and Updates (as of 12/22/96)

SEPTEMBER 18, 2014:

OHIO----new death sentence

Jury recommends death sentence for David Martin

For the 1st time in more than 10 years, a Trumbull County jury has recommended the death penalty for a convicted felon.

David Martin, 30, of Cleveland showed no reaction as Judge Andrew Logan of common pleas court read the jury's verdict that he should be executed for the murder of Jeremy Cole and attempted murder of Melissa Putnam.

The jury deliberated about 4 hours today before giving its verdict. Sentencing will be next Wednesday.

The last person sent to the death row from the county was Donna Roberts in 2002.

(source: Youngstown Vindicator)

KANSAS:

Judge denies 9 motions in Phillip Cheatham Jr. case

After attorneys for Phillip D. Cheatham Jr. argued 10 motions in Shawnee County District Court on Wednesday morning, Cheatham spent about 20 minutes explaining two motions he has filed in his retrial.

"I'm actually innocent of these crimes," Cheatham told Judge Richard Anderson.

Before Anderson let Cheatham speak on his own behalf, he cautioned him that everything he said in court would be on permanent record. Anderson also asked why Cheatham uses a logo on motions he files.

The logo includes the words "Marvelous Light Due Process Foundation." Cheatham labels the motions he files as "Affidavits of Truth."

"I don't file motions," Cheatham said. "I file affidavits on behalf of my foundation."

Anderson said Cheatham isn't filing a motion on behalf of the foundation. Instead, Anderson said, Cheatham is filing on his own behalf.

Cheatham also signs his "affidavits" as King Phillip Amman Reu-El. Until Cheatham's name has legally been changed to King Phillip Amman Reu-El, he has to sign the motions using his legal name, Anderson said.

The 12 motions taken up Wednesday were supposed to be argued Sept. 3. However, the courthouse was closed unexpectedly for the day after water leaked into the building's transformer, initially shutting down the elevators and some offices.

Anderson denied 9 defense motions Wednesday, several questioning whether the death penalty is unconstitutional. One motion will be considered at a later hearing, and 2 others will be taken under advisement by Anderson and he will issue a ruling at a later date.

A new trial was ordered for Cheatham, 41, in 2013 after the Kansas Supreme Court overturned his capital murder conviction and death penalty sentence for the Dec. 13, 2003, killings of Annette Roberson and Gloria Jones, who were shot to death in a home at 2718 S.E. Colorado in the Highland Park neighborhood.

Cheatham also faces charges in connection with the attempted 1st-degree murder of Annetta D. Thomas, who survived after she was shot 19 times in the attack.

Cheatham also faces 2 alternative premeditated 1st-degree murder counts in their killings, as well as attempted 1st-degree murder and aggravated battery in the shooting of Thomas. Cheatham also is charged with criminal possession of a firearm.

After his conviction in his 1st trial, Cheatham was sentenced in 2005 to the "Hard 50" prison term for the killing of Jones, and the death penalty for the slaying of Roberson.

Those convictions and sentences were overturned when the Supreme Court ruled Cheatham received ineffective assistance of counsel by Dennis Hawver. Attorneys John Val Wachtel, of Wichita, and Paul Oller, of Hays, are defending Cheatham.

In arguments Wednesday, Wachtel said it will be difficult for Cheatham to receive due process because memories have faded and people have died.

He also discussed statements made by Topeka Detective Lou Randall, who has since died. Wachtel questioned some of Randall's testimony, and he also said Randall had "perjured himself" in another case. He cited an unpublished opinion from the court of appeals.

"I can't effectively cross-examine Randall's testimony," Wachtel said.

Randall served "honorably at the Topeka Police Department" until he died of cancer, said chief deputy district attorney Jacqie Spradling.

She said Cheatham continued to complain about his trial lawyer, his appeals lawyer and how long the Supreme Court took to render a decision.

"I find no merit in any of it," Spradling said.

Motions will continue to be argued in coming weeks. Both sides agreed in court Wednesday the jury trial will most likely take place in mid-March and will last about 6 weeks.

(source: Capital Journal)

OKLAHOMA:

Botched Execution----The Death that Could Kill Lethal Injection

The horrific execution of Clayton Lockett by lethal injection this spring in Oklahoma took an astonishing 43 minutes to complete. Together with other botched killings, the incident has focused attention on the inexperience and incompetence that now accompanies many executions in America.

On the afternoon of April 29, 2014, a vehicle arrived in the courtyard of the prison in McAlester, Oklahoma to pick up Clayton Lockett. The driver parked in the shadow of the white prison walls. His wait, it turned out, would be longer than anticipated. The vehicle was a hearse.

Behind the wall, at 4:40 p.m., prison guards removed Clayton Lockett's handcuffs and leg irons and forced him to get undressed so that he could take a shower. This is stipulated by the "Procedures for the Execution of Offenders Sentenced to Death." The shower is adjacent to the execution chamber: The purpose of the procedure is to ensure that the execution is clean - in all respects.

Lockett, wearing scrubs and tennis shoes, was taken into the execution chamber at 5:20 p.m. The 5 men on the "strap-down team" restrained him to the gurney with 7 black straps. He could only move his head at this point. When he turned it to the right, he could see a large, round clock: It was 5:26 p.m. His execution was scheduled to begin in 34 minutes.

Lockett, 38, had been on death row for 13 years. He didn't want to die, at least not in the way the 25-page protocol - an attempt to provide a bureaucratic framework for dying - required.

When Locket was picked up for his physical examination 12 hours earlier, at 5:06 a.m., he tried to hide under his blanket. Prison officials used a stun gun to force him to comply. In the medical department, Lockett was X-rayed, again according to a precise protocol, which states that "beginning at the head [the prisoner is to be] X-rayed downward of the body. The X-rays will be taken prior to eating breakfast." The protocol doesn't explain why a person who is to be put to death in a few hours should be X-rayed.

Then Lockett's veins were examined. Officials sometimes have trouble finding a vein, especially when the condemned prisoners are overweight or IV drug users, but Lockett didn't take any drugs, was muscular and exercised daily. On this morning, the examination results stated that his veins were in good condition and readily accessible.

Lockett was scheduled to receive his last meal between noon and 1 p.m. In a "30-day information packet," he had previously been required to enter the "name, address and telephone number of the funeral home that will pick up your remains," as well as his final meal request. He wrote: "Chateaubriand steak (medium rare), shrimp with cocktail sauce, a baked potato, 6 slices of garlic toast, pecan pie, a liter of Coca-Cola Classic." The prison personnel rejected his request because it exceeded the $15 (12 euros) limit specified under the state's rules for final meals.

"I called the prison warden," says LaDonna Hollins, Lockett's stepmother. "I told her that I would pay every single dollar for this meal, and also, that I could deliver it myself," she adds. She pauses for a moment as her eyes fill with tears. "I could feel the coldness coming through the phone."

A Failed Lawsuit

Clayton Lockett was three when his mother sent him to live with his father, who was living with Hollins. From then on, she was Clayton's closest confidante, and he called her "Mom." On this day, Hollins is sitting in her dark living room on the outskirts of Oklahoma City. There are goldfish in the aquarium and there is an open bible on the coffee table in front of her. She visited her stepson two days before the execution. They sat facing each other in the prison's death row wing for three hours, separated by a glass panel, praying and weeping.

At some point, says Hollins, Lockett told her that he didn't fear death, because he deserved it for the brutal murder of 19-year-old Stephanie Neiman. "But I'm afraid that they will torture me, that they'll provide me with some kind of rat poison," he told his stepmother. "They don't even know how to insert a needle."

On several occasions, Lockett had heard the moans and screams coming from the execution chamber at the end of the hall. He remembered what Michael Wilson, who had been held in a cell near his, had shouted in January when the poison had been injected into his body: "I feel my whole body burning!"

He had also read in the paper that Oklahoma and other states were no longer getting the lethal injection drugs they had used for many years, after the European Union, partly at the urging of then-German Health Minister Philipp Rosler, had imposed tough restrictions on exporting the compounds. Lockett knew that the authorities had been trying out other drugs since then. He also knew that Dennis McGuire had been in agony for 26 minutes in an Ohio death chamber, gasping for air. In the end, the reasons for botched executions were always the same: the wrong drugs or unqualified personnel, and often both.

That was why Lockett had filed a lawsuit against the state over its policy of not disclosing the source of the drugs and the identity of the executioners. The Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution prohibits the "cruel and unusual punishment" of condemned prisoners. Lockett was afraid that he would become part of an experiment, says his stepmother. "It was as if he had sensed what was going to happen to him."

There are currently about 3,070 people on death row in the United States. But opponents of the death penalty hope that the latest series of botched executions could usher in the end of the lethal injection, which was developed in its current form in Oklahoma in 1977 and was long seen as the most humane method of execution.

"Do me one favor," his stepmother begged him in their last conversation. "As long as you can talk on that gurney: Talk. Let the world know how they are executing people here in Oklahoma."

When visiting hours were over, Lockett stood up, allowed the guard to put on his handcuffs and said, with tears in his eyes: "Mom, I love you."

"I'll see you in the next life," Hollins replied.

Horrifically Botched Execution

At 5:27 p.m., a paramedic and a doctor entered the execution chamber. Thus began one of the most gruesome executions in the history of the United States.

The paramedic's job was to insert a needle, which would be used to inject the lethal drugs into Lockett's body. He punctured the left arm with a hollow needle, but he forgot to use a bandage to keep the needle in place. By the time the bandage was brought into the room, the site was no longer usable. The paramedic tried to insert the needle at 2 other locations on Lockett's arm, but he failed both times. He switched to the right arm and tried three locations there. Then he removed the prisoner's tennis shoes and tried to insert the IV into his foot.

The doctor approached the gurney and tried to insert the needle into Lockett's jugular before trying a subclavian vein near his collarbone. While the 2 men were poking around his body, Lockett heard a drumming noise echoing through death row, as the inmates banged on their cell doors for 5 minutes - a ritual intended as a final farewell to the condemned man.

Only a few cells away, Charles Warner was also waiting for his execution. He had said goodbye to his family and eaten his final meal. He was appointed to die at 8 p.m., on the same gurney where Lockett was now lying. But the schedule proved difficult to adhere to.

More than 10 attempts to place an IV had already failed by the time the doctor and the paramedic tried to insert it in Lockett's right groin. They cut open his scrubs and underwear, and then used a scalpel to cut into the flesh, because the veins in the groin are deep beneath the surface. The doctor, who had never before placed an IV in the groin area with the kind of needle now at his disposal, had only been asked to substitute for a colleague 2 days earlier. Until the day of the execution, neither he nor the paramedic had participated in a preparatory exercise.

While the 2 men taped the IV to Lockett's thigh, they discussed whether the needle might be too short for this location on the body, but they didn't have the right needle on hand. It was now 6:18 p.m., and it had taken them 51 minutes to place an IV.

Government authorities are having more and more difficulty finding specialists for executions. The professional associations of doctors, paramedics and nurses are urging their members not to participate in executions. According to one statement, "when the healthcare professional serves in an execution under circumstances that mimic care, the healing purposes of health services and technology become distorted." As a result, executions are carried out by doctors or nurses who are either unlicensed or acting illegally. They slip into the execution chambers like burglars, and they participate either out of conviction or for the $500 the prisons pay - in cash, to prevent the names of those involved from being documented.

The prison warden asked the doctor whether he could place a second IV, to be on the safe side. But the doctor declined her request. Then the warden ordered the IV to be covered with a sheet, supposedly to preserve Lockett's "dignity."

The execution was scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. When the warden ordered the beige blinds in the viewing gallery opened, at 6:23 p.m., 36 pairs of eyes were staring at Lockett. The government may have moved executions from market squares to a room behind thick prison walls, but the law requires that they not be carried out entirely in secret. Journalists and Lockett's attorneys were sitting on folding chairs in the viewing gallery.

LaDonna Hollins honored Lockett's request and did not attend. He had told her that he didn't want her to see what would happen to him.

The warden asked Lockett if he had any final words.

"No," he replied.

"Then let the execution begin."

The Search for a Clean Way of Killing

The next day, on April 30, a book was published in the United States called "Gruesome Spectacles: Botched Executions and America's Death Penalty." The author is Austin Sarat, a professor at Amherst College in Massachusetts.

Most Americans are in favor of the death penalty, says Sarat in his office, because they know nothing about the details of an execution. He tested his theory in a survey many years ago, when he told the respondents exactly what takes place during the use of the electric chair. Many changed their opinion afterwards.

Although about 2/3 of Americans support the death penalty, the number of executions has dropped sharply in the last decade, partly because the states are increasingly worried that something could go wrong. 98 people were executed in the United States in 1999, but only 39 in 2013. Texas leads the nation in the number of executions, although Oklahoma, with its much smaller population, was long the nation's top executioner per capita.

Sarat knows everything there is to know about botched executions in the United States, because he has investigated every one of them. There was the 1900 hanging of Art Kinsauls in North Carolina, who failed to die during the first attempt and dangled from the rope, bleeding profusely, until the executioners forced him to climb the stepladder a second time. And then there was the case of Jimmy Lee Gray who, in 1983, gasped, groaned and went into convulsions in the Mississippi gas chamber for what seemed like an eternity. And when Pedro Medina was executed in the Florida electric chair in 1997, smoke and flames emerged from his body, and there was a smell of burning flesh in the air.

But none of this has led to any real challenge to the idea of government execution, says Sarat. Instead, he explains, officials have vowed to improve their methods and become more innovative. "The history of the death penalty is also the history of finding a clean, silent and perfect way of taking people's lives," says Sarat, "a death without severed heads and faces distorted in pain - without blood, fire and stench."

To that end, the gallows and the firing squad were replaced by the gas chamber and the electric chair. With each new technology, the state pronounced its old method archaic and barbaric. And in 1977, when a medical examiner in Oklahoma invented a method to provide death by lethal injection, the search for perfection seemed complete. The belief at the time was that execution would become a medical procedure, the execution chamber an operating room and the executioner a doctor.

'He's Not Unconscious'

The 1st of the 3 drugs, 100 milligrams of midazolam, was now flowing into Lockett's groin. It came from a tube that emerged from a wall behind his head. 3 volunteers were sitting behind the wall in a cramped, dark room, the executioners' room. When they arrived at the prison that afternoon, they were wearing ghost-like hoods and robes. Their job was to push the drugs from syringes into the tube, with one volunteer assigned to each drug. To avoid confusion in the darkness, they used flashlights. They were told that if problems arose, they should simply push colored pencils through holes in the wall to the execution chamber.

The midazolam was supposed to render Lockett unconscious, so that he wouldn't feel the pain caused by the second and third drugs. Until recently, the anesthetics sodium thiopental and pentobarbital, the latter patented by the German pharmaceutical firm Bayer in 1916, were administered, but ever since the EU imposed an export ban in December 2011, thereby blocking shipments to US prisons, corrections officials have been at a loss over how to obtain the necessary drugs. In emails to their counterparts in Texas, officials from Oklahoma have jokingly asked for football-game tickets in exchange for leftover stocks of pentobarbital and California authorities reportedly sent agents to Pakistan to buy the drug.

To cover up the undignified search for lethal injection drugs, the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a secrecy law 3 years ago. The law enables officials to conceal where the drugs they use come from, how they are acquired and whether they are being used past their expiration dates. The identity of those carrying out an execution also remains secret.

It's over this law that Lockett had sued Oklahoma. His attorneys argued that failing to inform Lockett about which drugs would be used to kill him and who would administer them was a violation of his constitutional rights. Because of the suit, the Oklahoma Supreme Court initially granted a stay of Lockett's execution, but it reversed its decision the next day.

The doctor examined Lockett's pupils at 6:30 p.m. He pressed his hand against Lockett's chest and shook him lightly. "He's not unconscious," the doctor said.

"I'm not," Lockett said clearly.

Prison officials had asked for a delay of Lockett's execution a few months earlier because they were unable to obtain the regular lethal injection drugs. Their search remained unsuccessful, but two weeks before the scheduled execution, midazolam was suddenly added to the protocol. It was a stopgap solution, because the drug had never before been used in executions in Oklahoma. Unlike the drugs previously in use, midazolam is not an anesthetic. It is instead meant to sedate patients and place them into a semi-conscious state. Doctors use it in dental surgery and colonoscopies. No one knew whether and at what dose midazolam would render Lockett unconscious.

The doctor checked Lockett's condition again at 6:33 p.m. "He is unconscious," he said. Lockett was no longer speaking.

In the executioners' room, the drugs pancuronium and potassium chloride were now being injected into the tubes. The pancuronium was supposed to paralyze Lockett and suppress convulsions. It is used solely for cosmetic purposes, so as to conceal the pain. The goal was to ensure that Lockett looked peaceful as he died. Potassium chloride, often used to euthanize animals, is supposed to cause the heart to stop functioning. But without heavy sedation it produces a sensation of burning from within.

At 6:34 p.m., Lockett suddenly moved. He kicked with his leg and rolled his head to the side, his body contorting. He grunted and mumbled, and then shouted, "Man" and "Something's wrong!" His face was twisted in agony. He cursed, but whatever he was trying to say remained incomprehensible. He raised his head and shoulders several times, as if he were trying to sit up.

In a 2nd viewing gallery, the relatives of Lockett's victim were also watching him suffer.

Lockett's Crime

Stephanie Neiman had died 15 years ago in Oklahoma. Neiman was kneeling inside a freshly dug grave when, Lockett, then 23, loaded his sawed-off shotgun and fired at her. The recoil caused him to lose control, the gun fell to the ground and the shot hit Neiman in the shoulder. Lockett could hear her sobbing in the hole. He picked up the rifle, aimed it and shot again. The sobbing stopped.

"It's done!" he told his accomplices. "Now bury her!"

Neiman died on that night, among oil refineries and fields, because she and her female friend had accidentally witnessed Lockett and 2 friends beating up a man who owed them money. After that, the men repeatedly raped Neiman's friend. The man who had been beaten and the friend promised not to tell anyone what had happened, but 19-year-old Neiman refused to make the same promise. She had a learning disability and lacked the ability to think strategically.

"She's not dead," Lockett's friends shouted, next to the hole in the ground. Neiman was breathing and her body was twisting in the dirt.

"Get the shotgun and finish her off," Lockett ordered, but his accomplices didn't want to do it. "Okay, then just bury her."

Lockett later told investigators that he had heard the young woman coughing as the dirt fell on top of her. The men continued to shovel earth into the hole until the choking noises stopped.

Lockett's body had now been twisting on the gurney for 6 minutes. It was only at 6:40 p.m. that the doctor lifted the sheet covering the IV and saw that the skin at the puncture hole had blown up into a balloon "smaller than a tennis ball but bigger than a golf ball," as was later documented in the investigative report. The needle had either not punctured Lockett's vein or had sliced it open. Instead of flowing into his bloodstream, the anesthetic and the lethal drugs had entered the tissue, where they acted more slowly and weakly. At this point, the question was whether the drugs could still kill Lockett. The members of the execution team were at a loss. They decided that they no longer wished to be observed as they worked. "We will lower the blinds temporarily," the warden told the witnesses at 6:42 p.m.

'They Wanted to Torture Him'

"I'm gonna show you something," says Lockett's stepmother. Hollins jumps up from the sofa and walks over to a table by the wall that she has converted into an altar for Lockett. It is covered with photos, of Clayton as an eight-year-old, Clayton as a teenager and, finally, a photo of him shortly before his execution. Lockett had a fellow inmate take it secretly with a smartphone that had been smuggled onto death row. He is lying on the bed, his upper body uncovered, flexing his muscles and clenching his fists. There isn't an ounce of fat on his body. He looks like an athlete.

"And you tell me they can't find a vein on a man like this?" asks Hollins. She is a nurse. She knows how to place IVs. She does it every day.

"They wanted to torture him. They did it intentionally. And now they're trying to cover up everything." It probably wasn't intentional, but it was incompetent, the breakdown of a ramshackle system that had long claimed to be capable of delivering a gentle death, and that now seeks to conceal its own inadequacies.

An official investigative report documents what happened to Lockett after the blinds were lowered. The doctor tried to insert a new IV to inject the remainder of the lethal drugs, this time in the left groin. He tried to penetrate the skin 1 or 2 times, then gave up. The warden reached for the wall telephone and called the witness room to speak with Robert Patton, the executive director of the Oklahoma Corrections Department.

"Have enough drugs been administered to cause death?" Patton asked. "No," the doctor replied.

"Is another vein available, and if so, are there enough drugs remaining to finish the execution?"

"No," the doctor said, adding that Lockett was now unconscious again, and that his pulse was weak.

Patton tried to reach the office of the governor, without whom nothing could be decided. He finally succeeded, but it took some time. Then he called the execution chamber again and, at 6:56 p.m., announced that the execution had been stopped.

It was unclear to the people working in the chamber whether this meant a stay of execution. According to protocol, that would require the immediate commencement of life-sustaining measures. As Lockett's heartbeat became weaker, the men waited for clearer instructions.

The doctor pronounced Lockett dead at 7:06 p.m.

Experts believe that it would have still been possible to save Lockett's life. The investigative report recommends ensuring greater linguistic clarity in future executions, and that the meaning of the terms "stop," "hold" and "stay" must be clearly defined.

Race to Preserve Death Penalty

The execution of Charles Warner, the man who was scheduled to die 2 hours after Lockett, was postponed. He now has a new execution date of Nov. 13. A team of attorneys is fighting in court for Warner and the other 49 inmates on Oklahoma's death row. They cite Lockett's execution as proof that lethal injection amounts to the "cruel and unusual" punishment barred by the Constitution. Even President Barack Obama said that Lockett's execution was "deeply troubling," and that it exposed problems with the death penalty that must be taken seriously.

"I wouldn't mind if he suffered for hours on that gurney," says Republican State Representative Mike Christian in his office in the state capitol in Oklahoma City. When he heard in the spring that the Oklahoma Supreme Court wanted to stay Lockett's execution, he threatened the justices with impeachment proceedings. Christian's threat was the reason the court reversed the stay a day later.

"As a father, I don't care how we put these animals to death, if by lethal injection, by the guillotine or being fed to the lions."

Still, Christian has realized that Lockett's execution reflects poorly on his state. "I don't want journalists from all over the world to come to Oklahoma writing that we're a barbaric state," he says. This is why he is meeting with Mike Copeland, an adjunct professor at a local university. "We had a beer the other night, and suddenly there was this idea." They look at each other enthusiastically. "Ever heard of death through nitrogen?"

Copeland spent 3 years working in the tiny Pacific island nation of Palau, where he went scuba-diving in his free time. "If you inhale pure nitrogen, you lose consciousness very quickly, and you're dead soon afterwards." The idea, he says, will save the death penalty. "Nitrogen is the most humane way to die. You simply sit there, breathe, and 1 minute later you're dead."

There are 3 advantages to using nitrogen, he says. First, he explains, raising his thumb, "there's no problem with the supply. You can buy nitrogen in every hardware store." 2nd, he says, raising his index finger, it's a cheap method, because aside from the gas all you need is a plastic bag that can be placed over the condemned criminal's head. And 3rd, he adds, raising his middle finger, "You don't need a doctor that has to find a vein."

"This method is used by the poultry industry, the pork and the beef industry," Rep. Christian adds. He nods to his friend and says: "Tell us about the pig on YouTube."

"Well, on YouTube you can watch a pig that is confronted with nitrogen. It inhales, then becomes unconscious for a short time and walks away as if nothing had happened. This proves that nitrogen doesn't cause any harm."

Christian wants to promote his idea. He is convinced that he can achieve a majority in the state house, where the majority leader has indicated his support. In fact, he adds, Oklahoma should be grateful to Lockett. "His execution made us think twice. And now we've finally found the perfect method."

On May 13, 2 weeks after the execution and a subsequent autopsy, the State of Oklahoma turned over Lockett's body to his family, which cremated him soon afterwards. The authorities kept only 1 organ, allegedly for further study: Lockett's heart.

(source: Der Spiegel)

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Okla. lawmakers consider different method to execute death row inmates

Oklahoma became the first state to allow lethal injection as a method of execution for death row inmates back in 1977, but after the botched execution of Clayton Lockett this past April, some state lawmakers are considering using a different method to execute death row inmates.

They're even turning to a local university to research one option.

State Representative Mike Christian of Oklahoma City suggests using nitrogen gas for executions. Christian says it would be painless for inmates and affordable for Oklahoma.

Local State Representative Pat Ownbey says he's in favor of a more humane method, and wants to see more research on the gas. Now, several professors at East Central University in Ada will take on the task.

"One of the problems not only in Oklahoma but in other states, is these drugs are used in other states that have the death penalty and the drugs are hard to find; it I more difficult. That is one of the reason this is taking place," Ownbey said.

State Representative Pat Ownbey says nitrogen gas is extremely easy to find and much cheaper than the drugs used in current executions. But the main goal is to keep the execution as humane as possible.

"They would fill a small room with nitrogen while basically depleting the oxygen and they would pass away that way," Ownbey said. "Putting the drug in the arm through lethal injection sometimes doesn't get in the right vein."

Christian has organized a team of researchers at East Central University to study the gas and its effects. Professor Michael Copeland claims nitrogen hypoxia will make people feel euphoric or drunk. If a person inhales nitrogen gas, the person will quickly become unconscious and die within minutes.

"It does seem like that would be a very humane way to carry out that sentence," Ownbey said. "But we are still going over everything and looking for all the facts. I know we will be going over this and talking with doctors before any decision is made."

But, opponents to the death penalty, like attorney Jason May, say there is no humane way to kill someone. "There are countless instances in our nation's history where a person found guilty by a judge or jury who were later exonerated had been executed," May said. "There is obviously nothing that can be done to make that right."

Lawmakers hope to address the issue when the legislature reconvenes in February.

(source: KXII news)

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Oklahoma asks court to dismiss lawsuit brought in wake of botched execution----Plaintiffs in lawsuit, including ACLU and The Guardian, claim bearing witness to executions is first amendment right

Oklahoma has asked a federal court to dismiss a first amendment lawsuit filed after the botched execution of Clayton Lockett on the grounds that having members of the public witness an execution "does not play any particularly positive role".

Oklahoma assistant attorney general M Daniel Weitman filed a motion for dismissal of the lawsuit, which was brought in the US district court for the western district of Oklahoma in August by the ACLU, The Guardian, The Oklahoma Observer and journalist Katie Fretland, who reported on the execution for the Guardian. The plaintiffs claim that bearing witness to executions is a first amendment right, and contested the state's decision to draw a curtain midway through the execution, prohibiting witnesses from seeing what was happening in the death chamber.

Weitman wrote in the motion to dismiss (pdf), that case law shows that courts believe eyewitness testimony following executions is "speculative, equivocal and generally unhelpful."

"The general lack of utility of the salacious details of an execution shows that press presence does not play a particularly positive role worthy of a First Amendment right of special access," said Weitman. "Because press or public access to executions does not play any particularly positive role, Plaintiffs' claims fail the 'logic' prong of the 'experience and logic' test as well."

Prison officials closed the curtains between the execution room and observation room 27 minutes into Lockett's 43-minute execution. He was observed writhing and groaning on the gurney before the curtain was drawn.

ACLU staff attorney Lee Rowland called Weitman's filing "stunning". "Unfortunately, it is consistent with Oklahoma's consistent and misguided attempts to maintain a shroud of secrecy around the death penalty," he said. "The media played a crucial role in reporting details of the Lockett execution that contrasted with the state's own account - details that contributed to the public's understanding of Oklahoma's execution procedures."

Plaintiffs have asked for legal injunctions that would block Oklahoma from filtering information about its lethal injection process before the next scheduled execution set for 13 November.

The ninth circuit court of criminal appeals in 2002 found that there is a first amendment right to view an execution, allowing media witnesses to view the insertion of the IV during executions in the states covered by the court, which are California, Hawaii, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Nevada and Arizona.

(source: The Guardian)

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2nd Oklahoma execution under new procedures drawing near

Since July, Richard Glossip has been listening to renovations going on inside the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. The noise is a constant reminder that his days are numbered.

Glossip, 51, is scheduled to be the 2nd inmate executed under new procedures for lethal injections in Oklahoma, and in a newly renovated chamber. Convicted in a murder-for-hire plot, he lives on death row, in a small cell that he says is situated beneath the execution chamber.

The state's execution policies are so new that they are still being drafted, and prison officials haven't even been trained yet. Glossip, himself, writes that he can only speculate what his last days will be like under the new rules and how he'll die come Nov. 20.

"They have moved the execution table ... so that they could put a window in the door where the person administering the drugs, so that if an inmate starts flopping they can give them a little more muscle (relaxant) to stop it," he wrote in a July 24 letter to a reporter. "They think it makes it better, but that is not true, even though your muscles are relaxed, you will still be suffocating and will still feel it."

Death row has been on a media lockdown, with in-person interviews prohibited, since the clumsy execution of Clayton Lockett on April 29. Corrections officials explain that the blackout was necessary pending the investigation, ordered by Gov. Mary Fallin, into why it took Lockett about 40 minutes to die by lethal injection.

The months-long investigation by the Department of Public Safety ultimately found that an IV tube, meant to deliver deadly drugs, had become dislodged from the 38-year-old Lockett's groin area.

In the meantime, Glossip has communicated by letters, attempting to get his story told and convince others of his innocence.

Glossip's execution is 1 of 3 being scheduled by the state, starting in November. He's been on death row since 1998, when he was first convicted in a plot that killed motel owner Barry Van Treese the year before. The convicted hitman, Justin Sneed, is serving a sentence of life without parole.

In his letters, Glossip claims his innocence. And, while there are many uncertainties about his future, he writes that he's sure the state will make him suffer in his last moments, referring to Lockett's execution.

(source: McAlester News)

CALIFORNIA:

Triple Homicide Suspect to Undergo Mental Competency Exam----A judge ordered Carlo Mercado, 29, be held without bail until the exam on Oct. 10

Triple homicide suspect Carlo Mercado, 29, appears in court for the 2nd day of his pretrial on Sept. 3, 2014. A judge ruled he will stand trial in the slayings of Ilona Flint, 22, and brothers Salvatore Belvedere, 22, and Gianni Belvedere, 24.

Criminal proceedings have been suspended against the man accused of fatally shooting 3 San Diegans until he can undergo a mental competency evaluation, a judge ordered Wednesday.

But during an arraignment Wednesday, Mercado's public defender Gary Gibson told Judge Kathleen Lewis he doubted his client's mental competency to go to trial.

Could Triple Homicide Suspect Get Death Penalty?

NBC 7's Dave Summers looks into the chance of Carlo Mercado getting the death penalty if he is convicted of a triple homicide last Christmas Eve.

Judge Lewis ruled that criminal proceedings would be put on hold and that Mercado be held without bail until his mental competency exam on Oct. 10.

He will be evaluated to make sure he understands the nature of the case against him. If officials deem him competent, a trial date will be set at a status hearing on Oct. 28.

If Mercado is deemed not competent, he will to go Patton State Hospital in an attempt to restore that competency.

The suspect has pleaded not guilty to 3 counts of 1st degree murder in the Belvedere and Flint deaths that remained a mystery to San Diegans for 6 months.

It started when Flint and Salvatore were discovered with gunshot wounds in the Mission Valley Mall parking lot outside of Macy's on Dec. 24, 2014. Flint died at the scene, while Salvatore died at the hospital just days later.

At the same time, police began a missing person search for Salvatore's brother and Flint's fiance Gianni.

On Jan. 17, 2014, Gianni's body was found dead from a gunshot wound in his car's trunk, which was parked in Riverside, about 100 miles north of San Diego.

Inside that trunk, investigators found a Febreze canister with duct tape around the trigger, they say in an effort to mask the smell of the badly decomposing body.

Detectives testified at Mercado's preliminary hearing that they were able to pull off one black hair from that duct tape, and its DNA matched Mercado's.

A firearms analyst said the gun that killed all 3 victims was found in Mercado's possession when he was pulled over by Border Patrol at a San Clemente checkpoint on Jan. 18.

Finally, a crime scene investigator testified Mercado had written "R.I.P." in his smartphone's calender for Dec. 24, 2013 -- the day Salvatore and Flint were shot.

Mercado was arrested on June 21.

Earlier this month, Judge Lewis determined there was enough evidence to bind the suspect over for trial.

Mercado's attorney says his client denies all involvement in these crimes.

(source: nbcsandiego.com)

USA:

Peace Cannot Be Achieved When the State Executes Innocent Men

Almost 3 years ago, the state of Georgia likely executed an innocent man. Despite no physical evidence connecting Troy Davis to the August 19, 1989 murder of police officer Mark MacPhail in Savannah, Georgia, despite the fact that numerous witnesses implicated Sylvester "Redd" Coles, who was the individual to accuse Davis of the murder, despite the fact that police never seriously investigated Coles as a suspect, and despite the fact that 7 of 9 state trial witnesses later recanted or changed their stories, the state of Georgia went ahead with the execution of Troy Davis on September 21, 2011...the International Day of Peace, no less.

While there are so many issues with the death penalty, in light of the upcoming anniversary of Georgia's murder of Troy Davis, I am focusing this piece on issues of innocence, which are, of course, generally coupled with police and prosecutorial failings.

Since then, 2 more states - Connecticut and Maryland - have abolished the death penalty. Yet 32 states continue to execute convicted offenders, many of whose guilt, like Troy Davis, is dubious. In July 2013, the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Justice issued a scathing report in which it stated the Justice Department failed to review the lab work of an FBI examiner even when it was known that the work was flawed. 3 of the 64 individuals whose lab work was reviewed by this examiner were already executed.

Several other cases of possible wrongful executions, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, occurred, not surprisingly, in Texas. In 1989, Texas executed Carlos DeLuna. Conflicting eyewitness statements, mistakes in the police investigation, and missing information resulted in the wrongful conviction, according to a study completed by Columbia Law School Professor James Liebman and his students. In 1993, Texas executed Ruben Cantu for capital murder during an attempted robbery. Subsequent investigations have revealed that key witnesses changed their stories. Four years later, Texas executed David Spence, whose trial, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, "was pursued by a zealous narcotics cop who relied on testimony of prison inmates who were granted favors in return for testimony."

Gary Graham, also known as Shaka Sankofa, was executed by the state of Texas in 2000, despite there being no physical evidence connecting him to the 1981 robbery and murder of Bobby Lambert for which he was convicted. The conviction was based largely on the word of one witness, who was said to have seen the incident through her windshield from 30-40 feet away. Graham's court-appointed defense attorney failed to call 2 other witnesses who were at the scene and did not believe it was Graham who was the shooter. 4 years later, Texas executed Cameron Todd Wilingham for intentionally setting the fire that killed his 3 daughters. As fire science advanced in the years that Willingham sat on death row, multiple experts testified before various courts that, in fact, there really was no arson but instead an accidental fire. Hence, no crime at all, and definitely not an intentional triple homicide.

Missouri executed Larry Griffin on June 21, 1995. An investigation by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund found that a witness, who was injured in the drive-by shooting that Griffin allegedly perpetrated, claimed that Griffin was not the shooter, and a police officer who responded to the scene later provided an account that discredited previous witness statements. The NAACP supplied the prosecution with the names of three likely suspects, all of whom are in jail for other offenses. University of Michigan Law Professor Samuel Gross stated in 2005, "There is no real doubt that we have an innocent person. If we could go to trial on this case, if there was a forum where we could take this to trial, we would win hands down." But there is no such forum, because Griffin is dead. Joseph O'Dell was executed in 1997 by the state of Oklahoma. DNA evidence cast much doubt on his 1986 conviction for rape and murder, and 3 state Supreme Court judges expressed concern that O'Dell was allowed to defend himself, yet the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

My current state of Florida may also have executed an innocent man. Leo Jones was executed in 1998 for the murder of a police officer in Jacksonville. In all likelihood, Jones was tortured by the police officer who interrogated him and after multiple hours of abuse, coerced Jones into signing a confession. Of course, nothing seems to have been learned, as Florida leads the way in exonerations with 24. According to Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, the usual compensation from the state upon release is a t-shirt, a pair of jeans, and a bus ticket or the equivalent.

Yet, despite what is obviously a deeply flawed system if this many people can be sentenced to death row or even executed in error, 29 individuals have been executed to date in 2014, mostly from Florida, Texas and Missouri. The state of Florida has executed 10 people in the past 10 months.

As we approach the 2014 International Day of Peace, it is imperative that the nation re-visit the case of Troy Davis and the others listed here. To have a system of justice that is so unjust as to kill those who may have been innocent is a tremendous blight on the freedoms and liberties we allegedly stand for.

(source: Op-Ed; Laura Finely, Huntington News)

THAILAND:

Bill proposes death for causing airport closure

The National Legislative Assembly yesterday passed the 1st reading of the new Aviation Safety Bill, which could result in the death penalty for anyone who causes the closure of an airport.

The government proposed the bill for the National Legislative Assembly's consideration to replace the 1978 and 1995 laws.

The draft states that a person will face execution or life imprisonment if they destroy an aircraft in service, damage an aircraft so that it is no longer operational or put any material in an aircraft that causes it damage.

Forcing the closure of an airport, damaging airport facilities or aircraft at an airport plus any action that maims or kills someone in an airport would result in the death penalty or a life sentence, according to Article 19 of the proposed bill.

A person would also face the death penalty or life imprisonment for murdering someone in an airport.

NLA member Somchai Sawangkarn said putting someone to death for causing an airport's closure might be too harsh.

No death penalty elsewhere

Many countries no longer had the death penalty, he said.

"Personally, I don't support the closure of airports. But in some cases an airport operation needs to be shut down for other reasons such as what happened in 2008 when protesters shut the Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports," he said, adding that "the law should give the operators some room for decisions".

Klanarong Chantik, an NLA member and a graft buster, said some articles in the proposed bill were not realistic and might affect the aviation industry.

Klanarong said Article 12 stated that alcohol- or drug-affected passengers who caused a disturbance on a flight face five years' imprisonment or a Bt500,000 fine or both.

"This article means serving alcohol on board is prohibited," he said.

Klanarong said Article 8 of the bill was also problematic and impractical as it resulted in a fine of only Bt20,000 - the same fine for people caught smoking in a restricted area - for any passenger who brought a prohibited substance aboard a plane, including explosives.

These articles should be amended, he said.

Transport Minister ACM Prajin Juntong said the government would take all the concerns of lawmakers into consideration and would amend the bill during meetings of an ad-hoc committee.

The goal of the legislation is to protect passengers and people involved in the aviation industry, he said.

Also in the aviation bill:

3 years' imprisonment or a Bt120,000 fine for:

l sexual harassment or any sexual offence

l indecency

5 years' imprisonment or a Bt200,000 fine for:

l using force to hurt someone

l damaging the property of someone

l drinking alcohol or using narcotics

l causing chaos on board a flight

(source: The Nastion)

RUSSIA:

Russians support return of death penalty to fight extremism and crime

63 % of Russians think it is acceptable for society to use capital punishment for crimes such as pedophilia, murder and terrorism, recent research has shown.

According to the poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation, 73 % of those who hold the return of death penalty "acceptable in principle" want to execute people convicted of pedophilia, 63 % want to execute murderers, 53 % support capital punishment applied to terrorists and 46 % - to rapists. 28 % replied that capital punishment could be used to counter drug trafficking, and another 13 % wanted to use it as punishment for high treason.

Researchers note that the number of those who approve of the death penalty has decreased over the past decade, but still remains fairly high. One year ago, 68 % of Russians thought that death sentences were acceptable in principle, while 24 % answered that the measure was totally inadmissible.

The head of the Political Research Institute, Grigory Dobromelov, has told the popular business daily Kommersant that the most likely reason behind this phenomenon was the "generation factor" - the stereotype about the punitive function of the state was embedded in people's minds during the Soviet period and now the number of such people is falling.

The death penalty is presently allowed by the Russian Constitution for especially grave crimes and after a guilty verdict by a jury court. However, when Russia sought membership in the Council of Europe in 1999, it imposed a moratorium on capital punishment and this is still in force.

The issue has been raised regularly by Russian politicians and state officials. In May last year, the head of the country's top federal law enforcement body - the Investigative Committee - asked parliament to consider the return of capital punishment in Russian law, but noted he wasn't seeking actual executions, only the psychological effect that such a threat could have on potential criminals.

1 year earlier, Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev said the death penalty would be "society's normal reaction." He said this while commenting on the brutal murders of 2 small girls. The top Russian policeman stressed that this was his personal opinion.

According to Vladimir Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov, the Russian president is more in favor of a total abolition of the death penalty. The press service of the Prosecutor General's Office has noted that Russia has obligations to the Council of Europe, and therefore the moratorium would remain in place.

(source: rt.com)

BANGLADESH:

Man to die for killing sister-in-law, nephews

A district court has sentenced death penalty to a person for killing his sister-in-law and 2 nephews at Hossainpur in Kishoreganj. The convict is Burhan Uddin, 43, son of late Sadar Ali of Namsidla village under Hossainpur upazila.

Kishoreganj District and Sessions Judge AMM Sayeed pronounced the verdict on Thursday afternoon. According to the prosecution, Burhan mercilessly killed his younger brother Faruk Mia's wife, Nazma Akter and her 2 sons, Shahjahan and Liman by a locally made arm on August 1, 2013.

He killed them after he was released on bail from life term rigorous imprisonment for killing his elder brother, Suhrab Uddin.

Later, in the following day of the murders, Burhan's younger brother, Faruk Mia filed a murder case in connection with the Hossainpur police station.

(source: Dhaka Tribune)

INDIA:

Death penalty convict wants to move

A convict, who was awarded capital punishment by the Pune Sessions Court that was later confirmed by the Supreme Court, has approached the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court seeking transfer to Yerawada Jail.

A division bench comprising Justices Bhushan Gavai and Vinay Deshpande issued notices to the Maharashtra government and Nagpur Central jail superintendent asking them to file a reply within 2 weeks. Mir Nagaman Ali was counsel for petitioner Narayan Chaudhary.

According to Ali, when the offence was committed in 1994, Chaudhary was 13 years-old and fell into the category of juvenile. Moreover, his family also resides in Pune and therefore, it would be easy for him to meet family members at Yerawada Jail.

The Pune court convicted Chaudhary on February 9, 1998, and sentenced him to gallows. Even Supreme Court dismissed confirmed his punishment while dismissing his appeal.

(source: The Times of India)

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

Court relied on justice Katju's judgment to award death

Sessions judge RK Sondhi relied on the famous judgment of justice Markandey Katju in the Bhagwan Dass vs State of Delhi case to award death penalty to father Shaukeen and uncle Salim for killing 15-year-old Tahira.

Sondhi commented that after going through the principles laid down in Bhagwan Dass' case, it comes out that Apex Court had held that "once it is proved that the crime involved in murder of such nature is 'honour killing', for whatever reasons, comes within the category of rarest of rare cases deserving death penalty".

"Thus Hon'ble Apex Court has already considered pros and cons of the case, which involves crime of honour killing and held that in such cases, the trial court has no discretion but to grant death penalty," says Sondhi in his judgment.

He commented that Tahira was killed merely on "ill-founded apprehensions" of loss to "family reputation in society on account of love affair of the deceased" with a person, who was already engaged with the elder daughter of Shaukeen and both convicts tried to "create false evidence" to screen themselves.

"In our opinion honour killings, for whatever reason, come within the category of rarest of rare cases deserving death punishment. It is time to stamp out these barbaric, feudal practices which are a slur on our nation.

This is necessary as a deterrent for such outrageous, uncivilised behaviour. All persons who are planning to perpetrate 'honour' killings should know that the gallows await them," Justice Katju had said in Bhagwan Dass case where a father had killed her daughter over adultery. He had also commented that there is nothing 'honourable' in 'honour' killings, and they were nothing but barbaric and brutal murders by bigoted, persons with feudal minds.

(source: Hindustan Times)

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

View to a kill: Indian hangman prepares for his 1st execution----Pawan Kumar, who learned his trade from his father and grandfather, is paid 30 pounds a month as a registered executioner

Pawan Kumar said being a hangman is a duty. 'A criminal is being killed and crime is going to come down as a result.'

The phone call will come some time in the next few weeks, and when it does Pawan Kumar will be ready.

"I have already done a test run, with a sack of sand the weight of the criminal. I have been waiting for this moment all my life," said the part-time clothes hawker in the northern Indian town of Meerut.

For while selling shirts from the back of a bicycle pays Kumar's rent, his vocation lies elsewhere: the 52-year-old is one of a handful of officially registered professional hangmen in India.

So far, however, he has never actually carried out an execution.

Last month, he was called to a jail in the city of Jaipur, 250 miles south of Meerut, to execute a condemned prisoner. At the last minute though, the man was reprieved.

In early September, Kumar was scheduled to hang Surinder Koli, one of India's most notorious murderers. But another last-minute decision meant the execution was postponed to allow further legal argument, though just until the end of next month.

"I wouldn't say I was disappointed. That would be a personal thing. I am just sorry that a man who has committed such heinous acts has not died yet," said Kumar.

In India, the death sentence is reserved for cases that are deemed "the rarest of the rare". In the past decade, there have been only 3 executions. The 350 convicted prisoners who theoretically face hanging include 4 men found guilty of the gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old student in Delhi in 2012.

Even though they are rarely called on to carry out an execution, hangmen are paid a monthly stipend by local state governments of about 3,000 rupees or 30 pounds. Even so, prison administrators in this country of 1.2 billion struggle to find executioners.

At one stage, the north-eastern state of Assam was forced to issue a nationwide appeal for a hangman. "It is not surprising there are so few. It is a hard thing for a person just to kill an ant, let alone another human being," said Kumar, who supports a family of 7.

Following a centuries-old practice on the subcontinent, the post of executioner is inherited. Kumar's grandfather carried out about 60 hangings in his 40-year career, including one of the assassins of prime minister Indira Gandhi, who was shot by her bodyguards in 1984.

Kumar's father, who inherited the post in 1989, conducted half a dozen executions. Kumar assisted both men, thereby, he explained, learning the trade's "special techniques".

"They were proud of what they did and I am proud of helping them. It is a duty. Justice is being done. A criminal is being killed and crime is going to come down in India as a result. That's why we feel nothing when we kill a man," he said.

These days the identities of those carrying out politically sensitive executions - such as that of Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the sole surviving attacker from the 2008 terrorist attacks on the city of Mumbai (executed in November 2012), or Afzal Guru, an alleged Kashmiri militant who was hanged for the 2001 attack on India's parliament in February 2013 - remains secret.

Kumar, however, has become a minor media star, with the prospect of greater celebrity if Surinder Koli, the murderer reprieved last week, exhausts all options to avoid death.

Koli, a 42-year-old domestic help, was arrested in 2005 after human remains were discovered in a drain near a house on the outskirts of Delhi, the capital, where he worked.

He was convicted of 5 cases of murder, rape and cannabalism and faces another 14 counts.

Kumar believes he will be the last in his family to practise the trade. His eldest son, who is 21, has shown little interest.

"If he wanted to, I would train him. But he's studying banking and has just applied for some post working in the accounts department of Indian railways," said the aspirant hangman. "I think his interests lie elsewhere."

(source: The Guardian)

IRAN----executions

4 hanged in public in Shiraz

The Iranian regime henchmen hanged a group of 4 prisoners in public in city of Shiraz on Thursday.

The 4 men, Bahram Kiani, Edalat Rahimi, Mohammad Jamshidi and Jahanbakhsh B?roumand were hanged in one of the main squares in the city. Another prisoner was hanged in city of Marvdasht.

On Friday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's said in his annual report to the General Assembly expressed alarm at the recent increase in executions in Iran.

The report said: the promises made by Hassan Rouhani "have not yet led to significant improvements, and restrictions on freedom of expression continue to affect many areas of life."

He also criticized Tehran for carrying out death sentences on juveniles. "According to information gathered from reliable sources, more than 160 juveniles are currently on death row and at least 2 have been executed in recent months for crimes that they committed when they were younger than 18," Ban's report said.

Under so-called 'moderate' Hassan Rouhani the country has faced highest number of executions in a year compared to any Iranian regime's president for the past 25 years.

(source: NCR-Iran)

SOUTH AFRICA:

Judge slams illegal deportation of murder accused

Department of Home Affairs officials who played a part in wrongfully deporting a murder accused to Botswana, where he could face the death penalty, should be charged with attempted murder, the Pretoria High Court heard on Wednesday.

The department was attacked for wrongfully deporting Edwin Samotse from Polokwane prison last month, despite several attempts to draw its attention to a non-surrender order from the minister of justice and correctional services.

In addition the department ignored an interdict prohibiting Samotse's deportation.

On Wednesday Judge Eberhard Bertelsmann on several occasions raised the question of whether the officials responsible should be charged with attempted murder.

"If they knew he was facing the death penalty and surrendered him voluntarily, why should this not surmount to attempted murder," he questioned.

The Constitutional Court has previously ruled, in the Emmanuel Tsebe matter, that "deportation, extradition or any form of removal" of individuals who could face the death penalty in their home countries "is wholly unacceptable" since capital punishment is illegal and unconstitutional in SA.

Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba was cited as the 1st respondent in the application, which he is opposing. Home affairs immigration officer Samuel Matlou and the department's chief immigration officer, Madimetja Mojale, were cited as 2nd and 3rd respondents, while several other government employees were fingered as possibly contributing to the deportation.

3 home affairs employees have already been suspended and Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), which represents Samotse, has called for an investigation into how the deportation happened.

On Wednesday it emerged that a senior legal advisor at home affairs had failed to circulate an email which alerted the department to the non-surrender order granted after Botswana refused to give assurances that Samotse would not be executed if he was sent back home. The email was only opened 5 days after it was sent. Another official was responsible for signing off the deportation authorisation.

The department claims that these were "isolated" incidents, however, LHR said the department was trying to "insulate" senior officials.

Judge Bertelsmann emphasised the seriousness of the department's actions, questioning whether any "red lights" went off for the officials involved.

"There is a huge responsibility on the department ... how can (court) orders that mean life or death lie around and gather dust, while in the meantime the life of a vulnerable individual is left at risk ... We are dealing with death," he said.

Judge Bertelsmann said he was "concerned" that department officials were not aware that SA does not surrender people to another country if they face the possibility of the death penalty.

Samotse's lawyer, Adv Maryna Steenekamp, said there was a "culture" at the department to act contrary to court orders.

LHR said the matter raised serious constitutional issues concerning SA's obligations around extradition and deportation of a foreign nationals to a country with the death penalty and government's failure to comply with court orders

Judgment was reserved.

(source: Business Day)

TEXAS----new execution date

Richard Vasquez has been given an execution date for January 15, 2015; it should be considered serious.

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

Executions under Rick Perry, 2001-present-----278

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982-present----517

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

279------------Oct. 15------------------Larry Hatten----------518

280------------Oct. 28------------------Miguel Paredes--------519

281------------Jan. 14------------------Rodney Reed-----------520

282------------Jan. 15------------------Richard Vasquez-------521

283------------Jan. 21-------------------Arnold Prieto--------522

284------------Jan. 28-------------------Garcia White---------523

285------------Feb. 4--------------------Donald Newbury-------524

286------------Feb. 10-------------------Les Bower, Jr.-------525

287------------Mar. 18-------------------Randall Mays---------526

(source for both: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

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

Amnesty USA Reacts to Missouri, Texas Executions

Amnesty International USA executive director Steven W. Hawkins responded to the executions of Earl Ringo, Jr in Missouri and Willie Trottie in Texas. Amnesty opposes the death penalty as the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. Particularly troubling are reports of the use of midazolam, a chemical that was used in previous botched executions in Ohio, Oklahoma and Arizona.

"It is disgraceful that the United States continues to allow this cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. Even within the U.S., more than 1/3rd of the 50 states have abolished the death penalty. Missouri, Texas, and all of the other states that currently retain the death penalty should follow. The U.S. cannot claim to be a leader in human rights while it continues executing its prisoners."

Amnesty USA's Abolish the Death Penalty landing page has the latest news, statistics and action items on the issue.

(source: Amnesty International USA)

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

This is insane: A Texas man is facing the death penalty for defending his home with deadly force

In the great state of Texas, it is legal, almost mandatory, to defend your home with deadly force from armed intruders. If someone attempts to climb into your window in the deep, pre-dawn darkness at 5:30 am, you would be justified in shooting them, right? In almost all conceivable cases, yes. Especially in Texas.

But what if the intruder turns out to be a member of a SWAT team attempting a no-knock drug raid on a search warrant? We're about to find out, but it could mean the death penalty.

Marvin Louis Guy of Killeen, Texas and a female companion opened fire on several men entering their home through windows and doors, killing 1 and injuring another. The intruders turned out to be members of a SWAT team composed of Killeen police and state organized crime investigative officers who were serving a warrant based on tips from an informant that there was drug trafficking going on in the residence.

Given that it was a "no-knock" raid, the residents did not know that it was law enforcement officers entering their home. No-knock raids are often conducted on search warrants for drug trafficking suspicion to prevent hardened criminals from attacking the cops when they are announced. It didn't quite turn out that way this time.

Guy already faces 1 count of capital murder and 3 counts of attempted capital murder and thus the death penalty, which the district attorney is pursuing. Capital murder requires knowledge that the target is a law enforcement officer, which isn't at all clear here.

The assistant district attorney on the case, Murff Bledsoe, said: "Additional charges are likely." Unclear what those charges would be. I'm sure Bledsoe will come up with something creative to guarantee a conviction and pad his resume.

Oh, and no drugs were found in the search.

(source: unitedliberty.org)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Former Reading man on death row gets new trial due to serious juror misconduct

A Berks County judge has awarded a former Reading man sitting on death row a new trial due to serious juror misconduct.

President Judge Paul M. Yatron issued the opinion Monday regarding Bryan S. Galvin, who was convicted of 1st-degree murder and sentenced to death in 2007 in the killing of his friend, Kristofer Kolesnik, 32, of Reading.

Yatron's decision came after a post-conviction appeal filed by Reading lawyer William C. Bispels Jr., on Galvin's behalf.

The appeal centered around evidence that several members of the jury selected from Luzerne County discovered information about Galvin's prior criminal history in the midst of the trial.

According to the opinion, at least 1 juror researched the case during the trial and discovered that Galvin had been acquitted of murder in an unrelated case. The juror also discovered and shared that Galvin assaulted a sheriff's deputy during an attempt to select a Berks County jury on the case involving Kolesnik's death.

The opinion notes that the information the juror discovered is factual, but was prohibited from being included in the trial since it was not related to the case.

Jurors were given strict instructions to refrain from researching the case. Yatron wrote that the information the jury learned of was inflammatory, making it difficult for the jurors to properly exercise their duties.

"A typical juror exposed to such information would be unavoidably concerned with the idea of acquitting a violent man - one who had killed before and who could possibly kill again," the judge said in the opinion.

Bispels praised the judge for the ruling.

"It's the right decision because the juror misconduct was so blatant," Bispels said.

"We all know President Judge Yatron is a law-and-order guy," he added. "I'm sure it pained him to make this decision, but I really give him credit because the law was clear."

The case on trial involved testimony that Galvin shot Kolesnik in the head Jan. 30, 2006 and then put his body in a van. He was on his way to dump the body when police stopped him in Kenhorst for driving at night without his headlights on.

Prosecutors were not allowed to mention that Galvin was accused of killing another friend, Todd Heck, in 1991. After 3 trials on that case, Galvin was acquitted of the charges in May 1999.

Counsel attempted to select a jury for the Kolesnik murder case within Berks County, but was unable to because of extensive pretrial publicity.

A jury was eventually selected from Luzerne County on July 30, 2007. The jury convicted Galvin of 1st-degree murder on Aug. 10, 2007 and imposed the death penalty on Aug. 13, 2007. Yatron sentenced Galvin to death on Sept. 6, 2007.

Attorneys representing Galvin interviewed several jurors in 2012 and secured statements from 3 of them admitting that they knew of Galvin's criminal history during deliberations.

One of the jurors said another juror told them during the bus ride between Luzerne and Berks counties that she had investigated Galvin online and that he had gotten away with another murder involving a turkey knife.

The juror said the panel felt the evidence for Galvin's guilt was strong, however, she had been in favor of a sentence of life without parole, not the death penalty.

"Although I was a hold-out for life, learning about his prior murder helped convince me to go along with death," she wrote in the statement.

A 2nd juror stated that he also heard another juror stating she had "looked up Galvin." He said she mentioned he had fought a constable and stabbed someone with a turkey fork.

A hearing on the appeal was held before Yatron Jan. 15, 2014 and included testimony from several jurors. The juror that allegedly researched Galvin claimed she only learned of his past after the trial, but the other 2 jurors that gave statements testified they heard about it from her during the trial.

The case is being handled by the Attorney General's Office due to a conflict of interest with the Berks County District Attorney's Office. Former District Attorney Mark C. Baldwin was the prosecutor during the 2007 trial.

J.J. Abbott, a spokesman for the Attorney General's Office, said his office is still reviewing Yatron's opinion and declined to comment further.

(source: Reading Eagle)

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

Pennsylvania's Lethal Injection Fiasco

The commonwealth's 1st execution in 15 years, set for September 22, had to be postponed - after corrections officials couldn't get their hands on the lethal chemicals they needed.

15 years after its last execution, Pennsylvania is finding it difficult to fire up its death machine again.

If the commonwealth gets its way, it will soon strap 58-year-old confessed murderer Hubert Michael Jr. to a gurney inside the State Correctional Institution at Rockview, insert an IV into his vein, and fill his body with lethal chemicals until his heart stops beating. There's just one little problem. The Department of Corrections can't seem to get its hands on the drugs it needs to do the job.

On Friday, Gov. Tom Corbett announced that he is postposing Michael's September 22 execution because the department doesn't have a stock of lethal chemicals on hand and is still seeking a supplier. Michael, who is rapidly approaching the end of his appeals, would be the 1st prisoner executed in the Keystone State since 1999, when a judge ruled that condemned torture-killer Gary Heidnik's desire to end his own life could not be used as evidence of his mental incapacity.

The implications for Pennsylvania are great: The last time the commonwealth executed an inmate who hadn't voluntarily waived his right to appeal, John F. Kennedy was president. Corbett is eager to break that streak. He's signed 35 death warrants during his tenure in office, all of which have been stayed. And he has gone on record saying he is "committed to carrying out the sentence" against Michael.

Susan McNaughton, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, offered no explanation to The Daily Beast for the department's trouble obtaining the drugs. She also declined to comment on speculation among some well-placed observers that the department has been turned down by at least 1 supplier, most likely the compounding pharmacy that provided the drugs the last time Michael was scheduled for execution, in November 2012.

"We have been and will continue to work to acquire the drugs in accordance with the law," McNaughton said via email. "How long that will take, we do not know."

In a case of conspicuous timing, the governor's decision came one day after the American Civil Liberties Union and a group of newspapers filed a motion in federal court seeking information on what drugs the commonwealth will use on Michael and where it plans to get them. The petitioners are piggybacking on a class action suit filed in 2006, Chester v. Wetzel, that challenges Pennsylvania's lethal injection protocol as unconstitutional because it lacks adequate protections against needless pain and suffering.

The most recent filing in the case seeks to unseal documents related to the Department of Corrections' last lethal drug acquisition and lay the groundwork for similar transparency in all future executions.

Mary Catherine Roper, an ACLU attorney representing the newspapers, said the execution postponement caught her and her colleagues off guard.

"Nobody is surprised that it's getting harder to locate these drugs," she said, "but no one at the Department of Corrections had indicated publicly that they hadn't been able to secure them."

The department has not revealed which drug or drugs it is having trouble purchasing, but it's a safe bet that at least one of them is the 1st drug administered during an execution, a sedative that is designed to render the condemned unconscious during the procedure.

Pennsylvania has conducted 3 executions by lethal injection since 1995, each time using a 3-drug protocol that included the sedative sodium thiopental, followed by the paralytic pancuronium bromide, and potassium chloride, which stops the heart.

"I doubt that any governor would want his or her legacy to be a torture session like those we've had recently in states like Oklahoma and Arizona."

For all intents and purposes, sodium thiopental is now unavailable in the United States. In 2011 the European Union banned its export for use in capital punishment, and the sole U.S. manufacturer of the drug chose to stop making it rather than promise authorities in Italy - the site of a new manufacturing facility - that it wouldn't be used in executions.

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections amended its protocol accordingly to allow for a second sedative, pentobarbital - sold under the brand name Nembutal - to be used. But Lundbeck, the Danish maker of Nembutal, no longer sells the drug to U.S. prisons. A shortage of pentobarbital has forced some states to improvise, often with gruesome consequences.

Since January, at least three botched executions have been tied to the sedative drug midazolam, which states began incorporating as an alternative to pentobarbital as it became increasingly difficult to acquire.

McNaughton says Pennsylvania has no plans to modify its existing cocktail. That means it will need to get pentobarbital from a compounding pharmacy, another source of concern, experts say. Compounding pharmacies are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and have a track record of delivering low-quality and adulterated drugs.

Court transcripts made available by the Pennsylvania ACLU indicate that the drugs ordered by the Department of Corrections from an unidentified compounding pharmacy for Michael's last scheduled execution contained lower concentrations of pentobarbital sodium than are found in brand-name Nembutal and were delivered in vials that did not adhere to standard color-coding protocols.

It's worth noting that Hubert Michael Jr. is not innocent of his crime, nor does he claim to be. In 1993, while out on bail on a rape charge, he kidnapped a teenage girl named Trista Eng while she walked to work, drove her to a remote location with the intention of sexually assaulting her, and shot her to death. He pleaded guilty to 1st-degree murder and was sentenced to die. Some people would argue that's a just penalty.

But the spectacle playing out on Pennsylvania is about more than 1 condemned inmate. Despite having the fourth-highest death row population in the country, Pennsylvania isn't terribly good at carrying out the ultimate penalty. A third of the 184 inmates now on death row there received their sentences more than 2 decades ago, and at least 24 have died of natural causes before their sentences could be carried out.

Legal experts, including the American Bar Association, blame the poor state of inmate representation in capital cases.

For years there were no pre-qualifications for an attorney to handle capital cases in the commonwealth. And Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation that provides no post-conviction financial support for defense appeals, meaning defendants are typically required to turn to county services and the aid of less-than-able court-appointed attorneys. As a result, cases are often wildly mismanaged. Nearly as many death convictions are overturned in Pennsylvania as are handed down each year, the majority of them due to ineffective assistance of counsel.

Most Pennsylvanians now support a moratorium on capital punishment until its efficacy can be determined. Opponents of the death penalty see the state's drug problem as a sign that that time has come.

"The mere fact that it's so difficult to score these drugs spotlights how isolated we are from most of civilized society in our obsession with executing people," said Kathleen Lucas, executive director of Pennsylvanians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. "I doubt that any governor would want his or her legacy to be a torture session like those we've had recently in states like Oklahoma and Arizona."

But Corbett's legacy is not the only thing keeping him up at night. The governor's prospects for reelection in November are already on shaky ground, and being forced to pull the plug on the state's 1st execution in 15 years would be an embarrassment to his administration. His Democratic challenger, Tom Wolf, has promised to issue a moratorium on executions if elected. With Wolf leading by 24 points in the polls, Hubert Michael's last hope of avoiding execution may come from the voting booth, not a courtroom.

(source: Daily Beast)

NORTH CAROLINA:

NC Innocence Inquiry Commission a lifesaver for innocent, death row inmates

On Sept. 2, 2014, after spending 30 years on death row, a travesty of justice was averted when Henry Lee McCollum was acquitted of the 1983 rape and murder of Sabrina Buie. Henry's brother, Leon Brown, was also acquitted of the rape and released. Had it not been for Brown's 2009 application to the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, McCollum would still be on death row.

In fact, had it not been for the connection between the two brothers in the Buie case, the commission would not have reviewed Henry's part. For some inane reason the commission cannot investigate death penalty cases until a prisoner's appeals have been exhausted, and the defendant files a claim. The problem with this is when a death row prisoner exhausts his or her appeals, they are executed. How incredibly fortunate for Henry there has been a de facto moratorium on the death penalty in North Carolina since 2007.

This was too close. As it stands, Henry and Leon had their youth stolen from them by overzealous, blind SBI agents, impressionable jurors, ineffective attorneys and a prosecutor who brags about his oratory power to persuade people rather than relying upon the facts or evidence in a case. How many more cases on death row are just like Henry McCollum's? This is not an aberration, his is the 8th acquittal on North Carolina's death row.

The difference between the previous seven acquittals and Henry is that an objective commission had a hand in clearing Henry and Leon of any wrongdoing. The first 7 had to rely on their appellate attorneys and the minimal resources available to them. One wonders why Henry's attorneys, after 3 decades, were incapable of freeing him; or why, with a little bit of digging, exculpatory DNA evidence was so easily found by the commission. These questions may seem complex, but they underline a common problem with many appellate attorneys who represent death row prisoners: The bare minimum is the status quo.

In Henry's case, the bare minimum in 1991 put him back on death row after a new trial. His attorney tried to coerce Henry to confess to a crime he did not commit. This is inexcusable. With so many people against indigent, intellectually challenged defendants like Henry McCollum, it's a miracle this man made it home alive. All glory to God indeed, Henry.

Christine Mumma, executive director of the N.C. Center for Actual Innocence, mentioned some lessons learned from the exoneration of Henry McCollum. What the public needs to be aware of is that the horrible circumstances of injustice in the Buie case are a culture in North Carolina death penalty cases, not some isolated event. Maybe, if the Innocence Commission were to work in conjunction with appellate attorneys to defend their clients, 31-year prison terms by innocent men can be avoided. At the very least the commission can demonstrate what it means to be true representatives of justice.

(source: Lyle C. May is a death row inmate at Central Prison in Raleigh. He received 2 death sentences for the 1997 double murder in Asheville of Valerie Sue Riddle and her son, Kelly Mark Laird Jr. ---- News & Observer)

ARIZONA:

Convicted Murderer 'In Great Spirits' Despite Death Penalty Possibility

Despite facing the death penalty, convicted murderer Jodi Arias is said to be doing well even as the date of the 2nd penalty phase trail approaches. The trail is set to begin on September 29, even though the start date has been pushed back several times, presiding Judge Sherry Stephens has warned Jodi Arias and her representation that the second penalty phase will not suffer any additional set backs.

Adding to the antics and overall interest in the ever-persistent Jodi Arias trail is the official Jodi Arias Twitter account. The social media account which updates it's 75,000 followers on the convicted murderer's daily life, also serves to promote the sale of her art work which she says she has been a large part of her since she was a child. The Twitter account has revealed that Jodi is in a good mood ahead of the jury selection, stating, "I spoke to Jodi this afternoon on the phone; she is in great spirits and is receiving relief from her migraines with new medication." A Jodi Arias supporter, who took over tweeting duties earlier this year, after Arias stopped updating followers regularly, runs the account. "Jodi says hello to all her supporters and thanks everyone for their good wishes," it added.

After relinquishing the right to represent herself, it seems that Jodi is again confident in her case despite the prosecution vying for the looming death penalty. Jodi Arias has decided to auction of the glasses that she wore through the 2013 trial, in which the jury convicted her of murdering her former boyfriend Travis Alexander. Alexander sustained multiple stab wounds, a slit throat, and a gunshot to the head in his Mesa, Arizona home. The starting bid for the glasses is a staggering $500, however the listing is enticing potential bidders by stating, "Get ready to own a 1-of-a kind piece of history." The website also confirms that the proceeds of the auction will go to a still unnamed Phoenix-based nonprofit.

(source: Latin Times)

CALIFORNIA:

Attacker demands death penalty

A man scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday for attempted murder requested the death penalty because, he said, he knows his brain and he wants to kill.

Sutter County Superior Court Judge Susan E. Green postponed the sentencing of Wesley T. Bradford until Friday, pending the review of a new doctor's report regarding Bradford's sanity. He was convicted of attempted murder without premeditation Monday for stabbing a co-resident of a Yuba City mental health facility in the throat in January. Green said she found good cause to postpone the hearing after several comments made by Bradford and his defense attorney, Douglas Tibbitts.

Bradford said he wants the death penalty or life in prison. But he signed a plea agreement on Monday for 13 years in prison and has consistently commented he wants to be sentenced as soon as possible.

"I know what I did. My mind is sick. I will never change. I will come back to court (after completing a prison term) and get the death penalty or I will get killed," Bradford said.

Green said she had never heard a defendant request the death penalty and didn't know if Bradford was being dramatic, but she found good cause to postpone the hearing at the request of his attorney.

Tibbitts said 2 doctors found Bradford competent, but a 3rd doctor found that Bradford is intelligent and tricked doctors into thinking he is sane. That doctor found, "he is not sane and should not be treated as a sane person," Tibbitts said.

"I'm not a psychologist or a psychiatrist," Tibbitts said. "I want to make sure we're doing the right thing."

Bradford raised his hand to speak throughout the hearing.

"I am sane," he said. "I am clear-thinking."

He said he has been thinking about killing everybody, "the gods, the angels and the demons."

"I want to kill people. I have to, I need it," he said. "I'm a sick individual. Just get me over with."

He said he stabbed the victim (in January) for her sake because she wanted it, but also for his own sake.

"Truthfully, I'm not sorry," he said.

(source: Appeal-Democrat)

IRAN----executions

5 Public Executions in Iran

The execution wave continues in Iran. According to the official and unofficial reports, in the last 30 days at least 95 people have been executed in different Iranian cities. This is an average of more than 3 executions everyday. Iran Human Rights urges the international community to condemn the execution wave in Iran.

5 people were hanged publicly in the cities of Shiraz and Sardasht (Province of Fars, Southern Iran) early Thursday morning September 18., reported the Iranian state media.

According to the Young Journalists Club (YJC), a news website close to the Iranian security forces, 4 of the men were hanged in the "Azadi (Liberty) Square" of Shiraz. These men were identified as: "Bahram", "Edalat" and "Mohammad" charged with kidnapping and rape, and "Jahanbakhsh B." charged with "corruption on the earth" and armed robbery.

One man identified as "Hossein Sh." was hanged publicly in Sardasht. He was charged with "Corruption on earth" and armed robbery, said the report.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

BANGLADESH:

Bangladesh court reduces sentence of Islamist

Bangladesh's Supreme Court commuted on Wednesday the death sentence of an Islamist political leader whose conviction last year for war crimes during the nation's 1971 war for independence sparked deadly protests.

Delwar Hossain Sayedee, 1 of the top leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami, must remain in prison "for the rest of his natural life," Chief Justice Muzammel Hossain said.

The judge did not explain his reason for reducing the sentence.

Jamaat-e-Islami called for a daylong general strike for Thursday to denounce the verdict, saying Sayedee was innocent.

A war crimes tribunal convicted Sayedee in February 2013 on 8 counts involving mass killings, rape and atrocities committed during the 9-month war against Pakistan in 1971. His death sentence touched off days of clashes that killed at least 70 people across the country.

Jamaat-e-Islami, the largest Islamist party in Muslim-majority Bangladesh, campaigned against the independence war but denies committing any atrocities. Bangladesh says the war killed 3 million people and forced millions more to flee to neighboring India.

(source: Associated Press)

INDIA:

Indian sisters facing death sentence for kidnapping, murdering children in last-ditch bid to stop execution----Sisters Renuka Shinde and Seema Gavit are the first women to face the death penalty in India since 1947.

2 Indian sisters described as "evil monsters" are launching a last-ditch effort to stop them becoming the 1st women to be executed in the country since it became independent in 1947.

Renuka Shinde and Seema Gavit kidnapped 13 children under the age of 5 in the early 1990s and brutally murdered at least seven of them in the state of Maharashtra.

Earlier this year the country's president rejected their application for mercy but on Friday a court will hear a request to have their sentences reduced to life in prison, on the basis they have suffered extreme mental trauma waiting for the death penalty to be carried out.

The women would steal the children from busy places like playgrounds or temples and use them in their pickpocketing racket.

If they were caught in the act of trying steal someone's purse or jewellery they would drop the child onto the ground to shift attention away from the attempted theft.

Investigating police officer Rahul Kale said the women would then kill the children if they became sick or cried too often.

"Sometimes they would put the child beneath their legs and crush them, some times they strangle them," Mr Kale said.

He said in one instance the women killed a young girl and put her body in a sack before going to the movies and keeping the bag under the theatre seat while they watched the film.

The child's body was later found in the theatre's toilets.

"They are doing all those crimes calmly, coldly, without fear of law," Mr Kale said.

"They are not having (a) human mind they are just monsters, or evil."

Sisters waited in solitary confinement on death row

Many of those who knew the women say the sisters saw the crimes as an easy way to make money.

"It had become their habit," said Rajan Mannu Bomche, the lawyer who convinced Gavit's husband to testify against her in court.

"Just like an alcoholic cannot do without his daily alcohol, similarly they couldn't sit in peace if they didn't commit these crimes," he said.

The women were sentenced to death by hanging by a judge in 2001.

The crimes left deep emotional scars on many of those whose lives the case touched.

Human rights lawyer Asim Sarode helped the women draft their mercy plea to the president, but as he got to know the women his view of capital punishment changed.

"Those persons who are not having any sense of guilt in their mind for the deeds they committed - what reformation techniques can be used with them?" he said.

"It has shaken my belief and put my understanding into dilemma whether the death penalty is good or bad."

The women's current lawyer, Sudeep Jaiswal, has told the ABC previously that it has taken 6 years for the office of the president to decide on his clients mercy plea which he said is an "inordinately long amount of time."

He said the women have suffered mental agony waiting to be put to the gallows and should have their sentences reduced to life in prison.

Earlier this year India's supreme court said "inordinate and inexplicable" delays in carrying out executions were grounds for commuting death sentences.

(source: Yahoo News)

KIRIBATI:

More church opposition to Kiribati death penalty plan

The new head of the Kiribati Uniting Church has voiced his concern at the passing of the 1st reading of the death penalty bill.M

The Reverend Reirei Kouraabi says many of the MPs belong to his church and to the Catholics and couldn't understand why they have supported the bill.

The Reverend Kouraabi says he expected them to kill the bill.

He says the church cannot support it because it's against the faith.

The Office of the President has invited the Catholic Bishop and Kiribati Uniting Church Moderator to be part of the committee tasked with carrying out community consultation.

Earlier Bishop Paul Mea from the Catholic Church also voiced similar concern at the bill.

(source: Radio NZ)

SEPTEMBER 17, 2014:

TEXAS----execution

Texas carries out a rare occurrence: An execution of a woman

Texas executed Lisa Coleman on Wednesday evening. Coleman was the 9th person executed by Texas this year - more than any other state –-and the 30th inmate executed in the United States over the same span.

This particular execution was also unusual for this country, because executions of female inmates have almost never happened throughout the modern era of the death penalty.

Executions of women in the United States are incredibly rare. Coleman is just the 15th woman put to death since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. That accounts for about 1 % of the 1,389 executions over that time.

Coleman, 38, was sentenced to death after being found guilty of murdering Davontae Williams, her partner's 9-year-old son, a decade ago. Davontae was emaciated, weighing 35 pounds at the time of his death in 2004, and had multiple injuries on his body. Coleman and Marcella Williams, her longtime girlfriend, had restrained him and deprived him of food, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

She was killed by lethal injection in Huntsville, Tex. The execution took about 12 minutes, lasting from 6:12 p.m. to 6:24 p.m., and nothing unusual happened, the Department of Criminal Justice reported. In her final remarks, she told her family and "the girls on the row" she loved them. Her last words were, "I'm done."

In Texas, a murder committed during a kidnapping is considered capital murder. (Since 2011, killing a child younger than 10 has also been considered a capital murder.) However, in a petition filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, Coleman's attorney argued that while she abused Williams, she did not kidnap him, which would mean she did not commit capital murder.

"There is clear and convincing evidence that both Lisa Coleman and Marcella Williams abused Davontae Williams," the petition stated. "Lisa Coleman does not deny that she did things to Davontae Williams that she should not have done."

Her attorney asked for a stay writing that she was only being put to death because Texas wants "to make sure someone pays" for what happened to Davontae. (Marcella Williams pleaded guilty in exchange for a life sentence.)

In a response filed with the Supreme Court, Texas officials said she should not be granted a stay, writing that Coleman does not have "clear and convincing evidence" showing she was not guilty of capital murder.

The Supreme Court declined to stay the execution, announcing about an hour before the execution that the full court had denied the stay. The court did not offer an explanation.

Before Coleman, the last woman put to death was Suzanne Basso, who was executed by Texas in February for torturing and killing a man. Going into Wednesday, there were eight women on death row in Texas (including Coleman), which made up about 3 % of the people on death row.

Coleman's execution came a week after the country's last execution, which also occurred in Texas. Willie Trottie was put to death for shooting and killing his ex-girlfriend and her brother. Trottie similarly asked the Supreme Court for a stay of execution, but the Supreme Court denied the request.

Texas is far and away the most active state when it comes to capital punishment, having put 516 inmates to death since 1976. That is nearly 5 times as many executions as any other state (Oklahoma has put 111 people to death, while Virginia has executed 110 inmates). Of the 14 women executed ince 1976, 5 of them were put to death in Texas.

Coleman becomes the 277th condemned inmate to be put to death in Texas since Rick Perry became Governor in 2001, the 30th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1389th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

(sources: KSAT news & Rick Halperin)

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

Executions under Rick Perry, 2001-present-----278

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982-present----517

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

279------------Oct. 15------------------Larry Hatten----------518

280------------Oct. 28------------------Miguel Paredes--------519

281------------Jan. 14------------------Rodney Reed-----------520

282------------Jan. 21-------------------Arnold Prieto--------521

283------------Jan. 28-------------------Garcia White---------522

284------------Feb. 4--------------------Donald Newbury-------523

285------------Feb. 10-------------------Les Bower, Jr.-------524

286------------Mar. 18-------------------Randall Mays---------525

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

NORTH CAROLINA:

DA weighs death penalty in slaying of UNC prof

District Attorney Jim Woodall expects to decide by November if he'll seek the death penalty against 2 men accused of murdering a UNC professor.

Attorneys for the defendants, Troy Arrington Jr. and Derick Davis II, appeared this week in Orange County Superior Court on administrative matters in the case. The defendants' next court date is Nov. 12.

In an interview Wednesday, Woodall said he expects to know by then if he'll ask for the death penalty.

"I just don't have enough information at this time (to decide now)," he said. "The police and investigators are providing us with reports, but there's still a lot of investigation they're going to do."

Arrington, 27, of Chapel Hill, and Davis, 23, of Durham, are charged with 1st-degree murder in the July 23 fatal beating and robbery of Feng Liu, a 59-year-old research professor at UNC's Eshelman School of Pharmacy.

Investigators said Liu, who lived in Durham, was beaten with a landscape stone about 1 p.m. near the intersection of West University Drive and Ransom Street near the UNC campus. He died the next day.

Chapel Hill police detectives said Liu's brown wallet and 4 credit cards were stolen.

Durham attorney Mark Edwards is representing Davis, and Arrington is represented by public defender James Williams.

Davis and Arrington are in the Orange County Jail without bond.

Both men had recently been released from jail when Liu was killed. Davis had been released from the Wake County Jail the same week after serving 3 weeks on a shoplifting charge.

Arrington was released July 2 from the Durham County Jail after posting a $5,000 secured bond, a $5,000 unsecured bond and receiving an electronic monitoring device as part of his pretrial supervision. He was awaiting trial on charges of stealing a dog, breaking and entering and felony conspiracy. He was wearing the electronic monitoring unit when he was arrested.

(source: Herald-Sun)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Death penalty offers only revenge, not respect for human life

The Sept. 15 letter by Merle Getz, whose police partner was killed more than 40 years ago, is a clear example of how the promise of the death penalty cannot help those affected by violence. The letter's dismissal of the suffering caused by the recent blotched executions, the encouragement of resorting to more gruesome methods of killing (such as firing squads and hangings), and the mocking of those who have a moral objection to participating in the deliberate extermination of a defenseless, and as recent news has shown, possibly innocent human being, show that as long as we have the death penalty as the ultimate solution for hurt and violence, we will only experience more anger and suffering.

The promise that the hurt suffered from the loss of a loved one will be balanced by the satisfaction received from experiencing the legally sanctioned killing of the person found guilty is a cruel hoax.

Rather than instilling respect for human life, the death penalty encourages us to reduce ourselves to the level of those who see revenge as sufficient justification for torture. I would hope that most of us aspire to be better than those whose behavior we condemn.

David Rose, Easton

(source: Letter to the Editor, Express-Times)

TEXAS----impending female execution

Lisa Ann Coleman is set to become the 1st Tarrant County woman put to death in more than 3 decades

Despite a flurry of last-minute appeals, it appears the execution of Lisa Ann Coleman will proceed on Wednesday night at the Texas State Penitentiary Huntsville Unit.

Coleman will be the 1st woman put to death from Tarrant County since the death penalty was reinstated in 1982.

She was convicted in 2006 of starving her girlfriend's 9-year-old son Devontae Williams to death.

The dead boy's mother, Marcella Williams, later pleaded guilty and received a life sentence.

Coleman's former defense attorney Fred Cummings said the case serves as a good example of why capital punishment needs reform.

"Williams had a long history with CPS; she was the boy's mother. She was as culpable in the death of Devontae Williams as my client, and that is what seems unfair," Cummings said.

Cummings, who was once a prosecutor, told News 8 in a recent interview that he remembered the case well.

The defense team tried to convince jurors that Coleman didn't deserve to die, but that proved difficult when they saw graphic photos of Devontae weighing only 35 pounds and severely emaciated.

"The photographs of this poor child were so overwhelming, we couldn't overcome that with the jury," he said. "What more could I have done to keep this from happening? And that is going to be something I will always think about."

Cummings also noted that Coleman had a prior criminal history, while Williams only had a record with Child Protective Services.

The Coleman family declined to comment through their current attorneys.

An appeal filed with the 5th Circuit Court this week was denied. A certiorari petition and stay request was submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday afternoon.

The Texas Board of Pardons and Parole has also voted against clemency in the case.

Dixie Bersano, who helped prosecute Coleman in 2006, told News 8 in a statement:

This 9-year-old child suffered a horrific death at the hands of Lisa Ann Coleman. Davontae died of malnutrition, a slow and cruel process. There was not an inch on his body that had not been bruised or scarred or injured. The jury assessed the appropriate punishment.

According to court documents, when paramedics responded to Coleman and Williams' Arlington apartment in 2004 they found Devontae "clad only in bandages and a diaper [and] so 'emaciated and underweight' that it was 'shocking.'" The boy weighed only 35 pounds when his body was found in July, 2004.

Cummings said the 2 women didn't know how to care for Davontae, who had behavioral problems.

(source: WFAA News)

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

Death penalty withdrawn in Dixon capital murder case

The Lubbock County District Attorney's Office is no longer seeking the death penalty in the capital murder case of Thomas Dixon, according to a spokesperson with the 140th district judge's office.

The DA's office withdrew its intent to seek the death penalty in August, the spokesperson said.

Dixon, 50, is an Amarillo doctor accused in the 2012 murder-for-hire plot against a romantic rival in Lubbock.

He is being held at the Lubbock County Detention Center on a charge of capital murder.

The punishment for capital offenses include the death penalty or life imprisonment.

Dr. Joseph Sonnier was found dead at his Lubbock home in 2012. He was shot and stabbed, according to an arrest warrant.

The 57-year-old chief pathologist at Covenant Health System in Lubbock was dating Dixon's ex-girlfriend when he died.

David Neal Shepard admitted to killing Sonnier and pleaded guilty in November. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Prosecutors are accusing Dixon of paying Shepard three silver bars worth $3,000 each for killing Sonnier.

Investigators described Dixon and Shepard as business associates.

Shepard's roommate called police after he said Shepard admitted killing Sonnier.

The case is expected to go to trial in late October.

Judge Jim Bob Darnell issued a news media gag order on the parties of the case prohibiting them from speaking to the media about the case.

The district attorney's office filed its intent to seek the death penalty in the case in October 2013.

A spokesperson for Darnell's office could not say why the death penalty sentence was withdrawn.

(source: Amarilla Globe-News)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Rethink executions

Nearly surrounded by states that wisely have scrapped the death penalty - and with ample concerns already raised about the fairness and risk for error in sentencing defendants to death row - Pennsylvania has encountered another compelling reason to join its progressive neighbors.

The inability of state prison officials to acquire lethal-injection drugs last week prompted Gov. Corbett to temporarily stay the execution of Hubert L. Michael Jr., the confessed murderer of a York County teenager two decades ago.

Far from being a question of merely finding a drugstore that carries the fatal cocktail that has been used ever since the electric chair was outlawed as cruel and unusual punishment, there is no current supplier of a key drug.

In large part, that's due to growing controversy over botched executions such as one in Oklahoma in April, where a condemned man convulsed for nearly 45 minutes before dying.

Legal advocates for death-row inmates rightly are focusing on whether such executions violate constitutional standards barring such punishment. But while those challenges work their way through the courts, it's clear that such mundane - if macabre - practicalities in operating the machinery of death ramps up what might be called the hassle factor in maintaining a system of capital punishment. It's already well-established that death row is inordinately more expensive than the more reasonable alternative of sentencing the worst criminals to life in prison without parole. The cost of interminable appeals, much of it borne by taxpayers on behalf of indigent defendants, runs into the millions for every death-penalty case.

That applies even in those rare instances where inmates eventually halt all appeals. Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley cited these costs, along with ample evidence that the death penalty serves as no deterrent, when his state joined New Jersey and New York in outlawing executions.

Beyond the expense, especially in Pennsylvania, is the risk for error, and the stark statistics that defendants who are poor and black or brown stand the best chance of being sent to death row. The state has has seen dozens and dozens of inmates reprieved from death row by virtue of appeals concerning their legal representation or, though more rare, new evidence exonerating them.

As a result of the many doubts about the fairness of the death penalty, a bipartisan legislative panel has been reviewing the state's capital punishment system. Its leaders have urged that no executions occur until their report is ready - a sensible plea that so far has fallen on deaf ears in Harrisburg.

Fortunately, however, the logistical problems in carrying out lethal injections offer another chance for state leaders to do the right thing. That is, to enact a moratorium on executions, and continue the careful review that should make an ironclad case for outlawing capital punishment in Pennsylvania.

(source: Opinion; philly.com)

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

Pennsylvania death row inmate asks federal judge for stay of execution

A Blair County man to be executed for 3 1st-degree murder convictions asked a federal judge on Monday to stay his execution by Pennsylvania while he appeals his sentences.

Miguel Padilla, 34, of Gallitzin plans a federal challenge of the constitutionality of his convictions and sentence, said the brief filed by Marshall Dayan, an assistant federal public defender who specializes in death penalty appeals.

He's also asking for the court to appoint an attorney to handle his final appeal and waive his filing fees.

Gov. Tom Corbett on Monday signed the death certificate for Padilla.

Padilla's state appeals ran out in June when the Supreme Court refused to hear his challenge of lower court decisions upholding his convictions.

A Blair County jury in 2006 convicted the construction worker of killing three people at an Altoona social club after his friend was denied admittance. Padilla fatally shot Alfred Mignogna, 61, owner of the United Veterans Association Club; Fredrick Rickabaugh Sr., 59, the club doorman; and Stephen M. Heiss, 28, a club patron.

The Mexican government tried to intervene in the state appeals because Padilla had been in the United States illegally since he was about 9 years old. The state Supreme Court in 2008 denied Mexico's petition.

(source: triblive.com)

NORTH CAROLINA:

NC Conservative Group Wants Death Penalty Reviewed

A conservative group is calling on state lawmakers to take another look at the death penalty.

The group NC Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty said the General Assembly should re-evaluate capital punishment in light of some recently vacated murder cases.

2 weeks ago, 2 half brothers were released after new d-n-a evidence cleared them of a murder. One was the longest serving death row inmate in the state.

Last year, Republicans in the legislature passed a law designed to resume executions after years of delays.

(source: Time Warner Cable News)

OHIO:

Opening statements given in Akron death penalty trial delayed by accusations of judge's bias

Text messages and a fingerprint will be presented during the capital murder trial of 1 of 2 men accused in quadruple homicide.

Deshanon Haywood, 22, faces the death penalty if convicted of the aggravated murder of four people on April 18, 2013, at a townhome on Kimlyn Circle.

Opening statements in the case began on Monday.

The case against Haywood was postponed in June when prosecutors accused Summit County Common Pleas Judge Mary Margaret Rowlands of being biased against the death penalty in this case.

Rowlands ultimately recused herself, and the case is being presided over by Judge Paul Gallagher.

In opening statements Monday, Assistant Summit County Prosecutor Joe Dangelo said witnesses will testify that they drove to the townhome with Haywood, 22, and Derrick Brantley, 22, who is serving four consecutive life sentences for aggravated murder in the case.

He is accused of trying to rip off heroin dealer Ronald Roberts, 24. Haywood and Brantley then fatally shot Roberts, as well as Kem Delaney, 23, Maria Nash, 19, and Kiana Welch, 19 - at least once in the back of the head, prosecutors said.

Dangelo said investigators found Haywood's thumb print on a shoe box found on the kitchen counter that contained heroin and a drug scale. He said text messages show Brantley told Haywood he planned to shoot 1 of the men found dead.

Defense attorney Brian Pierce said another man, Isaac Love, who alerted police to the dead bodies, bought a shipment of 100 grams of heroin for himself and Roberts the night before the killings.

He also said that several of the prosecutor's witnesses lied to police during interviews and that Haywood's DNA was never found inside the basement. Pierce also pointed out were sent from Brantley, not Haywood, and that Haywood's phone at the time was off and couldn't receive the messages.

(source: cleveland.com)

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

Jury to hear death penalty case in Trumbull County

A Trumbull county jury will hear testimony on whether 1 man should be put to death for his crime.

On September11th, David Martin was found guilty on all 8 counts in the shooting death of 21 year old Jeremy Cole.

Today, the same jury that convicted Martin will begin proceedings to determine if he will receive the death penalty.

Martin was convicted for shooting Jeremy Cole execution style and wounding Melissa Putnam during what investigators say was an attempted robbery in 2012.

Martin was found guilty on all 8 counts including aggravated murder, aggravated robbery and kidnapping.

Martin is currently serving a 21 year sentence in prison after being linked to a drug and weapons pipeline between Warren and Detroit. He is also allegedly 1 of the inmates who held a Trumbull County deputy hostage back in April.

(source: WFMJ news)

KENTUCKY:

High court to hear pivotal death penalty case

Deborah Pooley hadn't a clue the horror that awaited her when she parked her car outside her Covington apartment the night of May 29, 1987.

At 36, she was set on making a fresh start after a few years in Miami, Florida, had a boyfriend, a manager's position at Barleycorn's Yacht Club and plans to care for her parents in Hamilton, as they grew older.

Instead, her life would come to a grisly end, and her death would lead Kentucky into a fierce debate over justice, the state's death penalty and who should die by it.

For 26 years Gregory L. Wilson has sat on death row for kidnapping, raping and murdering Pooley, assisted by his then-girlfriend Brenda Humphrey, who is serving a life sentence with a chance at parole in 2017.

But now, a new twist may change what is written in history, and add fuel to the ongoing debate over capital punishment, currently on hold in the Bluegrass State because of legal challenges by Wilson and others.

The Supreme Court of Kentucky has agreed to take another look at the case to determine whether Wilson had inadequate representation more than a quarter century ago, and if a full review of DNA evidence should be conducted.

They are scheduled to hear oral arguments on Oct. 16.

Wilson's attorneys, some of the leading public defenders in the state, argue Wilson didn't get the chance to prove he didn't kill Pooley or rape her. Someone else, they suggest, has gotten away with murder for a quarter century.

Attorneys argue Wilson never got fair shot

Depending on whom you ask, Wilson's initial conviction was either solid or a "charade," as one federal judge put it, and with the filing of this case, Wilson's attorneys are asking the Supreme Court of Kentucky to decide, said Michael J. Zydney Mannheimer, a professor of law at Northern Kentucky University.

Depending on the outcome, it could spell another appeal for Wilson, Mannheimer said, and possibly his eventual exoneration of the murder and rape charges.

"If everything is true about what his trial council did ... it would strengthen the (Kentucky court) system to give Mr. Wilson a new trial," said Mannheimer, who served as a co-chair for the American Bar Association's Kentucky Death Penalty Assessment Team, and "weakens the case for executing him."

On that night in 1987, Pooley stepped out of her car and was approached by Wilson and Humphrey, according to the facts established at trial. They intended to rob her, forcing Pooley back into her car at knifepoint.

Humphrey testified that Wilson raped Pooley in the backseat as Humphrey drove. Wilson then bound Pooley's arms with a lamp cord and strangled her to death before they drove across the Indiana line and dumped her naked body in a wooded area. The couple used Pooley's credit cards to go on a shopping spree, where they bought watches and shoes.

Wilson's lawyers, led by Louisville's chief public defender Daniel Goyette, wrote in a brief to the court that Wilson was "represented by attorneys who did nothing to prepare for trial."

He points to reviews by a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge and the American Bar Association reported the trial court sought representation for Wilson by hanging a sign on the courtroom door that read "PLEASE HELP. DESPERATE. THIS CASE CANNOT BE CONTINUED AGAIN."

Ultimately, one of Wilson's attorneys had never tried a felony and the other was a semi-retired lawyer who volunteered as lead counsel for free, 'though he had no office, no staff, no copy machine and no law books,'" according to the ABA review.

Wilson's legal team neglected to cross examine the "jailhouse snitch," who claimed Wilson confessed to the murder and then got special treatment, Goyette wrote. Nor did they call co-defendant Brenda Humphrey's sister to the stand, though it was believed Humphrey confessed to her sister that she had killed Pooley herself.

A full review of the available DNA evidence could further prove that Wilson did not rape or murder Pooley, argues Goyette, who did not return a call from The Enquirer.

Attorneys for the state: Wilson has had plenty of chances

Lawyers for the Kentucky Attorney General's Office will argue against Wilson to the Supreme Court and say Wilson has had ample and equitable opportunity to challenge the jury's verdict 26 years ago.

"The Pooley family has waited for justice for Debbie while Wilson pursued multiple post conviction and civil remedies," Attorney General Jack Conway wrote in Commonwealth's brief, adding later that "Wilson only seeks to muddy the waters in this case."

Conway and Assistant Attorney General Heather Fryman argue that Wilson - who had previous rape convictions in Ohio - has done everything possible to delay his death, including claiming he is mentally deficient and then reversing his claim. Conway also accuses Wilson of using stall tactics.

DNA evidence, even if it does not belong to Wilson, will not definitively prove whether Wilson is guilty or innocent 26 years later, Conway argues.

"The overwhelming evidence of Wilson's guilt was not scientific," Commonwealth's attorneys wrote, noting testimony by Humphrey and his cell mate, items Wilson possessed that had been bought with Pooley's credit cards and more.

"Wilson raped and killed Debbie Pooley because he wanted to rob someone and she was in the right place at the right time," the legal brief concludes.

The AG's office declined a request to discuss the case, as "it would be inappropriate ... to comment on ongoing litigation," said office spokesman Daniel Kemp.

Attempts to reach Pooley's family were unsuccessful.

Legal expert: Wilson case symbolic of death row debate

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear oral arguments on Oct. 16, adding another chapter to the case, which has become one of the most pivotal death penalty cases in Kentucky history.

Mannheimer finds this case an example of a classic problem in death penalty cases across the United States.

"We put more resources into the back end of the process than into the front end," Mannheimer said. "Now 26-27 years later, we are still litigating this. It would be a lot better if we had competent attorneys at the front end."

Kentucky could do this by setting higher standards for attorneys who defend someone facing the death penalty, said Mannheimer, who notes that the bar is higher today than it was in the late 80s.

But questions, like some of those presented in this case, are indicative as to why the death penalty is so controversial right now in Kentucky, Mannheimer said.

"If everything is true about what his trial council did – and nobody seems to be disputing the fact they did little in way of investigating - it would strengthen the (Kentucky court) system to give Mr. Wilson a new trial."

(source: cincinnati.com)

INDIANA:

State to seek death penalty for suspected cop killer

Lake County prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty against a man accused of killing Gary Patrolman Jeffrey Westerfield, according to court records.

An amended information was filed Tuesday against Carl L. Blount, which adds a death sentence request in the homicide of Westerfield, according to court records.

Blount is scheduled to appear in Lake County Criminal Court on Wednesday and will be told about the amended information, according to court records.

Blount, 26, of Gary, was charged with murder July 24 and remains in the Lake County Jail without bail.

Westerfield, 47, was shot to death while sitting in his patrol car early July 6 in the 2600 block of Van Buren Place in Gary, police said. Westerfield was in the area searching for Blount, a suspect in an earlier domestic disturbance, according to court records.

Blount's half-brother, Dontae Blount, told police Carl Blount admitted to shooting the officer, according to the affidavit. Dontae Blount said his brother appeared intoxicated and admitted to the shooting during an emotional outburst.

Carl Blount allegedly told his brother he shot Westerfield while the officer's attention was diverted, according to the affidavit.

Carl Blount was seen running near the crime scene on surveillance video from a day care center, according to the affidavit.

He admitted to being the man in the video but has denied being the shooter, according to court records.

Lake County's last death penalty murder case was against Kevin C. Isom, 48, who received 3 death sentences in March 2013 for killing his wife and 2 stepchildren in their Gary home. The case cost about $750,000, according to county officials.

(source: NWI Times)

TENNESSEE:

Irick seeks to postpone execution

Billy Ray Irick wants to put off his date with the executioner.

Irick, 56, is set to die Oct. 7 by lethal injection for the 1985 rape and murder of a 7-year-old Knoxville girl. But on Monday, Irick's attorneys filed a motion to have the date pushed back because of an ongoing lawsuit.

Irick is among 11 death row inmates suing Tennessee over the secrecy surrounding its lethal injection procedures. That lawsuit is on hold while they await a decision from the Tennessee Court of Appeals over whether the state must turn over the identities of its execution team.

Irick's motion on Monday to the Tennessee Supreme Court argued that the lawsuit is still 6 to 8 months away from being fully decided and that going forward with the execution before those matters conclude would violate his rights.

"Such an order would merely reset the date of Irick's execution to ensure that the state does not execute a man in an unconstitutional manner on Oct. 7," the motion reads.

The state filed a motion Tuesday opposing Irick's request to postpone his execution.

"The state of Tennessee should be allowed to 'execute its moral judgment in [this] case' and allow 'the victims of crime [to] move forward knowing the moral judgment will be carried out,'" the state wrote in its response.

Just last week, the Tennessee Department of Correction began taking applications for media witnesses to Irick's execution, which would be the first since 2009. It's all part of an unprecedented push last year to kick-start the state's long-dormant death penalty.

Irick has been on death row since 1986.

(source: The Tennessean)

MISSOURI:

8th execution in Missouri in 2014 carried out by lethal injection----Earl Ringo Jr. was found guilty of murdering 2 people at a Columbia restaurant in 1998.

A Missouri inmate convicted in a 1998 double homicide was executed by lethal injection after the U.S. Supreme Court and Gov. Jay Nixon denied pleas for clemency, according to a Sept. 9 news release from Nixon's office.

Earl Ringo Jr. was found guilty and later confessed to the murders of Dennis Poyser and Joanna Baysinger at a Columbia restaurant. His accomplice, Quentin Jones, avoided the death penalty by testifying against Ringo. Jones is currently serving a life sentence, according to court documents.

Nixon received an organized petition from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) requesting the postponement of Ringo’s execution, but he decided to let the sentence carry out as initially scheduled.

"The evidence that was presented at trial left no doubt about Ringo's guilt," Nixon said in the release. "My denial of clemency upholds the court's decision to impose the death penalty for these 2 murders."

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster was also in the public eye in relation to Ringo's execution. He asked protesters to remember the severity of Ringo's crime in a Sept. 10 public statement.

"It should not be lost in the national debate over the death penalty that Earl Ringo, Jr. was responsible for the murders of 2 innocent Missourians," Koster said. "For 16 years he avoided payment for this crime. Tonight, he has paid the penalty."

Nixon and Koster are noted advocates of the death penalty. Since they both assuming their respective offices in 2009, they have overseen the execution of 12 death row inmates, including 8 inmates in 2014 alone. No other state has put as many to death in such a short amount of time.

Missouri's efficiency in this matter has drawn a significant amount of criticism from the anti-death penalty public.

Mary Ratliff, president of Missouri NAACP, says her organization has long been fighting for the abolition of the death penalty in Missouri. Ratliff wrote several letters to the governor’s office and attended the Vigil for Life protest outside Boone County Courthouse prior to Ringo's execution on Sept. 10.

"We think that (the death penalty) is barbaric," Ratliff said. "You don't want to be known as the state with the highest number of executions per year."

Entering the public conscious so soon after the death of Michael Brown and the protests in Ferguson, the execution of Ringo has received much public attention, Ratliff said.

Ratliff said she thinks the 2 events are connected in that they both shed light on what she perceives as institutionalized racism within Missouri's legal system.

"There is a disparity in death sentencing for African-American folks," Ratliff said. "You're supposed to be judged by a jury of your peers. Certainly, the racial climate in this country does not lend itself to an African-American person receiving a fair trial. We are very disturbed about the fact that there was an all-white judge, jury and prosecutor."

Ringo's execution has also garnered attention as a result of the petition filed to Nixon as part of recent concern over the use of midazolam, a sedative that has been linked to botched executions in Ohio, Oklahoma and Arizona.

During a deposition in January 2014, Missouri Department of Corrections Director George Lombardi swore under oath that the state would not use midazolam in lethal injection executions due to its controversial nature. According to an investigative report conducted by St. Louis Public Radio, Missouri has since carried out seven executions using midazolam as a sedative.

Midazolam is a uniquely powerful sedative and, according to the Mayo Clinic's website, is "used to produce sleepiness or drowsiness and relieve anxiety before surgery or certain procedures. It is given only by or under the immediate supervision of a doctor trained to use this medicine."

Usually, medical doctors refuse to participate in lethal injection procedures because of the Hippocratic oath. The administration of the lethal drugs is normally left to an execution team comprised of prison employees.

As Missouri garners national attention for its continued use of midazolam, the attorney general's office said the sedative is used as part of a "pre-execution" procedure and therefore cannot be considered part of the lethal injection execution itself.

(source: maneater.com)

WYOMING:

Wyoming Panel Keeps Death Penalty and Endorses Firing Squad

A Wyoming legislative committee is endorsing changing state law to allow firing squads to execute condemned inmates if the state can't find the drugs to carry out lethal injections.

Meeting in Laramie on Friday, the interim Joint Judiciary Committee also considered and rejected a bill that would have called on the full state Legislature to repeal the death penalty altogether.

Wyoming has only 1 inmate on death row. Dale Wayne Eaton is pressing a federal appeal of the death sentence he received 10 years ago for the murder of a Montana woman.

Other states have found it increasingly difficult to get drugs to perform lethal injections. Several recent executions in other states have gone poorly as corrections departments have turned to untried compounds.

(source: KGWN TV news)

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

Firing Squad Support Growing: Wyoming Takes Aim

"Through the efforts of anti-death penalty activists, it's becoming harder to get the drugs necessary for lethal injection," Wyoming State Senator Bruce Burns (R-Sheridan) tells National Review Online of a Friday decision to propose firing-squad executions in the Equality State. "The secondary form of execution is the gas chamber. The problem Wyoming has there is we don't have one. So without the drugs we don't have any form of execution."

Burns serves on the state's interim Joint Judiciary Committee, which considered solutions to the problems lethal-injection state executions are facing all over the country. The committee last week rejected a proposal to ban the death penalty and submitted a proposal that would make Wyoming the third state (along with Utah and Oklahoma) to authorize its department of corrections to use firing squads for executions.

"The committee looked at various means of execution," Burns tells NRO. "Other than lethal injection and gas chamber, the other standard means are the electric chair, hanging and firing squad. Firing squad seemed like the most efficient. It's also usually the most thorough. One of the legislators [Republican State Representative Stephen Watt] asked what if they all miss? But there is less likelihood of all the members of a firing squad missing than there is of the kind of problems we've seen with other means."

An April execution by lethal injection in Oklahoma was "botched" in the sense that condemned prisoner Clayton Lockett's death throes were energetic and lengthy enough to make the grim reality of killing clear to onlookers. That incident provoked a wave of revulsion toward capital punishment, though the death penalty remains popular throughout the United States. In the aftermath of the Lockett execution, some observers, instead of ruling out the death penalty, have begun to question whether state governments' preference for more humanitarian-seeming methods is in fact any less harsh than more traditional forms of state-sponsored killing.

"I tried to put myself in that position," Burns notes. "How would I want to be executed?" The firing squad has actually been a requested means of execution for such prominent prisoners as Major John Andre, the British officer who facilitated Benedict Arnold's defection during the Revolutionary War, and who reportedly remarked after learning that he would instead be hanged, "I am reconciled to my death, but I detest the mode."

The full Wyoming state house will vote on the proposal in January.

(source: National Review)

ARIZONA:

Murder trials, not soap operas

In May 2013, a jury found Jodi Arias guilty for the 2008 murder in Mesa of her lover, Travis Alexander. It then decided that her crime was "cruel, heinous or depraved," making Arias eligible for the death penalty. During the sentencing phase of the trial, however, the jury failed to reach a unanimous decision about whether to assign the death penalty or life in prison. The hung jury prompted Judge Sherry Stephens to declare a mistrial. Arias' retrial is set for Sept. 29.

Last week, The Arizona Republic published an article explaining that Stephens wouldn't let Arias' lawyer remove himself from the case after he and co-counsel Jennifer Willmott were ordered to act as legal advisers.

Scroll down in the online version of the article and there is a timeline labeled "Jodi Arias Murder Case: 20 Top Moments," followed by additional articles. There's also a page on the website titled, "Killer Romance: Inside the Jodi Arias Trial," an archive of the case from January 2013 through June 2013.

A reader might easily mistake the page for a Law & Order SVU promotional site. It almost makes one forget that Arias is a real human being, not a character in a soap opera.

The Arizona Republic's coverage of the Jodi Arias trial reflects the countrywide attention that the case has generated. During the trial, Arias dominated social media and national television. The case developed a cult-like following, and passionate protestors cried out for vengeance against Arias. As the retrial date looms nearer, the general public will undoubtedly begin to rehash a favorite debate: whether or not Arias deserves to live.

If death were not on the table, the sentencing portion of Arias' trial would be over. Passion would have been removed from the deliberation process, and Arias would already have begun serving a life sentence. But because the prosecution refused to settle for life in prison, taxpayers must continue to fund the trial, which has already cost more than $2 million. And should the new jury reach a guilty verdict, a recent study by the Urban Institute's Justice Policy Center indicates that the cost of appeals in death penalty cases exceeds the price of lifetime incarceration.

The death penalty desensitizes people to an institution that allows citizens to kill other citizens. By portraying death penalty trials as sick reality shows, the media glorifies government-sanctioned murder and trivializes the grave nature of capital cases. That it has become socially acceptable to engage in casual dinner conversation about Arias' fundamental right to life provides evidence for this phenomenon.

Furthermore, sensationalistic news stories about death penalty proceedings undermine the justice system by preventing defendants from receiving unbiased trials. It seems impossible that the picketers and television crews swarming Jodi Arias' courtroom did not exert any influence on the jury. Such media attention creates an environment where public perception is more important than the search for truth.

Regardless of Arias' innocence or guilt, the idea that putting a person to death can be taken so lightly is abhorrent. Ultimately, so long as the death penalty is practiced in this country, we will face the continued devaluation of life at the hands of the media.

(source: Elizabeth Hannah is a neuroscience & cognitive science sophomore; The (Univ. Arizona) Daily Wildcat)

IRAN----executions

Prisoners hanged in Qom and Uromiyeh cities

As the wave of executions in Iran continue unabated under Hassan Rouhani, the Iranian regime henchmen hanged a prisoner in city of Qum on Tuesday. Another prisoner was hanged in city of Uromiyeh in north western Iran on Monday.

The prisoner hanged in the main prison in city of Qum was identified as Q.S., state-run news agency IRNA reported. He had been arrested on drug related charges. The execution in Uromiyeh prison has not been covered by the media.

On Friday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's said in his annual report to the General Assembly expressed alarm at the recent increase in executions in Iran.

The report said: the promises made by Hassan Rouhani "have not yet led to significant improvements, and restrictions on freedom of expression continue to affect many areas of life."

He also criticized Tehran for carrying out death sentences on juveniles. "According to information gathered from reliable sources, more than 160 juveniles are currently on death row and at least 2 have been executed in recent months for crimes that they committed when they were younger than 18," Ban's report said.

Under so-called 'moderate' Hassan Rouhani the country has faced highest number of executions in a year compared to any Iranian regime's president for the past 25 years.

(source: NCR-Iran)

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

Death Sentence for "Insulting the Prophet" on Facebook

A blogger found guilty of insulting the Prophet Mohammad in his postings on Facebook has been sentenced to death. An informed source told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that the blogger, Soheil Arabi, will be able to appeal the decision until September 20, 2014.

Agents from the Revolutionary Guards Corps' (IRGC) Sarallah Base arrested Soheil Arabi, 30, and his wife in November 2013. Arabi's wife was released a few hours later, but he was kept in solitary confinement for 2 months inside IRGC's Ward 2-A at Evin Prison, before he was transferred to Evin's General Ward 350. Branch 76 of the Tehran Criminal Court, under Judge Khorasani, found Arabi guilty of "sabb al-nabi" (insulting the Prophet), on August 30, 2014.

"The way he was arrested was illegal. It is not clear how the agents were able to enter their home at that time in the morning. All the doors were locked and family members were asleep. Agents entered his home and bedroom. He and his wife were arrested and some of their photographs and personal belongings were taken after their home was searched," said the source.

"Soheil had 8 Facebook pages under different names, and he was charged with insulting the Imams and the Prophet because of the contents of those pages. He has accepted his charges, but throughout the trial, he stated that he wrote the material without thinking and in poor psychological condition," the source told the Campaign.

The source noted that the Tehran Penal Court issued its ruling without regard for Article 264 of the Islamic Penal Code. "Article 262 of the Islamic Penal Code states that if a person insults the Prophet of Islam, his punishment is death. But in Article 264, it explicitly says that if a suspect merely claims in court that he said the insulting words in anger, in quoting someone, or by mistake, his death sentence will be converted to 74 lashes. I would like to emphasize that if only the suspect claims this, he will not be eligible for death, and there is no need to even prove his claim," added the source.

"Unfortunately, despite this Article and the explanations provided, the judges issued the death sentence. They didn't even take any notice of Soheil's statements in court in which he repeated several times that he wrote the posts under poor [psychological] conditions, and that he is remorseful. 3 of the judges ruled for the death sentence, and 2 ruled for imprisonment," said the source.

According to the source, Soheil Arabi has another judicial case. On September 4, 2014, Branch 15 of Tehran Revolutionary Court under Judge Salavati sentenced Arabi to the maximum punishment of 3 years in prison on charges of "insulting the Supreme Leader" and "propaganda against the state," through his writings on Facebook.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

PAKISTAN:

Restore Death Penalty Moratorium----Planned Execution a Cruel Step Backward

Press release

The Pakistani government should immediately halt a planned execution and officially reinstate its moratorium on the death penalty, Human Rights Watch said today. The execution of Shoaib Sarwar, scheduled for September 18, 2014, will end Pakistan's unofficial 6-year death penalty moratorium by civilian courts and return Pakistan to the dwindling ranks of countries imposing capital punishment.

The Jail Department scheduled Sarwar's execution following President Mamnoon Hussain's rejection of Sarwar's clemency plea. The execution would be the first of a civilian in Pakistan since 2008. Pakistan has more than 8,000 prisoners on death row, one of the world's largest populations of prisoners facing execution.

"Pakistan is about to revert to the odious practice of sending people to the gallows after a six-year unofficial moratorium," said Brad Adams, Asia director. "The government should declare an official moratorium, commute all existing death sentences, and then join the international trend by abolishing the death penalty once and for all."

The Rawalpindi District and Sessions Court sentenced Sarwar to death on July 2, 1998 for murder. The Lahore High Court's Rawalpindi bench rejected Sarwar's appeal on July 2, 2003. On April 3, 2006, the Pakistani Supreme Court confirmed the sentence.

The Pakistani government's move toward resuming the death penalty began on July 4, 2013, when the government of the newly elected prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, refused to renew a 2008 Presidential Order imposing a moratorium on executions. Pakistani law mandates capital punishment for 28 offenses, including murder, rape, treason, and blasphemy.

In June 2008, Human Rights Watch had written to then-Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, and met with him the following month urging action to abolish the death penalty and impose a moratorium pending abolition. Soon after the military ruler, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, was ousted from the presidency in August 2008, the government imposed a de facto moratorium on judicial executions. The only exception was executions carried out by a military court.

During military rule, Pakistan each year executed among the highest number of people of any country. In 2005, for example, according to Amnesty International, Pakistan sentenced more than 241 people to death and executed at least 31, the 5th-highest total in the world.

Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as an inherently irreversible, inhumane punishment. A majority of countries have abolished the practice. On December 18, 2007, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution by a wide margin calling for a worldwide moratorium on executions.

The government's decision to end its unofficial moratorium on the use of the death penalty occurs in the wake of the government's approval on July 8, 2014, of an overly broad and draconian counterterrorism law, the Protection of Pakistan Bill.

"Shoaib Sarwar's execution would undo one of the Pakistani government's most tangible human rights successes," Adams said. "With such vague and overly broad criminal laws on the books, it could open the door to irreversible miscarriages of justice."

(source: Human Rights Watch)

NIGERIA:

Mutiny: TUC, Falana, Agbaje, others oppose death sentence on Maiduguri 12

The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, has called on the Federal Government and the military authorities to rescind the death sentence passed on the 12 soldiers accused of mutiny.

The soldiers were in the early hours of yesterday sentenced to death by a special court over allegation of criminal conspiracy to commit mutiny, disobeying lawful orders and various acts said to be inimical to military service.

TUC in a statement by its National President, Bobboi Bala Kaigama, and Secretary-General, Musa Lawal, stated that instead of shedding more blood, the military hierarchy should rather fish out the Boko Haram apologists among its ranks.

The union questioned the military authorities' approach to the matter, insisting that there were more to the issue than being told.

The statement said: "To us, the issues are clearly more and the congress makes bold to say that the approach adopted on the issue that is already at the public domain is very incorrect.

"We reiterate that we abhor the temperamental response of the tried soldiers to the needless loss of lives of their colleagues due to needless orders from above, and do urge the military to put its house in order and fish out all the Boko Haram apologists within its ranks.

"It will be recalled that His Excellency the Pesident, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan had earlier said that there are Boko Haram members in his cabinet.

"Also, we recall that the Bornu State government had cried out that the sect had more sophisticated weapons than our military.

"If that is the case, it therefore means that members of the sect are everywhere, including the military.

"We would not want to mention names but the dailies have it that there were senior military officers who before the Boko Haram crisis were poor but have now suddenly become billionaires overnight while the innocent rank and file of the military is killed by the sect due to their superior weapons.

"The death sentence is not only a special gift to the Boko Haram terrorist, but the surest means of demobilising the rank and file of the Nigerian soldiers.

"Our position is that the Federal Government and the military leadership should look into the grievances of soldiers, especially now. "We say no to death sentence because we cannot afford to lose more soldiers."

All the convicted and sentenced soldiers, including those that were discharged and acquitted of all the charges are within the rank and file.

The 12 soldiers found guilty of mutiny are Cpl Jasper Braidolor, Cpl David Musa, LCpl Friday Onun, LCpl Yusuf Shuaibu, LCp-lIgomu Emmanuel, Pte Andrew Ngbede, PteNurudeen Ahmed, PteIfeanyiAlukhagbe, PteAlao Samuel, PteAmadiChukwudi, Pte Allan Linu, and LCpl Stephen Clement

The court martial found 5 other soldiers innocent of all 5 counts of insub­ordinate behaviour, false accusation, mutiny, AWOL and conduct to the prejudice of service discipline.

Therefore, they were discharged and acquitted.

The 5 acquitted soldiers are Cpl David Luhbut, CplMuhammedSani, PteIsehUbong, PteSabastineGwaba and PteInama Samuel.

The 18th soldier, Private Ichocho Jeremiah, was found guilty of going AWOL (absent without leave) and was sentenced to 28 days in prison with hard labour.

Jeremiah was also found guilty of conduct to the prejudice of service discipline, but he was only reprimanded for this offence.

Meanwhile, prominent lawyers a have also condemned the verdict.

In his comment, former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Rotimi Akeredolu, urged that the death sentence should be commuted in view of the circumstances surrounding the mutiny.

Human rights lawyer, Fred Agbaje, said the verdict did not come as a surprise to him, adding that he had han­dled several cases emanating from court marshal. "In most cases, their verdict is against the constitution."

He pointed that just recently, a Colonel in the Nigerian Army that was convicted by the Military Court Marshal was set free by the Court of Appeal and was asked to be reinstated to his rank but the military is yet to obey court order.

According to Agbaje, the verdict of the Court Marshal must be subjected to strict judicial scrutiny by the Court of Appeal.

For his part, another human rights lawyer, Jiti Ogu­nye called for a commuter of the sentence and the reconsideration of the matter by the President as the Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces.

Ogunye recalled that the children and spouses of some soldiers recently blocked the barrack insisting that they would not allow the military to send their husbands to death.

According to him, even if the military sentenced 100 soldiers to death for mutiny, it would not solved the problem.

Also reacting, Fiery lawyer, Femi Falana, said if the death sentence of the Maiduguri 12 is confirmed by the Army Council, the convicted soldiers should take the case to the Court of Appeal.

Falana remarked that the Court of Appeal is likely to follow its decision in the case of Yussuf and 21 others versus Nigerian Army (2003) 36 WRN 68 "wherein the sentence of life imprisonment passed on the appellants who had rioted at the Cairo Airport in Egypt was quashed.

"It was the finding of the Court that the offense of mutiny complained of by the respondent was instigated by the officers who had diverted the medical allowances which ought to have been paid to the convicts while receiving medical treatment in Egypt", he stated.

Falana argued that the facts and circumstance of the mutinous act of the convicted soldiers should be taken into consideration.

"Before the incident, the soldiers at the Maimalari cantonment had complained of insufficient ammunition, food and allowances.

"The visit of the GOC was said to have coincided with the arrival of the corpses of soldiers killed in an ambush in Chibok on the night of May 13, 2014. It was the tragic situation which reportedly infuriated the soldiers. Having investigated and confirmed the circumstances which led to the mutiny in question the military authorities removed the GOC."

Falana pointed out that while mutiny cannot be condoned by the armed forces because it strikes at the foundation of discipline in the military, he emphasised that the 18 soldiers were erroneously charged under section 52(1) of the Armed Forces Act Cap A20 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

In the circumstance, the 12 convicts should have been charged under section 52(2) of the Armed Forces Act which provides for life imprisonment.

He noted that the General Officer Commanding whose car was shot at was not killed, which explains why the soldiers were charged with attempted murder which does not attract the death penalty.

The lawyer recalled that in the case of the Akure 27, the convicted soldiers were equally charged with mutiny but convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

He said the Army Council reduced the sentence of life imprisonment to seven years and later pardoned the convicts, after it considered that the allowances of the convicts who had served in Liberia were diverted by some military officers.

(source: Daily Post)

SUDAN----executions

Darfur rebels convicted of murder executed

On Sunday, the management of the federal Kober prison in Khartoum North carried-out the death penalty of 2 rebels, accused of killing Chinese workers in West Kordofan.

The members of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) were sentenced to death on charges of murdering the 5 Chinese who were working at the Abu Dafra oil field in West Kordofan in 2008. 17 others were acquitted.

On 18 October 2008, a group of 35 JEM rebels kidnapped nine Chinese oil workers and a Sudanese driver at the Abu Dafra oil field. The bodies of 5 workers were found a few days later.

JEM strongly condemned the execution of the "freedom fighters" in Kober prison, stressing that "no JEM combatant had anything to do with the assassination of the Chinese in Abu Dafra".

Jibril Adam Bilal, the spokesman for the movement, told Radio Dabanga that the trial, in which the two were convicted, was politically motivated. "It was directed by the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), and has nothing to do with the judiciary in the country."

He stressed the need to investigate and document "this crime committed against innocent people" by human rights organisations.

(source: radioabanga.org)

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

Killers of Chinese oil workers hanged

Sudan has hanged 2 people convicted over the killing of Chinese oil workers and damaging an oil pipeline in troubled South Kordofan State 6 years ago.

The Sudanese ministry of Justice confirmed in a statement on Tuesday that the management of the Federal Kober Prison in Khartoum has executed the death penalty on the 2 convicts.

They were fighters of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) found guilty of killing the Chinese workers who were working at the Abu Dafra oil field in West Kordofan in 2008.

17 others Chinese workers were freed after spending a long time in captivity, the ministry added.

JEM has strongly condemned the execution of the convicts whom he described as freedom fighters claiming none of its ex combatants were involved in the death of the Chinese.

JEM spokesman Jibril Adam Bilal described the trial of the pair as politically motivated.

On 18 October 2008, nine Chinese oil workers and a Sudanese driver were said to have been abducted from the Abu Dafra oilfield.

The bodies of 5 Chinese workers were found a few days later near the area where they were abducted.

(source: StarAfrica.com)

CZECH REPUBLIC:

Babis walks back death penalty comments----Finance minister says his answer to a radio interviewer was misinterpreted

Czech Deputy PM, Finance Minister and ANO leader Andrej Babis would be for death penalty's reintroduction, when he thinks of the recent murder of a schoolgirl in northern Bohemia and when he puts himself in the position of the girl's father, he told Impuls Radio today. "I definitely would, as if I put myself in the role of her father, I, too, would probably want to kill him [the murderer]," Babis said in response to the interviewer's question.

Later he told journalists that he does not support the reintroduction of death penalty. He can only imagine what the killed girl's family feels, he said.

"I said nothing like that. I reacted to a situation if I were the father of the girl who was raped and killed, I'd probably kill the murderer," Babis said, adding that he does not want to support death penalty's reintroduction.

"I have 4 children and 2 granddaughters, I can put myself in the role of that mother, it is horrible," Babis said.

The 9-year-old girl from Klasterec nad Ohri was found dead last week. The police say she was raped and murdered by a 25-year-old man, a distant relative of hers.

The suspect has stayed in custody since Friday.

Death penalty was abolished in the then Czechoslovakia in 1990, shortly after the fall of the communist regime.

Since then, prison sentences from 20 to 30 years and life imprisonment have been viewed as exceptional punishment.

The death penalty is banned by the Charter of the Fundamental Rights and Freedoms that is part of the constitutional order of the Czech Republic, one of Czechoslovakia's 2 successor states since 1993.

The death penalty is banned by the European Union's Charter of Fundamental Rights, but it is applied in some African countries, almost all over Asia and in a majority of U.S. states.

In the Czech Republic, debates over its reintroduction usually flare up in reaction to brutal crimes. By reintroducing capital punishment, Prague would violate international agreements it joined in the past.

(source: Prague Post)

CHINA:

Former Housing Deputy Receives Death Penalty for Bribery Charges in China's Zhejiang Province

A former senior official of China's Hangzhou Housing Bureau has been sentenced to death on Tuesday after a court found him guilty of bribery and abuse of power.

Zhang Xin, former deputy chief of the housing authority, was given a death sentence with a two-year reprieve on Tuesday by the Hangzhou Intermediate People's Court in the province of Zhejiang.

A death sentence with reprieve gives the convicted individual time to make amends and show that he has changed his ways.

If the convict intentionally commits another crime during the period of the given reprieve, he will be executed. Otherwise, his sentence will then be reduced to lifetime imprisonment.

Zhang was accused of taking bribes with a total of 124 million yuan or US$20 million-worth of vehicles, apartments and cash to aid some people in construction projects that involved the agency.

The former housing deputy has also been causing 89 million yuan-worth of public asset loses and has been caught embezzling about 10.5 million yuan while conspiring with another suspected economic criminal, Dong Yilin.

According to the Xinhua news report, Zhang's personal assets and properties will be confiscated while Dong was given a sentence of 10 years' incarceration. 2 million-worth of assets has also been confiscated from the latter.

On the same day of the housing deputy's sentencing, Zhang Xiaodong, former secretary for the Communist Party of China in Henan Province's Anyang City stood trial for corruption allegations.

The former party secretary allegedly received bribes amounting to over 21 million yuan or US$3.4 million for his assistance to some in the construction industry to be able to win construction projects and post delegations which are supposedly opened for bidding.

He was also accused of being involved in 36 other corruption cases tried in the Zhumadian City Intermediate People's Court.

During the trial, he had expressed his regret for committing such crime and had vowed to change his ways.

No verdict has been announced as of Xinhua's report on Wednesday.

(source: Chinatopix.com)

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

Top procuratorate wants pushback on death penalty cases

China's local prosecutors were encouraged by the country's top procuratorate on Monday to appeal court verdicts when they did not deliver a death sentence to criminals who committed capital crimes.

The Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP) publicized a fifth set of guidelines clarifying appealing standards for local procuratorates on Monday.

The guidelines are aimed at curbing local prosecutors' tendency to pay more attention to public prosecution than to appealing improper court verdicts, a tendency that manifests itself in local prosecutors only appealing light sentences, the Legal Daily reported Tuesday.

In one of the three cases cited in the guidelines, the suspect was sentenced to death after the local prosecutors appealed a death sentence with reprieve imposed in the first trial, arguing that the suspect was a repeat criminal offender.

As debate on capital punishment heated up across China, in 2007 the Supreme People's Court claimed the right to review all death penalties handed down by lower courts. This move indicates that China is not currently considering an abolition of the death penalty, Hong Daode, a criminal procedure law professor at the China University of Political Science and Law, told the Global Times.

The encouragement by the top procuratorate was partly due to local courts' insufficient understanding of prudent judgment and standards for the death penalty, Hong said.

A criminal can only receive harsher sentences if prosecutors appealed a verdict in the belief that it was lighter than the law demanded, Hong said.

"There is a principle that courts shall not give heavier punishment if it is the accused that filed an appeal," Hong said.

But the move also reflects serious conflicts between local procuratorates and courts, since courts have increasingly handed down sentences that do not correspond with charges filed by prosecutors, Mo Shaoping, an experienced criminal defense lawyer, told the Global Times.

Mo said he disapproved of the new guidelines, as procuratorates that have already held a strong position during trial should not have their role strengthened further.

Courts support prosecutors' accusations in a majority of cases, although recent years have seen a slight increase in the number of cases in which courts dismissed charges, Mo said.

However, Mo admitted that some local procuratorates had no choice but to appeal, since local courts may in some cases be forced by some outside power to make an unfair judgment.

(source: People's Daily)

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

Lawyers hope Chinese university professor will be spared death penalty ---- China to make an example of Uighur university professor who dared to be a lone voice of criticism over its policies in the troubled region of Xinjiang

The only public figure inside China who dared to question Beijing's policy in the vast and troubled region of Xinjiang will hopefully escape the death penalty at his trial on Wednesday.

Ilham Tohti, a 44-year-old economics professor and ethnic Uighur, has spent nine months in detention, being placed in a cell with convicted Han Chinese rapists, drug dealers and thieves who are waiting for their appeal hearings.

After he allegedly "quarrelled" with his cellmates, the authorities placed him in leg shackles in August which have caused suppurating sores, his lawyer said.

On Wednesday, Prof Tohti will be put on trial for "separatism", accusing him of stirring up unrest between Uighurs living in Xinjiang and Han Chinese through his website, Uighurbiz, and his classes at a leading university in Beijing.

The case is being closely watched by British and foreign diplomats, and the United States has already called for his release.

His wife, Guzailai Nu'er, has travelled to Urumqi for the trial but said she has not told the couple's sons about their father's perilous situation.

"My sons asked me: 'Why you are leaving, Mum? When are you coming back? Is dad coming home soon?' I can only lie to them that I will come back and he will too. My first son was sick for three months after his father was taken away. I simply cannot tell them anything. But he is now in second grade in primary school and has sensed something when I talked about it on the phone. He heard his father was sick and cried," she said.

"I am especially worried about my husband's health," she added "I cannot eat. I cannot sleep at night."

There are fears that the Communist party is seeking to make an example of Prof Tohti after a spike in violence in Xinjiang since 2012.

After the European Union expressed its concern over Mr Tohti's detention earlier this year, Chinese officials wrote a letter suggesting that he had played a role in a terrorist attack in Selibuya town, near Kashgar, on April 23 2013, in which 21 people died.

They also linked him to an attack in Lukqun town, Shanshan county, in which 2 policemen and 22 civilians died.

In January, the public security bureau in Urumqi tweeted that Prof Tohti had called the participants in the 2 attacks "heroes" and had "incited students to hate the country and the government and to topple the government".

1 observer speculated that after a dramatic escalation in violence between 2012, when 12 people were killed in attacks in Xinjiang, and 2013, when 126 people died, the authorities began making a case against Prof Tohti, who is the most famous advocate of Uighur rights.

"Last summer when they went home to Xinjiang there were people following them, which did not usually happen," said the source. "And they apparently have five to six hours of videotape of his classes, which suggests they have been filming him for a while."

If the 2 attacks form part of the charges in court, Mr Tohti could face a death penalty.

However, his lawyers said there was no mention of a possible death penalty in his indictment and that the maximum sentence should be life imprisonment.

"I cannot see any possibility of the death sentence based on the charges we have seen so far," said Li Fangping, one of his lawyers. "I have not seen any specific charges linking him to a terrorist attack, except for one saying that some young people had read materials on his website and returned to Xinjiang in 2009 and taken part in riots".

Maya Wang, a researcher at Human Rights Watch in Hong Kong, said it would be "hard to stick a charge like terrorism on him". She said: "Even calling him a separatist is a problem. He is known for his very measured, moderate criticism of government policy in Xinjiang, pointing out, for example, that the policy of Han Chinese migration needs to be re-evaluated in light of the unemployment in Xinjiang," she said.

1 former student of Prof Tohti wrote in an essay that she was "shocked and sad" at his arrest.

"He always expressed sincere but not radical opinions about ethnic minority policies and the development of Xinjiang. He sponsored several Uighur students, helping them to go to school and find jobs.

"He told us violence cannot solve any problems, including ethnic disputes and we should be filial to our parents and not waste our time."

In a lengthy biographical essay written in January 2011and recently translated by the China Change website, Mr Tohti pointed out that many of his family are Communist party cadres and that he loved "this land which has nurtured me".

He pointed out that he had deliberately avoided being involved with foreign organisations, aware that he could be painted as a traitor.

"Although some people today continue to describe me as a political figure, or hope that I will become one, from the start I have maintained that I am only a scholar, and harbour neither the intention nor the desire to be politicised," he wrote.

He added that his website, Uighurbiz, was a platform for exchanging ideas and opinions about Xinjiang and was carefully managed "to prevent any pro-independence, separatist, or irresponsible inflammatory postings, and it does not post anything subversive.

"However, it does not forbid posts that expose social ills in Xinjiang or elsewhere, so long as they show good intentions and the content is authentic."

7 of Mr Tohti's students were also detained by police in January and nothing has been heard of them since. Among them is Mutellip Imin, who helped to run the Uighurbiz website and was a student at Istanbul university.

Mutellip Imin

On his Twitter feedand blog, Mr Imin complained regularly about mistreatment by the police and highlighted cases of Uighurs who had been "disappeared" by the authorities.

Atikem Rozi

His girlfriend, 23-year-old Atikem Rozi, has also vanished into detention. She publicly questioned why her three applications for a passport had been rejected, earning herself a rebuke from the authorities and a summons for her parents to the local police station.

(source: The Telegraph)

MALDIVES:

Maldives slams Human Rights Council critics after death penalty remarks

The Maldives has accused critics in the UN Human Rights Council of making statements "rooted on misrepresentation and media speculation".

The response followed comments made by the Swiss delegation criticising the Maldives for its decision to allow the death penalty for minors.

"Switzerland condemns the recent decision of the Maldives Government to amend its legislation to permit the death penalty for children as young as 7 years old - this is a grave contravention of international law," said the Swiss during yesterday's session.

The Maldives has this year amended regulations regarding the death penalty as well as introducing a new penal code. Combined, the rules allow for the sentencing of a minor to death, though execution cannot be carried out until the offender is 18-years-old.

Using its right of reply, the Maldives pointed out that its new penal code - passed in April - granted the "immaturity excuse" to all those under the age of 15.

"The Maldives once again would like to state on record that this Council is mandated to do serious work and it is appalling that statements made here are rooted on misrepresentation and media speculation," said the Maldivian delegation.

After announcing plans to end the 60 year moratorium on the death penalty in January, new regulations were finalised in April, enabling the state to carry out execution by lethal injection.

Legal sources have told Minivan News that, while the new penal code does include the "immaturity excuse" - removing criminal responsibility from those under 15, Article 15c still allows for minors to be held accountable for hadd offences.

The Maldives legal system follows a combination of common law and Islamic Sharia, with homicide considered a hadd offence warranting a sentence of death.

Informing the Human Rights Council of the new Penal Code, the Maldives delegation called it "a hallmark piece of legislation that is intended to modernise the criminal justice system of the Maldives and to bring it on a par with international best standards."

In response to the Swiss remarks made during the general debate section yesterday's session, the Maldives noted that it "holds the world's longest moratorium on the death penalty".

However, the government's decision to end the unofficial moratorium on the practice has been met with global condemnation, with both the EU and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urging reconsideration of the decision.

"We urge the Government to retain its moratorium on the use of the death penalty in all circumstances, particularly in cases that involve juvenile offenders and to work towards abolishing the practice altogether," said Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the OHCHR.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International has called such moves a "retrograde step and a serious setback for human rights in the country".

Following a wave of attacks in the country last month, resulting in 3 deaths, the Ministry of Home Affairs reiterated that it would not hesitate to implement the death penalty.

(source: Minivan News)

BANGLADESH:

Kamaruzzaman appeal verdict any day

The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court will deliver its verdict any day on an appeal filed by Jamaat-e-Islami Assistant Secretary General Mohammad Kamaruzzaman. The 4-member Appellate Division bench passed the order on Wednesday afternoon, keeping the case CAV meaning 'verdict would be delivered later'.

On May 9 of last year, International Crimes Tribunal 2 awarded death penalty to the Jamaat leader and also a former al-Badr leader on 2 out of the 7 charges brought against him.

He was given the death penalty for genocide at Sohagpur and murder of Golam Mostafa.

The tribunal said: "It would not be fair, if Kamaruzzaman was not penalised with capital punishment."

On June 6, Kamaruzzaman's lawyers filed an appeal petition, challenging the tribunal verdict.

(source: Dhaka Tribune)

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

Bangladesh court commutes top JI leader's death sentence

Bangladesh's highest court on Wednesday commuted the death sentence on a top Jamaat-e-Islami leader, triggering clashes between police and secular protesters who slammed the decision as too lenient.

In a surprise ruling, the Supreme Court said 74-year-old Delwar Hossain Sayedee should spend "the rest of his natural life" in jail for crimes during the 1971 liberation war with Pakistan.

Sayedee's death penalty passed last year by a war-crimes tribunal triggered the deadliest political violence in the country's history, and thousands of police were deployed before Wednesday's ruling.

"We had expected that the court would uphold his death sentence," Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told, adding he was unhappy with the verdict.

Alam said Sayedee was a notorious war criminal and "torturer of women" who had forcibly converted Hindus to Islam during the nine-month war, which led to the creation of Bangladesh from the former East Pakistan.

Although the ruling was likely to appease hardliner blamed for last year's deadly clashes, violence erupted on Wednesday between police and hundreds of angry protesters.

Police fired tear gas and a water cannon at demonstrators who had converged on Dhaka University.

Armed with batons, police tried to disperse the protesters who shouted slogans and hurled stones at officers. Popular preacher - Sayedee was vice-president of Jamaat-e-Islami, the country's largest Islamist party, and a popular preacher when he was found guilty in February last year. Many supporters claimed to have seen his face on the moon in a mark of his "saintly" status.

His conviction on 8 charges of murder, rape and persecution of Hindus sparked riots by tens of thousands of supporters nationwide, leaving more than 100 people dead. Sayedee's lawyer said he was dissatisfied with the latest ruling, adding his client should have been acquitted on all charges. "The evidence against him does not warrant conviction or sentencing even for a day," lawyer Tajul Islam told.

Sayedee is among about a dozen Islamic leaders to have been convicted by the much-criticised war crimes tribunal set up by the secular government to investigate atrocities during the 1971 conflict.

(source: The News)

ISRAEL:

Calls for Death Penalty Against Repeat Terrorist Murderer----Arutz Sheva speaks to family of superintendent Baruch Mizrahi, as trial starts on his murderer - a terrorist freed in the Shalit deal.

The military court at Ofer on Wednesday morning opened proceedings against the father and son terrorist duo that killed police Chief Superintendent Col. Baruch Mizrahi hy''d in April, as he drove to Kiryat Arba for a Passover seder meal with his pregnant wife and 3 of his children.

Mizrahi's murderer was Ziyad Awad, one of 1,027 terrorists freed in the 2011 Gilad Shalit deal. In carrying out the attack the terrorist from the town of Idna, located to the west of Hevron, was aided by his 18-year-old Az a-Din who gathered up evidence after the shooting.

Members of the Almagor terror victims organization arrived at the court in the name of the bereaved family, and demanded the death penalty against the terrorist.

Given the nature of the crime and the fact that Awad returned to terror, Almagor argued he was deserving of the death penalty, and likewise called for life imprisonment for Az a-Din.

In the attack Mizrahi's pregnant wife Hadas was wounded, and a child in another car was also lightly wounded.

"I was unable to enter the discussion and so I stayed outside," said Hadas, noting that she was unable to look at the "monsters" who murdered her husband in cold blood. "I hope that the state of Israel will change its stance and rule the death penalty against the murderer."

Talking about the experience of her family since the brutal murder, Hadas noted "this is a huge difficulty that is impossible to describe. The children go to kindergarten and school without their dad who so wanted to accompany them for the first time. It's very hard for the family. We hope to rehabilitate, we will get up and try to be a happy family, despite the enormous difficulty."

If Israel used the death penalty, Mizrahi "would be alive"

Security forces demolished the home of the 42-year-old Awad in July, after a court overruled a petition against the move.

The judges noted that Az a-Din was involved "up to his neck" in carrying out the attack, and that Awad's wife was also well aware of the weapons stored in the home.

Police investigations revealed that Awad told his son Az a-Din that his motive for murdering Mizrahi was religious, and that "according to the religion of Islam, everyone who kills a Jews goes to paradise."

Awad was previously jailed for murdering Palestinian Arabs suspected of cooperating with Israel, before being released in the Shalit deal.

Hadas noted that if the terrorist had been handed a death sentence her husband, head of the Technology Division in the Sigint Unit, would still be alive today.

"Had they not had a bargaining chip, and had they not known that they can be freed - Baruch would have been alive," said Mizrahi. "A death sentence is the solution and we would like to hope that the state of Israel will give terrorists death sentences, not a prison sentence that is a 5-star hotel and not a university for training for the next terror attacks."

Reenacting the event, a tearful Hadas said "we were driving to the seder in our car when (the terrorist) shot at us, he hit Baruch in the head, I managed to hide our children." Hadas was able to regain control of the car and prevent it from crashing despite being shot in the back.

(source: Israel National News)

SEPTEMBER 16, 2014:

TEXAS----impending execution

Arlington woman's execution set for Wednesday

An Arlington woman who abused and starved the 9-year-old son of her live-in girlfriend is set to be executed Wednesday, the 1st Tarrant County woman to be put to death since executions resumed in Texas in 1982.

Lisa Ann Coleman, 38, was convicted in 2006 in the death of Davontae Williams, 1 of 3 children of Marcella Williams.

Davontae’s body was found July 26, 2004. He had been beaten and bound, weighed 35 pounds and his body bore more than 250 scars, according to evidence presented at trial.

Initially, both Coleman and Williams were charged with capital murder.

Coleman's appellate attorney, John Stickels, filed a clemency application on Aug. 27, arguing that Coleman is not guilty of capital murder and requesting that Gov. Rick Perry commute her sentence to life in prison. The board voted unanimously on Monday not to recommend commutation or a reprieve of Coleman's sentence.

The clemency petition states that Coleman may be guilty of causing Devontae's death but not guilty of capital murder.

Stickels said Coleman was punished with death because she had the temerity to take her case to a jury. Prosecutors never offered Coleman a plea bargain as they later did Williams, Stickels said.

"What she's really guilty of is being a black lesbian," Stickels said. "If she is executed, it will be because of her sexual orientation. Her sexual orientation played a role in the state choosing to seek the death penalty and in her getting the death penalty.

"I have hope that I can save her."

After Coleman was sentenced to death, Williams pleaded guilty to capital murder in exchange for a life sentence and will be eligible for parole in July 2044, when she is 66.

If Coleman is executed Wednesday, she will be the 6th woman put to death in Texas since 1982, according to Texas Department of Criminal Justice records.

Case based on kidnapping

Coleman was charged with capital murder before the Texas statute changed in 2011 making the killing of a child age 10 or younger a capital crime. In Coleman's case, prosecutors used kidnapping as the underlying charge justifying the death penalty.

Prosecutors argued at her trial that Coleman did not allow Davontae to have visitors, kept him from visiting others by restraining him and told people he was not at the apartment when he was there, in effect saying that using such restraints and keeping Davontae's location a secret was kidnapping.

Stickels' clemency petition is based on the assertion that Coleman is not guilty of kidnapping and therefore cannot be guilty of capital murder. In the appeal he recently filed in the federal court system, Stickels contends the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals referred to the idea that Devontae had been kidnapped in his own home as "counterintutive."

It was only the kidnapping component of the prosecutors' capital murder case that made Coleman death penalty eligible, Stickels said. In his filings, he says that the federal court or Perry should take the time to consider new evidence about the kidnapping component, Stickels said.

"Of the claims made by the state, the court found that the kidnapping case was the weakest," Stickels said.

The appeal also claims that at least four people saw Davontae Williams playing with other children a week or less before his body was found, Stickels argued. The evidence showed that Davontae Williams was restrained with his mother's permission no more than twice and only then for his own safety, Stickels said.

A Tarrant County district court denied Coleman's appeal last week. Stickels appeaed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which has not responded.

'Nothing new' in appeal

A Tarrant County jury deliberated about 3 hours in June 2006 before recommending the death penalty.

"This 9-year-old child suffered a horrific death at the hands of Lisa Ann Coleman," said Dixie Bersano, one of the Tarrant County prosecutors who presented the state's case. "Davontae died of malnutrition, a slow and cruel process.

"There was not an inch on his body that had not been bruised or scarred or injured. The jury assessed the appropriate punishment. Court testimony during Coleman's trial showed that she had a leading parental role and was the decision-maker on how Davontae should be treated."

Tarrant County prosecutors in the appellate office maintain that the execution should be carried out as scheduled.

"Our position on this is that all of these issues have been fully litigated in state and federal court," said Steven Conder, Tarrant County's chief of post-conviction writs. "There is nothing new in these petitions that have not already been considered by the courts."

Death penalty unfair

Coleman's aunt, Tonya Brown, said her niece does not deserve to die. The courts are skewed in favor of the people with the most money, Brown said. Brown said evidence of the system's unfairness is as recent as the case of Ethan Couch, a white teenager who received a sentence of 10 years probation and psychiatric treatment after driving drunk and killing 4 people.

Brown also said the court acted unfairly when it decided to give Davontae Williams' mother a life sentence and Coleman death.

"If you don't have money, you cannot get good representation," Brown said. "She's given her life to Christ and she's trusting in His grace and mercy and believing that God will work it out."

Fred Cummings, one of Coleman's defense attorneys during the capital murder trial, said her attorneys sought a plea agreement but never got an offer from the Tarrant County district attorney's office. Cummings, who said he has been a prosecutor, a defense attorney and a police officer, said the death penalty is unfair in the way it is administered and nearly impossible to fix.

Had Coleman's trial been in a smaller county, it is likely the district attorney's office would not have had the money to pursue a death penalty trial, Cummings said. Or, if Coleman's trial been more recent, after the law changed to permit a sentence of life without parole, prosecutors might not have sought the death penalty, Cummings said.

"The DNA exoneration are illustrative of the fact that we often don't get these right," Cummings said. "There are confessions, eye witness testimony, that juries often rely on that turn out to be wrong."

Davontae's death was one of several cases cited in 2005 when the Legislature passed a bill sponsored by state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, that overhauled the state's protective services agencies.

Child Protective Services first investigated Williams in 1995 when she was 14 and Davontae was 2 months old. Caseworkers investigated her 6 more times until 2002 when they lost track of the family.

(source: Star-Telegram)

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

Court Declines To Stop North Texas Woman's Execution

A federal appeals court has refused to stop this week’s scheduled execution of a North Texas woman for the starvation and torture death of her lover’s 9-year-old son a decade ago.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected appeals Tuesday from lawyers for 38-year-old Lisa Coleman.

She's scheduled for lethal injection Wednesday in Huntsville.

Paramedics responding to a 911 call from an apartment in Arlington found Davontae Williams on a bathroom floor and first thought he was about 3 to 5 years old. He weighed only 36 pounds.

Evidence showed the 9-year-old had been restrained repeatedly, kept in a closet away from food and suffered more than 250 distinct injuries.

His mother and Coleman's partner, Marcella Williams, took a plea deal and is serving a life prison term.

(source: Associated Press)

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Death penalty withdrawn in Dixon capital murder case----Dixon accused of hiring out killing of romantic rival Sonnier

The Lubbock County District Attorney's Office is no longer seeking the death penalty in the capital murder case of Thomas Dixon, according to a spokesperson with the 140th district judge's office.

The DA's office withdrew its intent to seek the death penalty case in August, the spokesperson said.

Dixon, 50, is an Amarillo doctor accused in the 2012 murder-for-hire plot against a romantic rival in Lubbock.

He is being held at the Lubbock County Detention Center on a charge of capital murder.

The punishment for capital offenses include the death penalty or life imprisonment.

Dr. Joseph Sonnier was found dead at his Lubbock home in 2012. He was shot and stabbed, according to an arrest warrant.

The 57-year-old chief pathologist at Covenant Health System in Lubbock was dating Dixon's ex-girlfriend when he died.

David Neal Shepard admitted to killing Sonnier and pleaded guilty in November. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Prosecutors are accusing Dixon of paying Shepard three silver bars worth $3,000 each for killing Sonnier.

Investigators described Dixon and Shepard as business associates.

Shepard's roommate called police after he said Shepard admitted to him to killing Sonnier.

The case is expected to go to trial in late October.

Judge Jim Bob Darnell issued a news media gag order on the parties of the case prohibiting them from speaking to the media about the case.

The district attorney's office in October 2013 filed its intent to seek the death penalty in the case.

A spokesperson for Darnell's office could not say why the death penalty sentence was withdrawn.

(source: Lubbock Avalanche-Journal)

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

Inmates Aren't the Only Victims of the Prison-Industrial Complex ---- Prison-reform advocates tend to focus on the plight of those behind bars. But the enforcers of this draconian system are victims as well.

The worst part of Dave's job as a death-row guard happened early morning on the day of an execution. After taking the inmate for his final shower and instructing him to change his clothes for his last visit with his family, Dave would bring him back to his cell. Officers would then escort him in handcuffs to a prison van, which would take him from the Polunsky Unit in the east Texas town of Livingston to the death chamber at another prison in Huntsville, 40 miles away. "They have that look - like they know what's coming," Dave (not his real name) says. "Man, it's hard to look at them in the eyes."

If you live in Livingston, a town of little more than 5,000 an hour north of Houston, you're either employed in the timber industry or by the prison. Dave was a truck driver for 13 years, but when his employer shut down because of the flagging economy after 9/11, he trained as a corrections officer. There's more money in logging, he says, but corrections provides steadier employment. "Prisons are recession proof," he says.

But serving as a cog in a machine whose ultimate aim is to destroy human life takes a toll. After 8 1/2 years working on death row, Dave started having nightmares. He suffered from high blood pressure. "Even the younger guys get high blood pressure working there," he says. "There were times I'd get to the entrance [of the prison], go through screening and do an about-turn, go back into the parking lot and call in sick." So Dave transferred from death row.

Prison-reform groups tend to focus on the plight of inmates - their conditions under incarceration, getting them access to legal counsel. One is not naturally inclined to feel sympathy for the enforcers in this draconian system. But working in a crushing environment where violence is the norm, guards are victims as much as victimizers.

"Prison functions in entirely the opposite way from the small, healthy family or community," says Frank Ochberg, a psychiatrist who sat on the panel that went on to define post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the 1970s and who has served as an expert witness for countless inmates on death row. "It does to a human being what a zoo does to a wild animal."

More than 25 % of prison guards suffer from PTSD compared with 3.5 % of the general population, according to a study by the Desert Waters correctional outreach center in Colorado. Corrections officers commit suicide at more than double the normal rate. They are collateral damage in a system that embodies one of the most devastating uses of state power.

Dave recounts the harrowing story of a fellow officer on death row who 5 years ago was working a night shift at the Polunsky Unit. During his break, he walked out into the parking lot, climbed into his car, pulled a gun out and killed himself. "He went undiscovered for an hour even though he was in the front row [of the parking lot] at the end spot practically at the entrance to the gate house," Dave says.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice will only confirm that on December 4, 2008, "a correctional officer assigned to the Polunsky Unit was found deceased inside a private vehicle from a self-inflicted gunshot wound."

***

Set on 472 acres surrounded by forests and fields, Livingston's Polunsky Unit is one of 111 state prisons overseen by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. It is a bleak, foreboding complex connected by walkways and encircled by 2 perimeter fences of razor wire with guard towers. The buildings that house Texas's male death-row inmates (women are housed at a prison in Gatesville) are set off from the others: 3 concrete rectangles with white roofs, each with a circular recreation area at the center. In total, the prison houses 2,936 inmates, 279 on death row, and employs 691 people.

Since 1976, when executions resumed in the United States after a moratorium, Texas has executed the lion's share of the condemned: 515 people, compared to Oklahoma, which is next with 111. In total, 1,382 people have been executed in the US since 1976.

Like the inmates themselves, prison guards spend their days in a windowless concrete bunker. "There's no field of vision," Dave says. "All you're looking at is concrete walls and steel bars all day long."

For officers on the day shift, work begins at 5:30 am and lasts until the night shift takes over at 6 pm. In the death-row wing, 3 officers are assigned to each of 6 pods. One mans the "picket," which operates the doors and controls communications. The 2 others serve as "rovers" on the floor, responsible for ensuring each inmate showers (if he wants to), takes an hour of recreation and is served food in his cell.

"It doesn't sound like much," Dave says, "until you consider you have to go to each cell to do each one of those things, and you have time limits. Each inmate has recreation separately, and if you're going to take an inmate out of his cell, you need 2 guards there."

Strip-searching inmates to look for weapons has always been common practice for high-risk inmates. So-called "shanks" can be forged from almost anything - plastic food containers, metal pulled off the bunks or walls, even papier-mache. Before each inmate can exit his cell, he must strip and change clothes, then be handcuffed through the slot in his door. "That tires you out, too," Dave says, "looking at these naked guys all day long - 1 naked inmate after another.... I'm sure it's dehumanizing for them too."

As with the inmates themselves, officers are under constant threat of violence. In 2013, only 3 incidents involving exposure to bodily fluids by death-row inmates were reported to the TDCJ's Emergency Action Center, the division that gathers information regarding potential risks to the agency. In 2012 there were 10. But inmates throw sour milk and other liquid at staff on an almost weekly basis. Dave says this happened to him many times.

Luckily, serious staff assaults resulting in injuries that require treatment beyond first aid are few and far between. In 2013 and 2012, there were just 2 involving a death-row inmate. In 2011 and 2010, there were 3 each year.

Inmates often set fires using paper and other flammable items - even ground-up Tylenol. After setting the items on fire, they typically throw them at officers. Inmates have even been able to start fires by sticking pencil led or razor blades in sockets.

"I spent my first 4 years on the night shift," Dave adds. "And I can't remember how many times I [had to extinguish] fires on E or F pod. One thing they can do - it's amazing - they're all locked in their cells and they have nothing but the screen mesh on the door and they can set a fire right in front of their cell."

Using the same method, they also make what are known in prison as "stingers" - homemade devices to heat water that they can then use to make coffee or as a weapon. Dave explains: "They have hot pots in their cells, but they're preset to heat water to a certain temperature. It won't boil. It's lukewarm. But with stingers they can get liquid boiling hot."

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, inmates in the United States typically spend more than a decade awaiting execution. And despite the fact that some are violent to the men and women who guard them, and others just a pain, it is typically not relief corrections officers feel on the condemned man's last day.

Lee Taylor was no saint. In the eleven years he was on death row in Texas, the 245-pound murderer nicknamed "Tiny" caused constant problems for his guards at Polunsky, always angling for a fight. Even the other inmates thought he was a "knucklehead."

On the morning of his execution, June 16, 2011, Taylor was in his cell on F-pod, known as "death watch." A female officer who had known him for several years - and been on the receiving end of some of his troublesome behavior - arrived at his cell door to take his fingerprints. In 1 of the more bizarre rituals of the death-penalty process, inmates about to be escorted to the death chamber are fingerprinted to ensure the state executes the right person. After Taylor was taken from his cell to the waiting prison van, that officer broke down in tears. As Dave says, "You get to know them. You wouldn't call them friends, but you understand them a bit. You get that human contact. So when you're getting them ready for that last day and they have that lost look in their eyes, you can't help feeling a little for them."

* * *

While the physical repercussions of working in prison have been studied, only recently have academics begun to study the mental stress of prison life on guards. Caterina Spinaris, a psychologist who runs the Desert Waters correctional outreach center in Colorado, is one of the emerging scholars who studies "corrections fatigue." A couple of years ago, she published a study on PTSD and depression among US corrections workers. She estimated that 26 percent of corrections staff suffer from depression - more than 3 times the rate for full-time adult workers in the general population. Among the emotions corrections officers most frequently report experiencing are shame and guilt.

Spinaris attributes the elevated rate of PTSD and depression to a variety of stressors, including "witnessing offender-on-offender violence in real time, discovering bodies of offenders who committed suicide, or being physically assaulted, or threatened with physical or sexual violence."

After twenty or 30 years working on death row, Lance Lowry, president of the Huntsville American Federation of State County Municipal Employees, the largest corrections officers' union in Texas, says the constant battle "messes" with corrections officers. "You can definitely see them age after working in there," he says. "Day after day, bombarded with high noise levels, high stress, not knowing if you walk through that gate whether it'll be your last time."

Lowry says facilities like Polunsky are so large that, like the inmates themselves, corrections officers are reduced to "just a number." He says that although no studies have been conducted on depression and PTSD among Texas prison officers specifically, anecdotally there is a high level of depression among his members.

Although he could never work on the death row wing at Polunsky again, Dave insists it was just a "rough job." "Did I ever see a doctor? No," he says. "But I couldn't wait to get away from the place."

(source: The Nation)

PENNSYLVANIA----new (non-serious) execution date

Padilla Execution Date Set

Governor Corbett signed the execution warrant for a Blair County man earlier.

Miguel Padilla was convicted and sentenced to death in 2007. He shot and killed 3 people outside the UVA Club in Altoona after he and some friends weren't allowed into the private club. This was the 37th execution warrant Governor Corbett has signed. But no one has actually been executed since 1999. So far this year 5 death row inmates have gotten stays of execution in Pennsylvania including 1 in our region.

Jackie Bernard was 1 of the prosecutors in the Miguel Padilla trial. She's felt all along the death penalty was appropriate, for this case where Padilla killed 3 men. And she's glad the governor has started the process.

In April, Stephen Edmiston was given a stay of execution to allow more time for appeals. He was convicted raping and murdering a 2 year old in Cambria County.

Most people on our Facebook page felt like the death penalty should be used more often. Rhonda Reynolds says "There will be a huge decrease in crime! The reasons for the death penalty should also include rape and child abuse." Christina McIntosh said, "Nobody's afraid of the law because you don't enforce it. The death penalty might make people rethink crime." But a few people like Brenda Law said are against it, "She said in my eyes it is just more murder. From the governor, to the judge, to the person who hooks them up, to the person who pushes the button. 2 wrongs don't make a right."

Bernard worries delays will only hurt the victims again because families get told the execution date is set and then often have to go through it again when there is a stay.

For now Miguel Padilla's execution is scheduled for November 13th.

(source: wearecentralpa.com)

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ANALYSIS: The details of death penalty delay execution

Gov. Tom Corbett's decision this week to indefinitely delay the execution of a convicted murderer illustrated some of the practical and legal challenges the state faces these days in carrying out the death penalty.

Corbett issued a temporary, indefinite reprieve, meaning Hubert Lester Michael Jr.'s death by lethal injection for the murder of a teen girl more than 20 years ago won't go forward as scheduled Sept. 22.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had already issued a stay of its own to give it time to consider whether the full court should reconsider a ruling by three of its members that would have cleared the way for Michael to be put to death.

In the flurry of legal activity surrounding the case this week, Michael's lawyers asked for an injunction against his execution, the latest move in a long-running challenge to the state's execution protocol. The Corrections Department revised the procedure 2 years ago, and a group of inmates has sued, saying the new policy conflicts with the 1990 state law that determined how executions should be performed.

Pennsylvania law calls for a 3-drug mixture, but manufacturers under pressure from death penalty opponents have put the 1st drug - a sedative which could be pentobarbital or sodium thiopental - off limits completely.

Texas and Missouri use a specialty dose of non-FDA regulated pentobarbital, but won't say where they've obtained it, and other states like Ohio have been unable to find similar supplies.

Supplies of the other drugs Pennsylvania policy calls for - pancuronium bromide, a paralyzing drug, and potassium chloride, which stops the heart - are also increasingly scarce.

Michael and 3 other death row inmates recently filed a lawsuit in Commonwealth Court that challenges the legality of the execution protocol, saying among other things that neither the sedatives nor potassium chloride are authorized under state law.

The Corrections Department won't say where it gets its drugs, and Corbett halted plans for Michael's execution, he said, because the state needs to obtain them. Four media organizations asked a federal judge this week to order that the source of the drugs be disclosed.

Finding completely new drugs isn't easy. The 2-drug method used by Ohio and Arizona has led to prolonged executions in which inmates repeatedly gasped and snorted. In Ohio, the 26-minute spectacle last January led to a yearlong moratorium on executions.

There are currently 184 people on Pennsylvania's death row, including 3 women, and the only three people Pennsylvania has executed since the death penalty was reinstated in the 1970s - the most recent in 1999 - had given up on their own appeals.

Earlier this month, Pennsylvania Chief Justice Ronald Castille issued a lengthy opinion that was highly critical of the Philadelphia-based Federal Community Defender Office, which represents many of the state's condemned inmates.

He blamed them for endless appeals and delays, saying they were attempting to do through the courts what they could not achieve in the political arena.

But others say Pennsylvania's lack of executions should be attributed to shortcomings in the state's court system, particularly when it comes to providing defendants with adequate representation at trial.

"Appeals attorneys have many issues to work with," said ACLU lobbyist Andy Hoover, an anti-death penalty activist. "And the reason is that Pennsylvania's system of public defense is really lacking and has been for a long time."

Corbett, a former prosecutor, has signed 35 execution warrants, but he's trailing badly in the polls as he seeks re-election. The Democratic candidate, Tom Wolf, says he won't sign the warrants and will issue temporary reprieves while the state studies the issue of wrongful convictions.

(source: York Dispatch)

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Pennsylvania death row inmate asks federal judge for stay of execution

A Blair County man to be executed for 3 1st-degree murder convictions asked a federal judge on Monday to stay his execution by Pennsylvania while he appeals his sentences.

Miguel Padilla, 34, of Gallitzin plans a federal challenge of the constitutionality of his convictions and sentence, said the brief filed by Marshall Dayan, an assistant federal public defender who specializes in death penalty appeals.

He's also asking for the court to appoint an attorney to handle his final appeal and waive his filing fees.

Gov. Tom Corbett on Monday signed the death certificate for Padilla.

Padilla's state appeals ran out in June when the Supreme Court refused to hear his challenge of lower court decisions upholding his convictions.

A Blair County jury in 2006 convicted the construction worker of killing 3 people at an Altoona social club after his friend was denied admittance. Padilla fatally shot Alfred Mignogna, 61, owner of the United Veterans Association Club; Fredrick Rickabaugh Sr., 59, the club doorman; and Stephen M. Heiss, 28, a club patron.

The Mexican government tried to intervene in the state appeals because Padilla had been in the United States illegally since he was about 9 years old. The state Supreme Court in 2008 denied Mexico's petition.

(source: triblive.com)

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

Man to argue 2 others killed woman, baby in King of Prussia----Jury selection began Tuesday for trial of Raghunandan Yandamuri

A Montgomery County man accused of having killed a baby and her grandmother in a botched kidnapping plot has indicated that he will argue that 2 other people committed the crimes.

Raghunandan Yandamuri of Upper Merion could face the death penalty if he's convicted.

Prosecutors allege that Yandamuri kidnapped 10-month-old Saanvi Venna from her family's apartment in King of Prussia in October 2012 and killed the baby's grandmother. The girl was later found dead.

Yandamuri maintains that he was forced to lead two men to the household and that they killed the victims.

He asked a judge Monday to bar prosecutors from using some images of the bodies, arguing that they would prejudice jurors and prevent him from receiving a fair trial.

Jury selection began Tuesday in Montgomery County Court in Norristown.

(source: WFMZ news)

NORTH CAROLINA:

NC conservative group wants death penalty reviewed

Some North Carolina political conservatives want state lawmakers to consider whether to replace the death penalty with life in prison without parole due to recently vacated murder cases.

The group North Carolina Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty said this week the General Assembly should re-evaluate capital punishment.

A judge 2 weeks ago ordered the release of half brothers - 1 the longest-serving death-row inmate and the other serving life in prison - after overturning their convictions related to an 11-year-old girl's slaying. The judge cited new DNA evidence.

Republicans at the legislature passed a law last year designed to resume capital punishment after years of legal delays.

The group's coordinator is Republican consultant Ballard Everett. Group members include current or former GOP chairmen in Nash, Wake and Durham counties.

(source: Associated Press)

SOUTH CAROLINA:

Former solicitors: Retrial of accused cop killer will be costly, but worth it

A new trial began Monday for a man charged with killing a Myrtle Beach police officer in 2002.

Luzenski Allen Cottrell will be tried before a new jury in the 2002 shooting death of Officer Joe McGarry.

Authorities say McGarry confronted Cottrell outside a Dunkin' Donuts and the officer pinned Cottrell against a car as he questioned him.

The 2 struggled and investigators say Cottrell shot McGarry in the face.

Cottrell was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in April, 2005.

In 2008, the South Carolina Supreme Court overturned the conviction because the jury was not allowed to consider a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.

It's likely Cottrell will never get out of prison, because he's also serving a life sentence in an unrelated murder case.

But 2 former prosecutors say going ahead with the retrial in the McGarry case is still the right thing to do.

Former Horry County solicitor Ralph Wilson says the death penalty retrial will likely cost several hundred thousand dollars and state taxpayers will cover nearly all of it.

"They're paying for the defendant's lawyers, they're paying for psychiatric evaluations, for mitigation experts, they're paying for doctors, they're paying all these costs," Wilson said.

But Wilson says the state can't put a price on justice.

He says a solicitor needs to send a message to other criminals that murdering a police officer will not be tolerated.

"You kill law enforcement while they're in the performance of their duties, then we're going to come after you and we're going to come after you with everything that we have," he said.

Former solicitor Greg Hembree, who tried Cottrell the 1st time, says the retrial will be tough on McGarry's family.

But when he was solicitor, Hembree says he would tell the victims' families that the decision on going to trial had to be up to him alone.

"I'll take your thoughts and your feelings into consideration, as we go down this decision making process, but I'm not going to hand that off to you," said Hembree.

Both former solicitors say current solicitor Jimmy Richardson made the right call in deciding to retry Cottrell.

"The reason why (Cottrell) should be prosecuted in my view for the death penalty is because he deserves the death penalty," said Hembree.

Wilson says the retrial may not be the popular decision, but it's the right one and sends a message to police that the prosecutor will stand behind them.

Attorneys in the Cottrell case are under a gag order and Richardson did not return calls seeking a comment.

(source: carolinalive.com)

FLORIDA:

Convicted Fla. killer defiant at death penalty hearing

A South Florida man convicted of murder was defiant in asking a judge to spare his life, reports CBS Miami.

A jury recommended death for James Herard back in May, when the 25-year-old was found guilty of ordering the execution of Eric Jean-Pierre, 39, who was on his way to work in Lauderhill, Fla., in November 2008. Herard was found guilty of ordering Jean-Pierre's murder while driving with a fellow gang member, according to the station.

Herard was also convicted of a string of violent robberies at a Dunkin Donuts in Tamarac that left 56-year-old Kiem Huynh dead, another man disfigured and a third blind. He was sentenced to life in prison for those crimes.

The station reports Herard testified Friday at the Broward courthouse at a hearing for death penalty defendants to present testimony before a judge makes a final ruling on sentencing.

"Honestly and truly, I'm not asking you to spare me. Go ahead and do what you gonna do. I pretty much dare you to give me the death sentence because I'm innocent," Herard told Judge Paul Backman, as reported by NBC Miami.

"I wasn't there," the defendant said, according to CBS Miami. "I'm guilty of having friends in gangs but I'm not a gang member."

Herard, who said he was a churchgoer, admitted to not being a saint. "I'm guilty of running a red light and going through a stop sign but I'm not a killer."

The hearing will continue Sept. 22. The judge will then have a month to decide Herard's fate.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Nubia Barahona's adoptive sister sues DCF

The adoptive sister of Nubia Barahona, the child whose gruesome death while under the care of her adoptive father and mother shook Florida a few years ago, filed a lawsuit on Monday against the Florida Department of Children & Families, a child welfare worker, and 2 former DCF investigators.

The lawsuit alleges that Nubia Barahona's now 11-year-old adoptive sister, referred to as "J.B." in the complaint, is a "survivor of severe child abuse" and accuses DCF and its employees and agents of "negligence and wanton misconduct."

J.B. was "abused physically, sexually, and emotionally" by her adoptive parents, Carmen and Jorge Barahona, and she was also "forced to witness" the Barahonas' abuse of her adoptive siblings, according to the complaint, filed in state court. The Barahonas, awaiting trial, face the death penalty if convicted on charges of 1st-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and neglect for Nubia's death and the alleged mistreatment of her twin brother, Victor.

Nubia was found dead at the age of 10 on Valentine's Day 2011, her decomposing body swimming in chemicals and stuffed in a garbage bag in the flatbed of her adoptive father's pest control truck. Victor was in the cab of the truck with Jorge Barahona, alive but unconscious, with chemical burns on his body. Victor later told police that he and his sister had been routinely and repeatedly abused - beaten, tied up, screamed at - by the Barahonas.

He said he heard his adoptive parents beating his twin to death as he lay tied up in a bathtub at the family home in West Miami-Dade. Later, Nubia would be loaded into the back of the truck, with Jorge and Victor riding in the front. The vehicle was found on the side of Interstate 95.

Nubia's death, reported on extensively by the Miami Herald, prompted the creation of a task force to recommend reforms, such as hiring more child-abuse investigators and making changes to the state's abuse and neglect hotline.

Monday's lawsuit states that DCF "repeatedly ignored red flags of abuse in the household," even though the agency had "ample cause" to remove J.B. and her adoptive siblings. Educators reported that the twins showed up at school bruised or famished, but DCF ignored or downplayed the complaints. Finally the children were removed from school by the family, purportedly so they could be home-schooled.

Todd Falzone, J.B.'s lawyer, called the case a "systemic failure."

"These people shouldn't have had any children in their home," he said. For instance, the Barahonas were allowed to adopt Nubia and Victor despite the misgivings of a guardian ad litem, an individual who represents children in the court system, who felt the parents were unfit.

"One of our main goals in pursuing cases like this is not only to compensate the kids, but to try to fix a system that is ridiculously broken and just never seems to get fixed," Falzone said.

Also named as defendants in the lawsuit are Lacheryl Harris, a family services Counselor for the Barahona children, and 2 child protective investigators who had looked into allegations of abuse and neglect in the home, Jean Lacroix and Eunice Guillot.

In an unrelated incident after Nubia's death, Lacroix was charged with engaging in sex with a foster child. He was sentenced to a year and a day in prison.

DCF placed J.B. with the Barahonas in 2004 when she was 7 months old, and they adopted her in 2007. J.B. was removed from the Barahonas' home after Nubia's death and has been in therapeutic foster homes ever since, Falzone said.

DCF declined to comment on the case.

(source: Miami Herald)

OHIO:

Quadruple murder suspect pleads not guilty

The man suspected of killing 4 men over 2 days on or near Labor Day pleaded not guilty to all charges Monday.

With his hands shackled, wearing orange jail attire and displaying no emotion, Donald W. Hoffman, 41, sat between lead counsel Robert Whitney and co-counsel Rolf Whitney in Crawford County Common Pleas Court as Robert Whitney read his plea.

A grand jury last week charged Hoffman with 8 counts of aggravated murder in the deaths of Billjack Chatman, Jerald Smith, Freelin Hensley and Darrell E. Lewis, 2 counts of aggravated murder per victim.

Victims' family members and others filled most of the right side of the seating in the courtroom. A pretrial hearing date will be set in the future. Bond was continued.

Hoffman remains incarcerated at the Crawford County Justice Center on $10 million bond, $2.5 million for each of the 4 cases. Prosecutor Matt Crall said he would seek the death penalty if Hoffman is convicted.

Police previously confirmed all 4 victims were beaten.

The murders shocked the normally peaceful community, Crall said.

"The reason people want to live in Crawford County is the peace and quiet," Crall said.

He said family members are understandably upset and angry. "I can't imagine what they're going through," Crall said.

According to police records, on Aug. 30 Chatman reportedly called an ambulance for Hoffman, who said he was the victim of an assault. The emergency call to police indicated Hoffman said he was beaten by up to 8 people.

Police responded initially to 2 calls of bodies discovered on Labor Day. The next morning, Hoffman went to the police station as a person of interest in the case. 2 more bodies were found that day.

Hoffman has a history of criminal activity in both Crawford and Marion counties, including felony theft and burglary convictions in 2009 and 2010 in Marion.

(source: USA Today)

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

Opening statements given in Akron death penalty trial delayed by accusations of judge's bias

Text messages and a fingerprint will be presented during the capital murder trial of 1 of 2 men accused in quadruple homicide.

Deshanon Haywood, 22, faces the death penalty if convicted of the aggravated murder of 4 people on April 18, 2013, at a townhome on Kimlyn Circle.

Opening statements in the case began on Monday.

The case against Haywood was postponed in June when prosecutors accused Summit County Common Pleas Judge Mary Margaret Rowlands of being biased against the death penalty in this case.

Rowlands ultimately recused herself, and the case is being presided over by Judge Paul Gallagher.

In opening statements Monday, Assistant Summit County Prosecutor Joe Dangelo said witnesses will testify that they drove to the townhome with Haywood, 22, and Derrick Brantley, 22, who is serving 4 consecutive life sentences for aggravated murder in the case.

He is accused of trying to rip off heroin dealer Ronald Roberts, 24. Haywood and Brantley then fatally shot Roberts, as well as Kem Delaney, 23, Maria Nash, 19, and Kiana Welch, 19 - at least once in the back of the head, prosecutors said.

Dangelo said investigators found Haywood's thumb print on a shoe box found on the kitchen counter that contained heroin and a drug scale. He said text messages show Brantley told Haywood he planned to shoot 1 of the men found dead.

Defense attorney Brian Pierce said another man, Isaac Love, who alerted police to the dead bodies, bought a shipment of 100 grams of heroin for himself and Roberts the night before the killings.

He also said that several of the prosecutor's witnesses lied to police during interviews and that Haywood's DNA was never found inside the basement. Pierce also pointed out were sent from Brantley, not Haywood, and that Haywood's phone at the time was off and couldn't receive the messages.

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

Brothers charged in Jim Brennan's death are indicted in gas station robbery

2 brothers charged for their roles in the death of Cleveland Heights restaurant owner Jim Brennan were indicted Monday and accused of robbing a gas station hours after Brennan was slain.

A Cuyahoga County grand jury accused Devonne and Paul Turner of Cleveland with aggravated robbery in the heist at Gas Express at 3726 Clark Ave. on Cleveland's West Side on June 30. Officials said the men were captured on videotape.

The grand jury also charged them with felonious assault, kidnapping, theft of more than $1,000 and gun charges.

Defense attorney David Grant, who represents Devonne Turner, said he could not comment because he has not seen any reports on the case. Paul Turner's attorney, Richard Drucker, said his client denies any wrongdoing.

For the Turners, the charges are the latest allegations brought by Cuyahoga County prosecutors.

Devonne Turner, Brandon Jones and Darien Jones are charged with aggravated murder, kidnapping, aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary and felonious assault in the slaying of Brennan at his restaurant, Brennan's Colony.

Each is being held in the county jail on $1 million bond. The Joneses are brothers who live in Garfield Heights.

Turner's brother, Paul, has been charged with obstructing justice, tampering with evidence and illegally possessing a weapon while a convicted felon. He is being held on $500,000 bond.

The 4 have pleaded not guilty to charges involving Brennan. On June 30, Brennan's restaurant was closed, but he was there preparing for the week. Lawyers in the case have told The Plain Dealer that Darien Jones shot Brennan.

Prosecutors will consider this week whether he, Brandon Jones and Devonne Turner will face the death penalty in that case.

At the time of Brennan's slaying, the Turners were wanted on a warrant for failing to appear for a June 4 hearing in another robbery case. In that indictment, records show, the brothers were accused of robbing and attacking 2 people in April.

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Maureen Clancy is handling Brennan slaying, as well as the case of the April robbery. She also is expected to handle the new indictment against the Turners.

The Turners are expected to appear for an initial hearing on the new charges Thursday.

(source for both: cleveland.com)

MISSISSIPPI:

Mississippi Death Row Case Faults Bite-Mark Forensics

In one of the country's 1st nationally televised criminal trials, of the smirking serial murderer Ted Bundy in Florida in 1979, jurors and viewers alike were transfixed as dental experts showed how Mr. Bundy's crooked teeth resembled a bite on a 20-year-old victim.

Mr. Bundy was found guilty and the obscure field of "forensic dentistry" won a place in the public imagination.

Since then, expert testimony matching body wounds with the dentition of the accused has played a role in hundreds of murder and rape cases, sometimes helping to put defendants on death row.

But over this same period, mounting evidence has shown that matching body wounds to a suspect's dentition is prone to bias and unreliable.

A disputed bite-mark identification is at the center of an appeal that was filed Monday with the Mississippi Supreme Court. Eddie Lee Howard Jr., 61, has been on death row for 2 decades for the murder and rape of an 84-year-old woman, convicted largely because of what many experts call a far-fetched match of his teeth to purported bite wounds, discerned only after the woman's body had been buried and exhumed.

The identification was made by Dr. Michael West, a Mississippi dentist who was sought out by prosecutors across the country in the 1980s and 1990s but whose freewheeling methods "put a huge black eye on bite-mark evidence," in the words of Dr. Richard Souviron, a Florida-based dental expert who helped identify Mr. Bundy in 1979, in an interview last week.

Since 2000, at least 17 people convicted of murder or rape based on "expert" bite matches have been exonerated and freed, usually because DNA tests showed they had been wrongfully accused, according to research by the Innocence Project in New York. Dr. West was the expert witness in two of those cases.

In 6 additional cases, one involving Dr. West and one involving Dr. Souviron, indictments and arrests linked to bite-mark identifications were dropped after new evidence showed that the matches were wrong.

Still, without glaring new proof of innocence, courts have been reluctant to reopen cases based on even the most dubious of dental claims, leaving scores more defendants with questionable convictions to languish in prison or on death row, said Chris Fabricant, the Innocence Project's director of strategic litigation.

One of them is Mr. Howard. His appeal cites the scientific consensus that bite-mark identifications are unreliable, and questions the methods used by Dr. West. The appeal to reverse his conviction, prepared by the Mississippi Innocence Project at the University of Mississippi, also cites newly completed DNA testing that found no traces of Mr. Howard on the murder weapon, the body or elsewhere at the crime scene.

Georgia Kemp, a reclusive 84-year-old in Columbus, Miss., had been stabbed to death and was partially dressed when police found her body among smoldering fires in her rundown house in 1992. The medical examiner found bruises "consistent with" rape but no hair or semen to prove it.

In the absence of fingerprints or witnesses, it was understandable when the police turned to Mr. Howard as a person of interest: Only 4 months earlier, he had gone to Columbus after spending most of the 2 previous decades in prison for attempted rapes.

But soon enough, an arguably shoddy process of justice began.

Mr. Howard had a history of mental illness and he made a series of seemingly incriminating, if contradictory and irrational, statements that made him the prime suspect. Though no confession was recorded or written down, he reportedly told 1 police officer that "the case is solved" and that "I had a temper and that's why this happened," even as he said that 6 others were involved and he failed to recognize Ms. Kemp's house.

3 days after Ms. Kemp was buried, the medical examiner had her exhumed so that Dr. West could look for bite marks using a fluorescent light method he had developed. He said he found 3 bites and - without showing any photographs or other evidence - testified at trial that Mr. Howard was the biter "to a reasonable medical certainty."

Adding to the circumstantial evidence, Mr. Howard's girlfriend said he had bitten her during sex and that he smelled like smoke the day after the murder.

Mr. Howard, who steadfastly maintained his innocence after those initial ramblings, defended himself, disastrously, at his trial in 1992, resulting in a speedy guilty verdict and sentence of death.

He was retried in 2000 after the Mississippi Supreme Court said he had been incompetent to represent himself. But his new court-ordered lawyers hardly did better, failing to call any witnesses at his new trial, not even a forensic expert to counter the prosecutor’s assertion that Dr. West was "a pioneer, a visionary" who had made a positive identification "just like a fingerprint."

The death sentence was reimposed and the Supreme Court has refused so far to reopen his conviction. In a 2006 ruling, the court said: "Just because Dr. West has been wrong a lot, does not mean, without something more, that he was wrong here." The court did agree in 2010 to order DNA testing of the knife and other crime scene objects, with new results described as exculpatory in Mr. Howard’s newest appeal.

Dr. West retired as an expert witness several years ago to a dental practice in Hattiesburg, after, according to his résumé, investigating more than 5,200 deaths and more than 300 bite marks over 29 years.

In a deposition in 2012, Dr. West indicated a striking shift in thinking, saying he no longer believed that bite marks were as unique as fingerprints, that bite-mark analysis was open to error and that with the availability of DNA testing it should not be used in court.

In a telephone interview, Dr. West sought to play down his role in convicting Mr. Howard, saying, "I didn't put him on death row, the State of Mississippi did."

But of his testimony in the case, Dr. West said, "The evidence I collected, the analysis I performed, I still stand on that opinion unless new evidence is given to me."

Dr. West added that humans made mistakes and that he opposed the death penalty. "If you've got them locked up it's not possible for them to kill a 3-year-old or an 84-year-old," he said. "If you kill them, you can't undo a mistake."

The lack of a scientific basis for bite-mark identification was stressed by the National Academy of Sciences in a 2009 report on forensics. The academy said that such analysis could not reliably identify one individual, among all others, as the source of a bite.

Bite marks on the skin change over time and are easily distorted, the academy said, while there is a huge potential for bias when an expert is asked to match a bite wound with the teeth of a known suspect.

Dr. Peter W. Loomis, a consultant in dental forensics in Albuquerque and president of the discipline's professional body, the American Board of Forensic Odontology, did not dispute the academy's conclusions but said that bite-mark analysis still had a useful role in court.

The board has begun scientific studies, he said, to establish whether and when it can produce reliable identifications. A narrowing of the pool of likely suspects might be possible, for example, when the bite marks are clear and obvious, when the number of potential biters is known and limited, and if suspects have contrasting dental patterns.

To combat bias, he said, current guidelines call for "double blind" procedures in which the same expert does not both study the wound and take dental impressions from the suspect, and the suspect's dental model is mixed among several others before any comparison is made.

Even so, he said, "actually naming an individual biter to a reasonable degree of certainty should be very limited."

(source: New York Times)

LOUISIANA:

Kenneth Willis' capital murder case delayed, state will assign new counsel

Less than a month before his jury selection scheduled to start, Judge Brady O'Callaghan pushed back accused child killer Kenneth Willis's trial.

"The case was ripe for trial now so I was disappointed," Assistant District Attorney Dale Cox said.

ADA Cox says he almost always objects to a trial's delay, but he says this is just the latest in an increasingly common trend of pushing back death penalty cases while state regulators decide whether or not to fund local defense teams.

The Capital Assistance Project of Louisiana, or CAPOLA, defends capital murder suspects who cannot afford to hire private attorneys. Cox believes the Louisiana Public Defender Board, or LPDB, is effectively eliminating the death penalty by getting rid of the only attorneys qualified to try the cases.

"It's been coming to a head for a long time in this state, not just in this parish," Cox said.

CAPOLA director Richard Goorley recently testified that the organization - funded by state tax dollars - was running on reserve funds and would close before the end of the year.

Previous article: Agency handling area death penalty defense services could close by the end of the year

Several of the organization's employees jumped ship when budget issues came to light. Last week, veteran defense attorney Elton Richey said he too would leave, citing health reasons.

Judge Brady O'Callaghan says the state board has 30 days to find Kenneth Willis new representation but adds, "This is a very troubling area of law. This is a very trouble situation."

Willis is charged with the 2007 death of his 1-month-old son, Zamian Willis.

(source: KTBS news)

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Sanders could face death----Penalty phase of trial begins today

Death penalty sentences are rare in Central Louisiana, but one could be handed down in the coming weeks to Thomas Sanders.

Sanders was convicted last week of kidnapping resulting in death and using a firearm in a violent crime that resulted in death in the killing of Lexis Roberts, whose remains were discovered in the Catahoula Parish woods in October 2010.

He returns to U.S. District Court in Alexandria at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday for the penalty phase. He could be sentenced to death on both counts.

Attorneys for Sanders admitted in opening statements that he killed 12-year-old Lexis Roberts and her mother, Suellen, over Labor Day weekend in 2010.

Sanders confessed the killings to multiple law enforcement officers. In a taped interview with an FBI agent, he says, "I made (Lexis) get in the car" after shooting her mother. His description of Lexis' killing was matched exactly by the wounds on her body.

When Sanders was arrested in Gulfport, Miss., in November 2010, he was driving Suellen's car. Inside were a rifle that matched the type used to shoot Lexis and a knife with Lexis' DNA on the blade.

The defense argued that Sanders should be tried in state court, rather than federal, but Judge Dee Drell denied a motion to dismiss on those grounds and the jury was not swayed. They took just over an hour to convict him.

Attorneys for Sanders did provide some indication of how they may attempt to save his life in the penalty phase.

Defense attorneys argued that Sanders reacted irrationally and without any sort of plan when he took Lexis. The defense laid groundwork to argue that Sanders showed remorse for killing Lexis, both through displays of emotion and by assisting law enforcement in the case against him.

Law enforcement personnel agreed that Sanders cooperated completely, implicating himself voluntarily through confessions and providing details that ensured his conviction. It was details provided by Sanders that led law enforcement to Suellen's body in Arizona.

"I want Suellen found," Sanders said in a taped interview.

Sanders did not take the stand during the trial phase.

The last death sentence handed down in Rapides Parish was in 2001, when Darrell James Robinson was sentenced in 9th Judicial District Court for the 1996 murder of 4 people in Poland.

(source: The Town Talk)

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2 jailed, 1 dead in shooting of NOPD officer during robbery attempt, authorities say

The day after a New Orleans police officer was shot and wounded during an attempted armed robbery at a Marigny po-boy shop early Sunday, authorities say, all three suspects were either in jail or dead.

Officer Jonathan Smith, 44, who was working an off-duty, uniformed security detail at Gene's Poboys, remained hospitalized in stable condition. A bullet fractured his right femur and another lodged near his spine, police said.

Authorities say Cornelius Barthelemy, 34, and Ceasar Adams, 36, approached the shop on the corner of Elysian Fields and St. Claude avenues around 1:40 a.m. Sunday, intending to rob the place. Barthelemy pointed a "large, chrome revolver" at the officer outside and fired several shots, police wrote in an arrest warrant.

Smith returned fire with about 8 bullets, wounding Barthelemy and killing Adams, according to authorities. Surveillance video released by police shows both men limping to a waiting SUV that had reversed to meet them.

About seven hours later, Gretna police responded to a 911 call placed by Barthelemy's cousin at an apartment complex in the 900 block of Gretna Boulevard, where Barthelemy was bleeding from a gunshot wound to the lower abdomen, the arrest warrant says. Officers found the lifeless body of Adams, who had been shot once in the torso, in the back of a white Ford Expedition nearby.

Both Barthelemy and the dead man were still in the same clothing they were seen wearing on a surveillance video, the warrant says, noting also that Barthelemy's hands tested positive for gunshot residue.

During questioning by NOPD, Barthelemy admitted he was one of the perpetrators on the video, but claimed he did not remember being at that intersection, and insisted he "would never shoot" a police officer, the warrant says.

When shown the video at the hospital by NOPD detectives and FBI agents, the warrant says, Barthelemy admitted he was one of the perpetrators -- the one seen pointing the gun, firing the first shots and wearing a red T-shirt with a white design, jean shorts and a Los Angeles Clippers cap.

Barthelemy and the suspected getaway driver, James Wilson, 26, were booked into Orleans Parish Prison on counts of attempted 1st-degree murder of a police officer and 1st-degree murder.

Wilson surrendered to the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff's Office around 9 a.m. Monday, identifying himself as "Renegade," the third suspect police were publicizing as wanted. NOPD detectives and FBI agents brought Wilson back to New Orleans for questioning.

'Armed robbery gone bad'

Though they are not accused of shooting their supposed accomplice, Adams, both Wilson and Barthelemy are facing first-degree murder charges in his death. That's because authorities say they tried to commit an armed robbery together, one of the crimes that, under state law, if someone dies during the commission of, the perpetrator may be found guilty of murder, regardless of intent.

The charges could potentially carry the death penalty. Price Quenin, an attorney with the Capital Defense Project of Southeast Louisiana, appeared on Barthelemy's behalf at his first-appearance hearing Monday morning.

Clad in an orange jumpsuit, Barthelemy stood with his hands behind his back and stared solemnly ahead as the judge considered his case. Barthelemy, of Marrero, told authorities he works at Terry's Oysters and cannot afford a private attorney.

Quenin asked the judge to set Barthelemy's bond at $50,000 to $100,000 for the attempted murder charge, far less than the $750,000 prosecutors had requested.

"By the state's account, he didn't fire the shots ... that killed the decedent," Quenin told the judge.

But Assistant District Attorney Philip Costa responded that state law allows for armed robbers to be convicted of murder if someone dies during the commission of the robbery. "This is the result of an armed robbery gone bad," Costa said. "He can be found guilty of first-degree murder."

Magistrate Judge Harry Cantrell sided with the prosecution, and held Barthelemy on no bond for the first-degree murder charge and set bond at $500,000 for the attempted murder count.

Bond for Wilson had not been set as of Monday night.

Criminal pasts

2 of the 3 suspects have criminal records.

Barthelemy has prior convictions for possession of drugs in Texas and Jefferson Parish, and attempted possession of a firearm by a felon and illegal possession of a stolen vehicle -- both the latter cases were in New Orleans.

Adams, of New Orleans, has prior convictions for illegally carrying weapons and possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute.

Wilson does not appear to have a criminal record in Orleans or Jefferson parishes.

'Here to protect us'

In the aftermath of the shooting, police officers rallied around Smith, a four-year veteran of the NOPD. Several officers visited him and wrote about him on social media, saying they were reminded of the dangers they face every day.

"Once you put the uniform on, it is as dangerous working the detail as it is patrolling the streets," NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison told reporters Sunday.

He was the 1st officer to be shot in the line of duty since Harrison took office last month. "It's tough," Harrison said, adding he was making sure Smith's family was kept up-to-date.

Despite the spinal injury, Smith on Sunday appeared to have full mobility and sensitivities in his limbs, Harrison told reporters, adding, "he was in good spirits and very coherent."

Smith is a patrol officer in the 5th District, which covers the Marigny, Bywater, 8th Ward and 9th Ward.

Smith was not wearing a bulletproof vest, which is supposed to be required for officers working authorized details, Tyler Gamble, a department spokesman said. There was no marked NOPD car outside the store, he said.

He is well-liked at Gene's Poboys, where cashier Pam Francis said he often joked with the staff. "He was here to protect us and that's what he did," Francis told our news partners WVUE-TV / Fox 8. "So I mean it didn't have to go like it did. ... We cant wait 'til he come back."

Police said DNA and ballistics tests are pending. The Office of the Independent Police Monitor will review the internal investigation, and the Orleans Parish District Attorney's Office will determine what charges to pursue.

(source: nola.com)

INDIANA:

Death penalty sought for suspect in Gary cop killing

Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter is seeking the death penalty for a Gary man charged with murder in the July 6 shooting of Gary police Patrolman Jeffrey Westerfield.

An entry in the online docket shows Carter filed an amended information Tuesday for a death sentence request "for the murder of Jeffrey Westerfield."

The alleged shooter, Carl Blount, 26, will be told of the death sentence filing at an omnibus hearing set for Wednesday morning. Lake Superior Court Judge Samuel Cappas will preside at the hearing, during which it is anticipated that extra police and courthouse security officers will be present.

Blount has pleaded not guilty.

Court records allege that Westerfield, a 19-year police veteran, was in his police car at 26th Avenue and Van Buren Place in Gary and was looking for a person who had been involved in an earlier domestic dispute. Westerfield was shot at close range with a .40-caliber handgun that had been stolen about 10 months earlier from a truck in Indianapolis, court records state.

The night before Westerfield was killed, Blount and his girlfriend, Jennifer Guzman, had been at the Voodoo Club in Gary. On the way home, a friend of Guzman's accused Blount of having an affair with another woman and told him to "come clean." Blount became irritated with the friend and pulled up his shirt to reveal a black handgun tucked in the waistband of his pants. Blount and Guzman began arguing, and got out of the car. Both she and Blount grabbed the gun and began struggling. At one point, Guzman had control of the gun and it "just went off," court records state. Blount was wounded in the thigh.

The girlfriend dropped the gun and Blount picked it up, along with a shell casing.

Westerfield's last radio communication was at 4:26 a.m. on July 6 - his 47th birthday - in which he communicated directly with another officer asking for a description of Blount. His spotlight was operating, leading investigators to think he had made contact with Blount, the probable cause affidavit states. A passer-by found Westerfield dead at 5:50 a.m.

The domestic was at 2340 McKinley Street in Gary and police think Blount was headed to 1 of 2 places east of there - 2659 Jackson St., where relatives live, or 2806 E. 21st Place, where the other girlfriend lives.

Before Blount arrived at a relative's home at 2659 Jackson St., Blount's half-brother, Dontae Blount, told police he was talking on the phone with Blount, who said he had to end the call because he'd seen a police officer in the area with his spotlight on. Blount said he was near the Jackson Street residence and would be home soon, the probable cause affidavit states.

Dontae Blount told police he heard several gunshots in rapid succession, grabbed his pistol and opened the front door to see what was happening. Dontae Blount told police he saw Carl Blount running toward the home. Blount had a handgun in his possession when he walked inside the house. Dontae Blount told police that Carl Blount appeared to be intoxicated "and in an emotional outburst, Carl Blount stated that he had shot a police officer," court records state.

Between 8:35 a.m. and 11 a.m. on the morning Westerfield was killed, Blount made 11 calls to a longtime friend. In one of those calls, Lucius Mayes said to Blount: "Sounds like you in some s***."

Blount responded, "Yeah, a little bit ... ," court records state.

Blount asked Mayes to help him get a hotel room and said, "They are gonna put me away for a long time on this one," court records state. Blount also spoke of dismantling and hiding a gun and flushing bullets down the toilet.

During an interview with police, Blount was shown a photograph from a video image of a nearby day care center around the time Westerfield was killed. "Is that something in my hand?" Blount asked the detectives.

Under Indiana law, one of the aggravating circumstances that could apply to the Westerfield homicide is that the victim is a law enforcement officer acting in the course of duty.

(source: Gary Post-Tribune)

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Man Accused Of Murdering Ex-Girlfriend, Eating Her Organs

A man is being held without bail after allegedly revealing that he killed his ex-girlfriend and ate parts of her body. The details of the gruesome incident were revealed during Joseph Oberhansley's 1st court appearance.

Oberhansley has been accused of killing his ex-girlfriend Tammy Blanton, 46, after breaking into her home on Locust Street last week.

According to court documents, he not only admitted to the crime, but also admitted to removing and eating parts of Blanton's brain, heart and lung: after stabbing Blanton to death, he cooked and ate the organs.

Oberhansley, now 33, spent 13 years in prison in Utah for killing his 17-year-old girlfriend and shooting his mother. He was released from prison in 2012. The Clark county prosecutor said that Oberhansley should not have been released from jail in the first place.

This also does not mark the 1st occasion in which Oberhansley has been in trouble with the law in Indiana: earlier this summer, he was arrested after police said he tried to strangle a man and another time, he allegedly led police on a chase.

Blanton was the one who paid the bond to get him released.

"I'm his fiancee," Blanton told the court on July 23 prior to posting the bond. In his court appearance on Monday, Oberhansley reportedly appeared anxious and told the judge that police have the wrong guy because his name is "Zeus Brown."

Police and prosecutors said that the court appearance was the 1st time Oberhansley brought up that name. "I don't buy it. I think there is a motive and a reason for what you saw in the courtroom today and I don't believe he really believes he's Zeus Brown," said Clark County Chief Deputy prosecutor Jeremy Mull.

Oberhansley currently faces charges of murder, abuse of a corpse and residential entry.

Blanton's family was in court, but has declined to comment. As reported by WLKY, prosecutors confirmed they will consider asking for the death penalty.

(source: opposingviews.com)

TENNESSEE:

Anti-death penalty protesters voice concerns on Capitol Hill

With 11 executions currently scheduled in the next year, a small group of anti-death penalty protesters voiced their concerns Monday on Tennessee's Capitol Hill by sharing an open letter to Governor Bill Haslam.

The group, who calls itself Tennessee Students and Educators for Social Justice, wants the governor to suspend all of the scheduled executions and establish a commission to review capital punishment in the state.

Among those speaking was Ndume Olatshuni, who was formerly known as Erskine Johnson, when he was sentenced to death row for a 1983 Memphis robbery and murder that the courts overturned in 2011.

"I would not be here if it had not been overturned," Olatshuni told News 2 after the protest where the letter to the governor was read aloud. "I had never even been to Tennessee until I was brought here for trial."

Olatshuni is 1 of 3 Tennesseans who have had their convictions overturned since 2012.

He said prosecutorial misconduct was cited as a reason his case was overturned.

3 others on Tennessee's death row have been exonerated.

The protestors cited a list of reasons for suspending upcoming executions and reviewing capital punishment including:

--Inadequate procedures to address innocence claims --Geographical disparities in Tennessee's capital sentencing

--Excessive caseloads of defense counsel

--Racial disparities in Tennessee's capital sentencing

1 recent study showed that 45 % of those on Tennessee's death row are from Shelby County.

The 1st scheduled execution is for October 7 for Billy Ray Irick who was sentenced for the rape and death of a 7-year-old Knoxville girl he had been babysitting.

The governor's office has not commented yet on the request to suspend executions and review the state's capital punishment.

Tennessee has not had an execution since 2009 after questions were raised about the state's lethal injection process for execution.

Last year, state lawmakers passed a bill making electrocution the method of execution if there is a legal question or chemicals unavailable for lethal injection.

(source: WKRN TV news)

MISSOURI:

2 recent exonerations cause new concern about the death penalty

I was relieved that Henry McCollum and Leon Brown, after waiting over 30 years, finally proved their innocence with the help of DNA evidence and were released from prison in North Carolina.

As someone who personally knows the horror of being wrongfully convicted, it's hard to celebrate this news. Thankfully these men are free, but they are burdened with the emotional pain of suffering in prison, fearing a possible execution, being vilified by the media, and not knowing for all those years whether the truth would ever come out.

These exonerations mark the 145th and 146th time that an individual has been wrongfully sentenced to death and later found innocent in the U.S. since 1973. So many wrongful convictions have come to light in recent years, in death penalty and non-death penalty cases, that there's a tendency to grow numb to these injustices.

Since my exoneration in 2008 of a murder I didn't commit, there have been over a dozen exonerations just in Kansas and Missouri, including that of Reginald Griffin, who was wrongfully sentenced to death and spent 30 years in prison before his release.

We can't allow ourselves to grow numb to these injustices. The appalling facts in McCollum's and Brown's cases cry out for action, and remind us of the urgent need to end the death penalty.

In 1983, McCollum and Brown became the prime suspects in the horrific rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl. The deck was stacked against them from the start. They were young, black, mentally disabled, and also outsiders, having recently moved to North Carolina from New Jersey. Officials focused their investigation on McCollum and Brown after a teenager suggested them as suspects. Scared after hours of interrogation by the police, the 2 men confessed to the crime just to make the interrogation stop.

They tried to recant at the trial, but that was a losing proposition. They had confessed - case closed. Both were sentenced to death and, because the crime was so horrible, most were certain that justice was done. The Supreme Court refused to review the case, and Justice Antonin Scalia - without a shred of doubt - singled out McCollum as the prime example of someone deserving the death penalty. As late as 2010, McCollum's mug shot appeared on campaign mailers attacking anyone who might be "soft on crime."

At all levels of government, everyone was certain that these men were monsters deserving to die. But they were all wrong. New DNA evidence pointed to another individual with a record of sexual assaults. Finally the world knows what McCollum and Brown knew all along - they are innocent.

If this case teaches us anything, it teaches the importance of humility in our criminal justice system. In the aftermath of grave crimes, like those that have recently rocked the Kansas City area, there is understandable anger and a desire for the death penalty. But executions have no place in an imperfect system that sometimes convicts the innocent.

In Kansas and Missouri, it is at our own peril if we fail to act in light of injustices like those suffered by Henry McCollum and Leon Brown. Both states need to end the death penalty - and soon.

(source: Darryl Burton was wrongfully convicted of murder in Missouri on the basis of perjured testimony and spent 24 years in prison before being exonerated and released. He currently is pursuing his Master of Divinity at St. Paul School of Theology and serves as a pastor intern at United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood. To learn more about him, go to www.dabex.org.----Kansas City Star)

OKLAHOMA:

Lawmaker calls for study on new execution method

There has been a lot of talk about the death penalty in our state following the botched execution of Clayton Lockett earlier this year.

Now 1 lawmaker is trying to change the conversation. Representative Mike Christian is calling for a new way to execute inmates.

He wants to use nitrogen gas. It's an idea he has asked state lawmakers to review in an interim study.

The process is officially called Nitrogen Asphyxiation, a fancy term for the process of slowly replacing oxygen with nitrogen.

Those who have studied the process say it causes no pain and can kill a person within a matter of minutes.

Representative Christian said, "This is not a debate about the death penalty. It's not about the Clayton Lockett incident. This is about another method of execution."

The process slowly robs the body of oxygen, replacing it with nitrogen.

Rep. Christian said, "If you deplete oxygen it's within 8-to-14 seconds, up to no more than 20 seconds that they pass out. And then, within a few minutes, up to 8 minutes, probably less, that they would be pronounced dead."

Christian thinks it is a great idea.

He said, "As a government, a civilized government, I think this is the way to do it."

It's a process which was documented in a 2008 BBC Horizon documentary.

In the documentary a pig is put in a chamber filled with nitrogen and argon gases. Unaware of the effect the gases are having on its body the animal falls over and then gets back up, returning to its food.

The demonstration is said to show the gas does not cause pain and, in theory, the pig eventually succumbs to the deadly gas.

Michael Portillo, who is the main man featured in the documentary, said, "Not only is in painless, the person dies with euphoria."

However, there are those already opposed to the idea.

The ACLU says rather than looking for humane ways to execute people the state should reconsider the death penalty.

Ryan Kiesel, with the ACLU, said, "There's no full proof way to do something that is inherently inhumane."

Christian says the gas could be administered through a mask, a hood, or even a chamber. He says there would be no IV's, no doctors, and he believes less room for error.

Christian said, "It's a humane way. It's a quick way. It's practical."

The interim study will take place at the capitol Tuesday.

That BBC Horizon documentary is just one of the things which will be presented during the study.

Christian said, and the documentary recorded, there are some who support the death penalty but are opposed to the idea of using nitrogen because they believe it is too humane.

(source: KFOR news)

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Oklahoma Lawmaker Suggests Nitrogen as Alternative to Lethal Injection

The most common method of executing condemned prisoners in the U.S. - lethal injection - has suffered a mountain of setbacks in recent months. Most notably, executions using relatively untested drugs have not gone as intended in several states, including Arizona, Ohio and Oklahoma.

But 1 Oklahoma lawmaker thinks he might have a potential solution to the lethal-injection crisis: nitrogen gas.

Rep. Mike Christian, a Republican from Oklahoma City, is slated to present the idea Tuesday to the state legislature, inviting its members to take up a broader study on the issue.

According to a story by a local television station:

[Rep. Christian] wants to use nitrogen gas. . . . The process is officially called Nitrogen Asphyxiation, a fancy term for the process of slowly replacing oxygen with nitrogen. Those who have studied the process say it causes no pain and can kill a person within a matter of minutes.

A message left with Rep. Christian wasn't immediately returned. But he told NewsChannel 4 that "if you deplete oxygen it's within 8-to-14 seconds, up to no more than 20 seconds that they pass out. And then, within a few minutes, up to 8 minutes, probably less, that they would be pronounced dead." According to the Oklahoman, nitrogen has likely never been used for an execution. But Mr. Christian told the paper that the approach seems humane. "Some who have received an accidental excess of the gas have even said the effect was mildly euphoric," according to the story.

Richard Dieter, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, an organization largely opposed to the death penalty, said "a lot more study" would be needed before a state adopted such a proposal. "This is just more experimenting with human lives," he told Law Blog.

In the wake of problems with lethal injections, several states have revisited bringing back older techniques. Tennessee in May passed a law allowing for use of the electric chair in situations in which lethal-injection wasn't possible. This week, lawmakers in Wyoming moved a bill forward that would authorize the state to use a firing squad to execute inmates on death-row if prison officials fail to obtain drugs for lethal injections.

(source: Wall Street Journal)

COLORADO:

Judge allows fingerprint evidence: Cinema shooting

A judge presiding over the murder case of Colorado cinema shooting suspect James Holmes will let fingerprint evidence linking him to the mass shooting be used at trial, a ruling made public on Monday showed.

Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour denied a motion by lawyers defending the former neuroscience graduate student that sought to exclude the evidence, arguing that fingerprint comparison is a subjective, inexact science.

Public defenders also had made a similar argument challenging the reliability of firearms analysis, which Samour also rejected earlier this month.

Holmes, 26, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to opening fire inside a suburban Denver movie theater during a midnight screening of the Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises." 12 moviegoers were killed and 70 were wounded in the July 2012 rampage.

Prosecutors have charged Holmes with multiple counts of 1st-degree murder and attempted murder, and have said they will seek the death penalty for the California native if he is convicted.

The defense challenged the reliability of fingerprint analysis testimony, citing the 2004 train bombing in Madrid that killed 191 people. An FBI investigation initially said fingerprints found at the Madrid scene matched those of an American lawyer, who was arrested but later released after the error was discovered.

But Samour said in his ruling that despite occasional mistakes, fingerprint evidence has been deemed reliable in U.S. courts for more than a century.

"The fact that fingerprint examiners make false positive identifications is more directly related to the competency of the practitioners, not to the reliability of fingerprint comparison as a methodology," he said.

Prosecutors plan to call a police analyst and an FBI agent who matched Holmes' fingerprints to prints lifted from the theater's emergency exit door, firearms, and other items recovered from his apartment, which was rigged with explosives.

The trial is set to begin with jury selection in December.

(source: Toronto Sun)

WYOMING:

Death penalty opponents are making gains in Wyoming

A lot of good country songs are about prison or death, including "Life in Prison," which is about both.

I was reminded about the song while driving to the Interim Judiciary Committee's meeting in Laramie last Friday. I was going to listen to lawmakers talk about the death penalty, and I unwittingly played a CD that featured the Merle Haggard tune.

The story is told by a man who has received a life sentence for killing his "darling" in a fit of rage:

"I prayed they sentence me to die/ But they wanted me to live and I know why/ So I do life in prison for the wrongs I've done/ And I pray every night for death to come."

In the end, the killer sadly concludes, "My life will be a burden every day/ If I could die my pain might go away."

The idea someone whose punishment is sitting in a prison cell for the rest of his life may have it worse than if he'd been killed by the state is a theme the committee discussed. In fact, it's a central part of the argument advanced by many who would like to see the death penalty abolished.

But first, legislators debated a bill to address another capital punishment controversy. How can you humanely kill a prisoner by lethal injection if the countries that manufacture the chemicals used in the process consider the practice so barbaric, they won't sell them to American prisons?

18 states have abolished the death penalty (green) while 32 states still have capital punishment.

During the last budget session, Sen. Bruce Burns (R-Sheridan) sponsored a bill to use a firing squad, like Utah does. But problems obtaining the banned chemicals weren't well known then, and it was quickly defeated. The national media treated it as an example of a trigger-happy state anxious to cull its prison population.

But after horrific, botched lethal injection attempts in Oklahoma, Ohio and Arizona, the Judiciary Committee not only considered Burns' bill, it decided to sponsor the measure.

Steve Lindly, deputy director of the Wyoming Department of Corrections, explained if the state can't use lethal injections, it needs an alternative on the books. Right now the legal option is to use a gas chamber, which presents a problem - Wyoming no longer has one.

Building a chamber would cost a lot, several lawmakers pointed out, and it would be a questionable expense for a state that hasn't executed anyone in more than 2 decades, and now has only 1 inmate on death row.

The draft bill doesn't have many specifics about how a firing squad would be used. Lindly said that’s intentional, because procedures should be developed through rules and policies instead of in state statutes.

Rep. Marti Halverson (R-Etna) wanted to know if the state could encourage condemned inmates to donate organs. Sen. Floyd Esquibel (D-Cheyenne) asked what would happen if the penitentiary couldn't get enough volunteers for a firing squad. What if everyone misses, wondered Rep. Stephen Watt (R-Rock Springs). Rep. Cathy Connelly (D-Laramie) noted it would be odd for Wyoming to add an execution method when other states are moving away from the death penalty. She voted against the bill, as did Esquibel, Watt and committee co-chairman Rep. Keith Gingery (R-Jackson), who is not running for re-election.

9 members approved the bill, so it will be considered next year. In general, committee bills have a better chance of becoming laws than measures sponsored by individual legislators.

The 2nd proposal, to end capital punishment, drew a much more emotional response. That's not a surprise, since many hold opposite views on an issue that really is a matter of life or death. But I didn't expect this: A majority of members actually supported the bill. That would have been unthinkable just a few years ago, but the anti-death penalty contingent is definitely changing some minds.

Watt sponsored a similar bill earlier this year that failed introduction by a margin of 2 to 1. A former Wyoming Highway Patrol officer, he reversed his position on capital punishment several years ago. He said we have a good justice system, but it isn't perfect. "Law enforcement officers do lie," he explained. "They fabricate evidence; prosecutors withhold evidence." Watt said he saw it happen when a family member was wrongly accused of sexual assault.

Sen. Larry Hicks (R-Baggs) was the most adamant in his support of executions. "This is justice for the victims," he maintained. "The people who have been murdered, raped and kidnapped, and their families."

But Gingery, an attorney, said convicts cleared of crimes by the Innocence Project and advancements in DNA technology show the possibility of executing the wrong person.

"Personally, I do not condone the state committing homicide on my behalf," Gingery said.

Chesie Lee of the Wyoming Association of Churches represents eight denominations and more than 200 churches. "We have a strong feeling that murder is wrong, whether it's done by a person or the state," she said, adding that death penalty supporters seek revenge, not justice.

Hicks said some condemned convicts would rather be executed than remain "locked inside a cage the rest of their life." Lee, though, said that's not a choice inmates should be allowed to make; they should have to think daily about the crimes that put them in prison for life.

"You just don't get out of it so easily," she said.

Burns made 2 valid points against the bill. "We do not execute people willy-nilly," he said, and that's true. Capital punishment is a sentence rarely imposed by Wyoming courts, which is as it should be.

Second, the legislature addressed concerns about capital punishment when it created the optional sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole. "We have about 22 people serving (that sentence) and every one of them could have been a capital case," Burns said.

"Some crimes are so horrible, so barbaric, that it's a punishment we need to keep in reserve," he said.

Many people feel that way. But it's the totality of the arguments against the death penalty that ultimately provides the best case against a punishment that almost all civilized nations reject. The United States joins countries like Iraq and Syria in carrying out death sentences, which isn't the company we should be keeping.

There's no way to take back an execution, and correct a horrible injustice if an innocent person is killed by the state.

It costs much less to house a prisoner for life without parole than it does to mount the automatic appeals process that is part of capital punishment.

Some of those public defenders do an inadequate job, and may have absolutely no experience handling a capital case.

Statistics show minorities and the poor are disproportionately sentenced to death compared to white defendants and/or those who can afford to hire a dream team of lawyers.

The death penalty doesn't truly serve as a deterrent to crime, because criminals don't expect to get caught and punished.

Finally, the state can't bring back the victim. It might provide some comfort to survivors to know the guilty party is no longer a threat to society, but that's also accomplished by life without parole.

While the panel voted 7-6 to end the death penalty, the Judiciary Committee will not sponsor the bill. It takes a majority of both House and Senate members approving a measure to gain such sponsorship, and the bill died 4 to 1 on the Senate side. Only Democratic Sen. Esquibel voted for it.

But death penalty opponents shouldn't feel disheartened. The bill got 5 Republican votes from House members, which is considerable progress. Several said they felt the issue is important enough to be debated by the entire legislature.

"It's a matter of educating people about the issue," said Watt, who is in a tough battle for re-election. "We should have town hall meetings about it."

If he returns to the House, Watt said he will sponsor the bill again. Even if he loses, the committee vote shows there should be someone willing to take the ball the Republican legislator put into play and run with it next year.

(source: wyofile.com)

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

Lawmakers support firing squad, keeping death penalty

The Department of Corrections should be able to employ a firing squad to execute condemned inmates if the state can't find the drugs to carry out lethal injections, a legislative committee voted Friday.

Meeting in Laramie, the interim Joint Judiciary Committee advanced a firing-squad bill for the full Legislature to consider when it convenes early next year. The committee rejected another bill that would have called for the state to repeal the death penalty altogether.

On the death-penalty repeal bill, several witnesses urged the committee to move the bill forward so the full Legislature could consider the issue.

Committee co-chair Rep. Keith Gingery, R-Jackson, a deputy county attorney, said it’s clear to him the death penalty doesn't deter crime but is solely an issue of revenge. He said there have been cases around the country of people who have been wrongfully convicted.

"Personally, I do not want the government to commit homicide on my behalf," Gingery said. "I disagree with the state of Wyoming committing murder."

Sen. Larry Hicks, R-Baggs, responded that he doesn't view the death penalty as revenge but rather as justice for victims who have been brutally murdered, raped and tortured.

He said recent technological advances have made it increasingly unlikely for innocent people to be convicted.

Linda Burt, director of the ACLU in Wyoming, said the U.S. stands with such nations as China, Iraq and Syria in continuing to employ the death penalty.

"The reason that we are here today is because most Western nations do not believe in the death penalty," Burt said.

The bill failed to get a majority vote among committee members from both the House and Senate. It would still be possible for individual legislators to introduce a death penalty abolition bill on their own, although similar bills have failed in the past.

(source: Associated Press)

ARIZONA:

Judge grants Arias motion to stop representing herself

A Superior Court judge has granted Jodi Arias' request to stop representing herself in her Sept. 29 penalty phase retrial.

Judge Sherry Stephens granted the motion Monday morning and re-appointed Jennifer Wilmott as Arias' defense attorney.

Stephens also took under advisement a motion by attorney David Bodney, who is representing the Phoenix media, to allow daily video coverage of the trial with a 30-minute delay.

The trial had been scheduled to begin 2 weeks ago but Stephens allowed a postponement after Arias decided she wanted to represent herself.

Arias since then requested that she give up her right to serve as her own attorney and instead allow her court-appointed lawyers to handle the case.

Arias was convicted of murder last year in the 2008 killing of her ex-boyfriend at his suburban Phoenix home, but jurors couldn't reach a decision on her sentence. The retrial will determine if she gets the death penalty or life in prison.

(source: KPHO news)

CALIFORNIA:

Jurors recommend death penalty for man convicted in 3 San Gabriel Valley murders

Jurors recommended the death penalty today for a 37- year-old man who was convicted in the killings of 3 people within about a month in 2009.

Robert Louis Caballero was convicted Aug. 14 of 1st-degree murder and other charges for the shooting death of a Pomona man, the strangulation of a Covina woman and the bludgeoning death of an El Monte man.

Jurors deliberated for about an hour before reaching their verdict in the penalty phase of Caballero's trial. Sentencing was tentatively set for Nov. 13.

In addition to 3 counts of 1st-degree murder, Caballero was also convicted of 2 counts of kidnapping, 1 count of assault with a firearm, 1 count of firearm possession by a felon and evading an officer. Jurors found true gang and gun allegations and special circumstance allegations of lying in wait, murder during the course of a kidnapping and multiple murders.

During closing arguments of the trial's penalty phase Monday, Deputy District Attorney Sarika Kim called Caballero a proud and remorseless psychopath. A defense attorney, however, urged the panel to recommend life in prison without parole, saying such a sentence would be punishment enough for a man who had a chaotic upbringing.

Co-defendants Andrew Valenzuela, 24, and Pete Trejo Jr., 32, were each convicted of 1st-degree murder and kidnapping charges in connection with 2 of the killings.

The 2 men each face a possible maximum of life without parole when sentenced Oct. 3.

(source: San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

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

On death row for Peninsula mansion murder, David Raley loses mental retardation claim

Condemned Santa Clara County killer David Allen Raley has lost perhaps his last legal argument to get off California's death row for the 1985 murder of a Peninsula teenager and the attempted murder of her friend in a deserted Hillsborough mansion.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Linda Clark this week rejected Raley's argument that he was mentally retarded at the time of the crime, a finding that would bar his execution under a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. In particular, Clark disagreed with Raley's novel legal claim that he is autistic and therefore entitled to legal protections against sentencing the mentally retarded to death.

The judge's ruling, handed down late Monday, is not final. The California Supreme Court will now consider her findings and rule in the appeal, a process likely to take a year or longer.

Raley, on death row since 1988, has also raised the issue in the federal courts. But he has exhausted all of his other appeals, putting him near the front of the line of 750 inmates on San Quentin's death row if California resumes executions after a more than 8-year hiatus.

Clark's ruling stems from a hearing last year in which dueling experts offered testimony on Raley's mental capacity. The judge concluded Raley's intellectual capacity was well above the standard established by the Supreme Court, which last year also held in a Florida case that courts can consider more than IQ levels below the standard of 70 to assess mental retardation.

"The circumstances of this case, when considered with all the other evidence, demonstrate that (Raley) has a level of intellectual functioning much higher than contemplated" by the Supreme Court, the judge wrote in a 43-page ruling. The 52-year-old Raley is on death row for kidnapping 2 high school students, Jeanine Grinsell and Laurie McKenna, in the Carolands mansion where he was a security guard. Raley stabbed both girls dozens of times and left them in a San Jose ravine; Grinsell died at a hospital, but McKenna survived to testify.

Raley's lawyers argued he should spend his life in prison for the crimes, but not to be eligible for execution. Raley tried to fire his lawyers for raising the mental retardation argument, but the judge allowed them to continue their defense.

Robert Bacon, Raley's lawyer, said he was "disappointed" in the ruling and will "seek further review."

"David Raley should not be under death sentence," Bacon said. "This is not the end of the line for David Raley."

Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen opposed Raley's appeal. Deputy District Attorney Matt Braker, who handled the case, could not immediately be reached.

Raley's case is part of an increasingly common legal battle unfolding in recent years in California and other death penalty states as death row inmates raise challenges over the mental retardation issue. The California Supreme Court has ordered hearings in dozens of cases like Raley's since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the question 12 years ago.

(source: San Jose Mercury News)

USA:

How many more innocent men on death row?----Lily Hughes of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty examines another case of innocent men freed from prison--but what it tells us about the broken injustice system.

Henry Lee McCollum and Leon Brown are free today after serving 30 years in North Carolina prisons for a crime they did not commit. McCollum was on death row, and Brown had a life sentence. New DNA testing has cleared both men and points to another person as the likely perpetrator.

Stories of prisoners, on death row and off, who are proven innocent, but only after having the better part of their lives stolen from them, are all too common in the past several decades. But this case is striking a chord for several reasons.

For one, the 2 half-brothers were demonized as monsters at the time of their conviction. Right-wing Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia even singled out McCollum's case as an example of the kind of crime and criminal for which the death penalty is intended. But if Scalia and the racist lynch mob got their way, an innocent man would have been murdered by the state years ago.

Second, McCollum and Brown's exoneration comes on the heels of questioning of the lethal injection method following several botched executions, including the torturous death of Joseph Wood, whose state-sponsored murder took nearly 2 hours.

As a result, more mainstream voices are speaking up for the complete abolition of the death penalty. As the New York Times wrote in an editorial, the exoneration in North Carolina has exposed "a textbook example of so much that is broken in the American justice system. And it is further evidence (as though more were needed) that the death penalty is irretrievably flawed as well as immoral."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

McCollum and Brown were convicted of the 1983 rape and murder of 11-year-old Sabrina Buie in Red Springs, N.C. At the time of their arrest, McCollum was 19 and Brown only 15 - both have been shown to have intellectual disabilities.

There was no physical evidence linking the men to the crime. Like so many other people - especially young African American men -railroaded into prison, they were convicted based on false confessions - the confessions were written out by police after hours of interrogation, in which neither teen was allowed to talk to a lawyer or their parents.

McCollum described the ordeal in an interview with a North Carolina newspaper: "I had never been under this much pressure, with a person hollering at me and threatening me. I just made up a story and gave it to them so they would let me go home."

Both young men repudiated the confessions and explained how they were coerced, but Robeson County prosecutors pressed ahead with the case against them, going so far as to hide evidence that would have linked Roscoe Artois--the man now implicated by DNA testing--to the crime.

Artois was a suspect in Buie's murder and had been picked up within weeks of her death on charges of the rape and murder of another girl in the area. 3 days before McCollum and Brown's trial began, police requested testing on a cigarette butt found at the crime scene, in order to match fingerprints to Artois. This test was never done, nor was the request revealed to McCollum's or Brown's lawyers.

The request for testing was only discovered a quarter century later - in 2011, during an investigation by the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission. The panel's inquiry also revealed multiple inconsistencies between the signed confessions of the 2 defendants, including factual statements about the crime itself.

And still McCollum and Brown remained behind bars - they were only freed when DNA testing of the cigarette butt revealed Artois was present at the crime scene.

More than 300 people have been released from prison, 18 from death row, because of DNA testing. Each of these cases tells its own story of injustice. Yet this one contains so many of the elements common to cases of wrongful convictions: coerced confessions (in this case, from two men with intellectual disabilities); prosecutorial misconduct; and the rubber-stamping of shaky convictions by successive appeals courts, all the way to the highest court in the land.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The actions of the prosecutor in the McCollum and Brown case are particularly galling. Joe Freeman Britt is infamous for his entry in the Guinness Book of World Records as the "deadliest prosecutor in America," having sent close to 50 people to death row.

With more and more people being proved innocent, prosecutorial misconduct is not only being revealed, but in some instances, district attorneys have faced charges for their role in wrongful convictions. But that isn't causing Britt to lose any sleep.

Despite the evidence clearing McCollum and Brown, Britt still believes the two men are guilty. "You find a cigarette, you say it has Roscoe Artis' DNA on it, but so what?" he said in a recent interview. "It's just a cigarette, and absent some direct connection to the actual killing, what have you got? Do you have exoneration? I don't think so.'"

Britt also referred to the current DA as a "pussy." When asked about the coercion of intellectually disabled suspects, he had this to say: "When we tried those cases, every time they would bring in shrinks to talk about how retarded they were. It went on and on and on, blah blah blah."

As badly as the prosecution behaved in this case, the wider court system did no better. After being denied by state and federal appeals courts, the case made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1994. In the majority decision to turn down a review of the case, Justice Scalia insisted that the crime was so heinous that McCullom deserved lethal injection.

Then, in another opinion in favor of capital punishment, written for an unrelated case out of Texas, Scalia again referenced the McCollum case. He described the rape and murder of the 11-year-old Buie, and then wrote: "How enviable a quiet death by lethal injection compared with that!"

And like so many other cases, the justice system failed to find its mistake. Death penalty proponents like to claim that the system has all the necessary safeguards for correcting wrongful convictions. But in this case, it was lawyers and advocates working tirelessly to prove the innocence of the 2 men, despite countless legal hurdles and unwarranted rejections by appeals courts.

Again and again, the Supreme Court majority has maintained that it isn't specially concerned with preventing the execution of innocent people. In a 2009 Supreme Court decision denying relief to innocent Georgia death row prisoner Troy Davis, who was murdered by the state in 2011, Scalia again affirmed this position: "This court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial, but is later able to convince a court that he is 'actually' innocent."

Despite all the evidence to the contrary, Scalia still maintains that no one innocent has ever been executed. "It should be noted at the outset that the dissent does not discuss a single case--not one--in which it is clear that a person was executed for a crime he did not commit. If such an event had occurred in recent years, we would not have to hunt for it; the innocent's name would be shouted from the rooftops by the abolition lobby" Scalia rote in a 2006 opinion in the Kansas v. Marsh case.

Anti-death penalty activists are shouting out the names of the innocent executed for years - Troy Davis and Cameron Todd Willingham. But Scalia and his compatriots don't want to listen.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

People are justly angry about the tragedy that is the modern-day death penalty. One of Henry Lee McCollum's lawyer's, Kenneth Rose, wrote about that anger in a recent essay about his client's release:

Now, with Henry finally free, some people expect me to feel satisfied, or even happy. The truth is: I am angry.

I am angry that we live in a world where 2 disabled boys can have their lives stolen from them, where cops can lie and intimidate with impunity, where innocent people can be condemned to die and where injustice is so difficult to bring to light.

As I lie awake at night, mulling over the maddening details of this case, I wonder: How many more Henry McCollums are still imprisoned, waiting for help that will never come?

Is it any wonder that 18 states have now abolished the death penalty? That others have indefinite moratoriums or are poised to abolish through new referendums or legislative decisions? Can it be any surprise that major newspapers continue to editorialize about the need to finally do away with this most gruesome and cruel punishment? Racial bias, lack of funding for defense of the poor, botched executions, executions of people with mental impairment (despite a Supreme Court ban), corruption in district attorney's offices and in the courts - all these are the modus operandi of the American "injustice" system.

The shout from the rooftops today is an indictment of the whole rotten system of capital punishment: The death penalty must go!

(source: Lily Hughes, Socialist Worker)

WASHINGTON:

Death penalty: Cost of trials is too high

2 people who allegedly killing 6 family members in Carnation in 2007 are still awaiting trial ["Carnation death-penalty case hit by more delays," Local News, Sept. 5]. 7 years, so far, of delay.

Why? Because the state is asking for the death penalty and the defense lawyers, as they should, are fighting vigorously for their clients' lives.

How much is this costing state taxpayers? A lot. And for what, to satisfy our blood lust for vengeance? And, of course, if convicted, the appeals, mandatory under state law, would take many more years and cost us more millions.

When will we wake up and abolish the death penalty? It is barbaric and many studies find that it is not a deterrent.

Don Logerwell, Seattle

(source: Letter to the Editor, Seattle Times)

SAUDI ARABIA:

Saudi Arabia Beheads Syrian Drug Trafficker

A Syrian convicted of drug trafficking was beheaded in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, the interior ministry said.

Mohammed Ismail al-Jammus had been charged with smuggling a large quantity of amphetamines into the country, a ministry statement reported by state news agency SPA said.

His decapitation takes to 54 the number of people beheaded in the ultra-conservative Gulf nation so far this year, compared with 78 people in all of 2013, according to an AFP count.

Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Saudi Arabia's strict version of Islamic sharia law.

Human Rights Watch expressed alarm last month at a surge in executions, which saw 19 people beheaded between August 4 and 20 alone.

HRW said 8 of those executed had been convicted of non-violent offences such as drug trafficking and "sorcery", and described the use of the death penalty in their cases as "particularly egregious."

(source: NDTV)

CZECH REPUBLIC:

Czech FinMin speaks of death penalty in link with murder of girl

Czech Deputy PM, Finance Minister and ANO leader Andrej Babis would be for death penalty's reintroduction, when he thinks of the recent murder of a schoolgirl in northern Bohemia and when he puts himself in the position of the girl's father, he told Impuls Radio today.

"I definitely would, as if I put myself in the role of her father, I, too, would probably want to kill him [the murderer]," Babis said in response to the interviewer's question.

Later he told journalists that he does not support the reintroduction of death penalty. He can only imagine what the killed girl's family feels, he said.

"I said nothing like that. I reacted to a situation if I were the father of the girl who was raped and killed, I'd probably kill the murderer," Babis said, adding that he does not want to support death penalty's reintroduction.

"I have 4 children and 2 granddaughters, I can put myself in the role of that mother, it is horrible," Babis said.

The 9-year-old girl from Klasterec nad Ohri was found dead last week. The police say she was raped and murdered by a 25-year-old man, a distant relative of hers.

The suspect has stayed in custody since Friday.

Death penalty was abolished in the then Czechoslovakia in 1990, shortly after the fall of the communist regime.

Since then, prison sentences from 20 to 30 years and life imprisonment have been viewed as exceptional punishment.

Death penalty is banned by the Charter of the Fundamental Rights and Freedoms that is part of the constitutional order of the Czech Republic, 1 of Czechoslovakia's 2 successor states since 1993.

Death penalty is banned by the European Union's Charter of Fundamental Rights, but it is applied in some African countries, almost all over Asia and in a majority of U.S. states.

In the Czech Republic, debates over its reintroduction usually flare up in reaction to brutal crimes. By reintroducing capital punishment, Prague would violate international agreements it joined in the past.

(source: ceskenoviny.cz)

SOUTH AFRICA:

South Africa deports murder suspect to Botswana even though he could face death penalty there

Human rights lawyers are pressing South Africa to explain why a murder suspect from Botswana was illegally deported to his country, where he could be executed if convicted.

South Africa's Department of Home Affairs acknowledges the man, Edwin Samotse, was handed to officials in neighboring Botswana in violation of South African rules that bar the extradition or deportation of people whose countries have the death penalty. It says it is investigating and that some officials were suspended.

David Cote of Lawyers for Human Rights, a South African group, said Tuesday that the group is asking a Pretoria court to instruct the government to ask Botswana not to impose the death penalty if Samotse is convicted.

South Africa abolished the death penalty in 1995 after the end of white minority rule.

(source: Fox News)

AFGHANISTAN:

Afghan Court Confirms 5 Death Sentences in Rape Case That Led to Outrage

An Afghan appeals court confirmed death sentences on Monday against 5 of the 7 defendants in a notorious robbery and rape case, despite their claims that their confessions were extracted through torture.

For the other 2 defendants, the court found insufficient evidence to justify the death penalty, so it reduced their sentences to 20 years' imprisonment.

The 7 men were accused of dressing in police uniforms and stopping a caravan of cars returning from a wedding in the Paghman district, less than half an hour's drive from Kabul; robbing the occupants; and raping 4 of the women by the roadside.

The Kabul police department was under enormous public pressure to solve the case, which prompted national outrage and revulsion. But women's rights activists have noted that the outrage was less an expression of concern about the women's welfare than about the perceived dishonor to the victims' husbands.

That pervasive sense of male privilege - to the degree that Afghan women and girls are still commonly seen as marital property, and are frequently subject to so-called honor killings even when they are the victims of sexual attacks - has remained despite efforts to reform Afghanistan's legal code to enshrine more protections for women.

Qaisullah was 1 of the defendants sentenced to death in a rape case in Kabul.Credit Shah Marai/Agence France-Presse - Getty Images Almost from the start, questions have been raised about whether the suspects were being railroaded by the government. President Hamid Karzai promised to approve the death penalty against the men even before their 2-hour trial on Sept. 7.

The entire case against them rested on their confessions and on their identification by victims at a police lineup. But all seven men said that they had been severely beaten by police officers until they confessed to the rapes, and that the police had told the victims whom to identify in a lineup that included no one other than them.

"When the lady who picked me out first came in, she put her hand on the chief of the criminal investigation division, and then on the cook," Qaisullah, one of the 5 condemned men, said at the appeals court hearing on Monday, referring to 2 police employees who would have been in plain clothes. "Then they showed me to her, and she picked me." Like many Afghans and several of the other defendants, Mr. Qaisullah uses only 1 name.

Human Rights Watch said the identification procedure was not a lineup but a "showup," in which the police indicated to the victims who the suspects were.

The 5 men whose death sentences were confirmed on Monday did not deny being part of the gang that carried out a robbery at the scene, but they said they had nothing to do with the rapes.

"After that beating, I would have confessed to adultery with my mother," said Azizullah, one of the five men, describing at the hearing his interrogation by the police. Another, Mohammad Nazar, said that he had acted only as a lookout and that the police had beaten him for 5 days until he confessed. "I never even saw the women taken from the cars," he said through sobs at the hearing.

Mr. Azizullah's wife and sister were in the audience at the hearing on Monday, wearing blue burqas. "Why are the victims not present here?" the sister, Habiba, asked the court. "Why are none of their relatives here? You should have strong proof when you are handing down death sentences."

The 2 men whose death sentences were reduced to prison terms testified that they had been in the process of committing a separate burglary when the police arrested them, and then had been beaten until they confessed to involvement in the rapes. One of them, Saifullah, said the police had forcibly put a uniform on him before photographing him to support their case against him. The other 5 defendants confirmed to the appellate judge, Atiqullah Aqiq, that they did not know the 2 burglars.

There was little sympathy in the crowded courtroom for any of the accused. Asadullah Wahdat, head of the legal aid office that provided 3 lawyers to defend the men, said that all three had received death threats and that one had withdrawn from the case as a result. Mr. Wahdat said the lawyers had not been given the legally required seven days to prepare their defense.

The appeals court heard testimony from two policemen and from two women who said they had recognized some of the accused when their trial was televised, and accused them of having robbed their homes at gunpoint in four previous episodes.

"The Paghman case shows how abusive and dysfunctional the Afghan legal system remains, not only for suspects but for women who are survivors of sexual violence," Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

"The public reaction was very much because of the men's honor," said Wazhma Frogh, executive director of the Research Institute for Women, Peace and Security. "The arrests were to save the honor of the men, not the women. The men of the country felt dishonored."

(source: New York Times)

NIGERIA:

12 Nigerian soldiers sentenced to death for mutiny: court martial

12 Nigerian soldiers were on Tuesday sentenced to death for mutiny after shots were fired at their commanding officer in the restive northeast city of Maiduguri earlier this year.

A 9-member military tribunal, sitting in Abuja, convicted the soldiers following the incident on May 14 when shots were fired at the commanding officer of the Nigerian Army's 7th Division, which is tasked with fighting Boko Haram insurgents.

Court president Brigadier General Chukwuemeka Okonkwo said the sentences were subject to confirmation by Nigeria's military authorities but added there was no doubt about the gravity of the offence.

The panel considered "its likely effect on the counter-insurgency operations in the northeast as well as its implications on national security", he told the court.

- Equipment shortage -

Nigeria's army has been under pressure to end the bloody five-year insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives, made tens of thousands of others homeless and seen the militants make territorial gains in the northeast in recent weeks.

Front-line troops have frequently complained of a lack of adequate weapons and equipment to fight the rebels.

Residents in towns raided by the Islamists have said the insurgents are often armed with rocket-propelled grenades and anti-aircraft weapons mounted on trucks and, in some cases, armoured personnel carriers.

Soldiers by contrast have at times reportedly lacked ammunition and been sent out to the bush to fight without basic communication equipment.

Last month, dozens of Nigerian soldiers refused to deploy for an offensive to try to retake the captured Borno town of Gwoza, which the Islamists claimed as part of an Islamic caliphate.

Soldiers' wives also demonstrated at the gate of a military base in Maiduguri trying to stop their husbands from heading to Gwoza without proper equipment.

One of the protesting soldiers, who set up camp on the outskirts of Maiduguri, said at the time: "We are being killed like chickens by Boko Haram because we are not given the required weapons to fight. We say enough is enough."

The country's military spokesman Chris Olukolade denied the troops had mutinied and told AFP that Nigerian soldiers were "too disciplined and patriotic to indulge in this dangerous offence".

The military has also rejected claims that hundreds of troops shouldered arms and fled their posts in border towns overrun by Boko Haram.

President Goodluck Jonathan has asked lawmakers to approve a $1 billion (750 million euros) foreign loan to upgrade the capacity of the military, which was seen as a tacit acknowledgement that troops were being out-matched.

- Unruly protest -

The court martial heard that on the day in question, the soldiers from 101 Battalion opened fire at a convoy containing the 7th Division commander General Amadu Mohammed at an army medical centre in Maiduguri.

The soldiers had demanded that Mohammed speak to them after a number of their colleagues were killed in an ambush on the way back from the Borno state town of Chibok.

The previous month, Boko Haram fighters kidnapped more than 200 girls from their school in the town, triggering global outrage.

Witnesses said the soldiers became unruly and threw stones at an officer when he arrived and shots were fired into the air. Mohammed then had to take cover as they trained their guns on him but he was not injured.

"The soldiers succeeded in shooting at his staff car, thereby causing bullet impressions at the right rear door where the GOC (general officer commanding) sat," Okonkwo told the court.

"He said thank God for the staff officer who rushed him into his car and the fact that the staff car is an armoured plated vehicle."

Eighteen soldiers in total, ranked from private to corporal, were charged with mutiny, criminal conspiracy, attempted murder, disobeying orders, insubordination and false accusation.

12 were sentenced to death for mutiny, 1 was given 28 days' hard labour on another count and 5 were acquitted. All pleaded not guilty.

(source: Agence France-Presse)

JAPAN:

Financial program for death-row inmates' artistic endeavors to continue

Organizers of a 10 million Y private fund that was introduced in 2005 to support death-row inmates have decided to maintain the fund beyond its original 10-year limit and will seek further contributions.

The fund has depended on money bequeathed by Sachiko Daidoji, an opponent of capital punishment whose son is on death row, and has been used to help condemned prisoners seek retrials while encouraging them to engage in artistic pursuits, such as painting and writing, in their cells by providing awards for excellent work.

The award selection committee includes an art director, literary critic and a well-known novelist.

"We initially planned to use the 10 million Y within 10 years - 1 million Y per year - during which we expected the death penalty to be abolished in Japan," said Masakuni Ota, a senior member of the body that manages the Daidoji Fund. "But we cannot foresee abolition at present, and it has become more and more significant for death-row inmates to contribute their works to us."

Such works have been displayed in Tokyo where opponents of capital punishment have held public meetings around Oct. 10 every year, the World Day against the Death Penalty. Inmates' drawings have also been exhibited at galleries around Japan, while some of their literary works, such as essays looking back on their lives and crimes, have been published.

The management body has already secured some additional financing, according to Ota.

"We will continue to seek additional resources to continue supporting death-row inmates," he said.

Details of future activities will be announced at this year's public meeting against the death penalty, scheduled for Oct. 11 in Tokyo to mark the 10th anniversary of the Daidoji Fund, he said.

Among those who have contributed drawings or literary works, 6 have already been hanged and 3 have died in custody.

"1 of the executed inmates, for example, expressed his unfulfilled dreams in his drawing, prompting us to envision his difficult childhood," Ota said. "It has been a bitter experience for us to hear the news of their executions."

Another inmate expressed his desire in a 31-syllable Japanese verse to help tackle the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant with his own hands rather than be hanged.

"It shows how death-row inmates seek points of contact with outside society," Ota said. "They also ardently seek dialogue with others through their works."

During the past 9 years, around 370 drawings have been contributed by 34 inmates, most of which are on display in a public gallery in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, through Sept. 23.

Daidoji died in 2004 at age 83. Her son was convicted of playing a role in a radical group's fatal 1974 bombing of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd.'s building in Tokyo's Marunouchi business district and is now seeking a retrial.

11 inmates have been executed since the December 2012 launch of the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

While the government says that surveys show overwhelming support by the Japanese people for capital punishment, a death-row inmate, convicted in the killing of a family of 4 in 1966, was released in March after a court decided on a retrial.

(source: Japan Times)

BANGLADESH:

HC upholds death penalty of acid-attacker husband----High Court has given the go-ahead to execute the death sentence of a person from Sirajganj who has been convicted of throwing acid on his wife.

A bench of Justice Md Abdul Hye and Justice Krishna Debnath has given the 'carte blanche' on Tuesday.

The convict has been identified as Md Akbar Ali, who hails from Gopinathpur village in Shahjadpur Upazila of Sirajganj.

On August 23, 2009 Sirajganj District Judge Biplob Goswami had awarded him the death penalty.

Akbar appealed to the appellate division of the High Court against the verdict. Another plea seeking execution of his death penalty was also placed before the High Court.

High Court upheld the earlier verdict.

In the Court, Deputy Attorney General Md Moniruzzaman Rubel represented the state while the defence was represented by Yusuf Hossain Humayun.

According to the case document, Akbar Ali threw acid on his wife Ayesha Siddika Nila, 22, on Feb 18, 2008. Hearing her scream, neighbours rescued her.

Ayesha's father filed a case against his son-in-law over the incident.

Deputy Attorney General Md Moniruzzaman Rubel said,"This is an exceptional verdict. There are enough evidences that Akbar threw acid on his wife. Akbar also failed to prove his innocence or that his crime is trivial before the court. So, the Court upheld the death penalty."

(source: bdnews24.com)

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Man to die for killing wife ---- The court also acquitted Afzal Hossain, father of Mokarram, from the murder case

A Joypurhat court has handed down death penalty to a man for killing his wife for dowry. Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal 2 Judge Mijanur Rahman pronounced the verdict on Tuesday morning.

The convict is Mokarram Hossain, hailed from Dharki Sotahar village under the sadar upazila. The court also acquitted Afzal Hossain, father of Mokarram, from the murder case. On April 27, 1999, Mokarram strangulated his wife Ruliya Begum for dowry.

Victim's uncle Enamul Haque filed a murder case in this connection on the next day.

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10 to die for killing schoolgirl after rape

A Lakshmipur court has handed down death penalty to 10 persons for their involvement in killing a schoolgirl after rape in the district. The court of Lakshmipur District and Session Judge Monjurul Basid pronounced the verdict on Tuesday afternoon.

The court also acquitted 14 other accused from the case as the charges against them were not proved.

Public Prosecutor Advocate Jashim Uddin confirmed the matter to Dhaka Tribune.

(source for both: Dhaka Tribune)

SINGAPORE:

S'pore mum 'kills autistic child'

A Singaporean woman was charged Monday with the murder of her autistic 7-year-old son who was found at the foot of their high-rise public housing apartment block, officials and the local media said.

Police said 42-year-old Koh Sook Hoon appeared in court to be charged with the offence that is punishable by death.

The Straits Times newspaper said she was remanded for psychiatric treatment.

The newspaper and other local media said the boy was found dead at the foot of a residential block in an eastern suburb on Saturday afternoon, with injuries consistent with falling.

Eyewitnesses told the Straits Times the boy is believed to be autistic and had lived on the ninth floor of the apartment block with his parents, grandmother and 12-year-old brother for over 5 years.

The case has elicited strong reactions among Singaporeans, many of them sympathetic to the mother and calling for her to be spared the death penalty if found guilty.

"I think she needs mental evaluation, counselling and long-term treatment but not the death penalty," wrote Felix Clarice on the Straits Times Facebook page.

"It's never easy to be a mum and the task is made almost impossible when one has a special needs child," wrote another social media user, Mabell Ong.

More than 31,000 people have autism in Singapore, according to non-profit group the Autism Resource Centre.

(source: Bangkok Post)

IRAN:

3 Pastors in Iran Could Face Death Penalty

3 pastors in Iran are facing charges that could lead to the death penalty for activities in the house-church movement in an unprecedented crackdown on converts from Islam, according to human rights groups.

Iranian authorities recently filed charges against Silas Rabbani, assistant pastor in a Church of Iran group in Karaj, for "Mofsed-fel-arz" or "spreading corruption on Earth," according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW). Authorities previously charged Behnam Irani, lead pastor of the church, with the same offense. The exact date when each pastor was charged is not publicly known, but information about each pastor leaked out of Iran the 1st week of this month and was reported by CSW, a freedom of religion advocacy group based in London.

Prior to charges being filed against Irani and Rabbani, the Sixth Branch of the Revolutionary Tribunal on Aug. 3 charged Abdolreza Ali-Haghnejad, another a leader in the Church of Iran movement in Karaj, with "Moharebeh," or "warring against God." A court has now changed the charge to "spreading corruption on Earth."

The charges are "a clear escalation in Iran's campaign against Persian Christians" and "an attempt to gain an apostasy conviction by other means," CSW Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said in a press statement.

(source: Morning Star News)

EGYPT:

Egypt sentences Muslim Brotherhood leader Badie to life in jail

Mohamed Badie, top leader of Egypt's outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, was sentenced to life in jail along with 14 others on Monday on charges of murder and inciting violence during clashes near Cairo last year.

The session had been summoned for witness statements but the judge surprised journalists and others present by issuing a verdict. Badie, 71, is among hundreds of Brotherhood members already sentenced to death in mass trials that have drawn criticism from Western governments and human rights groups.

The death sentences are subject to appeal.

In what is known as the Bahr al-Azam case, Badie and the other defendants were convicted of the murder of 5 people and the attempted murder of 100 others during violence that broke out in Giza on July 15, 2013.

Then-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi toppled President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood on July 3, 2013 after protests against his rule.

Egyptian authorities have since arrested thousands of Brotherhood supporters, sentencing hundreds to death or long prison sentences, while Egypt's oldest Islamist movement has been banned and designated a terrorist organisation.

Sisi, who went on to win a presidential election, vowed in his campaign that the Brotherhood, once among Egypt's most formidable political movements, would cease to exist under him.

Mursi, freely elected in 2012, is also on trial on a variety of charges including inciting violence and conspiring with a foreign power, and could face the death penalty if convicted.

Egypt's Brotherhood renounced violence as a means of political change decades ago and argues that it has been robbed of political power won fairly at the ballot box.

Badie and 182 Muslim brotherhood supporters were sentenced to death in a mass trial last June over violence that erupted in Minya governorate which led to the killing of a police officer.

A court sentenced Badie to life in prison in a separate case in July for inciting violence and blocking a major road north of Cairo during protests that followed Mursi's ouster. He received another life sentence last month, on separate counts of inciting violence in clashes near a mosque in Giza.

(source: euronews.com)

PAKISTAN:

Stop 1st civilian execution in 6 years ---- The last civilian execution in Pakistan took place in late 2008.

Pakistan should immediately scrap apparent plans to carry out the 1st civilian execution in almost 6 years and instead impose a moratorium on the use of the death penalty as a 1st step towards abolition, Amnesty International said.

Shoaib Sarwar, a death row prisoner convicted on murder charges in 1998, is reportedly set to be hanged in a Rawalpindi jail on 18 September 2014. If carried out, it would be the 1st civilian execution in Pakistan since 2008 and the 1st execution in the country since 2012.

"This execution should be halted immediately," said David Griffiths, Amnesty International's Deputy Asia-Pacific Director.

"The suspension in executions which we have seen in recent years is one of few human rights areas in which Pakistan can point to a positive record. The country has committed itself to making progress on human rights - as a beneficiary of the EU's GSP+ preferential trading status, for example - and the resumption of executions would be a seriously regressive step. Instead of moving to resume executions, authorities should formalise a moratorium on the death penalty as a 1st step towards full abolition."

Shoaib Sarwar has exhausted his appeal process, with the Lahore High Court and the Supreme Court rejecting his appeals against the death penalty in 2003 and 2006 respectively.

The last civilian execution in Pakistan took place in late 2008, but a soldier was executed by military authorities in November 2012. The execution of a civilian, Behram Khan, had been scheduled for 30 July 2012 but was later suspended.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government threatened to resume executions after coming to power in 2013, but backed-down after pressure from human rights groups and others.

There are more than 8,000 prisoners on death row in Pakistan - 1 of the highest death row populations in the world - most of whom have exhausted the appeals process and could be facing execution.

There are serious concerns around the lack of fairness of the trials in which people continue to be sentenced to death. Defendants are often without adequate legal representation, and some prisoners currently under sentence of death were reportedly under the age of 18 when the crimes were committed, against Pakistan's obligations under international law.

"As long as the death penalty is in place, the risk of executing innocent people can never be ruled out. The systemic fair trials violations in Pakistan not only exacerbate this risk, but also put Pakistan in breach of its international obligations," said David Griffiths.

"There is no conclusive evidence that the threat of execution acts as a particular deterrent to crime. The death penalty violates the right to life, pure and simple, and has no place in any human rights-respecting society. Pakistan should join the majority of countries in the world and abolish it completely."

Background

Any move by Pakistan to resume executions would buck the worldwide trend that is moving steadily away from the death penalty. In 2013, only 22 countries in the world carried out executions - down from 25 in 2004 and 37 in 1994. In 1945, when the UN was created, only 8 countries had abolished the death penalty for all crimes - today 140 nations are abolitionist in law or practice. Over the past decade, 18 countries have abolished the death penalty fully in law.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. The death penalty violates the right to life and is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

(source: Amnesty International)

CHINA:

China sees surge in protested criminal cases

The number of criminal cases being contested by procuratorates following erroneous judgments by courts has increased by almost 20 % since 2011.

A total of 6,234 criminal cases were protested in 2013, an increase of 17 % from 2011, the Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP) said Tuesday. Among the protested cases, 2,433 were reversed.

The SPP released the data following the publishing of 3 amended criminal cases on its official website for the 1st time. They have published corrected judgments on non-criminal cases since Oct. 31, 2010.

The contested criminal cases published involve crimes of robbery, theft and homicide.

In one case, Guo Mingxian had been sentenced to death with 2 years' suspension by the Intermediate People's Court of Mianyang city in Sichuan for murder and mafia-style gang activity.

The Higher People's Court of Sichuan Province recalled the original verdict and decided for immediate death penalty after the people's procuratorate of Mianyang protested the case.

"The publicity of such cases aims at setting an example for procuratorates to fulfill the duty of legal supervision, protect human rights and increase the public's confidence in justice," said an unidentified official with the SPP.

(source: Xinhua News)

SEPTEMBER 15, 2014:

TEXAS:

We recommend Bert Richardson for Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 3

Deep experience in the law. Impeccable credentials. Exposure to a range of issues. Energy. Intellectual engagement. Widely traveled.

If these are ideal qualities for a member of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Republican Bert Richardson is an ideal candidate for Place 3 on November's ballot. Richardson, 58, was a state district judge in San Antonio for 10 years before taking senior status and assignments to cases across 45 Texas counties.

The cases he's handled reflect some of the big challenges in criminal justice. Richardson is also board certified in criminal law, a qualification achieved by fewer than 2 % of lawyers.

Richardson has been involved with numerous death penalty cases, both as a prosecutor in Bexar County and as a judge. His observations to this newspaper on capital punishment are remarkable for a jurist: Richardson said there is no consistency in Texas in deciding when to seek the death penalty and that the state could benefit from a review process similar to one used by the U.S. Justice Department. Richardson once worked as a federal prosecutor.

Richardson's Democratic opponent, John Granberg, 38, is an El Paso criminal lawyer and former assistant county prosecutor who says he would improve the court's awareness of immigration law. With no experience in state appeals or death cases, Granberg lacks credentials needed for this post.

Libertarian Mark W. Bennett also appears on the ballot.

(source: Editorial, Dallas Morning News)

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No-Knock Raid Leads To Dead Officer But No Drugs: Prosecutors Pushing For Death Penalty Anyway

A no-knock raid is a law enforcement technique designed to search for incriminating evidence while taking suspects by surprise. However, on the morning of May 9, it left one officer dead and another injured.

Now prosecutors in Killeen, Texas, are hoping to impose the death penalty on the suspect, 49-year-old Marvin Louis Guy (pictured above), in spite of the fact that no drugs were found.

The Washington Post writer Radley Balko looks at why this may not be such a good idea.

"Perhaps this was a major drug operation that justified a pre-dawn, no-knock raid. But it doesn't seem like it from the evidence found," Balko said. "I'd imagine that a good percentage of households in Texas have at least 1 firearm and that a good percentage of households elsewhere in America have cellphones and a set of walkie-talkies [items found in the raid]."

While there was a drug pipe found at the scene, this "suggests drug use, not distribution," and Balko rightly points out that while an informant "saw white bags of cocaine transported in and around the house," criminal informants are not typically that reliable.

"But all of that is mostly beside the point," Balko concludes. "The fact that the police didn't find any drugs in the house suggests that Marvin Louis Guy didn't know he was shooting at cops. Drug dealer or no, unless he had a death wish, it's unlikely that a guy would knowingly fire at police officers when he had nothing in the house that was particularly incriminating."

Still, the Killeen Police Department lost one of its own in 47-year-old Officer Charles "Chuck" Dinwiddie, and that isn't lost on the prosecution, notes KWTX. The outlet originally broke the news prosecutors would be seeking the death penalty in spite of the probability that Guy, awakened at 5:30 a.m/ by the no-knock raid, was simply shooting wildly at what he believed to be armed intruders.

His gunfire also struck the femur of Officer Odis Denton, 37, who underwent surgery and was later released from Scott & White Hospital.

Guy also shot 2 additional officers, who were unharmed due to the bullets striking protective gear.

While the evidence presented thus far does not indicate that police had substantial reason to believe Guy was a drug dealer, the case is still in the early stages of being tried, so it'll be interesting to see how it develops.

(source: Inquisitr)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Death penalty trial to open in 2012 slaying of suburban Philadelphia baby, grandmother

Jury selection is scheduled Tuesday in the trial of a suburban Philadelphia man accused of having killed a baby and her grandmother in a botched kidnapping plot.

27-year-old Raghunandan Yandamuri of Upper Merion could face the death penalty if convicted of 1st-degree murder in Montgomery County Court.

Prosecutors allege that he kidnapped 10-month-old Saanvi Venna from her family's King of Prussia apartment in October 2012 and killed the baby's grandmother after the woman tried to protect the child. The girl's body was found several days later.

Yandamuri plans to represent himself on charges of first and second degree murder, kidnapping, burglary and robbery. The trial was scheduled to open last week but was delayed to allow him to look into forensic evidence and confer with an investigator.

(source: Associated Press)

GEORGIA:

Clemency 'transparency' may be hot issue at Capitol----Ruling in 1991 murder case, and lack of explanation, raises emotions in Dawson County

The State Board of Pardons and Paroles' silence on the July 10 clemency it granted a death-row inmate in a 1991 murder case has stirred strong emotions in North Georgia, with ripple effects possibly leading to the doors of the 2015 General Assembly.

"I think that we, as a state, owe the family an explanation why that sentence didn't get carried out," said state Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, adding that the lack of a reason is "tragic."

The 5-member board's decision to commute Tommy Lee Waldrip for his part in the murder of Keith Lloyd Evans to life in prison without parole evoked strong reaction by itself.

But the board's later decision to deny Dawson County's request to declassify materials related to the decision has inspired a call for change that has riled several groups and piqued the interest of Gooch, whose district includes Dawson.

He said he's "anxious to hear what we can do in the General Assembly to open that process up a little bit more and make it more transparent. Whether that requires legislation or not, I don't know.

"I'm satisfied there'll be some discussion between now and January about a piece of legislation to make that happen."

Also eyeing the debate is the Georgia First Amendment Foundation.

"The issue of prime concern to the First Amendment community is not whether or not any given defendant is released - rather that the public knows almost nothing about the process of release," executive director Hollie Manheimer said.

"Public safety is a huge issue of public concern and this board's decisions impacts public safety. The public has a keen interest in its decisions."

Evans' sister, Angela DeCoursey, said her family was "not at all surprised" the parole board refused to release the information regarding its decision, based on "the positions of power this 5-member board has."

"We are very disappointed, however, to know that the taxpayers of this state pay over half a million to this board, (which) does not have to be accountable for their actions."

DeCoursey said her family has not decided on future steps, if any.

"We ... feel we have exhausted all efforts, basically to no avail," she said. "Injustice has truly prevailed and we have been forced to accept it."

DeCoursey did say she hopes that "very soon, the law will be changed to avoid this happening to other families."

Northeastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lee Darragh said that in the clemency hearing he participated in, some parole board members seemed focused on "flawed reasoning" that "equally culpable" co-defendant John Mark Waldrip, Tommy Waldrip's son, didn't get the death penalty that he had sought "from a different jury in a different county."

In separate trials, Howard Livingston and John Mark Waldrip were sentenced to life in prison for their parts in Evans' beating death.

When asked about the transparency issues raised in this case, parole board spokesman Steve Hayes only said the board "has discretion under the law to determine whether it is appropriate to declassify information" and that its authority is derived from the Georgia Constitution.

Waldrip's attorneys and family couldn't be reached for comment. James Mills, a Hall County resident and former state representative who serves on the parole board, also couldn't be reached.

Sasha Dlugolenski, a spokeswoman for Gov. Nathan Deal said, "There is a healthy distance between the governor and the State Board of Pardons and Paroles, as required by law.

"The only role the governor plays in this whole process is the ability to appoint board members subject to confirmation by the state Senate. Therefore, something of this nature would not fall under our jurisdiction."

The state's Open Records Act, which was last revised in 2012, exempts documents related to "the deliberations and voting of the state Board of Pardons and Paroles."

In addition, the law states, the "board may close a meeting held for the purpose of receiving information or evidence for or against clemency or in revocation proceedings if it determines that the receipt of such information or evidence in open meeting would present a substantial risk of harm or injury to a witness."

Dawson County Attorney Joey Homans said the county wants the classified information to be revealed in the pardons and parole board's annual report to the governor.

He said Georgia is one of a handful of states that does not require the governor, "or at least some elected officer," to be involved in clemency issues.

"If we receive no progress, we may request that the statute be rewritten. We're now waiting to see how it unfolds," he said.

Homans said he is currently working on letters to the governor, Attorney General Sam Olens, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, House Speaker David Ralston, Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, and Gooch on the matter. Olens' spokeswoman Lauren Kane said state law gives the board "the discretion to seal records ... and does not give us the authority to unseal them."

She noted that in the early 1940s, questions were raised about the handling of pardons by some governors' offices.

Public concern led the General Assembly to enact legislation, signed into law in February 1943, that created the State Board of Pardons and Paroles as an independent agency to administer executive clemency.

In August 1943, Georgia voters ratified an amendment to the state constitution to establish the parole board's authority "to grant paroles, pardons and reprieves, to commute sentences, including death sentences, to remit sentences, and to remove disabilities imposed by law."

The board also was given a staff of parole officers to investigate cases and supervise persons granted parole.

Darragh said an area of concern is that the board conducts its own investigations.

"To review and rely on the record, transcripts and the like is perhaps a good thing," he said. "However, to re-interview the defendant himself ... and allow him to make up whatever facts about the crime that he would without any access to that interview by the prosecutor or opportunity to refute those alleged facts is contrary to any sense of a proper legal process."

Gooch said legislators moving forward on the issue need "to be careful with changing all of those procedures.

"We don't want to do it too quickly or out of emotion, but, at the same time, the process worked (in the Waldrip case), the judicial system did its job ... and the family deserves some explanation."

"The only silver lining here," Darragh said, "is that Tommy Lee Waldrip will never see the light of day, with (his sentence). In that both the remaining co-defendants unfortunately do have parole eligibility, it should be that they too should never see the light of day themselves."

(source: Gainesville Times)

FLORIDA:

Convicted Murderer James Herard Dares Judge To Impose Death Penalty

A Florida convict dared a judge to give him the death penalty during a Friday hearing because he believes the Supreme Court would never allow him to die for something he didn't do.

James Herard, 25, was convicted in May of murdering 2 people. He maintains his innocence.

"Honestly and truly, I'm not asking you to spare me," he told the judge at his sentencing hearing. "Go ahead and do what you gonna do. I pretty much dare you to give me the death sentence because I'm innocent."

Prosecutors said Herard belongs to a violent gang whose members use body counts to compete with each other.

"I'm actually hoping you give me the death penalty because I know the Supreme Court won't allow me to die for something I didn't commit," Herard reportedly told the judge.

Herard was previously convicted of the 2008 murder of Kiem Huynh, 58, and was sentenced to life in prison. Herard, then 19, made headlines when he appeared in Broward Circuit Court and barked like a dog, NBC Miami reported.

(source: opposingviews.com)

WASHINGTON:

Death penalty: Cost of trials is too high

2 people who allegedly killing 6 family members in Carnation in 2007 are still awaiting trial ["Carnation death-penalty case hit by more delays," Local News, Sept. 5]. 7 years, so far, of delay.

Why? Because the state is asking for the death penalty and the defense lawyers, as they should, are fighting vigorously for their clients' lives.

How much is this costing state taxpayers? A lot. And for what, to satisfy our blood lust for vengeance? And, of course, if convicted, the appeals, mandatory under state law, would take many more years and cost us more millions.

When will we wake up and abolish the death penalty? It is barbaric and many studies find that it is not a deterrent.

Don Logerwell, Seattle

(source: Letter to the Editor, Seattle TImes)

USA:

The case of 2 wrongly imprisoned men exposes the flaws of the judicial system

The case of 2 North Carolina men who spent 30 years in prison - 1 on death row - for a crime they didn't commit calls attention once again to the familiar failings in the U.S. justice system that lead to false convictions. As much as we would like to cheer the release of Henry McCollum and his half-brother Leon Brown, we can't help but be sobered by how long they spent behind bars - and how many other innocent people may remain locked up or susceptible to false arrest and imprisonment.

The 2 men, now 50 and 46, were declared innocent in the 1983 rape and murder of 11-year-old Sabrina Buie and freed from prison on Sept. 2 by a state judge. The move came after DNA implicated another man, a known sex offender who lived near the crime scene and is serving life in prison for a similar murder that occurred just weeks after Buie was killed. The DNA evidence did more than exonerate the men; it laid bare the flimsiness of a case corrupted at every stage by mistakes and misconduct.

No physical evidence ever tied Mr. McCollum, then 19, and Mr. Brown, 15, to the murder of the young girl. Prosecutors instead relied on confessions coerced from the 2 intellectually disabled teenagers after hours of questioning with no lawyer present. After signing a statement written by investigators with details of the crime, Mr. McCollum asked: "Can I go home now?"

Most appalling is that police knew about the sex offender suspect, at one point even requesting that a fingerprint match be undertaken. But this was never done and none of this information was ever shared with the defense. It's not a stretch to think there would have been a different outcome if police hadn't been so quick to settle on suspects to close out this horrific case. Or if the jury had been told of the existence of a suspect who had confessed to a similar rape and murder nearby.

The ingredients that went into this miscarriage of justice have not been eliminated even today: police and prosecutorial tunnel vision, false confessions resulting from improper questioning, failure to turn over exculpatory evidence and a death penalty appeals system with blinders to critical issues. Among the obviously needed reforms: Require open file discovery so that defendants can have access to all information; videotape all confessions; establish in every state innocence commissions like that in North Carolina. Above all else, the fact that an innocent man, Mr. McCollum, came so close to execution - Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia cited the case as an example that clearly called out for a lethal injection - is further reason to abolish the death penalty.

(source: Opinion; Washington Post)

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U.S. should abolish the death penalty

No one is justified in taking a human life, except in self-defense.

We justify the death penalty by saying it will prevent the person from committing the crime again as well as deter other people from committing the crime.

The same result can be obtained with a life sentence without parole, and we would avoid executing a wrongly convicted person. If this has happened only once, it is too often.

We need to abolish the death penalty. Two wrongs do not make a right.

James Schell, Henderson

(source: Letter to the Editor, Las Vegas Sun)

IRAN----executions

Ghezelhesar Prison: 8 prisoners hanged, 4 others committed suicide

During last week, 8 prisoners were executed by hanging in Ghezalhesar prison, in Karaj, and 4 other death row inmates committed suicide.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), on Wednesday 10th September 8 prisoners with charges of possessing and carrying drugs were executed by hanging in Karaj, Ghezalhesar prison.

5 of these prisoners were from ward 1, Unit 2 and 3 others from other wards of the same Unit.

Also, during last week 4 prisoners who were sentenced to death, in Ghezalhesar prison, committed suicide. 2 of them lost their lives and 2 others were admitted in medical centers outside the prison.

Executions in drug related crimes has increased while the experts believe that drug problem in Iran cannot be solved by using death penalty.

(source: Human Rights Activists News Agency)

AFGHANISTAN:

Court Confirms 5 Death Sentences in Afghan Rape Case

An Afghan appeals court confirmed death sentences on Monday against 5 of the 7 defendants in a notorious robbery and rape case, despite their claims that their confessions were extracted through torture.

For the other 2 defendants, the court found insufficient evidence to justify the death penalty, so it reduced their sentences to 20 years' imprisonment.

The 7 men were accused of dressing in police uniforms and stopping a caravan of cars returning from a wedding in the Paghman district, less than half an hour's drive from Kabul; robbing the occupants and raping 4 of the women by the roadside.

The Kabul police department was under enormous public pressure to solve the case, which prompted national outrage and revulsion. But women's rights activists have noted that the outrage was less an expression of concern about the women's welfare than about the perceived dishonor to the victims' husbands.

That pervasive sense of male privilege - to the degree that Afghan women and girls are still commonly seen as marital property, and are frequently subject to so-called honor killings even when they are the victims of sexual attacks - has remained despite efforts to reform Afghanistan's legal code to enshrine more protections for women.

Qaisullah was one of the defendants sentenced to death in a rape case in Kabul.Credit Shah Marai/Agence France-Presse - Getty Images Almost from the beginning, questions have been raised about whether the suspects were being railroaded by the government. President Hamid Karzai promised to approve the death penalty against the men even before their hurried, 2-hour-long trial on Sept. 7.

The entire case against them rested on their confessions and on their identification by victims at a police lineup. But all seven men said that they were severely beaten by police officers until they confessed to the rapes, and that the victims were told by the police whom to identify in a lineup that included no one other than them.

"When the lady who picked me out first came in, she put her hand on the chief of the criminal investigation division, and then on the cook," Qaisullah, 1 of the 5 condemned men, said at the appeals court hearing Monday, referring to 2 police employees who would have been in plain clothes. "Then they showed me to her, and she picked me." Like many Afghans and several of the other defendants, Mr. Qaisullah uses only 1 name.

Human Rights Watch said the police identification procedure was not a lineup but a "showup," in which the police indicated to the victims who the suspects were.

The 5 men whose death sentences were confirmed on Monday did not deny being part of the gang that carried out a robbery at the scene, but they said they had nothing to do with the rapes.

"After that beating, I would have confessed to adultery with my mother," said Azizullah, 1 of the 5 men, describing his interrogation by police at the hearing. Another, Mohammad Nazar, said he had only acted as a lookout and that the police beat him for 5 days until he confessed. "I never even saw the women taken from the cars," he said through sobs at the hearing.

Mr. Azizullah's wife and sister were in the audience at the hearing on Monday, wearing blue burqas. "Why are the victims not present here?" the sister, Habiba, asked the court. "Why are none of their relatives here? You should have strong proof when you are handing down death sentences."

The 2 men whose death sentences were reduced to prison terms testified that they were in the process of committing a separate burglary when the police arrested them, and then were beaten until they confessed to involvement in the rapes. One of them, Saifullah, said the police had forcibly put a uniform on him before photographing him to support their case against him. The other 5 defendants confirmed to the appellate judge, Atiqullah Aqiq, that they did not know the 2 burglars.

There was little sympathy in the crowded courtroom for any of the accused. Asadullah Wahdat, head of the legal aid office that provided 3 lawyers to defend the men, said that all 3 had received death threats and 1 had withdrawn from the case as a result. Mr. Wahdat said the lawyers were not given the legally required 7 days to prepare their defense.

The appeal hearing, like the trial, was televised, a highly unusual practice in Afghanistan. The appeals court heard testimony from two policemen and from 2 women who said they had recognized some of the accused when their trial was televised, and accused them of having previously robbed their homes at gunpoint in four other episodes.

"The Paghman case shows how abusive and dysfunctional the Afghan legal system remains, not only for suspects but for women who are survivors of sexual violence," said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, in a statement condemning the trial.

Though the men had confessed to raping the women, they were not originally charged with rape, but with adultery, a capital offense under Shariah religious law. The appeals court added rape charges against the men on Monday after an outcry from women's rights activists.

Afghan courts frequently charge both the rapist and the victim with adultery and prosecute both, although that has not happened in the Paghman case.

"The public reaction was very much because of the men's honor," said Wazhma Frogh, executive director of the Research Institute for Women, Peace and Security. "The arrests were to save the honor of the men, not the women. The men of the country felt dishonored."

(source: New York Times)

SINGAPORE:

Woman accused of causing 7-year-old boy's death charged with murder

A 42-year-old woman was charged on Monday (Sep 15) with murder at the State Courts, over the death of a 7-year-old boy. The woman is accused of causing the death of the boy on Saturday in a flat in Tampines around 12.53pm.

The boy, whose body was found at the foot of a block of flats in Tampines on Saturday, was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics. Police arrested the woman on Sunday.

She has been remanded for psychiatric assessment, and her case will be next heard on Oct 7.

If convicted of murder, she faces the death penalty. A gag order has been imposed on the victim's identity.

(source: Channel News Asia)

CHINA:

3 sentenced to death for Kunming Train Station attack

The Intermediate Court of Kunming has found 4 defendants guilty of carrying out a deadly knife attack that claimed the lives of 31 civilians and injured 141 in March of this year. 3 of the defendants, all men, received the death penalty, while the lone female suspect was sentenced to life in prison.

The 1-day trail, held on September 12, lasted only a few hours. Video shows the 3 men, Iskandar Ehet, Turgun Tohtunyaz and Hasayn Muhammad seated in court with shaved heads, wearing matching blue prison uniforms. They were all found guilty of "premeditated murder and leading and organizing a terrorist group". The 4th defendant, Patigul Tohti, will spend the rest of her life behind bars after being found guilty of "intentional homicide and joining a terrorist group".

None of the men on trial participated directly in the train station attack, according to a BBC report. Instead, they coordinated the assault from afar 3 making plans beforehand and then directing 5 of their associates. Court documents made public following the trial say the 3 men were all captured by police 2 days before the attacks occurred.

This narrative directly contradicts previous official accounts claiming the suspects were apprehended March 4 following a 36-hour manhunt in Kunming and beyond. It remains unclear when or where the men were actually captured, as no details of their arrests have ever been made public. Conversely, the story surrounding female assailant Tohti has remained consistent since March.

She was arrested following a bloody rampage wherein she and 4 others indiscriminately stabbed dozens of people who were queueing to buy tickets at the Kunming Train Station. Tohti was eventually subdued by police and arrested, while her 4 co-conspirators were all reportedly shot dead in a span of 15 seconds by a SWAT team sniper.

The trial in Kunming was uncharacteristically open to the public, and 300 people, including victims and their families, attended the proceedings. Security at the courthouse was increased noticeably, with armed guards posted both inside and outside the courtroom.

China has significantly ramped up law enforcement and 'anti-terror' efforts following the bloodshed in Kunming. In many cities around the country, police officers are now permitted to carry sidearms for the 1st time in decades. Trials involving suspected militants have also increased, and hundreds of people have been jailed for terrorism-related crimes by Xinjiang police as violence escalated over the summer.

(source: gokunming.com)

SOUTH AFRICA:

Widow wants death sentence for farm murderers

A woman whose husband was killed in a farm attack 2 1/2 years ago called for the reinstatement of the death penalty at public hearings on Monday.

Bernadette Hall, who was speaking at the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) public hearings on farm attacks, was asked what kind of sentence she thought would be appropriate for those found guilty of farm killings.

She hesitated for a few moments before replying: "It's impossible... I personally feel the death sentence, or a really lengthy prison sentence."

Hall said the problem with long imprisonment was that taxpayers had to pay for criminals to be fed and clothed.

"Our tax money is paying for that. I still end up looking after the man that killed my husband."

The SAHRC hearings are chaired by commissioner Danny Titus and are being held in Braamfontein, Johannesburg.

AfriForum previously complained to the SAHRC that the police were not doing enough to protect farming communities.

According to AfriForum, 91 attacks on farms and 42 murders on farms have been reported in South Africa since January.

Hall called for police to be better trained in dealing with victims of farm attacks, and in collecting evidence.

Arrest made

Almost a year after her husband's murder the police arrested someone in connection with the crime. The matter was eventually thrown out of court due to a technicality, Hall said.

She said the police questioning and court process was traumatic.

"Every day in court I felt like a criminal."

Hall still lives on her farm, even though there having been 5 attacks on farms and 3 murders in her immediate farming community in the past 2 1/2 years.

She has stopped farming maize, because the attackers who killed her husband hid in their mealie field to watch the family before the attack.

She said the police needed to beef up security in rural areas as the country was rapidly losing productive farmers.

Hall said her farming community had organised a patrol to bolster security in their area, but this had been problematic.

"When a farmer leaves his wife and children at home they are sitting targets."

The police are expected to make submissions at the hearings later this month.

(source: news24.com)

GLOBAL:

98 countries have abolished death penalty

Written history has several mentions of capital punishment. The legal principle lex talionis - an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life - was mentioned in the 18th century BCE code of Babylonian king Hammurabi. Many ancient societies had similar codes to justify judicial executions. The 7th century BCE's Draconian Code of Athens, the 5th century BCE Roman Law and Kautilya's Arthasastra, all had provisions of death sentence. These executions were done by several methods like crucifixion, drowning, beating to death, stoning, burning alive, impalement, hanging and so on.

How many countries carry out judicial executions?

According to Amnesty International's 2014 report on death penalties, in 2013, at least 778 executions were reported in 22 countries, 96 more than in 2012. With at least 369 executions in the year, Iran leads the list. It is followed by Iraq (169+), Saudi Arabia (79+), USA (39) and Somalia, where at least 34 judicial executions took place. Other countries that reported more than 10 executions were Sudan and Yemen. The global executions figure does not include China which is believed to have been executed thousands of convicts. China classifies death penalty as a state secret. The report also shows that at least 1,925 people were sentenced to death in 57 countries in 2013. As of 2013, there are 23,392 death row inmates globally. The methods of execution range from beheading, hanging, lethal injection to shooting.

How many countries have abolished the death sentence?

Amnesty International reports that as of the end of 2013, more than two-thirds of all countries have abolished death penalty in law or in practice. There are 98 countries which have abolished it for all crimes. Most of these are in Western Europe and the Americas. Seven countries, including Brazil, Chile and Kazakhstan have abolished it for ordinary crimes. In these countries, death penalty can only be given for exceptional crimes such as crime committed under military law or under exceptional circumstances. Another 35 countries are categorized as abolitionist in practice. These retain the death penalty for ordinary crimes, but there have been no executions in the past 10 years. The death sentence is retained by the legal system of 58 countries. More than half of the world's population lives in these countries.

What do opponents of capital punishment say?

They say that it is possible for innocent people to get executed because of unfair and discriminatory application of the death penalty. Studies across the world have shown that in most cases the person sentenced to death is from an economically and socially backward section of society, indicating the inability to hire good lawyers to contest their cases. Many studies have suggested that there is no evidence to show that capital punishment has any effect on murder rates. It is also argued that the sentence is a denial of human rights and sends a wrong message - that killing is acceptable under certain circumstances.

(source: The Times of India)

SEPTEMBER 14, 2014:

CONNECTICUT:

Death Row Inmates' Expert Witness Bills State For $3.5 Million; Is Paid Half

Many legal twists arose in the long-running lawsuit by death row inmates who claimed Connecticut's death penalty is racially biased, but maybe the biggest twist was financial: After the 5 inmates lost the case, their expert witness billed the state for $3.5 million, for 6 years of services.

The 6 years' worth of invoices from Stanford law school professor John J. Donohue III gave the state's Public Defender Services Commission a bad case of sticker-shock.

Public records show that the commission balked early this year before finally agreeing to pay half the sum, $1.75 million - and only after getting the state legislature and governor to approve emergency funding for the payment. It was quietly included in the new state budget approved in May, and Donohue was paid June 21.

For many taxpayers, it's an unwelcome fact of life that they bear the cost of preserving the legal rights of convicted killers. The counter to that is that it's the price of being civilized. And if an exclamation point is needed to punctuate either statement, it could be the story of the recent payment to Donohue.

Added to other expenses, Donohue's fee raised the cost to taxpayers above $5.6 million in the case. That bill will undoubtedly rise even more, as the inmates have appealed to the state Supreme Court to try to overturn Superior Court Judge Samuel J. Sferrazza's October 2013 ruling against them. Their private lawyers are paid by the state public defenders agency.

Donohue's request for $3.5 million "caught [us] completely by surprise," public defender commission Chairman Thomas J. Rechen told Government Watch in an interview this past week. "That number was extraordinary ... And it was not submitted to us in accordance with the clear policies and guidelines." Those guidelines include pre-approval by the commission of anticipated expenses even when they are not "expenses of this magnitude," as well as timely submittal of the bills, he said.

"It wasn't in our budget," Rechen said. "We needed emergency funding," and that's why they turned to the legislature and governor.

But first, he said, they went over Donohue's itemized invoices in detail. Rechen said that he believed that "we had a legal basis" to reject the invoices because of the manner in which they were submitted, but panel members also recognized that Donohue had done "substantial work and was deserving of reasonable compensation."

"We interviewed several of those involved" in the case, including Donohue himself, "in order to come up with a fair fee," Rechen said.

Then came a special meeting of the commission, held in Rechen's office at the law firm McCarter & English in the CityPlace building in Hartford. Donohue "attended" via a live Skype video link from Milan, Italy, where he had been invited to teach. The commission voted to approve payment of $1.75 million, on 3 conditions:

--Donohue "executing a release for any further claims" in connection with the case that's been named "In Re: Racial Disparity"

--The lead attorney for the inmates' legal team, David S. Golub, of Silver Golub & Teitell LLP, signing an agreement "indemnifying the state, the Public Defender Services Commission and the Division of Public Defender Services for any claim from Dr. John J. Donohue III, beyond the $1,750,000";

--And "funding for this payment to be approved by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor."

The required documents were signed by Donohue, Golub and other private lawyers who represented the 5 inmates listed as plaintiffs in the case. The legislature included $1.8 million in the public defender commission's new budget to cover Donohue's bill and some other expenses. The legislature passed the state budget May 4, and the governor signed it May 29.

Donohue could not be reached for comment, but Golub - who had retained the statistical expert for the lengthy litigation that began in 2005 - said that Donohue had extended himself beyond what could reasonably be expected of an expert witness, especially one who is one of the world's experts in his field.

'Gouging' Denied

"It was a big bill, but at the same time it was documented," Golub said. "Yes, it could have been handled better procedurally," Golub said of the $3.5 million in invoices that were dumped all at once into the commission's lap, but he added that there was "no question" about the legitimacy of the amount and quality of the work Donohue did.

"Nobody should think that John Donohue was gouging the state," Golub said. "He put in twice the time that he was paid for." He said Donohue dropped any fees that the state questioned. "They made a proposal, and it was fine with John."

In addition to testifying at the lengthy trial in the case in 2013, Donohue did "thousands of hours" of statistical study.

Donohue, on the inmates' behalf, studied 205 death-penalty-eligible cases from 1973 to 2007 and found - as worded by Golub - "a statistically significant disparity in capital charging based upon the difference [in] the rate of charging for black defendants who killed white victims and white defendants. ... If a black kills a white, there [is] a statistically significant disparity in Connecticut about whether he'll get charged with capital felony as opposed to a white defendant."

However, the office of Chief State's Attorney Kevin Kane had an expert witness of its own who disputed Donohue's conclusions. That expert, Stephan Michelson of Longbranch Research Associates in North Carolina, was paid more than $1.1 million in taxpayer funds by Kane's office.

Golub said Donohue had to do more work than Michelson, because the former compiled the statistics that formed the basis of the case and Michelson took what Golub characterized as an ever-changing series of shots at it - 11 in all. Golub said that Donohue had to prepare painstaking, time-consuming responses "over and over and over again." Michelson has disputed such comments in the past by Golub and has said his findings were valid.

Ultimately, Sferrazza ruled that the limited sample of death penalty cases in Connecticut makes it impossible to render an over-arching judgment on racial bias, adding that there was insufficient proof under state statutes to find in favor of the inmates.

The 5 petitioners in the habeas corpus action - Sedrick Cobb, Daniel Webb, Todd Rizzo, Richard Reynolds and Robert Breton - wanted their death sentences converted to life in prison without parole.

They are among 11 inmates still facing execution even though the legislature abolished the death penalty in 2012. That abolition doesn't apply to killers already on death row, whose crimes predated the legislation.

Cobb was convicted of capital felony, kidnapping, murder, sexual assault and robbery in a 1989 attack on 23-year-old Julia Ashe of Watertown.

Breton was sentenced to death in 1989 for murder and capital felony in the 1987 beating and stabbing deaths of his ex-wife and their 16-year-old son in Waterbury.

Reynolds received the death sentence in 1995 for the murder of Waterbury police Officer Walter T. Williams in 1992.

Rizzo's death sentence was handed down in 2005 for the 1997 sledgehammer murder of 13-year-old Stanley Edwards of Waterbury.

Webb was convicted in 1991 of the 1989 murder of bank executive Diane Gellenbeck in Hartford. He abducted her from a parking garage, drove her to Keney Park, tried to sexually assault her and shot her repeatedly after she broke free and ran.

Kane's agency paid a total of $1,142,056 to Michelson from 2007 to 2013, and the public defender agency says that it has paid the following totals for the racial disparity litigation over the years:

--$1.85 million to Donohue, including the recent payment

--$2.16 million to other attorneys working in behalf of the inmates.

--$494,547 for other expenses.

The case is now pending before the Supreme Court, which has set an extended schedule as follows: The petitioners' (inmates') legal brief is due May 1, 2015; the brief in behalf of the state's corrections commissioner (named as the defendant) is due March 1, 2016, and the inmates' reply brief, if any, is due Jan. 9, 2017.

(source: Hartford Courant)

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

Roraback Testifies That WTIC Listeners Said Rowland Told Them To Call

When Andrew Roraback's brother called to tell him former Gov. John G. Rowland had given his cellphone number out over the radio, "he seemed alarmed," Roraback testified Friday.

Roraback, a former state Senator who is now a sitting state judge in Waterbury, recounted his telephone conversation with his brother, Chip Roraback, who testified before him Friday.

"He asked me what I ever did to John Rowland," Roraback said.

Roraback was the last candidate to enter the 5th Congressional District race in 2012. He was viewed as a threat by the other 3 candidates already in the race that year because of his popularity and name recognition in the district.

Roraback testified that when he started receiving calls from WTIC AM 1080's listeners, he was told to vote against repealing the death penalty. They also told him "John Rowland had said to call me," Roraback said.

Rowland is facing federal charges that he conspired with Brian Foley and Lisa Wilson-Foley to hide his work on Wilson-Foley's campaign from election regulators.

Roraback testified that he was unaware of Rowland's contract with Chris Shelton, the compliance attorney for Brian Foley's nursing home chain. He also said he was unaware of the involvement Rowland had with Wilson-Foley's campaign, including Rowland's role in the production of a radio advertisement calling on him to oppose legislation to repeal the death penalty.

The radio ad was played for the jury on Friday.

"What was remarkable to me was it was coming awfully early, coming almost a year before the election," Roraback said.

The ad painted Roraback as a liberal and asked people to call his legislative office to get him to vote against legislation to repeal the death penalty.

Asked for his position on the death penalty in court, Roraback said, "philosophically I have difficulty with the death penalty."

But that year his goal was to help victims by repealing a 2011 law that allowed inmates to shave up to 5 days a month off their prison sentences by participating in programs. He said the amendment he proposed was defeated, so he voted against the legislation.

Roraback ended up winning the Republican primary for the Congressional seat in 2012, but he went on to lose the election to U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty.

Roraback said he never complained to WTIC, the radio station where Rowland was working as an afternoon host.

On Thursday, Chris Syrek, one of Wilson-Foley's campaign managers, testified that on Feb. 23, 2012, Rowland emailed him during the show. He was talking about the death penalty on the air and wanted Roraback's personal phone number.

"Rohrback [sic] home phone number - giving [sic] out his and [Democratic Sen. Edith] Prague contact info," Rowland emailed Syrek.

"Ha that's awesome," Syrek responded. "Want his cell?"

Rowland read the number on the air and asked listeners to call Roraback.

Roraback told the court he was not a regular listener of the WTIC radio show and didn't know if Rowland gave out the cellphone numbers of any of the other state Senators who were on the fence about the death penalty that year.

The trial will continue on Monday.

Prosecutors don't plan on calling Wilson-Foley to testify, but Rowland's defense attorneys have not ruled out putting the former Congressional candidate on the stand.

(source: ctnewsjunkie.com)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Lawsuits, drug scarcity preventing Pa. executions

Gov. Tom Corbett's decision this week to indefinitely delay the execution of a convicted murderer illustrated some of the practical and legal challenges the state faces these days in carrying out the death penalty.

Corbett issued a temporary, indefinite reprieve, meaning Hubert Lester Michael Jr.'s death by lethal injection for the murder of a teen girl more than 20 years ago won't go forward as scheduled Sept. 22.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had already issued a stay of its own to give it time to consider whether the full court should reconsider a ruling by three of its members that would have cleared the way for Michael to be put to death.

In the flurry of legal activity surrounding the case this week, Michael's lawyers asked for an injunction against his execution, the latest move in a long-running challenge to the state's execution protocol. The Corrections Department revised the procedure 2 years ago, and a group of inmates has sued, saying the new policy conflicts with the 1990 state law that determined how executions should be performed.

Pennsylvania law calls for a 3-drug mixture, but manufacturers under pressure from death penalty opponents have put the first drug - a sedative which could be pentobarbital or sodium thiopental - off limits completely.

Texas and Missouri use a specialty dose of non-FDA regulated pentobarbital, but won't say where they've obtained it, and other states like Ohio have been unable to find similar supplies.

Supplies of the other drugs Pennsylvania policy calls for - pancuronium bromide, a paralyzing drug, and potassium chloride, which stops the heart - are also increasingly scarce.

Michael and 3 other death row inmates recently filed a lawsuit in Commonwealth Court that challenges the legality of the execution protocol, saying among other things that neither the sedatives nor potassium chloride are authorized under state law.

The Corrections Department won't say where it gets its drugs, and Corbett halted plans for Michael's execution, he said, because the state needs to obtain them. Four media organizations asked a federal judge this week to order that the source of the drugs be disclosed.

Finding completely new drugs isn't easy. The 2-drug method used by Ohio and Arizona has led to prolonged executions in which inmates repeatedly gasped and snorted. In Ohio, the 26-minute spectacle last January led to a yearlong moratorium on executions.

There are currently 184 people on Pennsylvania's death row, including 3 women, and the only 3 people Pennsylvania has executed since the death penalty was reinstated in the 1970s - the most recent in 1999 - had given up on their own appeals.

Earlier this month, Pennsylvania Chief Justice Ronald Castille issued a lengthy opinion that was highly critical of the Philadelphia-based Federal Community Defender Office, which represents many of the state's condemned inmates.

He blamed them for endless appeals and delays, saying they were attempting to do through the courts what they could not achieve in the political arena.

But others say Pennsylvania's lack of executions should be attributed to shortcomings in the state's court system, particularly when it comes to providing defendants with adequate representation at trial.

"Appeals attorneys have many issues to work with," said ACLU lobbyist Andy Hoover, an anti-death penalty activist. "And the reason is that Pennsylvania's system of public defense is really lacking and has been for a long time."

Corbett, a former prosecutor, has signed 35 execution warrants, but he's trailing badly in the polls as he seeks re-election. The Democratic candidate, Tom Wolf, says he won't sign the warrants and will issue temporary reprieves while the state studies the issue of wrongful convictions.

(source: Associated Press)

NORTH CAROLINA:

In Columbus County, another death row conviction faces a challenge

Joseph Sledge, who has been locked up for 38 years, is trying to prove his innocence in court and before the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission. Convicted of killing a mother and daughter in Columbus County, Sledge has powerful evidence that he was not the murderer: DNA from 9 hairs found on the victims' bodies does not belong to Sledge, the victims or anyone in their family. A palm print on a linoleum floor next to the head of a victim did not belong to Sledge. A medical examiner found evidence that the woman had been sexually assaulted.

It's the law

Law enforcement agencies must preserve DNA evidence and must protect it from degradation or contamination. That has been North Carolina law since 2001. Since then, lawmakers have amended the law to specify how long to preserve evidence; until death in cases involving a death penalty or life without parole - and to require training for police on the proper preservation of evidence. And they put penalties into the law: Anyone who alters, destroys or conceals evidence is guilty of a felony.

-----------------

When Mike Unti and Sharon Smith took the case of a man sentenced to death for a notorious Columbus County murder, they were surprised at the prosecutor's scant file: 240 pages of documents, a small file for a such big case.

Then the lawyers started pushing for what they knew must exist – police files, interview notes, State Bureau of Investigation reports and physical evidence. Slowly, the Whiteville Police Department produced files and evidence that had never been given to the lawyers defending Norfolk "Fuzzy" Best at his 1993 trial.

6 boxes of physical evidence were hidden in a tiny unlit room in the rafters of the Whiteville City Hall. Fingernail clippings, bloody clothes, swabs, slides and other biological evidence had spent years baking in an uninsulated garret in the North Carolina summers.

The lawyers dug up several folders of notes and reports from the Whiteville Police Department, including a tip about a suspicious car near the murder scene 12 hours before the bodies were found. The car turned out to be stolen. The thief, a habitual felon with a lengthy criminal record in several states, reportedly told friends that he had killed an elderly couple in Whiteville.

"I am stunned by these notes," said Rex Gore, the district attorney who prosecuted Best. "I wish they had been given to us. I am sure they would have generated discussion about this situation that I could now recollect."

Gore said he never saw the police files. He still believes that Best is guilty of killing Leslie and Gertrude Baldwin.

But Best, through his lawyers, says the withheld evidence not only entitles him to a new trial, but proves his innocence. His lawyers argue that the crime scene evidence shows the Baldwins were killed a day or less before their bodies were found, a time that would, under the prosecution's theory, eliminate Best as the killer.

Gore had argued that Best committed the murders 2 1/2 days before the bodies were found.

The lawyers' motion to free Best, filed in Bladen County Superior Court, comes as North Carolina has emerged as a sort of incubator of innocence efforts, with the nation's 1st and only independent body dedicated to investigating such claims.

Earlier this month, the Innocence Inquiry Commission brought about the exonerations of death row's longest serving inmate, Henry McCollum, and his brother, Leon Brown, freed after 31 years behind bars. Another Columbus County case is working its way through the courts and the commission; Joseph Sledge says DNA evidence proves his innocence of two murders for which he has been incarcerated 38 years.

Best has always professed his innocence, during police interrogation, on the witness stand, and during his 21 years on death row.

"I knew I was railroaded," Best said in an interview at Central Prison in Raleigh, recalling the moment the jury found him guilty. "I knew I was railroaded."

Now, nearly 23 years after the killings, the newly discovered evidence is stirring up strong feelings about a case that has languished in obscurity.

"I know Fuzzy did some stupid stuff growing up, being hardheaded," said Vicky Best, a sister. "But I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe he killed that couple."

The Baldwins' 2 daughters still have a difficult time talking about the case.

"Fuzzy Best was the one who did it," said Betsy Baldwin Marlowe. "It boggles my mind to think about this. I hope to see justice done."

Fear and rage

For 37 years, Leslie and Gertrude Baldwin met the people of Columbus County on opposite sides of a camera.

From 1939 to 1976 in their studio over Guiton's Drug Store on Madison Street, the Baldwins photographed babies and brides, graduates and grandparents, farmers and bankers.

The people of Whiteville were shocked by the murder of the popular couple, who were frail and in failing health. The News-Reporter led with an editorial "Senseless Loss: Fear, Rage in Our Community." The Columbus County Sheriff's Office reported that handgun permits jumped dramatically, issuing as many in the week after the crime as it did in a typical month.

On Dec. 13, 1991, the headlines carried welcome news: Police had arrested Best, a 37-year-old man with a long history of arrests for drugs, robbery, assault and DUI. Best had been released from jail 2 weeks before the Baldwins were killed.

Best came from a very different part of Whiteville. The oldest of 8 children, he was raised by a single mother in a clapboard shack with an outhouse in the back yard.

Best was a slow learner and didn't finish high school. As an adult, he drove long-distance truck routes and worked as a mechanic at auto shops in Whiteville.

Newspapers and a knife

A judge moved Best's trial to neighboring Bladen County because of extensive pretrial publicity.

When the trial opened 18 months after the killings, District Attorney Gore painted a straightforward theory for the jury. Best worked in the Baldwins' yard Saturday, Nov. 30, and returned that evening to kill and rob them. Best took a wad of $100 bills and spent the next 48 hours holed up in motel rooms, drinking and smoking crack cocaine with 3 women.

A policeman found the slain couple at 3:40 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 3. A window in the back door was broken, with glass scattered on the kitchen floor, a sign of a break-in. Leslie Baldwin, 82, was lying in the hallway, bludgeoned in the head and his neck slit.

Gertrude Baldwin, 77, was on her side in her bed, also beaten in the head and stabbed in the throat. A butcher knife was found on her bed.

As evidence the slayings took place Saturday night, a Whiteville police officer testified that he found the newspapers for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday on the Baldwins' porch. Mr. Baldwin had a daily habit of retrieving the paper early every morning, reading it and returning to bed for a nap.

One of the Baldwins' daughters testified that her mother filled her pill organizer every Thursday; the boxes in the pill organizer were empty for Thursday, Friday and Saturday but contained pills for Sunday through Wednesday.

And SBI Special Agent Michael Budzynski testified, using a science new to North Carolina courtrooms: DNA. Budzynski said he tested a vaginal swab taken from Gertrude Baldwin and found a match for Best's DNA at 1 of 6 locations he analyzed.

Perhaps the most important evidence was a bloody fingerprint on a paring knife found on the floor by Leslie Baldwin's body. An SBI agent testified it belonged to Best. Gore argued that Best had worn socks on his hand to avoid leaving fingerprints; a bloody sock left at the crime scene had a hole in it, allowing Best to leave his print.

Best testified and denied any involvement in the murder. He admitted smoking crack and holing up in the motels with the women. He testified that Mr. Baldwin gave him a small knife to use in scraping out the gutters, and that he had cut his hand doing so.

His testimony did not convince the jury, which deliberated 52 minutes before finding him guilty.

Files reveal suspect

Best has spent his 21 years on death row reading his Bible and staying fit, walking, doing situps, pushups and dips. Several close friends have been executed; while he tries to get along with all, he says he keeps to himself. He stays away from television - "It starts fights" - and prefers chess.

His case has moved little since a state judge turned down his request for a new trial in 1998. The judge also denied a request for access to the state's files.

In 1996, the legislature passed a law requiring the state to produce all files to death row inmates and their lawyers, a law upheld by the state Supreme Court in 1998.

When Unti and Smith took over the case in 2011, they used the 1996 law to find tips given to the police and the SBI in the days after the Baldwins were killed.

On Wednesday, Dec. 4, the night after the Baldwins were found, an unknown woman called Whiteville police with a specific tip: A small Ford was driven through the neighborhood early Tuesday morning with the lights off. A friend of the caller went outside and asked the driver what he was doing; the driver, a white male with dark hair and mustache, identified himself as "Rick," and said he was looking for a friend.

The caller gave the license plate number, and police tracked the car to Gary Derrick of Winnsboro, S.C. 2 days earlier, on Monday, Derrick had reported to police that a roommate, Ricky Winford, had stolen the car.

In an interview with the SBI, Derrick said he received a call from a woman named Janet in Myrtle Beach. Janet said Winford had come by her apartment and told her he had "robbed, beaten and killed 2 people in Whiteville, North Carolina." Derrick told the SBI that Winford had bragged about killing people in Texas, but Derrick didn't believe him.

Winford was arrested in Derrick's car on Wednesday, Dec. 4, in Louisiana after stealing gas from a station.

Best's lawyers at trial, Craig Wright and Harold "Butch" Pope, filed affidavits stating that they don't recall seeing any documents about Ricky Winford. They said that Gore, the district attorney, said he had an "open file" discovery policy, but in practice only gave defense lawyers limited access to his files. The SBI reports indicate that Gore was provided copies.

Gore left office in 2010 after losing a primary. In 2013, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor related to conduct in office and surrendered his law license for six months.

Gore said he opened his files to defense attorneys, but after reviewing court documents provided by The News & Observer, Gore said of his discovery practices: "I gave out more than what the statute required, but it does not mean open file discovery like it does now," he said. "If I was using it in court, you got it."

Under U.S. Supreme Court rulings, prosecutors must share all evidence favorable to a defendant, including evidence that can lead to proof of innocence.

Time of death

Police photographs and video of the crime scene are gruesome. A medical pathologist and a retired FBI agent working for Best looked at them and found evidence that undercuts the prosecution theory that the Baldwins were killed late Saturday night, 64 hours before their bodies were found.

As time passes, blood dries and turns brown, but the blood discovered at the crime scene was bright red and wet. There was a pool of liquid blood on Gertrude Baldwin's bed. The officer noted a smell of blood and sweat in the house, but no strong odor of decomposition. The bodies had no discoloration or bloating, which generally begin 24 to 36 hours after death.

The 1st police officer to the scene noted that both victims were stiff from rigor mortis, a condition that typically disappears between 24 and 48 hours after death.

Another indication of time of death is livor mortis: blood settling by gravity in the body after death. Livor mortis shows up as red or purple discoloration. During the 6 to 18 hours after death, livor mortis is unfixed, as the blood can shift if a body is moved. After that, the livor is "fixed" and the blood no longer moves if the body is moved.

Police found Gertrude Baldwin lying in her bed on her left side. During the investigation, an SBI agent rolled Mrs. Baldwin's body on her back as he examined her wounds.

At the autopsy, medical examiner Dr. Deborah Radisch noted "purple-posterior" livor mortis, meaning the blood settled on the backside of the body. Experts for Best say this indicates that livor mortis had not fixed when the agent moved the body Tuesday night, evidence that Mrs. Baldwin had not been dead 18 hours.

All those factors led the experts, retired FBI special agent Gregg McCrary and Dr. Christena Roberts, to conclude that the murders occurred sometime Monday or the early hours of Tuesday morning. That would be good news for Best; prosecutors said he was in motels from Sunday to Tuesday with women and drugs.

A faint match

The Best case was one of the 1st in North Carolina to feature DNA evidence.

Budzynski, the SBI agent, had to separate the DNA from the rape kit into 2 samples: a female fraction, containing Gertrude Baldwin's DNA, and a male fraction, containing the DNA from a man, presumably the rapist. Budzynski ran tests on 6 DNA locations: 5 were inconclusive, but he testified one matched Best.

This weak match did not produce the powerful, 1-person-in-a-billion statistic that DNA can generate. Budzynski testified that the DNA in the male fraction could belong to 6 % of black men in North Carolina, or about 360 in Columbus County alone. But his testimony was convincing enough that the North Carolina Supreme Court's decision in the Best case noted: "The defendant's DNA matched 1 of the semen samples taken from Mrs. Baldwin."

Budzynski's testimony about the match was "completely baseless," according to a DNA expert retained by Best's lawyers.

The only DNA in the male fraction belonged to Gertrude Baldwin, according to Maher Noureddine, who received his doctorate in molecular genetics from UNC-Chapel Hill.

If Budzynski had properly separated the DNA into female and male fractions, and there was actually male DNA in the sample, the male DNA would appear at more than 1 marker, Noureddine said.

In a sworn affidavit, Noureddine said he could find no evidence of male DNA at the 6 locations. And the only location allegedly showing Best's DNA was at a DNA marker deemed unreliable at the time by the FBI. The results were faint and barely visible: in a manual published in 1994, the SBI cautioned that such faint results at that DNA marker were not reliable.

Budzynski admitted in court that he had difficulty processing the DNA in the SBI lab. Noureddine said Budzynski made no attempt to replicate or validate his test results.

"I find no scientific evidence to support the conclusion that the vaginal swabs contain any DNA other than that of the female victim," Noureddine concluded.

Budzynski went on to head the SBI lab's Forensic Biology Section and is now retired. He did not respond to phone calls or a letter for comment.

Watching, waiting

Whiteville Police Lt. Bobby Fowler said he spent weeks looking for evidence until he finally found the six boxes in the City Hall attic.

"It was hid in a corner in boxes," Fowler said. "It was taped up, and you could see it hadn't been opened in 20 years."

The boxes contain biological evidence that has never been used in DNA tests. According to SBI lab notes, Caucasian hairs were found underneath Leslie Baldwin's fingernails. Caucasian pubic hairs were found on Gertrude Baldwin. The medical examiner found sperm on her and preserved it on swabs and slides.

Given how the evidence was stored in plastic bags in an uninsulated attic for years, Best's lawyers worry about the condition of the evidence and which items would still be intact. Unti, an appointed attorney, said he will request funding for DNA tests from N.C. Indigent Defense Services. He said if he had the money, he would test everything.

District Attorney Jon David declined to discuss the case.

As his case moves ahead, Best spends a lot of time standing on his bunk, peering out the thin strip of a window across the top of his cell. He likes to watch for wildlife: hawks, a groundhog, 2 bushy tailed foxes running along the wall, a rare white pigeon, a pair of geese feeding, one eating while the other watches.

Sometimes he just looks up into the sky.

"You get a certain sense of freedom, just a feeling that comes over you."

(source: News & Observer)

FLORIDA:

Convicted Dunkin' Donuts killer: I'm innocent; James Herard faces death penalty for murder of Eric Jean-Pierre

James Herard refused to plead for his life in front of a Broward judge Friday.

Herard, 24, took the stand to say he shouldn't be condemned to death for the 2008 murder of Eric Jean-Pierre in Lauderhill - he had nothing to do with the crime.

"I'm not begging for my life," Herard said. "This is not asking you to spare me."

Herard was convicted of felony murder in May in connection with Jean-Pierre's death. Though he was not the triggerman, prosecutors argued that he coaxed the alleged killer, Tharod Bell, as part of a "body count" contest.

Jean-Pierre, 39, was chosen at random while walking home from work in Lauderhill, prosecutors said.

The jury heard Herard confess his role in the crime in an interrogation recorded on video. The same jury voted 8-4 in June that Herard should pay the highest price, death, for the murder.

Herard is already serving multiple life sentences for participating in the robbery of a Dunkin' Donuts in Delray Beach in 2008. The store was one of several targeted by Herard and four co-defendants in a string of violent robberies that year. Along with Jean-Pierre's murder, Herard was convicted of murdering Kiem Huynh during a Thanksgiving Day robbery in Tamarac. The jury recommended a life sentence.

Broward Circuit Judge Paul Backman listened Friday to a parade of witnesses, mostly Broward jail and Florida State Prison inmates who served time with Herard after his December 2008 arrest. The witnesses all described him as an intelligent, helpful and inspirational presence.

"The little bit of English that I speak right now, I learned it from him," said Anthony Cruz, 33, who was sentenced to 30 years in prison for manslaughter in the 2009 death of his roommate, Carlos Gonzalez.

The purpose of Friday's hearing was for Herard's defense lawyers, Mitch Polay and Kevin Kulik, to convince Backman to disregard the jury's recommendation and sentence Herard to life in prison instead.

"James Herard was very helpful and encouraging to the other inmates," Kulik said in an interview after the hearing. "He helped illiterate people write letters to their families. He encouraged people to study the Bible. He is a highly intelligent person."

But Herard said his innocence, not his character, should be what keeps him from being executed. He said his confession was coerced.

Herard is expected back on the stand for another hearing Sept. 22.

Bell, the last defendant in the Dunkin' Donuts robberies, is scheduled to go on trial next week. He is also charged in the murders of both Jean-Pierre and Huynh.

(source: Sun-Sentinel)

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Mother of Shelby Farah asks state to file charges against 2----Darlene Farah writes letter to State Attorney's Office

As the case against the man accused of gunning down her daughter moves forward, one grieving mother is asking the state to file charges against 2 others.

Darlene Farah's daughter, Shelby, was robbed, shot and killed at a Metro PCS store last year. James Rhodes is charged with murder in the case and could face the death penalty if convicted.

"It's like there's a piece of the puzzle missing and it's not going to be complete until - I'll never have closure," said Farah.

In a letter to the State Attorney's Office, Farah outlined why she believes Rhodes' girlfriend, Crystal Lewis, and Justin Curry should also be charged in connection to the case.

The letter is short and sweet, and gets right to the point. It addresses State Attorney Angela Corey by name and formally asks that Lewis and Curry be charged. According to the letter, both had knowledge of the crime, either before or after.

"My hope is to get justice for Shelby and not just Shelby, all the other victims," said Farah.

Since the day her 20-year-old daughter was shot and killed, Farah has fought hard to have Rhodes brought to justice.

In the letter, Farah has asked that more people be held accountable, including Lewis and Curry, the man seen standing behind Rhodes in surveillance video.

"I'm not here to bad-mouth anyone," said Farah. "I appreciate what everyone has done so far, but what's right is right and what's wrong is wrong. You have evidence to charge somebody else."

Shortly after her boyfriend was arrested, Lewis sat down with investigators and described what she did with the shoes he was wearing the night of Shelby's death.

"Where did you hide them at?" Lewis was asked.

"Up and around the house, between 4 and 5 houses down from his mom's house," said Lewis.

"Are you going to take detectives to where those shoes are?" Lewis was asked.

"When you heard that exchange between the police and Lewis, what went through your mind?" News4Jax's Ashley Harding asked Farah.

"She's just as guilty, if you ask me," said Farah.

Also in her letter, Farah said the surveillance video shows Curry's actions before and after the shooting.

"It shows him and Rhodes - on Subway's video -- Rhodes (was) passing something onto him and then they both go their separate ways," said Farah.

(source: News4jax.com)

ALABAMA:

Lawyer handles 2 capital murder cases in 2 weeks

It's a busy September for Susan James.

The prominent Montgomery lawyer just wrapped up a weeklong capital murder trial in Wetumpka. On Sept. 22, she is set to represent Auburn mass shooting suspect Desmonte Leonard in his capital murder trial.

High-profile cases are nothing new for James, a former federal prison guard. She has been involved in dozens of capital murder cases. Former Gov. Don Siegelman hired her when he was facing federal public corruption charges.

Last week, she had to balance defending one client with a death penalty case looming in 2 weeks.

James was lead attorney in Stalandus Slaughter's capital murder trial in Elmore County. On Friday, the jury convicted the 29-year-old Eclectic man on two counts of capital murder and one count of assault.

"It's obviously not the best of situations, but you deal with it," she said after court recessed one day in Wetumpka. "Both of these cases have been set and then continued several times. It just worked out to where they both were on the docket to go this month.

"Stalandus has obviously been the priority. We have other attorneys on Desmonte's case, so they have been working on that case, getting ready. After Stalandus' case is over, I'll begin getting ready for Desmonte's trial."

On June 9, 2012, Leonard allegedly shot and killed three people, including two former Auburn University football players, and injured three others at a party at an apartment complex in Auburn. Killed were Ladarious Phillips and Ed Christian, the former players, and DeMario Pitts.

James became a little more involved with the Leonard case than is typical. Leonard was the subject of an intense regional manhunt, and a $50,000 reward had been offered for his capture. His mother came to James' law office and said her son wanted to turn himself in to her.

"I thought he was going to come to my office, but we found out he was two hours away, and we had to go get him," James said.

She wouldn't disclose the location where she and her son, Garrett Saucer, also an attorney, picked up Leonard. But she did admit the trip in her car back to Montgomery to turn him over to U.S. Marshals went through Lee County.

"I mean there were billboards up all over the state with Desmonte's picture on them, and he looked just like that picture," she said.

As they neared the federal courthouse in Montgomery, she called the marshals on her cell phone to ask how they wanted to handle things. She was shocked to see snipers on the roof of the federal courthouse as they drove up.

"We walked inside and 2 marshals met us in full military gear, complete with assault rifles," she said. "It went well; no trouble. I told them that Desmonte's mother wanted to see him before he was taken into custody, and they granted that request."

When the Lee County Circuit Court asked her to represent Leonard, she took the case on 1 condition - that she could have Jeff Duffey as co-counsel. The 2 have teamed up on cases before.

"So Jeff has been doing all the heavy lifting this week," she said in the Wetumpka courtroom. "But in the past, it has fallen to me some weeks. We're used to it. Really, cases like Stalandus and Desmonte, we've been working on them for months and months.

"Most of the effort is scheduling experts and witnesses, and reviewing things over and over again."

(source: Montgomery Advertiser)

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Jury Recommends Death in Jerry Jerome Smith Case

It took 4 days, but a jury has recommended the death penalty for Jerry Jerome Smith for a fourth time.

Jurors spend a little more than an hour deliberating whether Smith could be held accountable for shooting 3 people to death outside a Dothan home in 1996 and whether he should be sentenced to death or given life without parole. The jury panel's vote was 10 to 2 in favor of the death penalty.

The defense had argued that Smith is mentally handicapped and is not accountable for his actions. District Attorney Doug Valeska says that the defense was just making up excuses.

"We were here for those 3 victims they got justice today and I want to thank the jury because they spoke loudly today," said Valeska. "You slaughter and murder 3 people in Houston county and try to kill a 4th then you will face a death sentence."

The final decision on Smith's fate will be up to Judge Michael Conaway.

A sentencing date has not been set.

(source: WTVYT news)

TENNESSEE:

'Teach-in' takes on death penalty, judicial system

Religious leaders, civil liberties advocates, philosophy students and other opponents of the death penalty and mass incarceration gathered Saturday for a "teach-in" to learn more about the issues and what they can do.

The gathering at the Nashville Public Library offered a preview of Monday afternoon, when many of the same people plan to gather at the Capitol at noon for a rally against the state's execution plans. Carmela Hill-Burke, a graduate student in philosophy at Vanderbilt University, said the group would give Gov. Bill Haslam's office a letter asking him to halt all executions.

Hill-Burke said activists plan to ask the Republican governor to "do a thorough investigation" of execution drug protocols and the possibility that some of the condemned are actually innocent.

The "teach-in" was organized by Tennessee Students and Educators for Social Justice. One panel discussion featured Baptist and United Methodist ministers, a Muslim and a Jew talking about their opposition to the death penalty and mass incarceration.

The Rev. Eugene Se'Bree of Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church said his younger brother was wrongly convicted of a murder after he was coerced into a confession in Columbia, Tenn., in 1991. Even though the actual killer was later found, Se'Bree said his brother remains in prison and ineligible for parole for 5 more years.

"That is the problem with the judicial system, with the system of mass incarceration, with the death penalty - that we cannot, as mortals, as human beings, we cannot with all certainty get this right," he said.

Daniel Horwitz, an attorney and a member of Congregation Ohabai Sholom, The Temple, cited a recent study published by the National Academy of Sciences that said a conservative estimate of erroneous convictions in death penalty cases is 4.1 %.

"That's a pretty staggering error rate, as far as I'm concerned," Horwitz said.

(source: The Tennessean)

OKLAHOMA:

Convicted killer writes of the uncertainty he faces in pending execution

Since July, Richard Glossip has been listening to renovations going on inside the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. The noise is a constant reminder that his days are numbered.

Glossip, 51, is scheduled to be the 2nd inmate executed under new procedures for lethal injections in Oklahoma, and in a newly renovated chamber. Convicted in a murder-for-hire plot, he lives on death row, in a small cell that he says is situated beneath the execution chamber.

The state's execution policies are so new that they are still being drafted, and prison officials haven't even been trained yet. Glossip, himself, writes that he can only speculate what his last days will be like under the new rules and how he'll die come Nov. 20.

"They have moved the execution table ... so that they could put a window in the door where the person administering the drugs, so that if an inmate starts flopping they can give them a little more muscle (relaxant) to stop it," he wrote in a July 24 letter to a reporter. "They think it makes it better, but that is not true, even though your muscles are relaxed, you will still be suffocating and will still feel it."

Death row has been on a media lockdown, with in-person interviews prohibited, since the clumsy execution of Clayton Lockett on April 29. Corrections officials explain that the blackout was necessary pending the investigation, ordered by Gov. Mary Fallin, into why it took Lockett about 40 minutes to die by lethal injection.

The months-long investigation by the Department of Public Safety ultimately found that an IV tube, meant to deliver deadly drugs, had become dislodged from the 38-year-old's groin area.

In the meantime, Glossip has communicated by letters, attempting to get his story told and convince others of his innocence.

Glossip's execution is 1 of 3 being scheduled by the state, starting in November. He's been on death row since 1998, when he was first convicted in a plot that killed motel owner Barry Van Treese the year before. The convicted hitman, Justin Sneed, is serving a sentence of life without parole.

In his letters, Glossip claims his innocence. And, while there are many uncertainties about his future, he writes that he's sure the state will make him suffer in his last moments, referring to Lockett's execution.

"I truly have no doubt that it will go exactly as Lockett's did," he wrote. "The drugs they are using have not been tested, so they have no clue how a person is going to react to them. ... To tell you the truth. I don't believe there will be a humane way to execute anyone. No matter what drugs they use, there will always be side effects that cause inmates to suffer a prolonged and painful death."

Jerry Massie, a spokesman for the Department of Corrections, had no comment about Glossip's assertions. Prison officials plan to be ready for Glossip's execution, he said, and are on track to have the new policies drafted and turned over to the state's attorney general for review within the next 2 weeks.

After experiencing a shortage of the drug more typically used in lethal injections, Oklahoma chose a lethal cocktail of midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride to execute inmates. Its use of midazolam has been heavily criticized by death penalty opponents since Lockett's death, and in the aftermath of a 26-minute execution involving the same drug in Ohio and another that lasted nearly 2 hours in Arizona.

Glossip wrote that he closely monitored the Arizona case.

"The reporter who witnessed the execution put it the right way," he wrote. "It was like taking a fish out of water and throwing it on land. It is bad enough that the guy (I know his crimes were bad) had to suffer for so long, then you have people saying it was a just punishment."

Oklahoma corrections officials haven't said what drugs they plan to use, citing pending litigation filed on behalf of death row inmates.

The attorney general's office, which is handling all the appeals connected to Glossip's case, believes justice will be served by his execution, said Aaron Cooper, the office's director of communications, in a statement.

Cooper noted a 27-page ruling by the Court of Criminal Appeals in 2007 that outlined the facts of the case while rejecting Glossip's appeals. Glossip was tried twice; he received a new trial after an appeals court found issues with his 1st.

He was twice convicted and twice sentenced to death.

"The state and the attorney general's office will continue its work to ensure the sentence handed down by a jury for this heinous crime is carried out so that justice can be served for the family of Barry Van Treese," Cooper said.

Jurors found that Glossip hired Sneed to kill Van Treese, who owned the Best Budget Inn in Oklahoma City. Glossip had managed the motel for 2 years.

Van Treese had discovered money was missing. Family members said Van Treese, 54, planned to confront Glossip and was about to fire him.

Sneed told jurors that he killed Van Treese with a baseball bat because Glossip offered him money to do it. Then the 2 tried to cover up the death.

Prosecutors said Sneed worked in maintenance at the motel, in exchange for a place to stay, and was dependent on Glossip.

Glossip has denied all involvement in the crime. He claims that Sneed took a deal and then lied about Glossip's involvement to save himself from the death penalty.

He insists that there's no evidence beyond Sneed's word linking him to the murder.

Glossip said 17 years have been taken from him, although the worst part has been the isolation of death row: "The isolation that inmates have to face here on H-Unit until they are executed is horrible. It's like you are already in (your) tomb waiting for your death to complete it."

(source: Norman Transcript)

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Inside Oklahoma's execution chamber: What happens in the small, dark room

The room where Oklahoma's 3 executioners have carried out their lethal duties since 1992 is the size of a walk-in closet and so dimly lit they are provided a flashlight to see, according to court records.

Cleaning supplies have been stored in the "drug room," where executioners administer the lethal drugs. A small window in the door provides only a partial view of the inmate being executed. If something goes wrong, the executioners stick colored pencils through holes in the drug room wall to communicate with the doctor and others in the death chamber.

Depositions by Department of Corrections officials and affidavits by attorneys who toured death row at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary describe in detail the cramped, dark and isolated conditions inside the execution chamber. The documents are part of past legal challenges to the state's lethal injection process.

The Department of Corrections is renovating the execution chamber to address issues raised following the botched execution of Clayton Lockett on April 29. The agency also is revising its lethal injection protocols to comply with recommendations made by a Department of Public Safety investigation of Lockett's 43-minute execution.

Department of Public Safety Commissioner Michael Thompson said in a Sept. 4 press conference that the state has had no previous problems with its executions.

"For almost 25 years, 110 consecutive times, it did work. This time, obviously, it didn't work this time, or we wouldn't all be sitting here today," Thompson said.

However, records indicate that several past executions have not gone as expected.

In an affidavit for a federal challenge to the state's death-penalty process, an attorney with the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System described her visit to the prison on June 8, 2006. The attorney, Janet Chesley, stated she was waiting at the entrance to H unit, where death row is housed, to visit with clients.

"While I was waiting, I saw the guard at the entrance to H-Unit point to a spot on her desk and ask the trustee to clean the spot because she believed it to be blood from a recent execution," Chesley's affidavit states.

"The guard said to me that she thought the blood was left over from the movement of a body after a bad execution," states Chesley, who is no longer with the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System.

One week earlier, Oklahoma had executed 74-year-old John Boltz, the oldest inmate put to death in state history, according to news reports. Boltz had argued in appeals that Oklahoma's lethal injection protocols were unconstitutional and would subject him to "a significant risk of excessive pain and suffering."

A federal judge ultimately rejected those claims, as judges have done following other challenges to the state's lethal injection process.

Boltz's execution was delayed an hour because the medical team had trouble inserting an IV. Records show Boltz was executed using a single IV placed in his femoral vein, the same kind that was improperly inserted into Lockett's body.

During a hearing in Boltz's legal challenge, Oklahoma State Penitentiary Warden Marty Sirmons testified that the doctor carrying out the execution had difficulty establishing an IV. The doctor was not "completely familiar" with operation of the IV supplies provided by the prison, Sirmons testified.

'Disturbing' events

The Department of Public Safety investigation into Lockett's execution found that the doctor did not have properly sized needles to start a femoral IV. The report found "minor deviations" from Department of Corrections protocol during the execution but does not detail them or hold anyone accountable for them.

Problems with an IV also were documented in the 2001 execution of Loyd LaFevers, who witnesses said repeatedly convulsed during the 6 minutes it took him to die.

In an autopsy, an investigator with the Oklahoma State Medical Examiner's Office stated that LaFevers' IV "infiltrated after the 1st drug was administered."

"A prison unit manager had sent two letters to the clemency board stating that this inmate needed to die," the autopsy report states.

"The family of (LaFevers) is accusing prison officials of diluting the execution drugs or gave it (sic) in the wrong order to make this inmate suffer."

A state law prohibits release of information identifying doctors and other medical personnel taking part in executions. The identities of the 3 executioners and the pharmacist who provides the lethal drugs is also secret under the law.

In 1992, it took inmate Robyn Parks 11 minutes to die, during which he remarked, "I'm still awake."

Witnesses said his body began bucking under the straps as he spewed the air out of his lungs. A Tulsa World reporter who witnessed the execution described it as "overwhelming, stunning, disturbing."

Parks' execution was the first held in the current execution chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. Death row prisoners were moved into the newly constructed death row unit in November 1991.

The chamber is actually 4 connected rooms: the execution chamber itself, a smaller room where 3 executioners are stationed, a room for relatives of the victim separated by 1-way glass from a room where witnesses from the media, government agencies and the inmates' family sit.

Chesley's affidavit describes the executioners' room as 4 feet by 5 feet and lit by a single florescent light with a green cover.

"I found it hard to believe that three people could fit in the room without jostling one another," she states. "Even with the door to the execution room open, the room was dim."

Sirmons testified that executioners are provided a flashlight but said the room has enough light to enable them to read labels.

In a 2007 deposition, a Corrections Department deputy warden said he used a flashlight in the executioners' room "to make sure that all the drugs are in the right order."

The deputy warden also described how executioners communicate with those in the death chamber: by sticking colored pencils through holes in the wall, where 2 IV lines feed into the inmate's body.

"If you saw red, there might be possible problems," the official stated.

Rachel Peterson, a former reporter for the McAlester News-Capital, witnessed 13 executions while working for the newspaper.

"There was one time where they said, 'Let the execution begin,' and the prisoner was awake for a lot longer than expected. ... Then I saw this little red plastic-looking thing; it poked in and out and then not too long later I could start seeing liquid flow through the tube. There was clearly a technical difficulty," Peterson said.

Room 'absurdly small'

The Department of Public Safety investigation found that "current communication methods used during the execution process are antiquated and require unnecessary multi-tasking from key personnel in the execution chamber."

The report recommends that the Corrections Department explore ways to modernize communication between the execution chamber and the executioners' room.

"The current processes, including the use of color pencils and hand signals, could be used as a contingency if other modern methods fail," the report states.

Communication between Department of Corrections officials and the Governor's Office should also be improved, the report recommends.

"DOC should research and implement methods to modernize the communication link that would allow direct, constant contact between the personnel in the execution chamber and the Governor's Office," the report states.

Because DOC Director Robert Patton was not inside the execution chamber, information had to be relayed by phone from the chamber to Patton outside, then to Gov. Mary Fallin's general counsel, Steve Mullins, who then called Fallin.

Patton said last week that "major reconstruction" of the execution chamber is underway.

DOC spokesman Jerry Massie did not answer questions from the World seeking additional details about the reconstruction.?Records show the agency has spent $11,000 on new doors and windows for the execution chamber. DOC notified the state Department of Central Services that it purchased custom-made, detention-grade doors and window frames from a vendor under a state law allowing agencies to waive bidding in emergencies.

DOC's July 22 letter states the agency "must complete renovations to the execution room in order to meet the necessary timelines to carry out the next mandated execution."

"The execution room at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary is currently under construction and the need for custom metal fabrication for two doors and window frames in an extremely short period of time has given rise to the emergency declaration," states the letter from DOC General Services Administrator Ernest Lamirand.

Oklahoma's next execution is scheduled for Nov. 13, when Charles Warner is set to be put to death. Warner was to be executed 2 hours after Lockett but received a stay after Lockett's execution went awry.

Lockett was put to death for the 1999 killing of Stephanie Neiman, 19, of Perry. Warner was sentenced to death for the 1997 rape and murder of Adriana Waller, his roommate's 11-month-old daughter.

During a press conference last week, Patton said DOC planned to be ready to carry out Warner's execution as scheduled but would request additional time if needed. The agency must revise protocols, receive input from the Attorney General's Office and then train employees, he said.

While it is unclear whether the renovations include expanding the executioners' room, attorneys who have seen the room say they were disturbed by conditions there.

Kim Marks, an investigator with the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System, accompanied Chesley on the 2006 death row tour. Marks described the executioners' room as "a walk-in closet."

"I remember it being absurdly small. I remember it had cleaning chemicals stored inside. ... I could see how 3 petite-sized people could squeeze in, but I do not see how three average or larger people could."

During Lockett's execution, a paramedic was also in the room with the executioners, the Department of Public Safety report shows.

Marks said the drug room lacked air circulation and was "definitely dark."

"The lack of circulation and restricted movement would not be ideal," she said.

"The main thing I recall thinking is there's absolutely no way to preserve the integrity of what's happening in that closet. We have no knowledge of what they (executioners) are told or instructed. They can do anything."

(source: Tulsa World)

ARIZONA:

Corrections department renews registration to import execution drug

The Drug Enforcement Administration on Thursday renewed the Arizona Department of Corrections’ registration to import pentobarbital, the drug of choice for executions in states that allow lethal injection.

The notice comes just 6 weeks after the state executed Joseph Wood Jr. using a different set of drugs, midazolam and hydromorphone, in a process that took almost 2 hours and that witnesses said left Wood gasping for air.

"I would think they want it (pentobarbital) because what happened during their last execution was an embarrassment," said Richard Dieter, executive director at the Death Penalty Information Center. He called pentobarbital the "most desired drug for states who administer the death penalty."

But the drug has become increasingly hard for states to come by, as some manufacturers have refused to sell the drug for lethal injection.

Officials at the Arizona Department of Corrections would not comment on the DEA approval Thursday, except to note that it was a renewal of a previous license to import. A call to the DEA was not immediately returned.

The renewal is just one step in what would be a long process toward the importation of pentobarbital, said experts familiar with the process. In addition to the DEA approval, the corrections department would also have to be granted approval from the Food and Drug Administration to import the drug.

Even then, they might be hard-pressed to find a seller, Dieter said.

"The major manufacturers don't want to sell it for executions," Dieter said.

While a "local pharmacist might be able to put it together," Dieter said, Arizona has not been able to get the drug from compounding pharmacies as states like Texas and Missouri have done.

Dale Baich, the assistant federal public defender for Arizona, said he asked the state before Wood's execution where it acquired the 2 drugs it planned to use in the execution.

"They refused to tell us the source," Baich said.

Wood, convicted of a 1989 double-murder in Tucson, spent 23 years on death row before his execution on July 23. Witnesses said in published reports that Wood spent almost 2 hours strapped to a gurney in the death chamber after the lethal drugs were administered, gasping for air about 600 times by one count.

Donna Hamm, executive director of Middle Ground Prison Reform, said the focus on which medications to use for executions is simply a way for death-penalty supporters to kill "without the spectacle."

Hamm said that for death-row inmates, a life behind bars is punishment enough.

"People don't realize what the loss of freedom means," she said. "That is a harder punishment."

But, for states that do have the dealth penalty, pentobarbital is "paving the way for quick, relatively quick executions," Hamm said.

Baich said it is important for the public to know where the state acquires drugs that it uses for its executions.

"The public should be fully informed about how the ultimate punishment is carried out," Baich said. "That includes the drugs that are used during the execution."

(source: White Mountain Independent)

USA:

Lawyers agree on jury process in Marathon trial

Prosecutors and defense attorneys in the trial of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have reached an agreement on the process for selecting a jury in the terrorism case.

In order to pick 12 jurors and 6 alternates, the lawyers want the court to issue jury summonses to 2,000 people about 6 weeks before the trial, which is currently set for Nov. 3.

The 2 sides then hope to pare that list down to 800 people who will be asked to fill out questionnaires in person. Then, with the judge's approval, they will further whittle down that list to 70 qualified jurors.

Tsarnaev is accused of detonating 2 bombs at the 2013 marathon along with his now-deceased brother, killing 3 people and injuring about 260 others. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

(source: Associated Press)

LESOTHO:

Too risky to arrest Lesotho coup leader - report

Lesotho's renegade army chief Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli has resurfaced in the country's capital despite facing treason charges. However, he has not been detained as police say it is too risky to arrest him.

According to the Sunday Times, Kamoli, who was holed up in the surrounding mountains following his failed coup attempt on 30 August, has been seen in uniform and with a motorcade in several places in the city, including at military hospital and Maseru airport.

Lesotho police said a case of high treason is being investigated against Kamoli - a charge that carries the death penalty.

Following his unsuccessful coup attempt, Kamoli took to the hills with about 200 soldiers and a large amount of weapons, including AK47s, grenade-launchers, an anti-aircraft gun and about 20 mortars.

Crisis summit deadlocked

Meanwhile, as reported by News24, Lesotho's deadlocked political parties failed to meet a Friday deadline for a fresh peace deal, prompting South Africa to call an emergency meeting of regional leaders.

After promising President Jacob Zuma that they would decide by Friday when to reopen Lesotho's parliament, rival leaders failed to resolve a crisis sparked two weeks ago by the aborted coup.

Reopening the legislature - which was shut in June - is seen as a key step toward restoring normality in the tiny mountainous state.

The attempted coup by Kamoli saw the military assault several police stations prompting the prime minister to flee the country.

1 Lesotho police officer was killed, and nine others injured in the unrest.

Prime Minister Tom Thabane has since returned, protected by South African guards, but a Pretoria-brokered peace deal quickly disintegrated.

On Friday rival party leaders failed to patch up their difference, instead calling for the 15-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) to step in.

"How can you open your own parliament when you still have foreign troops here, protecting you?" asked Thesele Maseribane, one of those who fled and is now under foreign guard.

"Everyone's interested in parliament, but what about what recently happened here? This is not a movie. This is reality. This was an attempted coup."

Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing's Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party has been blamed along with Kamoli for the putsch.

Bloodbath

Kamoli has refused a prime ministerial order to resign and has apparently raided government armouries in preparation for a showdown. His allies have warned of a "bloodbath" if he is forcibly removed.

The SADC has so far been willing to play mediator, but rebuffed calls by some Lesotho leaders for military intervention, pressing instead for a political resolution.

Zuma visited Lesotho this week to try to end the stand-off, but Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was to travel to the country again on Friday.

A SADC troika will meet next week to discuss the crisis.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe - who currently holds the rotating chairmanship of the bloc - said a full 15-member summit will be held on Wednesday in Pretoria.

The leaders are sure to face more calls for military intervention, although locals say they are "praying for peace".

(source: news24.com)

IRAN:

Rouhani's Judicial Challenge ---- Iran's death penalty on the rise despite Rouhani's pledges for due judicial process

Every year, Amnesty International releases dozens of reports about the state of human rights in country's across the world. When it comes to Iran, 1 issue of particular concern for the organization is the country's approach to capital punishment. In its report on worldwide trends in the use of the death penalty in 2013, Amnesty International noted that Iran was 1 of 3 countries that were responsible for almost 80 % of all executions.

In particular, Amnesty International said that while Iranian media outlets reported that 369 people had been executed in Iran in 2013, there were grounds to believe that an additional 335 executions had been carried out, while close to 100 new death sentences had been imposed.

Following the election of moderate president Hassan Rouhani in June 2013, some signs of hope began to appear, particularly after he put forward his Citizenship Rights Charter. However, the reality is that the rate of executions escalated with 57 people executed in just the winter of 2014. This included the execution of political and cultural activists as well, according to reports.

While some people had hopes that the Rouhani government would be able to make a difference to the aggravated human rights situation in the country, others were not so optimistic given the strength of the Iranian judiciary. On September 9, Iranian Judiciary spokesman Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei criticized President Hassan Rouhani's administration for "interfering" in the process of ratification of judicial bills.

"The government should not interfere in the ratification process of judicial bills. Judicial bills are sent either to the Majlis or Expediency Council," Ejei said.

Ejei's comments can be interpreted as an attempt to move the government away from playing an active role in shaping or amending the regulations government Iran's judicial system.

Most capital punishment cases in Iran are due to drug-related offenses. While the execution of juvenile offenders and political activists are also raising alarm balls among international human rights groups.

Individuals are reported to have been sentenced to death in the absence of fair trials or access to a lawyer, according to the UN Human right Rapporteur for Iran, Ahmed Shaheed's latest report. In addition to this, there is a predominance of cases where Iranian defendants have incriminated themselves, pleading guilty to charges that could result in their execution. International human rights groups say that confessions are obtained under duress.

Iran's Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli claimed in June 2014 that drug smugglers account for 80 % of all executions in the country. He defended capital punishment in Iran, saying: "These drug smugglers who are executed mostly commit armed robbery, money laundering, and terrorist operations which threaten world peace."

Iran is also one of few countries in the world that still execute juvenile offenders. At least eleven people were executed in 2013 for crimes they committed when they were minors. Although a new penal code has now been approved to prevent the execution of juveniles for drug-related crimes, they can still be executed for murder.

Ethnic and religious minorities - particularly Kurds, Arabs, and Baha'is - are over-subscribed among Iranian prisoners, and particularly those facing the death penalty for politically-motivated crimes. Aside from the sheer range of criminal offences carrying the death penalty, activists are often charged with crimes like moharebeh ("enmity against God") or acting against national security. Other criminal offenses include "propaganda against the state" and "endangering the security of the state."

The ability to convict people on such vaguely-worded criminal offenses frees the hands of state prosecutors to use allegations such as this to suppress the rights of activists and citizens.

Gholamreza Khosravi's case is a good example. On June 1, Iranian authorities executed after finding him guilty of moharebeh. In his case, his crimes were allegedly passing information, and possibly financial assistance, to a London-based television station affiliated with the banned Mujahideen-e Khalq organization.

Mahafarid Amir Khosravi, a former businessman is another example. He was allegedly accused of large-scale financial corruption and money laundering. Khosravi was hanged in Tehran's Evin prison on May 24, 2014 after being convicted of being responsible for a financial scam that was said to have cost Iranian banks nearly 2.6 billion US dollars.

Since people are convicted on such vague charges while unreported executions are carried out in the country, it is not easy for any campaigns or organizations to ascertain the precise number of political executions taking place in Rouhani's Iran.

Human rights activists suggest that there is a direct and obvious relation between the political situation in Iran and the number of executions taking place. In other words, executions are a means of sending a message to protesters and political activists during times of chaos.

A review of the number of executions reported in the national media showed that fewer executions were carried out - or at least reported - in the months leading up to the most recent parliamentary and presidential elections. Many analysts believe this represented implicit encouragement for Iranians to the polls. With Rouhani now in office, will he be able to burnish his moderate credentials by solving Iran's execution problem?

(source: Asharq Al-Awsat)

AFGHANISTAN:

Ulema Council wants immediate execution of Kabul gang-rape convicts

The Ulema Council of Afghanistan has demanded immediate execution of a group of men convicted in gang-rape of 4 women in Paghman district of capital Kabul.

The members of Ulema Council including the council’s chief Mawlavi Qeyamuddin Kashaf met with Afghan President Karzai on Saturday in ARG presidential palace.

Ulema Council members urged President Hamid Karzai to approve the death penalty for the convicts which was awarded by the primary court last week.

President Karzai said he will take immediate action once the trial of the convicts has been finalized by the other courts.

He said he approves the verdict of the primary court which sentenced the convicts to death.

The women were initially abducted while they were returning from a wedding ceremony and were repeatedly raped besides their belongings were robbed by a gang of 10 people.

Police arrested four of the perpetrators from capital Kabul while 3 others were arrested from eastern Ghazni proivnce late Monday after they managed to flee Kabul city.

(source: Khaama Press)

PAKISTAN:

Keep the death penalty moratorium

With an age-old record of convicting people over fabricated charges, it is simply embarrassing that the justice system of Pakistan has the audacity to hand out a sentence as severe as that of death. That the Lahore High Court ordered the immediate execution of a Haripur jail inmate in the coming week on charges of murder not only makes light of the informal moratorium on death penalties by the PML-N regime, but also conveys a sense of self-assuredness which hardly becomes a judicial apparatus warped in chronic politicisation, bias and corruption. It is quite alarming that convicts - specially those charged with non-lethal crimes such as blasphemy or drug trafficking - are being handed down black warrants by a police and court system which can neither guarantee the absolute veracity of charges nor claim complete transparency of trial.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, in its statement of September 11, only echoes the alarm over the court's haste in hanging the Haripur prisoner to death. Despite an informal moratorium which, incidentally, came through a quick, almost perfunctory announcement in the Lower House, prisoners across Pakistan continue to be condemned to death and several thousand on death row continue to languish in solitary confinement, suffering ghastly prison conditions, their lives at constant risk. Why, if at all, are death sentences being tossed around by the lower courts in the wake of an indefinite stay on capital punishment? For how long can an inmate languish in solitary confinement, anticipating his/her death? The crippling mental trauma that accompanies the anticipation of death probably exceeds the intended severity of punishment but alas, these sensitivities are alien to a system which has been completely ossified in the colonial era and remains resistant to reform.

Most of the death warrants are given by the lower courts and there is universal acceptance that this tier of the judiciary is plagued by endemic corruption and miscarriage of justice. Part of the problem, also, is the 'informality' of the moratorium. Steady legislation needs to be written into the books to firstly, completely do away with capital punishment and secondly, to fine-tune the justice system and bolster its credibility.

(source: Editorial, Express Tribune)

INDIA:

New anti-hijack bill to include death penalty

The government will present a new anti-hijacking bill in the next Parliament session that proposes stricter punishments, including the death penalty, to deter hijackers, a civil aviation ministry official told HT.

Under current laws, the maximum sentence that can be awarded to a hijacker is life imprisonment. The new Anti-Hijacking Bill, 2014, will increase the scope of punishment by awarding the death penalty for hijacking that involves the death of a hostage or security personnel. The Bill also allows a hijacker's property to be confiscated.

"There will be great deterrence towards hijacking because of the death penalty provision," said union civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju.

Awarding the death penalty for hijacking was first considered after terrorists hijacked an Indian Airlines flight from Kathmandu to Kandahar in 1999. After the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in the US, the government felt the need to amend the existing Anti-Hijacking Act, 1982, and introduced the Anti-Hijacking (Amendment) Bill in the Rajya Sabha in 2010.

A ministry official said the new Bill proposes to increase the net on perpetrators. "The Bill will enable India to register a case against hijackers if any Indian is hijacked in any aircraft anywhere across the world," he said. Currently, the offender has to be an Indian citizen or the aircraft has to land in India for a case to be registered.

The Bill also broadens the definition of hijacking by introducing an "in-service" clause. Hijacking is currently limited by an "in-flight" definition, which means the period after the doors of a plane are closed for take-off. Under the new provisions, an aircraft shall be considered to be "in-service" from the beginning of pre-flight preparations by ground personnel to until 24 hours after it has landed.

Another area the Bill proposes to change is trials of offenders. It provides for speeding up hijackers' trials by allowing state governments to designate a sessions court to hold such trials with permission from the chief justice of the state's high court. The designated court will try to hold the trial on a day-to-day basis.

(source: Hindustan Times)

SEPTEMBER 13, 2014:

TEXAS----impending execution/female

http://www.change.org/p/texas-board-of-pardons-and-paroles-bpp-pio-tdcj-state-tx-us-stop-the-execution-of-lisa-ann-coleman

(source: change.org)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Pennsylvania execution delayed because the state doesn't have lethal injection drugs

An execution scheduled for 10 days from now in Pennsylvania has been called off because the state doesn't have the drugs it needs to carry out the lethal injection, Gov. Tom Corbett (R) announced Friday.

But the reprieve for Hubert L. Michael Jr., who was convicted of the 1993 kidnapping and murder of a teenage girl, is only meant to be temporary, Corbett said. Corbett said in a statement that he is "committed to carrying out the sentence" for Michael and intends to set a new execution date once the state gets the execution drugs.

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections confirmed Friday that it does not have the drugs necessary to carry out the execution, but a spokeswoman declined to provide information regarding why. This comes amid an ongoing shortage of lethal injection drugs that has left states with capital punishment scrambling to obtain them, even as some states have contemplated reviving older execution methods, such as like firing squads or gas chambers.

Corbett signed the death warrant for Michael in July, setting the execution date for Sept. 22. The execution was temporarily stayed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit last month as it weighs a petition for the full court to hear Michael's case. But if the stay is lifted, the Department of Corrections - which is responsible for carrying out death sentences, and has to do so on dates established by the governor - would then be obligated to execute Michael by lethal injection.

"We cannot do so because we do not have the drugs," Susan McNaughton, a spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections, said in an e-mail. "We continue to work to acquire the drugs in accordance with the law."

When asked for additional details regarding why the department did not have the necessary drugs or when it expected to get them, McNaughton said that she could not discuss any details regarding how the drugs are obtained.

If and when the department gets the lethal drugs, John E. Wetzel, the department's secretary, would alert Corbett's office in writing. Barring any sort of stay, Corbett would then sign an execution warrant for Michael - the 5th death warrant bearing Michael's name, and the 3rd signed by Corbett - setting a new date for his execution.

Michael was convicted of abducting and shooting 16-year-old Trista Eng in York County. He was sentenced to death in 1995, the same year Pennsylvania carried out its 1st lethal injection, putting Keith Zettlemoyer to death. Since then, former governors Tom Ridge and Ed Rendell signed execution warrants for Michael in 1996 and 2004, respectively; Corbett also signed a warrant in 2012.

All 3 of these warrants wound up being dissolved after stays were issued and Michael filed a series of appeals and motions for stays.

The state has 184 people on death row and has carried out 3 executions since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976; it has not executed anyone since 1999. Corbett has signed dozens of execution warrants since he took office in 2011, so there have been other executions scheduled, including one that was set for June before it was stayed.

News of Michael's reprieve comes a day after a lawsuit was filed on behalf of media organizations demanding additional information regarding the source of the drugs that would be used in his execution. This suit said that revealing the source of the drugs "would be of intense interest to the public," as there has been greater attention paid to executions in the United States following 3 problematic lethal injections this year. The American Civil Liberties Union in Pennsylvania filed the suit on behalf of the Guardian's U.S. operation, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Philadelphia City Paper.

This lawsuit followed 2 other suits, filed earlier this year in other states, challenging the secrecy that suffuses the lethal injection process in the United States. In May, media outlets sued the Missouri Department of Corrections to try to force it to release more details about where the state - which has executed 8 people this year, tied with Texas for the most in 2014 - obtained the drugs it was using in lethal injections.

The ACLU and the Guardian's U.S. operation filed a suit last month arguing that journalists and witnesses in Oklahoma should be allowed to see more of what happens during executions. Their suit cited a high-profile botched execution in the state, which took place with key moments shielded from view. In particular, the assembled journalists and other witnesses were unable to see the moment that the inmate, Clayton Lockett, died. Nor did they see the repeated issues involved in placing the IV in Lockett's vein.

A state investigation released earlier this month specifically cited issues with the IV as a major problem with that botched injection, which drew criticism from President Obama and the United Nations.

(source: Washington Post)

WEST VIRGINIA:

Suport for the death penalty is fading

Governments that put people to death tend to be brutal and vengeful. A nation with firing squads is usually a dictatorship. A horrifying current example is the Islamic State theocracy in Syria and Iraq, which executes thousands of "infidels," including 2 American news reporters.

In contrast, nearly all modern democracies have abolished the death penalty as a cruel relic from the barbaric past.

1 exception is America where - mostly in the Deep South - state governments still kill people.

However, support for executions is dwindling. A decade ago, 80 % of Americans were pro-death, but a 2013 Gallup Poll found that the rate had dropped to 60 %. Republicans mostly (81 %) still want executions, but only 47 % of Democrats do.

Since 2007, 6 states have abolished the death penalty: Maryland, Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico and New York. That makes 18 states without it. We're proud that West Virginia took this humane step in 1965.

In the 18 states that don't kill prisoners, crime rates aren't significantly worse - which undercuts the argument that executions deter criminals.

Why is support for executions dropping? Partly because new DNA evidence has proved that some condemned suspects actually were innocent. And partly because most Americans realize that the death penalty is inflicted primarily on poor, black, underprivileged defendants. Few rich Americans are executed.

Meanwhile, Emory University historian Daniel LaChance says the decline has a different cause, as follows: People crave an execution because they're sickened by a horrible crime and want vengeful punishment. But America's justice system drags out the appeal process so long that original crimes are nearly forgotten.

"Inmates put to death in 2012 had waited an average of almost 16 years for their execution date," he wrote in a New York Times commentary. "The 3,054 men and women languishing on the nation's death rows have become the unwitting cast of a never-ending production of 'Waiting for Godot.'"

The public's craving for punishment isn't satisfied "when the devil appears in the execution chamber 20 years later, a middle-aged or elderly man whose crimes have long faded from popular memory," he said.

Back in the period when West Virginia was ending the death penalty, state Sen. Roger Tompkins, D-Kanawha - whose uncle had been brutally murdered - opposed executions in an eloquent speech, saying: "There is something in each of us that loves a killing. But we are not animals, and we know it is wrong to take another's life."

(source: Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Victims, families too often forgotten in high-profile crimes

North Carolina has been talking about Henry McCollum and Leon Brown, the2 N.C. men who were exonerated 30 years after being sentenced to death for a murder they did not commit. However, my thoughts have been with the people who are often forgotten in these high-profile cases: the victim and her family.

Sabrina Buie was just 11 years old when her body was found in a field, sexually assaulted and suffocated with her own underwear. This week, her family had to relive that crime. Once again, they had to sit in a courtroom and hear strangers testify about her injuries and the last moments of her too-short life.

It's no wonder that, after McCollum and Brown were declared innocent on Tuesday, the Buie family remained huddled, sobbing, in the courtroom. Her sister, who was 4 years old when Sabrina died, told a reporter afterward: "It feels like I'm trapped in hell and can't get out cause I'm wondering now will she be forgotten."

For the 2 men who've been freed, this is a joyous occasion, but I feel so much sadness about it. My heart weeps for the victim's family knowing all the pain and anguish they've experienced due to a broken system that failed to provide justice for them.

This case shows, in stark relief, how our flawed death penalty system inflicts more suffering on the families of victims. I say this as someone who understands the pain of losing a child. In 2004, my beautiful son Brian was senselessly murdered in Wilmington. He was 24.

I'm not a supporter of the death penalty. I believe all life is sacred and it's not up to me to decide who lives or dies. Through my experience, I realized Brian's family and friends were not the only victims in our case. The courtroom was filled with victims from both sides at the sentencing hearing; people struggling with the devastation of homicide who became victims through no choice of their own. My heart went out to the mother and grandmother of my son's murderer; I would never want them to suffer as I have. There are other ways to hold offenders accountable within the justice system, and for me, accountability is the key to justice.

What's more, capital cases often take many years to resolve. Each time there's another legal proceeding, family members are subjected to more heart-rending testimony and news headlines.

Hanging over it all is the threat that our imperfect system will execute an innocent person. This isn't a possibility; it has happened, more than once and 1 innocent life is 1 too many. How does that awful prospect honor the memories of our lost children?

We can honor the victims by shifting our priority to the families left behind, lending support as they navigate this often hostile and confusing journey. We need more resources to help those profoundly affected by crime, expand our view of victims to include the family and friends of the offender as well. We need to stop the process of re-victimizing those whose grief is only complicated by the legal process. So much money, time and resources are put into the death penalty that could be better used to serve victims in their healing. It's in our personal healing where crime prevention begins and solutions are found.

I'm thrilled 2 innocent men regained their freedom but I can't truly call it a victory. They're victims too, now faced with the task of reclaiming what's left of their lives. Victory will be when North Carolina devotes more money to violence prevention programs instead of securing death sentences that will never be carried out. The real victory will come when our state recognizes that killing more people is not the solution to violence.

I saw the tears and heard the words of the Buie family this week and felt my own grief all over again. No matter how much time passes, it never goes away.

For me, it helps to know I'm working for a better world, where we address the roots of violence and stop using the death penalty to create more grieving families.

(source: Opinion; Lynda Simmons is a member of Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation, a national network of victim family members who oppose the death penalty, as well as the founder of the Brian Eddie Foundation, which serves at-risk youth and honors the memory of her son----Citizen-Times)

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

The death penalty, luck and innocence in NC

In the aftermath of the freeing last week of 2 wrongfully convicted North Carolina inmates, 1 from death row, the views of 2 Robeson County district attorneys who played central roles in the case are sobering.

Joe Freeman Britt, who came to be known as America's "Deadliest DA" for having won more than 40 death penalty convictions over 2 decades, put those 2 freed men behind bars in the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl. In a Sunday New York Times article, the blustery 79-year-old remained unmoved, declaring still that "absolutely they are guilty."

This amazing declaration comes despite the compelling evidence discovered by the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission that led a judge to exonerate Henry McCollum and Leon Brown and free them from 30 years of incarceration - 3 decades that McCollum spent on death row. Most persuasive was new DNA evidence that links another inmate, Roscoe Artis, to the crime. Artis is a sex offender who lived a block away from where the child's body was left. His DNA was found on a cigarette at the crime scene. He is serving a life sentence for a rape and murder that happened less than a month after the crime for which McCollum and Brown, 2 mentally disabled half-brothers, were convicted.

Joe Freeman Britt pooh-poohs that and other evidence. He told the Times: "I thought the DA just threw up his hands and capitulated, and the judge didn't have any choice but to do what he did."

For his part, current District Attorney Johnson Britt, whose grandfather reportedly was 1st cousin to the father of Joe Freeman Britt, sees things differently. "I was stunned," he said this week about the DNA evidence found on the cigarette butt.

Johnson Britt also found it puzzling that investigators and prosecutors did not see a connection between the 2 murder-rape cases - given that the "same prosecutor handled both trials, 90 days apart."

For the younger Britt, this case has been an eye-opener. He previously said there were no innocent people on death row. This week, he told the Associated Press, "I stand corrected." He also said the case has heightened his concerns about the death penalty, noting its costs and lack of deterrent value. He thinks the N.C. legislature should re-examine whether to allow it.

Lawmakers have been taking another look at the death penalty. Sadly, they've been trying to rev up the state killing system, not get rid of it. North Carolina has not held an execution since 2006, but last year lawmakers passed legislation to overcome impediments, including challenges to the state's lethal injection protocol and questions about whether medical professionals can participate in executions.

For McCollum, the impediments to restarting executions were a life-saver.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

What also helped save him, and free his half-brother, was something no other state has done but should: Establish an Innocence Inquiry Commission.

Legislation in 2006 set up the N.C. commission, which has a staff of 6 who investigate and 8 members who decide whether cases get judicial review. But its genesis began with heartfelt concerns about wrongful convictions of innocent people expressed by former N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice I. Beverly Lake Jr. in 2002. Lake set up a study commission and told critics that North Carolina has "the best criminal justice system in the country, but it's not perfect. And where we can, we need to improve and correct deficiencies."

The Innocence Commission, operating on "a fairly small budget - about $350,000 a year (and) a federal grant from the National Institute of Justice," according to executive director Kendra Montgomery-Blinn - has been doing just that. In 2010, it freed Greg Taylor, who spent 16 years in prison for the murder of a prostitute in Raleigh. In 2011, it freed Kenneth Kagonyera and Robert Wilcoxson, convicted in a robbery and shotgun slaying in Buncombe County. In 2012, it exonerated Willie Grimes, already on parole, of a 1987 rape and kidnapping in Hickory for which he served 24 years.

"Despite legislative rumblings about budget cuts, the commission has more than proved its value, reviewing over 1,600 claims and exonerating 6 people through its rigorous process.

Given rules that require never presented evidence, the commission's lifeline won't reach some who are innocent. Additionally, officials say, evidence that might prove innocence has too often been destroyed or misplaced.

As a state agency, the commission has been able to search for and compel evidence in ways others have not. Yet Montgomery-Blinn told the News & Observer last year that getting to evidence in "these cases is pure luck."

N.C. lawmakers should remember Henry McCollum, who for 30 years awaited execution. If not for luck, the state could have killed an innocent man. It's time to ditch the death penalty. Luck shouldn't be good enough for the N.C. justice system.

(source: Fannie Flono is an editorial writer and columnist at the Charlotte Observer)

SOUTH CAROLINA:

Retrial in Myrtle Beach police officer's killing set to begin Monday

Timeline:

12:30 a.m. Dec. 29, 2002: Joe McGarry, 28, stopped a man in the parking lot of Dunkin Donuts on North Kings Highway to question him. The man pulled out a handgun and shot McGarry, who died about an hour later at a local hospital.

McGarry's partner returned gunfire and struck the man in the leg as he fled with a woman in a 1996 Honda Accord.

Police chased after the vehicle and stopped it on U.S. 17 Bypass between 79th and 62nd avenues north and arrested Luzenski Cottrell of Myrtle Beach on a murder charge.

April 2005: Cottrell was convicted of murder in McGarry's death and sentenced to death. Cottrell appealed the sentence.

September 2005: Cottrell and co-defendant, Frederick Halcomb Jr., were each sentenced to life in prison for the November 2002 shooting death of Michael Jonathan Love in Marion County.

January 28, 2008: The South Carolina Supreme Court overturned Cottrell's death penalty decision based on the opinion that jurors should have been given the option of convicted Cottrell of manslaughter.

--

The family and friends of former Myrtle Beach police Officer Joe McGarry has already been through this once.

But the closure they thought they'd found with the conviction of Luzenski Allen Cottrell in McGarry's 2002 killing will be reopened next week with a retrial.

Cottrell, now 36, was returned to J. Reuben Long Detention Center in Conway on Sept. 8 by the S.C. Department of Corrections, and is set to face a new jury on a charge of murder in the shooting death of McGarry, who died Dec. 29, 2002.

McGarry's family declined to comment this week about Cottrell's retrial. But during a memorial service on the 9th anniversary of McGarry's death, his father, Joe McGarry Sr., said another trial puts strain on his family and officers.

"I'm really bitter with them," Joe McGarry Sr. said about the members of the state's high court. "Just ignored the will of the people."

Attorneys in the latest trial of Cottrell are under a gag order issued by Circuit Court Judge Larry Hyman, which prohibits prosecutors, defense attorneys and others from publicly speaking about the case.

McGarry was 28 when he was shot once in the face while he stood outside a Dunkin Donuts shop. He had been with the Myrtle Beach Police Department just over 4 years when he was killed.

Cottrell was arrested and charged with murder the night of the shooting.

In April 2005, Cottrell was convicted of murder by a jury and sentenced to death. Cottrell also was convicted for shooting at Myrtle Beach Police Officer Mike Guthinger, who was McGarry's partner that night.

Cottrell appealed the decision and in January 2008 the S.C. Supreme Court overturned his conviction and death sentence. Justice Costa Pleicones stated that the court erred in not giving jurors the option to convict Cottrell of the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.

In an unrelated case, 5 months after his conviction in McGarry's death, Cottrell and co-defendant, Frederick Halcomb Jr., were each sentenced to life in prison for the November 2002 shooting death of Myrtle Beach resident Michael Jonathan Love in Marion County.

At the time of his shooting, McGarry was the 3rd police officer from Horry County killed in as many years.

McGarry's death happened 1 year to the day that Lt. Randy Gene Gerald of Loris, an Horry County sheriff's deputy based at the J. Reuben Long Detention Center, was shot and killed on U.S. 701 near Allsbrook.

Gerald stopped in the roadway and was trying to break up a domestic dispute. Gerald's killer, Boyd Matthew Meekins, 32, was sentenced to life in prison.

A year earlier in June 2000, Horry County police Cpl. Dennis Lyden was killed during a traffic stop on S.C. 544.

Lyden's killer, James Nathanial Bryant, was sentenced to death twice following 2 separate trials. Bryant's execution was delayed after a U.S. District judge ordered it postponed a year ago to address his pleadings in federal and state court

(source: myrtlebeachonline.com)

GEORGIA:

Innocent mistake or child murder?

Earlier this month, a grand jury indicted the Georgia man whose toddler died of heatstroke after being left in the SUV for 7 hours in June. Justin Ross Harris, 33, faces charges of murder, child cruelty and sexual exploitation of a child (not his son, a 16-year-old girl he sexted that same day, according to police). Harris could face the death penalty if convicted.

He could also become this generation's Ronald O'Bryan, the man put to death for poisoning his son with Pixy Stix on Halloween in 1974.

The connection?

Consider this: Police say Harris had researched hot car deaths online, as well as child-free living. Presumably, the case will be made that he planned to make his son's death look like an accident. Hyperthermia has gotten so much attention in the media that it now seems almost common. Though about 30 to 40 kids die this way each year - or literally one in a million children younger than 10 - if you watch TV, it feels as if it's happening right and left. Harris may - only may - have thought: Who's going to question just one more?

Which brings us to O'Bryan: In January 1974, O'Bryan took out an insurance policy on both of his children. He took out an additional policy a month before Halloween and yet another policy just a few days before the holiday. What's more, a chemist who testified in court said O'Bryan had been asking him about cyanide.

Add to this the fact that O'Bryan was in debt and allegedly about to be fired and the fact that he said the stranger who had given out the poisoned Pixy Stix only stuck his arm out the door and no one ever saw his face.

It took the jury less than an hour to convict him. He was put to death by lethal injection.

O'Bryan appears to have believed that so many kids get poisoned on Halloween that no one would question one more. But the actual number of kids killed by a stranger's candy on Halloween was - and remains - zero.

If a jury decides that Harris deliberately left his son to die after researching toddler heatstroke, it could be another case of a dad's believing that a certain much-discussed type of child tragedy is so common that one more would be just a sad statistic. But the fact is hyperthermia is not that common, thank goodness. In fact, far more children die after being taken out of cars, in parking lots. We are just so obsessed by the idea that any child waiting in a car is in immediate danger that we have lost all perspective.

Of course, Harris is innocent until proven guilty, so I don't want to belabor the point. And in fact, if you looked at all the crazy things I Google on a daily basis, you would take me for a pedophile with a squirrel fetish and chocolate chip cookie obsession. An online trail is not a smoking gun.

What's more, throwing in the "sexual exploitation of a child" charge as if it had anything to do with the hyperthermia case smacks of damning the guy with the charges. If I were charged with drunken driving, would it matter that while sitting at the bar, I'd been cheating on my taxes?

So the case has a lot of disturbing angles on both sides. But one thing is true. When we are fed a steady diet of rare child tragedies in the media, they stop looking rare to all of us - parents and cops, judges and juries, evildoers and the innocent.

(source: Lenore Skenazy is a keynote speaker and author of the book and blog "Free-Range Kids."----Citizen-Times)

FLORIDA:

Judge to decide on death penalty for Dunkin Donuts killer

As per a jury's recommendation, a judge will decide whether James Herard, 25, will or will not face the death penalty for a crime he committed back in Lauderhill on November 2008.

Herard, who is currently carrying out multiple life sentences, "dared" the judge to take his life. "I pretty much dare you to give me the death sentence because, by all means, I'm innocent," Herard stated in court.

Prosecutors and juries did agree, however, back in June that Herard was the ringleader in the murder of 39-year-old Eric Jean-Pierre. He reportedly provoked a 26-year-old accomplice by telling him to pull the trigger at close-range.

Herard denies his involvement in a string of gang-related crimes, robberies and murders dating back to 2008. "James Herard is basically a 25-year-old young black man facing charges for crimes I didn't commit," Herard told a judge.

One of the life sentences Herard is currently carrying out is for shooting and killing Kiem Huynh at a Tamarac Dunkin Donuts on Thanksgiving, back in 2008.

In this 2nd case, the jury is recommending the death penalty for Herard's involvement in the shooting death of Jean-Pierre, who Herard allegedly killed at random on Northwest 55th Avenue in Lauderhill on Nov. 14, 2008.

Herard has gained a reputation for acting up in court. This Friday it was no different. Herard argued with deputies as character witnesses took the stand for his sentencing.

Other convicted and accused felons on the stand told the judge that, in their opinion, Herard is a good guy. "I've never seen him get into any altercations with anybody. I never saw him upset," said character witness Deitrick Johnson.

By Friday, all character witnesses had testified at the Broward County Courthouse.

Another hearing on this phase is scheduled for Sept. 22. The judge is expected on or around this date to have a final decision on whether Herard will receive the death penalty or not.

(source: WSVN news)

ALABAMA:

State adopts new execution drugs, seeks death date for 9 inmates

Alabama this week adopted a new drug protocol for executions by lethal injection and began seeking execution dates for nine inmates on death row.

Those inmates saw their execution dates indefinitely postponed earlier this year, when state officials ran out of drugs used in executions.

Several states have faced shortages of those drugs in recent years, largely because drug manufacturers in Europe - where there's substantial opposition to capital punishment - have refused to sell drugs to states for use in executions. In response to the shortage, several states have sought out new combinations of lethal injection drugs.

Some death-row inmates have filed suits arguing that the use of those experimental drug combinations could lead to pain during executions, violating the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Tommy Arthur is one of those inmates. Arthur, sentenced to death for the murder-for-hire of a Muscle Shoals man in the 1980s, was originally scheduled for lethal injection in 2012. He filed suit on the grounds that the state had only recently switched to a new lethal injection drug, pentobarbital. 2 other Alabama inmates have similar suits pending.

State officials acknowledged in March that Alabama no longer had a supply of pentobarbital - leaving Alabama without the drugs it needed to carry out executions.

In motions filed Thursday with the Alabama Supreme Court, state officials say they now have a new drug protocol for executions. Under the protocol, adopted Wednesday, inmates would be injected with midazolam hydrochloride, an anesthetic; rocuronium bromide to relax the muscles; and potassium chloride to induce cardiac arrest.

The drug combination is "virtually identical to Florida's newly-revised protocol which has been ruled constitutional," according to the state's motion.

The protocol has been used for 7 executions in Florida, the motion states.

Midazolam, the 1st drug in the protocol, has been used in botched executions in other states this year. An Ohio execution in January took 25 minutes, with the inmate gasping for breath, according to accounts in the press. In May, an Oklahoma inmate died 43 minutes after first being lethally injected. Both executions used midazolam.

Florida's recent executions haven't presented the same problems, said Richard Dieter, director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit group which studies the death penalty.

Still, Dieter said, problems might be harder to spot under Florida's drug protocol because the 2nd drug in the sequence paralyzes the inmate.

"It's hard to tell when a paralytic is the 2nd drug," Dieter said. "They could be conscious or experiencing pain, but they can't show that."

The state filed 9 motions seeking execution dates for Arthur as well as inmates David Lee Roberts, Anthony Boyd, Christopher Eugene Brooks, Demetrius Frazier, Gregory Hunt, William Ernest Kuenzel, Robin Dee Myers and Christopher Lee Price.

The motion in Arthur's case was the 1st to come to light Friday morning. The Star's attempts to reach Arthur's lawyer, Suhana Han, were not immediately successful Friday morning.

Jennifer Ardis, a spokeswoman for Gov. Robert Bentley, said the state was ready to carry out the executions.

"Obviously, the decision to execute an inmate is a serious one, and the governor supports the legal process," Ardis said. "We have a new protocol and the Department of Corrections is ready to carry out an execution order."

1 Alabama death penalty opponent said she didn't understand the drive to resume executions.

"I'm disgusted," said Esther Brown, an activist for Project Hope for Abolition of the Death Penalty. "I'm disgusted with our compulsion, our need, to kill. I just don't understand it."

The state hasn't executed an inmate since July 2013, when Andrew Reid Lackey died by lethal injection for the 2005 murder of an Athens man.

(source: Anniston Star)

OHIO:

Death penalty sought in 2-year-old's killing

Hamilton County prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for a man charged in the brutal slaying of his girlfriend's 2-year-old son.

Amond J. Rainey is accused of beating Josiya Eves so severely, an autopsy concluded the toddler had 3 separate skull fractures, brain swelling, retinal hemorrhages, a lacerated liver and multiple bruises.

The child's death was ruled a homicide as the result of multiple head trauma with associated brain injury and a lacerated liver.

"Another babysitting-boyfriend murders an innocent child," Prosecutor Joe Deters said Friday as he announced the capital murder case.

"It is impossible to understand how anyone could treat another person like this, much less an innocent baby. These cases are the most heartbreaking (ones) we see and everyone should be outraged by this type of behavior."

Rainey, 29, of Colerain Township, was arrested Sept. 4, days after Cincinnati police issued a warrant for his arrest. He is held on a $1 million bond at the county jail.

Rainey was babysitting the toddler while the child's mother was at work Aug. 25 in Cumminsville.

He called 911 at 12:20 p.m. and asked about the medical significance of one pupil being bigger than the other.

Before a dispatcher could give him medical advice, he hung up.

About 12:49 p.m., he took the toddler to the emergency room at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. He told the hospital the child was having difficulty breathing.

Doctors examined Josiya and admitted him to the hospital's intensive care unit, but he died 2 days later.

(source: Cincinnati.com)

INDIANA:

Heinous crimes of serial killers in Indiana

The term "serial killings" means a series of 3 or more killings, not less than 1 of which was committed within the United States, having common characteristics such as to suggest the reasonable possibility that the crimes were committed by the same person or persons. That's according to a 1998 federal law passed by Congress.

While not intended to be the clear definition of "serial killer," it is a means by which the FBI can assist local law enforcement agencies with their investigations since serial killers at times commit murders in multiple states - even countries.

While mass murder is defined by4 or more murders occurring in the same incident, a serial murder requires a "cooling-off" period between murders. Murders can occur days, weeks even years apart.

We have had our share of serial killers in Indiana

Herbert Baumeister

In 1996, the remains of 11 people were found on the 18-acre Fox Hollow Farm near Westfield owned by Herbert Baumeister.

Indiana investigators believe Baumeister was responsible for possibly as many as 16 deaths of teenage boys and men whose bodies were left in shallow streams across Central Indiana and western Ohio between 1980 and 1990.

Baumeister, 49, who owned thrift stores in Indianapolis, drove to Canada where he shot and killed himself about a week after the sheriff's department began investigating the discovery of bones on the property on 156th Street on June 24, 1996.

Leslie "Mad Dog" Irvin

Irvin was arrested in connection with 6 murders which were committed in 4 separate incidents. His spree began Dec. 2, 1954, and ended March 28, 1955. The crimes took place in Vanderburgh and Posey counties in Indiana and Henderson County, Ky. The victims were:

-- Dec. 2, 1954: Mary Holland, 33. Shot in head at close range at work. She was 3 months pregnant. Motive: Robbery.

-- Dec. 23, 1954: Wesley Kerr, 29. Shot in head at close range at work. Motive: Robbery.

-- March 21, 1955: Wilhelmina Sailer, 47, Mt. Vernon, Ind. Housewife, killed at home. Shot in head. Motive: Burglary.

March 28, 1955: Goebel Duncan, 51. Henderson, Ky. Motive: Burglary. Also killed were Raymond Duncan, 29; Goebel's son; and Elizabeth Duncan, 20, Raymond's wife. Goebel's wife, Mamie, survived being shot, but was permanently blinded. Elizabeth's 2-year-old daughter was spared.

Irvin was sentenced to death, but escaped the Gibson County Jail and fled to San Francisco where he was captured. The Supreme Court heard arguments that Irvin was not given a fair trial due to pretrial publicity. Irvin was retried and convicted on June 13, 1962. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and died at Indiana State Prison, Michigan City, on Nov. 9, 1983, of lung cancer.

Orville Lynn Majors

It likely will never be known whether he killed 6 patients or more than 100. Prosecutors pursued charges on 7 deaths, working from a list of about 150 deaths deemed suspicious.

On Dec. 29, 1997, Orville Lynn Majors was taken into custody and charged with the murder of 7 people: Mary A. Alderson, 69; Dorthea L. Hixon, 80; Luetta A. Hopkins, 89; Margaret Hornick, 79; Derek Maxwell, 64; Freddie D. Wilson, 56; and Cecil Ivan Smith, 74.

Majors, a former nurse, was found guilty of killing 6 elderly patients at the former Vermillion County Hospital by injecting them with heart stopping drugs. Majors was convicted in October 1999 and sentenced to 360 years in prison.

Belle Gunness

Norwegian immigrant Belle Gunness used her feminine wiles to lure lonely men to her Laporte, Ind., home on the promise of marriage. Those men would soon be parted with not only their money, but their lives.

In the early 1900s, Gunness placed personal ads in Midwestern newspapers with "view of joining fortunes." One by one, the men were poisoned, cut up and buried on her farm. Over a span of about 5 years, she killed at least 25 people, though some say the real number was at least 40.

After a mysterious fire at her home, local authorities concluded Gunness and her children had died in the blaze, but some contend she faked her death and fled to California where she may have found more victims.

William Clyde Gibson III

On Aug. 15, 2014, Gibson was condemned to die for the murder of Stephanie Kirk, whose body was buried in his New Albany, Ind., backyard.

It was the 2nd death penalty for Gibson, who also was condemned in the murder of family friend Christine Whitis.

Kirk's body was found in April 2012, just days after police found Whitis' mutilated body in his garage. Both Kirk, 35, and Whitis, 75, were sexually assaulted after they were killed, police said.

Gibson also has been sentenced to 65 years in prison after pleading guilty to the 2002 murder of Florida beautician Karen Hodella, whose remains were found in Clarksville along the Ohio River.

Larry Eyler

On Oct. 18, 1983, mushroom hunters happened upon an empty barn lot just north of Lake Village in Newton County, about 120 miles northwest of Indianapolis what they found, however, was a decomposed body.

That day and into the next, investigators found the bodies of 4 young men buried in shallow graves. 3 were side by side; the 4th was about 40 feet away.

2 were quickly identified: John Bartlett and Michael Bauer. The names of the other 2 remain mysteries.

All 4 eventually were connected to serial killer Larry Eyler, known in the Indianapolis gay community as a good-looking charmer, but with a temper. His general pattern was to pick up men who were hitchhiking or sometimes in gay bars, give them alcohol and slip them a strong sedative to cause them to go unconscious. He would then take them to a secluded spot and kill viciously, sometimes mutilating or dismembering his victims.

Eyler, dubbed "The Highway Killer," was linked to the deaths of 23 young men in the late 1970s and early 1980s, mostly in Illinois and Indiana. He was convicted in 1986 in Illinois for one of those murders and sentenced to death; he also received a 60-year sentence for an Indiana murder. Eyler died in 1994 in prison of complications related to AIDS. However, after his death and with Eyler's prior permission, his attorney handed over a list of 17 men Eyler claimed he had killed and the names of 4 others allegedly killed by an unnamed accomplice.

Alton Coleman

Alton Coleman and Debra Brown launched a horrific 2-month crime spree in 1984 that included up to 8 murders, more than a dozen rapes, 3 kidnappings and 14 armed robberies. Coleman, who was sentenced to death for murder in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, never was tried for several of his suspected crimes. Over 2 months of the rampage, Coleman and Brown averaged a felony every other day. Here's a partial chronology of events that took place in 1984:

-- May 29: Venita Wheat, 9, of Kenosha, Wis., disappears. Her body is found June 19.

-- June 5: Coleman and Brown begin their spree when they rent an apartment in Gary; Coleman had been wanted by police since May 31 on murder charges in Wisconsin.

-- June 18: Tamika Turks, 7, of Gary, is raped and stomped to death. Her body is found June 19.

-- June 19: Donna Williams, 21, of Gary, is reported missing. Her car is found a week later in Detroit. Her body is found in Detroit on July 11.

-- June 21: A Detroit woman is kidnapped by Coleman and Brown. While driving her captors to Toledo, Ohio, she escapes by ramming her car into oncoming traffic.

-- July 7: Virginia Temple, 30, of Toledo, and her 10-year-old daughter are slain. Coleman and Brown are suspected in the slayings, but the 2 are not prosecuted. -- July 11: Tonnie Storey, 15, of Cincinnati is strangled. The crime is linked to Coleman but goes untried.

-- July 13: Marlene Walters, 44, also of Cincinnati, is found dead in her basement. Her husband is beaten and left for dead. Their car is later found abandoned in Lexington, Ky.

-- July 19: The fugitives drive back through Dayton, Ohio, in a stolen car and on to Indianapolis. Eugene Scott, 77, of Indianapolis is found shot to death. Coleman and Brown are again linked to the slaying but are not prosecuted.

-- July 20: Coleman and Brown are captured after returning to Evanston, where the duo had rented an apartment before moving to Gary.

-- Alton Coleman, 46, died by lethal injection in April 2002 in the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility for the beating death Marlene Walters.

David Maust

David Maust, 51, died Jan. 20, 2006, at a hospital after being found hanged from a braided bedsheet inside a Lake County Jail cell. He was serving 3 consecutive life sentences for the 2003 murders of three Hammond teens Michael Dennis, 13, James Raganyi, 16, and Nicholas James, 19, all of Hammond. Their bodies were found wrapped in plastic bags and entombed in freshly poured concrete in the basement where he lived.

He also served time for the 1981 murder of a 15-year-old Illinois boy, and for involuntary manslaughter in the death of a 13-year-old boy while serving in the U.S. Army.

Christopher Peterson

Christopher Peterson (aka, Obadyah Ben-Yisrayl) is classified as a "spree killer" with spurts of homicidal rage.

His crimes:

-- Oct. 30, 1990, Insurance agent Lawrence Mill was shot to death in his car in front of the American Legion Post 66 in Griffith. 2 1/2 hours later, Rhonda L. Hammersley, who worked at a gas station in Cedar Lake, was shot in the parking lot. (Acquitted.)

-- On Dec. 13, 1990, Harchand Dhaliwal, an attendant at a Hudson Oil station in Portage was robbed and shot in the head.

-- Dec. 15, 1990, Marie Meitzler, a desk clerk at a Howard Johnson motel in Portage was robbed and shot in the head. Six minutes later, Ora L. Wildermuth was shot in front of an automated teller machine. One hour later, Robert S. Kotso was shot in a highway toll booth. He survived.

-- Dec. 18, 1998, brothers George and Eli Balovski were found dead following a robbery in their Gary tailor shot.

All were killed with a shotgun.

Peterson was also convicted in the 1991 attempted murder and armed robbery of Ronald Nitsch in Lake County. He was given the death sentenced in 1992.

I-70 killer

Robin Fuldauer, 26. April 8, 1992. Fuldauer was the manager of the Payless Shoe Source in the 7300 block of Pendleton Pike. She was working alone between 1:30 and 2 p.m. when someone entered the store and shot her. The store, which no longer exists, was easily accessible from I-70.

Over the next 4 weeks, 5 more people in 3 states were slain in stores and communities along the highway.

Michael McCown, 40. April 27, 1992, Terre Haute. McCown was found shot to death in his mother's ceramics store, Sylvia's Ceramics, not far from I-70. He was the only man killed in the series, but police think the shooter might have mistaken McCown for a woman because of his ponytail and because the name of the store made it seem likely a woman might be inside.

After that series of slayings, there was a pause. In 1993, a 2nd series of shootings began that bore a marked similarity to the I-70 series. These, however, were committed in Texas, but with easy access to Interstates 35 and 45.

The cases remain unsolved.

(source: Journal & Courier)

TENNESSEE:

Tennessee seeks media witnesses for Billy Irick execution

After 6 years of a mostly dormant death penalty, Tennessee gets ready to execute one of its most notorious killers in less than a month.

This week, in preparation for the Oct. 7 scheduled execution of Billy Ray Irick, the Tennessee Department of Correction began taking applications for media witnesses to his death. Under department rules, seven media witnesses and 2 alternates will be selected at random by the department Sept. 23.

Irick, who raped and murdered a 7-year-old Knoxville girl in 1985, is one of 11 inmates currently scheduled to die through 2016, part of a renewed push last year to kick-start the state's lagging death penalty. He has been on death row since 1986. The last death row inmate executed in Tennessee was Cecil Johnson in December 2009.

Whether the execution will happen Oct. 7 is unclear.

Irick is among several inmates suing the state over the secrecy surrounding its lethal injection procedures. The case is awaiting an appeals court decision after the state challenged an order that would identify under seal those who would participate in executions.

That appeal, along with the scarcity of lethal injection drugs, could end up leading to a postponement of Irick's execution.

Gov. Bill Haslam has signed a bill allowing the electric chair to be used if the state can't find a supplier.

Correction officials declined to provide specifics about what other preparations they are making in anticipation of Irick's execution, including whether they have obtained drugs. The key drug used in Tennessee execution, pentobarbital, has been pulled from the market, leading some states to rely on compounding pharmacies to mix their own versions of the drug.

"We are confident that we will have the necessary chemicals when needed," said Neysa Taylor, spokeswoman for the Department of Correction.

Tennessee has refused to answer questions about how they plan to obtain the drug.

(source: WBIR news)

OKLAHOMA:

Convicted killer writes of uncertainty he faces in pending execution

Since July, Richard Glossip has been listening to renovations going on inside the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. The noise is a constant reminder that his days are numbered.

Glossip, 51, is scheduled to be the 2nd inmate executed under new procedures for lethal injections in Oklahoma in a newly renovated chamber. Convicted in a murder-for-hire plot, he lives on death row, in a small cell that he says is situated beneath the execution chamber.

The state's execution policies are so new that they are still being drafted and prison officials haven't even been trained yet. Glossip, himself, writes that he can only speculate what his last days will be like under the new rules and how he'll die come Nov. 20.

"They have moved the execution table ... so that they could put a window in the door where the person administering the drugs so that if an inmate starts flopping they can give them a little more muscle (relaxant) to stop it," he wrote in a July 24 letter to a reporter. "They think it makes it better, but that is not true, even though your muscles are relaxed, you will still be suffocating and will still feel it."

Death row has been on a media lockdown, with in-person interviews prohibited, since the execution of Clayton Lockett April 29. Corrections officials explain that the blackout was necessary pending the investigation, ordered by Gov. Mary Fallin, into why it took Lockett about 40 minutes to die by lethal injection.

The months-long investigation by the Department of Public Safety ultimately found that an IV tube, meant to deliver deadly drugs, had become dislodged from the 38-year-old's groin area.

In the meantime, Glossip has communicated by letters, attempting to get his story told and convince others of his innocence.

Glossip's execution is 1 of 3 being scheduled by the state, starting in November. He's been on death row since 1998, when he was 1st convicted in a plot that killed motel owner Barry Van Treese the year before. The convicted hitman, Justin Sneed, is serving a sentence of life without parole.

In his letters, Glossip claims his innocence. And, while there are many uncertainties about his future, he writes that he's sure the state will make him suffer in his last moments, referring to Lockett's execution.

(source: Edmond Sun)

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

After injection, Oklahoma lawmaker proposes use of nitrogen gas to execute inmates

Oklahoma would become the 1st state to execute condemned inmates using nitrogen gas under a proposal that will be presented next week to a legislative committee.

Rep. Mike Christian, a former highway patrolman and a staunch supporter of the death penalty, said he will unveil details of the plan Tuesday during an interim study of the House Judiciary Committee. Christian, R-Oklahoma City, said he intends to draft a bill for next year's Legislature, which begins in February.

"We've had so many problems with lethal injection," Christian said. "I think this is just a more humane method, and I think it will be well received."

Christian requested the study after Oklahoma's lethal injection in April of Clayton Lockett, who writhed on the gurney, clenched his teeth and moaned before being pronounced dead about 43 minutes after his execution began. An investigation by the state Department of Public Safety released earlier this month blamed the problems on the poor placement of an intravenous line, and state prison officials are developing new lethal injection protocols.

Christian initially proposed the use of a firing squad but said nitrogen asphyxiation would be simpler and could be easily done by putting a hood or a mask over an inmate's face. He said his bill would give inmates already on Oklahoma's death row the option of lethal injection or gas asphyxiation.

Using nitrogen or another inert gas to gradually deplete an inmate's supply of oxygen would be a practical and efficient method of execution that could easily be administered by a layman, said Michael Copeland, a criminal justice professor at East Central University who, along with 2 colleagues, helped research the method for Christian. Unlike someone holding their breath, which causes a buildup of carbon dioxide in the blood, Copeland said asphyxiation from breathing nitrogen would be painless.

"It's not like suffocating. People won't be gasping and fighting for air," Copeland said. "They'll be breathing normally, and then they'll be dead."

Rep. Aaron Stiles, an attorney and the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said he sees merit in Christian's proposal, especially given the problems states have had in recent years obtaining lethal drugs for executions amid opposition from European manufacturers.

"We wouldn't have to worry about the drugs' availability. It's something the state could produce, and it may be more efficient not only for the state but for the condemned," said Stiles, R-Norman. "If we can solve multiple problems with one method of execution, it's something we should take a look at."

Opponents of the death penalty argued the state could avoid all of the problems associated with executions by abolishing the practice altogether.

"It's tinkering with the machinery of death, and to me it doesn't make any difference how they do it," said James Rowan, a defense attorney who has tried more than 40 death penalty cases and is a board member for the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. "It's not going to make it any more palatable to me, even if they did it in the most humane way possible."

(source: Associated Press)

ARIZONA:

Arias Won't Represent Herself Anymore During Her Upcoming Sentencing Phase

Jodi Arias no longer wants to represent herself in the upcoming 2nd penalty phase in her murder case, according to a new court filing.

The 3-page document by her court-appointed attorneys notes that Arias is relinquishing her right to serve as her own lawyer, "effective immediately upon filing."

Judge Sherry Stephens previously granted Arias’ motion to serve as her own attorney after conflicts arose with one of her lawyers over trial strategy. Attorney Kirk Nurmi then sought to quit the case, noting in a motion that "a completely fractured relationship between counsel (and client) now exists."

Stephens denied his request, and ordered Nurmi and another lawyer to remain on as legal advisers to Arias.

Stephens previously told Arias she could change her mind and relinquish her right to represent herself. Her court-appointed attorneys will now again take over as lead counsel.

The retrial is set for Sept. 29.

Arias' lawyers did not return telephone messages. Prosecutors declined comment.

The 34-year-old former waitress was convicted of murder last year in the 2008 killing of her ex-boyfriend, but jurors couldn't reach a decision on her sentence. Under Arizona law, prosecutors have the option of putting on a 2nd penalty phase with a new jury in an effort to secure a death sentence.

If the new jury fails to reach a unanimous decision, the death penalty will be removed as an option. The judge would then sentence Arias to spend her entire life behind bars or be eligible for release after 25 years.

Arias admitted killing Travis Alexander at his suburban Phoenix home, but she said it was self-defense. He was stabbed nearly 30 times, had his throat slit and was shot in the head.

Prosecutors argued the killing was premeditated and carried out in a jealous rage when Alexander wanted to end their affair.

(source: The Epoch Times)

WYOMING:

Committee Endorses Death By Firing Squad

Wyoming's Joint Judiciary Legislative Committee has voted to support a bill that would allow for execution by firing squad, but voted down an attempt to abolish the death penalty altogether.

States nationwide are being forced to find alternatives to executions now that drugs for lethal injections are hard to come by. Abolishing the death penalty altogether generated considerable debate. Baggs Senator Larry Hicks says the death penalty provides justice for victims.

But Laramie Representative Cathy Connolly says the issue is greater than that.

"I would love a statute that said that Cathy Connolly could kill child molesters with her own hands. But that is not acceptable, that is not appropriate, just because I as a victim or a parent of a victim would like that. It's our role in the legislature to come up with the appropriate punishment."

The full legislature will consider the death by firing squad bill when the full legislature meets in January.

(source: Wyoming Public Media)

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

Gingery death penalty abolishment bill dies in committee

A bill by House District 23 Representative Keith Gingery to abolish the death penalty in Wyoming failed to advance past the Legislature's Judiciary Committee Friday.

The committee's 5 Senate members shot down the bill, and approved another bill that will allow the state to kill prisoners with a firing squad. The firing squad bill is needed, proponents say, because of a shortage of drugs used to kill prisoners by lethal injection.

Rep. Marti Halverson, whose House District 22 covers southern and western Teton County and large portions of Lincoln and Sublette counties, voted in favor of the bill repealing the death penalty.

"I don't think it's a deterrent," she said.

"I did buy the argument presented that it costs more to fund the automatic capital-punishment appeals than it does to keep the prisoner in prison for 20 years before his execution," Halverson said.

"There are so many barriers to execution that we might as well not have the death penalty," she said.

Halverson said she also opposes the death penalty on the grounds that, without effective drugs, the execution can be "botched," as was the case with a man recently killed in Oklahoma.

"Life in prison without parole works for me," Halverson said. "I think justice can be served in that way [just] as well as execution."

The committee's debate, she said, "centered around 'revenge is not the state's role,' versus 'justice for the victim is the state's role.'

"It was not a lengthy debate," she said.

Gingery said he hoped the bill would make it to the legislative assembly if for no other reason than to generate needed debate on the topic.

He was pleased to have 6 of the committee's House members vote to abolish the death penalty, with only 2 against.

Sen. Leland Christensen, whose District 17, like Gingery's, covers most of Teton County, voted against repealing the death penalty. 3 of his fellow senators on the committee did as well, with only 1 voting for repeal.

Rep. Stephen Watt, whose district covers Rock Springs, said he would introduce a bill to abolish the death penalty himself once the Legislature was in session, Gingery said.

The bill to employ the firing squad was approved by the committee with little opposition, Halverson said.

A firing squad will be used to kill prisoners only if drugs to achieve the same end aren't available, according to the bill's text.

The committee wrote the bill to kill prisoners with a firing squad after considering every possible alternative to lethal injection, Gingery said earlier this week.

"The only viable option out there besides lethal injection is the firing squad," he said. "There are problems with electric chairs, with gas chambers, with hanging, with beheading, and whatever else you can think of."

The state doesn't own a gas chamber or an electric chair, Halverson said.

Though legislators on the committee warmed up to the idea of a firing squad, the public has not, Halverson said.

"We got a lot of comments about the barbarity of the firing squad," she said.

Gingery introduced his bill also as a result of the committee’s inquiry into alternatives to lethal injection.

"As chairman, I said 1 alternative we haven't looked at, which is viable, is just getting rid of it," Gingery said.

Since committee members were already on the topic, he said, they might as well debate the question of "should the state be killing people."

(source: Jackson Hole News & Guide)

USA:

States Really Don't Want You To Know How They Execute People. This Lawsuit Wants To Change That.

Missouri's Earl Ringo fought his death sentence as hard as he could - but early Wednesday morning, he lost. Shortly after midnight, Ringo's more than a decade in prison for a 1998 double murder ended with a lethal injection. But what exactly he was injected with is a mystery.

According to Ringo's lawyer, Richard Sindel, the death row inmate asked not to be injected with the controversial drug midazolam - thought to contribute to prolonged suffering in three recent executions in Oklahoma, Ohio, and Arizona - but neither Sindel nor anyone else outside of Missouri's Department of Corrections knows what happened in the execution chamber. The state's execution guidelines only sanction the drug pentobarbital, but recent reports have raised concerns that midazolam is also being administered.

"Because there is an IV line put into the inmate, they can inject anything they want," Sindel told VICE News. "He's strapped to a table and can't do anything about it. We were told he refused it but we don't know for sure."

On May 15, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Missouri chapter of ACLU, and St. Louis Public Radio reporter Chris McDaniel filed suit against the Missouri Department of Corrections (DOC) for violating freedom of information laws by withholding information on lethal injections.

Through separate freedom of information requests, McDaniel received documents showing the state had not only withheld information, but lied about the injections. In a September 3 investigative report, McDaniel revealed that midazolamwas part of every 1 of the 9 executions that occurred in the state between November 2013 and July 2014 - despite the fact that when specifically asked about midazolam, DOC Director George Lombardi swore under oath that, "We will not use those drugs."

In response to the reports, according to the Associated Press, an official reaffirmed pentobarbital was the only drug used in the execution, but that the administration of sedatives was allowed beforehand - he did not name the sedative that the state employs.

It's this type of secrecy that has American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and death row attorneys around the country alarmed. On Thursday, the Pennsylvania chapter of the ACLU filed the latest in a string of multi-state lawsuits demanding that state corrections officials in the state increase transparency regarding execution protocols and the sources of drugs used in lethal injections.

Cassandra Stubbs from the ACLU's Capital Punishment Project told VICE News that in a historical context, details surrounding executions used to be more out in the open.

"Historically, we have always had information about executions. When we used to have hangings, they would post information about the rope and who made it," Stubbs explained. "This move to hide information about executions is all totally new, ahistorical, and in violation of the First Amendment."

Even more recently, Stubbs said corrections officials released information about what drugs were being used in executions and where those drugs came from.

But in 2011, suppliers in the European Union discovered that Sodium Thiopental was being used as the primary lethal injection drug in the US. The EU placed a ban on exporting the drug, along with a list of other items that it determined to be strictly used for "capital punishment, torture, or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment."

The thiopental ban forced states to develop alternate lethal injection cocktails. Now, many states are veering toward compound drugs, the quality of which can differ between batches. In response to secrecy around the drugs used to execute Missouri's Michael Taylor this February, Eighth Circuit Court Judge Kermit Bye stated that due to "the absolute dearth of information Missouri has disclosed to this court, the 'pharmacy' on which Missouri relies could be nothing more than a high school chemistry class."

Missouri is just one of several US states with complicated legal statutes around revealing execution protocols. Missouri's states that while the identities of people involved in executions is a total secret "not subject to discovery, subpoena, or any other means of legal compulsion," the statute does claim, "the administration of lethal gas or lethal chemicals is an open record."

The Department of Corrections office in Missouri did not respond to email or phone requests for comment.

Over the past few years, other states have tightened information around lethal injections. In 2013, a Colorado district court ruled that the state DOC could withhold information about a lethal drug source, stating: "releasing the information could possibly expose the pharmacy and its employee to ridicule" and "raise safety concerns." This May, the Texas Attorney General issued an opinion that also allowed the identities of pharmaceutical suppliers to be withheld.

In Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Tennessee, recently amended state codes prohibit the release of information about anyone who compounds, supplies, manufactures, or administers drugs for lethal injections.

In addition to the secrecy revolving around midazolam, the state-sanctioned pentobarbital is not without controversy. Sindel, who also represents another 22 other Missouri death row inmates in a class action suit, told VICE News there aren't any executions currently slated. The next in line, however, is another plaintiff in the suit, Russell Bucklew, whose concerns revolve around the use of pentobarbital. He suffers from a congenital disorder that causes his blood vessels to be malformed and occasionally bleed. According to Sindel, Bucklew is afraid that an injection of pentobarbital could cause an extremely painful reaction.

When Oklahoma's Michael Lee Wilson was injected with pentobarbital this January, his reported last words were "I can feel my whole body burning." Since then, advocates for death row inmates have suggested that there could be something wrong with the "cocktail" method of lethal injections, or with the drugs themselves.

The FDA-approved version of pentobarbital is currently not available to corrections officials, because its Danish manufacturer decided in 2011 to ban the drug's use in state-sponsored executions. Pentobarbital can only be acquired from compounding pharmacies - which are not approved by the FDA. Compounding pharmacies must be licensed by state pharmacy boards, and are accused of lacking in quality control and standards.

In 2012, a Massachusetts compounding pharmacy was found responsible for 64 deaths after it helped spread fungal meningitis through steroid injections. After the scare, the state forced 11 compounding pharmacies to shut down and pass new regulations around inspection and reporting, but those only applied within Massachusetts.

It's that kind of health risk that has the ACLU and other groups clamoring to get answers.

"The information sought by our clients is central to today's debate about capital punishment. If the drugs are not made properly, they will not work properly, and the public should be very concerned about that possibility given the gruesome executions we have heard about in other states," said Mary Catherine Roper, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Pennsylvania.

Besides being a matter of capital punishment, information about death penalty protocols is constitutionally protected by the Eighth Amendment, which bans cruel and unusual punishment even in cases of execution of the most violent offenders. But without knowing exactly what the method of execution is, it's impossible to determine whether it fits humane standards.

"It's enshrined in our constitution that we will not inflict cruel and unusual punishment," Stubbs told VICE News, "The torturing of death row inmates says terrible things about us, that we would be willing to tolerate that. Losing your life is the penalty that we as a society have inflicted on death row inmates. We have not added torture as an additional punishment."

(source: Mary O'Hara, vice.com)

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

Boston Marathon Bombing Case Lawyers Want 2,000 Jury Summonses

Prosecutors and defense attorneys in the trial of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev say they will need to summon 2,000 people to pick a jury.

The2 sides jointly submitted their proposed jury selection process to U.S. District Court Judge George O'Toole on Friday. The lawyers want to issue summonses about 6 weeks before the expected Nov. 3 start of the trial.

The proposal lays out the process by which the 2 sides hope to pare down that pool of 2,000 jurors to a 12-person jury and 6 alternate jurors. On the 1st 2 days of trial, 800 people will be brought to the courthouse, sworn in, and asked to fill out questionnaires.

After reviewing the questionnaires, the 2 sides, with the judge's approval, would further whittle down that list to a consensus pool of 70 qualified jurors. From there, both sides would have a chance to dismiss an equal amount of jurors for their own reasons.

In a related development, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz's office on Friday also filed a motion opposing Tsarnaev's request to delay the trial at least to September 2015. Defense lawyers are also seeking to move the trial from Boston to Washington, D.C. The 2 sides have filed more than 100 pages of legal briefs vehemently arguing their positions for and against the move in recent weeks.

Prosecutors say the defense team's request for a change in trial date represents virtually the same appeal they had made - and the judge rejected - when he set the November trial date earlier this year. They say the challenges that the defense claims are valid reasons for the delay are largely self-inflicted, such as requesting the government produce essentially all the evidence in its possession.

Prosecutors also note in their legal brief that 3 members of Tsarnaev's legal team were recently expelled from Russia after misrepresenting themselves as tourists to local authorities.

"While conducting interviews in Russia, the members of the defense team reportedly refused to produce documents confirming their legal status and identified themselves as employees of the FBI," the brief states. "As a result, the Russian government found that the defense team members had violated the Code of Administrative Offences of the Russian Federation and expelled them."

Tsarnaev, 21, is a naturalized U.S. citizen who came to the Boston area from Russia with his family more than a decade ago.

He is accused of detonating 2 bombs at the 2013 marathon along with his now-deceased brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, killing three people and injuring about 260 others. Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to 30 federal charges. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

(source: WBUR news)

JAPAN:

Japan bar association to create guidelines for defense counsel in death penalty cases

The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA), taking a cue from the American Bar Association (ABA), is set to create guidelines for lawyers defending capital cases, in a move aimed at improving their performance in the courtroom.

Strict procedures are required in order to apply the death penalty in the United States, where capital punishment is legally recognized, insofar as it is considered an extraordinary sentence.

The ABA established what are known as Guidelines for the Appointment and Performance of Defense Counsel in Death Penalty Cases in 2003. These guidelines stipulated in detail the makeup of a defense team and its duties, as well as expenditures to be utilized in death penalty-related cases.

In Japan, on the other hand, capital punishment is institutionally treated as just another sentence, and a special defense team is not guaranteed. JFBA officials are therefore working to establish a national standard, believing that local bar associations and lawyers acting as defense counsel in death penalty cases around the country need to be informed of the special attention that capital punishment cases require.

The guidelines include basic information on defending capital punishment cases, expert designation when presenting data, and strategies for communicating with victims. They also advise that the defense counsel in death penalty cases should consist of at least three lawyers, including experienced ones, as well as supporting experts such as psychologists and psychiatrists.

By defining defense standards in death penalty cases, JFBA is seeking understanding from the courts regarding the application of public expenditures when using a court-appointed defense counsel.

The guidelines will be prepared under the supervision of JFBA's subcommittee for death penalty cases by the end of the year.

According to attorney Sadato Goto, who heads the subcommittee, "The level of lawyers as a whole needs to be improved based upon the recognition that capital punishment is an extraordinary sentence."

(source: Mainichi)

SAUDI ARABIA----executions

Saudi beheads 3 by the sword

A Saudi and an Iraqi convicted of murder and a Saudi convicted of drugs trafficking were beheaded in Riyadh on Friday, the interior ministry said.

Fahd al-Said and Iraqi Abderrahman al-Muaissab were found guilty of causing the death of Hossa bin Abid by breaking into her home, attacking her and tying her up so they could rob her, a ministry statement reported by state news agency SPA said.

In the other case, Saudi Saad al-Oteibi, a repeat offender, was executed for bringing "a large quantity of amphetamines" and hashish into the kingdom, the ministry said.

Friday's decapitations take to 53 the number of people executed by the sword in the ultra-conservative Gulf nation this year, according to an AFP count.

Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Saudi Arabia's strict version of Islamic sharia law.

Human Rights Watch expressed alarm last month at a surge in executions, which saw 19 people beheaded between August 4 and 20 alone.

HRW said eight of those executed had been convicted of non-violent offences such as drug trafficking and "sorcery", and described the use of the death penalty in their cases as "particularly egregious".

(source: Ahram Online)

IRAN:

3 Executions Postponed In Bandar Abbas

3 death row prisoners who were taken to solitary confinement to be sent to execution chamber were given extra time by the families of the victims. These 3 prisoners were sent back to their Wards after the families consent to postpone their execution.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), on Tuesday 09 September, 2014 3 death-row prisoners ( 2 from the Youth Ward and 1 from Ward 4) were transferred to solitary confinement cells to be prepared for execution. However, they were sent back to their wards after the families of victims agreed to provide them with a time extension. The chance was given to them so they could attempt further negotiations with the families of victims to ask for mercy.

In case these prisoners failed in receiving a pardon from the families of victims, they will be executed after the extended deadline.

(source: Human Rights Activists News Agency)

INDIA:

State moves HC to seek death penalty for Pallavi's killer

The state government has moved the Bombay High Court seeking the death penalty for lawyer Pallavi Purkayastha's killer, who was 2 months ago sentenced to life imprisonment for the crime.

The appeal for enhancement of punishment given to former security guard Sajjad Pathan was filed last week.

It challenges the sessions court's conclusion that the crime did not fall in the "rarest of rare" category to warrant the death sentence. Terming the 2012 murder as "extremely cruel and well planned", the state has listed 53 reasons for sending Pathan to the gallows.

Pallavi, 25, who worked with Farhan Akhtar's Excel Entertainment, lived on the 16th floor of Himalayan Heights in Wadala. Pathan, 22, was a guard in the complex.

On the night of August 9, 2012, he deliberately tripped the power supply to her apartment when her fiance, Avik Sengupta, was away, according to the police. Pathan then entered the flat using duplicate keys with the intent to molest her. He fatally stabbed her when she tried to fend him off.

On July 7 this year, Additional Sessions judge Vrushali Joshi sentenced Pathan to rigorous life imprisonment, rejecting the prosecution's demand for the death penalty.

Pallavi's parents, both senior bureaucrats in Delhi, had expressed shock at the decision, with her mother, Sumita, saying: "My daughter was stabbed 16 times, and if this still doesn't warrant the death penalty, I don't know what does."

Now the state government has challenged the session court's decision, saying the latter had shown "undue sympathy" to Pathan.

"The crime was so heinous in proportion that it imperilled and endangered the very existence of society," states the appeal. "This daring and diabolical act has shattered the conscience of society and shaken the very foundation of trust and faith that civilised society lives by" The plea adds that the lenient sentence given to Pathan had resulted "in causing incalculable harm to the justice system and undermined public confidence in the efficacy of law".

The state has said that the sessions court erroneously concluded that the crime committed by Pathan can be categorised as "cruelty", but not as "extreme cruelty". Pathan, the appeal says, inflicted 16 injuries on Pallavi, including 3 on vital parts, while slitting her throat. Not categorising such a crime as "extreme cruelty" would embolden criminals, the government has argued.

The government has also questioned the lower court's observation that Pathan tried to molest the young lawyer after seeing her scantily dressed. "She was wearing a half shirt and a halfpant, which by no means can be called scanty," the appeal states.

It cites witnesses' statements that Pathan had an eye on Pallavi and had been looking for an opportunity to molest her.

During the trial, the prosecution had pointed out that Pathan had laughed after committing the crime. But the sessions court observed that he probably behaved that way because he was scared.

The state government has termed this observation erroneous, saying that Pathan's behaviour reflected deep-rooted perversion, and not fear.

The security guard had even boasted about his actions in front of 2 people, both of whom deposed before the court. "This shows that he had no remorse or fear after committing a heinous murder," the appeal says.

The government has cited previous Supreme Court judgments against lower courts' decisions to not give the death penalty to an accused on the grounds of hisher young age.

The Bombay High Court is likely to hear the plea on September 17.

(source: Mumbai Mirror)

SINGAPORE:

2 face death penalty for drug trafficking

A 49-year-old Singaporean woman and a 29-year-old Nigerian man are facing the death penalty as they went on trial yesterday for trafficking in nearly 2kg of methamphetamine, commonly known as Ice.

Hamidah Awang, a stall assistant, was stopped for a search at the Woodlands Checkpoint on the night of Nov 13, 2011, as she was driving out of Singapore, the High Court heard yesterday.

Sniffer dogs "reacted" to a black suitcase in the boot of the car, the prosecution said in its opening statement. Central Narcotics Bureau officers later found two packets of Ice concealed in the bag, which bore part of a luggage tag sticker with the words "chukwu" and some air travel information.

The bag allegedly belonged to Ilechukwu Uchechuku Chukwudi, a second-hand computer trader, who was arrested in his room at a Chinatown budget hotel the next day.

Tests later showed that the 2 packets contained not less than 1.963kg of Ice.

The prosecution alleged in its opening statement that Ilechukwu had brought the bag from Nigeria, after transiting in Qatar, and passed it to Hamidah.

It said it would produce surveillance camera footage to show he collected the bag at the airport and had it with him when he checked into the hotel.

The footage will also show that he left the hotel at about 10.15pm that night with the bag but returned at about 11.35pm without it. Deputy Public Prosecutors Ng Cheng Thiam and Chee Min Ping will also seek to show that the pair were communicating on the phone between 9.45pm and 11.35pm that night.

Hamidah, who is represented by Mr Amolat Singh, and Ilechukwu, represented by Mr Eugene Thuraisingam, are expected to say in their defence that they were unaware the bag contained drugs.

Anyone convicted of trafficking in more than 250g of Ice may face the death penalty.

(source: Asia One)

AFGHANISTAN:

Afghan perpetrator of Bastion attack gets death sentence

The last surviving perpetrator of the deadly 2012 insurgent attack on Camp Bastion, Afghanistan has been sentenced to death by an Afghan court, though the case remains in review.

Marine Corps spokesman Maj. John Caldwell confirmed that Mohammed Nazeer, 24, had been found guilty of violating Afghan law and designated for the death penalty. The development was first reported by the Washington Post.

Nazeer was 1 of 15 armed attackers dressed in Army uniforms and carrying automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades who stormed Camp Bastion, a British airfield adjoining the Marines' Camp Leatherneck, on the night of Sept. 14, 2012. The attack was ultimately quelled, but not before the attackers destroyed 6 AV-8B Harrier jets and killed 2 Marines: Lt. Col. Chris Raible, 40, and Sgt. Bradley Atwell, 27.

Caldwell said the Marine Corps was notified of Nazeer's sentencing Sept. 10. It was handed down earlier this year and affirmed July 6 by an Afghan appellate court, he said. The case now stands before the Afghan Supreme Court for a final review. Caldwell said he didn't have a timeline for a decision by the Afghan court.

The Raible and Atwell families were notified of the development by Marine casualty assistance call officers Sept. 11, he said.

Officials said Marine Corps Central Command has also requested copies of Nazeer's court proceedings in order to make them available to the families.

An investigation into the attack would ultimately result in the relief of 2 Marine general officers. Investigators found, among other things, that poor lighting and half-manned guard towers had left the base vulnerable to attack.

1 Marine officer, Maj. Robb McDonald, received the Silver Star for heroically directing a response to the attackers, personally shooting 1 and directing helicopter strikes that killed 2 others. Raible was also nominated for a Silver Star.

(source: Military Timse)

SEPTEMBER 12, 2014:

ALABAMA:

Alabama adopts new death penalty protocol----Governor's office says DOC "ready to carry out execution orders"

The state said in filings with the Alabama Supreme Court Thursday that it has established a new death penalty protocol, using a new sequence of drugs.

Executions were put on hold earlier this year after the state acknowledged it had run out of pentobarbitol, a sedative used in the execution process. In 9 separate filings seeking to set execution dates, the Attorney General's Office said the Alabama Department of Corrections adopted a new protocol for executions on Wednesday, modeled on Florida's procedures.

Under the new protocol, the condemned would first be administered 500 milligrams of midazolam hydrochloride, a sedative; 600 milligrams of rocuronium bromide, a paralyzing drugs and then 240 "milliequivalents" of potassium chloride, to stop the heart.

It is not clear where the supplies of the drugs came from, or how much the state has on hand. Kristi Gates, a spokeswoman for the Alabama Department of Corrections, directed questions to the Attorney General's Office. The AG's Office Friday said it had no comment on the filings. Jennifer Ardis, a spokeswoman for Gov. Robert Bentley, said in a statement Friday that the governor supported the new procedure.

"The Department of Corrections is ready to carry out execution orders once set by the Alabama Supreme Court," the statement said. "The Governor is confident the protocol does not violate the 8th Amendment."

In its filing, the attorney general's office said that both the Florida Supreme Court and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals had upheld Florida's use of the drug protocol.

"In conclusion, this Court should follow the well-reasoned holdings of the Florida Supreme Court and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals and set an execution date for Arthur," the filing said.

Florida has executed seven men under the protocol this year, with no reported complications. However, midazolam hydrochloride, often used as an anesthetic, has been present during botched executions in other parts of the country, though its role in the complications that arose is not clear. In January, the drug was used in the execution of Dennis McGuire, an Ohio man who raped and murdered a pregnant woman in 1989. The execution took 26 minutes, and a reporter who witnessed the execution said McGuire appeared to be gasping and choking throughout it.

In April, Oklahoma's execution of Clayton Lockett, who beat and murdered a 19-year-old in 1999 made headlines after Lockett reportedly appeared to wake up after being declared unconscious and after the 2nd and 3rd drugs had been administered. The execution took 43 minutes. Midazolam was used in that execution, though Oklahoma officials say an improper IV hook-up was to blame. Oklahoma used 100 milligram of midazolam in the execution, or about 1/5 of the amount Alabama plans to employ.

In July, Arizona officials administered a the drug protocol which included midazolam to convicted murderer Joseph Wood 15 times. The execution took 2 hours, and a reporter who witnessed the execution said Wood gasped at least 640 times before being pronounced dead.

"The common denominator in all 3 of those things this year was midazolam," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes capital punishment. "They didn't all use the same 2nd and 3rd drugs."

For years, Alabama used sodium thiapentol as the sedative in its execution protocol. Hospira, the company that manufactured the drug, stopped making the drug in the United States in 2011. Alabama adopted pentobarbitol in its place; the state said earlier this year it had run out of the drug.

Thomas Arthur, convicted in 1982 in a murder-for-hire scheme, sued in federal court to stop his execution, arguing the pentobarbitol protocol would take too long to render him unconscious before the fatal drugs were administered. In its filings with the Alabama Supreme Court, the attorney general's office said that challenge should not stop justices from setting an execution date for Arthur, saying the lawsuit "has no relation to the State's lawful criminal judgment."

A message left with Suhana Han, an attorney representing Arthur, was not immediately returned Friday.

The Advertiser, The Anniston Star and the Associated Press last spring filed separate Freedom of Information Act requests with the Department of Corrections for information on drugs and death penalty procedures. DOC turned down the requests, citing the ongoing Arthur litigation.

(source: Montgomery Advertiser)

OHIO:

Amond J. Rainey could face death penalty if convicted of killing 2-year-old Josiya Eves

A man accused of killing his girlfriend's 2-year-old son could receive the death penalty if convicted.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph T. Deters announced Friday the indictment of Colerain Township resident Amond J. Rainey, 27, in the Aug. 27 death Josiya Eves.

Rainey is charged with one count of aggravated murder and an additional count of murder. If convicted of aggravated murder, he faces the death penalty.

"Another babysitting boyfriend murders an innocent child," Deters wrote in a release about the capital indictment.

"It is impossible to understand how anyone could treat another person like this much less an innocent baby. These cases are the most heart breaking cases that we see and everyone should be outraged by this type of behavior."

The prosecution contends Rainey was watching the toddler at his girlfriend's Cumminsville residence on Aug. 25 while his girlfriend was at work.

About 12:30 p.m. Rainey called 911 asking for information "about the medical significance of one pupil being bigger than the other."

"Before he could get any medical advice from 911, he hung up," Deters wrote in the release. "At approximately 12:49 p.m., Rainey takes the child to Cincinnati Children's Hospital Emergency Room and reports that the child is having difficulty breathing."

Eves received treatment at the medical center for 3 separate skull fractures, brain swelling, retinal hemorrhages, a lacerated liver and multiple bruises, according to the prosecutor's office. The child died 2 days later on Aug. 27.

Rainey contends the boy fell down the stairs, calling the situation an accident. But Hamilton County Coroner ruled Josiya's death a homicide, saying the boy died as a result of "multiple head trauma with associated brain injury and a lacerated liver."

Rainey is being held on $1 million bond after being arrested last week.

(source: WCPO news)

MICHIGAN:

Death penalty is justice for victims' families

Responding to James Randall's letter on the death penalty.

The guillotine suggestion was a response to the people that complained about the current method. They said recently it took someone 45 minutes to die, causing suffering to the murderer.

I simply suggested that this is quick and painless and no one needs to wear a mask if it is a legal form of capital punishment. You also referred to the dark ages. When it comes to murder we are living in the "dark ages" with Detroit, Flint and Chicago having the highest murder rates in the United States.

James states that 15 years on death row cost taxpayers money. I agree. Capital punishment will save a lot of money. As far as a deterrent is considered, there are studies on both sides. Should you request the research regarding the death penalty as a deterrent, I will be happy to provide that to you.

The saddest part of premeditated murder, (a capital crime), is that the victims and their families are soon forgotten but the murderers receive all the tears and whining from those who know nothing of the victim's horrible death.

You suggest I should not quit my day job. Let me give you my background to explain my reasoning on this:

For over 20 years I was employed as a circuit court probation agent and assigned to many of Battle Creek's 1st degree murder cases. I saw first hand the horrors of what some people have done and the suffering of the families.

I have never felt sympathy for anyone who plans and carries out a 1st degree murder, but I do have sympathy for the victims and their families.

I suspect that they would be in favor of capital punishment for the person who killed their loved one.

Edward O'Dowd----Marshall

(source: Battle Creek Enquirer)

USA:

Capital Punishment And Our Character

About a week ago, Henry McCollum walked out of a prison where he had been on death row for 30 years. DNA evidence showed him to be innocent of the crime for which he had been convicted. Also recently, botched executions in Arizona, Ohio, and Oklahoma made headlines as prisoners experienced torturous deaths.

Such cases have prompted renewed debate about the morality of the death penalty. While opinion polls show a majority of Americans still backing it for at least some crimes, that support has been slipping over the past 10 years, down now to about 60 %. While people take stands on the issue for differing reasons, it is especially important for us to recognize what abolishing the death penalty conveys about our moral character as a society.

Ethical debate on the issue typically engages a familiar set of questions. Does the death penalty actually deter people from committing murder? Does it cost more or less than life in prison? Do errors in conviction and the irreversibility of death entail that it should be abolished? Does the fact that it is disproportionately used against African-Americans mean that it is unjust? Is it fair or unfair?

For the most part, those on opposing sides of the issue have traditionally invoked contradictory answers to those questions. Some facts, however, are becoming clearer and less deniable. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, for example, became an opponent after seeing conclusive studies indicating that it is far more expensive to convict and hold a prisoner on death row. Use of DNA evidence to exonerate death row prisoners also increasingly highlights the errors and injustice embedded within the criminal justice system, including and especially how it reflects racism.

It is also no longer the case that conservatives and liberals split on the issue as evenly as they used to. One prominent group, called Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty has roots in Montana. Its website states that "Together, we are questioning a system marked by inefficiency, inequity, and inaccuracy." Some of them also, in their words, "don't believe that small government and the death penalty go together."

The choice of words is striking here. Inefficiency, inaccuracy, and mistrust of government, while important, seem to be terms reflective more of political philosophy than the more fundamental moral commitments to how we treat each other as human beings. The latter, I believe, is most crucial to recognize.

True respect for the dignity of human life - a value also affirmed by conservatives - should not draw lines that exclude even the worst offenders among us from the human community. Denying the humanity of another has been the mark of societies that find ways to discriminate against, demonize, torture, and kill others who by their actions, race, religion, or other features are considered outsiders. Too often, innocent lives are taken - whether in warfare or in capital punishment - while both judges and the accused are dehumanized in the process.

To those who argue that capital punishment actually affirms the value of life and our moral order, I would agree with philosopher Stephen Nathanson who argues that all of the death penalty's problems accomplish quite the contrary. Instead, he believes that abolishing it affirms "our belief in the inalienable, unforfeitable core of human dignity."

While the preponderance of difficulties with capital punishment - reflected by recent headlines - may push it closer to its demise, we should not ignore or underestimate both the practical and symbolic significance of abolishing it. Doing so would be one remarkable step of limiting violence and vengeance. It would be a remarkable acknowledgement of the fallibility and racism that so often has led to the wrongful conviction of men like McCullum. And just as important, it would be a remarkable expression through our laws of how respect for human life and dignity is central to our national moral character.

Our society glorifies violence, enables it among people in so many ways, and degrades human dignity much too readily. Ending capital punishment would be a significant expression of our collective belief that respect for human life is greater when it is not taken, even from those who have not shown such respect themselves.

(source: This is Mark Hanson, guest commentator for the Mansfield Program in Ethics and Public Affairs at the University of Montana; Montana Public Radio)

BAHAMAS:

Ag's Office Loses File Of Former Death Row Inmate

Court of Appeal judges were told yesterday that the Attorney General's Office file for a former death row inmate cannot be found.

Murder convict Maxo Tido and his lawyer Glendon Rolle appeared before the appellate court for Tido's substantive hearing intending to challenge his 52-year sentence for the killing of 16-year-old Donnell Connover.

However, Crown respondent Anishka Hanchell told the judges that she was not in a position to proceed because she did not handle the original appeal and was now unable to track down the file when speaking with a number of senior counsel at the agency.

"This is so unsatisfactory," said Justice Stanley John.

Justice Abdulai Conteh noted that "this is a very serious matter" because the appellant had been detained for more than 10 years and was appealing his most recent punishment.

Justice Neville Adderley inquired whether the file had been lost during the agency's relocation from the post office on East Hill Street to the Paul Adderley Building on John F Kennedy Drive.

Ms Hanchell said she was not in a position to say. However, she offered to proceed with the matter to allow the appellant to argue his case. She added that she would seek an adjournment from the court if and when the Crown was asked to respond, giving the reason that she had indicated earlier.

Though Rolle said he was ready to proceed, Justice John noted the best course of action was to have the matter heard in one substantive hearing when both sides would be heard.

"Clearly you are not ready to proceed for one reason or another," Justice John told Ms Hanchell, "and through no fault of your own."

The judges adjourned the hearing to September 25.

On March 20, 2006, a jury convicted Tido of murdering the victim in 2002. Her body was found off Cowpen Road, battered and bruised, her skull crushed. Evidence also revealed that parts of Ms Connover's body were burned after her death.

A month after his conviction, then Senior Justice Allen ruled that the crime committed by Tido warranted the death penalty.

The decision came days after the Privy Council ruled that the mandatory death sentence in place up until that point in the Bahamas was not constitutional.

In 2009, the Committee for the Prerogative of Mercy decided the law should take its course, as Tido's case was not one that warranted mercy.

However, he appealed to the London-based Privy Council, the Bahamas' highest court of appeal, which ruled that the killing of Connover did not warrant execution. Consequently, he had to reappear before the Supreme Court for re-sentencing.

This re-sentencing occurred in March 2012 before Senior Justice Jon Isaacs, who gave Tido 52 years in prison after noting: "I have not found in you true remorse."

(source: tribune242.com)

GLOBAL:

In recognition of the World Day Against the Death Penalty on 10 October get involved in the World Coalition's #nodeathpenalty photo campaign on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and/or google+. For more information please visit. http://www.worldcoalition.org/worldday.html [www.worldcoalition.org]. If you are already planning an event for the World Day, please hand out this flyer [www.worldcoalition.org] at your event, and if you can, set up a photo stand and take photos with these signs [www.worldcoalition.org].

  Thank you,

Emile Carreau

Charge des campagnes / Campaigner

Coalition mondiale contre la peine de mort / World Coalition Against the Death Penalty

(source: ECPM)

PENNSYLVANIA:

3 Reasons We Need to End the Pennsylvania Death Penalty----It's expensive. We never use it. Why keep it?

First of all, much praise to the Inquirer and City Paper. They're among the publications joining the ACLU to sue the state to get information on the supplier of Pennsylvania's lethal injection drugs. Journalism is all about getting information to the public, and sometimes a little extra pressure is needed: It's good to see that both papers can still find ways to bring that pressure.

It would be better for everybody, though, if the suit weren't needed.

It would be better for everybody if Pennsylvania didn't have a death penalty at all.

Let's skip the moral objections for now, because everybody has a moral stance on the issue - either for or against - and at this point, passionate moral arguments probably aren't going to move the needle. So let's talk about good governance. Because the death penalty - in Pennsylvania - and elsewhere, is lousy governance:

- It's applied so rarely, it can't even begin to have a deterrent effect. Assuming we're trying to achieve something besides brute, dumb vengeance with the death penalty, the plain fact is that - in Pennsylvania at least - it occurs too rarely to make other would-be murderers stop and reconsider their actions.

AP broke down the numbers this week: "Pennsylvania has 181 men and 3 women on death row. It has executed three people since the death penalty was reinstated in the 1970s; all 3 had relinquished their appeals. The state's last execution was in 1999." You're more likely to die of natural causes on death row than to be executed.

We're ending the term of a Republican governor who was previously the state's attorney general. We haven't had an execution under him yet, though the door's not closed on that prospect. If he can't carry out the death penalty more often, it's likely that, after 40 years, the system we have isn't going to get much more efficient. So what's the point?

- It's expensive. Back in 2011, The Morning Call provided the perspective: "Every year, the state Department of Corrections spends an estimated $10,000 more for each inmate on the country's 4th largest death row compared to other prisoners. That's despite a de facto halt on capital punishment in Pennsylvania for all but prisoners who voluntarily go to their executions. The last person put to death against his will was in 1962, half a century ago."

So even though the death penalty isn't used, death row is still taking a bite out of the taxpayer wallets. Again: What's the point?

- It's unfair. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, "The Philadelphia Inquirer recently conducted a review of death penalty appeals in Pennsylvania spanning 3 decades and found a pattern of ineffective assistance by defense attorneys. More than 125 capital murder trials in the Pennsylvania, including 69 in Philadelphia, have been reversed or sent back by state and federal courts after finding that mistakes by the defense attorney deprived the defendant of a fair trial. These do not include cases in which courts found that lawyers made obvious mistakes but ruled that the mistakes did not affect the outcome of the case." What else needs to be said?

If we're going to have a death penalty, let's make it transparent and consistent: Let's disclose the names of the drugs being used. But better than that, let's end the penalty altogether. We just don't do it very well.

(soure: Joel Mathis, phillymag.com)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Death penalty doesn't work

Our flawed death penalty system was in the national media spotlight again recently.

Through DNA evidence, Henry McCollum (convicted in 1984 for the rape and murder of 11-year old Sabrina Buie) has been released from his North Carolina prison after 30 years for a crime he did not commit.

Henry (age 19 at the time of the crime) is intellectually disabled. His family was poor and uneducated and had little means to help. After 5 hours of intense interrogation, Henry signed a confession at 2 a.m. and asked, "Can I go home now?"

The injustice to McCollum is just one of the horrid outcomes in this case. The family of Sabrina Buie has also been victimized over the 3 decades as they too have been denied justice. 30 years of appeals, countless hearings and trials to attend, waiting for an execution that never came and now sorrowful disappointment as they waited for the empty promise that the death penalty offers.

The exoneration of Henry McCollum is not all that rare. His is the 145th. This exoneration is more evidence that the death penalty is a public policy that simply does not work.

Ron Steiner

Salem

(source: Letter to the Editor, Statesman Journal)

FLORIDA:

Florida Supreme Court upholds Joseph Smith's death sentence

The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the death sentence of Joseph Smith for the 2004 kidnapping and killing of 11-year-old Carlie Brucia of Sarasota.

This was Smith's 2nd appeal - known as "post-conviction relief" - of his sentence and the court unanimously rejected a series of issues raised by Smith, including his lawyer's argument that he should have been allowed to interview jurors to determine if any misconduct occurred during the trial.

"We note that Smith has failed to present a single factual allegation that juror misconduct occurred during his capital trial," the court said. "Instead, he asserts that criminal defense counsel should have unlimited authority to conduct interviews to probe jurors for possible misconduct.

"We decline to change the rules of procedure to permit criminal defense counsel to conduct fishing expeditions any time a conviction is obtained."

Brucia disappeared on Feb. 1, 2004, but a grainy security-camera video showed her walking away from a Sarasota car wash with Smith. The body of the sixth-grader was found several days later in woods behind a small church. A jury convicted Smith, who is now 48, of the kidnapping, rape and murder of Brucia in 2005.

The Florida Supreme Court previously upheld Smith's death sentence on his 1st appeal in 2009. In his 2nd appeal, Smith raised 10 issues challenging his death sentence, including the claim that Florida's execution procedures - which include lethal injection or electrocution - violated the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

Florida's highest court rejected all of Smith's new claims.

Several of Smith's challenges were related to how the trial court weighed aggravating and mitigating circumstances in determining whether he deserved the death penalty.

Among the aggravating factors were that Smith was on probation, the murder was committed in conjunction with a kidnapping and sexual assault, the murder was "especially heinous, atrocious or cruel," and his victim was under the age of 12. The court found several mitigating factors, including Smith's history of mental illness and drug use.

In their decision Thursday, the justices noted Smith had raised a similar challenge in his 1st appeal and it was found to be "without merit" since the "trial court found as an aggravating circumstance that the murder was committed during the course of a sexual battery and a kidnapping, and a unanimous jury verdict was returned in connection with both charges."

Another challenge rejected by the court was Smith's claim that Florida's death penalty is unconstitutional because members of the execution team are anonymous.

After arguing Smith's case before the court in February, Robert Strain, Smith's lawyer, said if his client's appeal is rejected by the state court, the case would move to the federal courts where a broader range of issues could be raised.

Among them is Smith's claim that his Sixth Amendment right to confront a witness was violated in his 2005 trial.

An FBI team supervisor testified in the trial about extracting DNA samples from a shirt worn by Brucia and matching it with Smith's. However, the lab technicians who did the work did not testify, which Smith claims denied him his right to confront the witnesses.

The Florida Supreme Court rejected that claim in the 2009 appeal. But Strain said a more recent series of federal court decisions have raised new issues about witness confrontation and lab procedures.

(source: Herald Tribune)

PENNSYLVANIA:

News outlets seek info on Pennsylvania's execution drugs

4 news organizations asked a federal judge in Harrisburg on Thursday to unseal information about where the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections plans to get drugs for use in executing inmates.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia City Paper, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Guardian U.S. filed an emergency motion to intervene in a long-running federal lawsuit that challenges the state's execution procedures.

The newspapers said the Corrections Department has contracted with compounding pharmacies to obtain the drugs, but the court has prevented disclosure of the names of those pharmacies.

The papers wrote they wanted the information "in order to investigate the quality of the provenance of these drugs and to make the information available to the public as part of the ongoing public debate about the use of lethal injection."

The execution of Hubert Lester Michael Jr. has been scheduled for Sept. 22, but it is on hold while the full 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decides whether to reconsider a 3-judge ruling against Michael earlier this year.

Michael was convicted of the 1993 murder of 16-year-old Trista Eng in York County.

Pennsylvania has only executed three people since the death penalty was reinstated in the 1970s, most recently Gary Heindik in 1999. All 3 had given up on their appeals.

(source: WTAE news)

OHIO:

Career criminal Martin guilty of aggravated murder, could face death

For a man guilty of so much brutality, David Martin stood perfectly still Thursday afternoon as Judge Andrew Logan read guilty after guilty verdict.

He is guilty of aggravated murder, attempted aggravated murder, kidnapping, aggravated robbery and all of the aggravating circumstances - killing or attempting to kill 2 or more people, killing accompanied by kidnapping, and killing accompanied by aggravated robbery.

But Martin, called an "armed career criminal" by federal prosecutors when he was sentenced to nearly 22 years in prison last year for a gun crime, knew Thursday that the more-important decision of the jury will come next week.

That's when the jury of 7 women and 5 men will decide whether he should be put to death for killing Jeremy Cole, 21, and attempting to kill Melissa Putnam, 30, last Sept. 27 at Putnam's home on Oak Street Southwest.

Thursday's string of guilty verdicts - he was guilty on all counts and all specifications - wasn't a surprise. One of his attorneys told jurors during closing arguments earlier Thursday that Martin was guilty.

The jury in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court deliberated for 4 hours - seemingly a long time under the circumstances.

The same jury will reconvene Wednesday morning in the courtroom of Judge Logan to hear mitigating evidence presented by Martin's defense team and expert witnesses hired to discuss Martin's childhood and other matters.

The jury's role will be to decide whether the aggravating circumstances outweigh mitigating factors that the experts will present. If they do, the jury is instructed to choose death. It also could choose life in prison with no parole, or lesser life sentences.

One of Martin's attorneys, Matt Pentz, told jurors during closing arguments Thursday that Martin killed Cole and attempted to kill Putnam.

And Martin did tell officers when they arrested him, "I can accept the needle," referring to the death penalty, Pentz said.

But he reminded jurors, "That's not [Martin's] decision to make. That's your decision. Please keep your mind open about punishment in this case."

Martin, 29, of Cleveland, whose trial wrapped up after less than three full days of testimony, killed Cole by shooting him between the eyes from between 3 and 8 inches away, according to testimony from Trumbull County Coroner Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk.

In another room, Martin also shot Putnam in the back of the head, but she partially blocked the shot with the reflexive movement of her hand and survived.

Chris Becker, assistant Trumbull County prosecutor, reminded jurors that Martin told Putnam out loud in court several weeks after the shootings that he regretted failing to kill her.

"He said, 'Bitch, I should have shot you in the face,'" Becker said.

In fact, since Becker knew that jurors had little choice but to convict Martin on all charges, he spent part of his closing argument focused on the central issues in the next phase of the trial - whether Martin deserves to live and the fact that Martin stated himself that he "can accept the needle."

Becker and Gabe Wildman, another assistant prosecutor, said Martin showed no remorse for what he did to Cole and Putnam, going to Cleveland to party the night of Cole's death.

"Jeremy Cole was flat-out executed between the eyes," Becker said.

"He talks about these murders in the way I would talk about ordering a cup of coffee. It's just another day in the life of David Martin," Wildman said.

(source; Youngstown Vindicator)

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

Man to face death penalty in wife's killing

A man accused of killing his wife last month will face the death penalty, according to his indictment filed Thursday.

Patrick D. Coller, 43, of Delphos, was indicted Thursday on aggravated murder with a felony murder specification and a gun specification, and kidnapping with a gun specification. The maximum sentence is the death penalty.

Coller is accused of killing his 42-year-old wife, Gerri L. Coller on Aug. 14. She was found dead in a cornfield off Jones Road. Investigators said they believed he used a shotgun to kill her.

The charges accuse Coller of acting with prior calculation and design, and he was the principal offender in the aggravated murder, both an element of the death penalty law.

Patrick Coller went to the Delphos Police Department following the shooting and told officers he shot his wife earlier in the day, investigators said. Police went with Coller to the field where he said he killed his wife. They found her dead with an apparent gunshot wound.

The Allen County Sheriff's Office joined Delphos police at the scene and took Coller to the Allen County Jail, where they questioned him.

(source: limaohio.com)

MISSOURI:

Mo. trial next for man convicted of 6 Ill. deaths

A man already serving life sentences for each of 6 summertime 2008 killings in Illinois next will face trial in Missouri on charges he killed an Arkansas couple during the spree.

But it may be some time before Nicholas Sheley appears in front of a jury in Jefferson County near St. Louis or knows whether he'll be confronted with something he didn't have to worry about in Illinois - the death penalty, allowed in Missouri.

Jefferson County prosecutor Steven Jerrell said Wednesday that Illinois courts where Sheley has been convicted still haven't released evidence he needs to try him on charges linked to the killings of Jill and Tom Estes of Sherwood, Arkansas.

Jerrell said his office hasn't decided whether to pursue the death penalty.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Sheley Could Face Death Penalty in Missouri

Convicted murderer Nicholas Sheley could face the death penalty when he faces trial in Missouri for the murders of an Arkansas couple.

Sheley is already serving 6 life sentences for a 2008 killing spree in Illinois.

Officials in Jefferson County, Missouri say Illinois hasn't released the evidence they need to try Sheley on the charges linked to the killings of Jill and Tom Estes. They haven't decided whether to pursue the death penalty in the case.

No word on how soon Sheley could face a jury.

(source: KWQC news)

OKLAHOMA:

Pruitt says execution drug shortage a continuing problem

"Anti-death penalty zealots" are causing shortages of execution drugs and contributing to the uncertainty marking lethal injection, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said Thursday.

Speaking to the Sapulpa Chamber of Commerce, Pruitt said "issues with administration" of a 3-drug combination, and not the drugs themselves, appear to have been the reason that murderer Clayton Lockett's death took much longer - about 43 minutes - than expected. Indicating some irritation at criticism of the "cocktail" of midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride used in Lockett's execution, Pruitt said it did more or less what it was supposed to do.

"There were obviously issues with administration. ... There were circumstances (Corrections Department) officials need to be able to handle,” Pruitt said. "But we also know (Lockett) was unconscious after 7 minutes. It did take 43 minutes for his ultimate demise, but he was unconscious after 7 minutes.

"I believe the state takes its job seriously. Up until this last execution, they'd done it ... so well (that) some people believe if anything happens and it takes more than 5 minutes, it must violate the Eighth Amendment. That's not the case."

Pruitt spoke at some length about Lockett's victim, 19-year-old Stephanie Neiman, and the lengthy appeals process that followed Lockett's conviction.

"Ultimately," Pruitt said, "we must keep in mind that justice was served in that situation."

Midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride had been used by other states in executions but not in the same proportions used on Lockett. Oklahoma had never used the three drugs.

Pruitt emphasized the difficulty in obtaining drugs for lethal injection and said the combination previously used by Oklahoma had become impossible to obtain.

"You have anti-death penalty zealots around the globe that protest, that bring attention to the manufacturers of these drugs," Pruitt said. "Supply issues are going to continue because of the pressure that's applied to these manufacturers.

"The state has to find an answer to that if the viability of lethal injection is to continue."

(source: Tulsa World)

COLORADO:

Poll: Death penalty not major factor for Colorado voters

While the death penalty has been at the forefront of debate in the Colorado governor's race this year, a new Denver Post poll suggests the issue may lack bite.

It's failing to play much of a role in most voters' decisions, with only 18 % of likely voters in the SurveyUSA poll saying the issue is a major factor. Most of those who say the death penalty is a major factor are backing Bob Beauprez, the Republican challenger to Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Hickenlooper has faced criticism from death penalty supporters since he granted Chuck E. Cheese killer Nathan Dunlap a reprieve on his death sentence in May 2013, leaving the decision to the next governor. Recently Hickenlooper suggested he might grant Dunlap clemency if he does not win reelection.

Countering that, Beauprez has vowed on the campaign trail to execute Dunlap, making the issue into an applause line.

The Post's poll - which found the race neck and neck - surveyed voters on the death penalty.

63 % of respondents said they support the death penalty, and 28 % are opposed while 10 % are unsure. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.9 % points.

The nearly 1 in 5 respondents who say the death penalty is a major factor in their vote for governor back Beauprez 3-to-1, SurveyUSA says.

But 47 % say it's a minor factor, and their support is split between the candidates, the pollster says.

Among the 33 % who say the death penalty isn't a factor, most - by a 2-to-1 margin - back Hickenlooper.

Colorado governor's race

The Denver Post's poll by SurveyUSA was conducted Sept. 8 through Sept. 10. Pollsters started with 850 Colorado adults and narrowed the field to 664 likely voters. SurveyUSA contacted both landlines and cell phones. The poll results have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points. Pollsters weighted the sample by gender, age, race and region, but not by party identification. The party affiliation breakdown of the sample, with numbers rounded, was 33 % Republican, 33 % Democratic and 33 % unaffiliated.

(source: Denver Post)

CALIFORNIA:

Support for death penalty falls to 50-year low, Field Poll shows

Support for the death penalty among registered voters in California has dropped to 56 %, the lowest level reported in nearly 50 years but one that still indicates a considerable majority in favor of capital punishment, according to a Field Poll released Friday.

The survey, conducted from Aug. 14 to Aug. 28, found 34 % in favor of abolishing the death penalty and 10 % with no opinion.

In 2011, the same poll found 68 % in support of the death penalty and 27 % opposed. The current majority is the lowest on record since 1965, when 51 % of the state's registered voters said they favored capital punishment.

The poll numbers may actually understate public opposition, in view of the narrow defeat of a 2012 ballot measure that would have repealed California's death penalty and replaced it with life in prison without parole. More than 47 % of those who went to the polls supported the proposal.

A spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, which backed the 2012 initiative, said the latest survey is a further indication that capital punishment is losing support.

"I think that the public is becoming very aware that the California death penalty is broken beyond repair ... that we're spending millions on a system that fails to deliver the promise of justice, is wildly unfair, doesn't deter crime, and it will always risk (taking) an innocent life," said the spokeswoman, Daisy Vieyra.

Tired of waiting to fix

Death penalty backer Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, said the poll shows that public support remains strong but that some are tired of waiting for solutions to problems in California's death penalty system. The state, which has more than 750 inmates on death row, has not had an execution since 2006, when a federal judge found multiple flaws in lethal injection procedures and staff training.

"I think if the people had a choice between fixing (the system) and abolition, they would vote overwhelmingly to fix it," said Scheidegger, whose organization proposed an initiative this year that would have limited the right to appeal death sentences and sought to speed up the review process. The measure failed to qualify for the ballot, but Scheidegger said it will be circulated again in 2016.

The Field Poll also asked voters about a federal judge's ruling in July that declared California's death penalty unconstitutional because of delays of 25 years or more in carrying out executions, which the judge said have led to an arbitrary and irrational system.

Asked how the state should respond, 52 % said it should speed up the execution process, 40 % said it should replace the death penalty with life without parole, and 8 % voiced no opinion.

Support for the death penalty varied by age, gender, religion, region and political ideology.

The poll said 51 % of voters aged 18 to 29, and 50 % of those 65 and older, were in support, compared with majorities of 57 to 61 % for other age groups.

Men were more likely to be pro-death penalty than women, by 59 to 53 %, while both Protestants and Catholics favored death sentences by 60 % or more, about 15 % higher than the support from members of other religions and nonbelievers.

Lowest in Bay Area

Regionally, support for capital punishment was lowest in the Bay Area, at 51 %, and highest in the Central Valley, at 64 %. It was also highest among those who described themselves as strongly conservative, at 78 %, compared with 29 % among self-described strong liberals.

The Field Research Corp. said its telephone survey of 1,280 registered voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.

(source: San Francisco Chronicle)

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

Field Poll: Death penalty support slips in California

Support for the death penalty in California is at its lowest point in nearly 50 years, although more than 1/2 of the state's registered voters still favor it, a new Field Poll has found.

The poll found 56 % still believe the death penalty should be kept as a punishment for serious crimes, with 34 % opposed and 10 % undecided.

The findings come as states nationwide are grappling with a shortage of drugs used for lethal injections and critics who say some recent executions have been botched and left inmates suffering as they died. They also come after a July ruling by a federal judge in Los Angeles that found lengthy delays in executing California inmates have made the death penalty unconstitutional in the state.

Support for the death penalty in California has been eroding steadily for years, falling from a high of 83 % in 1985 and 1986 Field Polls to its current level, the lowest since a 1965 survey found only 51 % approval. The last Field Poll done on the issue, in 2011, found 68 % in favor of keeping the death penalty, compared to 27 % opposed.

"To me, it's interesting that a small plurality is continuing to support the death penalty," said poll director Mark DiCamillo, who noted that the Field Poll has asked the same question of voters since 1956, when support for the death penalty was 49 %, the only year it has fallen below 50 %.

But opponents and supporters still differ sharply over whether the latest figures mean the state can expect a successful effort to ban the death penalty, as a handful of other states have done in recent years. Both sides say they expect to see ballot measures in 2016 over the issue.

"I think the trend is going to be in the direction of 'Let's abolish it' for the foreseeable future until it is abolished," said Sacramento attorney Don Heller, a 1-time supporter of capital punishment who campaigned 2 years ago for California to become the 19th state that does not allow for execution as a punishment option.

That effort, which would have voided death sentences for the state's 749 condemned inmates and replaced them with sentences of life without parole, failed 52 % to 48 %. But the close result encouraged death penalty opponents into believing they eventually can succeed in banning executions.

"I think with some of the things that have occurred around the country - screw-ups with executions, people on death row that were exonerated by DNA evidence - those are the things that cause reasonable people to say, 'Let's just abolish it and life without parole is a sentence that protects the safety of the general public,'" Heller said.

The 2012 campaign for Proposition 34 was well-funded and based on selling the public on the argument that maintaining the death penalty was wasting billions of dollars, especially in light of the fact that only 13 inmates have been executed since 1978, the last in 2006.

But death penalty supporters reject those arguments and say opponents have created the delays and added the expense of maintaining the system through endless court appeals.

"I don't think there's a real shift in the number of people who believed that the death penalty is right," said Kent Scheidegger, legal director for the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in Sacramento.

Scheidegger conceded that there may be a "fatigue factor" among some supporters because of delays and skepticism over whether the system ever will see executions resume on a regular basis.

"I do think that it is important that we fix the problems and get it restarted," he said. "The best argument they have is that because they've been blocking it we should give up," he said. "There are people who believe that death is the just and correct punishment for the worst murderers, but who are just frustrated and fatigued."

The issue of continued delays led to pollsters crafting a new question for voters based on the federal judge's ruling that California's death penalty is so slow it is unconstitutional. That question asked what California should do in light of the ruling, and 52 % of respondents said the state should speed up the execution process. By comparison, 40 % said the death penalty should be replaced with life without parole, and 8 % had no opinion.

There were few surprises in which voters support keeping the death penalty and who opposes it, DiCamillo said, with registered Republicans and conservatives, as well as Protestants and voters living in the Central Valley the strongest in favor of maintaining capital punishment.

Those most likely to oppose death as an option were Democrats, liberals, Bay Area residents, voters under 30 and those who expressed no religious preference.

(source: Sacramento Bee)

USA:

Death penalty decision could take a year before trial of 4 men accused in cabbie's killing

The trial of 4 men accused of killing a Bronx cab driver may be a year away because federal prosecutors 1st have to decide whether to seek the death penalty, lawyers in the case suggested Thursday after the defendants pleaded not guilty.

With their hands cuffed in front of them and shackled to their waists, Takiem Ewing, 22; Tyrone Felder, 25; Kareem Martin, 26; and Tommy Smalls, 26, all of the Bronx, entered the not guilty pleas.

They are accused in the Aug. 12 slaying of driver Aboubacar Bah, 62.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Gerber said Bah "was shot in the head and his body dumped on the street." A video showing the body being tossed out of Bah's livery cab before the Toyota Camry is driven away is among the evidence in the case.

The charge, carjacking with intent to cause death, carries a maximum sentence of death, but prosecutors can choose to seek life in prison instead. Before any trial, they have to consider not only the evidence they have but also whatever arguments the defense makes against capital punishment. Each defendant has an extra lawyer, an expert in capital punishment law, for the process.

A final decision would be made by the U.S. attorney general.

Felder's attorney, Andrew Patel, told federal Judge Vincent Briccetti it would be "a year before we know what the Department of Justice wants." The judge asked Gerber if he disagreed and Gerber said no.

Some of the time before trial will also be used to share evidence, which Gerber said includes the video, DNA tests, rap sheets, and a boot impression.

Briccetti set Dec. 12 for both sides to meet with him for any updates.

The judge asked about the killing of another Bronx cabbie, Maudo Kane, on Aug. 5, which is mentioned in the criminal complaint. No one has been charged in Kane's death, and Gerber said the investigation continues.

The complaint said different guns were used to kill the 2 cabbies, but both guns were used in a May 29 shooting in the Bronx.

New York City police Commissioner William Bratton has said Bah's killing was "senseless and motivated by greed."

(source: Associated Press)

SAUDI ARABIA:

Beheadings remain integral part of Saudi justice system----Rights campaigners decry frequent use of a form of execution that has aroused revulsion elsewhere

The beheading of Pakistani national Izzat Gul for drug trafficking was Saudi Arabia's 46th such execution for 2014, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW). In August alone, Saudi Arabia decapitated 19 people, eight of them for nonviolent offenses, including sorcery, the rights group added.

While the beheading of ISIS captives James Foley and Steven Sotloff provoked global outrage, human rights groups decry the limited international attention given to Saudi Arabia's use of decapitation even for nonviolent crimes - a punishment so routine that Deera Square in Riyadh is sometimes referred to as "Chop Chop Square."

U.S. President Barack Obama failed to raise "a single human rights issue" with Riyadh during his trip to Saudi Arabia in March, said Adam Coogle, a Middle East researcher at HRW. Secretary of State John Kerry was in Saudi Arabia on Thursday to discuss U.S. strategy to combat Islamic State fighters in the region. In press briefings ahead of the trip, there were no indication that the issue of human rights would be brought up.

"There are a lot of interests at play in the U.S.-Saudi relationship, including economic and geostrategic issues as well as counterterrorism," Coogle said. "Unfortunately, the U.S. prioritized these other interests over using its close relationship to push the Saudi government to make human rights reforms."

Coogle said Saudi Arabia executes, on average, about 100 people a year, most via beheading, noting that the kingdom orders the death penalty as the sentence for a number of nonviolent offenses, including drug crimes, adultery and practices it deems witchcraft. The kingdom has one of the world's highest execution rates, according to Death Penalty Worldwide, an organization that collects information on executions.

Criminalizing dissent

Part of rights groups' concern is that Riyadh is using violent forms of punishment to quash dissent.

Gul's execution came shortly after a court decision last week upholding a 10-year jail sentence and 1,000 lashes - meted out in weekly installments of 50 lashes - against blogger Raef Badawi, who was charged with "insulting Islam" and "going beyond the realm of obedience." A Saudi news agency reported Badawi's conviction in March for his connection to "reformists" and for his tweets "against the rulers, religious scholars and government agencies."

His lawyer, Waleed Abu Alkhair - currently in jail facing similar charges - told the BBC that his client's charges concerned statements posted online calling for a relaxation of Saudi Arabia's strict interpretation of Islam.

Amnesty International has designated Badawi a prisoner of conscience, "detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression."

"Badawi's harsh sentence shows how little tolerance there is for any sort of expression that doesn't jibe with the Saudi government's official prescribed narrative," Coogle said, adding that the sentence is "very consistent" with other penalties levied against liberals and human rights activists.

Saudi Arabia's embassy in Washington did not respond to Al Jazeera's request for comment by the time of publication.

The kingdom's legal system relies on a hard-line reading of Islamic law, or Sharia, by religious judges who, according to Coogle, often rely on "ad-hoc interpretations."

"Judges have leeway to criminalize all kinds of things," he said. "It's completely left to the discretion of judges, within parameters of Islamic law, to state what the crime is and also the intended punishment."

In February, Saudi Arabia enacted a new Law for the Crimes of Terrorism and its Financing, legislation that some critics warn is vague and could be used to penalize anyone who criticizes the Saudi establishment.

Over the last 2 months, Saudi courts sentenced to death 5 religious leaders and activists who participated in protests demanding constitutional reform. All 5 were charged and convicted on terrorism charges under the new legislation.

The new laws "turn almost any critical expression or independent association into crimes of terrorism," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

He said this is because "terrorism" can be nonviolent under the new laws, whose definition of it includes any act intended to "insult the reputation of the state," "harm public order" or "shake up the security of society."

Additional provisions in the new laws include the criminalization of unorthodox beliefs and atheism, participating in any form of protest against the government and attending conferences in or outside Saudi Arabia that "sow discord" in society.

Despite the criticism of foreign human rights groups, any reforms are more likely to originate in the corridors of power, said Juan Cole, a University of Michigan history professor who is the director of the school's Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies. Politics in Saudi Arabia is practiced in the backroom, he said, making it difficult to see incremental changes.

"In 2005, they had their 1st municipal elections, the 1st elections of any sort. That was a big deal," he said, adding that Saudi Arabia is a "very dynamic society" in the "throes of enormous change."

He added, "The Saudi elite is well aware that with an increasingly middle-class and educated public, the old form of absolute monarchy will be difficult to keep going."

(source: Al Jazeera America)

JAPAN:

Matsushima stays course on death penalty but targets rape

Newly appointed Justice Minister Midori Matsushima on Thursday backed the death penalty as a deterrent against crime and said she planned to stiffen the penalty for rape and bolster immigration staff.

Noting that the death penalty enjoys strong public support, the former Asahi Shimbun reporter turned politician said in a group media interview that scrapping capital punishment would be inappropriate in light of Japan's recurring heinous crimes.

In a carefully phrased poll conducted every five years by the Cabinet Office, 85.6 % of the respondents said in 2009 that capital punishment is "unavoidable if the circumstance demands it."

"I know there are various critical opinions when it comes to the death penalty," said Matsushima, dressed in her habitual color of red. "But I don't think it deserves any immediate reform."

On immigration and tourism, the 58-year-old Osaka native said the government needs to achieve a delicate balance between promoting more tourism and maintaining national safety.

"Non-problematic foreigners should be allowed to clear immigration as smoothly as possible" to boost Japan's reputation as a hospitable country, she said.

"Meanwhile, rigorous immigration checks must be in place to maintain safety here," she said, emphasizing that her ministry is set to hire 300 more immigration staff next year. Since Japan is trying to carve out a reputation as a tourism-driven nation, it makes sense to invest in more immigration personnel, she said.

Matsushima also seemed content with what is often criticized as the insular way in which immigration officials deal with asylum seekers. A mere 6 asylum seekers were granted refugee status in 2013, the least in 15 years, according to data released by the Justice Ministry in March.

"All we do is simply scrutinize each asylum seeker independently, and the number is just a result of that process," Matsushima said. "It's not like there is any numerical target we have to achieve."

She also said that one of her most immediate goals is to stiffen penalties for sex offenders. Matsushima pointed out that minimum sentence for people convicted of rape resulting in death or injury is 5 years, while the minimum sentence for robbery resulting in injury is 6 years.

"I have always been infuriated that stealing is considered more grave than raping a woman and ruining her life," she said.

Victims of rape are often but not always female.

(source: Japan Times)

INDONESIA:

Indonesia's Supreme Court upholds death sentence for drug lord Freddy Budiman

The Supreme Court has decided to uphold the death sentence for Freddy Budiman, a convicted drug lord who ran an ecstasy ring from behind bars. The ruling, posted on the court's website on Tuesday, said judges rejected the appeal of "Freddy Budiman alias Budi bin NanangHidayat."

The verdict was reached on Monday by 3 judges, including presiding judge ArtidjoAlkostar, The Jakarta Globe reported.

A spokesman for the Attorney General's Office, Tony Spontana, said that Freddy would not be executed just yet, as he might file a request for a case review with the Supreme Court again or ask for clemency from the president.

However, a spokesman for the Supreme Court disagreed. Quoted by Detik.com, RidwanMansyur said that Monday's ruling was final and binding, and even if Freddy still wanted to ask for a case review or clemency, this should not prevent the AGO from picking a date for Freddy's execution.

Freddy's lucrative drug business was revealed by the National Narcotics Agency (BNN) in 2012 when its officers raided a truck containing 1.4 million ecstasy pills in Cengkareng, West Jakarta. The ecstasy pills were imported from Shenzhen, China, and had successfully passed through security checks at North Jakarta's TanjungPriok port.

It was found later that the drugs belonged to Freddy, an inmate who controlled the business from behind bars, using a dozen cellphones at his disposal.

(source: Thai PBS)

CHAD:

TOWARDS ABOLISHING THE DEATH PENALTY

The Chadian government adopted on September 5 a penal code aimed at abolishing the death penalty, Minister of Communication and government spokesman Hassan Sylla Bakari announced after an inter-ministerial meeting held in N'Djamena.

Bakari said "the death penalty will be replaced by life imprisonment with no possibility of conditional release in future." Bakari added it had become necessary for the country to modernize its laws in the political, social, cultural, economic and diplomatic areas.

It is worth noting that although Chad has had the death penalty in its laws, there have been no reported executions since November 2003, when 9 men were executed within a period of 4 days, although they had not exhausted their appeals. 4 of the 9 men had been found guilty 2 weeks earlier of assassinating a Sudanese politician and businessman. The other 5 executed men had been sentenced for unrelated murders and assassinations.

In November 2012, Chad was targeted by a mission of Hands off Cain and the Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty (NRPTT), aimed at favouring the abolitionist process internally and obtaining a favourable vote on the UN Resolution for the universal moratorium on executions.

(source: Xinhua)

INDIA:

Koli asks if hanging is 'painful'----Mother says her son was made a "scapegoat" because he comes from a poor family

The convict in the Nithari killings Surinder Koli who had got a breather on September 8 when Supreme Court had stayed his hanging by a week, asked the Meerut jail officials on Thursday if death by hanging was 'painful'. His query came hours after he met his mother Kunti Koli for the 1st time in 8 years since he was lodged in jail for allegedly sexually abusing and killing children in Nithari village in Noida.

According to the S.H.M. Rizvi the Senior Superintendent of the Chaudhary Charan Singh district jail in Meerut, Koli on Thursday asked some of the jail officials if hanging was "painful". Koli who awaits hangman's noose, is spending anxious days in the high security cell of the jail these days.

"I was told by some of the jail officials that Koli inquired one of them about execution and the process of being hanged. Normally he has been completely silent. But he today he asked people about the day of his hanging," Mr. Rizvi told The Hindu.

"He asked how long is the process of being hanged. He also asked if death by hanging is painful," added the senior superintendent.

Earlier in the day Koli had met his mother. Coming all the way from Mangrukhal village in Almora town in Uttarakhand the 68-year-old Kunti Koli met her son for about 50 minutes. While talking to The Hindu after meeting her son, Ms. Kanti alleged her son was made a "scapegoat" because he comes from a poor family.

She referred to Koli's employer and businessman Moninder Singh Pandher, who was also 1 of the accused in Nithari killings but was acquitted later and his death was overturned by the Allahabad High Court in 2009. He still faces trail in 5 of the 12 cases.

"My son is being sacrificed to save influential people. If Pandher was not given death penalty. If my son is hanged then Pandher should also be hanged," she said.

Visibly emotional after meeting her son, the agitated mother asked: "What logic is this? Rich people like Pandher get saved from being hanged. Why poor people only have to bear the burden of justice".

The apex court had in the early hours of Monday stayed Koli's execution for a week until a fresh review petition challenging his death penalty was heard in an open court room by a Bench of 3 judges of the apex court.

Koli, who was found guilty of rapes and murder of several children between 2005 and 2006, was sentenced to death in 4 cases and his death sentence was confirmed by the apex court in 2011.

(source: The Hindu)

VIETNAM:

2 sentenced to death for trafficking ecstasy from Laos

A 2-day trial in Thanh Hoa Province ended in high drama after a drug trafficker the court sentenced to death attempted to smash his head against a courtroom wall.

Nguyen Huu Bang, 35, and Nguyen Ngoc Hung, 45, were both sentenced to death for their major role in trafficking more than 5 kilograms of ecstasy pills from Laos.

Bang's wife Le Thi At, 39, received a life sentence. Hung's wife Phan Thi Vi, 40, and another member Van Thi Nga were each sentenced to 20 years imprisonment.

Hung attempted to ram his head into the wall after the verdict was announced. Security forces at the trial stopped him in time, so he only suffered from dizziness and confusion.

Bang blamed his wife for the crime, saying he only served as an interpreter between her and Kong Thong and that investigators had forced him to plead guilty.

But his wife At admitted their involvement.

The indictment said Bang and At were living in Vientiane, Laos, when a local man named Kong Thong introduced them into the drug trade last October.

He asked the couple to find consumers in Vietnam.

Bang and At then went to Vietnam to recruit Hung and Vy, 2 Thanh Hoa locals.

In late December, Hung gave Bang a big order, so Bang called Kong Thong asking for the supply.

On December 29, Bang and the Lao supplier drover a truck across the border to deliver more than 5 kilograms of ecstasy pills to At and Nga, who brought them to Hung and Vi.

Hung and Nga met the customer at a hotel the next night and they agreed on the price of VND48,000 (more than US$2.27) a pill, as well as delivery and payment terms.

The next night, Kong Thong accompanied Nga to pick up the money from one hotel while At and Hung delivered the pills to another.

There, police rushed in and arrested them.

Bang, Vi and Nga were arrested soon afterward, while Kong Thong and the customer managed to escape.

At was pregnant during the time of her arrest and gave birth in jail.

She said she wanted to make money to take care of the baby.

She kept fainting, causing the judge panel to delay the trial several times.

Vietnam has some of the world's toughest drug laws.

Those convicted of producing or selling 100 grams of heroin or 300 grams of other illegal narcotics face the death penalty.

Smuggling more than 600 grams of heroin or more than 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine is also punishable by death.

(source: Thanh Nien News)

PAKISTAN:

Capital punishment: HRCP calls for abolition of death penalty

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Thursday expressed concern over reports that despite an informal moratorium on executions, a murder convict was scheduled to be hanged at Adiala Jail, Rawalpindi, on September 18.

The HRCP has called upon the government to stay the hanging and announce a formal moratorium on executions.

In a statement on Thursday, the commission said, "The HRCP has received with great alarm and dismay reports that Shoaib Sarwar, a death row prisoner currently detained in Haripur prison, is set to be hanged at Rawalpindi's Adiala Jail on September 18."

It said the convict was awarded death sentence on July 2, 1998, on the charge of murdering Awais Nawaz in Wah Cantt in 1996. The victim's brother had moved the high court against the delay in implementing the sentence despite exhaustion of all appeals by the convict and rejection of his clemency plea by the president.

The high court ordered the district and sessions judge to implement the execution of the sentence.

"The last execution of a civilian death row prisoner in the country had taken place in late 2008. Executions have since been suspended. HRCP wishes to remind the government that the reasons that have caused the stay of executions since 2008 have not changed.

These include the well-documented deficiencies of the law, flaws in administration of justice and investigation methods and chronic corruption.

In view of these factors, capital punishment allows for a high probability of miscarriages of justice, which is wholly unacceptable in a civilised society, particularly because the punishment is irreversible.

Despite the informal stay of executions, capital punishment remains on Pakistan's statute books for 28 offences, and the courts continue to award death sentences.

It said Sarwar's planned execution on September 18 was a regressive step and raised concerns at several levels.

It said the convict's relatives had once again asked the president to overturn the sentence and were also trying to settle the issue through payment of blood money.

"The HRCP calls upon the government to immediately halt this and any other executions that might be under consideration and make the informal suspension of executions formal without further delay.

We also urge the president to favourably consider mercy petitions and convert capital punishment to life imprisonment."

The human rights commission of Pakistan demanded that the government take urgent measures towards abolition of capital punishment, including deletion of the death penalty from the statute book, at least for all but the most serious offences.

(source: Express Tribune)

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

ICJ calls for immediate halt to Shoaib Sarwar's imminent execution

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) urgently calls on the Pakistani Government to halt the imminent execution of Shoaib Sarwar, scheduled to take place on 18 September 2014.

In 1998, a sessions court found Shoaib Sarwar guilty of murdering Awais Nawaz. In 2003, the Lahore High Court rejected his appeal, and in 2006, the Supreme Court confirmed the death sentence.

The President of Pakistan also rejected Shoaib Sarwar's mercy petition seeking to have the execution commuted.

"Pakistan has had an unofficial moratorium on the death penalty since June 2008, with only the exception of Muhammad Hussain's execution in November 2012 following a court martial," said Sam Zarifi, ICJ's Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific. "Breaking its moratorium on the death penalty will be a major step backwards for Pakistan, calling into question the commitment of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif"s Government"s to its human rights obligations."

The resumption of the death penalty puts Pakistan in opposition to the global and regional movement towards the abolition of the death penalty.

Currently, 150 countries worldwide, including 30 states in the Asia-Pacific region including Nepal and Sri Lanka, have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice.

"Resuming executions is all the more alarming given that over 8,000 people are currently on death row in Pakistan," added Zarifi. "With the death penalty prescribed for 27 offences, including blasphemy, arms smuggling and offences related to drugs, these numbers are increasing by the day."

The ICJ opposes capital punishment in all cases without exception. The death penalty constitutes a violation of the right to life and the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.

In 2007, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution emphasizing that "that the use of the death penalty undermines human dignity" and calling for the establishment of a moratorium on the use of the death penalty "with a view to abolishing the death penalty".

India ended its 8-year moratorium on the death penalty with the executions of Ajmal Amir Kasab in November 2012 and Afzal Guru in February 2013.

South Asia's increasing resort to the use of the death penalty goes against a 15-year worldwide trend towards abolition. More than 150 of 192 United Nations member States have now either abolished the death penalty or do not practice it, including 30 States from the Asia-Pacific region.

The resolution was reaffirmed in 2008, 2010, and most recently in December 2012, when an overwhelming majority of 110 UN Member States voted in favor of a worldwide moratorium on executions as a step towards abolition of the death penalty.

The ICJ urges the Pakistani Government to respect UN General Assembly resolutions and immediately halt Shoaib Sarwar’s impending execution.

In addition, the ICJ calls on the Government to instate an official moratorium on the death penalty, with a view to abolishing the death penalty in law and in practice and to acceding to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the abolition of capital punishment.

(source: Kashmir Watch)

CHINA:

'China's 9/11': 3 get death penalty

3 people were condemned to death on Friday and one given life in prison for a mass stabbing that killed 31 people in China, state television said, an attack authorities blamed on separatists from largely Muslim Xinjiang.

The convictions and sentences were handed down by the Intermediate People's Court in Kunming, in the southwestern province of Yunnan, state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) reported on a verified microblog.

The March 1 carnage at a train station in Kunming also saw more than 140 people wounded and was dubbed "China's 9/11" by state-run media.

The suspects, whose names appear to identify them as members of the Uighur minority, had been accused of crimes including "leading a terrorist group" which planned and carried out the attack, Kunming's Intermediate Court said earlier on its microblog.

4 armed guards in helmets and dark clothing, and holding automatic weapons, were positioned inside the courtroom opposite the suspects, CCTV showed.

The accused - 3 of them men with shaved heads, the other one a woman - wore prison clothes. Each of them had a separate dock, with 2 police officers sitting behind.

State prosecutors said three of the suspects - whose names were transliterated as Iskandar Ehet, Turgun Tohtunyaz and Hasayn Muhammad by the official news agency Xinhua - were arrested while attempting to cross China's border, according to the court.

The other accused, named as Patigul Tohti, took part in the attack, along with at least 4 other assailants whom police shot dead at the scene, prosecutors added.

Authorities had previously given the toll as 29, but the change indicated that 2 of the wounded had later died of their injuries.

More than 300 members of the public were present in court, Xinhua said, including some victims and their relatives.

Beijing blamed the attack on "separatists" from the resource-rich far western region of Xinjiang, where at least 200 have died in attacks and clashes between locals and security forces over the last year.

Militants from Xinjiang were accused of organising an explosive attack in the regional capital Urumqi which killed 31 people in May, and a suicide car crash in Beijing's Tiananmen Square last year.

The Kunming mass knifing was the biggest-ever violent incident against civilians outside the region.

Death penalty

China's courts have a near-100 % conviction rate and the death penalty is regularly handed down in terrorism cases.

China last month announced the executions of 8 people for "terrorist attacks", including three it described as "masterminding" the car crash in Tiananmen Square. That came after 13 people were executed in June for attacks in Xinjiang.

Xinjiang, a resource-rich region which abuts Central Asia, is home to several ethnic minorities with strong cultural ties to neighbouring states such as Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

Uighurs, who are mostly Muslim, are its largest ethnic group but many resent decades of immigration by China's Han majority.

They say it has brought economic inequality and discrimination, as well as cultural repression such as a campaign to stop the Islamic practice of women covering their faces.

China counters that it plays a positive role and has brought about development and improvements to health and living standards.

Beijing regularly accuses what it says are exiled Uighur separatist groups such as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP) as being behind terrorism.

But overseas experts doubt the strength of the groups and their links to global terrorism, with some arguing China exaggerates the threat to justify tough security measures in Xinjiang.

(source: Agence France-Presse)

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

China supreme court official urges quick trials of terror crimes

Courts in Xinjiang should speed up trials of terror cases and deliver exemplary penalties, a senior official with China's Supreme People's Court (SPC) said Thursday.

Current policies should be maintained against "3 evil forces" of terrorism, separatism and extremism, said SPC executive vice president Shen Deyong while addressing Xinjiang court support staff.

Cases involving ethnic minorities should be handled no differently from any other, Shen said, suggesting that local judges' professionalism needs to improve to protect rights of all people equally.

In June, 9 people were sentenced to death for terrorism in northwest China's Xinjiang. Local courts sentenced 81 defendants in 23 cases to death, life imprisonment and fixed-term imprisonment.

The verdicts include organizing, leading or participating in terrorist organizations, intentional homicide, arson or illegal manufacture, storage and transport of explosives, making and spreading audio or video information on terrorism, inciting ethnic hatred and discrimination, and teaching criminal methods.

The number of terror cells apprehended in Xinjiang increased from about 140 in 2010 to more than 200 last year.

(source: ECNS)

SEPTEMBER 11, 2014:

TEXAS:

Death Watch: The Capital Aggrevation Question----Does Lisa Ann Coleman deserve to die?

On Friday, Sept. 5, the Office of Capital Writs (the state agency charged with representing inmates appealing a death sentence) filed an application for retrial with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on behalf of Lisa Ann Coleman, a 38-year-old Arlington woman found guilty in the July 2004 kidnapping and subsequent starvation death of 9-year-old Davontae Williams. Williams, the son of Coleman's partner Marcella Williams (who pled guilty to the crime in 2006, and is now serving life in prison), was found in Marcella's apartment dead and weighing 35 pounds, with evidence of beatings throughout his body.

The post-conviction investigation - filed 12 days before Coleman's Sept. 17 execution date - cites 4 affidavits from witnesses who spent time around the Arbors of Arlington apartment complex, where Williams suffered and eventually died. One is by a longtime resident, Sheila London-Hall, who functioned as an unofficial apartment complex neighborhood watch. Several kids around the Arbors regularly referred to London-Hall as "Grandma," and she earned a reputation for calling Child Protective Services on any of her suspicions. The witnesses had varying degrees of familiarity with the Williams household, though they all claim to have seen the 9-year-old unrestrained and in good spirits at shops and around various residential functions in the months, weeks, and days immediately leading up to his death.

Such affidavits are important, OCW contends, because of questions surrounding the legitimacy of the kidnapping charges that helped raise Coleman's charges to capital murder. Lead attorney Brad Levenson writes that the trial attorneys "failed to investigate and present readily available evidence to disprove the kidnapping aggravator that made Coleman's crime death eligible." Indeed, the Court of Appeals referred to the allegation that Williams had been kidnapped in his own home as "counterintuitive" during Coleman's direct appeal; even the 5th Circuit considered the kidnapping aggravator "the weakest component of the capital charge" in 2010.

Levenson believes the 4 new affidavits prove that Coleman was not denying others access to Davontae in the time leading up to his death, and should be enough to warrant a retrial. "Had this reasonably available evidence been presented at trial," he writes, "there is reasonable probability that ... at least one juror would have harbored reasonable doubt as to whether Coleman committed a kidnapping."

Should Coleman's execution take place, she will become the 9th woman put to death in Texas since the mid-1800s, the 9th inmate executed this year, and the 517th since the 1976 reinstatement of the death penalty in Texas.

(source: Austin Chronicle)

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

Wendy Davis Still Supports The Death Penalty

Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis, the Democratic nominee for governor, is not backing away from her support for the death penalty.

"I do support the death penalty and I will be prepared to carry it out," Davis said in a Wednesday interview with HuffPost Live.

Davis, who is running against state Attorney General Greg Abbott (R), said she believes capital punishment is appropriate when "heinous crimes" are committed.

Texas has the highest execution rate in the country. Since 1976, 515 people have been executed in the state, including seven in the last year.

When asked about studies that have shown that as many as 4 % of death row inmates are innocent, Davis said Texas had made progress on that front in recent years.

"I've also been very supportive of making sure that we are providing everyone with due process rights to assure that we never execute an innocent person," she said, noting that she favors advanced DNA testing before the death penalty is carried out.

Abbott favors the death penalty as well.

Several botched lethal injections around the country in recent months have raised questions about the morality of capital punishment. Davis acknowledged this in the interview.

"I of course respect the constitutional provisions to assure that we don't have cruel and unusual punishment," she said. "And as governor, I will work to assure that this is the case."

A June Washington Post/ABC poll found that 52 % of Americans would prefer that convicted murderers spend life in prison rather than receiving the death penalty.

(source: Amber Ferguson, Huffington Post)

NEW YORK:

Bring back NY death penalty

Rochester Police Officer Daryl Pierson lost his life trying to bring a convicted felon to justice. In New York State, punishment for an officer's murder is limited to life imprisonment, without the possibility of parole. After his killer is tried, convicted and returned to prison, he will be fed, clothed and sheltered on the taxpayer's dime. He will also have the opportunity to harm other prisoners and even corrections officers with relative impunity.

We need to reinstate the death penalty in New York - not to exact revenge, but to properly administer justice.

George E. Wegman----Greece

(source: Letter to the Editor, Democrat & Chronicle)

PENNSYLVANIA:

ACLU challenges Pennsylvania over execution drugs secrecy in federal court

The Guardian and three Pennsylvania newspapers have asked judge to unseal set of legal documents that contain hidden details about the source of state's lethal injection drugs

The secrecy imposed on the identity of the compounding pharmacy that supplied lethal drugs to Pennsylvania for use in executions is challenged today in an emergency legal motion lodged with a federal court.

The ACLU of Pennsylvania has asked judge Yvette Kane of the US district court in Harrisburg to unseal a set of legal documents that contain hidden details about the source of the state's lethal injection drugs. In tune with many other death penalty states, Pennsylvania has shrouded its execution procedure in secrecy in the hope of keeping supply routes to the medicines open in the face of a tight international boycott led by the European Commission.

The next execution scheduled in the state is on 22 September, when convicted murderer, Hubert Michael, 57, is set to die by an injection of 3 separate lethal drugs. The execution is currently on hold awaiting the decision of the 3rd circuit court of appeals, but the stay could be lifted at any time which would pave the way for the 1st judicial killing in Pennsylvania for 15 years.

The condemned man, who pleaded guilty to raping and murdering a 16-year-old girl, Trista Eng, has been on death row for 2 decades and has exhausted almost all his legal options. He would be the 1st death row inmate in Pennsylvania to be put to death since 1999.

The ACLU's action has been brought on behalf of the Guardian and three state newspapers - the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Philadelphia City Paper. The news organisations jointly argue that preventing them from reporting on crucial aspects of the death penalty protocol, including the identity of the pharmacy where the execution drugs were concocted, is a breach of their First Amendment rights as well as those of the citizens of Pennsylvania who should have full knowledge of how the punishment is being wielded in their name.

Under a court order issued in November 2012, the identity of the compounding pharmacy that provides Pennsylvania's department of corrections with the barbiturate pentobarbital has been kept secret. The name and other identifying information about the pharmacy has been issued to Hubert Michael's lawyers, but not to the press or public.

The ACLU and the 4 news organisations argue in Thursday's emergency motion that "the public and the press have a presumptive right of access to documents filed with the court ... These documents are of acute interest to the public and the media in the light of intense public scrutiny that has developed in the last year around the source of drugs used for lethal injection executions."

A recent string of botched executions in Ohio, Oklahoma and Arizona has brought a spotlight bearing down on death penalty states and raised questions about the effectiveness of the lethal injection protocols they are following. Among the concerns are whether compounding pharmacies can be relied upon as sources of the lethal injection drugs. The pharmacies make up medicines to order, and are not subject to the same stringent standards as drugs manufactured under supervision of the federal food and drug administration (FDA).

"In light of the recent string of horrifically botched executions, the public is entitled to know how the state obtained the drugs they plan to use to carry out executions here in Pennsylvania," said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania.

Mary Catherine Roper, the ACLU lawyer who is representing the Guardian and its co-petitioners in Thursday's filing, said: "The information sought by our clients is central to the debate about capital punishment. If the drugs are not made properly, they will not work properly, and the public should be very concerned about that possibility given the gruesome executions we have heard about in other states."

The action in Pennsylvania follows a similar legal move in Missouri, where the Guardian is leading a legal challenge to that state's secrecy over its lethal injection sources. The Guardian has also challenged Oklahoma in the courts over that state's decision to draw the curtain over the viewing window during the botched execution of Clayton Lockett, preventing reporters from witnessing what happened.

Despite Pennsylvania's refusal to disclose the identity of the compounding pharmacy that supplies it, sufficient information can be gleaned from court documents to know that there are grounds for concern over the lethal medicines it has acquired. Expert testimony in the case of Hubert Michael noted that the concentration of the pentobarbital in the state's possession was different from that called for by Pennsylvania's own execution protocol.

The testimony also noted that there was no evidence that the drugs had been tested for sterility or biological contaminants. It also revealed that the vials of pentobarbital had been confusingly labelled.

In normal medical settings, lethal drugs are colour coded to avoid mistakes in the operating theatre. Pentobarbital is by medical convention labelled yellow, while the muscle relaxant pancuronium bromide is marked in florescent red. Yet the vials obtained by the Pennsylvania prison system had pentobarbital in green and pancuronium bromide in yellow.

Pennsylvania and other death penalty states have been forced to turn to compounding pharmacies after the European Commission imposed a strict export ban on lethal drugs to the US for use in executions. The Danish manufacturer of pentobarbital, under the trade name Nembutal, also enforced its own rigorous distribution restrictions that have choked off the supply to death chambers across the US.

(source: The Guardian)

DELAWARE:

Paladin Club murder suspect waives hearing

Christopher J. Rivers, 1 of 3 men charged in the killings of his business partner and his wife last year at Paladin Club Condominiums, waived a preliminary hearing Wednesday morning.

Rivers, 31, and Joshua C. Bey, 29, are accused of hiring 2 Wilmington contract killers to murder Joseph Connell, his partner at C&S Automotive Repair in Talleyville. Connell and his new Russian bride, Olga Connell, were both shot multiple times in the head on Sept. 22. Both victims were 39 years old.

1 of the 2 alleged triggermen, Dominique L. Benson, 23, of Wilmington, was arrested Friday and faces a preliminary hearing Monday. The other suspect has not been caught, police said.

Rivers and Bey, identified in court papers as a former FBI informant who helped Rivers hire 2 "professional killers" to gun down the Connells, have both been held without bail at Young Correctional Institution since their arrests last week. Bey waived his preliminary hearing last week.

Rivers was brought from the prison to the New Castle County Courthouse for Wednesday's hearing, where county police Det. Jamie Leonard was expected to detail evidence against him to convince a judge to send the case to Superior Court.

Waiting in the courtroom were Rivers' teary-eyed mother, Marianne Rivers, and Joseph Connell's sister, Kelly Connell. The women spoke briefly to each other but neither would comment about the case.

After consulting with his court-appointed lawyers, Brian Chapman and John Barber, in the courthouse's basement lockup area, Rivers decided to waive his right to the hearing.

Rivers, Bey and Benson are each charged with 2 counts of 1st-degree murder and other offenses.

The contract killers, court records said, were known to charge the "going rate" of $10,000 for a homicide in Wilmington, where street violence has reached record levels the last few years. The Paladin Club Condominiums, in the Fox Point/Edgemoor area, are just outside the city.

Prosecutor Colleen Norris said the killings of the Connells is a capital-eligible case because there were 2 murder victims, 1 of the statutory aggravating circumstances needed to request the death penalty.

Norris said Attorney General Beau Biden, after consultation with top deputies, would decide whether to seek the death penalty.

(source: The News Journal)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Torture, Not Justice----The wrongful conviction of 2 North Carolina brothers highlights the injustice of the death penalty.

Justice at last. But at what cost?

Soon after taking the oath of office in 2009, President Barack Obama banned torture - or more precisely, certain forms of torture - by U.S. interrogators dealing with prisoners and detainees in armed conflicts. But nothing stopped what amounted to the torture of 2 North Carolina men who spent decades in prison, 1 of whom was awaiting a state-sponsored execution, for a crime they did not commit.

Henry McCollum and his brother, Leon Brown, were both teenagers with intellectual disabilities in 1983 when they were arrested for the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl. They were brow-beaten by police, who gave them the impression that if they just signed a statement, they would be able to leave the police station. They were confused and scared, as any person - especially a young person facing all those authority figures - would be. They did not get to leave the station. "I just made up a story and gave it to them. My mind was focused on getting out of that police station," McCollum reportedly told the Raleigh News & Observer. Both were convicted of the crimes, and both were sentenced to death. Brown's death conviction was later re-litigated, resulting in a sentence of life in prison.

DNA evidence, unearthed by the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, exonerated the 2 men and put the crime on another man, a serial rapist and murderer. McCollum and Brown were then released from prison.

This is what passes for a happy story in a nation that continues to execute people - and botch the process, sometimes, which adds to the horror of it all - despite the fact that there have been cases of wrongful convictions. An April study by the science journal PNAS found that more than 4 % of inmates sentenced to death are probably innocent. We are supposed to be joyful that the men were finally set free, that justice was eventually done.

But what justice can been squeezed out of a situation where two men lost 30 years of their lives? What can become of men who must have wondered how they could live in the United States of America, be charged and convicted of a crime they didn't commit and die for the mistake?

McCollum not only had to face his own impending execution, but he had to watch as dozens of men were hauled off for their own state-sanctioned killing, McCollum's lawyer, Ken Rose, noted. How is that not torture?

It would be easier, too, if we could write it all off to virulent racism or some affirmative effort to punish innocent people. But mistakes happen, and human beings under pressure to respond to public outrage over a terrible crime are themselves hindered by their own biases. Yes, African-American men are much more likely to face execution than white men. But it's not because juries are racist. The disparity starts much earlier: Police are under tremendous pressure to make a collar. Prosecutors are under tremendous pressure to hold someone accountable. They tend to respond more aggressively (seeking the death penalty) in cases which provoke more public outcry. Once the conviction is achieved and the sentence handed down, authorities don't like revisiting the case, since questioning the facts after the trial could undermine public confidence in the system.

But it is exactly cases such as McCollum's and Brown's that should make us question the system constantly. Eyewitness testimony is often unreliable, and not because people are lying. It's because people remember things differently. Evidence can be lost, suppressed or just not found in time. Some mistakes will inevitably happen. When we have a death penalty, there is simply no way to reverse the error. Had Rose not been so relentless in fighting for his clients' lives and freedoms, they'd still be there, with McCollum waiting for his wrongful death.

McCollum himself is remarkably lacking in bitterness toward the people and the system that caused this terrible injustice and deprived him of the prime years of his life. When he was released, he told reporters: "[T]hey took 30 years away from me for no reason, but I don't hate them. I don't hate them one bit."

The rest of us should not be so forgiving. Civilized nations do not torture and murder. If Guantanamo Bay and other post-Sept. 11, 2001, abuses can lead to a ban on torture, surely McCollum's case can cause states to rethink the death penalty.

(source: US News)

KANSAS:

Dennis Hawver, an Ozawkie attorney facing disciplinary action for his defense work in a death penalty case, filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday against the Kansas Supreme Court seeking damages and a court order blocking his possible disbarment.

Hawver represented capital murder defendant Phillip D. Cheatham Jr., who was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in connection with the slayings of 2 women in 2003 in southeast Topeka. Early last year, the Kansas Supreme Court reversed Cheatham's convictions in the slayings and ordered a new trial, ruling Cheatham received ineffective assistance of counsel from Hawver.

Hawver filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Topeka just 3 days before he is to appear before the Kansas Supreme Court on Friday to argue what discipline he should receive.

Hawver is suing that court, the Kansas Board for Discipline of Attorneys, and Chief Judge J. Thomas Marten of the U.S. District Court in Kansas. Hawver is representing himself in the Kansas Supreme Court and federal court.

"I'm trying to stand up for my rights," Hawver said during an interview Wednesday. "I have a First Amendment right to present my client's trial the way he wants."

Hawver said he would appear during the Friday hearing.

"I want to talk to them," Hawver said of the Supreme Court.

Hawver said that court's disciplinary decision against him could have a "chilling effect" on other lawyers if they are told by the Kansas Supreme Court how to conduct the defenses of their clients.

Hawver contends Kansas judicial agencies sought disciplinary action against him in retaliation because he testified in Cheatham's appeal of his conviction. Hawver also contends the alleged retaliation stems from his following the "signed written instructions" of Cheatham in what Hawver said was the trial strategy Cheatham wanted him to follow.

In that strategy, Hawver described Cheatham as "an experienced and highly street-smart and intelligent criminal" who was a cocaine dealer convicted of killing another "dope dealer." Hawver also told jurors that if Cheatham killed 2 women in 2003, he wouldn't have left alive a 3rd shooting victim to identify him to police.

"This trial strategy, developed and approved by Cheatham in writing, is the trial strategy that (Hawver) is now being prosecuted for," Hawver said.

Hawver represented Cheatham, now 41, during his 1st jury trial in 2005, in which he was convicted and sentenced to death.

The shootings occurred in December 2003 in a southeast Topeka house. Cheatham's retrial will be in 2015 and is expected to take 5 to 6 weeks. Cheatham's 1st trial lasted 8 days.

In the federal lawsuit, Hawver is seeking a federal court order to block his disbarment. If the state Supreme Court does disbar him, Hawver is asking the federal court to reinstate him as a Kansas attorney without conditions.

Hawver also is seeking $10 million from Kansas officials personally who have violated his constitutional rights and $5 million for other Kansas lawyers who could face retaliation if they sought redress for violation of rights by the state Supreme Court.

On May 13, 2014, Hawver filed a brief with the Kansas Supreme Court contesting the findings of a 3-member panel appointed by the Kansas Board for Discipline of Attorneys. In recommending disciplinary action, 2 members favored disbarring Hawver and one an indefinite suspension.

A disciplinary administrator has recommended that Hawver be disbarred.

Hawver asked panel members to order him not to handle any murder cases but to allow him to handle other cases in his rural Jefferson County law practice.

The disciplinary panel's findings found Hawver "was not competent to represent Cheatham" and cited 24 points. Hawver disputed all disciplinary panel findings.

(source: Topeka Capital Journal)

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

Capital charge filed over Topeka officer's death

A 30-year-old man has been charged with capital murder in the shooting death of a Topeka police officer.

Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor announced Wednesday that he had filed the charge against Ross Preston Lane, who was being held without bond. Kansas law allows the death penalty for the slaying of a law enforcement officer.

Police Cpl. Jason Harwood was shot to death Sunday after stopping a car in east Topeka.

Lane also was charged with possessing a stolen firearm and criminal possession of a firearm as a past felon.

Another 30-year-old man, Anthony Allen Ridens Jr., was charged with obstructing apprehension of a felon and possession of a stolen motorcycle.

(source: Associated Press)

MISSOURI:

Missouri Lies About Lethal Injection, Still Puts a Man to Death

We know almost nothing about how Earl Ringo Jr. was executed in the early hours of the morning by the State of Missouri. Missouri deliberately hid crucial facts about its lethal injection drugs and their administration, blocking the public from understanding how capital punishment is carried out in our name. This state government took the secrecy one step further, its officials telling outright lies under oath about what could happen to Mr. Ringo and others scheduled for execution. We need our courts to care enough to demand the truth. We need other states' governors to put a halt to executions until we have answers to the most basic questions about lethal injection.

Missouri was caught in its lies a week before Mr. Ringo's execution date. The Director of the Missouri Department of Corrections George Lombardi promised, under oath, that Missouri would not use midazolam, the controversial drug tied to botched executions in Oklahoma, Ohio, and Arizona. That was at a hearing held in January. But chemical log forms revealed last week prove that prison officials were in fact administering midazolam and had done so in executions both before and after Lombardi's testimony.

Instead of admitting to their flat-out lie, Missouri officials first tried to claim that the drug was "offered" to prisoners, as if it were their choice to receive a drug that had tortured prisoners in other states. But officials have conceded that the prisoners did not get to make the decision about whether to accept midazolam, a drug that is only administered intravenously.

Next, Missouri tried to change the definition of the word "execution" itself. Missouri Department of Corrections spokesman David Owen said that Missouri didn't use midozalm during the execution, only "in advance" of the execution. The record logs reveal that "in advance" means as little as three minutes before . Under this logic, Missouri could administer any secret torture regime in the hours leading up to an execution, outside of the public eye, without any review or disclosure.

Tragically, court majorities, over the vigorous dissents of a few judges, swallowed these verbal gymnastics and let the secrecy continue.

This kind of secrecy encourages and protects the use of shady manufacturers and illegal substances. Expired drugs, untested cocktails and methods - these are shameful examples of a criminal justice system gone terribly wrong. Indeed, back at the hearings in January, Department of Corrections officials disclosed that they purchased lethal injection drugs the same way one might buy crack cocaine: in the cover of the night, across state lines, with cash in hand.

More fundamentally, such covert action is un-American. We are a nation built on democracy, open government, and accountability. Our ideals are founded on the premise that our government doesn't lie to us, and that when it does, courts will care, and act.

4 justices of the United States Supreme Court voted last night to stop the execution of Ringo until these new revelations could be evaluated by a court. Unfortunately, that was one justice too few.

What's needed now is for federal courts and governors to halt all executions until we have answers to the most basic questions about lethal injection.

(source: ACLU)

COLORADO:

Gubernatorial running mates debate death penalty

Running mates for Gov. John Hickenlooper and Republican nominee Bob Beauprez debated a governor's role in the economy, fracking, the death penalty and more during a half-hour debate taped at Colorado Public Television's Denver studio Wednesday afternoon.

The debate in its entirety will air on CPT on Sept. 26 at 7:30 p.m.

At the height of the debate, Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia twice accused Douglas County Commissioner Jill Repella of being confused about the death penalty and fracking. Repella said Hickenlooper "punted" on the fate of death row inmate Nathan Dunlap by granting a temporary reprieve last year.

"We don't pick and choose which law we want to apply, and which law we don't want to apply," Repella said. "We don't have the opportunity to question it. The judicial branch of government is government. It went through that process."

She added: "The laws of Colorado are crystal clear. What's alarming to me is the inability to make a decision, one side or the other."

Garcia caused some among the dozen reporters and campaign staffers watching the taping on a monitor in the green room to lean back, and someone let out a whistling sigh as the lieutenant governor responded.

"I would suggest if Jill wants to be part of the executive branch she ought to read the constitution as it applies to the executive branch," Garcia said. "It directs the governor to do 1 of 3 things, and 1 of those 3 things is to grant a reprieve, so he did exactly what the constitution required him to do."

Hickenlooper granted an unusual temporary reprieve, leaving the decision for the next governor and saying at the time he wanted the state to have a discussion about capital punishment.

(source: Denver Post)

NEW MEXICO:

Time for state to shutter seldom-used death chamber

When New Mexico abolished the death penalty in 2009, it did not mean an end to all executions in the state. In fact, having covered the debate in Santa Fe at that time, I seriously doubt if the repeal bill would have been passed or signed by Gov. Bill Richardson had such a promise been made.

The cases of Timothy Allen and Robert Fry both figured prominently in the arguments against repeal. The 2 men had already been sentenced to death, and there was little apparent desire to alter those sentences.

Fry was convicted for the 2000 murder of Betty Lee, a 36-year-old Shiprock woman who was stabbed in the chest and had her head smashed with a sledgehammer later found at Fry's home. Her body was discovered in a remote area in Kirtland.

Allen was convicted in the kidnapping, sexual assault and murder of a 17-year-old girl, but his case raises serious questions not present with Fry's. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Allen's attorney had never tried a capital punishment case before and did not research or offer as a defense Allen's history of schizophrenia and hallucinations. No witnesses were called for the defense during the sentencing phase.

Still, the idea that two men already convicted and sentenced to death would have those sentences overturned by the Legislature was a bridge too far for lawmakers, who wrote the law to apply only to future cases, and to Richardson, who could have commuted the sentences at the time he signed the repeal bill, but chose not to.

Now, attorneys for the 2 men are taking their appeal to the Supreme Court. Arguments are scheduled for Oct. 1, according to Associated Press reporter Barry Massey.

"Executing Mr. Fry but not other members of the same class of offenders based only on a date is arbitrary and freakish," his attorney, Kathleen McGarry, said in written arguments.

There is much about the application of the death penalty in this country that is arbitrary and freakish, and it includes not just timing but geography.

If a murder is committed in Anthony, New Mexico, the murderer faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. If, however, the exact same murder happens a few steps away in Anthony, Texas, the killer could very well end up in the nation's busiest death chamber.

I'm not sure what would happen if the shooter was in New Mexico and the victim in Texas, or vice versa. And what if the victim falls right on the state line - head in New Mexico, feet in Texas? Will the killer end up in a New Mexico penitentiary or the Texas death chamber?

The real question, I think, is should a few inches either way make the difference between life and death.

Meanwhile, on Thursday we published a story about two brothers in North Carolina who were cleared by DNA evidence after serving decades on death row for a 1983 murder they were wrongfully convicted of. The circumstances of that case are, sadly, not at all unusual. The 2 boys, ages 19 and 15 at the time and with low IQs, were tricked into confessing to a crime they didn't commit and then convicted in a trial in which no physical evidence was presented connecting them to the case.

Their exoneration brings to 20 the number of inmates who had been sentenced to death but were later cleared by DNA evidence, according to The Innocence Project. And that's the real issue. The courts are not infallible. And, the less money and darker pigmentation a defendant has, the more flawed they tend to be.

New Mexico has had just 1 execution in the last 54 years - Terry Clark, who was put to death in 2001. He should be the last.

(source: Editorial; Walter Rubel is editorial page editor of the Las Cruces Sun-News)

ARIZONA:

Jodi Arias no longer wants to defend self in death trial

Jodi Arias won't represent herself in the penalty phase of her murder trial after all.

She said she was going to represent herself in the case Aug. 4, but changed her mind Wednesday.

Attorney Kirk Nurmi, who sought court permission to leave the case, will again represent Arias.

Arias, 34, was convicted of 1st-degree murder last year in the 2008 killing of Travis Alexander, but jurors couldn't reach a decision on sentencing. Under Arizona law, while Arias' murder conviction stands, prosecutors have the option of putting on a second penalty phase with a new jury in an effort to secure the death penalty. She could also be sentenced to life in prison.

Arias, who long clashed with her defense lawyers and tried to fire them previously, asked Judge Sherry Stephens last month to let her serve as her own lawyer during the 2nd penalty phase. Stephens granted the request but said there would be no delays.

"I do not believe it is in your best interest ... I strongly urge you to reconsider," Stephens told Arias before granting the motion.

Her latest move may come as a shock to some. A few experts believed Arias stood a good chance representing herself, not because of her skill, but because it could spare her life.

"It's actually probably a good idea to represent herself," said San Francisco-area defense attorney Daniel Horowitz. "She looks like a vicious psychopath with a ridiculous defense."

However, Horowitz noted, the jury "may find her pathetic."

"If she can get just one juror to bond with her on some level, even if they hate her, they're getting to know her, and it's harder to kill someone you know," he said.

(source: KTAR news)

CALIFORNIA:

Marilyn Kay Edge, Who Sought Death Penalty in Murder of Her 2 Kids, is Arraigned Today

Can we cut straight to the penalty phase? After all, an Arizona woman already asked an Orange County judge to put her to death last year for allegations she murdered her 2 children in a Santa Ana hotel room instead of turning them over to her ex-husband who had full custody.

Marilyn Kay Edge, Mom Accused of Murdering Her 2 Children, Has Arraignment Delayed

Scottsdale's Marilyn Kay Edge is scheduled to be arraigned in Santa Ana this morning after the grand jury handed down a murder indictment Tuesday alleging the 43-year-old suffocated her 13-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter before trying to kill herself in a Costa Mesa car crash.

She faces 2 counts of murder with special circumstance allegations of lying in wait. In October 2013, the 43-year-old had agreed with an Orange County judge to delay her arraignment "only if you promise to give me the death penalty."

According the Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA), Edge was under an order to return her son Jaelen and daughter Faith to their father in Georgia by noon on Sept. 15, 2013, as the Air Force reservist had full custody of his children. But days before, Edge drove the kids to California with promises of fun activities like the beach and Disneyland, say prosecutors.

Just after 8 a.m. on Sept. 14, 2013, Edge crashed a gray Honda Accord into steel poles protecting an electrical vault in the parking lot of the Albertsons supermarket at 2300 Harbor Blvd., Costa Mesa, and has first responders approached her she wrapped a cord around her neck, the OCDA says.

She told police about her children, whose bodies were found just after 9 a.m. inside the Hampton Inn & Suites at 2720 Hotel Terrace, Santa Ana, according to prosecutors. The original arraignment statement last year indicated the children had been poisoned. The OCDA had not yet explained why this year's indictment alleges the pair was suffocated.

However they died, Mark Edge, the father of the children, was so grief struck by the news he received on the front porch of his Marietta, Georgia, home that he had to be hospitalized, his attorney Marian Weeks told City News Service's Paul Anderson.

It had taken him years to win visitation, at which point his former wife moved with the children to Scottsdale. Mark Edge had to fight unfounded allegations his wife aired that he physically abused her and a friend of her ex-husband molested their daughter. Years of violating visitation orders led to the judge granting Mark Edge full custody, according to Weeks.

"If she just let him have weekend visitation, he would be the happiest person in the world, but she couldn't do that," Weeks said of Marilyn Edge. "It became so obvious that she would do anything to prevent visitation with her children."

(source: Orange County Weekly)

USA:

A capital idea: not for the squeamish

Convicted murderer Clayton Lockett took 40 minutes to die when he was executed by lethal injection in April of 2014. Just 14 minutes into the procedure, the ostensibly sedated murderer attempted to rise from his gurney and speak audibly. Just months later, the execution of Joseph Wood took nearly 2 hours. During his death, Wood is recorded to have gasped nearly 600 times.

In both cases, the states responsible for the executions were using an experimental sedative called Midazolam. This drug has become the go-to for lethal injections as more "traditional" execution drugs like Pentobarbital have been pulled from the market by conscientious manufacturers. Yet Midazolam's track record at sedation is obviously spotty. Lethal injection, once touted as painless and easy death, is quickly proving to be anything but.

The debate surrounding the death penalty in America has many ethical, religious, and constitutional components. While we will hopefully one day achieve consensus on whether or not our country ought to practice capital punishment, this will clearly not happen anytime soon. In the meantime, death row inmates will keep dying. Therefore, regardless of your stance on the death penalty, it's imperative that we have a conversation about the methods used to kill the condemned.

On paper, the current cocktail of lethal injection drugs sounds like an excellent method of execution - the condemned criminal is gently sedated while his vital functions are powered down one by one. But differing rates of metabolism, clogged needles and a host of other problems have resulted in a high rate of botched executions, about 7.1%, according to Amherst's Austin Sarat. Clearly, a better procedure is needed, and the answer can be found in the only method with a zero % botch rate - the firing squad.

Consider the advantages of shooting a prisoner full of lead instead of potassium chloride. Because death by gunshot relies on physically traumatizing the body's vital systems rather than chemically shutting them off, issues of toxin resistance or body composition are rendered moot. Any convict shot half a dozen times at close range will die quickly, with far less opportunity for the anguish seen in the deaths of Lockett and Wood. For example, consider the execution of Utah's Ronnie Lee Gardner, who was pronounced dead only 2 minutes after being shot in 2010. Can it really be argued that he suffered more than those whose deaths took hours?

Additionally, participation in a firing squad requires none of the special training needed to handle or administer killer drugs - anyone competent enough to operate a rifle could be eligible to serve out the execution. Whereas lethal injection depends on many complex mechanisms, both artificial and organic, to work as intended, the probability of a rifle malfunction is slim.

It's also unlikely that ammunition or arms manufacturers will raise moral objections to their products being used to take life. After all, many of these companies already advertise weapons to both police and civilians for use on criminals. Even if these companies do try to boycott the death penalty, police departments doubtless have sufficient stockpiles of weaponry to carry out all necessary executions for the foreseeable future. As a result, the justice system will not be forced to use "experimental bullets," as they've had to do with Midazolam.

The squeamish, of course, will object that the firing squad is too gruesome a death to be used in a civilized society. Given the agony evidently suffered by victims of lethal injection, that case is becoming increasingly more difficult to make. Moreover, the practical result of both execution methods is the same - a dead convict. The firing squad even provides the same diffuse responsibility associated with lethal injection. Just as only one of the technicians sending drugs down the condemned's IV tube actually administers a fatal dose, one man on the firing squad can be given a blank round or a dummy bullet. As an execution tool, the rifle need be no more psychologically traumatizing than the needle. And considering the fate of the man on death row are the sensibilities of the headsmen really a priority?

Of course, it's possible to argue that our society ought not to execute criminals at all. Such a position is certainly worthy of consideration and vigorous debate. But if we can't agree on that, can we at least agree that we shouldn't torture criminals to death?

(source: Stephen Raab, The Observer)

TANZANIA:

CA supports death penalty

CA member, Zarina MadabidaThe death penalty is likely to remain in the new constitution as members of the Constituent Assembly (CA) yesterday expressed general support for capital punishment and suggested hanging of corrupt public officers.

The CA is of the view that the penalty is the best punishment for cases involving cold blood murder among others.

"It is not prudent for us to dissolve our penal code in favour of killers, death penalty is well stipulated in the country laws, and it is only applicable to murder related offences," said CA member Zarina Madabida calling for the penalty to stay.

"If we remove it then we will in effect be fuelling crime especially killings of the weak like women, children and the elderly," she argued. She said ongoing killings of people with albinism and other superstitious related murders would also increase.

Late mid this week, a section of the CA members expressed concern on the matter raising similar arguments, removal of the death penalty will fuel murder cases.

Many are of the view that the death penalty is only disputed on the religious grounds and by human rights activities whom they said are 'forgetting that those who face the penalty had either conspired to or had taken away lives of other human beings.'

The law makers maintained that offences such as terror attacks, organising terror plots, treason, murder, economic sabotage and conspiracy to commit murder deserve the death penalty and that the new constitution should only modify the means of executing the penalty.

Similarly, CA member Jesca Msambatavangu expressed her support to hang persons found guilty of corruption and she received support from Prof Mark Mwandosya who said persons guilty of misappropriation of public funds should be hanged.

(source: IPP media)

MALAYSIA:

Dr Mahathir tells former IGP to try the death sentence

The former Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan "should try the death penalty on himself", Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today on Musa's call that the Sedition Act include capital punishment. Musa had said that the Sedition Act should not be retained but instead be amended to include stiffer punishments, including the death penalty.

"Maybe he (Musa) should try it himself," said Dr Mahathir, Malaysia's longest serving prime minister from 1981 to 2003.

Dr Mahathir's comment comes amid Putrajaya's blitz against political opponents and others who have voiced critical opinions deemed seditious under the act's loose definition. Dr Mahathir himself had used the now-repealed Internal Security Act during Operasi Lalang in 1987 and 1988 to curtail political dissent. The former prime minister had also curbed the authority of the royals with constitutional amendments in 1993 to remove their immunity from criminal prosecution. However, Umno divisions and a group called Gerakan Warganegara Mempertahankan Akta Hasutan 1948 have called for the Sedition Act to be retained to protect the position of the Malays, Islam and the royalty.

Musa had given his support to the group which was launched yesterday. Dr Mahathir was asked about the current spate of arrests and charges under the Sedition Act at a book launch he attended today, but appeared reluctant to comment other than to make the quip about Musa trying the death penalty himself. Musa, who was IGP from 2006 to 2010, had said that stiffer punishments, like the death penalty, were needed for those who were repeat offenders. He was also quoted by Berita Harian today as saying that the Sedition Act should not be abolished simply to satisfy the demands of certain quarters.

"I believe that those who always incite and do this purposely should be given a stiffer punishment. The laws are there but they still do it even though they know it is wrong." Musa suggested that Malaysia should follow Singapore, which still retains the Internal Security Act (ISA) as well as the Sedition Act.

(source: The Malaysian Insider)

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

Former IGP wants death penalty in Sedition Act

Former inspector-general of police Musa Hassan believes that the Sedition Act should not be abolished and should instead be amended to include stiffer punishments.

These stiffer punishments, Musa said, should include the death penalty, so as to ensure that those who are stubborn and continue making the same offence (of incitement) are suitably punished.

(source: Malaysiakini.com)

IRAN----executions

9 prisoners including 2 women hanged

The Iranian regime's henchmen hanged 9 prisoners including 2 women in past 2 days in Karaj and Varamin cities.

According to the reports received from inside the regime, at-least 5 prisoners were hanged on Thursday in Gezel-hasar prison in city of Karaj. Also a woman and a man were hanged in Gohardasht prison in the same city. 2 prisoners including a woman were hanged on Wednesday in Varamin.

Reports indicate that at-least 22 prisoners were transferred to Gohardasht prison on Wednesday to await their executions.

Also on Wednesday, 2 young Iranian men in their 20s were hanged in public in city of Hamadan allegedly for being 'evil', the regime's judiciary declared in a statement.

The victims, identified as Vahid Q., 24 and Bahman Moussavi, 22, were hanged in Resalat district of Hamadan. State-run media published reports on public executions carried out in Hamadan while no report has been published on the executions carried out in Karaj and Varamin.

Violations of human rights in Iran has taken new dimensions since Hassan Rouhani has taken office as the president of the Iranian regime.

Under so-called 'moderate' Hassan Rouhani the country has faced highest number of executions in a year compared to any Iranian president for the past 25 years.

(source: NCR-Iran)

PAKISTAN:

Pakistan to resume capital punishment after 6-year moratorium

After observing a 6-year 'informal' moratorium on capital punishments, Pakistan is all set to hang a death row prisoner on September 18, amid outcry by human rights activists demanding abolition of the death penalty.

A district and session's court in Rawalpindi has ordered the authorities concerned to execute a death row prisoner, Shoaib Sarwar, currently languishing in Haripur prison in Rawalpindi's Adiala Jail on September 18.

The convict was awarded death sentence on July 2, 1998 on the charge of murdering a man named Awais Nawaz at Wah Cantt in Rawalpindi in 1996.

The victim's brother had moved the high court against the delay in implementing the sentence despite exhaustion of all appeals by the convict and rejection of his clemency plea by the President.

The High Court (Rawalpindi) ordered the district and sessions judge to implement the execution of the sentence.

District and Sessions Judge Abdul Sattar yesterday ordered the Adiala Jail authorities to implement the death sentence of Shaoib.

The last execution of a civilian death row prisoner in Pakistan had taken place in late 2008. Executions had since been suspended.

Taking strong exception to the decision, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed grave concern over the scheduled hanging of the convict in Adiala Jail despite an informal moratorium on executions.

The HRCP has called upon the government to stay the hanging and announce a formal moratorium on executions.

"We wish to remind the government that the reasons that have caused the stay of executions since 2008 have not changed. These include the well-documented deficiencies of the law, flaws in administration of justice and investigation methods and chronic corruption.

"In view of these factors, capital punishment allows for a high probability of miscarriages of justice, which is wholly unacceptable in a civilised society, particularly because the punishment is irreversible," HRCP said.

Against this backdrop, Sarwar's planned execution on September 18 is a regressive step and raises concerns at several levels, it said.

Despite the informal stay of executions, capital punishment remains on Pakistan's statute books for 28 offences, and the courts continue to award death sentences.

HRCP calls upon the government to immediately halt this and any other executions that might be under consideration and make the informal suspension of executions formal without further delay.

It demanded that the government must take urgent measures towards abolition of capital punishment, including deletion of the death penalty from the statute book, at least for all but the most serious offences.

The HRCP has also urged the government to sign the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aimed at the abolition of the death penalty.

(source: Zee news)

SOUTH AFRICA/BOTSWANA:

Home affairs slams illegal deportation of Botswana man----Edwin Samotse was handed over to Botswana police despite a High Court ruling that he could not be extradited.

The Department of Home Affairs says the 2 officials who illegally deported a man to Botswana where he was wanted on murder charges, knew they should not have sent him there without first receiving an assurance he wouldn't face the death penalty.

The department confirmed yesterday that Edwin Samotse was handed over to Botswana police despite a High Court ruling that he could not be extradited. The Constitutional Court has ruled twice that foreign nationals cannot be extradited to their home countries if there is a danger they'll face the death penalty.

The department's Mayihlome Tshwete said, "We have documents that prove where we stand on the matter."

(source: Eyewitness News)

GLOBAL:

Religious mistakes that are punishable by death - if you take every text literally

Are you doomed to an eternity of fire and brimstone? Are you sure?

A "guide to the wrath of god" under the world's major religions shows it's pretty easy to get it wrong.

The graphic depicts all the wrongdoings that are punishable with the death penalty, according to teachings of various religious texts.

It reveals you could be knocking on heaven's pearly gates for deeds as seemingly innocuous as having sex with a low-class woman, drinking alcohol, being gay or failing to attack a thief.

Even the smallest crimes warrant death in the eyes of at least one religion, according to the infographic created on Visual.ly by Natalya Stanko and "jess".

They include swearing, attempting a seance, disrespecting a court and "lending money at unreasonably high rates."

And unfortunately, you won't be able to protect yourself by obeying all the laws at once.

Refusal to convert to Islam seems likely to clash with breaking a Jewish or Christian Sabbath.

The list of evils reveals plenty about the differences and similarities between widely followed belief systems.

It is divided into 4 categories - violence, sex, greed and insolence.

Interestingly, Hindu misdemeanours dominate the "greed" section, while most of the Jewish, Islamic and Christian sins come under the category of "insolence".

The Mormon god limits the death penalty to murderers and livestock thieves.

Confucians also have just one: "enriching a ruler who does not practise human government".

The behaviour that most agree will invoke death is adultery - under Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and Islam - and murder - under Christianity, Judaism, Mormonism and Islam.

In some cases, the nature of the death is specified.

Muslims who spread false rumours about their wives will be beheaded. Buddhists who plan to commit mass murder will be speared. Mormons who steal livestock will be stoned and cut up with a sword.

Hindus who have sex with a guru's wife will be burned with a heated metal image of a woman, or castrated and then made to walk south carrying their genitalia.

The graphic is undoubtedly open to questions of interpretation.

A Mormon commenter writes on Visua.ly: "Throughout the Book of Mormon, there are references to people being put to death, but they are judged by the laws of the land."

Another user says: "Homosexuality is not a sin condemned in Leviticus or Romans but rather it condemns inhospitality, gang rape and 1-night stands that have nothing to do with love."

In some cases, the graphic’s creators admit they have selected a text that only applies to one sect rather than the whole religion.

In an analysis of religious views on the death penalty, the BBC says "the death penalty is clearly inconsistent with Buddhist teaching", and that Hinduism "opposes killing, violence and revenge."

Yet some Hindu and Buddhist countries retain the death penalty, for reasons including cultural customs, deterrence, tradition and political or economic unrest.

Christians have argued for and against.

Islam "on the whole" accepts capital punishment, but forgiveness is preferable. Prominent Islamic studies experts have made this point after recent accusations that Islam promotes violence.

The state of Israel has abolished the death penalty, despite Jewish texts reading "life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth" and "a man who spills human blood, his own blood shall be spilt by man".

Many of these religions maintain that they require scholars to interpret texts rather than reading them in isolation.

Nevertheless, the graphic makes the point a literal interpretation of religions would lead to a large amount of bloodshed.

(source: news.com.au)

SAUDI ARABIA:

UN asks S. Arabia to impose moratorium on death penalty

As Saudi Arabia continues to execute/behead convicts as a form of punishment, two United Nations human rights experts have called on the Saudi government to impose a moratorium on death penalty.

"Beheading as a form of execution is cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and prohibited under international law under all circumstances," said Juan Mendez, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, said on Tuesday.

"Despite several calls by human rights bodies, Saudi Arabia continues to execute individuals with appalling regularity and in flagrant disregard of international law standards," said Christof Heyns, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

According to the experts, so far in 2014 at least 45 people have been executed in Saudi Arabia. Between August 4 and 22, 22 people were executed, which represents an average of 1 execution per day. These included at least 8 people beheaded for non-violent crimes including drug-smuggling and sorcery. Other offences resulting in beheading have reportedly included adultery and apostasy.They called upon the Government of Saudi Arabia to stop all executions, and in particular to cease immediately the use of beheadings or other such forms of execution that shock the conscience of humanity.

(source: Dawn)

CHINA:

Reports seek to raise CCTV host Rui Chenggang's offenses to treason

Rui Chenggang, the former news anchor for China's state broadcaster CCTV, could potentially face the death penalty for corruption and allegedly selling information about Chinese leaders to Western media, reports Duowei News, a US-based Chinese political news website.

37-year-old Rui, who has more than 10 million followers on Sina Weibo, China's version of Twitter, was detained by the authorities on July 11.

Wang Guoxiang, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences specializing in the Middle East, military affairs and anti-terrorism, slammed Rui on Weibo over the Mid-Autumn Festival long weekend, saying the TV anchor was "facing the death penalty" and that his "brain must have broken down" from taking so much money and even acting as a spy.

"This world is very fair," Wang wrote. "No matter how high your position, don't forget that you were raised by the Chinese people and that everything you have was given to you by this land," he added like a regular 50-center.

Wang has stood by his comments in the face of questions from netizens, saying that he has a honorable reputation and never releases fake information. His post about Rui has been forwarded several thousand times.

Speculation surrounding Rui's fate began after his longtime patron Guo Zhenxi, the head of state-run CCTV's financial news channel, was detained for allegedly accepting bribes in June. Reports say Rui's detention is linked to Guo's case as well as suggestions that he also profited personally from using CCTV resources after it was revealed that he co-founded a public relations company called Pegasus in 2002 and held between 7.92% to 36% of the company's shares for more than eight years. After Pegasus was acquired by American PR giant Edelman in 2007, the company began counting CCTV as one of its clients between 2009 and 2010, all while Rui remained a stakeholder in the firm and continued working for CCTV.

More extreme are the unverified claims that Rui had acted as a spy in providing Western media outlets with details on the wealth of Chinese president and Communist Party chief Xi Jinping as well as former premier Wen Jiabao and other high-ranking officials.

In the 6 months leading up to the 18th National Congress in November 2012, when Xi was named the party's next general secretary, Bloomberg released a report detailing the US$376 million of assets belonging to Xi's extended family, while the New York Times also published a report on the "hidden fortune" of Wen's family that was said to have been at least US$2.7 billion. Chinese authorities dismissed the reports as a "smear campaign," but commentators said the damage against their respective reputations had been done.

It was not until after the downfall of China's former security and oil tsar Zhou Yongkang in late July, however, that Wang's involvement in these articles came to light. The latest edition of the Chinese-language Boxun Magazine claims that Rui used his connections with Western journalists to allow Zhou ally Ling Jihua and his wife Gu Liping to leak the damaging information. Ling, the current head of the CPC's United Front Work Department, was a former "political fixer" for ex-president Hu Jintao but fell from grace in March 2012 after his son died in a car crash.

Gu has already confessed to China's anti-graft authorities, the magazine said, though Ling has denied his involvement. Investigators are still trying to ascertain whether Rui had been unintentionally involved in leaking information to Western press or whether he had made money out of the arrangement, the Boxun report added.

(source: Want China Times)

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

Aussies face death in China drug crackdown; A new travel warning has been issued after the arrest of Australians on drug charges in China, which imposes the death penalty in the most serious cases.

Australians charged with drug offences in China could face the death penalty, prompting the federal government to update its travel advisory.

A government source said an unspecified number of Australians had been arrested for drug offences in China since late last year when a crackdown began.

They had been charged, but had not yet been through the full judicial process.

Asked whether they faced the death penalty, the senior source said: "It's conceivable, but depends on the process of the judicial system.

"They are serious cases and we are not taking them lightly."

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on Thursday altered its travel advice to China to specifically warn of the dangers of drug possession and trafficking in China and the potential for the death penalty to be imposed for the most serious offences.

The government spokesman said all of the arrested Australians had been offered consular assistance and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had been briefed.

To date, no Australians have been executed under China's tough anti-drugs laws.

2 Ugandans were executed in July and a further 23 of their countrymen are believed to be on death row for drug offences.

DFAT said Chinese police had picked up a number of foreigners this year attempting to traffic drugs out of the airports in Guangzhou and Hong Kong.

The overall travel alert level for China remains at the lowest level "exercise normal safety precautions".

But the department is concerned that Australians - 300,000 of whom visit China each year - are not receiving the warning that there are severe penalties in place for the use, possession and trafficking of drugs.

Australian travellers are encouraged not to carry parcels or luggage for other people into China or out of the country if they do not know the contents.

The Australian government is opposed in principle to capital punishment, but is not in a position to override or seek to intervene in the Chinese judicial process.

The government source said under Chinese law there was "very limited scope" to appeal for clemency or pardon.

The Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua says there has been a 72 % rise in drug-related arrests over the past year.

(source: sbs.com.au)

SEPTEMBER 10, 2014:

TEXAS----execution

Houston man executed in deaths of estranged lover, her brother

Willie Tyrone Trottie, condemned for the murder of his estranged wife and her brother, went to his death in Texas' execution chamber Wednesday offering apologies to his victims' family.

As relatives of Barbara Canada and Titus Canada embraced and sobbed, Trottie smiled faintly, called their names and said, "I hope this brings you some closure. Stay strong. I am going home to be with the Lord.

"Find it in your hearts to forgive me. I'm sorry," he continued. "Jesus take me home."

Trottie, 45, was declared dead at 6:35 p.m. - 30 minutes after the lethal injection of pentobarbital began flowing.

Later, relatives of the victims issued a statement saying they were "glad to see justice finally served all these years later. It is time for our family to end this chapter and move on."

Trottie's case gained national attention earlier this year when he shared his views concerning his crime, death row and capital punishment with the online publication, gawker.com. In his letter, Trottie denounced his pending execution as a "murdercution."

The former Houston security guard's death sentence grew out a romantic relationship that ended on May 3, 1993 in a bloody shootout at the Canada family home. Trottie insisted that he had fired his 9 mm semi-automatic "in the heat of passion," only after he had been wounded by shots fired by his estranged lover's brother. Trottie said he had gone to the residence to borrow a car.

Accounts of the fatal night included in court documents, though, indicate Trottie's appearance at the Canada home came after repeated threats that he would murder Barbara Canada if she failed to return to him. "Bitch, I told you I was going to kill you," he said as he pumped 11 bullets into the 24-year-old woman's body. Titus Canada, 29, was shot twice in the head, and the pair's mother and sister also were wounded.

Trial witnesses testified that Trottie frequently telephoned his former lover at home and work and that, on one occasion, he bumped her car with his vehicle at highway speeds.

In response to the threats and harassment, Barbara Canada obtained a restraining order barring further contact.

In state and federal appeals filed days before the scheduled execution, Trottie's lawyers argued that Canada - mother of Trottie's young son - continued their intimate relationship despite the court order. Arguing that Trottie had suffered from ineffective representation, they said that jurors in their client's first trial never heard such testimony - testimony that might have lent credence to his claims of passion and self-defense.

16 years passed, they told appeals courts, before prosecutors told Trottie's legal team that a trial witness had privately conceded that Canada "probably had messed with (Trottie's) mind."

According to court documents, Trottie and Canada began dating in 1989, later living together in a common-law marriage. They separated 3 years later.

In an 11th-hour filing Tuesday with the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, Trottie's lawyers questioned whether state prison officials were truthful when they asserted pentobarbital to be used in the execution would remain potent and pure. Lawyers asked the court to issue a stay and schedule oral arguments concerning the compounding pharmacy-produced drug.

Trottie becomes the 8th condemned inmate to be put to death in Texas this year, and the 516th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on december 7, 1982. Trottie becomes the 277th condemned inmate to be put to death in Texas since Rick Perry became Governor in 2001.

Trottie becomes the 29th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1388th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

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

Executions under Rick Perry, 2001-present-----277

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982-present----516

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

278------------Sept. 17------------------Lisa Coleman---------517

279------------Oct. 15------------------Larry Hatten----------518

280------------Oct. 28------------------Miguel Paredes--------519

281------------Jan. 14------------------Rodney Reed-----------520

282------------Jan. 21-------------------Arnold Prieto--------521

283------------Jan. 28-------------------Garcia White---------522

284------------Feb. 4--------------------Donald Newbury-------523

285------------Feb. 10-------------------Les Bower, Jr.-------524

286------------Mar. 18-------------------Randall Mays---------525

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

WYOMING:

Wyoming should retain death penalty

Wyoming has the death penalty and needs to use it to punish killers.

It's the right thing to do.

There is a sense of urgency for the good people of Wyoming to shout loud on this issue. That's because lawmakers, pushed by church leaders and others, may try to ban the death penalty in 2015.

Bills to end the death penalty in Wyoming are being formulated by the Joint Judiciary Interim Committee this week at the University of Wyoming by lawmakers who believe putting murderers to death with lethal injections is brutal and inhumane.

Tell that to the family of Hildegard Volgyesi of Clark, slain in March 2013 by the now-incarcerated Stephen Hammer.

Hammer's friends now say he was a "scared kid" who was "out of his mind" on drugs and hanging out with a bad crowd when he killed Mrs. Hildegard.

Regardless, the former oil field worker made a deal to go to prison for life for his unspeakable crime. He said: Lock me up; don't kill me. The prosecution agreed, with the caveat that he could never seek parole. Ever. So the judge gave him "life without parole."

1 year later, Hammer has changed his mind. He wants freedom - some day. Hammer's friends have written impassioned letters to District Judge Steven Cranfill seeking that possibility.

Hammer tells the judge in his letter: "1 action does not define who I am or who I'm going to be."

How arrogant. Of course it does. Most everyday people believe: Once a killer, always a killer.

Church folk are more forgiving. Many take the tack that "revenge" - an eye for an eye - is not what civilized people do.

But when it comes to cold-blooded murderers - like the freaks who decapitated a man near Clark in January and Myron Friday, the Cody man who stabbed his wife Julie with a screwdriver 40 times while killing her in February 2012 - should we treat them like the civilized people they're not?

They lost that entitlement when they killed people.

Forget parole for any killer. The people a killer kills can't resume their lives. Why should you, Mr. Murderer?

Dozens of readers are outraged that Hammer and murderers like him breathe the same air as decent people.

Robert Johnston is among the few Enterprise readers who say parole is reasonable. He says that would be OK - "in 100 years."

Tammy Frank says keep the original deal with a killer and live with it.

Dozens of Enterprise readers say murderers deserve death.

James Johnston and Kasey Cape say, "Just hang him."

Wes Livingston would make an example of any killer with "public execution by firing squad on the courthouse lawn."

Clay Lynn has the best eye-for-an-eye answer: "Maybe they should let the victim's husband decide."

Murderer Tanner VanPelt made the same deal as Hammer - life without parole. But he's not asking for parole. VanPelt knows he was lucky to escape with his life.

The question for lawmakers remains: Should murderers die?

Reader Melissa Bushman votes yes. A murderer, she says, "should get the same chance at a life that he allowed" his victim.

(source: Hawke Fracassa; Cody Enterprise)

TEXAS----imminent execution

High court rejects condemned Texas inmate appeals

The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected last-minute appeals from a Texas death row inmate.

It clears the way for Willie Trottie's execution more than two decades after he was convicted of slaying his former common-law wife and her brother.

Trottie, who turned 45 on Monday, has acknowledged shooting 24-year-old Barbara Canada and her 28-year-old brother, Titus, at their parents' Houston home. Trottie said the 1993 shootings were accidental and in self-defense.

Canada had a protective order against Trottie.

About an hour before Trottie's lethal injection scheduled for Wednesday, the high court turned down two appeals. One contended Trottie's lawyers at his 1993 trial were deficient. The other argued the pentobarbital to be used to execute him was past its effectiveness date and could subject Trottie to unconstitutional "tortuous" pain.

(source: Associated Press)

NORTH CAROLINA:

NC prosecutor weighs reopening infamous 1983 case

The prosecutor who cleared the way for North Carolina's longest-serving death-row inmate and his half brother to walk free says the case disproved his previous public comments that no innocent men were on the state's death row.

Robeson County District Attorney Johnson Britt said in an interview that he hasn't made up his mind on whether to reopen the case on Sabrina Buie's 1983 slaying after new DNA evidence freed Henry McCollum from death row and Leon Brown from a life sentence. The DNA evidence points to another man serving life in prison for similar killing, and Britt is considering whether to pursue charges against that inmate.

A judge's decision last week to free McCollum and Brown hinged largely on Britt's conclusion that new DNA evidence negated the case put forward at their trials in Buie's slaying.

The new DNA evidence lifted from a cigarette butt was disclosed in June to Britt. "I was stunned," said the prosecutor, who was a 1st-year law student when one of his predecessors first tried Brown and McCollum.

Several years ago, Britt said during a televised forum that there were no innocent men on death row. Now, he says: "I stand corrected."

The inmate whose DNA was found on the butt left near Buie is serving life in prison for the rape and murder of an 18-year-woman about a month after Buie's death. The Associated Press has not named the inmate because he hasn't been charged.

A sheriff's deputy who questioned Brown was the lead investigator on the Brockman case, and there were several similarities between the 2 killings.

"It's hard to fathom that they didn't make the connection," Britt said.

Britt said he would meet with Buie's family and consider their wishes before re-opening the case.

"They were very shocked by last week's hearing and the outcome. Understandably so. They've been through 3 trials," he said.

Relatives of Sabrina Buie didn't return messages left earlier this week seeking comment on the case.

Britt, who previously served as the president of the state Conference of District Attorneys, said the case has heightened his concerns about the costs of death penalty litigation, noting that the Innocence Inquiry Commission spent more than $100,000 investigating Brown and McCollum's claim.

He said he's not opposed to the death penalty and that his office has even been criticized for pursuing too many capital cases. Not long after becoming district attorney in 1994, Britt sought death sentences for the 2 men who killed Michael Jordan's father, but both were given life in prison by a jury.

But he said he has concerns about the expense of capital punishment and whether it deters would-be criminals. He said the state legislature should re-examine the death penalty.

"Take the political philosophies out of it. What's the cost of it? What benefit does it serve? It's not a deterrent. It never has been a deterrent. The only person the death penalty deters is the person who was sentenced," Britt said.

(source: Associated Press)

TEXAS----impending execution

Texas appeals court rejects inmate's lawsuit over expired execution drugs

A highly debated execution is set to move forward today in Texas.

Willie Trottie, 45, is facing execution for the 1993 shooting deaths of his estranged common-law wife, Barbara Canada, 24, and her brother, Titus, 28, at their home. He would be 8th Texas prisoner executed this year. His attorneys alleged in a federal lawsuit the sedative intended for his lethal injection is expired and its use could cause him unconstitutionally "torturous" pain.

The lawsuit, rejected by a federal judge in Houston and before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday, was merely another attempt to force Texas prison officials to reveal its drug provider, they said. State lawyers argued the pentobarbital planned for Trottie was effective through the end of this month.

Texas, like several other states with capital punishment, has addressed the refusal by mainstream drug companies to sell drugs for executions by turning to compounding pharmacies, which operate under less stringent supervision. Also like some other death penalty states, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has refused to identify its supplier, a practice the courts so far have upheld.

Maurie Levin, the lead attorney for the drug lawsuit, said the pentobarbital for Trottie would come from a supply Texas obtained earlier this year and that scientific literature on compounded drugs suggests they lose effectiveness after a week or a month depending on factors like storage and sterility.

"All they're saying is: Take our word for it - Sept. 30," Levin said, calling Texas prison officials "untrustworthy."

The lawsuit sought a court order identifying the drug source, the compounding date, how it was transported and how it's been stored, and a reprieve for Trottie so the legality and constitutionality of the process can be adjudicated.

The arguments were "nothing more than rank speculation," assistant Texas Attorney General Fredericka Sargent said in a court filing.

The death penalty has come under increased scrutiny since executions recently went awry in Oklahoma and Arizona, states that use drug combinations for capital punishment. Texas uses only pentobarbital.

"Whatever happened in those states has nothing to do with what happens in Texas," Sargent said.

At least 1 other appeal to halt Trottie's punishment was headed to the U.S. Supreme Court after the 5th Circuit rejected arguments from another legal team that argued defense lawyers at Trottie's trial were deficient for not adequately addressing his assertion that Titus Canada's death was in self-defense.

Trottie didn't deny the shootings but questioned the circumstances that led to his conviction.

"I shot my brother-in-law in self-defense and I shot my wife by accident," he told The Associated Press in a recent interview. "There's no doubt I committed this crime. The dispute is the sequence of how it happened."

Trottie said Titus Canada fired 1st and he was defending himself. Trottie also said his gun "went off," killing his wife, during a struggle with her and her sister.

Johnny Sutton, the lead prosecutor at Trottie's November 1993 trial, said Barbara Canada began recording Trottie's threatening phone calls to her after their breakup.

"I had him on tape saying exactly what he was going to do, and then, of course, he did it," Sutton said.

(source: ABC news)

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

Texas inmate seeks last-minute halt to execution

The U.S. Supreme Court was considering last-minute appeals from a Texas death row inmate scheduled for execution Wednesday, more than 2 decades after he was convicted in the slayings of his former common-law wife and her brother.

Willie Trottie, who turned 45 on Monday, has acknowledged shooting Barbara Canada, 24, who had a protective order against him, and her brother, Titus Canada, 28, at their parents' home in Houston in 1993. Trottie said the shootings were accidental and in self-defense, and not worthy of a death sentence.

"I'm ready whichever way it goes," Trottie said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. "If God says, 'yes,' I'm ready."

His attorneys appealed to the nation's highest court, arguing that Trottie's lawyers at his 1993 trial were deficient for not addressing his self-defense theory and for failing to produce sufficient testimony about Trottie's abusive childhood with an alcoholic mother.

State attorneys scoffed at the argument, saying Trottie's self-defense claim was absurd and had been rejected in earlier appeals.

But Trottie's attorneys are also argued in a separate civil rights lawsuit that the dose of pentobarbital scheduled to be used during the lethal injection Wednesday evening was past its effectiveness date. That could subject Trottie to unconstitutional "tortuous" pain, attorney Maurie Levin said in a lawsuit rejected Tuesday by a federal appeals court. The suit was being taken to the Supreme Court, she said.

The state argues that the drug doesn't expire until the end of the month and that tests showed proper potency. They argued the appeal seeking details of the drug was merely another attempt to force prison officials to disclose the compounding pharmacy that provides its execution drugs, something the courts repeatedly have refused to order.

Trottie's lethal injection would be the 8th this year in Texas, and the first in the nation's most active death penalty state since recent executions went awry in Oklahoma and Arizona. Unlike those states, where a drug combination is used for capital punishment, Texas uses a single lethal dose of pentobarbital, a powerful sedative.

Evidence showed that Barbara Canada had called police several times about Trottie and obtained a protective order to keep him away after she said he shot out the tires of her car and threatened to kill her if she didn't return to him.

He called her May 3, 1993, renewing the death threat, then showed up at her parents' house and opened fire with a semi-automatic pistol, according to investigators. Titus Canada also had a gun and wounded Trottie, who then cornered his ex-wife in a bedroom and shot her 11 times before returning to the wounded brother and shooting him twice in the back of the head.

Trottie drove himself to a hospital, where police arrested him.

"There's no doubt I committed this crime," Trottie recently told the AP from prison. "The dispute is the sequence of how it happened."

Trottie said Titus Canada fired first, and that his gun "went off" during a struggle, killing his wife.

Trial prosecutor Johnny Sutton said the claims were "absolutely ridiculous."

"He hunted them down," Sutton said. "They already were worried about him. He was making threats."

Connie Willliams, Trottie's lead defense attorney, acknowledged that it was a hard case to defend.

"It was very difficult to defend on the facts," he said. "There were eyewitnesses. He went there with a gun ... to do what he thought he had to do."

If carried out, Trottie will be the 2nd death-row inmate executed in the U.S. on Wednesday. Earl Ringo Jr. received a lethal injection just after midnight in Missouri for a 1998 robbery and double murder.

Trottie is among at least 10 convicted killers in Texas with execution dates in the coming months. Next week, an Arlington woman, Lisa Coleman, 38, is set to die for the starvation and torture death of her female roommate's 9-year-old son in 2004.

(source: Associated Press)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Torture, Not Justice----The wrongful conviction of 2 North Carolina brothers highlights the injustice of the death penalty.

Soon after taking the oath of office in 2009, President Barack Obama banned torture - or more precisely, certain forms of torture - by U.S. interrogators dealing with prisoners and detainees in armed conflicts. But nothing stopped what amounted to the torture of 2 North Carolina men who spent decades in prison, one of whom was awaiting a state-sponsored execution, for a crime they did not commit.

Henry McCollum and his brother, Leon Brown, were both teenagers with intellectual disabilities in 1983 when they were arrested for the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl. They were brow-beaten by police, who gave them the impression that if they just signed a statement, they would be able to leave the police station. They were confused and scared, as any person - especially a young person facing all those authority figures - would be. They did not get to leave the station. "I just made up a story and gave it to them. My mind was focused on getting out of that police station," McCollum reportedly told the Raleigh News & Observer. Both were convicted of the crimes, and both were sentenced to death. Brown's death conviction was later re-litigated, resulting in a sentence of life in prison.

DNA evidence, unearthed by the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, exonerated the 2 men and put the crime on another man, a serial rapist and murderer. McCollum and Brown were then released from prison.

This is what passes for a happy story in a nation that continues to execute people - and botch the process, sometimes, which adds to the horror of it all - despite the fact that there have been cases of wrongful convictions. An April study by the science journal PNAS found that more than 4 % of inmates sentenced to death are probably innocent. We are supposed to be joyful that the men were finally set free, that justice was eventually done.

But what justice can been squeezed out of a situation where two men lost 30 years of their lives? What can become of men who must have wondered how they could live in the United States of America, be charged and convicted of a crime they didn't commit and die for the mistake?

McCollum not only had to face his own impending execution, but he had to watch as dozens of men were hauled off for their own state-sanctioned killing, McCollum's lawyer, Ken Rose, noted. How is that not torture?

It would be easier, too, if we could write it all off to virulent racism or some affirmative effort to punish innocent people. But mistakes happen, and human beings under pressure to respond to public outrage over a terrible crime are themselves hindered by their own biases. Yes, African-American men are much more likely to face execution than white men. But it's not because juries are racist. The disparity starts much earlier: Police are under tremendous pressure to make a collar. Prosecutors are under tremendous pressure to hold someone accountable. They tend to respond more aggressively (seeking the death penalty) in cases which provoke more public outcry. Once the conviction is achieved and the sentence handed down, authorities don’t like revisiting the case, since questioning the facts after the trial could undermine public confidence in the system.

But it is exactly cases such as McCollum's and Brown's that should make us question the system constantly. Eyewitness testimony is often unreliable, and not because people are lying. It's because people remember things differently. Evidence can be lost, suppressed or just not found in time. Some mistakes will inevitably happen. When we have a death penalty, there is simply no way to reverse the error. Had Rose not been so relentless in fighting for his clients' lives and freedoms, they'd still be there, with McCollum waiting for his wrongful death.

McCollum himself is remarkably lacking in bitterness toward the people and the system that caused this terrible injustice and deprived him of the prime years of his life. When he was released, he told reporters: "[T]hey took 30 years away from me for no reason, but I don't hate them. I don't hate them one bit."

The rest of us should not be so forgiving. Civilized nations do not torture and murder. If Guantanamo Bay and other post-Sept. 11, 2001, abuses can lead to a ban on torture, surely McCollum's case can cause states to rethink the death penalty.

(source: US News and World Report)

KANSAS:

Prosecutors to seek death penalty in slaying of Topeka police officer

A 30-year-old man has been charged with capital murder in the shooting death of a Topeka police officer.

Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor announced Wednesday that he had filed the charge against Ross Preston Lane, who was being held without bond. Kansas law allows the death penalty for the slaying of a law enforcement officer.

Police Cpl. Jason Harwood was shot to death Sunday after stopping a car in east Topeka.

Lane also was charged with possessing a stolen firearm and criminal possession of a firearm as a past felon.

Another 30-year-old man, Anthony Allen Ridens Jr., was charged with obstructing apprehension of a felon and possession of a stolen motorcycle.

(source: Associated Press)

ARIZONA:

Jodi Arias hires new attorney in death defense

Jodi Arias won't represent herself in the penalty phase of her murder trial after all.

She said she was going to represent herself in the case Aug. 4, but changed her mind Wednesday.

It is unknown who will represent her.

Arias, 34, was convicted of 1st-degree murder last year in the 2008 killing of Travis Alexander, but jurors couldn't reach a decision on sentencing. Under Arizona law, while Arias' murder conviction stands, prosecutors have the option of putting on a 2nd penalty phase with a new jury in an effort to secure the death penalty. She could also be sentenced to life in prison.

Arias, who long clashed with her defense lawyers and tried to fire them previously, asked Judge Sherry Stephens last month to let her serve as her own lawyer during the second penalty phase. Stephens granted the request but said there would be no delays.

"I do not believe it is in your best interest ... I strongly urge you to reconsider," Stephens told Arias before granting the motion.

Her latest move may come as a shock to some. A few experts believed Arias stood a good chance representing herself, not because of her skill, but because it could spare her life.

"It's actually probably a good idea to represent herself," said San Francisco-area defense attorney Daniel Horowitz. "She looks like a vicious psychopath with a ridiculous defense."

However, Horowitz noted, the jury "may find her pathetic."

"If she can get just one juror to bond with her on some level, even if they hate her, they're getting to know her, and it's harder to kill someone you know," he said.

(source: KTAR news)

USA:

Blacks Commit Less Crimes than Whites Think

Whites often overestimate the amount of crime committed by Blacks and "associate blacks and Latinos with criminality," beliefs that are widespread and also held by Whites who work in the criminal justice system, according to a new report on racial perceptions of crime by The Sentencing Project.

The report said, "White respondents in a 2010 survey overestimated the actual share of burglaries, illegal drug sales, and juvenile crime committed by African Americans by 20-30 %."

Despite recent advances in sentencing policies and a reduction in the number of prisons nationwide, the report said that racial perceptions of crime continue to endure as "a driving force of criminal justice outcomes."

According to The Sentencing Project, Black men are six times more likely to be locked up behind bars than White men, and 1 in every 10 Black men in their 30s is in prison or jail on any given day, trends often driven by, "criminal justice policies and practices, and not just crime rates," the report said.

Media depictions that often portray Whites as victims and Blacks as criminals fail to challenge deep-rooted racial bias held by White audiences, missing a valuable opportunity to foster positive dialogue between the races. Homicide is most often an intra-racial crime, but journalists at a major newspaper in Columbus, Ohio, for example, were more inclined to cover cases in which White women were the victims or Black men were offenders and avoided cases in which Blacks were murdered by Whites and White women murdered White men, according to the study.

Police officers also pursued Blacks more aggressively on the reality TV shows "Cops" and "America's Most Wanted."

When Whites perceive that Blacks commit more crime, they are also more likely to push for tougher crime laws such as mandatory minimum sentences and policies associated with the War on Drugs. Whites also outpace minorities when it comes to support for the death penalty.

Although the support for the death penalty peaked at 80 % in 1994, a 2013 Pew Research Center study showed that 63 % of Whites still supported the death penalty for convicted murderers compared to 36 % of Blacks who supported the death penalty.

A 2014 brief published by the National Academy of Sciences revealed that about 300 innocent defendants have been sentenced to death since 1973, and because are Blacks are convicted of murder at higher rates than Whites, researchers believe that innocent Blacks are also overrepresented on death row.

According to the report, "implicit racial bias has penetrated all corners of the criminal justice system," and contributed to disparities in police stops, prosecutorial charging, and sentencing.

The continued implicit and explicit bias perpetuated by law enforcement officials results in less cooperation from low-income and marginalized communities, which further limits the effectiveness of the criminal justice system and ultimately endangers the public safety of all Americans, not just Blacks and Latinos.

"Racial perceptions of crime have even led to the deaths of innocent people of color at the hands of fearful civilians and police officers," stated the report.

The study recommended that lawmakers study the racial impact of new crime policies before implementation and provide better resources to defend poor and minority offenders in court. In recent years, states have also "opted out of the federal welfare and food stamp ban for people with felony convictions" and acted to make it easier for people with criminal records that have repaid their debt to society to find jobs.

The report also found that, "increasing racial diversity in criminal justice settings also reduces biased outcomes and tempers punitive sentiment" and "all-white juries are far more likely to sentence offenders to death" in capital trials.

Recent events in New York City, Ferguson, Mo., Los Angeles, Calif., and Beavercreek, Ohio, where unarmed Black men were killed by police under controversial circumstances, underscore the lingering effect of negative racial stereotypes and perceptions the criminal justice system, according to the report.

Nazgol Ghandnoosh, a research analyst at The Sentencing Project and the report's author, said, "Unless we tackle these issues head-on, we'll continue to have more Fergusons and a criminal justice system that's on overdrive."

(source: Forward.com)

SAUDI ARABIA----execution

Saudi carries out new beheading after UN appeal for halt

Saudi authorities beheaded a national for murder today, the interior ministry said, a day after a UN appeal for an immediate moratorium on their use of the death penalty. Hussein Daghriri was executed in the southwestern province of Jizan after being sentenced to death for fatally stabbing fellow tribesman Nayef Daghriri in a dispute, the ministry said in a statement carried by the official SPA news agency.

His beheading brought to 49 the number of executions carried out in the desert kingdom this year, according to an AFP tally.

It came after UN independent experts called on Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to implement an immediate moratorium.

"Despite several calls by human rights bodies, Saudi Arabia continues to execute individuals with appalling regularity and in flagrant disregard of international law standards," said Christof Heyns, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

"The trials are by all accounts grossly unfair. Defendants are often not allowed a lawyer and death sentences were imposed following confessions obtained under torture."

Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Saudi Arabia's strict version of Islamic sharia law.

(source: The Malaysian Insider)

TEXAS----impending execution

Condemned killer of 2 set to die in Texas

Attorneys for convicted killer Willie Trottie are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to save him from the Texas death chamber.

The 45-year-old Trottie is set for lethal injection Wednesday evening in Huntsville for the slayings 21 years ago in Houston of his former common-law wife and her brother.

Trottie says one shooting was accidental, the other self-defense, and he doesn't deserve a death sentence.

His attorneys argue Trottie received inadequate legal counsel at his 1993 trial. Another appeal, a lawsuit, contends the pentobarbital to be used to put Trottie to death likely has passed its effectiveness date and could cause unconstitutionally "tortuous" pain.

State attorneys oppose both appeals. They say the pentobarbital Texas prison officials obtained earlier this year from an unidentified compounding pharmacy won't expire until month's end.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Last Lakewood Villas murders defendant remains jailed 3 years later

3 death penalty cases and an upcoming capital murder retrial have overshadowed the capital murder case of D'Arvis Tyrell Cummings, who has been in the McLennan County Jail for 1,217 days.

Cummings, the last of the 3 Lakewood Villas murders defendants, turned 22 last month, the 3rd birthday he has spent behind bars in Waco.

McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna did not return phone calls Tuesday seeking comment about Cummings' status. Reyna's 1st assistant, Michael Jarrett, declined comment, saying it is a pending matter.

Bill Browning, Cummings' attorney, also did not return phone calls to his office Tuesday.

A trial date for Cummings is set in Waco's 19th State District Court for Feb. 16. Browning has filed a motion to move Cummings' trial from Waco because of publicity surrounding the trials of his brothers, Rickey Cummings and Albert Love Jr.

No hearing date is set for the change of venue motion, but should that be granted, it would further delay D'Arvis Cummings' trial while Strother searches for another location.

Part of the delay in bringing Cummings to trial could be the July resignation of Reyna's former 1st assistant, Greg Davis. Davis was lead prosecutor in the trials of Rickey Cummings, Love and Carnell Petetan Jr., who was sentenced to death in April for the 2012 shooting death of his wife, Kimberly Farr Petetan.

With Davis gone and Jarrett focused on the retrial of Edward Graf Jr., it leaves Reyna short on prosecutors with death penalty trial experience.

Judge Ralph Strother knows D'Arvis Cummings has been in jail a long time but said he will be afforded his day in court.

"Neither side is ready for trial," Strother said. "My court has had 2 other capital murder trials, 1 of which was tried out of (the) county, as well as the normal heavy felony caseload."

Cummings, like Rickey Cummings and Love, is charged in the March 2011 shooting deaths of Keenan Hubert, 20, and Tyus Sneed, 17, at Waco's Lakewood Villas apartment complex, 1601 Spring St. 2 other men in the car with them were wounded but escaped the ambush alive.

Rickey Cummings was sent to death row after his trial in Waco in 2012. Love, whose trial was moved to Williamson County, was sent to death row in July 2013.

Reyna's office has made no official declaration about whether it will seek the death penalty against Cummings.

Testimony from the 1st 2 trials indicates authorities believe D'Arvis Cummings did not shoot the men that night but served more in the capacity of a getaway driver after Rickey Cummings and Love fled the area.

Rickey Cummings' .45-caliber pistol and his cellphone and Love's cellphone were found in D'Arvis Cummings blue Mercury Marquis shortly after the shootings, according to testimony from the 1st 2 trials.

(source: Waco Tribune)

FLORIDA:

State to seek death for murder suspect // documents

Prosecutors in the 14th Judicial Circuit will seek the death penalty for triple-homicide suspect Derrick Ray Thompson, according to court documents.

The State Attorney's Office filed notices Tuesday saying that, if convicted, they will seek capital punishment for Thompson, who is accused of the July 21 killing of 66-year-old former BCSO officer and businessman Allen Johnson. The state also filed a notice of aggravating circumstances it will have to prove for jurors to levy death upon Thompson, which includes proving the alleged murder was "cold, calculated and premeditated."

Prosecutors in Santa Rosa County also are exploring the death penalty against Thompson and have recently indicted Thompson for the fatal shootings of Milton residents Steven Zackowski, 60, and Debra Zackowski, 59, on July 19.

However, since the incidents are 2 separate crimes, the 14th Judicial Circuit's decision to seek Thompson's death does not influence the likelihood of Santa Rosa County's pursuit of capital punishment.

Thompson, a 41-year-old Pensacola resident, was considered a person of interest in the Zackowski slayings when investigators found Johnson in his Lynn Haven home with a single gunshot wound to the back of the head and a spent .380 caliber casing beside his body.

The truck Thompson was believed to be driving following the first killings was found at the scene.

State attorneys are not allowed to discuss an ongoing case. But law enforcement agencies have released evidence that indicated Thompson was motivated by a quest for prescription narcotics and planned to amass a cache following the Zackowski slayings. hompson stayed overnight in a Chipley motel where he borrowed a phone from the motel clerk and called Johnson to ask if he could come to his home on Wilson Avenue to borrow money. Before fleeing the state to a Troy, Ala., hunting lodge, Thompson used money and a cellphone he allegedly stole from Johnson to buy numerous prescription narcotics from someone in Panama City, investigators reported.

He then confessed to the 3 homicides during his capture, investigators said, but has recently pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Thompson is being held without bond in the Bay County Jail but could be transported over county lines for court proceedings in each of the cases.

A trial date has not been set.

(source: News Herald)

OHIO:

Trial begins in Lorain death penalty case

Opening statements and testimony began in the murder trial of Austin Diaz, who is facing the death penalty, for the alleged beating of Lamar Taylor.

Diaz, 20, of Lorain, is accused of beating Taylor to death on East 34th Street in Lorain on Easter morning in 2012.

Lorain County Common Pleas Judge John Miraldi is presiding over the case. Judge James Miraldi and Judge Christopher Rothgery are sitting on the panel with Judge John Miraldi.

Diaz is facing 2 counts of aggravated murder, 2 counts of murder and single counts of aggravated robbery and felonious assault.

Taylor was 3 houses from his home when he was beaten to death during what police have said was an unprovoked attack.

A witness told officers he saw a group of men "violently assaulting" the victim about 2:54 a.m.

Diaz's co-defendant, Clarence Adams, 23, of Lorain, was sentenced to 23 years to life in prison earlier this year.

The 3-judge panel in Adams' case, John Miraldi, Rothgery and Swenski, found Adams guilty of murder, felonious assault and aggravated robbery. The judges did not find Adams guilty of aggravated murder charges and one count of murder.

According to John Miraldi's office, the trial will resume at 1 p.m. today.

(source: Morning Journal)

TENNESSEE:

Will Holly Bobo's Skull Secure The Death Penalty For Her Killer?

After nearly three years of searching for leads, missing Tennessee nursing student Holly Bobo's skull has been confirmed found by local authorities. Two citizens first came across Bobo's skull Sunday morning, but the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) was hesitant to confirm that the remains were indeed Holly Bobo's skull, previously reported the Inquisitr.

But at a late night press conference Monday at the Decatur County Sheriff's Department, the TBI released their findings - Holly's skull was indeed found in the woods Sunday evening. In what could perhaps be a final piece of evidence, Bobo's skull was located within 10 miles of murder suspect Zachary Adams.

The Jackson Sun reported that cries broke out across the room when TBI Director Mark Gwyn announced that that the skull did, in fact, belong to Holly. Bobo's close friend Rickey Dale Alexander shrunk back in tears as Gwyn continued with the announcement about Holly's skull.

"First, I would like to extend my condolences to the family and friends of Holly Bobo. In light of the recent discovery of possible human remains in Decatur County, the TBI has been able to confirm through the findings ... that the remains are of Holly Bobo."

Much of the local community still held hope that Bobo's skull was not the one found in the woods this weekend, with local authorities still maintaining that Holly could be found alive, Gwyn said.

"It was my prayer, as well as the prayers of many others that Holly Bobo would be found. I assure you all this is not over by any means. The investigation is still ongoing to get to the truth."

District Attorney General Matt Stowe continued to say that the prosecution is far from over and that a possible death penalty sentence will be pursued when Bobo's murderers are confirmed, possibly aided by the discovery of Holly's skull.

"We will be making a decision sometime in the next couple of weeks in conjunction with the Bobo family. Right now, in the meantime, we have the finest experts we can find and that are available. There are so many people working on this case right now that it would boggle the mind, and nobody is sleeping, nobody needs to be told what to do in this case."

Adams and another man, Jason Autry, were arrested for the abduction and murder long before Holly Bobo's skull was found. Adams has pleaded not guilty to the charges while a 3rd suspect, Shayne Austin, attempted to gain immunity by leading police to Bobo's remains, although he failed to produce such evidence.

(source: The Inquisitr)

MISSOURI----execution

Missouri executes Earl Ringo Jr after rejecting concerns over drugs used----Confessed double murderer declined to take sedative midazolam, which is linked to botched executions

A Missouri inmate has been put to death Wednesday for killing 2 people during a restaurant robbery in 1998.

Earl Ringo Jr, 40, and an accomplice killed delivery driver Dennis Poyser and manager trainee JoAnna Baysinger at a Ruby Tuesday restaurant in Columbia in the early hours of 4 July 1998.

The Department of Corrections said Ringo was executed at 12.22am by lethal injection and pronounced dead at 12.31am.

Ringo's last words were a quote from the Quran that expresses belief and wishes for after death. He wiggled his feet as the process began, breathed deeply a few times, then closed his eyes, all in a matter of seconds. The Department of Corrections said Ringo was executed by lethal injection and pronounced dead at 12.31am.

Courts and Governor Jay Nixon had refused to halt the execution over concerns raised by Ringo's attorneys, who, among other things, questioned Missouri's use of a sedative, midazolam. In the end, Ringo declined to take any sedative, including midazolam, the Corrections Department said.

Midazolam has come under scrutiny after it was used in problematic executions earlier this year in Ohio, Oklahoma and Arizona. In each case witnesses said the inmates gasped after their executions began and continued to fight for air before being pronounced dead.

A clemency petition to Nixon had also cited concerns about the fact that Ringo was convicted and sentenced to death by an all-white jury.

When the case came to trial, 163 people formed the pool from which the final jury would be drawn. Only four were black.

Of those 4, only one was asked questions to ascertain whether she was eligible to serve on the jury, and even she was struck out by the judge. That left a panel of 12 white jurors, together with a white prosecutor and a white judge, sitting in judgment over a black defendant.

The racial disparity in Ringo's prosecution chimes with a general statistical imbalance in Missouri's criminal justice system. Black people are 5 times more likely to be incarcerated in the state than people who are white.

St Louis University law school has been conducting research specifically on Missouri's practice of the death penalty in the modern era with the assistance of an expert in this area, Professor Ray Paternoster. The preliminary results of the study have found that murder convictions are 3 times more likely to end with a death sentence in Missouri in cases, like Ringo's, where the defendant is black and the victim white.

Such cases make up between 5 and 6% of all murders in Missouri since 1977, yet constitute about 25% of death sentences since that date. 3 of the past 9 executions that have taken place in Missouri over the past year have involved the same black defendant-white victim disparity.

Ringo's attorneys had asked a federal appeals court to postpone the execution until a hearing over Missouri's use of midazolam. Attorney Richard Sindel claimed that Missouri's use of midazolam essentially violated its own protocol, which provides for pentobarbital as the lone execution drug.

Officials in Missouri have indicated that they have used pentobarbital as a single lethal injection in the 9 executions that have been carried out since last November. The director of the department of corrections, George Lombardi, stated under oath that midazolam would not be used even were pentobarbital unavailable.

But last week St Louis Public Radio revealed that contrary to that statement, Missouri has used midazolam in combination with pentobarbital in all its executions this year, in quantities that would induce a deep coma in the inmate or even stop them breathing. On the back of that revelation, Ringo's lawyers have submitted court filings that have accused top officials of committing perjury. "Lawyers for the state have submitted highly misleading pleadings and false claims in various courts about Missouri's administration of executions," the complaint says.

The department of corrections has denied any deception, insisting that it has used the midazolam only to reduce the anxiety of a prisoner going into the death chamber and not as part of the execution procedure itself.

Ringo becomes the 8th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Missouri and the 78th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1989. Only Texas (515), Oklahoma (111), Virginia (110), and Florida (88) have carried out more executions since the death penalty was re-legalized in the USA on July 2, 1976.

Ringo becomes the 28th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1387th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

(sources: The Guardian & Rick Halperin)

COLORADO:

Victims Object To Cameras At Holmes Murder Trial

Most victims and family members of those killed in the Aurora theater massacre said they don't want cameras in the courtroom during the trial of the murder suspect.

CBS4 learned that prosecutors polled the victims and family members of victims. 64 % objected to media cameras during any phase of the trial, while 24 % said that was OK, 6 % took no position and 3% said cameras shouldn't show witnesses.

"I actually have an objection to it. It's going to be emotionally devastating to see pictures and videos and anything else that's going to come up," said Jessica Watts, who lost her cousin, Jonathan Blunk, in the shooting.

However, she said she didn't see a problem with still and video cameras during opening statements, closing arguments and the verdict - but she stressed witnesses shouldn't be shown.

"I don't want to see it necessarily captured and replayed for, you know, public consumption," she said.

The media have argued broadcasting the trial wouldn't interfere with suspect James Holmes' right to a fair trial. The prosecution and the defense filed motions saying they want to bar cameras but for different reasons.

Holmes' defense said it would violate his constitutional rights, affect the dignity of the proceedings and "provide little, if any, benefit to the public."

The Arapahoe County District Attorney's Office said allowing TV cameras and photographers in the courtroom would subject witnesses and victims to potential abuse and humiliation.

Holmes faces multiple murder counts and various other charges in the July 20, 2012, slaying of 12 movie patrons. The DA's office is pursuing the death penalty. Holmes' lawyers are arguing an insanity defense.

(source: CBS news)

NEVADA:

Woods is still here to hear apology due her

Cathy Woods, now 64, has spent more than 30 years in the Nevada State Prison for killing a young nursing student near the University of Nevada campus in 1976.

She's done the time, even though it now appears that she didn't do the crime.

On Monday, District Judge Patrick Flanagan ordered a new trial for Woods and released her from prison.

She will never get those years of her back. Yet, Woods, who was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole after being convicted of the murder for the 2nd time in 1985, just as easily could have ended up the poster woman for opponents of the death penalty.

Had Woods been sentenced to death after the sensational trials, it would have been impossible to correct the wrong inflicted on her. She not only would have been wrongfully convicted; she would have been wrongfully executed, a penalty that would have made it impossible to set the record straight and a penalty that would have made it impossible to ever give her back the life that had been taken taken from her some 30 years ago.

If ever a good reason was needed to be concerned about the death penalty, this case provides it. It's the one sentence that can't be undone once it has been set in motion. Society can take back a sentence of life in prison; it can't do anything once a prisoner is executed.

--

From the day that law enforcement officials announced that the brutal murder of 19-year-old Michelle Mitchell had been solved thanks to a confession made by Woods' at a mental institution in Louisiana, the resolution has seemed unsatisfactory.

Over the years, there have been 2 theories about her motivation for the killing. In one, Mitchell was said to have been murdered because she rejected Woods' sexual advances. In another, the murder was planned to create a diversion for a second murder, that of a bartender in what was believed to be an insurance fraud.

There also were reports that Woods told investigators that she heard "satanic voices" before murdering Mitchell, who was going for help when her car broke down.

Newly tested DNA from a cigarette butt picked off the floor of the garage where Mitchell's body was found now indicates that the actual murder was someone else, a serial killer currently serving time in a prison in Oregon for attempted murder. The DNA also is said to match evidence found at the scenes of several murders in California known as the Gypsy Hill killings.

The new evidence was sufficient to compel Judge Flanagan to order a new trial. As the Gazette-Journal's Emerson Marcus reported, even the Washoe County District Attorney's Office told the judge that a new trail was warranted.

That's an unusual train of events for Nevada, but it's one that has occurred with increasing frequency around the nation since DNA testing has come into vogue. As the Woods case demonstrates, there's a lot of evidence sitting in lockers just waiting to be tested. Often the DNA tests will prove that law enforcement got it right; sometimes, however, it will prove that they got it wrong and the life of someone on death row is saved.

Woods isn't on death row, but she could have been, given the strong feelings in the community over the case. Instead, she's still alive to hear the apology that she's owed.

(source: Editorial, Reno Gazette Journal)

CALIFORNIA:

Gang member gets death penalty for 2004 murders of Whittier man and Rowland Heights man

A 30-year-old gang member on Monday was sentenced to death for killing a Rowland Heights man and a Pasadena City College student while committing a series of robberies in the San Gabriel Valley and Whittier 10 years ago.

Leonardo Cisneros fatally shot Dianqiu Wu, 50, of Rowland Heights on Aug. 4, 2004 during a street robbery in San Gabriel. He also fatally shot Joseph Molina, 22, of Whittier while robbing a Whittier Subway sandwich shop on Dec. 10, 2004.

Cisneros told an accomplice he shot Molina because he wasn't moving fast enough. Wu was already lying on the ground and told Cisneros he would give him money. Cisneros shot Wu in the stomach and took his wallet.

"(These were) brutal senseless murders and he got what he deserved," said Deputy District Attorney Frank Santoro who prosecuted the case.

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge also ordered Cisneros to reimburse the state victim compensation program of about $4,800.

Cisneros was convicted of the 1st degree murders of Wu and Molina, 18 counts of robbery and 1 count of attempted robbery. The jurors also found true the special circumstances of multiple murders, murders during the course of robberies and personal use of a gun in the vast majority of the crimes.

Santoro said Cisneros got multiple life sentences for some of the armed robberies.

Molina's mother, Josephine, said that she decided to forgive Cisneros.

"I made my decision after 10 years of waiting for this moment of justice. I pray he will be converted," she said. "I know not everybody will understand what I did, but I did it out of inspiration."

Josephine Molina said she was inspired by the TV movie, "The Scarlet and the Black", and the miniseries, "Jesus of Nazareth" to write what she read at the sentencing. She said her sister and her cousin's husband also spoke at the sentencing.

In her statement, Josephine Molina wrote that the trial could not bring her son back to life. But she said it brought about the realization that his death played an important role.

She said a therapist suggested her son did not die in vain because his death, albeit senseless and brutal, served to stem more robberies and murders. Josephine Molina told Cisneros her message to him was repentance. She said she saw no remorse from him during the trial.

"It grieves me to say the justice of God on you is eternal damnation in hell. While the heart of God is mercy and compassion, he is also a God of justice whom you have offended. I therefore, urge you to seek his forgiveness and mercy," she said in her statement.

Cisneros was among 5 people charged with the 2004 robbery spree.

The former Montebello resident was charged with 5 robberies and also suspected of 2 additional robberies.

The 4 other defendants decided to take plea deals.

Sara Lopez, 30, pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact in the killing of Wu and was sentenced on Jan. 8, 2010 to 3 years probation.

Jose Resendez, 37, Bernadette Corvera, 32, and Mitzie Oso, 35, were sentenced on June 2.

Resendez pleaded guilty to the second-degree murder of Wu and got 15 years in prison. Corvera also received a 15-year sentence for pleading guilty to the second-degree murder of Molina and to the robbery.

Oso, who pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the murders of Wu and Molina, received 8 years.

(source: Whittier Daily News)

WASHINGTON:

Carnation defendant incompetent to stand trial, psychologist testifies----A psychologist retained by the defense testified that Michele Anderson suffers from profound mental illnesses but is able to feign competency for brief times. He said she is motivated by desire to to be put to death for her alleged crimes.

Since 2008, 6 psychologists - 4 of them from Western State Hospital - have all determined that Michele Anderson is competent to stand trial for allegedly killing 6 members of her family on Christmas Eve 2007 in Carnation.

But Dr. Mark Cunningham, a psychologist retained by the defense, testified on Thursday and again on Tuesday that Anderson is not only incompetent and suffers from profound mental illnesses, but is able to feign competency for "brief bursts" of time. He said she is motivated to do so by her desire to commit "suicide-by-state" - to be put to death for her alleged crimes.

Cunningham, who authored a competency report in August, based much of his current report on one he wrote in July 2008 that Anderson's previous attorneys never made part of the court record. King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Scott O'Toole said the state only learned of the 2008 report last week, when Cunningham first took the stand.

A psychologist retained by the state who found Anderson competent to stand trial after interviewing her in June 2013 and June of this year is to testify in Anderson's competency hearing next week.

Anderson has undergone 3 competency evaluations - and has been represented by 3 different teams of attorneys - since she and former boyfriend Joseph McEnroe were each charged with 6 counts of aggravated 1st-degree murder and notified that the state would be seeking the death penalty should they be found guilty.

Jury selection in McEnroe's case is in preliminary stages, with opening statements expected in January. Members of McEnroe's defense team were in court for Cunningham's testimony, in which he opined that Anderson suffers from a "very serious psychological disorder that rises to delusions."

While Cunningham acknowledged that Anderson's functioning isn't obviously impaired and her behavior isn't overtly bizarre, he said she also suffers from depression and displays characteristics of a paranoid personality disorder and mood disorder.

According to a recent motion filed by McEnroe's defense, doctors who have evaluated McEnroe believe he was involved in a "pathological relationship" with Anderson and has a weak ego that made him susceptible to her paranoid delusions.

Anderson's defense attorneys, Colleen O'Connor and David Sorenson, stipulated to her competency in 2011, King County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Ramsdell was told Tuesday. But they raised concerns about Anderson's competency last year after she repeatedly refused to meet with them or review discovery materials in her case.

She also has refused to be interviewed by other defense experts and repeatedly canceled or terminated interviews with Dr. Brian Judd, the state's psychologist, Ramsdell heard.

Anderson has accused Sorenson of perjuring himself and filed a handwritten motion last week asking for new attorneys, according to testimony and court records.

She also has refused to meet with Cunningham, whom she has threatened with a civil suit, since he last interviewed her in March 2008.

He testified that Anderson described family members, former friends and neighbors as abusive, mean-spirited and malevolent toward her. Cunningham also testified that Anderson believes she has a spirit guide named John - a fisherman from the early 1900s - who visits her and gives her information, which she has used to make decisions in her case, Cunningham said.

Cunningham, who critiqued the other doctors who found Anderson competent for allegedly not challenging her responses, said none of the other evaluators was able to obtain the same "social history" of her life that he did.

He also said those doctors were more concerned about her ability to understand the charges against her, while he has been focused on her ability to "aid and assist" her attorneys - both of which are required for someone to be found competent to stand trial.

On cross-examination, Cunningham acknowledged that his conclusion that Anderson is capable of feigning competency was included in his 2008 report, but he didn't mention it in his August report.

"I certainly believe she is motivated to feign" competency, he said. "For a brief burst, she can hold it together."

When pressed by O'Toole, the senior deputy prosecutor, who asked if all the other doctors and Anderson's own attorneys "got it wrong" in finding Anderson competent in 2008, 2011 and this year, Cunningham said their conclusions were "in error."

"I didn't evaluate her (recently) but yes - my conclusion is she has not been competent to stand trial since 2008," Cunningham said.

(source: Seattle Times)

USA:

Marathon Bombing Suspect, Feds Battle Over Moving Trial

A push by Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to move his trial outside Massachusetts has led to a war of words - and paper - between his lawyers and federal prosecutors.

The 2 sides have filed more than 100 pages of legal briefs vehemently arguing their positions for and against the move. After the defense filed a 3rd brief, including a 40-page affidavit from a 2nd expert, the judge struck it from the court docket, granting a request from prosecutors who said, "Tsarnaev has decided that there should be no limits on his right to litigate it."

The stakes are huge: Tsarnaev could get the death penalty if convicted.

Prosecutors say Tsarnaev, 21, and his older brother, Tamerlan, 26, placed 2 homemade bombs near the finish line of the 2013 marathon. The blasts killed 3 people and injured more than 260.

Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to 30 federal charges and faces a November trial. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died in a gun battle with police several days after the bombings.

In their motion to move the trial out of state, Tsarnaev's lawyers said a survey of potential jurors showed that nearly 58 % of Boston respondents who were aware of the case "definitely" believed Tsarnaev was guilty. 37 % believed that, if convicted, he deserves the death penalty.

Tsarnaev's lawyers want to move the trial to Washington, D.C., where the percentage of those who believe he is definitely guilty and deserves the death penalty is much smaller.

Prosecutors insist Tsarnaev can get a fair trial in Boston. They argue that the Eastern Division of Massachusetts - where the jury pool would be drawn from - covers a diverse area with a population of over 5 million.

Attorney David Hoose, who defended a nurse facing the death penalty for killing four patients at a Massachusetts veterans hospital, said it is somewhat surprising that Judge George O'Toole Jr. agreed to strike the 3rd brief filed by Tsarnaev's lawyers.

"Most judges - especially in capital cases - want to give the defendant every opportunity to be heard," Hoose said. "I think most people understand ... that these cases are different from everything else, and it really is not appropriate to insist on rigid compliance with the rules that have the effect of limiting what you want to say."

The defense also cites the trial of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, which was moved to Denver. They say the marathon bombing had an even greater emotional impact on the Boston area because of the 4-day police search for the Tsarnaevs capped by a dramatic final day when thousands of residents were told to stay in their homes.

"If there's ever been a case that called for a change of venue in federal court, this is it," said Christopher Dearborn, a professor at Suffolk University Law School.

But others say judges have to set limits.

"Judges need to make decisions. They need to hold to a schedule as long as it's not compromising the ability to present a defense," said Gerry Leone, a former state and federal prosecutor.

"You can prepare forever, but at some point you have to be given a deadline and a timeline. At some point, the judge just calls it, says, 'I've got what I need. We've got to move on and keep the litigation going.'"

(source: Associated Press)

BOTSWANA/SOUTH AFRICA:

Death penalty bungle

Botswana citizen Edwin Samotse - now possibly languishing in jail in that country - is the subject of frantic cross-border diplomatic efforts to save him from execution if he is convicted of murder.

The Botswana government sought Samotse's extradition after learning he had slipped into South Africa. South Africa refused to repatriate him when Botswana would not give assurances that he would not be sentenced to death if convicted.

But, because of what seems to have been a bungle by Home Affairs, Samotse was deported to his home country.

Now all Home Affairs can hope for is that its error will not lead to Samotse's death.

Department spokesman Mayihlome Tshwete said yesterday that there was as yet no indication that the authorities in Botswana would comply with South Africa' s request that he be returned to this country immediately.

"We are fighting for him to be returned [to South Africa] because the way in which he was deported was unlawful," Tshwete said.

Samotse had been kept in a Polokwane police station's cells. The Pretoria High Court prohibited his deportation on August 13.

"Officials from the Department of Home Affairs, without prior knowledge of the director-general and without any authority, secured the release of Mr Samotse from the Polokwane police station and transported him to the Groblersbrug port of entry between South Africa and Botswana, where they handed him over to Botswana officials," said Tshwete.

The circumstances of the officials' unauthorised actions are now the subject of an internal investigation. The officials involved have been suspended.

According to the extradition agreement between South Africa and Botswana, South Africa cannot surrender anyone without receiving assurances that Gaborone will not impose the death penalty.

But over the years South Africa has had little luck in cases regarding fugitives from Botswana.

Botswana law allows the death sentence for murder and treason, as well as for an attempt to kill a head of state and for mutiny.

There have been a number of cases over the years involving South Africans that ended with Botswana imposing the death sentence.

South Africans Lehlohonolo Kobedi and Mariette Bosch were both put to death in Botswana.

(source: Timse Live)

IRAN----executions

2 young men hanged in public Hamadan

2 young Iranian men in their 20s were hanged in public on Wednesday in city of Hamadan allegedly for being 'evil', the regime's judiciary declared in a statement.

The victims, identified as Vahid Q., 24 and Bahman Moussavi, 22, were hanged in Resalat district of Hamadan.

The city's commander of the State Security Forces (police) told state-run IRNA news agency that he hopes "the public executions would be a lesson for other offenders."

Meanwhile, according to reports received the authorities in Bandar Abbas prison transferred 2 inmates to isolation to await their execution.

Violations of human rights in Iran has taken new dimensions since Hassan Rouhani has taken office as the president of the Iranian regime.

Under so-called 'moderate' Hassan Rouhani the country has faced highest number of executions in a year compared to any Iranian president for the past 25 years.

(source: NCR-Iran)

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

50% increase in the executions during recent 2 weeks

The Statistics and Publication Unit of human rights Activists in Iran has publicized a Comparative report on the executions in Iran in the 1st half of "Shahrivar" ( 23rd August- 6th September) this year, against the statistics of executions in the previous month and also same time last year. Finally, they have announced a 50 % of growth in the executions.

According to this report, a disturbing trend of execution is expected to be carried out.

Execution is a kind of punishment and indeed, execution is the maximum punishment for the convicted individuals. Section Six of Article II of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states "In countries which have not abolished the death penalty, sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes in accordance with the law in force at the time of the commission of the crime and not contrary to the provisions of the present Covenant and to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This penalty can only be carried out pursuant to a final judgment rendered by a competent court."

Iran has not signed the Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, which calls for the abolition of the death penalty and despite international warnings regarding executions and stopping the death penalty, and despite the lack of fair trial standards a large number of criminals and offenders are being executed by hanging in public and in secret.

Iran has the 2nd highest number of executions after China. If we want to compare the relative population of the 2 countries, the number of criminals and executed people, Iran will be the 1st country.

A look at the statistics of executions in the 1st half of "Shahrivar" this year:

In the 1st 2 weeks of Shahrivar (23rd August- 6th September) 2014, at least 32 people including 2 women and 30 men, were executed.

Also, 20 of these 30 people were executed secretly and without officially being announced by the Judicial or police forces and only 12 of them have been reported by state run media. In addition, 4 of them were hanged in public.

The executions of 20 men suspected of carrying or possession of drugs and 8 people were convicted of murder, the accusations of the rest are not known.

Statistics, based on City and Crime:

Bandar Abbas - 14 executions - 12 of them with charge of carrying and possessing drugs and 2 of them with charge of murder

Zahedan - 4 executions (3 men and 1 woman) - 3 of them with charge of carrying and possessing drugs and 1 of them with charge of murder

Kerman - 4 executions (3 men, 1 woman) - all of them with charge of carrying and possessing drugs

Mazendran - 4 executions - all with charge of murder

Karaj - 4 executions - the accusations are unknown

(source: Human Rights Activists News Agency)

INDIA:

Minister backs death penalty for hijackers

Civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju on Monday strongly backed the death penalty for the offence of hijacking in certain circumstances, even as his ministry highlighted several achievements in the aviation sector during the first 100 days of the Modi government, including a plan by the state-run Airports Authority of India (AAI) to construct low-frills airports at 5 different locations in the country. The government has also put into place various measures to ensure more comfortable travel for persons with disabilities.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Mr. Raju said, "A hijacker doesn't value human life, so there is no reason why we should value the hijacker's life." As reported earlier by this newspaper, the government is planning to introduce the Anti-hijacking Bill, 2014, by repealing the Anti-hijacking Act, 1982. The government is expected to recommend death penalty for the offence of hijacking in case of loss of life.

Meanwhile, no-frill airports will be built at Jharsuguda in Orissa, Teju in Arunachal Pradesh, Hubli and Belgaum in Karnataka and Kishangarh in Rajasthan. Sources said no-frills airports would only provide the "essential services required to operationalise an airport" and would be single-level buildings without aerobridges. These airports are meant to promote connectivity to tier-2 and tier-3 cities.

In response to a question on the ailing airline industry, the minister made it clear that the government would not be involved in bailout packages for private airlines.

The government also announced that to make travel more comfortable for persons with disabilities, 2 window seats in every flight which were not near the emergency exits would be blocked for potential use by persons with disabilities till 24 hours before the journey.

In addition, check-in baggage will be delivered to disabled persons either at the ladder point or exit of escalator belt. On damage of equipment of disabled persons, he or she will be compensated by the airport operator or airline who is responsible for the damage. A mobile-based application system for public grievances has also been introduced. Mr Raju seemed irked by a certain question from a mediaperson and made it clear that he was working for the entire country as aviation minister and was not showing any favouritism towards his home-state Andhra Pradesh.

(source: Asian Age)

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

High Court confirms death for killer driver

The Bombay High Court on Tuesday upheld the death sentence awarded to Santosh Mane, a former State Transport driver who went on the rampage after hijacking an empty bus in Pune in January 2012. His reckless act killed nine persons and injured 36 more.

"This is an exceptional and rarest of rare case where the crime is so cruel, diabolical and revolting so as to shock the collective conscience of society," the Division Bench of Justices V.M. Kanade and P.D. Kode observed while passing the judgment on Tuesday.

The court dismissed an appeal filed by Santosh Mane and rubbished his claim of insanity.

"This is not a case of a driver of a public vehicle committing a road accident while on public duty, but a case where, after hijacking the bus, he killed innocent people and damaged public property undaunted by all attempts to dissuade him from his killing spree of hapless victims," the court said.

The court observed that commuting the death penalty for such a gruesome crime would send a wrong signal to society. Santosh Mane hijacked an empty State Transport bus from the Swargate bus depot in Pune on January 25, 2012, after his superior refused to change his duty according to his convenience.

(source: The Hindu)

BANGLADESH:

2 gets death penalty for killing rural electrification official ---- According to the case documents, Zakir and Jasim stabbed ShShariful Alam, a rural electrification official in Chandanaish of Jhenaidah, to death at Satkania on December 24

A Chittagong court yesterday gave death sentence to two persons for killing a rural electrification official at Chandanaish upazila in Chittagong in 2006.

The court also acquitted 3 others as the charges brought against them could not be proved.

Judge of Public Safety Tribune of Chittagong Md Moniullah yesterday gave the verdict, said Special Public Prosecutor Jahangir Alam of the tribunal.

The convicts are Zakir Hossain, 50, and Didarul Alam Jasim, 55, while the acquitted are Kaosara Begum, Mojaffar and Taher.

Of the convicts, Zakir was tried in absentia while Jasim was present during the procedure.

According to the case documents, Zakir and Jasim stabbed ShShariful Alam, a rural electrification official in Chandanaish of Jhenaidah, to death at Satkania on December 24.

Satkania police filed a case in this connection the following day.

During investigation, police found that Jasim and Zakir's wife Kaosara Begum were colleagues of Shariful and they borrowed Tk2 lakh each from Shariful for business purpose.

When Shariful gave pressure on them to repay the money, Jasim and Jakir planned to kill him, said the prosecution.

On September 30, 2011, the court framed charges against the five accused after submitting the charge-sheet. The court sentenced the verdict after testifying 16 witnesses.

(source: Dhaka Tribune)

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

Defence makes case in Jamaat leader Kamaruzzaman conviction appeal

The defence has finished making its case in war crimes convict Mohammad Kamaruzzaman's appeal against the death penalty.

An Appellate Division bench led by senior judge Justice SK Sinha heard Kamaruzzaman's lawyer SM Shahjahan on Tuesday, who claimed his client was innocent.

Attorney General Mahbubey Alam began his deposition after him. After he finishes the defence may get an opportunity to reply.

The International Crimes Tribunal on May 9 last year sentenced Kamaruzzaman to death for his 'crimes against humanity' during the 1971 War of Independence.

He was the head of Al-Badr in Mymensingh during the war.

He appealed against the verdict on June 6 last year. Because of the death penalty, the State has not appealed in this case.

The Jamaat assistant secretary general was sentenced to death on charges of genocide at Sohagpur and for murder of Golam Mostafa.

Earlier the Appellate Division heard the appeals on war criminal Quader Molla and Delwar Hossain Sayedee. Molla's death sentence was carried out on Dec 12 last year.

Sayedee's hearing ended on Apr 16 and is pending a verdict.

This is the 1st time the chief justice is not in the bench hearing the appeals against verdicts of the war crimes cases.

(source: bdnews24.com)

SEPTEMBER 9, 2014:

TEXAS----impending execution

Appeal for Houston killer says lethal drug has passed expiration date

Laywers for Houston double-killer Willie Trottie Tuesday asked the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to halt their client's Wednesday execution, charging that the drug to be used in the procedure may have passed its expiration date and could result in consitutionally cruel and unusual punishment.

The 11th-hour appeal questions authorities' assertion that the compounding pharmacy-produced pentobarbital to be used in the execution should remain potent through Sept. 30. It asks the court to stop the execution and schedule oral arguments on the issue.

Trottie, 44, is scheduled to die for the May 1993 murders of his estranged lover, Barbara Canada, 24, and her brother, Titus Canada, 29. The siblings were killed in a hail of bullets - Barbara Canada was shot 11 times - after Trottie arrived at their family home, ostensibly to borrow a car.

According to court documents, Trottie repeatedly had threatened to kill Canada if she failed to return to him. Other active appeals by Trottie's legal team argue that the former security guard's first lawyer failed to call witnesses who would have testified that Trottie and Canada had reconciled by the time of her death. In a recent interview, Trottie said the shootings occurred in the "heat of passion."

In Tuesday's filing, Houston lawyer Jonathan Ross and Philadelphia lawyer Maurie Levin argue that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's "purchases (actual and attempted) of lethal injection drugs have been riddled with deceptive and questionable practices and communications."

In response to queries from Trottie's lawyers, Tuesday's petition says, the state prison system revealed that the pentobarbital to be used Wednesday will not expire until Sept. 30. The dose comes from the same batch as that used in April 3 and April 16 executions. It was tested for potency on March 17.

That claim, Trottie's lawyers contend, "is not supported by a shred of evidence, expert or otherwise, or the relevant science, which understands that expiriation dates of compounded chemicals is not a fixed science, is dependent on factors including the quality and sterility of the original ingredients, the proficiency of the compounders and the testing laboratory and storage conditions."

The federal appeal also challenges the reliability of the laboratory which tested the drug for potency, noting that it came under U.S. Federal Drug Administration scrutiny for operational shortcomings in 2013.

Trottie's lawyers say that use of a "drug beyond its use date deriving from a deeply flawed and unregulated industry is highly likely" to present the possibility of "serious, unneccessary and lingering pain and suffering."

Texas replaced its traditional 3 drug lethal cocktail with a single dose of pentobarbital in 2012 after anti-death penalty activists succeeded in shutting off supplies of the other drugs. Texas has executed 515 killers since lethal injection was begun in 1982.

(source: Houston Chronicle)

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

Executions under Rick Perry, 2001-present-----276

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982-present----515

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

277------------Sept. 10-----------------Willie Trottie--------516

278------------Sept. 17------------------Lisa Coleman---------517

279------------Oct. 15------------------Larry Hatten----------518

280------------Oct. 28------------------Miguel Paredes--------519

281------------Jan. 14------------------Rodney Reed-----------520

282------------Jan. 21-------------------Arnold Prieto--------521

283------------Jan. 28-------------------Garcia White---------522

284------------Feb. 4--------------------Donald Newbury-------523

285------------Feb. 10-------------------Les Bower, Jr.-------524

286------------Mar. 18-------------------Randall Mays---------525

(sources for both: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

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

Trottie to die over 1992 murder

While many students will be attending classes and going about their daily business tomorrow at Sam Houston State University, three blocks away from campus the Texas Department of Criminal Justice will be carrying out the death penalty against Willie Tryon Trottie, after having served more than 2 decades in prison.

A native of Harris County, Trottie, was only 23-years-old when he was convicted in the murders of his former partner Barbara Nell Canada, 24, and her brother Titus C. Canada, 29.

After Trottie and Barbara Canada's relationship ended in September 1992, Trottie, who had a restraining order against him, threatened to kill her if she did not return to him by May 1, 1993.

2 days later, in response to Canada's lack of compliance with his request, Trottie kicked down the door to the house where Canada was staying with her mother and other family members and began opening fire with a 9 mm pistol.

Reacting quickly, Titus Canada grabbed hold of his own pistol and began firing back at Trottie successfully hitting the perpetrator, before Titus himself became wounded. Trottie then went to the back of the house where he found Barbara Canada in a rear bedroom and proceeded to shoot her 6 more times in the presence of 7 children.

Trottie then returned to the living room where Titus Canada was wounded and continued to shoot him execution-style in the back of the head.

After driving himself to the hospital in Barbara Canada's car, Trottie was arrested.

Tomorrow at 6 p.m. Trottie will face the death penalty for his actions made more than 21 years ago in the Walls Unit of the Texas Prison System.

(source: The Houstonian)

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

Potentially Innocent Texas Man Will Die on Death Row Anyway

Max Soffar already knows he's about to die, but it's not because he's on death row. The 58-year-old man has maybe a shot at seeing 2015, but even that is in doubt, due to advanced, inoperable liver cancer. Despite already spending over 3 decades behind bars, Soffar is likely to never see outside the Texas prison he has been held at since his 1st death penalty conviction in 1981. Now, with maybe weeks of life left to him, his lawyers are hoping he can have one last shot at freedom as his lawyers petition for clemency.

Soffar was convicted of murder in the early 1980s, but his conviction relied heavily on a recorded confession that Soffar claims was coerced. The tape held just two hours worth of what lawyers say was over 24 hours of interrogation, some of which was believed to be strong-armed and leading, and potentially abusive.

"Richard A. Leo, who teaches at the University of San Francisco School of Law and has written several books on police interrogation procedures, analyzed Mr. Soffar's tape and determined that officers in the case used verbal techniques like accusation, forceful pressure, repetition and confrontation," reported the New York Times in 2012. "All of these, Dr. Leo wrote in an affidavit, 'create a risk of eliciting false confessions when misapplied to the innocent.' Mr. Soffar, sleep-deprived and coming down from drug use, was particularly susceptible, Dr. Leo said."

Although Soffar's 1st conviction was overturned because a judge felt the lawyer mishandled the case, a retrial still found him guilty, and still based that decision squarely on the taped confession even though a witness prior to the shooting ID'ed a different suspect.

Under normal circumstances Soffar could potentially still get off death row with a new appeal, since the state hasn't even set a date for his execution and he isn't even out of his fifties. His terminal diagnosis, however, makes it impossible for that to ever happen in time, which is why his lawyers are arguing for clemency. "The reality is that the federal court process will likely not be completed before Mr. Soffar dies," his lawyers said in the petition, according to the Associated Press. "The exigency of this situation is the driving force behind what Mr. Soffar admits is an unusual request for clemency at this stage of a capital case."

The District Attorney's office has already said they plan to turn the request down.

Even if Soffar dies of his cancer before the process plays out, Texans see the battle to get him out of jail as a worthy exercise in pushing for fairness and leniency in one of the more virulently pro-death penalty states in the nation. "It's a good bet Soffar doesn't get that relief, and it's a good bet that cancer will take him before appeals are exhausted and the executioner is cleared to proceed in Huntsville," writes the Dallas Morning News editorial team. "Still, the clemency request serves a righteous purpose. It lays out another Texas capital case where the facts consist of many hazy shades of gray. Texans should know the uncomfortable truth about who's cleared to be executed in their name."

Soffar, a man who was interrogated while not at full mental capacity, whose "confessions" were used as evidence in his own murder trials, who saw evidence thrown out during his trial that could have cleared his name, such as new suspects or news articles, and who had a cop speak out as a character witness to say that he likely wasn't capable of the crime, is going to die in jail 3 decades after being put behind bars, all for a crime he likely didn't commit. He will be denied even a few short months or weeks to compassionately receive palliative care and end his life in his own bed. Because of his terminal illness, he will not have a chance to join the nearly 150 people on death row cleared of their crimes before they died.

He will die on death row, not through a lethal injection, but at the hands of a prison system that would rather be sure every crime is punished than guarantee the right person is punished for that crime.

(source: care2.com)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Overturned death penalty conviction sparks debate in NC

The release of a death row inmate wrongly imprisoned for 30 years has shed new light on the conflicted state of the death penalty in North Carolina.

On Sept. 2, a Robeson County judge vacated the convictions of Henry McCollum and his half brother Leon Brown after the state's Innocence Inquiry Commission tested DNA from the crime scene and found that the evidence implicated a different man.

McCollum and Brown were convicted in 1984 of 1st-degree murder and rape. Both men spent time on death row, though Brown's sentence was later changed to a life sentence in prison.

DEATH PENALTY IN NC

North Carolina is 1 of 32 states with a death penalty:

--Since 2000, the number of death sentences given in N.C. each year has declined.

--The state carried out its last death row execution on Aug. 18, 2006.

--The Racial Justice Act was passed by state lawmakers in 2009 and repealed in 2013.

--Death row inmate Henry McCollum was released on Sept. 3, 2014 after DNA evidence proved his innocence.

"If these men had been executed years ago, we almost certainly would have never learned of this grave injustice," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, in a statement.

McCollum's release leaves 152 inmates on North Carolina's death row.

Death row executions in North Carolina have halted since 2006 due to a variety of legal challenges, including several under the state's former Racial Justice Act, which allowed defendants to use claims of racial discrimination to have their death row sentences converted to life in prison without parole.

The 2009 act was repealed by the N.C. General Assembly in 2013. Still, 4 case appeals are pending involving the Racial Justice Act in the N.C. Supreme Court, said Vernetta Alston, an attorney with the Durham-based Center for Death Penalty Litigation.

Until the court decides those cases, Alston said, the future of the law's role in state death penalty litigation remains unclear.

"It's our position that everyone who has an RJA motion currently pending - that those motions are not rendered mute by the repeal of a law," she said.

Lawyers filed a motion under the Racial Justice Act in McCollum's case, but his release was based on separate litigation, she said.

Jennifer Marsh, director of research and community services at UNC School of Law, said critics of the Racial Justice Act wrongly argued the act would lead people to be released from prison.

"That is not and was never a remedy under the act," she said.

Support for the death penalty for people convicted of murder stands around 60 % nationally, according to the most recent Gallup poll on the issue. But capital punishment's approval is at its lowest point in more than 40 years.

And Sarah Preston, policy director for North Carolina's chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said she thinks there has been national and state momentum against the use of capital punishment.

A national advocacy group called Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty launched in 2013 to push for an end to the death penalty, Preston said, and North Carolina has a chapter of the organization.

"What we're starting to see is recognition that is sort of bipartisan - and lots of groups and categories of people are starting to recognize that the death penalty is broken in a variety of different ways," she said. "It feels different from how it's felt in the past."

(source: Daily Tar Heel)

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

More proof the NC death penalty lives up to no conservative standards

Like most people in North Carolina, I watched last week as an innocent man was released after 30 years on death row. Henry McCollum walked free because DNA evidence found by the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission showed that another man was the likely perpetrator in the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl.

Also freed was McCollum's half-brother, Leon Brown, who was serving a life sentence for the same crime, which McCollum, as a scared 19-year-old, had falsely confessed to.

I am sure many of us had the same thought: What a terrible waste of 2 lives. As former state auditor, I also can't help but think: Not only were 2 innocent men sent to prison for 30 years, but the state spent millions of dollars of its scarce resources to house, feed and provide medical care to men who could have been contributing, productive members of society. But that expense is minor compared with the amount North Carolina spent on the legal fight to execute Henry McCollum. That cost is incalculable.

Capital prosecutions cost millions more than noncapital murder trials, and McCollum's 1984 trial was just the beginning. As with most death penalty prosecutions, the initial conviction was followed by years of appeals, which go on far longer than those in noncapital cases.

In the years since he was sentenced to death, McCollum has had attorneys fighting to stop his execution - and prosecutors fighting to make it happen. Countless experts have been hired, and thousands of hours have been spent poring over documents and evidence. As happens in most death penalty cases, taxpayers footed the bill for all his defense and prosecution costs.

Thankfully, the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission, which is funded in part by state and federal dollars, took on this case. The commission spent 4 years and hundreds of thousands of dollars digging up evidence and conducting state-of-the-art biological testing.

I do not argue that any of these steps was unnecessary. If not for every one of them, an innocent man would have been executed.

As a conservative, I believe in swift and sure justice for people who commit crimes. I also believe in a system that is efficient and effective. As Henry McCollum's case clearly illustrates, our capital punishment system lives up to none of those standards.

This case suggests there are many areas of our justice system needing improvements. One of the first should be to replace the death penalty with life in prison without parole and let the worst offenders die in prison. At least then we would be assured that North Carolina never again spends millions in an effort to execute an innocent man.

(source: Les Merritt, state auditor from 2005 to 2009, is a member of North Carolina Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty; News & Observer)

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Exonerated death row inmate had Boston legal team behind him

After countless hours of pro bono work and roughly a half dozen trips to North Carolina, Richard Johnston, a partner in WilmerHale's Boston office, was not expecting the fate of his client, the longest-serving death row inmate in North Carolina's history, to turn on a dime. But turn it did when long-awaited DNA evidence cleared Henry Lee McCollum of raping and murdering an 11-year-old girl, a conviction that had put McCollum behind bars for 30 years. McCollum's half brother Leon Brown, who was serving a life sentence for the 1983 crime, also was cleared, though Johnston did not represent him.

Once the DNA evidence emerged this summer, clearing McCollum and linking another man to the crime, "everything moved at dizzying speed," said Johnston, in a recent interview with the BBJ. Johnston was WilmerHale's lead partner on the case, working along with 2 other Boston-based WilmerHale attorneys. The group from WilmerHale serve as co-counsel with The Center for Death Penalty Litigation, based in North Carolina.

In the past 20 years,15 different WilmerHale attorneys have worked pro bono on McCollum's case, some of them from the law firm's Boston office and others from the Washington D.C. office, a spokeswoman said.

"We'd had (Roscoe Artis) in our sights for several years," Johnston said, referring to the man whose DNA matched evidence found on a cigarette butt and connected him to the murder. "We never had the slam dunk (against him) until this final DNA evidence came."

The North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, an independent agency, gathered the DNA evidence through its broad subpoena powers. "As lawyers, we wouldn't have been able to get the evidence they were able to get," Johnston said. WilmerHale first got involved with McCollum's cause 20 years ago when a former partner convinced the firm there had been a miscarriage of justice. In the early days of the case, Johnston said, DNA evidence was "hard to come by" and efforts by WilmerHale to get it were unsuccessful.

"We asked in 2002 to have DNA testing done on our client. Some was done and it showed that our client's DNA wasn't on a particular piece of evidence. But it wasn't enough to convince the judge and the D.A. that there wasn't some other evidence out there that implicated our client," Johnston said.

Given the difficulties of obtaining DNA evidence, Johnston said, the legal strategy was to get the death penalty revoked because of McCollum's mental disability.

One of the most disappointing moments in the case came in May, Johnston said, when the defense team argued that McCollum was mentally disabled and, as a matter of law, he should not be on death row. Instead, a judge decided to hold a hearing in August to determine if McCollum was mentally disabled.

When the new DNA evidence emerged, Johnston said, the discussion suddenly shifted and focused on McCollum's overall innocence.

Johnston said he plans to stay involved with McCollum, and the next step includes securing compensation for him for the years he spent wrongfully convicted. Meanwhile, Johnston is still absorbing the surprising and unexpected outcome last week.

"I don't think any of us had any idea that (the case) would end up quite this way or become the magnetic issue that it has become," Johnston said.

(source: bizjournals.com)

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Another death knell for the death penalty

The practical reasons for ending America's status as one of the "killingest" countries on the planet when it comes to executing its citizens (along with Iran, Iraq, China and a few other paragons of human rights) are so obvious and numerous that it seems almost silly and repetitive to list them yet again. It's kind of like making the case against drunk driving or the international sex trade.

For the record, though, let it be noted for the umpteenth time that the death penalty:

--does not deter Americans from committing crime in the states (like North Carolina) in which it still exists,

--is applied with wild degrees of inconsistency, bias and general unfairness,

--costs more than long-term imprisonment, and

--leads with stomach-turning frequency to one of the greatest crimes a government can commit - namely, the intentional killing of an innocent person.

Sadly, however, decisions about the death penalty (both generally and in specific cases) are rarely made based upon a dispassionate assessment of the facts. For whatever reason, we Americans find it hard to put our emotions aside in assessing the death penalty - especially when it comes to its retention and actual application.

There's simply something so heinous about some murders that gut emotions are often relied upon (and even accepted and respected by many in the public) as the legitimate bases for life and death decisions. 26 years ago, many American voters cited Presidential candidate Michael Dukakis' failure to respond with sufficient emotion to a hypothetical debate question about his wife's murder as grounds for electing his opponent.

An emotional symbol crumbles

What happens, though, when the basis for our emotional response to murder and the imposition of the death penalty turns out to be based on a lie? North Carolinians (and, hopefully, all Americans) are about to grapple with this question in the days ahead in the aftermath of yesterday's ruling in Robeson County overturning the sentences of Leon Brown (life in prison) and Henry McCollum (who was sentenced to death) 3 decades after they were convicted of one of the most heinous murders imaginable.

It turns out, thanks to the dogged work of lots of people - including the state's Center for Death Penalty Litigation - that there is abundant and compelling evidence to show that both men are not guilty of the crime for which they were sentenced. This is from a summary of the situation provided by advocates at the North Carolina Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty:

New DNA testing by the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission proves beyond a doubt that Henry McCollum, N.C.'s longest serving death row inmate, and his brother, Leon Brown, who is serving a life sentence for the same crime, are innocent. Henry and Leon were sentenced to death in 1984 for the murder of Sabrina Buie, an 11-year-old who was raped and suffocated in the Robeson County town of Red Springs. DNA testing now shows that the true killer was Roscoe Artis, a convicted rapist and murderer who lived 1 block from the crime scene. Artis is a serial rapist who was sent to death row for killing another young woman, less than a month after Sabrina's murder, in eerily similar circumstances.

This long-delayed DNA test finally corrects a wrong that began 30 years ago, when police coerced false confessions from 2 intellectually disabled teenagers.

Of course, this is far from the first death row inmate in recent decades for whom reasonable doubt has been discovered years after conviction. The Death Penalty Information Center has catalogued 140 such exonerations - 7 in North Carolina - in the last 40 years. What makes this latest development even more noteworthy than "normal" however is that Mr. McCollum's case did not involve a run-of-the-mill death sentence.

As Daily Tar Heel staff writer and UNC-Chapel Hill senior Political Science major Seth Rose explained in a column published yesterday, McCollum was actually used by one of the American death penalty's best-known and most powerful defenders as a symbol for why it should be retained during one of the most famous debates on the subject.

Here's Rose:

20 years ago, Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun offered a statement rarely heard from a figure of his stature. He passionately renounced the death penalty, proclaiming that he would "no longer tinker with the machinery of death."

Blackmun argued that decisions involving the death penalty were too subjective and prone to human error to be consistently administered constitutionally. His appeal, shocking in an era of overwhelming public support for capital punishment, did not go uncontested.

Justice Antonin Scalia offered a scathing rebuttal to his colleague, whom he accused of attempting to "thrust a minority's views upon the people." Scalia argued the need for the death penalty as an appropriate punishment for the most heinous of crimes. He wrote about two cases before the Supreme Court at the time, which he believed made death by lethal injection look "enviable." One of those cases, notably, concerned the brutal rape and murder of 11-year-old Sabrina Buie, committed in Red Springs, North Carolina [i.e. the case in which McCollum was convicted].

After detailing the particulars of McCollum's case and wrongful conviction, Rose concludes this way:

Justice Scalia believed the Red Springs murder proved the necessity of the death penalty. If this was the strongest case a Supreme Court justice could make for the continuation of the death penalty, McCollum's innocence is an even stronger one for why we are incapable of justly administering a punishment of such finality.

Moving toward abolition

Rose is absolutely right, of course. If what was supposedly one of America's most potent symbols for retaining the death penalty has turned out to be a fraud, there is an especially powerful symbolism in its public demise. Perhaps that's 1 reason the story is receiving international attention - that plus the rank (and rankling) hypocrisy of a nation that purports to lecture the bullies of the world about human rights being found to have sanctioned such a debacle.

Sadly, even full exoneration will not bring back the 3 decades that McCollum and Brown have lost in this tragedy. As the Robesonian newspaper editorialized over the weekend:

But even if they walk free, there isn't much left for Leon Brown, now 46, and half-brother Henry McCollum, now 50, to reclaim beyond whatever satisfaction comes with the shedding of the labels rapist and murderer .... We don't know what [Judge] Sasser and perhaps [District Attorney] Britt will decide, but justice delayed is justice denied. It was long ago too late for McCollum and Brown.

Moreover, the issue remains terribly convoluted for the families of the victim as well. Advocates at the group Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation captured this truth in a statement Tuesday:

As a community of people who have had loved ones taken by murder, we at Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation (MVFR) know the deep pain of senseless violence. We also know that, in many cases, the death penalty deepens, prolongs and complicates that pain.

When our judicial system punishes the wrong person, both the person convicted and the victim's family are denied justice. Imagine Sabrina Buie's family going through 30 years of appeals, seeing the accused killer's face in the paper again and again, waiting for an execution that never came. Imagine knowing that the man the state almost executed "in their name" was innocent. Imagine finding out that the person who actually committed this awful crime was never held accountable. As in so many cases, the death penalty has been nothing but a false promise for a family that has suffered way too much.

All that said; it is never too late for the truth to be told and injustice to be exposed - either with respect to the lives of wronged individuals or a system as a whole. Right now in North Carolina we are witnessing both of these phenomena in action. Let's hope the process continues to its logical conclusion - the complete and permanent abolition of the death penalty - as rapidly as possible.

(source: Rob Schofield is the Director of Research at N.C. Policy Watch; Jefferson Post)

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Getting It Dead Wrong for 30 Years

According to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Henry Lee McCollum deserved to die for the brutal rape and murder of 11-year-old Sabrina Buie. There's just one problem, and a frequent one in death penalty cases: Henry Lee McCollum didn't do it.

Instead of tracking down the true killer, police and prosecutors went after Henry Lee McCollum and his half-brother Leon Brown, two intellectually disabled and innocent teenagers. While his mother wept in the hallway, not allowed to see her son, officers interrogated McCollum for 5 hours, ultimately coercing him to sign a confession they had written. In a trial without forensic evidence and plagued by racial bias, these 2 half-brothers with IQs in the 50s and 60s were sent to death row. Henry Lee McCollum and Leon Brown, whose sentence was later reduced to life in prison, have been behind bars for the last 30 years.

Last week, they were finally exonerated in another disturbing example of how deeply flawed the death penalty is, particularly for African-American men in the South.

Death penalty supporters have long cast Henry Lee McCollum as a mythic boogeyman. After North Carolinians passed the Racial Justice Act, a law outlawing racial bias in capital cases, opponents of the law mailed sensationalized fliers showing McCollum's mug shot, claiming it would lead to the release of convicted killers like him. Justice Scalia depicted McCollum as a strong argument against death penalty abolition because of the gruesomeness of Sabrina Buie's murder.

There is a perverse irony here. Henry McCollum, long invoked as an argument for the death penalty, is innocent. Instead of the ultimate threat, he represents the ultimate injustice: a government condemning an innocent man to die. McCollum is not a boogeyman. Rather he is a case study of everything wrong with a broken capital punishment system that has no place in this country.

In another cruel irony, McCollum's boogeyman status was successfully used to thwart the Racial Justice Act, which proved racial bias in four cases before it was repealed last year. And that's tragic because North Carolina and other southern states desperately need laws like these to protect the innocent from racial bias.

Southern states, like North Carolina, are the most likely to wrongfully convict and sentence innocent people to death. And in those states, black defendants bear the greatest burden of wrongful convictions. Of the 9 men wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death in North Carolina, 8 are men of color and 7 - including McCollum and his half-brother - are black.

Race showed up in McCollum's trial from the start. The trial prosecutors in McCollum's case deliberately and unconstitutionally struck multiple qualified black jurors from jury service. This is a common practice: statewide, prosecutors were more than twice as likely to strike qualified black jurors as all other jurors.

For years now, North Carolina prosecutors have known about the statistical evidence showing widespread bias in the way they pursue capital convictions. Rather than addressing the findings and changing their practices, they have fought the Racial Justice Act and tried to keep statistical evidence of racial bias out of court. These misplaced priorities further erode the capital punishment system's ability to produce accurate and just results, leading to errors that can never be erased.

North Carolina's legislators now need to take a close look at Henry Lee McCollum and Leon Brown and see how racial bias distorts and undermines the state's criminal justice system. 2 innocent men are now middle aged, leaving prison after being locked up since they were teenage boys. Sabrina Buie's loved ones have been strung along for 3 decades by police and prosecutors, believing 2 innocent men took their little girl from them in a rural North Carolina soybean field. And a community's trust in the ability of its courts to produce a just outcome - accurate and untainted by racial bias - has been eroded.

After 3 decades of needless injustice, it is good to celebrate the fact that Henry McCollum and Leon Brown are going home. But the statistics tell us that there are many more like them, many who made it to death row only because of a broken and biased system. We need more protections, not fewer, to reduce the risk of wrongful convictions and eliminate racial bias. Ending the death penalty would be a good start.

(source: Cassandra Stubbs, Director, ACLU Capital Punishment Project)

GEORGIA:

Charges in hot car death are strong

Justin Ross Harris was indicted last week on 8 counts in the hot-car death of his 22-month-old son, Cooper. Harris could face the death penalty if prosecutors decide to seek it and he's convicted of the most serious charge.

However, the felony murder charge predicated on second-degree child neglect - which was the original charge at the probable cause hearing months ago - still poses the biggest threat to Harris' freedom. That, and, of course, the sexting charges, which will likely be the easiest to prove.

But make no mistake: That felony murder charge will be how the prosecution can convict Harris of his son's murder, even if the killing was unintentional, and, in Georgia, if the underlying felony was unintentional.

Each of the 8 counts plays a key strategic role in maximizing the state's chances of a conviction against Harris. Following is a breakdown of these carefully calculated charges. The brilliance of the strategy is in the details.

Murder in Georgia: Most states divide murder into degrees. Georgia does not. In Georgia, there's only 1 degree of murder, but with very different kinds of killings qualifying as murder.

In this case, 2 types of murder are alleged: 1) an intentional killing called "malice" murder, and 2) "felony murder," an enigmatic unintentional killing, that is still classified as murder because it is the result of an enumerated felony.

Even more complicated, in this case, two different subcategories of felony murder are alleged using child neglect crimes as the predicate felony. Any of these convictions carries a minimum life sentence, but only malice murder is eligible for the death penalty.

Count 1 -- malice murder: This is the murder with which we are all familiar. It's the kind committed in the Rue Morgue, or by Professor Plum with the candlestick in the billiard room; or any of the "Murders She Wrote." Film, literature and even our board games reflect our cultural assumptions about murder -- that it's an evil crime reserved for the most wicked intent. In Georgia, that's called malice murder, which is defined as a killing with "malice aforethought," or intent to kill.

There are 2 kinds of malice: express and implied. Express malice is that deliberate, manifested intention to end another's life. The reality is, however, that direct evidence of deliberate intent is a rarity. Defendants don't always volunteer: "I shot the sheriff."

It's quite the opposite. Nearly all defendants steadfastly maintain their innocence; they're more likely to deny shooting the deputy. That's why the law allows for malice to also be implied from the circumstances, as long as the defendant's behavior demonstrates an "abandoned and malignant heart."

Whether express or implied, to convict here the prosecution has a heavy burden to prove this mental element. That's why felony murder is a much more appealing and devastating weapon in the charging arsenal.

Counts 2 and 3 -- felony murder (which are predicated on counts 4 and 5, respectively): Felony murder is more of a legal fiction than it is traditional "murder." It is an unintentional killing, but one that happens during the commission of another crime.

The rationale is that if you commit an inherently dangerous felony, you accept the high possibility that a person will die during the act.

An example would be that if you were robbing a bank and 1 of your co-conspirators went crazy and shot a teller and a cop? Well, you'd be charged with felony murder, even though you didn't pull the trigger. You committed a felony, and a death resulted.

So, to prove felony murder, the prosecution need not prove intent to kill. It only need prove: 1) commission of the underlying felony and 2) a resulting death.

Count 2 is felony murder based upon count 4: intentional child neglect. So, if the defendant acted intending to cause his child cruel and excessive physical pain, and death resulted, he has committed felony "murder" under count 2.

Still the most problematic for this defendant, however, is count 3, which is the original charge from the preliminary/probable cause hearing. This is felony murder predicated on another felony, count 5, 2nd degree child cruelty. But, instead of having to prove the defendant intentionally caused excessive physical pain (1st degree), the prosecution here need only prove that he caused pain with criminal negligence (second degree), even if it was unintentional.

The traditional felonies eligible for felony murder were intentional crimes: burglary, arson, rape, robbery and kidnapping.

To allow felony murder for an accident seems inconsistent, but Georgia courts hold that this crime of criminal negligence can be the predicate crime for felony murder. That's right: In Georgia, you can be convicted of murder -- society's most heinous crime -- for your unintentional negligence.

Count 6 -- criminal attempt: As a society, we punish not only completed crimes but also attempts to commit crimes. It makes sense: suppose a bank robber trips and breaks his leg on his way into the bank with his Glock and his President Nixon mask. He is then arrested without even entering the bank to rob it.

We all agree that he cannot escape punishment simply because he's unsuccessful at robbing banks. At the same time, if the would-be robber simply fills up his gas on the way to buy a Glock and a Nixon mask, so he can rob a bank in the future, has he "attempted" a robbery yet? Where's the line?

To the courts, as long as whatever the defendant does is a "substantial step," then he's guilty of attempt. Here, the attempt is connected not to the death of his child but rather to the alleged sexual exploitation of another minor -- the target of the text messaging.

Counts 7 and 8 -- dissemination of harmful material to minors: To many, these charges seem like they are tacked on, but they are anything but. In fact, they are devastating to the defendant tactically. Here's why:

Harris is now additionally charged with knowingly disseminating and furnishing to a minor female sexually explicit printed matter and photographs -- or, as the detective testified at the preliminary hearing: sexting. The Cobb County detective testified that while Cooper was in the car, Harris sent a photo of his erect penis to an underage girl and was sexting with several women.

At that hearing, the defendant had a strong argument that the sexting was improper character evidence (generally not admissible to prove criminality), and more, that evidence that Harris was a creep was not admissible on the neglect or murder charges.

But watch what happens now that he's been indicted on these charges: evidence supporting the sexting charges is now relevant. That evidence will at a minimum cause a jury to dislike Harris. At worst, it will be viewed as motive to be rid of his child.

Second, of all the charges, these are arguably the easiest to prove, thanks to technology. Did phone 1 send something to phone 2? Was that something considered "harmful material"? Was a recipient a minor? Most of those elements can be established with phone records and a birth certificate. As for the "harmful material," so far, if the allegations are true, it sounds like it could fit.

Ultimately, this is hardly a scatter-shot indictment. Each charge plays a vital role, but the most potentially damaging is still the same charge from the preliminary hearing: the felony murder based upon the 2nd-degree criminal neglect.

After all, whether you condemn this defendant or sympathize with him, there is a preliminary consensus that at minimum he did something tragically and massively careless. And under modern law, that is apparently what we call "murder."

(source: CNN)

ALABAMA:

Prosecutors seeking death for man in killing of 91-year-old neighbor must cite reasons

Prosecutors have to spell out their reasons for seeking the death penalty in the case of a Huntsville man charged with strangling his 91–year-old neighbor in August 2011, a Madison County judge has ruled.

Madison County Circuit Judge Bill Bell last week granted a defense request which will require the Madison County District Attorney's office to disclose within 30 days the "aggravating circumstances" they will cite in seeking the death penalty for John Clayton Owens.

Bell also denied a motion by Owens' attorneys Brian Clark and Ron Smith to throw out the capital murder indictment. The defense had argued the indictment should be dismissed because it didn't include the aggravators alleged against Owens.

He is charged with burglarizing the Bide-A-Wee Drive home of Doris Richardson and strangling her to death. Owens lived with his uncle in the house next door to Richardson's and he sometimes mowed her lawn. Her body was found on Aug. 26, 2011.

During Owens' November 2011 preliminary hearing a Huntsville Police Department investigator testified Owens admitted burglarizing the home, but denied killing his elderly neighbor.

Capital murder trials in Alabama have two phases, the guilt or innocence phase and, if the defendant is convicted, a penalty phase. There are only 2 possible sentences, life without parole or the death penalty. In cases where the prosecution is seeking the death penalty it argues that aggravating factors in the crime mean the death penalty is appropriate.

The defense present s mitigating factors in an effort to persuade jurors against a death sentence and the jury is then asked to recommend a sentence.

The jury's recommendation is considered as part of the sentencing but the decision on life or death is up to the trial judge.

The defense has argued the Owens indictment only lists 1 aggravator - that the killing occurred during a burglary - but state law has many more other possible aggravating factors and the prosecution is likely to cite more than 1 of those aggravators in seeking the death penalty.

Aggravators listed under Alabama Code section 13A-5-49, include, the murder was: especially cruel; committed by someone for financial gain; created a risk of death to more than 1 person; 1 in a series of killings; done to disrupt enforcement of the law; committed to effect an escape or avoid arrest; committed by a person already under a sentence for a different offense.

Alabama law also includes mitigating factors in section 13A-5-51 that can be cited during the sentencing phase and used to argue against the death penalty.

Those mitigating factors include: no significant history of criminal activity, the defendant was under extreme mental or emotional duress, the victim was a participant in the defendant's conduct, the defendant was an accomplice, the defendant was dominated by another person or the defendant's ability to appreciate the wrongfulness of his actions was substantially impaired.

A defendant's age can also be considered as a possible mitigating factor, under the law.

The case is being prosecuted by Madison County Assistant District Attorney Bill Starnes.

The trial is set to begin Nov. 3

(source: al.com)

OHIO:

Jury considers death penalty

By mid-afternoon Tuesday, Judge Gregory Singer was in the process of holding a hearing in the sentencing phase of the murder trial of Anthony Stargell, Jr., 23, of Dayton, who was found guilty of all charges including 3 counts of aggravated murder last week in the death of former Scioto County resident Tommy Nickles in April of 2012.

The jury was directed to return one of four possible sentences - the death penalty; life without the possibility of parole; life without the chance of parole for 25 years, or life without the chance of parole for 30 years.

On Tuesday, attorneys for both sides gave opening statements dealing with mitigating factors as opposed to aggravating circumstances in determining whether to return the death penalty.

During the trial, a surveillance video reportedly showed Stargell shooting Nickles, who operated Quality One Electric, in Dayton. Stargell was convicted of shooting Nickles and his dog Rusty and attempting to set fire to the business. He was additionally found guilty of stealing Nickles' van and taking surveillance equipment from the business.

Stargell's attorney utilized self defense in the trial saying Stargell believed Nickles was reaching in his desk for a gun when he fired the shots.

(source: Portsmouth Daily Times)

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Man Accused Of Killing 4 In Bucyrus Could Face The Death Penalty

A man accused of killing four people in Bucyrus has been indicted on 21 counts.

Donald Hoffman, 41, could now face the death penalty.

The Marion Star says Hoffman faces aggravated murder charges in the deaths of Billy Jack Chatman, Freelin Hensley, Darrell E. Lewis, and Gerald Lee Smith.

"The nature and the seriousness of the charges leaves little other choice other than to seek the death penalty," Crawford County Prosecutor Matthew Crall told the newspaper.

Crall said there are 2 murder charges per victim. 1 is for taking the life of a victim, and the other is committing a felony in which someone ends up dead.

Other charges against Hoffman include 4 counts of aggravated robbery, 4 counts of kidnapping, 4 counts of felonious assault, and 1 count of abuse of a corpse.

Hoffman is being held on a $10 million bond.

(source: 10tv news)

TENNESSEE:

Holly Bobo's remains found in Decatur County, TN

Human remains discovered in a rural Tennessee county are those of a missing nursing student who disappeared from her home in April 2011, investigators said late Monday.

The remains of Holly Bobo were found Sunday in Decatur County, not far from her home in the town of Parsons, about 110 miles east of Memphis, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director Mark Gwyn told a news conference.

Bobo was 20 when she disappeared. Her brother told police that he saw a man dressed in camouflage leading her away into the woods. Investigators and volunteers scoured the woods and fields of the town of about 2,400 for clues, but her remains were not immediately found.

Gwyn has said the Bobo investigation has been the most expensive and exhaustive in TBI history, and it's not over yet.

Since Bobo disappeared, the small town of Parsons and surrounding areas in West Tennessee tried to support the family, putting up pink ribbons on lamp posts, mailboxes and storefronts. Bobo was wearing a pink shirt and carrying a pink purse before she disappeared.

2 men found a skull Sunday not far from property owned by the family of Zachary Adams, who has been charged with Bobo's kidnapping and murder. He has pleaded not guilty. The area near his family's property was searched in March.

A 2nd man facing murder and kidnapping charges, Jason Autry, also has pleaded not guilty.

Recently elected District Attorney Matt Stowe said his office was preparing to seek a possible death penalty in the case. A decision is expected in coming weeks, after he consults with the Bobo family, he said.

"The evidence is voluminous," Stowe said. "We are going to make sure that everyone who played a part in the heinous crime that has attacked the peace and dignity of the state of Tennessee faces a consequence for that."

Stowe said the Bobo family would be issuing a statement Tuesday.

Before the news conference Monday, the Bobo family was trying to remain calm and let authorities do their job, said their attorney, Steve Farese.

"You can imagine the emotional roller coaster that they've been on," Farese said.

2 brothers, Jeffrey Kurt Pearcy and Mark Pearcy, also face charges of tampering with evidence and accessory after the fact in the case. Both men have said they are not guilty.

(source: Times Free Press)

MISSOURI----impending execution

Missouri Fights Lethal Injection Suit on Eve of Earl Ringo Execution

A federal appeals court will hear arguments Tuesday on a lawsuit filed by 23 death row inmates who are challenging Missouri's secrecy-shrouded lethal injection protocol, but the outcome won't affect 9 of the plaintiffs - because they have already been executed.

1 plaintiff in the suit, Earl Ringo Jr., could be put to death at the state penitentiary in Bonne Terre just hours after the hearing on the suit, which the losing side is likely to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ringo is pressing last-minute appeals on several fronts, including a claim that racial bias played a role in his sentencing by an all-white jury. But the latest court filing argues the execution should be canceled because of revelations that prison officials have been quietly using the controversial drug midazolam on condemned inmates.

Midazolam is the common thread in three executions in 2014 that did not go as planned in Ohio, Oklahoma and Arizona - and Missouri Department of Corrections officials said under oath in January that they would not use the drug.

But St. Louis Public Radio reported last week that since November, nine death row inmates have been injected with midazolam before being given a lethal dose of pentobarbital.

Ringo's lawyer says he believes midazolam isn't being used simply to calm the nerves of condemned inmates but to "mask the symptoms of the lethal injection drug" - the pentobarbital.

"The Department's actions shock the conscience, and a hearing is required to determine whether the prison intends to continue its pattern of unconstitutional executions," defense lawyer Richard Sindel wrote in a motion.

Corrections officials said midazolam is "not part of the actual execution."

"A sedative is administered to relieve the offender's level of anxiety in advance of the execution. The only lethal chemical the department uses is pentobarbital," the agency said in a statement.

Elsewhere, midazolam is used as a lethal agent.

In Ohio, it was part of a 2-drug injection tried for the 1st time during the January execution of Dennis McGuire, who took nearly 25 minutes to die and appeared to gasp for breath.

The botched April 29 injection of Clayton Lockett, which prompted the White House to order a review of execution procedures nationwide, also involved midazolam, as did Arizona's July 23 execution of Joseph Wood, which lasted 2 hours.

For Missouri's death row inmates, however, midazolam has not been the primary issue. Instead, the suit that goes before the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday morning focuses on claims that the Show-Me State is violating the Constitution by refusing to name the compounding pharmacies that sell the pentobarbital.

The prisoners are also challenging lower court rulings that have presented a paradox: Even if they successfully show an execution method would be unduly painful, they must recommend a more humane alternative to end their own lives.

While Texas remains the leading capital-punishment state in America - 16 murderers were put to death in the state last year - Missouri could break its own state record for executions by January. If his appeals fail, Ringo will be the 8th prisoner to enter the death chamber in 2014, the most in 15 years.

State officials have shown no inclination to slow the pace. In fact, Attorney General Chris Koster suggested this year that the prison system should make its own lethal injections so it doesn't have to rely on suppliers that demand anonymity.

Ringo is a plaintiff in the suit the Eighth Circuit will hear en banc, meaning all the judges will weigh in as opposed to a select few. His lawyer said it was not clear if that would help him win a temporary reprieve, noting that courts have declined to issue 11th hour delays for most other inmates involved in the case.

"It hasn't been a roadblock so far," Sindel said.

Relatives of Ringo's victims did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

(source: NBC News)

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

Racial bias influences Missouri executions

Death Penalty

For the past few weeks, citizens of the world have been questioning the equality of the criminal justice system in Ferguson. And yet, very few seem to be asking if racial bias affects how the most drastic, irreversible act of the law - executions - are carried out in Missouri, the state ranked 5th in executions since they were reinstated in1976.

On September 10, Earl Ringo is scheduled to be the 4th black man executed in Missouri this year. Mr. Ringo was sentenced to death as a result the robbery of a restaurant after-hours that resulted in the deaths of 2 employees. The 1 African-American from the Cape Girardeau county jury pool who was actually questioned about her qualifications to serve on Mr. Ringo's jury was struck for cause at the request of the Prosecuting Attorney and under dubious circumstances. Mr. Ringo was thus tried by an all-white jury in front of a white judge by a white Prosecuting Attorney. Both of the people who died on the night of the offenses were white.

The handing down of the death penalty in America is clearly affected by the color the defendant's skin. African Americans have always been, and continue to be, disproportionately put to death at the hands of the American "justice" system. Currently African Americans account for 42% of the nation's death row population, even though they make up only 13% of the nation's civilian population. Furthermore, African Americans are disproportionately over-represented among those who have been sentenced to death and later found innocent. 38% of death row inmates freed since 1973 because of new evidence were African Americans, and even more alarming 35% of those executed and later found to be innocent were Black.

If Ferguson taught us anything, it's that grave consequences follow when the hard questions go unanswered. A 2012 study commissioned by the American Bar Association specifically found that Missouri's capital punishment system is influenced by race and that racial considerations play an improper role in determining outcomes in capital cases.

Mr. Ringo's attorneys have requested that the Governor stay the execution of Mr. Ringo and appoint an independent board to look into the issue of how race may have been a factor in his conviction and sentence. Earlier this year, St. Louis University School of Law, under the guidance of former Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court Michael Wolff, launched a study aimed at answering the difficult questions of what factors play a role in capital sentencing decisions. This study provides a framework for conducting the exact analysis that is needed and being requested by Mr. Ringo's attorneys.

Governor Nixon should stay Earl Ringo's execution and grant an independent board of inquiry.

Cheryl Clay----President, Springfield NAACP

(source: Letter to the Editor, Springfield News-Leader)

OKLAHOMA:

Death chamber revamped for upcoming executions

The director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections says the agency will renovate the state's death chamber and get new equipment for executions, including a tool that will allow staff to more easily find suitable veins for lethal injections.

Prisons director Robert Patton discussed the troubled April 29 execution of Clayton Lockett.

Lockett writhed and moaned before he was declared dead 43 minutes after his execution began.

A report issued last week blamed Lockett's flawed lethal injection on poor placement of intravenous lines.

The medical team could not find suitable veins in Lockett's arms, legs, neck and feet, leading the team to insert it in his groin.

Patton says that upgrades to the death chamber will include new communication devices so government officials can know what's going on.

(source: tvnz.co.nz)

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

Oklahoma updates policies after botched execution----After a state report released last week on April execution, prison officials say they will use new tools to find veins

Oklahoma is renovating its death chamber and buying new equipment for executions - including a tool to allow staff to more easily find suitable veins for lethal injections - after a troubled execution earlier this year, the director of the state Department of Corrections Robert Patton said on Monday.

The move follows a state report released last week that faulted poor monitoring of the intravenous line delivering the fatal drugs during the April 29 execution, in which the prisoner writhed and gasped on a gurney for 43 minutes.

"I am extremely confident that these changes will have executions moving smoothly in the future," Patton said.

Republican Gov. Mary Fallin said last week that more executions would not take place until the new protocols are in place.

The state plans to have the new protocols written within 2 weeks to correct for shortcomings revealed in the report about the troubled execution of Clayton Lockett, convicted of a 1999 murder in which he shot 19-year-old Stephanie Nieman with a sawed-off shotgun as he watched 2 accomplices bury her alive.

The prisons department aims to have all the recommendations made in the report in place and ready for the next Oklahoma execution, Patton told reporters.

When asked if he was embarrassed by the Lockett execution, Patton said: "It was clear that we needed a review." He added that the execution "was not botched."

The state's Department of Public Safety (DPS) report last week blamed Lockett's flawed lethal injection on poor placement of intravenous lines, saying the medical team could not find suitable veins in Lockett's arms, legs, neck or feet before the line was inserted into his groin.

The report said a doctor and paramedic trying to execute Lockett failed nearly a dozen times to place an IV in his body and were unprepared for how to proceed once the line they secured to deliver a lethal injection began leaking drugs, causing a swelling in Lockett's leg slightly larger than a golf ball. Death penalty opponents slammed the execution as an example of the inhumane nature of the punishment.

DPS investigators made 11 recommendations to improve the process, including having additional lethal injection drugs on hand, more training for medical personnel in the death chamber and leaving the IV area of the body exposed so it can be monitored.

Among the changes under way are a fresh coat of paint for the death chamber, new seating for witnesses and expanded medical equipment that includes a vein finder and a heart monitoring machine, Patton said.

Patton declined comment on whether the sedative midazolam, which was used for the 1st time in the state with Lockett, will continue to be part of Oklahoma's lethal injection method. Use of the drug is being challenged in a federal lawsuit filed by death row inmates including Oklahoma's Charles Warner, who in 1997 raped and murdered his roommate's 11-month old baby, Adrianna Walker.

Warner was set to die on the same day as Lockett, but his execution was postponed after problems with Lockett's lethal injection. Now he is next on the state's death penalty schedule, with his execution set for Nov. 13.

Gov. Fallin has said she wants the new guidelines implemented before the state conducts another execution. Patton said he would inform Fallin if new procedures are not in place or training is not done before Warner's execution day.

But critics contend there is no quick fix for a troubled system.

"The execution of Mr. Lockett represented multiple foundational failures of leadership, at various levels, including the systematic lack of transparency, which has marked this execution since before it began," said Dale Baich, an attorney for Oklahoma death row prisoners.

President Barack Obama said in May that the execution raised questions about the death penalty in the United States. He said he would ask Attorney General Eric Holder to look into the situation.

Oklahoma is also facing lawsuits over its execution protocols and the combination of chemicals it uses. Midazolam has come under scrutiny after it was used in problematic executions in the state earlier this year, as well as Ohio and Arizona. In each case, witnesses said the inmates gasped after their executions began and continued to labor for air before being pronounced dead.

(soure: Al Jazeera America)

COLORADO:

Prosecutors join defense, ask judge to bar TV cameras from Colorado theater shooting trial

Prosecutors in the Colorado theater shooting case joined defense lawyers in opposing television coverage inside the courtroom during the trial, saying it would inflict intense and hurtful attention on victims who testify.

In a court filing dated Friday and made public Monday, prosecutors also argued that television coverage could change the way trial witnesses behave.

Last week, attorneys for defendant James Holmes argued courtroom television would violate his right to a fair trial by making witnesses worry about public reaction if they gave testimony considered favorable to Holmes. They said it could also expose jurors and attorneys to death threats and cause other problems.

Prosecutors also asked the judge to bar still cameras from the courtroom. Defense lawyers focused their objections on television.

6 Denver television stations, a Denver radio station and the CourtTV cable channel asked the judge last month to allow a single TV camera and an audio system in the courtroom during the trial, scheduled to start Dec. 8.

The Denver Post filed a separate request to have a still photographer in the courtroom who would provide photos to the Post, The Associated Press and others.

Steven Zansberg, an attorney representing the Post and the AP, said media organizations planned to file a response with the court Tuesday on the requests for both still and television cameras.

Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to multiple counts of murder and attempted murder stemming from the July 2012 attack on a movie theater in the Denver suburb of Aurora. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

More than 400 people were in the theater, and 12 were killed. Another 70 were injured.

In their latest filing, prosecutors said they plan to call about 70 people who survived the attack to testify, along with family members of the dead.

If cameras are allowed in the courtroom, the victims' images and voices will end up permanently on the Internet, available to media organizations and bloggers as well as conspiracy theorists and "groups of individuals who support mass murder," prosecutors wrote. In a footnote, they added that as strange as it sounds, mass-murder supporters do exist, linked by the Internet.

Many of the victims will give highly personal, emotional and difficult testimony, and they will have no way to erase it from Internet sites, prosecutors wrote.

Separately, defense lawyers again suggested Holmes could withdraw his insanity plea, but one outside analyst said that appeared unlikely.

In a filing released Monday, the defense argued that prosecutors shouldn't automatically get a video recording of Holmes' second sanity evaluation. One reason they cite is that if Holmes changes his plea after the evaluation, prosecutors are no longer entitled to see the results.

The judge rejected the defense request.

Dan Recht, a longtime Denver defense lawyer who isn't involved in Holmes' case, said the odds of a plea change were remote. However, Recht agreed with Holmes' attorneys that prosecutors should not be given the recording automatically.

Holmes' attorneys made a similar suggestion in June 2013, but no change was made. They have not said what new plea Holmes might enter. His other choices are guilty or not guilty.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Political expert: Hickenlooper will have a tough time gaining re-election----Death penalty stance cited as biggest issue

2 months from Election Day, voter surveys show a dead heat and political analysts predict a tight race in Colorado's gubernatorial election.

"This is the 1st time Gov. Hickenlooper has ever really been challenged in a political race," said Bob Loevy, a retired political science professor at Colorado College.

The delayed execution of a man on death row is the biggest issue in the campaign, according to Loevy, and Hickenlooper's stance against the death penalty will hurt him at the polls.

Hickenlooper granted an indefinite reprieve to death row inmate Nathan Dunlap last year and has suggested he could grant him clemency even if he is not re-elected. Republican challenger Bob Beauprez says, if elected, he would carry out the death sentence for Dunlap. Dunlap was convicted of murdering 4 people at an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in 1993. When granting the reprieve, Hickenlooper said he doubted the fairness of Colorado's death penalty.

Though it's a hot issue in November's election, Loevy argued voters should remember there's effectively no death penalty in Colorado because it's been carried out just once in the 40 years since it was reinstated in 1975.

"When you think of all the other issues in Colorado that we might be arguing over in a tough governor's race, here we are arguing over the death penalty, something that actually doesn't exist in the state," said Loevy. "We did put one man to death for murder and absolutely no one else. We've gone years and years with people committing murders and no one being put to death."

Besides Dunlap, there are 2 other men on death row. Robert Ray and Sir Mario Owens were both convicted in the murders of Javad Marshall-Fields, a witness to a murder trial involving Ray, and Marshall-Fields' fiancee, Vivian Wolfe.

Loevy said the death penalty in Colorado is only used politically and under pressure from the public in high-profile cases.

"If a district attorney senses there is great public outrage in the case of a murder, they will seek the death penalty," Loevy said. "Not because of the seriousness of the crime, but because of the political situation and how angry the people have become over the particular murder."

The issue weighs heavy with Colorado voters, most of whom still support the death penalty. A recent Quinnipiac University poll showed 69 % of the state's voters support the death penalty while 24 % think it should be replaced by life in prison without parole.

Loevy said the Aurora theater shooting case could also sway voters because people want to see the shooter punished to the full extent of the law. Though the trial hasn't started, prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for James Holmes, the suspect. Loevy said some voters may worry that having Hickenlooper in office may prevent a potential execution.

Loevy also said he believes this November will have a strong Republican undercurrent because it's the 6th year President Barack Obama, a Democrat, has been in the White House.

"Gov. Hickenlooper has had the bad luck of this death penalty case coming up in a year where we're all expecting things to go Republican anyway," Loevy said. "I think it's going to be a very close election, but if anyone wins easily, I think it's going to be the Republican, not the Democrat."

(source: KRDO news)

WYOMING:

Monterastelli: Time to repeal the death penalty

Editor:

On Sept. 11, a state legislative committee will discuss whether to sponsor a bill in the 2015 session that would abolish the death penalty. Lawmakers have been debating alternatives to lethal injection since many pharmaceutical companies began restricting sales of the drugs to prisons throughout the U.S. Earlier this year, the Wyoming Legislature rejected a bill that would have specified firing squads if lethal drugs were not available. There are many reasons to repeal the death penalty in Wyoming. Repeal is a non-partisan issue. For many, repeal is a religious, ethical or philosophical matter. Repeal will protect victim's families from reliving trauma. Repeal will protect innocent people from being executed. The death penalty is not a deterrent. Valuable tax dollars can be saved with the repeal of the death penalty. Repeal is part of promoting a culture of life. I encourage those on the Judiciary Committee to take this opportunity to begin the process to repeal the death penalty in Wyoming.

Rox Monterastelli, Casper

(source: Letter to the Editor, Casper Star Tribune)

ARIZONA:

Corrections department renews registration to import execution drug

The Drug Enforcement Administration on Thursday renewed the Arizona Department of Corrections' registration to import pentobarbital, the drug of choice for executions in states that allow lethal injection.

The notice comes just 6 weeks after the state executed Joseph Wood Jr. using a different set of drugs, midazolam and hydromorphone, in a process that took almost 2 hours and that witnesses said left Wood gasping for air.

"I would think they want it (pentobarbital) because what happened during their last execution was an embarrassment," said Richard Dieter, executive director at the Death Penalty Information Center. He called pentobarbital the "most desired drug for states who administer the death penalty."

But the drug has become increasingly hard for states to come by, as some manufacturers have refused to sell the drug for lethal injection.

Officials at the Arizona Department of Corrections would not comment on the DEA approval Thursday, except to note that it was a renewal of a previous license to import. A call to the DEA was not immediately returned Thursday.

The renewal is just one step in what would be a long process toward the importation of pentobarbital, said experts familiar with the process. In addition to the DEA approval, the corrections department would also have to be granted approval from the Food and Drug Administration to import the drug.

Even then, they might be hard-pressed to find a seller, Dieter said.

"The major manufacturers don't want to sell it for executions," Dieter said.

While a "local pharmacist might be able to put it together," Dieter said, Arizona has not been able to get the drug from compounding pharmacies as states like Texas and Missouri have done.

Dale Baich, the assistant federal public defender for Arizona, said he asked the state before Wood's execution where it acquired the 2 drugs it planned to use in the execution.

"They refused to tell us the source," Baich said.

Wood, convicted of a 1989 double-murder in Tucson, spent 23 years on death row before his execution on July 23. Witnesses said in published reports that Wood spent almost 2 hours strapped to a gurney in the death chamber after the lethal drugs were administered, gasping for air about 600 times by one count.

Donna Hamm, executive director of Middle Ground Prison Reform, said the focus on which medications to use for executions is simply a way for death-penalty supporters to kill "without the spectacle."

Hamm said that for death-row inmates, a life behind bars is punishment enough.

"People don't realize what the loss of freedom means," she said. "That is a harder punishment."

But, for states that do have the dealth penalty, pentobarbital is "paving the way for quick, relatively quick executions," Hamm said.

Baich said it is important for the public to know where the state acquires drugs that it uses for its executions.

"The public should be fully informed about how the ultimate punishment is carried out," Baich said. "That includes the drugs that are used during the execution."

(source: The Explorer)

CALIFORNIA:

Oakland: Accused Oikos University massacre killer still mentally unfit for court, doctors say

An Alameda County grand jury has returned a 10-count felony indictment against accused Oikos University massacre shooter One Goh, who attorneys said Monday is still considered too incompetent for prosecution. Goh, 45, was a former student at the private nursing college in East Oakland when on April 2, 2012, he fatally shot 6 students and a receptionist, and shot and wounded 3 others because the school refused to refund his tuition, according to police. Police said he confessed to the shootings upon his arrest.

A paranoid schizophrenic who also suffers from a major depressive disorder, Goh was deemed in 2012 too incompetent to understand the criminal proceedings against himself and assist in his defense.

He has been being treated at Napa State Hospital since January 2013. If the doctors there can't determine that he is mentally fit to stand trial within three years of his hospital admission date, the Alameda County District Attorney's Office will have to pursue a "Murphy conservatorship" to keep him hospitalized.

Prosecutor Stacie Pettigrew announced in court Monday that a grand jury on Aug. 26 returned a 10-count felony indictment against Goh that includes 7 counts of murder, and 3 counts of premeditated and deliberate attempted murder.

There are 2 special allegations in the indictment that make Goh eligible for capital punishment: multiple murders, and murder in the course of a kidnapping.

The district attorney's office has not announced whether it would seek the death penalty against Goh if or when he is found competent. The charges against him automatically call for life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Police say Goh was asked to withdraw as a student from the college months before he walked on to the Edgewater Drive campus armed with a .45-caliber handgun and several magazines and started shooting.

Killed were Judith Seymour, 53, of San Jose; Lydia Sim, 21, of Hayward; Sonam Choedon, 33, of El Cerrito; Grace Kim, 23, of Union City; Doris Chibuko, 40, of San Leandro; Tshering Rinzing Bhutia, 38, of San Francisco, and Katleen Ping, 24, of Oakland.

After the shooting, Goh stole a car on campus and drove to Alameda, where he was arrested.

The next update on Goh's mental health is due to be heard in court on April 27. He will not be arraigned on the indictment, which supersedes a preliminary hearing, until he is declared competent.

(source: Mercury News)

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

Man Gets Death Sentence In 2 San Gabriel Valley Murders

A man was sentenced to death Monday for murdering a worker at a Subway sandwich shop in Whittier and a man in a San Gabriel parking lot during robberies about a decade ago.

Leonardo Alberto Cisneros, 30, was ordered to be transferred to San Quentin State Prison sometime within the next 10 days.

"When all appeals have been exhausted...the warden is ordered to put the defendant to death," Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ronald S. Coen said.

An automatic appeal will be filed in the case.

Cisneros was convicted on May 7 of 1st-degree murder for the 2 killings. Diangui Wu, 50, of Rowland Heights, was killed on Aug. 4, 2004, in the 1800 block of South Del Mar Ave. in San Gabriel. On Dec. 10, 2004, 22-year-old Pasadena City College student Joseph Molina was killed during a heist at the Subway store in the 5400 block of Norwalk Boulevard.

Jurors found true the special circumstance allegations of murder during the course of a robbery and multiple murders. They also found Cisneros guilty of 16 counts of robbery and 1 count of attempted robbery. Some of those counts involved armed robberies at other business in the San Gabriel Valley area. On May 23, they recommended the death penalty.

In his closing argument, Deputy District Attorney Frank Santoro told the 8-man 4-woman panel that Cisneros "does not deserve to walk around a prison or be in prison."

"He turned into a monster, a ruthless, brutal killer," the prosecutor said.

3 members of Molina's family, some wearing T-shirts with his likeness, offered statements to the court Monday. They included a measure of forgiveness for Cisneros.

Calling the defendant "some nervous, misguided thief," Molina's uncle Marty Speer said he hoped Cisneros "doesn't have evil in him" and that the killing was "just a horrible mistake."

Josephina Molina, the victim's mother, said she wanted Cisneros to repent. Otherwise, Molina said, the defendant would suffer "eternal damnation in hell."

Molina said she had come to a difficult personal decision. "I have decided today to extend my forgiveness to you, Mr. Cisneros," she said.

Cisneros scribbled notes throughout the family's comments, not turning to look at them.

Following the sentencing, Santoro was less forgiving, saying that the shootings were gratuitous. Cisneros could have walked away with the money, leaving his victims unharmed, the deputy district attorney said.

"He did it because, basically, he was an evil man," Santoro said.

One of Cisneros' attorneys, Nancy Sperber, had implored jurors to spare her client a death sentence. She told jurors that life without the possibility of parole, the other sentence jurors could have recommended, was "not something to treat lightly."

"It is serious," she said. "It's not a sentence to a country club."

Santoro said the punishment was justified.

"It's an appropriate sentence in this case," Santoro said. "It took a long time, but justice was finally served."

(source: CBS news)

USA:

Death row doubts? Not in the mind of Justice Scalia

In 1994, Justice Harry A. Blackmun wrote a dissent from a Supreme Court decision not to review the case of a Texas murderer on death row. Blackmun wrote that he no longer could believe that the death penalty could be applied fairly and consistently.

Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a sarcastic rejoinder, noting that death by lethal injection was preferable to the death of the murder victim in the case, who was shot and left to bleed to death on a barroom floor.

"The death-by-injection which Justice Blackmun describes looks pretty desirable next to that," Scalia wrote. "It looks even better," he continued, "next to some of the other cases currently before us ... for example, the case of the 11-year-old girl raped by 4 men and then killed by stuffing her panties down her throat. How enviable a quiet death by lethal injection compared with that!"

Scalia was referring to the case of 2 half brothers with mental disabilities who had been convicted of a 1983 rape and murder. One of them, Henry Lee McCollum, has been facing the death penalty for 30 years. His brother, Leon Brown, was serving life.

There had never been physical or witness evidence against the 2 men, who signed admissions of guilt after hours of questioning but later recanted their confessions.

Recently tested DNA evidence showed them to be innocent, and a judge in North Carolina ordered McCollum and Brown released. Is Scalia having 2nd thoughts about the death penalty? Not likely. In 2009, explaining why he voted against giving another death row inmate a chance for a rehearing after the major witnesses against him recanted, Scalia noted that the Supreme Court "has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is 'actually' innocent."

Some 3,108 prisoners are on death row nationally. Indiana, one of 32 states that still has the death penalty, has 13 of those prisoners.

(source: Journal Gazette)

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

A Whiff of SCOTUS Skunk----The Odor Seeping Out of Our Criminal Justice System

First there was Ferguson, Missouri and the gunning down of an unarmed black youth and the ad-nauseum follow-up emphasizing over-and-over the shooting officer's fear. Now it's the release of 2 half brothers in North Carolina clearly railroaded into convictions and death sentences by a notoriously remorseless, good-'ol-boy district attorney.

Once a fair-minded superior court judge actually looked at the evidence and declared the emperor had no clothes, any 8th-grader could see the criminal justice system in this nice little North Carolina community had cynically set up Henry Lee McCollum and Leon Brown, 2 intellectually vulnerable African American teenagers, to clear the docket of a sensational, vengeance-demanding child murder case. Until the judge's ruling, everyone had simply assumed because they had been convicted and were in prison these men were guilty. In 1994, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia even cited the barbarous natures of McCollum and Brown in defense of the death penalty.

The Ferguson case of a police homicide in broad daylight on a public street has been intentionally placed on a secret, very slow wheels-of-justice track that can only benefit Officer Darren Wilson's expected argument in court that he felt fear, which in the realm of courtroom narrative and reasonable doubt means he walks. In common US jurisprudence, a police officer's fear and his or her perception of threat - even if shown to be unfounded - is sacrosanct and excuses pretty much anything.

On the other hand, fear is never permitted as an excuse when an ordinary citizen responds violently to a police officer. If Michael Brown had had a gun and, with a couple non-lethal rounds in his back, had turned and got off a lethal shot at Officer Wilson, every court in the land would have sentenced him to lethal injection or life in prison. There can be no self-defense against a police officer. Any kind of violence directed at a police officer can only be additional provocation, demanding an escalation of violence from the officer. The Law looks out for its own.

In North Carolina, Superior Court Judge Douglass Sasser had the courage to declare McCollum and Brown innocent after 30 years in prison. They were convicted in 1983 of raping and murdering an 11-year-old girl. 30-year-old DNA evidence on a cigarette butt at the scene pointed to a known violent pederast who lived near the 11-year-old girl's house. While the already malodorous Ferguson case awaits shoes yet to drop, the McCollum/Brown case released a particularly loathsome pent-up stench that reaches all the way to the US Supreme Court.

The interrogating police officers used what is called "fear-up" tactics to intimidate the 2 teenage brothers into signing bogus confessions with information the police manipulated into their frightened, vulnerable minds. McCollum tells us now that he had never been in police custody before that day and was simply overwhelmed by the behavior of the cops. He told them what they wanted so he could go home, something they had promised. He "confessed" that 2 other boys were involved in the raping and killing of the 11-year-old girl. Neither of those boys were ever charged with anything. Why not? Because The System had everything it needed: 2 confessed killers to wrap up the case. They were poor, black and not too smart, so who would give a damn? Case closed.

The district attorney at the time, Joe Freeman Britt, is 6'6" tall and was notorious over his career for sending people he had charged to death. He reportedly withheld evidence that might have altered the case. As expected, Britt still insists the 2 men are guilty. Like he's going to tell the press, sure, I framed those 2 vulnerable boys to wrap up a highly emotional child rape-murder case. Citizens wanted vengeance for such a heinous crime, so I gave it to them. How do you think I stayed in office all those years? If there was such a thing as real justice in a case like this, Britt and the cops involved would each be sentenced to 30 years of lousy prison food and having to look over their shoulders 24/7.

But that's not how the American criminal justice system works. You get the "justice" you're able to pay for. The recent exoneration of McCollum and Brown is the exception, based in this instance on the tireless hard work of good-hearted people. 3 cheers for the exceptions!

(Allow me to parenthetically slip in, here, that, 1, while prisons are too often a bad way to solve societal problems, sometimes they are necessary. Two, the majority of inmates in prison are guilty as charged. And 3, the prison system in this country is a runaway train of evil dysfunction saturated with racism and class arrogance.)

The worst smell seeping out of the McCollum/Brown case is a little like the smell of a skunk. On one level, it's really obnoxious, but then a little of it can be pleasantly musky. I'm speaking of the image of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia suddenly caught with his pants around his knees.

It involves a 1994 exchange between Scalia and fellow Justice Harry Blackmun in SCOTUS chambers. Blackmun had written that he was morally fed up with the death penalty and would not vote to approve one ever again.

"Rather than continue to coddle the court's delusion that the desired level of fairness has been achieved," Blackmun wrote in a February 1994 dissent in Callins v. Collins, "I feel...obligated simply to concede that the death penalty experiment has failed."

Scalia countered Blackmun by citing the McCollum and Brown case. He was aware of the case because it was upcoming on the docket that term. (The court eventually refused to hear the case, with Blackmun dissenting.)

As Scalia responds to Blackmun, his tone gets smarmier and snottier as it goes forward. He doesn't like the example Blackmun cites in making his case that the death penalty is too sloppily applied and, thus, unconstitutional. Scalia cites "the case of the 11-year-old girl raped by 4 men and then killed by stuffing her panties down her throat. How enviable a quiet death by lethal injection compared to that!" (Scalia doesn't seem to be bothered that 2 of the "4 men" - actually boys - he cites as guilty of this heinous crime were oddly never prosecuted.)

Earlier, Scalia had ridiculed the liberal death penalty abolitionist movement for being unable to come up with even one innocent person put to death. (Blackmun also assumed McCollum and Brown were guilty.) Scalia was driven by the need for certainty and vengeance in cases like the murder of an 11-year-old, while Blackmun had serious doubts focused on the very real human shortcomings of a justice system they both sat astride in godlike splendor.

We should not expect any kind of comment, let alone an apology, from either men. Blackmun died in 1999, and Antonin Scalia is too much the defender of government, corporate and institutional power in all its forms to say anything. In fact, innocence doesn't seem to even matter to him. He made this clear in 2009 in a remark he made on the Troy Davis death penalty case in California.

"The Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is 'actually' innocent. Quite to the contrary, we have repeatedly left that question unresolved, while expressing considerable doubt that any claim based on alleged 'actual innocence' is constitutionally cognizable."

We have been given a glimpse into a criminal justice system that sees police murder as an unfortunate but necessary evil, and, at the very top, sees the execution of an innocent person as legal. Or in Scalia SCOTUS mumbo-jumbo, constitutionally un-cognizable.

The fetid stink rising from such an inbred institution can be overwhelming at times. But, then, if these matters were unfolding in Venezuela or Cuba or Iran, the evil would be crystal clear.

(source: John Grant is a member of ThisCantBeHappening!, the new independent 3-time Project Censored Award-winning online alternative newspaper; counterpunch.org)

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

What Will Doom the Death Penalty----Capital Punishment, Another Failed Government Program?

To opponents of the death penalty, recent accounts of botched executions and DNA-based exonerations of death-row prisoners have revived hope that judges and voters will finally see capital punishment for what it is: an intolerable affront to human dignity.

But while such optimism is understandable, it is misplaced. Support for capital punishment is, in fact, in decline - but it's less the result of a moral awakening on the part of the public than a symptom of a 40-year-plus process of disillusionment.

In 1972, the Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutionally unfair, but left the door open for states to come up with new laws to remedy the arbitrary sentencing criteria it found troubling. Conservatives seized that opportunity to advance a broader agenda of reclaiming a government that, in their minds, had been captured by liberal elites - welfare-oriented bureaucracies and Earl Warren's Supreme Court - that were intent on using big government to upend traditional values. The timing was right. Violent crime had been rising since the mid-1960s. More and more Americans wanted a government that would vanquish evil rather than manage it. The revival of capital punishment expressed a powerful moral clarity that "time off for good behavior" did not.

When it came to delivering punishment in a timely and dramatic fashion, moreover, the death penalty delivered the goods: As late as 1959, most of those executed spent less than 2 years on death row. Thus, as states created new death penalty laws, which the Supreme Court approved in 1976, few foresaw the degree to which federal oversight of capital cases would continue.

This, more than wrongful convictions and botched executions, is what is distinctive about the contemporary American death penalty. New layers of appeals and new issues to litigate at both the state and federal levels meant that inmates put to death in 2012 had waited an average of almost 16 years for their execution date. The deeply unsatisfying, decades-long limbo that follows a death sentence today is without precedent. The 3,054 men and women languishing on the nation's death rows have become the unwitting cast of a never-ending production of "Waiting for Godot."

A sense of moral solidarity is hard to generate when the devil appears in the execution chamber 20 years later, a middle-aged or elderly man whose crimes have long faded from popular memory. And it's impossible to generate when he doesn"t appear in the execution chamber at all: A vast majority of those sentenced to death since 1977 were not, or have not yet been, executed.

Efforts to remedy the problem by reforming the appellate process have been unsuccessful. In 1996, when the average stay on death row was approaching 11 years, Congress enacted legislation restricting death-row inmates' access to federal courts, in order to speed up executions. But it didn't work; since then, the time between sentencing and execution has grown by over 50 %.

The problem, it turns out, isn't foot-dragging by defense lawyers or bleeding-heart judges. It's money. In California, for instance, the low wages paid by the state to qualified lawyers who take on indigent inmates' appeals have meant that there aren't enough lawyers willing to do the work. Inmates wait an average of 3 to 5 years after sentencing for a government-appointed lawyer to handle their appeal. And that's just the beginning of a process - sometimes lasting 25 years or more - that a federal judge recently determined was so protracted that it made capital punishment in California unconstitutionally cruel and unusual.

More money for defense lawyers would reduce the high error rates in capital trials and speed up appellate reviews. But it is unlikely to be forthcoming. The costs of capital trials and appeals overwhelm budgets everywhere, but particularly in places, like the South, where the political will to fund them is the weakest. It has simply become unsustainable to be both pro-death penalty and anti-taxation, as so many Americans are.

Delivering this message to voters, rather than a moralistic one, might change their thinking. A 2012 ballot measure to abolish the death penalty in California, the shrewdly named Savings Accountability and Full Enforcement for California campaign, appealed to voters' wallets more than their hearts and came tantalizingly close to passing. Importantly, though, that near-win occurred after nearly 7 years of no executions in the state, suggesting that it wasn't just about the financial cost of the death penalty. It was about what that money had stopped delivering to taxpayers: the sense of control, closure and confidence that are the raison d'etre of the death penalty.

As depressing as it may be to abolitionists driven by a commitment to human rights, Americans, most of whom are white and live above the poverty line, find it hard to sympathize with members of an indigent, mostly minority death-row population who have been convicted of horrible crimes. Preaching to the congregation rather than the choir, then, ought to focus on the failure of capital punishment to live up to the promise of retributive justice it once held.

Casual supporters of the death penalty can be made to recognize that the death penalty has become inextricably mired in the very bureaucracy and legalism it was once supposed to transcend, and that the only solutions to the problem - an elimination of appellate lawyers for death-row inmates or a financial bailout - are unlikely to be legal or feasible.

Resources for fighting the death penalty are scarce, and for too long, abolitionists have spent them appealing to the humanistic ideals they wished most Americans shared, instead of one they actually do: distrust of government. Arguing that the death penalty is an affront to human dignity just doesn't work. But portraying it as another failed government program just might.

(source: Daniel LaChance is an assistant professor of history at Emory University; Op-Ed----New York Times)

SAUDI ARABIA----execution

Saudi beheads another Pakistani for drug trafficking

Saudi Arabia on Tuesday beheaded a Pakistani convicted of drug trafficking and one of its own citizens for murder, the interior ministry said.

Saudi Bandar Khalaf al-Enzi was found guilty of strangling a man to death during a dispute, the ministry said in a statement carried by SPA state news agency.

He was executed in the north Hail region.

Pakistani Kamran Ghulam Abbas was executed in Khubar, in Eastern Province, after being convicted of smuggling a "large quantity of heroin," the ministry said in a separate statement.

The 2 beheadings bring to 48 the number of executions carried out in the desert kingdom this year, according to an AFP tally.

Human Rights Watch expressed alarm last month at a surge in executions, which saw 19 people beheaded between August 4 and 20 alone.

HRW said 8 of those executed had been convicted of non-violent offences such as drug trafficking and "sorcery", and described the use of the death penalty in their cases as "particularly egregious".

(source: Agence France Presse)

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

UN Rights Experts Urge Saudi Arabia To Halt Series Of Executions, Beheading

The United Nations independent experts on summary executions and torture on Tuesday renewed their call on Saudi Arabia to implement an immediate moratorium on the use of the death penalty amid a reported increase in executions, many of them by beheading.

"Beheading as a form of execution is cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and prohibited under international law under all circumstances," said Juan Mendez, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. "Despite several calls by human rights bodies, Saudi Arabia continues to execute individuals with appalling regularity and in flagrant disregard of international law standards," said Christof Heyns, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

"The trials are by all accounts grossly unfair. Defendants are often not allowed a lawyer and death sentences were imposed following confessions obtained under torture. The method of execution then aggravates a situation that is already totally unacceptable," they said.

So far in 2014, at least 45 people have been executed in Saudi Arabia. Between 4 and 22 August, 22 people were executed, which represents an average of one execution per day. These included at least eight people beheaded in August for non-violent crimes including drug-smuggling and sorcery. Other offences resulting in beheading have reportedly included adultery and apostasy.

"The practice of beheading, especially after unfair trials for crimes that may not carry the death penalty under international law is shocking and grossly inappropriate," the experts said. They urged the authorities of Saudi Arabia to comply with international human rights standards.

They called on the government of Saudi Arabia to stop all executions, and in particular to cease immediately the use of beheadings or other such forms of execution that shock the conscience of humanity.

(source: RTT News)

PAKISTAN:

Convicted murderer: 1st civilian to hang in 6 years

A district and sessions judge has ordered the Adiala Jail superintendent to hang a murder convict on September 18.

Rawalpindi District and Sessions Judge Abdul Sattar had found Shoaib Sarwar guilty and awarded him a death sentence on July 2, 1998. Sarwar was accused of murdering Awais Nawaz on January 21, 1996 in Wah Cantt.

The Lahore High Court's Rawalpindi bench rejected the appeal to overturn the sessions court's verdict in July 2, 2003 and on April 3, 2006, the Supreme Court confirmed the sentence. The convict's plea for clemency was also denied by the presidency.

The victim's brother, Jamshed Nawaz, had moved the high court against the delay in implementing the court verdict despite exhaustion of all appeals by the convict. The high court ordered the district and sessions judge to implement the execution of the sentence.

Sarwar, who is imprisoned in Haripur, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, will be shifted to Adiala Jail next week. Jail sources say the family visitation is scheduled for September 17.

The convict's relatives have once again asked the president to overturn the sentence and are also trying to settle the issue through blood money.

There has been no execution of a civilian convict since 2008. Former President Asif Ali Zardari issued an unofficial moratorium on November 14, 2008 which expired on June 30, 2013. In between, a former army soldier was executed in Mianwali jail in 2012.

According to Amnesty International, there are more than 8,000 prisoners on death row in Pakistan.

(source: Pakistan Tribune)

VIETNAM:

Phuket Russian woman fights death-penalty drug charge in Vietnam

Friends and family of Phuket expat Maria Dapirka are fighting to prevent a possible death penalty for the Russian after she was arrested in Vietnam for attempting to smuggle in nearly 3 kilograms of cocaine in her carry-on luggage.

Ms Dapirka, 28, who had been living in Rawai, at the southern end of Phuket, was detained in Ho Chi Minh City's Tan Son Nhat International Airport on August 23 after arriving on a flight from Singapore, reported The Voice of Vietnam.

Police found 2 nylon bags containing white powder, weighing 1.87kg, inside her hand luggage, and another 2 nylon bags of white powder, weighing 0.93kg, inside a magazine.

Later examinations found the white powder contained cocaine, the report said.

Under Vietnam law, Ms Dapirka could face the death penalty for drug trafficking, but relatives are hoping to prove that the woman was the victim of a gang of drug dealers from Nigeria, reported the Russian online newspaper Gazeta.

The family noted that Ms Dapirka had spoken about a man named Nick, who she had been living with in Thailand. The family alleged that Nick had given Ms Dapirka the bag full of drugs without her knowledge.

"Maria would not carry cocaine, she has always lived a strictly healthy lifestyle. She does not eat meat, does not smoke, does not drink, has always said that she thinks all of those things are really disgusting," Vadim Dapirka told the Gazeta.

Ms Dapirka's relatives reported that they have a picture of Nick, but are currently trying to track down his full name and current location.

Ms Dapirka's friends have also sent out pleas for help via social media websites.

One post by Julia Aleshina on Ms Dapirka's Facebook reads, "This is an appeal to all who communicated with Masha! If you know anything, if you were told something...if you know where and to whom she carried things, if you somehow can help. If you live in Thailand or Vietnam, write me, I will pass it to her relatives. We need your help! Any kind of help."

According to the family's statement to the Gazeta, Ms Dapirka is being held in a Vietnamese prison and does not have a lawyer to represent her.

Vadim Dapirka, Ms Dapirka's brother, told the Gazeta that the family had not heard from Ms Dapirka since August 23 and became worried, so they contacted the Consulate-General of the Russian Federation in Ho Chi Minh City.

"An answer from the Vietnamese came quickly, reporting that the Consul would meet with Maria on September 12," Mr Dapirka said.

Under Vietnamese law, any persons convicted of trafficking, illegally producing or carrying 100 grams or more of cocaine can be sentenced to death.

(source: Phuket Gazette)

IRAN:

Pastor Faces Death Sentence in Iran for "Spreading Corruption on the Earth"

An Iranian Christian pastor imprisoned for his faith now faces the death penalty after being officially charged with "spreading corruption on [the] Earth," according to Fox News.

Pastor Behnam Irani - who was sentenced to 6 years in prison in 2011 for his Christian activities - is being held in solitary confinement while suffering severe health problems, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

CSW Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas told BosNewsLife that they are deeply concerned by the new charges.

"The charges leveled against Pastor Irani and other Christians are tantamount to an indictment of Christianity itself and mark a renewed escalation in Iran's campaign against Persian Christians under the Rouhani presidency," Thomas said in a statement.

Although elected as a moderate, Iranian President Hasan Rouhani has overseen the oppression of any Christian community that has evangelized the Islamic state's Muslim population.

"There are a lot of people who are disgruntled with the government and many - for comfort and peace in their lives - are turning to Christianity," Jason DeMars, founder of Present Truth Ministries, told Fox News."

In Iran, the punishment for conversion away from Islam can carry the death penalty.

(source: Worthy News)

BANGLADESH:

2 get death sentence for murder in Bangladesh

A court in Bangladesh Tuesday sentenced 2 persons to death in connection with the murder of a man in 2006.

The special district and sessions court in Chittagong has ordered the death penalty for Didarul Alam Jasim, 50, and Jakir Hossain, 50, for killing one Shariful Alam in 2006, bdnews24.com reported.

Alam was a colleague of Hossain's wife Kawsara Begum at the Dohajari Rural Electrification Plant.

Hossain has been absconding since the beginning of the trial.

The court acquitted 3 other accused as the charges against them were not proven, said public prosecutor Jahangir Alam.

In 2006, the convicts first strangled and then stabbed Alam to death at Satkania Upazila's Kachhna Union over a monetary dispute.

(source: IANS)

MALAWI:

Malawi Muslims want death penalty

Barely a few days after President Pater Arthur Mutharika publicly declared "total war" against rising incidences of crime and theft in the country, the Muslim community has joined other sectors of the Malawi society in advocating for re-activation of capital punishment in the country's statues as a permanent deterrent to soaring levels of crime.

For so many years now, the country's security system has been polarized. This has led to an increase in mob justice.

Renowned academician, Dr.Imran Shareef, who is Secretary General of the supreme Muslim body, ULAMA Council of Malawi, a composition of Muslim scholars and theologians, observed laxity of laws about crime has worsened security situation in Malawi.

Shareef: There should be execution for offenders

"Ever since the adoption of the new political order in 1993, post - democratic governments in the country have not respected the constitution by not signing execution warrants for dangerous criminals who commit very serious crimes for fear of losing popularity. But this has fueled crime rate, which is even scaring prospective investors. Criminals have gone on the prowl killing and robbing violently without mercy," said Shareef.

Shareed added: "The rate of crime in Malawi has reached alarming and worrisome levels. Criminals are not afraid of being hanged, because there is lack of political will to sign death warrants. It is for this reason that we are pleading with those in authority to uphold this clause of the constitution in order to minimize rising levels of crime rate."

The head of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the main constituent college of the University of Malawi, Chancellor said much as democracy has brought liberation to the country's citizenry, it has also brought its fair share of bad effects, which he said include freedoms which he claimed have afforded dangerous criminals opportunities to unleash terror on innocent people.

In 1993, after 3 decades of one party dominance in one of the world's most impoverished nations, Malawians decided in a referendum to revert to pluralistic politics. Since then, there have never been any executions of criminals sentenced to death by courts.

"Our stand as Muslims is that capital punishment should be enforced to ensure that this country is safe from criminals who are on the prowl. All sectors of the society are of the view that this clause of the constitution provides hope to this country which has now descended into almost state of lawlessness," said Shareef.

"During previous constitutional conferences, delegates from across all sectors of Malawi society protested against any attempts to have the clause removed, fearing that lawlessness would become a norm in the country. Therefore, by not signing any death warrants, besides breaking the law, our presidents are also going against the wishes of the people they are governing."

Former President of the Malawi Law Society (MLS) John Gift Mwakhwawa said although the last post democratic regimes in the country have avoided signing execution warrants, capital punishment was still legal in the country's statutes.

"Legally, capital punishment is still there in the Malawi Constitution, only that there has never any political will to sign death warrants for particular inmates on death row.

"The stand taken by the Muslim community and other sectors is highly commendable, but what they can do is to persuade the president to sign warrants so that offenders on death row could be executed," Mwakhwawa, said, however, adding that death penalty was not mandatory.

"Capital punishment was not mandatory. However, the courts could still impose it on offenders. But it is only up to the president to sign it or not."

Mwakhwawa added: "Using capital punishment to deter crime rate could only work if there is a political will to have it effected. But much as I agree that crime rate is on the rise in the country, but unless, there is a political will from a sitting president, there is no way capital punishment can be enforced.

"Our political leaders are afraid of losing popularity in the event that they sign death warrants, because in the past, capital punishment was associated with political repression, therefore no leader is ready to take this country back on this road."

Islam is the 2nd largest religion in the largely Christian dominated, but secular nation. It accounts for 36 % of the country's 16 million population.

Traditional leaders in the country who enjoy some semblance of influence in certain aspects of governance have also voiced out their concerns on the "soft stand" taken by political leaders over the years, to enforce some clauses of the law in the country's constitution.

"The absence of political will to sign death warrants has created a fertile ground for criminals to break the law at their own will. Malawians in the post-democratic era have not enjoyed maximum security, because criminals also claim to have right to life. It is regrettable that that we are in this situation, where in an attempt to score cheap political points, our political leaders just watch as our nation descend into anarchy," Senior Traditional leader, Mulumbe said.

Since 1993, there have been debates among individuals, religious and human rights organizations on whether to abolish death penalty or not. However calls for retention of the death penalty in the country's constitution have been deafening.

"Our message as Muslims to those in authority is that they should strive to uphold the constitution which they swore to protect and at the same time, they should respect the sanctity of life of those in the majority who are feeling the consequences of their lack of willingness to enforce death penalty for dangerous criminals," said Shareef.

(source: Nyasa Times)

INDIA:

Hours before execution, SC stays Koli death penalty

Death-row convict in the Nithari killings, Surinder Koli, got a fresh lease of life, with the Supreme Court on Monday staying his execution for a week, so as to enable him make a fresh appeal against the capital punishment.

A bench of Justices H L Dattu and Anil R Dave passed the stay order at 1.30 am on Monday on being informed that Koli may be executed in Meerut jail a few hours later. "Considering the urgency of the matter, we stay the execution of the death sentence of the applicant/petitioner for a period of one week from today," the bench said.

The plea was moved at 1 am before the bench by senior advocate Indira Jaisingh, who urged the bench to assemble urgently since the issue pertained to right to life of a person. Agreeing, the bench assembled and passed the restraining order. The stay order was also communicated to the jail authorities.

On July 24, the same bench had refused to stay the execution, while rejecting Koli's review petition against confirmation of his death penalty by the Supreme Court. The hearing of the review petition was done in chamber.

However, a week later, a Constitution bench of the Supreme Court passed a landmark verdict, ruling that review petition of convicts facing capital punishment warranted an open court hearing since the issue pertained to the right to life. The court also said all death row convicts whose review petitions had been rejected in chamber hearings, but their curative petitions were yet to be decided, could file their review petitions for open court hearings afresh.

The mercy plea of 42-year-old Kohli had recently been rejected by President Pranab Mukherjee. On September 2, the trial court had issued his death warrant.

Koli, who had killed children and chopped them into pieces in Nithari locality of Noida, Uttar Pradesh, was awarded death sentence by a trial court, which was upheld by the Allahabad High Court. The Supreme Court confirmed it in February 2011 for the murder of a 14-year-old girl in 2005. Holding that Koli "appears to be the serial killer", the court had said, "No mercy can be shown to him."

A total of 16 cases were registered against Koli and his businessmen employer Moninder Singh Pandher (57) who was also sentenced to death in Rimpa Haldar case. But, Pandher was acquitted by the Allahabad High Court.

Of the 16 cases filed against Koli, he has been awarded death sentence in 4 of them. The others are still under trial.

(source: Indian Express)

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

Bombay High Court upholds death penalty for rogue Pune bus driver who killed 9

The Bombay High court on Tuesday upheld the death sentence for the bus driver from Pune who had hijacked a state transport bus and mowed down 9 people 2 years ago.

On January 25, 2012, Santosh Mane, 37, hijacked an empty state transport bus from the Swargate depot in Pune and sped off on the wrong side of the road catching oncoming traffic and people unawares. Mane rode for about 25 kms during which he rammed into moving and stationary vehicles and pedestrians. He was later nabbed by the police.

In December 2013, the sessions court at Pune had awarded Death penalty to Mane for mowing down nine persons and injuring 37 others in a road rage incident. After he was given the death sentence by a city court, he appealed to the Bombay High Court and lost his case today.

(source: Daily News & Analysis)

SEPTEMBER 8, 2014:

TEXAS----impending execution

Texas' Death Drug: Not Regulated by FDA, but Still Safe?----Texas executes more people than any other state in the U.S., but its lethal injection drug remains shrouded in secrecy

Barring a last-minute reprieve, on Wednesday, Sept. 10, Willie Trottie will become the next person executed in the United States. According to the plan laid out by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, a single dose of the powerful sedative pentobarbital will be injected into a vein in Trottie's arm, and he'll die around 6 minutes later.

That's if all goes to plan.

In a motion filed last week, Trottie's attorneys claim there's a risk their client will suffer excruciating pain on the gurney, in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. At issue are concerns about the safety and source of the state's supply of pentobarbital, which Texas has used as its sole lethal injection drug since 2012. Perhaps incredibly, considering that it executes more people than any other state, Texas has largely escaped the scrutiny that has accompanied this year's botched executions.

The visceral, macabre stories from the death chamber have come mainly from Ohio, Arizona and Oklahoma, which utilize various cocktails of death drugs. Texas, by contrast, uses a single dose of pentobarbital, which most anesthesiologists agree in all likelihood causes a painless death. It is, after all, the same drug vets use to put animals to sleep, and the drug of choice for some advocates of euthanasia.

But some experts say this misses the point. Texas' supply of pentobarbital comes from a source that remains secret, so it's impossible to be sure of its efficacy. 2 years ago, when a Danish drug maker announced it would no longer supply the drug for use in U.S. executions, the state was forced to turn to a compounding pharmacy, all of which are unregulated by the FDA. And even these under-the-radar drug dispensaries are uncomfortable being associated with lethal injections. Last year, after an Associated Press report revealed that the Texas-based Woodlands Compounding Pharmacy provided pentobarbital to the state, the pharmacy asked for the drug back. The identity of Texas' current supplier remains unknown.

Last week, Maurie Levin, one of Trottie's attorneys, wrote in a motion seeking a temporary injunction that Trottie's efforts to find out about the drug intended to kill him "have been met with delay, resistance, and obfuscation," and what little information has been revealed is largely "meaningless." Take the most recent test results on the state's stocks of pentobarbital, which were provided to Trottie's attorneys last week. The attorneys wrote that the results, which were 4 months old, are misleading at best. For one thing, those drugs would be past their use date by the time of Trottie's execution. For another, the state didn't conduct crucial tests regarding the drug's safety.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice, however, says its supply of pentobarbital has been adequately tested. In an email to Vocativ, Jason Clark, the department's public information director, says: "[The drugs] have a potency of 108 % and were found to have no defects. The pentobarbital is not expired and has a use by date of September 2014."

In 2009, stocks of the popular execution drug sedative sodium thiopental dried up in the U.S., and since then states have experimented with various alternatives. Texas began using pentobarbital as part of a cocktail of drugs, eventually deciding on a single dose of the drug in the summer of 2012. Since then, the drug has been used in 33 executions without complications, according to the Texas DCJ.

But Fordham law professor Deborah Denno, an expert on lethal injection, says you only have to go back to 2012 to find problems with pentobarbital on the executioner's table. That's when convicted murderer Eric Robert, who killed a prison guard in a failed escape attempt, was executed using compounded pentobarbital in South Dakota. "Witnesses said he gasped heavily and that his skin turned a purplish hue," Denno says. "Using a compounded drug is going to be accompanied by risk - as are all compounded drugs that any of us use on a daily basis, particularly one used in secrecy." Pentobarbital was also the 1st of 3 drugs administered to Michael Wilson during a botched execution in Oklahoma this January. Wilson's final words: "I feel my whole body burning."

In their appeals, various inmates in Texas have cited problems with pentobarbital to try to win a reprieve. But they're up against a state with a fearsome reputation for carrying out its ultimate punishment. And far as Texas is concerned, there are no issues with the drug.

In an article about lethal injection published in the Georgetown Law Journal earlier this year, Denno wrote, "As death-penalty states turn to increasingly non-traditional sources of drugs...they face overwhelming criticism and legal challenges. In response, they have intensified their efforts to obscure information regarding the development and implementation of their lethal injection protocols." Denno wrote that the procedures were surrounded by "risk and confusion," and the only constant appeared to be execution states' desire for secrecy. "Amidst the chaos of drug shortages, changing protocols, legal challenges, and botched executions, states are unwavering in their desire to conceal this disturbing reality from the public."

Willie Trottie was 23 when he was convicted of the murders of Barbara Canada and her brother, Titus. Trottie had been dating Canada, but the couple split up, and according to prosecutors, he threatened to kill her if she didn't return to him. One night he kicked in the door to her mother's house and shot her with a 9 mm pistol before turning his gun on her brother, Titus. In a letter he sent me in April, Trottie insisted he was innocent, writing that he "only shot in self defense after I was suddenly opened fire upon by [Canada's brother]." Trottie said he sustained five gunshot wounds, for which he was treated in a hospital, and his court-appointed attorney turned out to be an "adversary" and not an "advocate." He included 45 pages of court diagrams, photos and eyewitness accounts. But the courts disagreed, leaving the path to Trottie's execution clear.

If his current lawyers are unsuccessful, at around 6 p.m. on Sept. 10, Trottie, who is now 45 years old, will succumb to the lethal dose of pentobarbital coursing through his veins. If he's lucky, it'll be as painless as the state of Texas promises it is.

(source: vocativ.com)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Man accused of killing NC teacher could face death penalty----Sharman Howard Odom is a suspect in connection to the homicide of 31-year-old Maggie Daniels.

The man accused of sexually assaulting and killing a popular school counselor in Newton learned that he could face the death penalty in her murder Monday morning.

According to WSOC, Prosecutor Kyle Smith said the case was ruled a capital case, and if convicted, a post-trial hearing would determine life in prison of death for Sharman Odom.

Odom was led into the courtroom in shackles for the hearing which lasted less than 10 minutes. Prosecutors told the judge there were aggravating factors in the case which they believe makes it a death penalty case.

Sitting just feet away from Odom was Maggie Daniels' mother, who openly sobbed during the proceeding.

Prosecutors did not say what the aggravating factors were that made it a capital case but told the judge there are 2.

Investigators said Odom kidnapped and sexually assaulted Maggie Daniels before strangling her on June 27. Her body was discovered inside her home at the Windsor Apartments in Newton.

Daniels, 31, was a counselor at Discovery High School.

A grand jury indicted Odom on 1st-degree murder, 1st-degree sexual offense and 1st-degree kidnapping in connection to the case on Aug. 18.

Search warrants released in August revealed that other neighbors said Odom was obsessed with Daniels. Officers arrested him 1 month after the crime, and said they found a "selfie" he took the day of the murder, showing marks and scratches on his face.

Timeline of Maggie Daniels case:

June 28: Maggie Daniels was found dead in her apartment.

July 7: A funeral was held for Maggie Daniels.

July 8: Surveillance photo of Maggie Daniels the day before she died was released.

July 16: Person of interest who was mentioned in one of Daniels' social media post was cleared.

July 26: Search warrants were executed for Daniels' apartment complex and cellphone records.

Aug. 2: Sharman Odom was arrested in Winston-Salem in connection to Daniels' homicide.

Aug. 4: Odom's mother attacks a Channel 9 reporter and photographer after her son's court appearance.

Aug. 18: A grand jury indicted Odom on 1st-degree murder, 1st-degree sexual offense and 1st-degree kidnapping.

Aug. 28: Unsealed search warrants reveal details of how Daniels was killed.

(source: Fox News)

OHIO:

5th man picked up in restaurant owner Jim Brennan's death gave statement to authorities about 'acquaintances,' prosecutor says; 4 men have been charged in the death of Cleveland Heights restaurant owner Jim Brennan. A 5th man, Dejonn Lamothe, is linked to the men who were charged and gave police a statement about them.

A few days after Jim Brennan was killed in his restaurant during a robbery, Cleveland Heights police announced that they had arrested 5 men in his slaying.

4 were indicted. The 5th, Dejonn Lamothe of Cleveland, gave police a statement on what he knew about the shooting and his links to the men, The Plain Dealer has learned.

Lamothe, 23, was not arrested in the slaying, but police did arrest him on an unrelated charge of carrying a concealed weapon the day after Brennan's death. Cleveland Heights police were seeking to interview him when they found him with a gun and picked him up.

He was indicted in July, and prosecutors and his defense attorney, Jaye Schlachet refuse to discuss the case that is pending before Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Michael Astrab. They also would not discuss why Lamothe was never charged in Brennan's slaying.

Prosecutors also are expected to charge Lamothe again, records show. This time, a grand jury is expected to hear evidence of how he tried to break into the home of Newburgh Heights resident while police officers chased him Aug. 24.

Lamothe's situation becomes the latest twist in the shooting death of Brennan, who was robbed at his restaurant, Brennan's Colony, June 30. 2 sets of brothers - Darien and Brandon Jones, as well as Devonne and Paul Turner - have been accused of charges related to Brennan's death. They have pleaded not guilty.

Attorneys in the case have identified Darien Jones, a 21-year-old from Garfield Heights, as the man who shot Brennan. The Joneses, as well as Devonne Turner, are each charged with aggravated murder, murder, kidnapping, aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary and felonious assault. Each is being held on $1 million bond.

Devonne Turner also was accused of receiving stolen property and illegally possessing a weapon while a convicted felon. His brother, Paul, was charged with obstructing justice, tampering with evidence and illegally possessing a weapon while a convicted felon. Paul Turner is being held on $500,000 bond.

While authorities would not discuss Lamothe's statement, it is clear that he knew the men.

Blaise Thomas, an assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor, brought up Lamothe to Common Pleas Judge Maureen Clancy during a hearing last week. He told Clancy that Lamothe was "an acquaintance'' of the men and that he gave a statement to authorities.

Thomas said he provided the statement to defense attorneys. After the hearing in Clancy's courtroom, Thomas would not discuss Lamothe's statement or why the Cleveland man was originally questioned in Brennan's death.

Lamothe's name was included in documents Thomas filed in July involving DNA testing. The document lists unspecified evidence submitted to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation that was taken from the Turners, the Joneses, 2 women and Lamothe. The women are believed to be girlfriends of the men.

On June 30, Brennan's restaurant was closed, but he was there prepping for the week. A woman walking by the restaurant called 9-1-1 when she heard 3 gunshots and saw 2 men running from the bar.

The next day, Cleveland Heights police searched for Lamothe to interview him. Police arrested him on Rockside Road and accused him of carrying a concealed weapon.

He was indicted on the gun charge and later released on a $5,000 bond. A trial date has not been set.

About 3 weeks later, he was arrested again.

On Aug. 24, a Newburgh Heights officer attempted to stop a car Lamothe was driving while on Harvard Avenue. But Lamothe bolted from the car and ran from officers, a court report shows. He sped to a nearby home and attempted to break in.

When the homeowner appeared, Lamothe said he needed to use the phone, the court report shows. The homeowner refused, and Lamothe ran again. He was later arrested.

A panel of the prosecutor's office is expected to meet next week on whether to file death-penalty charges in Brennan's slaying. The panel would make a recommendation to Prosecutor Timothy McGinty, who would decide on whether to file the charges.

(source: Cleveland.com)

MISSOURI----impending execution

Missouri Plans Execution Wednesday

2 of the nation's most active death penalty states are planning executions on Wednesday, as attorneys for the inmates continue efforts to save them.

Earl Ringo Jr. is scheduled to die at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday in Missouri for killing two people during a robbery at a Columbia, Missouri, restaurant in 1998. Hours later, Texas plans to execute Willie Trottie for fatally shooting his common-law wife and her brother in Houston in 1993.

The executions would be the 8th this year in each state. Florida also has performed 7 executions in 2014. All other states have combined for 6 executions.

A court appeal on Ringo's behalf raised concerns about Missouri's use of a pre-execution sedative and what impact it has on the execution. Trottie's lawyers said he had inadequate legal representation at trial.

(source: Associated Press)

OKLAHOMA:

Department of Corrections officials discuss recommendations after execution investigation

Officials with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections spoke about recommendations that have been created following the death of Clayton Lockett.

The agency says it is prepared to be in compliance with all the recommendations by the November execution of Charles Warner.

When asked why officials said Lockett died after a vein collapsed, authorities say they were simply trying to release information that they believed was correct.

"I was incorrect that night," said Robert Patton, the director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.

Patton went on to say that he does not feel that Lockett's execution was botched, saying his cause of death was by judicial execution.

Authorities say they are updating the execution room to "modernize it," and are working to have the appropriate level of staff during future executions.

Some of those upgrades include new communication devices inside the execution chamber so government officials can know what is happening immediately as it occurs.

When asked whether the drug cocktail used during Lockett's execution will be changed, officials say the drugs are part of a pending lawsuit and they cannot comment on litigation at this time.

The placement of the curtain is also a key point in the lawsuit.

Officials say they are working to adopt all but one of the recommendations.

The one recommendation that will not be followed is that executions will be no closer than a week a part.

However, Patton says he does not set execution dates.

Patton says they are also working to purchase a vein-finder, which will help medical professionals find a vein to insert the IV.

He says he is "extremely confident" the new protocols will have a positive effect on executions in the State of Oklahoma.

(source: KFOR news)

SOUTH DAKOTA:

Husband Charged With Murder In Mitchell Death

A Mitchell man has been arrested and charged with the murder of his wife.

Mitchell Police say 49-year-old Donald McDougal was arrested just before 10 p.m. on Saturday. McDougal was charged with 1st degree murder and an alternate count of second degree murder in the death of 49-year-old Janie McDougal.

Police say they were called to McDougal's apartment on South Main Avenue in Mitchell just after 11:30 p.m. on September 1st. Inside, they found Janie McDougal's body. After conducting an autopsy, they ruled her death as suspicious.

If convicted, Donald McDougal may face the death penalty or life in prison.

The Mitchell Police are asking for any information regarding people coming or going from this apartment on September 1st. Anyone who may have information is asked to contact police or the Mitchell Area Crimestoppers.

(source: KDLT news)

COLORADO:

Documentary on convicted murderer Nathan Dunlap stirs debate about Colorado's death penalty---CNN documentary aired Sunday night

A CNN documentary on Nathan Dunlap's 1993 murder rampage and death sentence aired Sunday night amid growing debate about capital punishment in Colorado - and about 2 weeks after the governor said in an interview for that show that he could grant Dunlap clemency.

The documentary did not include Gov. John Hickenlooper's clemency comments - which were obtained by a political blogger through an open-records request for the interview recording - though it did outline how the case has become a political talking point in this year's gubernatorial election. Hickenlooper told CNN he could grant Dunlap clemency if he is not re-elected in November.

"I think Nathan deserves to meet his maker," Bobby Stephens, the sole survivor of Dunlap's rampage, said on the show.

The 45-minute documentary is part of CNN's "Death Row Stories." The show details how Dunlap shot five people, four of them fatally, at an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese where he once worked. CNN said they chose not to include Hickenlooper's clemency comments because they could be a "distraction" to voters.

Hickenlooper - who is barely featured in the documentary - granted Dunlap a temporary reprieve in May 2013 after a judge set a date for his execution following years of appeals. "We knew that when we were making this decision, we were making the hardest decision - we would be criticized from both sides," Hickenlooper, who is against the death penalty, said on the show of the reprieve. "We try to hear all the voices and all the perspectives, but you try to get to justice."

(source: The Denver Channel)

ARIZONA:

Corrections department renews registration to import execution drug

The Drug Enforcement Administration has renewed the Arizona Department of Corrections' registration to import pentobarbital, the drug of choice for executions in states that allow lethal injection.

The notice comes just 6 weeks after the state executed Joseph Wood Jr. using a different set of drugs, midazolam and hydromorphone, in a process that took almost 2 hours and that witnesses said left Wood gasping for air.

"I would think they want it (pentobarbital) because what happened during their last execution was an embarrassment," said Richard Dieter, executive director at the Death Penalty Information Center. He called pentobarbital the "most desired drug for states who administer the death penalty."

(source: correctionsone.com)

CALIFORNIA---new death sentence

Man sentenced to death for murdering Subway worker in Whittier

A judge, following a jury's recommendation, sentenced a man to death today for murdering a worker at a Subway sandwich shop in Whittier and a man in a San Gabriel parking lot during robberies about a decade ago.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ronald S. Coen ordered Leonardo Alberto Cisneros, 30, to be transferred to San Quentin State Prison sometime within the next 10 days.

"When all appeals have been exhausted ... the warden is ordered to put the defendant to death," Coen said.

An automatic appeal will be filed in the case.

Cisneros was convicted of 1st-degree murder on May 7 for 2 killings. On Dec. 10, 2004, 22-year-old Pasadena City College student Joseph Molina was killed during a heist at the Subway store in the 5400 block of Norwalk Boulevard. Earlier, on Aug. 4, 2004, Dianqui Wu, 50, of Rowland Heights was killed in the 1800 block of South Del Mar Avenue in San Gabriel.

Jurors found true the special circumstance allegations of murder during the course of a robbery and multiple murders. They also found Cisneros guilty of 16 counts of robbery and one count of attempted robbery. Some of those counts involved armed robberies at other businesses in the San Gabriel Valley area. On May 23, they recommended the death penalty.

In his closing argument, Deputy District Attorney Frank Santoro told the eight-man four-woman panel that Cisneros "does not deserve to walk around a prison or be in prison."

"He turned into a monster, a ruthless, brutal killer," the prosecutor said.

3 members of Molina's family, some wearing T-shirts with his likeness, offered statements to the court today. They included a measure of forgiveness for Cisneros.

Calling the defendant "some nervous, misguided thief," Molina's uncle Marty Speer said he hoped Cisneros "doesn't have evil in him" and that the killing was "just a horrible mistake."

Josephina Molina, the victim's mother, said she wanted Cisneros to repent. Otherwise, Molina said, the defendant would suffer "eternal damnation in hell."

Molina said she had come to a difficult personal decision. "I have decided today to extend my forgiveness to you, Mr. Cisneros," she said.

Cisneros scribbled notes throughout the family's comments, not turning to look at them.

Following the sentencing, Santoro was less forgiving, saying that the shootings were gratuitous. Cisneros could have walked away with the money, leaving his victims unharmed, the deputy district attorney said.

"He did it because, basically, he was an evil man," Santoro said.

One of Cisneros' attorneys, Nancy Sperber, had implored jurors to spare her client a death sentence. She told jurors that life without the possibility of parole, the other sentence jurors could have recommended, was "not something to treat lightly."

"It is serious," she said. "It's not a sentence to a country club."

Santoro said the punishment was justified.

"It's an appropriate sentence in this case," Santoro said. "It took a long time, but justice was finally served."

4 others were charged in connection with some of the crimes.

Mitzie Ann Oso, 35, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in both killings and was sentenced to 8 years in prison.

Jose Resendez, 37, pleaded guilty to 2nd-degree murder and robbery involving Wu's death, while Bernadette Corvera, 33, pleaded guilty to 2nd- degree murder and robbery involving Molina's death. They were each sentenced to 15 years to life in state prison.

Sara Lopez, 32, pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact in Wu's death. She was sentenced to 3 years probation.

(source: Daily Breeze)

WASHINGTON:

Carnation Killers May Receive Death Penalty

Washington may seek the death penalty against the couple behind the Carnation Massacre, a Christmas Eve shooting spree that left three generations of a family dead, the state's Supreme Court ruled.

On Christmas Eve 2007, Michele Kristen Anderson and her boyfriend, Joseph McEnroe, murdered her parents, her brother and his wife, her 6-year-old niece and 3-year old nephew in her hometown of Carnation, Washington, a rural town 25 miles east of Seattle.

It is unclear what the couple's motive was for the shootings.

Prosecutors sought the death penalty for the crimes, but the trial court derailed the prosecution's plans in January, ruling that the state failed to allege the absence of "sufficient mitigating circumstances to merit leniency." The court then gave prosecutors 2 weeks to amend the charging information.

If sentenced to death, Anderson would be the first woman in Washington's history to receive the ultimate punishment.

The state appealed the order, and the Washington Supreme Court reversed the ruling last week.

"The death penalty notices in the 2 cases before us complied with the state statutory charging requirements of RCW 10.95.040. Each notice alleged that 'there [is] reason to believe that there are not sufficient mitigating circumstances to merit leniency,'" Justice Gordon McCloud said, writing for the nine-justice court.

Washington State law does not require that a state give criminal defendant adequate notice of the "essential elements of the crimes charged" in the charging information.

In this case, "the notice of special sentencing proceeding afforded the defendants statutorily required notice that the State intended to prove the absence of sufficient mitigating circumstances to merit leniency," McCloud said.

However, the court denied the state's request to reassign the case to a different judge on remand, because prosecutors never asked the judge to recuse himself.

"[E]ven where a trial judge has expressed a strong opinion as to the matter appealed, reassignment is generally not available as an appellate remedy if the appellate court's decision effectively limits the trial court's discretion on remand," the 19-page opinion held. (Emphasis in original.)

(source: Courthouse News)

USA:

Feds explore death for 2 gang leaders----Sanctioned killings to silence witnesses alleged in racketeering indictment

One is considered a senior-level "shot caller," doling out advice to younger gang members, coordinating a lucrative drug-trafficking and prostitution business and giving the go-ahead for killings as a brutal form of discipline.

The other is said to lead a younger clique of gang members, guiding criminal enterprises from armed robberies to murders.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in San Diego, which is prosecuting the pair as part of a wide-ranging racketeering conspiracy, is now exploring whether the totality of the alleged crimes warrants the death penalty for the two men, Randy Alton Graves, 51, and Terry Carry Hollins, 32.

Federal death penalty cases are rare nationwide, and even rarer in San Diego. There are currently 61 inmates on federal death row; two are from California, neither of whom are from San Diego, the Death Penalty Information Center reports.

Since the federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988, 3 people have been executed.

Last week, local federal prosecutors set in motion a process to decide whether this is the right case for the most extreme sanction. On Wednesday, a judge appointed 2 experienced death-penalty attorneys to assist the lawyers representing the defendants. Those defense teams will grow in the coming weeks as they bring on veteran death-penalty investigators, law clerks and mitigation specialists.

Their goal is to create what's called a "mitigation package" to present to prosecutors. It will lay out arguments for why their clients don't meet the threshold for capital punishment.

If local prosecutors decide to go forward with the recommendation, it will be up to the attorney general in Washington, D.C., to make a final determination of whether to pursue death. A decision could be more than a year away.

Graves' attorney, Jeremy Warren, contends this is not an appropriate case for the death penalty.

"Mr. Graves was not a participant in any violent crime alleged in the indictment and therefore should not be a candidate for being killed by our government," Warren said.

This death-penalty investigation process has been done twice in San Diego in recent memory: In 2007 prosecutors here explored going for the death penalty for Francisco Javier Arellano Felix because of his status as a drug kingpin, and in 2006 for 2 Mexican Mafia prisoners charged with murder and other crimes.

In the end, the attorney general declined to pursue capital punishment in both cases.

Federal guidelines spell out some of the criteria considered in a potential death-penalty case: the strength of the evidence, the role of the defendant, whether the defendant has shown interest in agreeing to a life term or accepting responsibility, and whether the crimes were committed to obstruct justice or in retaliation for the victim's cooperation with law enforcement.

That last condition could weigh strongly against Graves and Hollins.

Both are accused of running their crews with iron fists, having zero tolerance for snitches and few qualms about silencing them permanently, according to a 95-page complaint, which charges a total of 17 people.

Besides running a drug sales and prostitution operation, Graves oversaw the gang in general, often being the one who gave advice, issued orders and handled bigger problems, the FBI's task force investigation found. He called younger members his "soldiers" and Hollins his "young general."

Hollins, aka "Caby," led a younger subset of the gang, called 3-Babiez, the documents say. In December, he and 2 others were arrested on suspicion of stealing about $1,000 from a Logan Heights business in an armed robbery, authorities said.

Prosecutors accuse Hollins of participating in a 2012 killing of a rival gang member in retaliation for a carjacking. And he was also present when his crew shot fellow gang member Meashal Fairley 4 months later in front of a nightclub, the records state. Fairly was suspected of cooperating with law enforcement.

When one of Fairley's friends voiced anger at the killing, she was gunned down at a Halloween costume party. Hollins and some of his crew posed for pictures at the crime scene, and in cellphone videos bragged about being willing to kill anyone, even women, the complaint states.

The killings continued to shake the gang. When a pregnant woman then criticized the gang for the deaths of her two friends, she was targeted, prosecutors said. She and her fetus survived a shooting, but Graves encouraged others to find her in the hospital and finish her off, the records say.

"Mount up, load up and y'all handle this," he is recorded as saying in a wiretapped conversation with a fellow gang member. "The message has been that for years - you snitch, you go, period."

In February, Hollins believed fellow gang member Paris Hill gave a statement to police about another killing. Suspecting Hill was cooperating with police, Hollins called Graves and asked for advice on what to do. The court documents say Graves told someone he replied that what Hill did was "in violation and violations get dealt with. Period. No ifs, ands or buts."

On March 1, Hollins told Hill to come with him and they ended up at a party, where Hill was shot and killed. Some partygoers had been warned that a youngster was going to get "disciplined" that night, the compliant says.

When Hollins was arrested after the killing, their were concerns his girlfriend might snitch. Graves then OK’d her killing, authorities say. "Yeah she gotta go, she shared too much,” he was recorded as saying.

Authorities immediately put the girlfriend into protective custody. Wiretaps caught the gang's members expressing frustration at their inability to find her.

2 of the defendants have pleaded guilty to their roles in Graves' drug-trafficking business, and two others appear ready to do so next week.

The slayings, and the numerous other criminal acts outlined in the charging document, make for a complex case. Graves' attorney said in court last week that he's still going through the more than 70,000 wiretapped conversations - about 1/2 of which involve his client.

Attorneys for both men argued to the judge that it will take time, up to a year if done right, to prepare their arguments against the death penalty. That will include learning everything possible about Graves' and Hollins' backgrounds, family history and mental health, and understanding all angles of the case. The assistant U.S. Attorney, Stephen Wong, has argued that it can be accomplished in much less time - 90 days. The judge is expected to set a timeline this week.

Graves, aka "Sweets," is described in court documents as an "O.G." or "original gangster" of the West Coast Crips, a decades-old street gang that boasts several hundred members split into smaller groups. In San Diego, the gang claims a territory that includes Sherman Heights, Logan Heights and Grant Hill, on the edges of downtown.

San Diego defense attorney Knut Johnson, who represented one of the Mexican Mafia figures during a death penalty consideration, said the job the defense has in front of them now shouldn't be taken lightly.

"This is the most important type of criminal case the federal system can handle, and they have to be handled with the utmost seriousness," said Johnson, who isn't involved in this case. "To understand why someone shouldn't be executed for doing something very bad, assuming they even did it, you have to go back and present a complete portrait of the person, going back to before birth."

Both the death-penalty lawyers appointed to the case have years of experience in such matters. Mark Fleming and Dean Steward both were brought on to represent a leader of the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang charged in a racketeering conspiracy of murder and attempted murder in Santa Ana. The white supremacist leader escaped death in 2006, getting 4 life sentences instead. Fleming was also on the death-penalty defense team of Jared Loughner, who wounded then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in an assassination attempt in Tucson, Ariz., and killed 6 others. Loughner pleaded guilty and avoided capital punishment.

(source: UT San Diego)

SOUTH AFRICA/BOTSWANA:

Deported Botswana national 'in danger'

The life of a Botswana national is hanging in the balance after the Home Affairs Department deported him to his home country were he is facing capital punishment.

Lawyers for Human Rights have now taken up Edwin Samotse's cause and is taking the department to the high court following the deportation. Lawyers for Human Right's David Cote said Samotse was deported to Botswana despite an order from the Justice Department that he may not be extradited.

Cote said it was unclear, but Samotse might be accused of murder. "He fled Botswana and was intercepted in Polokwane. There was an extradition hearing in the magistrate's court and the justice minister asked the Botswana government to give an assurance he will not be killed if deported and found guilty," Cote said.

Botswana refused to give any assurances and the Justice Department refused to allow the extradition.

"He was then to apply to be let out of jail but that was when immigration deported him," Cote said.

Samotse was deported from the Polokwane prison in August.

Cote said since then they have not been able to locate him.

"We are not sure where in the system he is. We do not know if he's had his trial or if he is still awaiting trial. If he has been tried and found guilty, the government can execute him without notifying the family," he said.

Now, Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid SA want Home Affairs to look for Samotse and engage with the Botswana government so that he will not face the death penalty if convicted. They are going to be in the North Gauteng High Court next Monday.

They also want the department to report back on efforts to investigate how he was deported and what steps it had taken to stop these kinds of deportations as per Constitutional Court judgments from 2001 and 2011.

In 2012, the Constitutional court ruled that Jerry Phale and Emmanuel Tsebe could not be deported to Botswana without prior assurances that the death penalty would not be applied.

Phale and Tsebe were wanted in Botswana for the murder of their partners when they fled to South Africa.

The death penalty can be imposed in Botswana for murder, treason, an attempt on the life of the head of state and military offences guilty of mutiny and desertion in the face of the enemy.

Cote said: "This matter demonstrates Home Affairs' utter failure to practically implement its minimum constitutional obligations to all levels of staff to ensure adherence to its obligations. This is a concern for everyone who cares about the rule of law - where the government's non-compliance with court orders undermines our constitutional democracy."

(source: Pretoria News)

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES:

Sharjah killer offers Dh1.3 million to escape death----Victim's family demands much bigger 'diya' to pardon killer

A Kuwaiti university student convicted of killing his colleague with the help of a friend in Sharjah has offered KD100,000 (Dh1.3 million) to the victim's relatives to escape execution, but they demanded a much higher 'diya' (blood money).

The Arabic language daily Emarat Al Youm said the student and his friend, who are both studying at Sharjah University, were found guilty of beating their colleague, also a Kuwaiti, to death at a cafe in the emirate following a heated argument.

Court hearings have been adjourned to September 29 to hear more witnesses and to allow the families of the convicts and victim to reach an out-of-court settlement, the paper said.

Defence lawyer said his client had offered KD100,000 'diya' to the victim's relatives so they will pardon the defendants, but they have not replied yet.

The paper quoted the convict's family as saying the victim's relatives are demanding a much bigger 'diya' in return for pardoning the defendants.

"We have offered to pay KD100,000 'diya' and will not pay more than this sum," the paper said, quoting a defendant family member.

The victim, 19, died just after he was rushed to hospital in Sharjah early last year following a fight with his 2 colleagues, who were immediately arrested after the crime at the cafe in Muwaileh area.

(source: emirates247.com)

INDIA:

End death penalty

The Supreme Court's decision that reviews of death sentences should be heard in open court is an acknowledgement of the value of life. It is another safeguard against depriving a person of his life through judicial hurry or inadequate communication of the case of the convict on death row to the judge. It is to be noted that the court has mandated such procedure under Article 21 of the Constitution which guarantees the right to life and liberty to citizens. It has also rightly declared that this right is the most important of all constitutional rights. The issues sought to be raised by a convict in his review plea will get greater clarity in oral arguments advanced by a lawyer in an open court. It is much better than the court deciding the merit of the petition on the basis of a cold written document.

Hearing in an open court will also make the proceedings transparent. The court has limited it to half an hour, in view of the pressure on its time. But the fact that it has gone beyond a 60-year-old rule in order to provide for open hearing underlines the importance it attaches to the need for a fair and reasonable opportunity to a convict to challenge the sentence awarded to him. It has justified its departure from tradition with the observation that a person's life cannot be restored if it is found, after execution, that he or she was wrongly awarded the death sentence. The court's decision, based both on compassion and law, provides another chance for convicts to be heard and judged by the highest judiciary in a final attempt to escape from the gallows.

But what came up before the court was only a question of right procedure, which might avert or minimise the chance of a judicial error in the award of the death sentence. But putting an end to capital punishment should be a matter of principle, not of procedure. As long as the provision exists on the statute book, the courts cannot wish it way, in spite of the rarest of rare doctrine. The idea of death sentence is wrong and bad for very valid reasons: it is primitive, its practice is barbaric and it is not a deterrent against crime. Most countries have abandoned it and many others have suspended it. It is only being human to abolish it. Even an open hearing may not always avert a mistake.

(source: Editorial, Deccan Herald)

IRAN:

3 Iranian Christians face death penalty for 'spreading corruption on earth'

3 Iranian Christians have been charged with 'Mofsed-e-filarz', or 'spreading corruption on earth', which carries the death sentence.

Pastor Haghnejad was originally charged with 'Moharebeh', meaning 'enmity against God' following his arrest on July 5, but has now charged with the more serious crime.

While both crimes carry the death sentence 'Mofsed-e-filarz' is thought to be the more dangerous charge, resulting in more executions.

Pastor Irani has been was given the charge along with 18 new charges against him. In 2011 he was sentenced to 6 years in prison for his faith. He had been leading a 300-strong evangelical church in Karaj, a city near the capital, Tehran.

Irani is now being held in solitary confinement and is suffering numerous health problems which have been exacerbated by his time in prison.

All 3 men all being held separately at Ghezal Hesar Prison in Karaj where they have been pressured into confessing they are spies.

Iranian Christians are forbidden from praying in public churches, and converting to Christianity from Islam can carry the death penalty.

"Under international laws, being a religious minority is not a crime, but under certain stipulations in Sharia law they can work their way around that. A lot are converts, and apostasy is a crime, they see that a threat to the Islamic state, and so it becomes a political crime," a spokesperson for CSW said.

American pastor Saeed Abedini is serving an 8-year prison sentence for 'threatening the security of the state', having worked to develop home church communities.

In January, the UN said it was alarmed by the increase in executions under President Hassan Rouhani, who came to power in August 2013. Between January and June there were 411 executions recorded, and 8 men have already been executed for 'Moharebeh' this year.

"The new charges are tantamount to an indictment of Christianity itself and CSW is growing increasingly alarmed by what is a clear escalation in Iran's campaign against Persian Christians under the Rouhani presidency and by what is effectively an attempt to gain an apostasy conviction by other means," said CSW chief executive Mervyn Thomas in a statement.

(source: Christian Today)

AFGHANISTAN:

Afghans sentenced to death over gang-rape ---- 7 men get death penalty for gang-rape of 4 women in August in case that sparked outrage across Afghanistan.

An Afghan judge has sentenced 7 men to death for the gang-rape of 4 women in a case that has sparked nationwide outrage, with angry protests outside the court and proceedings broadcast live on television.

The men were all found guilty on Sunday of kidnapping and attacking the female members of a group that was driving into Kabul, the capital, from a wedding.

In a trial that lasted only a few hours, the death sentences were technically handed down for the crime of armed robbery.

President Hamid Karzai had earlier called for the men to be hanged.

The court heard the men, wearing police uniforms and armed with guns, had stopped a convoy of cars in the early hours of August 23.

They dragged the 4 women out of the vehicles, robbed them, beat them up and then raped them. One of the victims was reported to be pregnant.

"We went to Paghman with our families. On the way back, they took us, one of them put his gun on my head, the other one took all our jewellery, and the rest started what you already know," one victim told the court.

Death calls

As noisy demonstrators outside the court demanded the death penalty, applause erupted inside after Kabul police chief Zahir Zahir also called for the men to be hanged.

"We want them to be hanged in public, so that it will be a lesson for others," he said. "We arrested them with police uniforms. They confessed to their crime within 2 hours of their arrest."

The judge said the 7 had the right to appeal against their sentences.

Al Jazeera's Jennifer Glasse, reporting from Kabul, said: "It [Afghanistan] is such a conservative society. Normally any kind of cases like this are kept very quiet. It was a local hospital that notified the police.

"The men do have the right to appeal. But the public opinion is, very much against them.

"Demonstrations across four provinces in the last couple of days have called for swift and open justice in this case that has outraged Afghans.

"3 other men are at still large and police is promising to bring them to trial as well."

(source: Al Jazeera)

SEPTEMBER 7, 2014:

OHIO:

Jury finds man guilty of killing elderly homeowner

A jury finds a man guilty of killing an elderly homeowner.

Jurors found Daniel Davis guilty of all 6 charges against him, including aggravated murder.

The victim, John Lauck, hired Davis to do odd jobs around his East Price Hill home in 2012.

Davis reportedly stole from Lauck to support his heroin addiction, and later beat and stabbed Lauck to death.

Davis is now facing the death penalty for his actions, and is scheduled to face his sentencing on September 11, 2014.

(source: WKRC news)

OKLAHOMA----2, including female, may face death penalty

Ada pair may face death in murder case

If convicted, 2 people charged with the murder of Ada resident Garry Gray could face the death penalty.

Bryan Keith Ross, 46, and 32-year-old Kendra Renee LeFors, both of Ada, were each charged Friday morning with 1st-degree murder, conspiracy to commit a felony, 1st-degree robbery and larceny of an automobile.

Assistant District Attorney Jim Tillison submitted charges to the Pontotoc County court clerk, which, in an affidavit, said their alleged crime is punishable by "life, life without parole, or death."

Tillison said the district attorney's office has not made a decision whether or not to seek the death penalty, but it is an option. The office will consult with Gray's family members before making the decision.

Gray, 67, was found in his apartment last Sunday with severe head trauma from being beaten and had his throat cut in several places. Gray died at an Oklahoma City Hospital Thursday. He had been on life support since he was hospitalized.

Ada Police Detective Kathi Johnston said both Ross and LeFors took part in the murder. According to a court affidavit filed by Tillison, the two caused Gray's death "by then and there beating and stomping the face and head of ... Gray and slashing his throat with a knife, with the deliberate intent to unlawfully take (his life)."

(source: The Ada News)

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

Unanswered questions remain following execution investigation; A state report fails to address basic concerns, such as when lethal injections will resume.

Responses to the execution report

Here are statements from selected officials following Thursday's report on the botched execution:

"The drugs worked at the end of the day despite the circulation issues we had." -- Department of Public Safety Commissioner Michael Thompson, who was appointed to oversee the state's investigation

"I continue to believe the death penalty is an appropriate and just punishment for those guilty of the most heinous crimes, as Mr. Lockett certainly was. The state's responsibility is to ensure a sentence of death is carried out in an effective manner. Commissioner Thompson's report and his recommendations for improved DOC protocols will help ensure this high standard is met." -- Gov. Mary Fallin

"The report does not address accountability. Once the doctor determined that he did not have the right needle to proceed, he should have advised the warden and once the execution was going wrong it should have been stopped but it wasn't." -- Dale Baich, federal public defender representing a group of Oklahoma death-row inmates

"Once again, Mary Fallin has succeeded in creating a biased report in her continued efforts to keep Oklahomans from knowing the full truth. This report was led by Fallin's cabinet secretary of safety and security, Mike Thompson, who can be fired by Fallin and witnessed the botched execution. I question his ability to conduct an unbiased investigation." -- Joe Dorman, Democratic candidate for governor running against Fallin

"Oklahoma's summary report regarding the botched execution of Clayton Lockett provides some important information about the Department of Correction's many failures that led to Mr. Lockett's prolonged and gruesome death ... But the report treats these colossal failures as minor issues that can be fixed, providing pat solutions, rather than accepting and addressing the enormity of the problems." -- Megan McCracken, Eighth Amendment Resource Counsel, Death Penalty Clinic at U.S. Berkeley School of Law "In the Clayton Lockett execution the challenges with IV access, hindered visibility, and inadequately trained personnel were all foreseeable problems based upon past botches. The need for more 'thorough research and review' of these procedures has been urged repeatedly over the decades, yet regularly ignored by departments of corrections. Our country's confidence in states' abilities to conduct executions properly has reached the lowest point." -- Deborah Denno, Fordham University Law School professor who has authored studies on the death penalty.

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After a 4-month state investigation into Clayton Lockett's execution, basic questions remain about what went wrong in Oklahoma and how future death sentences will be carried out.

Chief among those is whether the state will be ready to resume executions Nov. 13, when convicted killer Charles Warner is set to be put to death. Warner had eaten his last meal and was one hour away from the death chamber when his execution was stayed on April 29. Lockett died 43 minutes after his execution began that night, as Gov. Mary Fallin was about to issue a stay due to numerous failed IV attempts.

Whether the state will continue using midazolam in executions is also an open question. The drug has been problematic in executions in at least 3 states, including a nearly 2-hour Arizona execution on July 23.

An investigative summary, released Thursday by the Department of Public Safety, attributed problems with Lockett's execution mainly to his IV, which was never inserted properly after multiple attempts.

Here are several key questions the report failed to answer about the execution:

Did the drugs work?

Lockett's execution marked the first time Oklahoma had used midazolam, a sedative, as the 1st drug in its 3-drug lethal cocktail.

Officials in Oklahoma and elsewhere have resorted to midazolam and compounded drugs in recent years as pharmaceutical companies disallowed use of their products in executions.

DPS Commissioner Michael Thompson said during his press conference Thursday: "The drugs worked at the end of the day, despite the circulation issues we had."

However, the report he was charged with overseeing states: "This investigation could not make a determination as to the effectiveness of the drugs at the specified concentration and volume. ... The IV failure complicated the ability to determine the effectiveness of the drugs."

Who was at fault?

The report details a haphazard scene inside the execution room before the blinds were opened to witnesses. The paramedic was able to establish an IV in Lockett's arm but had no tape to secure the line. "Before the tape was retrieved, the vein became unviable," the report states.

When multiple attempts at starting an IV failed in other locations, the doctor decided to try Lockett's femoral vein in his right leg. The procedure requires a longer needle "but none were readily available," the report states.

The doctor also asked for another type of needle "but was told the prison did not have those either." There was no ultrasound machine to aid the insertion.

"The physician had never attempted femoral vein access with a 1 1/4 inch needle/catheter; however, it was the longest DOC had readily available," the report states.

It fails to mention who was responsible for ensuring the prison had the proper medical equipment.

Was the execution constitutional?

The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution prohibits "cruel and unusual punishment." Courts have interpreted this to mean inmates are not entitled to a pain-free death but that states may not inflict more pain than is necessary to carry out the execution.

In the U.S. Supreme Court's 2008 ruling Baze v. Rees, the justices stated plainly that Kentucky and other states had a right to execute inmates by lethal injection, but that if the 1st of 3 drugs failed to render an inmate unconscious, it was "uncontested" there was a "substantial, constitutionally unacceptable risk" of suffocation and pain from the 2 drugs that followed.

The report says the autopsy couldn't determine the effectiveness of the midazolam that Lockett received to render him unconscious, or the vecuronium bromide used to paralyze him, or the potassium chloride given to stop his heart. All the autopsy says is that the drugs killed him.

Will the state be ready Nov. 13?

The governor stayed the execution of Warner, scheduled to be put to death 2 hours after Lockett, until Nov. 13. In a May 1 letter to Fallin, DOC Director Robert Patton asked for an independent investigation and an "indefinite stay" of Warner's execution.

DOC would need time to write new death penalty protocols and train staff before the next execution, Patton said.

"It will take several days or possibly a few weeks to refine the new protocols. Once written, staff will require extensive training and understanding of new protocols before an execution can be scheduled," his letter states.

When asked Friday whether DOC would move forward with Warner's execution on Nov. 13, DOC spokesman Jerry Massie declined to answer. He said Patton would "probably" address the issue during a press conference Monday.

Will Oklahoma continue to use midazolam for executions?

Oklahoma has 5 different drug options it can use for executions under its current protocol. Under the current protocol, which was revised about 2 weeks before April's execution, midazolam is an option to be used with vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride - the combination used to execute Lockett - or combined with the painkiller hydromorphone.

Midazolam and hydromorphone was the combination used by Arizona in the July execution of killer Joseph Wood III, which took nearly 2 hours. Witnesses reported that Wood gasped for air almost 600 times during that period, and his attorneys filed a request to halt the execution after Wood appeared still awake more than an hour after his execution began. Some state officials disputed witnesses' description that Wood's execution was botched, calling it "peaceful."

Midazolam was also used in the execution of Ohio inmate Dennis McGuire in January. He snorted and gasped for 26 minutes before dying.

Oklahoma has the option to switch back to pentobarbital, which was used in 3 Texas executions in April without the problems that occurred in Lockett's death. But increased costs and finding a supplier could complicate things: The Associated Press reported Texas is now paying $1,500 per vial for the drug, compared to $350 per dose the state spent the previous year.

Did communication problems further complicate Lockett's execution?

The report recommends several changes, including exploring "modern communication methods" between the execution chamber and executioners' room. Currently, executioners stick colored pencils through a hole in the wall.

It also recommends establishing a system that will "allow direct, constant contact between the personnel in the execution chamber and the Governor's Office."

Fallin told reporters on Thursday that members of her staff were on the phone with DOC officials throughout the evening, and she kept in touch via cellphone when she went downtown to attend an Oklahoma City Thunder game that evening. She said she was preparing to issue a stay when she learned Lockett had died.

Patton said he halted the execution about 10 minutes before Lockett was declared dead. There were no lifesaving measures administered, and there was no equipment to revive him in the execution chamber if a stay was issued. The prison would have had to transport him to a hospital, officials said.

The report recommends clearly defining "common terms" for all parties involved in executions.

Will a lawsuit by 21 inmates affect upcoming executions?

It could. A federal lawsuit by 21 death row inmates is challenging the state's ability to continue executions, saying the state is experimenting on "captive and unwilling human subjects." A hearing is scheduled later this month in the case. It's possible the judge could order the state to halt executions until it makes changes in its protocol, as has happened in other states.

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Recommended changes

A 32-page investigative report contains 11 recommendations for improving the way Oklahoma executes people, including better training and backup medical supplies in case something goes wrong. They are:

-- Monitor IV placement

The IV catheter insertion point(s) should remain visible during all phases of the execution and be continuously observed by a person with proper medical training in assessing the ongoing viability of an IV.

After an hour of unsuccessful IV attempts, DOC should contact the governor to determine whether the execution should be postponed, the report states.

-- Log everything that could potentially affect execution

The report found that logs intended to track all of Lockett's activities in the week leading up to the execution were incomplete. It recommends that employees be trained to log "all statements or behaviors that could be detrimental to completing an execution."

Keep necessary supplies on hand

DOC should maintain and provide the equipment and supplies needed, including an extra set of drugs for each execution, "in the event an issue arises with the primary set."

Consult with medical personnel to see if they need heart monitoring or venous ultrasound equipment, as well as certain types of IV access/catheter needles.

Have a backup plan

DOC should evaluate and establish protocols and training for possible contingencies "if an issue arises during the execution procedure," including scenarios such as problems with supplies or IVs, an offender not becoming unconscious or being combative.

-- Train all personnel

DOC should establish formal and continual training programs for all personnel involved in the execution process. They should explore successful training procedures used by other correctional institutions.

-- Conduct formal after-action reviews

After each execution, within 5 days, all personnel with assigned execution duties should attend an after-action review, discussing in detail each person's "responsibilities and observations," as well as any concerns. These reviews would be documented for future reference.

Update methods of communications

The report encourages DOC to explore "modern communication methods" between the execution chamber and executioners' room. The current process of communicating by colored pencils stuck through a hole in the wall could remain as a backup plan.

The report recommended implementing a modern communication link that would "allow direct, constant contact between the personnel in the execution chamber and the Governor's Office."

-- Define execution terminology

Clearly define common terms for all parties, including "stop," "stay" and "halt."

-- Schedule at least 7 days between executions

-- Keep offender’s personal property until an autopsy is completed

-- Brief witnesses that they will not be allowed to view all aspects of the execution, and requirements for conduct

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Timeline of events leading to Clayton Lockett's execution

Here is a timeline of events leading up to and following the botched execution of Clayton Lockett:

Feb. 25: Attorneys for Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner file a civil suit against the state in Oklahoma County District Court, challenging the state's execution secrecy statute. The law allows the Department of Corrections to withhold information about suppliers of drugs and medical equipment for executions.

Feb. 28: Oklahoma Pardon and Parole board denies by 4-1 vote Lockett's request to commute his death sentence to life in prison.

March 4: Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board denies by 4-1 vote Warner's request to commute his death sentence to life in prison. A lawsuit challenging Oklahoma's law that shields details of drugs used in executions is moved to federal court, after being set for a March 4 hearing. The hearing was canceled after the case was transferred to federal court at the request of the state.

March 7: U.S. District Judge David L. Russell rules the lawsuit seeking information about the lethal drugs that will be used in their execution should be heard in state court instead of federal court.

March 10: Oklahoma County District Judge Patricia Parrish denies a stay of execution for Lockett and Warner.

March 11: Lawyers representing Lockett and Warner ask the state Supreme Court for an emergency stay of execution.

March 13: The Oklahoma Supreme Court forwards a request to stay the execution to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.

March 17: State officials reveal they are having trouble obtaining the approved drugs for the 1st 2 stages of Oklahoma\'s 3-part lethal injection procedure.

March 18: Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals voids Lockett and Warner's scheduled March execution dates, moving both to April, allowing the Department of Corrections additional time to procure 2 of the drugs it needs for lethal injections or "adopt a new execution protocol."

March 26: Oklahoma County District Judge Patricia Parrish rules the state's execution law unconstitutional because its privacy provision is so strict that it that prevents inmates from finding out the source of drugs used in executions, even through the courts.

April 1: Lawyers for death row inmates Lockett and Warner say they received an email from Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt saying the state Corrections Department has acquired lethal doses of midazolam and pancuronium bromide from a compounding pharmacy. The state already had a supply of the third drug in the execution process, potassium chloride.

April 3: Pruitt announces state will continue with executions, despite court order stating it must disclose where it gets the drugs it uses in the lethal injection. Pruitt said he was concerned identifying the source of the drugs would result in the providers being harassed and threatened.

April 7: Lawyers for Lockett and Warner file a request with the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to delay the executions, saying that although the state has revealed what drugs it plans to use to kill the 2 men, it has not revealed where it got the drugs.

April 9: An Oklahoma appeals court rules the state can move ahead with the executions, and defense attorneys say they will ask the state Supreme Court to halt the executions amid questions about the lethal injection procedures.

April 17: The Supreme Court says that the Court of Criminal Appeals must decide whether to stay the executions, reminding the appeals court of the "gravity" and "time restraints" involved. In its 7-2 ruling, the Supreme Court returned the issue of whether to grant a stay to the appeals court.

April 18: The Court of Criminal Appeals refuses for a 2nd time to rule on a stay for the inmates, saying the court lacks jurisdiction.

"This court may grant a stay of execution only when (1) there is an action pending in this court; (2) the action challenges the death row inmate's conviction or death sentence; and (3) the death row inmate makes the requisite showings of likely success and irreparable harm," the ruling states.

April 21: Noting it was in an "awkward position," a divided Supreme Court issues stays of execution for Lockett and Warner. The Supreme Court decision points out that it had twice directed the Court of Criminal Appeals to decide on the merits of the stay and it declined.

April 22: Gov. Mary Fallin issues an executive order staying Lockett's execution for 7 days, until April 29. Fallin says the state Supreme Court overstepped its authority in issuing its own execution stays for Lockett and Warner.

April 23: The Supreme Court issues a ruling dissolving its own stay and finding the execution secrecy law constitutional. State Rep. Mike Christian, R-Oklahoma City, files articles of impeachment against the 5 justices who voted for the execution stays, claiming they exceeded their authority.

April 29: The execution of Clayton Lockett is botched at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. Lockett dies a few minutes after the execution is halted and 43 minutes after the execution began. Warner's execution is postponed.

May 8: The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals sets Warner's execution date for Nov. 13.

Aug 28: An autopsy report on Lockett and DOC logs on his execution are released. They provide few answers as to why it went awry.

(source: Tulsa World)

MISSOURI:

Cost of death penalty defense: $127,363.58 per case

What it is: The amount the Missouri State Public Defender System spends, on average, to represent a criminal defendant facing the death penalty.

The figure, from the agency's Fiscal Year 2013 Annual Report, was calculated by dividing the amount the Public Defender System spent defending capital cases ($2,674,635) by the number of cases that were resolved that year (21).

The state agency, which represents people charged with a crime who are unable to pay for a private attorney, spent an average of $319.51 per case defending against less serious charges. The cost to defend someone like Craig Michael Wood, who faces possible execution if convicted of kidnapping and killing 10-year-old Hailey Owens in February, is much higher.

What it pays for: The Public Defender System includes a special Capital Division that handles 1st-degree murder cases in which the state is seeking the death penalty, as well as direct appeals in cases in which a defendant has been sentenced to die.

The division has offices in St. Louis, Kansas City and Columbia. Division attorneys, who are limited to working on no more than six open capital cases at a time, occasionally take on non-capital cases for overloaded divisions as their schedules allow.

Michael Barrett, a spokesman for the Public Defender System, said the attorneys in the Capital Division typically "come up through the system" and are paid "about $12,000 over base pay" compared to other public defenders.

Patrick Berrigan and Thomas Jacquinot, the attorneys representing Wood, made $73,536 and $81,888, respectively, in 2013, according to a state salary database.

2 attorneys are assigned to each death penalty case, along with an investigator and a mitigation specialist.

"They come in at sentencing" to help argue for leniency, he said. "They do the digging."

Barrett said the cost calculated per case includes office and travel. "And there's also the experts - DNA experts, cellphone analysis ..."

Most cases are handled by staff attorneys, but the Public Defender System will sometimes hire outside counsel when there are multiple defendants involved in an alleged crime, which could create a conflict of interest if all were represented by attorneys from the same office.

Local costs: The total spent on public defenders doesn't include money the county spends to host a jury trial, whether or not the death penalty is involved.

Not including the costs associated with paying judges and prosecutors and staffing the courthouse, Greene County has budgeted to spend about $130,000 on jury trials in 2014, according to Assistant Budget Officer Joclynn Brown.

That total includes:

-- $60,000 for paying jurors

-- $49,550 to pay for 1 full-time and 1 part-time staff person

-- $7,000 for postage on jury notices

-- $2,500 for office supplies for juries

Brown said other court expenses in 2013 included about $11,000 for meals and coffee in the jury room, but she didn't have an updated number for 2014. And while past budgets have included funding for training and computer maintenance related to jury operations, no funds were set aside this year.

How much are jurors paid? That depends, said Anthony Rodebush, the county's full-time jury supervisor.

In the past, Greene County residents summoned for jury duty received $6 a day, plus mileage reimbursement.

The policy was changed about a decade ago, he said. Now, jurors are paid nothing for the first 2 days they serve. They receive $50 a day on the 3rd and subsequent days.

"At $6 a day, you were not really getting paid anyway ... so it's worked out pretty well," Rodebush said. "The jurors that are here longer are happier with that."

Rodebush said the new payment policy has also helped the county save money. Rather than paying a relatively small amount to a large number of jurors, it pays a higher rate to relatively few, at an overall cost that is about half what it was before.

Jury payments from August 2013 to August 2014 totaled $33,093, he said, less than the $60,000 budgeted.

Other costs: The money the county budgets for jury trials is meant to cover typical cases, Brown said - costs associated with sequestering a jury or moving a trial elsewhere aren't included.

In a case such as Wood's, the county's general fund could be tapped to cover additional expenses.

"To put jurors up in a hotel, it will be a lot more," said Rodebush. Based on past experience, room and board for a 2- to 3-week trial is likely to mount into the tens of thousands of dollars.

A location for Wood's trial has yet to be determined. His defense attorneys have asked for the trial to be moved outside Greene County. Prosecutor Dan Patterson wants to keep the case here, but bring a jury in from elsewhere.

Patterson said there's no estimate yet on what either option would cost. Another hearing is scheduled Oct. 2

"It's a very serious case and it's gonna take resources to try and prosecute," he said.

How we did it

The idea: Soon after Craig Michael Wood was arrested and charged, reader Darrell Arnett contacted me. Arnett, from Raymore, wanted to know how much it costs to represent defendants in death penalty cases and how their public defenders are chosen and paid.

The request: Information was obtained from several sources but none required a Sunshine request. Michael Barrett pointed me to the Public Defender System's annual report and provided additional detail. Joclynn Brown and Anthony Rodebush provided information about county costs.

Complications: The cost of prosecutors, judges and other courthouse staff are not included. Because the costs provided are based on money set aside in the budget, extraordinary costs are not accounted for in the estimates above.

The cost: $0

(source: The News-Leader)

COLORADO:

Death penalty highlights governor's race debate

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez challenged Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper to answer whether he intends to grant clemency to a death-row inmate before Hickenlooper leaves office, prompting one of the liveliest exchanges during their 1st debate Saturday.

"I have no plan to revisit my decision, so my decision stands," Hickenlooper said. He added: "The government shouldn't be in the business of taking people's lives."

Republicans have blasted Hickenlooper in ads for his decision to grant an indefinite reprieve to Nathan Dunlap, who was convicted of killing 4 people at an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese's restaurant.

Hickenlooper has been criticized for his decision because a subsequent governor can reverse it, leaving Dunlap's fate unresolved.

Beauprez's question to Hickenlooper during the debate comes after Hickenlooper suggested in a yet-to-be-aired CNN interview that he could grant Dunlap clemency should he lose his re-election bid

While his opponents slam him on the death penalty, Hickenlooper has pledged to avoid negative ads. He focused many of his debate remarks touting Colorado's economy as one of the best in the nation.

During his time in office, the state reversed a $1 billion budget shortfall, while increasing the state's reserves to nearly $600 million, he said. He noted that many sectors are adding jobs, and that state unemployment is at 5.3 percent. It was just over 9 percent when he took office.

Beauprez said that doesn't paint the whole picture, arguing that the figure doesn't account for people who have given up looking for work. He described the state's economy as being middle-of-the-pack and says he can improve it.

"We have a long ways to go, and we're better than this," Beauprez said.

For Hickenlooper, the brewmaster-turned-politician who was easily elected Denver mayor twice and cruised into the governor's office in 2010, this is arguably the biggest challenge of his career. Polling has shown the race to be tied.

Beauprez, a former congressman, is getting a 2nd crack at winning the governor's office after a crushing defeat in 2006.

The candidates debated Saturday evening in Grand Junction at an event hosted by Club 20, an influential western Colorado advocacy group.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Death penalty is the enemy of speedy justice

It has been more than 2 years since James Holmes allegedly committed mass murder at an Aurora theater. And it has been nearly 2 years since Dexter Lewis allegedly stabbed 5 people to death at Fero's Bar and Grill in Denver.

Neither has been tried, let alone convicted of those crimes. Prosecutors in each instance chose to pursue the death penalty, and so the cases have bogged down in procedural issues and a flurry of motions on almost every imaginable issue.

Meanwhile, a vicious mass murderer you probably never heard of, Jaacob Vanwinkle, will be sentenced later this month to life in prison without a chance of parole for crimes he committed in Canon City just this March.

Only 3 months later, in June, Vanwinkle pleaded guilty to 36 felony charges against him. He will receive 1 more burst of publicity when he is sentenced, and then will vanish, as he should, into the utter obscurity of a maximum security prison, to face the crushing tedium and hopelessness that is life in a cell.

By contrast, Holmes and Lewis will be in the news for years and become household names - a status already achieved by the accused in the theater shooting.

With the death penalty having become an issue in the governor's race, it's worth contrasting these cases and asking ourselves, as Coloradans, which choice makes the most sense.

Is it worth pursuing the death penalty in a few select cases knowing it will postpone justice literally for years, cost many times the alternative of life without parole, and, given the appeals, won't actually resolve the murderer's fate for decades even if a jury agrees to the ultimate penalty?

Or should we embrace the opportunity for relatively quick pleas that ensure the killer will never walk again as a free man?

There is also the issue of equity to consider. Vanwinkle's crimes of stabbing a mother and 2 young children to death were as brutal as murders get. The mind shudders to contemplate the terror endured by his victims as he coldly proceeded from one to another. Vanwinkle also raped a teenage daughter, whom he presumably would also have killed if she hadn't managed to escape.

He is as depraved as a murderer can be. It seems glaringly inconsistent to seek the death penalty for Holmes and Lewis but not for Vanwinkle. And yet this is not an isolated inconsistency. There have been several savage multiple murders in recent memory in which death was not sought for the killer.

The death penalty may be a winner politically, but it's a loser in terms of fair and reasonable public policy.

(source: Denver Post Editorial Board)

CALIFORNIA:

Tulare County authorities bring Mano Negra back to face murder charges

Jose Manuel Martinez, known as the Mano Negra - the Black Hand - in small Valley towns where he allegedly killed people as a contract killer, is back in Tulare County.

Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux announced Friday that Martinez had been extradited from Alabama and arrived Wednesday morning at the Tulare County Jail.

The U.S. Marshals Service transported him, he said.

Martinez is in good health but is being guarded as a "high risk" inmate, Boudreaux said. He's in a cell by himself, and no other prisoners were allowed in the courtroom during his arraignment Friday.

Martinez is charged with nine counts of murder, some of them contract killings that investigators believe involved a drug cartel.

6 slayings occurred in Tulare County, two in Kern County and one in Santa Barbara County, going back to 1980.

Martinez, 54, a resident of Richgrove in southern Tulare County, pleaded guilty in Lawrence County, Ala., to killing Jose Arturo Ruiz in March 2013, and was sentenced in June to 50 years in state prison.

Unlike the alleged contract killings, the murder in Alabama was for revenge after the victim allegedly made the mistake of speaking ill of Martinez's daughter.

After his arrest, Martinez confessed to Alabama authorities that he had committed multiple murders around the country, according to news reports.

An investigator from the Tulare County Sheriff's Office made the trek to Alabama to question him. California investigators spent thousands of hours linking him to the nine murders, Boudreaux said.

Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward said murder charges against Martinez include special circumstances of multiple murders and murder for financial gain.

"It's potentially a death penalty case," Ward said, but no decision will be made on seeking the death penalty until a preliminary hearing is held, in accordance with standard practice.

Prosecutor David Alavezos said there are 5,000 pages of documents and it's possible the preliminary hearing won't be heard until next year.

Friday afternoon, Martinez was arraigned at the Tulare County Pre-Trial Facility. Visiting Judge Steven Sillman set Sept. 29 for a preliminary hearing date to be set.

The judge appointed the Tulare County Public Defender to represent Martinez. Although he speaks English, Martinez asked for a translator when the judge gave him the option.

Attorney Sarah Shena told the judge that Martinez would exercise his Miranda rights to not speak with law enforcement.

He's being held without bail.

Ward said his office took special care to make sure California would be first in line to extradite Martinez from Alabama once the case against him there ended.

"We wanted him before others filed on him," he said.

Murder charges in California were filed in April in Tulare County, and the arrest warrant was sought right away. he said.

Alabama authorities were "very cooperative" and agreed to release him to California, and not Florida where he faces murder charges, because Florida did not finish the arrest warrant process ahead of California, Ward said.

However, it's possible that Martinez could go to Florida to face charges after the cases against him in California are finished, he said.

Ward said his office has been in touch with the families of victims.

"We will do everything in our power to bring this to justice," Ward said.

Some defense attorneys questioned the wisdom of extradition in the case.

Martinez was not scheduled to get out of prison in Alabama until 2063 at the age of 101.

In California, Martinez's death penalty case could cost up to $1 million because of the need for investigators, experts, lawyers and researchers and then it would likely take decades for appeals to conclude, said lawyer Michael Idiart of Fresno.

"More than likely he will die in a prison of old age," Idiart said. "It seems to me from an economic, pragmatic point of view it's a waste of time, resources and effort."

No California death row inmates have been executed since 2006 because of issues over the legalities of lethal injection, said Pete Jones, a Fresno lawyer, who has represented death penalty clients. There are 742 inmates on death row , he said.

"By the time they reach his number on the list, he'll be 140 years old," Jones said.

In another state, such as Texas, the death penalty appeals could run their course within 6 years, but California is not carrying out the death penalty, Jones said.

"Are the families going to feel better? I doubt it because they are never going to get to see it," he said.

13 death row executions have been carried out since 1978, when California re-instituted the death penalty, while 20 committed suicide and 57 died of old age, Jones said.

(source: Fresno Bee)

EGYPT:

Egypt charges ex-president Morsi with passing state secrets to Qatar

The Egyptian state prosecutor has charged the ousted president Mohamed Morsi and several of his aides with endangering national security by leaking state secrets to Qatar.

No date has yet been set for the new trial facing Morsi, who is suspected of providing the sensitive documents to the energy-rich Gulf state during his turbulent one year rule.

Morsi will go on trial for having "handed over to Qatari intelligence documents linked to national security ... in exchange for one million dollars ($A1.06 million)", the prosecutor said in a statement.

Morsi, who was from the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, is already facing the death penalty in several trials, and his supporters have been the target of a deadly crackdown by authorities since he was removed from power last year.

10 other defendants will stand trial alongside Morsi, including his former secretary, El-Serafi, the ex-director of his office, Ahmed Abdel Atti and Ibrahim Helal.

Helal has been identified as a chief editor of the Qatar-based Al Jazeera Network.

"The inquiries ... exposed humiliating facts and the extent of the largest conspiracy and treason carried out by the terrorist Brotherhood organisation against the nation through a network of spies," the prosecutor said in a lengthy statement.

The prosecutor added that Morsi and Abdel Atti gave El-Serafi "extremely sensitive documents concerning the army, its deployment and weaponry".

In turn, El Serafi was alleged to have handed the documents a Qatari intelligence operative.

The prosecutor's statement said that intermediaries, who were not identified, were used to send the documents Helal and the Qataris.

The papers included documents from the "general and military intelligence offices of the State Security" apparatus, the prosecutor said.

While Morsi, El-Serafi and Abdel Atti are currently behind bars, Helal's whereabouts are unknown.

Deteriorating relations with Qatar

Relations between Egypt and Qatar have been icy since July 2013, when the then-Egyptian army chief and current president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi toppled Morsi following mass unrest against his rule.

Qatar, which had supported Morsi, denounced Egypt's crackdown on the former president's supporters, which left more than 1,400 people dead since his ouster.

Thousands more of Morsi's supporters have been imprisoned with hundreds being sentenced to death in speedy mass trials.

The Qatari foreign ministry did not respond to the fresh accusations.

The Doha-based Al Jazeera network, which has been banned in Egypt, has denied any bias reporting of events in Egypt, or any role in aiding the Muslim Brotherhood.

Earlier this year, Egypt jailed 3 Al Jazeera journalists, including Australian Peter Greste, on charges of helping the Brotherhood, sparking an international outcry.

Mr Sisi promised during his election campaign that the Muslim Brotherhood would cease to exist under his rule.

(source: Radio Australia)

IRAN:

A Man Sentenced to Death for Insulting the Prophet

An Iranian social media activist has been reportedly sentenced to death for his alleged insult of the prophet Mohammed (PBUH).

On Sunday, the Tehran-based court reportedly sentenced Souhail Arabi, a 30-year-old social media activist to death and 3 years in prison, over' insulting the prophet charges', local media reported.

Souhail Arabi who is the father of 5-year-old child was detained in Evin prison, located in northwestern Tehran, where over 350 opposition politicians and activists are held.

According to Erem News, Souhail Arabi was arrested over uttering insults to the prophet.

Under the Islamic republic's laws, whoever utters insults to the prophet must be given penalty. The judge may not give the suspect death penalty in case it is proven that the person who is accused of insulting the Prophet was under the influence of alcohol.

(source: Morocco World News)

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

Christian Converts in Iran Continue to Be Charged With Capital Offenses

A British based human rights organization has received reports that 2 more Iranian Christians from the Church of Iran denomination have been charged with "Mofsed-e-filarz," translated as "spreading corruption on earth."

According to a news release from Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Pastor Matthias Haghnejad, who was recently charged with "Moharebeh," or "enmity against God," has now been charged with the more serious crime of "Mofsed-e-filarz."

Another Christian, Silas Rabbani is also facing the same charge.

CSA said Pastor Behnam Irani had been handed this new allegation as part of 18 new charges against him.

Sources claim that all 3 men, who are being held separately in Ghezal Hesar Prison in Karaj, have been pressured into confessing that they are "spies."

There is particular concern about Haghnejad's safety, CSW reported. He is believed to be in a "dangerous situation," as the authorities appear to be targeting him actively.

The new charges against Haghnejad, Rabbani and Irani are part of what CSW called a "worrying escalation in Iran's campaign against converts to Christianity," who have previously been charged with "action against the state," "action against the order" or other national security crimes.

Although the new Islamic Penal Code, which came into effect in 2013, prohibits capital punishment for "Moharebeh" in cases not involving the use of a weapon, the charge is regularly used against political activists from ethnic minority communities.

An ongoing spike in executions under the Rouhani presidency has seen eight men executed for "Moharebeh" this year, including Ahwazi Arab poet and cultural rights activist Hashem Shaabani and his colleague Hadi Rashedi.

CSW said those accused of this crime usually complain of having been tortured to give false confessions, the denial of access to legal assistance, and unfair trials conducted without witnesses.

CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said in the news release, "The new charges against Pastors Haghnejad and Irani and Mr. Rabbani are tantamount to an indictment of Christianity itself and CSW is growing increasingly alarmed by what is a clear escalation in Iran's campaign against Persian Christians under the Rouhani presidency and by what is effectively an attempt to gain an apostasy conviction by other means."

He added, "It is vital that the ongoing human rights crisis in the country is not neglected as members of the international community increasingly partner with Iran to counter the threat posed by ISIS."

Christian Solidarity Worldwide works for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

(source: crossmap.com)

INDIA----impending execution

India to execute 'house of horrors' cannibal murderer on Friday

India is preparing to execute a man accused of killing and dismembering almost 20 young women and children in a case that was called the "house of horrors" murders.

Surinder Koli admitted eating some of the body parts.

Officials have said that Koli, who worked as a businessman's domestic worker, is due to be hanged on Friday in a prison in the north-central city of Meerut, Britain's The Independent daily reported.

Koli will be executed as appeals against his death sentence have been turned down by higher courts, China's Xinhua News Agency quoted a court official as saying.

In 2009, Koli and his employer, Moninder Singh Pandher, were convicted by a sessions court of murdering a 14-year-old girl, Rimpa Haldar.

Koli went on to be convicted of 4 more kidnappings, attempted rapes and murders but Pandher was subsequently freed by a higher court.

Pandher still faces trial in some outstanding cases, and could be re-sentenced to death if found guilty in any of those killings.

According to Xinhua, some of the cases being heard also involve Koli but the execution still goes ahead.

Koli and Pandher were arrested in 2007, after body parts were discovered on the grounds of Pandher's home in Noida, a satellite city to the east of New Delhi.

At the time, police said they believed at least 19 young women and children were raped, killed and chopped up.

Koli, who confessed to cannibalism and necrophilia, said he had lured the children to the property with sweets and chocolates.

Police were accused of failing to investigate some of the missing children cases because many of them belonged to poor, migrant families.

India's Supreme Court has said the death penalty should be reserved only for the "rarest of rare" cases.

There have been only 2 executions carried out in recent years.

(source: The Straits Times)

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

Man awarded death sentence for kidnapping, killing child

A Katihar court on Friday awarded capital punishment to one Bijan Mahto, a resident of Rajiganj under Korha police station area, in a kidnapping-cum-killing case of a child in 2012.

Delivering the judgment, the court-II of additional district and sessions judge (ADJ) Raghupati Singh also imposed a penalty of Rs 50,000 on the accused. Mahto was charged with kidnapping the boy and throwing his body at Boro ghat. This is the 2nd such case where a Katihar court has awarded the capital punishment.

Mahto will also be undergoing 1 year rigorous imprisonment in case he fails to pay the penalty.

Additional public prosecutor (APP) Rajendra Mishra, giving graphic details of the case, said that a 2 1/2-year-old boy Suman Kumar, son of a middle school teacher Hira Lal Mahto, was kidnapped on January 19, 2012. The toddler's father lodged an FIR with Korha police station on January 20, 2012, when he failed to trace his son. On the confessional statement of abductor Bijan Mahto, who was arrested on January 20, the infant's body was recovered from Boro ghat on January 21, 2012.

(source: The Times of India)

TAIWAN:

'Mama Mouth' death penalty upheld----QUESTIONS REMAIN: Relatives of the slain couple think Hsieh Yi-han had help killing Chang Tsui-ping and Chen Chin-fu; the convict can still appeal to the Supreme Court

The Taiwan High Court yesterday upheld the death sentence given to a woman convicted of robbing and murdering a couple in a high-profile case.

Hsieh Yi-han, 29, was sentenced to death by Taipei's Shilin District Court in October last year.

Yesterday's ruling upheld the original court decision that found Hsieh guilty of killing Shih Chien University assistant professor Chang Tsui-ping, 58, and her husband, Chen Chin-fu, 79. The district court originally concluded that Hsieh's motive for the murders was to obtain Chang's jewelry collection - estimated to be worth NT$40 million (US$1.3 million at the time)

Hsieh managed a Mama Mouth Cafe coffee shop on the Tamsui River in Bali District at the time of the crimes, which led to the incident becoming known as the "Mama Mouth Cafe" case. Chang and Chen lived nearby and were regular customers, befriending Hsieh over time. Over several years, Chen, a wealthy businessman, became fond of Hsieh, and reportedly considered her as his god daughter or stepdaughter.

While his wife was teaching classes or traveling abroad, Chen visited the cafe daily, investigators said. He also began to give Hsieh gifts of cash and jewelry, they added.

A court statement said Hsieh sedated the couple with drugged drinks on Feb. 16 last year, then stabbed both with a fruit knife before throwing them into the Tamsui River.

After the murders, Hsieh stole NT$350,000 from Chen and tried, but failed, to withdraw more money from his wife's bank account by disguising herself as the murdered woman.

The couple's bodies were discovered among mangrove trees and sand bars along the river bank on Feb. 26 and March 2 last year.

After yesterday's verdict, Chen's sister said that Hsieh deserved the death penalty for what she called cold-blooded murder, "but whatever the punishment, the lost lives of our love ones cannot be returned."

She added that many questions remain unresolved in the case and that the families of the deceased suspect Hsieh had help carrying out the murders, so they have asked prosecutors to bring the accomplices to justice.

The case can still be appealed to the Supreme Court.

(source: Taipei Times)

AFGHANISTAN:

Afghan rape gang sentenced to death after national outrage

An Afghan judge on Sunday sentenced 7 men to death for the gang-rape of 4 women in a case that sparked nationwide outrage and highlighted the violence women face despite reforms since the Taliban era.

The 7 men, who stood in the dock dressed in brown traditional clothing, were found guilty of kidnapping and attacking the female members of a group that was driving home to Kabul from a wedding.

President Hamid Karzai on Sunday had called for the men to be hanged. The death sentences were technically handed down for the crime of armed robbery rather than rape.

In a televised trial that lasted only a few hours, the court heard that the men, who had obtained police uniforms and were armed with guns, stopped a convoy of cars in the early hours of August 23.

They dragged the four women out of the vehicles, robbed them, beat them up and then raped them. One of the women was reported to be pregnant.

"We went to Paghman with our families. On the way back, they took us," 1 victim, dressed in a burqa, told the packed courtroom as noisy protesters outside demanded the death penalty.

"One of them put his gun to my head, the other one took all our jewellery, and the rest started what you already know," she said.

Applause erupted inside the court after Kabul police chief Zahir Zahir called for the men to be hanged.

"We want them to be hanged in public so that it will be a lesson for others," he said.

"We arrested them with police uniforms. They confessed to their crime within 2 hours of their arrest."

The judge said the 7 had the right to appeal against their sentences.

Under Afghan law, the president must also sign a death warrant for an execution to go ahead.

Women's rights under threat?

Women's rights have been central to the multi-billion-dollar international development effort in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001.

Under the Taliban's harsh version of Sunni Islamic law, women were forced to wear the all-enveloping burqa, banned from jobs, and forbidden even to leave the house without a male chaperone.

Rape and violence against women and girls was rife, according to Amnesty International, which says that Afghan women are still routinely discriminated against, abused and persecuted.

The Taliban, who launched a resilient insurgency after being ousted, threaten a comeback as US-led NATO combat troops withdraw from the country later this year.

Despite 13 years of fighting, foreign forces have failed to quash the insurgents, who have gained ground in a series of recent offensives.

The gang-rape unleashed a wave of public anger via street protests, the media and the Internet, echoing the response to recent similar crimes in India -- including the fatal attack on a student on a bus in New Delhi in 2012 that provoked headlines worldwide.

Last week the US embassy in Kabul condemned "the brutal robbery, beating, and rape" and called on Afghan authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Hasina Safi, head of the Afghan Women's Network action group, said she welcomed the death penalties.

"We consider it a big step and achievement for the women of Afghanistan. I wish we had more such cases decided on openly, so that we didn't have to suffer such heinous acts."

But Human Rights Watch said Afghanistan's justice system had failed to follow due process over the case and that all accused deserved a fair trial.

President Karzai's personal intervention came as he waits to step down after ruling Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban.

The June 14 election to choose his successor has become engulfed in a prolonged dispute over fraud, with both of the 2 candidates claiming victory.

The United Nations has expressed fears the political stand-off could trigger a spiral of instability and a return to the lawless chaos of the 1990s civil war that allowed the Taliban to rise to power.

(source: Agence France-Presse)

SEPTEMBER 6, 2014:

TEXAS:

Brendon Gaytan Faces Death Penalty

The state will be seeking the death penalty for 1 of the men accused of killing 2 young girls.

Brendon Gaytan is charged with capital murder. His brother, Cruz Salazar, who is also charged with capital murder, is not facing the death penalty.

Both will be tried separately next month.

They're accused of killing 6-year old Nevaeh Oliva and her 2-year-old cousin, Lillyana Valent, during a drive-by shooting on Cheryl Dr. back in February.

(source: KRIS tv news)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Dickey Appeals Death Penalty Ruling

A defense attorney is trying to get the death penalty off the table for a convicted murderer's retrial.

A Blair County judge ruled that the prosecution could go for the death penalty in the Paul Aaron Ross re-trial.

Several years ago he was convicted of killing Tina Miller. Thursday Ross' attorney Tom Dickey appealed to the State Superior court asking them to not allow the death penalty because that was the ruling in the previous trial and he doesn't think that should change.

The trial is slated to start in November.

(source: wearecentralpa.com)

GEORGIA:

Legal expert: Death penalty for Justin Ross Harris a strong possibility

1 day after Justin Ross Harris was indicted on 8 counts related to the hot car death of his 22-month-old son, Cooper, an Atlanta defense attorney says the district attorney in Cobb County would only have sought the charge of malice murder if he thought he had a chance to get a conviction.

A conviction on that count would pave the way for Harris to receive the death penalty. He is accused of leaving his son locked in a hot car to die, while he was at work.

"I've known (Cobb County District Attorney) Vic Reynolds a long time," said defense attorney Ray Giudice. "He's a quality man and great lawyer. My belief is he would have not sought that count of malice murder in front of a grand jury unless he and his staff believe they can prove it beyond a reasonable doubt."

The malice murder charge is 1 of 3 murder charges against Harris, with the other 2 being felony murder charges based on the acts of child cruelty.

"That gives the district attorney's office enormous leverage in negotiations and the ability to say to the defense council, 'you want to come up and plead to one of the non-death-penalty murder charges, or are you ready for trial?'"

Giudice said that based on how trial calendars are structured, and the amount of research the defense council for Harris will have to conduct, Harris' trial likely would not start until late next winter or early in the spring.

(source: CBS news)

OHIO----many new (re-scheduled) execution dates)

Ohio executions rescheduled: 6 in 2015, 5 in 2016

Ohio conducted a single execution this year, but officials will quicken the pace with 6 scheduled in 2015 and 5 more in 2016.

A revised execution schedule, released yesterdayby the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, was necessary because of an order issued in August by U.S. District Judge Gregory L. Frost. The judge postponed executions in September, October and November because of a continuing dispute about lethal-injection procedures. Frost said no execution in Ohio can take place until at least Jan. 15.

Gov. John Kasich signed 11 temporary reprieves, necessary to move executions both forward and backward on the calendar.

The only execution in Ohio this year, Dennis McGuire on Jan. 16, was troubled. McGuire snorted, gasped, clenched his fists and tried to lift off the table during a procedure that lasted 26 minutes. Prison officials used a 2-drug combination never before tried in a U.S. execution.

Ronald R. Phillips of Summit County is first on the new schedule, with a date of Feb. 11, 2015. His execution was postponed twice, once by Frost and once by Kasich, to give Phillips time to donate a kidney to his ailing mother. The transplant never happened, however.

3 of the coming 11 executions involve killers from Franklin County: Warren K. Henness on July 15, 2015; Alva Campbell Jr. on March 23, 2016; and Kareem M. Jackson on Sept. 21, 2016. There have been just 2 executions from Franklin County since capital punishment was resumed in 1999.

Henness, 50, murdered Richard Myers, 51, of Columbus, on March 20, 1992. Henness shot Myers 5 times in the head, then used stolen credit cards and checks to get money to buy drugs.

Campbell, 66, killed Charles Dials, 18, on April 2, 1997, after escaping from custody by feigning paralysis while on the way to court. Campbell car-jacked Dials, drove around for 2 hours, then shot him in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart on S. High Street.

Jackson, 40, shot to death Antorio Hunter, 19, and Terrance Walker, 23, of Columbus, on March 25, 1997, while committing a robbery. Jackson got the death penalty for both victims. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction said all victims, inmates, lawyers and prosecutors and inmates have been notified of the new schedule.

The execution schedule is available online here: www.drc.ohio.gov/Public/executionschedule.htm

(source: Columbus Dispatch)

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

Darien Jones identified as man who shot and killed Jim Brennan during restaurant robbery; prosecutors considering death penalty charges

Prosecutors have begun considering whether to seek the death penalty against the 3 men charged in the slaying of Cleveland Heights restaurant owner Jim Brennan during a robbery June 30th.

Blaise Thomas, an assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor, told Common Pleas Judge Maureen Clancy on Friday that the investigation into Brennan's death indicates that Darien Jones, a 21-year-old Garfield Heights man without a criminal record, was "the principal offender."

While Thomas would not reveal Jones' role in the case, attorneys in the case have identified Jones as the man who shot Brennan.

Thomas said a prosecutor's office panel will re-convene in 2 weeks to consider bringing the death penalty. Ultimately, Prosecutor Timothy McGinty will decide whether to seek the charges before a county grand jury.

Jones, his brother, Brandon, and Devonne Turner are charged with aggravated murder, kidnapping, aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary and felonious assault. Each is being held in the county jail on $1 million bond.

Turner's brother, Paul, has been charged with obstructing justice, tampering with evidence and illegally possessing a weapon while a convicted felon. He is being held on $500,000 bond.

The 4 have pleaded not guilty.

While prosecutors are considering whether to seek the death penalty against the Joneses and Devonne Turner, Thomas said, they only have evidence - at this point - that Darien Jones could be meet the standards of the charge. Thomas stressed that the investigation continues, telling Clancy that his office is getting new information daily.

John Gibbons, one of Darien Jones' attorneys, declined to comment after the hearing.

Authorities said Jones fired the shots. Under Ohio law, the death penalty can be filed again a principal offender or a person who kills with prior calculation.

Thomas said it is unclear when the prosecutor's panel will make a recommendation to McGinty.

Clancy has yet to set a trial date.

Thomas also revealed that prosecutors are expected to file additional charges against the Turner brothers. They are accused of robbing the Gas Express at 3726 Clark Ave. on Cleveland's West Side about eight or nine hours after the shooting of Brennan, he said. He said their images were captured on videotape.

He said a county grand jury is expected to consider the case in the near future. Court records show that at the time of Brennan's slaying the Turners were wanted on a warrant for failing to appear for a June 4 hearing in a separate robbery. In that case, records show, the brothers were accused of robbing and attacking two people in April.

The Joneses are from Garfield Heights. The Turners live in Cleveland.

On June 30, Brennan's restaurant was closed, but he was there prepping for the week. Authorities have refused to say what took place in the business. A woman walking by the restaurant called 9-1-1 when she heard 3 gunshots and saw 2 men running from the bar.

(source: cleveland.com)

COLORADO----2, including female teenager, to face death penalty

DA seeks death penalty against 2 Sterling teens

The district attorney prosecuting a gruesome double homicide case in Sterling is seeking the death penalty against 2 teens.

Sterling teens, Brendan Johnson, 19, and his girlfriend, Cassandra Rieb, 18, were both charged with 1st-degree murder in the May deaths of Johnson's grandparents, Charles and Shirley Severance.

Charles' body was discovered in his Sterling home, located at 409 S. 3rd Ave., May 29. The remains of Shirley Severance were discovered near Sterling, with other remains found near Nebraska.

Thirteenth Judicial District Attorney Brittny Lewton filed the intent to seek the death penalty on Friday.

According to court records, Johnson told investigators he and Rieb "had been planning to kill his 70-year-old grandparents ... since the 1st part of May." Rieb also admitted to her role in the murder to police, according to court records.

"The plan was to kill them so he could get their inheritance," Rieb told police during a polygraph interview.

Rieb's next court appearance is September 19. Johnson will be in court October 27.

(source: KUSA news)

WYOMING:

Wyoming lawmakers to consider death penalty bills

A state legislative committee plans to discuss next week whether to sponsor 1 bill that would abolish the death penalty in Wyoming and another that would introduce the firing squad as an option for execution.

Joint Judiciary Interim Committee member Rep. Keith Gingery of Jackson said he expects animated debate over the death penalty when the committee meets Thursday in Laramie.

"My guess is we will vote out the firing squad one, that will move on," he said. "I don't think we'll get enough votes for getting rid of the death penalty. That's our last meeting of the year, so it either happens or it doesn't happen."

Another committee member, Rep. Stephen Watt of Rock Springs, said he opposes the death penalty. He also opposes the firing squad idea, recalling the time he was shot five times in a 1982 confrontation as a Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper.

"I don't care that it's a fraction of a second. It hurts tremendously. It's cruel and unusual to subject another person to that," Watt told the Casper Star-Tribune (http://bit.ly/WmE5Fq).

Chesie Lee, executive director of the Wyoming Association of Churches, said he will address the committee in support of repealing the death penalty.

"Revenge is not what we're called to do," she said. "It's not that we oppose punishment altogether, but revenge is not the answer."

(source: Associated Press)

WASHINGTON:

Carnation death-penalty case hit by more delays; What was supposed to be a two-day hearing to determine if Michele Anderson is competent to stand trial and potentially face the death penalty has morphed into a multiday affair, with a ruling from the trial judge not expected for at least 2 weeks.

What was supposed to be a 2-day hearing to determine if Michele Anderson is competent to stand trial and potentially face the death penalty for her alleged role in the killings of 6 family members in 2007 has morphed into a multiday affair, with a ruling from the trial judge not expected for at least 2 weeks.

Though Anderson has twice been found competent to stand trial following psychological evaluations in 2008 and 2011, her defense team has again challenged her competency and ability to rationally aid and assist in her defense, court records show. She has repeatedly refused to meet with her attorneys, Colleen O'Connor and David Sorenson, and when she does, she refuses to engage with them in discussions about her case and trial strategy, according to a defense motion filed in the case.

"Given the pattern and practice, we are always falling behind and we can't do this forever," King County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Ramsdell said Thursday, apparently frustrated by the additional time needed to hear testimony from 2 psychologists, 1 retained by the defense and the other by the state.

Dr. Mark Cunningham, a Texas psychologist hired by the defense, testified all day Thursday and is to resume Tuesday with cross-examination. The state's expert, Dr. Brian Judd of Olympia, may not be available to give his testimony until the week of Sept. 15, the judge was told.

On Wednesday, Ramsdell denied defense motions to close the courtroom and seal Anderson's most recent competency evaluations. After a lengthy recess to allow the state and defense time to hammer out proposed redactions, Ramsdell redacted about 12 lines from Cunningham's 45-page report that referenced "confessional statements" made by Anderson, far fewer than had been requested by the defense.

Cunningham's report hasn't been entered into the court record as an exhibit yet, so is not available to the public or media.

Also Thursday, Anderson submitted a handwritten motion to the court, asking that she be appointed new attorneys because of a "conflict of interest," and her lawyers' "personally biased views" that she claims led to their failure to guarantee the "accuracy of material" in her case.

Her motion, which Ramsdell has not ruled on, also claims she has the right to file a civil suit against Cunningham for "misconduct."

Ramsdell and King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Scott O'Toole are currently preparing for trial in the capital case against Anderson's co-defendant and former boyfriend, Joseph McEnroe, with opening statements expected sometime in October. Anderson and McEnroe are each charged with 6 counts of aggravated 1st-degree murder, accused of fatally shooting Anderson's parents, brother and sister-in-law, and the younger couple's 2 children on Christmas Eve 2007 in Carnation.

There have been repeated delays in the case, including three separate challenges to the state Supreme Court that all resulted in reversals of decisions made by Ramsdell. Both defense teams have vigorously challenged King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg's decision to seek the death penalty through numerous motions and arguments in the nearly 7 years since the killings. To date, all have failed to get the death penalty tossed out.

"Once we begin with Mr. McEnroe's case in earnest, it's going to be hard to get back to this," Ramsdell said of Anderson's competency hearing. "I know Mr. O'Toole is saddled with some of the same obligations I am."

But because Anderson will be tried after McEnroe if she's found competent, "There's not an urgency to get this resolved, but I think we need to get on with this," the judge said Thursday.

(source: Seattle Times)

IRAN:

More Evangelicals Facing Death Penalty In Iran

2 more evangelical Iranian Christians faced uncertainty Saturday, September 6, after they were charged with the potentially death-sentence carrying crime of "Mofsed-e-filarz" translated as "spreading corruption on earth", Christian rights activists told BosNewsLife.

Pastor Matthias Haghnejad and fellow Christian Silas Rabbani, both from the Church of Iran movement, are the latest to be accused of "Mofsed-e-filarz". Earlier BosNewsLife reported that Pastor Behnam Irani was prosecuted for the same crime as part of 18 new charges against him.

Pastor Haghnejad also faces charges of "Moharebeh", or "enmity against Allah".

Christians said the three men, who are being held in Ghezal Hesar Prison in Karaj city, have been pressured into confessing that they are "spies".

Rights activists believe the arrests are part of a wider crackdown on spreading Christianity in the strict Islamic state.

ISLAMIC RULES

Jason DeMars, director of advocacy group Present Truth Ministries, said authorities try to crackdown on converts as they "no longer obey the rules of Islam" but instead "want the freedom of Christ."

Missionaries say there may be at least 100,000 devoted evangelical Christians in the country, though other groups claim that number may be several times higher.

"There is particular concern about the safety of Pastor Haghnejad, who is believed to be in a "dangerous situation", as the authorities appear to be targeting him actively," explained rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).

It said the new charges against Pastor Matthias, Rabbani and Pastor Irani underscore "a worrying escalation in Iran's campaign against converts to Christianity". Converts, many of whom are former Muslims, have been previously charged with "action against the state", "action against the order" or other national security crimes.

"The new charges against Pastors Haghnejad and Irani and Mr. Rabbani are tantamount to an indictment of Christianity itself," said CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas.

INCREASING ALARM

He told BosNewsLife that "CSW is growing increasingly alarmed by what is a clear escalation in Iran's campaign against Persian Christians under the Rouhani presidency and by what is effectively an attempt to gain an apostasy conviction by other means."

The reported crackdown also comes amid a reported increase in executions under the presidency of Hassan Rouhani. At least eight men were already executed for "enmity against Allah" this year, including Ahwazi Arab community poet and cultural rights activist Hashem Shaabani and his colleague Hadi Rashedi.

Several detainees accused of the crime reportedly complained of having been "tortured" into making "false confessions", as well as being denied access to a lawyer and unfair trials conducted in the absence of witnesses.

Thomas said it was crucial "that the ongoing human rights crisis in the country is not neglected as members of the international community increasingly partner with Iran to counter the threat posed by [Islamic State militants] ISIS."

CSW, he added, has urged Tehran "to drop the unwarranted charges against Pastors Haghnejad and Irani, and Rabbani, who have been unjustly detained on account of their faith and in contravention of international covenants to which Iran is party, that guarantee freedom of religion or belief."

(source: BosNewsLife.com)

VIETNAM:

Court upholds death sentence for duo that killed 5 poachers in central Vietnam

The Supreme People's Court upheld Thursday the death sentences handed down to 2 men for beating 5 rare wood seekers to death in a forest in central Vietnam last year.

The victims were being held hostage for ransom meant to cover gambling debts.

A Laotian national, Ho Van Nguyen, 25, will stand a separate trial in Laos for his alleged role in the brutal crime.

Ho Van Cong, 38, and Ho Van Thanh, 40, were convicted of 4 felony charges: murder, robbery, abduction, and the illegal use of military-grade weapon.

The duo were sentenced to death by a court in the north-central province of Quang Tri on May 30.

They were also ordered to pay VND880 million (US$41,200) in compensation to the victims' families plus VND600,000 ($28), every month, to each of the victims' children until they reach 18 years old.

Cong and Thanh are both from Huong Hoa District, Quang Tri Province.

According to the indictment, in March of 2013, Thanh lost a large sum of money and his father-in-law's motorbike while gambling. When he approached Cong to borrow money to get the bike back, his friend enlisted him in a scheme to kidnap poachers and hold them for ransom.

They sought help from Nguyen in Sepon District, Laos, which borders Huong Hoa District, because he had a rifle.

On March 21 they headed into a forest in Huong Hoa.

The next day they found and abducted 3 poachers of rare fragrant wood (Calambac), who managed to untie themselves and escape while the trio rifled through their tent.

Around noon on March 23, the trio came upon the camp of 7 poachers.

They overpowered the hunters with the rifle, and ordered one to tie up the rest.

After gathering up and searching their belongings, they demanded money.

As they had none, Hoang Van Ha, one of the seven hostages, begged his captors to let him go home and get money.

The kidnappers agreed and demanded VND120 million ($5,600) for each hostage; they gave Ha 3 days to return.

Early the next morning they escorted the hunters some 20 meters from their tent and beat them to death one by one. The bodies were buried in a hole Thanh had dug the previous night.

Do Van Hien, 1 of the 6 hostages, managed to run away during the brutal killing.

All of the killers were arrested in early April.

Calambac is a dark resinous heartwood that forms in agar wood trees when they become infected with a type of mold.

The wood fetches premium prices because it is believed to bring good luck and have the capacity to cure some otherwise incurable diseases.

(source: Thanh Nien News)

CHINA:

Court changes death sentence to life imprisonment in rape case

A higher court in central China's Hunan Province overturned a death sentence for 2 men convicted of raping the daughter of a social campaigner and sentenced them life in prison in their final ruling on Friday.

Zhou Junhui and Qin Xing were found guilty of rape, organizing prostitution and forcing others into prostitution, according to the Hunan Higher People's Court.

In October 2006, Tang Hui's then 11-year-old daughter was raped and forced into prostitution. She was rescued on Dec. 30, 2006.

In Tang's daughter's case, the same higher court sentenced Zhou and Qin to death, another four accomplices to life in prison and one to 15 years in a final verdict on June 5, 2012. But a collegiate bench of the Supreme People's Court annulled the death penalty for the 2 in June this year and ordered the provincial higher court to retry the case.

The court retried the case on July 25 and made the final ruling on Friday.

Zhou had 10,000 yuan (1,623 U.S. dollars) of his personal wealth confiscated. Qin also had 10,000 yuan of his personal wealth confiscated and was fined another 5,000 yuan, according to the court.

The court said their crime did not warrant a death sentence.

The victim's mother, Tang, gained public attention after protesting in front of the Yongzhou municipal government buildings on Aug. 2, 2012 when she insisted on harsher punishments for all those found guilty.

She was then put in a labor camp in Yongzhou for "seriously disturbing social order and exerting a negative impact on society" but was released 8 days later amid a public outcry urging her release.

On Jan. 22, 2013, Tang filed a lawsuit at the Intermediate People's Court in Yongzhou in which she asked for 2,463.85 yuan in compensation.

On April 12 that year, the court ruled that Tang was not entitled to the compensation she requested. She then appealed to the provincial higher people's court, which ordered the Yongzhou municipal re-education through labor commission to pay her 2,641.15 yuan in July for infringing upon her personal freedom and causing psychological damage.

Her case helped bring about the abolishment of the reeducation through labor program late last year.

Re-education through labor, known as "laojiao" in Chinese, allows police to detain people for up to 4 years without an open trial.

(source: Xinhua News)

SEPTEMBER 5, 2014:

PENNSYLVANIA:

Justice urges ban on lawyers in group that handles many Pennsylvania death penalty appeals

Pennsylvania's chief justice wants the state Supreme Court to ban lawyers at an organization that currently handles many appeals by convicted murderers on the state's death row.

Chief Justice Ronald Castille took that position in a rare 97-page single-justice opinion issued late Wednesday that resolved a number of issues surrounding a decision he wrote 3 years ago.

In both opinions, Castille took aim at the Philadelphia-based Federal Community Defender Office, writing that the group has engaged in abusive and unethical practices that warrant removing its lawyers from all Pennsylvania cases. "This court has a responsibility for the entire Pennsylvania judicial system, to ensure the delivery of swift, fair and evenhanded justice in all cases," Castille said. "We are not obliged to indulge or countenance a group which manipulates and abuses the judicial process in Pennsylvania in the hopes of achieving a global political result that it has failed to secure through the political process."

Pennsylvania has 181 men and 3 women on death row. It has executed 3 people since the death penalty was reinstated in the 1970s, and all 3 had relinquished their appeals. The state's last execution was in 1999.

Chief Federal Defender Leigh Skipper, who heads the Federal Community Defender's Office, did not return several phone messages seeking comment.

Castille described in detail the high court's effort to determine the group's use of federal grant money to finance post-conviction appeals in state courts. The federal money is limited to pursuit of federal habeas corpus claims that cannot begin until state appeals are exhausted, but Skipper's organization routinely gets involved in county court proceedings.

Castille said that violates federal law and federal court precedent.

"It insinuates itself into the role of de facto statewide defender in capital cases, claiming to this court that it is acting solely as a privately funded entity which need not answer to any Pennsylvania authority, and then claims, when put to the proof, that it is effectively a 'federal officer' and cannot be asked for an accounting," the chief justice wrote.

He also said the attorneys can overwhelm courts, causing delay after.

3 years ago, Castille made similar criticisms in the same case, the murder conviction of Mark Spotz, who killed four people in the mid-1990s.

A spokeswoman from the Administrative Office of United States Courts, which apparently provides much of the defender office's funding, declined to comment on Castille's opinion.

The lead prosecutor in the Spotz case said concerns about the group are widespread among district attorneys.

"What it boils down to, for us, is that we certainly advocate zealously and understand zealous advocates on the other side, but we do it within the rules - and it's abundantly clear they don't," said Cumberland County District Attorney Dave Freed.

Marc Bookman, director of the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation, who also represents death penalty defendants in Pennsylvania, said his group and the Federal Community Defender Office both try to give the best possible representation for those facing execution.

"3 justices from Justice Castille's own court labeled the Pennsylvania death penalty in 'disarray' - given these real problems, the amount of time and energy Justice Castille is personally putting into this issue is surprising," Bookman said in an emailed response.

Castille, a Republican and former Philadelphia district attorney, must retire at the end of this year because he turned 70 in March.

(source: Associated Press)

FLORIDA:

Florida Supreme Court affirms Jacksonville murderer's death penalty; 2 were killed within hours; He had receieved leniency for a shooting when he was 14

Billy Jim Sheppard Jr. deserves his death sentence, the Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

Sheppard killed 39-year-old Patrick Stafford on a humid summer day in 2008 in Jacksonville. Stafford had been sleeping in a car. Sheppard was 21 then. Police found 6 shell casings near the body.

Then Sheppard and his partner, 20-year-old Rashard Antwan Evans, hijacked a car at gunpoint.

Then Sheppard killed Monquell Wimberly, 16. Police found 6 more shell casings near his body.

Wimberly was riding his bicycle before church.

While Sheppard waited for trial in jail, he asked an inmate for a favor: Could he kill the only witness? he asked, according to inmate Michael Roberts.

Roberts said Sheppard was part of a Paxon-area gang - PYC. Wimberly was from the Westside. He and Sheppard argued a few days before Wimberly's death.

Sheppard shot Stafford because Stafford wouldn't give up the car he was sleeping in, Roberts said.

In his appeal to the state Supreme Court, Sheppard argued the prosecution used hearsay - Evans' girlfriend testified that Evans told her to send a message to Sheppard about a "package," Sheppard told her it referred to a gun.

He also argued that an interrogation video with police made it sound like police could prove claims made in the interrogation.

Sheppard said it was wrong for a witness to talk about how she was afraid he would come after her.

Sheppard also said the jury was influenced. One juror accused another of announcing a guilty verdict to him before the trial ended. She was excused from the case, but Sheppard argued she might have shared her verdict with more jurors.

Sheppard said he doesn't deserve death. The jury sentenced him to death, he said, because he was convicted for shooting someone when he was 14. That, he argued, wasn't enough.

Evans meanwhile is serving 20 years for manslaughter.

The Supreme Court disagreed with Sheppard on every claim. He had killed 2 people within hours, and he'd been violent before. That, the court decided, deserved death.

Mark Caliel, who prosecuted the case, called it a particularly wicked case. He said he was glad the state Supreme Court upheld the death penalty.

He said if Sheppard hadn't received leniency as a minor - not facing 25 years of prison time for shooting someone - then "he would not have been free to commit this crime spree."

"It is something to reflect upon, especially when there is a great deal of debate out there about what do you do with young juvenile offenders," Caliel said. "Perhaps we should not have been so lenient, but it's real easy to say that looking through the lens of what did he do after the fact. ... Perhaps not every 14-, 15-, 16-year-old is not worthy of rehabilitation."

Sheppard had been prosecuted as an adult and was sentenced to 4 years in prison, but he violated probation and was sentenced to another year and a half, court records show.

After he came back from prison as a teenager, he lived with his sister, but she said prison changed him.

"He was different and would barricade himself in the bedroom and sleep a lot," the Supreme Court opinion said. "... He lost his easygoing spirit."

(source: Florida Times-Union)

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Legal bills disputed in case of executed Broward killer

The Attorney General's Office says lawyers for Broward murderer Robert Henry, put to death in March, billed for hundreds of hours of unnecessary work.

When Florida's governor ordered the execution of Broward double murderer Robert Henry in February, his two court-appointed defense attorneys filed a flurry of appeals in an unsuccessful bid to stave off the death penalty.

Their initial bill to taxpayers for just over 1 month's work: $101,100 - including $390 for nearly 4 hours needed to review a court order just 2 sentences long.

The bill has sparked a rare battle in court, with state lawyers last week asking a Broward judge to award significantly less money to defense lawyers Kevin Kulik and Melodee Smith for their work on Henry's defense. The lawyers billed for hundreds of hours of unnecessary work, according to the Florida Attorney General's Office.

"We are concerned that these bills are not properly documented," Assistant Attorney General General Jason Vail told the judge in asking that the total amount due to them be slashed by 60 %.

Broward Circuit Judge Peter Weinstein, who raised concerns about the bills but acknowledged death penalty cases are "different," must now decide how much to award the two lawyers. No date has been set for his final ruling.

Kulik, for his part, told the judge at a hearing last week that he has since reduced the bill by over $9,000, and the original bill did contain some errors, including 3.9 hours billed for reading the 2-sentence order.

"I don't want to be perceived as trying to get some sort of windfall," said Kulik, who stressed the $100-an-hour rate is far lower than most lawyers charge for similar appeals work.

Florida executed Henry in March for the gruesome 1987 murders of Janet Cox Thermidor and Phyllis Harris at a Deerfield Beach clothing factory.

Henry tied up and beat Harris on the head with a hammer, and then battered Thermidor. He doused both with a flammable liquid, torched them and fled.

Thermidor survived just long enough to identify Henry as the killer in a taped statement to police. He was convicted at trial. Henry was convicted at trial 1 year later.

After years of unsuccessful appeals, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed Henry's death warrant in March.

Kulik, who at the time was representing another accused killer facing the death penalty in Broward, was court appointed along with Smith to handle the last-ditch appeals.

The lawyer asked the Florida Supreme Court to get off the Henry case, a move the justices rejected.

Over the course of 34 days, Kulik and Smith filed over a dozen different pleadings in various courts, all of which ultimately were rejected. The thrust of their defense: challenging Florida's lethal injection method of execution, an issue that has raised controversy across the country.

Kulik says he worked "essentially every day, all day" during that stretch, reviewing records, doing legal research and preparing experts.

In an interview, Kulik said the billing errors came because a paralegal, and then his co-counsel, prepared the initial paperwork. He said he is "one of the few lawyers in town" with the expertise to handle death penalty appeals and he normally charges $500 an hour or more.

"I did this because I consider it an important thing for people to have representation," Kulik said. "I lost a lot of money on this case."

During last week's hearing, Smith broke down in near tears recalling her client's execution. "It's very traumatizing for a lawyer to be involved in this process," she said.

In another South Florida case, a Miami-Dade judge last week awarded a total of $58,440 to 1 lawyers for their representation of child killer Juan Carlos Chavez in the final weeks before he was executed in February. Husband-and-wife team Andrea and Robert Norgard billed for nearly 600 hours of work.

In Henry's case, the 2 lawyers billed for over 1,000 hours of work overall. Unlike the legal fees requested in Chavez's case - which drew no objections from the Attorney General's Office - Henry's bill included work on an "evidentiary" hearing in state court aimed at exploring the lethal-injection issue.

The Attorney General's Office said Kulik and Smith "overworked the case by performing almost 600 hours of unnecessary work," researching legal issues outside the scope of the lethal injection appeal.

At one point, Kulik billed 3 separate times - over 19 hours, to the tune of $1,900-plus - for reading 173 pages of a trial transcript that dealt with questioning of potential jurors, an issue not part of the appeal, according to the state.

The lawyers also billed identical hours for meetings, though there was little detail about the meetings, the state noted in court documents.

Tallahassee's Justice Administrative Commission, the state agency that handles payments to court-appointed lawyers, also raised concerns.

"I don't believe the court can have confidence in the accuracy of Mr. Kulilk's billing," JAC lawyer Bradley Bischoff to the judge.

(source: Miami Herald)

ALABAMA:

'Revolving-door thug' again gets death penalty for brutal murder of elderly couple

The man who brutally killed his elderly relatives with 50 stabs of a steak knife will remain on course for Alabama's death chamber, a judge ruled Thursday.

That marked the 2nd time Circuit Judge Michael Youngpeter had sentenced Aubrey Lynn Shaw to death for double murder. In July, the state's appellate court ordered the judge to reconsider his sentence after invalidating one of the four charges of murder a jury convicted Shaw of.

In August 2007, while high on crack cocaine, Shaw killed Bob and Doris Gilbert - aged 79 and 83 - in the bedroom of their home on Gilbert Stables farm off Argyle Road in St. Elmo. The 2 were Shaw's great uncle and great aunt, and he lived on their family farmland.

Angela Parker, a family friend of the Gilberts on hand for Thursday's sentencing, said Shaw's shady reputation was well known for years.

"Mr. Bob and Ms. Doris didn't say too much negatively about anybody," Parker said. "But he was one of the rare few they did speak negatively about.

"He was just a revolving-door thug."

According to Parker, the Gilberts were wonderful people who enjoyed watersports at their fishing camp just over the state line in Escatawpa, Miss. "Mr. Bob" owned a ski boat in his 60s and would teach kids to waterski, she said.

"They were the cool people," Parker said.

In March 2011, a jury deliberated for only an hour before convicting Shaw, 39, of murdering the Gilberts. Evidence put on during the trial linked a bloody sock, shoe print and the murder weapon to him. Plus, he confessed to a neighbor and later told a Mobile County Sheriff's deputy that he wanted the death penalty for killing the couple, according to trial testimony.

In its July 18 ruling, the Alabama Court of Appeals said that one of the four counts of capital murder Shaw was convicted of was redundant. That 4th charge was related to burglary - Shaw stole a .357-caliber pistol from the house - and unnecessary, the court ruled.

After 6 weeks of consideration, on Thursday Judge Youngpeter's decision was the same: Shaw should die for his crimes.

Parker, who said she knew the Gilberts her whole life, described the couple as "like grandparents to me." Attending the re-sentencing on behalf of their family, she said the years since their slaying has "been difficult for everyone, all the friends and family."

"The only positive that can come out of this is that (Shaw) is an organ donor, and there's some way they can utilize his organs," Parker said. "Maybe he'll donate them to someone worth having life."

(source: al.com)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Rose: I freed an innocent man from death row but I'm furious

Watching an innocent client walk out of prison is every defense lawyer's dream, especially for those of us who represent people condemned to die. This week, I got to watch my client, Henry McCollum, North Carolina's longest serving death row inmate, regain his freedom after 30 years behind bars. New DNA evidence turned up by the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission proved that another man, a serial rapist and murderer, was the perpetrator in the crime for which Henry and his brother, Leon Brown, were sentenced to death in Robeson County in 1984.

Finally proving Henry and Leon's innocence was a great victory, but what I cannot forget is that this case is, above all, a tragedy. 2 innocent men - both intellectually disabled - spent 3 decades of their lives being, essentially, tortured by the state of North Carolina.

For Henry, it began when officers held him in an interrogation room for five hours and promised him he could go home if he signed a confession. He was naive enough to believe them. Then the 19-year-old spent three decades watching other inmates be hauled off to the execution chamber. He became so distraught during executions that he had to be put in isolation so he wouldn't hurt himself.

During those years in prison, he was a man convicted of raping and murdering an 11-year-old living among a population that is notoriously unfriendly to child sex offenders. He wasn't able to hug his family, or even hold their hands. He saw them only on the infrequent occasions when they were able to travel from New Jersey to Raleigh, an eight-hour trip. His mother and the grandmother who helped raise him died while he was in prison.

Both Henry and Leon got new trials in 1991. Leon's murder charge was dropped, but he was convicted of rape and sentenced to life in prison. Leon was also exonerated and freed from prison this week.

Even 30 years of appeals aren't always enough to dig up the truth.

I have been Henry's attorney for 20 of those years, and he and his family pleaded with me to prove his innocence. But I couldn't help Henry in a system where the deck was stacked against him. He had signed a detailed confession before a change in laws to require confessions to be videotaped. I had no way to prove that the details in the confession police wrote for Henry - down to the brand of cigarettes smoked by the perpetrator - were all provided by law enforcement.

I was told that the police file on Henry's case had been lost, so I could tell how much evidence police had to ignore to pin this crime on 2 disabled boys with no history of violence. Until the Innocence Inquiry Commission unearthed that missing file, I didn't know that Roscoe Artis, the man whom DNA showed to be the true perpetrator, was a convicted rapist who lived one block from the crime scene, or that, at the time of Henry and Leon's arrest, Artis was wanted for another, almost identical rape and murder.

I also didn't know until I saw the file that, 3 days before Henry's trial began, law enforcement asked the State Bureau of Investigation to test a fingerprint found at the crime scene for a match with Artis. This was an important request, considering that no physical evidence linked Henry or Leon to the crime. Unbelievably, the test was never completed, and the district attorney tried Henry and Leon for their lives. Artis' name was never mentioned at the trial.

It took the Innocence Inquiry Commission, working for 4 years and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, to finally prove my client's innocence. Sadly, only a handful of defendants ever get that kind of attention and resources. In many other cases, biological evidence is lost, contaminated or never existed to begin with.

Now, with Henry finally free, some people expect me to feel satisfied, or even happy. The truth is: I am angry.

I am angry that we live in a world where 2 disabled boys can have their lives stolen from them, where cops can lie and intimidate with impunity, where innocent people can be condemned to die and where injustice is so difficult to bring to light.

As I lie awake at night, mulling over the maddening details of this case, I wonder: How many more Henry McCollums are still imprisoned, waiting for help that will never come?

(source: Kenneth Rose is senior staff attorney at the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, a nonprofit that represents inmates on North Carolina's death row. He also trains capital litigators across the state----Newsday)

MISSISSIPPI:

Death row inmate: Prosecutors hid evidence of innocence

Lawyers for death row inmate Jeffrey Havard will now get a chance to present evidence that their client has spent more than a decade on death row for a crime the state's pathologist doesn't believe took place.

"We are eager to prove that the prosecution withheld important evidence that shows Jeffrey's innocence," said his lawyer, Graham Carner of Jackson. "The Supreme Court's Order allows us to demonstrate that the objective, scientific evidence shows there was never a sexual battery in this case."

Havard's lawyers are hoping to an evidentiary hearing because pathologist Dr. Steven Hayne made statements, first to The Clarion-Ledger and then to the defense, that he told prosecutors before Havard's 2002 trial he found no evidence of sexual abuse of 6-month-old Chloe Britt. The alleged sexual abuse, the underlying felony, qualified the case for the death penalty.

"I didn't think there was a sexual assault," Hayne told The Clarion-Ledger. "I didn't see any evidence of sexual assault."

But jurors never heard that, and they convicted Havard of capital murder, sentencing him to death.

The state has denied hiding anything, maintaining Havard's claims are too late, but Justice Josiah Dennis Coleman concluded the death row inmate deserves to be heard on the matter.

(source: Clarion-Ledger)

LOUISIANA:

Louisiana Supreme Court Vacates Death Sentence Of Man Who Killed, Dismembered World War II Vet; The court ruled that Eric Dale Mickelson was entitled to a new trial because of an error during jury selection.posted on Sept. 4, 2014, at 4:10 p.m.

Louisiana Supreme Court reversed and vacated the conviction and sentence of Eric Dale Mickelson who was on death row for murdering and dismembering an 86-year-old Shreveport resident in 2007.

In a 4-3 ruling on Wednesday, Sept. 3, the court ordered a new trial for Mickelson because of the district court judge's failure to excuse a prospective juror during jury selection for Mickelson's trial.

In capital cases, jurors must be willing to consider both life and death sentences along with mitigating circumstances raised in the case. The attorney who wishes to exclude a juror from the panel has to demonstrate the partiality of the juror through questioning.

The court said the judge in Mickelson's case did not allow the defense to challenge a prospective juror who said he would not consider mitigating circumstances before imposing the death penalty.

During jury selection, juror Roy Johnson said that drugs and alcohol (the hypothetical mitigating circumstances) were no excuse and that he would definitely give the death penalty to someone who had consumed them before committing murder. Mickelson was high on cocaine when he killed Charles Martin.

Justice John Weimer wrote in the ruling that "When a prospective juror holding such an opinion is not excused for cause, and the defense exhausts its peremptory challenges, as occurred here, there is reversible error."

In her dissent Chief Justice Bernette Johnson said she did not find the juror's partiality "clear-cut." She said that the jury selection transcripts indicated that the juror in question "would consider intoxication as a mitigating circumstance, but would not afford that circumstance much weight."

Mickelson was convicted of killing and and dismembering 86-year-old World War II vet, Charles Martin Jr, to get money for cocaine.

Law enforcement officials said Mickelson and his accomplice Beverly Susanne Arthur broke into the elderly man's house in 2007. Mickelson strangled him to death, robbed him, and placed his body in the back seat of his car as he drove to buy drugs, police said. Detectives later recovered Martin's body which had been dismembered.

Mickelson was convicted and sentenced to death in 2011.

Louisiana has carried out 1 execution since 2005.

(source: Buzzfeed news)

MISSOURI:

Attorneys: Race played role in death row case

Attorneys for Missouri death row inmate Earl Ringo Jr. are asking Gov. Jay Nixon to halt the execution scheduled for next week over concerns that race was a factor in Ringo's conviction and death sentence.

Ringo, who is black, was convicted of killing 2 people in a Columbia restaurant robbery in 1998. Attorney Kay Parish says Ringo was tried by a white judge and sentenced to death by an all-white jury. Her request to Nixon on Thursday also asks that the governor appoint an independent board of inquiry to examine the role race played in the case.

Messages seeking comment from Nixon's office were not immediately returned.

Ringo is scheduled to die by injection at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. He would be the 9th Missouri inmate executed since November.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Missouri May Have Lied Under Oath About What Drugs It Used To Kill People And When

In three recent lethal injections gone awry, inmates struggled for as much as 2 hours before they died. These executions occurred in different states, under different circumstances, but they all used the same drug, the short-acting sedative Midazolam. Doctors don't know how Midazolam works for executions, since it is typically only used to sedate patients during surgery; the drug is not even considered a "true general anesthesia" because it the patient retains some awareness.

So when lawyers asked Missouri officials under oath whether they were or might ever use Midazolam in the state's lethal injections, it was significant that they said they would not. "We will not use those drugs," Department of Corrections director George Lombardi said during a deposition in January. But St. Louis Public Radio reported this week that records show they did use those drugs, in every single execution since November of last year. In fact, the 2 men who swore under oath that the state would not use the drug signed off on documents authorizing the use of the drug. Not only that; documents suggest that officials administered the Midazolam before the execution warrant was even valid, and before witnesses were taken into the execution viewing room.

These officials would not respond to requests for comment from St. Louis Public Radio. And the revelation raises particular alarm bells. For 1 thing, Midazolam is among the more controversial lethal injection drugs and could have unpredictable consequences. Anesthesiologist David Waisel called Midazolam "uncharted territory," saying, "States literally have no idea what they’re doing to these people." States haven’t agreed on a standard dosage. And they don't know how much awareness death row inmates retain while they’re being killed.

For another thing, Missouri was among the first states to insist that it could execute people without disclosing the source or any other information about the drug. Lawyers for the death row inmates have argued that this secrecy means they can't verify whether the state is imposing cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. And Missouri’s seeming misrepresentations amplify that concern.

"There's a complete lack of transparency here. So I mean the issue we've had all along, which is secrecy. continues," Missouri criminal defense lawyer Cheryl Pilate told ThinkProgress. "And this adds further weight to the notion that what we're seeing is really a very sanitized stage managed procedure and we don't know what the prisoner is experiencing."

As St. Louis Public Radio laments in its report, "We weren't aware of how far the state's secrecy extended in Missouri. We knew the state hid the names of those carrying out executions. We knew the state attempted to hide the supplier of its drugs. But we didn't know the state had tried to hide what drugs it's using, and how long executions really take."

"[W]e just don't know anything," added Pilate. "We don't know how this drug is being administered. By whom. Under whose authority. Is it given all at once? Is it oral? Is it IV? What time is it given?"

Lying under oath is one of a number of questionable tactics states are pursuing so they can keep putting people to death, even as international opposition to the death penalty has created shortages of some lethal injection drugs. In Louisiana, state officials reportedly tricked a hospital into providing a painkiller for executions by misleading administrators about what it was for. And some lawmakers have called for bringing back firing squads, gas chambers, and the electric chair.

(source: thinkprogress.org)

OKLAHOMA:

How to Avoid Botched Executions, According to Oklahoma----For one, don't schedule multiple executions on the same day.

Oklahoma state officials have completed a review of April's botched execution of Clayton Lockett and determined that oversights in monitoring the IV line likely contributed to problems witnessed during his prolonged death.

The investigation, conducted by the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety and made public Thursday, concluded that "the viability of the IV access point was the single greatest factor that contributed to the difficulty in administering the execution drugs."

The report largely absolves government officials of direct blame in Lockett's failed execution, which was described as a grisly affair by witnesses and prompted a national conversation about the efficacy of lethal injections as the preferred method of capital punishment in the United States.

"Regarding whether [the Department of Corrections] correctly followed their current execution protocols, it was determined there were minor deviations from specific requirements outlined in the protocol in effect on April 29," the report states. "Despite those deviations, it was determined the protocol was substantially and correctly complied with throughout the entire process."

The report also lists a series of largely bureaucratic recommendations, including general suggestions such as improving interagency communication, better training of officials, and adoption of consistent "execution terminology." It makes no determination as to the effectiveness of the drugs used in Lockett's execution, including midazolam, a sedative that has been used in three botched executions this year.

Among the more tangible conclusions in the investigation is that Oklahoma should refrain from scheduling two executions on the same day. The state had planned to execute Lockett and fellow death-row inmate Charles Warner back-to-back, an unusual "double execution" that would have been the 1st in Oklahoma since 1937 and the 1st nationwide in 14 years. The state halted Warner's execution after Lockett's went awry.

"It was apparent the stress level at [Oklahoma State Penitentiary] was raised because two executions had been scheduled on the same day," the report noted. "Due to manpower and facility concerns, executions should not be scheduled within seven calendar days of each other."

The review of Lockett's execution lands amid a spate of legal challenges to secretive lethal-injection protocols in a handful of active death-penalty states around the country. The execution also sparked international outcry and a wave of intense media attention, eliciting a response from the White House.

"We have a fundamental standard in this country that even when the death penalty is justified, it must be carried out humanely," press secretary Jay Carney said a day after the execution. "And I think everyone would recognize that this case fell short of that standard."

The investigation was ordered by Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican, as an independent review of the state's execution protocols. But several death-penalty opponents were skeptical that a review by another state agency amounted to truly independent oversight.

Lockett was executed on April 29. He was declared unconscious 10 minutes after being injected with the 1st dose of a then-untested 3-drug lethal cocktail. Minutes later, however, Lockett awoke and began breathing heavily. Still strapped to his gurney, he began writhing and muttering, which prompted officials with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections to lower the death chamber's blinds.

Lockett eventually died 43 minutes after his execution began. Officials originally determined the cause of death to be a heart attack, but an independent autopsy released last week concluded the lethal drugs were directly responsible for ending his life.

(source: nationaljournal.com)

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IV Misplaced in Oklahoma Execution, Report Says

An official report released Thursday about a bungled execution in Oklahoma in April says that an improperly placed intravenous line in the prisoner's groin allowed the drugs to perfuse surrounding tissue rather than to flow directly into his bloodstream.

The report was ordered by Gov. Mary Fallin after the prolonged writhing and gasping of the prisoner, Clayton D. Lockett, during an execution that drew global attention to death penalty procedures and problems associated with lethal injections.

Because the groin area was covered with a sheet as the injections began - first a sedative intended to render Mr. Lockett unconscious, and then paralyzing and heart-stopping agents - the doctor and paramedic on the scene did not see the bulge, larger than a golf ball, indicating a procedure gone awry, said the report by Michael C. Thompson, the commissioner of public safety.

The report, which described prison officials as ill-prepared for unexpected events during an execution, recommended keeping injection sites visible at all times, improving the training of prison officials who inject the lethal drugs and developing procedures for emergency situations. "I expect the Department of Corrections to implement the proposed improvements in protocols to ensure that future executions are performed effectively," said Ms. Fallin in a statement on Thursday.

Mr. Lockett's execution on April 29 led Oklahoma to suspend executions and intensified the national debate about whether lethal injection can meet the constitutional standard barring cruel and unusual punishment.

To critics of the death penalty, the chaotic execution of Mr. Lockett, who was convicted of shooting a 19-year-old woman and burying her alive, epitomized the growing concerns about lethal injections at a time when states are experimenting with new drugs and combinations, often purchased from secret sources, because the traditionally used barbiturates are so scarce.

Brushing aside calls to appoint an independent investigator, Ms. Fallin selected Mr. Thompson, who oversees the prisons, to review what went wrong and to recommend changes.

Defense lawyers condemned Mr. Thompson's report as inadequate. "The state's internal investigation raises more questions than it answers," said Dale Baich, a federal public defender based in Phoenix who is helping to represent other prisoners on death row in Oklahoma. "The report does not address accountability."

Mr. Thompson said at a news conference that he was not assigning blame to any officials and that he believed the state's Department of Corrections would act to make the recommended changes before resuming executions. He insisted that, despite the training lapses noted in the report, Oklahoma's execution system was fundamentally sound.

"Are there things that need to be improved?" he said. "Absolutely." But he went on to say that Oklahoma had conducted about 110 consecutive executions over 25 years without major problems, and he called on the public to remember the suffering of the condemned prisoners' victims and their families.

The report confirms for the 1st time that a doctor, whose assigned task was to declare the prisoner unconscious and later dead, joined in the frantic effort to insert a line into Mr. Lockett's veins once the paramedic ran into problems. The report said the doctor, who was not named, worked in emergency medicine and had participated in one other execution several years earlier.

The paramedic who initially tried, without success, to insert lines into Mr. Lockett's arms, legs and feet has been licensed in emergency medical services for 40 years and was "involved in every lethal injection execution in Oklahoma, except for 2," the report said.

Once an IV line was placed into Mr. Lockett's right groin - a more complex procedure than using an extremity - the officials’ failure to visually monitor the site appears to have been a lapse in standard medical practice.

Warden Anita Trammell, who was supervising the execution but has no medical training, told the investigators that it was common to cover a prisoner’s body with a sheet and that she had also done so in this case "to maintain Lockett's dignity." But she also said that "if the IV insertion point had been viewed, the issue would have been detected earlier."

The failure was not discovered for many minutes - only after Mr. Lockett, incompletely sedated, it appears, began writhing in response to the painful second 2 drugs.

Executions in the state were suspended, including that of Charles F. Warner, who was convicted in the rape and murder of an infant and was originally scheduled to die after Mr. Lockett on April 29. His execution is now set for Nov. 13, but Mr. Thompson said it was not clear if the recommended retraining and changes could be completed by then.

The sedative used in Mr. Lockett's execution, midazolam, was also used in problematic executions in Ohio in January, when the prisoner appeared to gasp for 26 minutes before dying, and in Arizona in July, when an execution expected to take 15 minutes dragged on for nearly 2 hours, with officials injecting additional doses as the prisoner was said to gasp repeatedly.

The inquiry did not explore some questions raised by defense lawyers, like how the state chooses drugs for lethal injection and where it gets them. Nor did the report try to explain why it was so hard for the paramedic to place an IV line. While Mr. Lockett had been combative earlier in the day and refused to eat, an official autopsy said that he was not dehydrated when he died.

When Mr. Lockett's execution commenced on the evening of April 29, witnesses said, it took longer than expected for an attending doctor to declare Mr. Lockett unconscious. Then, as the injections of the other 2 drugs began, he seemed to revive, bucking against his constraints. After several minutes, officials closed the blinds.

More than a half-hour into what should have been a 10-minute procedure, after discovering that the drugs were not being properly delivered, the corrections director, Robert Patton, officially called off the execution, but no steps were taken to provide emergency resuscitation as Mr. Lockett's heart began to fail. 10 minutes later, the attending doctor declared Mr. Lockett dead.

Mr. Patton then told reporters that Mr. Lockett's vein had "blown," that he had halted the execution but that Mr. Lockett still had died of a heart attack.

The official autopsy concluded that Mr. Lockett had died, in the end, because of the effects of the drugs, but did not describe the mechanism of his death.

(source: New York Times)

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

Oklahoma report blames intravenous-line woes for problematic execution

It took 43 minutes for Clayton Lockett to die in April in Oklahoma's death chamber, raising questions about whether the botched execution was caused by a failed drug protocol. On Thursday, a state investigation blamed the problems in carrying out the sentence on the use and monitoring of an intravenous line.

The report, prepared by the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety, calls for some changes, including making the IV site visible to officials throughout an execution, better training to cope with contingencies and having additional supplies on hand. Overall, however, the report says officials acted properly during the April 29 execution of Lockett despite the length of time and witnesses' accounts that he was writhing in pain.

In recent years, states have had difficulties finding new sources of drugs to be used in executions. Opponents have also questioned the types and dosages of the drugs used.

Oklahoma used the sedative midazolam for the 1st time in Lockett's execution, and Public Safety Commissioner Michael Thompson said at a televised news conference Thursday that the deadly cocktail of midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride were successful.

"The drugs worked," he said. "At the end of the day ... the drugs did what they were designed to do.

"Are there some things that need to be improved? Absolutely."

The report says medical workers resorted to inserting the IV line carrying the execution drugs into a vein in Lockett's groin after failing to find a viable vein in his legs and arms. The IV site was covered with a sheet and not monitored until the physician saw swelling larger than a golf ball, according to the report.

"The physician and paramedic made several attempts to start a viable IV access point. They both believed the IV access was the major issue with this execution. This investigation concluded the viability of the IV access point was the single greatest factor that contributed to the difficulty in administering the execution drugs," the report says.

But despite those difficulties, the report says, Department of Corrections officials followed the rules.

"Regarding whether DOC correctly followed their current execution protocols, it was determined there were minor deviations from specific requirements outlined in the protocol," the report says. "Despite those deviations, it was determined the protocol was substantially and correctly complied with throughout the entire process. None of the identified deviations contributed to the complications encountered during this execution."

An attorney representing a group of prisoners on Oklahoma's death row criticized the report, saying it "raises more questions than it answers" and protects the chain of command.

"Once the execution was clearly going wrong, it should have been stopped, but it wasn't. Whoever allowed the execution to continue needs to be held accountable," attorney Dale Baich said in a statement.

He said a pending federal lawsuit against the state would question witnesses under oath and attempt to "seek complete information about the manner of Clayton Lockett's death."

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said she expected corrections officials to implement the recommended protocols.

"I continue to believe the death penalty is an appropriate and just punishment for those guilty of the most heinous crimes, as Mr. Lockett certainly was," Fallin said in a statement. "The state's responsibility is to ensure a sentence of death is carried out in an effective manner. Commissioner Thompson's report and his recommendations for improved DOC protocols will help ensure this high standard is met."

The report was the result of an investigation ordered by Fallin into Lockett's death, one of several executions that ignited debate over how states administer the death penalty and whether they violate the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton originally said the cause of death was a heart attack, but autopsy results released last week said Lockett, 38, died from the execution drugs.

Lockett was convicted of shooting Stephanie Neiman, 19, with a sawed-off shotgun and watching as 2 accomplices buried her alive in 1999.

(source: Los Angeles Times)

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

Oklahoma governor: No executions without new rules

New procedures to improve Oklahoma's execution process must be implemented before the state resumes putting prisoners to death by lethal injection, Gov. Mary Fallin said after investigators presented their findings about an April case in which the inmate writhed and moaned on the gurney.

In its report released Thursday about the troubled April 29 execution of Clayton Lockett - who was declared dead 43 minutes after his execution began - the state Department of Public Safety made 11 recommendations include more training for medical personnel and having additional supplies of lethal drugs and equipment on hand.

Corrections Director Robert Patton is reviewing the guidelines, Fallin said, adding that she expects the department to implement them before executions resume. 3 executions have been set for November and December, the 1st on Nov. 13.

The governor said she still believes the death penalty is a just punishment for those guilty of the most heinous crimes, but that the state must make sure it's carried out effectively.

"If I am assured as governor that those protocols are in place ... then we can look forward to returning to executions. But until all of those protocols have been put in place, we won't be having executions," Fallin said.

Corrections spokesman Jerry Massie said Patton had no immediate comment. But Michael Thompson, commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, echoed Fallin.

"The last thing we want to do is rush this and have an issue come up where we're not prepared for an execution," Thompson said.

Fallin said the report verified what authorities had believed: "There were significant complications establishing an IV line in Clayton Lockett."

The report blamed Lockett's flawed lethal injection on poor placement of intravenous lines. The medical team could not find suitable veins in Lockett's arms, legs, neck and feet, leading them to insert it in his groin, the report said.

Out of modesty, no one monitored the intravenous line, a job that is the normal duty of Oklahoma State Penitentiary Warden Anita Trammel, who decided to cover Lockett's body - and the IV - with a sheet. When it became apparent the execution wasn't progressing normally, the execution team pulled back the sheet and noticed a swelling larger than a golf ball near the injection site.

"Those involved with the execution stated that they could have noticed the problem earlier if they had been monitoring the insertion site during that time," lead investigator Capt. Jason Holt said.

Oklahoma also used the sedative midazolam for the 1st time in Lockett's execution, but Thompson said all 3 drugs - midazolam, vercuronium bromide and potassium chloride - worked as planned.

Midazolam was also used in lengthy attempts to execute an Ohio inmate in January and an Arizona prisoner last month. Each time, witnesses said the inmates appeared to gasp after their executions began and labored for air before being pronounced dead.

Thompson said no single person was to blame for the problems in the execution and no charges are being considered, leading critics to charge that the report does not address accountability.

"It protects the chain of command," said Assistant Federal Public Defender Dale Baich, an attorney who represents 21 death row inmates who have sued the state Department of Corrections to block their executions.

"Once the execution was clearly going wrong, it should have been stopped, but it wasn't," Baich said in a statement. "Whoever allowed the execution to continue needs to be held accountable."

Patton, who had halted the execution, had said Lockett died of a heart attack, but autopsy results released last week said he died from the drugs.

Lockett had been convicted of shooting Stephanie Nieman, 19, with a sawed-off shotgun and watching as 2 accomplices buried her alive in 1999.

(source: Associated Press)

ARIZONA:

Lawyers Say Arias Desparate to Avoid Death Penalty in Sentencing Phase

An investigator for Jodi Arias will visit the home in Mesa, Arizona where Arias killed Travis Alexander in June 2008 ahead of the restart of the sentencing phase, part of a plan that Arias has to try to avoid the death penalty, according to experts.

Arias was convicted of murdering former boyfriend Alexander but the jury couldn't decide on a verdict, so the sentencing phase will restart with a new jury that will begin to be picked on September 29.

Arias petitioned to have an investigator return to the home to gather info sometime this week, and was successful, bring into question what info she wants to gather.

"This is a death penalty case, and Jodi Arias is going to do anything possible to save her life," Bryan Claypool, a criminal defense attorney, told HLN-TV.

"I don't think this is manipulation. I think this is a desperate woman trying to come up with a plan–and here's her plan: She's going to hire an investigator to go over there, and he's going to take some kind of measurements, maybe in the bathroom–who knows where–but he's going to come up and concoct some theory that maybe she was responding to a traumatic event, that he attacked her first.

He said that if he was representing Arias, he too would try to come up with some way of in essence having the new sentencing phase be a type of retrial. In other words, if jury members are sympathizing with Arias, they won’t give her the death penalty.

"How can you separate in a death penalty case what led up to the murder to determine whether she should die? You can't separate the 2 in this case because you have a brand new jury, so she's gotta retry the facts that led up to the murder, to put her mental health and her diminished capacity at issue."

Reeva Martin, another attorney, added:

"I think is total manipulation on the part of Jodi Arias. Everything we've seen from this woman is part of her manipulative scheme, and in this instance, she wants to gain some kind of unfair advantage, she wants to go back and retry the facts of this case, but this judge is smarter than that–this jury is going to be confined to looking at whether she should get the death penalty or not, they're not going to decide whether this was self-defense, that's already been decided."

"She wants to curry some kind of favor, get the jurors to get sympathetic for her," Martin said.

Arias has also successfully petitioned to represent herself in the trial, though she will have legal counsel.

(source: The Epoch Times)

SOUTH DAKOTA:

'Suicide' common on South Dakota's death row

This morning, we learned that death row inmate James McVay was found dead in his cell.

All signs point to suicide, as Mr. McVay was hanging from a bed sheet.

That makes him the second death row inmate to commit suicide in his cell – the 1st was Robert Leroy Anderson in 2003 - but the reality is that every death row inmate in South Dakota's modern era has essentially committed suicide by giving up their appeals.

About 10 % of executed inmates in the U.S. fall into the category of a "volunteer."

In South Dakota, the figure is 100 %.

"It's not exactly the same as suicide, but it is similar," said Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center.

The 1st South Dakota inmate executed since the U.S. Supreme Court re-instituted the death penalty in 1976 was Elijah Page. Page was sentenced to death in 2001 and gave up his appeals in 2006.

Page was executed on July 11, 2007.

Eric Robert was the next to die by lethal injection. He pleaded guilty and asked for the death penalty explicitly. He went so far as to file a brief with the South Dakota Supreme Court arguing that it didn't have the authority to stay his execution and complete a mandatory sentence review.

Robert was executed on Oct. 15, 2012

Donald Moeller spent 20 years filing appeals through his court-appointed lawyers before coming forward through a separate lawyer to end the process. His federal public defenders tried to stop him from giving up, but he was steadfast. Judge Lawrence Piersol quizzed him for 20 minutes in September of 2012 before deciding he was competent to choose death.

Moeller was executed on Oct. 30, 2012.

McVay's death leaves 3 men on death row: Page's co-defendant Briley Piper, Robert's co-defendant Rodney Berget and Charles Rhines, now the longest-serving death row inmate.

Rhines decried the conditions on South Dakota's death row – which isn't a wing of the penitentiary, but simply a designation for some of the men in administrative segregation - in a series of letters to the Argus Leader in 2013.

"It is said that Page basically committed suicide and of course Anderson actually did," he wrote.

The number of actual death row suicides nationwide is unknown, said Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center, but a study released in May from the Bureau of Justice Statistics might give us some indication.

In 2012, there were 8,374 people had been sentenced to death in the U.S. since 1973. Of those, 478 had died by means other than execution. A share of them died of natural causes, but some clearly committed suicide.

In more populous states, we see inmates fighting down to the wire, with defense lawyers and family members of the condemned begging for mercy from the U.S. Supreme Court, state and federal appeals courts and governor's offices until hours before the execution takes place.

If he continues on his current path, Rhines might be the 1st person to do that in South Dakota.

The last filing in Rhines' federal appeal came one week ago.

(source: Argus Leader)

WYOMING:

Wyoming lawmakers to debate ending death penalty----Firing squad bill also considered at meeting

A state legislative committee will discuss next week whether to sponsor a bill in the 2015 session that would abolish the death penalty.

The draft bill may not win approval of the Joint Judiciary Interim Committee on Sept. 11, but the discussion may inspire lawmakers to individually sponsor it next year, legislators said.

Lawmakers have been debating alternatives to lethal injection since many pharmaceutical companies have restricted selling the drugs to prisons throughout the United States.

Next week's meeting is at the University of Wyoming. The committee will consider draft bills to end the death penalty and to make a firing squad the alternative method to executions when lethal injection is not possible, Gingery said.

Gingery expects discussion over repealing capital punishment in Wyoming to be lively.

"People are interested in that particular bill,” he said.

Chesie Lee, executive director of the Wyoming Association of Churches, will speak in favor of repealing the death penalty.

"Revenge is not what we're called to do," she said. "It's not that we oppose punishment all together, but revenge is not the answer." The current law allows the death penalty as the sentence for 1st-degree murders.

Gingery ordered the committee's nonpartisan staff to draft a bill at a July meeting in Newcastle. Reps. Stephen Watt, R-Rock Springs, and Marti Halverson, R- Etna, supported the effort the most among the committee members, Gingery said. In May, the committee ordered staff members to draft the firing squad bill.

The meeting will be the last time the Judiciary Committee will discuss it before next year's session, which convenes Jan. 13, Gingery said.

"My guess is we will vote out the firing squad one, that will move on," he said. "I don't think we'll get enough votes for getting rid of the death penalty. That's our last meeting of the year, so it either happens or it doesn't happen. By the Judiciary committee having this discussion, as a committee, it might encourage Steve Watt and Marti Halverson in bringing this bill forward."

Halverson didn't return a message from the Star-Tribune. Watt is up for re-election Nov. 4. If he wins and the committee rejects sponsoring the bill, he said he would sponsor it.

Watt opposes the death penalty for religious reasons and out of concern that the wrong people could be executed.

Death by firing squad shouldn’t be an alternative execution method, said Watt, who was shot five times as a trooper with the Wyoming Highway Patrol in 1982.

"It hurts," he said about being shot. "I don't care that it's a fraction of a second. It hurts tremendously. It's cruel and unusual to subject another person to that."

(source: Casper Star-Tribune)

USA:

Justice Scalia Says Executing The Innocent Doesn't Violate The Constitution

2 North Carolina men were exonerated earlier this week due to new DNA evidence after spending 30 years in prison, where one was awaiting the death penalty, highlighting the reality that innocent men can end up on death row.

Back in 1994 conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia voted against a petition asking the Supreme Court to review the case of one of those men, Henry McCollum. That man became North Carolina's longest-serving death row inmate after he and his half-brother Leon Brown were convicted of raping and killing an 11-year-old girl.

This news brings to mind Scalia's insistence that the Supreme Court has never ruled the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who later convinces a court of his innocence, as Slate points out.

"This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is 'actually' innocent," Scalia wrote in a 2009 dissent of the Court's order for a federal trial court in Georgia to consider the case of death row inmate Troy Davis. "Quite to the contrary, we have repeatedly left that question unresolved, while expressing considerable doubt that any claim based on alleged 'actual innocence' is constitutionally cognizable."

The legal definition of "actual innocence" is the absence of facts required to convict someone based on a criminal statute, according to the Legal Information Institute. Defendants appealing convictions seek to prove actual innocence by submitting new evidence that reverses the court's confidence in a past verdict.

The opinion is technically right, Dahlia Lithwick points out in Newsweek. "As a constitutional matter, Scalia's assertion is not wrong," she wrote. "The court has never found a constitutional right for the actually innocent to be free from execution."

However, Vincent Rossmeier noted in Salon,"His opinion suggested a certain callousness on the question of whether the courts should care if the state puts an innocent man to death, but he was right when he said the Supreme Court has never ruled whether an individual’s 'actual innocence' necessitates the involvement of a federal court in a state conviction."

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist wrote a 1993 decision that was in line with Scalia's comment that the Supreme Court has never made such a ruling.

But Rehnquist added that the execution of a defendant who has made a particularly strong demonstration of innocence could conceivably be considered unconstitutional. "We may assume ... that in a capital case a truly persuasive demonstration of 'actual innocence' made after trial would render the execution of a defendant unconstitutional and warrant federal habeas relief if there were no state avenue open to process such a claim," Rehnquist wrote in that decision.

Scalia has accepted the fact that the justice system is not perfect, and innocent people will be convicted. “Like other human institutions, courts and juries are not perfect," he wrote in a 2006 opinion. "One cannot have a system of criminal punishment without accepting the possibility that someone will be punished mistakenly."

(source: Business Insider)

IRAN----executions

2 Public Executions in Northern Iran

2 prisoners were hanged in the public in 2 different Iranian towns in the Mazanderan province (Northern Iran), reported the Iranian state media.

One of the prisoners was a man identified as "Mohsen D." charged with a murder in 2008, according to the official website of Mazanderan Judiciary. The execution was scheduled to take place in the town of Mahmoodabad on Monday September 1. But due to protests by the people it was interrupted and carried out on Tuesday September 2, under heavy security measures.

The other prisoner identified as "A. A." was convicted of a murder in 2004. The execution was carried out publicly in the town of Savadkooh reported Bloghnews. Since the beginning of August 2014 at least 90 people have been executed in Iran. 17 of the executions have been carried out in the public.

(source: NCR-Iran)

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

Public hanging of prisoners continues unabated

The Iranian regime's henchmen continue public hanging of prisoners in cities across Iran. At least 6 prisoners have been hanged in public in less than 3 weeks.

1 prisoner was hanged in public on Wednesday (September 3) in city of Savadkuh in northern Iran.

A young prisoner was hanged in public in city of Mahmoudabad on Tuesday (September 2) in northern Iran. In another northern city, Sari, 2 inmates were hanged in public on August 24.

On August 21, 1 prisoner was publicly hanged in Qazvin. And on August 19, another prisoner was publicly hanged in Khoy.

In past 2 weeks over 45 prisoners have been hanged including 2 women.

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

INDIA----impending execution

India 'serial killer' to be executed Koli was found guilty of kidnapping, murder and attempted rape in multiple cases

An Indian man sentenced to death for murdering a girl in a case dubbed "the house of horrors" will be executed next week, officials say.

In 2009, Surinder Koli and his businessman employer Moninder Singh Pandher were convicted of murdering 14-year-old Rimpa Haldar. Pandher was later freed by a higher court.

They were held in 2007 after body parts were found near their home near Delhi.

The crime shocked the country, with many accusing the police of negligence.

Police say at least 19 young women and children were raped, killed and dismembered in a house where Koli worked as a servant for the owner in the suburb of Noida near Delhi.

The children, remains of whom were found hidden in bags, were allegedly lured to their deaths by Koli, who offered them sweets and chocolate. He confessed in court to cannibalism and necrophilia.

Koli has been found guilty of kidnapping, murder and attempted rape in at least 5 cases involving children.

Local residents said that police failed to act because many of those reported missing came from poor families.

A court said the crime called for the death sentence as it was the "rarest of rare" cases.

"The hanging [of Surinder Koli] will be carried out on 12 September... all the rules and procedures will be followed", SHM Rizvi, chief of the main prison in Meerut in Uttar Pradesh state, was quoted as telling reporters by the Press Trust of India news agency.

Executions are rarely carried out, but in the last 2 years there have been 2 hangings in India.

Mohammed Ajmal Qasab, the sole surviving attacker from the 2008 Mumbai attacks, was executed in November 2012 in a prison in the western city of Pune.

And in February 2013, a Kashmiri man, Afzal Guru, was hanged in Delhi's Tihar jail for the 2001 attack on India's parliament.

(source: BBC news)

SAUDI ARABIA----executions

Saudi Arabia beheads Iranian national

Saudi Arabia has executed an Iranian and 3 Syrians after being handed down the death penalty for drug trafficking.

The convicts, sentenced to death for trying to import hashish into the Saudi kingdom, were decapitated by sword in northern and eastern Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.

The Iranian convict was identified as Raza Abbas Fadhil Aderisawi, who was beheaded in the east of the country.

The Syrian nationals, who were executed in the northern region of al-Jawf, were identified as Hamoud Fayez Hassoun, Hassan Taha Musalamani, and Youssef Abdullah al-Halqi.

Tuesday's executions raise the number of people