounced dead.

There's no way of measuring the impact of the execution on the election, but there were many who questioned why Clinton made the decision he did, when he did.

A New York Times headline the day of the execution read: "Arkansas Execution Raises Questions on Governor's Politics." "The case of Mr. Rector - the 3rd execution to go forward during Mr. Clinton's tenure - raises knotty issues that go beyond general support or disapproval of the death penalty," the article noted, adding that Clinton was playing with the "undeniable politics of death." The Washington Post also questioned Clinton's motives. "It seemed at odds with his progressive, compassionate image, and it appeared to contradict his own acknowledgment that capital punishment was not a deterrent," Richard Cohen wrote in 1993.

Most news coverage of the execution honed in on Rector's mental capacity. In 1986, the Supreme Court had ruled that defendants subject to execution must understand that they are being sentenced to death and why, but at the time of Rector's death, the court had not yet ruled against the killing of the mentally disabled.

"It wasn't the law yet but I think it was probably a case in which people saw there needed to be some changes in the law," Jewell said.

In 2002, a decade after Rector was killed, the U.S. Supreme Court would rule that executing people with intellectual disabilities violates the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. And 12 years later, the court would narrow the state's discretion to determine who has an intellectual disability. Had Rector, a defendant with an IQ of just 63, been sentenced after 2002, it's likely he would still be alive today.

Other legal battles in recent decades have also pointed to the random and arbitrary application of the death penalty. In response, courts have narrowed the cases in which the punishment can be used. In 2005, the Supreme Court banned the execution of juveniles; in 2006 it ruled that DNA evidence can be considered in death penalty appeals; and in 2008 it said that states cannot impose the death penalty for any crimes less than murder. In 2015, just 49 people were sentenced to death, a 50-year low.

While fewer people are being put to death because of the changes in the law, those still facing the punishment are not the worst, guiltiest, or the most threatening. Most executions are concentrated in a few jurisdictions where the penalty is still disproportionately applied. And the non-partisan U.S. General Accounting Office has identified "a pattern of evidence indicating racial disparities in the charging, sentencing, and imposition of the death penalty." More than 75 % of executions are for crimes against white victims, and African American defendants receive the death penalty at three times the rate of white defendants in cases where the victims are white.

As more information about the disparities surface and as its use has become more infrequent, public support for the death penalty has also waned. A recent study found that a majority of Americans prefer life without parole to the death penalty and opposition to the practice has reached its highest level in 43 years.

It's also becoming more mainstream for world leaders and politicians to champion its abolition. Last year, Pope Francis called for an end to capital punishment worldwide, declaring its use "inadmissible, no matter how serious the crime committed." And in June of last year, U.S. Supreme Court Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a dissent in a capital case saying the death penalty may be unconstitutional and calling for a "full briefing" on "whether the death penalty violates the Constitution."

"If trends on the ground continue in the direction that they are going, and new justices to the court either replicate or are further to the left of the current court - which is not a tremendously left-wing court - we think that it's likely there will be a constitutional invalidation of capital punishment," said Carol Steiker, a Harvard Law School professor and expert on capital punishment.

Clinton herself has said recently that she would "breathe a sigh of relief if either the Supreme Court or the states themselves began to eliminate the death penalty." That vision may not be far off - 19 states have already eliminated it, and the Supreme Court may not be too far behind.

The Democratic front-runner's indication that she'd be relieved if the high court resolved the issue likely means that her support for the death penalty is more political than personal, Steiker said. But even her political support seems unnecessary given the current climate on criminal justice issues.

Both of the men who mounted serious challenges to Clinton during the nominating process - Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley - came out strongly against the death penalty. "The state, in a democratic, civilized society, should not itself be involved in the murder of other Americans," Sanders said last October.

Though the issue didn't come up much during the 2008 presidential election, bipartisan support for criminal justice reform in recent years have once again raised the political profile of capital punishment. President Barack Obama has expressed his conflicted feelings about the death penalty and has called it "deeply troubling" in practice, but he hasn't yet disavowed it entirely.

Which leaves Clinton, who may be the last Democratic presidential candidate to support capital punishment.

Even some conservative leaders are beginning to come out against capital punishment, also citing its arbitrary application. Marc Hyden, the national advocacy coordinator for Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty, called the practice "a worthless and albeit expensive and dangerous government program" and "quintessential big, broken government."

Hyden, who used to work for the National Rifle Association, noted that the practice is not pro-life, does not promote fiscal responsibility, and does not represent limited government. "I don't think there's anything limited about giving an error-prone state the power to kill its citizens," he said.

Ben Jealous, the former president of the NAACP who has endorsed and is campaigning for Sanders, suggested that Clinton could quickly fall behind the status quo. He has called the death penalty "the spawn of lynching in our country."

"If Hillary Clinton wants us to trust that she will strong on criminal justice reform, she needs to break with the death penalty and she needs to get back into the progressive mainstream on criminal justice reform," Jealous said in March. "We will see the death penalty abolished in this country in your lifetime."

If Clinton were to win the White House this November, she could very well oversee that historic moment. After appointing another liberal justice to the Supreme Court, it's even more likely that the 9 justices will take up and decide on a case invalidating the practice during Clinton's term.

While Clinton has not been a leader on the issue, experts say they expect she would get there eventually.

"Fewer and fewer Americans are confident that the government can be counted on. And where public opinion goes, political leaders eventually catch up," wrote Frank Baumgartner, a UNC-Chapel Hill researcher who has created a statistical index of public support for capital punishment. His analysis shows public opinion is currently at an all-time low.

"One of the things successful politicians are good at is figuring out in what direction public opinion is going," said Robert Durham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. "And they can either lead public opinion to try to change it, or they can ride public opinion for their own gain."

Henry Giles, for one, is grateful that Clinton took a stand against the death penalty early in her career. Giles recently celebrated his 62nd birthday from Brickeys maximum security prison, the 44th birthday he has celebrated behind bars. Though he called his life sentence a slower death penalty, he remains grateful that he escaped the electric chair.

"Sometime I think back to the old days, and how life been for me," he wrote in a letter. "Yes it hurt real bad. It really make you cry inside. Know [sic] family to call you [since] my mom + dad pass while I was here. The rest of them, god only know where. But you know I give thank to almighty god for every day. That I am able to get up and enjoy life. That really a blessing. Smile."



Why Pointing a Finger at Countries With the Death Penalty for Drugs Is Not Enough

The death penalty for drug offences has received much attention recently. Mass executions last year in Indonesia, and the announcements of further killings, have garnered world headlines. Iran continues to execute drug offenders at an astonishing rate, earning condemnation from human rights groups. At last month's United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the world drug problem (UNGASS), the death penalty prompted vocal debates between retentionist and abolitionist States, and more than sixty countries voiced their opposition to the practice.

When Harm Reduction International (HRI) launched our death penalty for drugs project in 2007, this issue was largely invisible in both the human rights and the drug policy discourse. It was certainly not an issue of debate during UN meetings on drug control at the time, which passed every year with no mention of capital punishment. Given that our research has found as many as 1,000 people are executed annually for drug offences, the increased attention over the last decade is welcome.

I am often asked what the international community can do to challenge the practice of death penalty States. There are options. One is for abolitionist governments and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime to end financing of drug enforcement operations in death penalty States, which HRI and others have shown to directly contribute to death sentences and executions. Another is to fund human rights advocates working in death penalty countries to influence public opinion and government policy, and to defend death row prisoners.

After watching dozens of countries speak against capital punishment during the UNGASS, I think there is a third and perhaps even more important action that States can take if they are truly committed to ending the death penalty for drugs around the world.

The death penalty for drugs is the most extreme example of what I call 'punitive suppression'--the logic that the harsher we punish people, the more effectively we will suppress drugs and drug markets. While this logic is commonly used by death penalty supporters to justify the practice, it also underpins the legal and policy frameworks of drug control in almost every country, regardless of whether they have capital punishment.

Punitive suppression is at the heart of the core UN treaties on drug control, particularly 1988 drug convention that established obligations to enact harsh penal provisions at domestic level. A 2001 UN report recorded a 50% increase in the number of countries prescribing the death penalty for drugs into domestic law between 1985 and 2000, the exact period during which the treaty was drafted, adopted and implemented at national level.

Punitive suppression takes different forms in different places. While capital and corporal punishment for drug crimes are obvious abuses that draw attention, other practices such as criminal penalties and incarceration for drugs, mandatory minimum sentences, felony disenfranchisement, stop and search, mandatory drug testing of people receiving benefits or prisoners and bans on accessing food assistance for drug offenders are equally driven by this same logic.

While abolitionist States argue (correctly) that the death penalty does nothing to deter drug crimes, this argument is undermined when punishment continues to be the premise of drug laws and policies in their own countries. This disconnect allows death penalty States and their defender to argue that capital punishment is rooted in national culture or tradition, and is simply their particular approach of pursuing drug suppression objectives shared by all countries.

While capital punishment for drugs is only practiced by a small handful of governments, it has much wider significance in the drug reform debate. It is a window onto the failure - in both human rights and efficacy terms - of the global experiment in punitive drug suppression over the past half century. For this reason, the crucial work of abolishing the death penalty must go further than simply pointing our fingers at that tiny number of extremist fringe States that continue to execute people. We must acknowledge the flawed logic at the heart of the regime itself, and undo its corrosive effects on the drug laws and policies everywhere.

We are commonly told by political leaders that punitive drug laws are needed to 'send a message'. Perhaps, then, the most powerful way that non-death penalty States can truly challenge capital punishment for drugs is to reject the supremacy of punitive suppression within their own domestic drug laws, and 'send a message' of a different kind. Only then can we start to create a future in which the use of criminalisation, punishment and prisons as core tools of drug control is as much an extreme fringe position as is executing people for drug offences today, and draws the same kind of global condemnation.

(source: Dr Rick Lines is Executive Director of Harm Reduction International in


An intellectually stimulating article on the death penalty

Let me congratulate Professor Stephen Vasciannie for what I regard as an excellent, objectively written, and intellectually stimulating article on the death penalty, appearing in your newspaper of Sunday, May 15, 2016. It has provided some very useful information for those who need proper understandings of feelings about and thinking with respect to the subject both locally and internationally.

What makes the article so good, from my perspective, is that it provides a platform for informed discourse on the subject, and not the kind of emotive responses by pro-abolitionists every time the retention or implementation of the law relating to the death penalty is raised. It would be good to get the pro-abolitionists' response to the professor's article.

What should be of particular interest to those of us who support the retention and execution of capital punishment is that every time the subject is raised in our nation's Parliament, those against its abolition and in favour of its execution outvote - even if marginally - those who want to see it removed from the statute books. This correlates with a poll conducted by the late Professor Carl Stone many years ago, which showed that 83 % of the population is in favour of the retention and infliction of the sentence of death on those who deserve it.

Another piece of information that those in favour of the imposition of sanctions on those who are found guilty of murder is the fact that there is nothing in international law that denies a country its sovereign right to do so. What seems to be preventing the country from executing the sentence is more the fact that we are a part of a global village where the abolitionist virus has affected many of us, including the political directorate. But, probably the greatest factor of all is our mendicant status, which makes it difficult, if not impossible, for us the carry out the will of the majority without dire consequences for our fledgling economy.

While I agree with Professor Vasciannie that delay in carrying out the sentence of death, locally, is an impediment, a greater stumbling block, and probably part of the reason for delay, is the overt or covert threat of economic sanctions by powerful donor agencies. The rock star Bob Geldof once expressed the view that one of the downsides of financial assistance from cash-rich countries and financial institutions of the world is that the hand of the receiver is under the hand of the giver - which could compromise the sovereignty of the receiver country.

The other deterrent is the fear - real or imagined - of the possible miscarriage of justice, best expressed in the words of one of the dying thieves on the cross: "We are punished justly...But this man has done nothing wrong" - let alone the fallibility of judges, jurors, and lawyers, which could be a contributing factor. I would also like to take issue with Professor Vasciannie's biblical reference, especially in relation to the lex talionis and Jesus's teaching in the New Testament about non-retaliation. The lex talionis, according to biblical scholar the late John R W Stott, was designed to have the double effect of "...defining justice and restraining revenge". It also discouraged an individual taking the law into his or her hand by assigning the distribution of justice to the state authorities. So, the professor's use of the word "brutality" in reference to this provision is out of line with the best scholarly work.

One of the greatest obstacles to Old Testament scholars who support abolition is the provision of Cities of Refuge as an asylum for man slayers (Exodus 21: 13; Numbers 35: 19). Pro-abolitionist Sir Norman Anderson, a 1-time lecturer in Islamic Law at the University of London, ran aground in his discussion of the Old Testament teaching on capital punishment when he stumbled upon the establishment of Cities of Refuge for a man who killed without malice aforethought, but no such provisions for the murderer.

Also, Jesus's reference to turning the other cheek in the Sermon on the Mount cannot be appealed to with respect to the adjudication of justice by the civil authority, because it relates to personal revenge. So, it is never wise to use it in discussing the distribution of justice by the State. Further, if the non-retaliation injunction given by Jesus in Matthew 5: 38-39 were to be applied by civil magistrates, it would be difficult for them to enforce any law which sought to protect the lives and property of law-abiding citizens.

Listen, also, to Paul in his defence before Festus: "If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death..." (Acts 25: 11), suggesting that there were crimes that warranted the hangman's noose. And, as I have pointed out earlier, the dying thief on the cross remarked to his fellow malefactor: "We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong." He was not only pointing to the miscarriage of justice in Jesus's execution, but pointing to something equally critical, which is often overlooked in our pre-occupation with deterrence - the issue of whether what the murderer is getting is justly deserved for the crime he has committed.

The late C S Lewis answers this question ably and well in an excellent article written many years ago. This is what he writes on the humanitarian theory of punishment: "The humanitarian theory removes from punishment the concept of desert. But the concept of desert is the only connecting link between punishment and justice. It is only as deserved or undeserved that a sentence can be just or unjust. I do not here contend that the question 'Is it deserved?' is the only one we can reasonably ask about a punishment. We may very properly ask whether it is likely to deter others and to reform the criminal. But neither of these 2 last questions is a question about justice. There is no sense in talking about a 'just deterrent' or a 'just cure'. We demand of a deterrent not whether it is just but whether it will deter. We demand of a cure not whether it is just but whether it succeeds. Thus, when we cease to consider what the criminal deserves and consider only what will cure him or deter others, we have tacitly removed him from the sphere of justice altogether; instead of a person, a subject of rights, we now have a mere object, a patient, a 'case'."

The points of disagreement aside, though, I found the professor's article most informative and intellectually stimulating.

(source: Opinion; Dennis McKoy is an adjunct lecturer at Mico University College----Jamaica Observer)


The death penalty is not the solution to kidnapping in Nigeria

Earlier this month the Senate approved a proposal to introduce a bill that will make kidnapping punishable by death. Many commentators have welcomed the decision arguing that the death penalty will deter the increasing number of kidnappings in the country. They are wrong.

Kidnapping has reached epidemic levels in Nigeria and whilst the need for the federal government to fight this crime effectively has never been more urgent, the death penalty is not the solution. The reason for this is that there is no credible evidence that the death penalty deters kidnapping - or any other crime for that matter.

Scientific studies have consistently failed to find convincing evidence that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than other punishments. A series of authoritative studies conducted for the United Nations in regions around the world have repeatedly found that the death penalty does not have a greater deterrent effect on crime than a term of imprisonment.

In 1970 the military government of General Gowon introduced the death penalty for armed robbery in response to the alarming increase of the crime in Nigeria. This did not solve the problem, in fact armed robbery is as common today as it was then.

Equally, the enactment of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011 and the Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Act, 2013 - introducing the death sentence for terrorism-related offences has not curbed the problem in Nigeria. According to a Global Terrorism Index published by the Institute for Economics and Peace, in 2014 Nigeria witnessed the largest increase in terrorist-related deaths ever recorded by any country, increasing by over 300 per cent to 7,512 fatalities.

Over the last 3 years a number of states - including Bayelsa, Delta and Edo - have made laws prescribing the death penalty for kidnapping; however this has not stopped the practice. This year alone has seen high profile kidnappings of former President Goodluck Jonathan's uncle in Bayelsa state, His Royal Majesty Josiah Umukoro in Delta state and Hassana Garuba, a magistrate in Edo state. Whilst the senate has the constitutional mandate to enact laws, making kidnapping a capital crime will breach Nigeria's obligations under international human rights law.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Nigeria became a party in 1993, permits countries that have not abolished the death penalty to use the punishment only for the "Most Serious Crimes". Under international human rights standards "Most Serious Crimes" are crimes that involve intentional killing. Kidnapping does not meet this threshold.

The death penalty is a violation of the right to life as declared in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. Everyone has the right to life regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime they have committed. This does not mean that criminals should not face justice, and punishment, for their crimes. They should, the federal and state governments have a range of options they can legally use, including prison terms.

The federal government should immediately take steps to address the root causes of kidnapping and other crimes by dealing with the high unemployment in the country and ensuring that the Nigeria Police Force and other crime fighting agencies are well funded, trained and equipped to deal with crime. Good investigation into alleged crimes, timely arrests of suspects and effective prosecution will go a long way in reducing kidnapping and other crimes.

The world is moving away from the use of the death penalty. In 1977 only 16 countries had abolished the punishment for all crimes. As of today the number stands at 102 countries, a majority of the countries in the world. In 2015, 4 countries, including Madagascar and the Republic of Congo both in Africa, joined the ranks of countries that have consigned this cruel punishment to history. Expanding the scope of the death penalty goes against this positive global trend and will further entrench Nigeria amongst a minority of countries that hold on to the death penalty.

Executing kidnappers is not the solution to ending the scourge of kidnapping in Nigeria. Rather it is a knee-jerk reaction by a government that wants to appear tough on crime. Instead of being a form of toughness, recourse to the death penalty is in reality a symptom of failure in governance. Rather than expanding the death penalty, the Senate should abolish it altogether.

(source: Oluwatosin Popoola is Amnesty International's Advocate/Adviser on the death penalty----The Vanguard)


Looming War'----Zimbabwean women on death row in China caused by Nigerian men' - Member of Parliament

A Minister in Zimbabwe has revealed that over 200 of their women on death row in Asia for drug trafficking are caused by Nigerian men.

The Chairperson of the Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development Parliamentary Portfolio Committee in Zimbabwe, Beatrice Nyamupinga, has accused the plight of more than 200 of their women who are on death row for drug trafficking in China and other Asian countries on Nigerian men who trick and use them as mules to carry the deadly cargoes for them.

The Chronicle, one of the country's biggest newspaper, report that Nyamupinga, a ZANU-PF MP for Goromonzi, moved a motion on human trafficking in the National Assembly, where she made the revelations, adding that findings have shown that most of the women on death row were duped by their Nigerian boyfriends that they were going for shopping in preparation for their weddings, while dangerous drugs would be placed in their luggage without their knowledge.

She said the Nigerians would have paid lobola (a sort of bride price in property in cash or kind, which a prospective husband or head of his family undertakes to give to the head of a prospective wife’s family in consideration of a customary marriage), for the women who the West Africans then use as drug mules.

"We've about 200 Zimbabweans and the majority of the 200 are women, who are on the death row in China because they've been used by the so-called Nigerians who are coming here, marrying them through an Act that we enacted in this House.

They marry them and then ask them to go to China to buy their wedding gowns. As they go to China to buy their wedding gowns, they're given a bag, which has a false bottom and in that false bottom, drugs are secretly packed.

They're told; 'when you get to China, my friend is going to receive you and will show you the shops where you can buy your gown.' She gets to China and the immigration and customs of China know that and these girls are intercepted and convicted.

It's with a heavy heart that I rise to move a motion on human trafficking following the repatriation of around 53 out of 1,000 women believed to have been trafficked to Kuwait.

Not only Kuwait but to other countries like China, other Arab countries and including South Africa of all countries.

On this one, let me also add that these girls or the women who are being trafficked, we've almost 2,000 or over 1,000 that are roaming around China as we speak right now. They were trafficked to China and some of them are now desperate and stranded in China.

The government departments should swiftly address the issue of foreigners marrying locals as they are the ones contributing to the challenges of human trafficking.

Once that's done, the Nigerian will go and marry the next one. I don't know the game of changing names and whatever happens. I think also the Minister of Home Affairs, through the Registrar General, should also look at this.

So, these women now, you know in China, they'll tell you that once you bring drugs, it's death penalty; almost 200 are on death row and of the 200, the majority are women."

This is not the first other countries will blame Nigerians for their woes. Early this year, a controversial Kenyan blogger, Cyprian Nyakundi, set the tone for an online war between his country and Nigeria, after he took to his blog to say that Nigerian men use their women as drug mules.



Greater jakarta: Three Taiwanese drug dealers arrested

Police have apprehended 3 suspected drug dealers from Taiwan at Sun Plaza Serpong shopping mall in Tangerang, Banten, and confiscated 60 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine.

Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Moechgiyarto said on Monday his officers had arrested the suspects, identified only as CHJ, LDC and CMT, at the shopping mall and seized 6 kg of meth from the men.

Moechgiyarto said the officers found a further 54 kg of meth at the suspects' rented house at Cluster Alicante in Paramount Serpong housing complex, also in Tangerang.

Besides the 3 Taiwanese, he said the police had also arrested 7 other suspects from among 4 groups from Aceh and Jakarta.

All the suspects were arrested on Sunday and Monday in Greater Jakarta.

"We seized 646 grams of meth from the Aceh group, 4 kg from the 1st Jakarta group, 323.14 g from the 2nd Jakarta group and 50 g from the 3rd Jakarta group," Moechgiyarto said

He said the suspects would be charged under the Narcotics Law, which carries the death penalty.

(source: The Jakakrta Post)


'In countries where you can't trust the courts 100 %'---Branson says no to death penalty, urges new admin to think twice

British billionaire and philanthropist Richard Branson is a known rebel in his field, having grown his Virgin Group business empire in oftentimes unconventional ways.

But even Branson, who was back in Manila Wednesday after 2 decades to speak with the country's entrepreneurs and business elite, draws the line when human rights are involved, especially when it comes to the death penalty.

"The death penalty is not a deterrent," Branson told the crowd of about 800 who attended the ABS-CBN News Channel's 1st "Asian Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum" held at the Sofitel Manila.

Most of the crowd paid anywhere between P20,000 to P35,000 each to hear the flamboyant visionary share his thoughts on business and success. His latest project involves making space travel affordable to all.

Branson said implementing the death penalty in jurisdictions where convictions are less than certain cannot be tolerated. He said even the United States, which has a "relatively good judicial system", got it wrong years ago when DNA-based evidence was not yet allowed.

"In countries where you can't 100 % trust the courts, the last thing you should have is the death penalty, and it's not a deterrent anyway," Branson said.

"I don't think society can risk executing innocent people and I hope this new government will think twice about that," he added, referring to the incoming administration of presumptive president elect Rodrigo Duterte.

Duterte, who won by a landslide in the May 9, 2016 polls on a platform coming out tough against crime and corruption, said he would restore the death penalty for heinous crimes.

These crimes include rape as well as kidnapping resulting in the death of the victim, reports showed. He further threatened that those convicted can be executed by hanging. Duterte's pronouncements drew opposition from the Catholic Church, the Commission on Human Rights and even some lawmakers.

Instead of executing criminals, Branson said they should be locked up "for life without any chance of coming out on the street again."

The topic on the death penalty came up during the business forum as Branson noted the global war on drugs has "been a complete failure".

He said jurisdictions would have less of a chance resolving the drug problem if approached in a "repressive" way rather than an approach seeking to reform addicts.

Branson's Virgin Group had come out strong against the death penalty in the past. It condemned Indonesia's execution of 8 individuals of drug-related crimes last year. Only Filipino Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso was granted a last-minute reprieve.

Despite calls against it, executions have been on the rise globally, Amnesty International said in its latest report.

In 2015, the non-government human-rights organization said those executed - mainly by hanging, shooting, lethal injection and beheading - hit 1,634 people, the highest it recorded since 1989



Iran regime mass executes 11 prisoners, including juvenile offender

Iran's fundamentalist regime mass executed on Wednesday 11 prisoners in their twenties, including at least one who is believed to have been a minor at the time of his alleged offence. Another three prisoners were executed on Tuesday.

The 11 victims, all aged between 22 and 25, were hanged en masse at dawn on May 25 in the notorious Gohardasht (Rajai-Shahr) Prison in Karaj, north-west of Tehran.

Among them was Mehdi Rajai who is believed to have been 16 years old at the time of his alleged crime.

The names of 8 of the other prisoners are believed to be Mohsen Agha-Mohammadi, Asghar Azizi, Farhad Bakhshayesh, Iman Fatemi-Pour, Javad Khorsandi, Hossein Mohammadi, Masoud Raghadi, and Khosrow Robat-Dasti.

On Tuesday, May 24, 3 other prisoners in Karaj's Qezelhesar Prison were hanged. 1 of them was identified as Ruhollah Roshangar, a married father of 2. All 3 had been behind bars for the past 4 years.

Also on Wednesday, the mullahs' regime informed 7 Sunni prisoners in Gohardasht that their execution sentences have been handed down by Branch 28 of the regime's 'Revolutionary Court.'

The 7 prisoners were identified as Davoud Abdollahi, Qasem Abesteh, Khosrow Besharat, Ayoub Karimi, Anvar Khezri, Farhad Salimi, and Kamran Shikheh. All 7 have been behind bars since December 7, 2009.

Iran's fundamentalist regime has sharply increased its rate of executions, carrying out at least 21 hangings in a 48-hour period last week.

Ms. Farideh Karimi, a member of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and a human rights activist, on Wednesday called for an urgent response by the United Nations and foreign governments to the appalling state of human rights in Iran.

"The rising number of mass executions in Iran in recent weeks clearly shows that the regime has in no way decided to change its disgraceful human rights record. Any claim of moderation under Hassan Rouhani is simply a myth. It is high time for the United Nations and human rights organizations to speak out against the brutal executions by the mullahs' regime and send Iran's human rights dossier before the UN Security Council," she said.

The latest hangings bring to at least 112 the number of people executed in Iran since April 10. 3 of those executed were women and 2 are believed to have been juvenile offenders.

Iran's fundamentalist regime earlier this month amputated the fingers of a man in his thirties in Mashhad, the latest in a line of draconian punishments handed down and carried out in recent weeks.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) said in a statement on April 13 that the increasing trend of executions "aimed at intensifying the climate of terror to rein in expanding protests by various strata of the society, especially at a time of visits by high-ranking European officials, demonstrates that the claim of moderation is nothing but an illusion for this medieval regime."

Amnesty International in its April 6 annual Death Penalty report covering the 2015 period wrote: "Iran put at least 977 people to death in 2015, compared to at least 743 the year before."

"Iran alone accounted for 82% of all executions recorded" in the Middle East and North Africa, the human rights group said.

There have been more than 2,300 executions during Hassan Rouhani's tenure as President. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran in March announced that the number of executions in Iran in 2015 was greater than any year in the last 25 years. Rouhani has explicitly endorsed the executions as examples of "God's commandments" and "laws of the parliament that belong to the people."

(source: NCR-Iran)


Iraq justice ministry announces execution of 22 convicts----Amnesty International has said that recent trials resulting in death sentences have been 'grossly unfair'

Iraq has executed 22 people over the past month who were convicted of terrorism and other crimes, the justice minister announced on Monday.

The ministry "carried out death sentences against 22 convicts condemned for crimes and terrorist acts," Justice Minister Haidar al-Zamili said in a statement.

It also quoted Zamili as saying that with the start of the Iraqi operation to retake the city of Fallujah from the Islamic State (IS) group, "we confirm ... that the ministry is continuing to carry out just punishment against terrorists."

Rights group Amnesty International said that Baghdad executed at least 26 people in 2015.

Iraq sentenced nearly 100 people to death within the first 2 months of 2016, the group said in a February report.

"The vast majority of the trials have been grossly unfair, with many of the defendants claiming to have been tortured into 'confessing' the crimes," James Lynch, Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa deputy director said.

Amnesty called on the Iraqi leadership to stop ratifying executions and begin a process to abolish the death penalty.

Iraq has faced widespread criticism from diplomats, analysts and human rights groups who say that due to a flawed justice system, those being executed are not necessarily guilty of the crimes for which they were sentenced to die.

But the country has repeatedly defied such criticism and continues carrying out executions.

(source: Middle East Eye)


Gaza calls for death penalty

Over the last 3 years, murders in cases of theft, robbery and physical attack in the Gaza Strip have become common. Money changer Ameen Sharab from Khan Yunis was stabbed to death in a robbery attack on May 30, 2013. Mohammed Mahdi and his nephew Anas Tammous from Deir al-Balah refugee camp were killed against the backdrop of a family dispute on June 24, 2013. Aliyan al-Talbani from Deir al-Balah city was killed in an armed robbery on July 31, 2013. Money changer Fadel al-Astal from Khan Yunis was killed in a fight over bank checks in May 2014. Hammad Dughmosh from Gaza City was killed against the backdrop of a dispute with Abed Rabbo Abu Madin on April 25, 2016; and most recently, on May 13, Thouraya al-Badri from Gaza City was killed in an armed robbery.

There has been a significant increase in the crime rate in Gaza over the past few years. According to statistics of the public prosecutor's office, approximately 40 people were murdered in 2013, 168 in 2014 and 28 in 2015. Most murders were committed for purely criminal reasons or due to disputes resulting from bad economic conditions and the spread of poverty and unemployment.

Following search and investigation operations carried out by the investigations unit of the police in Gaza, in general criminals were caught just a few hours after the crime. The perpetrators of these crimes have been given the death penalty, and they are awaiting execution, pending a decision from President Mahmoud Abbas.

The president of the Supreme Judicial Council in Gaza, Counsellor Abdel Raouf al-Halabi, told Al-Monitor, "The death penalty in Palestine was stipulated by law and is only issued against those who deserve it. It is linked to aggravating factors of willful, deliberate and premeditated murder. The courts issued death penalties in 13 cases that met the relevant legal conditions and are awaiting implementation by the public prosecutor."

In a press conference at the Ministry of Information in Gaza City on May 22, attended by Al-Monitor, Gaza public prosecutor Ismail Jaber said, "The public prosecutor communicates with the [Palestinian] Legislative Council [PLC] to decide on the implementation of death penalties in the Gaza Strip aimed to reduce and deter crime."

He said, "We sent a letter to Salim al-Sakka, the former justice minister in the unity government, to ask President Mahmoud Abbas to endorse the death penalty decisions in accordance with Article 109 of the Palestinian Basic Law and Article 409 of the Code of Criminal Procedure No. 3 of 2001. But we have not received a response in this regard despite the prior agreement on the endorsement of death penalties in Gaza."

Jaber said that the public prosecution is currently examining the death penalties to be carried out within the coming days, even if they are not endorsed by the president, although this violates the Palestinian Basic Law.

On May 16, village officials and dignitaries of families in Gaza submitted to Ismail Haniyeh, the deputy head of Hamas' political bureau, a petition urging him to rule with an iron fist by punishing the criminals who violate the law and kill people, and to implement death penalties.

Bassam al-Badri, whose mother Thouraya was murdered on May 13, told Al-Monitor, "The only punishment that would satisfy me is to see the killer of my mother hanged publicly in the presence of his parents, so that this deters anyone who dares to think about killing people and offending the sanctity of private homes."

Muhammad al-Talbani from Gaza, the father of Aliyan, called for accelerating the implementation of death penalties against the killers of his son, so as to prevent the recurrence of such crimes and prevent people from taking the law into their own hands.

Article 415 of the 2001 Palestinian Code of Criminal Procedure stipulates that executions of civilians must be done by hanging and of soldiers by shooting to death.

The head of the legal committee at the PLC, Muhammad Faraj al-Ghoul, told Al-Monitor, "The PLC will seek to accelerate the implementation of the death penalties against murderers in Gaza and will not allow them to go unpunished."

He added, "The implementation of the death penalties is stipulated in the Palestinian Basic Law, and the fact that these judgments are not endorsed by the president is a conspiracy aimed to bring chaos to the Gaza Strip."

It seems that Abbas is refusing to approve execution sentences issued in Gaza because he considers them illegal and issued by courts that are not affiliated with the Palestinian Judicial Council in Ramallah.

Al-Monitor attended the sit-in staged by the families of the victims, citizens, human rights organizations, clerics, reform committees and tribesmen in front of Rashad Shawa Cultural Center in Gaza City on May 22. Head of the reform committees Maher al-Halabi spoke on their organizations' behalf, demanding to pressure Hamas to promptly implement the death penalties against the murderers so as to prevent the aggrieved citizens from taking the law into their own hands.

Journalist Ismail al-Thawabta, director of Al-Ray media agency in Gaza, wrote on his Facebook page, "Do you support the death sentence for those convicted of murder, drug trafficking and other crimes?" Currently, 143 Facebook users say they do.

For his part, Bahjat al-Helo, awareness and training coordinator at the Independent Commission for Human Rights, told Al-Monitor, "Human rights organizations reject the execution of the death penalties. Palestine is a party to the charters on human rights, mainly the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which call for the abolition of the death penalty."

Helo indicated that safeguards must be strictly abided by when implementing the death penalty - which is stipulated in the Palestinian law - in accordance with the provisions of the law. He said, "According to the law, the death penalty is final and irreversible and gives the accused the right to defend himself or appoint a defense lawyer and to appeal in court; and therefore the most important safeguard is that the execution of these penalties must be endorsed by the Palestinian president, which is not the case in the death penalties issued in Gaza due to the separation between the government and the judiciary."

The official spokesman for the Palestinian government in Ramallah, Bassem Youssef Mahmoud, told Al-Monitor that the execution of the death penalties requires a judicial review of the judgment, which is automatically appealed without the need for any appeal to be lodged by the defendants so that it becomes final and cannot be appealed as per Article 408 of the Criminal Procedures, and the president’s endorsement.

He said, "It is impossible to meet the legal conditions and safeguards for the issuance and execution of the death penalty judgments in the Gaza Strip for reasons related to the ongoing internal division. The courts in Gaza are not subordinated to the Palestinian Supreme Judicial Council, the general prosecutor's office in Gaza is not subordinated to the Palestinian public prosecution and police stations, and the correctional facilities in Gaza are not subordinated to the official police. This is because of the division and because Hamas formed a new judicial council and public prosecution that the Ramallah government does not recognize."



Hamas seeks to re-introduce death penalty for murder----Will 'street justice' become the norm in the Gaza Strip?

Amid a surge in violent crime, leaders from the Hamas movement, which controls the Gaza Strip, have begun advocating implementation of the death penalty for convicted murderers, even though carrying out capital punishment without the authorization of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would be illegal.

At a sermon during prayers at the al-Mughrabi mosque in Gaza City last Friday, Khalil al-Haya, a member of the movement's political bureau, said Hamas would take action in response to murder and, in remarks quoted by the Ma’an News Agency, called for the implementation of 13 death sentences that were handed down by courts in recent years.

In separate remarks, Hamas legislator Mushir al-Masri described the stipulation in the Basic Law of the Palestinian Authority that the president must endorse any death sentence before it is carried out as a ''formality.'' He urged a return to capital punishment, something Abbas has repeatedly shunned in recent years. Abbas heads the Fatah movement, Hamas's rival from whom the Islamic movement seized power in the Strip in 2007.

The calls come against the backdrop of 2 deadly crimes that have shaken the crowded coastal enclave in recent weeks and what analysts say is an overall rise in crime in the Strip that they attribute to worsening poverty as an Israeli blockade continues with no end in sight.

2 weeks ago, a 74 year old woman, Soraya al-Badri, was murdered in her apartment in Gaza City by a thief who broke in. Gaza police spokesman Ayman Batniji told The Media Line ''The killer is in the hands of the police and has admitted to his crime.'' The murder, widely publicized in the media, touched off a strong reaction in the Strip because of the victim's age and the fact that she was the mother of Bassam al-Badri, a well-known figure in the Strip who is the physician in charge of arranging treatment of Gaza medical patients at hospitals in Israel and the West Bank.

Another deadly crime, this time in the central part of the Gaza Strip, which took place last month, is perhaps even more serious from Hamas's point of view because it threatens to touch off warfare between two large Gaza clans, the Abu Midein family and the Doghmush family, according to analysts.

According to Batniji, the police spokesman, the alleged killer, whom he identified as Silman Abu Midein ''opened fire with a Kalashnikov'' on victim Hamed Doghmush, killing him. Batniji said the motive was a land dispute.

Seeking a kind of blood vengeance, the Doghmush family is demanding that Hamas authorities execute Silman Abu Midein, a stance the authorities have reason to take seriously, according to Mkhaimar Abusada, who teaches political science at al-Azhar University in Gaza City.

''Palestinian society in general and Gaza in particular is very tribal and if someone commits a crime against someone from another family it becomes a tribal issue, a tribal war so that if Hamas doesn't implement the death penalty on those who commit murder, Gaza might erupt into tribal violence.'' Abusada said. ''The victim's family feels its honor has been injured and that to restore the honor the criminal must be executed. If not, victims' families will try to take the law into their own hands, something that happened during the Second Intifada [from 2000 to 2005]. Hamas is afraid of this.''

In an apparent allusion to the prospect of clan violence, al-Haya said during his mosque sermon that Hamas would not allow murder to distort the fabric of society in Gaza. Doing so, he said, would amount to playing into the hands of Israel which, he charged, wants to see the Strip in turmoil. ''The occupation is always busy in breaking the harmony of our social system,'' he said. Al-Haya called on decision-makers ''not to remain silent for a long time about implementing sentences that Abbas doesn't approve because he fears the reaction of the European Union.''

According to Ma'an, al-Masri, the Hamas legislator, said that carrying out the sentences would be the safest choice to safeguard the security of Gazan society.

Hamas has not implemented any death sentences for murder in Gaza since 2014, when it reached agreement on a national consensus government with Fatah and it stopped having a separate cabinet and prime minister for the coastal enclave. During the 50-day Gaza war that year, Hamas summarily executed 23 people, describing many of the killings as retribution for alleged collaboration with Israel. According to Amnesty International, the vast majority of those killed were either still on trial, were in the middle of serving prison sentences, or were awaiting trials or appeals. Al-Haya said that in the thirteen cases of death sentences waiting to be implemented, all the legal procedures had been completed.

But the Independent Commission for Human Rights, the Ramallah-based human rights monitoring organization for the Palestinian Authority, is voicing deep concern over Hamas talk of a return to capital punishment. ''According to Palestinian Basic Law, no death sentences can be implemented without the approval of the president so if they go ahead with this, then it is extrajudicial killing from our point of view,'' Ammar Dweik, ICHR's director-general told The Media Line. Dweik said that some of those who received death sentences were tried before military courts despite being civilians. ''These military courts do not provide the minimum standards for fair trial,'' he said.

Samir Zakout, assistant director of al-Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza City, said his organization was in contact with leaders in the Strip urging them not to implement the death sentences. He noted that despite the expressions of support by politicians such as al-Haya, no official decision has been taken. ''We are against it. There's no logic in violating the right to life and when you implement the death penalty it doesn't stop the crime,'' he said. ''The street wants the death penalty, people who had relatives killed want it. But we are against this kind of street justice.''

(source: The Jewish Journal)

MAY 24, 2016:


Death penalty doubt

The man charged with the brutal killing of Stephen Patrick White can face the death penalty, a judge ruled last week. Guilford County prosecutors say the crime was especially heinous, atrocious and cruel, also involved arson and put other people at risk - all aggravating factors.

There's little question about that. White, 46, was beaten and set on fire in a Greensboro hotel room on Nov. 8, 2014. He lived for 8 days, enduring 2 amputations and other surgeries before succumbing to his injuries.

Garry Joseph Gupton, 27, a former Greensboro city employee, is charged. If there's no plea deal and the case eventually goes to trial, a jury will consider evidence, attempt to reach a verdict and, if it finds the defendant guilty, recommend a sentence.

If that sentence is death, there's very little chance an execution ever will be carried out.

It has been nearly a decade since North Carolina put someone to death, although there are 148 men and 3 women on death row. Since Samuel Flippin's execution by lethal injection on Aug. 18, 2006, several death row inmates have died and 29 have been removed by court orders, either released or given lesser sentences. They include Glenn Chapman and Levon Jones, both set free after their sentences were vacated and the charges against them dropped, and Henry McCollum, who was granted a pardon of innocence by Gov. Pat McCrory last year.

North Carolina's execution delay frustrates some people - victims' families but also many legislators, who want to speed things up. That's unlikely.

Few murderers are sentenced to death in North Carolina anymore. Antwan Anthony, convicted of killing 3 men during a convenience story robbery in Pitt County, was placed on death row last month - the 1st addition in 2 years. Prosecutors and juries generally prefer life without parole.

North Carolina Medical Society policy prohibits physicians from participating in executions, as previously required by state law. More recently, the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced it won’t allow the use of its products in lethal injections, placing a significant obstacle before states that employ that method of capital punishment.

The U.S. Supreme Court also has limited application of the death penalty. And just Monday, it overturned a conviction in a Georgia murder case because of racial bias in jury selection. There are concerns about similar practices in North Carolina.

Then there's the gradual turning of public opinion, perhaps best exemplified by the evolving views of former N.C. Chief Justice I. Beverly Lake Jr. "I've always been known as a tough-on-crime, pro-law enforcement individual, and I still am," Lake wrote in The Huffington Post (reprinted in the News & Record's Ideas section Sunday).

Lake, a Republican, favored capital punishment as a state legislator, imposed death sentences as a Superior Court judge and upheld them on the N.C. Supreme Court. Yet, he wrote: "After decades of experience with the law, I have seen too much, and what I have seen has impacted my perspective. First, my faith in the criminal justice system, which had always been so steady, was shaken by the revelation that in some cases innocent men and women were being convicted of serious crimes."

Mistakes, however damaging, can still be rectified while a wrongly convicted inmate is alive. Not so if he is dead.

There are other reasons to end the death penalty, as Lake now advocates. It is administered inconsistently; biases influence sentencing; and it's expensive.

North Carolina will never execute the 151 people on death row, let alone Gupton or anyone else who might be added, no matter how terrible their crimes. It will save time and money, and prevent fatal mistakes, to abolish the death penalty. Life in prison is justice enough.

(source: Editorial, Greensboro News & Record)


Cagle capital murder trial begins

After 5 years of preparation, the capital murder trial of a Seagrove man began Monday in Randolph County Superior Court.

Randy Steven Cagle, now 39, is accused of the double murder of Davida Shauntel Stancil, 28, of Candor and Tyrone Clinton "Yogi" Marshall, 31, of Biscoe. The bodies of the victims were found on May 8, 2011, in Marshall's 1994 Oldsmobile, parked on the shoulder of N.C. 705 near Ralph Lawrence Road just outside of Seagrove.

Both had been stabbed to death, according to autopsy reports.

Cagle was arrested at his residence, located about 2 miles from where the bodies were found. A grand jury indicted him on 2 counts of 1st-degree murder on June 11, 2011. A guilty verdict could mean either life in prison or the death penalty.

According to affidavits by detectives of the Randolph County Sheriff's Office, blood evidence was found at Cagle's residence at 6644 Mustang Trail, Seagrove. Officers also seized 2 cell phones belonging to Cagle to confirm conversations related to a purchase of cocaine from Marshall. Cagle, according to the affidavits, acknowledged having called Marshall on the evening before the bodies were found and that Marshall had delivered cocaine to Cagle between 7-8 p.m. that evening.

Detectives reported smelling a strong odor of bleach coming from Cagle'a home when he was first interviewed. A search warrant was issued for the home and evidence collected, including blood from a number of sources.

The trial proceedings will begin with selection of jurors as well as instructions to the jury pool. In the case of a capital trial, more than the usual number of alternates are selected.

Courthouse security is expected to be beefed up for the trial with as many as 5 more deputies on duty during the proceedings.

Andy Gregson, chief assistant district attorney, is expected to lead the prosecution while court-appointed defense attorneys are Frank Wells of Asheboro and Phoebe Dee of Durham, both from the N.C. Public Defenders Office.

(source: The Courier-Tribune)


Clarence Thomas' Death Row Dissent Is Complex & Has Everyone Confused

3 decades after Timothy Tyrone Foster was convicted and sentenced to death in the murder of an elderly white woman, the Supreme Court has thrown out the ruling on the basis that African American jurors were intentionally kept off the jury by the prosecution, according to The Washington Post. While seven of the justices sided with the majority opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas, the lone black justice on the Court, authored a dissenting opinion. Clarence Thomas' death row dissent is complex and sometimes contradictory, as might be expected in a 7-1 ruling.

At issue isn't Foster's innocence - he has previously confessed to the crime - but whether he received a fair trial under the auspices of an all-white jury and a biased prosecution. Foster, who grew up in the projects, broke into the home of 79-year-old Queen Madge White, broke her jaw, sexually assaulted her, and then strangled her before burglarizing the home, according to The Post. Over the years, Foster's attorneys have argued that Foster's status as a mentally disabled teen should have precluded a death penalty conviction.

Foster's case shifted focus to the issue of jury selection when Stephen Bright, Foster's attorney and an expert at death penalty cases, used Georgia's open records laws to procure the prosecution's notes from the original trial. What Bright found in the notes was shocking.

According to CBS News, the prosecution had highlighted each potential black juror with green highlighter, marked them with a "B," and added them to a list labeled "Definite Nos." With this evidence in hand, Bright argued before the Supreme Court that this was a clear instance of racial discrimination in jury selection, which was effectively banned via the precedent of Batson v. Kentucky, a 1986 Supreme Court decision establishing that striking jurors based on their race is unconstitutional.

According to Slate, Justice Elena Kagan said aloud during the proceedings, "Isn't this as clear a Batson violation as a court is ever going to see?" Given the strength of the evidence, Justice Thomas' dissent needed to somehow make the evidence seem either illegitimate or irrelevant.

In his dissent, Justice Thomas brought forth 2 central complaints with his colleagues' decision. First was that the Supreme Court didn't have jurisdiction over the Foster case in the first place. The high court is supposed to intervene in state court decisions only when a federal law is in question; The Georgia Supreme Court, Thomas pointed out in his dissent, never mentioned a federal issue. "I therefore refuse to presume that the unexplained denial of relief by the Supreme Court of Georgia presents a federal question," he wrote.

What does he mean by "unexplained denial of relief?" Turns out that when the Georgia court refused to grant Foster the ability to appeal his case [aka, denial of relief] based on the racial exclusion argument, the judges said that his case had no "arguable merit." From there, they didn't elaborate. Thomas used the inadequacy and brevity of the Georgia Supreme Court's handling of the case to argue that no federal law was at stake.

Which is rather confusing. The total absence of an explanation doesn't mean that The Supreme Court lacks jurisdiction. According to the International Business Times, the other Supreme Court justices all felt that the Batson precedent, which is a federal precedent, was at stake in this case.

Clarence also argued that the evidence itself - the prosecution's notes - isn't compelling enough to reverse a lower court's decision. "The new evidence is no excuse for the Court's reversal of the state court's credibility determinations," he wrote. Clarence further tries to minimize the evidence, writing that "we do not know who wrote most of the notes that Foster now relies upon as proof of the prosecutors' race-based motivations." (According to the Associated Press, individual members of the prosecution have denied being the author of the notes.)

What's interesting, though, is that despite deeming the evidence insubstantial, Clarence seems rather threatened by it. "The Court today invites state prisoners to go searching for new 'evidence' by demanding the files of the prosecutors who long ago convicted them," he wrote in the dissent.

What Clarence really objects to, then, isn't the strength of the evidence, but that the court was allowed to see it. And unfortunately for Justice Clarence, who is a native of Georgia, placing "evidence" in quotation marks isn't enough to make it go away.



African-American Death Row Inmate Suffered Race Bias: Top US Court

The US Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favour of an African American death row inmate who argued there was bias in the choosing of an all-white jury that convicted him of the 1986 murder of an elderly white woman.

By a 7-1 vote, the justices struck down a Georgia Supreme Court ruling denying Timothy Foster appellate review of his death sentence. Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, the court's only African American member, dissented.

"This means that Timothy Foster is entitled to a new trial at which jurors are not excluded based on race," his lawyers said in a statement.

The decision, coming nearly 30 years after Foster's death penalty conviction, highlighted the continuing effect of racism on jury selection in the United States.

Foster's lawyers showed that prosecutors had maneuvered to keep blacks off the jury, presenting as evidence prosecutor's notes at a November 2015 Supreme Court hearing.

The notes, which were obtained after Foster's 1987 conviction, included a list of prospective jurors that had the handwritten letter "B" next to the names of African Americans on the list.

Those designated with a "B" were rejected for the jury under a selection process that allows prosecutors to block, or "strike," a certain number of potential jurors.

Foster's lawyer told the court that the prosecutors drew up a list of 6 prospective jurors to be stricken from the panel: f were black, and 1 was opposed to the death penalty.

'Arresting' References To Race

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said the prosecution's file "plainly belie the state's claim that it exercised its strikes in a 'colour-blind' manner."

"The sheer number of references to race in that file is arresting," he wrote.

The state of Georgia had vehemently defended the prosecutors, arguing that they had documented their actions in order to show they were being thoughtful and not discriminatory in considering prospective black jurors.

But the court's majority said that the state's argument "reeks of afterthought," noting it had never been raised before in the case's 30-year history.

"In addition, the focus on race in the prosecution's file plainly demonstrates a concerted effort to keep black prospective jurors off the jury," Roberts wrote.

"The state's new argument today does not dissuade us from the conclusion that its prosecutors were motivated in substantial part by race when they struck Garrett and Hood from the jury 30 years ago," the opinion said, referring to 2 black potential jurors, Marilyn Garret and Eddie Hood.

The court's decision reverses a Georgia state Supreme Court order denying Foster appellate review of his death sentence, and remands the case "for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion."

Thomas dissent

Foster had confessed to murdering Queen Madge White, a 79-year-old retired school teacher who was sexually assaulted and killed in her home in Rome, Georgia in August 1986.

Thomas, in his dissent, said the Supreme Court should have sought clarification from the state supreme court, rather than overrule it.

In doing so, he wrote, "the court affords a death-row inmate another opportunity to relitigate his long-final conviction."

Justice Samuel Alito wrote a concurring opinion that, while agreeing with the majority's conclusion, cautioned that it was important not to "lightly brush aside" the state's legitimate interest in a process that "militates against repetitive litigation and endless delay."

In a statement, Foster's lawyer Stephen Bright said the court had no choice but to find that prosecutors intentionally discriminated in striking black prospective jurors and that they "lied about it by giving false reasons for their strikes when the real reason was race."

"Jury strikes motivated by race cannot be tolerated. The exclusion of black citizens from jury service results in juries that do not represent their communities and undermines the credibility and legitimacy of the criminal justice system."



Donald Smith's lawyers file motion to remove death penalty from case----Man accused in girl's June 2013 kidnapping, rape, murder still awaits trial

Attorneys for Donald Smith have filed another motion in an effort to block prosecutors from seeking the death penalty if he's convicted in the murder of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle.

The new motion asks the trial judge to declare the state's death penalty law unconstitutional, claiming it violates the 5th, 6th, 8th and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

Smith's lawyers contend the Constitution requires a unanimous verdict from the jury.

The motion also insists that all aggravating factors in the crime be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, also unanimously.

The U.S. Supreme Court declared Florida's capital punishment law unconstitutional late last year because it gave too much authority to the judge on when a convict should be sentenced to death. The new law requires a jury to vote at least 10-2 for someone to receive a death sentence.

Florida is 1 of only 3 states that does not require a unanimous jury vote for a death penalty sentence. The others are Alabama and Delaware.

In March, a judge denied a defense motion to block the state from seeking the death penalty against Smith.

Police said Smith befriended Cherish's mother at a Northside store, took them to a Walmart, then walked out with the girl after saying he was going to buy hamburgers at a McDonald's.

The girl's body was found behind a church the next morning.

The case has dragged on for nearly 3 years, and is now one of many death penalty cases on hold.

"His attorneys have filed a motion asking the court to take the death penalty off the table. The prosecutor says they're going to ask the jury to impose the death penalty when he goes to trial. But his attorneys have filed this new motion now that says the death penalty statute, which existed at the time of the crime, has been found to be unconstitutional. And so they want the courts to say he can't be sentenced to death if he is convicted," said Ed Birk, an attorney not affiliated with the case.

Birk said because the statute has been found unconstitutional, hundreds of other cases in Florida could have similar outcomes. Birk told News4Jax a lot of how this will work hinges on one case and that will reveal a better look at the potential outcome for Smith.

"There was the U.S. Supreme Court case in the Hurst case. He had already been sentenced to death. The court said that Florida's sentencing statute was unconstitutional. And so the Legislature very quickly amended the statute to become law. Now the question is whether that statute will apply to Donald Smith. The Hurst case is still going through the courts. Florida Supreme Court heard argument this week about whether Hurst will be resentenced and whether he'll be sentenced to life in prison or to death. And all of that will have an impact on what happens to Smith," Birk said.

Smith's next court date is May 26.



Demise of the death penalty?

As must occur when a life hangs in the balance, we accommodate precautions built into death cases that make them exorbitantly expensive and time-consuming. That means, for instance, allowing death row convicts to file seemingly endless appeals, often a frustrating, soul-draining process for a victim's loved ones.

We also know that sometimes the judicial system mucks it up. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 26 Florida inmates sentenced to die have been exonerated, most among the states that collectively have freed 156 innocent people from death row since 1973.

Despite those valid reasons, opponents of capital punishment have made little headway in persuading lawmakers to stop this practice, nor do they seem willing to try to convince voters that we should ban the death penalty through a state constitutional amendment.

Yet, based on recent news reports, they nonetheless seem to be winning.

Earlier this year the Legislature had to "fix" the death penalty after the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled 8-1 that Florida's process was unconstitutional. The high court found the method was flawed because the trial judge, and not the jury, determined the reasons why a convicted murderer qualified for the ultimate punishment.

State lawmakers thought they addressed that issue by amending the law during the 2016 session. The new statute mandated that the jury must unanimously agree on at least one factor presented by prosecutors in arguing for a death sentence. Then, if jurors reach that point, at least 10 of them must vote for execution.

In early May, though, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Milton Hirsch became the 1st state judge to rule that was not good enough.

The judge balked at the idea of a super-majority vote for death. "A decedent cannot be more or less dead. An expectant mother cannot be more or less pregnant. And a jury cannot be more or less unanimous," the judge wrote in his ruling supporting 1st-degree murder defendant Karon Gaiter's claim that the new sentencing scheme was still unconstitutional. "Every verdict in every criminal case in Florida requires the concurrence, not of some, not of most, but of all jurors - every single one of them."

Then last week, we heard from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, which announced it would not sell to states its drugs that could become ingredients for carrying out executions. Pfizer thus aligned itself with roughly 20 U.S. and European drug manufacturers that were driven by some high-profile botched lethal injections to prohibit sales of their wares to death penalty states.

We thus may be witnessing the demise of Florida's death penalty, yet let's consider who is leading us there.

Except for Justice Samuel Alito, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the fact that Florida judges had acted on a jury's recommendation. Judge Hirsch dismissed the fact that the jury must unanimously convict a murderer before determining a death sentence - the only criminal cases, by the way, in which a jury, and not a judge like Hirsch, hands down the punishment. Pfizer dismissed the fact in 2011 it was sued for $2 billion by the Nigerian government - and settled for $75 million - because it tested, without authorization, an anti-meningitis drug that killed 11 children.

Yes, lawmakers can probably fix the death penalty again next year to require a jury's unanimous vote to suit defense-minded judges like Hirsch. And Florida, like other states, could look to compounding pharmacies or the black market for the lethal drugs, or revert to a less "humane" execution method, such as reviving the electric chair.

But each incremental adjustment will undoubtedly make it more complicated to sentence a convicted killer to death row.

Many among us may cheer that development as progress toward justice, but it will be hollow.

That's because those who oppose capital punishment will gain ground without widespread, broad-based consensus of the people or their elected representatives, and without regard for, or acknowledgement of, the families and friends of victims whose lives were taken from them in the most brutal circumstances.

(source: Editorial, The Ledger)


Death penalty opponents to rally in honor of the late Shelby Farah

Death penalty opponents in Jacksonville are rallying Thursday night at an event honoring the late Shelby Farah.

Titled "Not In My Name," the evening is billed as "bringing awareness about the death penalty and the trauma inflicted on victims and family members within the criminal justice system."

Farah was just 20 when she was murdered during a robbery at the phone store where she worked. Her mother, Darlene Farah, has repeatedly and vocally spoken out against Shelby's killer, 24-year-old James Xavier Rhodes, being sentenced to death. Farah wants Rhodes to receive a life sentence so that her family does not have to endure years of appeals.

State Attorney Angela Corey's office maintains the brutality of the crime justifies the death penalty for Rhodes.

The Thursday event, held at Mt. Sinai Baptist Church, is also slated to feature death row exonerees.

That church is affiliated with Pastor Reginald Gundy, who has worked on behalf of Corey challenger Wes White.

(source: Florida Politics)


Once on death row, 6 juvenile killers could get chance at parole

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday told the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals to reconsider the cases of 6 men serving life without the possibility of parole sentences to see if the men should be re-sentenced to allow for a chance of future parole.

The defendants in whose cases the U.S. Supreme Court remanded to the Alabama Court of Appeals are: William Knotts, James Bonds, Nathan Slaton, Clayton Flowers, Michael S. Barnes (he had 2 cases), and Renaldo Chante Adams.

"The petitioners in these cases were sentenced to death for crimes they committed before they turned 18," according to the U.S. Supreme Court opinion. "In most of these cases, petitioners' sentences were automatically converted to life without the possibility of parole following our decisions outlawing the death penalty for juveniles (in 2005)."

Then in the case of Miller v. Alabama in 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional laws in states, including Alabama, where life without the possibility of parole was the only sentence judges had available for sentencing juveniles convicted in capital murder cases.

Then in January of this year, in Montgomery v. Louisiana, the U.S. Supreme Court held that their earlier decision in the Miller case is to be applied retroactively to those who were convicted prior to 2012. Alabama courts had held that it wasn't retroactive.

"Today's action by the Supreme Court included clarification by justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito as to the scope of Montgomery," according to a statement from the Alabama Attorney General's Office. "In a concurrence, the Justices explained that the Court was not addressing the merits of these cases or taking a position on whether life without parole is an appropriate sentence in each. Because these defendants previously received a death sentence, each also received a hearing providing him an opportunity to present his age and any other mitigating circumstances to the sentencer."

Justices explained that state judges are free to consider on remand whether these previous hearings satisfy the individual sentencing requirement of Miller, according to the Attorney General's Office.

Judges and district attorneys around Alabama have been getting requests from inmates serving life without parole sentences for crimes to have their sentences reduced to "life" and a chance at parole.

In Jefferson County alone, more than 10 such cases have had preliminary hearings and at least 2 inmates have already had their sentences reduced.

In today's statement, Attorney General Strange, again objected to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Montgomery, which he says potentially allows about 70 convicted murderers in Alabama to receive new sentences because they were juveniles at the time they committed their crimes.

"It would be reprehensible to put victims' families through the ordeal of seeing the person responsible for the deaths of their loved ones allowed to potentially receive a new sentence," Strange stated. "This could have a devastating effect on families who thought they had received closure in cases often going back decades."

"Thankfully, members of the Court today recognized that these cases - in which the death penalty had first been imposed - have already undergone extensive reviews that would have considered the defendants' ages and any mitigating circumstances.," Strange stated.

"The courts should take those proceedings into consideration before requiring victims' families to endure new sentencing hearings or new sentences for these murderers."



Louisiana Supreme Court rejects bid to overturn death penalty of River Parishes serial killer Daniel Blank

The Louisiana Supreme Court rejected a bid to overturn the death penalty and grant a new trial to convicted river parishes serial killer Daniel Blank last week.

Blank, 53, was scheduled to be executed March 14 after a state district judge rejected a post-conviction appeal last year but the Supreme Court granted a stay of execution in February. He has been convicted in 5 slayings of older residents in the mid-1990s and was sentenced to death in the 1999 1st-degree murder conviction of Lillian Philippe, 72, of Gonzales.

The high court concluded that Blank would have been sentenced to death no matter if his upbringing that included poverty and sexual abuse was introduced in that trial or not, something his appeal attorneys argued.

23rd Judicial District Court Judge Jessie LeBlanc had upheld the 1st-degree conviction and death penalty sentence of Blank in the 1997 murder of Philippe in late September rejecting his claims of an ineffective defense counsel calling it unconvincing and insufficient.

LeBlanc presided over a 5-day evidentiary hearing held last July at the Terrebonne Parish Courthouse in Houma where Blank's attorney's claimed his conviction and sentence were unconstitutional because prosecutors withheld investigative reports that challenged the reliability of his confession to the murder as well as others.

Defense attorneys have also said the order is premature due to more appeals at the federal level, especially after the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a death penalty supporter, and also argued that the Department Public Safety and Corrections does not currently have it its possession the drugs necessary to carry out the execution.

(source: The Creole)


Freed man says Kansas should end the death penalty

A man who spent nearly 16 years in prison for a rape and killing to which his brother confessed wants Kansas to pull the plug on the death penalty.

The Lawrence Journal-World reports that 39-year-old Floyd Bledsoe shared his story over the weekend in the basement of a Lawrence church.

Bledsoe never faced the death penalty himself. But he was sentenced to life in prison after he was convicted of raping and killing 14-year-old Camille Arfmann. He was released in December after a DNA test and suicide notes indicated his brother, Tom Bledsoe, killed Arfmann.

Bledsoe says the court system is flamed and questioned what would have happened if he had been sentenced to death.

Kansas hasn't executed anyone since it reinstated capital punishment in 1994.

(source: Associated Press)


The Death Penalty in Kansas

More than 9 years after the murder of their daughter, the parents of Jodi Sanderholm are speaking out to KSN News, as the execution of the man convicted in her murder, remains very much in doubt.

Jodi Sanderholm was 19 years old when she was murdered in Ark City, Kansas.Jodi Sanderholm was 19 years old when she was murdered in Ark City, Kansas.

"I'm sure she, Jodi, pleaded for her life and he didn't give it to her," said Cindy Sanderholm, Jodi's mother. "She didn't get a 2nd choice. She didn't get a 2nd chance," she added.

Arkansas City-native, Justin Eugene Thurber was 25-years-old when he was sentenced to death in the murder of Sanderholm. Prosecutors said Thurber had a habit of stalking young women. They said Thurber followed the Cowley County College dancer home, abducted her, beat and raped her, then strangled her to death.

For Cindy and Brian Sanderholm, life since their daughter's murder has never been the same.

"She was just a very smart, talented little girl," said Cindy.

Brian and Cindy Sanderholm sat down with KSN's Brittany Glas to discuss the death penalty process in Kansas.

Jodi's parents say they feel as though they were robbed of a life with their young daughter, who they said, had a promising future.

"To me, she's always 19, and so, when I see her friends and they're getting older, it's like, 'Gosh, what would she be doing?' 'What would she be like?' Lots of ifs," added Cindy.

"We suffered through it this long," said Brian Sanderholm, the father of murder victim, Jodi Sanderholm. "It's time for you [Thurber] to suffer."

Inmates Serving Death in Kansas

Thurber is now 1 of 10 inmates in the state of Kansas serving death sentences. They are all on Kansas' version of "death row" at El Dorado Correctional Facility, where they are housed on 'Administrative Segregation' status.

--Justin Eugene Thurber ----Convicted for 2007 murder of Jodi Sanderholm near Arkansas City.

--Frazier Glenn Cross Jr. (aka Frazier Cross) ----Convicted for 2014 killing of William Corporon, Reat Underwood and Terri LaManno in Kansas City.

--Gary Wayne Kleypas ----Convicted of 1996 raping and killing 20-year-old Carrie Williams in Pittsburg.

--James Kraig Kahler ----Convicted for 2009 murder of Karen Kahler; daughters Lauren and Emily Kahler and Karen Kahler's grandmother, Dorothy Wight in Burlingame.

--John Edward Robinson, Sr. ----Capital conviction for 1999 killing of Izabela Lewicka and the 2000 death of Suzette Trouten. He is accused of killing 7 women.

--Scott Dever Cheever ----Convicted for 2005 shooting of Greenwood County Sheriff Matt Samuels during a drug raid.

--Sidney John Gleason ----Convicted for 2004 murder of Miki Martinez and Darren Wornkey in Great Bend.

--Johnathan Daniel Carr ----The Carr brothers were convicted for the 2000 murders of Brad Heyka, Heather Muller, Aaron Sander and Jason Befort in Wichita.

--Reginald Dexter Carr, Jr. ----The Carr brothers were convicted for the 2000 murders of Brad Heyka, Heather Muller, Aaron Sander and Jason Befort in Wichita.

--Kyle Trevor Flack ----Convicted for 2013 murders of Kaylie Bailey, Lana Bailey, Andrew Stout and Steven White near Ottawa.

A KSN Investigation concludes it is very likely that Jodi Sanderholm's killer, along with the nine other inmates on our state's 'death row,' may never be executed in the state of Kansas. This, due to the fact that Kansas' processes are either non-existent, or designed to not carry out the sentence.

In fact, it has been so long since Kansas has executed an inmate with a death sentence that it has become clear that the people responsible for carrying out the sentence don't seem to know exactly what to do, or how to do it.

Since Kansas reinstated the death penalty in 1994, 22 years ago, no one has been executed. The last time someone was executed in our state was 1965, by hanging.

KSN went straight to the Kansas Department of Corrections to find out why.

"We haven't executed anyone in that time frame, and there's no time table to have any other future executions," said Adam Pfannenstiel, the Communications Spokesperson for KDOC.

That's right ... The state of Kansas doesn't have a plan on how to execute any of the 10 inmates on 'death row.'

Hearing this infuriates the family of Jodi Sanderholm.

"I really figured they had a plan," said Cindy Sanderholm.

"I think it's a little shocking that Kansas reinstated the death penalty over 20 years ago, and there's not a plan yet," said Jennifer Aldridge, Jodi's older sister. "I thought this would have been something that would have been discussed 20 years ago when it was reinstated."

So then, what accounts for the delay?

Average number of years between sentencing and execution.Average number of years between sentencing and execution.

The Appeals Process

First, the appeals process takes time ... in Kansas and across the United States.

In the past 30 years, the average time between sentence to execution grew in the U.S. from just over 6 years per inmate to 15.5 years.

However, Kansas is approaching 22 years without an execution ever.

Regional analysis, time from sentence to executionRegional analysis, time from sentence to execution

Kansas' neighboring states, in the meantime, average nearly 1/2 that time: 12 years.

Our KSN Investigation learned that even when an appeals process is exhausted, the state is not prepared for what comes next - whether that be the actual order of execution and/or the act of carrying out the execution sentence.

KSN sat down with Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt.

"Unlike some of our neighboring states, like Oklahoma, Missouri, that have had a death penalty law on the books longer, that have cases that have moved through the system further, that have actually reached the point of carrying out executions, Kansas isn't there yet," said Derek Schmidt.

"Nobody knows, with certainty, what step would follow, but I am certain we would be closely involved in the legalities if that were to come. That's not imminent in any of the cases," continued the Attorney General.

Because no executions are imminent, the Department of Corrections in Kansas, the entity which would carry out the order, has no process, no time-table, and no injection drugs in stock to fulfill any execution orders.

"There's no plans, no intentions to execute anyone," said Adam Pfannenstiel, with the KDOC. "We'll be prepared when someone tells us that it's time, but, I couldn't even predict when that would be."

Concerning injection drugs, Pfannenstiel said, "There's no reason for us to have a supply or a supplier, at this time because there's no need for it."

The Sanderholms are frustrated with a lack of preparation on the part of our state and what it means concerning the seriousness of Kansas statute.

"It's wrong that we, as a state, have a law on the books that says, 'If you commit this crime, this is the punishment that you're going to get,' and then, we turn around and don't issue the punishment," explained Jodi's father, Brian. "Well ... we need to change the law. Don't have it on the books."

While the family members of victims like Jodi Sanderholm say the process is too long, the Attorney General tells KSN News regardless, it is the process.

"There's no way to move a death penalty case at lightning speed," said Schmidt. "We can do better than we're doing, but, it's not going to be a rapid process."

The Financial Factors

While the Sanderholm Family is impacted in a painful and very personal way after losing their daughter, the state of Kansas and taxpayers in our state are all impacted by the process, or lack thereof. In fact, for an inmate serving time at El Dorado, the average annual cost of incarceration is $24,951, as documented for Fiscal Year 2015. That number, divided by 365 days of the year, equates to $68.36 per day.

However, it costs even more to house inmates serving death sentences and/or sentences in Administrative Segregation.

According to a Kansas Legislative Post Audit Committee reported published in 2014, each of the inmate serving time in Administrative Segregation at El Dorado, comes with an annual cost of nearly $49,000.

In fact, the Report of the Judicial Council's Death Penalty Advisory Committee states:

"According to the DOC, the average annual cost to house an inmate in administrative segregation is $49,380, or double the cost to house an inmate in the general population. Administrative segregation is more expensive primarily because of the need for more officers per inmate." --p. 13/27 Report of the Judicial Council, February 13, 2014

"It hurts me so bad every week when I see my paycheck, and I know I'm paying tax money to feed him," said Brian Sanderholm. Court Costs Death Penalty Case

Further, it is not only the cost to house an inmate sentenced to death. Taxpayers also pay nearly 4 times the price to prosecute a case where the death penalty if pursued by the prosecution - $395,000 per case - compared to only $100,000 per case when the death penalty is not sought.

For the Sanderholms, taxes are added insult to an unbearable injury ... and a grueling wait for justice in the case of their daughter, Jodi.

"[Death is] what he deserves, and that's what the law stated," said Cindy Sanderholm. "So, we need to get the law fixed so we can use it."

"If it was your daughter, your son, it was our daughter, what would you want to have happen?" asked Brian Sanderholm.

(source: KSN news)


"Life means Life" is Argument to End Death Penalty

Opponents of the death penalty say it's a broken system, and replacing it with a life sentence will guarantee the worst of the worst will remain locked up for the rest of their days. Those who want to keep capital punishment, however, make the case it remains a just penalty.

If voters retain the law ending the death penalty in Nebraska, it will be replaced by a life sentence.

For an example of what that would look like, the case of Randy Reeves may apply.

He was sentenced to death, after killing 2 women in Lincoln 35 years ago. In 1999, he was scheduled to go to the electric chair.

Kurt Mesner remembers, "It came down to within 48 hours of him being executed."

Mesner grew up in Central City with the Reeves, the man who killed his sister Janet, and says his Quaker faith is why he has consistently argued against the death penalty throughout his family's ordeal.

He said, "We need to turn the other cheek and that's the attitude that I have always taken."

Mesner says Reeves' death shows life without parole works.

He said, "I never heard once from anybody bringing up he should be let out of prison because they knew he did a horrible crime and was going to die one way or the other."

Sen. Colby Coash says if voters end capital punishment, killers on death row will never leave prison.

He said, "Hey, life means life. When a judge says you're sentenced to life, case law is clear. Parole board has nothing to do with a life sentence."

But the governor, attorney general, and secretary of state can change a sentence, as the 3 members of the Board of Pardons, something death penalty supporters point out.

Bob Evnen, a Lincoln attorney said, "This happened in our state 3 years ago where an inmate who'd been sentenced to life had his sentence commuted and was paroled and committed another violent crime."

In the legislature, Coash made the conservative case against what he sees as a failed government program.

Death penalty supporters agree there are problems, but say the focus should be on being able to carry out an execution. Coash argues after 20 years without an execution, and legal obstacles to obtaining lethal injection drugs, that there is no reasonable expectation the state can go through with one.

"Do we have to go 30 years before we don't do this, before we say it's broken. How many years do we have to go," he said.

Kurt Mesner says public opinion is changing, but thinks his view remains in the minority.

"Right now I don't think it has changed enough to retain what the legislature passed," he said.

Meanwhile, death penalty supporters say the legislature made a mistake.

Bob Evnen feels most Nebraskans think the legislature is wrong.

He said, "My hope is that the voters of the state will overwhelmingly repeal the repeal and that this will send a message to the Unicameral that they need to get to work on fixing the system. The big argument to throw out the death penalty is the system is broken."

Evnen says the death penalty is needed to protect police officers and punish those who are clearly guilty. He is leading the campaign known as Nebraskans for the Death Penalty.



BROKEN BEYOND REPAIR----State senators call Nebraska's death penalty system broken beyond repair

Several arguments were advanced on Monday morning by state Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln and state Sen. Mike Gloor of Grand Island in urging Nebraska voters to uphold the action of the Legislature in doing away with the death penalty.

Voters will be asked in November to retain or reject the Legislature's decision to abolish the death penalty.

Speaking at a press conference at Nathan Detroit's in Grand Island, both Coash and Gloor argued that the system for enforcing the death penalty in Nebraska is broken beyond repair.

"Going on next year, it will be 20 years since we've actually used it," Coash said of the death penalty. He noted that, when he was elected to the Legislature, he promised voters that, if he found government that wasn't working, he would do all he could to get rid of it.

"I think the death penalty certainly fit that bill as we debated it," said Coash, who served 8 years on the Judiciary Committee. "We looked at this issue from all sides ... and our conclusion was this is a system we couldn't fix and we were better off without it."

Coash said one question that was raised repeatedly during the Legislature's debate last year was what would happen to people serving life in prison if Nebraska got rid of the death penalty. "Does that mean that people who have a life sentence would now be getting out?"

Coash said he asked the Nebraska attorney general for an opinion on that issue.

"His answer was, 'Life means life,' and a person sentenced to life is not going to get out of prison," Coash said.

"Nothing about what the Legislature did changes anything with the parole process, and a person sentenced to life is not going to be eligible for parole," Coash said. "The only way that a person sentenced to life can ever get out of prison is if the attorney general, the governor and the secretary of state decide to commute that person's sentence."

Coash said he wants to make sure that all Nebraska voters understand that fact before they vote in the November general election.

He said that system of 2 of the top 3 highest elected officials in Nebraska needing to cast votes to commute a life sentence could have happened 5 years ago when the death penalty was the law in Nebraska, it could happen today when there is no death penalty statute, or it could happen a year from now, no matter what voters decide in November.

Gloor noted that, for a long time, he supported having the death penalty in Nebraska.

"I don't have an ethical problem with the death penalty," Gloor said, which is evident from some of his previous votes. "I don't have any religious persuasions that influence me."

However, Gloor said he does have a record as a person who can make difficult decisions. He supported the death penalty through two rounds of debate last year before he changed his mind.

"Why did I change my mind? It became clear to me, for reasons that Sen. Coash just pointed out, we’re not going to be able to implement the death penalty," he said. "There are a host of reasons behind that. I think we're all familiar with the lack of the ability to get the drugs necessary for injection."

However, legal wrangling and the appeals process also make it impossible to carry out the death penalty in Nebraska. Gloor said that made him look at the "cost associated with what is basically spinning our wheels and saying, this makes no sense for the state of Nebraska."

Gloor said he has listened to the surviving family members of murder victims who have politely told him that he is not the expert on the death penalty. He said those people are the ones who get pulled back into hearings as the state attempts to carry out the death penalty.

Gloor said they tell him their decades of experience make them believe Nebraska is incapable of carrying out the death penalty.

Some people running for re-election are deliberately stirring up anger and vitriol about the death penalty issue without researching how the system actually works, he said.

Gloor said he understands the emotional pull of pro-death-penalty arguments, because he was once influenced by them. But if state senators were faced with any other state system as broken as the death penalty, he said, they would be expected to fix it.

Gloor said he hopes people can look at his example and pull away from all the emotional arguments surrounding the death penalty and see that it is simply not working, which is why it should be abolished.

Regardless of the vote's outcome in November, the death penalty will not be carried out, Gloor said. People should learn about the real expenses involved in trying to carry out the death penalty. They should hold elected officials accountable when they favor the death penalty but are unable to carry it out.

If the death penalty is reinstated, Gloor said, voters must hold pro-death-penalty politicians accountable if they fail to carry out the law.

Conversely, Coash wondered if it will take 25 years or 30 years without an execution before Nebraska voters believe the system is broken. Citizens were told 8 years ago that the "last hurdle" to carrying out the death penalty was changing the method to lethal injection, yet no execution has happened since then.

Coash said the death penalty's emotional pull is because death row inmates have committed horrific crimes and they deserve the death penalty.

"I don't think you have 2 senators up here who disagree with that," he said.

Coash said he has talked to surviving family members who favor the death penalty and surviving family members who oppose it. He said families on each side are being denied justice by a system in which 2 decades go by and the state remains unable to carry out an execution.

(source: Grand Island Independent)


Restaurateur, LGBT pioneer dead; estranged husband arrested

The estranged husband of a well-known Salt Lake City restaurateur and LGBT advocate who died in a house fire over the weekend has been arrested on suspicion of murder and arson, authorities said.

Craig Crawford, 47, was booked after the blaze on Sunday killed 72-year-old John Williams, the owner of the popular Market Street Grill and other restaurants.

The fire occurred less than 3 weeks after Williams filed for divorce from Crawford and sought a temporary restraining order that was rejected, court records show.

No details were available in public documents to reveal what happened with the couple or how long they were married.

Detectives say Crawford was in the house near the Utah State Capitol when the fire started. He was later seen walking back to the house, but he never called authorities to report the blaze, charging documents show.

When firefighters arrived, they heard somebody inside crying for help. They found Williams and tried to revive him, but he died at the scene.

It was not clear if Crawford has an attorney yet.

An aggravated murder charge carries the possibility of the death penalty in Utah.

Williams' friends and colleagues - many influential city and state leaders - expressed shock and dismay about the death of the man they called a great businessman and LGBT pioneer who was an instrumental figure in Salt Lake City.

Williams, whose parents were educators in Idaho, came to Utah to go to college 50 years ago and "changed the fabric" of the community, Utah state Sen. Jim Dabakis said in a statement. The buildings he restored in Salt Lake City and the restaurants he ran raised standards in the city, Dabakis said.

"The quiet bridges John built between the emerging LGBT community and the Utah business world made this a better place for all of us to live," said Dabakis, a gay Democrat.

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, the city's 1st openly gay mayor, said in a statement that she's devastated by the loss of her dear friend and local hero.

"There are patrons of the arts, sciences and education, but John Williams was a patron of our city and helped it become the wonderful place it is today," Biskupski said.

(source: Associated Press)


Oakland: Defendant asks judge to dismiss jury in death penalty phase of trial

A convicted murderer asked a judge Monday if he could forgo the jury during the penalty phase of his trial, in which jurors could recommend a death penalty sentence.

In the midst of the penalty phase, which began last week, Darnell Williams asked Judge Jeffrey Horner through his attorney Deborah Levy if he could give up his right to the jury trial, against the advice of his attorneys. But Horner said he would not allow such a waiver.

Williams, 25, was found guilty on May 6 of killing Alaysha Carradine on July 17, 2013 in Oakland by shooting at her and 2 other children and their grandmother through an apartment door. He is said to have wanted to avenge the death of his friend, who died earlier that same day. Williams thought the killer's ex-girlfriend and children were inside the apartment, prosecutors said.

He was also found guilty of killing Anthony Medearis, 22, in Berkeley on Sept. 8, 2013.

Before the jury arrived in the courtroom Monday morning, members of the audience said Williams appeared as if he were crying -- his eyes were red, his head was in his hands.

Williams made the request twice. The 1st time asking Horner through his attorney if doing so would affect his appeal rights. Horner refused to answer, saying it was "highly inappropriate" to give the defendant legal advice.

Horner took about 15 minutes Monday afternoon before returning to the courtroom to announce his decision that the jury trial of the penalty phase would continue.

If he had decided to dismiss the jury, both the prosecution and defense would present evidence to the judge, who would make a sentencing recommendation.

This isn't the 1st time Williams went against his attorney's advice. During the criminal trial, he insisted his cellphone be reexamined. When police did, they found new photo evidence that linked Williams to the murder weapon used to kill Alaysha.

The jury will decide whether to recommend a death penalty sentence, or life in prison without the possibility of parole. The penalty trial resumes Tuesday.



Gary Haugen Has A New Execution Date, But Oregon's Death Penalty Moratorium Remains

It's been almost 20 years since anyone was put to death in Oregon - 54 if you don't count death row inmates who gave up their appeals and essentially volunteered to be executed.

In fact, when announcing a moratorium on Oregon's death penalty in 2011, then-Gov. John Kitzhaber said only those who say they're ready end up being executed in Oregon.

"My hope and indeed my intention in taking this action today is to bring about a long due reevaluation of our current policy and our current system of capital punishment," Kitzhaber said 5 years ago.

Since then, 3 former Oregon chief justices have called for an end to the death penalty. But Kitzhaber's hoped-for "reevaluation" has not happened.

After she came to office last year, Gov. Kate Brown said she would assemble a panel to look into the death penalty in Oregon. But her press secretary, Brian Hockaday, says she's now waiting for recommendations from her staff.

"She has asked general counsel to look into the matter on a national level and then report back to her," he said. "And then that report will inform the policy direction moving forward."

It's unclear when that report will be finished. Brown has said she'll let voters know what she plans to do about capital punishment as governor before the election - though she didn't specify which election.

Meanwhile, 34 inmates remain on death row. They're in their cells for 23 hours a day and live in a sort of legal limbo.

Take Gary Haugen. He was originally sent to prison at 19 for murdering his girlfriend's mother, though he received his death sentence for killing another inmate.

Back in 2011, when Kitzhaber declared a moratorium on executions, Haugen said he wanted to be put to death.

"Hey, it's hell," he said of prison. "To be away from your family, be away from your loved ones, watch all your people die while you sit in this little 9-by-8 cage."

That was then. Today, Haugen says he doesn't want to die. His lawyer, Jeff Ellis, says Haugen and other death-row inmates are being mistreated by the state. "The Oregon law says that you can't simply let an execution date go by and do nothing," Ellis said. "You have to take some action in court."

In a recent hearing, Judge Vance Day gave Haugen an execution date - Jan. 23, 2017. But it's not clear whether that will stick.

For one thing, Day relayed the new date orally, not in writing.

For another, it's not clear whether Brown will follow Kitzhaber's lead in refusing to let the state carry out death sentences.

"I'm going to fight for my life," Haugen said in a recent telephone interview. "I mean not only have I been on the longest reprieve in the history of our country, my death warrant expired. And under statute, them doing nothing about it means that my sentence expired. And if my sentence expired, why am I still sitting on death row?"

As distasteful as people might find Haugen and his crimes, he may have a legal point.

In a dissenting opinion, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer recently questioned the constitutionality of the death penalty. He said it suffers from "unconscionably long delays."

Carrie Leonetti, a University of Oregon School of Law associate professor, agrees.

"Coming to terms with your death once would be hard. But coming to terms with your death once every 10 years for 30 or 40 years, I can't actually imagine the psychological torture," she said.

Still, Aliza Kaplan, a professor at Lewis & Clark Law School, doesn't think Oregon needs to rush to come up with a new execution plan.

"Cases are moving forward, just like they were before the moratorium," she said. "There's no likelihood that any of them are going to be executed anytime soon."

In a way, the experts say, this legal uncertainty - we have the death penalty, but it's unclear whether the governor will continue Kitzhaber's refusal to use it - fits Oregon well.

Prosecutors can continue to use the death penalty as a tool, say to convince a defendant accused of killing someone to consider a plea deal. At least until Brown makes her decision, politicians can continue to embrace a general reluctance to put anyone to death.



The Data That Shows American Juries Are Racially Biased

It's been 30 years since Timothy Foster, a black man, was sentenced to death by an all-white jury. Unfortunately, the problem of race in American jury selection is still relevant today.

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that Timothy Foster, a black man sentenced to death row in 1987 by an all-white jury, deserves a re-trial. Justices say prosecutors in the trial abused their so-called peremptory challenges, the limited number of potential jurors who lawyers may dismiss from jury duty without stating a reason. According to a landmark ruling from 1986, the state may not use peremptory strikes to exclude potential jurors based on race. Yet prosecutors selecting the jury for Foster? - who confessed to and was convicted of killing an elderly white woman? - dismissed all of the black prospective jurors. In 2006, 1 of Foster's attorneys obtained the prosecution's notes, which showed they highlighted the black prospective jurors' names, marked them with a "B," and ranked them in case "it comes down to having to pick 1 of the black jurors."

Foster's case may have been heard nearly 3 decades ago, but it brings up a debate that's still hot today. Lawyers continue to discriminate based on race in their peremptory challenges, according to critics. That's based on studies of several American states and counties:

--Among death-row cases in North Carolina, prosecutors were 2.5 times more likely to dismiss black jurors than white jurors, one 2012 study found. The pattern didn't lessen with time, the study's authors wrote in the Iowa Law Review, and it showed up independent of jurors' views on relevant issues such as the death penalty and crime.

--In Caddo Parish, Louisiana, prosecutors were 3 times more likely to dismiss black jurors than jurors of other races, according to an analysis by Reprieve Australia, a group that advocates for an end to capital punishment. Between 2003 and 2012, none of the Caddo Parish juries comprising 2 or fewer black jurors acquitted the defendant. A 12-person jury that reflected the racial balance of the parish would include 5 black members? - and 19 % of such juries acquitted.

--An analysis of 8 Southern states found white-biased jury selection in several jurisdictions, including Houston County, Alabama, where 26 % of residents are black. Between 2005 and 2009, 1/2 of Houston County juries were all-white, and the other 1/2 included only 1 black member. The analysis?-?conducted by a non-profit called Equal Justice Initiative, which offers legal representation to those "whose trials are marked by racial bias or prosecutorial misconduct"?-?also pointed to evidence that some district attorney's offices trained lawyers to stealthily exclude racial minorities from jury service.

--Although most studies of juror dismissals examine the racial biases of prosecutors, it works the other way too. In one North Carolina county, defense attorneys disproportionately chose to dismiss whites, while state prosecutors disproportionately chose to dismiss blacks, according to a 1999 study published in the journal Law and Human Behavior.

Among the Equal Justice Initiative's recommendations for combating this problem: training in anti-discrimination law for judges and lawyers, especially those involved in capital cases; penalties for attorneys who break the law; and the retroactive application of the 1986 Supreme Court ruling, Batson v. Kentucky, which would mean older cases could be re-tried if lawyers are found to have used their peremptory strikes in a racially biased way



Hamas announces public executions that will 'take Gaza past Saudi Arabia'

The Palestinian militant group Hamas is to carry out a string of public executions in the Gaza strip, the patch of territory it controls.

The executions were announced by Hamas's attorney general in Gaza, Ismail Jaber. "Capital punishments will be implemented soon in Gaza," he said. "I ask that they take place before a large crowd."

13 men, most convicted of murder connected to robberies, are currently awaiting execution, another Hamas official, Khalil al-Haya, said on Friday at the main prayers.

If all those go ahead, Gaza's execution rate relative to the size of its population will overtake that of Saudi Arabia's in one go.

Last year, Saudi Arabia, with a population of 31.5 million, executed 153 people. Though one of the most densely populated territories in the world, Gaza has a population of just 1.8 million.

Palestinian law allows the death penalty for collaborators, murderers and drug traffickers.

On Sunday, the families of the victims of those on death row protested in favour of the executions outside Gaza's parliament, after the authorities gave a rare permission to stage a public demonstration.

The last time Hamas carried out public executions was during the summer 2014 war with Israel, when a Hamas firing squad shot dead 7 people outside Gaza's main mosque following Friday prayers . Bodies were then dragged through the streets.

According to a May 2015 report by Amnesty International, Hamas forces also carried out at least 23 extrajudicial killings of Palestinians in Gaza in 2014, with at least 17 people killed on 1 day alone.

So far in 2016, approximately 10 people have been sentenced to death in Gaza.

Since the creation of the Palestinian Authority in 1994, more than 170 Palestinians have been sentenced to death and around 30 have been executed, mostly in Gaza, according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR).

All execution orders must in theory be approved by the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, but his legitimacy is not recognised by Hamas in the Gaza strip.

In February this year, it was announced that Mahmoud Ishtiwi, a commander from Hamas's military wing, was executed in Gaza by a firing squad.


SAUDI ARABIA----execution

Saudi man executed for murder

Saudi Arabia put to death a citizen convicted of murder on Tuesday, bringing to 94 the number of executions in the kingdom in 2016.

Imad al-Assimi was found guilty of shooting dead a compatriot in a dispute, the interior ministry said in a statement carried by state news agency SPA.

Most people put to death in Saudi Arabia are beheaded with a sword.

Murder and drug trafficking cases account for the majority of Saudi executions, although 47 people were put to death for "terrorism" on a single day in January, 2016.

According to human rights group Amnesty International, Saudi Arabia had the 3rd-highest number of executions last year - at least 158.

That was far behind Pakistan which executed 326, and Saudi Arabia's regional rival Iran, which executed at least 977, said Amnesty, whose figures exclude secretive China.

Rights activists have raised concerns about the fairness of trials in Saudi Arabia and have been particularly critical of the use of the death penalty for non-violent offences like drug trafficking.

The interior ministry has said it is "determined to fight drugs of all kinds due to the serious damage they do to individuals and society".

Saudi Arabia has a strict Islamic legal code under which murder, drug trafficking, armed robbery, rape and apostasy are all punishable by death.

(source: Agence France-Presse)


Man Hanged In Northwestern Iran

1 prisoner was hanged in Qazvin Prison (northwestern Iran) on the morning of Thursday May 19, reports the official website of the Iranian Judiciary in the province of Qazvin.

The man, who was identified as "Sepahdar", was reportedly convicted of murdering another man who allegedely had an affair with his sister.


At Least 8 Prisoners Transferred to Solitary Confinement For Execution

At least 6 prisoners were transferred to solitary confinement in Karaj's Rajai Shahr Prison (west of Tehran) on Saturday May 20, report close sources to Iran Human Rights (IHR).

These prisoners, who are all convicted of murder, are scheduled to be executed on Tuesday or Wednesday of this week. According to reports gathered by IHR, at least 40 prisoners were executed in Iran during the first 3 weeks of May.


5 Other Prisoners Scheduled to Be Executed in Coming Days

5 prisoners are scheduled to be hanged in the coming days, according to sources of Iran Human Rights.

6 prisoners from Karaj Central Prison were transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for their executions, which were scheduled for Sunday May 22. 1 of the prisoners was eventually returned to his cell while the other 5 prisoners are scheduled to be executed in the coming days. All the prisoners were sentenced to death for drug related charges.

8 other prisoners are scheduled to be executed in the coming days in Karaj's Rajai Shahr prison (west of Tehran).

(source for all: Iran Human Rights)


Iranians in Canada protest against executions in Iran

Iranians in Canada have held protests over the weekend denouncing human rights violations in Iran and urging the Canadian government to base any improvement in its ties to the Iranian regime on a halt to executions in Iran.

Protests were held on Saturday in Ottawa and Toronto and on Sunday in Montreal by supporters of the main Iranian opposition People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI or MEK).

Protesters condemned the recent wave of executions in Iran.

They held up banners in English and Persian reading: "Political prisoners must be freed," "No to torture and execution," and "Stop torture and executions in Iran."

Other banners read "Down with Khamenei," referring to Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of the mullahs' regime.

The protesters in Ottawa also held a banner which highlighted the role of the Iranian regime's President Hassan Rouhani in the torture and executions taking place in Iran.

It read: "Rouhani is complicit in more than three decades of killing, torture and execution in the Iranian clerical regime. His record: More than 2300 executions during his presidency."

The protesters in Montreal in particular called for international solidarity with Iran's imprisoned teachers and trade union activists.

The PMOI (MEK) supporters in both rallies also commemorated the 41st anniversary of the martyrdom of the PMOI's original founders by the Shah's regime which will take place on Tuesday.

(source: NCR-Iran)


"Execute Terrorists": New Israeli Death Penalty Would Apply to Non-Jews Only

Israel has never fully abolished the death penalty, but it has remained unused since the 1960s.

A new law to execute "terrorists" in Israel will effectively apply only to non-Jews, according to a source in the Likud party.

Incoming Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman has made the restoration of the death penalty for terror attacks a sticking point for his far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party to join the government.

However, according to a Likud source quoted by Haaretz, the new law would apply only to people tried in military courts.

As Palestinians are prosecuted in military courts while Jews accused of similar crimes are prosecuted in civil courts, the death penalty would in practice apply only to Palestinians.

The move to restore the death penalty, which has never been officially abolished but has not been used since 1962, has proved highly controversial in Israel.

Former attorney general Yehuda Weinstein on Thursday called on his successor, Avichai Mendelblit, to oppose the proposals.

"There's nothing like it in the world," he told Haaretz. "There are no countries that added the death penalty to the book of law, only ones that took it off.

"It's not practical in terms of deterrence, since these are criminals who anyhow act out of an ideological motive and aren't afraid of death. It's also not moral."

However, other right-wing politicians in Israel have backed calls for the death penalty to be used again.

Ayelet Shaked, Israeli justice minister and member of the far-right Jewish Home party, said last July that she "found out that there's a death penalty for terrorists and that it was last handed out in 1994. Since then the military prosecution has not requested a death penalty, but it can be requested, and the military court can give it according to the law.

"Unfortunately, the sentence of the terrorist prosecuted in 1994 was commuted to a life sentence, and he was released in the Shalit deal, but the penalty exists and can be carried out," she added, according to Haaretz. Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was part of a prisoner-exchange deal In 2011 after being held captive by Hamas for 5 years.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Lieberman may sign the coalition agreement on Sunday evening.

Netanyahu had also been in talks with the leader of the Labor Party, Isaac Herzog, but those negotiations broke down when news leaked that Netanyahu was thinking of bringing Lieberman back into the fold in a move that Israeli media agrees would create the "most right-wing government" Israel has known.

Lieberman has served in previous coalitions with Netanyahu but declined to join his coalition last year.

Yaalon had been at loggerheads with Netanyahu over his insistence made in a speech last week that senior officers be encouraged to "speak their mind".

On Thursday, he made public comments that he was "surprised" by a growing "loss of moral compass on basic questions" in Israeli society.

"We need to steer the country in accordance with one's conscience and not whichever way the wind is blowing," Yaalon said.

According to reports in the Israeli press, Netanyahu called Yaalon on Thursday to tell him to ignore media speculation about Lieberman, insisting that nothing was set in stone, although it appears Yaalon decided to jump ship before he was pushed.

Earlier reports claimed that Netanyahu was considering offering the retired lieutenant general the foreign ministry as a consolation, but that the offer was never made.

Yaalon's resignation paves the way for right-wing activist Yehuda Glick to enter the Knesset as he is the next candidate on the Likud list that decides who becomes an MP.

Glick is a leading figure in the Temple Mount movement that seeks to have Jewish prayers in the al-Aqsa mosque compound, with Palestinians scared the aim is to completely level Muslim holy sites to make way for a Jewish Third Temple that many believe was prophesied by scripture.

The compound is under Jordanian control, and non-Muslim prayers are strictly forbidden there, although growing numbers of Israelis have been skirting the rules in a move deemed by by Palestinians to be highly inflammatory.

Glick survived an assassination attempt by a Palestinian assailant who was angered by his views on Temple Mount in 2014.

(source: Global Research)


Duterte and the coming bloodbath

On Nov. 16, 1999, President Joseph Estrada appointed his then-favorite policeman, Director Panfilo Lacson, as the new chief of the Philippine National Police. The next day, the special operations group that Lacson led before his appointment, the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force, killed eight men in Fairview, Quezon City, in what some witnesses called a "rubout." 7 of the dead were later identified as suspected robbers; the 8th, a civilian bystander, was later reported to be the alleged mastermind of the robbery gang.

It was an arresting start to a controversial (and, as it turned out, abbreviated) term. For many, the spectacular violence was seen as precisely a violent spectacle, staged to strike fear among criminals.

3 renowned lawyers immediately raised the alarm. (I quote from an Inquirer editorial written some 10 years after the event.)

"Sen. Raul Roco told a news conference: 'Lacson must be made to explain: Why, on your 2nd day, did 7 people die? How many will die on the 3rd day? What are your projected plans on the 14th day?'

"Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. called on the PNP to disclose the true circumstances of the killings. 'Otherwise, the apprehension will continue that extrajudicial killing or vigilante justice is now taking place all over the country.'

"Rep. Joker Arroyo sketched a disturbing profile of Lacson's brand of law enforcement. There is an emerging 'pattern' in the way Lacson and his unit conduct their operations, he said: 'All the suspects are killed.' He also noted that, in the Fairview killings as in the Kuratong Baleleng case of 1995, 'the victims were relatively small-time'."

When Rodrigo Duterte, the controversial mayor of Davao City famous for his iron-fist approach to peace and order issues, takes his oath of office as the next president of the Philippines on June 30, only 1 of these 3 historical personalities will still be around to serve as a conscience of the people. Will Nene Pimentel, the founder of the PDP-Laban party which now serves as Duterte's political vehicle, sound the alarm when the new president inaugurates his term with the spectacles of violence he promised during the long campaign?

I say "when," not "if," because it is clear to both those who voted for Duterte and those who did not that he intends to "suppress" crime within "3 to 6 months" after he takes office.

Those who voted for him and those who did not may agree that the only way Duterte can come close to making good on that ambitious promise is by doing what he did (or, if one prefers to accept that the Davao Death Squad is not connected to him, what he failed to stop) in Davao City: to identify the criminal suspects, and then to see them dead. But because by noon of June 30 he will be running a national government, he will need to scale up. Hence his statement, repeated many times, about filling Manila Bay (chosen for its symbolic national value) with the corpses of a hundred thousand suspected criminals.

In a television interview a year before the elections, for instance, he teased out once again his reputation as the man behind the Davao Death Squad, the vigilante group that is estimated to have killed over a thousand people in his city.

"If by chance, God will place me there [in the presidential palace], the 1,000 will become 100,000," he said. "Diyan mo makita na tataba ang isda sa Manila Bay. Diyan ko kayo itatapon (That's where you will see the fish getting fat in Manila Bay; that's where I will dump you)."

Surely this is hyperbole? And that plural "you" at the end - this must be just another example of Duterte's gift for stirring controversy and courting media coverage with outrageous statements, right? Perhaps; at least that is what one should hope for, if we want true justice, not the false peace of the funeral parlor.

But the killing of 100,000 Filipinos will be the worst outbreak of violence in the country since World War II, when about a million people died. The total of 100,000 that Duterte seeks to feed the fish of Manila Bay with is about twice the number of Filipino soldiers killed by the Japanese, and 5 times the number of Filipino revolutionaries killed by the Americans during the Philippine-American War.

If we say, "OK, perhaps he really did not mean 100,000 killings," we will find ourselves sucked into a dangerous exercise, a dubious moral calculus. Are 10,000 extrajudicial killings "OK" for a country with a population of almost 110 million? That's less than 1 % of 1 %. How about 1,000 killings - but not spread between 1998 and 2015, as in Davao City, according to documentation by human rights groups, but between July and December this year? Is that "acceptable"? How about "only" 100 killings, but all on the afternoon of June 30, after Duterte takes his oath? Would that be "fitting"?

Or perhaps we can accept the figure of 100,000, after all; these are suspected criminals, not soldiers or revolutionaries.

These damning calculations should chill our blood. Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro used his preelection pastoral letter to remind us: "The victims [of the Davao Death Squad] include 132 children (17 years and below)." Let us take a deep breath and ask ourselves: How many of Duterte's 100,000 will be innocent or underage?

We may see a spree of extrajudicial killings at the exact same time the privileged party-hopping animals of Congress debate a death penalty law - a law that, in practice, will affect only those Filipinos without privilege. Like others, I am filled with foreboding.

(source: Opinion, John Nery----Philippine Daily Inquirer)


8 drug suspects handed over to prosecutors

The National Narcotics Agency ( BNN ) on Monday handed over 8 drug suspects, who had allegedly attempted to traffic almost 100 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine into the country from China, to the Semarang Prosecutor's Office in Central Java.

The BNN also handed over the drug evidence for the case to be brought to trial at the Semarang District Court.

"We handed over 8 suspects, including 97 kg of methamphetamine as evidence. The suspects will be detained at the Kedungpane Prison," said chief BNN spokesman Slamet Pribadi on Monday.

"Regarding the evidence, of the whole amount confiscated, 2.5 % is for evidence and 97.5 % will be destroyed. It all depends on the prosecutor's office," he said.

He added the suspects are accused of violating articles 112 and 114 of the 2009 law on narcotics, which carry either a life sentence or the death penalty.

The 8 suspects were arrested at a furniture warehouse in Pekalongan village, Batealit district, in Jepara regency, Central Java, on Jan. 27 when they were allegedly unloading a shipment of crystal meth concealed in Zhouma brand generators from China.

The BNN disassembled the 194 generators, 94 of which it said contained drugs. The agency claimed each generator was packed with between 1.5 to 1.9 kg of methamphetamine.

The suspects consisted of 4 Pakistanis named Faiq, Amran Malik, Riaz and Toriq. The other 4 are Indonesians named Yulian, Tommy, Kristiadi and Didit.

Of the 8 suspects, Didit was the official tenant of the warehouse owned by a local man named Yunpelizar.

The warehouse appeared to be a finishing workshop for furniture. However, the BNN claimed that it was a transit place for drugs before they were distributed across Indonesia.

During the raid in Jepara, residents in Pekalongan village were unaware of the fact that the CV Jepara Raya International furniture warehouse was possibly used as a drug distribution center.

Residents were only aware of the regular presence of a foreign citizen, namely Faiz, in the warehouse.

The BNN opened the case when it received information about a shipment of drugs via the sea when it was working together with the local customs and excise office in 2015.

At that time, the BNN did not know which port would be used to bring in the drugs from China. It was eventually determined that the drugs would enter through the Tanjung Emas Port in Semarang.

(source: The Jakarta Post)


2 men charged with murder over Orchard Towers death----Muhammad Daniel Abdul Jalil and Radin Abdullah Syaafii Radin Badruddin, both 22, had their charges upgraded to murder after the death of the victim.

2 men were charged with murder on Tuesday (May 24), following the death of the victim more than a month after being assaulted.

Muhammad Daniel Abdul Jalil and Radin Abdullah Syaafii Radin Badruddin, both 22, were previously charged with causing grievous hurt to 34-year-old Navarro Dorian Regis in the early hours of Apr 1 at Orchard Towers.

Their charges were upgraded to murder after the victim died of his injuries last week.

If convicted of murder, the pair could face the death penalty or life imprisonment with caning. They will next appear in court on May 31.

Daniel faces a 2nd charge of causing grievous hurt for punching another victim, Mr Goudal Pierre-Eric Jules, on the same day at Orchard Towers. Mr Jules sustained a nasal bone fracture. For this charge, Daniel faces up to 10 years' jail and caning.



Death penalty sought for man accused of beheading girl, 4

Taiwanese prosecutors have indicted a man for murder over the public decapitation of a 4-year-old girl, saying they would seek the death penalty for the "extremely cold-blooded" attack.

Wang Ching-yu, 33, is accused of overpowering the mother of the child near a metro station in central Taipei, and beheading the young girl with a kitchen knife.

The mother and a number of bystanders tried to intervene but were pushed away and unable to save the child, whom police have identified only by the surname Liu.

Prosecutors at the Shihlin District Court in Taipei said yesterday that it was an "extremely cold-blooded" crime which had deeply shocked the generally peaceful island.

"It has caused indelible pain to her mother, who witnessed the cruelty," the prosecutors said in a statement at the close of their investigation, which took less than 2 months.

"The suspect has never repented... so we suggest the court sentence him to death," they said, adding that capital punishment in this instance was important to maintain society's faith in law and justice.

Taiwan resumed capital punishment in 2010 after a five-year hiatus. Executions are reserved for serious crimes such as aggravated murder. Some politicians and rights groups have called for its abolition, but various opinion surveys show majority support for the death penalty.

After the March 28 decapitation, hundreds of Taiwanese, many dressed in black and wearing stickers reading "Death penalty is necessary", called for Wang to be executed.

Wang was arrested at the scene of the crime and was subsequently taken into custody. Prosecutors say that blood tests show Wang was not under the influence of drugs at the time of the crime, nor had he displayed any signs of mental illness after the attack.

Police said the 33-year-old had previously been arrested for drug-related crimes. He was attacked by an angry mob while in custody. Taiwan's Apple Daily has reported that he was unemployed and living with his parents, and had previously been hospitalised with mental health issues.

The killing came less than a year after an 8-year-old girl's throat was slit in her school restroom in Taipei. It sparked widespread public anger and fresh debate about capital punishment.

(source: The Straits Times)


5 naval officers given death sentence in Pakistan for attack on dockyard

5 navy officers were given the death sentence by a Navy court in Pakistan for planning to hijack a warship and attacking 1 of the US Navy's refuel ships in 2014.

Sub-Lieutenant Hammad Ahmed and 4 other officials were convicted of the naval dockyard attack that took place on 6 September, 2014, Dawn online quoted retired Major Saeed Ahmed, father of Ahmed, as saying.

They were charged with having links with the Islamic State group, mutiny, hatching a conspiracy and carrying weapons to the Karachi dockyard, Saeed said.

Saeed claimed that the naval authorities did not provide his son the right to a fair trial.

"I wrote a letter to the Judge Advocate General (JAG) of the navy on 15 August, 2015, asking him to provide the opportunity of a defence counsel to my son," Saeed said.

"The Navy JAG on 21 September replied that the option of defence counsel would be available at the time of trial."

Saeed was waiting for the commencement of the trial but was recently informed that his son was shifted to the Karachi Central Prison.

He came to know about the capital punishment when he met his son and the other 4 officials -- Irfanullah, Muhammad Hammad, Arsalan Nazeer and Hashim Naseer -- in the prison.

There was no official word by the Pakistan Navy, he said.

"My son told me that a naval court had awarded death penalty to them after a secret trial," Saeed claimed.

He claimed that the 5 were made scapegoats as this was not the 1st time when such security lapses came to light.



Rise in death penalty in India's neighbourhood----Hangings in Pakistan and Bangladesh are inevitably followed by more violence

It seems to be hanging season on India's western and eastern borders. If Pakistan is hanging militants and terrorists responsible for the upsurge in violence in recent years, Bangladesh is going after the war criminals behind the mass atrocities in the lead-up to the liberation of the country in 1971.

The reasons are clearly different, but in both Pakistan and Bangladesh each execution is often followed by attacks on civilians. If, in Pakistan, terrorists often zero in on random targets, in Bangladesh, secular bloggers are now under the militant radar.

In Bangladesh, the latest to be hanged was former Agriculture Minister Motiur Rahman Nizami, chief of the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami. He was hanged on May 11 after being convicted by a war crimes tribunal for his role in the mass killing of civilians in 1971.

With Nizami's execution, 4 top Jamaat leaders have been sent to the gallows by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina'a government, while the 5th, Salahuddin Quader Chaudhry, belonged to the opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP) of Begum Khaleda Zia.

Given that these 5 were pillars of the political establishment till yesterday despite their widely known role in the 1971 killings, the hangings have shaken up Bangladesh's politics like never before.

On May 12, Pakistani Army Chief Raheel Sharif confirmed the death sentence on Saad Aziz, Tahir Hussain Minhas, Asad ur Rehman, Hafiz Nasir and Muhammad Azhar Ishrat for the May 2015 bus attack on minority Shias and the April 2015 assassination of human rights' activist Sabeen Mahmud in Karachi.

Of the 5 convicted by a Pakistani military court, there has been considerable focus on Aziz, who has a BBA degree from the Institute of Business Administration in Karachi and is known to have personally shot Sabeen Mahmud dead. He did his O-levels from Beaconhouse in Karachi, 1 of Pakistan's best-known schools.

A graphic account in the Dawn newspaper reveals that Aziz was "inspired" by the sectarian conflict in Yemen and got to know a Jamaat-e-Islami activist linked to al-Qaeda while doing an internship in Unilever.

It's of some interest that Aziz came into contact with the Jamaat-e-Islami in Pakistan, which has been umbilically linked to the Jamaat in Bangladesh, of which Nizami was the Amir or chief.

Again, today Dawn reported that 5 officers of the Pakistan Navy linked to Islamic State (IS) have been sentenced to death by a naval tribunal for their role in the September 2014 Karachi naval dockyard attack in which 1 sailor and 2 terrorists were killed.

The Jamaat and its youth wings, both in Pakistan and Bangladesh, are known to try and impose a harsh Islamist order in the public sphere with special focus on how women should dress and behave.

The hangings of Jamaat leaders by Bangladesh has led to howls of protest from Islamabad - diplomats have been summoned and then counter-summoned by both sides - revealing that the Pakistan-Bangladesh relationship remains tenuous.

A press release issued by the Pakistani Foreign Ministry on Nizami's hanging said, "Pakistan is deeply saddened over the hanging ... His only sin was upholding the constitution and laws of Pakistan."

In a direct response to Nizami's role in furthering the cause of Pakistan as Bangladeshis fought their war of liberation, Dhaka said in a statement, by 'repeatedly taking the side of those Bangladesh nationals who are convicted of crimes against humanity and genocide, Pakistan has once again acknowledged its direct involvement and complicity with the mass atrocity crimes committed during Bangladesh’s Liberation War in 1971."

"It is a matter of great regret that Pakistan continues to comment in the misguided defence of this convicted criminal. These uncalled reactions amount to direct interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign country, which is totally unacceptable ..." the statement added.

One can't think of an uglier exchange - Pakistan argues that Nizami was upholding its "constitution" while Bangladesh reiterates that Pakistan was complicit in the 1971 war crimes. In point of fact, Pakistan was under martial law at this point of time and no constitution was in force.

It is evident that the fault-lines in Pakistan-Bangladesh relations have deepened after the hangings of Jamaat leaders by Dhaka. Given that this is for the first time the 1971 criminals are being brought to justice, some years after the mass killings, this acrimony was perhaps inevitable.

Though Islamabad has had good relations when the BNP and the Jamaat have been in power, it has been unable to address the fundamental issue - that its troops aided by collaborators - were responsible for the deaths of lakhs of Bangladeshis.

Even as they differ and bicker very publicly, both countries have resorted to the drastic and irreversible punishment of the death penalty in an effort to give justice and bring closure to victims.

In Pakistan, 332 persons have been executed in 2014-15, with the death sentences being handed down by military courts and being confirmed by the Army Chief, who has made the battle against some terrorists a very personal battle.

In Bangladesh, as many as 197 persons were sentenced to death in 2015, Amnesty International reported. The parallel processes of hanging in Bangladesh and Pakistan have different, contending motivations.

The real question, of course, is this: will it help in healing the wounds or just open fresh ones?

(source: The Hindu)


The bias of death penalty against the economically vulnerable

The death penalty seems to perpetuate a "systemic marginalization' against prisoners from vulnerable and marginalized backgrounds.

A prisoner's economic status and level of education directly affects their ability to effectively participate in the criminal justice system and claim their fair trial rights.

"1 of the more difficult tasks for me as President was to decide on the issue of confirming capital punishment awarded by courts," former President APJ Abdul Kalam once wrote. "I thought I should get all these cases examined, to my surprise, almost all cases which were pending had a social and economic bias."

Last week, the Death Penalty Research Project at National Law University, Delhi released a seminal report on the death penalty. For the 1st time, researchers tried to interview all prisoners under sentence of death and their families, to understand who gets the death penalty and how, and what it is like to live under sentence of death in India.

What they found, in interviews with hundreds of prisoners and their families over 2 1/2 years, was a system plagued by fundamental flaws.Whose structural foundations "render the systematic erosion of basic protections inevitable", and where the death penalty seemed to perpetuate a "systemic marginalization" against prisoners from vulnerable and marginalized backgrounds.

Media debates in India on the death penalty almost always erupt around an imminent execution, and focus on whether the punishment is morally justified. However most prisoners sentenced to death in India are not eventually executed. (Less than 5 % of those sentenced to death by trial courts during the study after higher courts ruled on their appeals.) Yet issues of how prisoners on death row are treated by the criminal justice system are almost never discussed.

The NLU report emphasizes that its findings do not necessarily suggest that there is any direct discrimination at work - which means that state authorities do not intentionally discriminate against poor or less-educated prisoners. But the disparate impacts that it identifies do raise an important question: is there a degree of indirect discrimination at work, which worsens the impact of the denial of fair trial rights for prisoners from disadvantaged backgrounds?

Indirect discrimination occurs when a seemingly neutral practice or rule impacts particular groups disproportionately, even if it is not intentionally directed at that group.

Almost 75 % of the prisoners interviewed were "economically vulnerable", a category the report's authors defined using occupation and landholding. There is no direct equivalent government statistic, but about 21 % of people in India live below the international poverty line of $1.90 a day, and 58 % on below $3.10 a day.

Over 1/2 the prisoners worked in the organized sector, their occupations reading like a directory of unstable jobs: auto driver, brick kiln labourer, street vendor, manual scavenger, domestic worker, construction worker.

About 19 % of those on death row had attended only primary school (including those who started but dropped out). The comparative national figure is about 32 % (2011 census). Many prisoners were disadvantaged on both counts; 9 out of 10 who had never gone to school were also economically vulnerable, for example.

Why is this important? A prisoner's economic status and level of education directly affects their ability to effectively participate in the criminal justice system and claim their fair trial rights.

Take something as basic as the right to be present at one's own trial -which is an integral part of the right to defend oneself. Only 1 in 4 prisoners interviewed said they had attended all their hearings. Some prisoners said the police would be taken to the court premises by the police and then confined to a court lock-up without being produced in the courtroom.

A prisoner named Muhafiz told researchers that he had only been present in court during the depositions of 2 witnesses, and had been kept in the lock-up for the rest of his trial. He had never been to school, and said that even his limited presence in court would have been more meaningful if he had been educated.

Even when prisoners were present in court, the report says, "the very architecture of several trial courts often prevents any real chance of the accused participating in their own trial." Accused persons were usually allowed at the back of the courtroom while proceedings between the judge and lawyers took place in front, out of earshot.

Everyone charged with a crime has the right under international human rights law to an interpreter if they do not understand the language used in court, and to translated documents. But this requirement is rarely met. Over 1/2 of the prisoners interviewed said they did not understand the proceedings at all - either because of the court architecture or the language used (often English).

Abed, a prisoner who only understood simple English words, said he could not comprehend large parts of his trial, which lasted for over 12 years. He understood the trial court decision to sentence him to death only after his fellow inmates explained it to him. Another prisoner who knew English told researchers he could not understand the proceedings in his trial as they were conducted in a different state language. The trial court rejected his requests for a translator, and went on to sentence him to death.

Part of an accused's right to a fair hearing is the right to challenge evidence produced against them. In India, trial courts can question the accused directly at any stage, and the Supreme Court has ruled that accused persons must be questioned separately about every material circumstance to be used against them, in a form they can understand.

The study found that these provisions were routinely violated. Over 60 % of the prisoners interviewed said they were only asked to give yes/no responses to a string of questions in their trials, with no meaningful opportunity to explain themselves. A prisoner named Hemrajsaid that the judge only asked him 1 question - whether he had committed the crime. When Hemraj tried to respond to the evidence put forward by the prosecution, the sessions judge didn't let him speak, and told him that "the lawyer would handle all that."

The lawyers typically don't. 7 in 10 prisoners said their lawyers did not discuss case details with them. Nearly 77 % said they never met their trial court lawyers outside court, and the interaction in court was perfunctory. (Many of the prisoners chose to hire private lawyers at the trial and High Court, despite their economic vulnerability, because of their fear that the underpaid legal aid lawyers would not be competent or interested.)

And on it goes. In higher courts, prisoners had even less information about their cases, often finding out about developments only through prison authorities or television and newspaper reports. As the report puts it, "There is widespread alienation ... among prisoners sentenced to death with an intense sentiment of systemic injustice."

It isn't just death row prisoners who face these kinds of violations, of course. (And India isn't the only country with these problems: Amnesty International has also documented how death row prisoners in countries such as Indonesia face similar flagrant fair trial rights violations.) But given the irreversible nature of the death penalty, it is particularly important that fair trial rights are scrupulously followed in these cases. International human rights bodies agree that every death sentence imposed at the end of an unfair trial violates the right to life. The only way to end this injustice, clearly, is to impose an immediate moratorium on the use of the death penalty, as a 1st step towards abolition.

On the issue of indirect discrimination, human rights treaty bodies such as the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination have said that it goes "beyond measures which are explicitly discriminatory, to encompass measures which are not discriminatory at face value but are discriminatory in fact and effect."

Indirect discrimination isn't always easy to prove, and can often only be demonstrated circumstantially. But reliable statistics can go some way in showing that it exists where policies and practices appear to be neutral. UN treaty bodies accept statistics as proof of discrimination, as do many European countries. Combined with the knowledge about the broader societal context prejudices, statistics can make out at least a prima facie case of discrimination.

Indian criminal justice authorities follow several practiceswhich hurt poor or otherwise marginalized prisoners much more than others.What needs investigation is whether these practices are just the offshoots of social and economic inequalities, or whether they have become a form of institutionalized indirect discrimination.

Just last year, the Law Commission concluded in a report on the death penalty, "The vagaries of the system also operate disproportionately against the socially and economically marginalized who may lack the resources to effectively advocate their rights within an adversarial criminal justice system." The NLU study sets out in stark and dismal detail the evidence for these claims. The death penalty is a lethal lottery in India, and the dice are loaded against some. (Names of prisoners changed)

(source: Shailesh Rai is Senior Policy Advisor, Amnesty International India. Views expressed by the author are

MAY 23, 2016:


Death penalty phase begins in Wolfe sisters slaying

A jury has found an East Liberty man guilty of killing 2 next-door neighbors in 2014.

The verdict in the case of Allen Wade was announced this morning; Wade, 45, was convicted on all counts -2 counts of criminal homicide, robbery, burglary and related charges - for the deaths of Sarah Wolfe, 38, and her sister, Susan Wolfe, 44, on Feb. 6, 2014. The Wolfe sisters originally are from Clinton.

Jurors had deliberated for 7 hours Friday.

No one in the courtroom displayed any visible reaction when the verdict was read.

The case's penalty phase is scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m. today with instructions to the jury and opening statements by the attorneys. The prosecution is seeking the death penalty.

Susan Wolfe worked as a teacher's aide at Hillel Academy in Squirrel Hill, and Sarah Wolfe was a psychiatrist at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic.

Their bodies were found the day after their slayings in the basement of their home on Chislett Street in East Liberty. Police believe that after the women were shot in the back of the head, Wade attempted to destroy evidence by pouring bleach, detergent and softener all over the basement and the victims.

But that cleanup wasn't perfect, as technicians discovered DNA under Susan Wolfe's fingernails that experts said was a 1 in 6.06 trillion chance of belonging to another African American.

Assistant district attorney William Petulla told the jury that Wade severely beat Susan Wolfe in an attempt to get her PIN for her ATM card, and that was the motivation for the attack. Police said Wade took Sarah Wolfe's car then left it on Whitfield Street across from the East Liberty branch of the Carnegie Library about 12:30 a.m. Feb. 7. He then walked to a Citizens Bank ATM and withdrew $600 from her account.

Later, about 40 minutes later, Wade ended up at a Sunoco station on Highland Avenue, where surveillance video shows him buying Newport cigarettes. During the walk, investigators said Wade shed a pair of gray sweatpants containing his DNA as well as a knit hat and a pair of black socks.

Those items were found on Feb. 8 by a patrol officer walking the street. Petulla showed the jury hours worth of video taken from security cameras on businesses throughout East Liberty to piece together the path he believes Wade took that night.

The prosecution spent the most time in the trial going over the video footage and DNA evidence.

In addition to scientists from the Allegheny County crime lab, Mark Perlin, who owns Oakland-based Cybergenetics, also testified. He used his computer program, TrueAllele, to determine the probabilities that DNA mixtures discovered in the evidence matched a particular individual. In addition to making the match for the fingernails, Perlin also established probabilities that Wade's DNA was on the sweatpants, socks and 2 knit hats.

The jury got the case late Wednesday, but was interrupted in deliberations Thursday morning when one member of the panel, Juror No. 4, had to be removed.

Judge Borkowski would not say what the man did, but referenced his behavior in the jury room, and re-instructed the remaining jurors to consider only the evidence they heard in court, emphasizing the word "only."

During deliberations, the jurors made a number of requests for evidentiary items that had been admitted as exhibits, including, specifically, an Iowa Prison Industries pen that detectives said they found in the trash can at the Sunoco station. Defense attorney Lisa Middleman speculated that the jurors wanted to test the pen - to see what color the ink was and determine if it matched the writing on the back of a business card that had been found with the sweatpants in East Liberty.

The business card belonged to a UPMC social worker that Susan Wolfe used.

Middleman objected to the jurors being able to write with the pen - saying that the prosecution failed to enter into evidence the ink color or whether it worked, and therefore, those things shouldn't be considered by the jury.

Petulla disagreed. Ultimately, the judge said the jurors could have the pen and examine it but that they were not to "manipulate" it.

(source: Clinton Herald)


Supreme Court gives black death-row inmate new life

The Supreme Court gave a black death-row prisoner new life Monday by ruling that prosecutors unconstitutionally barred all potential black jurors from his trial nearly 30 years ago.

The 7-1 verdict, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, reversed the conviction of Georgia inmate Timothy Foster for the murder of an elderly white woman and is likely to fuel contentions from death penalty opponents that capital punishment is racially discriminatory.

Courts, states put death penalty on life support

What brought Foster's case back to court after 3 decades was a series of prosecution notes obtained by defense lawyers through an open-records request. While jurors were being picked, prosecutors had highlighted the names of African Americans, circled the word "black" on questionnaires, and added notations such as "B#1" and "B#2." On a sheet labeled "definite NO's," they put the last five blacks in the jury pool on top. And they ranked them in case "it comes down to having to pick one of the black jurors."

This happened just a year after the Supreme Court had declared such actions unconstitutional. Civil rights groups say discriminatory practices in jury selection have survived for 30 years despite the Supreme Court's 1986 ruling in Batson v. Kentucky.

"The focus on race in the prosecution's file plainly demonstrates a concerted effort to keep black prospective jurors off the jury," Roberts wrote.

Justice Clarence Thomas, the court's lone African American member, cast the lone dissent. "Foster's new evidence does not justify this court's reassessment of who was telling the truth nearly three decades removed from voir dire," he said.

In Foster's case, prosecutors claimed other reasons for the peremptory strikes. Georgia officials had told the court that prosecutors were expecting to be accused of racial discrimination, so they singled out potential black jurors in their notes and listed several race-neutral reasons for opposing each one. But Deputy Attorney General Beth Burton acknowledged during oral arguments in November that the prosecutors' notes "certainly can be interpreted in two ways."

At sentencing, the prosecutor urged the jury to impose death in order to "deter other people out there in the projects" - where 90% of the residents were black. Justice Elena Kagan said during oral argument, "what it really was, was they wanted to get the black people off the jury."

Justice Anthony Kennedy said prosecutors wrongly interpreted the high court's dictate about racial discrimination. Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito noted prosecutors objected to some of the black jurors because they were women or relatively young, but neither justice refuted the emphasis on race.

The finding that Foster's constitutional rights were violated gives him a clear path to a new trial. More important, it could impact the way prosecutors, defense attorneys and trial judges handle jury selection in the future. And because Foster received a death sentence, it could bolster arguments voiced last year by Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg that the death penalty itself may be unconstitutional.

A recent study by the anti-death-penalty group Reprieve Australia showed that prosecutors in Caddo Parish, La., struck would-be jurors who were black 3 times as often as others. Another study in North Carolina in 2012 found blacks were twice as likely to be struck from juries by prosecutors. And in Houston County, Ala., from 2005 to 2009, prosecutors removed 80% of blacks qualified for jury duty, producing juries with either one black or none at all.

(source: USA Today)


U.S. Supreme Court rules for black Georgia death row inmate

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of a black Georgia death row inmate convicted in 1987 of murdering an elderly white woman, finding that prosecutors unlawfully excluded black potential jurors in selecting an all-white jury.

In a 7-1 ruling, the court handed a victory to inmate Timothy Foster, 48, who asserted prosecutorial misconduct after he was convicted and sentenced to death in the 1986 murder of Queen White, a 79-year-old retired schoolteacher.

The justices threw out Foster's conviction after decades on death row. He could still potentially face a retrial.

During jury selection, all four black members of the pool of potential jurors were removed by prosecutors, who gave reasons not related to race for their decision to exclude them. Only white jurors were selected for the panel that ended up convicting Foster and sentencing him to death.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the court's majority, wrote that prosecution notes introduced into evidence "plainly belie the state's claim that it exercised its strikes (removing a potential juror) in a 'color blind' manner."

At the time of the trial, Foster's legal arguments over jury selection failed. It was only in 2006 that his lawyers obtained access to the prosecution's jury selection notes, which showed that the race of the black potential jurors was highlighted, indicating "an explicit reliance on race," according to Foster's attorneys.

The notes showed that the prosecution marked the names of the black prospective jurors with a "B," highlighted them in green and circled the word "black" next to the race question on juror questionnaires.

The Supreme Court reached the conclusion that the state's prosecutors "were motivated in substantial part by race" when 2 of the potential jurors were excluded, Roberts wrote.

Justice Clarence Thomas, a conservative and the only black member of the court, was the sole dissenter.

A 1986 U.S. Supreme Court ruling made it unlawful to take race into account when excluding potential jurors from a trial.

Prosecutors say Foster, 18 at the time of the crime, broke into White's home in the middle of the night, broke her jaw and sexually molested the elderly woman before strangling her and stealing items from her house.

(source: Reuters)


Florida wrestles with the death penalty, 1 case at a time ---- Someone else has confessed. The DNA evidence points elsewhere. What does it take to get off death row?

In "Case in Point," Andrew Cohen examines a single case or character that sheds light on the criminal justice system.

Florida officials have insisted for the past 12 years that an undocumented Honduran immigrant, a former dishwasher named Clemente Javier Aguirre-Jarquin, slaughtered Carol Bareis and Cheryl Williams, a mother and daughter, on a hot spring night near Orlando in 2004. And, so far, the judges and jurors who have considered the case have mostly accepted that theory, which is why Aguirre today sits on the state's death row. (I say "mostly" because Aguirre's jurors did not unanimously vote to sentence him to death, a statewide practice that a Florida judge recently ruled unconstitutional. So even if he loses this appeal, he may escape execution.)

Since Aguirre's conviction and sentencing in 2006, the prosecution's circumstantial case against him has been undermined in almost every significant way. Late-discovered (and previously-untested) DNA from the bloody crime scene not only appears to weaken the prosecution's theory of Aguirre as a soused, knife-wielding neighbor but also appears to point to the presence of a woman - the daughter (and granddaughter) of the victims - who subsequently has "confessed" to the murders. Rarely is a capital defendant able to offer an appellate court what might be considered both a DNA exoneration and an alternative suspect.

Aguirre's attorneys argue in their extensive briefs that this new evidence is more than enough to warrant a reversal of their client's conviction and death sentence and that Aguirre should be given a new trial so a jury can evaluate the new theory of the case. State attorneys say that the prosecution's case against Aguirre still holds up and that, in any event, Aguirre failed to raise the new issues in time.

The oral argument in the case, held on April 71, made it clear that the justices are divided on what to do with Aguirre and divided, too, on the meaning and import of the new evidence. If blood evidence helped convict Aguirre, as it surely did, can it now help exonerate him, or at least get him off death row?

The crime and the trial

What no one disputes is that Cheryl Williams and Carol Bareis were stabbed so violently and so often on the night of June 17, 2004, that their bodies became bloody pulp. Jurors were told that Williams was stabbed 129 times with a 10-inch chef's knife that was found between the victims' home and Aguirre's home next door. No one disputes, either, that Aguirre behaved erratically when he was questioned about the murders. He initially denied any knowledge of the crime scene and then told the police that he had discovered the bodies and tried to revive one of the victims.

Aguirre also told the police he had picked up the knife, the murder weapon, because he feared that whoever had killed the victims was still in the house. After determining that no one else was there, and realizing that he was walking through a double-homicide scene, he dropped or threw the knife away between his house and the victims' house, he told the police. He said he failed to report the crime because, being undocumented, he feared deportation back to Honduras. That was the motive for the killings, prosecutors said, Aguirre's fear that the victims would report him to immigration officials. Aguirre had no prior criminal history before he was charged.

Aguirre's clothes were soaked with the blood of one of the victims and prosecutors told jurors that he had killed both women after a violent struggle. At trial, based on the testimony of a prosecution expert who examined the bloodstain patterns on Aguirre's clothing, prosecutors argued that they were caused by "motion" not "contact." This, prosecutors argued, pointed to a struggle with the victims and undermined Aguirre's story about happening on the crime scene and cradling one of the victims to try to revive her. There were bloody footprints inside the home as well that were consistent with Aguirre's shoes, prosecutors told jurors. Aguirre testified as the sole witness in his defense and largely repeated the story he had told the police. It took jurors less than 5 hours to convict him of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder. It took them 45 minutes or so to recommend a sentence of death.

The new evidence

If the story of these murders had ended there, few beyond a small circle of family, friends, and neighbors would even remember the case. But the story, and the conviction, look different now. First, years after the conviction, a state judge ordered DNA testing of 150 bloodstains collected from the crime scene. A bloody struggle would presumably have left the killer's DNA all over the crime scene.

None of those bloodstains - none of them - contained Aguirre's DNA. Eight samples, however, were consistent with the DNA profile of Samantha Williams, the daughter of 1 victim and granddaughter of the other. The presence of Samantha Williams' DNA at the scene was both expected and surprising. She lived there, after all. But how to explain its presence on samples of the victims' blood?

When Aguirre's current attorneys used the new DNA findings to investigate Williams they found evidence they say should have made her, at the least, a prime suspect in the murders. Samantha Williams, Aguirre's attorneys now assert, has a "long and well-documented history of substance abuse, serious mental illness (including impulse control disorder and intermittent explosive disorder), blackouts, and irrational anger, all of which she suffered from at the time of the murders." She and her mother fought frequently, Aguirre's lawyers assert, and there is evidence that shows Samantha Williams was involuntarily committed to a mental institution more than 60 times.

Williams' credibility is crucial not just because she helped incriminate Aguirre at trial but because she has, since Aguirre's conviction, made what defense attorneys call a series of incriminating statements admitting to the murders. Most recently, they argue in briefs filed with the justices in Tallahassee, "2 of Samantha's former neighbors and another witness testified unequivocally that on 3 separate occasions Samantha told them that she had 'killed [her] grandmother and her mother.'" All told, Aguirre's lawyers told the Florida Supreme Court, Samantha Williams has "confessed" to the crime at least 7 times.

The state responds

Florida now finds itself in the difficult position of trashing the credibility of a witness it relied on to convict Aguirre. Yes, the state concedes, Samantha Williams subsequently has confessed to the murders but those confessions "were nothing more than a series of vague and erratic statements made by a mentally disturbed woman who tragically lost her mother and grandmother to a violent double homicide." Samantha's alibi, that she was at her boyfriend's house at the time of the murders, was checked out by the police, the state contends, and, in any event, if Aguirre were to get a new trial Williams' self-incriminating statements would be inadmissible; they couldn't result in an acquittal because no jury would be permitted to hear them.

More persuasively, Florida points out that Aguirre's "clothes were found in a bag on the roof of his home and were covered in the victims' blood." The "murder weapon is the same make and model of a knife missing from his place of employment," the state told the justices, and virtually all of the bloody shoe impressions were consistent with his footprints.

If Samantha Williams was indeed the killer, the state seems to suggest, her footprints, like those of Aguirre, should have been all over that murder scene as well. They were not. The knife, the bloody clothes, the admitted presence of Aguirre at the crime scene moving the bodies, all serve to justify the original verdict and sentence, Florida contends. And even if they do not Aguirre's new arguments come too late under the state's byzantine procedural rules.

The law

Although Florida has a well-earned reputation for wrongful convictions that linger for decades, there is strong recent precedent for tossing out murder convictions and sentences based on the discovery of forensic evidence like that discovered here. In 2013, for example, the Florida Supreme Court overturned Roy Swafford's conviction and death sentence in a murder and sexual battery case after new evidence revealed "no seminal fluid found in the victim." Since the charge of battery was based on a false positive test for such fluid, and since the 1st-degree murder charge was based on the sexual assault allegation, the whole case came apart.

Likewise, in 2014, the Florida Supreme Court overturned the conviction and death sentence of Paul Hildwin when newly-discovered DNA evidence linked another man to 2 items left at the crime scene. Aguirre's attorneys argue that the rationale of the Swafford and Hildwin cases ought to apply to their client's case - that in each of the 3 cases newly-discovered scientific evidence undermines the prosecution's theory of the case and points to some other person as the perpetrator of the crime. Florida, on the other hand, says the 2 recent decisions can be distinguished from the Aguirre case.

The justices could announce their decision in the case any day now. The ultimate question they have to answer is whether the new evidence is so significant that it would create a "reasonable doubt" about Aguirre's culpability and "probably" produce an acquittal on retrial. It is a high standard, and rightfully so, otherwise no verdict would ever be final. But it's hard to imagine the next Aguirre jury having such an easy time reaching a verdict given what we now know, and what they would know. Florida's death penalty is in chaos statewide. In this one head-spinning case it's not exactly looking so strong, either.



Angola death row heat lawsuit is a waste of taxpayer money

Let's be clear: Anyone biding time on death row awaiting execution at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola gets pretty much zero sympathy from me. Spending what's left of one's life sweating it out on death row is the ultimate time for committing a heinous crime.

That said, the state needs to drop its nearly 3-year legal fight on a lawsuit regarding dangerous - and unconstitutional - heat and humidity levels on Angola's death row and install some air conditioners.

The issue here isn't about one's support - or not - for the death penalty. Nor is it some bleeding-heart liberal cry to let the worst among us live out their remaining days in balmy, 72-degree comfort.

This is about cold, hard cash.

Simply put, it's cheaper to install 9 air-conditioning units to cool the 8-tier facility housing death row inmates than it is for the state to continue arguing the use of fans, ice and cold showers meets the legal standard avoiding cruel and unusual punishment.

Judge frustrated by state's Angola heat lawsuit stance

U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson questioned why prison officials won't spend roughly $1 million to install air conditioning on death row, since the state has already spent much more to fight this in court.

Cheaper by a lot, according to the judge handling the case as well as experts hired by the state - like tens of millions of taxpayer dollars cheaper.

Set aside feelings on the death penalty or how those sitting on death row should be treated and let's talk the reality of numbers.

Exactly how much taxpayer money has been spent by the state on this case, which began in August 2013, isn't readily known, but U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson says the number may be well north of $20 million. Let's say Jackson is exaggerating his estimate and go with $10 million.

Installing nine air-conditioning units will cost somewhere between $30,000 and $1 million. Jackson threw out the $1 million figure during a hearing on Friday (May 20), but an attorney hired by the state said during an earlier hearing the cost was closer to a few thousand dollars per unit. Rounding that "few thousand" figure up to $3,000 and multiplying it by the nine needed units and you get $27,000.

I'm no John Marshall - or Johnny Cochran - but spending millions upon millions of public dollars to avoid spending a hell of a lot less doesn't make much legal or fiscal sense.

Fighting for a principle is semi-admirable, but by any cost-benefit analysis this fight is no longer worth it.

A federal judge has ruled prison officials must keep the heat index on death row from exceeding 88 degrees. Is it really worth hemorrhaging taxpayer cash to fight the notion that those on death row don't deserve AC when fans, ice and cold showers can pretty much do the trick? Especially when it's regularly proven by mandatory heat sensors at the prison that fans, ice and cold showers aren't doing the trick.

Judge rules heat levels on Angola death row subject inmates to 'cruel and unusual punishment'

Death row inmates incarcerated in unventilated cells and without access to cool water at Angola prison are being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, a federal judge in Baton Rouge ruled.

Look, the notion of air conditioning death row doesn't excite me, but I'll take that over the continued spending of my hard-earned money. Install the things, set the dang thermostats to 85 degrees and let's all get on with our lives.

The only people winning at this point are outside attorneys and the high-priced experts being paid to testify.

Corporations settle lawsuits all the time when potential litigation costs dwarf the financial agony of possible defeat. It's not about right or wrong, it's wholly about what's in the best financial interest of the company.

In the Angola death row case, the state knows the terms of settlement - the cost of installing nine air-conditioning units. How many more millions of dollars need to be spent avoiding what may be a $100,000 (or less) solution? Again, I have zero empathy for Angola's death row residents, but the law is the law, legal decisions matter and given the dilapidated state of Louisiana's budget there are far better ways to spend public money.

Gov. John Bel Edwards and Attorney General Jeff Landry, who would love nothing more than to re-litigate the entire case, need to drop the emotion, use their brains and end this battle - today.

(source: JR Ball is a columnist with -- The Times-Picayune in Baton Rouge)


Rick Kelly due in court Monday for hearing

A court hearing is set Monday morning for a man police say was behind an 11-year-old murder in Louisville.

Ricky Kelly is awaiting trial in connection with the death of Lajuante Jackson.

The prosecution has called the 2005 killing a murder-for-hire and said it was carried out to protect a drug ring.

Kelly could face the death penalty if he's convicted.

His trial is scheduled for next February.

(source: WLKY news)


Oklahoma Governor's Top Lawyer Told Prison to Proceed with Wrong Lethal Drug in Planned Execution

The top lawyer for Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin urged prison officials to go forward with a planned execution even though they received the wrong drug, telling a deputy attorney general to "Google it" to confirm it could be used, a grand jury said in a report Thursday.

It faulted many officials for three botched execution attempts but issued no indictments after its months-long investigation. The panel noted that Fallin's general counsel, Steve Mullins, advocated for the use of potassium acetate in the Sept. 30 execution of Richard Glossip, even though the state's lethal injection protocol calls for potassium chloride, which stops the heart.

"The governor's general counsel stated potassium chloride and potassium acetate were basically one in the same drug, advising deputy attorney general to 'Google it,'" the grand jury report said. Mullins also argued that the state shouldn't file a stay for Glossip's execution because "it would look bad for the state of Oklahoma because potassium acetate had already been used in (Charles) Warner's execution."

A deputy attorney general said she did look up potassium acetate online and found that it wasn't one and the same. Fallin issued a last-minute stay for Glossip, who remains on death row.

Mullins resigned in February as Fallin's general counsel. A home phone number in his name rang unanswered Thursday.

"It is unacceptable for the governor's general counsel to so flippantly and recklessly disregard the written protocol and the rights of Richard Glossip," the grand jury said in its report.

Fallin praised the work of Attorney General Scott Pruitt and the grand jury and said she was still analyzing the report. But she expressed confidence in the ability of prison officials to carry out executions in the future. Oklahoma's court system had put executions on hold pending the grand jury's probe.

"With new management at the Department of Corrections, led by Interim Director Joe Allbaugh, I am confident we can move forward with a process that complies with the applicable policies, protocols and legal requirements," Fallin said.

Pruitt had called for the grand jury investigation after the provider of Oklahoma's execution drugs sent the wrong chemical for Glossip's scheduled Sept. 30 execution and said the report clearly outlined the problems in the system.

"A number of individuals responsible for carrying out the execution process were careless, cavalier and in some circumstances dismissive of established procedures," Pruitt said.

The head of the prison system, Robert Patton, and the penitentiary warden, Anita Trammell, also quit after appearing before the grand jury.

The report also was critical of Trammell, identified in the report as "Warden A," for not notifying anyone about the receipt of potassium acetate. It was revealed after Glossip's execution was called off that Warner had been executed with the same wrong drug in January 2015.

"Although the department and the state would have suffered embarrassment and criticism had Warden A told someone the wrong drug had been received for the Warner execution, potentially years of litigation and this investigation could have been avoided," the report said. "It is inexcusable for a senior administrator with 30 years as a department employee to testify that 'there are just some things you ask questions about, and there's some things you don't.'"

The drug mix-ups followed a botched execution in April 2014 in which inmate Clayton Lockett struggled on a gurney before dying 43 minutes into his lethal injection - and after the state's prisons chief ordered executioners to stop.

The grand jury suggested the state should study the use of nitrogen gas to administer the death penalty, saying it would be "easy and inexpensive to obtain" and "simple to administer." Oklahoma now uses a 3-drug protocol, beginning with the surgical sedative midazolam, in its executions. But the Oklahoma Legislature last year authorized the use of nitrogen gas in executions if lethal injection were ever ruled unconstitutional or if the drugs became unavailable. Nitrogen gas has never been used to execute inmates in the U.S.

Pruitt has said he will not ask the court to schedule any execution dates until at least 150 days - or about 5 months - after the grand jury results were released and his office is officially notified that the prisons system believes it can execute prisoners according to the state's guidelines. In the meantime, 5 Oklahoma death row inmates have exhausted their appeals and are awaiting execution dates.

Dale Baich, an assistant federal public defender representing several death row inmates challenging Oklahoma's lethal injection protocol, said executions should remain on hold pending an independent panel led by former Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry.

"The moratorium on executions should continue in order to allow the commission to complete its study and for the federal litigation to be resolved," Baich said.



Hang 'em or not?

How Did We Get Here: Crime is ubiquitous, regardless of the basic system of government, pure democracy, absolutism, or oligarchical. Managing criminals remains a wedge issue, especially in countries that have automatic death penalty, as studies have shown.

The ongoing struggles in a few dominant Caribbean islands, especially Jamaica, Trinidad and others with high capital crime rates, have seen a softening mentality to bring back hanging, hoping that it will cut crime.

Both advocates for and against capital punishment agree that it is a delicate balance in the region where public opinion can quickly drive policies. They argue that new rules tend to limit personal freedom, challenge human rights, and erode confidence, where there is little or no oversight on how the nation applies punishment.

For decades, homicide rates and other violence have not been reduced significantly before hanging faced several pushbacks from human rights organizations, shifting views that it is as barbaric as the crime committed by an offender. As a result, with mounting pressure some of these islands have implemented a moratorium.

The alternative is to commute sentences to life in prison even in aggravated murders.

The UN Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) has always been calling for a stop to the death sentence. And, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), it has advised to abolish or at least impose a moratorium on its application.

Revisiting History: Hanging is not new to society. Sadly, despite the deterrence implication, hanging has not always been for the condemned man. Several slaves who tried to escape their masters, or by hate groups simply for one being different have faced the rope.

It has also claimed victims because of sexual orientation, stemming from homophobia.

In the 1800s, most hanging took place in the public, and the community celebrated. Today, given the crime waves on these shores, how many would show up if hanging were to be held in the local parishes?

The scars from colonization have also left few mentally hanged from what is believed to poor economic rope despite modernization and independence. It is not an argument that today’s criminals are still linked to policies that are perhaps no different from hanging because they were simply an economic death. Unforgiving Cord: It is an organized strangulation. This loss of consciousness makes death imminent. It is dependent upon the knot positioning and the length of drop, which has varied through the history of hanging.

According to several journals, hanging can range from head and neck injuries. When this occurs, compression or rupture of the vertebral and carotid arteries leads to cerebral ischaemia.

What has emerged recently is not a new structural push. The last hanging based on reports in Jamaica took place in 1998. Today, most polls show that Jamaicans welcome hanging as other parts of the Caribbean.

It sends a strong message that the society will not tolerate barbaric criminals.

Scholars also noted that, even in Jamaica's final appellate court, it has consistently upheld submissions from defence attorneys for hangings to be commuted to life imprisonment

As the region struggles with just desserts, and incapacitation, or simply an eye for an eye justice, few will admit publicly that crime threatens not only the basic pursuit of happiness on the beautiful shores, and inside the green communities, but the overall economy that thrives on a global good image to attract visitors.

The Politics of Hanging: Capital punishment tends to be fought on both political and moral grounds despite an offender's action.

When then opposition leader Andrew Holness ran his election campaign, he promised to be tough on crime. He is not alone calling for more drastic measures to fight crime. This push is not what rope will be used after an election, but a test to the limits of government, balance to the rule of law, freedom, human rights, the constitutional challenge and, simply, willingness to fulfill a political promise.

Despite opposition to this push to reinstate hanging, the ongoing killings need an answer.

The question remains can hanging solve that issue where there is still limitation on many fronts. The criminogenic circumstances are rising while opportunities and treatment for high risk offenders have disappeared.

First, the ability to find an offender and properly gather and maintain evidence is key to even conduct an impartial trial. Many still see a corrupt system with limited resources.

It is often plagued with questions about an accused from both sides of the judicial process than the final outcome of a condemned person.

Furthermore, how does a society change a decade of mentality? Even when exculpatory evidence is introduced it will take time to reverse an atmosphere of doubts from the history of distrust in government and its ability to perform basic functions.

Preventing Wrongful Execution: No one is implying that anyone charged with a criminal offense does not have the right to a hearing, or the courts themselves are incapable of conducting a trial or operating under a tree in primitive conditions. However, there still remains ambiguity in some of the rule applications.

Amnesty International reports that far too often some defendants do not have "prompt access" to counsel or representation at all stages of a trial. Therefore, one can be deprived of proper representation.

Sometimes the victims are against this practice, and what weight would be given to their rejections. Often they are being re-victimized, and lost in the debates.

What if this person has mental illnesses?

According to recent studies, nearly 44 million American adults, and millions of children, experience mental health conditions each year, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and post-traumatic stress.

What are the numbers in the Caribbean?

US President Barack Obama, in trying to highlight this issue, signed a proclamation on mental health.

Despite tools to diagnose someone with mental health, disparities and access to healthcare is a major problem, and individuals both in and out of the criminal justice system often go unnoticed.

Not all offenders who commit crimes are mentally ill.

Furthermore, changing an attitude about mental illness, where it is much easier to label a person a mad man/woman based on appearance, and where they sleep at nights.

This is what I call the appearance conviction

The lack of psychological and other analytical assessments to diagnose to make sure that an insane individual is even capable of standing trial before one's ultimate fate seems lacking.

As studies have shown, capital punishment does not reduce crime. The region has to look at not only creating opportunities for the youths, but also closing the gaps between the haves vs the have-nots.

The salient jury where few still believe that freedom is more likely for person with the deepest pocket and well connected.

Where is the local debate and demand from the community to be heard and not a few tweets while the ability to solve crime still is an elusive concept.

What Next: Although Amnesty International has been proactive on few appeals and in conjunction with other human rights committees, it constantly finds violations, and these processes still need fundamental work, and to make sure one receives the support required to mount a challenge.

As these criminal elements continue, maybe a 3 strikes law will be the next recommendation, but one has to be able to solve the 1st crime and maintain good criminal records.

Sure, no one wants to live in fear, but new crime strategy has to balance power with victims' rights, and a political, moral or social compass, and all measures have been taken.

Solving these issues is important and, leaders have to become more proactive in developing fundamental economic plans that will reduce the appetite for criminals.

This debate remains an uncomfortable feeling.

(source: Commentary, Derrick Miller----Caribbean News Now!)


Killer needs Dh35 million to escape death----Saudi court will free him after blood money is paid

A Saudi man on the death row for killing another Saudi needs to pay SR35 million (Dh35m) blood money within four months to escape execution.

A court in the Northern Saudi town of Skaka agreed to scrap the death penalty against Tariq Al Ruwaili if his relatives pay blood money to the victim's family.

"The judge gave Ruwaili's relatives 4 months to raise the money ... after it is paid, Ruwaili will be freed," Ajel newspaper said. Under Islamic law, which is strictly enforced in Saudi Arabia, a convicted killer can escape execution and walk free if pardoned by the victim's family in return for blood money, which is officially set in Saudi Arabia at SR300,000 for a Muslim victim. However, the victim’s relatives are allowed to demand any sum.



Iran regime may be planning to mass execute child offenders

Iran's fundamentalist regime has transferred at least 7 young death-row prisoners to solitary confinement in Gohardasht (Rajai-Shahr) Prison in preparation for their imminent execution, according to reports from the prison.

The young inmates were transferred earlier on Saturday from the prison's Ward 5, known as the adolescents' ward, to solitary confinement in Gohardasht Prison in Karaj, north-west of Tehran. Reports say the regime plans to execute them at the latest by next Wednesday.

All 7 inmates are believed to be between the ages of 22 and 25 and some are suspected to have been minors at the time of their alleged crime.

The names of 6 of the prisoners are believed to be Mohsen Agha-Mohammadi, Farhad Bakhshayesh, Iman Fatemi-Pour, Javad Khorsandi, Hossein Mohammadi and Masoud Raghadi. The mullahs' regime on Friday hanged a man in a prison in Qazvin, north-west of Tehran.

Ismaeil Sadeqi Niaraki, a notorious mullah who is the regime's Prosecutor in Qazvin, confirmed the execution had taken place in the city's central prison. He identified the victim only by his first name Sepahdar.

Iran's fundamentalist regime has sharply increased its rate of executions, carrying out at least 21 hangings in a 48-hour period earlier this week. Ms. Farideh Karimi, a member of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and a human rights activist, on Tuesday criticized the lack of response by the international community and human rights groups to the appalling state of human rights in Iran.

The latest hanging brings to at least 98 the number of people executed in Iran since April 10. 3 of those executed were women and 1 is believed to have been a juvenile offender.

Iran's fundamentalist regime last week amputated the fingers of a man in his 30s in Mashhad, the latest in a line of draconian punishments handed down and carried out in recent weeks.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) said in a statement on April 13 that the increasing trend of executions "aimed at intensifying the climate of terror to rein in expanding protests by various strata of the society, especially at a time of visits by high-ranking European officials, demonstrates that the claim of moderation is nothing but an illusion for this medieval regime."

Amnesty International in its April 6 annual Death Penalty report covering the 2015 period wrote: "Iran put at least 977 people to death in 2015, compared to at least 743 the year before." "Iran alone accounted for 82% of all executions recorded" in the Middle East and North Africa, the human rights group said.

There have been more than 2,300 executions during Hassan Rouhani's tenure as President. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran in March announced that the number of executions in Iran in 2015 was greater than any year in the last 25 years. Rouhani has explicitly endorsed the executions as examples of "God's commandments" and "laws of the parliament that belong to the people."

(source: NCR-Iran)


Taiwan seek death penalty after indicting man over public child beheading

Taiwanese prosecutors indicted a man Monday for murder over the public decapitation of a four year old girl, saying they would seek the death penalty for the "extremely cold-blooded" attack.

Wang Ching-yu, 33, is accused of overpowering the mother of the child near a metro station in central Taipei, and beheading the young girl with a kitchen knife.

The mother and a number of bystanders tried to intervene but were pushed away and unable to save the child, who police have identified only by the surname Liu.

Prosecutors at the Shihlin District Court in Taipei said that it was an "extremely cold-blooded" crime which had deeply shocked the generally peaceful island.

"It has caused indelible pain to her mother, who witnessed the cruelty," prosecutors said in a statement at the close of their investigation, which took less than 2 months.

"The suspect has never repented... so we suggest the court sentence him to death," they said, adding that capital punishment in this instance was important to maintain society's faith in law and justice.

Taiwan resumed capital punishment in 2010 after a five-year hiatus. Executions are reserved for serious crimes such as aggravated murder.

Some politicians and rights groups have called for its abolition, but various opinion surveys show majority support for the death penalty.

After the March 28 decapitation, hundreds of Taiwanese, many dressed in black and wearing stickers reading "Death penalty is necessary," called for Wang to be executed.

Wang was arrested at the scene of the crime and was subsequently taken into custody.

Prosecutors say that blood test show Wang was not under the influence of drugs at the time of the crime, nor had he displayed any signs of mental illness after the attack.

Police said the 33-year-old had previously been arrested for drug-related crimes. He was attacked by an angry mob while in custody.

Taiwan's Apple Daily has reported that he was unemployed and living with his parents, and had previously been hospitalised with mental health issues.

The killing came less than a year after the throat of an 8-year-old girl was slit in her school restroom in Taipei. It sparked widespread public anger and fresh debate about capital punishment.

(source: Agence France-Presse)


Kho Jabing's death calls for more clarity on death-penalty implementation

The sudden execution of Kho Jabing filled me with a sense of dread and sorrow. Having followed his case and its many twists and turns, I have come to see this young man as a human being. Not as a martyr or a saint but just as a normal human being who through his one moment of folly brought undue suffering on the Cao family.

Like anyone else, Kho Jabing had a family who loved him. He was remorseful and he wanted to live and make amends. More than that, he provided those in Singapore who believe in second chances a reason to hope. This is perhaps why the dramatic build up to this case and its swift and unexpected end is so crushing.

I am by no means justifying Kho Jabing's crimes - far from it. A man lost his life because of Kho Jabing's acts and for that there has to be punishment. But should that punishment be death? Further, even if society believes in the death penalty, is Kho Jabing's role in the crime deserving of the death penalty?

Will Kho Jabing's death bring back Cao Ruyin?

Kho Jabing's valiant fight against the noose ultimately ended up in victory for the hangman. But was the undue haste of his execution a matter of justice or a matter of policy expediency? If it is the latter, has justice really been served?

Kho Jabing was not initially sentenced to death. This would lead me to believe that although his crimes were severe, they were not deemed sufficiently severe to merit the death penalty. On appeal, this was overturned although not unanimously. This begs the question - should there be unanimity in the imposition of so harsh a sentence?

Personally, I think so.

The taking of a life is irrevocable and irretrievable. Given that Kho Jabing's case was initially not ruled to be a capital case coupled with the fact that on appeal, the judges were not in total agreement leads me to believe that it should not be a clear-cut case of imposing the death penalty. In such circumstances, isn't it better to err on the side of compassion and life?

Unless it was deemed that the life of a penniless, lowly educated blue-collar foreigner did not deserve mercy? Such is the unfortunate conclusion I have to draw in the way this case has panned out.

I am personally against the death penalty but I accept that a large portion of Singaporean society may not agree me. That said, I am sure that even the most fervent defenders of capital punishment will agree that the imposition of so draconian a sentence cannot be one that is casually and wantonly passed. There has to no doubt at all that the person in question is legally and unequivocally deserving of this harshest of punishments. Given Kho Jabing's initial sentencing and the lack of unanimity on appeal, I would think not.

Even if we accept that Kho Jabing was condemned to die, it does seem unnaturally cruel to execute him with such unseeming haste.

The condemned are usually hanged at 6am on Fridays. One would have thus reasonably expected that Kho Jabing would have been hung the following Friday. Yet, a deviation from precedent was created just so that the hangman got his weekly quota.

Given that our brand of justice had run its course in this case and Kho Jabing had by then exhausted all avenues of fighting for life, would keeping him alive for one more week really have affected the service of "justice"? There were no other options left to be utilised to thwart the noose. Where could he go? What more can he do? Why the rush to have him killed?

It really made me wonder if his execution forthwith was to prevent further public outcries or campaigns? Did the powers be want the issue to finally die literally and figuratively?

Kho Jabing may have died but the issues raised by his case have not. What needs to be made plainly clear is when and how the death penalty is to be meted out. Should there be unanimity? In changes of precedent such as in the hanging times of the condemned, what is the process and procedure? Who decides and on what basis? If the death sentence has to remain in Singapore, it should at least be crystal clear.

(source: Opinion, Ghui, the Independent)


Activist and lawyer involved in Kho Jabing's case abused online

An anti-death penalty activist and a lawyer who defended Kho Jabing are bearing the brunt of some netizens who have taken issue with them for defending a condemned criminal.

The activist Kirsten Han shared some of the abusive messages she had received in her Facebook and captioned them: "To add to my series of examples of how women receive a particular sort of abuse (online in this case, but also off) when people disagree with them:

Context: this is the article they were reacting to -"

(source: The Independent)


Pair set to lodge appeal after being found guilty of murdering Essex University student Hannah Witheridge

2 men convicted of the murder of an Essex University student and another man are set to lodge an appeal.

Burmese men Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo were convicted of murdering student Hannah Witheridge, 23, and 24-year-old David Miller, from Jersey, in December.

Miss Witheridge, who was from Norfolk but was a student at Essex University at the time of her death, and Mr Miller were found dead on a beach on the Thai island of Koh Tao in September 2014.

Lin and Phyo, both 22, were found guilty of their murders after a controversial trial and were sentenced to death.

The Burmese murderers now have a team of 7 Thai lawyers, as well as international advisors, working to exonerate them.

The appeals, which are due to be lodged this week, will be against their conviction and sentence.

Their lawyers plan to show it cannot be proved beyond reasonable doubt Lin and Phyo were responsible for the Brits' deaths.

As well as the death penalty, the Burmese pair received additional 20-year prison sentences for the rape of the Essex University student and for robbery.

The bodies of British pair were discovered on Sairee Beach on Koh Tao in the early morning of September 15, 2014.

Miss Witheridge had been raped and battered to death with a garden hoe.

Mr Miller was left to drown in the sea after being beaten unconscious.

(source: Daily Gazette)


Kahlon to oppose death punishment for terrorists----Senior Kulanu official makes it clear that the party will not support Yisrael Beytenu's flagship legislation, which is one of its conditions to join the government.

A senior member of Moshe Kahlon's Kulanu told Ynet on Sunday that the party will not support an amendment to the law that would make it easier for military courts to sentence terrorists to death, a bill being pushed by Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Lieberman who is in talks to join the government.

"Israel's defense establishment is in agreement that this is a bad idea that it will not contribute to the fight against terror or to Israel's security," the official said. "It's an inappropriate suggestion both on an ethical and operational level. Any attempt by the government or the Knesset to act in such an irresponsible manner will come up against a wall comprised of all ten of Kulanu's MKs."

Yisrael Beytenu has yet to officially sign the agreement to join the government due to budgetary issues over the party's demand to complete the pension reform and its demand to amend the law to allow death sentence to terrorists.

Likud Minister Yariv Levin has been working with Lieberman to formulate a draft bill proposal on death sentence to terrorists that could withstand the High Court's judgment.

One of the options is to amend the legislation that allows the military court to hand out capital punishment to terrorists if a unanimous decision is made by 3 judges, and change it so only 2 judges suffice.

If the sides fail to reach a final agreement on the legislation, it is possible they will commit to working on the legislation during the upcoming Knesset session.

On Friday, Lieberman and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon held their first meeting on the pension reform. At first, Lieberman sought to secure pensions only for immigrants from the former Soviet Union, but it was eventually decided to apply the planned reform on all immigrants, as well as on other Israelis who did not work enough years to accumulate sufficient pension funds.

The cost of the reform stands at about NIS 3 billion, a sum that could only be allocated if it is done gradually over the period of a few years.

Lieberman and Kahlon agreed to meet again at the beginning of the week to finalize the details.

(source: YNetNews)

MAY 22, 2016:


Brownlow sentenced to death

Even up to the last moment before convicted murderer Charles E. Brownlow Jr. was sentenced to death on Friday he tried to blame his father for the executions he committed.

Brownlow was convicted of capital murder on April 28 for the Oct. 28, 2013, slaying of store clerk Luis Gerardo Leal-Carillo at Ali's Market.

The 422nd Judicial District Court jury spent the next 3 weeks hearing testimony about whether Brownlow had an intellectual disability or anti-social personality disorder.

The jury on Friday began deliberations at 12:25 p.m. after the prosecution and defense teams gave their closing arguments and returned with its verdicts at about 3 p.m.

There were 3 special issues upon which the jury had to consider.

The jury determined that based upon the preponderance of evidence Brownlow does not have an intellectual disability (mentally retarded); that beyond a reasonable doubt it believed there was a probability Brownlow would commit criminal acts of violence, thus constituting a continuing threat to society; and there were no mitigating circumstances warranting a sentence of life imprisonment without parole instead of the death penalty.

When 422nd Judicial District Court Judge B. Michael Chitty read the jury's findings, he asked Brownlow if there was a legal reason to not pronounce sentence.

Brownlow said there was. He said his father shot him in the head when he was 4 years old, which he testified about while taking the stand during the guilt and sentencing phases of the capital murder trial.

Chitty said that was not a legal reason and sentenced Brownlow to death.

Several family members sobbed when the sentence was handed down, including Leal-Carillo's fiance, Sylvia Sanchez and Cindy Crecy, Jason Wooden's mother.

Roshondra Walker, Brownlow's cousin, placed her head on Terence Walker's shoulder, seeking comfort. Terence Walker is Brownlow's brother.

Brownlow was 36 when he murdered his mother, 61-year-old Mary Brownlow at her Stallings Street home and set her body on fire; his 55-year-old aunt, Belinda Young Walker, at her home on Tyler Street; Kelleye Lynette Pratt Sluder, 30, and Jason Michael Wooden, at their home on Eulalia Street; and Leal-Carillo.

After the sentencing, family members were given an opportunity to give victim impact statements.

Cindy Crecy, Wooden's mother, was the 1st to take the stand.

"You have evil in your head," Crecy said. "You have hurt a lot of people in your life. I hope to live long enough to see the needle [put] in your arm.

"You shot Kelleye 6 times," she said.

Crecy told Brownlow she wished the state still had the electric chair so he could feel the fear that Leal-Carillo, her son, Sluder, Mary Brownlow and his aunt Belinda Walker felt before he shot them.

"Devil, you did not win," Crecy said.

Sylvia Sanchez, next up, hugged Crecy after she left the stand

Sanchez, who was Leal-Carillo's fiance and testified during the trial, also spoke.

"You did not give [Luis] a chance," Sanchez said. "You are evil. You killed your mother, the woman who gave you life."

She said every holiday, including Father's Day, she takes her son to the cemetery to see his father.

Sanchez was then hugged by Carillo's brother, Edgar, was the last to take the stand.

Twice he asked Brownlow to look at him and told him he did not like the games Brownlow played while testifying in court.

"I hope you live up to what you did," Carillo said.

(source: Terrell Tribune)


Timothy Foster appeal ruling may come soon

With just 8 justices currently sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court, several defendants still await a ruling, including convicted murderer Timothy Foster.

In 1986, Timothy Tyrone Foster murdered a retired fourth-grade Johnson Elementary School teacher, Queen White, during a burglary. He was arrested a month after the incident, with the police finding the stolen items in his home.

He later confessed to the crime. Court records show that White's jaw was broken, and she had a severe gash on the top of her head. Before she was strangled to death, she had been molested.

An all-white jury convicted the 18-year-old black man of murder and burglary, and sentenced him to death.

On Nov. 2, 2015, Foster's appeal reached the U.S. Supreme Court. The question was whether or not then-Floyd County District Attorney Steve Lanier improperly excluded potential black jurors from the death penalty trial in 1987.

"Mr. Foster's case is still pending in the U.S. Supreme Court," said Foster's attorney, Stephen Bright with the Southern Center for Human Rights.

The court usually ends its term in June and could hand down a decision any day now, Bright said.

"The court will issue decisions again on Monday and from time to time after that until all the cases have been decided," Bright said. "Unfortunately, the court provides no warning with regard to when it will decide a case, but we can expect the case to be decided in the next 6 weeks."

In April 1986, the Supreme Court ruled in Batson v. Kentucky that it is unconstitutional to remove a potential juror because of race.

Prosecutors' notes discovered 19 years after Foster's trial show the names of each potential black juror highlighted in green and the word "black" circled next to the race question on the questionnaires.

The court is obviously split evenly over its general philosophy, according to Rome attorney Bob Brinson, who has argued before the nation's highest court.

He doesn't think an even number of judges will affect the effort of the court. Additionally, he doesn't think it will cause a delay or a reversal in previous rulings on the Foster case.

Foster's isn’t the only case that the 8 justices may have trouble with.

The 8 Supreme Court justices say they'll take care of business until a new ninth justice joins them. Their actions say otherwise.

Monday's unsigned, unanimous decision returning a high-profile dispute over access to birth control to lower courts was the latest example of the ideologically split court's struggle to get its work done with an even number of justices since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February.

The decision averted a 4-4 tie, which would have left different rules in place in different parts of the country concerning the availability of cost-free birth control for women who work for faith-affiliated groups.

But the outcome was itself inconclusive and suggested that the justices could not form a majority to issue a significant ruling that would have settled the issue the court took the case to resolve.



Judge to Decide If Death-Row Inmates Need Air Conditioning

As summer approaches in Louisiana, prison officials insist that ice, fans and cold showers are enough to protect death-row inmates from dangerous heat and humidity.

If not, a federal judge may order them to install air conditioning for inmates awaiting execution at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.

U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson expressed frustration Friday as he questioned why prison officials won't spend roughly $1 million to install air conditioning on death row, since the state has already spent much more to fight the matter in court. He scheduled a June 15 hearing for testimony about the effectiveness of the prison's current heat-control measures.

Jackson already has ruled it unconstitutional to keep inmates where the heat index exceeds 88 degrees. During the summer, the heat index on death row routinely soars above 100 as temperatures and humidity levels rise.

Jackson said it is "stunning" how much the state has spent defending itself for three years now against this request from 3 death-row inmates with medical problems. Louisiana has struggled to close repeated budget shortfalls, and yet the judge said the state may have spent tens of millions of dollars on outside attorneys and experts, heat monitoring and other costs of litigation.

"One must wonder: Is this really what the state wants to do?" he asked. "It just seems so unnecessary."

Assistant Attorney General Colin Clark told the judge he would convey his frustrations to the office of Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, who succeeded Republican Bobby Jindal in January.

Jackson ruled in December 2013 that extreme heat on death row violates the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The state appealed his order to develop a plan to keep the heat index at or below 88 degrees.

In July 2015, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the plaintiffs could get relief without air conditioning, and in response, the state crafted a new "heat remediation plan" involving cold showers, fans and ice chests for the inmates.

"We believe we're providing adequate remedies to deal with the heat index," Clark said.

But the inmates' attorneys said the plan isn't working: It's not even summer yet, and yet the heat index on death row already exceeded the 88 degree threshold on May 12.

The judge told the state's new legal team, from the office of newly elected Attorney General Jeff Landry, a Republican, that he has sensed "serious pushback" from them on the 88-degree threshold even though the 5th Circuit didn't overturn the standard.

"That will not be re-litigated," Jackson warned.

Louisiana's new death row facility was built just 10 years ago. An engineer hired by the state said it would take nine air-conditioning units to cool all 8 tiers of the building. The judge suggested a $1 million price tag for that, but the real cost could be much lower - an attorney for the state said at an earlier hearing that buying each unit would cost only a few thousand dollars.

"My sole concern is to their health and safety," Jackson said. "I cannot sit back and allow the constitutional rights of those inmates to continue to be violated."

(source: Associated Press)


Innocent is plea in death of girl, 1

A Flippin man pleaded innocent to capital murder in what police said was the beating death of 1-year-old girl.

Cody Allen, 23, entered the plea Wednesday in Marion County Circuit Court. He was being held in the Marion County jail in Yellville without bail. Court documents about the case are sealed under a judge's order, a Marion County Circuit Court clerk's deputy said Friday.

Allen was charged initially with f1st-degree battery after police found Alithia Boyd, 1, seriously injured May 1 at a Flippin apartment complex where the girl, her mother and Allen lived. Allen told police the girl fell down the stairs, Prosecuting Attorney David Ethredge of Mountain Home said.

Medical personnel transported the girl to an out-of-state hospital, where she died May 6.

Ethredge amended the charge to capital murder. He has not said whether he will seek the death penalty.

Pretrial motions are set for Allen in Marion County Circuit Court on Sept. 21.

(source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)


Missouri plans to seek death penalty for Mexican national

Missouri prosecutors on Friday filed their formal plan to pursue the death penalty against a Mexican national in the shooting death of a man a day after he allegedly killed 4 people in Kansas.

Prosecutors in Montgomery County submitted court papers saying they will seek capital punishment for Pablo Serrano-Vitorino if he's convicted of 1st-degree murder in the March 8 death of Randy Nordman at that man's home in New Florence, about 70 miles west of St. Louis. Serrano-Vitorino also is charged with armed criminal action and burglary.

A judge last week ordered Serrano-Vitorino, 40, to stand trial on the Missouri charges and scheduled a June 1 arraignment. A message left Friday with Serrano-Vitorino's attorney seeking comment on the case was not immediately returned.

Serrano-Vitorino, who federal immigration officials have said is in the U.S. illegally, is accused in Kansas of killing a Kansas City, Kansas, neighbor and three other men at the neighbor's home the night before Nordman was slain nearly 200 miles away. Serrano-Vitorino was captured after a manhunt and is jailed in Missouri without bond.Authorities have not discussed a motive for any of the killings.

In his court filing Friday, Montgomery County Prosecutor Nathan Carroz cited "aggravated circumstances" related to Nordman's slaying that make the case eligible for the death penalty. Among them: The Missouri killing was a continuation of the Kansas shooting rampage, Nordman's killing involved burglary and robbery, and that slaying was "outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible or inhuman" in its randomness and its "callous disregard for the sanctity of human life."

Carroz also cited Serrano-Vitorino's previous legal issues that have included California charges involving spousal battery and threats with the intent to terrorize, as well as Kansas charges since 2012 involving domestic battery and 2 cases of driving under the influence.

(source: Associated Press)


Death sentence sought for KCK man accused of 5 killings

A Missouri prosecutor said Friday he will seek a death sentence for the Kansas City, Kan., man accused of killing 5 men this year.

Montgomery County Prosecutor Nathan Carroz filed the notice to seek the death penalty against Pablo Serrano-Vitorino on Friday.

Serrano-Vitorino, 40, is charged in Montgomery County with 1st-degree murder in the March 8 shooting death of Randy Nordman of New Florence, Mo.

Several hours before Nordman was killed, authorities say, Serrano-Vitorino shot and killed 4 men in Kansas City, Kan.

He was allegedly fleeing from those killings when his vehicle ran out of gasoline on Interstate 70 near where Nordman lived. Serrano-Vitorino was arrested several hours later carrying the rifle allegedly used in the killings.

Wyandotte County prosecutors have charged him in the killings of Michael Capps, 41, Jeremy Waters, 36, and brothers Clint Harter, 27, and Austin Harter, 29.

Serrano-Vitorino, who was in the country illegally, is to be arraigned in Montgomery County on June 1.

(source: Kansas City Star)


Floyd Bledsoe, wrongfully imprisoned for 15 years, pushes to end death penalty in Kansas

A man who spent more than 15 years wrongfully imprisoned for a rape and murder he did not commit shared his story in the basement of a Lawrence church on Saturday, now on a mission to encourage action against the death penalty in Kansas.

Floyd Bledsoe, 39, was released from prison in December 2015 after a judge overturned his 2000 murder conviction. He said prior to addressing the crowd of about 75 at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, 1234 Kentucky St., that the court system is flawed, and asked what if his case had been a death penalty case?

Floyd Bledsoe sits in prayer with his eyes closed before sharing his story with audience members on Saturday evening at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, 1234 Kentucky St. Bledsoe was exonerated and released from prison late last year after serving 15 years of a life sentence where he was wrongfully convicted of murder.

Floyd Bledsoe sits in prayer with his eyes closed before sharing his story with audience members on Saturday evening at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, 1234 Kentucky St. Bledsoe was exonerated and released from prison late last year after serving 15 years of a life sentence where he was wrongfully convicted of murder.

"Anytime you're dealing with somebody's life, once they're executed, there's no bringing them back. There's no, 'Hey, we're gonna appeal this,'" Bledsoe said. "Once they're dead, they're dead."

He said he wants people to understand he doesn't want them to believe in change - he wants them to be the change, get personally involved and become a voice for those who can't have one.

"I know what it's like to be stuck and not have a way to communicate with the outside world," he said, which is a big reason he's taking the opportunity his situation has presented to speak out.

Bledsoe cited the Million Man March that thrust the civil rights movement of the 1960s forward.

"What if we get a million Kansans together saying, 'Enough is enough; let's stop the death penalty, because we're unsure. One life is worth everything to us,'" he said.

He wants Kansas to be ahead of the curve on the death penalty issue.

"Why don't we, instead of waiting until the end, like Kansas so notoriously does, why don't we become a forerunner and say, 'You know what? Enough is enough - let's stop this now," he said.

(source: Lawrence Journal World)


Anti-death penalty advocate to speak in North Platte Tell North Platte what you think

Nebraska State Sen. Colby Coash will appear in North Platte Tuesday, May 24 to discuss the upcoming vote to retain the Legislature's vote to end Nebraska's death penalty.

Coash will speak at 9:30 a.m. at Hobbe's Diner in the Parkade Plaza Restaurant 217 E 6th St. in North Platte.

He represents the group, "Retain a Just Nebraska," urging the retention of LB 268, the Nebraska Legislature's vote to end the death penalty. The coalition advocates life in prison without parole instead of the death penalty.

Former death row inmate Randy Reeves died Wednesday night of natural causes in the Nebraska State Penitentiary.

Coash said it is "an example of what Nebraska's tough life imprisonment statute means - that the offender will only leave prison on a gurney." Reeves was first sentenced to death, but the sentence as changed in 2000 to 2 counts of life imprisonment.

Coash, who represents southwest Lincoln in the Legislature, is also conducting Town Halls in Grand Island, Hastings, Kearney and McCook.

(source: The North Platte Bulletin)


No room for mistakes in Oklahoma's next execution protocol

One of the most telling findings made by members of a multicounty grand jury that studied problems with Oklahoma executions is found on the next-to-last page of the panel's 106-page report.

Most Department of Corrections employees, the grand jury said (with the word "most" in italics and boldfaced), "profoundly misunderstood the protocol. Although some ... were able to intelligently testify regarding the protocol, the majority simply could not."

In other words, when it came to carrying out the state's most solemn duty, not many people involved knew exactly what was going on. It's a startling conclusion and a problem that must be remedied in full before Oklahoma considers putting another inmate to death.

The grand jury's report, issued Thursday, was the product of a lengthy investigation into how 1 wrong drug was used in the January 2015 execution of Charles Warner and nearly was used in September 2015 in the planned execution of Richard Glossip. The Glossip execution was halted when the mix-up was discovered.

The report makes clear why Anita Trammell is no longer warden at Oklahoma State Penitentiary, why Steve Mullins is no longer general counsel for the governor's office, and why Robert Patton is no longer Department of Corrections director. All three testified before the grand jury and later left their jobs.

As director, Patton was in charge of an agency whose execution protocols were overhauled in 2014 following a botched execution of Clayton Lockett that was blamed largely on poor training and an improperly placed injection needle. But the grand jury said, among other things, that it found training to be inadequate and that the paper trail to track the acquisition, transportation and use of execution drugs was worse than before the overhaul.

The panel said Trammell worked on assumptions regarding whether the proper drugs had been properly vetted and used. The warden "did not do (her) job and, consequently, failed the Department and the state as a whole." The grand jury noted that its investigation into the mix-up and litigation stemming from the mix-up might have been avoided if the warden had paid closer attention to which drugs were being used in executions.

"It is inexcusable for a senior administrator with 30 years as a department employee to testify that 'there are just some things you ask questions about, and there's some things you don't.'"

Mullins was criticized for urging that the Glossip execution go forward after it was determined potassium acetate had been delivered for use in the 3-drug mixture, instead of potassium chloride. The former had also been used in the Warner execution.

The grand jurys said it was unacceptable for Mullins "to so flippantly and recklessly disregard the written protocol and the rights of Richard Glossip" and that he should have "resoundingly recommended an immediate stay of execution." Instead, he argued to the deputy attorney general that the 2 drugs were essentially the same, adding, "Google it."

Gov. Mary Fallin stayed the Glossip execution. Since then all executions have been on hold in Oklahoma, and will remain so until at least 150 days after release of the grand jury's report.

The panel recommended another revision of execution protocol be undertaken, to ensure everyone's duties are crystal clear. Grand jurors also said DOC should have an independent ombudsman on site during executions. Each person involved in an execution "must be comfortable questioning anything they observe that does not seem right," the grand jury said.

That hasn't been the case to date, which is partly how we got into this mess. Getting out of it will require a wholesale change in state officials' application of the death penalty so the public can be assured that yes, the state really does know what it's doing.

(source: The Oklahoman Editorial Board)


Slaying my last 5 excuses to back the death penalty

After years of reading and writing about the horrors of violent crime, I decided there are monsters among us who deserve to die, period. And the state should kill them.

But there's a whole criminal justice system that goes along with implementing the death penalty, and in order to hold onto your belief in capital punishment you must believe in that system.

And now I don't. I can't.

Just last week U.S. District Court judge in Phoenix put Arizona's executions on hold until the resolution of a case involving a controversial drug used by our state to execute the condemned.

It turns out that we stink at killing guys.

We're so bad at it, and there are so many questions and concerns, legal, medical, financial and moral, that we just need to stop trying.

This was made even more clear by an expansive report on Arizona's death penalty by The Arizona Republic's Michael Kiefer, in which the last 5 reasons I believed - or used to believe - in capital punishment were obliterated.

Fallacy number 1: The death penalty is efficient.

Kiefer reported that in Maricopa County Superior Court from 2010 through November 2015 there were 194 ongoing capital cases. Of those, 28 - or 14 % - ended in death sentences. That doesn't speak well for the proficiency of prosecutors. Or perhaps for the reasoning that led them to seek the death penalty.

Number 2: The death penalty is warranted.

As it turns out, that's not exactly true either. The Federal Public Defender's Office in Phoenix reported that of the 306 death sentences imposed in Arizona over the last 40 years, 129 - 42 % - were reversed or remanded on appeal. There will always be some cases that should be overturned. But nearly 1/2?

Number 3: The death penalty is economical.

In this instance, it's not even close. Taxpayers pay through the nose for both the prosecution and the defense in capital cases. Among the most well-known was the defense for Jodi Arias. Her 2 trials cost $3.57 million. And we continue to pay for these cases through a long appeals process, spending millions while the condemned spend decades on death row. Some dying there of natural causes.

Number 4: The death penalty is equitable.

There are many instances where there is little distinction between killers who got the death penalty and killers who got life in prison or less. Take the case of Daniel Cook, who got the death sentence while his accomplice pleaded to a lesser charge and received a 20-year sentence in exchange for his testimony against Cook. In that sense, the death penalty was not a punishment but a bargaining tool for prosecutors. Is that justice?

Number 5: The death penalty is reliable.

The last inmate to be executed in Arizona, Joseph Wood, was injected 15 times with an experimental lethal drug cocktail and spent nearly 2 hours heaving and gasping before he died. And there was Jeffrey Landrigan, who was executed by drugs the Arizona Department of Corrections obtained unlawfully from Great Britain. How is acting illegally a justifiable way to execute someone? And there was Ray Krone, convicted in 1992 of killing a bartender. He spent 10 years on death row before being exonerated by DNA evidence. Inevitably there will be death penalty mistakes. That's unacceptable.

You may be like me. You may want to support the death penalty.

But there's only 1 reason left for any of us to do so:


(source: Commentary, EJ Montini, Arizona Republic)


Lethal injections coming under scrutiny

While we were fortunate to have a pretty mild winter, spring has not been ideal. And although I've been suffering from some serious hay fever, it's also been cold and rainy. Usually it's one or the other, but this year has been a double whammy.

My allergies have been so bad this year that a few mornings I've woken up with my eyes matted shut. While this has provided Three Stooges-like entertainment for my family, I am not amused.

Thank goodness for medicine. Every morning I shoot medicine up my nose and take a small pill. While I still suffer, I don't even want to think about what bad shape I would be in without my allergy medication. In fact, my whole family doses up first thing in the morning. Thankfully, we are still under our facial tissue budget.

This year alone, my family has taken medicines to help with allergies, fevers, strep throat, the flu and asthma. My wife and son carry epinephrine pens with them that literally are life-savers. While medicines definitely can save lives, they can also be used to take them.

31 states still have capital punishment. When carrying out death sentences, almost all of them utilize lethal injections. And those valuable medicines that can heal, if mixed properly, also are used in these lethal injections.

But pharmaceutical juggernaut Pfizer recently announced that it was banning the use of its drugs for lethal injections. A statement issued by the company explained, "Pfizer makes its products to enhance and save the lives of the patients we serve. Consistent with these values, Pfizer strongly objects to the use of its products as lethal injections for capital punishment."

According to Reprieve, a human rights organization based in New York that opposes the death penalty, Pfizer is the last of approximately 25 FDA-approved international companies that are able to manufacture drugs used in executions to now block the use of their drugs in executions. Reprieve Director Maya Foia said that "Pfizer's actions cement the pharmaceutical industry's opposition to the misuse of medicines."

The impact of this ban is that many states have delayed executions while looking for an alternative to lethal injections. For example, Ohio has not executed an inmate for more than 2 years. However, the state has more than 2 dozen inmates with firm execution dates, but they are being put on hold until medications for injections have been obtained.

Some states are still using lethal injections but are not disclosing who made the medicine being used. Consumers have filed lawsuits in Texas, Georgia, Arkansas and Missouri, asking courts to force states to identify their drug providers.

Other states, however, are taking matters into their own hands. Tired of waiting for medicine for lethal injections, Virginia passed a bill this spring allowing the use of the electric chair. 2 years ago, Tennessee passed a similar law. If drugs aren't available in Utah, a 2015 law approved the use of firing squads for executions. Oklahoma became the 1st state to approve nitrogen gas for executions if drugs aren't available. The Attorney General for Mississippi wants to be able to use electrocution, firing squads and nitrogen gas.

As more and more states abolish the death penalty (7 since 2007), the problem may someday resolve itself.

(source: Commentary; Reg Wydeven is a partner with the Appleton-based law firm of McCarty Law LLP----The Post-Crescent)


Death Penalty States Are Running Out of Ways to Kill People

The new policy means there is no remaining open-market source of lethal injection drugs in the USA, the New York Times reports.

Pfizer joins over 20 United States and European Union pharma firms that have stopped making their drugs available.

The option for several states has been to consider using the single drug method like Texas, or explore alternatives such as bringing back firing squads, gas chambers and electric chairs.

As we have reported previously, each of these drugs is used in some part of the lethal injection cocktail, which varies at different states.

The pharmaceutical company Pfizer said Friday it will move to prevent its drugs from being used in lethal injections. According to Inquisitr, Pfizer was their last source of lethal injection drugs, so without any other source, they may turn to underground means to get the drugs or using another method for capital punishment altogether. In 2013, German drugmaker Fresenius Kabi scolded a US wholesaler after it accidentally sold its anesthetic propofol to the state of Missouri, which meant to use it for executions.

"The Florida Department of Corrections does not disclose the identities of our drug suppliers", Department of Corrections spokesman McKinley Lewis said. Robert Dunham, executive director of the center, points out that despite the objection by pharmaceutical firms for years, state correctional facilities could still buy the drugs from distributors. But he cautions any attempt to tweak the law would likely trigger a fierce debate over whether IN should abolish the death penalty.

"Regardless of how the public votes in November, this is another sign Nebraska will never be able to carry out an execution".

With Pfizer's decision, every one of the roughly 25 companies approved by the FDA to make these drugs has established a policy to stop their use in executions, according to Reprieve, an advocacy group opposed to capital punishment. And this state has not exactly been prolific in its use of capital punishment. The only solution states such as IN have to this problem is to find an alternative company to produce lethal injection chemicals or to bring back other execution methods such as the electric chair. And of the 27 men and 1 woman put to death past year (the lowest number since 1984), all but 4 were in the execution-leading troika of Georgia, Missouri and Texas.

The US Supreme Court issued in June 2015 a landmark decision declaring death by lethal injection legal.

With restrictions on 2 of the most used execution drugs, thiopental and pentobarbital, some states have begun using less tested drugs - like midazolam - that may take longer than expected to take effect. Texas has at least 8 more executions scheduled in the coming months, with 2 due in June.



Momentum firmly against death penalty in U.S., Dead Man Walking author says----Sister Helen Prejean discussess her position on the death penalty with CBC Radio's On the GO

World-renowned activist, author and Catholic nun Sister Helen Prejean does not mince words about why the death penalty should be abolished.

Prejean is the author of numerous books, including Dead Man Walking, a New York Times bestseller for 6 months upon its release in 1993. The book was later adapted into an Academy Award-winning film and an opera, both of the same name.

She spoke to Ted Blades of CBC Radio's On the Go this week.

She had come to St. John's to deliver the Arrupe Lecture at St. Bonaventure's College.

The death penalty was abolished in Canada in 1976, although the journey to abolish it began in 1950. Canada is one of 103 countries in the world which have abolished the death penalty. However, 36 countries, including the United States, China, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq, still practise the death penalty.

Q: So how would you describe the current state of the death penalty in the United States, both in practice and in theory?

Well, we put it back in 1976 - the very year Canada's parliament voted not to bring it back, even though 70 % of the people of Canada in polls said they wanted it - so for these 30 years we've executed over 1,200 people by shooting, gassing, electrocuting, lethal injection.

Polls started out that there was 80 % support for the death penalty in the United States; in the deep south states, it was almost 90 %. And now, for the 1st time, when people are given the question do you prefer the death penalty or life without parole, they prefer life without parole. We got over 50 % ... so the death plenty is in diminishment.

In the last 10 years, 7 states have abolished it, and California is poised to do it next in a referendum. For the 1st time we have a Supreme Court justice, [Stephen] Breyer, who has listed constitutionally all the problems with the practice of the death penalty. So the theory of the death penalty is that it is always been it's reserved for the worst of the worst.

In practice, over 75 % of all the actual executions have happened in the 10 southern states that practised slavery.

Practically, every 8 out of 10 chosen to die, it's because they killed a white person. When people of colour are killed, it's never practised. And the other big factor is we now have 156 wrongfully convicted people who've managed to get off of death row because they were saved by college kids in innocence projects. So people now see the thing's broken. It's not working.

And the other factor that we have to put in here is the exorbitant cost. It costs millions of dollars to keep capital punishment in pace.

At first, that sounds counterintuitive, but everything is more costly. One [district attorney] put it, "It's like the Cadillac of the criminal justice system." You have a capital case, you have two trials, one is for guilt to innocence, and the second is "what will the sentence be?", and that can last as long or longer, then you got to build a special part of your prison.

The costliness of it is stopping people in their tracks because they don't see a practical difference or effect, that if someone was put in prison for life, and you know they can't kill again, why are we going through all this expense of killing a few people ... so funds are doing it, practical sense of "it's not worth it", and the moral sense has been building in people about it, because I think going into Iraq, Afghanistan, we now see military solutions to social problems are not that helpful, and the death penalty is a military solution to domestic crimes.

My work has been to get those books out there, to get the film out there, to help change the consciousness of people about it, to help them see that we need to choose a life road.

Even Conservatives now are coming on board saying, "If you're for a lack of government intrusion in private life, and if you're for fiscal responsibility, what are we doing entrusting the government with the right to take life, even without the huge exorbitant cost?"

Q: Even though you're an opponent of the death penalty, you've witnessed 6 executions. How did that come to be?

A: Well when I took the 1st man on death row -which is the story in Dead Man Walking - I thought I would only be writing letters. We hadn't had an execution in Louisiana in 20 years. That led to 2 1/2 years down the road. The letters, then the visits. He was killed in front of my eyes.

He was electrocuted to death. And it changed my life, because when you see something close up, as the saying goes, what the eye doesn't see, the heart can't feel, but I got involved in that whole process, seeing the protocol of death, and seeing what it meant to kill a human being. Part of the journey too was then to witness and experience with the victims' families, who were being told, "Now what we're going to do for you, you've gonna have to wait, hopefully not too long, not 15 years or whatever, but when it's time we're going to let you send a representative to actually watch when we kill the person, execute the person, who killed your loved one."

So I got drawn into that through the 1st person. And then after that, Millard Farmer, who's a great lawyer who was trying to save people's lives, he came back to me after 6 months after Pat had been executed, and said, "Sister Helen, we have two more clients in Louisiana - they don't have anybody."

And I looked at Millard and I knew that he wasn't trying to save himself from fire of going in with his clients, and he said "You can do it - they need somebody to be their spiritual advisor."

So I've continued to do it, and I've done it ever since. I'm accompanying a man on death row in Louisiana. He's the 7th. 3 of the 7 have been innocent. 3 of 7 - that's how broken this thing is.

So I kept doing it because it's a privilege to be with human beings even though they've done terrible crimes, and it's not to make them heroes, but boy it brings you up against life and death, or compassion and vengeance, and what are you for? And then I spend the other part of my time on the road getting out on the road to wake people up in the United States about how we got to choose another road.

Q: But how does it make you feel, as a citizen of the United States, as a human being, to witness death not caused in the heat of the moment, in a moment of passion for a lack of a better world, but in a cold, methodical, state-conducted manner?

It could paralyze me, or galvanize me, and it has galvanized me. You got the words exactly right; cold, calculated. The protocol of death.

When we were doing the movie, Susan [Sarandon, who won an Oscar for playing Prejean] kept saying to me while we were on the set, "It's so surreal!" I've been with people that died naturally, like in a hospital ... but to see, to be with a person who's alive, and drinking coffee, and talking to me, and just know with my mind and my watch that in another hour he is going to be absolutely dead, that they're going to kill him over in the other room, how do you get your mind around that?

So I knew that when I wrote the book, Dead Man Walking, and I tell the stories, I take people over into both of these abysses.

One is to stand in the presence and feel the outrage when innocent people are killed.

And the other is to come very close to see what it means to entrust over to our government to do this killing of a human being. One time when I was in the death house in Louisiana ... a guard came to me and said "Sister, the man we're killing tonight is a very different man from that young brash animal that walked in here 20 years ago, cursing God and everybody, but we gotta kill him anyway. It's such a futile and despairing act, to freeze frame a person in the worst act of their life, and then freeze frame ourselves as a society into having to kill them."

Q: But you're a Roman Catholic nun. You're a Christian. You've got a cross around your neck. The Bible says, "He that smitest a man so that he dies, shall surely be put to death"?

The Bible says those that commit adultery should be stoned. The Bible says those that have sex with animals should get the death penalty, and the poor animal gets the death penalty as well. The Bible says if you disrespect the priest or your parents, you should die. And then you come to Jesus. And the hardest thing has been to see how long it's taken the Christian churches to take a strong stand against the death penalty because we've gotten so culturized, we've gotten so domesticated, we've domesticated Jesus ... and Jesus' words are never quoted.

Pain, and sacrifice, and death, is the way to get to God, and that God is please with sacrifice. So, there's been a theology in there too that's been upholding this ... it took a while for there to be principled opposition to the death penalty from the Catholic church.

Q: But what do you say to the loved ones of the victim of a murderer? Especially the particularly heinous crimes involving rape and torture before the final act? You hear many of those people who say, 'That person who killed our daughter or our son doesn't deserve to see sunshine, doesn't deserve to live out the rest of their days with a TV in their cells and 3 square meals a day. What do you say to them?

?A: What do I say to victim's families? I don't say much to victims' families; I listen to them. And what my experience has been with people, the starting point for most human beings, and I can't say it wouldn't happen in me as well, is, "I want to see that person dead who killed my loved one."

But that's not where most of them stop. And it depends on who they have around to help them. The hero in my book, Dead Man Walking, is one of those fathers whose son, David, just 17, was killed, and he, as I got to know him, said to me, "Sister, everybody is saying to me, 'Lloyd, you got to be for the death penalty, or it'll look like you didn't love your boy. Everybody was saying that to me… I wanted to see him suffer pain… But then I saw what it was doing to me. I was angry all the time, I was filled with this hate."

It's so hypocritical for the prosecutors to say to a victim's family, "We're going to give you closure. We're going to give you justice." New Jersey, one of the states that did away with the death penalty nine years ago, they had 62 victims' families that came to testify legislative hearings saying, 'Don't kill us. The death penalty revictimizes us, putting us in this holding pattern, waiting for this justice to come, which sometimes never even happens.

We never want to hear the person's name again, let them disappear into a prison for life, but don't just keep us in the public while we're waiting for this death penalty, as if watching you kill the one who killed our loved one, and watching our violence is going to heal us. We've had more and more victim's families speaking out, and that's helping us in the United States to end the death penalty.

Q: Do you think we will we see it? Maybe not in your lifetime or mine but do you think we are going to see the end of it?

A; Yup. No, we are going to see it in our lifetimes. You can see it beginning to happen. That's a lot of education, a lot of deaths. In theory, it would only be reserved for the worst of the worst, and now we look at who it's actually applied to. They're all poor… you know what being poor means when you're up against the power's of the state for your life? Who do you have by your side?

Just like [if] you got a brain tumour, you need a good surgeon, you need a good physician, you need a crackerjack attorney by your side. But then you get into the culture of the south, where you have [district attorneys who] run for office and brag about how many death penalties they get, because it's part of the culture.

The guidelines of the Supreme Court never held up in the culture, and in practice it's been broken from the start. You got to give people information, and then you got to bring them through story, bringing them over to both sides of the horror, and leaving them with the question leading to deeper reflection.

I had that hunch when I started out: if we could bring the American people close tot his, they're going to get it. Most people don't think about the death penalty. It doesn't affect them. But you get people to reflect about it, and that's why the arts are important ... it brings people into deep reflection.

(source: CBC news)


23 executions in 2 days ---- Iranian Resistance calls for saving the lives of 10 young prisoners facing the gallows

At a time when 23 prisoners were executed on May 17 and 18 in the prisons of Urumieh, Tabriz, Yazd, Yasouj, Sari and Mashhad across Iran, another 10 young prisoners between the ages of 21 and 25 are currently facing imminent execution. On Saturday, May 21, these inmates were transferred from various wards, including the youths' ward, in Gohardasht Prison in Karaj (west of Tehran) to solitary confinement in the quarantine ward of this facility, specifically allocated for prisoners before being sent to the gallows. The Iranian Resistance calls on the international community and especially human rights organizations to take urgent action aimed at preventing these vicious executions. The goal of the mullahs' regime in Iran, already engulfed in crises, in increasing the horrendous use of executions is to cement a climate of fear in society to rein in increasing social protests.

Yasouj public prosecutor Mehrdad Karimi said that these executions "will teach a lesson for others in the society, and the judiciary will take action with the utmost severity and full jurisdiction."

"There is no longer any time for counseling and this is a black month for hooligans and thugs; a new trend has been launched in the judiciary system ... in the next few days several hooligans and thugs will be executed," said Isfahan Province police chief Abdulreza Agha-Khani while launching the oppressive "Social Security" plan from May 21 and announcing the arrest of 7 individuals described as 'hooligans and thugs.'

In implementing the plan to improve security, the struggle against hooligans and thugs is priority number one, and actions will be taken against drug distributors, people harassing women, raucousness regarding vice and hijab regulations, violating luxurious halls and restaurants, dog runners and vehicles with +20% tinted windows," he added. (State-run Tasnim news agency - May 21, 2016).

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


A Death Penalty Only for Palestinians ---- There are so many reasons to oppose capital punishment. But Avigdor Lieberman's attempt to adopt it is particularly odious.

The question of the death penalty is once again on the public agenda, because this was one of MK Avigdor Lieberman's demands in his negotiations to bring his Yisrael Beiteinu party into the coalition. But Lieberman will apparently give up on a bill sponsored by Sharon Gal, a former Knesset member from his party, that would have allowed Israel's civilian courts to impose the death penalty for terrorist murders.

Instead, he is focusing on an attempt to actualize an existing but hitherto dormant legal provision allowing military courts in the territories to impose the death penalty. This would be done by scrapping the rule that capital punishment can be imposed only if it is unanimously approved by the military judges hearing the case. Lieberman's proposal would allow capital punishment even if only a majority of the judicial bench supports it.

It should be noted that as long as the military prosecution's policy of not even seeking the death penalty remains unaltered, the possibility of capital punishment is unlikely to arise. Nevertheless, it's clear that the new legislation is also an attempt to sway the military prosecution and instruct it on how to behave.

Therefore, to all the known arguments against the death penalty - which have led to its abolition in all Western democracies aside from a few U.S. states - an additional argument must be added, one that justifies a special and vigorous opposition to the current effort to enact capital punishment: This is an attempt to apply the death penalty to only one population group only: the Palestinians. After all, an Israeli citizen who perpetrates a terrorist murder (like the murder of a Palestinian family in the West Bank village of Duma, according to the indictment) will be brought to trial in a civilian court, not a military one.

This selective application of the death penalty (which admittedly already exists on paper, but which the government is now seeking to implement) is liable to further erode Israel's international legitimacy as a country aspiring to belong to the family of democratic states. And on this issue, it won't be possible to rely on the American precedent, because capital punishment in America isn't applied selectively to a certain population group.

Aside from the discrimination the government is seeking to promote, the very fact that this demand to allow capital punishment, whether by military or civilian courts, is even being discussed in principle ought to worry us. Morally, this is a shocking punishment: A state is taking a life in the name of its citizens. And this is happening at a time when even the best researchers haven't succeeded in proving that capital punishment creates deterrence, and despite the possibility, which has occurred in practice, that an innocent person might be convicted.

The claim that the state ought to have the authority to put terrorists to death by court order also leads to support for executions motivated by revenge. This is the road to moral degeneration, ending in a violent, undemocratic society that lacks the rule of law. In this regard, it's possible to see a link between the circumstances under which Lieberman is replacing Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and Lieberman's insistence on adopting capital punishment.

(source: Editorial, Ha'aretz)


Introducing capital punishment for terrorists was one of Lieberman's preconditions for joining the coalition

Avigdor Lieberman, who is set to become Israel's minister of defense, has withdrawn his demand of introducing capital punishment for terrorists as a precondition for joining Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition, the Times of Israel website reported Saturday.

The leader of the nationalist party Yisrael Beitenu (Israel is our home) is expected to replace Moshe Ya'alon, who resigned on Friday saying extremists had taken over the country.

Yaalon said he no longer trusted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the hawkish premier offered his post to Lieberman in a bid to expand the governing coalition's wafer-thin majority.

Capital punishment is currently not practiced in Israel, and only 2 people were executed in the state's history: the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann and a soldier accused of treason and exonerated posthumously.

Last year, Lieberman's bill was voted down in the 1st reading by 94-6.



Killing, Murder and the Death Sentence

It is common knowledge that the original scripts of the modern day Bible were written in either Hebrew, Greek or Latin languages. On translation into English, it should be an acceptable fact that in some instances improper English words could have been used to describe certain original meanings.

The sixth of the first 10 commandments of Mount Sinai states (Exodus 20 verse 13); "You shall not kill". This is a simple statement of a verbal command as it does not give any guidelines on how and when the killing constitutes a sin. Killing is to deprive of life. The commandment does not distinguish whether the killing is against humans, animals or any other creatures. This would render the killing of anything to be unlawful and a sin. It lacks clarity. This, therefore, creates the problems of interpretation and the subsequent debates on the death sentence.

For that reason, the proper English word which should have been used in the commandment is "murder" and not "kill".

Murder confines the killing to only that of other humans. "Killing" is too ambiguous for the word to give a properly defined meaning to the commandment.

The Lord our God actually defines the prohibited act of ending life, in Exodus 21, verse 14. He spoke directly to the people of Israel at Mount Sinai, saying; "If a man wilfully attacks another to kill him treacherously, you shall take him from my altar that he may die". In simpler terms He is talking of murder, the deliberate ending of the life of another by deceitful means and with an evil intention. There is no justified purpose to kill in this instance. God expands on the definition to speak of the acts of killing that do not constitute a sin. Verse 13 of Exodus 21 quotes Him saying, "But if he did not lie in wait for him, but God let him fall into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place to which he may flee". He is, therefore, seeking to exonerate those who kill other humans by accident or for lawful purposes. He gives them protection from accusation of murder. He, therefore, recognises that there are circumstances when the killing of another human can be excused. This, therefore, brings us to the current debates on the validity or justification for the imposition of the death sentences.

Proponents of human rights would argue that no one has a right to end the life of any other human, no matter the reason behind it. They have at times fought successfully against the death sentence, regardless of how gruesome the crime. In cases where an individual has wilfully and treacherously murdered another, as God put it, the first question to be asked is whose rights then should be valued more, the rights of the murderer or the vanquished rights of the victim? The 2nd question is, if the murderer shows no remorse at all for ending the life of an innocent soul, or even gives pride to his actions for whatever reason, should his life be valued over that of the innocent victim?

Surprisingly, people support rights to abortion to end the lives of many unborn little innocent children.

Therefore, on one side the human rights proponents are fighting for the abolition of the death penalty and on the other they are calling for allowing for the right to murder an unborn baby. What kind of confusion is this? While I support the concept of human rights, it is obvious that sometimes these rights are being misapplied.

The Lord our God does not want anyone to treacherously take out the life which He created, since that life belongs to Him. The punishment for such a crime is death, so says the Lord. In the book of Genesis, chapter 9 verse 6, God spoke to Noah and his sons, saying; "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image". This is the authority that the Lord our God vested in mankind to shed the blood of callous and unrepentant murderers.

Let's go back to the question on whether it is right or wrong to pronounce and effect a death sentence on anyone. God's answer is simply "Yes", if it is proved beyond any reasonable doubt that the crime was committed wilfully and for evil intent. If the murderer shows no remorse at all for the crime, and no value to human life, he should be taken out of society to die. He is a danger to society even in the prisons where he might be kept. To protect other innocent lives, he should lose his life. However, where there are extenuating circumstances, any mitigating factors, and if the murderer regrets his actions and pleads for forgiveness, then and only then should there be a "stay of execution". God forgives those who seek repentance. He is a merciful God.

Some people have argued that at times some people are sentenced to death for the crimes they did not commit. While this is true, it is the duty of the courts to ensure that adequate guidelines and measures are put in place to avoid such occurrences. Even the Lord our God gave mankind the guidelines to follow to avoid sentencing innocent people to death. In the book of Deuteronomy 17 verse 6, He put a law into place for judges and for the courts, saying; "On the evidence of 2 witnesses or of 3 witnesses he that is to die shall be put to death". He reiterated the same thing in the book of Numbers, chapter 35 verse 30, saying; "If anyone kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death on the evidence of witnesses; but no person shall be put to death on the testimony of one witness". He, therefore, seeks to eliminate wrong convictions. This should be strictly adhered to, to prevent any such mishaps.

Being a Christian and a follower of Jesus Christ, I would want to quote the teachings He gave to mankind (Matthew 5 verse 21-26); "You have heard that it was said to the man of old, 'You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgement'. But I say to you everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgement. Whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, 'you fool' shall be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there by the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser land you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you pay the last penny".

(source: Opinion, Prosper Tingini, The Standard)


Human rights lawyer to file complaint in UN for denial of Kho Jabing's right to counsel

Human rights lawyer M Ravi has said in a Facebook post that Kho Jabing suffered an egregious breach of his constitutional right to counsel just hours before he was executed.

Mr Ravi said that he was with lawyer Alfred Dodwell and other activists outside the Chambers of the judge on Thursday (19 May) evening, and so know that Jabing's family had instructed both lawyers Alfred Dodwell and Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss to represent him at the hearing which was fixed before Judicial Commissioner (JC) Kannan.

In pointing out that there were 3 state counsels present at the hearing, Mr Ravi said that he was astounded when Mr Dodwell was denied entry into the Judge's Chambers by the court officer. Only Mrs Chong-Aruldoss was allowed into the Chambers. Mr Ravi said that this was very unusual and that after three hours of hearing, Ms Chong-Aruldoss came out of the chambers to inform the activists and him that that Mr Dodwell was not allowed.

"When the state had 3 counsels, why can't Kho Jabing have 2 counsels to represent him," asked Mr Ravi.

"This is his constitutional right," said Mr Ravi in pointing out Article 9(3) of the Constitution which said: "Where a person is arrested, he ... shall be allowed to consult and be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice."

Mr Ravi said that the JC "had clearly breached Article 9(3) of the Constitution of Kho Jabing's right to counsel and to be defended by a lawyer or any number of lawyers of his choice."

"I will be shortly filing a complaint against the Singapore State in this matter with Mr. Christof Heyes, who is the UN Special Rapporteur on Extra Judicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions or Killing," he added.

Meanwhile Mr Dodwell in thanking blogger Andrew Loh for writing a Facebook note thanking the anti-death penalty activists and lawyers who defend death-row inmates said that he "could choose to sue Bilahari for his defamatory statement that it was "politically motivated"."

He added: "I reflected on it and I will take the high road and don't waste my life on insignificant people whose views really does not matter. It's venomous and erroneous."

Mr Bilahari Kausikan, Singapore's Ambassador-at-large, had in sharing the news report of the lawyers' attempts to save the murderer's life suggested that it was politically motivated.

Mr Kausikan said: "This politically motivated 11th hour attempt to stay execution is despicable. If there were no new facts or arguments, they must - unless they were totally incompetent lawyers - have known that the appeal would fail. So they raised false hope in Mr Kho's family and perhaps in Mr Kho himself for their own political agenda. That is completely cynical and ought to be condemned."

(source: The Independent)


Australia-bound woman arrested in Vietnam 'with 1 kilogram of methamphetamines'

A Vietnamese woman has been arrested at Ho Chi Minh's international airport bound for Australia allegedly with 1 kilogram of methamphetamine.

Vietnamese officials said the arrest of the 76-year-old woman, late on Friday, came as she prepared to board a Vietnam Airlines flight to Sydney.

Vietnamese media said security officers made the arrest after allegedly uncovering the methamphetamine pills in 2 jars of fish paste - a delicacy in many Asian dishes.

Officers said investigations were continuing looking into the case.

The arrest follows the detention last December of a 71-year-old Vietnamese-Australian woman after police allegedly uncovered some three kilograms of heroin hidden in 36 soap containers in her luggage.

The 71-year-old was also arrested at Tan Son Nhat international airport in Ho Chi Minh City as she was checking in on a Sydney bound flight. The heroin had an estimated value of $647,526.

In August 2015, Vietnamese authorities sentenced 39-year-old Australian Nguyen Ly Toan to 20 years' jail for attempting to send drug precursor chemicals through the postal service.

Nguyen had been arrested in July 2013 after Vietnamese customs officials uncovered the chemicals in the packages bound for Australia.

Vietnam is reported to have among the world's toughest drug enforcement laws, with the death penalty for those convicted of smuggling more than 600 grams of heroin or of methamphetamines.



Gazipur court orders death sentences for 4 in 2006 murder of businessman

4 men have been sentenced to death in Gazipur for killing a businessman to extort money. On the night of Jan 27, 2006, Moksed Ali Sentu was hacked to death at Tongi, a place in the district, after he refused to pay the money the miscreants demanded.

In its verdict, delivered on Sunday, the court of Gazipur's Additional District and Sessions Judge found four people guilty of the murder and ordered the death penalty.

The convicts are Md Rubel alias Tiger Rubel, 35, 'Babu', 32, Ashraf Ali, 31, and 'Soleman', 31.

All of them are absconding, said Additional Public Prosecutor Md Makbul Hossain Kajal.

He said that each of the convicts have also been slapped a fine of Tk 10, 000 each and given 14 years rigorous imprisonment and another Tk 10,000 fine for a separate charge.



Lacson wants death penalty for 'habitual' public fund stealers

Senator-elect Panfilo Lacson thinks if the death penalty will be reimposed, those found guilty of plunder or even the crime of graft, especially if is a "habit," should be subject to capital punishment.

Lacson said the law should bear down hard on those who "habitually" steal public funds, even if the amount is less than the P50 million as specified by the present law.

"Kung puwede, kung mabalik ang death penalty, masentensyahan siya ng death. Kasi sa hirap ng buhay lalo sa mga kanayunan, ang P50 million, P10 million, P20 million, it doesn't matter. Kung repetitively ginagawa dapat talaga parusahan nang mabigat," Lacson stressed.

He noted that Republic Act 7080, punishes anyone who accumulated ill-gotten wealth through a combination or series of overt or criminal acts involving P50 million.



Duterte told: Executions antipoor

The Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) on Saturday warned presumptive President-elect Rodrigo Duterte that his plan to revive the death penalty and implement a "shoot-to-kill" policy against criminals would be antipoor and violate international law.

In a statement on Saturday, FLAG chair Jose Manuel Diokno reminded Duterte that before the death penalty was abolished in 2006, about 70 % of death row inmates were poor and had been wrongfully convicted.

He also reminded Duterte that the Philippines ratified in 2007 an international treaty prohibiting executions and providing for the abolition of the death penalty.

"The death penalty and shoot-to-kill policy are antipoor," Diokno said.

"These actions are illegal and unconstitutional, render our legal system impotent and meaningless, and blatantly violate international law," he added.

According to FLAG, majority of the 1,121 inmates on death row before the death penalty was abolished in 2006 were poor.

Diokno said the poor were "vulnerable to the death penalty because they have no voice, no money, no power and lack the resources to hire good lawyers."

'Disregard for human dignity'

"For exactly the same reasons, they will also be vulnerable to the proposed shoot-to-kill policy of the (presumptive) president-elect," said Diokno, a son of the late senator and antimartial law activist Jose Diokno.

He said the death penalty and the shoot-to-kill policy, along with Duterte's proposal of death by hanging "reflect a callous disregard for human dignity not befitting a chief executive."

"Advocating state-sanctioned killings is not just antipoor but antilife," Diokno added.

"The death penalty and shoot to kill policy will not deter crime. Only the certainty of being caught and punished can do that. What the country needs is a better justice system, not a new one based on the barrel of a gun," he said. He said Duterte was bound to the international treaty called the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which the Philippines signed on Sept. 20, 2006, and ratified about a year later.

'A great stigma'

That treaty is the only internationally acknowledged treaty to prohibit executions and provide for the total abolition of the death penalty, he said.

Quoting other death penalty experts, Diokno said it would be "unprecedented and illegal" for a state that signed that treaty to restore the death penalty.

"If the Philippines reinstates capital punishment, the county would be condemned for violating international law. It would be a great stigma," he quoted University of Oxford criminology professor emeritus Sir Roger Hood and Leiden University law professor William Schabas as saying.

(source: Philippine Inquirer)


New Negros solon to oppose re-imposition of death penalty

A newly elected lawmaker has joined the House leaders in opposing incoming president Rodrigo Roa Duterte's plan to breathe life into efforts to re-impose the death penalty.

Negros Oriental Rep. Manuel Sagabarria, who belongs to the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), agreed with Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. that the restoration of death penalty is not the antidote to the rising cases of crimes in the country.

"I am a Catholic and it says in my religion that 'Thou shall not kill.' So by conscience, I am not in favor," he said, in rejecting Duterte's planned public executions by hanging, especially for drug-related crimes.

Duterte vowed to push for the restoration of death penalty for heinous crimes, including robbery with rape.

(source: ManilaBulletin)


Still no to the death penalty

First, a legal reason. In 2007, after a long period of hesitation, we acceded to the Second Optional Protocol to the Covenant on Civil Political Rights. This agreement binds state-parties to abolish the death penalty. The Philippines therefore has a treaty-obligation to abolish this form of barbarism. We can, of course, denounce the treaty but that certainly would mark us out as retrogressive in the very important matter of human rights. The most egregious crimes are those over which the International Criminal Court has jurisdiction - genocide, crimes against humanity, violations of the laws and customs of war. Significantly, however, for none of these is the death penalty imposed. Even before the Treaty of Rome, the statutes of the ad hoc criminal tribunals - the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda - defined and punished among the most atrocious acts recorded in history, but for none of them could the death penalty be imposed. Definitely, the persuasion among penal theorists and in progressive legal systems is towards abandoning the death penalty.

The agitation, emanating of course from the presumptive president, to re-start the killing machine is the wrathful, perhaps panicky, reaction to different forms of criminality that stubbornly evade law-enforcement and, like some protuberant malignancy, know no remission! But this is precisely the reason for distancing ourselves from this dangerous inclination. An essential dimension of criminal justice is establishing a distance between the atrocity of the criminal act and the infliction of penalty - because retaliation is the antithesis of justice! At all times it is the vindication of humanity that is the issue: the humanity of the victim, as well as that of the offender. The dehumanization of the offender does not improve the lot of the victim. It is silly, ludicrous even to think that by worsening the lot of the offender, murdering him even, we better the position of the victim, unless of course, we grant that it is ultimately revenge that we are after. In this case, it would be more candid on our part to set aside all talk of justice. The point is to disrupt the cycle of violence - not to perpetuate it by stylizing it through state-sponsored execution! The Constitution forbids "cruel and unusual punishment" and past jurisprudence that exempted the execution of the death penalty from the characterization of "cruel" punishment was thoroughly silly and hypocritical. What is cruel does not become any more benign just because it is ordained by the law. And there can be nothing more cruel than making a doomed man await his execution, dreading the passing of each minute - an experience we all vicariously shared as Mary Jane Veloso awaited the dreaded moment when a volley of shots was to bring an end to life, visiting the agony of impending death not only on her but on the members of her family. There is everything cruel about stigmatizing and branding her children for life as children of an executed man - even if they may have had no part in the commission of the offense.

As for the well-worn argument from its supposedly deterrent effect, 2 things only need be said. No matter that something may be a deterrent, if it is objectionable and abhorrent, whatever its value may be as a deterrent will not negate the objections to it. Towing boatloads of migrants back to the high seas there to face the cruelty of the elements if not certain death is undoubtedly a deterrent to attempts at illegal migrations, but it is certainly immoral, reprehensible and even criminal to do so! More importantly, the aggressive campaign against smoking should easily show the fallacy of the argument from deterrence. Every possible device has been employed to deter smokers from indulging in their vice: dire warnings about the health risks, posters with the most revulsive pictures of diseased lungs, very convincing statistics on the incidence of deaths among smokers. Smokers are threatened with death most painful. None of this has really deterred smokers who continue happily puffing away, and breathing on innocent others their lethal fumes. No, the argument from deterrence has never really convinced me. The certainty of being dealt with by the criminal justice system - arrest, prosecution, trial and conviction - is what gives the criminal pause, not the severity of the penalty. It is because the moneyed are convinced that they can bribe their way through the police, prosecutorial and justice systems that impunity is unabated. But when law-enforcement is thorough, prosecution is relentless and judgments go solely by the evidence adduced, the efficiency and reliability of the system will be a disincentive to crime, in just the same way that the thoroughness of a professor and the mercilessness of graded recitation provide the most effective disincentive to intellectual sloth!

Finally, there is the imperfection of our judicial system. I do not refer principally to the susceptibility of some of our prosecutors and judges to corruption. I am confident that most of them honestly do their jobs. But there is no fool-proof technique for distinguishing between truth and prevarication, no infallible test of a truthful witness. And many a judge will admit that most of the time (if not all the time), a guilty verdict is more a statement about how the judge appreciates the evidence than any claim about what may or may not have happened! Once more, this is not because of any ill will on the part of judges. It has to do more with the crucial epistemological issue of drawing conclusions about the past from what you have in the present!

We are worn out from rampant criminality. We are a nation beleaguered by remorseless drug peddlers, war lords, plundered and extortionists. But it will not serve our goal of national renewal to seek umbrage from the false and deceptive security of the law of the talion or to think that our national salvation comes from the macabre shadows of a death chamber!

(source: Opinion, Fr. Rahilio Aquino; The Standard)


Hamas planning public executions in Gaza Strip-----Terror group seeks to kill 13 men, most convicted of murder connected to robberies, 'before a large crowd'

Authorities in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip are planning to carry out a series of public executions, the attorney general for the Palestinian enclave said on Sunday.

The terror group has carried out previous executions in Gaza, although rarely in public and mainly of people accused of collaborating with Israel. Sunday’s announcement involved those convicted of criminal offenses.

"Capital punishments will be implemented soon in Gaza," attorney general Ismail Jaber told journalists. "I ask that they take place before a large crowd."

13 men, most convicted of murder connected to robberies, are currently awaiting execution, Hamas official Khalil al-Haya said on Friday at the mainly weekly Muslim prayers.

"The victims' families have the right to demand that the punishments be implemented," he said.

The families obtained rare permission on Sunday to stage a demonstration outside parliament, with dozens demanding that the executions be carried out.

The last public executions in Gaza were in 2014 during the last war with Israel, when a firing squad from Hamas's military wing shot dead 6 men before Gaza City's main mosque following prayers.

According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), 9 death sentences were handed down in the Gaza Strip in 2015 and 2 in the West Bank, run by the Palestinian Authority.

So far Palestinian law allows the death penalty for collaborators, murderers and drug traffickers.

Of the more than 170 Palestinians sentenced to death since the creation of the Palestinian Authority in 1994, around 30 have been executed, mostly in Gaza, according to the PCHR.

All execution orders must in theory be approved by PA President Mahmoud Abbas before they can be carried out, but Hamas no longer recognizes his legitimacy.

(source: The Times of Israel)


Mongolia Court Finding 18-Year-Old Killed by Firing Squad in 1996 Innocent of Crime Further Bolsters Argument vs Death Penalty

There is a lot of debate on capital punishment, whether by lethal injection or firing squad, in many countries. Those who argue against executing people on death row cite the rising number of cases when higher courts overturn a decision and exonerate a person convicted of a heinous crime.

In some cases, such as Scottish man Edward McInnis, who was falsely accused of rape, robbery and burglary in 1988 at age 26, it robbed him 27 years of his youth for crimes he did not commit. But still, McInnis is lucky because he still attained freedom after DNA samples proved he was not the criminal, reported Faye Observe.

However, in the case of Huugjilt, the decision by the Inner Mongolia Higher People's Court to exonerate him for rape and murder charges in 1996 when he was 18 is almost 2 decades late. That's because Huugjilt was already executed by a firing squad that year.

Zhao Jianping, deputy president of the court, said while he gave a 30,000-yuan compensation to the family of Huugjilt, that it was a heartbreaking lesson. The wrongly executed man's parents visited his grave after the meeting with Zhao and burned a copy of the verdict overturning a lower court's death sentence as their way of telling him his wrongful conviction has been redressed.

A similar case is for review of the Shandong Provincial Higher Court which was ordered by the Supreme People's Court to go again over the conviction of Nie Shubin in 1994. Nie was executed for the rape and murder of a woman at age 21.

In February 2016, the 27 officials behind the wrongful execution of Huugjilt were given warnings and demerits. Feng Zhiming, the deputy district police officer in charge of the case, would undergo further investigation. He allegedly ordered investigators to torture Huugjilt to force the youth to admit the crime. Feng would be charged with dereliction of duties and accepting bribes, reported Daily Mail.



uhari's 1 year: Let Nigerians take capital punishment for corruption and economic sabotage to a referendum

Given the fact that corruption has become systemic in Nigeria, I think the time has come for us to take the issue of capital punishment for corruption and economic crimes to a plebiscite

"There is a complex web that links the Petroleum Ministry, the DPR, the Navy, the NPA,NIMASA,PPPRA, DMO, CBN and Commercial Banks in the Oil subsidy fraud. Documents like the sovereign debt statements and the sovereign debt notes flew about and our money kept disappearing. From about 30 companies in the scheme under both Obasanjo and Yar'Adua, the number shot up to 300. Monthly, billions of Naira was paid out to people who have never had any contact with a Jerry can of fuel in their lives. No verification, no authentication, nothing. Money was being paid with reckless abandon. It got so bad that some people will arrange with ship owners..., take a 2 day hire of an empty ship, move it to Lagos Port, and berth it there. Officials of the PPPRA, Petroleum Ministry, DPR will come there to inspect an empty vessel and certify that the empty vessel carried 10,000 metric tons of petrol, collect their money and walk away. The vessel simply sails away and 3 weeks later, close to N6 billion will be paid as subsidy when not even a single drop of petrol was brought in". Being the online testimony of a Legal counsel in one of the biggest indigenous players in the downstream petroleum sector during the Jonathan administration.Given the fact that corruption has become systemic in Nigeria, leading President Goodluck Jonathan to bequeath both a collapsed economy and an empty treasury to President Buhari, I think the time has come for us to take the issue of capital punishment for corruption and economic crimes to a plebiscite. For me, this will also be a logical reaction to the weighty criticisms that are daily being heaped on the APC, but more specifically, on President Buhari. I shall illustrate these insults with the views of one single commentator who praised contestant Buhari to high heavens in 2014/15 but today so viscerally derides him. No, please don’t misunderstand me. I have 1001 reasons of my own for which I am unhappy with the President, among them: his politically amateurish: "I belong to nobody", his "I can work with anybody", his sentimental retention of anti-Buhari Jonathanians in government for far too long, leaving his party members helpless and at the mercy of PDP governors all with deleterious consequences; the most being the totally uncooperative National Assembly. But truth be told, President Buhari did not cause our current problems. Rather, we should look to former President Olusegun Obasanjo as Nigeria's kill joy. More about that anon.

In my trilogy of articles: "Periscoping the ideal APC Presidential candidate", in which I concluded then, and still maintain, that Nigeria needed Buhari more than the obverse, I quoted a young Nigerian Actuary who wrote as follows on 21 September 2014: "WHO SHOULD FLY THE APC FLAG? "The simple answer to this poser is that in the eyes of most Nigerians, evidences of previous electoral contests affirm that the most acceptable of APC's likely candidates, and who can surely win massively, is General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd). The simple truth is that he is honest and associated with honesty of purpose, and to date, no Nigerian has come up against him with any shred of a shady financial deal in all the positions of responsibility he held. Unfortunately, his weak campaigns did not publicise his personal qualities of honesty, and unalloyed commitment to the public good." Now, compare the views of that same individual in an April 2016 Whatsapp message: "Buhari uses 10 jets, runs a large government of 36 ministers, pays politicians the old way they were paid under PDP, runs huge expenses on unnecessary foreign trips, leaves privatised PHCN entities in the hands of Jonathan and his thieving associates, runs a fake anti-corruption agenda that has failed woefully to date, has no strategic thinking to halt unemployment, carries on with huge number of government ministries and agencies he met on ground. What then is Buhari doing differently to justify why people elected him? Buhari has no single bill before the National Assembly in his now 1 year leadership. Can any person reasonably justify Buhari's continuous occupation of the presidency of Nigeria when he is not solving any problem, has not solved one to date, and has not shown how he would solve any?

I haven't the slightest doubt that he was, of course, unduly hasty, sentimental and superficial in his critique of the President given the Augean stable Jonathan left, smack in Buhari’s hands. And this, in my view, is where former President Obasanjo comes in and why I am suggesting that Nigerians should seriously consider capital punishment for corruption. What, for instance, should make anybody steal billions, if not a pulsating sickness in their medulla oblongata? Capital punishment for corruption and economic crimes looks like the only thing that can put the fear of the Lord in these crazed Nigerians. Relying on his past knowledge of Nigerian politicians, Obasanjo was particularly hard on the traditionally corrupt legislature. Unfortunately, he goofed when, in an unprecedented act of one-upmanship, he opted to become the power behind the throne of his successor/s. For that selfish reason he single-handedly inflicted on Nigeria, 2 pathetically weak successors whose concern in office was how to sustain their rule and be victorious at the next election.

Hence, they both governed by abdication.



Duo found guilty of murder

The unanimous guilty verdict delivered yesterday against Omari Phillip and Timorie Elliott on the charge of murder is sitting well with the family of Dorothy Prince who was gunned down on the job at Dee's Service Station during a robbery on February 17, 2012.

While the duo appeared disappointed at the finding of the jury after exactly 4 hours of deliberations, the dead woman's sister Julinda Prince told OBSERVER media that the decision gives the family "some peace and relief" though it "doesn't bring back our loving sister".

The woman, who broke down in tears several times during the two-week trial, said, "I knew that they killed Dorothy. She was a very nice sister. We miss her very much and I know she will rest in peace now and I know she's happy she got the verdict."

Julinda said her sister's 2 children miss her dearly and the family will continue support the daughter who was just 2 years old at the time and her son who was in Grade 6 preparing for Common Entrance examinations back in 2012.

"She was very nice to everybody and she was very intelligent. I know we all miss her, her children miss, her brothers and her sisters and I know we are all very happy," Julinda told OBSERVER media.

The dead woman's family had no comment on what sentence they'd like Justice Keith Thom to impose come June 24 when he has to make that decision.

The death sentence, by hanging, is the country's maximum penalty for the capital offence.

However, it has not been ordered in years. Instead, murder convicts have been given life sentences or a specified number of years to be served in jail as punishment.

(source: The Daily Observer)

MAY 21, 2016:

TEXAS----impending execution

Charles Flores, the next person in America scheduled to be executed, has filed his final appeal

The next person in America scheduled to be executed has filed his final appeal, arguing that his conviction for murder was based on "flimsy" evidence and was racially motivated.

Charles Flores, a Texas inmate who is schedule to receive a lethal injection on June 2, filed a legal brief to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals late Thursday afternoon. He currently has 13 days to live.

As Fusion reported earlier this month, Flores was convicted for the 1998 murder of Elizabeth "Betty" Black in a Dallas suburb. He was sentenced to death even though the prosecution presented no physical evidence linking him to the crime, and the only witness who saw him at the scene was improperly hypnotized by police. Meanwhile, Flores' white co-defendant, who was also charged with the murder, pled guilty, received a 35-year prison sentence, and is now out on parole.

The brief Flores' lawyers filed Thursday is an application for a writ of habeas corpus, essentially a petition asking the Texas court for a new trial or at least to postpone the execution to allow a hearing on the evidence.

"In a case involving drugs, money, greed, and family, Flores was implicated based solely on conduct preceding the murder and conduct that occurred many weeks following the crime," his lawyers write. "No gun - no bullet - no money - no fingerprints - no DNA - no map - nothing, absolutely nothing directly links Flores to this crime."

What is likely Flores' strongest argument concerns the hypnosis used in the investigation of the case. Jill Barganier, a neighbor of the victim's, was hypnotized by police officers to help her recover her memory of the morning of the murder. Even after the hypnosis, she couldn't pick Flores out of a police lineup. But 13 months later, when she was on the witness stand, she said she was "100% sure" she had seen Flores. Barganier was the only eyewitness who said she saw Flores at the scene of the crime.

Now, Flores' lawyers are arguing that Barganier's testimony should be thrown out under the state's junk science law. The brief includes an affidavit from Steven Lynn, a Binghamton University professor who is an expert in hypnosis and recovered memories. According to Lynn, who reviewed the trial transcript and the video of the hypnosis, new scientific research on hypnosis since the '90s suggests that the hypnosis conducted on Barganier could have led to the creation of false memories.

"Serious consideration should be given to the possibility that a miscarriage of justice was perpetrated in the ease of Mr. Flores," Lynn writes. Specifically, he says, the police officer who conducted the hypnosis used a technique known as the "movie theater technique," in which he encouraged her to imagine she was in a movie theater watching a movie of her memories. That strategy, Lynn says, has been discredited, and can cause people to have unwarranted confidence in false memories. "Clearly, the techniques that were used to refresh Ms. Bargainer's memory would be eschewed today by anyone at all familiar with the extant research on hypnosis and memory," Lynn writes.

Without the testimony of Barganier - the only witness who identified him at the crime scene - Flores would not be convicted, his lawyers argue.

"[Barganier's] flawed testimony is literally the only glue holding together the States tenuous circumstantial case. Without it, there is no way a Texas jury would have found Flores guilty of capital murder," the brief states. (Barganier did not respond to several requests for comment last month.)

The brief also spends considerable time discussing Flores' childhood. He says he was given drugs by his brothers at an early age, and was huffing gas to get high when he was only 5. Another psychologist who the defense had evaluate Flores said that this may have led to abnormal brain development. One of Flores' earliest memories, the brief notes, is a violent fight between his parents. Flores also reported that he was sexually assaulted by relatives.

But Flores' trial attorneys didn't investigate any of this or present this mitigating evidence to the jury. During the sentencing phase of his trial, Flores' attorneys didn't call a single witness. They didn't try to contact any of his brothers or childhood friends.

"Had the jury heard about Flores's upbringing, childhood drug use, and brain impairment, it would have been presented with a vastly different picture than the State's depiction of a violent, remorseless, inhuman monster. Because Flores's attorneys did little to challenge the State's narrative, the jury was left with no real options," the brief states.

Finally, the brief argues that the deep discrepancy in sentencing that Flores received as compared to his white co-defendant, Richard Childs, means the death penalty as applied to him is unconstitutional. Childs, who was also charged with the murder and pled guilty to shooting Black, received 35 years in prison, served 17, and is now out on parole. (In a later appeal, however, Childs claimed that it was in fact Flores who shot Black, not him.)

"The only real difference between the 2 men is the color of their skin," Flores' brief states.

Since 1973, it notes, almost 2/3 of the defendants sent to death row from Dallas County have been nonwhite, even though the county has a majority white population. And Dallas County has never sent a white inmate to death row for killing a minority victim.

The brief also cites Fusion's interview with the lead prosecutor in the case, Jason January, who told me that "If you talk to the jury, they didn't much care whether [Flores] pulled the trigger or not, he was participating fully and wholeheartedly in the crime."

"The jury might not have cared, but the constitution does," his lawyers respond in the brief.

The state will likely file a response to the brief within the next day or so, and a ruling from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is expected next week.

Gregory Gardner, 1 of Flores' attorneys, says he's optimistic about the application's chances. If the Texas court denies the brief, Flores' lawyers are likely to appeal to federal courts and eventually the U.S. Supreme Court. Recent opinions by Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg questioning the constitutionality of the death penalty suggest that they might be interested in the questions of race involved in the different sentences Flores and Charles received.

"We think there's a potential they might want to revisit that," Gardner told me. "It's just so unfair and arbitrary who gets put to death and who doesn't ... even if you don't want to look at the race, it's just so massively disparate that it shocks the conscience."

Flores' lawyers have also filed a petition for clemency to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, but clemency for Texas death row inmates is exceedingly rare.

While Flores watches his final appeal play out, he's been given some very bad news: His father Catarino, who has been in a nursing home, died yesterday morning. "For the circumstances he's doing well, but it's been kind of a lot all at once," Gardner said. "He's hanging in there."


************************** new death sentence

Brownlow given death penalty

The jury in the capital murder case of Charles E. Brownlow Jr. of Terrell has given him the death penalty. After Brownlow was found guilty of the murder of Luis Gerardo Leal-Carillo at Ali's Market in Terrell Oct. 28, 2013, they had to decide whether he received a life prison sentence without parole or the death penalty.

The sentence was handed down in district court in Kaufman Friday afternoon. The sentencing phase of the trial has been ongoing since the guilty verdict was reached April 28.

Brownlow is also accused of 4 other murders, all on the night of Oct. 28, 2013.

(source: The Terrell Tribune)


Death Penalty Sought in Store Clerk Death

Prosecutors announced Friday they will seek the death penalty in connection with an armed robbery that left a convenience store clerk dead.

23-year old James Elizalde is accused of shooting and killing 50-year old Ignacio Rodriguez back in October of last year at the Stripes store at South Staples and Carroll Lane. Elizalde was arrested after police say he robbed the store then shot and killed Rodriguez.

Elizalde pled not guilty.

(source: KIII news)


Compulsion to rape and kill: Inside killer's mind

For more than 2 decades, people have been trying to get inside the mind of Joseph D. "Joey" Miller. In a way, the convicted serial killer from Steelton has become his own Rorschach test for the detectives, defense attorneys, prosecutors, psychologists and judges who played a role in his protracted, high-profile case.

Some look at him and see a mentally challenged, parentally abused, perennially bullied victim whose rage is a product of his environment, upbringing and post-traumatic stress.

Others take into account the manner in which Miller maintained a domestic home life, complete with a wife and 3 children, while simultaneously getting away with the rape and murder of up to 5 women, and brutal assaults of 2 others. They see a cunning killer leading a duplicitous double life who was always careful about procuring victims from society's margins, packing a murder kit complete with beer, and then disposing of the bodies; some of the remains wouldn't be found for a decade.

Miller's mysterious, murderous mind has been the subject of 2 murder trials covering 3 of his victims and resulting in 3 convictions and a double death sentence. Then came a flurry of capital punishment appeals that reached all the way to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Miller confessed to a 4th murder, for which another man had been convicted. That man was later released, yet Miller was never charged. Then in April - 3 decades after 26-year-old Kelly Ann Ward disappeared - Miller was charged in Dauphin County with her murder, as well.

If the allegations are true, Joseph Miller stands, at 5 feet, 9 inches, as the midstate's most prolific killer ever. He ranks as a genuine serial killer, bearing all the signature traits straight out of a horror movie, according to the detectives who profiled him and district attorneys who prosecuted him.

"It was more Hollywood than Harrisburg," Dauphin County District Attorney Edward M. Marsico Jr. remembered of the Miller case, which broke in the early 1990s, just after the hit horror film, "The Silence of the Lambs," turned Anthony Hopkins' portrayal of serial killer Hannibal Lecter into a pop-culture sensation.

This was the age of the serial killer as celebrity, and sure enough, Central Pennsylvania had spawned one of its own.

"Ted Bundy was still fresh in our minds," recalled Marsico. "Son of Sam. All of that. Now we had in Dauphin and Perry counties someone who was a true serial killer. He targeted a certain type of victim, and raped and killed them. He would keep a trinket or memento of the victim and have a little shrine to them. He would go back to where the bodies were."

Dauphin County Judge Richard Lewis, who as county district attorney won twin murder convictions and secured the death penalty against Miller, is more succinct:

"His crimes were monstrous," Lewis said. "It defied description what he did."

Now, with the Ward case, Miller is again capturing headlines, adding to the hundreds of law enforcement hours already spent on his case and the thousands of words written about him.

Yet the mystery of Miller's mind endures.

Is it that of a mentally challenged man incapable of fully understanding his horrible crimes? Or is it the mind of a cold, calculating serial killer driven by a compulsion to rape and murder his minority victims?

More than two decades later, insight into Joseph Miller's mind remains as confounding, conflicting and as polarizing as ever.

2 Sides of Joseph Miller

Time has transformed Joseph Miller from the wiry, short-statured, tattooed murder suspect into a wizened, haunted, hollowed-eyed convict staring out in a state prison mugshot at age 51.

His thousand-yard prison stare seems to defy the viewer to project upon him any view they wish. So does his conflicting tattoos, which include ink of both Jesus and the grim reaper.

And how about Miller's pronounced lisp, caused from a boyhood fall after leaping from a couch, a la Superman. Does it intone meekness or snake-like duplicity?

History shows that Miller can be the taciturn type who confesses to several of his murders with such relish and emotion that it becomes a physical performance.

Conversely, Miller isn't above laughing in the face of investigators desperately attempting to tie up loose ends from a 30-year-old homicide in which the victim, Kelly Ann Ward, wasn't found for a decade, and remained faceless and nameless for almost 2 more decades.

Joseph Miller remains a conundrum. This, despite the best attempts of detectives, defense lawyers, prosecutors, psychologists and even judges to define him by peering into that murky mind of his.

"Who can explain what goes on in the head of a fellow with a 4th-grade education and a low IQ?" Perry County Public Defender Shaubut Walz once asked during Miller's murder trial for killing victim Kathi Shenck with his car at a Duncannon dumping ground after she tried to flee his sexual assaults in 1990.

After examining Miller, Camp Hill psychologist Stanley E. Schneider, now retired, testified that he found a mix of borderline mental retardation, emotional difficulties and learning disabilities, raised in a "violent, abusive, alcoholic home."

Despite this, Miller, a mentally challenged man with a criminally checkered past, managed to get his life together and achieve a degree of seeming normalcy.

In the end, Miller's marriage and his role as a father would prove a mirage, if not an elaborate double life.

For in Uptown Harrisburg, young African-American and minority women began disappearing, one by one.

The Victims

Shortly after Joseph Miller began his own family, women began vanishing from their families. Despite some clues and maddening coincidence, it would be years before the cause and effect could be tied together.

On May 16, 1987, Selina Franklin, 18, of Harrisburg, disappeared, last seen by friends with a man named "Joey" who gave the girls a ride.

Stephanie McDuffey, 8 months' pregnant, failed to return to her Bellevue Street, Harrisburg, home on Nov. 6, 1989. The 23-year-old woman's mother reported her missing, but police turn up nothing.

On Jan. 11, 1990, Jeannette Thomas, 25, disappeared after leaving an Allison Hill bar with a man fitting Miller's description. She was never seen alive again.

The body of Kathy Novena Shenck, also known as Phoenix Bell, was found at a roadside dump in Penn Twp., Perry County, on Feb. 27, 1990. The Harrisburg woman was run over by a car several times, until dead.

On June 30, 1992, a Harrisburg woman with a history of prostitution staggered to a secluded home in Perry County, telling a horrific story of rape and forced oral sex. Her assailant stabbed her more than 25 times in the head with a screwdriver, then left her for dead. But she lived to tell her tale.

Before all of them, there was Kelly Ann Ward, police say. The 26-year-old Harrisburg woman disappeared in 1986, but her skeletal remains were not found until 1997. Even then, those remains would not be positively identified as Ward's for decades.

Throughout the string of disappearances and the many intervening years during which those cases went unsolved, Joseph Miller emerged as a common denominator.

Miller was questioned in Selina Franklin's disappearance but told police he dropped her off following their ride.

In the Jeannette Thomas case, Miller fit the suspect's description, but a mentally challenged 31-year-old man confessed to her homicide.

In the screwdriver assault in Perry County, Miller was photographed withdrawing money from an automated teller machine at Harrisburg's Uptown Plaza with the victim in his car. This prompted state police to place him under surveillance for the 1st time.

Yet for years, Joseph Miller was able to maintain his double life.

"I think it's a fair description," Judge Lewis agreed.

For Marsico, who fought Miller's death sentence appeals all the way to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the murderer's duplicitous nature proved to be the prosecution's main argument that Joseph Miller had adequate mental capacity to be executed.

"We focused on his adaptive functioning," Marsico recounted. "The fact that he was married, with kids and a job, and he planned and carried out these crimes without being caught for years, including the case he was just arrested on 30 years later. That's not what you think of when you think of mentally retarded."

Miller's murderous reign might have gone on longer. But law enforcement was about to get a major break in the case.

Call it luck. Or call it a serial killer going for 1 victim too many.

The Beginning of the End

The date is Aug. 6, 1992. By this time, Joseph Miller has gotten away with the murders of 5 women, police say. (He has since been convicted of 3, confessed to a 4th and been charged with a 5th.)

Miller's compulsion for sex, rape and murder has brought him to the seemingly quiet, deserted Conrail property in Susquehanna Township. Then fate intervenes.

Headlights approach along a service road. A startled Miller flees on foot, leaving his car and everything else behind.

A Conrail security guard encounters the scene, but doesn't immediately recognize the significance. At first, the guard doesn't see the nude victim, already bound and gagged and lying in the dirt near the burial hole. Then, she begins squirming for help.

"The woman who lived only lived by a miracle," recounted Lewis, who was district attorney when Miller was prosecuted. "The hole was already dug. It was a matter of seconds. It was by the grace of God that headlights came up the road. Joe panics and runs, and the security guard finds the woman bound and gagged who couldn't make a sound. She moved around in the dirt to make noise."

Miller's so-called murder kit, left behind at the Conrail scene, contained a knife, duct tape, a cooler of beer and mats to lay the victim on. But it was his car that led police to Miller and his Steelton residence. There, Miller engaged in a rooftop standoff with police, threatening suicide before ultimately surrendering.

Shortly after his capture, Miller seemed eager to confess.

"You could see the veins on his neck pumping," Brennan told the Patriot-News in 2000, describing how Miller would relive his murders while recounting the attacks to interrogators.

"It was almost like he was working out in a gym," Brennan said.

On Aug. 12, 1992, Miller led police to the skeletons of McDuffey and Franklin, admitting to bludgeoning both to death following sex.

By the time he was finished, Miller had admitted to four murders, confirming a predilection for preying upon young minority women from Harrisburg, some of whom may have been prostitutes. The pattern proved to be the quintessential signature of a serial killer.

"He is cold and calculating," Marsico said of Miller. "Look who he selected. He purposely selected African-American (and minority) females, usually bigger women. He figured there wouldn't be an outcry or much attention paid to their disappearance. He went to secluded areas to torture and kill them. There was some planning and thought that went into this. Cunning is a good word."

But knowing what Miller had done and proving it to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt were 2 different things.

Miller's double-murder trial in Dauphin County would come down to the testimony of the surviving victim from the Conrail property. The woman's narrative of her near-death experience at the hands of Joseph Miller would rivet the jury and cinch both convictions, as well as his dual death penalty punishment, Lewis recalled.

As a result, Joseph Miller was now a twice-convicted murderer, condemned to death. A conviction for Kathy Novena Shenck's murder in Perry County would make it 3 murder convictions.

But Joseph Miller was about to turn the tables on the justice system, itself. And none other than the U.S. Supreme Court would lay the legal groundwork that just might spare his life.

Mind Games

If the disturbing tours of Joseph Miller's mind were peripheral issues during his murder trials, they became the central focus in his death sentence appeals.

Joseph Miller was cooling his heels on Pennsylvania's Death Row when, in 2002, a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court changed everything. The land's highest court ruled that killers suffering from mental retardation could not be executed.

The legal shockwaves of that ruling soon reached Dauphin County, where Judge Jeannine Turgeon, who presided over Miller's trial and sentencing, acted to vacate the double death sentence she had handed down. This converted Miller's punishment to three life prison sentences, two from Dauphin County and one from Perry County.

The reaction to Turgeon's ruling was both immediate and sharp.

Marsico, now Dauphin County's district attorney, was livid in vowing an all-out appeal:

"Joey Miller is a poster child for the death penalty," Marsico proclaimed at the time. "He cold-bloodedly planned his rapes and murders, choosing a particular type of woman, luring them to a secluded location where he would rape, torture, and kill them.

For the defense, however, Miller's flawed mind, for once, worked in his favor. It literally would keep him alive under the law:

"He was diagnosed mentally retarded before he even started elementary school," Robert Dunham of the Defenders' Association of Philadelphia countered at the time. "This is nothing new. This is something that has been well documented for many, many years."

The legal battle over Joseph Miller's mind would last another 6 years. In the end, when the appeal reached the Pennsylvania's highest court in 2008, Turgeon's ruling would stand.

Joseph Miller would live.

It's an outcome with which Judge Lewis, the original DA in the case, has long since made peace. Even if Miller's death penalty had stood, Lewis said the state was already moving away from executions, meaning Miller likely would have remained alive anyway.

As for the conundrum of Miller's mind, Lewis saw both sides.

"There is an element of cunning in his psyche. That was evident," Lewis said. "But the experts felt strongly that he has this mental retardation. It may be a combination of both."

In an interview, Turgeon rejected the notion of citing Miller's murders as evidence of intelligence.

"The reality is that sort of animal-like behavior doesn't indicate intelligence," she said. "We see animals all the time stalking and killing. He was sort of raised like an animal. He had a horrible childhood. He had none of the human social intelligence that we would want for people to function."

By contrast, Marsico remains adamant, insisting that if anyone should be put to death, it's Joseph Miller.

"Our stance has been consistent that Joey Miller was not mentally retarded to the degree necessary that would prohibit capital punishment," he said. "I'm disappointed that Joey Miller will not receive the death penalty."

Yet, if the ultimate punishment had been carried out, Joseph Miller wouldn't be around to answer for Kelly Ann Ward and her cry for justice from beyond the grave.

Ever the Conundrum<:P> Kelly Ann Ward has the distinction of being the 1st and the last.

If Miller is convicted, the 26-year-old from Harrisburg would become his 1st murder victim, having disappeared in 1986. Yet, because her skeletal remains were not found in Swatara Township until 1997 and then not positively identified until recently, Ward would be the last to get justice.

Identification of her remains in spring 2014 heated up a cold case and led investigators to the state prison at Smithfield, where Joseph Miller is serving multiple life sentences.

Similarities between Miller's known homicides and the Ward case are more than eerie: Ward's skeleton was found near a site where Miller had discarded 2 other bodies. What is more, Ward closely matches the type of victim Miller preferred to prey upon: Young. African-American. Living on the margins in Harrisburg.

This time, however, a taciturn Miller is being no help by providing a confession. Instead, Miller, ever the conundrum, laughed in investigators' faces as they attempted to question him about Ward in May 2015.

In arrest records and notes from the interrogation led by Swatara Township police Lieutenant Darrell Reider, Miller is described as "very hesitant to speak." Yet when asked if he had killed Ward, Miller "did not deny doing anything, but stated, 'I don't remember, I was in a dark place then, doing a lot of drugs.'"

Just as quickly, Miller dismissed the detectives, saying in effect, "don't call me, I'll call you."

Detectives may not have been able to get inside Miller's head, but they did listen to recordings of his phone calls to family members, including a conversation in which he talked about his other murders in detail. During the call, Miller "indicates that there was another body that was found, but he didn't do that one," the arrest affidavit in the Ward case states.

Was this Miller being cunning, knowing cops could be listening?

It was worth another prison visit, this time with retired Dauphin County Chief Detective Tom Brennan in tow. After all, Brennan helped elicit Miller's confession in the pair of Dauphin County homicides in 1992. Could he do it again?

At first Miller puts up a solid front, flatly denying killing Ward: "It's just a coincidence, a mere (expletive) coincidence. I am not the only serial killer that was killing girls," he is quoted in court papers as saying.

Then Brennan shows Miller a photo of a metal pipe found near Ward's remains. The retired detective adds that Ward was killed by a blow to the head, just like Miller's known victims.

This seems to catch the convicted killer's attention.

"That pipe looks pretty big," Miller is quoted by detectives as responding.

Later, Miller allegedly tells the officers that the pipe he used was smaller, before once again retreating to his blanket denials regarding Ward.

"There are other serial killers out there," Miller is quoted telling the detectives. "You just haven't caught them yet. I didn't do this one."

More mind games from a serial killer? Or confusion on the part of an intellectually disabled man, imprisoned for the past 24 years?

For detectives working the Ward case, the pieces are all there - and they fit.

Court papers also refer to Miller's original 1992 statement. In it, Miller allegedly told Brennan that he had disposed of another woman's body but said he didn't know her name. Miller claimed to have picked up the victim at a city restaurant, before driving her to the same landfill, having sex with her, and then killing her with a pipe and covering her corpse with tires and shingles.

At the time, Miller told Brennan that her body was "the one by the road."

Now, all these years later, authorities believe Miller was actually describing the murder of Kelly Ann Ward.

Could she be the first - and now the last victim - who even the convicted serial killer had forgotten?

Only time, and the wheels of justice, will tell.

As for the mystery of Joseph Miller's mind and the still-unknown source of his compulsion to rape and kill? Perhaps this quote from a seen-it-all detective comes closest to providing an answer:

"What our society has to learn is that there are individuals out there who commit these kind of crimes for no other reason than they like it," Brennan told the late Patriot-News investigative reporter, Pete Shellem, in April 2000.

"They enjoy seeing the fear that they place in the victim and the control that they hold over that victim," the detective added. "And finally, they really enjoy that godlike feeling of taking a life."




Fix Florida's death penalty - again

Despite being repeatedly chastised by the courts over our death penalty procedures, the Florida Legislature, this spring, rushed to pass yet another flawed statute to keep death row moving. And once again, the courts have had to stop another unconstitutional process.

This time, it was Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Milton Hirsch who halted an execution after observing that the new state capital punishment statute allowing the death penalty to be imposed without a unanimous jury verdict was unconstitutional. Critics of the revised law pointed out this problem before the law was passed in March. It lacks common sense that there must be unanimity upon conviction, but not in imposing a death penalty.

Yes, our legislative leaders' efforts to create a fair and constitutional system have reached a pathetic low point. And yes, they still have to fix it - again.

This latest failure came after the U.S. Supreme Court, in an 8-1 ruling, tossed out the old law, halting executions. The high court observed that Florida's process for imposing the death penalty allows only juries to recommend a death sentence, but gives judges the power to decide whether to impose it. The court majority recognized that Americans have a Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury.

But the Legislature, instead of passing a law requiring a unanimous jury verdict, came up with a revision requiring only a 10-2 verdict to impose the death penalty. As Hirsch pointed out in an 18-page ruling, there are no Florida cases, no Florida law review articles and no Florida legal history to support the state’s position allowing less than a unanimous verdict to result in death.

Even in the absence of the Constitution, basic notions of fairness and common sense should point to unanimity.

The Post Editorial Board, after the U.S. Supreme Court rebuke earlier this year - and with more than 390 individuals awaiting death - suggested our legislators use the time to thoughtfully and carefully design a better capital punishment system. We noted then that Florida's death penalty record is filled with troubling questions. For example, there is application of the death penalty to mentally incompetent inmates, and disproportionately to minorities. Blacks make up 16 % of Florida's population, but 37 % of death row inmates.

Lest we forget, Florida trumps every other state with its record of 23 death penalty exonerations. And the unsettling controversy surrounding the lethal injection process has caused more than 20 U.S. and European pharmaceutical companies - including Pfizer last week - to take active steps to prevent the use of their products for executions. This leaves states with few options, and potentially flawed drug cocktails.

With all of these flaws in the system and the latest court ruling, why would our legislators insist on making it easier to impose the ultimate sanction on a human being? Why not require a unanimous verdict? Why risk the wave of lawsuits sure to follow?

Take a thoughtful, careful look at our death penalty process. And this time, get it right.

(soruce: Editorial, Palm Beach Post)


Death row inmate asks court to ignore lawyer's request

A death row inmate whose execution is on hold has asked the Florida Supreme Court to abandon in his case consideration of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down the state's death-penalty sentencing process.

The Florida Supreme Court earlier this year indefinitely postponed the execution of Mark James Asay, a convicted double murderer who was scheduled to be put to death on March 17. The ruling was prompted by a U.S. Supreme Court decision that found Florida's death penalty sentencing system gave too much power to judges, and not juries.

The state's high court has focused on the fallout of the decision, which came in a case known as Hurst v. Florida, in more than a dozen Florida death penalty cases since the opinion was issued in January.

But the circumstances of Asay's case drew even more attention.

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

After being sentenced to die, Asay went for a decade without legal representation, and almost all of the paper records involving his case went missing or were destroyed. His lawyer, Marty McClain, was appointed five days after Gov. Rick Scott signed Asay's death warrant earlier this year.

Asay's case is one of many caught up in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision, which dealt with the sentencing phase of death-penalty cases after defendants are found guilty and focused on what are known as aggravating circumstances that must be determined before defendants can be sentenced to death.

During the legislative session that ended in March, Florida lawmakers hurriedly crafted a "fix" to the state law --- which defense lawyers contend is flawed --- in response to the Jan. 12 ruling,

Under Florida's new law, juries will have to unanimously determine "the existence of at least one aggravating factor" before defendants can be eligible for death sentences. The law also requires at least 10 jurors to recommend the death penalty in order for the sentence to be imposed, and it did away with a feature of the old law that allowed judges to override juries' recommendations of life in prison instead of death.

A jury in Asay's case recommended death on both 1st-degree murder counts with a vote of 9-3.

Since the Hurst ruling, McClain, on Asay's behalf, has argued that the new law should apply to Asay and that the prisoner should receive a life sentence, based on a 1972 Florida law that required death sentences to be reduced to life imprisonment without parole if the death penalty is overturned.

But this week, Asay asked the court to ignore the filings related to the Hurst decision and the new law.

"While Mr. McLain (sic) is indeed an honorable and excellent attorney in the rush and exigency of proceeding under a death warrant counsel has moved this court to review and to address claims relating to sentencing issues that petitioner simply is not interested in seeking relief from and now wishes to waive," Asay wrote in a handwritten, 2-page document filed with the Supreme Court on Monday.

Documents filed by Asay on Monday and Thursday appear to indicate that he is interested in pursuing appeals based on new or rejected evidence related to his case.

The court could ignore Asay's request, ask the state to weigh in, ask McClain to respond, or send the case back to the trial court, according to legal experts.

"It's not clear what he wants. If I were the Supreme Court, I would want him to talk with his lawyer and to resolve whatever, if any, differences exist between them," Florida International University law professor Stephen Harper, who runs the school's Death Penalty Clinic, told The News Service of Florida in a telephone interview Friday.

It is not uncommon for death row inmates like Asay, who has spent nearly three decades awaiting execution, to abandon hope or to look for ways to expedite resolution to their cases, experts say.

"When someone's case goes unattended as long as this one did, or they believe their case has gone unattended as long as this one did, they get depressed. They get suicidal. They start to lose hope, and Mr. Asay, I believe, wants to focus on the claims that he believes will give him a new trial and potentially see the light of day sometime," Pete Mills, 10th Judicial Circuit assistant public defender who is chairman of Florida Public Defender Association's death penalty steering committee, said in an interview Friday.



Correcting Prosecutorial Misconduct and Judicial Error in Louisiana

It seems incontestable that Louisiana's criminal justice system is in a state of collapse. The state judiciary appears to be oblivious to violations of the constitutional rights of criminal defendants; prosecutors continue to violate the rights of accused with impunity, especially by suppressing exculpatory evidence; public defenders are so overwhelmed by huge caseloads they have refused to take new cases; and the state prisons have the highest incarceration rate in the nation. Although the Supreme Court and lower federal courts have intervened in numerous cases to correct abuses, they can do so only piecemeal, and only when the abuse is so flagrant that deference typically given to the conduct of state officials is inappropriate. For example, the Supreme Court and lower federal courts have vacated numerous Louisiana convictions - many in death penalty cases - because of serious prosecutorial misconduct, and often after the Louisiana courts found no wrongdoing. Moreover, in several of these cases the defendant was innocent and ultimately exonerated after spending many years in prison.

The Supreme Court is poised to take up yet another misconduct case from Louisiana involving prosecutors who suppressed evidence favorable to the defendant that likely would have changed the jury's decision to execute him. David Brown, one of the Angola 5 defendants convicted of murdering a prison guard during an escape attempt and sentenced to death, is asking the Supreme Court to review his case. Brown claims, and it is not disputed, that prosecutors obtained a confession from 1 of Brown's co-defendants who admitted to being the actual killer and who intimated that Brown was not involved in the killing. The prosecutors never disclosed this confession to Brown's lawyers, who obviously would have used it to persuade the jury to spare Brown's life. Despite clear constitutional authority establishing that prosecutors violated Brown's due process rights, the Louisiana courts found no misconduct, and also held that the prosecutor's failure to disclose the statement would not have changed the result.

There is abundant evidence that prosecutors in Louisiana have for years consistently violated the rights of defendants by failing to disclose to defendants favorable evidence that could alter the verdict, and that Louisiana courts in reviewing criminal convictions, especially capital murder conviction, consistently failed to correct these prosecutorial violations, and in fact concluded that no violations occurred. Thus, for example, in a Louisiana capital murder case decided by the Supreme Court in March, Wearry v. Cain, the prosecution hid critical evidence from the defense that almost certainly would have altered the verdict. The Louisiana courts agreed that the prosecutor should have disclosed the evidence but nevertheless affirmed the conviction, concluding that the withheld evidence would have made no difference to the result. The Supreme Court overturned this ruling, finding "beyond doubt" that the undisclosed evidence destroyed confidence in the jury's verdict.

In another Louisiana capital murder case decided by the Supreme Court three years ago, Smith v. Cain, critical evidence that would have discredited the prosecution's only witness was hidden from the defense. Every Louisiana judge who reviewed the conviction found no violation; all 1 state judges believed it was a slam dunk conviction. The Supreme Court felt otherwise. At oral argument and in its 8-1 ruling overturning the conviction, the Court was incredulous that the state prosecutor arguing the case was so oblivious to such clear misconduct.

The current capital murder case of David Brown is a mirror image of the landmark ruling of the Supreme Court in Brady v. Maryland, decided 53 years ago. In that case, as in Brown, there was no doubt that Brady participated with an accomplice in a murder. But the prosecutor failed to disclose to Brady's lawyer a statement made by the accomplice in which he identified himself as the actual killer. Clearly, if the jury knew about the statement, it might have persuaded them to spare Brady's life. The Supreme Court found that by not revealing the statement to Brady the prosecutor violated Brady's due process right to a fair determination of his punishment.

Brown makes the same argument. He claims, and the trial judge agreed, that the prosecutor deliberately withheld from the defense the co-defendant's inculpatory statement identifying himself the actual killer and suggesting that Brown was not involved in the killing. As in Brady, although the statement would not have absolved Brown of complicity in the killing under the theory of accomplice liability - Brown did participate in the escape during which the guard was killed - the trial judge found that the suppressed statement would have lessened Brown's overall culpability, and might very well have persuaded the jury not to sentence him to death. At the very least, the prosecutor by suppressing the statement denied Brown's lawyer the opportunity to make that argument to the jury. The trial judge vacated the death sentence.

The Louisiana appellate courts once again sided with the prosecutor. They found that even if the prosecutor suppressed the statement, it would not have changed the result. The statement, the reviewing courts concluded, was not favorable to Brown, and certainly not material to his punishment. In making this determination, the appellate judges viewed the co-defendant's statement as not exculpatory to Brown, but simply as proof of the guilt of the confessing co-defendant. As shown in many earlier cases that were overturned by federal courts, the Louisiana judges were confused about how to analyze exculpatory evidence under the Brady rule; they appeared to consider such evidence in a light most favorable to the prosecution rather than to examine how a jury might use it, and how the failure to give the jury the proof erodes confidence in the jury verdict. Moreover, and of critical significance, the consistent failure of these courts to understand and apply correct legal rules sends a terrible message to prosecutors to follow the erroneous rulings of the state courts and be indifferent to the result.

As with the many other instances of misconduct by prosecutors and errors by the Louisiana judiciary, the Supreme Court again is being asked to step in to correct a clear constitutional violation. It seems like such a disproportionate investment of Supreme Court resources to have to continue to monitor one state's dysfunctional criminal justice system. But if Louisiana continues to be indifferent to and flaunt constitutional norms, Supreme Court intervention again is mandated.

(source: Bennett L. Gershman Professor of Law, Pace -- Huffington Post)


Suspected serial killer's trial postponed

The July 25 trial for accused serial killer Darren Vann was postponed Friday at the request of defense attorneys, who said they needed more time to prepare.

Lake County Criminal Judge Samuel Cappas did not set a new trial date, but scheduled a status hearing for 10 a.m. Aug. 19.

Lake County Deputy Prosecutor Michelle Jatkiewicz did not object to the delay during Friday's short hearing.

Vann, 44, faces murder charges in the strangling deaths of Afrikka Hardy and Anith Jones. The Lake County prosecutor's office is seeking the death penalty against him.

In a separate case, Vann is facing murder charges in the homicides of Teaira Batey, Kristine Williams, Tracy L. Martin, Sonya Billingsley and Tanya Gatlin. All 5 women were found dead in vacant buildings in Gary in October 2014. The state is also seeking death sentences for Vann in that case.



Champion murder trial delayed until 2017

Ryan Champion's trial is now scheduled for February 2017. He could face the death penalty in the October 2014 deaths of his mother, father, and the man police believe Champion hired to kill them.

He's charged with 4 counts of murder and one count of kidnapping.

Champion's defense team says it felt more time is needed to give him a fair trial. The lawyers have more than 1,600 pages to go through. Champion's lawyers are also trying to get his military and adoption records. And, because their client could be sentenced to death, they say they want to give the case their full attention.

Friday was our 1st time hearing details of what took place in 2014. Hoping for justice, the Champion family had to relive the details of how their loved ones died in the courtroom.

Kentucky State Police Detective Brent Miller says a .45 caliber handgun was used to kill them. He said he also believes Facebook messages support a conspiracy to kill the Champion family. Investigators obtained messages with a warrant and letters of authenticity. The judge will determine if they're usable in the trial at a later date. Miller also said witness testimony proves Champion had a hatred for his family and may have offered money for someone to kill them. 7 spent casings were found around the crime scene.

The evidence was heard Friday to determine whether it could be used in trial.

Public defenders Joanne Lynch and Audrey Woosnam asked for more time to build their case.

"We believe the judge made the right decision given that, if there is a jury paneled in this case, they're going to be making a life and death situation," Woosnam told Local 6.

Commonwealth Attorney Carrie Ovey-Wiggins said she's frustrated that she can't go to trial sooner. "We have been spending a substantial amount of time preparing, getting ready to go to trial, getting subpoenas. We're ready to go to trial."

The defense asked for the trial to be in July 2017, but the judge determined that would be 2 years and 11 months after the murders, and that's just too much time.

(source: WPSD news)


Missouri Plans to Seek Death Penalty for Mexican National

Missouri prosecutors on Friday filed their formal plan to pursue the death penalty against a Mexican national in the shooting death of a man a day after he allegedly killed 4 people in Kansas.

Prosecutors in Montgomery County submitted court papers saying they will seek capital punishment for Pablo Serrano-Vitorino if he's convicted of 1st-degree murder in the March 8 death of Randy Nordman at that man's home in New Florence, about 70 miles west of St. Louis. Serrano-Vitorino also is charged with armed criminal action and burglary.

A judge last week ordered Serrano-Vitorino, 40, to stand trial on the Missouri charges and scheduled a June 1 arraignment. A message left Friday with Serrano-Vitorino's attorney seeking comment on the case was not immediately returned.

Serrano-Vitorino, who federal immigration officials have said is in the U.S. illegally, is accused in Kansas of killing a Kansas City, Kansas, neighbor and 3 other men at the neighbor's home the night before Nordman was slain nearly 200 miles away. Serrano-Vitorino was captured after a manhunt and is jailed in Missouri without bond.Authorities have not discussed a motive for any of the killings.

In his court filing Friday, Montgomery County Prosecutor Nathan Carroz cited "aggravated circumstances" related to Nordman's slaying that make the case eligible for the death penalty. Among them: The Missouri killing was a continuation of the Kansas shooting rampage, Nordman's killing involved burglary and robbery, and that slaying was "outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible or inhuman" in its randomness and its "callous disregard for the sanctity of human life."

Carroz also cited Serrano-Vitorino's previous legal issues that have included California charges involving spousal battery and threats with the intent to terrorize, as well as Kansas charges since 2012 involving domestic battery and 2 cases of driving under the influence.

(source: Associated Press)


Oklahoma's Death Penalty Procedure Is In Shambles, According To Grand Jury Report

Yesterday an Oklahoma grand jury returned a scathing report on the state's death penalty procedure, saying that in the execution of Charles Warner and near-execution of Richard Glossip, the state's execution process failed "from drafting to implementation."

"A number of individuals responsible for carrying out the execution process were careless, cavalier and in some circumstances dismissive of established procedures that were intended to guard against the very mistakes that occurred," Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said in a statement.

Charles Warner was executed in January 2015 by a 3-drug cocktail: a sedative, a paralytic, and a drug that stopped his heart. According to approved protocol - and the state's official post-execution records - the last, lethal drug was supposed to be potassium chloride. However, Warner was mistakenly executed with potassium acetate, a mistake that wasn't discovered until the scheduled execution of Richard Glossip in September 2015.

Both potassium chloride and potassium acetate will kill you. Only potassium chloride, however, is listed as an acceptable execution drug by the state. While the jury did not find that using the wrong drug in Warner's execution caused him "needless pain," they nevertheless found that it infringed upon his rights, specifically, depriving him of his chance to "challenge the procedure prior to his death." Legally, the state is required to notify death row inmates of exactly which drugs will be used in their execution at least 10 days in advance, giving them time and opportunity to request a stay of execution - which is usually based at least in part on the planned manner of execution.

An extended tragedy of errors

How do state officials use the wrong drug to kill someone and not notice? The 106-page grand jury report exhaustively documents failure after failure, ultimately leading to the use of the wrong drug.

The Director of the Department of Corrections changed the execution protocol verbally and without authority. Trainings lacked "key components," and the IV team was "largely absent." The pharmacist was told the order over the phone and never given a written prescription or contract, and he then ordered the wrong drug - which he blamed on "pharmacy brain," saying that he was paying attention to the potassium part and ignoring the rest.

Though the pharmacist's negligence was perhaps the most glaring mistake, the report details how at many points in the following series of events that mistake could have, and should have, been noticed.

Although the drugs passed through multiple inspection checkpoints - including the Department's General Counsel, an agent in the Office of the Inspector General - they were never actually inspected. Multiple people said that although they agree its important to verify the drug, they "just didn't think it was [their] role."

I just totally dropped the ball, is all I can say.

When a warden finally did note that they had received potassium acetate, he dutifully documented the drugs and didn't report it to anyone. The unit chief, also present, said he "really wasn't looking at the bottles that closely."

The IV chief - who actually administered the drug - also didn't notice the discrepancy. When asked how he could fail to notice, he responded "that's a great question." He speculated that he may have been distracted by calculating the drug concentrations in his head - and concluded "somehow that glaring word, acetate - I don't know, ma'am. I just totally dropped the ball, is all I can say."

'Careless, cavalier, and dismissive'

In Glossip's near-execution in September of that year, a similar chain of inspection failure started. That time, however, officials noticed they had the wrong drug - but only at the final step. The IV chief noticed the mistake and told the General Counsel, prompting a flurry of lawyers to weigh in on whether the execution could go forth as scheduled.

The Governor's General Counsel - Steve Mullins, who has since stepped down and is currently under investigation - advocated that Glossip's execution go forward despite knowing that it was a different drug.

"It is unacceptable for the Governor's General Counsel to so flippantly and recklessly disregard the written Protocol and the rights of Richard Glossip," the report read.

It is unacceptable for the Governor's General Counsel to so flippantly and recklessly disregard the written Protocol

Ironically, Mullins implied that, since to his knowledge at the time, the drug may have already been - mistakenly - used to execute Warner, it constituted an "established" practiced. Mullins testified that he planned to get affidavits saying the 2 were "medically interchangeable," proceed with the execution, then seek "clarification" before the next execution. Once Glossip's execution was stayed, he advised that they shouldn't say it was because they had the "wrong drug" - because then people might find out that they had already used the "wrong drug" to kill Warner.

The report notably goes beyond ascribing the mistake to just a series of missteps by individual government employees. It also condemns the state's execution protocol at large, concluding "the Execution Protocol lacked controls to ensure that the proper execution drugs were obtained and administered."

The lack of an effective verification procedure is particularly damning because it was implemented after a badly botched execution to prevent future mistakes. The protocols that failed were put in place after the 2014 Oklahoma execution of Clayton Lockett, who writhed and gasped in pain for 43 minutes before dying. An autopsy report found that the execution team incorrectly applied an IV. Yet even in the wake of Lockett's case and the increased scrutiny that followed, Oklahoma's officials still carried out an avoidable litany of errors.

"Based on these failures, justice has been delayed for the victims' families and the citizens of Oklahoma, and confidence further shaken in the ability of this State to carry out the death penalty," concluded the report.



Meeting will focus on bill to end death penalty

State Sen. Colby Coash will discuss the upcoming vote to retain the Nebraska Legislature's vote to end the death penalty at a news conference Monday in Kearney.

According to a media release from Retain a Just Nebraska, Coash will be joined by other senators at 3 p.m. at Best Western Inn at 224 Second Ave.

Retain a Just Nebraska is a public education campaign to urge the retention of LB268, the Legislature's bill to end the death penalty.

(source: Grand Island Independent)


Death penalty bills expected to return to the Utah legislature

Bills that would speed up the death penalty process or repeal it altogether are expected to return to the Utah State Legislature.

Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, told FOX 13 he has already opened bill files that would cut down on the length of appeals that death row inmates have. Some inmates on death row in Utah have been appealing their sentences for decades.

"If I could get it 10 years or less, I think we're in the ballpark," Rep. Ray said.

But opponents of capital punishment said they were planning for legislation that would enact a repeal. Last year, the Utah State Senate passed a bill that ended the death penalty, but the House would not vote on it.

The Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, which supports a repeal of the death penalty, said it was anticipating lawmakers would bring that legislation back.

"We will see that again and that's good for the debate," said Jean Hill, the government liaison for the diocese. "Because then we can really talk about what is the ultimate benefit of (the death penalty), and there is none."

There are 9 death row inmates in Utah. 3 have chosen to die by firing squad. The primary method of execution in Utah is lethal injection, but the Utah Department of Corrections has said right now it does not have the drugs to carry out an execution. That makes firing squad the default method.

Rep. Ray said he believes any bill to repeal the death penalty would not pass in Utah.

"A lot of the support on that last year was the fact that the death penalty was too hard to do and took too long, and I think if we can come out with something that answers that, there's not enough support to get rid of the death penalty," he told FOX 13.

The bills are expected to be debated in the 2017 legislative session.

(source: Fox News)


Convicted killer to get new trial after 30 years on death row in Nevada

A convicted killer who has been on Nevada's death row for nearly 3 decades will get a new penalty hearing after the Nevada Supreme Court ruled his public defender was deficient in representing him.

Richard Canape, now 61, was sentenced to death for the 1988 killing of Manuel Toledo, a New Jersey man killed after he ran out of gasoline on his way back to Las Vegas from a hunting trip in Utah.

In a ruling posted Friday, the Supreme Court dismissed Canape's claims that his trial lawyer at the time, Stephen Dahl with the Clark County public defender's office, was ineffective during trial. But justices said Canape was not adequately represented during the penalty phase.

"Counsel's performance during the penalty phase of Canape's trial was concerning," Chief Justice Ron Parraguirre wrote for the court in the unanimous decision, which faulted the lawyer for presenting no evidence or mitigating circumstances on Canape’s behalf.

"Counsel began his argument by apologizing for being absent when the guilty verdicts were announced, explained that he was not fully prepared to argue, then reminded jurors that they did not have to execute Canape - but they could if they wanted to," justices said.

"We conclude that counsel's performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness."

The victim had flown to Las Vegas, where he rented a car a drove to Cedar City, Utah, for an elk hunt in October 1988. On his way back to Las Vegas, he ran out of gasoline on Interstate 15. A convenience store clerk recalled he had come into the store with gasoline cans, and told her someone was giving him a ride back to his car.

Toledo's body was found down an embankment the next day by another motorist who had broken down along the interstate. Investigators said he died of 2 gunshot wounds.

About 2 weeks after Toledo's killing, Canape was arrested for an attempted armed robbery of a liquor store in Las Vegas. A police weapons expert matched a handgun Canape had on him with the bullets recovered from scene where Toledo was killed.

Canape was convicted of 1st-degree murder and robbery, both with a deadly weapon.

Christopher Oram, a Las Vegas attorney who handled the latest appeal, said Canape suffers from serious mental illness.

"I'm really pleased that the Nevada Supreme Court has given him an opportunity to present his extensive history of mental illness, as I have no doubt a jury will not impose a sentence of death on him again," Oram said.

(source: Las Vegas Review-Journal)


Antonovich, Sheriff Push for Death Penalty Reform

At a press conference Thursday, Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich joined Sheriff McDonnell and law enforcement leaders to express his support for the Californians for Death Penalty Reform and Savings Act of 2016, a measure which will appear on November's ballot.

"This initiative will promote justice for murder victims and their families, save taxpayers millions of dollars per year, and assure due process protections for those sentenced to death," said Antonovich. "At a time when crime rates are spiking, it is vital to enact reforms to make the death penalty an effective deterrent and appropriate punishment for murderers and provide justice for victims and their families."

Currently, the State of California has 746 inmates on death row and has not executed an inmate since 2006. Of those 746 inmates: 126 involved torture before murder, 173 killed children, and 44 murdered police officers.

Proponent of the initiative, Reverend Ferroll Robins, whose brother, Joseph Paul, was murdered in south Los Angeles, is also a Los Angeles Police Department Chaplain and head of the nonprofit Loved Ones Victims Services, an organization that provides grief counseling for people whose family members are murdered.



Lane County jury refuses to put murderer on death row

A Lane County jury on Friday declined to sentence a man to death for the 2012 slaying of 22-year-old Eugene resident Celestino Gutierrez, instead ruling that life behind bars is an appropriate punishment for the Army veteran.

A.J. Scott Nelson, 26, will return to Lane County Circuit Judge Debra Vogt's courtroom on June 2 for sentencing. At that time, Vogt will sentence Nelson to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Nelson is the last of 3 people arrested in the case to have his case play out in court. Gutierrez, who did not know Nelson or the others arrested in the case, was the victim of a plot carried out by the trio to kidnap and kill a stranger in order to use his car as the getaway vehicle in a bank robbery.

Through a victim services advocate, Gutierrez's parents and 2 brothers declined comment on the jury's decision.

Defense attorneys Laurie Bender and Chris Clayhold both said Friday that they are "relieved" the jury did not rule that Nelson should be executed for his crimes.

The same jury earlier this month found Nelson guilty of 18 felony charges including two counts of aggravated murder for killing Gutierrez.

The last time a Lane County jury voted against a death penalty in an aggravated murder case was in 2008, when Tyke Supanchick of Eugene was sentenced to life in prison for fatally shooting his estranged wife. Supanchick, like Nelson, had served in the military. Lawyers for both men highlighted their service while defending the killers in their respective trials.

Since then, juries in Lane County have sent 2 people to death row. They include Angela McAnulty, who was convicted in 2011 of aggravated murder in the death of her 15-year-old daughter. She is the only woman facing execution in Oregon.

In 2014, another jury ordered a death sentence for David Ray Taylor, who teamed with Nelson to kill Gutierrez.

The 3rd person convicted in Gutierrez's death, Mercedes Crabtree, is serving life in prison with the possibility of parole after 30 years.

The last prisoner execution in Oregon happened in 1997.

(source: The Register-Guard)


Roof hearing set for June 8 in Charleston

A hearing in federal court for Dylann Roof has been set for June 8 in Charleston before U.S. Judge Richard Gergel.

Since being indicted last summer on federal hate crime charges resulting in death, Gergel has called hearings almost each month to ask attorneys when the case might be ready for trial.

Gergel especially wants federal prosecutors to decide whether they will seek the death penalty against Roof because if they do seek it, Gergel needs time to draw up plans. Death penalty trials are much longer, more complex and more expensive than most other kinds of criminal trials.

So far, prosecutors on the case - who await a final decision from top Justice Department officials - have been unable to tell Gergel if they will seek the death penalty.

Meanwhile, Roof attorney David Bruck has publicly told Gergel at several hearings that Roof, 21, is ready to plead guilty and accept a life sentence without parole if the government does not seek the death penalty.

Roof, a self-avowed white supremacist from Columbia, is charged with the racially motivated deaths of 9 African-Americans last June at Charleston's downtown Mother Emanuel AME Church.

Meanwhile, state prosecutors are set begin their own death penalty case against Roof in state court in Charleston in January.



Israel plans death penalty for Palestinian militants

Israel is poised to introduce the death penalty for Palestinian militants after Binyamin Netanyahu invited an ultra-nationalist party to join his coalition government.

The rightwinger Avigdor Lieberman made capital punishment a key demand in negotiations this week for his party to shore up Mr Netanyahu’' coalition, with Mr Lieberman handed the defence portfolio. Sources from Mr Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party and the ruling Likud said that the prime minister had agreed.

It would be a major policy shift for Israel, which has only ever executed one person: the Nazi officer Adolf Eichmann, who was hanged in 1962 for genocide.

(source: The Times)


Does the death penalty benefit society?

Singapore's decision to go ahead with the execution of Sarawakian Kho Jabing has been met with mixed reactions on both sides of the Causeway, which is not surprising, given that the question of whether to abolish the death penalty has been hotly debated in recent years.

However, the debate tends to flare only when there is a high profile case. It dies down when another issue starts to dominate the news.

Perhaps one reason for the intense public interest in Kho's case is that it involves a Malaysian condemned to death by a foreign court. He was found guilty of killing a Chinese national during a robbery attempt in 2008.

Parliament heard this week that 1,041 people are on death row in Malaysia. It is unlikely that all 1,041 will get as much media attention as Kho has.

Regardless of how one feels about capital punishment, it is important for us as a nation to discuss the issue of capital punishment and whether it serves any good.

Supporters of the death penalty have always cited it as a deterrent for crimes, but there has been no conclusive proof that it indeed serves as a deterrent.

Another aspect of the question is whether capital punishment truly delivers justice. If someone on death row happens to be the sole breadwinner for his family, are we being just to his family if we execute him?

The question also has an economic aspect. Taxpayers have to foot the bill for the inmate's upkeep until the day he is executed. How does this serve justice? This aspect of the issue, of course, covers all prison inmates, not just those on death row.

This is not to say that criminals should not have to pay their debt to society, but we should talk about different ways of making them pay. There are many ideas that have been put to practice in several countries.

There are some projects in which prisoners are made to work in farms or prison bakeries. Their farm produce or breads and cakes are consumed inside prison. This reduces the food bill that the public has to foot. In some cases, the output is donated to charity. In still other cases, it is sold to the public and the income channelled to the prisoners' families.

These ideas are especially worth considering if we're thinking of replacing the death penalty with life imprisonment. Until we start discussing these ideas, it's unlikely that the discourse on capital punishment will get anywhere beyond the short-lived debates occasioned by high-profile cases.



Third round of executions to probably take place after Idul Fitri: AG

Attorney General Muhammad Prasetyo always has his own way of explaining the reasons behind the continual delays of the 3rd round of executions of death row inmates despite the already well-managed preparations at the execution site on the Nusakambangan prison island in Central Java.

From late last year until recent times, the former grandee of the progovernment Nasdem Party cited a number of reasons, including the slowing economy, the need to maintain bilateral harmony and ongoing legal processes, for delaying the executions. On Thursday he argued that it was unethical to conduct the executions within the next 2 months because of the preparations being made by the country to observe Ramadhan, which is scheduled to begin on June 6. Ramadhan will run until July 7, after which Muslims nationwide will celebrate Idul Fitri on July 8 and 9 to mark the end of the holy month.

Prasetyo assured the public that no executions would be done before or during Ramadhan, with the most probable firm date of execution to be decided after Idul Fitri.

"If it is before Lebaran [Idul Fitri] then it means during the fasting month. Conducting executions during the holy month will not sound right," Prasetyo told reporters, adding that he did not yet know when after Idul Fitri the Attorney General's Office ( AGO ) would officially set the execution date.

Although the government has announced that the 3rd round of executions is on the way, the schedule and list of those to be executed are not yet available, causing anxiety among inmates, their lawyers and anti-death-penalty campaigners. The only available information on the executions comes from the Central Java Police, which has claimed to have readied 150 executioners to shoot 10 foreigners from China ( 4 ), Nigeria ( 2 ), Pakistan ( 1 ), Senegal ( 2 ) and Zimbabwe ( 1 ), in addition to 5 Indonesians, on the isolated Island.

However, Prasetyo did not clarify nor confirm the figure, stating that his office had yet to officially issue the date of the executions and the names as well as number of death row inmates who will face the firing squads.

"Well, what I can say is that on [May] 25th there will be another inmate who will file for a case review," Prasetyo said of another possible barrier that may cause a delay for the 3rd round of executions.

AGO spokesman Amir Yanto emphasized that Filipino drug convict Mary Jane Veloso, who at least temporarily escaped execution last year when her alleged boss was arrested in the Philippines and the local authorities requested the Indonesia government reopen the case, and Indonesian drug kingpin Freddy Budiman would not be on the list that would be announced by the AGO.

"Mary [Jane Veloso] is needed by the Philippine authorities to solve a human trafficking case [involving her], while the case review hearing of [Freddy] is ongoing," Amir said.

Recently, the Supreme Court rejected case review pleas filed by 4 Chinese nationals: Chen Hongxin, Jian Yuxin, Gan Chunyi and Zhu Xuxiong. It remains unclear whether the 4 were the Chinese nationals mentioned by Central Java Police.

The 4 Chinese men were found guilty of drug trafficking following a 2005 police raid on what was dubbed at the time Southeast Asia’s largest illicit drug factory in Banten, along with Frenchman Serge Areski Atlaoui, who also escaped execution last year because of an 11th-hour attempt by his lawyer to file for a case review, which was eventually rejected by the Supreme Court.

Veloso's lawyer Agus Salim said his client was scheduled to be questioned by the Philippine authorities for the human trafficking case in the near future.

"I don't know when the interrogation will take place, but both the Indonesian and the Philippine governments have arranged the questioning session for my client," he told The Jakarta Post.

Supreme Court spokesman Suhadi said he did not know how many death row inmates had appealed for clemency from the President.

(source: The Jakarta Post)


Against military court's order: SC issues notices over militant's conviction

The top court has issued notices to the Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) and the Judge Advocate General (JAG) branch - the legal department of Pakistan Army - on the handing down of a death sentence by a military court to a young prisoner, Aksan Mehboob.

Convicted by a military court, Mehboob was one of the nine terrorists whose death sentence was ratified by army chief General Raheel Sharif on January 2.

According to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Mehboob, son of Asghar Ali, was an active member of al Qaeda. He was involved in attacks on law-enforcement personnel and military installations which claimed several lives.

"He admitted to his offences before the magistrate and the trial court. He was tried on 4 charges and awarded the death sentence," the ISPR had said.

The Supreme Court's 3-judge bench headed by Justice Amir Hani Muslim on Friday took up the plea, wherein the death penalty of Mehboob was challenged.

Representing the convict's family, Col (retd) Muhammad Akram argued that Mehboob's family was unaware of the reasons for which he was handed down the death sentence.

Justice Amir Hani Muslim observed that those who take the lives of others should be hanged. He also observed that the application was filed 38 days after expiry of the 30-day period.

The counsel responded that since the father of the convict lived in a far-flung area he there was a delay in the filing of the plea. After hearing the arguments, the bench issued notice to the AGP and the respondents and adjourned the hearing for 1 week.

(source: Express Tribune)


Halt Execution of Siarhei Khmialeuski


(source: Amnesty International USA)


EU chides Belarus over recent increase in death penalties

The European Union is complaining to Belarus about what it calls an upsurge in death sentences over the past months.

The 28-nation EU also joined the United Nations in criticizing Belarus for reneging on its international commitments, including a moratorium on the use of the death penalty. The EU said Belarus courts had already passed 3 death sentences so far this year.

The statement said the EU nations "expect Belarus, the only country in Europe still applying capital punishment, to join a global moratorium on the death penalty as a 1st step toward its abolition."

Belarus is not part of the EU.

(source: Associated Press)


'Disgraceful', Amnesty International says of Kho Jabing's hanging

Amnesty International condemned today the execution of Sarawakian Kho Jabing in Singapore that was carried out hours after his appeal against the sentence was rejected.

"It is disgraceful that Kho Jabing was executed, particularly with such indecent haste, after his final appeal was denied this morning," said Josef Benedict, deputy director of Amnesty International's South East Asia and Pacific Regional Office, in a statement.

"Clemency should have been granted, more so given the uncertainty and divided opinion surrounding Kho Jabing's fate over the past 6 years. Singapore is at a crossroads.

"It must decide whether it wants to join most of the world by protecting human rights and ridding itself of the death penalty, or remain among the minority of countries that insist on the implementation of this cruel and inhumane punishment," he added.

International newswire AFP reported Singapore police as confirming that 32-year-old Kho was hanged today, 6 years after he was sentenced to death in 2010 for murdering a construction worker.

Kho's case had sparked a renewed debate on the death penalty as he was re-sentenced to life imprisonment in 2013 after Singapore amended its mandatory death sentence for murder, but the prosecution appealed and the Malaysian's death sentence was reinstated in 2015.

Kirsten Han from Singapore anti-death penalty group We Believe in Second Chances said death row inmates should be seen as people who have made mistakes, bad decisions, and who might have been cruel but have families and struggles.

"The government says it kills people like Jabing to keep us safe.

"I don't know how Jabing's death has kept me safe; it's simply made me feel more hurt, more outraged and more fearful of a cold state machinery that knows no compassion, that would rush a man to his death out of procedural efficiency," Han wrote on Facebook.

The Star reported Malaysian Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Nancy Shukri as saying in a written parliamentary reply Tuesday that Putrajaya has yet to decide on whether to amend the mandatory death penalty. Capital punishment in Malaysia is imposed on offences like murder and drug trafficking.



Amnesty International urges S'pore to abolish death penalty----The risk of executing an innocent person can never be eliminated as long as the death penalty is kept on the law books.

Amnesty International (AI) has urged the authorities in Singapore, in a strongly-worded statement, to immediately halt all executions and commute all death sentences, as 1st steps towards the full abolition of the death penalty.

The execution of Kho Jabing marks a huge step backwards for Singapore which has reduced the implementation of the death penalty in recent years, added the statement. "Following the official moratorium on executions established in Singapore from 2012 to 2013, at least 13 people have had their death sentences reviewed and eventually commuted."

"New sentencing discretion has resulted in several individuals being spared the gallows."

AI was "strongly condemning" the sudden execution of Kho Jabing, undertaken with "shameful haste" on Friday. "The rushed execution, that occurred mere hours after his final appeal was rejected, marked a cruel and inhuman end to Kho Jabing's life after a 6 year legal battle in the courts."

In this instance, said AI, it also has strong concerns around the basis on which the death sentence of Kho Jabing was re-imposed, after a split decision in the courts. "In modern day Singapore, the answer to crime does not lie within the hangman's noose."

"Moreover, there's no evidence that the death penalty was more of a deterrent to crime than life imprisonment."

AI opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of the crime. "The taking of another's life by execution is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment," said the statement. "The risk of executing an innocent person can never be eliminated as long as the death penalty is kept on the law books."

"Such practices violate the right to life, a fundamental right of every human being."

Furthermore, said AI, under international law and standards the use of the death penalty must be restricted to the "most serious crimes" which has been interpreted to mean intentional killing.

Kho Jabing, a Malaysian national, was executed at 3.30pm on 20 May 2016. Kho Jabing and a co-defendant were convicted of murder on 30 July 2010 and both were sentenced to the mandatory death penalty.

However, after the 2012 review of the mandatory death penalty laws, on 14 August 2013, the High Court found the murder to be non-intentional and resentenced Kho Jabing to life imprisonment and 24 strokes of the cane.

On 14 January 2015, the Court of Appeal re-imposed the death penalty on Kho Jabing in a 3-to-2 split decision.

An appeal admitted on 3 November 2015, 3 days before his scheduled execution, was dismissed on 5 April 2016.

Another last minute application by his lawyers, granted on 19 May 2016, resulted in a temporary stay of execution.

On the morning of 20 May 2016, Kho Jabing appeared in Court, hoping for a chance of reprieve. However, he was executed not long after this appeal was dismissed.



Death by injustice----The poor and vulnerable form 74 % of the total number of death row convicts in India

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself on stage with the eminent Supreme Court (SC) lawyer, Nitya Ramakrishnan, and one of the sitting SC justices, Madan Lokur. We were discussing the death penalty - to be more precise, the contents of a painstaking report brought out by the project on the death penalty at the National Law University, Delhi (NLUD). India is one of the few countries in the world that still retains the death penalty, and although there is debate on the issue - whether it relates to people like Afzal Guru or the assassins of Rajiv Gandhi - very few of us have actual details on those who end up on death row. The "celebrity" prisoners though are not a representative sample, even if they are what we talk about.

It took 3 years to complete the report. The research was conducted by NLUD students under the guidance of Dr Anup Surendranath, director of the death penalty project. When I mean research, I mean "search". There is no centralised database on death penalty prisoners. As they are housed in state prisons, the Central government doesn't have up-to-date information on who is in which jail, what condition they are in, the status of their appeals, if any, or even if they are dead or alive. Considering there are only 385 prisoners on death row - something the project discovered - this should not be that difficult a number to track. But we do not do this. Though the death penalty is supposed to be used in the "rarest of rare" cases, we seem to care little about what happens to them.

In his presentation at the launch, Surendranath, in no uncertain terms, said that our criminal justice system - as shown by the findings of the project - is underperforming, if not broken. Part of the reason behind this is found in the report itself. As part of the documentation on socio-economic profiles of the prisoners, it was found that 74 % of the prisoners are economically disadvantaged. More than 85 % had not finished secondary school. Surendranath added that the SC confirmed only 4.5 % of the sentences awarded by district courts. In at least 30 % of the cases the prisoner was acquitted, while the rest were commuted.

As these statistics make clear, it is the poor and uneducated - unable to defend themselves - who are sentenced to death. Justice Lokur mentioned how, quite often, such defendants fail to understand the case being presented against them, and cannot even give correct answers. It also became clear that many of the lawyers representing the prisoners did not explain the case to the client or provide updates on the same. In other words, the government routinely sentences people to death, and the poorest and most vulnerable among them disproportionately pay the heaviest price.

Fundamentally, a system that punishes the poor for being poor is an unjust system. From the details that emerge from the report - including that of custodial torture on a wide scale, a topic that Ramakrishnan has documented in her book - it is clear that the criminal justice system of India does not really dispense justice when it comes to death penalties. That is a fairly terrible indictment of 1 of the pillars of the state.

I asked Justice Lokur about where we go from here. His response is worth reflecting upon, not merely because he is a sitting SC judge, but because of its importance to the idea of a Republic built on logical argument.

"I remain an optimist," he said, and pointed out that such a study is the way that change happens. Nothing can transform without research, without data or discussion. Research by universities, NGOs and other institutions have brought these issues to light. "You have a few more such reports," he said, "and you'll see how things correct themselves."

Too many of us believe that an institutional democracy - one where an individual is allowed to vote freely and fairly - is good in itself. It is not. Democracy is a means to a good, and that good can only be achieved if democracy is informed by facts, by research, and by options. Our republic gives us the framework to debate, but we must fill it with the data necessary to move forward, and much of that data will be of injustices. It is only by uncovering them, discussing them, and finding solutions to them that a democracy becomes valuable, otherwise we can reduce the Parliament to an arena for shouting matches full of sound and fury signifying nothing.

Omair Ahmad is the Asia Editor for The Third Pole;


NPC won't support Duterte's death policy

Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC) will not support death penalty just yet even if the party already signed a coalition deal with presumptive President Rodrigo Duterte's Partido Demokratiko Pilipino (PDP)-Laban that regards the restoration of the capital punishment as a priority.

Quezon Rep. Mark Enverga, the spokesman for the NPC, noted that they backing discussions on the revival of the death penalty, but they are not committed to a favorable vote for it now.

"For now, our position is that we are willing to give it (death penalty) a chance to see the light of day in Congress. We are willing to subject it to debates...for it to be discussed by the members of Congress, because we don't know to what degree the death penalty will be imposed," Enverga told the Manila Times.

Duterte won an overwhelming mandate of 16 million votes because of his bold promise of drastic change by killing criminals, as well as killing those resisting arrest, to eradicate crime in three to six months. He later backtracked that he can only suppress it.

NPC, on the other hand, is the second largest political party in the country headed by food and brewery tycoon Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco, Jr.

"Would it be for drug traffickers; for heinous crimes? We are yet to identify the magnitude of the crimes that will be punishable by death penalty. If the proposal takes shape, then we can consult among each other if it would be helpful for our country in terms of maintaining public order and safety," Enverga pointed out.

The Philippines abolished the death penalty for heinous crimes in 2006.

"Before [in 2006], we had no party stand on the matter. It was left to the choice of the of the NPC members during that Congress. But now, it is different because there is an overwhelming majority of people in favor of President Duterte and his policy [on death penalty]. That says so much about the sentiment of the public so we want to give it a chance to be deliberated," Enverga said.

"But as of the moment, everything is vague. Until we see the final version, we can't decide. For now, we want it deliberated upon so we can also hear the opposition to it," he added.

Earlier in the day, the NPC committed to support the Duterte administration and its policies through a coalition agreement signed by the leaders of both parties.

"This is to support President Rodrigo Duterte and congressman Pantaleon Alvarez as the next Speaker of the House. It binds as well the entire apparatus of the party in support of their programs," NPC president and Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao said.

PDP-Laban president and Sen. Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel 3rd, underscored that the NPC-PDP-Laban coalition will manifest beyond the ceremonial signing of documents.

"The legislative agenda of the President could be captured and determined in these phrases: support for federalism, all-out search for peace; all-out war against crime, drugs and corruption; expansion of the middle class; tax reform, addressing the concerns of the common man and inclusive growth, so that economic growth will be felt at the lower level. We expect the NPC siding to this core legislative agenda which are not objectionable," Pimentel said.

"This is not a cosmetic agreement. This is based on substance. As the President of the NPC mentioned, this is a support not only for the personalities but also to the agenda of President Duterte. Maybe the NPC can start adjusting their perspective on federalism, give it a chance to be adopted," he added.

Alvarez of Davao del Norte declared that the restoration of the death penalty is as good as done.

"We will be going for the reinstatement of death penalty, definitely. I am confident that it will be passed," he said.

(source: Manila Times)


Clamor vs death penalty reimposition mounts

Reviving death penalty would be an international embarrassment for the Philippines, Amnesty International (AI) said on Friday even as it pointed out that the country is a signatory to various covenants on human rights, including the protocol to abolish the capital punishment.

AI Philippines vice chair Romeo Cabarde Jr. said there is also no logical connection between imposing death penalty and reducing crime rate, citing the increase in the country's crime rate in 1999 when 7 convicts were executed by the Estrada administration.

"We call on the incoming president to carefully think about the policy proposals under his administration in order to ensure that none of his proposed measures will contravene the very commitment we made before the world," Cabarde said in a media forum in Quezon City.

The group presented a program of action to be submitted to presumptive President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to ensure that human rights is made a priority and embedded in all government agencies and programs.

"Putting an end to extrajudicial executions, unlawful arrests, secret detention, enforced disappearances, torture and other ill-treatment is 1 of our non-negotiables for President Duterte," AI Philippines chair Ritz Lee Santos III said.

In a news conference after the May 9 elections, Duterte said bringing back the death penalty would be a central part of his war on crime.

Breaking promise?

Cabarde noted that the Philippines is a state party to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which aims for the worldwide total abolition of death penalty.

"What kind of face are we going to show the rest of the world, having promised at a certain point that we will eradicate death penalty and here comes a new leader who wants to reimpose death penalty just because he wants to curb criminality," Cabarde said.

Based on the Commission on Human Rights report cited by Cabarde, the crime rate in 1999 even increased by 15.3 % or a total of 82,538 compared with the previous year's 71,527 cases despite the executions of death row convicts.

Meanwhile, European diplomats and civil rights advocates have also raised concern on the reimposition of death penalty in the Philippines, saying it is anti-poor and will not deter crimes.

Numbers game in Congress

German Ambassador to the Philippines Thomas Ossowski said the reimposition of death penalty is contrary to the human rights principles that the Philippines is known for in the world.

"Germany is very adamant in that (the reimposition of death penalty). We are against death penalty," said Ossowksi in an interview Thursday night at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF) anniversary in Makati.

Former Deputy Speaker Lorenzo "Erin" Tanada III, who espoused the bill to repeal the death penalty, expressed hopes that lawmakers will vote against the proposal to reimpose it.

"It's going to be a numbers game in Congress and those who voted for the repeal of death penalty in 2006 have been reelected and hopefully they will maintain their position and vote against its reimposition," said Tanada in an interview at the sidelines of the FNF event.

Jules Maaten, outgoing country director of FNF, said "state killing" through capital punishment sends a wrong signal "that every person can also commit killings."


MAY 20, 2016:


Nueces County prosecutors seek death penalty in store clerk shooting case

Nueces County prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty against a man accused of killing a store clerk owner last year.

James Elizalde, 23, faces a capital murder charge in the shooting death of store clerk Ignacio Rodriguez. Rodriguez, 50, was killed about 3 a.m. Oct. 4 at a convenience store in the 3600 block of Staples Street.

Capital murder carries 2 punishment options: life in prison without parole or death by lethal injection.

Elizalde was seen in surveillance footage fleeing the store with 2 other men after the shooting, according to an arrest affidavit. The other 2 have not been charged and were listed as witnesses in the affidavit.

A grand jury also indicted Elizalde on an evading arrest charge from a 2014 incident, court officials said.

Lawyers are slated to start picking a jury on Aug. 15 in 214th District Judge Jose Longoria's court. Elizalde remains in the Nueces County Jail in lieu of more than $1 million bail.

(source: Corpus Christi Caller Times)


Dale Recinella makes a moral case to kill the death penalty

I've been a supporter of the death penalty. When I thought about it at all.

Which is to say, some crimes are so heinous that only one punishment seems sufficient. But to say this is to make a lot of assumptions. It's to assume, first off, that the person being put to death is actually guilty, which isn't always the case. And it's to assume the process by which they are sentenced to death is fair and unbiased.

And it's pretty clear this isn't always the case, either.

So there's the idea of the death penalty, and then there's the reality. Dale Recinella, a Macclenny attorney who has served for 20 years a volunteer chaplain and for 13 years as a lay chaplain for Florida's death row, says the reality is that in Florida and elsewhere, the death penalty is "a mess in every way, shape and form."

"Everyone believes this myth that it's the worst of the worst who are executed," said Recinella, who will speak at St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Stuart this Saturday night and Sunday morning. "It isn't; it's the people who couldn't afford lawyers."

The process itself, he said, is inconsistent, arbitrary and racially biased - with 85 p% of all executions since 1976 taking place in "the old Confederacy and the slaveholding border states."

"If you have 20 people who are charged with crimes that are almost identical, who will get the death penalty?" he asked rhetorically. "The poorest, the person of color and the guy with the worst lawyer."

The U.S. Supreme Court agrees capital punishment in Florida is less than fair. The court ruled in January our death penalty is unconstitutional because it gives judges too much say in the process, and doesn't give jurors enough. Now the Florida Supreme Court is deciding whether the state's 390 death row inmates should have their sentences commuted to life in prison.

The Legislature tried to come up with a fix, but earlier this month, a Miami judge struck that down.

Capital punishment in Florida could be on a death watch.

For Recinella, the end can't come too soon.

Recinella was once a Wall Street finance lawyer who in the 1980s nearly died after eating a raw oyster and getting infected with the Vibrio vulnificus bacteria. He was literally on his deathbed when he saw the light, when he said Jesus came to him and challenged him to stop living such a self-centered life.

"People ask, 'Did you get the music and light?' " Recinella said in a phone interview last week. "No, I got the lecture."

When he awoke the following morning, "shocked that I was not dead," he and his wife, Susan, discussed where to go from there.

They started volunteering at a Tallahassee food kitchen. That led to a stint working with street people who had AIDS. That, in turn, resulted in a request that he begin working with prisoners who had HIV and AIDS.

In 1998, that led to death row.

Recinella had once been pro-capital punishment; what he saw - chronicled in 2 books he's written on the subject - changed his mind.

But what changed his heart was his faith and his belief in human dignity.

"Even people who have committed great wrongs still retain human dignity, and their life is still valuable," he said.

Dignity is in short supply on death row. Prisoners are confined in 6-by-9 cages in "these large boxes of steel and concrete sitting in the middle of nowhere between Gainesville and Jacksonville." There's no air conditioning, virtually no air movement at all.

"People sometimes call (death row prisoners) 'animals' - but it would be unconscionable to keep a dog in these conditions.

"Their crimes are horrible," he said. "But the question is, once we have these people secured in prison, are they animals - or are they human beings?"

Recinella speaks all over the country, and says he's not interested in preaching to the choir. He wants people who doubt his position to hear what he has to say. Maybe they'll change their minds. Some do; nationwide support for the death penalty is at its lowest level in 40 years.

That - coupled with the legal challenges here in Florida and elsewhere - have led Recinella, 65, to believe something he never thought possible:

"I really do believe that in my lifetime, we will see the end of capital punishment in the United States."

Hear Dale Recinella speak

Dale Recinella will speak at 5 p.m. Saturday and 7:30, 9 and 11 a.m. Sunday at St. Mary's Episcopal Church, 623 S.E. Ocean Blvd., Stuart.

(source: Commentary; Gil Smart, TC Palm)


Drug company's withdrawal limits death penalty options in Alabama

Pfizer's decision to ban the use of its products in executions will not necessarily stop capital punishment in Alabama, one expert says, but the state's lethal injection options are running out.

Pfizer's decision to ban the use of its products in executions will not necessarily stop capital punishment in Alabama, one expert says, but the state's lethal injection options are running out. "The sources of drugs on the open market are gone," said Robert Dunham, director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a group that studies the death penalty. "States are going to have to go underground, as it were, to obtain the drugs for executions." Pfizer announced Friday that it "strongly objects to the use of its products as lethal injections for capital punishment." Pfizer joins several other major drug producers in a boycott that has been slowing the pace of executions in America for years. Alabama has executed only 2 inmates in the past 4 years, compared with 17 in the 4 years before that. Federal regulators seized the state's execution drugs, acquired through back channels, in 2011. Alabama switched to a new main execution drug, but its supply of that drug expired in 2014 while lawyers debated the legality of the switch. In court records filed in December, state officials said they asked every compounding pharmacist in the state to make pentobarbital and every pharmacist turned them down.


OHIO----new death sentence

Jury recommends death penalty in Michael Madison sentencing phase

A jury recommends the death penalty for convicted serial killer Michael Madison. All 12 jurors made the recommendation.

Madison was convicted of killing of 3 women in East Cleveland and wrapping their bodies in garbage bags.

Prosecutors told jurors Madison,38, deserves execution because of the circumstances surrounding the killings.

Defense attorneys argued Madison's life should be spared because of psychological damage caused by child abuse.

The jury convicted Madison of aggravated murder earlier this month for killing 38-year-old Angela Deskins, 28-year-old Shetisha Sheeley and 18-year-old Shirellda Terry. Their bodies were found near Madison's East Cleveland apartment in 2013.

The death penalty verdict by the jury is only a recommendation. The judge must decide to accept the recommendation or choose to sentence Madison to life in prison. Sentencing will be May 26.

(source: WOIO news)


U.S. should end the death penalty

I recently read on the internet that Pfizer, a major U.S. drug manufacturer, is going to ban the sale of any of its products to correctional facilities that had used them for lethal injection. Pfizer has joined a group of about 20 U.S. and European drug manufacturers that have taken the same action. Hopefully, this will signal the beginning of the end of capital punishment in the United States.

The U.S. should join the other major industrialized countries and ban all death sentences. Our neighboring countries to the north and south, Canada and Mexico, do not kill their citizens in a misguided effort to seek justice. Let's leave vengeance to a higher power, if you believe that a higher power exists.

For people who are already on death row, their sentences should be commuted to life in prison. This will finally eliminate a component of a broken system of justice that is biased based on ethnic, financial and religious factors. It also is significantly more expensive to sentence a person to death than it is to incarcerate that same person for 50 years.

Moses Mims


(source: Letter to the Editor, Aiken Standard)


Selangor police seize 600,000 Eramin 5 pills worth RM9 mln

Selangor police seized 600,000 Eramin 5 pills worth RM9 million and arrested a local man in Teluk Gong, Klang on Wednesday.

Head of the Selangor Narcotics Crime Investigation Department ACP Amran Ramli said the suspect, in his 30s, was arrested at about 11.10am following a 2-month intelligence work.

He said the man was detained after his Toyota Vellfire was stopped by the police.

Upon inspection, police found 600,000 Eramin 5 pills, weighing a total of 169.2 kilogrammes, hidden in 60 small boxes in the car.

The arrest of the suspect led the police to a house in Ampang where they seized a Toyota Camry and a Nissan X-Trail, as well as cash totaling RM15,000, he told reporters here yesterday.

Amran said the suspect was believed to have smuggled the dugs into the country in a container and they were meant for distribution in local markets, especially in the Klang Valley.

"However, the suspect, who is believed to have been active over the past two months, does not have any previous criminal record, and we are investigating into possibility of him having any contacts or a syndicate network involved in this case," he said.

Amran said the suspect had been remanded until Wednesday and the case was being investigated under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 which carries a mandatory death penalty.



Isis executes 25 Iraqi 'spies' by lowering them into nitric acid until their 'organs dissolve'

The Islamic State (Isis) has executed 25 alleged spies by lowering them into a huge tub of nitric acid, until their 'organs dissolved', Iocal news source Iraqi News has claimed. The report could not be independently verified.

The alleged spies were captured in the IS (Daesh) stronghold of Mosul, in northern Iraq, accused of working for the Iraqi government's security forces.

Mosul is the largest city in Iraq still under IS control, but is facing increasing pressure from the north, south and east by the Iraqi army, Kurdish Peshmerga forces and US-led Western air strikes. A number of shocking and brutal killings have taken place at the hands of IS as they try to assert their domination over the the city, which Barack Obama had predicted would fall be the end of this year.

According to witnesses of the killings, the 25 alleged 'spies' were tied together with a huge rope and lowered in a basin containing the highly corrosive acid. Nitric acid is generally used for manufacturing ammonium nitrate that can be used to make fertiliser and explosives but it can also be used for photoengraving, etching steel, and reprocessing spent nuclear fuel.

"ISIS terrorist members executed 25 persons in Mosul on charges of spying and collaborating with Iraqi security forces,' a source told Iraqi News in a statement. "ISIS members tied each person with a rope and lowered him in the tub, which contains nitric acid, till the victims organs dissolve."

On Wednesday (18 May), IBTimes UK reported the burning alive of a Christian child who asked her mum to forgive the Isis militants who torched her home. The courageous child, believed to be around 12-years-old, was burned in Mosul after her family were raided by the jihadists for 'Jaziya' - a religious tax.

Earlier this week, the US Defence Department estimated that Isis fighters lost control of about 40% of the territory they once had in Iraq and roughly 10% of the land they held in Syria. Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, told reporters this week: "They are looking for ways to start to regain their momentum or regain the initiative".



'Tuhan Harun', followers to enter defence on murder charge

The High Court here Friday ordered the leader of deviant sect "Tuhan Harun", Harun Mat Saat, and 5 of his followers to enter their defence on the charge of murdering a Pahang Islamic Religious Department (JAIP) officer 3 years ago.

Judicial Commissioner Ab Karim Ab Rahman made the decision after scrutinising the testimonies of 54 prosecution witnesses and found that the prosecution had established a prima facie case against all the accused.

He also set July 25 to 27, Aug 8 to 12 and 22 to 26 to hear the submission of defence.

Harun, 50, his 3rd wife, Azida Mohd Zol, 33, his driver Shaizral Eddie Nizam Shaari, 40, and 3 other followers - Jefferi Safar, 39, Sumustapha Suradi, 41, and Shamsinar Abdul Halim, 39, - along with another follower still at large, were charged with committing the crime of conspiracy to murder Ahmad Raffli Abd Malek.

They were alleged to have committed the offence at No 7, Lorong IM 2/29, Bandar Indera Mahkota, here at 1.50pm on Nov 10, 2013.

Sumustapha and Shaminar also face the charge of murdering Ahmad Raffli, who was JAIP Enforcement Division principal assistant director, on the same day and at the same time and place.

They were charged under Section 302 and 120B (1) of the Penal Code which carries a mandatory death penalty upon conviction.

Counsel Hermes Putra Media Ibrahim, who represented all the accused, said the defence would call 16 witnesses, including all the accused to testify.

Ab Karim, however, instructed that the doctors responsible for Harun's medical treatment, since he is now paralysed after suffering a stroke, be present when Harun enters his defence as they had always been together and could understand his body language.

The judicial commissioner also advised Hermes Putra Media to find the best possible way to help Harun in his defence after the counsel admitted that it took him months just to get his client to answer 1 question.

(source: Bernama)


Former Republican North Carolina Chief Justice Comes Out Against the Death Penalty

In a Huffington Post blog yesterday that was reposted by NC Policy Watch today, I. Beverly Lake III - a former justice on the N.C. Supreme Court who served as an associate for from 1994-2000 and then as its chief justice until 2006, and who unsuccessfully ran for governor against Jim Hunt in 1980 - wrote that "protecting the innocent from a death sentence isn't enough" and implied that the death penalty "probably cannot" ever be constitutional under the Eight Amendment.

Lake sat on the court during 34 of the 43 executions carried out in North Carolina since 1977; since leaving the court, he's become an advocate for criminal justice reform through his work in helping to establish the Innocence Inquiry Commission, but this op-ed is his strongest stance against the death penalty yet.

After establishing his former bonafides as a "tough on crime, pro-law enforcement individual," he writes:

After decades of experience with the law, I have seen too much, and what I have seen has impacted my perspective. First, my faith in the criminal justice system, which had always been so steady, was shaken by the revelation that in some cases innocent men and women were being convicted of serious crimes. The increased availability of DNA testing in the early 2000s highlighted this problem so clearly to me. I spent the next decade working with others to devise systems and develop task forces dedicated to the prevention of wrongful convictions in North Carolina. I take, I believe, justifiable pride in the fact that North Carolina established the 1st state Innocence Inquiry Commission in the country. Numerous legal experts publicly acknowledge that the safeguards that have been implemented in North Carolina are wildly successful. However, one thing we did not adequately address is that individuals with intellectual disabilities, mental illness, and other impairments are more likely to be wrongfully convicted. The case of Henry McCollum and Leon Brown makes that point vividly clear. McCollum was 19 and Brown was 15 when they confessed to the rape and murder of 11-year-old Sabrina Buie. Both men are intellectually disabled, which greatly increased their susceptibility to false confession. As a result, they spent 31 years in prison, including time on death row, for a crime they didn't commit.

Lake's op-ed comes as the Supreme Court this week deices whether or not to take up the case of Lamondre Tucker, a Louisiana man with an IQ of 74 who murdered his ex-girlfriend when he was 18. Back in September, the Louisiana Supreme Court upheld his death sentence. Lake mentions Tucker specifically:

Taken together, these factors indicate that he is most likely just as impaired as those individuals that the Court has determined it is unconstitutional to execute. Yet, because of a variety of systemic factors, including ineffective legal representation, Tucker sits on death row. Ten former State Supreme Court justices signed an Amicus brief last month questioning the constitutionality of Tucker's death sentence due to his impairments. Today I join my colleague's call. In conclusion, he writes:

Our inability to determine who possesses sufficient culpability to warrant a death sentence draws into question whether the death penalty can ever be constitutional under the Eighth Amendment. I have come to believe that it probably cannot.

Over the past several years, the abolition movement has picked up steam; although 31 states have the death penalty, 6 states since 2007 have repealed it, and 4 states have a governor-imposed moratorium. Last year, the conservative Nebraska unicameral legislature overrode the governor's veto to repeal the death penalty; later, a petition drive forced the issue to the ballot in November.

North Carolina hasn't executed anyone since 2006 due to a decision by the North Carolina Medical Board to bar its doctors from being present, but last year, the General Assembly passed the "Restoring Proper Justice Act," designed to restart executions.



Hideous flaws in Alabama's death penalty

The case of Vernon Madison, a convicted murderer who sits on Alabama’s death row, exemplifies much of what is wrong with the state’s capital punishment process.

As the Montgomery Advertiser's Brian Lyman reported, a federal appeals court last week stayed the scheduled execution of Madison, who killed Mobile police officer Julius Schulte in April 1985, to consider the convict's mental state.

Madison's attorneys argue state and federal courts haven't sufficiently considered if his stroke-related dementia has rendered him incompetent to face execution. They say his condition must be studied vis-a-vis his rights under the U.S. Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment and its guarantee of equal protection.

The U.S. Supreme Court subsequently rejected a request from the Alabama Attorney General's office to lift the stay. That office argues lower courts have already reviewed evidence of Madison's dementia and the federal court ruling is invalid.

While Madison's guilt is unquestioned and he is rightly incarcerated, the state's eagerness to dispatch him is unseemly, given the history of his trip through the justice system.

First convicted of capital murder in September of 1985, Madison was granted a new trial because prosecutors apparently excluded blacks from the jury pool. His 2nd conviction, in 1990, was also set aside because prosecutors improperly used testimony from an expert witness.

He was convicted a third time in 1994, but the jury handed down a life sentence, after hearing the defendant had a history of mental illness. The presiding judge, however, used a loophole known as judicial override to give Madison a death sentence.

Judicial overrides are still legal in Alabama, but only barely. The nation's high court recently ruled Florida's similar allowance of judge-imposed death penalties violates Sixth Amendment guarantees of an impartial jury trial.

It's likely only a matter of time before Alabama's judicial override rule is also struck down, necessitating appeals and resentencing procedures for inmates like Madison, who arrive on death row only because of a judge's whim, prejudice or political corruption.

Election-year concerns too often play a role in judges' disregarding life sentence recommendations - they want to show voters they're tough on crime. And research has shown judges are more likely to ignore a jury's advice when a white victim or black defendant is involved.

Madison hit the trifecta in shabby prosecutorial and judicial conduct - racial bias in court proceedings, tainted testimony at trial and a questionably motivated judicial override sentencing him to death.

Surely, his attorneys from the Montgomery-based Equal Justice Initiative are correct that the incompetency question must be thoroughly addressed.

Just as surely, Madison's case illustrates the underlying inequities and hideous flaws of Alabama's death penalty process and why the state should ban execution in favor of life sentences without chance of parole.

(source: Editorial, Montgomery Advertiser)


Inmate's Attempt To Prove Innocence Backfires

In an attempt to prove his innocence, a Tennessee prisoner on death row inadvertently provided more evidence that he committed the crime.

In 2003, Marlon Kiser was sentenced to death row for killing Hamilton County Deputy Donald Bond, Times Free Press reports.

Yet the man has repeatedly denied the charges, saying his former roommate - James Michael Chattin - framed him.

Kiser took to his website,, to make his claim:

... James Michael Chattin had discovered that a Hamilton County Sheriff's Deputy named Donald Kenneth Bond Jr. was seemingly having an affair with Tina Chattin who was Mike Chattin's wife. On several different occasions, Mike Chattin has stated to several different individuals that his wife was seeing a cop and that he was going to kill him, and in the early morning hours of September 6th, 2001, that is exactly what Mike Chattin did.

And then, to throw suspicion off of Mike Chattin, he ran to police pointing his finger at me because I had a pending police brutality lawsuit against the Chattanooga Police Department since 1998 which was scheduled to be heard on September 17th, 11 days after Deputy Donald Bond's death.

Kiser added that after he found out about Chattin's drug habits, he asked him to vacate the premise.

That was the straw that broke the camel's back, he said.

"In Mike Chattin's perry old mind, he could not allow me to leave because I knew entirely too many secrets about him," Kiser wrote, adding that Chattin had also previously asked him to kill the police officer.

Kiser also started a petition to get him off the death penalty, which has received over 470 signatures as of May 19. The petition's stated goal is 1,000 signatures.

"Marlon Kiser is on death row, because of police corruption, and police ineptness," one person who signed the petition wrote in the comments section. "Marlon knew about Mike Chattin's criminal activities, and therefore Marlon was a liability to Mike Chattin."

Kiser also petitioned the court for post-conviction relief, Times Free Press notes. As part of that petition, in March 2015, his attorneys had authorities test palm and fingerprints on Bond's flashlight and car.

The results revealed the prints were Kiser's. Previous evidence linking Kiser to the crime reportedly included fibers from Bond's clothes.



Arkansas Supreme Court hears arguments in challenge to death penalty

The Arkansas Supreme Court heard oral arguments Thursday in the state's appeal of a Pulaski County circuit judge's ruling that a provision in the state's lethal-injection law protecting vendors of execution drugs from disclosure violates the state constitution.

Lee Rudofsky, solicitor general for the state, argued that the state has sovereign immunity from the suit and that a group of death-row inmates who challenged the law failed to demonstrate that the secrecy provision is unconstitutional. He asked that the state be allowed to proceed with eight planned executions, saying the 3-drug cocktail used by the state has survived numerous court challenges around the country.

"I think the question here is, 'Has the legislation violated Article 19 with this provision?'" said Justice Courtney Goodson, referring to the constitutional requirement that state expenditures be public.

Rudofsky argued that the state constitution requires that state expenditures be disclosed "from time to time," with no timeline requirement.

"It's not a self-executing article," he said. "You need legislation to enable that clause."

He also said the inmate's arguments about disclosure are irrelevant in light of their claim that midazolam, the anesthetic the state wants to use in the lethal-injection process, often fails to cause complete unconsciousness, leaving inmates to suffer pain from the drugs used to arrest respiration and the heart.

"The prisoners argue that midazolam in general doesn't work ... not a specific kind doesn't work or ... from a specific provider doesn't work," said Rudofsky.

"So I don't know why it would matter who the supplier is."

John Williams, arguing for the inmates, received several questions from Justice Rhonda Wood regarding the use of the drugs on constitutional grounds.

"Are you saying the 3-drug protocol is cruel and unusual in Arkansas but not cruel and unusual in 16 other states?" she asked, referring to numerous rulings across the country and the U.S. Supreme Court affirming the protocol.

"Why do we have to keep re-litigating it?" asked Wood."

Because this constitution is different," said Williams. "The text forbids cruel punishment. Cruel punishment is punishment that will cause a substantial risk of harm to a prisoner."

Rudofsky, in closing, said the 3-drug protocol is proven effective in causing death while shielding inmates from excessive pain and said the lawsuit has 1 purpose.

"They want this information for the same reason anti-death penalty activists want it. To harass suppliers and inhibit the ADC's access to these drugs," he said.

It is unknown when justices will rule, but the state may be unable to carry out the executions even if the ruling is in its favor. The state's supply of vecuronium bromide, the paralytic agent in the 3-drug protocol, expires on June 30, giving the state 5 weeks to either carry out the 8 executions or begin searching for a new supply.

The last execution carried out in Arkansas was in 2005.



Death penalty not part of state GOP platform

In another indication of the shifting opinion on the death penalty, delegates to the GOP state convention in Topeka last weekend voted against adding support for the death penalty to the party's official platform. The vote follows last year's resolution by the Kansas Federation of College Republicans opposing the death penalty. But so far lawmakers in Topeka have shown little interest in reconsidering Kansas' death penalty law.



High cost of the death penalty

More than 9 years after 19-year-old Jodi Sanderholm was killed, and 7 years after her killer was sentenced to death, he remains alive and behind bars at El Dorado Correctional Facility.

Sanderholm's murderer, Justin Eugene Thurber, spends 23 hours per day in an individual cell at El Dorado, where he is working through the appeals process.

Thurber is 1 of 10 men who make up Kansas' 'death row,' and our state doesn't appear to plan to execute these inmates anytime soon.

In fact, since Kansas reinstated the death penalty 22 years ago, no one has been executed in our state.

Our investigation reveals the truth of the death penalty process in Kansas, and why some victims' families fear these inmates may never have their sentences carried out. Hear from the family of murder victim, Jodi Sanderholm, and the tough questions we ask Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt.

KSN Investigates the death penalty in Kansas Monday night at 10:00 only on KSN News.

(source: KSN news)


'Google it': Oklahoma execution ordered to go ahead despite wrong drugs being delivered

The governor of Oklahoma's top lawyer is out of a job after insisting that a state execution proceed despite prison officials receiving the wrong drug for carrying it out, while telling a deputy attorney general alerting him to the problem to "Google it."

A grand jury report found that when a deputy attorney general learned that potassium acetate would be used in the September 30, 2015 execution of Richard Glossip instead of potassium chloride, she contacted the governor's general counsel for further instruction.

The deputy attorney general was then assured that "potassium chloride and potassium acetate were basically 1 in the same drug, advising deputy attorney general to 'Google it,'" the grand jury report said, according to the Associated Press.

Fallin's general counsel, Steve Mullins, also told the deputy attorney general that she could not request a stay of vacation, because "it would look bad for the state of Oklahoma because potassium acetate had already been used in (Charles) Warner's execution."

Following Mullins' suggestion, the deputy attorney general actually did Google it, and learned that potassium chloride and potassium acetate were, in fact, not 1 in the same. As a result, Governor Fallin issued a stay of execution, and Glossip remains on death row for the murder of a motel owner in 1997.

Mullins resigned from his position in February and has not commented on the grand jury's report.

"It is unacceptable for the governor's general counsel to so flippantly and recklessly disregard the written protocol and the rights of Richard Glossip," the grand jury said.

After appearing before the grand jury, both Anita Trammell, the penitentiary warden, and Robert Patton, the head of the Department of Corrections, resigned from their posts, having faced scrutiny for failing to notify anyone when they received potassium acetate for the 2nd time.

The report did not view them in a favorable light either, saying "It is inexcusable for a senior administrator with 30 years as a department employee to testify that 'there are just some things you ask questions about, and there's some things you don't.'"

Attorney General Scott Pruitt has said that no executions will be scheduled until 5 months after the release of the grand jury's report and his office receives official notification that the prison system can resume executions.



New calls to end death penalty after grand jury says Dept. of Corrections 'failed'

A scathing, 106-page report from a multi-county grand jury calls for sweeping changes to the state's protocol for executing inmates, but some said the report doesn't go far enough. "When we see this kind of drastic, systematic failure, we should really take a hard look at what we're doing as a state and why this is something we should continue to do," said defense attorney Jacqui Ford. "The point is whether the government and the state of Oklahoma should be permitted to continue to engage in state-sponsored homicide when they can't follow their own rules."

Attorney General Scott Pruitt asked for an investigation after discovering corrections workers used the incorrect, unapproved drugs to execute Charles Warner in January 2015.

Later that year, the governor stayed Richard Glossip's execution, after it was discovered the same incorrect drugs were about to be administered.

Corrections officials discovered they had potassium acetate, instead of the approved potassium chloride.

The grand jury did not indict anyone, but its report details a number of shortcomings, citing the following people for failing to perform their duties with precision and attention to detail:

--DOC Director Robert Patton, who orally modified the execution protocol without authority

--The Pharmacist ordered the wrong execution drugs

--The Department's General Counsel failed to inventory the execution drugs as mandated by state purchasing requirements

--An agent with the Department's Office of Inspector General failed to inspect the execution drugs while transporting them into the Oklahoma State Penitentiary

--Warden Anita Trammel failed to notify anyone in the Department that potassium acetate had been received

--The H Unit Section Chief failed to observe the Department had received the wrong execution drugs

--The IV Team failed to observe the Department had received the wrong execution drugs; the Department's Execution Protocol failed to define important teiins, and lacked controls to ensure the proper execution drugs were obtained and administered

--Governor Fallin's General Counsel Steve Mullins advocated the Department proceed with the Glossip execution using potassium acetate

"I would respect that report and try to learn from it," said former prosecutor Lou Keel. "These are things the Department of Corrections must get right."

Keel prosecuted the Charles Warner case and said he still stands by the death penalty, even after Oklahoma's well-documented problems, which have only added to opposition to capital punishment.

"Some murders are so horrendous, so heinous that the only right and just punishment is the death penalty," said Keel, who estimates he sent 15 people to death row. "Certainly, this is a process, as a society, that we have to get right. When you impose the ultimate sanction on people, it's important this be done in the most humane way possible."

Keel doesn't dispute the DOC's shortcomings but wonders about how serious the drug mix-up was.

Warner died in 18 minutes, and the grand jury concluded "There is no evidence the manner of execution caused Warner any needless pain."

NewsChannel 4's Abby Broyles witnessed the execution and reported hearing him say his body was on fire.

The grand jury does not appear to be finished with its investigation.

Its report concludes noting its next scheduled meeting is June 13-16, where it will summon additional witnesses and gather physical evidence.

(source: KFOR news)


Oklahoma voters will be asked to add death penalty to state constitution

Should the death penalty be part of the Oklahoma constitution? Voters will make that call this November.

Voters will have a say on if the state should allow alternative forms of executions in case the current method is found unconstitutional.

Right now, executions are on hold in the state and a new grand jury report detailed issues with the current method in light of the wrong drug being used in an execution in 2015 and almost used again in another exeuction last September.

FOX23's Shae Rozzi is taking a closer look at what it means to make this change and why some say the state is looking at the issue wrong.

(source: Fox News)


Judge's execution ruling leaves Arizona at crossroads in death penalty debate

Arizona will not be killing anyone by lethal injection anytime soon.

This comes as a result of 3 things:

1. A recent ruling by U.S. District Judge Neil Wake keeping all executions in Arizona on hold for an unspecified amount of time.

2. Pfizer, a pharmaceutical giant, recently announcing it would no longer supply prisons with 7 drugs used to impose the death penalty, including 1 used by Arizona, midazolam.

3. The fact that Arizona's supply of midazolam is set to expire on May 31.

Arizona's current protocol in executions calls for midazolam. This was used on July 23, 2014 when Arizona executed Joseph Wood - Arizona's last execution to date - which did not turn out as expected.

As a result of this "botched execution" (as many have termed it), a federal lawsuit was filed by 7 death row inmates and the First Amendment Coalition of Arizona demanding the state stop using the questionable drug cocktail and more transparency in the execution process.

As part of that lawsuit, Wake issued a moratorium on executions until investigations into the Wood execution could be completed.

Earlier this year, those investigations were completed and Wake ordered the lawsuit go forward.

Shortly after that ruling, Arizona requested Wake allow executions to go forward since its supply of midazolam was approaching its expiration date and that state has no way to replace that supply since manufacturers don't want their products used in executions. Not persuaded, Wake ruled Wednesday that the ban on executions will remain in place.

What is next for Arizona? Will the wild, wild west start using the firing squad? Not likely.

If Arizona wants to continue executing prisoners, I see a few options:

-- Return to the use of lethal gas (which carries its own difficulties)

-- Create a new protocol with a new drug combination, (which is costly and time-consuming)

-- Ask the Legislature and/or voters to approve a different technique to carry out executions (costly, time-consuming and not really practical)

The state could also move to get rid of the death penalty, which would be the easiest option, but would be costly and time-consuming process.

Regardless of which road Arizona chooses to head down, it will have to dedicate a fair amount of money and time to resolve this seemingly never-ending battle between those that believe in the death penalty and those that are opposed to it.

(source: Monica Lindstrom, KTAR news)


OC Law Enforcement Makes Push to Revamp Death Penalty----Prosecutors and sheriff's officials submitted more than 600,000 signatures for a measure that would speed up executions.

Backers of a proposed ballot initiative aimed at revamping California's death penalty and expediting executions submitted nearly 600,000 petition signatures today in hopes of getting the proposal before voters in November.

Representatives with Californians for Death Penalty Reform and Savings held news conferences around the state today to discuss the proposal, which would attempt to speed executions by requiring the immediate appointment of an appeals attorney for people who are sentenced to death, while also requiring death row inmates to work while imprisoned and pay restitution to victims' families.

It would also allow death row inmates to double-bunk instead of being held in costlier, single cells.

Backers of the measure claim it will "save California taxpayers millions of dollars every year, assure due process protections for those sentenced to death and promote justice for murder victims and their families."

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas is among the initiative's supporters.

"There are a number of measures to speed up the process, to streamline it a little bit," Rackauckas said. "For example, appointment of counsel to defend death penalty cases would be done at a much faster pace. Right now it takes years and years to get defense counsel to start looking at it."

Some critics of the death penalty process point to a dearth of attorneys who specialize in the field, making it difficult for attorneys assigned to death row clients to catch up on their case loads, but Rackauckas disputed that.

"There are a lot of attorneys in this state and a lot of attorneys who have every bit of ability to handle this kind of case," Rackauckas said. "To suggest only a few people can handle death penalty cases across the state is simply not accurate."

Opponents, however, claim the initiative would increase the risk of wrongful executions. Officials with the Innocence Project noted that since 1973, 156 people who were on death row were exonerated and freed, including 3 in California.

"California's legal process in death penalty cases exists for a reason: to make sure that innocent people aren't executed," said Alex Simpson, associate director of the California Innocence Project. "This measure guts these important protections by applying unrealistic and arbitrary timelines, greatly increasing the chance that we send an innocent person to the death chamber and allow a guilty person a free pass to victimize again."

Barry Scheck, director of the Innocence Project in New York, said the state would be making "a grave and irreversible mistake" by approving the initiative.

"Texas, which this initiative is modeled after, continues to grapple with the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was put to death despite powerful scientific evidence undermining his guilt and mounting evidence of prosecutorial misconduct," Scheck said.

U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney in Santa Ana ruled in July 2014 that the state's death penalty system was bogged down with so many procedural delays that it violated the due process of death row prisoners. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, however, reversed that ruling in November.

Since 1978, 900 convicts have been sentenced to death in the state, but 94 of them have died of natural causes in prison and 13 have been executed.

The last execution carried out in California was in 2006. Executions have been put on hold because of a 9th Circuit ruling requiring a medical professional to administer lethal injection drugs.

Tom Dominguez, president of the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, said the issue of reforming the death penalty is a personal one to law enforcement personnel.

"There are 43 convicted cop killers on death row, so this is deeply personal to us," Dominguez said.

"We hope this initiative will streamline the appeals process so that at least within our lifetime justice is done," he said. "The killer has rights, too, but this initiative does nothing to erode the constitutional rights afforded all of us."



Bosenko, Lopey back death penalty reform measure

Sheriffs in 2 North State counties on Thursday threw their support behind a measure coming before California voters in November to provide sweeping changes to the state's death penalty laws.

"The death penalty system and the court system (are) broken down and this reform act will help restore the efficiencies to the process and help bring justice and hold those criminals accountable that have done heinous crimes throughout California," Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko said.

The measure - the Death Penalty Reform and Savings Act - is 1 of 2 that could appear on the November ballot. Another, currently under signature review at the California Secretary of State, would abolish capital punishment in California altogether.

Thursday's news conference with Bosenko and Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey was one of 10 held statewide in support of the measure as proponents submitted some 593,000 signatures to the California Secretary of State.

Death row inmates have murdered more than 1,000 victims, including 226 children and 43 police officers, Lopey said. In addition, 294 victims were raped or tortured before being killed, he said.

"Again we're talking about the very worst, less than 1 percent of murder suspects convicted in court," Lopey said. "The serial killers, the child killers, the cop killers and again we're just looking for justice for the victims and a better system within which to manage these case."

The measure would speed what is currently a lengthy appeals process by expanding the pool of appellate attorneys and appointing lawyers to the death cases at the time of sentencing, according to the Associated Press.

Currently there is about a 5-year wait just for condemned inmates to be assigned a lawyer. By contrast, the ballot measure would require that the entire state appeals process be completed within 5 years except under extraordinary circumstances.

To meet that timeline, appeals would have to be filed more quickly and there would be limits on how many appeals could be filed in each case.

Appeals currently can take more than 2 decades, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office.

Additional provisions would allow condemned inmates to be housed at any prison, not just on San Quentin's death row, and they would have to work and pay victim restitution while they wait to be executed.

"As a sheriff, and as an advocate for victims, this act is very, very important and I think it would be a landmark law that will not only be more merciful for victims and will honor victims and is actually more humane for inmates as well because then they won't wait 20 or 30 years to receive a disposition on their case," Lopey said.

California last executed a death row inmate more than a decade ago, in January 2006, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Since then 53 of those condemned have died either by suicide or natural causes.

The CDCR lists 747 inmates currently on death row.

Opponents say their measure - the Justice That Works Act - would also save money by doing away with the death penalty and keeping currently condemned inmates imprisoned for life with no chance of parole. They submitted about 601,000 signatures on April 28, organizers said.

California meanwhile is currently in the process of accepting public comment on proposed changes to its lethal injection rules, which would change the drugs used from a 3-drug cocktail to a single drug. The rules are the result of a decade-long legal battle of the state's lethal injection rules.

Other states in the U.S. have encountered issues recently as Pfizer, a drug company that makes a chemical used in lethal injection, said it will no longer provide it.

California, however, isn't using any of those drugs, according to the proposed rule changes.

Go to to read Death Penalty Reform and Savings Act or to read the Justice That Works Act.

(source: Redding Searchlight)


Fresno sheriff, DA back death penalty initiative

Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims and District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp Thursday hailed the submission of 593,000 signatures that will likely ensure that the Death Penalty Reform and Savings initiative appears on the ballot in November.

The measure, which backers said is supported by law enforcement leaders and crime victims, promises to eliminate "waste, delays and inefficiencies" in the state's death penalty process. Among the ways it says it would do so would be by expanding the number of attorneys available to work death penalty cases, allow the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to house death row inmates in less costly housing with fewer special privileges, and require condemned inmates to work and pay restitution to victims.

Mims said the measure would make sure crime victims "are given justice for the suffering they've endured." She added that the death penalty is needed to protect the state's peace officers, who "are on the front lines in keeping Californians safe," and "helps us in the fight against the worst criminals in society."

Said Smittcamp: "700 death row inmates have murdered more than 1,000 victims."

The Death Penalty Reform initiative is opposed by the Innocence Project and Wrongfully Convicted Individuals, who argue that the initiative "will greatly increase the risk that California executes an innocent person." The group argues that since 1973, 156 people have been exonerated and freed from the nation's death rows, and says 3 of them were in California.

(source: Fresno Bee)


The Death Penalty in America Today

Last week's news told us everything we need to know about the death penalty in America today.

On Thursday, May 12, in Alabama, the scheduled execution of Vernon Madison was halted at the last minute because of a split 4-4 vote by the Supreme Court. This tie meant that the temporary stay of execution approved by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals remained in-tact. Madison is 65 years old and suffers from the effects of several strokes, diabetes, hypertension, and, possibly, dementia. He slurs his words, walks with a cane, is legally blind and exhibits "significant cognitive decline," according to his lawyers. He can no longer remember the offense for which he was condemned to die.

Moreover, Madison's 3 trials for the 1985 murder of a police officer were marked by prosecutorial misconduct, racial bias, and the questionable practice of judicial over-ride. Twice, courts ordered a new trial for him - the 1st time because African Americans were illegally struck from the jury, and the second time because of improper expert testimony. While the 3rd trial resulted in a guilty verdict, the jury voted to sentence him to life in prison. The elected judge, however, over-rode the jury's decision and imposed a death sentence. Alabama is 1 of only 2 states that allows for judicial over-ride in death sentences, a practice that has been severely criticized and makes the state, in the words of Supreme Court Justice Sotomeyer, a "clear outlier."

Despite all of these factors, the state of Alabama was fully prepared to proceed with the execution. The fact that Madison is alive today is largely a fluke. The Supreme Court split its vote because Justice Antonin Scalia died in his sleep several months ago, and the Senate is steadfastly refusing to review and vote upon the President's nominee to replace him.

In other words, this entire process has been characterized by dysfunction all around.

The next day, on Friday, the pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer, announced it would no longer make its products available for lethal injection, writing that to do so would not be "consistent with its values." Pfizer's decision means that those states that remain determined to proceed with executions must either convene a firing squad, bring back the electric chair, or apply a combination of untested, unregulated drugs that may or may not work, may or may not torture the individual, and that were obtained in a process shrouded in secrecy.

All are grisly options.

This is what capital punishment in this country looks like. Death sentences are imposed in a shrinking number of counties with histories of extreme racial bias, in wholly arbitrary fashions after trials often marked by prosecutorial over-reach and misconduct, against defendants who are almost always poor, and suffer from histories of trauma, abuse and mental illness. The executions now are fraught with secrecy, fear and uncertainty, the threat of agonizing error always looming, and traumatize all who are associated with it.

The only way to fix this is to end this. Hillary Clinton is wrong when she suggests that the United States is capable of holding the death penalty exclusively "in reserve" for terrorists. If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, then this position is insane. We have tried time and again to "fix" capital punishment. But its mere existence on the books triggers a blood-thirstiness in some prosecutors, who consider death sentences to be "feathers in their caps," and testaments to their trial skills. As long as the statute exists, it will be a magnet for racial bias, human error, and a lust for vengeance. It is the responsibility of a civilized society to tamp down, not inflame, violent impulses among its citizens.

When the history of the end of capital punishment is written from a distance of 50 years or so, these last, sputtering efforts to maintain it may appear to be almost darkly comic, if the results weren't so tragic. The death penalty in this country is dying, of that there is no doubt. The question that remains is whether we will be able to put it out of its misery relatively quickly, or whether it will go out screaming and kicking every step of the way.

(source: Johanna Wald, Director of Strategic Planning for the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, Harvard Law School ---- Huffington Post)


Singapore Executes Malaysian Convict Hours After Last Appeal

A Malaysian man convicted of murder in Singapore was executed Friday hours after the city-state's highest court rejected a last-minute appeal, police said.

The Court of Appeal found no merit in the appeal by a lawyer representing Kho Jabing that challenged the constitutionality of the death penalty in Singapore. The decision ended a brief stay of execution, but the court left the timing of the execution to prison authorities.

Rachel Zheng of the Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign said it was the first time an execution in Singapore had proceeded on the same day that an appeal was dismissed.

"All of us are in deep shock," she said after being informed by Kho's family that he had been executed.

The Singapore Police Force's statement said the death sentence was carried out after Kho had been "accorded full due process under the law."

Kho, 31, was accused of using a tree branch to assault and rob a construction worker in 2008. The worker died from multiple skull fractures and Kho was convicted and sentenced to death in 2010.

What followed was 6 years of legal twists during which he was sentenced to death, won appeals, resentenced to life imprisonment and caning, and again sentenced to death.

The European Union and Amnesty International had called on Singapore to grant Kho clemency, but applications to the president were rejected.

Executions in Singapore are by hanging, and are usually carried out before dawn at Changi prison. According to the prison records, Singapore executed 4 people in 2015, 1 for murder and 3 for drug crimes.

In 2012, Singapore amended its laws on the death penalty, making it no longer mandatory for those convicted of drug trafficking or murder to receive death sentences.

(source: Associated Press)


Kho Jabing executed in Singapore

After a long battle that saw several last-minute stays of executions, Sarawakian Kho Jabing was hanged in Singapore on Friday.

He was executed at about 3.30pm at the Changi Prison after meeting his family for the last time, said Rachel Zeng of the Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign.

The timing of his execution was considered highly irregular as executions usually take place at dawn on Friday.

His execution came after a 5-panel Court of Appeal dismissed an 11th-hour attempt to stay the execution.

Jabing, 31, was originally scheduled to be hanged in the morning for the brutal killing of a construction worker in 2008 but received a temporary stay of execution late Thursday night.

(source: The Star)


About 11,000 citizens of Kyrgyzstan initiate introduction of death penalty for pedophiles

More than 10,000 citizens in Kyrgyzstan have initiated the introduction of death penalty for pedophiles. Handing over of the document took place today at the session of the parliamentary faction Onuguu-Progress.

Signatures of nearly 11,000 citizens of Kyrgyzstan have been handed over to the faction leader Bakyt Torobaev by the chairman of the Committee for Protection of Children "Strong family - strong state" Zhenish Akmatov.

The activist said that there are much more people standing for introduction of the death penalty for the perpetrators of crimes against sexual inviolability of minors. "Many of them live in remote inaccessible areas, so the collection of signatures is still ongoing," he explained.

Presenting the analysis of the crimes against the juveniles, Zhenish Akmatov noted that this figure is growing from year to year, and sexual offenses increase most of all. Explaining the need for the introduction of capital punishment, the activist reminded that, as of today, many developed countries use the death penalty. It is Belarus, China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, and more than 12 US states. And the countries such as Russia, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Algeria, Niger, Mali, Guyana and other have the rule, permitting the use of the death penalty, in the fundamental laws but it is not executed in practice.



Journalist decries Egypt handing him death sentence----Sentence sought for Al Jazeera news director on alleged espionage charges to be confirmed next month

A former Al Jazeera news director facing the death penalty following an Egyptian court's ruling has denounced the decision as politically motivated.

Ibrahim Helal, who was director of news for Al Jazeera's Arabic TV network between 2011 and 2015, was sentenced in absentia earlier this month along with 2 other journalists on charges of endangering national security.

The journalists are among a group of 6 men accused of endangering Egyptian national security by spying for Qatar.

But Helal told Anadolu Agency that the accusations of espionage were baseless.

"I have never been anything but a journalist. I have never participated in political actions at any moment in my life and there is no evidence otherwise," he said in written remarks.

He said the main accusation against him in the trial was that he mediated in the leaking to Qatar of sensitive documents, some of which exposed where the Egyptian army held its weapons.

Helal is said to have provided money to sources within the Egyptian presidential palace to leak the top secret documents to Qatari intelligence.

But court documents do not name the alleged Qatari intelligence officer who is said to have received the documents.

"The alleged part I am accused of is the cornerstone in entire case, as if there is no link between the defendants and the Qatari authorities, there will be no espionage," he said.

"Here is the big hole in the case. If the Egyptian prosecutors couldn't identify the Qatari officer, the entire case should fall apart. There is no espionage without a 2nd part to spy for!"

He added: "I have never seized any document and there is no evidence that I have obtained or seized any of the mentioned documents.

"Also there is no evidence of any kind of any connection between me and the alleged Qatari intelligence officer, who is not identified so far."

Helal is an experienced broadcast journalist, having worked for Egyptian television and the BBC before joining Al Jazeera at its launch in 1996. He became the Qatari network's Arabic language channel's director of news for 3 years starting in 2001, joining just months before the Sept. 11 attacks in the U.S.

He returned to the role in 2011 as a wave of protests and demonstrations were sweeping Arab countries across the Middle East.

The death penalty sought by the court has been referred to the grand mufti, the country's top religious authority, for an opinion.

Helal is being tried in absentia and has no right to appeal, but co-defendants in the trial residing in Egypt do have that option, meaning the case is likely to be reviewed once again.

Egypt's ousted President Mohamed Morsi is also charged in the same case, although at a May 7 hearing a verdict on his involvement was postponed to June 18, when the final ruling will be made.

Egypt's 1st democratically elected president Morsi was deposed by the Egyptian military in the summer of 2013 after a year in power, following mass protests against his rule.

Since then, Egyptian authorities have cracked down on dissent through operations that have mainly targeted the ousted president's supporters and members of his Muslim Brotherhood group.

Last week, 3 UN human rights experts urged the Egyptian government to end "disproportionate reactions" against worsening rights to assembly and expression.

"The worsening crackdown on peaceful protest and dissent in Egypt represents a further setback for an open political environment and a vibrant civil society," the UN special rapporteurs - David Kaye, Maina Kiai and Michel Forst - said in a statement.

They added: "The use of force against civil society and against the expression of dissenting views on political issues contribute to a deteriorating climate for the promotion and protection of fundamental rights that form the essential components of a democratic society."



'IT WOULD BE A SHAME'----PHL abandoning 'serious' commitment if it revives death penalty - Amnesty Int'l

Human right group Amnesty International on Friday said the Philippines would be abandoning international commitments if it pushes through with the plan to bring back the death penalty as favored by incoming president Rodrigo Duterte.

"It would be a shame on the Philippines," said AI vice chairperson Romeo Cabarde at a press briefing.

He said the Philippines is one of the countries at the forefront of the campaign against death penalty, having signed the Second Optional Protocol to the United Nations' International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The protocol mandates state members to push efforts in abolishing the death penalty.

"We are appreciated globally because we are the 1st country in Asia to outlaw death penalty," Cabarde said. "Reviving it means there are serious commitments that we are abandoning internationally."

The death penalty in the Philippines was abolished under former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2006 with the signing of Republic Act 9346 or An Act Prohibiting the Imposition of Death Penalty in the Philippines.

The said law ultimately repealed Republic Act 7659 or the Death Penalty Law.

"What kind of face are we going to show to the rest of the world, having promised that we will commit to the eradication of death penalty and here comes a new leader who would impose it just because he wanted to curb criminality?" Cabarde asked.

"Hindi naman natin bababa ang krimen just because there is a presence of death penalty. It is not a deterrent factor to the commission of crime," he added.

Not a deterrent to crime

Cabarde also said some studies have already been conducted which disprove the belief that imposing death penalty would result in lower crime rates. He noted that when the Philippines still had the Death Penalty Law, the crime rate was higher.

"There is no logical connection, between imposing death penalty and reducing crime rates in the country," he said

Cabarde instead proposed that to solve the crime problem, the government must strengthen law enforcement, and improve its judicial system and the provision of basic social ecomonic needs.

"Kung ito naa-address natin, then we would not need death penalty," he said.

He added that the more Duterte pushes for the death penalty, "the more there is an implied admission that law enforcement, the judiciary is not working in the Philippines."

"Kung 'yun ang root cause kung bakit mayroong criminality, then I think we have to hit the target at its very root and not propose something that is proven to be ineffective," he said.

Amnesty International-Philippines board member Veronica Cabe echoed the sentiment, saying their group expects the incoming president to instead implement programs on economic, social and cultural rights.

Proposed plan of action

During the press conference, the group outlined their programs of action on human rights which the group plans to submit as proposal to Duterte.

The document outlines 4 major concerns of the group, all of which boil down to the protection of human rights.

Cabe said one key point they would want to raise is the strenghtening of the independence and mandate of constitutional bodies that ensure government accountability in safeguarding the rights of its constituents.

"In societies stricken with high levels of inequality, a leader who does not adhere to human rights principles can be a threat to justice and freedom," Cabe said.

The group also wants human rights be embedded in peace process and prevent the use of counter-insurgency measures to justify human rights violations.

"Change is coming"

Meanwhile, Amnesty International country chairperson Ritzlee Santos said Duterte should stand for his slogan "Change is coming" and truly deliver changes when it comes to human rights.

"We want that change to happen," Santos said.

"The human rights situationin the Philippines is in dire need of uplifting... We would like to ask the President to make human rights the top of his administration's [priority]," Santos added.



If death penalty returns, bishop says he'll volunteer to die

In what may be a precursor to a showdown between church and state in perhaps the most pervasively Catholic nation on earth, a Filipino bishop has said he'll take the place of condemned criminals if the country's new president reintroduces the death penalty.

Earlier this month, the Philippines elected the tough-talking, crime-busting former mayor of Davao City, Rodrigo Duterte, who's said he wants to see the country bring back capital punishment, which was abolished in 2006.

Duterte has said he hopes to apply it to a variety of "heinous" crimes, including drug offenses, rape, robbery, car theft and corruption.

Although Duterte was raised as a Catholic and educated by the Benedictines, that stance puts him on a collision course with the country's bishops, who have vowed to resist any effort to bring back the death penalty.

Archbishop Ramon Cabrera Arguelles of Lipa, located on the Filipino island of Luzon, has been especially outspoken in his criticism of the idea, even suggesting he’d volunteer to be killed in place of the condemned.

"The archbishop of Lipa will volunteer to be executed in the place of all those the government will hang," Arguelles said, speaking of himself in the 3rd person.

"Didn't Christ do that?" he asked aloud.

Arguelles promised a full-court press by the Church in opposition to any effort to restore capital punishment.

"In the Year of Mercy, Catholics in the Philippines will be merciless," he said.

Notably, Arguelles, 71, is not generally known as among the more progressive bishops in the Philippines. Earlier this year, he urged local Catholics to boycott a Madonna concert because of what he described as her "suggestive" lifestyle and "vulgar" style of dressing.

4 years ago, Arguelles issued a similar protest over a concert by Lady Gaga.

Archbishop Oscar Valero Cruz, now retired from the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan, also threw down a gauntlet over the new president's death penalty push.

"We will certainly oppose his plan, especially the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines," he said. "The Church will not take it sitting down, but will stand against the death penalty."

Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga likewise disagreed with Duterte's plan, which he described as akin to playing God.

"Only God has power over life," Santos said. "God gives life, and God takes life. No one should play God." Duterte should use his influence and power to push reforms in the justice system in the country, the bishop argued, to ensure the guilty are prosecuted and punished and victims get their due.

"Life is sacred. Life is promoted, respected and protected. It is the prisons they have to reform and the justice system they have to review," Santos said.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, the current president of the national bishops conference, has said he intends to seek a meeting with Duterte to try to persuade the president to back down from attempting to reintroduce capital punishment.

A spokesman for the bishops indicated the opposition to Duterte's plan will be fairly unanimous from the Church.

"As people of faith, we do not adhere to capital punishment because we do not have the right to judge who should live and who should die," said Father Lito Jopson, head of the bishops' communications office.

"It is not based on popularity ... but rather on complete moral principles of the Catholic faith and faith demands we respect all persons' human dignity," Jopson said.

Human rights groups and the government's own Commission on Human Rights have also announced opposition to the move.

Some Catholic social justice activists believe Duterte's crime-fighting record in Davao City should be subject to critical examination, charging him with having at least condoned, and perhaps actively encouraged, vigilante-style summary executions of suspected criminals.

"I felt sad and depressed," said Father Amado Picardal of Duterte's rise to power.

A Duterte presidency is "very frightening," he said, adding that human rights groups will need to keep a close watch and document any violations in the next 6 years.

Almost 90 % of the Philippines' population of 100 million is Catholic, making it the 3rd largest Catholic nation behind Brazil and Mexico, and levels of faith and practice are exceptionally high by global standards.



8 Prisoners Hanged in Northern Iran

The latest execution reports say Iranian authorities have hanged 5 prisoners at Tabriz Central Prison (East Azerbaijan province, northwestern Iran), 2 prisoners at Urmia Central Prison (West Azerbaijan province, northwestern Iran), and 1 prisoner at Sari Prison (Mazandaran province, northern Iran).

The press department of the Judiciary in Mazandaran reports on the execution of the prisoner at Sari Prison, identified as "S.R.", 31 years old, hanged on murder charges on the morning of Wednesday May 18.

The human rights news agency HRANA and the Kurdistan Human Rights Network report on the execution of 2 prisoners, identified as "Dariush Farajzadeh" and "Ghafour Ghaderzadeh", who were hanged at Urmia Central Prison on Wednesday May 18 on murder charges. Another prisoner, identified as Khaled Zika, was reportedly taken to the gallows as well, but his life was spared last minute and he was returned to his cell after receiving consent for a postponement on his execution. There has been an increase in executions carried out at Urmia Central Prison. On Tuesday May 17, 6 prisoners were hanged at this prison on drug charges.

The Kurdistan Human Rights Network reports on the execution of 5 prisoners at Tabriz Central Prison. Three prisoners, identified as "Rahim Khodayari", "Ramin Imani" and "Sohrab Sharbatiyeh", were hanged on murder charges on Tuesday May 17. The next day, 5 prisoners, identified as "Yaghoub Jahed" and "Seyed Jalal Abedi", were hanged on drug related charges.

It is important to note that Iranian authorities have increased the number of executions before the start of the holy month of Ramadan, when they typically do not carry out executions.


2 Prisoners Hanged in Southwestern Iran

2 unidentified prisoners were reportedly hanged at Yasouj Central Prison on rape charges.

According to a state-run news agency, Young Journalists Club, these 2 prisoners were 26 and 34 years old at the time of their execution on Wednesday May 18. Yasouj Prison is located in the Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad province, southwestern Iran.

(source for both: Iran Human Rights)


Will Iran stop executions for drug offenses?

Nearly a year and a half after announcing that Iran would reconsider its frequent execution of drug offenders, Mohammad Javad Larijani, the secretary of Iran's Human Rights Council, is still calling for Iran to lower its execution rate for drug-related crimes.

Speaking to reporters at a May 16 conference titled "Finding the court's role in protecting the accused," Larijani couched his concerns in diplomatic terms, saying, 'We need to have a [better] method to fight against drugs. It's possible that execution is not the only path, or that high execution rates do not have a desirable result. We recommend that the legislation ... be reconsidered."

Perhaps more than other officials, Larijani is aware of how Iran's executions for nonviolent crime reflect on the country. He said enemies of Iran, such as Western countries and Israel, use this issue to portray a negative image of Islam and the Islamic Republic and the problem needs to be "unveiled."

While China leads the world in state executions, Iran is the leader in per capita executions, with approximately 1,000 executions in 2015. According to UN Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed, 65% were for drug offenses. In previous statements, Larijani had put the % of drug-related executions at 80%.

Officials from the Hassan Rouhani administration have also publicly addressed this issue in recent days. Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli said May 18, "The discussion of punishing smugglers and punishment's influence on the activities of drug smugglers is one of the main issues being discussed by the Iran Drug Control Headquarters." Rahmani-Fazli, who is also the secretary of that organization, added that there will be meetings with judiciary officials, including the head of the judiciary, to form a joint committee headed by the attorney general to review methods for punishing drug convictions.

The topic also made the May 19 front page of Iran newspaper, which operates under the administration. In an article headlined "The death penalty for drug smugglers, yes or no?" a half-dozen sociologists and legal experts were interviewed about the efficacy of executing drug smugglers. Unsurprisingly, the interviewees concurred that no studies show that executions have had a positive impact in decreasing drug use or drug smuggling. Rather, drug use and smuggling appears to be increasing.

Larijani and Rahmani-Fazli are not the only officials to address concerns about this issue. In May 2014, Iran's top prosecutor Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei, a hard-line official not known for his consideration for Iran's international public image, surprised many by calling for a "review" of existing laws to address the high execution rate for drug offenses. He suggested punishing only the heads of drug-smuggling networks. In December 2015, 70 parliament members signed a bill to eliminate the death penalty for nonviolent drug smuggling. Larijani himself first addressed the problem with Iran's high execution rate in December 2014.



Bounty announced for 6 militants

The Dhaka Metropolitan Police authorities have released photographs and identities of 6 members of outlawed militant group Ansarullah Bangla Team seeking public support to nab them.

Different amounts of prize money have also been announced for the informants, according to the DMP website. These militants were involved in the recent organised murders of secularist bloggers, writers and publishers, police say.

According to the DMP, CCTV footage shows that Ansarullah's military and IT trainer Sharif was present at the crime scene where US citizen Avijit and his wife were hacked.

Police say that he also masterminded the attacks on publisher Faisal Arefin Dipan; secular activists Oyasiqur Rahman Babu and Nazimuddin Samad; and LGBT rights activists Xulhaz Mannan and Tonoy.

The DMP also gave several phone numbers to contact with them on the matter: 01713373194, 01713373198, 01713373206. 02-9362640.

The Detective Branch of police learnt about them after conducting raids at 4 dens of Ansarullah in Badda Satarkul, Mohammadpur, Dakkhinkhan and Ashkona areas of Dhaka. These houses were used as training centre and to store bomb-making materials.

The DMP earlier announced a bounty of Tk5 lakh for top Ansarullah leader Redwanul Azad Rana following the murder of Mukto-Mona blog founder Avijit Roy in February last year. Rana, also a former leader of Islami Chhatra Shibir, was given death penalty for masterminding the murder of Ahmed Rajeeb Haider in February 2013. The DB police earlier said that Rana had fled the country.



UN Welcome Pfizer Decision on Lethal Injection

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra''ad Al Hussein, praised today the US pharmaceutical company Pfizer''s decision to ensure that its products will not be used to carry out executions by lethal injection.

Businesses, across many industries, can help prevent human rights violations from occurring.

It is heartening to see companies playing an active role in furthering the trend towards ending the death penalty, Zeid said in a statement.

Pfizer announced last Friday that it would restrict the sale of seven products that have been part of lethal injection protocols,a predominant method used in the 31 US states which apply the death penalty.

According to the media, 1,436 people have been executed in the United States since 1976, and only 175 of them were killed using a different method.

Zeid called on all businesses to act in accordance with their human rights responsibilities.

(source: Prensa Latina)

MAY 19, 2016:

TEXAS----book review

"The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts: Murder and Memory in an American City"

It is not often that I find a book about Brownsville included on a list of books being talked about as the most anticipated titles being released by the major New York publishing houses.

So I was surprised and interested when I found, "The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts' by Laura Tillman listed among those books being talked about at Winter Institute and included in an anthology of early releases which I receive as a bookseller.

On March 11, 2003, in Brownsville, John Allen Rubio and Angela Camacho brutally murdered their 3 young children. The apartment building where this horrific crime took place was already run-down, and in the years following the murders, a consensus developed in the community that the building should be destroyed. It was a place, some felt, that was haunted and spiritually bereft.

In 2008, Tillman commenced her successful journalism career with a stint at The Brownsville Herald. New to the valley, moving here from Connecticut, Tillman started by covering local interest stories and was assigned to cover a debate over what should happen to this building, a debate which continues to this day.

What started as a special interest feature became a 6-year inquiry into the toll of this crime on the city of Brownsville as well as the larger significance of such acts, ones so difficult to explain that their perpetrators are often written off as monsters.

Tillman over a period of years has researched the case file, interviewed the friends, neighbors and family surrounding the crime, talked with those involved in prosecuting and defending Camacho and Rubio.

While ambivalent about the value to her investigation Tillman also contacted John Allen Rubio himself, and corresponded with him for years and ultimately met him on death row where he currently resides.

Her correspondence and meetings with Rubio are at once heartbreaking and disturbing, and Tillman's explanation of her own feelings as she engages with him deepens the narrative rather than distracts. How does one reconcile the image of a monster, capable of such inhumane and grotesque actions with the man who claims to have loved his children beyond all else, and who could be any of thousands of young men who have been left behind after suffering from neglect or abuse?

As mass shootings or other horrific acts of violence become more frequently reported in our daily lives the questions of how those closest to these events are affected becomes more widespread. Can a building itself be evil?

What affect does it have to be continually reminded of some indescribable violence by the mere presence of the building where it occurred? Tillman questions our complicity in cases where mental illness, poverty, drug use, and despair go unaddressed and ultimately lead to some unbearable or indescribable act of horror. How does a community where an awful crime has been committed work toward healing after the cameras have been packed up and the reporters' notepads put away?

How much compassion does a mentally ill person who has murdered deserve?

"The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts" is a brilliant exploration of some of our age's most important social issues, from poverty to mental illness to the death penalty, and a beautiful, profound meditation on the truly human forces that drive them. It is disturbing, insightful, and mesmerizing in equal measure.

"The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts" by Laura Tillman

Scribner, 256 pages, ISBN 9781501104251

(source: Valley Morning Star)


Jury to Consider If Ohioan Should Be Executed for Killing 3

A jury in Cleveland is expected to hear final arguments Thursday and could begin deciding whether to recommend that a man be sentenced to death for killing 3 women and wrapping their bodies in garbage bags.

Prosecutors told jurors on Wednesday that 38-year-old Michael Madison deserves execution because of the circumstances surrounding the killings.

Defense attorneys argue Madison's life should be spared because of psychological damage caused by child abuse.

The jury convicted Madison of aggravated murder earlier this month for killing 38-year-old Angela Deskins, 28-year-old Shetisha Sheeley and 18-year-old Shirellda Terry. Their bodies were found near Madison's East Cleveland apartment in 2013.

If the jury recommends the death penalty, a judge will decide if Madison should die by lethal injection or spend the rest of his life in prison.

(source: Associated Press)


Former Death Row Inmate Dies in Prison

A man who was adopted by a central Nebraska family and was nearly executed for murder has died in prison.

Randolph Reeves, 60, died at the Nebraska State Penitentiary.

He was serving a life sentence for 2 murders committed in 1980 at a meeting house of the Quaker religious community.

Reeves, who was Native American, was raised by a Quaker family from Central City who adopted him.

He was sentenced to death, but courts later overturned his sentence. He was scheduled to be executed in 1999.

Some of the family members of the 2 murdered victims had argued against the death penalty. Quakers oppose the death penalty.

When Reeves appeared to be headed to the electric chair, Quaker leaders said in a press release about "the extraordinary level of forgiveness by the families of both victims."

While cause of death has not been determined, initial reports indicate natural causes. As is the case whenever an inmate dies in the custody of the Department of Correctional Services, a grand jury will conduct an investigation.



Death penalty fills courtroom with emotion

While victims' families wept, Kyle Trevor Flack smiled and giggled.

The 30-year-old Ottawa man was sentenced to death by a Franklin County district judge Wednesday morning in Franklin County District Court, 301 S. Main St., Ottawa, almost exactly 3 years after the bodies of a mother, her 18-month-old daughter and 2 men were discovered May 2013 at a farmstead west of Ottawa.

In the eastern courtroom, District Judge Eric Godderz said Flack committed the crimes without justification in a cowardly, senseless fashion.

"The 1 thing though, Mr. Flack, is that no one will forget what harm you have done," Godderz said addressing Flack. "You'll never get another chance to do it again."

The victims' families - filling the seats on the right side of the room - clapped. Flack, clad in an orange jumpsuit with his wrists handcuffed, smiled as he swayed back and forth in his chair.

"The court believes he knew the difference between right and wrong," Godderz said. "He knew what he was doing. He could've done something different, but he didn't."

The judge's sentencing comes after the jury's recommendation March 31 of the death penalty for the 2013 capital murder of Kaylie Bailey, 21, and her 18-month-old daughter, Lana, for which Flack was convicted March 23.

Flack also was found guilty of 2nd degree murder for the killing of Andrew Stout, 30; 1st degree murder for the killing of Steven White, 31; and criminal possession of a firearm.

Godderz also sentenced Flack to 267 months (about 22 years) on the 2nd degree murder charge; and to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years in the 1st degree count and to 9 months for criminal possession of a firearm.

Flack's sentences will run consecutively, served at the El Dorado Correctional Facility. His case will automatically be reviewed by the Kansas Supreme Court.

Victims' family members - all weeping and some trembling - stepped up to the podium or submitted letters to tell Flack and the judge the thoughts they have been carrying for the last 3 years.

Jackson Anderson, the older brother of Andrew Stout, submitted a letter for Franklin County Attorney Stephen Hunting to read in his absence.

"I can count on one hand how many I can trust and my brother was one of them," Jackson said. "Not just my best friend, the one guy I could count on for anything. Like all siblings we all argue, but the best thing about us was everything was over at midnight no matter what."

Karon Anderson, Andrew Stout's mother, whose letter also was read, said she has become more cautious of meeting new people since Flack "abused and tortured" her son. She said a piece of her heart is gone.

"Yes, he was 30, but he will always by my baby," she said. "I wonder what really happened but we'll probably never know. That is a torture in itself. I lay awake a lot of nights and tears just roll down my face and there is an emptiness in my heart that hurts constantly. My heart feels like it wrenches and sometimes I can't breathe...I wish I could hear his voice one last time and to see his smile."

Neil Stout, Andrew Stout's father, said to the judge he couldn't understand how somebody could kill his son.

"I really don't know what to say other than I lost my best friend," he said. "I don't understand how something like this happens. I hope nobody ever has to go through. He tried to help anybody he could. He was a good person."

Randi White, Steven White's wife, said the last 3 years in court have taken a toll on friends and family. She read letters from her children, Austin and Ashlynn, who were just 3 and 6 respectively when they lost their father.

"My son could have 3 or 4 nightmares a night, nightmares where he screams out for his daddy," she said. "His daddy should be able to protect him from these dreams, but he's gone."

Ashlynn wrote she felt a pain that she had never felt before when she found out he died. Austin wrote he felt sadness deep in his heart.

"In 3 days, it will be 3 years since we buried my husband and we're just now being able to heal," she said.

Carla Fisher, Steven White's mother, said there is not a day that goes by that she doesn't think of her son. She said she has trouble sleeping at night.

"I just lay awake wondering why this could happen," she said. "My son wasn't perfect, but he didn't deserve to die the way he died."

Shawn Bailey, Lana Bailey's father and Kaylie Bailey's former husband, said he cannot forgive Flack for killing his loved ones and stealing future memories with them. He said Flack is a "baby killer."

"You stole from me future memories," he said. "I will never have my little girl run into my arms, give me a hug and tell me she loves her daddy. I will never get to play dress up with Lana or see her start school. Never get to scare the boys trying to date her or see her walk across the graduation stage. And never hear her laugh again or hold her while she naps. Never will I be able to apologize to my wife for not being good enough."

James Smith, Kailey Bailey's father, who did not wish to be part of court proceedings, expressed thoughts in a letter dated October 2013.

"What would I want done? What type of punishment would I see fit?" he said. "Would rather not see a punishment. I would rather not need to write this letter. I'd like them to be alive sitting here with me."

Rachel Helms Bailey, Lana Bailey's grandmother, said she has tried to write her thoughts down, but evilness has destroyed her.

"I laugh no more, I smile no more," she said. "When he took that baby and did ... the things he did, my heart's gone. It's gone."

And finally, Lisa Smith, Kaylie Bailey's mother, spoke about her youngest daughter and only grandchild.

"They were beautiful, they were precious, they were adored," she said, pausing. "They were mine. They are dead."

"...Every morning entire families part ways for the day and nobody knows that it will be the last time they ever see each other. But on May 1, 2013, someone knew. Someone knew that Kaylie and Lane had left home and left me for the last time."

After the prosecution's arguments for each sentence, Flack declined to speak when Godderz gave him the opportunity. At one point, he laughed.

Tammy McCoy, Flack's mother, sat in the row of chairs directly behind her son.

"I'm not going to talk to nobody, honey," McCoy said after the hearing.

Jurors' agreement followed a nearly 3-week jury trial that began March 7 and delved into the events that led to the discovery of 3 adult bodies at a rural Ottawa home at 3197 Georgia Road in May 2013. The body of the 4th victim, Lana Bailey, was found days later tucked in a suitcase in an Osage County creek.

During the penalty phase of the trial, Flack's defense team presented 3 days of testimony on mitigating factors - such as testimony about his unstable upbringing and extensive mental health history - in an effort to win a life sentence rather than the death penalty.

If the prosecution had not sought the death penalty on the capital murder charge in the killings of the Baileys, life imprisonment would have been the presumed sentence by law, the defense said previously.

The prosecution's threefold grounds for the death penalty included Flack's 2005 conviction in a previous violent crime, knowingly or purposely killing the Baileys, and killing Kaylie Bailey in a "wicked, shockingly evil and vile manner." Jurors agreed 2 of 3 aggravating factors - killing mother and child and killing heinously - outweighed Flack's broken past.

Godderz denied the defense team's motions for judgment and a new trial. 12 errors cited in their motion could become basis for appeal.

Prosecutors - Hunting and Victor Braden, deputy Kansas attorney general - delivered a statement at Ottawa's courthouse steps Wednesday.

Hunting thanked his office, the Kansas Attorney General's office, the Major Case Squad, all law enforcement who assisted, families for patience and community support. Hunting said the prosecution's side has cost the county hundreds of thousands of dollars for investigation, court proceedings and litigation.

"As I've said before, whether we had chosen to do death penalty pursuit or just life without the possibility of parole pursuit, either one was going to be enormously expensive due to the nature of the case and the complexity of the case," Hunting said.

Hunting said the case is the worst in Franklin County history. Braden said the case is one of the most complex in Kansas.

(source: Ottawa Herald)


Death penalty for terrorists deal infuriates former AG----Former Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein says capital punishment 'not ethical,' calls on current AG to threaten to resign in protest.

Former Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has roundly condemned the reported agreement between the Likud and Yisrael Beytenu parties, to include provisions for implementing the death penalty for terrorists as part of a coalition deal.

Under the agreement, a new directive will be issued to military courts, by which only a simply majority of 2 judges will be needed to sentence a terrorist murderer to death, as opposed to the unanimous requirement currently in place.

Imposing a death penalty for terrorist killers was one of the key conditions set by Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman for entering the governing coalition.

While the death penalty technically exists under Israeli law, it has only ever been implement once - the hanging of Nazi leader and "Final Solution" architect Adolf Eichmann.

Weinstein reacted furiously to the reported deal, telling the left-wing Haaretz paper that current Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit should veto the move, or threaten to resign.

"I said that I would not (agree to be) appointed as Attorney General if there will be a death penalty here," Weinstein said. "I think that this is without a doubt the appropriate position (to take), and I think that Mandelblit also needs to vigorously oppose this ruling."

Explaining his objection to capital punishment, Weinstein noted that Israel would be bucking a global trend by which capital punishment was gradually being rejected by some states.

"This has no parallel in the world," he said. "There is no country which adds the death penalty to its laws - there are only those who removed it."

He also claimed it would serve no purpose, since jihadists who glorify "martyrdom" wouldn't be deterred by capital punishment.

"It is not practical as a deterrent - since these criminals acts in any case from an ideological motivation, and do not worry about death - and moreover it is unethical," Weinstein asserted.

(source: Israel National News)


Pacquiao says he supports Philippine death penalty plan

Philippine boxing hero turned senator Manny Pacquiao said Thursday he supports a plan by the newly elected president to impose the death penalty, a proposal that has been met with strong opposition in the Catholic nation.

Speaking after he was sworn into office, the high school dropout and devout evangelical Christian said he supported capital punishment because it was sanctioned by his faith.

"I'm in favour of the death penalty. Actually God allows this in the Bible," Pacquiao told reporters after being formally sworn in as one of 12 new senators.

The remarks follow previous comments by the 8-time world boxing champion earlier this year describing homosexuals as "worse than animals". Tough-talking Philippine president-elect Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to restore the death penalty as part of a campaign pledge to stamp out crime, a plan opposed by the Church and rights groups.

Pacquiao, who garnered more than 16 million votes in last week's national election, has vowed to take his political duties seriously after coming under fire for an undistinguished stint in the House of Representatives.

"I will perform this job well, avoid corruption, and be a God-fearing servant of the people," he said.

Analysts say the retired boxer has an eye on the presidency and his period in the senate is a possible stepping stone for the top office.

His performance in parliament was roundly criticised due to his frequent absences as he trained for boxing matches, hosted television shows and even dabbled in professional basketball.


SINGAPORE----stay of impending execution

Singapore reprieves Malaysian murderer hours before execution ---- Kho Jabing, 31, was scheduled to be hanged at dawn on Friday, but wins stay of execution for 2nd time due to appeal

A Singaporean court has stopped the planned execution of a convicted murderer for a 2nd time, hours before he was scheduled to be hanged.

Kho Jabing, 31, was expected by his family and rights groups to be executed at dawn on Friday but was granted a stay of execution following a last-minute application by his lawyer on Thursday evening exploiting a legal loophole.

Kho, who is Malaysian, was sentenced to death in 2010 for killing a Chinese construction worker in a robbery gone wrong 2 years earlier, and spent the next 6 years on a legal rollercoaster trying to avoid the gallows.

His family said on Tuesday they had received a letter from prison authorities setting his execution for Friday.

On Thursday a 5-member appeal court dismissed an 11th-hour application to set aside the death sentence, but the defence lawyer Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss filed a separate suit against the attorney general asking to halt the execution.

Permission was denied after a 2-hour hearing that stretched late into the night, but under Singapore law all court decisions can be appealed against.

That appeal will be heard on Friday morning at the court of appeal, and in the meantime Kho's execution is on hold.

The Singaporean president has refused to grant clemency to Kho.

There was no immediate statement from Malaysia, which also has capital punishment.

Amnesty International Malaysia and Human Rights Watch have both released statements calling on Singapore to halt the execution and review the case.

After Kho was sentenced to death in 2010, Singapore amended its mandatory death penalty for murder, giving judges the discretion to impose life imprisonment under certain circumstances.

Kho's case was reviewed and he was re-sentenced to a life term in 2013. But after an appeal by prosecutors, Kho's death sentence was reinstated in January 2015.

Another appeal, which stayed his execution scheduled for November 2015, was thrown out last month.

Singapore executed 4 people in 2015, 1 for murder and 3 for drug offences, according to Singaporean prison statistics.

Rights groups have called on Singapore to abolish capital punishment, but the government argues that it is a deterrent to crime.

(source: The Guardian)


Police on tight deadline to solve 'coffee murder' case

The investigation into the role of Jessica Wongso in a "coffee murder" case is far from a conclusion as a head prosecutor announced for the 4th time that her dossier had yet to be completed, leaving the police with only 10 days before having to release her.

For the last 4 months Jakarta Police have tried to build their case against Jessica, but so far they have not even come up with a motive, let alone convincing proof to show whether or not she had a role in the case.

Video footage of the crime scene, witnesses, forensic experts, a toxicologist and a hypnotherapist have all been brought in a bid to confirm Jessica, the only suspect in the case, had poured cyanide into the coffee consumed by her friend Wayan Mirna.

The case's severity means she faces a premeditated murder charge with a maximum sentence of the death penalty.

Mirna died on Jan. 6 after drinking a cyanide-laced coffee beverage at an upscale cafe in Central Jakarta. The coffee was reportedly ordered and paid for by Jessica, who arrived before Mirna and another friend Hani, for a planned meeting between friends.

According to police, Mirna showed up at the restaurant approximately one hour after Jessica had arrived, took a sip of the coffee and collapsed shortly after complaining to the waiter about the beverage's taste. After 3 weeks of investigations, the police named Jessica a suspect before detaining her a day later on Jan. 30.

To date, Jessica has maintained her innocence through her lawyer, saying that despite a lot of evidence obtained, police lack crucial pieces, such as physical proof or a witness that confirms she was the person who poured the cyanide into the coffee.

The police announced in March they would complete Jessica's dossier soon after they received information from the Australian Federal Police ( AFP ) about her past criminal record in Australia.

Jessica, who lived in Australia from 2007 to 2015, is said to have the country's permanent resident status as well as a reportedly a long criminal history.

"The police too hastily named Jessica a suspect. If they can't prove it, with all due respect they should release my client," Jessica's lawyer Andi Yusuf Maulana told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

On several occasions Jakarta Police general crimes head Sr. Comr. Krishna Murti, who led the investigation, said the case was solid against Jessica, emphasizing that the police had sufficient evidence to bring the 27-year-old to court.

However, the prosecutor's office did not share that view, declaring Tuesday that it was not a strong enough case to be presented before the judges.

"After examining the dossier, we believe that it is not comprehensive enough. Therefore, we returned it [the case dossier] to the police so they can obtain further evidence," Jakarta High Prosecutors Office head Sudung Situmorang said on Tuesday night.

The police now only have 10 days left before Jessica can walk free from the Jakarta Police detention center, despite the case still ongoing.

The Criminal Procedural Law stipulates that a suspect cannot be in detention for more than 120 days.

Jakarta Police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Awi Setiyono said the police were ready to release Jessica if the case's investigation had passed the deadline.

"But remember [even if police have to release Jessica], the legal process continues," he said.

(source: Jakarta Post)


Lawyers in Sievers, Rodgers cases: Trial long way off, no death penalty decision

Lawyers involved in the Lee County murder cases of Mark Sievers and Jimmy Rodgers said Wednesday that they're a long way from trial, with thousands of pages of records still to be shared between the sides.

At a case management conference for the 2 defendants, prosecutors also said they haven't made a decision about whether to seek the death penalty in the case of Rodgers. They didn't speak to whether a decision has been made in Sievers' case, but no filing has been made.

"I can tell you the state is right now considering all options," Assistant State Attorney Hamid Hunter said. Prosecutors have until mid-June to make a decision.

Sievers is accused of coordinating the killing of his 46-year-old wife, Bonita Springs Dr. Teresa Sievers, with his lifelong friend, Curtis Wayne Wright Jr. Investigators believe Wright and Rodgers traveled from their home state of Missouri and bludgeoned Teresa Sievers to death in her home in June 2015 while Mark Sievers was in Connecticut.

Wright has pleaded guilty to a 2nd-degree murder charge and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in exchange for a 25-year prison sentence. Mark Sievers and Rodgers have pleaded not guilty to 1st-degree murder charges.

Hunter said more than 43,000 pages of evidence have been shared with lawyers for Rodgers and Sievers, with another large set of cell phone and tower records expected in the coming weeks.

"It's taking a lot of time," Hunter said.

Chief Assistant Public Defender Kathleen Fitzgeorge, who's representing Rodgers, said it's been "slow going" as prosecutors gather and share evidence. The 2 sides are "not even close" to starting depositions, she said.

"There are no forensic reports. There is a very basic, basic crime scene report. In my opinion, in my experience, there is a lot missing," Fitzgeorge said.

Rodgers hasn't waived his right to a speedy trial. If Rodgers doesn't waive that right, prosecutors could be required to take the case to trial by late August.

Mark Sievers has waived his speedy trial rights.

The next scheduled court dates are June 21 for Rodgers and July 27 for Mark Sievers.

(source: Naples News)


Death penalty uncertain in another Tampa murder case

Prosecutors said an ice cream truck driver - seeking revenge and armed with a gun - killed 2 and injured 4 back in 2010. But the death penalty may not be on the table for defendant Michael Keetley based on the ongoing controversy with Florida's death penalty sentencing guidelines.

The U.S Supreme Court said Florida's death penalty sentencing procedure was unconstitutional, because it gave too much power to a judge, and not the jury.

Attorney Anthony Rickman explained why lawmakers still haven't solved the confusion.

"What the Supreme Court didn't do is address whether the jury's decision should be unanimous or some sort of super majority," explained Rickman.

Lawmakers scrambling to fix the law, chose a super-majority. Under the new guidelines, a 10 to 2 vote is all a jury needs to hand down a death sentence and the jury's decision is final.

In its latest motion, Keetley's attorney said the new law is still unconstitutional, adding, the vote should be unanimous, as all verdicts are.

Rickman reviewed the motion for FOX 13 News and said, "it's either a unanimous decision or it's not, and if it's not, they have the opportunity to sentence that person to life in prison."

Last week, a Miami judge rejected the new death penalty guidelines based on his analysis of social norms and the constitution, Rickman said.

In his ruling, Circuit Judge Milton Hirsch wrote, "every verdict in every criminal case in Florida requires the concurrence, not of some, not of most, but of all jurors - every single one of them."

Rickman added, "in a petty theft case, like taking a Kit Kat from from a Kash and Karry, you need a unanimous verdict. You need all six jurors, because its a misdemeanor. Why, then, on a murder case where you are sentencing someone to death, do you need less than that?"

A Tampa judge is expected to hear arguments on Keetley's motion May 20.

(source: Fox news)


Teaser's shooting trial delayed again amid questions about capital punishment

Death row inmates and those awaiting trial on capital murder charges in Alabama could be impacted by an ongoing Florida court case recently ruled on by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Houston County Circuit Judge Brad Mendheim this month delayed indefinitely the trial of Ryan Clark Petersen who is accused of gunning down 3 people in 2012 at Teasers, a Wicksburg strip club.

In his order, Mendeim cites Hurst vs. Florida, an ongoing case involving death row inmate Timothy Hurst. Mendeim - and defense attorneys and prosecutors agreed---inferred the Hurst case could potentially impact death sentences in Alabama.

In the Hurst case, Justice Sonia Sotomayor reaffirmed the Sixth Amendment's requirement that juries, not judges, must decide the sentence for those convicted of captial murder.

The sentencing scheme in Alabama and Florida allows a jury to recommend - not necessarily on a unanimous vote - whether convicted defendants should receive the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole. The judge is not bound by the recommendation.

Florida now must re-sentence Hurst - convicted of killing and robbing a restaurant manager before placing her body in a large freezer-- by allowing a jury to determine whether the facts of his case merit the death penalty.

Another issue to Mendheim is a case involving an Alabama inmate whose appeal is based upon the Hurst case. The U.S. Supreme Court, on May 2, tossed an Alabama appeals court judgment against Bart Johnson.

The state Court of Criminal Appeals must now reconsider the case of Johnson who was sentenced to death in the 2009 killing of a Pelham police officer.

"This ruling implicates all (capital) cases in Alabama," said Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of Equal Justice Initiative. "We have argued that Alabama's statute no longer conforms to current constitutional requirements."

The basis for the Hurst case stems from a ruling involving Ring vs. Arizona. That western state has traditionally sentenced in the same fashion as Alabama and Florida.

For the death penalty to be an option certain criteria must be met. In Petersen's case, he was charged with capital murder because 2 or more people were killed.

His attorney, Ben Freeman, favors the delay because the Hurst case must be resolved before Petersen is tried. It's unknown at this time when that will happen.

It's also not known what effect the ruling will have on the 185 inmates---13 sentenced in Houston County - who are on death row.

(source: WTVY news)


Hamilton County prosecutor wants Ohio Supreme Court justice to recuse himself on death penalty case----Jeffrey Wogenstahl was set for execution in 2017

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said he's "extremely troubled" by recent decisions from the Ohio Supreme Court that could let 2 convicted killers escape the death penalty.

So troubled, in fact, that he's asking one of Ohio's top judges to recuse himself from 1 of those cases.

Jeffrey Wogenstahl was convicted in 1993 of murdering Amber Garrett 2 years earlier. She was 10 when Wogenstahl kidnapped her, killed her and dumped her body in a field near Bright, Indiana, prosecutors alleged.

Martin Pinales, a legal expert, said the Ohio Supreme Court's new ruling to grant a new briefing is extremely uncommon. He said the court might be "very troubled" about some evidence in the case, perhaps hair analysis evidence.

"At that time, a person was able to take a microscope and look at 2 pieces of hair samples and say, 'Ah, they look alike, so it must have been from the same person,'" he said. "That is all way past, and hair analysis samples are absolutely junk science now."

The court also suspended Wogenstahl's execution date, which was set for Sept. 13, 2017.

"The Supreme Court is saying, 'Hey, wait a minute. We are going to allow you to restart this case,'" Pinales said. "It is rejuvenated. Now you can go back to the Supreme Court on a direct appeal on facts."

Deters filed a request for Justice William O'Neill to recuse himself from the Wogenstahl case, "given his repeated comments in the Wogenstahl decision and numerous other cases that he will not follow Ohio law and will never impose the death penalty."

Pinales' take: "It's not going to happen."

Deters has also filed a motion asking the Ohio Supreme Court to reconsider its decision to grant Anthony Kirkland a resentencing hearing. Kirkland was sentenced to death in 2010 for murdering an SCPA 7th-grader and another Cincinnati teen -- the last of his 5 victims. He was found guilty of aggravated murder, attempted rape and other charges in the girls' deaths.

Before his trial, Kirkland also pleaded guilty to the slayings of 2 other Cincinnati women and received life sentences. He previously served a 16-year sentence for killing his girlfriend.

At the sentencing phase, the prosecutor wondered whether the girls' killings were "just freebies for him," raising questions of whether that may have prejudiced the jury. Prosecutors argued in a 2011 filing with the court that the prosecutor's comment was appropriate because part of the death penalty case against Kirkland was that the girls' killings was part of a "course of conduct" involving 4 victims.

If the Ohio Supreme Court won't reconsider, Deters has asked the justices to at least provide a written explanation on why they feel Kirkland should get another sentencing hearing.

(source: WCPO news)


Capital punishment foes step up efforts to persuade voters to keep death penalty repeal

Opponents of the death penalty stepped up efforts Wednesday to sway voters to retain Nebraska's repeal of capital punishment.

2 state senators and a retired judge who once sentenced a killer to die in the electric chair spoke at a press conference arranged by the group Retain a Just Nebraska.

They said they wanted to counter an argument by pro-death penalty advocates that convicted murderers will be released from prison unless voters restore capital punishment.

If the repeal stands, those convicted of 1st-degree murder would face a sentence of life in prison. In Nebraska, inmates sentenced to life have no chance of parole, unless their sentences are later commuted by the Nebraska Board of Pardons. The board - made up of the governor, attorney general and secretary of state - has rarely awarded such commutations in Nebraska.

"Life imprisonment means life in prison, no chance of parole," said retired Sarpy County District Judge Ronald Reagan. "Anything else is political posturing and has no grounding in the legal realities."

Reagan served on a 3-judge panel that gave a death sentence to child rapist and killer John Joubert, who was executed in the electric chair in 1996.

Reagan personally opposed the death penalty because, in his view, it is applied unfairly and doesn't deter crime. But as a judge, he was compelled to apply the law as written.

Reagan was joined at Wednesday's event by State Sens. Colby Coash and Adam Morfeld, both of Lincoln. The senators were among those who voted to repeal the death penalty in 2015.

The Legislature also overrode the veto of Gov. Pete Ricketts. The governor then joined other death penalty supporters to back a voter petition drive to restore capital punishment.

Voters will decide Nov. 8 whether to keep the death penalty, which was switched to lethal injection in 2008.



Pro-Death penalty campaign says opponents are confusing voters

Republican and Democratic state senators met with death penalty opponents, both in Lincoln and Omaha Wednesday, claiming a pro-death penalty movement is confusing voters, leading them to believe murderers could be released without the death penalty.

Leading the meeting, were senators Colby Coash and Adam Morfeld, along with retired District Court Judge Ronald Reagan, who sentenced death row inmate, John Joubert to death for 3 murders back in 1997.

In unison with Retain a Just Nebraska, a campaign urging the retention of LB 268, the Nebraska Legislature's vote to end the death penalty, the senators had one message for voters: "Life in prison, means life in prison."

"If voters are concerned that without the death penalty those currently on death row will ever be paroled, they should simply ask the Governor or Attorney General which of the 10 men on death row he is going to commute to a sentence less than life," says Morfeld.

The Nebraska Board of Pardons, which consists of the Governor, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of State, is the only exception and can commute a life sentence to something lesser.

"I don't think it takes a political scientist or a seasoned politician to know that that's not likely and that's not going to happen for somebody who committed that heinous of a crime," says Morfeld.

Robert Evnen, a lawyer and co-founder of the Nebraskans for the Death Penalty disagrees.

"The Pardons Board is a very powerful body - no court can review its decision. It can do whatever it wants and three years ago, it decided to commute the sentence from somebody who had been sentenced to life in prison. It happens," says Evnen.

He says opposing advocates are quickly dismissing the reality of murderers being released on parole.

"Opponents of the death penalty say 'well, take a look at whose on the Pardons Board, they'd never do such a thing' But who would've suspected that the people who were on the Pardons Board then would have done it. It's something that could happen. And they want to deny it. But they're wrong and they're misleading people about that," says Evnen.

Both organizations said they will be campaigning hard from now until November and work to clear some of the confusion amongst voters.

(source: KMTV news)


Judge allows inmate challenge to death penalty to proceed

A court challenge to the way the state of Arizona carries out the death penalty will proceed, according to a court order filed late Wednesday.

The plaintiffs in the case are death row inmates and the First Amendment Coalition of Arizona, which advocates for open government on behalf of the media. Their attorneys had argued that the state is violating the First and Eighth amendments in its execution process.

At issue, according to the plaintiffs, is a lack of transparency about how the executions are carried out, including where the state obtains its execution drugs and the state’s pattern of changing execution procedures at the last minute.

Federal Judge Neil Wake dismissed the First Amendment claims.

"The press has no such right, (of access to all aspects of the execution process) not without the court making new law that extends beyond historical practice and legal authority," he wrote.

Wake allowed the claims questioning the drug combination the state is using and the failure of the state to follow its execution protocol without significant last-minute changes to proceed.

Arizona is under a death penalty moratorium until this case, which was filed in 2014 after the execution of convicted murderer Joseph Rudolph Wood took nearly 2 hours, is resolved.

Wood's execution was described by some as "botched."



Lethal Drug Stoppage Shows Death Penalty Divide

The Nevada Department of Corrections is still moving forward with plans for a new execution facility in Ely in light of pharmaceutical powerhouse, Pfizer, halting its sell of lethal injection drugs last Friday. Reno Public Radio's Marcus Lavergne reports:

Department of Correction's spokeswoman Brooke Keast says plans for the nearly $858,000 facility will continue, but she doesn't know how quickly.

"It's our legislature, the voters and the people of Nevada that will ultimately make the decision on what happens with this stuff," Keast said.

Pfizer is the most recent company to discontinue the use of its Food and Drug administration approved-drugs for lethal injection, the only method for execution used in Nevada.

The move represents a national distancing by drug makers from the death penalty.

Currently, 82 Nevada death row inmates don't have court-ordered execution dates, but Keast says Nevada will have the appropriate means to execute if the order comes through.

(source: KUNR news)


Showdown Set Over Future of California's Death Penalty

Death penalty supporters are setting the stage on Thursday for a November showdown over whether to speed up executions in California or do away with them entirely.

Crime victims, prosecutors and other supporters plan to submit about 585,000 signatures for a ballot measure to streamline what both sides call a broken system.

No one has been executed in California in a decade because of ongoing legal challenges. Nearly 750 convicted killers are on the nation's largest death row, but only 13 have been executed since 1978. Far more condemned inmates have died of natural causes or suicide.

Supporters plan 10 news conferences statewide to promote an initiative they say would save taxpayers millions of dollars annually, retain due process protections and bring justice to murder victims and their families.

The measure would speed what is currently a lengthy appeals process by expanding the pool of appellate attorneys and appointing lawyers to the death cases at the time of sentencing.

Currently there is about a 5-year wait just for condemned inmates to be assigned a lawyer. By contrast, the ballot measure would require that the entire state appeals process be completed within 5 years except under extraordinary circumstances.

To meet that timeline, appeals would have to be filed more quickly and there would be limits on how many appeals could be filed in each case.

Appeals currently can take more than 2 decades, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office.

"Justice denied is not justice," former NFL star Kermit Alexander said as he choked up while testifying at a legislative hearing on the measure this week. "My mother, sister and two little nephews still remain in their graves and my family is still having to fight for justice."

They were killed in South Central Los Angeles in 1984, and he has since become the proponent and most prominent public figure for the reform measure.

Additional provisions would allow condemned inmates to be housed at any prison, not just on San Quentin's death row, and they would have to work and pay victim restitution while they wait to be executed.

"What is the point of seeking the death penalty in the state of California if it doesn't work?" Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, another proponent, asked at the same hearing.

Opponents say their measure, too, would save money by doing away with the death penalty and keeping currently condemned inmates imprisoned for life with no chance of parole.

They submitted about 601,000 signatures on April 28 with much less fanfare, said deputy campaign manager Quintin Mecke. Each side needs nearly 366,000 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.

"It's unfortunate that the DAs (district attorneys) want to double down on a fundamentally broken death penalty system that simply can't be fixed," Mecke said. "You can't streamline or reform a failed policy."

A similar attempt to abolish the death penalty failed by 4 % points in 2012. Besides the latest initiative put forward by opponents, that failed effort spurred this year's counter-move by law enforcement and crime victims.

(source: Associated Press)


Ballot measure seeks to speed up executions in California

The measure, which organizers hope will qualify for November ballot, would also enact other reforms. Supporters plan Thursday news conference in Riverside.

The Inland district attorneys, Mike Hestrin of Riverside County, left, and Mike Ramos of San Bernardino County, are scheduled to speak on Thursday, May 29, in support of an initiative that would streamline death row executions.

If you go

The organization Californians for Death Penalty Reform and Savings has scheduled a news conference for 2:30 p.m. Thursday, May 19, at the Historic Courthouse, 4050 Main St., Riverside.


T10 years after the most recent execution of a death row inmate in California, an organization plans to submit signatures Thursday, May 19, to place a measure on the state's November ballot that, if approved by voters, would speed the demise of the condemned.

Californians for Death Penalty Reform and Savings say the initiative - the Death Penalty Reform and Savings Act of 2016 - also would provide protections for inmates as well as justice for survivors and save the state millions of dollars in prison-housing costs.

The organization plans to submit 585,000 signatures. California requires 365,880 valid signatures to place a measure on the ballot, said Rachel Smith, a spokeswoman for the group.

News conferences are scheduled around the state Thursday, including one at 2:30 p.m. at the Historic Courthouse in Riverside with scheduled appearances by Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin and San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos.

Riverside resident and former NFL player Kermit Alexander also is scheduled to appear, a news release said. Alexander's mother, sister and 2 nephews were killed in 1984 by a gang member who went to the wrong house while carrying out a murder for hire; the shooter, Tiequon Cox, remains on death row.

The Death Penalty Reform organization's website links to a statement by Ramos in support of the initiative that appears on the website of news aggregator

"To protect public safety, bring justice to the worst criminals and closure for the families whose loved ones were taken from them, California's death penalty must be reformed so that it can actually be used," Ramos wrote.

The initiative would:

-- require special death penalty counsel to be appointed sooner to stop legal delays,

-- require death row inmates to work while awaiting appeals and pay restitution to their victims' families,

-- allow death row inmates to be housed in double cells in any maximum-security prison instead of a single cell at San Quentin, and

-- replace the current, three-drug lethal injection cocktail with a single-drug protocol that was approved for physician-assisted suicide in California.

There are 747 inmates on death row, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Those include 124 who were tried in Riverside or San Bernardino counties.

Inland victims of current death row inmates include Riverside police officers Ryan Bonaminio, Dennis Doty, Phillip Trust and Doug Jacobs.

(source: The Press-Enterprise)


California considers making its own lethal drugs for the death penalty

Under new rules proposed by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, prison officials would be allowed to manufacture barbituates to carry out the death penalty at its own compounding pharmacies, immunizing prison officials from the growing problem of pharmaceutical companies refusing to sell lethal drugs for the purpose of killing the condemned.

Last week, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced it would no longer allow states to buy its drugs to put people to death. Pfizer's decision won't affect California because it does not manufacture the 4 drugs prison officials propose to use in the new regime now under consideration.

The plan would allow prison authorities to use 1 of 4 barbiturates for lethal injection: amobarbital, pentobarbital, secobarbital and thiopental.

Amid court challenges to lethal injection and a shortage of drugs, the state hasn't executed anyone in more than a decade.

CDCR spokeswoman Terry Thornton declined to comment on Pfizer's decision - nor that of other companies now refusing to sell the barbituates California would need. But she pointed out language in the current proposal that lays out the department's options, which include sidestepping the big drug companies altogether.

"California law requires that state resources be utilized when available before contracting with private sources for good or services is permitted. CDCR has compounding pharmacies," the proposal states. It goes on to say if the department cannot compound the chemical, it is "permitted to contract with a private non-state compound pharmacy."

Unlike regular pharmacies that sell major label drugs, compounding pharmacies manufacture their own drugs, often in doses designed for individual patients.

The state prison system indeed has its own pharmacies that are licensed to produce "sterile and injectable drugs," said Megan McCracken, a law professor at the death penalty clinic at the Berkeley School of Law. That would include the barbituates California wants to use.

But prison officials have been vague about how that would work and whether they would also use private compounding pharmacies, said McCracken. While such pharmacies are less regulated than big drug companies, they must follow certain guidelines.

They are prohibited from simply copying barbituates and other drugs already on the market, she said. They also require the pre-existence of a doctor patient relationship, a patient with a particularized need, and a prescription for the specific compound from the doctor.

"Do doctors want to write these prescriptions that are putting their patients to death?" asked McCracken, who does not take a position on the death penalty.

Texas, Georgia and Missouri already use a one drug procedure by injecting compounded pentobarbital. It's unclear if they make it at prison pharmacies or use private companies, said McCracken, because states are increasingly secretive about how they are getting their lethal injection drugs.

Another concern with compounded drugs is their quality.

"There is a higher risk the dose will be wrong," said Anna Zamora of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, which opposes the death penalty. "At the end of the day, my biggest concern is botched executions in California."

Supporters of the death penalty are equally frustrated with drugs companies refusing to sell the drugs needed to carry out lethal injections, and support the state's effort to get the drugs in other ways.

"This is an ongoing debate across America and I don't want to argue with the companies over whether its proper," said San Bernardino District Attorney Mike Ramos. "It's their company."

"The biggest frustration for me is the victim. They deserve justice," said Ramos, who chairs the campaign for a November ballot initiative designed to speed executions in California.

A 2nd initiative expected to appear on the ballot would eliminate the death penalty in California.

In the meantime, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation continues to take public comment on its proposed regulations through July 11. By law, the department must consider and respond to each comment. Prison officials could chose to change the proposed regulations based on the comments.



How Death Penalty Initiatives Seek To Solve A Broken System

California voters will likely decide in November whether to abolish the death penalty or to streamline the process. Proponents for 2 competing ballot initiatives met for a hearing at the Capitol Tuesday.

They argued whether the death penalty is moral, necessary, or just, but also if the state's current broken system can be fixed.

California spends upwards of $150 million a year on the death penalty and has hundreds of death row inmates, but hasn't executed anyone in more than a decade.

"We're just spending a lot of money and not getting justice for it," says defense attorney and Santa Clara University law professor Gerald Uelmen.

Uelman testified in favor of a ballot measure to abolish capital punishment.

8 years ago, he helped come up with a different solution. Uelman led a state-appointed commission of prosecutors, defenders, police, and victim advocates that made a unanimous recommendation about how to make the death penalty process work.

"If we really want to fix the system, we need to spend the money to have a cadre of professional lawyers who are doing nothing but death penalty cases," Uelman says.

The commission estimated it would cost the state $100 million a year to hire enough public defenders and other attorneys.

Uelmen says the other initiative headed to the November ballot does not solve that problem. The measure seeks to jumpstart the death penalty, largely by hastening an appeals process that currently can drag on for decades.

Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson says death penalty supporters have also found a workaround for adding more attorneys, one that doesn't increase state spending.

"Death penalty cases aren't as complicated as some might think," Peterson says. "They're murder of a police officer. Is that particularly complicated? No."

The measure would allow trial courts to appoint attorneys who don't specialize in capital punishment, but who handle other serious crimes.

Peterson says the initiative was drafted to follow other recommendations in the 2008 report--although increasing spending on attorneys was the only one that received unanimous agreement.

Proponents plan to submit enough voter signatures to qualify the pro-death penalty measure for the ballot on Thursday.

The measure to abolish the death penalty has already submitted signatures.



Why Protecting the Innocent From a Death Sentence Isn't Enough

I've always been known as a tough-on-crime, pro-law enforcement individual, and I still am. During my years as a North Carolina State Senator, I vigorously advocated for the death penalty. As a superior court judge, I presided over trials where the death penalty seemed like the only suitable punishment for the heinous crimes that had been committed. Finally, as a Justice, and then as Chief Justice, on the Supreme Court of North Carolina, I cast my vote at appropriate times to uphold that harsh and most final sentence.

After decades of experience with the law, I have seen too much, and what I have seen has impacted my perspective. First, my faith in the criminal justice system, which had always been so steady, was shaken by the revelation that in some cases innocent men and women were being convicted of serious crimes. The increased availability of DNA testing in the early 2000s highlighted this problem so clearly to me. I spent the next decade working with others to devise systems and develop task forces dedicated to the prevention of wrongful convictions in North Carolina. I take, I believe, justifiable pride in the fact that North Carolina established the 1st state Innocence Inquiry Commission in the country. Numerous legal experts publicly acknowledge that the safeguards that have been implemented in North Carolina are wildly successful. However, 1 thing we did not adequately address is that individuals with intellectual disabilities, mental illness, and other impairments are more likely to be wrongfully convicted. The case of Henry McCollum and Leon Brown makes that point vividly clear. McCollum was 19 and Brown was 15 when they confessed to the rape and murder of 11-year-old Sabrina Buie. Both men are intellectually disabled, which greatly increased their susceptibility to false confession. As a result, they spent 31 years in prison, including time on death row, for a crime they didn't commit.

The death penalty is not and should not be available as a punishment for all homicides. In Kennedy v. Louisiana, the Court found that under the Eighth Amendment, capital punishment "must be limited to those offenders ... whose extreme culpability makes them the most deserving of execution." Both the crime itself, and the offender, must be deemed the so-called "worst of the worst." The Court has categorically barred persons with intellectual disability and juveniles from execution because they have diminished culpability, and defendants are also allowed to introduce mitigating evidence to demonstrate impairments. However, I've seen how these safeguards can fail to adequately protect individuals with significant impairments.

Last year in America, over 1/2 of the individuals that were executed had severe mental impairments. Too much reliance is put on jurors to identify those who are the "worst of the worst." As Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina, I was responsible for assessing the personal culpability of defendants in capital cases to ensure that the punishment would be applied appropriately, so I understand just how difficult this task can be.

In order for mitigation evidence to be considered it must be collected and introduced at trial. In states where indigent defense systems are woefully underfunded, as it is in North Carolina, or where standards of representation are inadequate, this evidence regularly goes undiscovered.

Additionally, a number of impairments are difficult to measure. For intellectual disability, we can use an IQ score to approximate impairment, but no similar numeric scale exists to determine just how mentally ill someone is, or how brain trauma may have impacted their culpability. Finally, even when evidence of diminished culpability exists, some jurors have trouble emotionally separating the characteristic of the offender from the details of the crime.

The categorical exclusions for juveniles under the age of 18 and those with intellectual disability are simply drawn too narrowly to encompass everyone who has diminished culpability. These categorical exclusions are particularly inadequate when multiple impairments exist. Take for instance the case of Lamondre Tucker, whose case will be conferenced by the Supreme Court this week. Tucker was convicted of murdering his pregnant girlfriend in Caddo Parish, Louisiana. He was just 18 years old at the time of the offense, and was repeating his senior year of high school. He has an IQ score of 74. Taken together, these factors indicate that he is most likely just as impaired as those individuals that the Court has determined it is unconstitutional to execute. Yet, because of a variety of systemic factors, including ineffective legal representation, Tucker sits on death row. 10 former State Supreme Court justices signed an Amicus brief last month questioning the constitutionality of Tucker's death sentence due to his impairments. Today I join my colleague's call.

After spending years trying to instill confidence in the criminal justice system, I've come to realize that there are certain adverse economic conditions that have made the system fundamentally unfair for some defendants. These systemic problems continue to lead to the conviction of the innocent, as well as those individuals for whom the death penalty would be constitutionally inappropriate, regardless of the crime. Our inability to determine who possesses sufficient culpability to warrant a death sentence draws into question whether the death penalty can ever be constitutional under the Eighth Amendment. I have come to believe that it probably cannot.

(source: I. Beverly Lake, Jr. Former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina----Huffington Post)


UN's rights chief urges firms to follow Pfizer's lead on death penalty

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein praised Pfizer on Thursday for banning sales of its chemicals that have been used for lethal injections in some U.S. states, and urged other companies to follow its lead.

Zeid said Pfizer's stance was "heartening" but said there were other companies, beyond the pharmaceutical industry, that could be facilitating the death penalty. He also urged governments not to resort to "questionable sources" for the drugs used in lethal injections.



Let's not rest until the death penalty is a thing of the past around the world

In a sane world, shouldn't the right to life trump political expediency?

Apparently not: given the addiction of some countries to the death penalty, and the possible re-introduction of capital punishment by some of our neighbours in the region.

Issues around capital punishment reverberated throughout our community last year, with the execution of Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, 2 Australians who spent 10 years on death row in Kerobokan prison. The bipartisan position of the Australian Parliament, as well as the pleadings of many in the international community did little to persuade the Indonesian President to show mercy.

I remember all too well the conditions of death row from when I visited members of the Bali Nine at Denpasar.

Having met with Myuran, Andrew and Scott Rush and some of their families I also witnessed first-hand, what can only be described as a successful rehabilitation: Myuran an accomplished Artist and Andrew a prison Counsellor and religious Pastor.

If anything, this should have been seen as an example of the accomplishments of Indonesia's correctional system - proof that people can turn their lives around and make a positive contribution to society, even after going down such a dark path. Instead, it resulted in two funerals, no social benefit and two deeply grieving families, innocent of any wrongdoing.

Together with Phillip Ruddock, I have been the convenor of Australian Parliamentarians Against the Death Penalty and sought to publicly advocate for the right to life and arguing that capital punishment is not the answer. Most credible criminal justice research shows that the death penalty does not deter crime.

Partly due to the diplomatic fall out following the 2015 executions, which included the execution of a Brazilian man with mental health issues, the Indonesian Government placed a moratorium on further executions. But it didn't last long.

"It is clear that we have a long way to go with our efforts to preserve the right to life. As Parliamentarians and community leaders, I believe we have a moral and legal obligation to advance the cause of global abolition of this cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment."

Indonesian Attorney-General H.M Prasetyo has recently confirmed that executions will resume in the near future. The government has already moved 3 prisoners, to Nusakambangan Island, better known as 'Death Island,' a facility reserved for executions by firing squad. According to Amnesty International, around 10-15 people are being considered for the next round of executions which include both Indonesian and foreign nationals.

Astonishingly, Yusman Telaumbanua, currently on death row in Indonesia for a crime he committed when he was 16, was sentenced to death as a child, not at the request of the prosecution but of his own lawyer. This in itself would have set the alarm bells ringing for any reasonable person let alone members of the Judiciary.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions clarified in his 2012 report that the death penalty "may only be imposed for crimes that involve intentional killing." This effectively limited its application to premeditated murder and certainly not crimes of passion. Clearly these views are being ignored in favour of domestic political posturing.

The Philippines, largely a Catholic country, abolished capital punishment in 2006. But for rank popularism, President-elect Rodrigo Duterte indicated he will re-introduce the death penalty. During his election campaign, Duterte issued a series of inflammatory statements that contravenes the Philippines’ international human rights obligations, including his promise to reduce crime rates by shooting suspected criminals.

He also says he would 'execute 100,000 criminals and dump them into Manila Bay.' It is worrying to see in such an emerging nation that political leaders are still looking for the future in the rear view mirror. Re-introducing such barbaric and archaic measures when there is clearly no evidence to prove that the death penalty reduces crime shows little vision in a civilised world.

Although the trend is clear as 140 nations have now abolished the death penalty, 5 countries including China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the United States account for the majority of executions. While China keeps its numbers secret, according to Amnesty International, it suggests the figure is in excess of 2,000 people. Nevertheless, 2015 saw the highest number of executions worldwide since 1989.

The Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade presented a report to the Australian Parliament this month entitled 'A world without the death penalty: Australia's advocacy for the abolition of the death penalty. I gave evidence to the committee regarding the importance of active participation in this debate and not being bashful when asserting values held dear by Australians, particularly when engaging foreign governments. The report makes a number of important recommendations including that Australia should allocate additional resources in assisting efforts of the world wide abolition of the death penalty.

It is clear that we have a long way to go with our efforts to preserve the right to life. As Parliamentarians and community leaders, I believe we have a moral and legal obligation to advance the cause of global abolition of this cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment.

I think the former Chief Judge of the South African Constitution Court, Ismail Mohammed, expressed it best when he said, "The death penalty sanctions the deliberate annihilation of life ... it is the last, the most devastating and the most irreversible recourse of the criminal law, involving," as it necessarily does, "the planned and calculated termination of life itself; the destruction of the greatest and most precious gift which is bestowed on all humankind."

(source: Commentary; Chris Hayes is the Labor MP for


New hope emerges for Indonesia death row inmates----Government official says probation scheme could see sentence commuted if enough remorse is shown

The death penalty in Indonesia will not be abolished but condemned inmates could avoid the firing squad if they show enough remorse for their crimes while awaiting execution, a government official said May 18.

The government is to propose handing death row inmates a 10-year probationary period, according to Enny Nurbaningsih, an official of the ministry of law and human rights.

"It is hoped they will show enough remorse so that their sentence can be reduced to life imprisonment," she told a May 18 seminar in Jakarta titled: "Death Penalty in a Democratic Nation."

"The emphasis is that the death penalty is only the last resort," she said.

Indonesian pro-life groups in cooperation with the Catholic bishops' conference and the Catholic University of Atma Jaya organized the seminar in which many speakers called for the abolition of the death penalty.

According to Asas Tigor Nainggolan, coordinator of the pro-life groups, the government was preparing to execute 14 death row inmates by firing squad this year, although the dates of the executions and the names of those to be executed had yet to be confirmed.

Last year at least 14 people, many of them foreigners, were executed. Most were condemned to death for drug trafficking in line with a policy laid down by Indonesian President Joko Widodo to execute all drug traffickers.

2 people who escaped execution last year were French national Sergei Areski Atlaoui and Mary Jane Veloso of the Philippines. They were reprieved, as they had to undergo legal processes in their respective countries.

Some at the seminar saw the possible government proposal to lay down a 10-year probation period as a positive step, but many called for the complete abolition of the death penalty, calling capital punishment a product of an imperfect and unjust legal system.

Laws are not perfect and judges can make mistakes, Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo of Jakarta, told participants.

"Don't be too confident. When you think that laws are perfect, that is the beginning of injustice," the archbishop said.

"Trials can be misleading," added the president of the Indonesian bishops' conference.

Jesuit Father Franz Magnis Suseno, a philosophy professor at Jakarta's Dryarkara School of Philosophy, said the death penalty should be abolished because it is an instinct for revenge.

The problem is that once it is done it is irrevocable. "We have to realize that judges can make mistakes, too," the German-born priest said.

According to Father Suseno, death penalty has not proven to have a deterrent effect.



Death row grandmother Lindsay Sandiford sends letter thanking her supporters as she faces death by firing squad in Indonesia

A British grandmother facing execution in Indonesia has sent a letter thanking her supporters amid fears she could be killed by firing squad within weeks.

Lindsay Sandiford from Redcar on Teesside, has been on death row since December 2012 after attempting to smuggle cocaine into Bali after arriving on a flight from Bangkok.

The 59-year-old admitted smuggling 4.8kg (10.6lb) of the drug but said she was pressured by a smuggling gang.

Today, Miss Sandiford released a letter which was posted on Twitter by her friend Denise Stepo, also known as Dee, where she said she was overwhelmed by the support she has received.

The letter reads: 'Dear friends and supporter, this week has been a good week. I am delighted to see my good friend Dee.

'Was lovely to have her here albeit the time has been short.

'I also wanted to thank you for your messages of love and support.

'I am overwhelmed with your kindness. I want to say a massive thank you to all my Indonesian friends and supporters I am amazed by your caring. This has really touched me.

'Please feel hugged, much respect, Lindsay.'

Ms Stepo posted an image of the letter on Twitter with the caption: 'Message from Lindsay to her many supporters... time to abolish #deathpenalty globally.'

The letter comes weeks after it was feared that her death could be imminent as Indonesia is in the final stages of preparing for a new wave of executions on its infamous Nusa Kambangan island.

President Joko Widodo had said last year he would not authorise any more executions pending efforts to revive the economy, which was growing at its slowest pace in 6 years.

However, last week, Indonesian attorney general suggested a resumption of executions was possible.

. (source:


Executions in Indonesia may be delayed until after Ramadan

Indonesian Attorney-General Muhammad Prasetyo has flagged the latest round of executions in the country may be delayed until after the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan.

The nation has been on tenterhooks over the timing of the executions, with various officials indicating they could be held within days.

Mr Prasetyo had earlier said the preparations had all been made and it was merely a matter of choosing the day.

The firing squads had been prepared, spiritual counsellors appointed and prisoners on death row transferred to Nusakambangan, known as Indonesia's Alcatraz, where the executions will take place.

But when asked on Wednesday night if he would wait until after the fasting month was over, Mr Prasetyo said: "Well, maybe. Well, executing (during) fasting (month) is not good, is it? And on the 25th there is still (someone) who will lodge a judicial review."

Mr Prasetyo has previously indicated he would like to see drug kingpin Freddy Budiman, who will appear in court on Wednesday, included in the third wave of executions.

Freddy was sentenced to death in 2013 for importing ecstasy after police seized 1.4 million pills.

However he infuriated authorities by continuing to run a drug syndicate spanning 3 countries - Netherlands, Pakistan and Indonesia - behind bars.

The numbers to be executed have fluctuated, with Central Java police spokesman Alloysius Liliek Darmanto most recently indicating 15 drug offenders would be killed.

He even suggested the nationalities to local reporters - Indonesians, Chinese, a Pakistani, Nigerians, Senegalese and a Zimbabwean - although he was later slapped down by Mr Prasetyo, who said the final decision was his and it hadn't been made.

On Wednesday night, Mr Prasetyo again said there was no fixed date and the number of people had not been decided either.

"We'll just wait until the last moment because again we want to better prepare and be more successful in the implementation," he said.

Amnesty International recently said some of the death row prisoners at risk of being executed did not receive a fair trial and their cases were emblematic of systemic flaws within the Indonesian justice system.

"President (Joko) Widodo has the chance to show true resolve by halting these executions and ordering a full independent review of all death penalty cases," said Rafendi Djamin, director of Amnesty International's South-East Asia and Pacific Regional Office.

14 drug offenders were executed in Indonesia last year, including Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.


SINGAPORE----impending execution

Convicted murderer Jabing Kho loses appeal against death sentence

Convicted murderer Jabing Kho has had his 2nd 11th-hour appeal against his death sentence turned down on Thursday (May 19) afternoon. The 31-year-old Sarawakian had his case dismissed by the Court of Appeal and an application for a stay of execution has been filed by lawyer Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss.

The dismissal comes a day before he was reportedly due to face the hangman's noose. It is unclear if he will be executed on Friday.

The appeal which was dismissed on Thursday was filed by Mr Gino Hardial Singh of Prestige Legal on the basis that Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang had been involved in 2 stages of Kho's case.

Mr Singh noted that Justice Phang heard Kho's 1st appeal in 2010 and again in 2013, in the prosecution's appeal against the offender being re-sentenced to life imprisonment with the maximum 24 strokes of the cane.

"The apparent bias arises not from the mere fact that Justice Phang sat twice but because the judges' perception of the accused's intention or recklessness arising out of the factual issue of the number of physical blows dealt to the victim was in issue in the conviction appeal and also in issue in the re-sentencing appeal, so in effect, Justice Phang was sitting on an appeal against his own decision on that issue," the lawyer said on Wednesday, when contacted.

In dismissing the appeal on Thursday, the 5-man court dismissed the argument, pointing out that the 1st hearing involved a challenge on the conviction while the second involved a challenge on the new sentence Kho got. Kho was re-sentenced because of changes to the mandatory death penalty regime, giving judges the discretion to impose offenders in certain types of murder to life imprisonment instead of death.

The judges noted that if not for the resentencing triggered by the legislative changes, the same set of judges would have heard the case. Therefore, there was no issue of apparent bias, as argued by Mr Singh.

Mr Singh, who is taking the case on a pro bono basis, said he was briefed by Kho's sister, Jumai, on Tuesday morning and interviewed the offender at Changi Prison the same afternoon to take his instructions. Various Malaysian media outlets have reported that Kho's family had been informed that the execution would be carried out on Friday.

Kho had carried out a fatal robbery with a fellow countryman in 2008 and was sentenced to the mandatory death penalty. Together with Galing Anak Kujat, he had attacked construction workers Cao Ruyin and Wu Jun near Geylang Drive while trying to rob them. Kho struck Cao on the head with a tree branch so hard that the victim sustained 14 fractures in his skull and died 6 days later.

His roller-coaster court bid began in 2011 when he failed in his appeal against the sentence, only to be spared the hangman's noose 2 years later when amendments to the mandatory death penalty regime kicked in. The change gave judges the discretion to impose life imprisonment and 24 strokes of the cane instead in some murder cases. Justice Phang was among the 3 judges in this appeal.

But the prosecution appealed against Kho's new sentence, arguing that he had shown "scant regard for human life". In January last year, Kho was sentenced to death again in a rare 3-2 split decision by the Court of Appeal, with Justice Phang among those in the majority camp.

Kho's appeal for clemency was turned down in October.

But 24 hours before he was to hang in November 2015, his lawyer then, Mr Chandra Mohan K Nair, secured a stay of execution by raising questions about the evidence presented during the trial.

The appeal was dismissed, with Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin ruling that the defence had produced very little new material, let alone compelling material, that would justify the "exceptional recourse" of a review of the death sentence handed down.



Singapore to execute Malaysian tomorrow: family

In a news conference late Tuesday, his sister Kho Jumai, 27, said the family was told in a letter from the Singapore Prisons Service that her brother would be executed on May 20.

Executions are normally carried out at Changi Prison before dawn on Fridays in Singapore.

The prison did not immediately respond to AFP's requests for confirmation of the execution date.

Only the Singapore president, on the advice of the cabinet, can grant clemency.

The president said last week that he will not grant clemency although the family is pleading for a last minute reprieve."I've done everything I can, I've sent letters all over the government, to anyone who would listen. Whether the letters were really received, I don't know because I don't have much education," said Kho's mother Lenduk Baling, speaking through an interpreter.

Malaysia also has capital punishment, executing murderers and drug traffickers by hanging, a system like in Singapore that dates back to British colonial rule.

Amnesty International Malaysia and Human Rights Watch have both released statements calling on Singapore to halt the execution and review the case.

After Kho was sentenced to death in 2010, Singapore amended its mandatory death penalty for murder, giving judges the discretion to impose life imprisonment under certain circumstances.

His case was reviewed and Kho was re-sentenced to a life term in 2013.But after an appeal by prosecutors, Kho's death sentence was reinstated in January 2015.

An appeal was thrown out by a 5-judge court last month, setting the stage for Friday's hanging.Singapore executed four people in 2015, one for murder and 3 for drug offences, according to Singapore prison officials.

Rights groups have called on Singapore to abolish capital punishment but the government has rejected such calls, arguing death sentences are a deterrent to crime.



Pakistan Supreme Court to Consider Case of Juvenile Facing Hanging

Judges will tomorrow consider the case of a prisoner who could be hanged at as little as 3 days' notice, despite evidence that he was arrested as a child.

Muhammad Anwar was arrested when he was just 17 years old, and subsequently sentenced to death on murder charges. Although his birth certificate shows that he was a juvenile when arrested, he continues to be held under sentence of death, in violation of both Pakistani and international law.

An execution warrant was issued for Anwar on 12 December last year, but the process was stayed at the last minute by the courts to allow the issue of his juvenility to be considered. His lawyers will tomorrow ask the Supreme Court to ensure that Pakistan's Government complies with its legal obligations and commutes his death sentence.

Anwar was sentenced to death in 1998, 5 years after his arrest, and has now spent 23 years facing execution. In 2000, Pakistan introduced laws intended to bring it into line with international law banning the use of the death penalty against children. The country's President subsequently decreed in 2001 that anyone facing the death penalty for offences committed when they were a child should have their sentence commuted to life.

Anwar's family have since made a number of attempts to have his death sentence commuted, in line with Pakistani law, but no final decision has been taken by the authorities. They are now appealing to the Supreme Court in the hope that it will correct this historic mistake and ensure Anwar's death sentence is commuted.

The nature of Pakistan's death penalty system means that Anwar could face execution with as little as 3 days' notice of receiving a 'black warrant,' which could be handed down at any time.

Maya Foa, Director of the death penalty team at international human rights organization Reprieve said: "Anwar and his family have spent years trying to get someone to take a proper look at the evidence of his juvenility. The bottom line is that he simply should not be facing execution under either Pakistani or international law. However, he has been the victim of bureaucratic incompetence by the Pakistani Government, and as a result his case has fallen between the cracks. The Supreme Court now has the chance to correct this historic wrong and commute his sentence."

Reprieve is a UK-based human rights organization that uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantanamo Bay.



13 executions in a single day

Javad Larijani, the regime's head of human rights, acknowledges a "torrent of executions" and justifies torture and brutal punishments under the pretense of Qisas describing them as "holy verdicts".

The mullahs' antihuman regime hanged 13 prisoners on May 17 in the cities of Yazd, Urmia and Mashhad. In Yazd and Urmia 12 prisoners were collectively hanged. 1 prisoner had been condemned to death just for thievery.

Also in Mashhad, a young prisoner was publicly hanged. A placard posted at the hanging site described the death penalty as an "element for the survival and establishment of security in the society."

A day prior to these collective executions, Javad Larijani, the brother of the head of the judiciary and the regime's theorist of torture and execution who is the head of the so-called "human rights" institution, confirmed the "torrent of executions related to narcotics." He expressed concern that the cruel punishments of the mullahs' Sharia Law are being questioned, stating: "Regretfully, today, the Qisas verdict which is a holy verdict ... is being questioned ... the universality of the United Nations documents does not mean that the Western lifestyle is the best model ... this is exactly where we should strongly stand up." He then resorted to justifying torture, noting: Some "believe that any corporal punishment is torture, whereas torture is to use force to extract something." (State-run Aftab website, May 16)

On this same day, Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, Tehran’s criminal prosecutor, brazenly said: "Officials in Western countries always bring up allegations relating to human rights ... against Iran that lack any basis in reality."

When the medieval regime acknowledges a "torrent of executions" and describes atrocious and medieval punishments such as chopping of hands and gouging out of eyes as "holy verdicts" and justifies torture, this shows that it cannot sustain its rule for a single day without resorting to execution and suppression. This is where all factions of the mullahs' regime are one and the same, and any propaganda about a moderate faction is a despicable deception that serves to justify trade with this regime. However, without paying any heed to these absurd propaganda, the Iranian people demand nothing less than the overthrow of this regime and the establishment of democracy in Iran.

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


Anti-Death Penalty Activist Sentenced To 16 Years In Prison

Narges Mohammadi, human rights and anti-death penalty activist who is the vice president of the Defenders of Human Rights Center in Iran was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

On 18 May 2015, Judge Abolghasem Salavati who heads the 15th division of Tehran Islamic Revolutionary Court stretched the already long prison sentence of Narges Mohammadi by sentencing her to 16 years in prison.

This new 16 year sentencing is in addition to all of Mohammadi's pervious sentencings.

On the most recent of the charges that the Iranian state brought against Mohammadi, she is now "convicted" of leading a right to life campaign which aimed to end capital punishment in Iran.

Mohammadi, who is already serving numerous prison sentences on different charges, inaugurated the "Step by Step to Stop the Death Penalty" (Lagam in Persian). She is also charged with "assembly and spreading propaganda against the state" as well as "acting against the national security of Iran."

According to Taqi Rahmani - Mohammadi's husband who now lives in exile - of the 16 years, 10 years is on the account of Mohammadi's involvement with "Step by Step to Stop the Death Penalty", 5 years for "assembly and spreading propaganda against the state" and 1 year is for "acting against the national security of Iran."

The trial of the most recent charged brought against Mohammadi started in 20 April 2016 and was rescheduled numerous times since its original date of 3 May 2015.

The "Step by Step to Stop the Death Penalty" campaign which seems to be the main reason Mohammadi is convicted this time, is now completely crumbled with this sentencing.

Mohammadi's lawyer was present during the trial but the trial was closed to the public and members of the press.

Her husband, Taqi Rahmani has been living with their children outside of Iran. Rahmani on a number of occasions has told the media that Evin prison officials have denied his wife the right to be in contact with her children regularly. Mohammadi's Children have only had 1 single phone call during her time in prison and Rahmani has never spoken to her wife since her arrest.

Mohammadi was first arrested in 1998 for her criticisms of the Iranian state and spent a year in prison. In April 2010, she was summoned to the Islamic Revolutionary Court for her membership in the Defenders of Human Rights Center and sent to Evin prison.

Mohammadi's health declined while in custody and she developed epilepsy and some form of muscular dystrophy. In July 2011, Mohammadi was prosecuted again and found guilty of "acting against the national security of Iran, membership of the Defenders of Human Rights Center and propaganda against the state". In September 2011 she was sentenced to 11 years. In March 2012, the sentence was upheld by an appeals court, but it was reduced to 6 years. On 26 April 2012, she was arrested to begin her sentence.



Death for hijackers; Centre notifies new anti-hijacking law ---- In new law, definition has been expanded to include death of 'security personnel on board' or 'ground support staff' as well.

Hijacking of an aircraft will attract capital punishment in the event of death of "any person", as per the new anti-hijacking law notified by the Centre.

In other cases of hijacking, guilty will be punished with imprisonment for life and fine, besides confiscation of movable and immovable property held by him or her.

The new law mandates the Central government to confer powers of investigation, arrest and prosecution on any officer of the Central government or National Investigation Agency (NIA).

The Anti-Hijacking Act 2016 has received the assent of President Pranab Mukherjee on Friday and it has been notified, according to a notification issued on Monday.

A bill, to repeal 1982's Anti-Hijacking Act, in this regard was introduced in Rajya Sabha by Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju on December 17, 2014.

It was referred to a Parliamentary panel in December that year which gave its report in March last year. The bill was passed on May 4, this year in the Upper House, and on May 9 in Lok Sabha.

In the old Act, hijackers could be tried for death penalty only in the event of death of hostages, such as flight crew, passengers and security personnel.

In the new law, the definition has been expanded to include death of "security personnel on board" or "ground support staff" as well.

The 2016 Anti-Hijacking Act, which has come into effect after its notification, includes several acts within the definition of hijacking including making a threat, attempts or abetment to commit the offence. Those organises or directs others to commit such offence will also be considered to have committed the offence of hijacking.

India has witnessed 19 hijacking incidents. The new law has repealed the Anti-Hijacking Act, 1982 with few conditions.

(source: Deccan Chronicle)


3rd Belarusian Sentenced To Death Since January

A court in Belarus has sentenced a 3rd man to death since January.

Judges in the regional court in the southeastern city of Homel found 33-year-old Syarhey Vostrykau guilty on May 19 of kidnapping, raping, and murdering 2 women in 2014 and 2015.

Belarus remains the only country in Europe practicing capital punishment.

3 convicts are currently on death row in Belarus. 2 of them were sentenced in January and February this year, the 3rd one was sentenced last year.

On May 6, another man sentenced to death last year on murder charges was reported executed.

The European Union and rights groups have urged Belarus to join a global moratorium on the death penalty for years.

According to rights organizations, more than 400 people have been sentenced to death in the ex-Soviet republic since the early 1990s.

(source: Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty)


Netanyahu agrees with Liberman on death penalty for terrorists in negotiations

Coalition negotiations between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yisrael Beytenu chair Avigdor Liberman were almost completed after Netanyahu agreed to the condition of setting the death penalty for those who commit terror activities.

Members from both parties exchanged a final draft of the agreement on Thursday agreeing on the death penalty, however both have not agreed on the specific conditions.

In a meeting that lasted less than an hour Wednesday afternoon, Liberman accepted Netanyahu's offer of the defense and immigration and absorption portfolios and support for key Yisrael Beytenu-sponsored legislation.

(source: Jerusalem Post)


Pacquiao on death penalty: It's in the Bible

Newly-proclaimed Senator-elect Emmanuel "Manny" Pacquiao made it to his first press conference as Upper House legislator and said he is in favor of death penalty.

Speaking to the media shortly after his proclamation Thursday at the PICC, Pacquiao said that the capital punishment is actually based on the Bible.

Pacquiao also wanted to push for better education for Filipinos.

The world-renowned boxer first forayed into politics as a representative for Sarangani. His stint as a legislator was hounded by his absences. In 2014, his absences hit notorious levels after being only able to show up for work 4 times.

In his 1st term that spanned from 2010 to 2013, he only appeared in 98 times in the Congress's 168 working days.

Pacquiao's best moment as a legislator came in a speech against human trafficking. But that was swiftly negated when he was put under the spotlight during a lengthy discussion of the Reproductive Health Bill.

Earlier this year, Pacquiao's chances in the senatorial race were believed to dim after his scathing remarks that targeted the members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) community - which also drew flak on social media.

But even after the comments, Pacquiao still managed to secure 16,050,546 votes, propelling him to 7th place in the "Magic 12" candidates who made the cut.

Pacquiao ranked ahead of tested politicians former Sen. Francis Pangilinan, former Rep. Risa Hontiveros and former Sen. Ralph Recto.

Asked if his absences will continue to plague his career as a politician, Pacquiao noted that he won't make any promises.

(source: Philippine Star)


Albino killers must be executed, Malawi MPs say

Albino killers are vicious murderers who must be executed to prevent them from murdering again, some Malawian lawmakers have proposed.

"It is time for tit-for-tat, an eye for an eye, and a life for a life. Let's join hands and end the senseless murderers by hanging all albino killers," a lawmaker told a National Stakeholders Conference held in the Malawi capital, Lilongwe, on Tuesday.

Civil society organisations convened the conference to brainstorm strategies aimed at ending the abductions and killings of people with albinism in Malawi.

A lawmaker from the opposition Malawi Congress Party, Madalitso Kazombo, said a group of concerned legislators would table a proposal in Parliament to strengthen the Penal Code so that albino killers were sentenced to death "instead of merely jailing them".

"He who kills should be killed. The correct punishment for albino killers is death. We should not even debate about this. Anti-death penalty activists should shut up on this matter," he said.

Another legislator who backed the proposal, Richard Chimwendo, told the conference that the lenient sentences meted out to albino killers could not stop the problem, hence the need to impose the ultimate punishment of death.

Magicians and superstitious customers

"We need to appreciate that, both as a deterrent and as a form of permanent incapacitation, the death penalty successfully prevents future crime. If they are hanged, would-be murderers will think twice before killing, for fear of losing their own life," he said.

Chimwendo also said that those already convicted, and who were given light jail terms, should be re-sentenced.

According to the parliamentarian, the war against albino killings could only be won by taking the battle to the doorsteps of three key players in their syndicates: the ruthless thugs, the deceitful magicians, and the superstitious customers.

"It is a pity that, so far, the thugs who kill albinos and the magicians who use albino parts are the ones who are being netted and jailed, while the customers who are the financiers are walking scot free," he observed.

The debate on the death penalty remains thorny in Malawi, as convicted murderers are never executed. Their sentences are simply commuted to life imprisonment.

Meanwhile, a man living with albinism, Joe Fernando, has complained that the police were failing to offer them protection.

"The police are offering us zero protection," he said. "It is painful to hear the government has deployed troops to be guarding cedar trees in a forest reserve instead of offering us protection."


Fernando recounted a recent incident when four people stormed into his business premise on the outskirts of Lilongwe and abused him verbally and threatened to abduct him."

"I telephoned the police for intervention. I was shocked when all the officers on duty told me was that they had no transport," he said.

Fernando said, following that incident, he took the initiative to bolster his own security by ensuring that he was accompanied by his close friend whenever he travelled.

The Association of People with Albinism in Malawi's general secretary, Alex Machila, told News24 in an interview that, with 17 albinos already killed and abductions continuing, the country needed to declare a "national crisis".

"So far, 71 cases have been recorded for abductions, trespassing of graveyards, being found with human bones, suicide, assault of bodily harm, conduct likely to cause breach of peace, and killings of people with albinism. Is that a crisis?" quizzed Machila.

Traditional healers and soothsayers

Considering that the atrocities were committed against a minority population of 10 000 in a nation of 17 million, Machila argued that the best the government could do was to declare the situation as "a state of crisis" for persons living with albinism.

A United Nations human rights expert recently described people living with albinism in Malawi as "an endangered group facing a risk of systemic extinction over time if nothing is done".

"Persons with albinism, and parents of children with albinism, constantly live in fear of attack," said Ikponwosa Ero, the UN's Independent Expert.

Malawi and its neighbour Tanzania were battling against albino killings.

While 17 albinos had been killed, the number of those murdered in Tanzania was around 80.

As part of a strategy to contain the problem, police in Tanzania had so far arrested 225 unlicensed traditional healers and soothsayers.


MAY 18, 2016:


Death row inmate's next court filing months away

Attorneys for New Hampshire's only death row inmate said Wednesday it will be months before they file a petition arguing he is being unlawfully imprisoned.

Michael Addison was sentenced to death for the 2006 killing of Manchester police officer Michael Briggs. While Addison has exhausted his direct appeals to the state Supreme Court, and the U.S. Supreme Court in January declined to review a petition to review his case, his defense attorneys plan to file a state habeas corpus petition later this year.

During a brief hearing Wednesday, attorney Michael Wiseman said he'll file at least a partial petition by January. While there is no deadline for the state petition, Jan. 11, 2017, is the deadline to file a habeas corpus petition in federal court, so filing something at the state level before then would stop the clock and allow for a federal petition later if the state petition fails.

Wiseman recently was chosen by the New Hampshire Judicial Council to represent Addison. A former chief of the Capital Habeas Corpus Unit for the federal defender office in Pennsylvania, he has more than 2 decades of experience in representing post-conviction capital defendants.

Addison's previous attorneys argued that the trial judge violated his rights by not allowing jurors to hear evidence that he was remorseful and concerned about Briggs after he was taken into custody. They also challenged the judge's conduct in letting jurors hear about privileges a convict sentenced to life in prison without parole might get behind bars, including television and work opportunities.

Briggs was 15 minutes from the end of his shift when he and his partner confronted Addison in a dark alley on Oct. 16, 2006. Jurors found that Addison shot Briggs in the head at close range to avoid arrest for a string of violent crimes, including several armed robberies and a drive-by shooting.

Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Peter Fauver scheduled a hearing for late September to get an update from Addison's attorneys.

New Hampshire is the only state in New England with the death penalty still on the books. The state's last execution took place in 1939

(source: Associated Press)


Recanter could face death penalty

The Mifflinburg man accused of homicide in a Union County home invasion will face the death penalty if convicted at trial of 1st-degree murder.

Union County District Attorney D. Peter Johnson filed notice of aggravated circumstances against Justin Richard, 31, for allegedly killing 51-year-old Randy Sampsell on June 12, 2012. The victim's body was found 10 days later by his brother.

"You committed a killing while in the perpetration of a felony. You have a significant history of felony convictions involving the use or threat of violence to another person," Johnson wrote in support of his call for capital punishment.

The last time Johnson sought the death penalty was against Roderick Sims, convicted by a jury in the 2007 murder of Charity Spickler in Lewisburg. Johnson eventually withdrew the request for capital punishment, saying at the time the facts of the case didn't support the death penalty.

State police say Richard shot Sampsell once in the head with a stolen rifle as Sampsell attempted to rise from his recliner when robbers kicked in the front door of his Buffalo Township home, according to court papers.

The robbers sought marijuana and money, but only found prescription pills, state police say.

Before being pegged as the triggerman, Richard was a prosecution witness, having pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and agreeing to testify against a former co-conspirator, Herbert Tiebout. But Richard twice recanted his statements, the second time on the day of Tiebout's own 2nd-degree murder trial in September. The case against Tiebout was dismissed, and police and prosecutors turned their attention to Richard.

The testimony of Amanda Kratzer, Richard's ex-girlfriend, is at the center of the case. She originally accused Richard and Tiebout in the Sampsell home invasion and an earlier robbery that night in Millmont that allegedly netted 10 guns, including the murder weapon.

After Tiebout's case was dismissed, she went on record to accuse Richard of confessing to the killing more than once after they fled Pennsylvania for Virginia Beach, Va., days after Sampsell's death. She had already helped state police locate the Remington 30.06 rifle Richard is accused of using, which was dumped in a wooded area near Williamsburg, Va.

After Kratzer's latest revelation, a 3rd suspect in the home invasions surfaced. Kratzer says she saw Theron Moore, 43, formerly of Mercersburg, with Richard and Tiebout on the night of Sampsell's death, according to court papers.

Police say in arrest papers that Moore confessed to helping Richard steal both a Dodge pickup and a Kawasaki motorcycle from the Mifflinburg area and commit a violent home invasion in New Berlin on June 22, 2012, in which 1 occupant was beaten with a baseball bat. That's the same day Sampsell's body was found.

Moore has since pleaded not guilty.

Richard, too, pleaded not guilty to murder and robbery and related charges stemming from 3 related incidents.

They'll be prosecuted together on the events of June 22, 2012. Richard is accused alone in the June 12, 2012, murder.

Pre-trial motions in the murder case are due July 1.

(source: The Daily Item)


Defense lawyers question death penalty jury instructions

Defense lawyers are attacking a new law aimed at fixing Florida's death penalty sentencing structure, which was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year because it gave too much power to judges instead of juries.

But the angst over the new law, crafted by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Scott in March, isn't limited to defense lawyers - the Florida Supreme Court is questioning whether the law violates the state's constitutional guarantee to trial by jury.

Also, a Miami judge ruled last week that the law, which requires a 10-2 jury recommendation for the death penalty to be imposed, is unconstitutional.

Defense lawyers, meanwhile, are now objecting to proposed jury instructions related to the new law.

The proposed jury instructions, crafted by the Florida Supreme Court Committee on Standard Jury Instructions in Criminal Cases, lay out what judges must tell juries in capital death cases. The committee will consider changes at its next meeting in June, before sending the proposed rule to the Supreme Court, which could adopt the proposal or revise it.

Lawmakers hurriedly crafted the new death-penalty sentencing law in response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in January that Florida's system of allowing judges - and not juries - to decide whether defendants should face death is an unconstitutional violation of the Sixth Amendment right to a trial by jury.

The 8-1 decision, in a case known as Hurst v. Florida, dealt with the sentencing phase of death-penalty cases after defendants are found guilty, and it focused on what are known as aggravating circumstances that must be determined before defendants can be sentenced to death. A 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, in a case known as Ring v. Arizona, requires that determinations of such aggravating circumstances must be made by juries, not judges.

Under Florida's new law, juries will have to unanimously determine "the existence of at least 1 aggravating factor" before defendants can be eligible for death sentences. The law also requires at least 10 jurors to recommend the death penalty in order for the sentence to be imposed, and it did away with a feature of the old law that had allowed judges to override juries' recommendations of life in prison instead of death.

Creating jury instructions for the new law "is especially difficult in this instance because there remains great uncertainty as to the constitutionality of the statutory law underlying the proposed instructions," Capital Collateral Regional Counsel-South Neal Dupree, whose office represents defendants who have been sentenced to death, wrote in comments submitted to the committee Monday.

Under the proposal, juries would be told that "different factors or circumstances may be given different weight or values by different jurors." That instruction would not comply with a U.S. Supreme Court decision, in a case known as Caldwell v. Mississippi, making it unconstitutional to instruct a jury in a way that will cause the jury to "minimize the importance of its role," Dupree wrote.

"We wanted the jury to be clear that there is a distinction between mitigating circumstances, which do not require unanimity and do not require a finding beyond a reasonable doubt, and the aggravating factors, which are required to be found unanimously and beyond a reasonable doubt," Pete Mills, an assistant public defender in the 10th Judicial Circuit who is chairman of the association's death penalty steering committee, said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

The Supreme Court, which put on hold indefinitely 2 executions after the Hurst decision, is also grappling with whether judges should use the new law to resentence death row inmates, whose lawyers argue that the sentences should be reduced to life in prison without parole because the prisoners were condemned under an unconstitutional system.

Also, the court recently raised questions about the new law's lack of unanimity in jury recommendations.

(source: Palm Beach Post)


Florida's death penalty facing new questions as last lethal-injection drug supplier bans use

With the Sunshine State's death penalty already under scrutiny and siege, the last remaining federally approved sources for all three drugs used in Florida's lethal-injection cocktail have been banned for use in executions.

Wishing to align itself with saving lives rather than ending them, pharmaceutical mega-manufacturer, Pfizer, announced late last week that seven drugs it makes will be off limits from now on for use in capital punishment. More than 20 American and European drug companies have imposed similar bans.

"All of the major pharmaceutical companies in the United States stand together on this issue," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Washington D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center. "They do not want their medicines misused executing prisoners."

The impact on Florida and its 390 death row inmates is impossible to gauge because the Department of Corrections, citing state laws, will not divulge its drug suppliers, how much of a supply it has on hand or when its current supply will expire.

"When Florida's current supply runs out then Florida has a choice to make," Dunham said. "It could attempt to obtain these drugs elsewhere but for the most part that involves violating the law."

Pfizer's move will "make it even more difficult for states to obtain these drugs or replace the drugs when their current supply expires," Dunham said, but it doesn't necessarily mean the end of lethal injections.

That's because the nation's 32 death penalty states could turn to another buyer to get the required drugs from manufacturers without revealing the actual purpose they would be used for, or they could buy from distributors willing to violate resale agreements with manufacturers, or they could turn to small, loosely regulated pharmacies to make the drugs.

Alternatively, Florida could switch from a 3-drug lethal injection to a single-drug protocol - or it could even return to the electric chair.

"All of the major pharmaceutical companies in the United States stand together on this issue. They do not want their medicines misused executing prisoners" - Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center Other states have grappled with execution-drug issues in different ways. Ohio since last year has put executions on hold because it can't obtain the required drugs. Other states like Texas and Missouri have gotten lethal injection drugs from the small, loosely regulated pharmacies known as compounders. And Utah, looking for a back-up execution method, reinstated the firing squad.

"We don't even know if Florida has been using drugs from Pfizer, they won't tell us," said Marty McClain, a Fort Lauderdale lawyer who represents death row defendants seeking appeals. "It's certainly not in line with the Sunshine Laws in terms of the public finding out what's going on and what's being used."

The majority of the 32 states with the death penalty have similar secrecy provisions that prevent them from revealing their lethal drug sources.

Pfizer's action is just the latest, but not necessarily the most pressing challenge facing capital punishment in Florida.

"Florida's death penalty system is in tatters at the moment and not just because of the drugs," Dunham said. "There are questions as to whether Florida has a constitutional death penalty at all."

In January, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Florida's death penalty is unconstitutional because it gave jurors too little, and judges too much, say in the decision. As a result, the state supreme court must decide if Florida's 390 death row inmates were sentenced under a flawed system and should have their penalties converted to life sentences.

In response to the U.S. Supreme Court, state lawmakers earlier this year revamped the death-penalty sentencing law to require not just a majority, but a "super majority" or 10 of 12 jurors, to vote to impose the death penalty against convicted murderers. Florida, Alabama and Delaware are the only three death penalty states that do not require unanimous jury verdicts in death cases.

A week ago, a Miami-Dade trial judge struck another blow when he ruled that despite the Legislature's attempted fix, the state's death penalty remains unconstitutional because it still does not require a unanimous jury decision.

In 2013, Florida swapped pentobarbital sodium for midazolam as the unconsciousness-inducing first injection in its 3-drug intravenous process. It did so because its Danish manufacturer of pentobarbital sodium balked at its use in executions and prohibited its sale for that purpose. Midazolam has been blamed for botched executions in Oklahoma, Ohio and Arizona.

Florida's lethal injection cocktail is administered in 3 stages. After the midazolam knocks the condemned person into unconsciousness, vecuronium bromide induces paralysis and finally, potassium chloride triggers cardiac arrest.

Importing lethal-injection drugs from Europe would violate European export regulations. Importing them from anywhere else would violate federal law that prohibits medicines to come into the country without an approved medical use. Switching to a single drug protocol would create issues over which drug to use and where to get it, Dunham said.

Turning to the so-called compounding pharmacies poses its own set of dangers. They are regulated by state laws rather than the Federal Drug Administration. Products from compounding pharmacies could be impure, lack necessary potency or may not be properly sterilized or refrigerated, experts say.

Such pharmacies are typically used to create, or compound, small batches of medications tailored to an individual patient's needs such as strength, dosage, or allergies.

Products from compounding pharmacies "increase the likelihood that there will be bad batches of drugs used in executions and that also increases the risk that executions will be botched," Dunham said.

States have argued that secrecy is necessary to protect the identities of manufacturers so they won't be harassed, but death penalty opponents see otherwise.

"What in fact seems to be the case is that states needed to obtain secrecy to prevent the manufacturer from learning that its medicines were being misused in executions," Dunham said. "There is no legitimate medical purpose for executing somebody."

(source: Sun-Sentinel)


Stop death penalty

Thank you to Beth Kassab for her column, "Death penalty in Florida is facing chaos," in Tuesday's Sentinel. She is correct that our system in Florida, and across the nation, is seriously flawed.

As a supporter of the Innocence Project, I see emails and letters regularly telling me of another prisoner who has been released due to DNA testing that finds him or her innocent, many times after spending decades in prison.

The Innocence Project, founded in 1992 by Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck at Cardozo School of Law, "exonerates the wrongly convicted through DNA testing and reforms the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice," its website says. Due to its important work, 341 DNA exonerations have occurred, and 147 real perpetrators have been found.

Innocent people can find themselves on death row due to incentivized informants, false confessions, inadequate defense, flawed forensic science and eyewitness misidentification.

We have a lot of work to do in getting serious changes made in our penal system. The way to start is to see the state follow the lead of the majority of U.S. states in halting the use of the death penalty.

Stephanie Garber

(source: Letter to the Editor, Orlando Sentinel)


8-year-old girl awoke to 'nightmare' when she finds bullet riddled bodies, prosecutor tells jurors

An 8-year-old Ensley girl awoke to a "nightmare" the morning of April 25, 2014 when she found her pregnant mother slumped over in a kitchen chair and the body of her mother's boyfriend on the floor next to her, a prosecutor told jurors Tuesday.

Pools of blood were on the floor by the bodies, which had been riddled with bullets, Deputy District Attorney Kechia Sanders Davis told the jury during opening statements of the capital murder trial of Jermaine "Lil Jay" Tolbert.

Tolbert, 28, is charged with four counts of capital murder in the shooting deaths of 27-year-old Sharday Ware, her unborn child, and 36-year-old Dekova Jemille "Doc" Harris, of Fultondale. If convicted, Tolbert could face the death penalty.

Another man, Dewayne Barnes, 22, is also charged with capital murder in the shooting deaths of Ware, her unborn child, and Harris. Barnes' trial is set to begin July 25.

The shooting happened at Ware's house at 1309 57th Place Ensley.

Cedric Clifton, a retired crime scene investigator with the Birmingham Police Department, testified Wednesday to finding 15 shell casings from .40 caliber and 9mm guns inside the home.

Jurors also got to see photos taken from inside the house by Clifton. Among the photos was one of Ware slumped forward in a chair and Harris on the floor at her feet. One of Harris' hands was lodged against the handrail of the chair Ware was sitting on with a cigarette still in between his fingers.

Other photo showed scales, a baggie of marijuana, and other clear plastic baggies on a table. Clifton said one baggie had a white powdery substance believed to be cocaine in it.

Davis said that she expects a man, Eric Smitherman, will testify that after watching a game on TV, the night before the bodies were discovered, Tolbert and Barnes were there with Harris and Ware and that Tolbert locked a door.

Tommy McFarland, one of the attorneys representing Tolbert, told jurors that they will need to assess the credibility of some of the witnesses, including a jailhouse snitch who didn't like Tolbert. He asked that jurors look at the credibility of some of the witnesses he described as "thugs."

Smitherman never said that he saw Tolbert do anything, McFarland told jurors. "When he leaves the house those folks were alive," he said.

The confidential informant also told police the 2 men,, Dewayne Barnes and Jermaine "Lil Jay" Tolbert, now charged with capital murder in the double homicide told her that if they had found the woman's 7-year-old daughter awake they would have killed her too, Birmingham Police homicide detective Phillip Harris said.

Among the first witnesses was Ricky Jones, a neighbor walking to work that morning who spotted Ware's 8-year-old girl come running out of the house barefoot. The girl told him her mother, and her mother's boyfriend, were dead, he said.

"I thought she was kidding," Jones said. But quickly he realized it wasn't the case and called 911, he said.

Jurors then heard the 911 tape in which Jones calls for help. During the tape, the girl can be heard crying in the background and Jones has to pause from talking to the dispatcher to reassure the girl. Jones said he did not go into the house.

Jones also testified he heard 4 shots close together about 12:30 a.m. the night before. But he said he didn't call police because it's not unusual to hear gunfire in the area.

Another neighbor, Brandon Turner, who lived directly behind Ware's house, testified he was watching the closing commentary after an NBA game on TV when he heard more than four gunshots. "It (the gunfire) was constant," he said.

Turner said he fell to the floor and waited five minutes. When he didn't see anything looking out his window, he didn't call police because he hears gunfire in his neighborhood a lot.

Testimony is to continue today in the trial before Jefferson County Circuit Judge Virginia Vinson.

Defense attorney Mike Shores also represents Tolbert. Deputy District Attorney Matt Casey also is prosecuting the case.

A homicide detective at a preliminary hearing in the case in 2014 testified that a confidential informant told police the shooting deaths were the result of a murder-for-hire in retaliation for a shooting that happened in September 2013 in Fairfield.

The confidential informant also told police the 2 men now charged with capital murder in the double homicide told her that if they had found the woman's daughter awake they would have killed her too, Birmingham Police homicide detective Phillip Harris said at that preliminary hearing.

The detective also testified that the house where Ware and "Doc" Harris were shot was known in the neighborhood as a drug house.



Louisiana Senate to consider reworking indigent defense spending

An effort to reshuffle how Louisiana spends its money on defending the poor edged closer Tuesday to final legislative passage.

House Bill 1137 by Rep. Sherman Mack, R-Albany, would require at least 65 % of the state public defender board's financing to flow to local defenders of the indigent. That could steer money away from appeals of death sentences for poor defendants.

A Senate judiciary committee voted 4-1 to send Mack's bill to the full Senate.

It already has won House support.

The debate comes as local public defenders in some parts of the state have stopped taking cases because of money shortages, prompting prisoner releases, lawsuits and widespread concerns about the state of the justice system.

Louisiana is spending $33 million on the public defender board in the current budget year. Bill supporters say the local public defenders need the money. They say too much is spent by the board on large, expensive defense teams for death penalty cases.

"When the money came to the local boards, we had no problems. We had no issues. We worked together. The money was spent wisely," said Ricky Babin, district attorney for Ascension, Assumption and St. James parishes.

Opponents say more dollars are needed overall to pay for indigent defense and meddling with the board's authority over the same level of financing won't improve the situation.

"This really is not about the board. This is a funding crisis," said the board's executive officer, James Dixon. "The problem here is diminishing local funds, and nothing in this bill addresses that."

The proposal also would reshuffle how state public defender board members are chosen.

Voting to advance the bills were: Sens. Ronnie Johns, R-Lake Charles; Norby Chabert, R-Houma; Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte; and Greg Tarver, D-Shreveport.

Voting against HB1137 was: Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans.

(source: The Advocate)


Lawyers For Suspect In Danville Cop's Slaying Want Off Case

2 attorneys appointed to represent a man accused of fatally shooting a central Ohio policeman are asking to withdraw from the potential death penalty case. Bruce Malek and Brandon Crunkilton told the court that it's not feasible for them to continue representing Herschel Ray Jones III because of issues that have arisen. Malek told the Mount Vernon News that he wouldn't discuss specifics of those issues.

An attorney from the Ohio public defender's office also is representing Jones.

Jones is accused of shooting 34-year-old Danville Officer Thomas Cottrell. He has pleaded not guilty to aggravated murder and other charges in Knox County.

Cottrell's body was found behind the village's municipal building Jan. 17, after Jones' ex-girlfriend warned police that Jones was "looking to kill a cop."

(source: Associated Press)


Allen pleads not guilty to capital murder

Cody Allen, 23, of Mountain Home, appeared in Marion County Circuit Court Wednesday morning and pleaded not guilty charges in connection with the death of Alithia Boyd, a Marion County toddler who died on May 6.

Allen - who is currently being held in the Arkansas Department of Corrections' Ouachita Unit on a parole violation - faces life in prison or the death penalty if convicted of the crime.

Initially, Allen had faced the Class Y felony of first-degree battery. A Class Y felony is the most serious charge a person face in Arkansas, short of a capital murder charge.

Last week, Prosecuting Attorney David Ethredge said Allen's criminal history as an habitual offender and the facts of the case, allowed prosecutors to seek the capital murder charge. The prosecutor noted Allen has twice been convicted of felonies in the past 10 years, qualifying him for habitual offender status.

According to the Department of Corrections website, Allen was sentenced to 60 months in prison on charges of residential burglary, breaking and entering, and theft of property in 2014.

The Bulletin will have more on Allen's appearance throughout the day.

(source: Baxter Bulletin)


Appeals Court hears arguments on Missouri's lethal injection protocol

An attorney argued before the Missouri Court of Appeals that taxpayers should have legal standing to challenge the state's procedures for obtaining drugs for lethal injections.

Justin Gelfand, representing 2 former state lawmakers and 2 other citizens, argued a lawsuit appeal on Wednesday. The lawsuit alleges the state violates federal and state laws by using an illegal prescription to obtain pentobarbital from a compounding pharmacy for the executions. The lawsuit does not challenge the death penalty, only practices used to obtain the drugs.

A Cole County judge dismissed the lawsuit in July 2015. Part of the judge's ruling says taxpayers do not have standing to challenge Department of Corrections operations and the Missouri Supreme Court has jurisdiction in death penalty-related lawsuits.

Appeals court panels never say how long they will take to issue a ruling.

(source: Associated Press)


Our challenge to Missouri executions

About a year ago I signed on as a plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the Missouri Department of Corrections practice of buying execution drugs out of state at an unlicensed compound pharmacy, but the judge determined that we plaintiffs, 2 former Missouri legislators, a pastor and me, lacked standing.

Now, on May 18, the Missouri Court of Appeals will hear our case.

As our attorney Justin Geifand said, "The state has successfully fended off similar challenges brought by people sentenced to death saying they lacked 'standing' to bring the case. If the Court of Appeals finds that we, as taxpayers, also lack standing to have this case finally decided on the merits, then it would appear that nobody has the ability to bring these important issues to court. But in America, we bring important issues to court and that's precisely what we did here."

Just last week the pharmaceutical firm Pfizer took steps to block use of its pharmaceuticals in executions, evidence of the growing repugnance to capital punishment. As plaintiffs in this court case, we have the opportunity to object to what is, at the very least, the unseemly behavior of the Department of Corrections director of adult institutions driving out of state with a satchel of cash to purchase execution drugs compounded and prescribed by a doctor who conducts no medical examination and is contractually obliged to write the invalid prescription.

The most recent Missouri execution a week ago of Earl Forrest is, in my opinion, another example of capricious and reckless implementation of the death penalty. Forrest killed 3 people, including a sheriff's deputy, but he was severely mentally impaired. He expressed deep remorse for the murder of the sheriff but not the other 2 whom he killed in a drug deal gone wrong. Surely life in prison would have been sufficient punishment. Even better would have been appropriate care and treatment of his mental condition which might have saved three lives.

(source: Mary Ann McGivern, National Catholic Reporter)

KANSAS----new death sentence

Kyle Flack, who killed 3 adults and a toddler, sentenced to the death penalty in Kansas capital murder case----Flack was found guilty for shooting in 2013

Kyle Travor Flack was sentenced to the death penalty Wednesday morning.

Franklin County District Court Judge Eric Godderz on Wednesday morning imposed the death penalty on Kyle Trevor Flack in the shotgun slaying of a young mother and her 18-month-old in 2013.

The judge also sentenced Flack to 22 years and 3 months for the 2nd-degree murder conviction of 1 man, and a life sentence with parole eligibility only after serving 25 years for a fourth murder conviction.

Finally the judge sentenced Flack to 9 months for a firearms possession violation.

All sentences are to be served consecutively.

In sentencing Flack, Godderz said it was hard for anyone to figure out how senseless these killings were.

The victims were unarmed, they were shot at close range, and they were shot in the back, the judge said.

"An infant was slain. How anyone makes sense of that is beyond me," Godderz said.

The judge also said Flack knew what he was doing was wrong.

"The one thing though, Mr. Flack, is that no one will forget the harm you have done," the judge said.

Godderz noted that before the killings, Flack had been convicted of attempted murder of a shooting of a man and that in both cases, they were done in a "cowardly fashion" where the victims were shot in the back.

The only good thing on Wednesday is that with this sentence that "I'm imposing, you'll never get to do it again," the judge said.

The victims' families clapped when the judge made that remark.

The developments from court Wednesday are developing and this story will be updated.

On March 31, a Franklin County jury recommended Flack, 30, receive the death sentence after they convicted him of fatally shooting the 3 adults and the 18-month-old toddler on an eastern Kansas farm in 2013.

Flack hid the adult bodies and stuffed the child's remains in a suitcase which was found floating in the Tequa Creek.

The jury that recommended Flack receive the death penalty was the same panel that convicted him on March 23 of capital murder in the deaths of Kaylie Bailey, 21, and her 18-month-old daughter, Lana.

Flack also was convicted in the deaths of Bailey's boyfriend, 31-year-old Andrew Stout, and his roommate, 31-year-old Steven White, who lived in a rural farmhouse where Flack sometimes stayed.

The rural farm is about 50 miles southeast of Topeka.

Flack, who has been in custody for 3 years since he was arrested, was sentenced 1 month before his 31st birthday.

Detectives think the shootings occurred on separate days in the spring of 2013. Investigators think White was killed around April 20, 2013, and his body was later found under a tarp in an outbuilding near the farmhouse. Stout apparently was shot on April 29, and his body was found in his bedroom under a pile of clothes.

Bailey's partially-clothed body was found in a bedroom, with her hands bound behind her back. Authorities think the mother and daughter were killed on May 1.

Prosecutors presented 2 weeks of testimony during the trial. The defense didn't call any witnesses.

Flack's lead defense attorney, Timothy Frieden, urged jurors during the sentencing phase to recommend a life sentence without parole, saying Flack was not the "monster" they had heard about.

Testimony during the sentencing phase indicated Flack grew up in a chaotic home with several family members who suffered from mental illness, was sexually abused as a child, and suffered from depression, social anxiety and schizo affective disorder.

Frieden told jurors Flack functioned well while imprisoned for a 2005 shooting, and if sentenced to life in this case, the public would be safe.

"He is salvageable," Frieden said. "Vote life when it comes down to the end."

Deputy Attorney General Victor Braden said during the sentencing phase that jurors had to decide what justice entails.

"Each of you will have to ask yourself what is appropriate justice?" Braden said.

Braden said the death penalty was justified by 3 aggravating circumstances: an attempted 2nd-degree murder conviction in the May 2, 2005, shooting of Steve Free; the fact Flack killed more than 1 person; and the killings of the mother and daughter were done in an "especially heinous, atrocious or cruel manner."

Kansas reinstated the death penalty in 1994 but has not performed an execution since the 1965 hangings of George Ronald York and James Douglas Latham, 2 spree killers.

(source: Topeka Capital Journal)


Death penalty repeal supporters say life means life

A retired district court judge and 2 state senators who supported repeal of the death penalty pushed the point at a news conference Wednesday that a mandatory life sentence would mean a person would not be allowed out of prison.

"The Legislature examined life imprisonment extensively for years, and we are crystal clear that we have a strong life sentence that guarantees those with that sentence die in prison," said Lincoln Sen. Colby Coash, who helped lead the effort to repeal the death penalty last year.

Lincoln Sen. Adam Morfeld, a member of the Legislature's Judiciary Committee, said those who want to bring back the death penalty are attempting to confuse voters by suggesting those sentenced to life will be able to get out.

"You will hear those who want to keep the death penalty say that if we get rid of it, people are going to get out. This is simply untrue," Morfeld said. "With a sentence of life imprisonment, a person cannot be released."

A person can request from the Pardons Board, made up of the governor, secretary of state and state attorney general, that his or her sentence be commuted, that is, set for a certain number of years so that parole could be considered.

"The possibility that those three elected officials would commute a life sentence for 1st-degree murder to a term of years is just as remote as the possibility it would commute a death sentence to one of life or term of years," Morfeld said.

If voters are concerned, they should ask the governor or attorney general which of the 10 men currently on death row he is going to commute to a sentence less than life, he said.

"With the death penalty gone, we can be 100 % confident those sentenced to life imprisonment will die in prison," Morfeld said.

Coash, a member of the Legislature's Judiciary Committee, said the bill passed last year with 16 Republican votes, 13 Democratic votes and one independent vote.

Coash said that a year ago, Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson affirmed Nebraska law by issuing a legal opinion on the issue, saying: "Under current Nebraska law, a sentence of life imprisonment is effectively life imprisonment without parole."

District Court Judge Ronald Reagan, who served on the bench for more than 32 years and sentenced John Joubert to death, said he has no doubt about Nebraska's life imprisonment law.

"I want to make sure there is no legal confusion that life imprisonment means life in prison, no chance of parole," Reagan said. "Anything else is political posturing and has no grounding in the legal realities."

Reagan said he has seen the worst of the worst cases in Nebraska and has studied the laws carefully.

When someone is sentenced to life, they die in prison, he said.

Reagan said the Nebraska Supreme Court also has affirmed this.

In 2014, in the Castaneda case, the state's highest court said a life sentence in Nebraska is no different than a sentence of life without parole, he said.

"I am confident if Nebraskans are able to have the same conversation that the Unicameral has been having over the last several years, they will come to the same conclusion that we did," Coash said, "that our death penalty is broken and life imprisonment is a better alternative. It exists, and it works."

Nebraskans will get an opportunity in November to vote on whether to reinstate the death penalty that was repealed in 2015.

(source: Lincoln Journal Star)


A change of heart regarding death penalty

Recently your paper ran an article regarding David Card and his ability to avoid execution of the death sentence imposed because of his involvement in the deliberate and premeditated murder of Mr. and Mrs. Morey.

The murder was perhaps as heinous a crime as occurred during my tenure as Canyon County prosecuting attorney. During that period, 11 death sentences were handed down. None of the 11 sentences have been carried out.

I do not expect any death sentence to be carried out in Idaho, even though we have a death statute on the books.

As long as the Idaho Supreme Court and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals remain as is, no sentence of death in Idaho will be permitted to be carried out. Because of that reality, my position on the death penalty has changed and I no longer support imposition of a death sentence in Idaho.

A life sentence without parole is the most we can hope for. You see a number of those who were sentenced to death during my tenure as prosecutor are no longer even in the penitentiary.

Judge Lodge with regard to Card, because of allegations that Card was mentally disturbed, imposed a hold on his execution, but the hold was to be reviewed every 6 months to determine if there was any change in his mental condition which would warrant imposition of the sentence.

Card has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. That condition is treatable with medication, but the policy of IDOC is not to involuntarily administer medication unless the inmate is gravely disabled, unable to care for his personal needs.

Card is not gravely disabled. So Card does not have to take the medication, thereby maintaining the status quo of his mental disability and consequentially avoiding imposition of the death sentence. Something about that makes no sense at all, and Terry Morey's quest for justice goes begging.

Judge Lodge used to say to every defendant he placed on probation that he (the defendant) carried the "keys to the jail in his pocket." If he violated probation, he would go to jail. Here, Card carries the keys to his execution in his pocket by not taking the medication that would treat his mental problem and hence his execution.

(source: Guest Commentary, Richard Harris; Idaho Press-Tribune)


Rector trial likely to be moved to 2017

The murder trial for a Bullhead City man facing the death penalty for allegedly murdering a young girl will likely be postponed until next spring.

Justin James Rector, 27, is charged with 1st-degree murder, kidnapping, child abuse and abandonment of a dead body for kidnapping and murdering of Isabella Grogan.

Cannella on Sept. 2, 2014 and leaving her body in a shallow grave near her Bullhead City home.

Documents filed Tuesday show that Superior Court Judge Lee Jantzen has received the prosecutor's response to a motion from Gerald Gavin, Rector's attorney, to disclose 2 state witnesses. The judge previously granted Gavin's motion and redacted and sealed the motions not to reveal the identity of the witnesses for their protection.

Deputy Mohave County Attorney Greg McPhillips also filed a motion Tuesday not opposing Gavin's request to postpone the Oct. 17 trial. The murder trial is expected to take 10 weeks. A pre-trial hearing currently set for Aug. 23 is also expected to be delayed. Rector's next hearing is set for July 15.

The reason for the delay is that Rector's case requires 2 death penalty-qualified attorneys. A co-counsel has been appointed but will not be available until June 25 after he or she completes the necessary training required to handle a death penalty case. It will take at least 6 months after a co-counsel makes his or her 1st appearance for Rector's trial to take place, Gavin argued.

A Chronis hearing is also expected at the July 15 hearing. A Chronis hearing is when the prosecutor argues aggravating factors to seek the death penalty against Rector. Only 1 of 14 aggravated factors needs to be proven to seek the death penalty. 1 aggravating factor is if the victim is under the age of 15. Bella was only 8 years old at the time of her murder.

(source: Mohave Valley Daily News)


Gov. Doug Ducey signs legislation to expand Arizona Supreme Court

Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation Wednesday to expand the state Supreme Court to 7 justices from 5, saying the additional judges will allow the court to take on more cases and ensure "swift justice."

Ducey's approval of House Bill 2537 will cost the state an additional $1 million and came despite objections from Chief Justice Scott Bales, who earlier this month asked the Republican governor to veto the legislation. In that letter, Bales wrote additional judges are not needed and expansion "is not warranted when other court-related needs are underfunded."

Ducey will have the final say on the 2 new justices; in January, he appointed Clint Bolick, a registered independent and Goldwater Institute litigator, to the bench.

Such appointments are among a governor's most important decisions, given jurists’ long tenures and impact on issues ranging from the death penalty to constitutional questions.

In a letter explaining his signing Wednesday morning, Ducey said the additional justices will put Arizona on par with states that have similar or smaller populations yet more Supreme Court justices. He cited Nevada, Colorado, Washington, Wisconsin and Massachusetts.

"Arizonans deserve swift justice from the judicial branch," Ducey's letter said. "Adding more voices will ensure that the court can increase efficiency, hear more cases and issue more opinions."

To those who argue the bill is unnecessary and the justices' caseloads are not burdensome, he wrote, "...I believe you'll hear a different story from the businesses and individuals facing litigation, who are in need of certainty."

The governor said the legislation, introduced by Rep. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, does not contradict his goal to streamline government, because it would make the court more efficient and accessible to the public.

Mesnard said the expansion will result in a "greater opportunity for diversity on the court, there will be more legal minds looking at critical issues and hopefully the opportunity to take on more cases and a diversity of opinion."

Democrats called the bill a move by Ducey and Republicans to stack the Supreme Court. Democratic Sen. Katie Hobbs, of Phoenix, said court caseloads were not a problem, and "the only reason to do it is so the governor can stack the Supreme Court with his picks."

Ducey addressed the notion in his letter, writing, "Some, particularly national activists and media who aren't familiar with our system here, have inaccurately described this as 'court packing.' That's just wrong."

He pointed out the justices are selected through a merit-based process. Ultimately, however, it's Ducey who selects from the names that are forwarded to him.

Bales had supported court expansion, but only if the Legislature and governor ensured other court priorities were met. He and other court officials argued the $1 million that would be spent to grow the court could instead be used for other priorities.

(source: The Arizona Republic)


Grim Sleeper's Killing Spree Worse than Thought, Prosecutors Claim----In arguing for the death penalty, prosecutors allege the Grim Sleeper's kill count is higher than the 9 murders he was convicted of.

A fingerprint comparison expert testified today that a fingerprint from the magazine of a gun linked to a woman's December 2000 killing matched the fingerprint of the man convicted of the "Grim Sleeper" killings of 9 other women and a 15-year-old girl.

Jeff Deacon, who works for the Los Angeles Police Department's latent print unit, told the Los Angeles Superior Court jury that he compared fingerprints of Lonnie David Franklin Jr. from a fingerprint database and concluded that a print found on the magazine of a Titan .25-caliber pistol discovered in July 2010 behind a false wall during a search of Franklin's garage "originated" from his left thumb.

In her opening statement last week in the penalty phase of Franklin's trial, Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman told jurors that the gun was used to kill 43-year-old Georgia Mae Thomas, who was found dead Dec. 18, 2000, in South Los Angeles.

Franklin, 63, was convicted May 5 of the 10 "Grim Sleeper" killings, along with the attempted murder of Enietra Washington, who survived being shot in the chest and pushed out of a moving vehicle in November 1988. In testimony Feb. 25, she identified the former Los Angeles city garage attendant and sanitation worker as her assailant.

The 7-woman, 5-man jury is being asked in the latest phase of the trial to recommend whether Franklin should be sentenced to death or life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The prosecutor told jurors that they would hear during the penalty phase about a series of other killings, including Thomas' shooting death, that she said are linked to the defendant.

Silverman told the panel that a separate gun used to kill Janecia Peters -- the final victim in the charged "Grim Sleeper" killings -- was also used in the January 1984 shooting death of 21-year-old Sharon Dismuke, a crime for which Franklin was not charged. The weapon was found in a bedroom during the July 2010 search of Franklin's property, the prosecutor said.

Deacon told jurors that he took a sample of Franklin's fingerprints in court Monday to compare to the set from the database and found that both matched.

He testified that he did not compare the fingerprints he had collected from Franklin to the latent print found on the magazine of the gun. He noted that he could compare the prints he had taken from Franklin with the latent print from the magazine of the gun, but that it would take time for others within his unit to verify his findings.

Franklin could not be excluded as the source of a fingerprint found in the area of the gun's serial number, but the print was "very low quality" and a conclusive determination could not be made, the fingerprint comparison expert testified.

"I knew from the very beginning that this print has limited potential," he said of that print.

Under cross-examination by defense attorney Seymour Amster, Deacon acknowledged that he could not determine the amount of time that a latent print has been on a surface.

When asked if he was aware of any incorrect identifications through fingerprint analysis, Deacon said the best known incident involved an investigation into a Madrid train station bombing in which the FBI eventually acknowledged that it had made an error in misidentifying a suspect after Spanish national police advised the agency that the fingerprint had been identified as belonging to someone else.

Along with the killings of Thomas and Dismuke, Franklin is suspected of killing 28-year-old Inez Warren, who was found Aug. 15, 1988, with a gunshot wound to the left side of her chest and blunt-force trauma to her head, Silverman said last week.

A kit used to collect potential DNA evidence from the woman was inadvertently destroyed in 2000 -- years before Franklin's arrest -- but the killing bore the "same pattern or signature" as the other slayings, the deputy district attorney said.

The prosecutor also told jurors that a high school ID card which belonged to 18-year-old Hawthorne High School senior Ayellah Marshall, who vanished in January 2006 -- and a Nevada ID card belonging to 29-year-old Rolenia Morris, who disappeared in September 2005 -- were found by police in Franklin's garage during a July 2010 search. Authorities have not been able to locate either of the women, Silverman said.

Franklin, while serving in the U.S. Army in Germany in 1974, joined with 2 other men to grab a 17-year-old girl off a street, gang-rape her and take photos of her, the prosecutor told jurors.

Franklin's attorney declined to present an opening statement at the start of the penalty phase, in which jurors are hearing emotional testimony from the murder victims' families, along with evidence about the uncharged killings in which Franklin is suspected.

In his closing argument in the trial's guilt phase, Amster contended that an unknown assailant may have been responsible for the 10 killings for which Franklin was prosecuted.

Silverman countered that there was no evidence to support the defendant's theory and told jurors that "the only DNA profile that repeats itself again and again is the defendant's."

Jurors deliberated about 1 1/2 days before finding Franklin guilty of the killings, which occurred between 1985 and 1988 and 2002 and 2007, with the assailant dubbed the "Grim Sleeper" because of what was believed to be a 13- year break in the killings.

Franklin, who has remained jailed without bail since his July 2010 arrest, was convicted of killing:

-- Debra Jackson, 29, found dead from 3 gunshot wounds to the chest in an alley on Aug. 10, 1985;

-- Henrietta Wright, a 34-year-old mother of 5 who was shot twice in the chest and found in an alley with a cloth gag stuffed in her mouth on Aug. 12, 1986;

-- Barbara Ware, 23, shot once in the chest and found under a pile of debris and garbage in an alley on Jan. 10, 1987;

-- Bernita Sparks, 26, shot once in the chest and found in a trash bin with her shirt and pants unbuttoned on April 16, 1987;

-- Mary Lowe, 26, shot in the chest and found in an alley with her pants unzipped behind a large shrub on Nov. 1, 1987;

-- Lachrica Jefferson, 22, found dead from 2 gunshot wounds to the chest -- with a napkin over her face with the handwritten word "AIDS" on it -- in an alley on Jan. 30, 1988;

-- Alicia Alexander, 18, killed by a gunshot wound to the chest and found naked under a blue foam mattress in an alley on Sept. 11, 1988;

-- Princess Berthomieux, 15, strangled and discovered naked and hidden in shrubbery in an alley in Inglewood on March 9, 2002;

-- Valerie McCorvey, 35, strangled and found dead with her clothes pulled down at the entrance to a locked alley on July 11, 2003; and

-- Janecia Peters, 25, shot in the back and found naked inside a sealed plastic trash bag in a trash bin in an alley on Jan. 1, 2007.



Oakland 8-year-old's shooting death could yield 1st county death penalty in years

As a jury this week decides the fate of an Oakland man convicted of killing an 8-year-old girl and a man with whom he argued over a dice game, the case marks a turning point for Alameda County and its district attorney, Nancy O'Malley.

It's the 1st death penalty trial in the county since O'Malley took office 7 years ago.

She's had 103 other cases where she could have sought the death penalty. And except for 1 other case, where she initially sought death but reversed the decision before trial, this is the only one she's pursued.

Because of a gag order, O'Malley, defense attorneys and prosecutors wouldn't talk about the case against Darnell Williams, 25, of Oakland, who was convicted last week of killing Alaysha Carradine, 8, as she was spending the night with a friend in Oakland, and Anthony Medearis, 22, after the two fought over a dice game in Berkeley.

But Steven Clark, a former Santa Clara County prosecutor and now a criminal defense attorney who has no connection to the Williams case, said seeking the death penalty in 2016 is almost a symbolic gesture, given that the courts have placed executions on hold in the state.

Still, the murder of a young girl who was indiscriminately targeted in the crossfire of a crime, and the fact that the defendant later committed another murder, can contribute to reasons to make a death recommendation, Clark said.

"It's someone that clearly isn't following society's rules," he said. "That's the kind of defendant you look for."

The outcome of this kind of case, he said, could also set the tone for future death penalty recommendations in Alameda County.

If the jury doesn't sentence Williams to death, "then you re-evaluate if it's a community that wants the death penalty. It's a feeling out process," Clark said.

"If it's not this case, then what is it?" he said.

Before O'Malley took office in 2009, the last time the district attorney prosecuted a death penalty case was for David Mills -- sentenced to death in 2012 for killing 3 people in Oakland in 2005. O'Malley's predecessor, Tom Orloff, pursued 47 death penalty cases during his 15-year stint as district attorney, four of which were in his last 4 years in office.

O'Malley 1st recommended the death penalty in the case of a Castro Valley man who used a screwdriver that he shaved into a shank to fatally stab his longtime companion in front of a Hayward medical office where she worked in 2009. But O'Malley reversed that decision, she said later, because the victim's family wanted a speedy trial resolution.

By comparison, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe's office has reviewed 26 death penalty-eligible cases since taking office in 2011 but has never recommended death. Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen, who also took office in 2011, has reviewed 8 such cases and recommended prosecution for 2 current death penalty cases -- Antolin Garcia-Torres for the alleged kidnapping and killing of Sierra LaMar and Alejandro Benitez for the alleged brutal rape and death of a 16-month-old boy. San Francisco hasn't seen a district attorney -- including Attorney General Kamala Harris, who is now running for a senate seat -- seek the death penalty since the 1990s.

Clark said that prosecutors may go for death because of a societal demand for justice.

"The symbolism of a young child caught in a murder like this, if society is going to return a death verdict, this is it," Clark said.

Family members of Williams' victims agreed with the decision. "I want justice for my baby," said Medearis' aunt, Jackie Winters, who was in court every day during the monthlong trial.

The sentiment is echoed by the family of Alaysha, whom the slain girl's cousin, Shaquilla Jackson, said they called "Ladybug."

During Williams' trial, prosecutor John Brouhard called his crimes a "rampage of violence." Alaysha died on July 17, 2013, after Williams went to the apartment where she was sleeping over to get revenge for the death of his friend who was gunned down earlier that day. Williams went to the apartment, prosecutors said, intent on hurting loved ones of the man he believed killed his friend. When the kids opened the door, Williams fired a barrage of bullets through the screen door, apparently aiming at a woman on the couch behind them.

Medearis died Sept. 8, 2013, after he and Williams argued over a dice game. Williams shot Medearis in the back as he ran away.

Frank Zimring, a UC Berkeley law professor and death penalty expert, said Alaysha's slaying was a case of "extreme victimization" of an innocent girl caught in an enormous violence. There wasn't a fight between equals; the gunfire blasted through the door, he said.

Even an office that wouldn't touch the death penalty with a 10-foot pole would feel an obligation to do so "in an extraordinary case of unprovoked and meaningless violence," he said.

Still, an actual execution could be 20 years out or more. Most death row inmates die waiting for execution rather than actually being executed by the state, a result of a yearslong appeals process and the fact the executions in the state are on hold because of an ongoing legal battle over the lethal injection protocol.

1 federal judge once called death penalty sentences in the state "life in prison with a remote possibility of death." Since California reinstated the death penalty in 1978, the state has executed 13 inmates, the last of which was January 2006. There are 743 death row inmates as of Jan. 1, awaiting execution in California, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

There are 42 inmates from Alameda County alone on death row, at least nine of whom have had their appeals exhausted.

Though the gag order prevented her from talking about the Williams case, O'Malley talked in general about how she views such cases in a 2012 interview with this newspaper.

"It's not a lightweight decision to make. We should be pondering this decision and looking at it from all angles," O'Malley said then. "My own personal feeling is that if we make that recommendation, it would be rarely done because we want it to be reserved for the most heinous cases."



Prosecutor Seeks Death Penalty For Man Convicted Of 2 2013 Murders

Darnell Williams Jr., who was recently convicted of 2 counts of murder with special circumstances for killings in 2013, should get the death penalty because he has a history of committing violent attacks, a prosecutor told jurors this week.

In his opening statement in the penalty phase of the trial for Williams, a 25-year-old Oakland man, prosecutor John Brouhard said that at the end of Williams's trial he will ask jurors "to return a verdict of the death penalty against the defendant."

Williams was convicted on May 6 of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder for the shooting death of 8-year-old Alaysha Carradine at an apartment in the 3400 block of Wilson Avenue in Oakland at about 11:15 p.m. on July 17, 2013, and the unrelated fatal shooting of 22-year-old Anthony Medearis in Berkeley about 7 weeks later.

He also was convicted of three counts of premeditated attempted murder and the special circumstance of lying in wait for the Oakland shooting, the special circumstance of murdering Medearis during the course of an attempted robbery and the special circumstance of committing multiple murders.

In the penalty phase of his trial, which is expected to conclude next week, the same jury will choose between recommending the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole.

In making their decision, jurors can take into account the facts of the crimes, the suffering of the victims and the impacts of the murders on survivors.

Williams' trial marks the 1st time in 4 years that the Alameda County District Attorney's Office is seeking the death penalty against a defendant.

Brouhard said in the guilt phase of Williams' trial that Williams fired at least 13 shots into the apartment on Wilson Avenue in retaliation for the fatal shooting of his close friend, 26-year-old reputed gang member Jermaine Davis, in Berkeley about 5 hours earlier.

Brouhard said Williams wanted to harm anyone who was close to Antiown York, the man he thought had murdered Davis, and went to the apartment because York's ex-girlfriend, who was the mother of York's 7-year-old girl and 4-year-old boy, lived there.

The mother wasn't home when Williams arrived at the apartment but the 2 children were there along with their 63-year-old grandmother and Alaysha, who was a close friend of the 7-year-old girl and was spending the night there.

The 7-year-old girl, the 4-year-old boy and their grandmother were also struck by gunfire but survived their injuries.

Brouhard said Williams shot Medearis because he thought he was a snitch and also because he wanted to rob him because he had run out of money to buy guns, drugs and jewelry.

In his penalty phase opening statement on Monday, Brouhard said Williams was convicted of assault with a semi-automatic firearm for shooting a childhood friend on Oregon Street in Berkeley on Oct. 9, 2009, after his father ordered him to do so.

The friend, who is now in state prison for a crime he committed years later, testified Tuesday that he's reluctant to testify about the Berkeley shooting for fear of being labeled a snitch and getting harmed.

Brouhard said that while Williams was at the Folsom State Prison to serve time for his assault conviction, he and another inmate attacked a 3rd inmate in a prison yard in 1 incident and he attacked another inmate in the dining area in a 2nd incident.

Brouhard also said that after Williams was arrested in 2013 for the deaths of Alaysha and Medearis, he and his cellmate attacked and robbed another inmate of his commissary snacks and other items. In addition, Brouhard said jail deputies who conducted a surprise cell search about a week later found an 11-inch-long metal shank in Williams' cell that could be used to stab a fellow inmate or a guard.

He described the shank as "something terrifying" and "very concerning."

Brouhard is expected to finish presenting witnesses on Wednesday.

Williams' lawyers, who won't give their opening statements until they begin presenting their case, have said that their major witness in the penalty phase will be Gretchen White, an Oakland psychologist who specializes in death penalty and murder cases.

The penalty phase will be in recess on Thursday and Friday and White is expected to testify on Monday.

(source: CBS news)


Victim's family members testify in hearing to determine whether murderer A.J. Nelson deserves death penalty

Helpful and generous.

That's how Tino Gutierrez's family members described him in testimony given Tuesday during the sentencing phase of a trial in Lane County Circuit Court for 1 of 3 people convicted of murdering the 22-year-old Eugene man in 2012.

Gutierrez's closest relatives said they're still grieving, and still unable to come to terms with the fact that the kindness he regularly showed others during his relatively brief life ultimately put him in a position to be killed.

"It's that trait that took him to his death, and that's a really hard pill to swallow," his brother, Matt Gutierrez, told jurors during A.J. Scott Nelson's murder trial.

Gutierrez's other brother, Jeff, also testified, as did his parents, Rose and Celestino Gutierrez.

Through her tears, Rose Gutierrez said from the witness stand that the death of her youngest son - whom she referred to as "little Tino" - leaves "a hole that is never going to be filled."

The 6-woman, 6-man jury in Nelson's case last week found the Army veteran guilty of 18 felony charges, including 2 counts of aggravated murder. The verdict triggered a 2nd trial phase, in which jurors are presented evidence that should help them decide if Nelson should be sentenced to death for his role in Gutierrez's slaying.

If the jury does not unanimously agree to recommend the death penalty, Nelson will be sentenced to life in prison without parole, or life with a chance to apply for parole after 30 years.

"This is as serious as it gets in the courtroom," Assistant Lane County District Attorney David Schwartz told jurors on Tuesday while giving a brief opening statement.

Schwartz said in court that he expects the jury will conclude that the crimes committed by Nelson "are so horrible, so cold, so calculated and so unnecessary" that a death penalty is the proper sentence.

Members of the Gutierrez family did not indicate Tuesday what penalty they believe is most appropriate for Nelson.

According to trial evidence, Nelson and 2 other people previously convicted in the case schemed to kidnap and kill a stranger in order to use the victim's car in a bank robbery in Mapleton.

The plot worked, starting when Gutierrez agreed to give Mercedes Crabtree a ride in his car after she appeared to have been stranded in the parking lot of the Brew and Cue tavern on Highway 99 in Eugene. Nelson and Crabtree had staged an argument outside the bar moments before Crabtree met Gutierrez there.

Crabtree had Gutierrez drive her to the nearby home of David Taylor. There, Nelson and Taylor inflicted a series of injuries upon Gutierrez before killing him. The 2 men then dismembered Gutierrez's body in a bathtub.

Hours later, Taylor, Nelson and Crabtree used Gutierrez's car as the getaway vehicle in an armed, takeover-style robbery of a Siuslaw Bank branch in Mapleton.

Taylor, 60, was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 2014. Crabtree, 22, is serving a life sentence with the possibility of parole after 30 years.

Laurie Bender, an attorney representing Nelson, said Tuesday in her opening statement to the jury that her client endured a troubled upbringing and that his longtime psychological problems worsened after he joined the Army and served a combat tour in Afghanistan.

Bender said the sentencing-phase evidence will show that Nelson does not deserve a death sentence.

"We are confident you will spare Mr. Nelson his life," Bender told jurors.

(source: Register-Guard)


Lethal injections in jeopardy after Pfizer bans execution drugs

In May of 2015, Nebraska's Unicameral repealed the death penalty. A referendum campaign gathered enough signatures so the issue will be decided once and for all by state residents this November when they head to the polls. There is another twist to the story that may impact lethal injection executions across the country.

The pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced last week they will no longer allow their drugs to be used for lethal injection. Pfizer was the last remaining company that supplied these drugs on an open market. Death penalty expert Rick Halperin says Pfizer is the world's leading producer of drugs used in executions so this is a major event in the ongoing effort in this country to end the death penalty.

Halperin says, "It is going to force states that do execute with some degree of regularity to either use compound pharmacies to get drugs or consider changing the method of lethal injection to another method."

Halperin says several states have turned to compound pharmacies to get their supply of execution drugs but the results have not been good. He says, "I don't think the cost would be prohibitive. Some states have done this with disastrous results - Ohio and Oklahoma to name just 2. On a cost issue I don't think it is going to be a prohibitive factor."



Private Groups, Not Government, Lead the Charge on Prison Issues

The ethics panel of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) is considering prohibiting members from designing "execution chambers and spaces intended for torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment."

Although no final decision has been announced, the proposal has been lauded by Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR), an architectural ethics and human rights group, as a huge leap forward on human rights,

A ban would reverse the AIA's position from 2014, when it rejected a similar proposal, and put it in line with other professional groups' decisions related to human rights.

The American Pharmacists Association and the International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists, for instance, voted last year to prohibit members from "providing medical drugs to be used for executions."

More dramatically, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced Friday that it would ban the sale of drugs that could be used in executions, and the American Psychological Association (APA) recently voted to prohibit member psychologists from participating in national security interrogations. The United Nations has declared the practice of solitary confinement in the United States a form of torture.

If the AIA imposes a formal ban on designing new execution chambers and "spaces intended for torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment," this will, by extension, lead to a cessation of new prison construction, including solitary confinement units. Indeed, the ADPSR is circulating a petition whereby signers agree to "not contribute my design to the perpetuation of wrongful institutions that abuse others," and "pledge not to do any work that furthers the construction of prisons and jails."

Instead, the AIA and ADPSR are encouraging architects and designers to use their "professional skills to design positive social institutions, such as universities or playgrounds, but these institutions lack funding because of spending on prisons."

They're right. Fully 1/4 of the Justice Department budget goes to the Bureau of Prisons, which rehabilitates nobody, which trains nobody and which prepares nobody for life on the outside. Instead, its $7 billion budget is spent on personnel, prison construction and maintenance.

This begs the question: Where is governmental leadership on this issue? Where is Congress? Where are the judiciary committees? The deplorable state of prison conditions in this country is nothing new. Neither are the overuse and misuse of solitary confinement, the depravity of state executions and prison overcrowding.

The problem spans political parties. Certainly the Republican Congress hasn't - and won't - do anything to make the situation better. But neither did the Democrats when they controlled the process. Furthermore, there has been no change or reform throughout the Clinton and Obama administrations. And George W. Bush's position on prison reform is not even worth discussing.

These recent moves by the AIA, ADPSR, APA, Pfizer and others are examples of leadership on the issues of mass incarceration and the death penalty that are largely unseen in today's America. Congress is missing in action. The White House's incremental steps on mass incarceration have been inconsequential. Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's Justice Department did nothing to rein in overzealous prosecutors. And judges either can't or won't consider alternatives to draconian sentences, especially in drug cases.

If there is going to be positive change, it will come from private organizations like the AIA and ADPSR. That's leadership. Congress and the White House should take heed.

(source: John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism operations officer and former senior investigator for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee----


Foster v. Chatman

The case: The Supreme Court is reviewing a death penalty case from Georgia that could change existing rules for how race influences which jurors lawyers can have removed from a trial. Under existing law, lawyers on both sides can get a certain number of jurors kicked off the case for essentially no reason.

But in Batson v. Kentucky in 1986, the Supreme Court looked at how race affected these "peremptory challenges," which prosecutors often used to remove black jurors from a case when a defendant was black. The Court ended up establishing a test to make sure the reasons for kicking out a juror were race-neutral, but prosecutors have largely found ways to get around the test and have black jurors removed anyway.

The defense in Foster v. Chatman claims that's exactly what happened in their case, in which an 18-year-old black man, Timothy Tyrone Foster, who was accused of killing a 79-year-old white woman was sentenced to death by an all-white jury. Underlying the case is a major racial disparity in the criminal justice system: Black defendants are more likely to be executed than their white counterparts, especially by an all-white jury.

Appellate court ruling: The Georgia Supreme Court denied Foster's writ of habeas corpus, effectively rejecting his challenge.

What's at stake: Depending on how the Supreme Court rules (the trial court and Georgia Supreme Court rejected the defense's claims), the case could potentially make it a lot harder for prosecutors to get an all-white jury in the first place.

(source: Washington Post)


Should Veterans With PTSD Be Exempt From The Death Penalty?

Capital punishment represents the most power in our criminal justice system. How should vets with PTSD fit in?

In 2009, Marine veteran John Thuesen broke into his ex-girlfriend's home, then shot and killed her and her brother. Texas convicted him and sentenced him to death. Thuesen was undeniably involved in combat operations in Iraq. It's reasonably possible that his post-traumatic stress disorder was not adequately diagnosed by the Veterans Health Administration.

Should that keep him off death row? Some say it should.

Movies and television sometimes portray insanity or mental illness as a guaranteed get-out-of-jail-free card, but it's actually rarely employed and even more rarely successful. In order to get off by reason of insanity, the defense typically has to prove that the defendant was incapable of knowing right from wrong. That requires a degree of mental defect that is severe, rare, and hard to prove. Even if someone does "get off" by pleading insanity, it often means spending more time in a mental institution than one would have spent in prison.

But that's not what we're talking about here. Advocates for Thuesen aren't claiming he wasn't responsible for his actions, just that his PTSD lessened his culpability to a degree that makes him undeserving of the death penalty. They argue that combat-related PTSD should play a key role in the sentencing phase. The result of this argument could affect the fates of an estimated 300 veterans on death row in the United States, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The question of whether the death penalty itself is a just punishment is a much broader question. Nevertheless, it represents the most severe sentence a court can give in those states that allow it. The severity and irrevocable nature of the death penalty means that it needs to be given with utmost care and deliberation. In those cases where special circumstances exist due to the nature of the perpetrator, the justice system needs to take notice. But is military service such a circumstance?

In particular, some PTSD advocates claim that such a punishment is not warranted for veterans due to the effects of military service in combat. For example, Anthony Giardino, in the Fordham Law Review, argues that combat-related PTSD is separate and distinct from any other type of PTSD because "combat veterans would not have service-related PTSD or TBI but for government action in the form of training them to kill and sending them to war." Giardino, among others, calls for a categorical exclusion from the death penalty for those suffering from combat-related PTSD and TBI, much like those given to juveniles and people with an intellectual disability.

While PTSD and TBI are likely more common among veterans than the general population, they are by no means unique to veterans. The fact that a veteran's PTSD was likely incurred during combat service makes it tragic, but not necessarily more deserving of accommodation than someone else's. A psychological trauma or brain injury is what it is, regardless of cause. Is PTSD resulting from a rape, for example, less relevant than that from a firefight? Is TBI from a car accident medically different from that due to an IED? Those sound like decisions that need to be made on a case-by-case basis with specific medical evidence. That's why there is already a mechanism during the penalty phase for a defendant to present evidence of such mitigation.

Making a special categorical exclusion for combat PTSD infantilizes veterans. A special category, be it by judicial precedent or legislation, for combat PTSD or TBI might benefit a few convicted murderers, but it would further stigmatize millions of law-abiding veterans. These stereotypes are exactly why veterans are often discriminated against. The idea that somehow veterans are on a hair trigger, ready to lash out against anyone who causes them emotional distress is the foundation of so many of the misconceptions about vets.

Some veterans suffered mental wounds from their military experience. Some of those wounds may indeed warrant consideration by courts. The extent to which that affects the degree of culpability varies from case to case. Veterans are generally some of the most outstanding members of society, but just like any other large group of people, some commit major crimes, such as murder.

In certain cases, mental health issues should be a mitigating factor when determining sentencing for a crime, whether it's a capital case or not. In others, it shouldn't. It's up to the defense to establish that through testimony and medical evidence.

Military service merits respect, but not a pass for brutal crimes.

(source: Carl Forsling is a senior columnist for Task & Purpose. He is a Marine MV-22B pilot and former CH-46E pilot who is retired from the military after 20 years of service----Task & Purpose)


Federal court hearing for Dylann Roof set for next month

The man accused of shooting 9 people at Emanuel AME Church in Downtown Charleston last June will have a federal court hearing next month.

According to federal court records, there is a hearing scheduled June 8.

Dylann Roof is facing both federal and state charges.

His federal trial date has not been set.

The feds have also not decided whether he will face the death penalty.

Roof is facing death in his state trial set to begin in January.

(source: WCSC news)


Death penalty support is no longer a given in red states

Almost exactly a year ago, we watched Nebraska become the 1st Republican-controlled state in more than 40 years to abolish the death penalty. At the time, we wondered this: Are conservatives starting to eschew the death penalty?

A year later, we have more of an answer: maybe. At least, there's increasing evidence to suggest Nebraska's move to drop the death penalty was not an anomaly in conservative circles but rather the start of a trend.

So far this legislative session, GOP state lawmakers in 10 states -- an unprecedented number -- sponsored or co-sponsored legislation to repeal the death penalty, including in perhaps the reddest state in the nation, Utah. None of them passed, but some got further than even their supporters expected. In Utah, a repeal bill passed the state Senate and a House committee. For the 1st time in decades, Missouri's full state Senate debated the issue. A Kentucky legislative committee held a hearing on repealing the death penalty for the 1st time since the state reinstated capital punishment in 1976 (even though it failed 9 to 8).

There's more evidence outside legislative circles. This fall, the National Association of Evangelicals changed its 40-year position of exclusive support for the death penalty to make room for evangelical Christians to take an alternative position on the death penalty. And in Georgia, anti-death-penalty advocates point out that last year no jury there handed out a death sentence for crimes that were eligible for it.

Kansas Republicans are the latest group of conservatives to question the death penalty. 2 years ago, the state GOP party switched its platform from supportive to neutral on the issue to make room for the growing number of Republicans who didn't back it. Then, at their state convention over the weekend, they batted down an attempt to put the death penalty back on their platform. The debate got so contentious that they cast secret ballots and eventually voted 90 to 75 to keep their position on the death penalty neutral.

There are just too many Republicans in the state who oppose the death penalty to have it on their platform, explained Ed O'Brien, a vice chairman of the Kansas Republican Party -- plus, Republican politicians and voters just aren't as focused on the death penalty as they used to be.

"If I was advising a candidate running for office, I'd say: If you want to make that an issue, go ahead. But there's other things that need to be addressed," he said.

It's possible that silence is giving conservatives who oppose the death penalty the opportunity to be heard. And from Kansas to Utah, conservatives are presenting their colleagues some pretty compelling -- and conservative -- reasons to abolish the death penalty.

Their reasoning generally falls under 1 of 3 arguments: 1) It's not moral and not consistent with conservatives' antiabortion (that is "pro-life") beliefs. 2) It's not fiscally sound and not consistent with conservatives' small-government policies. 3) Life in prison without parole is bad enough.

"I'm thinking that it's wrong for government to be in business in killing its own citizens," Utah state Sen. Steve Urquhart (R), who sponsored the repeal bill there, told me in February. "That cheapens life."

Former Kansas College Republicans president Dalton Glasscock said it's a generational issue, too. This summer, the group voted to oppose the death penalty on its official platform.

"My generation is looking for consistency on issues," he said. "I believe if we say we're pro-life, we need to be truly pro-life, from conception to death."

Of course, this is far from a settled issue on the right, and the opposition is still far outnumbered and still fighting to get a foothold. Nebraska's death penalty repeal is on hold and will be put to voters this November in a ballot measure that was funded in part by Gov. Pete Ricketts (R), who vetoed the original repeal last year. (The legislature then overrode it.)

Similarly, in Oklahoma, voters will decide this November whether to enshrine the death penalty in the state's constitution.

And when pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced Friday it would keep its drugs from being used in lethal injections, some conservative groups criticized the decision. David Muhlhausen, a criminal justice expert with the Heritage Foundation, told the New York Times that Pfizer's move to get out of the death penalty market is not "in the public interest" because he believes research shows the death penalty can deter crimes.

More broadly speaking, there's evidence to suggest that elected Republicans are increasingly amenable to having a larger conversation on criminal justice reform, an issue traditionally owned by Democrats. As I wrote last year:

Alabama's Republican governor is calling for a $541 million tax package in part to offset overstuffed prisons, for instance. States like South Carolina and Georgia have also passed their own justice reform packages changing who gets sent to prison and for how long.

"When states in the Deep South, which have long had some of the country's harshest penal systems, make significant sentencing and prison reforms, you know something has changed," the New York Times's editorial board wrote in 2015.

As for why this is happening in isolated instances now, it's unclear. Turning to public opinion polling doesn't give us much clarity.

The Pew Research Center has found support for the death penalty is on a downward trend, but it credits that drop to Democrats backing away from it, not Republicans.

And Gallup has pegged support for the death penalty at a stable 60 %.

The bottom line: It's not like anyone can claim a groundswell of support on the right for dropping the death penalty. But it's notable that a year after we wondered whether Nebraska was an anomaly or the start of a trend, there's plenty of evidence to suggest that conservative opposition to the death penalty may indeed be a trend -- a small but growing one.

(source: Amber Phillips, Washington Post)


Navy officer pleads not guilty to espionage

A Navy officer who spent time at the Pentagon and served in a secretive squadron pleaded not guilty to espionage charges Tuesday during a hearing at Norfolk Naval Station.

Lt. Cmdr. Edward C. Lin faces 2 counts of espionage, 3 counts of attempted espionage and 5 counts of communicating defense information, The Virginian-Pilot reported. If convicted by a panel of officers of the espionage charge, Lin could face the death penalty. No trial date has been set.

Lin is accused of spying for a foreign power from 2012 to 2014, during which time he was primarily a staff aide to Vice Adm. Joseph Mulloy. It is not publicly known what classified information Lin is alleged to have passed on, but his attorneys have said he's accused of spying for Taiwan, where he was born. Lin moved to the U.S. when he was 14 and became a citizen in 1998, a year before joining the Navy, The Virginian-Pilot reported.

While in the Navy, Lin worked at the Pentagon and also was part of a squadron in Hawaii, where the military believes some of the information handoffs may have occurred.

The Navy has designated Lin's prosecution as a "national security case." He was arrested at the Honolulu airport in September.

Lin's attorney contended during a preliminary hearing that some of the charges against his client stem from entrapment.

(source: Fox News)


106 handed down death penalty in Lebanon over Arsal clashes

A Lebanese military judge has sentenced 106 men to death over the 2014 clashes between the army and terrorists in the country's northeast near the border with conflict-ridden Syria.

A judicial source said Judge Najat Abou Chakra convicted 73 Syrians, 32 Lebanese and one Palestinian of belonging to terrorist groups and attacking the town of Arsal.

They were also indicted for "carrying out terrorist acts, killing and attempting to kill a number of soldiers from the Lebanese Army, Internal Security Forces and civilians, kidnapping several servicemen, burning and looting military posts and vehicles, causing insecurity and sowing sectarian strife."

According to the judge, the militants planned killing all those aged over 15 who sought to resist them.

Among those convicted, 77 are in custody but the remaining 29 are at large.

The suspects include Jamal Hussain Zainieh, also known as Abu Malek al-Talli, who is the al-Nusra Front terrorist group's leader in Syria's Qalamoun region.

Lebanon is suffering from the spillover of militancy in neighboring Syria, where foreign-backed extremists have been fighting government forces since 2011.

Daesh and al-Nusra Front, which is the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, have been active on the outskirts of Arsal.

The militants briefly overran Arsal in August 2014, taking about 30 Lebanese army and police forces hostage, some of whom were executed.

After lengthy negotiations, 16 of the captives were released last December as part of a prisoner swap deal.

Assisting Syrian army forces, fighters with the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement have thwarted several terrorist attacks.

(source: Presstv)


Report: Liberman turned down Defense Minister offer----Yisrael Beytenu head rejects position, promise of death penalty for terrorists; says current gov't not really right-wing.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu recently offered Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman the Defense Minister position, Channel 10 reports Tuesday, if his party joined the coalition.

Nertanyahu also offered Liberman a commitment to uphold a "death penalty for terrorists" policy Liberman has championed for years.

But Liberman evidently turned him down.

A senior Likud source told Arutz Sheva late Tuesday that the move was due to Netanyahu's beliefs that "a broad government can better cope with political, security, and economic challenges." Currently, the coalition is teetering with a treacherous 61 MKs - a majority of just one in the 120-seat Knesset.

But Yisrael Beytenu sources rejected this claim, saying that Netanyahu continues to deceive voters about his promises of a right-wing government, even more so since Netanyahu has entered serious talks with jis political nemesis Yitzhak Herzog (Zionist Union) about a unity government.

"Since the elections, Yisrael Beytenu demands the establishment of a genuine national government - which overthrows the Hamas regime in Gaza, builds up Ariel and Ma'aleh Adumim, and void [Joint List MKs] Ayman Odeh and Hanin Zoabi from running for the Knesset," Yisrael Beytenu sources fired.

Polls Monday showed that a vast majority of Israelis are opposed to a unity government, with Zionist Union voters in particular outraged over the proposal.

If elections were held today, Liberman's party would gain three additional seats as Likud would lose several, two separate studies have indicated - most likely due to voter frustration over a string of stalled promises from Netanyahu. Jewish Home, the Knesset's other right-wing party, would also stand to gain several seats, the projections show.

(source: Israel National News)


Iran regime steps up executions; 21 hanged in 48 hours

Iran's fundamentalist regime has sharply increased its rate of executions, carrying out at least 21 hangings in a 48-hour period this week.

2 men were hanged earlier on Wednesday in the Central Prison of Urmia (Orumieh), north-west Iran. They were identified as Dariyoush Farajzadeh and Ghafour Qaderzadeh.

Another 2 men were hanged on Wednesday in a prison in Yasuj, central Iran, according to Mehrdad Karami, the regime's prosecutor in the city. The men, whose names were not given, were 26 and 34 years old, he said.

A man, only identified by his initials S. R., 31, was hanged on Wednesday in a prison in Sari, northern Iran, according to the regime's judiciary in Mazandaran Province.

The state broadcaster IRIB, quoting the regime's judiciary in Yazd Province, central Iran, announced on its website that 8 prisoners were hanged in the province on Tuesday. The regime's Prosecutor in Yazd Province had earlier told the state-run Rokna news agency that 6 people had been hanged in the province on Tuesday.

A separate report from Isfahan, central Iran, said that a prisoner was hanged in the city's notorious Dastgerd Prison on Monday, May 16. He has been identified as Malek Salehi, 35.

6 men were hanged collectively in the Central Prison of Urmia on Tuesday, May 17. They had been serving a prison sentence in Ward 15 of the jail on drugs-related charges.

They were identified as Naji Keywan, Nader Mohammadi, Ali Shamugardian, Aziz Nouri-Azar, Fereydoon Rashidi and Heidar Amini.

Also on Tuesday, a man was hanged in public in the north-eastern city of Mashhad.

The victim, who was not named, was hanged at 7 am in the city's Mofatteh Square. His sentence had been upheld by the regime's Supreme Court.

Ms. Farideh Karimi, a member of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and a human rights activist, on Tuesday criticized the lack of response by the international community and human rights groups to the appalling state of human rights in Iran.

The latest hangings bring to at least 97 the number of people executed in Iran since April 10. 3 of those executed were women and 1 is believed to have been a juvenile offender.

Iran's fundamentalist regime last week amputated the fingers of a man in his 30s in Mashhad, the latest in a line of draconian punishments handed down and carried out in recent weeks.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) said in a statement on April 13 that the increasing trend of executions "aimed at intensifying the climate of terror to rein in expanding protests by various strata of the society, especially at a time of visits by high-ranking European officials, demonstrates that the claim of moderation is nothing but an illusion for this medieval regime."

Amnesty International in its April 6 annual Death Penalty report covering the 2015 period wrote: "Iran put at least 977 people to death in 2015, compared to at least 743 the year before."

"Iran alone accounted for 82% of all executions recorded" in the Middle East and North Africa, the human rights group said.

There have been more than 2,300 executions during Hassan Rouhani's tenure as President. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran in March announced that the number of executions in Iran in 2015 was greater than any year in the last 25 years. Rouhani has explicitly endorsed the executions as examples of "God's commandments" and "laws of the parliament that belong to the people."

(source: NCR-Iran)


Open letter to UN human rights experts to intervene against ongoing juvenile executions

Paris-Geneva, 17 May 2016


-- The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mr. Ahmed Shaheed

-- The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Mr. Christof Heyns

-- The Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Mr. Juan Mendez

-- Members of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child

-- Members of the UN Human Rights Committee

Dear Sirs/Madams,

I am writing to request your urgent intervention in the case of Alireza Tajiki, who was 15 years old at the time of his arrest in 2012 for alleged rape and murder. His execution was scheduled for Sunday 15 May 2016 in Adelabad prison in the city of Shiraz, but his lawyer and a number of other supporters managed to secure a temporary stay of execution. However, it is not clear for how long the execution has been postponed, notably because Iran's Islamic Penal Code empowers parents of the victims of murder to demand the execution of the alleged perpetrator.

The death sentence imposed on Mr. Tajiki is primarily based on a "confession" extracted from him under torture during his initial detention in solitary confinement, even though he retracted this "confession" during his trial, stating that he had been tortured and proclaiming his innocence. Throughout his detention and trial, Mr. Tajiki was denied due process, including being denied access to a lawyer during the investigation period.

After a trial that failed to meet international standards of fairness and transparency, he was sentenced to death in April 2014. A branch of the Supreme Court overturned this sentence and sent the case back to the issuing court for lack of evidence, and ordered further investigation. Nevertheless, the first-instance court re-imposed the death sentence based on the defendant's "confessions," without any reference to any other evidence or investigation into torture allegations. Despite this gross failure to investigate, the Supreme Court upheld the 2nd death sentence.

Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh, Alireza Tajiki's lawyer, who has applied for his retrial, stated on her Facebook page: "There are many ambiguous aspects in his file that create many doubts about the sentence. The worst aspect is that Alireza Tajiki was not older than 15 [at the time of the commission of the alleged offence]."

The Islamic Republic of Iran has been the biggest executioner of juvenile offenders worldwide for some years. The usual practice in Iran is to keep the alleged juvenile offenders in prison until they reach the age of 18 and then execute them. Nevertheless, several defendants have been executed even before reaching the age of 18.

International human rights organisations have documented the executions of at least 73 juveniles since 2005, including 4 in 2015, 13 in 2014, 8 in 2013, 4 in 2012 and 7 in 2011. On 19 October 2015, the UN Secretary General expressed his deep sadness regarding the execution of 2 juvenile offenders the week before in Iran. According to the Secretary General's report to the Human Rights Council in February 2015, at least 160 juvenile offenders were reportedly on death row as of December 2014. (A/HRC/28/26)

Recalling that Iran is a State party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, I request you to:

- ask Iran to order a fair retrial of Alireza Tajiki without recourse to the death penalty, and to fully investigate the allegations that he was subjected to torture;

- urge Iran to repeal all death sentences against juveniles and order retrials in all cases of death-row juveniles, in compliance with its obligations under international human rights law, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child; and

- call on UN member states, and in particular those States with economic and political ties with Iran, to use their influence to insist that Iran stop the practice of juvenile executions.


Karim Lahidji, FIDH President

CC: UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mr. Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein



Halt Execution of Alireza Tajiki

Iranian teenager Alireza Tajiki is at continued risk of execution. The authorities did not carry out his scheduled execution on 15 May after a global outcry. However, they have not committed to not rescheduling the execution. Alireza Tajiki had been sentenced to death for a crime he says he did not commit. He was 15 years old at the time of the crime.


(source: Amnesty International USA)


House leaders slam Duterte's plan to revive public executions

House leaders have rejected the planned public executions by hanging especially on drug-related crimes by incoming president Rodrigo Roa Duterte, saying that the re-imposition of death penalty is not the antidote to the rising cases of crimes in the country.

Speaker Feliciano "Sonny" Belmonte Jr., vice president of the Liberal Party, maintained that the revival of death penalty is not the answer to the brutality of criminals who prey on the old and the weak.

He described as "divisive" Duterte's plan to restore the death penalty and said that "it won't fly."

"A very divisive issue in the House," Belmonte, vice president of the ruling Liberal party (LP), said, adding that the country's criminal justice system should be strengthened first.

But Belmonte was quick to add that they will be "supportive" of the Duterte administration’s programs and legislative agenda.

On Monday, Duterte vowed to push for the restoration of death penalty for heinous crimes including robbery with rape.

Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza, for his part, insisted "the problem is the lack of effective and efficient law enforcement."

"It is not and never will be an effective deterrent to the commission of crimes and will not address this serious problem," he said.

1-BAP Party-list Rep. Silvestre Bello III, who served as Justice Secretary during the Ramos administration, said the best and most effective deterrent to criminality is the quick and effective apprehension and prosecution of criminals.

"The death penalty runs counter to the provision and spirit of our Constitution against inhuman and cruel punishment," he said.

In an earlier interview, Marikina Rep. Miro Quimbo branded the proposal as "anti-poor", "considering that no rich person has been executed in the last 40 years."

"The presence of the death penalty has no effect on the reduction of criminality," he said.

Republic Act (RA) No. 7659 or the Death Penalty Law was scrapped during the leadership of 2 women presidents - the late President Corazon Aquino and former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.


Father Amado Picardal, who helped bury a teenager from a slum family who was gunned down by motorcycle-riding assassins in Davao, said a Duterte presidency is "very frightening."

He added that human rights groups will need to keep a close watch and document any violations, especially extrajudicial killings, in the next 6 years.

In a report, the Commission on Human Rights said 206 people, mostly suspected criminals and including 19 minors, were slain in shootings and stabbings attributed to the death squads from 2005 to 2009 alone, adding that there were witnesses to at least 94 of the killings.

"Nobody wanted to testify," said Loretta Ann Rosales, who headed the commission at the time. "There was a measure of fear. We can't prove his criminal liability because nobody would say that he ordered the killings."

Phelim Kine of the US-based group Human Rights Watch said it found no hard evidence of any direct role by Duterte in 28 death-squad killings, mostly from 2007 to 2008 that it investigated.

Rosales said the Philippine human rights commission asked the Ombudsman, which prosecutes officials for wrongdoing, to investigate Duterte in 2012 for possible administrative liability "for his inaction in the face of evidence of numerous killings committed in Davao City and his toleration of the commission of those offenses."

Despite his brash campaign rhetoric, Duterte will find it hard to bring his Davao crime-fighting style to the rest of the country because of the oversight of Congress, the judiciary and other agencies that check abuses. The world will be watching too, said Picardal, who was assigned to Davao for many years until he moved to Manila in 2011.

"There are checks and balances," he said. "The eyes of the nation and the world are on him."

(source: Manila Bulletin)


Return of death penalty to be tackled in first 100 days of next Congress

The reimposition of the death penalty will be among the top legislative priorities when the 17th Congress starts in July, the point person of incoming President Rodrigo Duterte in the House of Representatives said.

Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon "Bebot" Alvarez said bills for the reinstatement of capital punishment will be tackled within the first 100 days of the incoming Congress.

"Isasalang 'yan," he told reporters Wednesday in a press conference in Pasay City. Duterte, known for his tough stance against crime, has been vocal about his desire to bring back capital punishment, particularly for heinous crimes such as rape.

Earlier this week, the outgoing Davao City mayor said he wants to impose death penalty by hanging. Alvarez, Duterte's choice for Speaker, is aware the proposal to revive death penalty could face rough sailing in the Congress but is determined to push for its passage.

"We respect yung mga iba't ibang opinions on the matter but the President campaigned on the basis of those platforms and the people voted for him, meaning meron siyang mandate to effect the necessary changes," he said.

Death penalty was abolished in 2006 when former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed a law repealing Republic Act 7659, which imposes capital punishment on certain heinous crimes.

Charter Change

Aside from the reviving capital punishment, Alvarez said Charter Change will also be a priority of the Duterte administration.

However, the mode for amending Constitution has yet to be discussed.

"The [incoming] President is calling for a Con con (Constitutional convention), but we have to remember that there are three modes of revising the Constitution: the Constitutional convention, constituent assembly and the people's initiative," he said.

Alvarez said Duterte wants to have a plebsicite on the proposed changes to the Constitution conducted in 2019, the same time as the midterm elections.



Mayor Beng to leave death penalty issue to lawmakers

Reelected Mayor Beng Climaco-Salazar did not make clear whether she will support or not the imposition of the death penalty being pushed by incoming president Rodrigo Duterte particularly for heinous crimes.

"Although the Catholic church is against death penalty, per se always pro-life, what kind of justice must be given to our people? Will it be death or life imprisonment?" Climaco told reporters in her first press conference at City Hall Monday since the May 9 election.

"So we will leave it up to our justices, to the lawmakers to really see what is a very good, corrective measure for the violators of the law," she said.

Citing Filipino citizens who commit crimes in other countries, the mayor said they are meted with death penalty, but those foreigners who violate Philippine laws are just deported back to their countries.

"That is why, this is not a strong deterrent particularly for foreign violators of the law to conduct crimes in the Philippines," she added.

Climaco further said that personally, she does not think she would bein a capacity to judge for herself "as there is always room for the person for corrective measure."

"In that case, again, without washing my hands as a local chief executive, we will abide by the product of the law," she said.

Climaco, meantime, said they will strongly support Duterte's proposals on curfew for minors and liquor ban in public places.

"How it is to be translated in the form of the law that will guide all local chief executives and the local government? We will just await the issuance of the law and I believe once it is enacted or once the executive order from president comes out, it will always be in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines without violating the rights of the people. We will just abide," she explained.

The camp of Duterte had earlier said the curfew is principally forminors, unescorted, past 10:00 p.m. It will not include minorswith their parents or guardians.

It was also made clear that the liquor ban in Davao City, which prohibits establishments from selling alcohol after 1 a.m., will only be ineffect in public places.

Aside from the curfew and liquor ban, Duterte also imposed a karaoke ban and a no-smoking policy in public areas in Davao City.

(source: Zamboanga Today)


Cook and veggie seller escape the gallows

A cook and a vegetable seller charged with trafficking in more than 2kg of ketamine at a house in Jalan Tanjung Bungah were sentenced to 5 years' jail after they pleaded guilty to an alternate charge of drug possession.

Judicial Commissioner Datuk Azmi Ariffin ordered the sentence for Teh Lai Heng, 40, and Tan Kean Lye, 48, to commence from Dec 18, 2013. which was the date of their arrest.

The offence under Section 12(2) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 and punishable under Section 12(3) of the same act carries a fine of up to RM100,000 and a jail sentence of not more than 5 years, or both.

Both were previously charged under Section 39B(1)(a) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 which carries the mandatory death penalty upon conviction.

According to the facts of the case, the police conducted a raid at the house and 5 plastic packets suspected to contain ketamine were discovered on Teh. Tan was found in 1 of the rooms in the house.

At the premises, police also discovered numerous plastic packets containing the same substance, a digital weighing scale, empty plastic packets and a small plastic spoon.

In mitigation, Datuk Ranjit Singh Dhillon said Teh was a stroke, diabetes and renal disease patient with a wife and a 5-year-old son while Tan is also married with a 13-year-old child.

"Both had pleaded guilty at the 1st instance they were offered the alternate charge. I hope the court can take into account that they are first-time offenders and had been in remand since they were arrested in 2013."

DPP Emma Syafawati Abdul Wahab said an appropriate punishment should be meted out due to the severity of the offence.

In his judgment, Azmi said public interest should not be compromised.

"I hope this can become a lesson for the 2 of you as it is not the right way to earn a living and what you are doing can ruin the country, yourself, your family and children," he said.

(source: The Star)


Human Rights Watchdog Calls for End to Capital Punishment

As preparations for the third round of executions continue on Nusakambangan Island near Cilacap, Central Java, human rights activists and legal academics have criticized Indonesia's continued use of capital punishment.

Respublica Political Institute executive director Benny Sabdo said the death penalty is a violation of human rights, inhumane and ineffective as a form of punishment.

"The death sentence still applies in the United States, but violent crime rates are still high there. Meanwhile in Canada, where capital punishment has been abolished, crime rates have receded," the law professor said on Wednesday (18/05).

Benny believes capital punishment equals man playing God.

"Punishments for crime should not violate basic human rights, and should not degrade human dignity in any way," said the professor, who also believes that the death penalty does not serve as a deterrent to crime.

According to Amnesty International, Indonesia is 1 of 37 United Nations member states that continue to use the death penalty in law and practice, while 102 have completely abolished it for all crimes.

The University of Indonesia constitutional law alumni emphasized that death row inmates are not objects and therefore still entitled to basic human rights. He added that Indonesia must be consistent in enforcing human rights for all.

Besides Indonesians, citizens of China, Nigeria and Zimbabwe are expected to be on the list of inmates facing the firing squad in the third round of executions.

(source: Jakarta Globe)


Indonesia strives to avoid media frenzy over drug executions

While Indonesia prepares to execute 15 prisoners convicted of drug offences, it seems the government is keen to avoid the media attention that surrounded executions last year. 5 Indonesians, 1 Pakistani, 4 Chinese, 2 Senegalese, 2 Nigerians and 1 Zimbabwean are due to face a firing squad this month, according to local media.

Speaking to Southeast Asia Globe, Indonesian lawyer Ricky Gunawan, who represented one of the convicts executed last year, said the death sentences were likely to be carried out soon.

"Lots of government officials have said that they want to avoid the hysteria and media frenzy and spotlight on Indonesia," Gunawan added.

Indonesia's chief security minister, Luhut Pandjaitan, appeared to confirm this when he recently told journalists that "the executions can take place any time, but there will not be a 'soap opera' about it this time".

14 prisoners were executed in 2015, all but 2 of them foreign nationals. They included Australian citizens Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, members of the so-called Bali 9, and Brazilian Rodrigo Gularte. Philippine national Mary Jane Veloso was given a last-minute reprieve but remains on death row. All these cases were followed closely in their home countries and further afield. Notably, of this year's batch of 10 foreigners, 7 are from countries that also employ the death penalty.

Last week, the Anti-Death Penalty Civil Society Coalition, a group of 16 Indonesian NGOs, held a press conference to decry the executions, saying they were not the solution to address drug crime in their country.

The head of the Indonesian Drug Victim Advocacy Brotherhood (PKNI), Totok Yulianto, said the number of drug convicts has been rising, despite two rounds of executions last year. 6 people were executed in January and 8 more in April 2015.

According to PKNI, nearly 62,000 prisoners were incarcerated for drug-related crimes in October 2014, and by February this year the number stood at 69,662. This meant that almost 40% of all prisoners were in jail for narcotics offences.

"Even though the government had carried out executions in January and April. This shows that the death penalty does not create a deterrent effect. This is data from the directorate general of corrections," the Jakarta Post reported Yulianto as saying last week.

In April, the UN's General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the global drug problem. Indonesia delivered a statement in defence of retaining the death penalty, on behalf of a coalition comprising China, Singapore and Malaysia, among others.

A statement released by PKNI on Monday said that the lack of fair trials in Indonesia is another reason why the use of death penalty should be reviewed. They pointed to the use of torture to extract confessions and a lack of adequate legal representation for those without the resources.

(source: Southeast Asia Globe)


A year on, Indonesia gears up for executions again

Only a year after the execution of Australians Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, Indonesia is gearing up for another round of executions. Determined to keep it low profile, Indonesian authorities are remaining tight-lipped about the condemned.

If Indonesia has learnt anything from the diplomatic fiasco ignited by last year's execution of 14 death-row inmates, it seems to be this: if you're going to kill drug offenders, and particularly foreign nationals, keep it low profile. Or better still, assemble a line-up from countries that are less likely to remonstrate. Not the lesson, perhaps, that the international community might have hoped for.

As Indonesia gears up for another round of executions, it's becoming depressingly clear that after the intense media coverage of 2015 - the political posturing, the desperate pleas and impassioned headlines - this year's condemned will go to their deaths in the forests of central Java with barely a murmur of protest. The final wishes of executed Australians Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan - for an end to the death penalty - will not be granted. Or not yet.

Indonesian lawmakers are remaining tight-lipped about the condemned - who they are, and how many - but there are rumoured to be up to 15 drug offenders, largely non-Western foreign nationals of retentionist countries, who could be executed as early as this week. "There is only the choosing of the specific date. That's what I haven't been able to decide," announced Attorney-General H.M. Prasetyo, as though pondering when to hold a luncheon rather than when he will usher the next desperate band of convicts onto the killing fields of Nusakambangan.

If the public pronouncements from senior figures are distasteful, though - desultory remarks about sprucing up the execution site, drilling the shooters, or preparing facilities to accommodate the bodies of the not-yet-dead - that's not exactly unique to Indonesia. The recent debate in Virginia on the merits of the lethal injection cocktail versus 1800 volts of electricity reminds us that there's no nice way to talk about state-sanctioned murder.

Authorities are resolved to avoid any "drama" this time around, as though the macabre theatre of last year - the armoured Barracuda carriers and brigades of masked security personnel - was not scripted by Indonesia itself. "There won't be a soap opera like the last time", according to Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Panjaitan "because I think that wasn't pretty". No indeed.

Of course, the less said about these executions, the harder it is to scrutinise the mechanics of Indonesia's capital punishment apparatus or the narratives of those that are caught within it. Like Zulfiqar Ali, for instance, sentenced to death for possession of 300g heroin: except that Ali wasn't in possession of the drug at all, and the individual who was - and who fingered Ali as his supplier - has since retracted his testimony.

This bleak situation may not come as any surprise to legal experts or anyone else who witnessed, with dismay and disbelief, the events of 2015. Young Filipina Mary Jane Veloso came within minutes of an encounter with the firing squad before new evidence - suggesting Veloso wasn't, in fact, a drug trafficker but a trafficked person - was finally conceded. And in this, too, Indonesia is not alone.

Research from the United States reveals that, conservatively, about 4 % of those sentenced to death are innocent. That's around 8000 men and women in the US that have been placed, falsely, on death row since the 1970s - and only a fraction of these will ever be exonerated. The rash of forced confessions that undermines the integrity of capital sentencing in Indonesia appears to be part of an epidemic that spans the Middle East and even the United States. The death penalty, it turns out, is not the ultimate way for the community to mete out justice, but injustice.

In some respects, the tide is turning. In April, an Indonesian delegate at the United Nations general assembly special session on drugs was booed for defending the use of the death penalty for drug crime - and there's no doubt its use in this context is deeply troubling. But it's not clear why such public demonstrations of scorn are reserved for Indonesia alone, and why the conversation around capital punishment is perennially hijacked by a focus on the crime, rather than the punishment. The number of offenders allegedly on Indonesia's hit list is almost identical to the number put to death in the United States this year so far; similar to that executed by state of Texas in 2015 alone.

Whether or not the death penalty should be applied to drug crime or only reserved for more serious crimes like murder is missing the point. Worse, this type of thinking lures us into a dangerous moral calculus that leaves us at the mercy of our greatest fears and our deepest prejudice: terrorism but never murder; murder but never drugs; drugs but never apostasy. Because here's the thing - the fatal flaws in the death penalty are the same regardless of crime.

The question of who is sentenced to death and who is ultimately executed - and when - has nothing to do with judicial impartiality and, in some cases, precious little even to do with the penal code. The lottery of a system that can arbitrarily hand death to one individual and a 10-year sentence to another for the same crime is chilling, as is the unnerving correlation between politics and executions - evident from Iran, to Indonesia, to the cynical timing of Afghanistan's executions of Taliban prisoners a fortnight ago. Research on US state elections reveal an even more dismal statistic: executions are 25 percent more likely in election years than other years, and elections increase this risk by an even larger amount if the defendant is African-American. God bless America.

Capital punishment - no matter where or how it's used - targets the disadvantaged with a savage specificity. The key predictors of a death sentence in the US are not the severity of the crime but victim race and geography, and in the same way that capital punishment takes aim at blacks and Hispanics in the US, in Asia it is largely reserved for 'the poor, and the poorly connected'. Corruption may be rife in many Asian judicial systems - prompting some academics to tacitly advocate the bribery of public officials - but in the US, too, capital sentences are simply not handed to those that can afford good legal representation, according to Supreme Court justices. Indeed, the litany of incompetence, including unethical and even criminal conduct, from attorneys in capital cases is no less stunning in Dallas than it is in Denpasar.

And if that's so, what difference does it make whether a death sentence is handed to a drug smuggler in Bali or a murderer in Oklahoma? It's time we realised there's no such thing as a justice system that's infallible, and dispensed with the collective delusion that a death sentence - in Texas or Tehran or Tangerang - is reserved for those most deserving of this ultimate measure of justice. And while we're at it, it's time we abandoned the notion that capital punishment has anything to do with justice in the first place.

(source: Commentary; Sarah Gill is an Age columnist who has worked as a writer and a policy analyst. She is undertaking postgraduate legal studies at the University of Western Australia----Sydney Morning Herald)


Bekasi Drug Dealers Arrested With Two Kilos of Crystal Meth

2 alleged drug dealers who had been on the run were arrested on the weekend with 2 kilos of crystal methamphetamine and around 34,000 ecstasy pills worth around Rp 3 billion ($225,000) in their possession in Bekasi, West Java, police said on Tuesday (17/05).

Bekasi Police chief Sr. Comr. Herry Sumarji told reporters the alleged drug dealers - identified only by their initials E.D. (30) and D.S. (45) - were part of an Indonesian drug syndicate led by one of Indonesia's most wanted drug fugitives, identified as U.G.

Herry said E.D. was arrested with 14 grams of crystal meth in his possession at a rented house on Jalan Masjid Hudal Islam in Pondokgede, Bekasi on Friday at around 10 a.m. The next day, police arrested D.S. in the neighboring subdistrict of Jakasampurna thanks to E.D.'s tip-offs.

After questioning both suspects, police again searched D.S.'s rented room and found 2 kilos of crystal methamphetamine and 34,000 ecstasy pills.

Herry said the drugs allegedly belonged to drug fugitive U.G. who lived in the same rented room with D.S. in Jakasampurna.

U.G. served a sentence for drug dealing at the Karawang Prison last year. He is believed to have returned to the drug business and now controls the drug market in Bekasi and surrounding areas.

According to Indonesia's anti-narcotics law, the amount of drugs confiscated in the raid was more than enough to charge the alleged dealers with the death penalty.

(source: Jakarta Globe)


UN calls on the Singapore Government to halt the execution of Kho Jabing

The following is a press release by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights' Regional Office for South-East Asia/


We urgently call on the Singapore Government to halt the execution of Malaysian national Kho Jabing, who is due to be hanged on Friday.

Kho, 31, has endured years of immense suffering on death row as his sentence has been changed several times.

Kho was sentenced to death in 2010 for murder. At the time, a mandatory death penalty applied to all cases of murder in Singapore. In 2012, Singapore amended legislation regarding the mandatory use of the death penalty and his sentence was changed to life imprisonment and 24 strokes of the cane. However, Kho's death sentence was reinstated in January 2015 by the Court of Appeal. In November 2015, Kho was granted a temporary stay of execution less than 24 hours before he was due to be hanged. On 5 April, his death sentence was upheld by the Court of Appeal.

Despite several appeals by the UN Human Rights Office and civil society groups, Singapore said Kho would be hanged on 20 May 2016. During Singapore's human rights review in Geneva in January, several states called on the Government to abolish the death penalty. Singapore has yet to respond to the recommendations.

We call on the Singapore Government to immediately take steps to establish a moratorium on the death penalty as part of a process toward the full abolishment of capital punishment.

More than 160 Members States of the United Nations with a variety of legal systems, traditions, cultures and religious backgrounds, have either abolished the death penalty or do not practice it. In South-East Asia, only Cambodia, Timor-Leste and the Philippines have fully abolished the death penalty.

For more information on the death penalty in South-East Asia, view our publication entitled "Moving Away from the Death Penalty: Lessons in South-East Asia".

(source: The Independent)


Lawyers plead for Kho Jabing's life in last-ditch effort

In a last-ditch effort to save the life of the death row inmate Kho Jabing, the 3 bar associations of Malaysia have submitted a letter pleading for clemency to Singapore President Tony Tan.

In the letter, the Advocates Association of Sarawak, the Sabah Law Association, and the Malaysian Bar asked for Kho's death sentence to be commuted to life imprisonment.

They argued that the decision on whether Kho should live or die should not depend on the collective decision of a majority of judges, and pointed out that some of the Singaporean judges that have presided over the case have expressed doubt on whether Kho intended to kill.

"The fact that learned judges of Singapore have expressed doubts that Kho Jabing exhibited sufficient mens rea or intention to commit the crime of murder should, in and of itself, give rise to concerns whether Kho Jabing should be made to pay the ultimate price for his crime and be sentenced to hang.

"If there is any doubt at all about his level of intention, and there genuinely is, that doubt must be resolved in Kho Jabing's favour," says the letter signed by the presidents of the three associations, Leonard Shim, Brenndon Soh, and Steven Thiru.

"The death penalty is an irreversible punishment. Once taken, Kho Jabing's life cannot be returned to him or his family," the letter cautioned.

The letter was handed to the Singapore High Commissioner to Malaysia Vanu Gopala Menon today by Bar Council Human Rights Committee co-chairperson Andrew Khoo, on behalf of the three associations.

Speaking to reporters outside the Singapore High Commission building in Kuala Lumpur later, Khoo said the high commissioner has agreed to relay the contents of the letter to the Singaporean government.

Kho, 31, is a Malaysian citizen from Sarawak who is now being held at Changi Prison, Singapore.

He was convicted of murder in 2010 and was given the mandatory death sentence, but was re-sentenced to life imprisonment and 24 strokes of the cane when the Singaporean government reviewed its death penalty laws in 2012.

'Wrong in principle'

On Jan 14 last year, however, the Singaporean Court of Appeal reportedly reimposed the death penalty in a unanimous decision, following an appeal by the prosecution.

He is slated to hang on Friday, which is also reportedly the birthday of one of his 2 sisters.

Meanwhile, lawyer Khoo told reporters that the Malaysian Bar is opposed to mandatory sentencing - be it a jail or a death sentence - and the death sentence itself.

He said mandatory sentencing takes away the discretion of judges to decide what should be the appropriate punishment for the cases they presided, and this appears to be creeping into Malaysia's own statute books.

"It is wrong in principle. After all, we train our judges and we rely on their experience to mete justice, and justice cannot be served by mandatory sentencing," he said.

As for death sentencing, Khoo said it is wrong to respond to a killing by also taking the killer's life, which in essence lowers a society to the offender's standards.

He said the Malaysian government has already conceded that the mandatory death penalty does not deter crime, and hopes it would expedite the proposals for its repeal.

"Mandatory death sentences are on their way out; it is merely a question of when. They (the government) has made certain public commitments or public statements about reviewing it, and we urge the government to really expedite and finalise their proposals so that they can be presented to Parliament as soon as possible, so that we can end this idea of mandatory death sentences.

"We also hope they will realise that mandatory sentencing in itself is also wrong in principle," he said.



With Malaysian to hang in Singapore, Bar says death penalty not answer to crime

Mandatory death sentences are ineffective deterrents to crime, a representative of the Malaysian Bar argued today ahead of a Sarawakian's capital punishment in Singapore on Friday.

Commenting on the case of Kho Jabing who will be hanged on Friday, the Bar Council’s Human Rights Committee chairman Andrew Khoo said death sentences would put society on the same level as convicted killers.

"Justice cannot be served by mandatory sentencing. Secondly, you don't respond to someone who killed by also killing that person," Khoo told reporters today after submitting a clemency appeal for Jabing, to Singapore president Dr Tony Tan via the Singapore High Commission here.

Khoo was representing the Malaysian Bar as well as the Advocates Association of Sarawak and the Sabah Law Association, who signed the appeal.

In the appeal, the legal bodies pleaded with Tan to review Jabing's sentence, pointing out that judges were divided over the death penalty in his case.

"The fact that learned judges of Singapore have expressed doubts that Kho Jabing exhibited sufficient mens rea or intention to commit the crime of murder, should, in and of itself, give rise to concerns whether Kho Jabing should be made to pay the ultimate price for his crime and be sentenced to hang," the joint appeal letter read.

Jabing was convicted of killing a Chinese construction worker in 2008 and sentenced to death in the island state.

He was previously scheduled to be executed on November 6 last year but won a temporary reprieve pending a court appeal.

Singapore authorities have informed the family that the execution date has been fixed for Friday morning.



I discovered the truth about Singapore's 'war on drugs'. Now I campaign against the death penalty

Yong Vui Kong was my 1st encounter with the death penalty in Singapore. I was 21 years old, and so was he. But we couldn't be further apart when I sat in the public gallery of the courtroom and he in the dock, behind a glass pane. At that age I was considered by many older people as young, idealistic, naive, prone to mistakes and immaturity. Yet the Singaporean criminal justice system was expecting Yong Vui Kong to die for a mistake he'd made when he was just 19 years old.

Born to a poor family in the east Malaysian state of Sabah, Vui Kong was arrested in 2007 with 47.27 grams of heroin. Under Singaporean law, 15 grams and above is enough to attract the mandatory death penalty. Seeing his youth, the trial judge had asked the prosecution to consider reducing the charge, so he wouldn't have to face the gallows.

The prosecution refused.

This is the reality of the 'war on drugs' in Singapore. An uncompromising attitude is sold as being 'tough on crime', and largely bought by the populace as the secret sauce to keeping Singapore the safe, relatively low-crime city it is.

An uncompromising attitude is sold as being 'tough on crime'.

"When we talk about death penalty for drug traffickers, what are we talking about? The person brings across heroin enough to feed 950 people for one week, that person faces death penalty. People look at the drug traffickers that we impose a death penalty on. Very little of the literature focuses on the death penalties that drug traffickers impose on society," said law and home affairs minister Kasiviswanathan Shanmugam at a question and answer session with university students in March.

This mentality makes capital punishment look like a logical trade-off; we sacrifice the lives of a number of nasty people for the good of hundreds or thousands. It's taught to Singaporean children from a young age, with little critique or question.

By the time I entered the picture in 2010, Vui Kong's case had been taken over by human rights lawyer M. Ravi, who had won him a stay of execution and was mounting a challenge to the constitutionality of the mandatory death penalty (which would later fail). Outside the courtroom, the long-running Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign (SADPC) was doing its best to work within the limits of Singapore's restrictions on advocacy, activism and protest to raise awareness of his case. By the end of that year, 2 18-year-old students and I would set up We Believe in Second Chances, a campaign for Vui Kong meant to emphasise his youth through ours.

We had originally intended for Second Chances to just be a campaign for Vui Kong. But his story led to a deeper examination of capital punishment, criminal justice and drug policy, and we quickly realised that the issue went far, far beyond one young Sabahan.

We've since worked, or are working, with multiple families of death row inmates - we aren't able to get permission from the prison to visit the inmates themselves. Some of these capital cases are for murder, but the vast majority were convicted of drug trafficking.

Proponents of the 'war on drugs' would have you imagine that the drug traffickers who are caught and put to death are murderers in their own right: evil, greedy criminals who care little for anyone or anything apart from enriching themselves.

If these cold-blooded hoodlums are getting caught and sent to death row, we're not seeing them.

If these cold-blooded hoodlums are getting caught and sent to death row, we're not seeing them. The people we see are scared, bewildered parents, siblings and partners, representing similarly scared and bewildered inmates desperate for a chance, any chance, to avoid a date with the long drop. They are often from ethnic minority groups, or low-income, less-educated households. Many of the families are broken or dysfunctional in some way: estranged parents and abusive environments.

Society might prefer to imagine that people offend because they are inherently malicious, but we more often than not see how different socio-economic circumstances create communities or individuals more vulnerable to being both offenders and victims.

There is Muhammad Rizuan, who languishes on death row because the prosecution chose not to grant him a "certificate of cooperation", a prerequisite before one can avoid the death penalty. In his case, we see people sent to the gallows not just for their crime, but for their subsequent lack of usefulness to the authorities. Yet how useful could a low-level courier really be?

There is Roslan bin Bakar, whose conviction relied more on testimony than hard evidence, showing that there are far more problems with the death penalty than its failure to deal with drug offences.

And then there is Yong Vui Kong himself, a boy from a plantation in east Malaysia whose journey to prison was paved with poverty, neglect, abuse and a dearth of opportunities beyond gang membership. (Fortunately for Vui Kong, changes in the law allowed his death sentence to be changed to life imprisonment with caning.)

It is unlikely that being 'tough on crime' would have saved any of these men from their current predicaments. There is even less evidence that being tough on these men, as part of Singapore's 'war on drugs', will prevent any others from being recruited into drug syndicates, or abusing drugs themselves. As long as there are poor, under-served and vulnerable communities, drug lords will enjoy a steady supply of hapless young men and women to use as mules. And as long as we continue to execute these mules, we are shifting focus and resources away from the greater task of education, advocacy, rehabilitation and social justice that is truly important in addressing the problem.

(source: Kirsten Han; article is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy and CELS, an Argentine human rights organisation with a broad agenda that includes advocating for drug policies respectful of human rights. The partnership coincides with the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs)


2006 Mumbai Train Blasts Final Verdict: Death penalty to 5, life imprisonment for 7

The special court in Mumbai on Wednesday pronounced verdict in Mumbai local train serial blasts awarding death sentence to 5 while life imprisonment to 7 other convicts. It is to be known that the blasts had killed 188 people travelling through Mumbai local trains.

Special Judge Yatin D Shinde had finalized the hearing in the case last week 9 years after the blasts rattled Mumbai. The prosecutor was demanding death punishment for 8 of the accused while life imprisonment for four others.

On September 23, the MCOCA court had reserved its verdict on sentencing the 12 accused in the case and had scheduled September 30 to make the final verdict.

Before than on September 11, the MCOCA court had convicted 12 of the 13 accused for playing an important role in executing the massive blasts in India's commercial capital. The court also found them guilty of having connections with banned terror organization SIMI. However, it also acquitted one accused.

The accused were found guilty of charges under IPC, Explosives Act, Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act and Indian Railway Act and those under MCOCA.

The court also held all 12 of them guilty under Sections 3 (1) (i) of MCOCA, which also amount up to capital punishment.

The convicts were identified as Kamal Ahamed Ansari (37), Tanvir Ahmed Ansari (37), Mohd Faisal Shaikh (36), Ehtesham Siddiqui (30), Mohammad Majid Shafi (32), Shaikh Alam Shaikh (41), Mohd Sajid Ansari (34),Muzzammil Shaikh (27), Soheil Mehmood Shaikh (43), Zamir Ahmad Shaikh (36), Naveed Hussain Khan (30) and Asif Khan (38).

Post 12 accused were convicted, Judge Shinde, later, also allowed the defence lawyer to cross-examine witnesses to dig out the mitigating circumstances in the case.



Gangland murder: 2 sentenced to death

A district court here on Tuesday sentenced to death 2 of the 7 accused found guilty of the gangland-feud related murder of Santosh, alias Jet Santosh, here in December 2004.

Judge K.P. Indira imposed the death penalty on Anil Kumar alias Jackie and Soju alias Ajith Kumar.

The other accused, Binu Kumar, alias Pravu Binu Kumar, Suresh Kumar, alias Sura, Shaji, alias Kochu Shaji, Biju Kuttan, alias Biju, and Santosh were sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for life.

The prosecution had described them as a violent criminal gang suspected of several other serious crimes in the capital.

The gang had suspected Santosh of having an adulterous relationship with the sister of one of its members. The accused also believed that he had underhand dealings with an opposing gang, which like them, profited from running protection rackets.

Brutality of crime

The brazen brutality of the crime which occurred on December 22 evening had shocked the capital and, temporarily, raised questions about public safety.

(source: The Hindu)


Corruption will not die early, we must kill it

Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye is a former Director of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, a lawyer and chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC. In this interview with ROBERT AWOKUSE, he speaks on the activities of President Muhammadu Buhari's administration in the last one year, urging Nigerians to give the President more time to fulfil the promised change. Excerpts:

President Muhammadu Buhariled APC government will be 1 year in office in about 2 weeks time . What is your assessment of the Buhari administration in this one year and why is the change promised becoming what can be best described as hardship on Nigerians, looking at the strait economic situation and what is the way forward?

In answering your question, let me start with my old teacher, Dr Tai Solarin's statement, published in the Daily Times of January 1, 1964 as his New Year greeting to all Nigerians. The statement has been reproduced in Dare Babarinsa's recent publication on the 1st Century of Nigeria.

I quote: "May your road be rough. I'm not cursing you; I'm wishing you what I wish myself every year. I therefore repeat, may you have a hard time this year.... Our successes," he continued, "are conditioned by the amount of risks we are ready to take." Dr. Tai Solarin, the great patriot, pointed to a significant psychological feature of human life. The Bible had earlier identified the same philosophy that the seed you sow does not grow until it first decays. It dies first before it springs out life. The hues and cries of Change should be expected like when you change the gear of your car; you hear some noise; or when you snatch the feeding bottle from a baby, the baby cries. In the same way, corruption has been like a feeding bottle to many Nigerian public servants, politicians and business men. That is exactly what Nigeria is passing through right now. The hardship we are experiencing should be expected by any prudent person. It will be foolish to expect that the Change we expect will be smooth and noiseless. Let's endure it. What went on during the previous 16 years of PDP government, the current awful exposures which seem more awful than Maria Monk's exposures are no longer secret.

To fix that or to put things right, certainly there must be some hardship or suffering by all, including those who did not partake in the abuse of office. To expect that we will just have a smooth ride of change is illusionary. It will be foolish for anybody to think that a magician will just come and say "Nigeria change to better. Corruption I decree you disappear and it will be so". No, we have to sweat for it. We have to harden our laws. We have to be more vigilant. Corruption will not die easily. We must kill it. So I'm happy that the Legislature has now approved death penalty for kidnappers. But it should not be kidnappers alone. We need it for a few more offenders. Confiscation and restoration should not be sufficient for those who stole the nation's resources in the past. Maximum terms of imprisonment allowed in existing laws should be applied.

Since the Law does not allow retrospective effects on offenders, harsher laws should now be enacted including death penalty for new/future offenders after due prosecution. Jungle behavior deserves jungle laws! If you notice the amount of suffering Nigerians are going through because of the wickedness and lack of consideration of those who are in position, it is not a thing we should handle with kid gloves.

(source: National Mirror)


Besigye has treason charges read to him afresh, is further remanded ---- Besigye is charged under chapter five of the Penal Code Act under which treason attracts the death penalty.

By 7am, the roads leading to Nakawa Chief Magistrates Court had been blocked and traffic diverted in anticipation of the arrival of FDC's Kizza Besigye. Security operatives stood on guard outside and inside the court premises.

The court, presided over by Chief Magistrate, James Eremye Mawanda, was called to order at 8:30am.

The Chief Magistrate read the fresh treason charges to Besigye but declined to offer him the chance to defend himself since the court had no jurisdiction to try a suspect for treason, which is a capital offence.

Besigye is charged under chapter 5 of the Penal Code Act under which punishments for misdemeanors are listed and treason attracts the death penalty.

The former presidential candidate had no legal representation and when city Lawyer and opposition politician, Shifrah Lukwago, tried to stand in for him, Besigye refused saying he had not expected any lawyers.

Besigye's attempt to raise issues about the unfair treatment he had experienced while in prison was thwarted by the chief magistrate who asked him to take his concerns to the authorities at Luzira prison.

Besigye has been in police custody since 11th May when he was arrested in Kampala, charged in Moroto magistrates court on 13th May and detained on charges of treason, arising from a video clip that showed him swearing in as president of Uganda.

FDC officials Wasswa Biriggwa, Goeffrey Ekanya and Wafula Oguttu have been summoned to the Police special investigations unit in Kireka to explain their involvement in the alleged event.



Ugandan court to pass judgment in terror suspects case

Court Judgment in a case against 13 men suspected to have masterminded the twin bombing of Kampala in July 2010 is set for Wednesday.The case involves 13 men of Ugandan, Kenyan and Tanzania origin believed to be behind twin bombing of merrymaker's who were watching the 2010 FIFA World Cup final between Netherlands and Spain at Kyaddondo Rugby Club and Ethiopian Village Restaurant in Kabalagala.

Trial judge Alphonse Owiny Dollo set the date upon conclusion of hearing of the matter last month.

Court assessors last month advised the High Court to convict 12 of the suspects on the charge of terrorism, murder and attempted murder for their alleged participation in the July 2010 attack that left 76 people dead.

The suspects, who have been on remand since 2010, could face a death penalty if found guilty of terrorism and murder charges.

Prosecution alleges that the 13 men and others still at large, on July 11, 2010, intentionally and unlawfully delivered and discharged an explosion into Kyadondo Rugby Club and Ethiopian Village Restaurant with intent to cause death and serious bodily injury or extensive destruction likely to or actually result into major economic loss.

The suspects also face other charges which include murder, attempted murder, being an accessory, aiding and abetting terrorism and belonging to a terrorist group.


MAY 17, 2016:


Europeans make journey to Texas death row

Death row is where convicted murderers spend years of purgatory before the final walk to the death chamber. Many of them are shunned by their own families.

But there's one group prisoners call their salvation: Europeans who send care packages, money and travel thousands of miles on a journey to death row.

About an hour north of the big city of Houston lies the small town of Livingston, an unexpected tourist destination for Europeans like Mona Buras.

"I go to school now," Buras says. "Studying theology. I want to be a prison minister."

The 45-year-old mother of 2 just spent 26 hours traveling from Norway to visit a pen pal.

"With Perry, I've been writing with for more than 2 years now," Buras says. "I get a friend. I really do."

Her friend is a man who this summer, Texas plans to execute.

"Everybody else has just really turned their back on me, mostly," death row prisoner Perry Williams says.

He's convicted of robbing and murdering a medical student in Houston nearly 16 years ago. He claims the crime was not intentional.

"A lot of stuff is really hazy because I was under the influence of PCP," Williams says.

"Who pulled the trigger on that man?" reporter Emily Baucum asks.

"It's up in the air because he swung on us," Williams responds. "The gun went off during the process."

"I don't approve of it but I think they have 2nd chances," Buras says. "It's not my job to judge."

A Norwegian mother and a Texas prisoner - it's an unlikely friendship Williams admits is difficult to comprehend.

"I was skeptical because it was like, why do you want to help somebody that's supposed to be killing somebody?" Williams says.

The death penalty has been abolished in all but one European country. In Norway, the maximum sentence for murderers is 21 years. No prisoner there has been executed in Buras' lifetime.

"That's why I think it's strange for me," she says. "If you're American and you kill and if you're Norwegian you kill, you're still a killer. So how come we are so different in our punishment?"

Websites show Europeans how to get in touch with and even visit American prisoners. In Texas, wardens don't track where visitors are from but motels in Livingston are often full of Europeans.

In an email, a woman who visits from Switzerland writes. "It wasn't because I was bored with my life or something like that. It was a sincere interest to know why people still get executed."

Sometimes the pen-pal friendships turn romantic. We heard from a woman who's engaged to a prisoner. She writes, "They can't call overseas, so I have never been able to receive a phone call from him."

Even face to face, Buras and Williams' friendship is through a window. They say it's purely platonic - nothing sexual, but there is love.

"Yeah I love her," Williams says. "I love her because like I say, she's proved a lot to me because she's doing something my family won't even do."

"Yes, I do love him," Buras says. "It's hard to have this kind of relationship without getting to love them."

They exchange letters and poetry. Buras says because her children's university costs are paid for by the Norwegian government, she's able to send Williams money.

"I send what I have," Buras says. "If I have $50 I will send him that. If I have $10 I will send him that."

Williams says he doesn't ask for money but does spend it on hygiene products.

"Do you feel guilty taking money from her?" Baucum asks.

"Yes, that's why I never say nothing," Williams responds.

If you find Buras' behavior naive, she understands - because she too feels a culture shock.

"The Americans would not believe what we do with our prisoners back home," Buras says.

At Norwegian prisons, instead of barbed wire there's a system to help reintegrate criminals into society.

But for Williams, the countdown is on.

"Until the last minute," he says. "Until 6 o'clock on July 14."

His execution will be the 1st time the 2 friends get to hug each other.

"I just appreciate her giving me a chance to show the world that I'm not a lost cause," Williams says.

As he lives his final months with remorse, Buras will be there until the end.

"To imagine him in the chamber, getting strapped down to this bed and actually getting killed - it's really, really difficult," she says.

Buras will make 1 more journey to death row in July when William is executed. News 4 will be there, too, to document that experience.



Judge: Death penalty can be sought in veteran's burn death

A judge has agreed that prosecutors can seek the death penalty against a man charged with beating and burning to death an Army veteran he had met at a bar in 2014.

The News & Record of Greensboro reports ( ) that a judge agreed with aggravating factors cited by prosecutors. Those factors included the cruelty of the killing, putting other people at risk by setting a fire at a motel and killing the veteran while committing another crime.

Authorities say 27-year-old Garry Gupton beat 46-year-old Stephen White with a telephone, a television and other items in a Greensboro motel room in November 2014 before setting the room on fire.

White died nearly a week later from burns so bad that parts of both arms had to be amputated.



Hewitt avoids death penalty, sentenced to life in prison

After deliberating on all mitigating factors, the jury returned a verdict sentencing Everette Porshau Hewitt to life in prison Tuesday afternoon in Catawba County Superior Court.

The jury found Hewitt, 37, of Claremont, guilty on 3 counts of 1st-degree murder. Hewitt killed Susan Blevins, Connie Miller and Wade Sigmon at Oak Knoll Mobile Home Park in Conover in 2011.

The jury was deciding on life in prison versus the death penalty. For Hewitt to receive the death penalty, the jury would have to unanimously agree.

(source: Hickory Record)


The Death Penalty in Florida

Florida's death penalty law and the fate of the state's nearly 400 death row inmates remains in flux. Last week a Miami-Dade judge ruled that Florida's newly revised death penalty sentencing law is unconstitutional. That ruling came in the case of Karon Gaiter who awaits trial for 1st-degree murder. Judge Milton Hirsh ruled that the law goes against the long-time sanctity of unanimous verdicts in death penalty cases because the system only requires 10 of 12 jurors to vote in favor of imposing execution.

Just days before that ruling, Florida Supreme Court Justices heard oral arguments in the case of death row inmate Timothy Lee Hurst who murdered his boss at a Pensacola Popeye's restaurant. In the Hurst case, the U.S. Supreme Court declared Florida's death sentencing system unconstitutional earlier this year arguing it gave too little power to juries. In response the Florida legislature passed a revision of the law requiring 10 of 12 jurors to agree on imposing the death penalty. In the Hurst case, opponents of the law argue that all 390 of Florida's death row inmates should have their sentences changed to life in prison because they were convicted under a flawed system. While executions in Florida are currently suspended amid the legal wrangling, the state has the second highest number of inmates on death row in the U.S. and is 1 of the most active when it comes to carrying out executions. Florida is among just 3 states that have carried out executions in each of the past 5 years along with Texas and Oklahoma. We'll take a closer look at the legal battle as we explore the future of the death penalty in Florida.

(source: WCGU)


Jailed Spaniard could be transferred from US death row in 2 weeks----Florida Supreme Court dismisses prosecution's appeal against retrial for 1994 triple murder

The Florida Supreme Court has dismissed a prosecution appeal against the decision to order a new trial for a Spaniard who has been on death row for 15 years.

Pablo Ibar, who has been behind bars for nearly 22 years at Rainford penitentiary in Starke, Florida, has always maintained his innocence in connection with a triple murder that took place in 1994.

In February of this year, the high court ordered a retrial on the basis that mistakes were made during the 1st trial.

With this new decision, 45-year-old Ibar could be transferred from death row "in 15 days at the outside," according to the Association against the Death Penalty.

Andres Krakenberger, the association spokesman, expressed satisfaction at the decision on Basque public radio station Radio Euskadi.

News of the court's dismissal of the appeal was sent to Ibar's lawyer, Benjamin Waxman. The appeal was filed by Florida prosecutors in late February.

No trial date has been set yet for Ibar, the only Spaniard who was on death row since his conviction in 2000.

The key piece of evidence in the prosecution’s case was a grainy, soundless home security video that showed a group of men attacking nightclub owner Casimir "Butch Casey" Sucharski, and 2 models, Sharon Anderson and Marie Rogers, whom he had brought to his home in Miramar, Florida. The three were shot and killed during the botched robbery attempt.

One of the suspects in the video appears to be Ibar, but his DNA was not found on a shirt that the killer used to partially cover his face.



Florida death penalty in chaos

Even now, nearly 20 years later, I can't muster much sympathy for the man I watched die in Florida's electric chair.

Daniel Remeta and 2 others killed 5 people during a crime spree through f4 states.

His first victim was 60-year-old Mehrle "Chet" Reeder, a convenience store clerk in Ocala, who he shot in a robbery that yielded just $52.

I was a reporter writing for my college paper and stringing for others around the state when the guards brought Remeta, head shaven and spread liberally with conductor gel for the electric volts that would kill him, into the death chamber that morning in 1998.

He looked scared. Though probably not as scared as the people he callously murdered. Remeta watched, almost without any expression at all, while the corrections team carried out its protocol, strapping his arms and legs to the oak chair, fastening the head gear and, finally, lowering a small black veil that would cover his face during what was about to happen.

Remeta had nearly 12 years on death row to prepare for the moment. He did not give a final statement

Just hours earlier he requested snow cones for his last meal, but had to settle for the closest thing the prison cooks could find - slushies from a gas station near the prison in Starke.

I remember wondering if this was really justice? A couple of icy drinks and 2,000 volts to the head?

The scene was barbaric. Not because a violent criminal was put to death, but because of what the act said about us and the way we do justice in Florida.

Today as the death penalty in Florida is under more scrutiny than ever, I have the same thought: This is much more about us than them - the inmates on death row.

I would like to think that the state is capable of reserving its harshest punishment for the most heinous criminals and carrying it out fairly.

But time and time again this has proven not to be true.

In Florida, 24 people have left death row - some proven innocent and others who prosecutors declined to continue to prosecute after questions were raised about their cases. A 25th man was exonerated just months after he died of illness. That's higher than in any other state.

The system is inherently flawed.

The poor and defendants with mental illnesses receive the most death sentences. And courts in small slices of the state sentence the most people to die.

The U.S. Supreme Court finally put a stop to one of the biggest failings this year when it struck down the way Florida allowed judges, rather than juries, decide if a convicted person would be put to death.

Florida is one of just a few states that doesn't require a unanimous jury decision to impose the death penalty.

Undeterred, our state's lawmakers tried to fix the law the way one might use duct tape to fasten a broken side view mirror to a car. The problem wasn't really fixed. And it looked even worse.

The new law said 10 of 12 jurors must recommend a death sentence and jettisoned language from the statute that said a judge could still impose the death sentence without the recommendation of the jury.

Then last week a judge in Miami ruled that the new law is unconstitutional because it doesn't require a unanimous jury verdict.

Amid all of the chaos over the law - for now the state has halted executions - Florida is still determining what the U.S. Supreme Court decision will mean to the nearly 400 inmates on death row today.

The Florida Supreme Court heard arguments on that earlier this month with some lawyers, including former state supreme court justices, advocating for the sentences to be thrown out.

Attorney General Pam Bondi is defending Florida's clearly troubled death penalty.

But another curve ball was thrown the state's way last week when drug company Pfizer said it would no longer allow its products to be used to carry out capital punishment. More than 20 other companies have already taken similar action, effectively cutting off the supply of the drugs, according to the New York Times.

This is what it's come to.

The legalities of Florida's death penalty are under challenge. And now its method of execution likely will be, too.

I haven't grown more sympathetic to killers on death row. But I am concerned about the message we send to our children when we carry on a system that is so fraught with problems.

Capital punishment today is more about politics and pandering than justice. How else can you explain the enthusiasm from Bondi and other politicians when the flaws are so obvious?

It's time for Florida's death penalty to be put out of its misery. For our sake, not just for the condemned.

(source: Column, Beth Kassab; Orlando Sentinel)


Drug company's withdrawal limits death penalty options in Alabama

Drug giant Pfizer's decision to ban the use of its products in executions won't necessarily stop capital punishment in Alabama, one expert says, but it's clear the state's lethal injection options are running out.

"The sources of drugs on the open market are gone," said Robert Dunham, director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a group that studies the death penalty. "States are going to have to go underground, as it were, to obtain the drugs for executions."

Pfizer, the New-York based pharmaceutical company, announced Friday that it "strongly objects to the use of its products as lethal injections for capital punishment" statement on the company's website.

One of the world's largest drug producers, Pfizer joins several other major drug producers in a boycott that has been slowing the pace of executions in America for years. European-owned companies have backed out due to widespread opposition to the death penalty in their home countries. In America, major medical and pharmacists' associations have declared their opposition to participation in executions, arguing that the medical arts shouldn't be used to kill.

Death penalty critics hailed Pfizer's decision last week as a major step toward cutting off all execution drugs. Pfizer spokeswoman Rachel Hooper said Monday that the company simply clarified an existing policy, 1 the company has held since it acquired Hospira, 1 of the first major American drug producers to halt sales of drugs for lethal injection.

"It's not a new policy so much as an update of a Hospira policy," Hooper said.

Hooper declined to answer questions about whether the company had sold drugs to Alabama's prison system.

Alabama has executed only 2 inmates in the past 4 years, compared to 17 in the 4 years before that.

The drug boycott was a major factor in that lull. Federal regulators seized the state's execution drugs, acquired through back channels, in 2011. Alabama switched to a new main execution drug, but its supply of that drug expired in 2014 while lawyers debated the legality of the switch.

In January, the state executed convicted murderer Christopher Brooks with injections of midazolam, rocuronium and sodium chloride. State officials have never acknowledged where they bought the drugs. One maker of midazolam, the Illinois-based company Akorn, joined the boycott after Alabama officials mentioned the company in court filings in a death penalty case.

Dunham said the Pfizer decision does close off access to mass-produced versions of the drugs typically used in executions. He said states could still turn to compounding pharmacies - specialty pharmacies that make small, customized batches of drugs - though many compounding pharmacists would likely refuse if state officials can't produce a prescription for the drugs.

Alabama seems to have had trouble with that approach. In court records filed in December, state officials said they asked every compounding pharmacist in the state to make pentobarbital - once the state's primary execution drug - and every pharmacist turned them down.

Attempts to reach Department of Corrections officials Monday for comment on the Pfizer decision were unsuccessful.

It's not clear just how much midazolam the state has on hand for future executions, where those drugs come from, or how long they'll last.

Court documents filed earlier this month again included instructions for the use of midazolam made by Akorn, which has asked that its drugs not be used for lethal injection. The court filings include photocopies of labels from boxes of midazolam.

The expiration dates on those labels weren't visible.

(source: Anniston Star)


Alabama inmate convicted in double murder to get new hearing on death sentence

A federal appeals court has ordered a new hearing for an Alabama death row inmate convicted in an execution-style double shooting that occurred after 1 of the victims allegedly used a racial slur.

Renard Marcel Daniel, 41, was sentenced to death 2 years after he was charged in the deaths of 35-year-old John Brodie and his girlfriend, 39-year-old Loretta McCulloch.

The attorneys representing Daniel on appeal argued that his trial attorneys did not present mitigating evidence during the penalty phase of his capital trial - specifically that jurors were not shown enough evidence about the violence and sexual abuse of Daniel's childhood.

A U.S. District judge denied the petition, which Daniel's attorneys then appealed to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. That court on Monday upheld his conviction but ordered a new evidentiary hearing regarding his sentence, calling his childhood "nightmarish by any standard."

According to news reports from the 2003 trial, Daniel was charged with killing his East Lake neighbors after an argument on Sept. 26, 2001. Daniel, Brodie and McCulloch were playing cards and drinking beers with another neighbor, George Jackson, when Brodie called Daniel the "n-word."

An argument ensued, and the couple later apologized, Jackson testified.

When Daniel later asked McCulloch to return his cigarettes, she refused. He then walked to the couple's front door and fired 4 shots into the apartment, then entered and fired a shot into the back of each victim's head, according to reports.

During the trial, Daniel's attorneys called into question all testimony from Jackson, who they said waited nearly 14 hours before telling police about the shooting. Daniel testified that Jackson shot the couple.

In May 2003, a Jefferson County judge upheld the jury's recommendation that Daniel be sentenced to death. In April 2011, an appeals court upheld his sentence.

The federal appeals court agreed with Daniel's argument that further evidence about his childhood should have been weighed at his sentencing.

According to court filings, his mother killed his biological father with a shotgun while Daniel, then 3, was in their home. Starting when he was 9, he was repeatedly sexually assaulted by his stepfather, who also forced him to engage in sex acts with his siblings.

He was placed in special education classes in school, and his test scores show that he hovered on the borderline of intellectual disability.

None of that evidence was presented during his trial in 2003. Daniel argued on appeal that his trial counsel did not conduct a constitutionally adequate investigation into his background.

"While trial counsel presented some mitigation evidence during the penalty phase through Mr. Daniel's mother, the description, details, and depth of abuse in Mr. Daniel's background that he brought to the attention of the state courts in his habeas proceedings far exceeded anything the sentencing jury and judge were told," the appellate court's decision reads.



Tupelo man faces possible death penalty

Mack Williams can't believe his son is dead.

"It's been awful shocking."

55-year-old Charlie Williams was a wrestler back in the day. He would later work for the city of Tupelo in Public Works and eventually become a cab driver.

His life would end Friday night. Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson says 23-year-old Leonta Gates would be his last faire. Gates came with a gun and a motive-robbery.

"The victim was working not doing anything to provoke anything like this. He was doing exactly what he was supposed to be doing and going about his regular routine in life and fell victim to something that's very senseless."

"I'm sorry, but I just can't understand why it was him and I don't know why the boy done it. I would like to ask him the question why he done it," said Williams.

Sunday afternoon, with an arrest warrant in hand, law enforcement descended upon the home Gates shares with his grandmother in Haven Acres.

"Mr. Gates had just left probably about 30 seconds or a minute before we got there which allowed him to get a little bit of a heard start," said Sheriff Johnson.

A search of the area was the next move. By 10:30 Sunday night, Gates began negotiations on the phone with investigators.

"He knew that we meant business and he knew that we were coming after him."

Officials say Gates has broken the law before. He was out on parole for armed robbery. He was just 17 at the time.

The sheriff says this is a failure of the system.

He was convicted of armed robbery at the age of 17.

"It was brought to our attention that he had missed several meetings with probabtion and still was able to be out here in the free world," added Sheriff Johnson.

(source: WTVA news)


State Supreme Court rejects serial killer Daniel Blank's bid to overturn death sentence, get new trial

River Parishes serial killer Daniel Blank would have been sentenced to death whether or not allegations of an abusive upbringing were presented at his 1999 1st-degree murder trial in the slaying of Gonzales resident Lillian Philippe.

That conclusion came from Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Scott Crichton, who concurred with a silent court majority Friday, in upholding a state district judge's rejection in October of Blank's bid to overturn his death penalty conviction and have a new trial.

Blank, 53, who is from St. James Parish, was convicted of slaying Philippe and four others during a string of murders and armed robberies of well-off, elderly residents in St. James, St. John the Baptist and Ascension parishes during the mid- to late-1990s. Philippe, 72, was beaten to death in her home April 9, 1997, in a botched burglary. Blank was never tried in a sixth slaying tied to him.

Blank's post-conviction defense attorneys argued at an evidentiary hearing in July that he had ineffective counsel who did not do enough investigation to challenge his lengthy confession they claim was false, investigative reports by prosecutors they say were withheld and didn’t bring up his childhood at the penalty phase of his case.

Crichton focused on the last aspect of Blank's appeal. He wrote that Blank's appellate attorneys argued his trial attorneys did not focus on his childhood of extreme poverty and sexual abuse, instead presenting Blank as part of a happy family.

Had this version of Blank's past been presented, he may have avoided the death penalty, the appellate attorneys argued.

Crichton disagreed and called that aspect of the appeal part of "the unfortunate trend of turning capital post-conviction proceedings into a second penalty phase." He wrote the trend "represents an extraordinary drain" on funds for Louisiana's indigents defense.

The Philippe case was the 1st brought against Blank and is the only one remaining for which he still faces the death penalty.

Assistant District Attorney Chuck Long said Monday that he plans to ask the 23rd Judicial District Judge Jessie LeBlanc in Ascension Parish to sign an execution warrant once Blank's time to ask the high court to reconsider the ruling passes in 2 weeks.

Gary Clements, director of the Capital Post-Conviction Project of Louisiana, said he would get the warrant stopped, as happened Feb. 17 when the state Supreme Court stayed Blank's execution.

"I don't believe Mr. Long will have any more success with this motion to execute than he did with the other one," Clements said. "You cannot deny people their right to litigation that they have."

Clements said the state Supreme Court's denial means Blank's case moves to the federal courts. He has a year to file with the U.S. District Court in Baton Rouge.

Louisiana death row procedures have been stayed as part of an ongoing federal civil rights case while the state has also had trouble finding drugs to perform executions.

The state Supreme Court ruling Friday drew a dissent from Chief Justice Bernette Johnson over the same part of Blank’s appeal on which Crichton focused. She wrote LeBlanc should not have dismissed that part of the appeal as repetitive and added she would have remanded it back to the judge for a hearing.

"Ever mindful that Daniel Blank has confessed to brutally murdering Ms. Philippe and similarly attacking seven others, evidence of the extraordinary abuse and deprivation he is alleged to have endured as a child may nevertheless have swayed a juror in favor of imposing a life sentence," Johnson wrote.

(source: The Advocate)


Doing Harm: Medical Professionals and the Death Penalty

It's a brutal photo. Romell Broom holds his arms in front of him, palms out. Dozens of white adhesive squares mark the locations of all 18 attempts to insert an IV by members of an Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction execution team in 2009. Broom had been sentenced to die for the 1984 rape and murder of 14-year-old Tryna Middleton. After two hours, during which eyewitnesses claim Broom showed signs of pain and distress, the execution was called off.

It was the 1st time a state had attempted an execution but failed to kill the condemned person since lethal injection was first used by Texas in 1982. This past March, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that attempting to execute Broom again would not constitute cruel and unusual punishment or double jeopardy.

With Pfizer's announcement last Friday that it would impose tighter regulations on drugs that can be used for executions, the last open-market source for those drugs has been closed. State-sanctioned killing will continue, but states must now buy drugs from under-regulated compounding pharmacies.

For years, death penalty states have worked on the margins of medicine. During Broom's attempted execution, the fact that medical professionals (including nurses and a phlebotomist) failed to insert IVs properly is a case in point. When the execution team failed, Ohio corrections officials solicited the last minute assistance of physician Dr. Carmelita Bautista, who was working in the prison at the time. Bautista later told The Associated Press that she was asked to help locate an IV site.

The Ohio Supreme Court's green light to the state to attempt to kill Broom again should raise another concern regarding state execution protocols: the ongoing participation of medical professionals in state-sanctioned killing.

In spite of the injunction to "first do no harm," some doctors help maintain the US death penalty regime.

In 2014, an Oklahoma family physician named Dr. Johnny Zellmer tried to insert an IV into the femoral vein of Clayton Lockett during an attempted execution. The drugs entered the tissue under his skin and not his bloodstream, causing extreme pain. After 43 minutes, Lockett died of a heart attack. His family filed a lawsuit against Zellmer, though it was ultimately unsuccessful.

On December 9, 2015, a nurse on Georgia's execution team spent longer than an hour inserting IVs into Brian Keith Terrell's arms and also put one in his hand. Also in Georgia, on February 3, 2016, the execution team failed to insert IVs in 72-year-old Brandon Jones' arms. A physician then inserted an IV near his groin.

Doctors have also been involved in executions indirectly. Dr. Mark Dershwitz, a professor of anesthesiology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, provided testimony in support of using a controversial drug combination for the execution of Dennis McGuire in Ohio. Dershwitz has testified in support of lethal injection protocols for 22 states and the federal government. McGuire's execution took 26 minutes, and according to witnesses he struggled and gasped for air. Months after that execution, Dershwitz announced he would be getting out of the testifying business.

In spite of the injunction to "first do no harm," some doctors help maintain the contemporary US death penalty regime directly and indirectly, and they have the support of a few doctors and lawyers who have argued that doctors should be present at executions in order to avoid needless pain and suffering.

Deborah Denno, professor of law at Fordham University and lethal injection expert, told Truthout that there should be more attention paid to the role medical professionals play in executions. "I think generally people are looking more at secrecy and drug acquisition. The Supreme Court hasn't really looked at medical professionals. But they've always been involved. They've always been there and it's ongoing."

Denno noted that doctors who do participate are not always the best of the best -- in part because the pay is low and many of these doctors have had little success elsewhere. "And then we often only find out there are doctors present when there's a problem," she said.

A Moral Slippery Slope

That photo of Romell Broom's mutilated arms, widely available online, was taken by Dr. Jonathan Groner, a pediatric surgeon at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Groner was asked by Broom's attorney to examine him shortly after the attempted execution.

Groner's visit to examine Broom was also his 1st visit to a prison.

"It's an otherworldly experience to be there. Everything about the institution discourages conversation," he told Truthout. "Broom was basically in a cage, and I said to the guards, 'I need to see him; I can't just look at him in this cage.' He didn't look particularly threatening to me."

The guards let him out but his wrists and ankles were shackled. They led him to a chair. Broom spoke little but would point things out to Groner -- a bruise here and there, a wound in a hard-to-reach spot. It had only been a few days and the "wounds were still fresh." He seemed shellshocked.

Groner noticed large bruises around puncture sites, suggesting the execution team worked hard to find usable veins. He added, "My assumption was that the people who did this were not people who do this often -- probably prison guards who have EMT training."

"When health care professionals use their skills to execute people, it blurs the lines between healing and killing."

After the execution the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction asserted that he had been an IV drug user, but according to Groner, Broom lacked the scars of hardcore drug abuse. "His veins looked decent to me. IV drug abusers have 'railroad tracks' on their arms from repeated injections up and down their veins. Broom had no scars. I couldn't tell why they'd had a hard time. He might have been dehydrated. Maybe a little nervous."

Groner emphasized that their inability to access a vein was evidence of their lack of skill, experience or training, arguing that an experienced medical professional would have been able to find a vein, even on a person experiencing tremendous anxiety preceding execution.

Groner wears a tightly trimmed goatee and black-rimmed glasses. His tone is fast and persistent -- he speaks in a staccato voice and barely moves his head or body. And yet he's warm and thoughtful. He said it was hard for him to work in a children's hospital at first, to take care of kids who were sick, while his own were young.

But he learned to deal with it -- though he stumbles still. Shortly after his father died, he had one such moment. The gasping sound of a mechanical ventilator assisting the breathing of a teenager dying after a car crash reminded him of his father's before he died. The sound association, the sound of the labored breathing, was too much. Groner broke down and sobbed in front of his peers. It was a sign of his empathy, the deep regard he has for the doctor-patient bond.

"People trust doctors because we don't use our powers to do bad things," he said, and that's the problem. "When health care professionals use their skills to execute people, it blurs the lines between healing and killing."

Groner opened a folder on his computer with images from various post-execution autopsies. One was of a central venous catheterization and the other something called a "cutdown." He explained that these are specialized procedures requiring skill, training and experience.

"What I remember most about Broom, about the experience, were his hands. They were smooth and soft," Groner said. And then he spoke of his father again. "You know, they reminded me of my father's at the end of his life."

"When I have to speak to families about end-of-life decisions, about all that I can really do is provide comfort. At the end of the day that's the only medicine I have. That's a doctor's role -- to provide comfort. Most patients would be willing to suffer to survive. But I don't accept that we're supposed to provide comfort at an execution. There's supposed to be a trust there and when our skills are used for the state's benefit, that's a moral slippery slope."

A Brief History of Doctors and the Death Penalty

Doctors have been involved with the death penalty since at least the 18th century, when, for example, a French surgeon named Antoine Louis proposed a device to make executions swift and, supposedly, humane. That device was ultimately named after a death penalty opponent, Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin.

In 1866, an Irish doctor named Samuel Haughton proposed the use of a table of drops that accounted for a condemned person's height and weight in order to kill them more quickly.

"We do not see the inmate about to be executed as a 'patient' per se."

In an 1887 essay titled "Scientific Methods of Capital Punishment," a dentist in New York State named Julius Mount Bleyer proposed "the hypodermic injection of morphine." Bleyer suggested that any sheriff would be able to execute a condemned person with ease. He wrote, "The advantages of this method are its certainty, its painlessness, the freedom from the chance of horrible displays, the reduction of the dramatic element to a minimum, and its inexpensiveness."

In 1953, Great Britain's Royal Commission on Capital Punishment considered using lethal injection as an alternative method to hanging, but it concluded that no medical practitioner should be involved in such a process. As a result, the commission stuck with hanging.

Over 2 decades later, 2 medical professionals working in concert with two state legislators in Oklahoma concocted the first lethal injection protocol.

Jay Chapman (Oklahoma's chief medical examiner) and Stanley Deutsch (a faculty member of the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine), like Haughton and Bleyer before them, sought an effective and potentially painless way to kill people that could replace the electric chair and the gas chamber.

Their suggestion was to use a lethal cocktail of drugs. For many years, the most common drugs used were sodium thiopental or sodium pentothal (to induce sleep), pancuronium bromide (to stop breathing) and potassium chloride (to stop the heart). In Texas in 1982, Charles Brooks Jr. was the first to be executed by lethal injection.

Since 1980, the American Medical Association (AMA) has prohibited medical doctors from participating in executions, though doctors can prescribe sedatives prior to execution and sign death certificates. The AMA language is necessarily broad:

Physician participation in execution is defined generally as actions which would fall into one or more of the following categories: (1) an action which would directly cause the death of the condemned; (2) an action which would assist, supervise, or contribute to the ability of another individual to directly cause the death of the condemned; (3) an action which could automatically cause an execution to be carried out on a condemned prison.

The AMA was part of a chorus of medical professionals condemning lethal injection. Susannah Sirkin of Physicians for Human Rights said in an interview that her organization quickly understood what was happening -- that states were using physicians to sanitize the process. "We wanted to give the lie to that notion," she said.

From its inception in 1986, Physicians for Human Rights has worked to expose and end situations where health professionals violate human rights -- in particular, doctor involvement in torture or cruel and unusual punishment. "Of course," Sirkin said, "the history of this goes back to Nuremberg and the Nazi doctors and the concept of doing no harm."

In 1994, Sirkin helped pen "Breach of Trust," a report that documented the roles that medical professionals play in executions. The report concluded, "State medical boards, which are responsible for licensure and discipline, should define physician participation as unethical conduct, and take appropriate action against physicians who violate ethical standards."

Furthermore, the report claimed, "Laws should not be enacted that facilitate violations of medical ethical standards (such as anonymity clauses)."

And yet, that's exactly what has happened.

"There's a reason that there's anonymity," Sirkin said. "It underscores the fact that states know this is wrong, almost an admission that it's a violation of ethics and you can't go after them. And it shows that the only way to recruit them is to shield them."

One of the issues facing medical professionals, though, is that the declarations of their professional organizations have no teeth. The best they can do is censure or revoke membership. This is clear when looking at the efforts of physicians to put a stop to other physicians participating in executions.

In a June 18, 2014, opinion piece for the Journal of the American Medical Association, three doctors from Harvard Medical School argued that protecting physicians who participate in executions is essentially an attempt by states to de-professionalize medical professionals.

One of the authors, Dr. Robert D. Truog, professor of medical ethics, anesthesiology and pediatrics and director of the Center for Bioethics at Harvard Medical School, wrote in an email exchange with Truthout that legislative attempts to de-professionalize doctors continue. The best-case scenario, Truog said, would be for medical boards to revoke the certification of doctors who participate in executions. The American Board of Anesthesiology has adopted such a policy. "In this case, the physician would not lose his/her license, but would be barred from practicing in any hospital that requires its physicians to be board certified in their specialty in order to have privileges on the hospital staff (which is most hospitals)."

But courts have asserted that licensing boards can't discipline medical professionals who participate in lethal injection. When the North Carolina Medical Board attempted to do so, the State Supreme Court prohibited it. Some states are trying to pre-empt boards from such actions. Ohio's death penalty secrecy law, HB 663, says that a licensing authority can't sanction a medical professional participating in an execution.

Health Care's Darkest Corner

An overwhelming majority of medical professionals and their attendant associations have made it clear that lethal injection executions are not the place for physicians and allied health professionals. However, there are exceptions, and death penalty states are doing their best to encourage and shield these rogues.

Jen Moreno, an attorney with the Berkeley School of Law Death Penalty Clinic, told Truthout, "Every state that carries out executions requires the participation of medical personnel of some type. Some states specifically require a physician to perform some tasks; others list different categories -- doctors, nurses, phlebotomist, EMT, paramedics, military corpsman -- that corrections officials can choose from."

There are many tasks that blur the lines between the practice of medicine and the practice of capital punishment.

Prior to executions, a condemned person typically receives a medical exam to assess their veins and a psychiatric evaluation to assess whether or not they are competent to be executed. The execution drugs are mixed by a pharmacist. And medical professionals set IVs, administer drugs, check consciousness and declare death.

"The way they described IV insertion -- they had medicalized the process just like the Nazis."

Thus, many organizations that accredit medical professionals have told their members not to participate in lethal injection executions. In addition to the American Medical Association, the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, American Nurses Association, American Board of Anesthesiology and American Pharmacists Association have all asserted that participating in lethal injections contradicts medical ethics.

Because they lack any national representative organization, phlebotomists (medical technicians who draw blood) have not taken a similar stance. This is significant because state protocols in Florida, Texas and Ohio allow for phlebotomists to be members of the execution team.

Moreno said that it's likely that states added phlebotomists to the list of those who can participate after the US Supreme Court's 2008 Baze v. Rees decision, which upheld the constitutionality of lethal injection. Chief Justice John Roberts' opinion notes that Kentucky's execution team includes a "certified phlebotomist" with years of experience. In other words, a phlebotomist who is trained and has taken an accredited course in phlebotomy.

But not all phlebotomists are certified, nor do they all have significant experience. In Oklahoma, according to the Tulsa World, phlebotomists are not trained to insert IVs, and yet one was involved in the attempted execution of Clayton Lockett. There was also a phlebotomist on the team that attempted to insert an IV in order to execute Romell Broom.

Florida's execution protocol permits phlebotomists on its execution teams for "achieving and monitoring peripheral venous access" -- which could mean inserting an IV. The state says these phlebotomists must be certified by the American Society for Clinical Pathology, National Certification Agency for Medical Laboratory Personnel, American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians or American Medical Technologists.

But it's not clear how phlebotomists actually participate. Alberto C. Moscoso, press secretary for the Florida Department of Corrections, told Truthout that "we can't elaborate on team member duties as, due to the security concerns and sensitivity of assignments surrounding death row, the details of staff responsibilities during the execution process are restricted from release."

When contacted by Truthout, an employee at the American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians indicated that the society was not aware that it was on Florida's list. Nor does the organization have a specific policy on participating in lethal injection executions. IV insertion, the employee said, is a separate certification and phlebotomists do not typically conduct IV insertions.

A spokesperson for American Medical Technologists told Truthout via email, "The detailed exam blueprint for AMT's Registered Phlebotomy Technician exam does not include any tasks that would appear to encompass inserting an intravenous catheter for purposes of administering fluids, as opposed to drawing blood."

Dennis Ernst, director of the Center for Phlebotomy Education, a nationally recognized expert on the profession, said that this is complicated territory. "There's nothing in any state that restricts phlebotomist from starting an IV. But as far as I know, no state allows them [to] start meds. And no legitimate organization would certify for putting in meds."

In 1 scenario, Ernst said he could imagine a phlebotomist inserting an IV, and someone else could start the medication.

Ernst said that the extent of phlebotomist participation in lethal injection executions is news to him. "Phlebotomy is not very regulated," he said, adding that he has been working most of his life to point this out. "Phlebotomists need to have regulation or oversight. Only four states require certification: California, Louisiana, Nevada and Washington. Phlebotomists have no scope of practice, and there is no professional organization representing them. Phlebotomy is one of health care's darkest corners; its best-kept secret."

This assertion was underscored when Truthout asked American Medical Technologists if phlebotomists are governed by the principle of "do no harm." A spokesperson said via email, "There is nothing in AMT's Standards of Practice that equates to a 'do no harm' mandate, although the Standards do require that 'The AMT professional shall place the health and welfare of the patient above all else.' We do not, however, read that as prohibiting a member from participating in a state-sponsored execution. For instance, we do not see the inmate about to be executed as a 'patient' per se."

Now some states are proposing old methods, like the firing squad or the electric chair, as backups to lethal injection. And other states are exploring new means to execute people -- for example, Oklahoma is considering using nitrogen gas. In other words, states are inventing new ways of killing that may exclude medical professionals.

But in some ways, they have already moved in that direction.

"Hippocratic Paradox"

Dr. Jonathan Groner said that he was always a death penalty agnostic, until a series of encounters turned him into an abolitionist. The first came when, at the end of his residency, he testified in the capital trial of Jerry Lee Allard. Allard had killed his wife and child and very nearly his other child, but Groner, as a young trauma surgeon, was able to help save that child's life.

Testifying at the trial made Groner uneasy. He said Allard was sentenced to death and sent to prison, but "he got cancer and died. Never got the ultimate punishment, but he did, in a way."

Later Groner read about the 1997 triple execution of Earl Van Denton, Paul Ruiz and Kirt Wainwright in Arkansas (the state held another triple execution three years earlier). Groner said that as a Jewish kid who had studied the Holocaust while growing up, the story about Arkansas resonated.

"The way they described IV insertion -- they had medicalized the process just like the Nazis," he said. Groner was incensed by this diffusion of responsibility.

"When I read [Robert Jay] Lifton's The Nazi Doctors, I learned that they used direct cardiac injections of phenol to kill prisoners in the T-4 euthanasia program," he said. "Some states are now using central venous catheters for executions, so they are getting pretty close to the same thing."

Groner was clear that he's not comparing the death penalty to the Holocaust; he's pointing to doctors who crossed boundaries. For over a decade now, Groner has been persistent in his public critique of the medicalization of the death penalty and the troubling links to this history.

"There are certain times throughout history where medicalization has been used to justify things that are inhumane," he said. "Waterboarding -- they had a doctor present. First electrocution -- there were several doctors present. But doctors have an esteemed position in society and because of that we can do things that others can't. There are times when I perform major surgery -- literally cut an infant open -- to deal with a life-threatening issue such as a bowel obstruction. Why does a family who has never met me before allow me to do that to their child? Because people trust us. In exchange for that, we can never use our powers to cause harm."



Pfizer Ban on Execution Drugs Won't Impede Death Penalty in Indiana----State's death row inmates still have years of appeals ahead; state has said it has stockpile of needed chemicals

The world's largest pharmaceutical company is blocking the use of its drugs for executions. But it's unclear how that will affect Indiana.

Pfizer was the last FDA-approved drugmaker which still sold the chemicals used for lethal injection. That's the only execution method allowed by Indiana law -- it would take legislative action to bring back the electric chair or some other method.

But Indiana said 2 years ago it had a stockpile of execution drugs, and the state hasn't executed anyone since. The Department of Correction said then it had even assisted other states who were having difficulty as the market tightened.

Some states have turned to less-regulated compounding pharmacies, or tried to import drugs from overseas.

Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Chairman Mike Young (R-Indianapolis) says at some point, legislators should probably authorize an alternate method. He says no one anticipated supply-chain problems when the state switched to lethal injection in 1995. But he says there's no rush. None of the 12 killers on Indiana's death row is anywhere close to an execution date -- only 2 have progressed as far as a federal appeals court. And Young says any attempt to tweak the law would likely trigger a fierce debate over whether Indiana should abolish the death penalty entirely.

Indiana hasn't executed anyone since 2009, when Matthew Wrinkles of Evansville was put to death for the murders of his wife and 2 of his in-laws.

(source: WIBC news)


Jury selection continues for trial of 2 men in deaths of 4

Jury selection continues for the trial of 2 men accused of shooting four people to death, including a prostitute featured on the HBO reality series "Cathouse."

Prospective jurors were questioned for a 2nd day Tuesday in the trial of Denny Edward Phillips and Russell Lee Hogshooter. Both are charged with 1st-degree murder in the Nov. 9, 2009, deaths of TV celebrity Brooke Phillips, Milagros Barrera, Jennifer Lynn Ermey and Casey Mark Barrientos.

Denny Phillips and Hogshooter are charged with 6 counts of 1st-degree murder because Brooke Phillips and Barrera were both pregnant. They have pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Brooke Phillips, who wasn't related to Denny Phillips, was featured on the cable network's show about the Moonlite BunnyRanch, a legal brothel near Carson City, Nevada.



Man charged with murder to be returned to S.D.

A 21-year-old man who led authorities on a 5-day multistate manhunt that ended on the Wyoming-Nebraska border will be headed back to South Dakota soon. Jared Jerome Stone is accused of killing a man outside of a Sioux Falls casino.

Stone's criminal case in Wyoming has been resolved. He was charged in Laramie County with driving while impaired, possession of a controlled substance, eluding and 3 other traffic violations.

He pleaded no contest to the DWI and eluding charges. The remaining charges were dismissed by prosecutors, according to court documents filed in the case. Stone waived his right to an extradition hearing.

Stone was sentenced to 15 days in jail but given a credit for time he'd already spent in jail.

Stone was arrested April 27 after a standoff that shut down part of Interstate 80 near Pine Bluffs, Wyo.

Stone had been on the run since April 22 when police identified him as the man who shot and killed Baptise White Eyes in a parking lot on 11th Street on the west side of downtown.

He is charged with 1st-degree murder in Minnehaha County. If convicted, he could face the death penalty or will be be sentenced to life without parole.

Minnehaha County State's Attorney Aaron McGowan said he doesn't think a court date for Stone has been set yet, but he would expect Stone to be returned to South Dakota within a week or so.

Meanwhile, the 3 women accused of helping him evade authorities are proceeding through the court system in South Dakota.

Lachara Marie Bordeaux, 26, Mercedes Joyce Red Bear, 24, and Desiree Marya Sully, 31, have been indicted by a Minnehaha County grand jury on 2 counts of felony accessory. They face a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine on each count.

(source: Argus Leader)


Nevada execution chamber construction moving forward despite drug cutoff

The Nevada Department of Corrections is moving forward with the construction of a new execution chamber at Ely State Prison despite the announcement that the drugmaker Pfizer will not allow its drugs to be used for lethal injections.

Pfizer became the last of about 25 Food and Drug Administration-approved drugmakers globally to officially cut off access, The New York Times reported last week. The company manufactures seven drugs that can be used in executions.

Brooke Keast, public information officer for the Nevada Department of Corrections, said the project is proceeding.

"Medication manufacturing can change at any given time," she said in a statement. "And if we receive a court order to execute, we can't say the reason for not following orders is DOC infrastructure."

A Nevada prison official told the Review-Journal in July 2015 that the agency would use the drugs midazolam and hydromorphone to administer a lethal injection.

Both of these drugs are manufactured by Pfizer.

"Pfizer makes its products to enhance and save the lives of the patients we serve," the company said in a statement on Friday. "Consistent with these values, Pfizer strongly objects to the use of its products as lethal injections for capital punishment."

The Nevada Legislature in the 2015 session approved spending $858,000 to build a new execution chamber at Nevada’s maximum-security prison at Ely. The current chamber is in the now-closed Nevada State Prison in the capital.

Nevada has the death penalty and is required by law to use lethal injection for executions.

State officials in December approved a nearly $94,000 contract with the architectural and engineering firm of Kittrell Garlock & Associates of Las Vegas to design the new execution facility.

The last execution, by lethal injection, occurred at the Nevada State Prison on April 26, 2006, when Daryl Mack was put to death. Mack was executed for the rape and murder of a Reno woman, Betty Jane May, in 1988.

(source: Las Veags Review-Journal)


3 men eligible for death penalty plead not guilty

3 suspects arrested in connection with a deadly shooting appeared in court on Monday.

Jeffrey Tapia, 20, Ricky Cortex, 19, and Daniel Marquez, 20, all pleaded not guilty on all charges connected to the murder of 31-year-old Benjamin Mendoza.

They were arrested on suspicion of murder, conspiracy and participation in a criminal street gang and are all eligible for the death penalty.

Mendoza was killed on May 11 near Madison Street and Del Mar Drive. His family said they do not believe Mendoza was connected to the suspects in any way. "We don't know if the victim was just in the wrong place at the wrong time," said the Kern County Sheriff's Office spokesman Ray Pruitt.

The suspects are being held without bail and are expected to be back in court on May 25.



Death sentenced for man convicted of ordering victim's death----In courtroom outburst, defendant denies wrongdoing in 2011 shooting by gang members. Judge rejects his last-minute moves to switch attorneys.

A 41-year-old Moreno Valley man, described in court as a gang shot caller, was sentenced to death Monday, May 16, for ordering the shooting of a Moreno Valley man after a home-invasion robbery 5 years ago.

What likely was his last appearance in a Riverside County Superior Court room repeated some elements that made the case stand out.

Romaine Martin had a closed-door hearing with Judge Candace J. Beason over a request to get rid of his attorneys, not his 1st such request, and the judge denied it. He withdrew a motion for a penalty-phase retrial that had been prepared by his trial defense attorneys. Last month and again Monday, the judge rejected his requests to hire new attorneys. In both cases, the attorneys had not communicated with the court in advance about the requests.

In an outburst, Martin said his rights had been violated, denied responsibility for the crimes and turned to victim Jerry Mitchell Jr.'s family members and said, "I pray for you."

The judge warned that his conduct may warrant gagging, but after a break and talk with courtroom deputies, who numbered up to 8 at one point, Martin kept quiet.

In a brief statement to the court during the sentencing hearing, the victim's father, Jerry Mitchell Sr., said Martin deserved to die and asked if it was possible to put Martin "in front of the line on death row." The father was consistently in the courtroom for proceedings over the 5 years, often accompanied by relatives and friends.

A jury found Martin guilty in January of charges including murder as an aider and abettor, robbery, being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm and committing a crime in furtherance of a criminal street gang, according to court records. The same jury recommended the death penalty after a separate penalty-phase trial in February.

Gang members believed mistakenly that Mitchell, who had no gang ties, had $10,000 stashed in his Carnation Lane condominium. Several broke in on May 27, 2011, but the only loot they took was household goods, according to testimony.

The burglars left, but about 10 minutes later 3 returned after Martin learned that participant Deontray Robinson knew Mitchell, and Martin ordered Robinson to kill him, according to trial testimony.

Neighbors called 911 and as Mitchell stood in his doorway waiting for help to arrive, he was shot 5 times and died.

The judge called Mitchell, 27, a law-abiding young man and a caring person. She contrasted that with Martin whose "criminal history is long and violent," beginning as a juvenile. "He has used his gifts, unfortunately, for evil."

The shooter, Robinson, 26, of Palm Desert, was convicted last year and sentenced to life in prison without parole. Robinson's trial initially included Martin as a 2nd co-defendant, but when it was discovered that the judge had been Martin's defense attorney in a 1996 robbery case, the judge recused himself and the trial proceeded for Robinson only.

1 more defendant faces trial soon and another one pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against other defendants.

(source: The Press-Enterprise)


Death penalty ordered in MoVal murder

Prosecution of a 5-year-old murder case in Moreno Valley is over for 1 defendant, but another is pursuing an appeal.

A Superior Court judge Monday upheld a jury's recommendation that Romaine Martin, 41, should suffer the death penalty. Martin's accomplice, Deontry Robinson, 26, was convicted of murder and robbery, and was given a no-parole prison term when a jury could not decide if the death penalty was appropriate.

Prosecutors charged the 2 men, members of a street gang, with confronting Jerry Mitchell, Jr. outside his Moreno Valley apartment in May 2011. Mitchell was forced inside, shot and killed as the suspects carried out a home invasion robbery.

Prosecutors said that the robbers mistakenly thought Mitchell had $10,000 in cash hidden in his apartment.

(source: Inland News Today)


California considers making its own lethal drugs for the death penalty

Under new rules proposed by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, prison officials would be allowed to manufacture barbituates to carry out the death penalty at its own compounding pharmacies, immunizing prison officials from the growing problem of pharmaceutical companies refusing to sell lethal drugs for the purpose of killing the condemned.

Last week, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced it would no longer allow states to buy its drugs to put people to death.

Pfizer's decision won't affect California because it does not manufacture the 4 drugs prison officials propose to use in the new regime now under consideration.



Explain why death row inmates cost so much

I read your editorial "End California's death penalty? Start the debate" (May 15). It started with, "The Democrats who control the California state government are in an ambitious mood of late."

You, our newspaper, seemed to revel in the efforts of Jerry Brown, Gavin Newsom, Kevin de Leon, Lorena Gonzalez and the old Democratic stalwarts Rose Bird, Cruz Reynoso and Joseph Grodin and their ability to turn the state of California into a cultural cesspool. I do have 1 question.

Who is on the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice and how did they determine it costs 10 times more to keep someone on death row than those imprisoned for life?

Do the people on death row live in a Hilton hotel and eat steak and lobster three meals a day?

Frank Fleming

San Diego

(source: Letter to the Editor, San Diego Union-Tribune)


Yakima County prosecutor on considering death penalty for MoneyTree killings

The Yakima County Prosecutor is currently trying to decide whether to pursue the death penalty in the Moneytree double homicide case.

Manuel Verduzco is charged with 1st-degree aggravated murder after being accused of shooting 2 women to death. This is only the 4th time in nearly 30 years where the death penalty has been considered in Yakima County.

Marta Martinez and Karina Morales-Rodriguez were ready to start their work day at Moneytree one March morning when court records say a former employee, 26-year-old Verduzco, shot and killed them.

He was arrested hours later and could now face the harshest penalty under state law.

"This is one of the greatest decisions that I'll ever make," said Yakima County Prosecutor Joe Brusic.

Prosecutor Brusic is deciding whether this crime calls for the death penalty. Verduzco has been charged with 2 counts of 1st-degree aggravated murder. Defendants need to have at least one aggravator to be considered for the death penalty. Verduzco faces 3. They further a crime by making it more violent or intensified. For instance, Verduzco is accused of murdering multiple people and accused of doing it while in the act of a burglary.

"Things change dramatically if any prosecutor files a notice seeking the death penalty," said Brusic.

In the past 30 years, the death penalty's been considered 3 times in Yakima County.

The closest the county's ever been to the death penalty was after a couple was brutally stabbed and murdered in 1988 while eating dinner at their home in Parker. The Nickoloffs were killed by 2 17-year-old's, who took off with 2 televisions.

Both defendants, Herbert Rice Junior and Russell McNeil, got life in prison without parole.

"Herbert Rice Junior being alive is an insult to our parents and this community and to the state," said a victim's family member at Rice Junior's sentencing hearing.

Rice Junior was the closest our county's ever gotten to putting someone on death row, with an 11 to 1 vote by jurors.

"The homicides were exceptionally serious and rocked Yakima County and still does," said Brusic.

The death penalty was then considered again after the execution-style killings of 21-year-old Ricardo Causor and his 3-year-old daughter Mya in 2005 in Yakima. Commissioners said at the time going for the death penalty could cost more than $2 million.

The prosecutor, Ron Zirkle, ultimately decided against it. One defendant, Jose Sanchez, was later sentenced to life in prison and the other, Mario Mendez, was sentenced to 30 years.

The most recent time the death penalty was considered in Yakima County was in 2011 against Kevin Harper.

"It almost needs to be air tight without any doubt," said former prosecutor Jim Hagarty.

This was the triple homicide case in West Valley in 2011 where 3 members of the Goggins family were attacked, killed and robbed. Prosecutor Hagarty decided not to pursue the death penalty after consideration and no one took blame for the murders.

"The system as a whole is impacted," said Brusic. "It's an exceptionally serious decision."

A decision Prosecutor Brusic has requested more time to make. He says death penalty cases involve a closer look at evidence and the responsibility of trying to understand the suspect.

"My job is to make sure I know everything I can within reason about who [Verduzco] is," said Brusic.

Brusic wouldn't speculate on what it could cost. He did note it's more expensive with the need for a much larger jury pool, an extra public defender from Seattle and more time on all ends.

Aggravated murder suspects undergo one regular jury trial but then have a penalty phase if found guilty -- that's where jurors decide if they get death or life without parole.

Unlike some other states, the county foots the majority of the bill with the possibility of some reimbursements.

"Right now, money is not a factor in any decision I would make," said Brusic.

Brusic now has until July 15th to make the decision on whether he wants to pursue the death penalty.

(source: KIMA TV news)


Another Drug Company Distances Itself From Death Penalty

Drug companies are forbidding states with the death penalty from using their drugs to perform lethal injections in an effort to preserve their big brands, but it's coming with some unintended consequences, according to one legal expert.

Pfizer announced last week it will block its drugs from being used in lethal injections. More than 20 drug companies have adopted similar restrictions, leaving states that use the death penalty scrambling to find supplies and looking into other methods to carry out executions.

"The pharmaceutical companies are big brand names and so they have stakeholders and they have brand images and bottom lines to protect, so they're taking these steps as business decisions in the best interest of their brand names," said Megan McCracken, legal counselor at the University of California at Berkeley's Death Penalty Clinic.

McCracken said drug companies first began telling states that they don't want their products involved with capital punishment as early as 2001.

"But it's only more recently, since 2011, that pharmaceutical companies have taken more effective concrete steps to actually prevent. Department of Corrections from getting their drugs," said McCracken. "The policy has always been there, it's just that more recently they have put what they call restrictive distribution systems in place to actually stop the states from purchasing the drugs."

As pharmaceutical companies make their drugs unavailable, states are responding by passing laws to make their death-penalty procedures confidential.

"It makes it very difficult for the public, for the courts and for condemned prisoners to really know how an execution is going to proceed -- like exactly what drug will be used, who made it and how the state will use it," McCracken said.

Additionally, some states have attempted to illegally import unapproved drugs from overseas. On several occasions in recent years, federal agents have denied execution drugs into the United States.

Compared to death by electric chair or firing squad, lethal injections were widely seen as the more humane form of capital punishment. But McCracken said new research is calling that into question.

She added that the shortage of drug products to perform lethal injection hasn't led to a kind of de facto end to state-assisted executions. Moreover, the federal government, which also enforces the death penalty, is expect to release a new protocol based on recent research and the drug restrictions.

(source: Wisconsin Public Radio)


After hanging, ex-citizen judge calls death penalty 'murder'

Toshiyasu Yonezawa says he committed "murder" when he was performing his civic duty.

The 27-year-old's "victim" was Sumitoshi Tsuda, himself a convicted killer who fatally stabbed 3 people in Kawasaki, including the landlord of an apartment.

Tsuda, then 63, was the 1st person executed under the citizen judge system that was introduced in 2009 to allow ordinary citizens to have a say in the legal process.

Yonezawa was 1 of the lay judges who demanded capital punishment for Tsuda 5 years ago.

"I do not want to accept the fact that he was hanged," said Yonezawa, referring to Tsuda's execution in late 2015.

After long refusing media requests for comment on Tsuda's death, Yonezawa agreed to be interviewed by The Asahi Shimbun.

Now an opponent of capital punishment, Tsuda explained how he came to regret his decision and the traumatic effect of being responsible for ending a person's life. He urged people to "have 2nd thoughts" on death sentences.

Under Japan's revised judiciary system, citizen judges hear the 1st trial of serious felony cases, including murder and robbery resulting in death or injury.

3 professional judges and 6 citizen judges discuss and decide on the verdict in each case. If the judges cannot unanimously agree on a sentence for the guilty party, the punishment is determined by a majority vote. At least 5 of the judges, including at least 1 of the professionals, must agree before the sentence is adopted.

Lay judges are duty-bound to keep confidential any developments in their discussions of the trial and the results of majority votes. But they are allowed to give their own opinions about the trials.

"For me, the death penalty used to be somebody else's problem, but it currently is not," Yonezawa said. "It is tough for ordinary citizens to be involved in a legal process that can claim someone's life."

Yonezawa, a resident of Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, said he has tried to forget the murder suspect, but he sometimes has flashbacks of Tsuda's face.

"His expressionless face I saw in the courtroom appears in my mind," Yonezawa said. "I can't help but think about what he felt in the last moment of his life."

Yonezawa was a senior at university when he and other judges sentenced Tsuda to death on June 17, 2011, as prosecutors had demanded.

"We determined the ruling after paying due consideration to the feelings of the bereaved families and the defendant's early background," Yonezawa said at a news conference following the ruling. "I hope he will reflect on what he did and sincerely accept the sentence."

At that time, Yonezawa still believed that capital punishment should continue, and that certain criminals in the world deserve to be executed.

The following month, Tsuda dropped his appeal, and his death sentence was finalized.

Yonezawa said he was relieved to hear that because the condemned inmate "accepted the decision that we made after many discussions."

Shortly after the death sentence was finalized, one of Yonezawa's close friends said, "So you killed the person."

Yonezawa was appalled. He had believed that the death penalty is the "heaviest punishment" carried out by somebody else. He had never associated his decision with the notion that he "killed someone" by indirectly involving himself.

But his friend's words made him think: "Was it a proper decision?" And he had trouble trying to dispel feelings that his decision may have been wrong.

Although Yonezawa attempted to shut his mind and forget the experience, he became nervous each time he heard reports about an execution. He did not tell anybody, but Yonezawa felt relieved when he learned that the inmate put to death was not Tsuda.

But on Dec. 18, Tsuda was executed at the Tokyo Detention House.

"I could not accept it as reality," Yonezawa said. "I thought if I did not believe the execution had been carried out, I could continue believing Tsuda was alive somewhere."

Yonezawa refused the flood of requests for media interviews, saying he had nothing to say. He was also focused on his work at a company that he joined after graduation.

Months after Tsuda's death, Yonezawa said he still does "not want to believe that," although he is well aware that Tsuda is gone.

"The death penalty is no different than murder except that it is legally authorized," he said.

After thinking about the capital punishment issue as his own problem, he now opposes the practice.

In 2014, Yonezawa, working with about 20 former citizen judges and others, called on the justice minister to disclose more details about the death penalty to stimulate nationwide discussion on the practice. They also urged the minister to suspend executions for the time being.

"I feel anger toward the fact that the government continues carrying out hangings, even though we are demanding that it should not," Yonezawa said. "I fear that the executions of inmates sentenced to death under the citizen judge system may be carried out successively, with Tsuda's hanging as the start."

In addition to Tsuda's punishment, 9 death sentences under the lay judge system have been finalized.

Yonezawa said he decided to talk to The Asahi Shimbun under his real name because he believes he must continue speaking out so that other citizen judges will not suffer the same feelings that he experienced.

"I would like people to have 2nd thoughts through additional discussions and other efforts before making a decision," Yonezawa said.

Before the lay judge system was introduced, concerns arose about the psychological impact on ordinary citizens engaged in a legal process that could result in death.

Considering the potential emotional burden, the Supreme Court set up an office to offer counseling and other services to citizen judges.

Yonezawa said the fact that he was involved in a judgment that claimed a life will never disappear. He said that for the rest of his life, he will have to come to grips with that reality.

Yonezawa spoke calmly throughout the interview. But he raised his voice when he sharply said: "I never want to serve as a citizen judge again."

(source: The Asahi Shimbun)


Indo-Pak lawyers join hands for Bhagat Singh case

3 years after filing petition in Lahore high court seeking reopening of Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh case, Pakistani lawyer Imtiaz Rasheed Qureshi has joined hands with Indian lawyer Momin Malik to expose how British government bypassed the laid down judicial procedure in hanging Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev. Now, a case will be made to seek an apology and compensation for kin of the freedom fighters.

Momin also took up the case of Geeta who showed up in India from Pakistan. Malik and Qureshi were in Amritsar on May 15 to celebrate the birth anniversary of martyr Sukhdev Thapar, who was hanged along with Bhagat Singh and Rajguru in 1931.

Talking to TOI, Momin said Qureshi had given him a copy of the court's decision awarding death sentence to Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev.

"The sentence was awarded before the Indo-Pak division. However, post Partition, several amendments were made in the penal code system of Pakistan. Qureshi wanted an Indian lawyer well acquainted with the IPC, so I will help him in the case," he said.

Qureshi, who is also the founding chairman of the Bhagat Singh Memorial Foundation, Pakistan, said he filed a petition in Lahore High Court in 2013, seeking reopening of the freedom fighter's case so that he could be declared innocent. He said the judicial system was not followed and the decision to hang the freedom fighters was taken in haste.

"It was a pre-determined decision taken in a hurry and this is what we want to expose before the world," he said. He said Singh was first awarded life imprisonment but the British government changed it into death penalty. He said even the FIR , a copy of which he claims to have procured, didn't have Bhagat Singh's name.

With the re-opening of the case, they would urge the British government to seek an apology and give compensation to the family members of freedom fighters who were hanged during their regime in India.

(source: The Times of India)


Iran regime hangs 13 people today, including 1 man in public

Iran's fundamentalist regime hanged at least 13 people, including 1 man in public, on Tuesday.

6 men were hanged collectively in the Central Prison of Urmia (Orumieh), north-west Iran, earlier on Tuesday, May 17. They had been serving a prison sentence in Ward 15 of the jail on drugs-related charges.

They were identified as Naji Keywan, Nader Mohammadi, Ali Shamugardian, Aziz Nouri-Azar, Fereydoon Rashidi and Heidar Amini.

The victim, who was not named, was hanged at 7 am in the city's Mofatteh Square. His sentence had been upheld by the regime's Supreme Court.

Separately, the regime's Prosecutor in Yazd Province told the state-run Rokna news agency that 6 people were hanged in the central Iranian province on Tuesday. 3 of the victims were identified by their initials Ch. R., A. S., and A. B.

Commenting on the hangings, Ms. Farideh Karimi, a member of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and a human rights activist, on Tuesday said:

"At least 38 executions since the start of May, including three in public, are of deep concern. That's to say there's been one public execution every 5 days and 2 people hanged each day in the month of May. Sadly however what adds to our concern is that there has not been an appropriate response by the international community or human rights groups to the appalling state of human rights in Iran."

The latest hangings bring to at least 89 the number of people executed in Iran since April 10. 3 of those executed were women and 1 is believed to have been a juvenile offender.

Iran's fundamentalist regime last week amputated the fingers of a man in his 30s in Mashhad, the latest in a line of draconian punishments handed down and carried out in recent weeks.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) said in a statement on April 13 that the increasing trend of executions "aimed at intensifying the climate of terror to rein in expanding protests by various strata of the society, especially at a time of visits by high-ranking European officials, demonstrates that the claim of moderation is nothing but an illusion for this medieval regime."

Amnesty International in its April 6 annual Death Penalty report covering the 2015 period wrote: "Iran put at least 977 people to death in 2015, compared to at least 743 the year before."

"Iran alone accounted for 82% of all executions recorded" in the Middle East and North Africa, the human rights group said.

There have been more than 2,300 executions during Hassan Rouhani's tenure as President. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran in March announced that the number of executions in Iran in 2015 was greater than any year in the last 25 years. Rouhani has explicitly endorsed the executions as examples of "God's commandments" and "laws of the parliament that belong to the people."


2 Prisoners with Drug Charges and a Prisoner Charged with Adultery Hanged in Northern Iran

On the morning of Saturday May 14 3 prisoners were reportedly hanged at Lakan, Rasht's central prison (in the province of Gilan, northern Iran). A report by the press department of the Judiciary in Gilan has identified the prisoners as: "A.A.", 22 years old, charged with possession and trafficking of 2 kilograms and 450 grams of crystal meth; "A.Sh.", 26 years old, charged with possession of 458 grams of crystal meth and 637 grams of heroin; and "H.P.", 31 years old, charged with adultery.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

SAUDI ARABIA----execution

Saudi executes Pakistani drug smuggler

Saudi Arabia on Tuesday put to death a Pakistani man convicted of drug smuggling, bringing to 93 the number of executions in the kingdom this year.

Mohammed Ishaq Thawab Gul had been found guilty of trafficking heroin into the kingdom, the interior ministry said.

Most people put to death in the Gulf country are beheaded with a sword.

According to rights group Amnesty International, Saudi Arabia had the 3rd-highest number of executions last year -- at least 158

Murder and drug trafficking cases account for the majority of Saudi executions, although 47 people were put to death for "terrorism" on a single day in January.

According to rights group Amnesty International, Saudi Arabia had the 3rd-highest number of executions last year -- at least 158.

That was far behind Pakistan which executed 326, and Saudi Arabia's regional rival Iran, which executed at least 977, said Amnesty whose figures exclude secretive China.

Rights experts have raised concerns about the fairness of trials in Saudi Arabia and say the death penalty should not be applied in drugs cases.

The interior ministry, however, said the government "is keen on fighting drugs of all kinds due to their serious damage to individuals and the society".

(source: Daily Mail)


S. Arabia's Iran Spying Trial 'Mockery of Justice': HRW

Human Rights Watch (HRW) announced that Saudi Arabia's trial of 32 men for allegedly spying on behalf of Iran is a "mockery of justice" because it "has violated the basic due process rights of the defendants."

Saudi prosecutors are seeking death penalty against 25 of the 32 people the kingdom has detained since 2013, Press TV reported.

The men are accused of spying for Iran but the charge sheet, which Human Rights Watch said it had reviewed, contains numerous allegations that do not resemble recognizable crimes.

According to the New York-based rights group, the defendants are accused of "supporting demonstrations," "harming the reputation of the kingdom," and attempting to “spread the Shiite confession."

The kingdom began trying the men in February 2016 at the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh.

According to Human Rights Watch, Saudi authorities have not permitted the defendants to meet with lawyers or provided all of the court documents necessary to prepare a defense after more than 3 years of detention and investigation.

"This trial is shaping up as another stain on Saudi Arabia's grossly unfair criminal justice system," said Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW's Middle East director.

"Criminal trials should not be merely legal 'window-dressing' where the verdict has been decided beforehand," she said.

According to the charge sheet, the defendants include 30 Saudis, 1 Iranian and 1 Afghan citizen.

An individual with direct knowledge of the case has told Human Rights Watch that all but one of the Saudi defendants are Shiite Muslims.

Local Saudi media outlets reported in March that some of the defense lawyers refused to participate in court proceedings.

Saudi Arabia's Shiite citizens face systematic discrimination in public education, government employment, and permission to build houses of worship in the majority-Sunni country.

Riyadh has long been under fire at the international level for its grim human rights record.

Human Rights Watch said it had obtained and analyzed 7 Specialized Criminal Court judgments from 2013 and 2014 against men and children accused of protest-related crimes following demonstrations by members of the Shiite minority.

"In all 7 trials, detainees alleged that confessions were extracted through torture, but judges quickly dismissed these allegations, admitted the confessions as evidence, and then convicted the detainees."

(source: Tasnim News Agency)


Burmese men to appeal conviction in Koh Tao murders of British backpackers

The disputed DNA evidence that led to the conviction of 2 Burmese men for the British backpacker murders on a Thai holiday island will be at the centre of an appeal against the verdicts.

Lawyers for the 2 men announced on Tuesday that they will file their 200-page appeal on Monday at the courthouse in Koh Samui, accompanied by the mothers of the convicted migrant workers.

The next stage in the legal battle will put the spotlight back on the controversy about the police investigation and prosecutions following the killings of Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24, on the holiday island of Koh Tao.

The appeal process by Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo, both 22, is expected to drag on for years, extending the anguish for the families of the 2 victims.

It will also again focus attention on the contentious roles of British detectives dispatched by David Cameron to observe the investigation by their Thai counterparts in a death penalty case.

"Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo both repeated their sorrow and sympathy for Hannah and David's families, but they insist they had nothing to do with their deaths," Andy Hall, a Bangkok-based British migrant rights activist, told the Telegraph after visiting the men at the high-security death row prison in Bangkok.

"They remain hopeful that that justice will be done and their names will be cleared."

Ms Witheridge was raped and she and Mr Miller were savagely bludgeoned to death with a wooden hoe as they walked back to their hotel rooms late at night along a beach in Sept 2014.

The investigation was dogged by mis-steps amid deepening questions about Thailand's reputation as a safe tourist idyll.

With the Thai junta making the case a priority, the two Burmese bar workers were arrested in early October.

The pair initially confessed to the killings but quickly retracted their statements, saying they were tortured.

The 3 judges who handed down the guilty verdicts and death penalties concluded that the prosecution proved its case with forensic evidence that met "international standards" linking the 2 men to the murders.

However, Jane Taupin, a renowned Australian forensic scientist who has been advising the defence on its appeal, told the Telegraph that documents explaining how Thai investigators matched the 2 men's DNA to the victims were not submitted and other paperwork had hand-written changes.

Ms Taupin noted that the highly complex standards for DNA matching based on statistical probability were not provided. And she also pointed out that there were serious questions about the chain of custody of the DNA samples.

There have also been persistent questions about the accreditation of the laboratory that handled the forensic evidence.

"The scientific records were lacking and so it is impossible to determine whether they meet international standards," Ms Taupin said. "I certainly do not see that the court could conclude that the forensic evidence met those international standards."

Pornthip Rojanasunand, Thailand's best-known forensic scientist, testified for the defence that the crime scene was not protected and the collection of evidence "contradicted the principles of forensic science".

She also told the court that her own laboratory's testing of the hoe that was the murder weapon recovered DNA samples, but none that matched the accused men.

The prosecution said that DNA taken from the accused men matched samples recovered from the body of Miss Witheridge.

The convictions apparently split the families of the victims. Mr Miller's parents and brother issued a powerful statement saying that justice had been done with the Christmas Day verdicts after sitting through much of the trial.

Ms Witheridge's family have not made a formal comment. But her sister Laura later issued a blistering attack on the Thai police for its "bungled" investigation into the killings.

She claimed that she had received death threats, said that her family was offered money to keep quiet after the murders and accused the Thai authorities of "covering-up" the killings of other Western tourists on Koh Tao.



Bangkok bombing suspect: 'I am no animal'---- Uighur suspected in last year's fatal bombing dragged into military court after trying to plead with media

1 of 2 ethnic Uighur facing trial for a bombing that killed 20 people in Bangkok last year was dragged into a Thai military court by guards after trying to plead with media Tuesday.

"I am no animal," said a shackled Adem Karadag, who wore an orange prison uniform and had his head shaven.

Karadag, 31, and Yusuf Mieraili, 29, have been charged with ten counts of criminal violation each, including pre-meditated murder -- which carries the death penalty -- possession of explosives, and legal entry into Thailand.

The Aug. 17 bombing at a Hindu shrine in downtown Bangkok left 20 people dead and 125 others injured.

Karadag, who has also been identified by Thai police as Bilal Mohammed and Bilal Turk, and Mieraili were arrested around two weeks after the explosion.

At a February hearing, they denied all charges, with the exception of Karadag admitting to illegal entry.

Police have said that both suspects have confessed to being paid by a mastermind to build and plant the bomb, but Karadag's lawyer Choochart Khanphai has petitioned the Bangkok court on the ground that his client said he had been tortured by plainclothes men while in military custody.

"My client was intimidated by these men, they were waterboarded, threatened with large dogs and threatened with deportation to China," he told reporters after the February hearing.

Thai courts had issued arrest warrants for 17 suspects in connection with the bombing, but only Karadag and Mieraili were captured.

Both were detained at a prison within a Bangkok military facility where the deaths of 2 lese-majeste suspects since October has raised questions.

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva called in November 2015 for the closure of the facility.

In the past year, allegations of torturing suspects to gain confessions have been leveled at both Thai police and military.

Both Karadag and Mieraili have refused to provide their addresses in China's northwestern Xinjiang region out of "fear of reprisal" from the government, who the Muslim minority group accuses of curtailing their cultural and religious rights.

While police have claimed the bombing was masterminded by human traffickers, angry at Thai authorities for clamping down on their networks, Khanphai has said that the bomb was connected to the controversial deportation of a Uighur group held in Thai immigration centers to China.



Miklos Haraszti is appalled by reports of the recent execution by the Belarusian authoritie

Miklos Haraszti is appalled by reports of the recent execution by the Belarusian authorities He condemned Belarus' continued use of death penalty after reports that a man whose complaint was before the UN HRC had been executed, despite a specific request from the HRC for a stay of execution.

"I am appalled by reports of the recent execution of Siarhei Ivanou by the Belarusian authorities," said Miklos Haraszti, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus.

Reports indicate that Siarhei Ivanou, who was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death in 2015, was executed on around 18 April this year.

Ivanou's brother had petitioned the Committee, arguing that Ivanou's trial had been unfair. During the trial, he remained handcuffed and was obliged to wear special clothes with the label "capital punishment" on them. It was also alleged that he was not brought promptly before a judge upon arrest and had limited access to a lawyer.

Ivanou's execution means Belarus, since 2010, has executed eight people whose cases were registered for examination by the Committee under the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Belarus is a State party.

Belarus remains the only country in Europe and Central Asia that applies the death penalty, despite repeated calls for its abolition from many in the international community, including the members of the European Union and the Council of Europe.

Haraszti once again urged the Belarusian authorities to adopt a moratorium on the death penalty, as an interim legal step towards it full abolition, UN press service informs.

The human rights expert also voiced grave concern at news that another defendant, Siarhei Hmialeuski, was sentenced to death by a court on 6 May. "The news testifies to the lack of progress on the human rights situation in Belarus," he said.

The Human Rights Committee had requested the Belarusian authorities not to carry out the sentence, pending the examination of Ivanou's case.

Non-compliance with the Committee's request for interim measures constitutes a violation, by Belarus, of its obligations under the Optional Protocol to ICCPR.

"The decision to proceed with the execution of the death penalty amounts to both a callous disdain for and a grave breach of Belarus' international human rights obligations," said Nigel Rodley, Special Rapporteur on new communications and interim measures.

Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.



HRW: Grant clemency to death row inmate in Singapore

Singapore President Tony Tan should urgently grant clemency to death row prisoner Kho Jabing, who is due to be executed on May 20, Human Rights Watch has said.

Jabing was convicted of the murder of Cao Ruyin in 2007.

On 5 April 2016, the Court of Appeal, Singapore's highest court, dismissed Kho Jabing's appeal. An Appeals Court panel in January 2015 had reversed, by 3 to 2, a high court ruling overturning Kho Jabing's death sentence.

At dispute was whether his actions during a botched robbery had been done in "blatant disregard of human life". At the time of Kho Jabing's conviction, Singapore law imposed a mandatory death penalty for the offence, thus preventing the court from considering the full circumstances of the crime.

"President Tan should grant clemency to Kho Jabing in recognition of sentencing reforms under Singapore law," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "The death penalty is always cruel, and a man's life should not hinge on a legal technicality."

Mandatory death sentences are contrary to the rights to a fair trial, Human Rights Watch said. As the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions stated in 2005, a mandatory death sentence "makes it impossible [for the court] to take into account mitigating or extenuating circumstances and eliminates any individual determination of an appropriate sentence in a particular case .... The adoption of such a black-and-white approach is entirely inappropriate where the life of the accused is at stake."

In 2012, Singapore's parliament amended the Penal Code to provide courts with some discretion in sentencing certain categories of murder, including murder without intent. Since the change of law was considered retroactive, Kho Jabing sought a review of his death sentence, stating the murder had not been pre-meditated, and there had been no "blatant disregard for human life."

In August 2013, the High Court agreed and re-sentenced Kho Jabing to life imprisonment and 24 strokes of the cane. Kho Jabing's accomplice in the crime, Galing Anak Kujat, had his conviction for murder overturned, and the court re-sentenced him for committing robbery with hurt and sentenced him to 18 1/2 years in prison and 19 strokes of the cane.

Singapore is one of few countries that retains the death penalty, claiming without evidence that capital punishment deters crime. Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all cases because of its inherent cruelty and irreversibility.

"Singapore's continued use of the death penalty has no place in a modern state," Robertson said. "President Tan should cut through the complexities and controversies of this case and grant Kho Jabing clemency so that he is imprisoned for life."



Sarawakian's execution up to Singapore president

If Singapore President Tony Tan does not reconsider Sarawakian Kho Jabing's new clemency petition, then the murder convict will be executed predawn on Friday.

As recently as early this month, it was assumed Kho, 31, could have at least 3 more months pending a fresh clemency petition.

"However, it has come to our attention that the president, while acknowledging Kho's intention to file a new clemency petition, has taken the position that his decision to reject the previous clemency petition in October 2015 still stands," said a joint statement released by human rights activists.

"It is unclear if Tan will consider the new clemency petition once it is filed."

The press release was issued by We Believe in Second Chances and the Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign.

Co-signees include Amnesty International, the Sarawak Advocates Association, Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty, Reprieve Australia, Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network and Center for Orang Asli Concerns.

12 relatives of other inmates on death row in Singapore also joined in the group petition. They include sisters, mothers and fiancees.

The campaigners are urging the president to grant clemency to Kho and commute his death sentence to life imprisonment.

"The fact that 1 High Court judge and 2 Appeal judges have expressed the opinion that the death penalty is not an appropriate punishment for Kho Jabing shows there continues to be doubt a death sentence is justified in this case.

"It is of utmost importance this case not be rushed.

"We call on the president to stay the execution scheduled for May 20, as to allow a reasonable time for the consideration of Kho's new petition," the statement added.

Kho received a letter from the Singapore Prison Service on May 12 informing him that his execution had been scheduled. Kho was convicted of murder in 2011.

The announcement came as a shock to family members who have flown to Singapore.

"We do not condone Kho's crime, nor do we seek to erase the hurt he has caused to the victim's family," his family, including mother Lenduk and sister Jumai, said.

During the campaigning period of the recent Sarawak polls, the family staged a widely reported press conference, urging for help from local politicians.

The campaigners pointed out that the case involving Kho had been traumatic due to amendments made to Singapore's mandatory death penalty and appeals lodged by the prosecution.

The campaigners said Kho had, over the years, been sentenced to death, then life imprisonment (with caning), then death again.

This back-and-forth has taken a horrific toll not just on Kho as the inmate, but his family too.

(source: The Star)


ICA, CNB seize S$282,000 worth of drugs at Woodlands Checkpoint----About 2.78kg of heroin and 480g of Ice were found concealed in the compartment behind the passenger seat of a Malaysian-registered lorry.

Officers from the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) seized drugs totalling about 2.78kg of heroin and 480g of Ice from the driver and passenger of a Malaysian-registered lorry early Monday morning (May 16). The drugs are estimated to be worth more than S$282,000.

In a press release on Tuesday, ICA and the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) said the lorry was stopped for checks when it arrived at Woodlands Checkpoint at about 4.50am on Monday. Officers found the drugs concealed in the compartment behind the passenger seat.

The lorry was also carrying a consignment of pails, cans and shield anchors.

The lorry driver and the passenger, male Malaysians aged 33 and 27 respectively, were arrested and referred to CNB. Authorities said investigations are ongoing.

The Misuse of Drugs Act provides for the death penalty if the amount of or pure heroin trafficked exceeds 15g - sufficient to feed the addiction of about 180 abusers for a week, the authorities said.

The Act also provides for the death penalty if the amount of Ice, or methamphetamine, trafficked exceeds 250g, which is enough to feed the addiction of about 185 abusers for a week.

"The Home Team agencies will continue to conduct checks on passengers and vehicles at the checkpoints to prevent attempts to smuggle in undesirable persons, drugs, weapons, explosives and other contraband," the authorities said in the statement.



Executing Designer Of Death - Analysis

On May 11, 2016, Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) amir (chief) Motiur Rahman Nizami (75), who masterminded the formation of the ruthless militia Al Badr that unleashed terror against Bengalis erstwhile East Pakistan, killed unarmed civilians, raped women and destroyed properties during the Liberation War of 1971, was executed at Dhaka Central Jail. Nizami was sentenced to death on October 29, 2014, by the International Crimes Tribunal-1 (ICT-1) after being found guilty on eight of the 16 charges brought against him. The 4 charges which brought him the death penalty included involvement in the killing of intellectuals; the murder of 450 civilians, and the rape of 30 to 40 women in Bausgari and Demra villages in Pabna District; the killing of 52 people in Dhulaura village in Pabna District; and the killing of 10 persons and rape of 3 women in Karamja village in Pabna District. He was also sentenced to imprisonment for life on the charges of involvement in the killing of Kasim Uddin and 2 others in Pabna District; torture and murder of Sohrab Ali of Brishalikha village in Pabna District; torture and killing at Mohammadpur Physical Training Centre in Dhaka city; and killing of freedom fighters Rumi, Bodi, Jewel and Azad at Old MP Hostel in Dhaka city.

Nizami had served as Minister of Agriculture in the then Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-led coalition Government between 2001 and 2006. He is the 4th JeI leader to have been hanged for war crimes, after JeI Assistant Secretary Abdul Quader Mollah (65), known as 'Mirpurer Koshai (Butcher of Mirpur), who was hanged at Dhaka Central Jail on December 12, 2013; JeI Senior Assistant Secretary General Muhammad Kamaruzzaman (63), the 3rd most senior figure in the JeI, who was hanged at Dhaka Central Jail on April 11, 2015, and JeI Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed (67) who was hanged simultaneously with BNP Standing Committee member Salauddin Quader Chowdhury (66) at Dhaka Central Jail on November 22, 2015.

On May 3, 2016, ICT-1 sentenced Gazi Abdul Mannan (88), Nasiruddin Ahmed (62), Shamsuddin Ahmed (60) and Hafiz Uddin (66) to death; and Azharul Islam (60) to jail until death. They were all members of JeI. 7 charges were brought against them and the court found them guilty on all charges. On the 1st charge, the killing of 8 people in Karimganj on November 12, 1971, Shamsuddin, Nasiruddin and Mannan were awarded the death penalty, while Hafiz and Azharul were awarded jail until death. Nasiruddin was the lone accused on the 2nd charge of the killing of Miah Hossain of Ayla village on November 13, 1971. On the 3rd charge, Hafiz was given the death sentence, while Shamsuddin, Nasiruddin and Azharul were awarded jail until death, for the abduction and killing of Abdur Gafur of Kalatali on September 26, 1971. All the 5 were awarded jail until death for the abduction, torture and killing of Fazlur Rahman of Atkapara on August 23, 1971, the fourth charge. Shamsuddin received the death penalty on the 5th charge, the killing of Paresh Chandra Sarkar of Ramnagar on September 7, 1971. According to the sixth charge, Mannan was involved in the torture and killing of Abu Bakar Siddique and Rapali Miah on August 25, 1971, and the tribunal handed down a sentence of imprisonment until death. Mannan was also given 5 years' rigorous imprisonment on the 7th charge of arson and vandalism in Atkapara on September 15, 1971.

On February 2, 2016, ICT-1 sentenced to death Obaidul Haque aka Taher (66), an activist of the Nezam-e-Islam (NeI) and Ataur Rahman aka Noni (62), an activist of the Muslim League (ML) for killing seven persons on October 19, 1971, and for killing another 6 after abducting and torturing them on November 15 and 16, 1971. They were also sentenced to imprisonment until death for killing Liberation War organizer Fazlur Rahman Talukder, and looting and setting on fire Baushi Bazar on August 17, 1971; and for killing Dabir Hossain on October 4, 1971 after abducting and torturing him. Both were acquitted on 2 other charges which include grabbing the houses of Moloy Biswas and Shrish Chandra Sarkar and 'deporting' their family members in mid-May 1971, and for killing 15 persons including teacher Kamini Chakrabarty in early October 1971.

It is useful to recall that, the Sheikh Hasina Wajed led-Government constituted the ICT-1 on March 25, 2010, with the objective of bringing the perpetrators of War Crimes to justice, and subsequently, ICT-2 on March 22, 2012, to speed up the War Crimes Trials. So far, the 2 ICTs have indicted 57 leaders, including 37 from JeI, 7 from the ML, 5 from NeI, 4 from BNP, 2 from Pakistan Democratic Party (PDP) and 2 from the Jatiya Party (JP). Verdicts against 31 of these indicted leaders have already been delivered - 23 were awarded the death sentence while the remaining 8 received life sentences. Five of the 23, including Nizami, who received the death sentence, have already been executed, while 18 other cases are currently pending with the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.

As in earlier cases, JeI called a countrywide 24-hour hartal (general strike) on May 11, 2016, protesting the execution of its party chief Motiur Rahman Nizami. Earlier, JeI, on May 5, 2016, had called for a countrywide 24-hour hartal, denouncing the Supreme Court's order that upheld Nizami's death sentence. However, unlike previous hartals called by JeI, protesting against war crimes' verdicts against party leaders, which had resulted in massive street violence, these 2 protests were largely ignored across the country and no major acts of violence were reported. Nevertheless, there were a few minor incidents, such as the May 11, 2016, protest by cadres of JeI-Islami Chhatra Shibir ( ICS) who hurled bricks at the Police during a clash at Chawkbazar Parade Ground in Chittagong city over a gayebana namaz-e-janaza (funeral prayer in absentia) for Nizami. Some 5,000 JeI-ICS cadres participated in the janaza led by Chittagong city unit JeI chief Shamshul Islam. Security Forces (SFs) managed to disperse the JeI-ICS cadres by firing blank shots. No one was injured in the incident. Further, on May 12, 2016, Police arrested 28 JeI-ICS cadres in connection with vandalism, arson and sabotage activities, including 16 from Bogra District, 5 from Chittagong District, 4 from Barisal District, 2 from Cox's Bazar and 1 from Gaibandha District.

However, the trend of targeting intellectuals/ activists/ secularists/ or alleged 'apostates'/ 'blasphemers', which commenced after the Shahbagh Movement of February 2013 seeking the death penalty for War Criminals of the 1971 genocide, appears to be escalating. 12 persons were killed in 2013; 4 persons in 2014; and 9 in 2015. Disturbingly, since the beginning of the 2016, 11 intellectuals/ activists/ secularists/ or alleged 'apostates'/ 'blasphemers' have already been killed across the country by suspected Islamist terrorists. In the latest of the series of such killings, on May 6, 2016, Mohammad Shahidullah (65), a pir (revered religious instructor, usually of Sufi orientation) was hacked to death at Jumarpara village of Tanore upazila (sub-district) in Rajshahi District. Further, on May 14, 2016, Mawng Shoi Wuu (70), a Buddhist monk was found dead with his throat-slit with a sharp weapon at a small monastery at Baishari of Naikhyangchari upazila in Bandarban District. Earlier, 9 others were killed across the country by suspected Islamist terrorists. Significantly, out of the 11 murders in 2016, Daesh (Islamic State, formerly the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham) claimed responsibility for 6. Meanwhile, Ansar al-Islam (Sword of Islam), the purported Bangladesh branch of al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), claimed 'credit' for another 3. No group has yet claimed the remaining 2 killings.

The Shiekh Hasina Wajed Government has, however, blamed the BNP-JeI nexus for these incidents, describing them as 'secret killings', after the failure of the Opposition to topple the Government. Prime Minister Wajed thus declared, on April 30, 2016, "The BNP-Jamaat clique does not want development of the people. They cannot give anything except burning people to death and destruction. They have chosen the path of killing teachers and common people selectively."

Rejecting the Prime Minister's claim, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir stated, on May 13, 2016, "BNP wants trial of those who committed crimes against humanity during our Liberation War. But the trial will have to be held in a transparent manner, ensuring international standard."

With the hanging of JeI chief Nizami, the Awami League (AL)-led Government has once again reaffirmed its determination to honour its 2008 General Election pledge to bring the War Criminals of the 1971 genocide to justice. The achievements on this count are already remarkable, but, the frequent attacks on liberals, secularists and minorities across the country threaten the tenuous stability that has been achieved in the country. The trials themselves have deepened the polarization in the country between those intent of defending the secular identity asserted through the 1971 Independence movement, and those who seek to introduce a Government purportedly based on 'Islamic' principles. This rift presents a growing challenge for the Hasina Wajed regime.

(source: * S. Binodkumar Singh Research Associate, Institute for Conflict


Reconsider death penalty, Palma appeals

CEBU Archbishop Jose Palma believes the proposed revival of the death penalty could do more harm than good.

Palma expressed his thoughts on the death penalty following the announcement of presumptive president Rodrigo Duterte that he plans to revive the death penalty once he assumes office.

He told Sun.Star Cebu yesterday that while he agrees that criminals must be punished if found guilty, he fears that the revival of the death penalty could be prone to injustice, especially for poor prisoners who can't afford to defend themselves in court.

Palma fears that the revival of the death penalty could cheapen life.

"We must also respect the dignity of the person. He may have committed the crime, but he is still a person and has right to life. There is also the danger for many that people will just simplify the way we look at life. It's like saying that if you commit a crime, you're good as dead," he said.

While some people think that the death penalty is an effective deterrent against crime, Palma believes the rehabilitative approach is still the better way of dealing with criminals.

"Unta, that punishment should be medicinal or rehabilitative. We punish the criminal but it must be to the effect that the one being punished regrets his crime and becomes a better person," he said.

Palma urged Duterte to reconsider his decision and instead of reviving the death penalty, the presumptive president must push for a more effective judiciary and penal system that truly implements justice, whether for the rich and poor criminals.

He also prays for Duterte to appoint in his Cabinet those people who will steer him to the right direction.

Last Monday, Duterte said that he plans to impose the death penalty as a way to deliver his campaign promise to deter criminality around the country.

Aside from the death penalty, Duterte plans to organize a "special group" within the barangays that will suppress the illegal drug trade at the grassroots.

(source: Sun Star)


Duterte wants to restore death penalty by hanging

Presumptive President-elect Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to reintroduce death penalty "by hanging" in the country as part of his relentless fight against crime.

Speaking to reporters in Davao City Sunday night, Duterte said he would ask lawmakers to approve the death penalty for heinous crimes, such as drug-related offenses and rape.

"What I would do is urge Congress to restore [the] death penalty by hanging, especially if you use drugs," Duterte said.

The tough-talking Davao City mayor said he would also give the government security forces "shoot-to kill" orders against those who will resist arrest violently.

"I said if you resist the arrest, tapos you offer a violent resistance, my order to the police or the military is to shoot-to-kill," he said.

The 1987 Constitution restored the death penalty for henious crimes under then-President Fidel V. Ramos, but it carried out 7 times under then-President Joseph Estrada.

Estrada's successor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, repealed the death penalty law in 2006.

Duterte has vowed a "bloody war" against criminals, particularly drug dealers, as he sought to bring to the entire country the anti-crime drive that, he said, has made Davao City attractive to investors.

During his campaign for the presidency, Duterte had vowed to "fatten the fish" in Manila Bay with the dead bodies of criminals.

When asked why he was hell-bent on wiping out criminals off the country's streets, Duterte explained: "We have a society now where obedience to the law is really a choice, an option only."

(source: Manila Times)


'Restore death penalty by hanging'

Philippine President-elect Rodrigo Duterte said yesterday that he will ask Congress to restore capital punishment, as he vowed to pursue his pledge to wage a devastating war on crime.

"What I would do is urge Congress to restore the death penalty by hanging," he told reporters.

"Rape, plus death of the victim, must be death penalty. Kidnapping with ransom, and then death of the victim, must be death penalty," he declared.

"Robbery with homicide with rape, double the hanging. After you hang them, there will be another ceremony for another time. Until the head is completely severed from the body. I would like that because I'm angry."

In a news briefing late on Sunday, Mr Duterte said he would also give security forces "shoot-to-kill" orders against organised criminals or those who resist arrest violently.


What I would do is urge Congress to restore the death penalty by hanging. Rape, plus death of the victim, must be death penalty. Kidnapping with ransom, and then death of the victim, must be death penalty. Robbery with homicide with rape, double the hanging.----MR RODRIGO DUTERTE, Philippine President-elect.

"If you resist, show violent resistance, my order to police (will be) to shoot to kill," he said.

He named 3 former Davao police chiefs - who helped him prosecute a brutal anti-crime campaign in the southern city - as possible candidates for head of the 160,000-strong national police force.

The 71-year-old Mr Duterte built his reputation on having transformed Davao - during his reign as mayor for more than 3 decades - from being a battleground of vigilante groups and communist partisans to one of the safest cities in the Philippines.

The body count in his brutal campaign against crime, however, exceeded 1,000, and Mr Duterte himself admitted having had a hand in some death squad-style summary executions.

The Philippines' human rights commission and Catholic Church said yesterday that they would oppose any effort to restore the death penalty.

"Our current position is that the death penalty is contrary to human dignity and human rights," said human rights commission chief Luis Martin Gascon.

Archbishop Oscar Cruz, head of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, said the church in the Catholic-majority country "would not stand for it".

"The state did not give life to anyone, so it cannot take life from anyone. That is clear," he said.

Turning to another cornerstone pledge, Mr Duterte repeated that he would pursue peace talks with Marxist guerillas and would offer, as an olive branch, government roles to the Communist Party of the Philippines, including its exiled founder Jose Maria Sison.

He said he was offering the labour, social welfare, environment and agrarian reform ministries to the communists as part of the effort to end one of the longest-running insurgencies in the world.



Senators ready to start debate on death penalty

Senators yesterday said they are ready to start the debates on the proposal of presumptive president Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte's to reinstate the death penalty especially for high profile drug lords and criminals.

Senator Juan Edgardo "Sonny" Angara said he is willing and ready to listen to committee level discussions on the proposal, which he expects to be one of the top agenda of the incoming 17th Congress.

"We are willing to listen to the debate on both sides but what is crucial really is we improve law enforcement capabilities and improve our justice system)," Angara said in a text message.

Re-elected Senator Panfilo "Ping" Lacson said he is fully supportive of the revival of the death penalty especially for big-time criminals.

Lacson, however, said he rejects public executions for these hardened criminals since that would be socially unacceptable.

"I'm fully supportive of the revival of the death penalty especially for big time drug lords and heinous crime offenders, but not in the manner being suggested such as by hanging," Lacson said in a text message.

"Aside from being inhuman, I don't want out people, much less our children to witness medieval age-like executions even of the most notorious criminals," he also said.



Majority of polled readers favor death penalty

Most readers were in favor of reviving the death penalty in the Philippines, according to the results of’s Facebook and Twitter polls. on its social media pages asked netizens on Monday evening whether or not they were in favor of bringing back capital punishment in the country.

In the Facebook poll, 83 % of 1,434 votes were in favor of bringing back the death penalty while only 17 % opposed it.

On Twitter, 67 % of 3,474 favored the revival of the death penalty while 33 % expressed opposition.

On Monday, presumptive President Rodrigo Duterte said the death penalty must be re-imposed during his administration to deliver his promise of cracking down criminality and illegal drugs in the country.

Duterte said he wanted to restore the death penalty for drug-related crimes, rape, robbery, car-jacking, carnapping or vehicle robbery, and plunder.

Human rights groups and the Catholic Church have said that they would block any move to restore the death penalty in the country.

But Duterte was firm in his stand, saying he was ready to stake his life and honor and even the presidency to fulfill his vow of ending crime within the first 3 to 6 months of his administration.



Restoration of capital punishment: Time for debate?

Presumptive president Rodrigo Duterte believes Filipinos need an iron-fist style of leadership and — to rid the country of criminals — he said he is open to the restoration of death penalty.

It looks like debates on the matter will be revived during the 17th Congress, according to Duterte's ally Sen. Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III.

"What is important is that we get to know the positions of the lawmakers on the issue. And all of us should be ready for pressure from outside of Congress, there are groups in favor and there are groups who are against death penalty," said Pimentel in a phone interview with CNN Philippines.

Anti-crime watchdog Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) supports the idea that imposing death penalty is crucial in deterring crime.

It has been a decade since former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed a law repealing the death penalty.

VACC chairman Dante Jimenez is hopeful capital punishment will be restored under the Duterte presidency.

"That will be the ultimate fear of criminals, you know. 'Yan ang pinaka-kinakatakutan ng mga criminals," Jimenez told CNN Philippines.

[Translation: That will be the ultimate fear of criminals, you know. That is what criminals are scared of the most.]

However, sociologist Clifford Sorita said Filipinos are still inclined to oppose death penalty, despite the people's clamor for effective crime management.

Sorita explained the Philippines is a predominantly Catholic nation and the belief promotes humane or less non-vindictive punishment.

He claimed studies show there is no direct correlation between having death penalty and criminality.

"Pag pinag-aralan mo maigi, minsan, ang kriminalidad iba ang ugat na maski sige takutin mo ng death penalty, mangyayari at mangyayari pa rin iyon," Sorita said.

[Translation: If you take a closer look, sometimes, criminality has varying roots that even when you scare them off through death penalty, the inevitable will still happen.]

For his part, Pimentel is sure the issue will get its day in the Senate, though he said he cannot predict how the vote will go, since there is no prevailing opinion on the matter as of yet.


Death penalty 'by hanging' divisive -- Belmonte

Speaker Feliciano "Sonny" Belmonte Jr. yesterday branded as "divisive" to presumptive President-elect Rodrigo "Digong" Duterte's call for national unity his planned re-imposition of death penalty "by hanging" especially on drug-related crimes.

While he did not categorically say that he is against the restoration of death penalty, Belmonte sought to strengthen the country's criminal justice system first.

"A very divisive issue in the House," Belmonte, vice president of the ruling Liberal Party (LP), said in an interview after Duterte pushed for the revival of death penalty for heinous crimes including robbery with rape. Earlier, Belmonte rejected death penalty in response to the proposal of Sen. Vicente "Tito" Sotto III to revive capital punishment for drug trafficking and rape with murder.

"It won't fly because it is not the answer to the rising incidence of crimes in the country," Belmonte, a lawyer, said in a previous interview.

Nevertheless, Belmonte, who vowed to run for the speakership of the incoming 17th Congress, reiterated his cooperation and unity with Duterte to push his programs and legislative agenda.

"We will be supportive of the Duterte administration," said Belmonte who earlier vowed to establish strong support to the "super majority" of Duterte allies in the House of Representatives.

Buhay Hayaang Yumabong (Buhay) party-list Rep. Lito Atienza echoed Belmonte's statement that the proposal of Duterte will not be good to his call for national unity.

"Huwag muna siyang (Duterte) magbigay ng priority sa death penalty. This is a divisive issue. Death penalty will be disuniting issue that will hamper the beginning of his administration," said Atienza.

"Ang national attention will focus on this issue. Hindi maganda sa pagsisimula ng kanyang administration," said Atienza.

Atienza also stressed that the absence of death penalty law has no connection to the rising criminality in the country.

"There's no doubt whatsoever about the breakdown in the country's peace and order situation, however we don't see the re-imposition of the death penalty as an effective antidote to this problem," Atienza pointed out.

Republic Act (RA) No. 7659 or the Death Penalty Law was abolished in 1986 during the term of former President Corazon Aquino.

It was revived by former President Fidel V. Ramos in 1993, and was suspended again in 2006 by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.



1,041 criminals appealing death sentence

A total of 1,041 criminals are currently in the process of appealing their death sentences, says Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Nancy Shukri.

According to Nancy, their death sentences have not been carried out because their cases are in the process of appeal in court or their respective State Pardons Boards.

This was stated in a written reply to Ramkarpal Singh (DAP-Bukit Gelugor) in Parliament today after he asked about the number of criminals facing the death penalty and whether the government intends to carry out a moratorium on their sentences, considering its announced intention to eliminate the death penalty.

"Malaysian Prison Department statistics, as of May 16, show that 1,041 criminals have been sentenced to death for crimes related to murder, drug offences, weapons and kidnapping," said Nancy.

To Ramkarpal's question on the moratorium on the death penalty, Nancy said that a decision had not yet been made because the government was still conducting studies on the mandatory death penalty via the Attorney-General's Office on the related legal issues, policies and its effectiveness.

"A policy decision on the matter will be based on the result of the studies," said Nancy.

According to Amnesty International's Death Sentences and Executions 2015 Report, at least 1,634 people were executed last year. This represented a 54% increase in the number of executions compared with 2014.

In Malaysia, the mandatory death penalty is handed down for certain drug offences, murder, use of firearms and treason.



Duo's appeal against death sentence July 18

The Court of Appeal will on July 18 hear the appeal by 2 men from Johor against their death sentence for drug trafficking.

Justices Dato' Umi Kalthum Abdul Majid, Dato' Abdul Rahman Sebli and Harmindar Singh Dhaliwal fixed the date for Eswaran Susop and Jaswant Singh, both 24, whowere brought to the court Monday for hearing of their cases.

Earlier, Jaswant's counsel Ram Singh applied for another date on the grounds that they have yet to receive from Putrajaya exhibits and several documents as they wanted these to be produced in court.

Both appellants were on Oct 23, 2013 found guilty by the High Court here and sentenced to death.

Eswaran and Jaswant were found to have trafficked 770.8gm and 780.2gm of syabu, respectively at 1pm on March 18, 2012 at the arrival hall of Terminal 2 in the Kota Kinabalu International Airport here.

The offence under Section 39B(1)(a) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 carries the death penalty on conviction.

Eswaran was represented by counsel Ridweandean Borhan.

Meanwhile, the prosecution's appeal against the conviction and 14 years' jail sentence of a private school teacher for having 959.5gm of syabu has been adjourned to Sept 19.

Counsel Dato' Sri Rakhbir Singh, who represented the respondent Suhailah Abdullah applied for an adjournment as he had not received any instruction from her regarding the case.

No objection was raised by the prosecution.

The prosecution is appealing against the reduction of Suhailah's charge from drug trafficking under Section 39B(1)(a) of the Dangerous Drugs Act which carries the death penalty to a lesser charge of possession.

Suhailah, 41, was on March 17, 2015 sentenced to 14 years' jail by the High Court after she pleaded guilty to the offence committed at 11.15am on May 27, 2013 at the International Arrival Hall, Terminal 2 of the Kota Kinabalu International Airport here.

The amended charge under Section 12(2) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 is punishable under Section 39A(2)® of the same Act, which provides for imprisonment for life or not less than 5 years and liability of whipping of not less than 10 strokes.

(source: Daily Express)


Foreigners get death penalty for drug trafficking

The High Court here yesterday sentenced a Cambodian man and a Vietnamese woman to death for trafficking dangerous drugs in 2013.

In his judgment, Judge Lee Heng Cheong said having re-evaluated the prosecution's case, the court found that both their testimonies did not cast reasonable doubt.

"In the light of this court's above findings, this court finds that the prosecution had succeeded in proving the 2 charges against both the accused beyond reasonable doubt.

"In the premises, this court finds both the accused guilty of the charges preferred against them respectively. In the light of this court's convictions of both accused, this court thus sentenced both accused to death, by hanging by the necks until they are dead in accordance with the only sentence provided by 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952," he said adding all grounds would be given later.

Cambodian Kong Rin was convicted of trafficking over 2.22kg of methamphetamine in front of the exit gate at the arrival hall of Sibu Airport at 11.38am on Nov 27, 2013.

Vietnamese Nguyen Thi Kim Tuyen was convicted of trafficking over 2.15kg of methamphetamine in front of the exit gate at the arrival hall of Sibu Airport at 11.40am on the same day.

Both charges were framed under Section 39B (1)(a) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 and punishable under Section 39B(2) of the same Act.

(source: The Borneo Post)


Death penalty has no deterrent effect, say Indonesian activists

The number of drug convicts keeps rising despite the implementation of the death penalty in Indonesia, showing that capital punishment is not that effective in fighting drug-related crime, activists have said.

At least 16 NGOs grouped in the Anti-Death Penalty Civil Society Coalition told a press conference that the death penalty was not the solution to addressing crime in Indonesia, especially crime related to drugs.

The coalition's statement comes ahead of the third round of executions of drug convicts, which many expect to be conducted very soon.

Indonesian Drug Victim Advocacy Brotherhood ( PKNI ) head Totok Yulianto said there had been a rise in the number of drug convicts despite the executions carried out in 2015.

Under the administration of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, the government has conducted 2 rounds of executions.

6 death row inmates were executed on January 18 last year, followed by 8 more in the 2nd round on April 29, 2015 Totok said there were 65,566 drug convicts recorded in January 2015, adding that that number had rose to 67,808 people by May 2015.

"Even though the government had carried out executions in January and April. This shows that the death penalty does not create a deterrent effect. This is data from the directorate general of corrections," Totok said, as quoted by on Wednesday.

Correcting behaviour

Impartial director Al Araf said punishment in the modern era no longer followed the principle of retaliation; rather, it was aimed at correcting the behavior of someone who has broken the law.

"We do not support criminal acts at all. We reject the death penalty and instead lean more toward life sentencing, because the death penalty clearly violates human rights principles," he said.

Given the nation's fragile justice system, procedural violations in the implementation of the death penalty were still common, Araf added.

Citing the example of Zainal Abidin's case, whose appeal was rejected almost immediately, Araf suggested this was because the convict, found guilty of possessing 58.7 kilograms of marijuana in 2000, had already been listed in the 2nd round of executions.

"Just imagine, the legal process hadn't yet finished, and when he lodged his appeal it was rejected within 4 days. This is clearly outside of the principles of justice," he added.

Meanwhile, police have said the 3rd round of executions was ready to be carried out in May 2016. The firing squad has been prepared for the execution of 15 drug convicts.

The Central Java police, in charge of Nusakambangan prison island where the convicts will be executed, said it was awaiting instructions from Attorney-General Muhammad Prasetyo.

So far, the Attorney-General's Office has not disclosed the execution date or the identities of the convicts.


MAY 16, 2016:


Judge: DA can seek death penalty in 2014 beating, burning of Greensboro man

3 aggravating factors have moved the Guilford County District Attorney's Office to pursue the death penalty against a Greensboro man for a 2104 slaying.

Garry Joseph Gupton, 27, of 1312 Wiley Lewis Road, is charged with 1st-degree murder and 1st-degree arson in the death of Stephen Patrick White, 46, of 1722 Aftonshire Drive, who died following a fire in a hotel room.

Prosecutor Robert Enochs said in Guilford County Superior Court on Monday that he would pursue the death penalty because White's death was especially heinous, atrocious and cruel; the crime was committed during the secondary crime of arson; and the crime committed a great risk of death to other people, by starting a fire in a hotel.

After listening to Enochs, Superior Court Judge David Hall announced there are at least 2 aggravating factors in the case and that it qualifies for capital punishment. The case was continued to an unspecified date. Gupton remains jailed without bail.

Gupton and White met at Chemistry nightclub and gay bar in Greensboro on Nov. 8, 2014, then went to the Battleground Inn at 1517 Westover Terrace, police said.

In court Monday, Enochs said Gupton beat White while he was still alive and started a fire in the hotel room with a lighter.

White had burns on more than 1/2 his body, and his right arm below his elbow and his left arm below the shoulder were amputated in an effort to save him, Enochs said.

White died from his injuries at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center on Nov. 15, 2014.

Gupton, then an employee with the city of Greensboro, was fired from his job the next day.

Gupton, now with closed-cropped hair, showed little reaction during his court hearing, other than to greet Hall when he first came into the courtroom.

3 of White's family members attended the hearing but declined to comment.

(source: News & Record)


Death penalty phase continues for serial killer Michael Madison

The death penalty phase of a trial for a man convicted of killing 3 women and wrapping their bodies in garbage bags is continuing, with a jury hearing testimony.

Monday marks the third day of testimony about whether 38-year-old Michael Madison should die by lethal injection or be sentenced to life in prison with no parole for killing 38-year-old Angela Deskins, 28-year-old Shetisha Sheeley and 18-year-old Shirellda Terry. Their bodies were found in July 2013 near the East Cleveland apartment building where Madison lived.

The jury that will make its sentencing recommendation to a Cuyahoga County judge convicted Madison of multiple counts of aggravated murder and kidnapping earlier this month.

Defense attorneys have argued that Madison shouldn't be sentenced to death because he suffered an abusive childhood.

(source: Associated Press)


Drug sales to American executioners blocked

The world's 2nd largest pharmaceutical firm has now officially withdrawn from the lethal injection drug trade, imposing strict distribution controls to prevent its drugs reaching execution chambers across the US.

In a strong statement released this afternoon, global giant Pfizer confirmed its opposition to the misuse of its medicines in American executions and its commitment to block all sales for that purpose.

This is a critical turning point in the history of capital punishment in America. From today, all FDA-approved manufacturers of all potential execution drugs - a diverse group of 25 global companies - have blocked their sale for use in executions.

As the biggest and best-known supplier, Pfizer's announcement cements the mainstream pharmaceutical industry position on lethal injection executions. It reflects widespread unease about the procedure, and raises fundamental questions about the administration of the death penalty in America.

Pfizer's investors played a role in its decision. One major shareholder - the New York State's pension fund, the 3rd largest in the US - has repeatedly raised fiscal and legal concerns following 'botched' procedures in states like Ohio and Oklahoma.

"Pfizer's actions cement the pharmaceutical industry's opposition to the misuse of medicines. Over 25 global pharmaceutical companies have taken action to prevent the misuse of their medicines in executions; with Pfizer's announcement, this will mean that all FDA-approved manufacturers of all execution drugs have spoken out against the misuse of medicines in lethal injections and taken steps to prevent it.

"Instead of passing secrecy laws intended to undermine the safeguards put in place by these companies, executing states should respect the legitimate commercial interests of the pharmaceutical industry and agree to stop misusing their medicines in lethal injection executions."----Maya Foa, Director of Reprieve's Death Penalty Team



Drug drought----Pfizer's move throws a wrench into America's death-penalty machinery

"First, do no harm." Executives of pharmaceutical companies are not subject to this guiding principle of the Hippocratic oath - only doctors are. But increasingly, drug manufacturers are taking steps to ensure that their formulations do not wind up in syringes used for lethal injections of condemned prisoners. Last week, Pfizer, 1 of America's largest drug companies, announced that it would no longer supply prisons with seven drugs used to impose the death penalty. "Pfizer's mission is to apply science and our global resources to improve health and well-being at every stage of life", the statement says. "Consistent with these values, Pfizer strongly objects to the use of its products as lethal injections for capital punishment." The firm will sell the drugs "only for medically prescribed patient care and not for any penal purposes", and take pains to ensure that the "select group of wholesalers, distributors and direct purchasers" who buy these drugs - pancuronium bromide, potassium chloride, propofol, midazolam, hydromorphone, rocuronium bromide and vecuronium bromide - "will not resell these products to correctional institutions".

Pfizer's move will rankle a devoted but diminished swath of America. Though 31 states still have death-penalty laws on their books, only a handful actually follow through. In 2015, a total of 6 states - Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia - hosted executions. And of the 27 men and 1 woman put to death last year (the lowest number since 1984), all but 4 were in the execution-leading troika of Georgia, Missouri and Texas. The execution method in all 28 cases - and in every application of the death penalty but one over the past 4 years (when Virginia electrocuted Robert Charles Gleason, Jr in 2013) - was lethal injection. Pfizer's decision will exacerbate an already difficult situation for states seeking drugs that will reliably kill their worst offenders.

If it were not for the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision a year ago in Glossip v Gross, the task of sourcing the the deadly cocktails would be even tougher. Oklahoma and a few other states had turned to 1 of the drugs on Pfizer's list, midazolam, in 2013 when European drug companies opposed to the death penalty stopped supplying prisons with sodium thiopental and pentobarbital, barbiturates which induce a coma-like state. In Glossip, Richard Glossip and 2 other Oklahoma inmates challenged their pending executions because they believed midazolam carried a risk of torturing them to death. They presented the nightmare of Clayton Lockett's execution in April 2014, during which he twisted in pain and regained consciousness to blurt out "this shit is fucking with my head" before succumbing after 43 minutes of apparent suffering. Along with several other horrific botched executions in 2014, Mr Glossip's lawyers pointed to Mr Lockett's experience as evidence that relying on midazolam to render a prisoner insensate was risky enough to constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

Mr Glossip lost his appeal and awaits execution on death row. Justice Samuel Alito found that Oklahoma had not made a "clear error" in choosing to use midazolam. He also reasoned that as long as the death penalty remains constitutional, it follows that there must a constitutional method of carrying it out. The Supreme Court gave Oklahoma and its sister death-penalty states the go-ahead to use midazolam in execution cocktails. But with Pfizer's announcement, it becomes unclear where the states will procure midazolam or a similar drug designed to sedate a prisoner before other drugs stop his breathing and heart.

The death knell for capital punishment in America has been ringing faintly for some time. After the death penalty started up again in 1976 following a 4-year hiatus, executions rose for 2 decades, reaching a peak of 98 in 1999. Since then, the number has steadily fallen, reflecting increased scepticism about the ethics of the death penalty, fewer states where the punishment remains valid and less willingness by state officials to implement it. Supporters are dwindling even in places where capital punishment is avidly imposed. In 2000, 41% of people living in Houston, Texas - home to hundreds of executions over the last 30 years - said they prefered the death penalty to life imprisonment for 1st-degree murder. Today, support has fallen to 27%. With options for buying death-penalty drugs significantly narrowed, states face a choice between scrounging for surprisingly expensive medications through back channels, reverting to older, less sanitised execution methods like the electric chair or giving up on a punishment that most of America and nearly all of the industrialised world has already abandoned.

(source: The Economist)


Judge denies killer's request to move sentencing out of Boston

The new judge overseeing the 2nd sentencing of spree killer Gary Lee Sampson has turned down his attorneys' latest attempt to get the case moved out of Boston.

Lawyers for Sampson, a former Abington drifter who killed 2 people on the South Shore and a 3rd in New Hampshire during a 4-day rampage in 2001, have repeatedly argued that the publicity the case has garnered over the last 15 years would make it impossible to find enough impartial jurors in the Boston area. Judge Leo Sorokin, who took over for Judge Mark Wolf earlier this year, said in an order issued last week that he didn't see a need to move the sentencing but would consider the issue against when attorneys begin choosing jurors this fall.

Sampson, 56, was sentenced to death by a federal jury in 2003, but Judge Wolf threw out the sentence eight years later after learning that one of the sentencing jurors had lied about her background. Sampson is again facing the death penalty in his 2nd sentencing trial, which Judge Sorokin has said could begin as early as September.

In a motion unsealed last month, Sampson's lawyers argued that it has become even more difficult to find impartial jurors in the Boston area because of the increased media attention that Sampson's case received during the trial of convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who also faced the death penalty. Such capital cases are rare in Massachusetts, where the death penalty is prohibited under state law but can be imposed for federal crimes.

Sampson's attorneys are particularly concerned about media attention because they do not want jurors in the new sentencing trial to learn that Sampson was sentenced to death the 1st time around. Judge Wolf had granted a motion barring prosecutors from informing jurors about the previous verdict.

In his order denying lawyers' 1st request to move the sentencing trial, Wolf raised concerns about the publicity the case had received but concluded that Boston offered a large enough pool of potential jurors and that it had been long enough since the murders that it would be possible to seat an impartial jury. Sorokin said in last week's order that he didn't believe the situation had changed since Wolf's earlier ruling despite additional publicity and a relevant federal appeals court decision.

Sorokin also denied lawyers' request to have the death penalty taken off the table arguing because of Sampson's health, which his lawyers say is so poor that he likely won't live long enough to be put to death. Sorokin said the lawyers can make that argument to the jury once sentencing begins.

(source: The Patriot Ledger)


The Taliban Is Publicly Executing Women Again

When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, they would shoot women for so-called "moral crimes" in front of stadium crowds. Activists fear that the terrorist group is going back to the bad old days of public executions.

The Taliban has publicly executed 2 women in northern Afghanistan, with graphic video of 1 of the brutal killings circulating on social media in early May. According to Afghan officials, the women were both shot in Jowzjan Province in recent months.

The executions came to light after a video of the 1st killing emerged online, and officials soon uncovered evidence of the 2nd. "Such executions of women by the Taliban is unfortunately a the dark reality," says Samira Hamidi, a board member of the advocacy group coalition Afghan Women's Network.

"It is clear that militant groups like the Taliban have no pity on human beings, particularly women. The execution shows how powerless the Afghan government is, whilst significantly increasing the vulnerability of women."

In the past, the Afghan government condemned similar killings that were captured on mobile phones and then streamed online. But this time, the executions have been overshadowed by the hanging of 6 Taliban prisoners on May 8. It is the 1st time Afghan president Ashraf Ghani has used the death penalty since going into office in 2014.

"The execution of these 2 women can't be overlooked because of other events; there has already been 2 other executions of women by the Taliban earlier this year," Women for Afghan Women director Manizha Naderi tells Broadly. "Nobody is asking where and how the group is getting money to continue committing these acts. Neighboring Pakistan are funding the Taliban; this is a serious issue that needs to be dealt with."

The New York Times named 1 of the victims as Rabia, a 22-year-old pregnant woman with 2 young children. Her husband had accused her of adultery; the Taliban tried and convicted her before shooting her 3 times. Relatives said that her husband had fabricated the claim because he wanted to inherit her land interests.

"They buried her without even allowing her family to participate in her funeral," Shakera, her aunt, told the Times. "I know she was a very innocent woman. She did not have the heart to be unfaithful."

Rabia's 6-month-old son and his three-year-old sister now live with their father, but the family cannot even afford to buy powdered baby formula for her youngest child. "In situations like this, the victim's family are also vulnerable and can even be at risk for raising their voice," Hamidi says. "The Afghan government must provide them necessary protection in order to prevent any form of harm to them."

The video of the 2nd Jowzjan killing showed the execution of an unknown woman in northern Afghanistan.

In a country where the law bars relatives of the accused from testifying against them, Naderi of Women for Afghan Women knows too well the fear that women have of honor killings. "I have never seen a man being stoned. You can't commit adultery on your own, yet why is it always women who have to pay the price?" she says in despair. "Every year more and more women are coming to the 32 shelters our organisation runs across the country. It isn't the culture of honour-killings, but because more women are aware of their own rights and are coming forward to seek help."

Rabia's aunt says that the Taliban also had a politically motivated reason for killing Rabia: 2 of her uncles are militia commanders loyal to Abdul Rashid Dostum, a Uzbek leader who is also 1st vice president of Afghanistan. "The Taliban do what they do, to show their strength at the expense of other women," Naderi says. According to the district governor of Faizabad, a Taliban shadow governor had personally executed the woman himself.

The video of the 2nd Jowzjan killing surfaced earlier this May. In the footage, a woman in a pale blue burqa sits on the ground outside as she is convicted by a Taliban court of killing her husband. The people surrounding her - including members of her husband's family - shout for her to be executed. A gunman then steps forward from the crowd and shoots her in the head.

Local authorities say that the execution took place four months ago; the victim's identity remains unknown. The deputy police chief of Jowzjan Province, Col. Abdul Hafeez, believes that the executioner, who had his face covered, was the district's Taliban commander.

The Taliban have not commented on the executions. But the Times notes that the killings are similar to executions between 1996 and 2001 when the Taliban were in power. In the past, women were publicly executed at the National Stadium in Kabul for so-called "moral crimes" like adultery.

"Enough people die from the ongoing violence, but the executions by the Taliban show their strength at the expense of women."

Although Afghan women have since won basic rights in education, voting and work - rights that the Taliban deem as un-Islamic for women - executions by the terrorist group still continue, many of which are never made public.

"Except for major cities in the country, the Afghan military cannot get to rural areas where the Taliban still have a stronghold," Naderi explains. "Enough people die from the ongoing violence, but the executions by the Taliban show their strength at the expense of women. Unless something like this happens in Kabul, there is no outrage from the locals."

For many Afghan women, the 2015 murder of Fakhunda Malikzada in Kabul by a mob of men is a stark reminder of the realities they still face. The then 27-year-old was falsely accused of burning the Quran before being lynched. Her body was set on fire and left on a riverbed. Despite the mass protests and international condemnation of her death, the attackers initially sentenced to death had their sentences overturned or shortened, while others were set free.

"This shows the lack of access to justice and failure for women in Afghanistan," Hamidi says. "When an official justice system is not supportive enough of women, local communities and other informants become judges. The international pressure is therefore a requirement and women in Afghanistan will need it for many years."

Unlike Farkhunda's case, there hasn't been any public condemnation nor protests in response to women executed by the Taliban. "Farkhunda was killed by a mob, not by the Taliban. It also happened during daylight, in the capital city, where many of the women's rights activists live," Naderi points out. "Although what happened to Farkhunda is terrible, her case lends itself for people to mobilize. But when the Taliban murder women, there is more risk in speaking out."

When NATO wrapped up its combat mission in the country at the end of 2014, the military withdrawal was supposed to mark a new era of peace and stability. But the issue of women's rights remains sidelined as the Afghan government continue to pursue peace talks with an unreceptive Taliban.

"While the Afghan government claims to be pro-women, they must be watched, monitored, and questioned regularly," Hamidi says. "There is always a need for international support and condemnation on brutal violence against women."

"Of course there is more work to be done on women's rights in the country. But I have hope in our government,'" Naderi concludes. "The Taliban need to be destroyed and Pakistan needs to stop funding them. Until then, we can't even begin to improve and strengthen rights for our women."



Death penalty

The Philippines abolished capital punishment in June 2006 when then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed Republic Act No. 9346, also known as An Act Prohibiting the Imposition of the Death Penalty in the Philippines.

Arroyo said the death penalty should be abolished because it had not proven to be a deterrent to crime and had become a dead-letter law. RA 9346 downgraded the death penalty to life imprisonment.

The Philippines has had a history of invoking and scrapping capital punishment since the end of World War II.

Between 1946 and 1965 - the year Ferdinand Marcos became the President - 35 people were executed, mainly convicted of particularly savage crimes marked by "senseless depravity" or "extreme criminal perversity."

Following the Edsa People Power Revolution that toppled Marcos from power, then President Corazon Aquino promulgated the 1987 Constitution, which abolished the death penalty "unless for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes, Congress hereafter provides for it."

In 1993, Congress passed RA 7659, or the Death Penalty Law, which reimposed capital punishment.

Under RA 7659, crimes punishable by death included murder, rape, big-time drug trafficking, kidnapping for ransom, treason, piracy, qualified bribery, parricide, infanticide, plunder, kidnapping and serious illegal detention, robbery with violence or intimidation, qualified vehicle theft and arson.

In March 1996, through RA 8177, the law was amended prescribing death by lethal injection for offenders convicted of heinous crimes.

But opposition from human rights groups held up executions until 1999.

Between 1999 and 2000, during the term of deposed President Joseph Estrada, 7 inmates were put to death.

The 1st to be executed was Leo Echegaray, on Feb. 9, 1999, and the last was Alex Bartolome, on Jan. 4, 2000. Echegaray was convicted of raping his stepdaughter. Bartolome was convicted also of raping his daughter more than 100 times over 2 years, starting when she was 16.


De Lima vows to fight return of death penalty

Senatorial candidate Leila de Lima on Monday vowed to continue opposing any move to re-impose death penalty.

A nemesis of presumptive President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, De Lima, however, softened her stance in Duterte's presidency, saying she would "watch him first."

"I do believe that that is not the solution. The solution is to fix the justice system. The new executive should start with the strict and faithful enforcement of laws," De Lima told reporters when asked about the issue of death penalty on the sideline of the book launch of former Immigration commissioner Siegfred Mison on Monday.

In his 1st public appearance since the May 9 elections, Duterte announced he wanted criminals committing heinous crimes including robbery and rape to suffer morbid death like a public hanging.

De Lima, former chief of the Commission on Human Rights, said the government, with the help of Congress, should fix the justice system, instead of jumping into a death penalty legislation.

She said that even if reviving death penalty was a popular move, the issue would undergo thorough and heated debates in the Congress.

De Lima is at the 12th place in partial and unofficial quick count of votes for the Senate by the poll watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV).

Asked where she will stand under a Duterte presidency, "Let us observe the new leadership first. Let's see and find out what his domestic and foreign policies. Let's see. I just hope that he would always at all times uphold the Constitution, the rule of law and human rights."

De Lima and Duterte prior and during the campaign period traded barbs. Duterte at one occasion called her bugoksi (stupid) for linking him to extrajudicial killings in Davao.

The erstwhile Davao mayor, who is known for his off-color language and cussing repeatedly, implied his links to the vigilante group Davao Death Squad.

De Lima in previous interviews warned the public about a Duterte presidency, calling him a monster.

"We have to observe and be vigilant. As far as I know, a sitting president has immunity from suits. But there is no such thing as immunity from investigation," De Lima said.

(source for both: Philippine Inquirer)


Bizman killer awarded gallows under Arms Act

In a rare instance, a Buxar court on Monday invoked the Arms Act to award capital punishment to gangster Sheru Singh in the case of killing of a businessman in Buxar in 2011. The court of district and sessions judge Pradeep Kumar Malik ordered that Sheru alias Onkar Nath Singh be hanged till death for murdering Rajendra Keshri at his hardware shop at Namak Gola Chowk in the district HQ town on August 21, 2011. The court also imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh on him.

According to additional public prosecutor Anand Mohan Upadhyay, the punishment is rare because it was given under the provisions of Arms Act, and not Section 302 of the IPC under which death penalty is generally awarded.

"Section 27 (3) of the Arms Act provides for capital punishment in a case of murder if the prosecution establishes that the murder is caused by a prohibited weapon," Upadhyay told TOI and added the autopsy report confirmed that Keshri was shot by a 9mm pistol, a weapon which is legally allowed to be used only by security forces. Police had also recovered blank cartridges of 9mm pistol from the place of crime.

After the killing, Sheru had fled to Kolkata from where he was arrested on September 7, 2011.

Sheru's accomplices -- Chandan Mishra, Raushan Pandey and Deenbandhu Singh -- were awarded life imprisonment in the case in March 2013. Sheru had to be put on trial separately as he escaped from custody on December 17, 2012.

One policeman was injured in the firing resorted to by Sheru while escaping. He was re-arrested by the Bhojpur police and has been lodged in the Buxar central jail since then.

(source: The Times of India)


The death penalty is not the answer

National Security Minister Robert Montague recently said that his ministry is taking steps "to determine if there are any legal impediments to the resumption of hanging in Jamaica". He further stated that persons who intend to break the law must know that "punishment will be sure, swift and just".

The minister's concern is understandable. When our country gained Independence in 1962, our murder rate was 3.9 per 100,000, one of the lowest in the world. In 2005, we had the dubious distinction of being the most murderous country in the world, claiming a rate of 58 per 100,000 people. Our rate now hovers around 40 per 100,000.

Hanging is still legal in Jamaica, but was last carried out in 1988 at the St Catherine District Prison. The death penalty was subjected to a moratorium that year, but in 2008, Parliament voted to retain it. In Jamaica, the only offence that warrants the death penalty is aggravated murder, and the punishment is effected by hanging.

However, the resumption of hanging has been affected by a 1993 Privy Council ruling stating that it is unconstitutional to have persons waiting for more than 5 years after sentencing to be executed. Our Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms (Constitutional Amendment) Act in 2011 overturned that ruling, but there still have not been any hangings here since.

So we find ourselves again debating the sensitive and controversial topic of capital punishment. The overwhelming majority of Jamaicans will agree that something must be done to curb our unacceptable crime rate, especially murders. But is capital punishment the answer?

Today, only 36 countries actively practise capital punishment, with the United Nations General Assembly calling for a global moratorium on executions, with a view to their eventual abolition. However, although capital punishment is not carried out in most countries, more than 60 % of the world's population live in countries where executions take place.

Offences meriting the death penalty, termed capital offences, vary from country to country, and include murder, treason, sodomy, human trafficking, apostasy and atheism. The methods used also vary, and include hanging, shooting, electrocution, lethal injection, beheading, and the use of gas chambers.

Objective research and analysis of relevant data, however, indicate that the death penalty is not effective in deterring crime. A study performed in the United States of America in 2008 found that 88 % of the nation's leading criminologists did not believe that the death penalty is an effective deterrent.

Subsequently, a report released in 2012 by the National Research Council of the National Academies, based on a review of more than 3 decades of research, concluded that studies claiming a deterrent effect on murder rates from the death penalty are fundamentally flawed.

The report read: "The committee concludes that research to date on the effect of capital punishment on homicide is not informative about whether capital punishment decreases, increases, or has no effect on homicide rates. Therefore, the committee recommends that these studies not be used to inform deliberations requiring judgments about the effect of the death penalty on homicide."

Indeed, in that country, states that have death-penalty laws do not have lower crime or murder rates than states without such laws, and states that have abolished capital punishment show no significant changes in either crime or murder rates.

Apart from the absence of convincing evidence demonstrating deterrence, capital punishment presents several other issues. The death penalty violates the right to life. When a person takes the life of another, one may claim that they have forfeited their right to live, a view held by many.

Unfortunately, the death penalty is also discriminatory, and is often used against the most vulnerable in society, including the poor, the illiterate and people with mental disabilities.

Where justice systems are flawed, as in Jamaica, the risk of executing an innocent person is a distinct possibility. Once a person is executed, the result is final. An innocent person can be released from prison for a crime they did not commit, but an execution can never be reversed.

Since 1973, 156 innocent men and women have been exonerated and released from death row in the United States, including some who came within minutes of execution. One study found that approximately 4 % of persons sentenced to death in that country are innocent, and there is strong evidence that at least a dozen persons executed there over the past 40 years were actually not guilty, including a man who was executed in Texas because the jury confused him for another man with the same name and appearance.

In the United Kingdom, the death penalty was abolished partly because a man was wrongfully executed for the murder of his wife and daughter in 1950.

Substandard legal counsel is also a factor, mainly affecting persons of lower socio-economic status. A Columbia University study found that 68 % of all death-penalty cases were reversed on appeal, with inadequate defence being one of the main reasons requiring reversal.

Death-penalty trials, and the appeals processes that usually follow, are also likely to be significantly more expensive than trials seeking a sentence of life in prison without parole, and are longer, which would stress our already cash-strapped and frustrating justice system, which perpetually experiences a backlog of cases. Families of murder victims undergo severe trauma, and the extended process of murder trials prior to executions often prolongs their agony.

Even if the death penalty were an effective deterrent, with a murder conviction rate of five per cent in Jamaica, and the levels of corruption in our politics and police force, it would be ineffective, and punishment would not be "sure, swift and just", as the minister suggested.

The most effective deterrent to crime is the likelihood of getting caught. We need to focus instead on methods to reduce crime and actually apprehend perpetrators, rather than consider executions, which constitute revenge, rather than justice.

(source: Michael Abrahams is an obstetrician and gynaecologist, comedian and poet----Jamaica Gleaner)


Lifting of death penalty is Congress' call, says Palace

Malacanang on Monday said that it was up to Congress to decide on the restoration of death penalty in the country.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. made the remark after presumptive president Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte indicated his call for the restoration of the death penalty.

"Lifting of the death penalty requires that the present law be amended. It is best that this be tackled by the next Congress," Coloma said in a text message.

A report by Unang Balita said that Duterte wanted to revive the death penalty for heinous crimes including robbery with rape.

Since the start of his term, President Benigno Aquino III has maintained his opposition to death penalty.

In 2014, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Aquino "has reservations" due to flaws in the judicial system.

"Concerned tayo doon sa judicial system, hence, he [Aquino] has reservations on death penalty. To the best of my knowledge, that position remains the same," Lacierda said then.

Although death penalty was abolished in the 1987 Constitution, it was reinstated through Republic Act 7659, which imposes capital punishment on certain heinous crimes, and RA 8177 provides for lethal injection as the means of carrying out the death penalty.

In 2006, then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed Republic Act 9346 abolishing death penalty in the Philippines by repealing RA 7659.



7 given death penalty in 2012 'witch' lynching case

7 persons, including a woman, were today sentenced to death and 6 others to life imprisonment by a court in Ghatal for the 2012 lynching of 3 women of a single family on suspicion of their being witches at a village in West Midnapore district.

1 more person was sent to 9 years in jail by the court of SDJM Deboprosad Nath in the sensational killing of the 3 women at Dubrajpur village under Daspur police station area in June, 2012. FIRs were filed against a total 49 persons, all residents of the same village which the slain women belonged to for assaulting and torturing the victims to death after suspecting them to be witches.

(source: Press Trust of India)


Oklahoma trial set in death of 'Cathouse' HBO star, 3 others

It's been almost 7 years since the bodies of a prostitute featured on the HBO reality series "Cathouse" and 3 other people were discovered inside a burning 1-story brick Oklahoma City home that authorities later said was the center of a drug distribution and prostitution ring.

Come Monday, jury selection begins in the trial of 2 men who prosecutors say were involved in the Nov. 9, 2009, deaths of TV celebrity Brooke Phillips, Milagros Barrera, Jennifer Lynn Ermey and Casey Mark Barrientos.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Denny Edward Phillips and Russell Lee Hogshooter on 6 counts of 1st-degree murder - Brooke Phillips and Barrera were both 22 and pregnant - and 1 count of conspiracy. The men have pleaded not guilty.

Brooke Phillips, who wasn't related to Denny Phillips, was among the employees featured on the cable network's show about the Moonlite BunnyRanch, a legal brothel near Carson City, Nevada.

"There's lasting memory," business owner Dennis Hof said. "We just loved this girl. This was a girl with no drugs, didn't drink hardly at all. It's totally mindboggling. This girl who didn't do any drugs got killed because she was in a drug house."

All of the victims were repeatedly shot and their bodies were set on fire. Phillips and 25-year-old Ermey were also repeatedly stabbed. Prosecutors allege that Barrientos, 32, was the target of the attack and that the women were killed to eliminate witnesses.

2 other men entered guilty pleas and are serving prison time for their roles in the deaths. Denny Phillips' defense attorney, Bill Smith, said he expects the trial to last up